Disclaimer: I'm gonna be replacing these with something.
The overhead light of a prison cell came on, revealing fourteen year old Mitsune Konno, wearing a prisoner's uniform a little too large for her, lying on the bare floor in the fetal position. She didn't flinch from the sudden, intense interruption of the darkness, but her opened eyes did fall upon the door as it slid open.
The Landlady, Haruka, walked in and stood over her. She wasn't wearing her usual relaxed attire. She was wearing a JGSDF uniform, complete with insignia and rank. Huh, she didn't realize that the chain-smoker's rank was that high.
"So, tell me," she said, "Why did you do that?"
Mitsune's gaze fell from Haruka's face to her feet. "It was an accident."
"You don't execute half your classmates on accident."
"I am really clumsy."
Mitsune smiled weakly at her own morbid joke, and let out an even weaker laugh. She waited for a swift kick in the ribs to come after that, but to her surprise none did.
"You killed everyone in that room except Narusegawa, why?" Haruka asked.
"Really, really clumsy."
Still no kick, why wasn't she hitting her?
"You really want me to hate you right now, don't you?"
"How could you not? The exact moment you needed me to do my job, I wasn't even there, and then when I actually had to clean up… I couldn't do it."
Mitsune chuckled again. "I'm a monster that everyone wants dead. So just get rid of me, kill me right now so they can all have some closure."
Haruka folded her arms and let out a sigh, she really wished this place wasn't smoke-free. "If you were going to die, don't you think you would've woken up on my table?"
Mitsune stopped her weak chuckling, and went still.
"No one wants you dead, you already are; as far as the world knows you blew your own brains out soon as you were done with everyone else."
The teenager immediately sat up with an expression of stark disbelief and anger. "W-what?!"
She quickly stood up. "What do you mean by that?!"
"I mean that I know why you did it," Haruka plainly answered, "And why you're so desperate for us to do it."
"The only reason you're still alive, is because she begged us not to kill you," Haruka replied.
Mitsune stopped, and her mouth fell open in disbelief.
"She belongs to us, now, and we're not going to let this happen again," Haruka said, before she turned away for the door.
As she reached it, and placed her hand on the doorway, she looked back at the still stunned Mitsune.
"Besides, killing you for your mistake would be a waste. You belong to us too, you know, and you're still valuable."
The door closed, leaving Mitsune standing alone in her cell, trying to comprehend what she just heard. Tears, which she'd thought dried up ages ago, welled anew in her eyes.
As the light went out in the cell, Mitsune fell to her knees, sobbing.
Love Hina: The Merry Killers
Chapter 11: FOXALIVE
In one of the many dark alleys of the Ginza District where raids of the Takimaru Group took place, Takimaru Yakuza were on their knees facing the walls, with hands clasped behind their necks and an officer standing behind each.
At the end of the alley, the miko-dressed Tsuruko Urashima watched the proceedings alongside her husband, the feminine-appearing Naoto, who nodded the command to the SAT officers.
Following the order, the SAT Officers drew their sidearms and fired them into the back of the Yakuzas' heads.
Standing on a crate in the warehouse she just cleared out, the nearly nude woman who cleared out the warehouse cradled her Kalashnikov in her arms as steam rose off the barrel.
Nodoka Saotome (born Urashima) sat down on the crate, smiled and held up the V-sign to the SAT officers who filed into the warehouse to begin confiscating the vast store of weapons and contraband stored within.
In Tokyo Harbor, workers and civilians gathered and stared in horror at an unthinkable sight. The casino cruise ship M/V Diamond Regalia burned intensely as it churned aimlessly past the other ships in the harbor, stuck on a circular course. Fire spewed from nearly every door and window of the ship, and billowed from the single smokestack. It was such an intense flame that lower parts of the hull were beginning to turn red hot, and steam was rising from the wake of boiling water behind it.
On the bow of the ship, the few survivors from the inferno were trapped, flames surrounding them from all sides. The terrified passengers and crew, already on the verge of being burned to death, could only watch as Red emerged from the inferno, the fire licking at her but leaving no real wounds as she walked towards them with both of her shotguns raised at them.
High overhead, the FLIR camera on the helicopter that dropped her off focused on her, as muzzle flashes erupted from her weapons.
The darkness in Takimaru's office lifted as the building's internal backup generators finally came on. The old Yakuza boss was still staring out the window, slack-jawed and staring at the fire-illuminated cloud of dust and smoke that billowed where once stood a multimillion dollar hotel that had yet to open. Other fires had begun to burn throughout Minato city, much smaller but no less an indication of what was happening.
His empire was burning.
Kitagami's teeth were fully bared, the fearsome man's shock turning into a righteous anger that burned hotter and hotter with every passing moment.
The doors opened then, and a half dozen men heavy military combat gear, including helmets and ballistic armor, rushed in wielding assault rifles.
Itachi was impressed. "My, such heavy equipment. This sort of thing… you're definitely not allowed to have that."
One of the soldiers looked around the room as Kitagami turned to them.
"The power went out and we have no way of contacting anyone, what the hell is going on here, boss?" the soldier asked.
"Oi, look!" another said, pointing out at the fires.
"The hell is going on out there…?" a third asked.
"Ah you know how it is," Itachi said casually, "your Boss decides to try to shakedown a family of assassins and that family of assassins responds with a disproportionate amounts of violence. It happens all the time."
Kitagami clenched his teeth then, and whirled around to Itachi, marching over to him as he reached into his suit and pulled out his pistol again. Growling like a furious beast, he grabbed the Konno patriarch by his shirt and yanked him up to press the gun against his face.
Despite the demonic face of death itself staring him in his closed eyes, Itachi grinned. "Go right ahead, I can die with the satisfaction of knowing that I'll be welcoming you to hell."
Takimaru snapped out of his trance, the moment he saw Kitagami in the reflection of the window, and quickly whirled around.
"No, don't shoot him!" the old oyabun yelled.
Kitagami stopped just short of squeezing the trigger fully. "I'm sick of his smug attitude!"
"If you think that's insufferable, you should've been here ten minutes ago; there were these two Yakuza guys bragging about how they had me in the palms of their hands," Itachi said to Kitagami.
"Bastard!" Kitagami really wanted to shoot him.
"Do not kill him, he's more valuable to us alive!" Takimaru ordered, with a noticeable edge of fear to his voice.
Itachi's grin grew, before he let out a laugh. "My, my; it really says all that needs to be said about you Yakuza, huh?"
He rolled his head forward, pressing his cheek into the barrel of Kitagami's gun. "When my Kitsune was a wee kit, she really wanted to use real knives in her training but I wasn't going to let her. No responsible father would just leave dangerous things out for his precious children to hurt themselves. You know how kits are, though, you say no and they take it as a challenge."
He shook his head slowly. "So when I turned my back for a minute, she got into my knives and when I came back she was bawling her eyes out and had a nasty cut on her hand. I took the knives away and bandaged her up, then gently scolded her for going where she wasn't allowed. Then once she had learned her lesson I took her out for ice cream, and she was all smiles again."
Kitagami's hand began to tremble, the barrel of the gun twitching against Itachi's face as he began to smile again.
"You understand where I'm going with this, right? Your boss is just like my little kit; he's so very sorry for going where he wasn't supposed to, and just wants his bandage and his ice cream."
Itachi opened both eyes as he looked back up at Kitagami. "You're the same way, that's why you haven't pulled the trigger yet, isn't it kid? You don't want to die, either."
Kitagami's lion-like countenance flickered, for only an instant. Itachi grinned when he caught it.
"Yuji, put the gun down!"
"You heard your old man, put it down," Itachi taunted, "Long as I'm still alive there's still a chance you can swallow all that ambition and pride and plead for mercy just like you wanted my little girl to do… right?"
"Do as I say, damn it!" Takimaru yelled.
Itachi cackled. "Wrong, there will be no mercy for any of you! Not you, your men, your families! You're all getting put to the sword and we're not stopping until everything you've worked for is ours or in ruins!"
Kitagami's rage focused, his hand shaking rapidly.
"So come on, be a man and do it! I'm giving you all the satisfaction in the world!" Itachi shouted at him, "Go ahead and kill me you stupid, macho, phony-!"
Had Yuji Kitagami squeezed the trigger any harder, he swore he would've broken it off the gun.
Sitting in a much smaller, darker room, her back to the wall and her legs drawn to her chest, Kitsune looked up at Keitaro as he leaned against the door on the opposite side of the room, easily making him out in the pitch darkness as he rested against it, panting. They had been quiet for a long time, now, waiting and listening for the man stalking them. Minutes had gone by, and there was nothing, not a sound to indicate he was anywhere near, let alone if he was even looking for them.
Maybe he would find her. If he did, would she fight him?
The self-loathing burned in the pit of her stomach. Why was she even entertaining the idea of living through this? She needed to die here, and rot away with all the sins she'd committed. This was their revenge, they had come to pull her into hell and she wasn't going to fight them on it.
Kitsune pulled herself into a smaller ball, and looked up at Keitaro. How did he do that just now? He moved with such agility and sureness that it was as though he were a different person… all to save her.
She wished he hadn't.
He was standing by the door, listening for any sign of movement, while watching her in case she did something.
She wished he wouldn't.
"Kitsune," Keitaro whispered.
She didn't answer him, instead remaining perfectly still.
"I'm not letting you die here, even if you want to."
Kitsune did not respond again for a few moments, before she heaved a deep breath.
"There was a boy named Kousuke who went to this school. You remind me of him, he wore glasses and was kind of dopey, but he was really funny and I really liked him," she said, "He never stopped smiling, and always tried to keep people's spirits up when they were down."
Keitaro stared at her.
"How long have you been here, doing jobs?"
"Since my first year of high school, why?"
"On the day he confessed to me, I killed him. He was the first… no… fourth one. I shot him in the heart, but I guess it missed or my aim was off because he lingered after I killed everyone else. I guess all his fat deflected it or something? I don't know."
She turned her gaze onto Keitaro, he was staring at her, his expression becoming disbelief for only a moment.
"When I was in High School it was terrible, I had to change schools five times because of my temper getting the better of me, but I'm much, much better now."
"Anyway, after I shot everyone else, I looked back down at him. He was still alive, but he was too far gone, you know? He was staring at me, scared and confused, like this was all some kind of terrible dream and he was going to wake up and be fine. I mean, the girl he liked just admitted she liked him too, and then all of a sudden she shot him and all their friends."
Kitsune waited for some kind of reaction from Keitaro, she wanted to see him become angry, to denounce her and throw her to the wolf that waited outside.
"I shot him again. I emptied the entire magazine I had left into him… I couldn't even recognize him after that…"
Keitaro still didn't move.
"I started doing jobs the moment I moved in. Kitsune's been doing jobs since before, though. It's funny. We were both friends before we moved in, and it was pretty funny when we found we were part of the same clan the whole time."
Kitsune choked a bit, repressing a sob. "Why… why aren't you saying anything?"
She couldn't repress the second sob. "Why aren't you angry at me?"
A hand came up to cover her eyes as she began to weep. "Why aren't people angry with what I did?!"
It was silent for barely two seconds, before Keitaro answered. "You did it to protect Naru."
Kitsune's eyes opened, wide, before she sat up and stared at him. She was horrified.
"She… she told you?"
Keitaro shook his head. "No, I put it together… Naru said a lot of things, but nothing about this. It was because of Naru that you did it."
If anything Keitaro was confused, maybe a little angry, but for something as traumatic as this he understood why they would make up some other story for it and act like it never happened.
"Kitsune, did you kill them because Naru did something bad?"
And as if a flip were switched, Kitsune went from shocked to panic. "No! She didn't do anything bad! It was a mistake…!"
She stopped, before lowering her head. "… It was an accident. She couldn't control herself… not after what they did to her."
"Her classmates," Kitsune said quietly, "Naru kept to herself at school and didn't really interact much with anyone but me and Kousuke and our small circle of friends. She was so pretty then, though, and other students thought she was just stuck up and pretending to be better than everyone else."
Why she didn't interact with anyone was painfully obvious to Keitaro. Being so terribly strong, where one wrong move could lead to someone being killed…
"So one day, that day, some girls got together and thought it'd knock her down a peg if they cut her hair off. They waited until I was away, being confessed to by Kousuke, to do it. Had I been there, they wouldn't have done it… I wouldn't have let them anywhere near Naru."
And when they did it, Naru lost it and...
"Oh God," Keitaro said, stunned that Naru had been vastly understating her high school days.
"The thing is, though, I was supposed to kill Naru."
Keitaro gaped at Kitsune, as she brought her hand up to the side of her head as she shook it.
"Naru wasn't always an Urashima. Before that day, she was a member of the Soe Clan, you remember them right?"
Keitaro knew of the Soe Clan, they were a ninja clan who were based in northern Japan and renown for being an all women group with strict rules regarding outside connections. They specialized in foreign and corporate espionage, if he recalled correctly, and were for all intents and purposes subordinate to the Urashima.
When he nodded, Kitsune continued. "The Soe sent Naru off to school despite her being a ticking time bomb. Before that day, she'd gone to four other high schools and pulled out in short order because of her strength."
Keitaro grimaced. "Why? Who would allow such a thing…?"
"Believe me, the Soe Clan aren't the most responsible people," Kitsune said darkly, "Granny got wind of what they were doing and suspected that Naru was doing these things on purpose. So she sent me to kill her if she tried it again. As it turned out, Naru was as afraid of her strength and hurting people as we were of it… she was so badly withdrawn and shy, like Shinobu when she isn't… Red."
"So you became her friend."
"Yeah, and when I realized that she had made another mistake…"
"You tried to take the fall for her."
Kitsune wiped her eyes. "She didn't ask to be born the way she was, or to be put in those kinds of situations."
Anger bled into her voice. "She wasn't like me; she was just a sweet, shy girl who wanted to be normal, but couldn't… so I became a monster to protect her."
Keitaro understood it clearly now. "That's why no one is angry at you, Kitsune."
"You made a terrible decision because you panicked," Keitaro said, "but Granny would've had Naru killed on the spot without question if you hadn't."
He shook his head, feeling a little sick with himself as he reasoned it out. "You… doing all of this, kept them from doing it outright. You brought enough time for them to understand what kind of person Naru really was, that's why she's still alive and part of the Urashima. She got the help she needed to control herself, it's because of you."
He walked over to her and rested a hand on her shoulder, before pulling her into a hug. "I'm sorry that it had to cost you so much. It should have never come to that, but I don't think you're a monster for panicking."
He sighed. "You at least did something, I'm a monster because I didn't."
"What could you have done-?" Kitsune began, as she resisted returning the hug.
"No… I mean I've done something terrible, too."
Kitsune pulled back from Keitaro, surprised to hear his admission. "What? You?"
That didn't make sense, Keitaro was harmless. He couldn't just…
Very quiet for a moment, Keitaro opened his eyes and looked down at Kitsune. "Imagine that it's just like before with Naru, and she's being bullied but you're actually right there and you have the power to stop it. You would do that, right?"
Kitsune nodded, of course she would. "Yes."
Kitsune brought her hand to her mouth, stunned.
"When I was in high school, I was involved in an incident. A hostage situation," Keitaro said quietly, "My class was on a trip, and the boat we were on was hijacked by students from another school on the same trip. They killed the crew of the boat and held us at gunpoint for three days, demanding money, a better boat, and safe passage to Thailand."
"And you didn't do anything?"
Keitaro shook his head. "I didn't. I was so afraid of messing up and getting everyone killed, that I talked myself into deciding that as long as the authorities arrived, then even a few of my classmates dying would be all right."
Keitaro tensed up, his hands becoming fists as he shook in anger and guilt.. "Even when they kept doing terrible things to us, I didn't do anything to stop it."
"Oh…" Kitsune murmured.
"Probably the worst part about it is that no one blames me, either, because even my friends who knew how tough I was also knew that I'm worthless otherwise. I want to be kicked around and treated like a monster sometimes, too…"
He held up his hand close to his face, examining the pale scar across it. "… It only feels right."
Kitsune looked down at the floor, and sighed as the weight of his revelation settled. "Geez, we're all messed up, aren't we?"
Keitaro nodded. "You were much better at dealing with it than me. I didn't even have clue that something like this happened to you; whenever I see you, you're always so upbeat and easygoing. You're like the big sister that everyone wants."
Kitsune looked off to the side. "That's always been a front I've put up. It helps me cope… keeps the flashbacks at the back of my head where I can't see them."
"But that's the only you I've ever met," he argued, "That and the person who is genuinely heartbroken over the terrible things she did. Having remorse doesn't make you a bad person."
Kitsune's face warmed, and she was a little relieved that he couldn't see it in the dark.
"You're dead set on saving me from myself, aren't you?" she asked.
"I want to save you from a lot of things, because if you die then none of us would be able to cope with it. Not me, and definitely not Naru."
Invoking Naru seemed to slug Kitsune right in the stomach.
"I don't think she'd be able to function if someone who gave up so much for her died after making it this far. She's in a good place because of you, and if you lost it, then all of that guilt would tear her apart, too. There wouldn't be anyone in the house who could handle losing both of you, not even Su."
Keitaro managed to smile and offered his hand to Kitsune. "Some come back from that dark place, Kitsune, and we can all get through this like a family."
She looked down, feeling incredibly small as her selfish desire for oblivion finally ebbed away. "I guess I'll let you have it your way, then."
She took his hand, and after a moment of hesitation–her guilt holding her down in vain–she allowed him to pull her up onto her feet and into a hug. She returned hug, resting her face against Keitaro's shoulder and letting out another weary sigh.
As she pulled back and looked at his face, she smiled again when she saw that he was. He always had that optimistic but dopey smile, but she genuinely liked it. Keitaro's was so honest, and it seemed so pure.
Kitsune pulled away from him then, and laughed a bit. "You're too good for this world, Keitaro. I'm glad that Naru could have someone like you."
Keitaro chuckled back softly. "Thanks. Are you good, now?"
Kitsune then grabbed him by the shoulder. "… Yeah, I'm done giving up on my life. I want to live and I'm gonna need your help to keep living it."
"It's why I'm here," Keitaro replied.
Closing her eyes again, Kitsune listened carefully, filtering out the ambient sounds inside and out of the room. Through the background noise she searched and painted a picture of the world around them in her mind. She saw the storage closet, the empty hallway outside it, empty classrooms, and everything else that made or reflected sound. The picture in her mind grew larger, but hazier at the same time, the images at the edges becoming difficult to discern.
In the blurriness of the distant sound, however, she could hear it: An elevated, but steady heartbeat paired with perfectly controlled breathing. It was completely unlike the racing pulses and desperate breaths of the Yakuza she'd encountered to this point. This person was completely calm and in control, lying patiently in wait to take his shot against a monster.
"… Who is this guy?" she whispered.
"What?" Keitaro asked, before Kitsune slowly stood up and drew her sidearm.
Kitsune licked her lips. "Keitaro, we're up against someone who could very well kill me in the next few minutes."
"What? Who?" Keitaro said, frightened for her safety but trying not to sound it.
"I can hear him. He's waiting me out… he knows we're in here and as soon as I open the door the fight of my life is going to start," she revealed, "But he's perfectly calm. This is nothing to him, even though he knows what he's up against."
"So… I just want to say that if I do die," Kitsune said before she smiled, "It won't be because I gave up."
Keitaro smiled. "If you don't give up, then you can't die."
Kitsune laughed. "Let's put that to the test."
The high-caliber pistol's firing was immediately followed by a deafening silence in the office of the Oyabun of the Takimaru Group. Takimaru himself stood, gobsmacked and horrified, while the private soldiers hesitated in fear.
"I-Impossible…" the old man murmured.
His free hand still tightly holding Itachi's collar, a now disheveled Kitagami gaped at his gun–now tightly held in Itachi's unbound hand.
He had pushed the gun to fire harmlessly over his shoulder.
"How… when did he get free?!" Kitagami wondered in horror before an even greater terror overcame him.
"He could have gotten free at anytime?!"
"Now that you've hit the very rock bottom of despair," Itachi said with his sickening smile, "Allow me to offer you a pair of shovels."
A barrage of automatic fire then began punching through the thick, allegedly bulletproof windows that protected Kitagami's office, catching flat-footed and cutting down two of the soldiers that occupied the open area between where the two leaders of the Takimaru Group stood.
As the two soldiers were massacred, the four guarding Takimaru quickly called for backup while raising their rifles. Around the bullet riddled glass, several cuts appeared almost instantaneously, before it shattered and allowed Naru and Motoko to swing in through the window.
Takimaru's remaining eye grew large, when he saw the masked ninja girls crouching on the floor of his office. "W-what?"
"Shoot-!" his remaining bodyguards yelled as they squeezed the triggers of their weapons.
The man to Takimaru's right opened up on Naru, but missed as the white-masked young woman was already in his face–with her right fist plunging for his chest in what seemed like slow motion in the very last microseconds of his life.
The sound of his head and much of his upper body vaporising was lost over the bang of the soldier behind him being flung into the wall behind him with so much force that his body was converted into a superheated mist that blew through all of the walls behind him and smashed through the windows on the other side of the building.
As chaos broke out to Takimaru's right, there was the brief clatter of bullets bouncing off metal and the swift sound of a blade moving through flesh, fabric, and metal Motoko stopped behind the men to Takimaru's left and sheathed her sword. Soon as her blade clicked into its sheath, the soldiers fell apart in large chunks–cauterized red hot by the speed of her blade passing through them.
"Good grief, I cut worthless things again," Motoko lamented.
Kitagami broke free of Itachi, and looked back and forth between Itachi and his rescuers. "What?!"
He looked back at Itachi, as he began to slowly motion with his hand, and when his gaze darted back to the two young women, the hand holding his gun suddenly felt very numb. When he looked back…
Where was Itachi hiding that knife he'd just cut off his hand with?
"Non-metallic and embedded into the flesh of my arm," Itachi answered the question as though he read his mind, "As much a part of me as your hand was part of you, and just as painful to remove I reckon."
Kitagami's proud leonine features promptly shattered, as he broke into a hysterical scream and grabbed at the stump that was his dominant hand. Takimaru, seeing his once proud and powerful subordinate losing his mind with pain and terror, felt that same terror finally begin to reach the center of his heart.
Motoko pointed her sword at his face. "Call off your men from Mitsune Konno, and you will be granted a painless death."
Takimaru hesitated when he heard such a young-sounding voice from the masked woman. He then chuckled unsteadily. "I can't."
"Of course you can-"
"No, once he's already been paid, the man we hired will not stop until the target is dead on principle."
Itachi glanced towards the hole that Naru had made in the wall, his eyes narrowing a bit.
Takimaru began to grin. "It's too late for her, even with an army you won't be able to save her."
Naru and Motoko looked at one another as Itachi stepped forward. "You mean Golgo 13, right?"
He looked over at Naru. "Eh, Mugen-chan, didn't you do your usual thing to him?"
Naru looked down at her hand. "That man snooping after Kitsune… yes, I did."
"That wasn't him… for all of your power, you were fooled by a body double," Takimaru said with another chuckle. "Golgo 13 never died… he sent that fake so he could organize his plan of attack. You fell for it, like fools!"
"Bastard!" Motoko roared as she raised her sword.
Itachi reached up and tapped Motoko on the shoulder. "Jin-chan, you're not allowed to kill him."
Motoko stopped and looked back at him. "What?"
"There are a lot of men with a lot of rifles coming up the stairs and that's more bullets than either of you can handle," he explained, "But more to the point, I want my little girl to be the one to put an end to his miserable life. It's only fitting."
Motoko acquiesced without complaint. "I agree."
She looked at the man who was already dead, and snorted in satisfaction.
The main doors to his office, and two additional secret entrances in the wall next to Takimaru's desk and at the far corner of the room suddenly opened. More men in combat gear and carrying assault rifles emerged.
Seeing them, Takimaru threw himself to the floor away from Motoko as the men raised their rifles.
"Shoot them! Shoot them all!" he shouted.
"Useless!" Motoko yelled as she whipped her sword about. More cuts appeared on the floor directly in front of her, and on the ceiling and wall directly behind them.
A rumble followed, before the floor and ceiling she cut into slid back and fell away, sending the three of them falling away from the building and towards the streets below. Takimaru's guards quickly secured their boss and rushed to the hole, but when they aimed their weapons down to shoot, they only found the section Motoko cut away crashing onto the sidewalk below and kicking up a cloud of dust.
One of the soldiers turned to his boss, who was being secured by others along with Kitagami. "Boss! A helicopter is en route to take you to the airport and your jet's already on the tarmac!"
Takimaru, gasping for breath, nodded. "Yes, yes! Get us out of here, before they come back for me, hurry!"
On the roof of the building across from Takimaru's HQ, hiding behind an air conditioner unit, Naru pulled off her mask and checked herself for injuries. No bullet wounds to be found.
"Is everyone okay?" she asked.
"I was grazed," Motoko replied, "It's nothing serious."
"I had to use one of my secret knives, that's gonna be a bitch to replace," Itachi said before he held up Kitagami's hand, "Got a neat souvenir though."
Motoko rolled her eyes. "Ugh."
At that moment, all three could hear the helicopter that would whisk Takimaru to the airport approach. When they looked up and saw it, Motoko sniffed in annoyance.
"Of course, they're going to try to flee," she lamented, "Probably out of the country this time."
"They always do," Naru said as the helicopter descended to land.
Much speculation surrounds the man known as Golgo 13; his age, date of birth and true identity are all subject to wild guesses, and the stories of his feats are the things of legends and nightmares. There are three things that can be accurately attributed to the greatest assassin to ever live in the modern era, however:
1. His weapon of choice is a custom scoped M16 rifle.
2. No matter the mission, no matter the target, he completes it professionally and efficiently without concern, question, or guilt.
3. He is, without a stone cold doubt, Japanese.
Not that it meant he had any real love for the country of his ancestors. In fact, Golgo didn't do too many jobs here, Japan was a difficult place to work as an assassin. Work was rarely outsourced to foreigners, even if he were Japanese by blood. So it was a notable curiosity to him that a Yakuza Oyabun would call upon his services–not that it had the remotest impact on him to take the job.
Old Man Takimaru couldn't trust a native Japanese assassin for this job, he said as much to Golgo 13 when his liaison brought him to Tokyo. Investigation into his target soon revealed why.
Her name was simply "Kitsune." Despite her young age, she was well-known for being resourceful, cunning, and manipulative. Indeed, she had effortlessly turned the attempts of no less than five different criminal gangs to make Hinata their territory into bloody fratricides simply by turning the right people against one another with money and her wiles.
The Takimaru Group fell prey to her twice, the first and the last Yakuza gang to implode in the city, and it was that second failure that brought on Golgo. It only took within days of his arrival in Japan that the assassin realized he was up against more than just a murderous femme fatale.
Kitsune was well supported, a much larger specter with power and influence lurked in her shadows. The men she killed weren't considered dead by anyone but the organizations who lost them; officially they were either disappeared or in jail, but digging a little further found no sign of any of the missing Yakuza in prison. Moreover, survivors of these violent self-purges always wound up dead… even when as far away as China.
No single girl had such power. Whatever held that power wanted no one in Hinata City that could threaten it, and it certainly did not fear Golgo 13 either, as the body double he hired to reconnoiter the city and get a face to face encounter with Kitsune fatally discovered.
His "death" was not even reported. Either they weren't confident that they actually killed him… or they wanted no one to follow up on what could have ended Golgo 13's life. Golgo was a paranoid and cautious enough man to bet on both.
The body double's scouting proved invaluable for this job, however. Through him, he learned that Kitsune was extremely well-known in the town as a freelance writer for the local papers and magazines and a notorious boozehound. She got along well with everyone, and it was an unexpectedly open secret that she killed for money.
She never gave anyone her real name, he also discovered. She was always and only Kitsune, her pen name when working as a writer. Digging further, with a surprising amount of help from Takimaru's liaison between them, was what helped Golgo assemble his entire operation; he found that Kitsune bore several key similarities to a notorious figure: Mitsune Konno, a teenager who had allegedly killed herself and thirteen others five years before in a school-shooting quickly hushed as the "Jindai Incident."
It didn't take much from there for Golgo to realize that "Kitsune" and this Mitsune Konno were one. The dark powers that gave her the freedom to act as she desired had also disappeared her from the public after she "died." But it did not come without cost.
He planned meticulously and closely with the Takimaru Group for this job. The psychological profile built around Kitsune suggested an extreme but well-managed case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, likely maintained with either drugs or hypnotherapy. He determined that exposing her to the trauma would likely trigger a massive episode that would leave her exposed enough for him to make the kill.
The school building, though abandoned and set aside for demolition, was still standing thanks to a recent economic lurch. Finding the names of the victims and setting up a shrine to them in the room where it happened was also very simple, as was setting up the traps that would lead her to the room. If all went perfectly, she would find herself in that room, and be rendered paralyzed by a massive PTSD episode which would allow him to take the shot with little difficulty.
It was an incredibly long shot, but knowing what Kitsune was capable of, and the powers that surrounded her, made it his only real shot.
However, despite being a man who prepared for the impossible, encountering the impossible was a variable he did not account for.
The strange young man who she had sent along as a body double to get a jump on the Yakuza who were to provide a distraction for Golgo… over the past forty-five minutes he was sure he'd killed him no less than three times at three different points during the job–blowing up the gymnasium, the claymore he set on the stairs, and shooting him dead on between the eyes. Yet despite those certain kills, he didn't seem to want to stay dead.
If he couldn't be killed, however, that just slightly changed Golgo's approach. Killing Kitsune was his objective, not shooting an immovable shield all night.
Following the escape of the shield with his prey, Golgo made his way towards the ground floor of the school and the opposing wing where they had gone into hiding. He was careful moving, every step deliberately soft and his breathing kept slow and silent. Even his heartbeat was slowed by his expertly-trained breathing, leaving no sound to chance.
He could not afford to make too loud a noise. In addition to the mysterious, figurative power that granted her immunity, she had a very literal power that made her extremely dangerous on her own.
Over Sight, as Takimaru coined it, the five main senses so sharpened they easily exceeded the human realm. Kitsune's were in order of magnitude greater than his own, and that was a low end estimate, on a level playing field Golgo would need to bring even more than what he could to the table in order to defeat someone with senses like that.
Hence the ploy of the school, and no detail being left out, and turning what should've taken less than two minutes to move into almost twenty.
At the bottom of the steps at the end of the hall, his rifle held in one hand, Golgo reached inside the jacket of the smartly-tailored dark colored business suit he wore and produced a flashbang grenade. If she was not still in her episode, she was listening for him, all of her senses focused to seek him out. Perfect.
In the janitor's closet, Kitsune stiffened when she heard first a twist and then the sliding of a metal pin, before the telltale hiss of a detonator burning down and the whoosh of a metal canister flying through the air towards their location. She quickly looked to Keitaro.
"He's coming," she managed before what was already a painful and disorienting pop became as loud as a two thousand pound bomb going off ten feet away from her.
Golgo predicted it well, the flashbang was simply to disorient and allow the second, deadlier High-Explosive munition launched from the grenade launcher mounted under his M16's barrel. With Over Sight overwhelmed by the flashbang, Kitsune would not be able to hear this attack nor prepare for it.
The brief but even louder explosion that followed shook the school, and collapsed the walls closest to the point of impact, including at the janitor's closet.
Golgo listened and waited for the explosion to clear, as chunks of concrete crumbled and fell to the ground. The shield no doubt survived the blast, he would hear him move first.
"Ugh… that was loud," Keitaro moaned.
Keitaro shook his head and looked down at Kitsune. He had shielded her perfectly from the second explosion, and his reflex to cover her ears from the flashbang spared her hearing further damage. "You okay?"
"Fine, thanks Keitaro," Kitsune replied with a small voice but big smile, "Let's go on the offensive."
Keitaro returned the smile, and nodded, before both stepped out into the open corridor. Golgo was waiting, a second grenade in the launcher loaded during the explosion of the first ready to fire as first Keitaro and then Kitsune stepped into the hall.
When he saw him step out he fired, the grenade arcing through the air straight for its targets. From where she stood behind him, Kitsune aimed over his shoulder and fired with her sidearm, the bullet deflecting the grenade into another classroom. Soon as she had the shot off, she ducked behind Keitaro, Golgo's bullets whipping past where her head, arm, and shoulder had been exposed when she made her shot.
The grenade exploded after that, creating a pall of smoke, dust and fire between them.
Keitaro crossed his arms on reflex, the blast buffeting him as Kitsune remained in cover behind him and prepared a pair of grenades.
"This guy's something else," Kitsune growled before she whipped one at Golgo through the smoke.
On the other side of the smoke cloud, Golgo heard the clatter of the grenade coming towards him. It was bouncing along the ground, low and fast for his feet. With one smooth motion, he swung his foot and kicked it right back at Kitsune.
It was not even halfway there, when Kitsune's second grenade intercepted it, and both ricocheted from each other on the spot. Golgo had less than a second to react, and did so expertly–diving around the corner to cover as both grenades exploded.
The blast sent the shrapnel scattering off Keitaro in a shower of sparks. Unharmed, but her ears ringing, Kitsune whirled around him and fired wildly at the corner, her sidearm's high-powered rounds taking off chunks of the concrete wall in a vain attempt to hit Golgo through it.
After a five round burst from his prey, Golgo held the M16 around the corner and blindly fired off a burst, sending Kitsune into the classroom to her left.
As she ran inside, Golgo pushed off the wall and turned around, firing through the wall on full automatic. The bullets tore through wall after wall to reach his target. After crashing through four consecutive walls, the rounds and the stone they punched through were pieces of deadly shrapnel as they reached Kitsune's room.
Kitsune, however, was already out of the window and in the courtyard as the advancing bullet holes caught up with her, holstering her pistol for her personal defense weapon. "Keep up, Keitaro!"
She fired a burst at where she estimated her target to be, the suppressing fire tearing back through numerous walls as his had done before.
Golgo ducked low, as lower caliber but higher velocity bullets tore through the wall over his head. When she ran out of ammunition for the magazine, Golgo broke for it, racing for the stairs and heading up them in the short window he had.
Kitsune took advantage to retreat as well, crossing the courtyard in a sprint with Keitaro right behind her. Reaching one of the open windows of another classroom, Kitsune vaulted it and landed prone on the floor, panting heavily. Keitaro was in after her, gracelessly falling flat on his face as she rolled onto her back.
"Ow," he muttered.
Kitsune turned her head towards him. "You've been blown up and shot how many times tonight, and only now you say 'ow.'"
"It still hurts," he replied, "It always hurts."
He sat up and leaned back against the wall to their right. Kitsune joined him, panting to catch her breath.
Kitsune closed her eyes.
"But it doesn't actually hurt, right? You just feel it, there's no injury?"
"Right," Keitaro said.
"So how'd you get that scar on your hand?"
Keitaro clenched his scarred hand into a fist on reflex
"I…" Keitaro hesitated.
Kitsune had begun to unscrew the silencer from the end of her rifle.
"I can't tell you."
"I'm not going to tell Motoko."
"It's not that."
Keitaro suddenly had a brief sense of deja vu.
"Oh, go ahead and tell her. I'm sure she'll love to hear the story about the dogs. She's told you so much about herself, after all."
He tensed up, and pushed the voice as far to the back of his mind as he could.
"You can't ignore me forever… bitch."
"There's just some stuff that I can't really talk about right now; I haven't even told Naru about it… and she asked, too," he said to Kitsune.
Kitsune nodded. "Tell her soon, okay? On our own we're pretty broken, but we function because we have each other; that goes for you too."
"When we get back home, I will," Keitaro promised her.
"Good," Kitsune replied–right before a grenade went through the window and bounced on the floor.
Both of them stared at it, surprised, before Keitaro threw himself upon it. A loud thump sounded, as the grenade went off underneath him, its explosion absorbed by his body.
Kitsune didn't have time to be concerned with him even if he'd been injured by the blast. The grenade was a calculated move, she immediately realized. Had neither of them been in there, it would've exploded, and that would've been that. However, in throwing himself on the grenade, Keitaro told their opponent exactly where they were!
Scrambling, Kitsune leaped away from the wall and over Keitaro right before a burst of gunfire tore through the wall where she'd been sitting. She dove into a roll as she crossed the classroom door threshold and came up on one knee.
"Get up, Keitaro!" she shouted while quickly examining the bullet holes. Judging by their trajectory, and that of the grenade, that guy was still on the second floor.
Keitaro managed to get up at her command, and nearly tripped over himself getting out of the door. "Are you okay?" he sputtered.
Kitsune decided she'd never get tired of Keitaro's overwhelming sweetness even in trying times like these. "I'm fine, but this guy is too good. I'm dead if I can let him keep setting up traps like this."
Keitaro wanted to say otherwise, but she was right. This guy was good, and it was only his own durability and her senses so far keeping them alive. Their defense could only last so long, and he only needed to kill her.
"Do you have a plan?" he asked her.
Kitsune looked to Keitaro, his clothes almost entirely shredded except for the wig on his head that allowed him to pass off as her body double. She nodded. "Yeah… one last all or nothing gambit."
At Haneda Airport, Takimaru's helicopter touched down in front of a hanger where a twin-engined business jet was waiting to takeoff. The doors to the copter opened, and Takimaru was helped out by two of his soldiers, followed by a pale Kitagami, whose right hand was now a heavily bandaged stump.
"Sir," another soldier said as he stepped from the plane, "The plane's fueled up and ready, the flight plan will take us straight to Vancouver."
"What's the word on our men? What's the situation?" Takimaru demanded.
The soldier shook his head. "We lost contact with all the administrators and lieutenants. They're even knocking over our accountants and lawyers."
Takimaru tightened his grip on his cane. It was like Itachi Konno said, this was a full blown extermination, there'd be nothing left at this rate.
"Damn them. When we get to Vancouver, I'll have to call in every favor I've ever earned, and bow my head to the floor to get back at these bastards."
He wasn't going to give in or go quietly. He may have lost this battle, but the war was anything but over. Once his resources were marshalled and secured, he would be back. The searing anger of this disgrace invigorated him, he felt so many years younger, in his fury.
"But I will get them back for this, I'll make them all pay!" he swore on his life.
He looked back to Kitagami, who managed a weary nod in agreement, before holding up his destroyed right arm. "The Konno, especially…"
Takimaru shook his head. "Not just the Konno, or that Urashima woman."
Takimaru turned and began the climb onto his plane.
"I have a very special hell in store for the bitch who set us up to this, as well."
In the back of an SAT van barreling down the streets of Minato, escorted by Tokyo Metro Police, Itachi finished bandaging up his arm as he finally enjoyed a moment's respite from his ordeal. Naru and Motoko, their masks removed, sat across from him, and both Haruka and Su sat next to him. Their ride's destination was the old Jindai High School.
"Just as this all goes down, the lab emails me with the confirmation that it wasn't him at all," Haruka said, "What a mess this all is."
"Should've had Su do the DNA test," Su said.
Itachi chuckled. "I dunno, Princess, given your passions I'd say that you'd end up determining he was a banana or something."
Motoko agreed. "I've seen her 'lab,' there's nothing sterile about it."
Su laughed. "Yeah, you're probably right!"
Naru was the tensest person in the van, even surpassing Motoko at this instant. There was good reason behind it: hearing where Kitsune had gone… where Keitaro had gone with her. Jindai High School, a place full of nothing but awful memories.
"Haruka," she said in a soft tone
Haruka looked over to her. "Hm?"
"Why isn't that place gone? I thought we were going to have it torn down…"
Su stopped laughing, and Motoko looked over, as Naru drew her knees to her chest.
Haruka let out a short sigh, before answering. "I have a lot of sway in this country, but even I can't do much about the red tape that affects the outside world. It was supposed to be fast-tracked for demo, but then people started making a platform out of it for mental health and gun debate. After that, the economy started slowing down and it became a perpetual case of six months away for demolition. A lot of Tokyo is like that, nowadays."
That didn't comfort Naru much, but Haruka knew what would.
"In this special case, though, fuck the bureaucracy. When we're done, you can punch it so hard that JAM Project will write a song about it."
Naru nodded. "I hope Kitsune will be all right."
Motoko snorted. "Urashima is with her, he'll at least provide a useful shield."
Su was proud. "That's the nicest thing you've said about the Ronin, Momo!"
Motoko flushed and looked away. "It's only the truth."
Itachi leaned over towards Su. "I don't think Naru's gonna be cool with Momo being all tsuntsun for her boy toy."
Motoko's face flashed a bright red. "How dare you!"
"Do recall the fruit of my loins, dear Momo, and remember that she got it from somewhere," Itachi reminded Motoko.
"All I'm recalling is that you're the objective so I can't kill you," the salty swordswoman snapped back.
Itachi chuckled again, as Su received a message.
"Communique from the Imperial Guard, Haruka! Takimaru Group Extermination Operation is a success, all that's left is the Oyabun."
Su licked her lips after making her report. "Oyabun sounds tasty…"
Haruka rolled her eyes. "Send a response back, Su, tell them that Golgo 13 is in Japan again. While you're at it, have the fam converge at old Jindai High School."
The grenade ploy had worked as planned, but once again his target proved to be just an instant quicker. Standing just outside the window of the classroom, Golgo 13 surveyed the damage done, finding only the small crater and bits of shrapnel where the grenade exploded under Keitaro. The venerable assassin was extremely curious as to what allowed him to survive such damage. Curious, but not distracted from the job at hand as he quietly hoisted himself into the classroom and went to the door.
With his rifle ready, Golgo performed a quick peek out into the hallway, and found no sign of traps or explosives. They had both fled back towards the school's gymnasium.
In the pitch dark gymnasium, Kitsune loaded a blank cartridge into her rifle's chamber and squeezed the trigger.
There was then a gunshot that took Golgo off guard for only a moment. The crack from the rifle surprised him. That was Konno's M24, but she taken off the suppressor.
Soon as he recognized that, he realized why.
"Gotcha," she whispered as she squeezed the trigger.
Golgo had ducked back just before then, and right in time as a bullet tore off the bit of doorframe his head had been just behind.
The report of the rifle shot echoed off the walls of the school. For any animal that utilized echolocation, it would paint a perfect picture of the building and everything in it.
Kitsune, whose senses were so finely tuned, could easily see Golgo thanks to the rifle's echo.
"I still see you~" she taunted.
Swiftly, Golgo rushed back to the window and dove out of it, another rifle shot tearing through the wall and missing him. By virtue of the M24 being a bolt action rifle, he still had just enough time to move and get himself clear of that accurate fire.
On the ground outside, he pulled another grenade, his last one, and threw it back into the classroom. He needed to make as much noise as he could, more than she could take, if he was going to get the advantage.
The explosion shook the building and echoed off the inside of the classroom and in the halls. Behind the thicker concrete, Golgo was able to move quickly, dashing towards the end of the building and along its glass hallway to the gymnasium.
He pressed himself against the corner of the building, right around it being the emergency exit that one of the Yakuza had used to escape from. By the trajectory of the previous shots, his target would be on the opposite side of the gym, waiting.
With his rifle ready, he crept around the corner, and came to the ajar door. Sure enough, there she was, standing in the middle of the darkened gymnasium with her rifle aimed towards the door.
Golgo didn't shoot, however.
He had to hand it to her. Her plan was a clever one.
He turned around and brought his rifle to bear on Kitsune, who had just come around the corner to point her pistol at his head. She had stripped out of her tactical armor, leaving her only in a pair of shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt.
"I've always wanted to meet you, Togo-san," Kitsune said calmly, "But definitely not like this."
A long, tense silence followed, their fingers ever slightly depressing the triggers of their weapons.
Both held stony expressions, all of their focus drawn to one another. Between them was just short of three meters of open space. A distance so small that one would need reflexes beyond human to survive this gunfight.
Keitaro, who'd been wearing Kitsune's body armor, lowered the rifle and began walking over towards the doorway. Once had a good view of both of them he stopped, he didn't want to cause a distraction… not that he could.
"He's not even thinking of you as a threat."
Keitaro tried to push the voice to the back of his head.
"This man is dangerous, he's killed so many… he's close to becoming a real demon."
Keitaro tightened his grip on the weapon.
"Look at how pathetic you are. You have the perfect shot, the gun in your hands, and he isn't even looking at you."
Kitsune's vision zeroed in on Golgo's trigger finger, while he watched hers.
"He's going to kill her, and you can't do anything."
Golgo's finger moved nearly imperceptibly, squeezing the trigger further back.
"Just like back on our little class trip."
Keitaro lowered his head, slightly.
"But you can save her… you can fight… you can kill…"
He drew in a breath and held it, as he realized how still the air had become around him.
"Just like you killed all of them."
Keitaro held his breath for what seemed like hours, before he slowly exhaled.
The two gunshots sounded like one. Golgo's shot was dead on track to pass clean through Kitsune's head, but Kitsune's shot was far more vital. Her bullet hit the round fired at her, and both were scattered in a shower of red hot fragments. As the fragments cut across her skin, she fired again, but Golgo fired again, his bullet knocking her pistol from her hand as hers slashed a hot wound over his shoulder.
He quickly raised the rifle up again, but Kitsune was already within reach, and when he fired his shot went wildly off as her arm batted the rifle from her face. A flash of black followed, as Golgo hopped back from the knife she held in her free hand.
The blade narrowly cut the front of his suit, as he dropped the rifle. Kitsune continued attacking, and he quickly began to parry her swings, stopping her arm before she could embed the knife somewhere in his torso.
"I can't do anything for Kitsune now," Keitaro admitted, "But I don't have to."
Catching her wrist after one particularly swift strike for his heart, Golgo turned and pivoted to throw forward to the ground. When she landed on her back, she turned her body to avoid a punch to the throat and free her knife hand from his grip.
She rolled back onto her feet, twirling the knife over then under her hand before grabbing it in an inverted position and lunging forward to slash him again. With decades of skill behind him, Golgo bobbed and weaved to avoid the slashes before he got a quick jab in that she used her knife hand's arm to block. With her momentum broken he caught her arm with his and then gave her a quick blow that turned her away from him.
As Kitsune recovered, Golgo's hand became a blur, going to his hip and drawing a .38 Magnum Revolver with speeds that even the quickest trick shooter would envy. He just as quickly brought the gun up to her face, resting it on her forehead, square between the eyes as she came back around.
"Because she can do something."
There was the riotous report of the revolver, the bullet missing as Kitsune grabbed the gun and pushed it away from her face in the time it took for him to squeeze the trigger.
"Over Sight?" Kitsune asked. "Whose corny idea was that?!"
She headbutted him, sending him backward. As he caught himself and raised the revolver, he saw that Kitsune's eyes had changed again, they were completely dilated in the dark… but there was something else about them.
He quickly fired again, but Kitsune moved, avoiding the shot by millimeters as she advanced. The round had barely left the barrel when he fired again, but that shot missed too. A third shot missed, then a fourth, before Kitsune was in close enough to swat the gun from his hand before spin-kicking him in the chest.
"That's not my power!" Kitsune shouted as she went for him again with the knife.
When he parried a gut stab with one arm, Kitsune tossed the knife up for her other hand to catch it and slash his chest. She rolled her body low, ducking under one punch, then went the other way to avoid the other, before slashing at him again, this time cutting his arm deeply.
"For the last three years of my life, I've lived with people who could end my life without thinking… and on multiple occasions almost did," she said to him as he drew back.
She twirled the knife. "To survive in my world, you need to be more than able to see everything! You need to be fast enough to avoid it, too!"
Then she was a blur, closing in to just inches away from Golgo, inside the guard he tried to raise.
She smirked up at him as she prepared to plunge the knife up into his sternum. "Live fast, die never."
A single gunshot rang out, and Kitsune's blade stopped just short of passing completely through Golgo's suit.
Both she and Golgo looked over, and saw Haruka standing to the left of them in what had once been the school's football pitch with a gun held above her head.
"All right you two, that's enough," she said.
Kitsune's vision was such that she could see both Haruka and Golgo. She seemed her usual dour self, but there was definitely a hint of real annoyance.
"Your contract with the Takimaru Group is void, Togo. They just got bought out, and we're cancelling it."
She then looked over to Kitsune. "Back off. Killing him would only bring us more trouble."
Without question Kitsune stepped back from the man, and tossed the knife aside.
Keitaro stepped out, surprised. "Haruka-san!"
In her free hand, Haruka held a briefcase that she walked over and offered to the venerable assassin. "Ten million US in cash and first class tickets to the destination of your choice. The money is for a job I might call in later on. Take it and leave…"
She nodded her head towards the school's roof. "You're not in a position to fight it."
Golgo looked, as did Keitaro and Kitsune. Standing on the roof of the school were numerous well armed individuals, including Motoko and Naru Keitaro gave a bit of a start when he saw that his parents were there as well, as well as cousin Naoto, and Aunt Nodoka. There were quite a few other family members as well, all looking down on the scene with guns, swords, and other nasty weapons ready.
"…" Golgo stared at the group of assassins, and after a moment, simply took the briefcase from her as offered.
"We'll get you patched up before your flight, thanks for your cooperation," Haruka said.
Golgo 13 nodded, and stepped back, before similarly nodding to Kitsune. Kitsune returned the nod, respectfully.
In this world, where everything was business, there couldn't be hard feelings between two professionals.
Then, like a missile, Naru came crashing down to the ground next to them, and tackled Kitsune with a hug. "Kitsune, thank goodness!"
"Ah! Hey, girl!" Kitsune cheerfully replied as she hugged her tightly back.
Naru looked up at her. "You're okay… even after coming back here…"
Kitsune gave her another loving squeeze. "Yeah, but it was pretty bad. Keitaro helped me through it, though."
Naru looked over at Keitaro, who finally remembered to reach up and take off the Kitsune wig. "Keitaro… thank you."
"It was nothing," he said, "Kitsune means everything to our house. If I didn't help her, then we all would've lost her."
Haruka agreed. "That's right."
Motoko came down as well, and walked up to them. "It's good to see you well, Konno."
Kitsune beamed to Motoko, and pulled her into the hug. "Now now, no need to act so tough. I know you were worried sick about your big sister!"
Motoko blushed deeply, before she glanced towards Keitaro. "I had faith that Urashima would do his job without too much difficulty."
"Thank you, Momo," Keitaro said gratefully.
"No need to be so humble," Itachi then said as he strolled over, "It's not every day that a man impresses a girl's father enough out the gate to gain his blessing!"
Kitsune gave her father an aghast look. "Dad, no!"
"Dad, yes!" Itachi replied before shaking Keitaro's hand vigorously. "Itachi Konno, I'm this kit's old man. You did a hell of a job keeping Golgo 13 over here from putting a few rounds through her."
"Dad, he's Naru's boyfriend!" Kitsune protested.
"None of that, you two are best friends, I'm sure you can share," Itachi asserted.
Kitsune palmed her face, while Naru laughed.
Keitaro, to his merit, at least tried not to blush as the mental image popped up in his head.
"Well, if everything's all hunky-dory," Haruka said, "Let's go unwind and get something to eat. The JSDF still has to fish Red out of Tokyo Bay. Naru, I want you limbered up for flattening this school, and Kitsune…"
Kitsune looked over. "Hm?"
"In a few hours, I want you to make a phone call."
Hours later, and twelve kilometers above the Pacific Ocean, Old Man Takimaru leaned back in his seat and sighed as he watched the sun begin to rise above the distant horizon. Across from him in the cabin of the plane, Kitagami breathed easily thanks to the painkillers he'd taken for his injury. He too was looking out the round windows of the business jet, because looking at the stump that remained of his hand caused the other to tremble with anger.
"There is an excellent prosthetist we can have flown out. Your new hand will be the iron fist we will crush those bastards with," Takimaru assured his young second in command.
Kitagami sneered. "I will strangle all of them with it. I just want to be able to feel it when I do."
"You will, you will."
Kitagami relaxed again, as the thought of wrapping a metal clawed hand around Itachi's throat and throttling it until his head came off eased his rage. Still, the Konno would be the last of the people he'd get his revenge against.
"We were deceived," he muttered aloud for his boss to hear. "That woman who gave us the intel we needed on the Konno, who got in contact with Togo... she played us like a fiddle. She didn't tell me that there was another group, she didn't give us the slightest clue that there'd be more than just the Konno!"
He pounded his fist on the armrest. "She used us to try to hurt them, and we were the ones that took the brunt of it."
Takimaru nodded. "The moment we land, we will begin to unravel them. Whoever owns the Konno family, and can cause so much destruction so fast… they have deep pockets with a lot of hands in them."
"Haruka Urashima," Kitagami said, "She is where we will start."
The sound of faint buzzing caught Kitagami's attention, and he reached into his pocket to find his cell phone. He was receiving a call… which was strange given they were over the middle of the Pacific Ocean and his phone wasn't a satellite phone.
He answered it. "Who is this?"
"Hello," Kitsune said, "It's me again."
Kitagami froze. "Impossible."
On the other end of the line, Kitsune sat on a fur throw rug in front of a fireplace in what was an expensive hotel suite. She was looking out the broad picture windows, over at the dust cloud that rose over a crater that was once Jindai High School. Sitting on at a nearby table, Su was behind her visor and snacking on a banana, while across from her Haruka calmly smoked a cigarette.
"Hey, I'm pretty surprised I survived too. I mean, Golgo 13, right? Who can say that they survived a fight with him?"
Kitsune smirked. "He's not dead, by the way. Turns out that even he can be pretty amicable when a target loses its value."
Kitagami crushed the phone in his hand, ending the call. A moment later, the plane's intercom clicked to life.
"Hey, I was in the middle of taunting you," Kitsune said, and both looked towards the speaker in disbelief.
The six bodyguards on board the plane looked up as well, when they heard her voice. In the cockpit, the pilot and copilot of the business jet looked down at their radio, when they realized that they weren't hearing things.
"Now, I bet you're at the end of your rope trying to figure out what happened last night, and I am going to be super gracious and tell you exactly what you want to know," Kitsune said to Kitagami and Takimaru.
Takimaru went white as a sheet. He'd been around long enough to know exactly what was coming next.
"You see," Kitsune went on, "When you went after my Dad and I, you didn't just piss my family off. You pissed off the person whom we owe our lives to, the person who our family is so grateful for that they allowed Him to name me and my sisters."
Kitagami's hand trembled, as he resisted the urge to shoot the intercom, knowing that such a thing would kill them all.
"The whole reason your empire burned, is because He refused to allow such scum to exist in His country anymore."
While Kitagami was getting angrier, a new and horrifying realization was dawning upon the old man. All of a sudden… he understood whom she was referring to. "Impossible."
"He's really vindictive like that; you don't cross Him, not even with Golgo 13."
"Who is he?!" Kitagami yelled. "When I'm through with all of you, I'll kill him too, Konno!"
"You'll get one hint. Look out your windows."
Kitagami stopped, momentarily taken aback, and looked back out the window. His eyes then grew wide when he saw a shape approaching the plane from the twilight below. It swept up towards the jet gracefully, and eased in beside it.
It was a JASDF F-15J Eagle, sporting in addition to its normal paint scheme, a golden chrysanthemum emblazoned on its forward fuselage, just under the cockpit canopy.
Kitagami slowly looked back, and saw a second F-15J, with the same chrysanthemum insignia, out the other window.
"Did ya see 'em?" Kitsune asked. "They should be right outside your window, my friends."
Kitagami sat back, stunned.
"I hope that this has been enlightening for you, so you can go with peace to the next life."
Takimaru, his hands gripping his cane, began to laugh unsteadily. Kitagami turned towards his boss, and found that the old man was openly weeping even as he laughed.
"Aw shucks, what am I even saying?" Kitsune then added. "We both know you're all going to Hell. Keep the fire warm for us, ne?"
With that, both F-15Js dropped back out of sight.
The two planes formed up behind the business jet, the one formerly to the jet's left taking a position behind the plane that had been to its right. The lead of the two ship formation then slid into position behind the jet, and the pilot placed the pipper of his gunsight directly over the center of its fuselage.
Inside the plane, Kitagami called to the cockpit with a voice cracking in desperation. "G-Get us out of here! Do something, they're going to shoot us down!"
There was nothing they could do. Even as he finished screaming to the pilots, the F-15J's pilot pulled the trigger, and the jet's internal cannon unleashed an instantaneous burst of a little over a fifty rounds that all struck home. The armor piercing, explosive rounds slashed through the entire jet from tail to cockpit, destroying nearly everything inside and dooming the plane.
Puffs of white smoke gave way to dense smoke that billowed from the plane's fuselage and twin engines. A second burst left the plane in flames, and it quickly began to nose over into a terminal dive towards the Pacific below.
"Crane to Princess… target is in flames and going in. We are proceeding to rendezvous with tanker," the pilot of the F-15J reported.
Su smiled. "Thanks guys, Su is confirming it now! Good job!"
When the call ended, Kitsune laid back on the rug and sighed in relief. "Glad that's finally over."
She looked over to Haruka. "What's going to happen to their assets?"
"The property we seized is going to be distributed to the smaller clans in Tokyo, maybe some to the Bratva and Italians as well. We need to keep everyone busy and competitive so we don't have another big group like that so close to our throats."
Haruka then added. "Their money's yours, though. it's quite a bit."
"A little over a billion in funds in the accounts Su seized, total assets are over two billion."
Kitsune scratched her nose, impressed by the wealth that was suddenly at her fingertips. Still…
"I'll take ten percent of that, do what you will with the rest," she said.
Haruka hummed. "Really, only ten percent?"
"What am I gonna do with that much money?" Kitsune asked. "Even with ten percent of that I won't ever have to go out and work on the side again."
"Funny how that got us to where we are right now…"
"Yeah, and all it took was a lot of old emotional wounds being ripped open!" Kitsune shouted with a cheerful tone that Haruka couldn't tell was sarcastic or honest.
Haruka sat quietly after that.
Kitsune sat back, and looked at the fire. "Could you do me a solid?"
Haruka hummed back.
"Take the rest of that money, and give a sensible amount to the families of everyone I killed at Jindai. Call it anonymous donation from someone who also lost something there… something that can't be replaced."
Haruka took another drag of her cigarette. "Are you going to be okay, Kitsune?"
Kitsune nodded. "Yeah," she replied honestly, "I'll be fine now. I've got everyone in this family to thank for that. Especially Keitaro."
Haruka got up, and looked to Su. "C'mon… let's get you to bed."
Su yawned. "Good idea, Su just wants to lay down and sleep for a week!"
Before she followed Haruka to the door of the hotel room, however, Su bounded over to Kitsune and caught her in a big hug. "Love you, Kitsune!"
Kitsune smiled and hugged Su back. "I love you too, Su."
With that, Su got up and left with Haruka. Alone in the hotel room, Kitsune laid down on the rug, and stared up at the ceiling. As she closed her eyes, she saw her childhood sweetheart smiling at her. Though, the longer she saw Kousuke in her mind, the more he became Keitaro.
She opened her eyes again, her expression one of realization.
"Huh… well, this is a little awkward."
She let out a sigh.
Maybe Naru wasn't averse to sharing.
Author's Note: She does seem pretty effin' chill.