CLOSED SIGNUPS Two Times, One Sword (Closed)

foodforpigs

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The black hand print around his neck was like a permanent tattoo, consistently squeezing at Yori's throat, as if his torturer was still there, holding his hand in place.

"What's your name?" said Kimaru. Yori's eyes darted around as his head remained staring upward. He couldn't tell how long it had been, as he could only smell cigarette smoke. Yori wheezed, but said nothing. Kimaru breathed out through his nose and smoke came out if his nostrils like dragon fire. He stood up, strolled towards Yori, and placed both hands above his eyes. Yori could feel both of his eyes suddenly burn as black ink as covered his eyes and the areas immediately around them. He screamed again, louder this time than around the neck. Everything became pitch black, and he was on the cusp of being rendered mad.

"Your name." Kimaru growled.
"Justice." Yori said.
Yori was the word for justice, Kimaru knew. Not that the name mattered. The Goddess would know the real article from a fake without the man giving a concrete answer.
"What were you doing with Hiroki?"
"Karaoke night."
"Yes, I was there. Why were you with Hiroki?"
"There's an evil." said Yori. "A greater evil." Yori clarified. He wheezed and laughed at the same time. Kimaru shrugged, checked his energy was still being drained from him, and the black tattoos were still doing their work, shrugged and sat back down. Inches.
 
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Tone 6th

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"Ugh! Dude I'm tired of just guarding this motherfucker, let's just waste him!" a thug said to Kimaru.

"And risk being shot in the face?" Kimaru remarked.

The thug sighed "Come on man, let's at least like... rough him up more."

"No."

"Well how about this?" he pointed to Yori's sword. "Could fetch a good price. I mean looks a little old but the black market loves old school."

"Fine whatever, if it shuts you up."

The thug took Yori's sword and put it up online given the name "Old school sword."

-------
"Sir we have a hit on a sword that might have belong to Yori." an assistant handed a piece of paper to Hiroki's father.

"Wonderful, pinpoint the ISP Address and trace it. I want this taken care of today."

"Of course sir." the assistant left quickly.
 

foodforpigs

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Hanako was in front of the television, trying to relax after she had finished her long hours coding in her room. She was still alone, as Reo had already put Izumi to sleep and went to bed early himself. This left Hanako to fend for herself for supper, which was four slices of peanut butter on toast. Reo and Hanako hadn't talked to each other meaningfully ever since Hanako had offered a more substantial income to the household. News from her destroyed future was much more sensational, reporting kill counts, corporate espionage, and the like, while news in this time was much more droll, but at least happy, and mind numbing. They had weather reports. The only weather she had known before being flung to the past was everyday torrential rain. She turned on the TV, opening her mind to vegetate in her hoodie and pajama pants, carefully turning down the volume.

BREAKING NEWS: Block-wide fire, windstorm, gunfire and car explosions. City block a warzone.

It wasn't far from where she lived. If they had simply been on the other side of the city bridge a couple of kilometers their way, then her family could've been in the crossfire. The theories of the reporters drowned out as Hanako's mind already filled in the holes to what the causes may be. Only a couple of people had that kind of power: Yori and Jiro. Everything could've worked if Yori had just left things the hell alone! She ran her fingers through her hair, trying to breathe through her nose. She had hoped that if she had stayed quiet, she could live a life of her own. Instead, Yori stepped on the hornet's nest. Trying to look for her? It didn't matter. Yori used his power like a mindless engine of destruction, as she once was. That pained her, but it was true. It was clear that this Yori lacked any concern for the citizens around him when he had fought. It was also clear that as long as Yori drew breath, Hanako would never take comfort in knowing the life she had finally took charge of would be safe.

Hanako knew that she had to find him first to put a stop to it, but didn't know where to begin. All she could do was turn of the TV and race back to the computer to sift through the underground online message boards for some association, any association. However, it didn't take long for her to find exactly what she needed. Yori had been an idiot. There was an auction for his sword circling about black market goods enthuiasts, with the claim that it had been somehow recovered from the recent city conflict. However, as she put the trace on the location in which the auction had been hosted for his sword, the memory played in her mind.
---
A young teenage Yori stood in an open area of PaxCorp underneath an artificial tree with arms crossed. He looked anxious and confused. His alarm had been turned off the night before, and Neza hadn't barged in to throw him out of bed for their rigorous training regimen. Instead he had only found a note left by Ayako to meet her at this location, as well as street clothes to wear. When Ayako approached him in her civilian appearance mode, Yori feet shifted into a defensive stance.

"Do you know what day it is?" she asked.
Yori's eyes darted away from human PaxCorp associates around him. Their eyes lingered longer than they should have on him, or rather, his cybernetic parts, as they walked past.
"It's your 16th birthday."
Neza remembered how the puzzled look on Yori's face reassembled itself with a flush of embarassment for not considering the 'obvious' circumstances that morning.
"I see." Yori replied.

He couldn't be blamed for not knowing. PaxCorp agents weren't supposed to know their birthdays, though learning about the 'frivolous' concept of birthday was inescapable. Ayako had understood the concept of birthday to a normal child was meant to be exciting, but Yori had no such luxury for the years up to this one. However, Ayako's internal chronometer had started a new counter when Yori was grown and removed from the vat.

Ayako led Yori to the Research and Development wing of PaxCorp, whose access was normally restricted. In the hallways, the researchers and scientists didn't stare at Yori, but had friendly smiles on their faces. Ayako had arranged that all those who had taken part in the creation of Yori had the chance to see him again, and she guessed that Yori vaguely remembered the faces of his parents that were on the other side of the glass. They each introduced themselves, and shook his hand, congratulating him on how much he had exceeded their wildest expectations. Yori smiled back, overwhelmed by the praise of his extended family. Ayako and Yori walked into a closed room alone.

Yori had pointed on the desk and asked what was on it. Ayako told him it was a cupcake, and that it was his. He looked at it from different directions and asked how it was possible. She told him everyone here had chipped in, and not to focus on the details. She put a candle in it and told him to make a wish to keep secret to him, and blow it out. Yori, still visibly confused, blew it out easily. He then took a piece timidly and placed it in his mouth. He was holding back tears as he sat in silence, steadily taking pieces and eating them, savoring the rare sweet taste.

"There is one more thing." said Ayako. She pulled a wrapped wide box from a locked file cabinet drawer. Once again, Yori had to be instructed, this time in tearing the wrapping paper and opening the box. Yori lifted what was inside slowly with both hands, standing up slowly as he unsheathed the sword inside from the scabbard. Ayako took noticed that how Yori analyzed the blade's edge and spun it around to guage its weight.
"It is a completely new alloy." Ayako had said proudly.
"Who made this? I thought the researchers here were mainly biomechanics."
"They are. I alone invented the alloy. I alone crafted the sword."
Yori stood in astonishment. "That must've took -"
"A very long time, yes." finished Ayako. "Paxton's resources were available on the condition that PaxCorp gained ownership of the alloy patent, though I would retain sole credit for the invention. The sword you hold now, however, is one of a kind; the blueprint wasn't part of the deal. It is my greatest masterwork. It's now yours."
Yori knelt down and let go of the sword and walked towards Ayako. She didn't move as Yori's arms were wrapped around her tightly.
---

Hanako cradled her forehead and combed back her hair between her fingers. She remembered how bitter she had been when Yori had adandoned her to join the police force, but Yori never relinquished the sword she made when fighting for them. He even turned it against her, but again, he wielded no other sword. Yori had lost sight of the sword's value, and by extension, the value of his uncompromising principles. He had to die.
She walked towards Reo's bedroom and opened the door. Reo stirred, but Hanako sat on the bed farthest from him.

"Hanako?" said Reo "What's wrong?"
Breathing in and out slowly, sagging her shoulders, she replied, "I have to leave for a while. It's a family matter."
Reo sat up fully, alarmed, with his back on the headboard.
"I will never abandon you." Hanako assured. She leaned in and kissed Reo on the cheek. "I can't imagine how difficult it must be to have trusted, to still trust, me. However, I want you to know that, with you and Izumi, I've finally found the happiness I've been missing all my life."

Reo didn't have a chance to reply as Hanako had already left the room and closed the door behind her. She changed into street clothes as the tracer was finishing its process and giving her a coordinate. From the kitchen, she retreived a large black garbage bag and cut head and arm holes into it. Though crude, with an additional cut bag to act as a mask, it would provide a needed disguise and camoflage for the dark when she got there. The location turned out to be a warehouse of some kind. Not surprising. She retreived the pneumatic nail gun from the garage and a belt of nails, since the large kitchen knife had limited killing potential.
 
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Tone 6th

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An Ieyoshi squad car parked across the street from where the ISP was traced.

"Central this Touma, we've found the place. Looks like an old fishing warehouse... yup...4th street... okay approaching."

The car opened and the head of Ieyoshi security stepped out "Two of you around back, I'll take the roof." he ordered the other officers.

The man jumped onto a box then up to the roof and looked into the dirty saltwater crusted window. "I have eyes on Yori... looks like he's guarded.

 

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The black ink that had been injected directly into Yori's eyes with thumbs jammed in his eye sockets did not subside with time, and neither did the crushing stranglehold around his neck. The ink over his body stabbed his nerves and had squeezed his lungs, perpetually drowning him from the inside.

"I can make the pain go away." whispered Kimaru in Yori's ear. There was a moment's stay from the pain as he felt a hand on his shoulder. Yori turned his head, though blind, towards the source of the sound. It had been the only sound he had heard in a long time. "The name."
"Ayako."
It wasn't the name Kimaru expected, but Yori was broken.
"Where is she now?"
Yori shook his head, clenching his eyes tight.
"You don't know, or won't say?" said Kimaru coldly.
"I don't know."
"I see." Kimaru replied, taking the hand blocking the pain off his shoulder. Kimaru heard a single disgruntled laugh escape Yori's lips.
"Something funny?" said Kimaru.
"If you manage to get her attention, you'll wish you hadn't."
---

"Charges set." whispered one of the men into the two-way radio to Touma.
"Understood." Touma said back on the rooftop.
Neza had parked farther away from the warehouse and sprinted through the remaining blocks up the warehouse in her garbage bag camoflage. It was then she had heard an explosion and the sounds of gunfire.
 

Tone 6th

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Once the charges went off Touma busted through the roof window landing between Yori and Kimaru. "Yori Paxton you are being rescued by the Ieyoshi family, I'll have you out in a second." the older man drew his sword.

Kimaru back flipped a few times to get distance between him and the samurai. Gun fire came from the other room, both sides taking a few casualties.

"I don't know who you are but you're under arrest for torture, kidnapping, and unlawful imprisonment. On your knees, and hands above your head!" Touma ordered.

Kimaru narrowed his eyes at the old man before darting at him, aiming to grab his face.

The samurai let out a sigh before catching the attackers grab. He took Kimaru down to the ground, pinning his arm "Awlays want to do it the hard way." he got out a set of cuffs. Kimaru summoned an inky tendril and it slapped Touma into the wall.

The assassin took out his combat knife and stood over the officer "Ieyoshi garbage..." he said before coming down with the knife.

"Not so fast kid!" Touma kicked out Kimarus feet and sprang up to catch the kid with a knee strike to the gut. He got back over him and started to cuff him again. "Striking an officer is only going to put you away longer."

*BANG!* A gun shot went off and Touma had to quickly draw his sword to cut the bullet in two. "You ruined everything you old fuck!" the boss of the group yelled.



"Ah Kivees Sharu I should have known this was your doing. It's over, we've got you surrounded."

"Old fool I can see right through your bluff, all your men are dead!" Kivees laughed and fired a few more rounds at Touma, moving forward as he did so. He shot the cuffs off of Kimaru "Get up you idiot our plan is out the window because of you."

"Stop!" Touma shouted.

"I don't think so!" Kivees tossed a smoke bomb and escaped with Kimaru.

"Damn them." the samraui went to cut Yori down and lined out of the building.
 

foodforpigs

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Hanako saw two groups of people exit the scene from the flaming wreckage, but only their silhouettes. If she had been the Ayako that she once was, she'd have the built in night and binocular vision to look for Yori among them, but all she could do was make a split-second choice, and let the adrenaline push her forward past the body she had retrained partly by briefly working in the Reo's mechanic shop.

Kivees could hear the rustling of Hanako's garbage bag suit, as they entered another abandoned warehouse a few streets down the road.

"Someone's still on our trail." said Kivees. "Prove to me you're still useful, or die."

Kivees and Kimaru disappeared into the shadows of the warehouse. Hanako gently pushed the warehouse door open, and slowly stepped inside. Kimaru narrowed his eyes. It was a worthless vigilante; he could plainly see the nail gun outside of the garbage bag suit. Kimaru reached for a clip on his belt to re-load his pistol. In a split-instant, Hanako reached for the light power switch behind her and flipped it without even looking at it, drawing the nail gun at the same time. The switch turned on the dim lights of the warehouse, illuminating where Kimaru was immediately. Hanako unloaded a clip of nails at Kimaru, who dodged them just in time to re-load his gun and to weave behind a pillar.

Kimaru heard more nails being fired, but nowhere near where he was, barely embedding themselves in the pillars. Kimaru fired back at the vigilante, but the vigilante moved in advance to where his shots were placed. Shooting at lights to make the warehouse dark again, he reacted to the other footsteps that resonated on the concrete, but where he expected someone as he rounded a corner, there was no one. The was when, to his surprise, he realized that a series of nails were bent on two pillars, to be used as kick off supports. He heard the sound of the nail gun re-loading with another cartridge from above.

Inky tendrils burst from Kimaru, which broke the beams above. He started to use the nails himself with the tendrils to throw himself midair in different directions. He fired once the vigilante was in the open, off guard, but Kimaru's new aerial speed. The mere bulk of the nail gun blocked a fatal bullet, but it was toasted, though he was also out of bullets. He pulled out his short blade in time to clash with the vigilante's large kitchen knife. The beams collapsed and they both landed on their feet on the ground of the warehouse.

"I won't lose to trash." said Kimaru, assuming a stance.
"Says the man who practices derivative Pax style." retorted Hanako.
"How the hell --"

Hanako charged. Kimaru's ink shot up at her as spikes as fast as scorpion stings. It cut through her garbage bags and her skin as she attempted to cut at them with her knife. It got stuck in one, and was absorbed. Hanako realized to her horror that the floor that was darkest had been covered by the ink since her opponent had been there, and now the ink was moving on it's own, rebounding off the floor and back at her.

Die. Kimaru thought dismissively. At every possible angle, spears of ink shot at her and she was stabbed in several places. Kimaru knew that it would quickly act as poison as the ink traveled through her veins. Instead, she yelled in a rage and the ink shot back out. All that remained were the cuts. A bright light shone through one of the Hankao's clenched hands, as she formed a blade through a straight cut in the air with her other hand. It was thin and had the color of a pale stone.

"The Moon Blade." said Kimaru in disbelief. "You're Neza."
From the shadows, Kivees walked out and clapped.
"Who are you? Another of Yori's lackies?"
"Oh, heavens no." said Kivees. "We're your fans."
"Fans?" Hanako said in disbelief.
The ink on the floor receded back to Kimaru, who sheathed his blade back.
"You will forgive Kimaru for his failure to keep Yori captured. I'm Kivees. Shall we talk?"
Hanako didn't understand why Kivees was so cordial now, as if the fight never happened.There was also a strange way about Kivees that Hanako couldn't pin on. Her instincts screamed that he was much more powerful than Kimaru. For now, she would listen. The Moon Blade dissipated.
---

Hiroki arrived at the medical facility underneath the modernized Ieyoshi manor as soon as he heard the news of Yori's return. Touma was outside the door of the intensive care room Yori was being kept in. He wished he could've asked how he was, as if everything was fine, but the look on Touma's face told him that it clearly wasn't.

"Report." said Hiroki.
"Yori's stabilized, but the doctors don't know the extent he will heal from his injuries."
"Cause?" said Hiroki. He replied quickly as to not betray his own emotions.
"Torture. It was too late by the time we got him. I take full responsibility for the failure."
"It wasn't you that let him get captured." muttered Hiroki. "Thank you for bringing him home. I'd like to see him."
"In his condition..."
"I know."

Hiroki stepped inside where Yori was. Yori was sweating profusely inside a sealed cylindrical chamber. Attached to his body were electrodes, and bruised badly. His muscles were diminished and his breathing sounded raspy through the oxygen mask. Hiroki looked at the chart instead to confirm the major injuries of his muscles, lungs, and throat, but also that he had been deafened, and was, at least for now, blinded. Touma didn't say how many good men he had lost to save Yori. Hiroki didn't want to think about whether or not it was worth it, but the question persisted anyway. Hiroki couldn't stand to see Yori like this.
 
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Tone 6th

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As Hiroki was watching over he felt a huge presence enter the room. "Its a pity seeing him like this, I though this future would give him peace." Amaterasu rested a hand on Hirokis shoulder.

"Lady Amaterasu!" Hiroki bowed. "I'm so sorry... this is my fault. I was supposed to be his welcome party and instead I almost get him killed." he sighed.

"The blame doesn't belong with anyone but the wretches who dare attack my warrior. I'll see to it that he makes a full recovery. I want you and your family to find out who did this."

(Place holder)
 

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Hanako, Kimaru and Kivees walked out of the warehouse a couple more blocks until they reached a black car.

"I like this one." says Kivees, pointing at the car. Without being told, Kimaru walked up to the car, the black tendril of ink coiling down his arm. It slipped through the frame easily and unlocked the car from the inside. Next he sat in the driver's seat. He patted his shirt pocket for his box of cigarettes, but they had been lost when their temporary holding was raided. He sighed. The ink slipped through the wheel keyhole, while Kimaru fully relaxed his arms, his head tilted back, silently groaning having to wait, before the engine revved and roared to life.
Kivees opened the back door for her, gesturing Hanako inside.

"Hop in."
Hanako looked around before getting into the car. The car-jacking had been frivilous, but that wasn't enough to conclude the true nature of Kivees. Kimaru was likely seen only as a pawn to him, one to be exercised constantly to prove useful. She entered the back seat and put on her seatbelt. Kivees shut the door behind him and lounged on the door with one arm behind his head as the car went, studying Hanako closely, bemused. Hanako, meanwhile, seemed tense.
"What's on your mind?" said Kivees, as though he were an old friend. Hanako glared at him for an instant before a manual blink, relaxing her muscles. Just prior, she had been fighting the driver of this car to the death while he watched in the shadows. She wanted to end the unfinished business with Yori once and for all, and instead she was in a car of Neza's 'fans', but she wasn't Neza, not anymore.
"You captured Yori instead of killing him." Hanako stated. "Was that to lure me?"
"Lure?" said Kivees incredulously. "It was a greeting. Hi, hello." Kivees waved and laughed uneasily. "He was needed for other things, but the important thing is that you're here."
"Why's that?" snapped Hanako. He had called himself one of her fans, but was that all? What was she to them? She could only suspect that this was the beginning of same cycle she wanted to break from, to be a pawn in someone else's game. Paxton, Gin, Kivees - men with an agenda of their own.
"Goodness me." said Kivees. "You expect demands, and why wouldn't you, with your history? I assure you, I have no demand."
"Then why?" Hanako pressed. "Why call me important? How do you even know me?"
"I only know what has been revealed to me." said Kivees. "Your importance doesn't stem from the brutish notion of utility. That's all I can say. I don't wish to impose a single thing on you. Earnestly, I want to help you."
"Help." Hanako repeated. If they were behind the recent act of terror in the city block, she could do without.
"Ask." Kivees proposed.
Hanako thought of a simple task. "Get me Yori's sword?"
"Kimaru," said Kivees. "the sword?"
"Some else wanted to auction it." Kimaru said curtly. "Don't know where it is now."
"That's how I knew." said Hanako. "I traced through the auction site to find the location where Yori was being kept hostage."
Kivees breathed through his nose and massaged his forehead with a gloved hand.
"It's fine." said Hanako. "Since the window was open for a while, I thought a recall order would be easy. If it was at the site where you kept Yori, I doubt it's there anymore."
"It's embarrassing. That's likely how the Ieyoshis found out where we were." said Kivees. "Are you sure it's fine? Why did you want it?"
"I heard the sword was powerful." Hanako lied. She had wanted it because it was arguably the greatest product of her intellect. She had wanted it earlier, when Yori had betrayed her when he had defected from PaxCorp.
"It was improperly balanced." said Kimaru from the front seat.
Specifically balanced, mentally corrected Hanako, for Yori's cybernetic strength, unique center of mass due to his insides being partly machine, and fighting style.
"Yori's supposed to be a legend," said Kimaru. "and he couldn't even defend himself. I'm not saying it's all the blade's fault, but it certainly didn't help him any."
"I wouldn't underestimate him." said Hanako.
"After fighting him once, and especially after torturing him, he's certainly not a threat."
"You're a fool." replied Hanako.
Kivees laughed. "See, Kimaru? I'm not the only one that thinks so."
 
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Tone 6th

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Kimaru scowled "You're telling me there was something more to that weak husk of human skin! That was supposed to be the legendary hero! I tore him to shreds, so fuck your hero!" he screamed, almost sending the car into a tailspin.

"Kimaru that is enough you damn idiot! We are in there presence of our Lady Neza!" Keeves shouted. "Do you have any idea what the master will do to us if she's damaged!"

Kimaru huffed and kept driving.

"Fuck! If this is what your little gang has to offer then I'm out." Hanako shouted. "Let me out, I'm done with this!" she drew a small dagger.

"But lady Neza please, we are almost-" Keevse put up his hands.

"OUT. NOW!"

"Kimaru pull over."

The driver did as told and let the woman out. "We will be in touch if you change you mind." Keeves said before driving off.

"Gotta get home." Hanako said and started to run.
 

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"You have her?" said Keeves.
Kimaru snorted. "Yeah." His driving was much more even now that Neza was out of the car.
"What the hell's your problem?"
Kimaru tapped on the steering wheel and shrugged with his hands. "You're right. I snapped."
Kivees didn't expect the admission so soon. He leaned back in his seat and reflected on what had happened. "Well, my own performance was lacking. I was supposed to close the deal. Instead, I was stupidly chummy and turned against you for no reason, making us look incompetent though pointless infighting. If anyone's the fool, it's me."
"We knew coming into this she'd be stubborn."
"At the end of our exchange, I referred to her like a good to be delivered. I fucked up."
"We're almost at the hideout." replied Kimaru.
They sat in silence for the rest of the trip, turning into an underground parking lot underneath a tall city skyscraper. Kivees looked passively out the window as they went further down another ramp to a gated area with discreetly armed guards that looked like average security. Underlings usually had to flash a card with the cult symbol to pass, but Kimaru's stuck out arm was enough to open. Kimaru found a place to park.

Kivees sighed deeply.

"We'll talk to the master together." said Kimaru. "Just allow me some time just to sit in the car first."

But Kivees was already out of the car and walking into the darkness. Kimaru slouched back again, allowing his arms to loosen up. His thoughts turned to the Neza that he had seen. He remembered how she wore a garbage bag armed with a nail gun and a kitchen knife, like a housewife recruited as militia. Even when she barked at Kivees to get out of the car, her face was desperate, soft. Kimaru straighted up at the blasphemous thought, and heard the passenger door open beside him.

It was Kivees with a carton of cigarettes, presumably from the vending machine. Kivees opened the carton and popped one out for Kimaru to take. Kimaru took it hesitantly and Kivees lit it up with his lighter before taking one of his own. They lowered their windows to let the smoke out. Kivees held the cigarette with an arched wrist between his two fingers like a philosopher, staring blankly into the darkness he came from, while Kimaru puffed steadily, needily, between his thumb and two fingers, having breathed smoke from his nose like a dragon before correcting himself and blowing smoke from his mouth in a steady stream into the cold air outside. They said nothing; they didn't need to say anything. Both had feelings they simply needed to burn away in the car. Kimaru, his unrestrained temper; Kivees, his wallowing self-pity and doubt.
 
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"You had her... and you let her leave?" A man in a mask and cloak sat behind a large desk. His voice was low and commanding.

"Well my lord she is our goddess and we cant just disobey her." Kivees explained quickly.

"That doesnt answer my question."

"Yes my lord we let her leave." Was the last thing he said before he found himself pressed up against a large glass window. It was a long way down to the city below.

"You let our God, the one we've worked so hard to find, go because she wanted out!" The man pressed harder and the glass started to crack.

"Im sorry my lord..... please...." Kivees struggled.

"Im going to rip your arm off now Kivees. We will give you a new one dont worry." The masked man said calmly.

"No... my lord....please..."

"Lord Ruga please wait! We may have not captured her but I put a tracker on her. We can find her again." Kimaru spoke up.

"You should have told me that first Kimaru." The man released Kivees. "Wasting my time. I expect results in a days time, find our God and bring her back by any means."

"Yes my lord!" Kivees was quick to leave.
 
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Kimaru and Kivees walked away from the office in silence, walking at a brisk pace until they were inside the elevator. Kimaru punched in a sequence of elevator buttons while Kivees adjusted his collar and opened it in order to clear his throat.

"This is bullshit." muttered Kimaru.
"One day isn't a lot," agreed Kivees. "but we'll make it work."

The elevator dinged and they exited onto a secret floor, a hallway much like a hotel. Kimaru noticed Kivees hand was still around his neck adjusting the collar, and slapped it away. Kivees neck was red.

"For that asshole?" Kimaru shot back, angrily, but hushed like Kivees.

Kivees nudged his head towards his room near the center of the hall that had double doors, and they both slinked inside quickly. Kivees gestured to the living room next to a bathroom, while undoing another top button on his shirt. Kivees popped a couple of pills and rubbed some cream on his neck and chest, while Kimaru looked around impassively at the much larger living space that his superior had. He didn't see much for possessions though. It seemed so paradoxically spartan. Where were the cabinets filled with china, the trays with expensive liquors on top of smaller tables, the marble statues, the vases, the imported rugs? The furniture at the center of the hardwood floor consisted two reclining chairs and small table.

"What the hell's he paying you with?" said Kimaru, as Kivees returned to sit down.
Kivess looked around. "I could fill this place up with boring clutter, but there's no point. I'm barely home."
"So what do you spend it on?"
"Fashion, thrills." Kivees replied dismissively. "Is the goddess still on the move?"
"She's settled."
"She's at a house in a family neighborhood." stated Kivees plainly.
Kimaru leaned forward in his chair, no longer slouched, attentive.
"The Yakuza reported the disappearance of a few collectors. What was strange was they were only supposed to do the run for average households. What you said confirmed a suspicion."

Kimaru knew simply that the Yakuza was under the Cult's thumb, but not much on the finer details. The command structure was obfuscated enough that nothing could get traced back to the Cult of Neza itself, but whatever the Yakuza knew, they knew. It just didn't work the other way around.

"There's a city map in the kitchen." said Kivees. "Come with me."

They both made their way to the fridge and Kivees took down the city map under the magnet and fished out a red pen from a drawer for Kimaru to mark the house. Kivees thought of the game that Kimaru enjoyed playing, of speaking in double meaning, bold faced daring others to find him out and exposing him. Kivees could understand the thrill, though the game wasn't for him. The game just didn't have the right payoff, and would wear him down. There were surely times Kimaru meant to stop playing, speak plainly, and still have no one understand. He could have used any other word than settled to describe that Neza was no longer moving, but he didn't. Kimaru chose that word precisely to play the game, to secretly convey frustration over the Neza they had seen today. Still, the secret shared between them that she 'settled' would be directly known to Lord Ruga tomorrow.

"Thank you." said Kivees. "You can leave the map on the counter."
"What next?"
"I'll make the necessary calls tomorrow." replied Kivees. "There's a plan I'm considering, but I need to sleep on it and hammer out the kinks."
"Sleep on it? Hammer out the kinks?" Kimaru repeated. "Who says that anymore?"
"You get some sleep too. That's an order." said Kivees with finality. Kimaru briskly left the kitchen area, thought the near empty living room, and shut the door behind him. Kivees followed and made sure they were locked anyway. He sat back in Kimaru's chair, feeling too exhausted to walk to his bedroom and tossed off his gloves and unbuttoned the rest of his shirt before gradually falling asleep.
 

Tone 6th

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Kimaru opened the window in his room "Go to sleep? Fuck that, I've got a bone to pick." he hopped out and into the dark streets of the city. The night air was cold and refreshing, and the city was alive with neon. This was the time of day Kimaru loved, everything was relaxed... fun even.

He made his way back to HQ. "Goddess my ass." he scowled as he road an elevator down into one of the many sub levels of the building. He got out on a floor that looked more like an old Japanese home from centuries ago. Hard wood floors ran the halls, thin paper walls split the space into many sections, and grass mats made for good sitting space in the rooms.

The man left his coat and shoes at the elevator entrance, a quickness in his step. He turned left and right until he came to a big red wood door. It was nothing to him as he flung it open, mind focused on one thing. In the room was a book...THE book, the Black Book. Eons of history were recorded in this books seemingly endless pages. The Black Book was one of power and those chosen by were granted a bit of its power. It was here that Neza had her trails, as did Kimaru.

He flung the book open and found a blank page. Sitting down he closed his eyes and connected his soul to the book. Kimaru found himself in a blank space "Neza, you liar, I summon you!" he called out.

"Liar? Who are you calling a Liar 103?" Neza appeared before the warrior.

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"My name is Kimaru!" he growled. "I met you today in the real world. What a fucking joke!" he spat.

"Excuse me?" Neza grit her teeth.

"She was running around in a damn trash bag! She barely put up a fight, no magic weapon arsenal, nothing but a scared pathetic loser!... And you know what I think this you is WILDLY exaggerated, clearly you should have just been a foot note!" he pointed.

Neza looked at the man before her with an astonished looked "I...I..." astonishment quickly turned to hot anger. "FOOT NOTE! Look here fucker I can't speak for current me, but make no mistake I'll kill you hear and now. I earned my power, just like you, and I'm sure whatever I'm doing now is twice as important then whatever you decided to waste your life on."

"YOU LOST! Jiro and brother defeated you, and you ran back home with your tail between your legs!" he yelled.

Neza went quiet for a second "I'm still better then some two bit street rat experiment, who apparently cant even kill a bitch in a trash bag!"


"TWO BIT! THATS IT!" Kimarus veins went black. A huge cityscape rose up around them as he charged her, a gush of ink hardening from his palm making a sharp blade. He swung wildly at her, she moved in and out of the swipes with such grace.

"Awe did I strike a nerve!" She reared back and punched him square, knocking him back.

He quickly got up and shot several ink bullets at her. She managed to dodge a few, but the ones that hit quickly started to burn away her synthetic skin. "AHHH NO HELP ME!" she cried out.

Kimaru smirked and walked over to the know kneeling woman "See pathetic." he grabbed her arm.

"Idiot!" Neza grinned and summoned a dagger, cutting him deep in the gut. Kimaru gasped and stumbled back. "Uh oh looks like the street rat forgot his lessons." she laughed and showed off her metal skeleton.

Ink swelled to the hole in Kimaru's stomach andit was sealed "Bitch..."

"Oooo neat trick but lets see how you do with this!" she summoned a large firework bomb and chucked it at him. It exploded in a burst of colors and set hot bits of metal into the mans skin. She didn't waste anytime in summoning a katana and running Kimaru through "Who's a foot note now?" she whispered in his ear and pulled her sword out.

The warrior hit the ground and coughed up a mix of ink and blood "N no I'm not done.... Im... not....done!" he got up quickly and grabbed hold of Neza, eyes ablaze with anger. Thick ropes of black liquid snaked into the golem and bound to her skeleton. He kicked her back and pulled the stings with his fingers making her into a puppet.

Neza struggled against his control only to have her own sword driven through her chest, millimeters away from her Zae Gem. "Come on puppet dance!" Kimaur laughed. "Come on stop hitting yourself!"

Neza grit her teeth "Enough!" a huge surge of energy erupted from her and the lines snapped. Several swords, of all kinds, floated around her. She raised her hand and all of them went flying at the man, she following close behind.

The blades slashed and cut the man one right after the next. Neza grabbed her katana again and dashed at the man, he unable to focus. "Die!" she roared as she nearly cut him in half. The weapons disappeared as Kimaru fell to the ground "Second rate." Neza spat.

"Im not s s s...." Kimarus eyes flickered, it looking like he was going to pass out. "I'M NOT SECOND RATE!" he yelled and his skin turned deep black. Two arms erupted from his back and grabbed Neza. He started to pull the woman apart as he joints started to give out. "ILL KILL YOU! ILL KILL EVERYONE!" he screamed like a crazed animal.

*Bzzzzrt* There was the sound of shredding metal and the popping of sparks as he ripped an arm off Neza.

"AHHHH!" she screamed. The golem kicked her attacker in the face and got back. She took a deep breath and started to focus energy into her sword. She dodged Kimarus attacks as he swiped at her with his claws. "It's over!" she released the blade beam point blank into the animal.

Kimaru was tossed out of the book and through a few walls, he lost he was back in the real world.
 
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Although Kivees had wanted to think about his future stunt in his dreams, the blackout sleep he did get revigorated him at the time he awoke to the programmed alarm of his wristwatch for 6:00.

He wondered if Kimaru had slept as well as he did. Just yesterday, Kivees thought of Kimaru as just a cut above a henchman, but his performance yesterday had been very impressive. He had tortured, broke into a car, tracked, and fought the Goddess to a stalemate all with the same power. Kivees considered that perhaps Kimaru was developing at a rate none of the Cult had realized.

Kivees changed into new clothes and had breakfast a leisurly pace. He didn't expect Kimaru to be awake at 6:00 but hoped that he would be good by 7:00. When he got to Kimaru's door and pressed the buzzer, there was no answer. He pressed it again, and then got a text on his phone. It was a picture of Kimaru in the Shrine, sprawled out unconscious on the floor like a drunk.

/Why's he here without my permission?/

The Keeper. She had been the curator and protector of the book for years, dedicating her life to understanding it and readying herself to answer the Book's call to a higher service. The tone of her text spoke volumes to her inflated sense of authority despite the bloody nose of having a random street punk win the book's favor almost overnight, becoming its undeniable Chosen. Kivees considered replying to her that he didn't require her permission, but he had more pressing business than antagonize her.
/Drag him out of sight./

There was no text reply after this. The Keeper might have an ego, but she at least knew infighting wasn't something the boss would tolerate. He made another call.
---

Kivees walked down a sidewalk and glanced at his watch again. It was 8:30 now, but it was too late to get Kimaru. He was disappointed Kimaru didn't take his advice of getting some sleep, and instead communed with the book.

A van screeched around a corner while the side door opened and a swarm of hands pulled him in. Kivees let his body be thrown to a seat. Inside was a large group of suited Yakuza fully armed with rifles, guns, swords and knives. Kivees had called the hit through a voice master, and there was no good way to convince them to do it half-assed. He told them that the people in the house were responsible for the murder of their debt collectors and that they were highly dangerous.

"Tell us where the house is!" shouted a Yakuza.

Kivees reached into his suit pocket to slowly pull out the map marked from last night, and it was snatched from him as soon as it was in sight. Such fools. Even now, they believed they held the power, while he sat comfortably among them, in a position to dispatch them instantaneously.
"The Reo house?" the Yakuza grunted.

"Doesn't he have a little girl?" said another. Kivees saw that this young man was probably still new in the Yakuza; his voice betrayed concern for the innocent. For Kivees, it was the leverage he was looking for, provided that at least one person survived the attack.

"You know you could've just given us the address on the phone." said the first Yakuza.

"Request from my boss." said Kivees, acting meek. "I need to be here to watch the hit. I'll stay out of the way."

"You do that."

The van came to a halt after making several screeching turns inside of a residential community. The doors opened and the Yakuza gang members stepped out of them, machine guns in hand, and opened fire on the house, while others threw in grenades through the shattered glass.
 
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Tone 6th

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"Hanako look I drew you!" Itsumi handed the woman a piece of paper.

Hanako took it and smiled "My my you've gotten to be such a good artist. How about you draw one of your dad hm?"

"Okay." She smiled and went back to her crayons.

Reo came up from downstairs, covered in grease, and smiled "How are my favorite ladies doing?" He asked and went to kiss Hanako.

"Ew gross!" Itsumi stuck out her tongue.

"Hey I'm going to shower then get dinner going." He told Hanako.

"Yeah, I'll help you. I-" horror ran through her spine as she head car doors open, and guns cocking. Everything seemed to slow down as she pushed Reo in a direction she hoped he would be safe. Then dove for Itsumi just as the bullets started to fly.

One stray brushed her leg, cutting it. She wrapped her body around the little girl as best she could and rounded a corner.

A deafining explosion followed by a searing flame toss the two into a wall, leaving itsumi crying and Hanako dazed.

The bullets stopped and the front door was kicked open. Two of the Yakuza came on and pointed their guns at Hanako and Itsumi.

She grabbed onto the girl to shield her from what came next. *BANG!* *BANG!* The woman flinched as she waited for the darkness of death.... But it never came. She opened her eyes and the two men were on the floor in front of her. (Place holder)
 

foodforpigs

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Kivees ran his hand through his hair and kicked a clump of wood that had been chipped off the walls. The house was riddled with bullet holes, debris everywhere from the exploding grenades. He wondered why Neza hadn't even raised a crude shield to protect her from the bullets; the sudden violence clearly took her off guard. Did she really think that the Yakuza weren't going to retaliate like this? Well, maybe they wouldn't have today, if not for his assistance in giving them the address, but someday, and he wouldn't have been there to save her.

"Nobody move." said Kivees.
"Please, don't hurt them." pleaded Reo. "I'm the one you're after."
"If I was Yakuza, I would've plugged you already." Kivees turned to Hanako. "Neza, let go of the girl."
"Mommy!" Izumi screamed, crying into Hanako's chest.
Kivees shot a nearby plate, shattering it into pieces. The crying stopped, and Hanako's iron tight arms loosened, and she let go.
"Come here." Kivees waved his gun. Crying soundlessly, Izumi moved towards Kivees. Kivees turned her around and pointed the gun at her head.
"I'll go with you." said Hanako. "Just leave them out of this."
"Shut up!"

Hanako remained frozen in place, unable to move. As Neza, she would've sprung an attack now, but as Hanako, she couldn't. She doubted her reflexes would be fast enough to kill Kivees before he killed either Reo or Izumi. She was afraid. At the corner of her eye, she saw Reo hold still as well.

"Throw your cell phones away, both of you. No sudden movements."
Reo and Hanako did so, carefully and methodically. Kivees shot at them, shattering them into pieces.
"Try anything funny and she dies. Understood?"
They both nodded. Kivees texted a message on his phone.

Without a wall clock, it was difficult to know how much time had passed, but soon more people covered in the symbol that was on Kimaru's back had come into the house to cuff Hanako, Reo and Izumi and cover their head with black bags. Each car had one of the prisoners, and each went their own separate directions.
 
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Torn from her family a rage lit in Hanako, one she hadn't felt sens Gin. Why were these fanatics so hell bent on her joining their little club? Why couldn't she just live a normal life!

The van pulled up behind a huge building and the woman was ripped from the van "Come my lady things will be easier if you don't struggle." Kivees smiled.

Hanako spat in his face "Fuck you!"

Kivees wiped his face and just looked at the would be goddess for a moment. "What the fuck are you- PAH!" Hanako started but quickly found his fist in her stomach, knocking the air out of her.

"Bring her to the boss, he's expecting her." he shook his hand a few times.

The group went up to the very top of the building, the city below looked like a grid of lights. Kivees flung the doors to the Boss's office and bowed. "My lord I've brought the girl liked you asked." he smiled. Hanako was dragged over to a chair in front of the leaders desk, and forced to sit.

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"Well done, you may live another day. Leave us." he motioned. The group took their leave.

"So you're the supposed Goddess Neza." the man stood up and looked at Hanako with prying eyes. "That's what my men tell me anyway, I have yet to see it."

"Until me and I'll give you a fucking show!" Hanako snapped.

"In time, but first I need you do something for me."

"Sorry my days of helping weirdos in masks is over." she smirked.

"That's very disappointing, I'm sure your family will be very sorry to hear that." his voice was like a trigger in her ear.

"Don't you fucking touch them!" she yelled.

"Then you have to cooperate, do that and no one will get hurt."

"....Fine." Hanako said in a quite growl.

"You will respect me, my followers, and our cause. You will obey any orders I give you, so if I tell you to kill you will, if I tell you to steal you will, whatever I tell you you will do it. If you fail to do this then your family dies right in front of your eyes. Understand?"

Hanako nodded.

"Say it."

"I understand... that your fucking nuts!" she broke out of her cuffs and charged at him with a knife. Her attack was easily countered. He grabbed her wrist and buried her face in the desk, it cracking a bit.

"You want to fight? Fine. Then we fight for the city to see, for all my followers to see! I want the world to see that I am the one who can control the gods themselves!" he laughed a little before letting her go. "My men will escort you to the ring." he snapped and two men came to take, a still dazed Hanako, away.
 
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"Wake up."

Kimaru opened his eyes and sat up from the simple bed in a adjoining room beside the shrine. Leira, Keeper of the Book, looked over him, shaking her head and clicking her tongue in disapproval. Kimaru groaned.

"You're welcome." jeered Leira.
Kimaru jolted up. "Neza!"
"Chill." said Leira. "Kivees captured your idol while you spent the day snoozing."
Kimaru closed his eyes and took a deep breath, allowing the adrenaline to pass through him. "I see. The boss?"
"Indifferent. As usual, he doesn't care about the details as long as the job's still done, leaving you, Book Chosen, once again blameless."
"So why -"
"Wake you up?" said Leira. "Turns out your idol has already locked horns with the boss, and they're going to fight it out in the parking lot. You'd hate me if you missed it."
"I'm not going."
"Hah?" sneered Leira. "Have the jitters? Not that it matters. Boss wants you to film the fight."
"Fine."
"What's up? Something happen between you and the book?"

Leira felt cold going up her chest. It was Kimaru's ink, sharp-edged, going along like a knife grazing against the skin up to her chin and bottom of her neck. Kimaru's face lost its pallor, leaving only a grim mask. The sensation of a knife became a clawed hand, and though it didn't squeeze, its presence was unmistakable around her neck, scratching her throat with each finger. Leira sat frozen, breathing through her nose. Kimaru stared into Leira with cold eyes, and she couldn't look away, but eventually she shut her eyes, accepting. She could feel the grip slink away from her. Leira turned away and exited the room without daring to look at Kimaru again.
---

"Thank you." said Lord Ruga. "You may leave her."

The guards that flanked Hanako and held each of her arms gently let go and let her slump to the ground of the emptied parking lot. Besides the dim lighting where they were, there was pitch black.

"Have you eaten?"

Hanako shook her head.

"No, I suppose you wouldn't. Worried sick about your family are we?"

Hanako raised her head and sneered at Ruga. "Not for long. Once I've taken your head, your goons will see things my way." Her eyes then locked to a subtle movement in the darkness, but she said nothing.

"You couldn't even cut a single pillar in this basement."
"That right?" replied Hanako.
"I defy you!" Ruga boomed. "Even if you are who they all think you are, there is no spark in you of the Goddess, who raged against the heavens
themselves."
"It's not like I didn't say no to this fucking demented fan club before." retorted Hanako.

Lord Ruga went into a battle-ready stance, his sword ready to be drawn from its sheath. Hanako focused to make her signature weapon, the Moon Blade, but it simply didn't appear. Ruga abruptly threw the sword still in its sheath at Hanako. It spun so fast that it audibly sliced the air around it. Hanako caught it, bending her hand back at the wrist. She unsheathed it, eyeing Ruga curiously.

"Is it to your liking?"
Hanako shrugged. "Good grip, weight."
 

Tone 6th

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"Shall we begin then?" Ruga smiled.

"Just to be clear I kick your ass, I get my family back, and you leave us alone forever?"

"You have my word. Now enough talk!" he pushed off the ground and flew through the air, arm reared back.

Hanako brought the sword up to block, clashing with him but only for a second, he knocked the sword from her hands. "Fuck!" Hanako cursed before he rammed his fist into her stomach. The woman sailed across the room and crashed into the wall.

"Oh how the mighty have fallen, is this really all a goddess can offer?" Ruga strutted over. *Shunk!* The man found the sword run through his shoulder "How did you?" he grabbed the blade and pulled it out, blood pouring out of the fresh wound. Hanako stood before him, head down hair covering her face. "What is this energy..."

Hanako looked at the man, eyes glowing red, a wicked smile on her face "Finally a good fucking fight!" he laughed.


In the blink of an eye she was gone, ripped the sword from the mans hands. She darted from one wall to the next slashing at him from every side, he not able to keep up. She stopped right in front of him admiring her handy work "Believe me now you fuck?" she smiled.

"So this is the power of a god... weak!" he grabbed her and slammed her into the ground so hard it cracked. "Ive read you killed a thousand men in the blink of an eye! Leveled buildings! Killed Lord Gin and stole his power for your own, yet all I see is a wild animal biting out in random.

"Fuck you!" she yelled and coiled up around his arm, legs wrapped around his neck. She tossed him forward and aimed to stab him through the chest. *Clang!* The blade hit a metal plate under the mans robes, he grabbed the blade and snapped it in half.

He reached up and grabbed her by the neck squeezing "Weak." He spun around and chucked her into the wall, dust exploding into the room as the wall shattered.

Neza burst forward from the rubble and headbutted Ruga so hard it cracked his mask, he stumbled back. "Die fucking piece of trash!" she started to hit him full force with ever move from Pax style she could think of.

Ruga dropped to one knee vision blurred and body in recoil "Funny.... you know... the Goddess Form.... to the T... Of course... you made it... but..." he kicked her legs out from under her and she landed with a thud. "You can't beat me without your summoning, and you don't have that ability because you lost your spirit Mei. She was the source of your magic power.

"SHUT UP!" Neza started to get up but her head was shoved into the floor as his boot came on her.

"NO YOU SHUT UP! I could snap your fucking neck and not give a fuck about what happens next. You are no god just an empty shell, a husk, a shadow of the goddess I praise. SUBMIT!"

"I...." Hanako didn't have the energy left, he was right. "Fine... keep my family safe and I'll work for you."

"Good you start at 7A.M. don't be late." he got off of her and left.

"Mei...." Hanako was left there to wallow.
 
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