Issue #54 – Shadow of the Kurounagi

This entry is part 6 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

Part 3

“ETA at Haneda Airport, coming up on one hour.” The pilot’s voice encroached on Whitecoat’s sleep and made him aware of the painful stiffness in his back. Military transports were not designed with comfort during intercontinental flights in mind. For that matter, neither was the Whitecoat costume. Even taking his strength and resilience into account, and taking off the cumbersome gauntlets and boots, the armored coat was not something fun to sleep in.

Get groaned loudly and swung his legs down onto the floor. Almost immediately, something warm, yielding and wrapped in paper was placed in his hand. He smelled steak wafting up from it, which was always a good sign in the morning. He glanced up and found that he’d turned the screen in the brim of his hat off during the night. Correcting this caused Darkness to come into view and the fact that she was also holding out a mug of coffee instantly made him want to nominate her for sainthood.

“Glad you’re finally up.” She said, you can join the strategy meeting.” She pointed to the sandwich she’d given him. “It’s steak and eggs on a hoagie roll. Codex packed enough breakfast for all of us, but if you’ve got any dietary concerns, I’m afraid the alternative is MRE’s.”

“Oh, this’ll do just fine, thanks.” He said, lifting his bandana to take a huge bite out of the sandwich before accepting the plastic travel mug. Caffeine acquired, his keen crime fighting skills finally kicked in. “You’re not wearing your mask.”

“It’s half day’s trip, ‘coat.” Whitecoat looked over to find Barn Owl, sans mask, sitting at the back of the plane where Nermal and Codex (who was without her helmet) sat with a map of the airport projected on an emergency blanket from the first aide kit. “We can’t eat or drink with masks on—at least not most of us, so we’re calling a truce; no cameras, military guys stay in the cockpit, and the masks can come off for a bit. It’s not like we know each other’s faces from Adam anyway.”

Whitecoat contemplated this while struggling to sip his coffee from under his bandanna. Owl might not have seen the picture of the Descendants Rights Worldwide board when he was in for his PSA shoot, but Whitecoat did and it was now clear as day to him that Codex was one of them.

“Is this going to be the new rule at the Second Stringers poker game?” He finally pulled down the bandanna to hang around his neck and tipped back the brim of his hat.

“A good question.” said Barn Owl. “I’ll bring it up next time.”

Still working on his breakfast, Whitecoat got up and strolled over to the others with Darkness. The nanites pervading his tissues began the task of correcting the kinks in his back. “Alright, so I’ve got a question; do we even had permission to be in Japan? I know things are all buddy-buddy with them again, but foreign governments get particular about folks coming in and blasting the shit out of their airports. And most of them won’t be smiling and clapping to have a bunch of desc…” He glanced at Barn Owl. The source of his powers was a be question mark. “…powered people entering the country in the first place.”

“All taken care of.” Codex said. “As long as we don’t damage landmarks, the government is more than happy to let us deal with this segment of their criminal population for them, but if we screw up, they’ll disavow and that’s our ass. And just so you know, Japan’s rating with Descendants Rights Worldwide is a solid seven.”

Barn Owl balked. “Seven doesn’t sound all that solid to me.”

“The US only gets an eight, Canada and eight-five.” Codex informed him. “We’re not going to be conscripted or attacked by a mob here. In fact, we’ll be treated pretty well. In terms of treatment, Japan is on par with the US… except when it comes to a descendants living in the culture…”

Darkness frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means don’t expect help from any local heroes.” Nermal spoke up, shrinking away when he realized that he was in the center of attention. “Um, I mean Japanese culture doesn’t look down on having powers, but they do frown on flaunting them, and their definition of ‘flaunt’ is pretty broad. Since psionics—excuse me, descendants– started appearing, Japanese culture’s had a hard time dealing with it. That’s where the kachi no gisō-jin come in.”

“The who?” Whitecoat broke in.

Kachi no gisō-jin.” Codex stepped in for Nermal. “It translates roughly to ‘The people of worth who disguise themselves’. Nermal explained it to me last night, you see, since society has the dualistic problem of not wanting people to flaunt their powers while a the same time not wanting those powers to go to waste, people with powers who are employed to use those powers have come to the same mask-and-secret-ID conclusion prelates have for massively different reasons.”

“Most of the costumes aren’t that elaborate, or names that flashy, mind.” Nermal added, “But the basics are there. Really, America’s the only place where people in numbers chose to use their powers to fight crime. Not the only place, but New York’s got more superheroes than the whole of he EU right now.”

“I don’t know if that means we’re awesome or crazy.” Whitecoat laughed.

“Crack open a history book, ‘coat.” Barn Owl smirked. “It’s both.”

***

“You should have let me come out to meet them alone. It would save everyone a lot of grief to just let me explain to them before they even see you.” Chaos stood out in front of the private hanger at Haneda Airport. To his left and right stood Annalee and Haru respectively.

Kunio had gotten into a short argument with Onmyoji over brandishing his o-fuda. He didn’t want to appear threatening while Haru wanted to be ready for anything. The compromise came in the form of Haru plastering half a dozen of the talismans to his own chest and arms and hovering his hand over the case he kept others in.

They were all watching the military transport landing at a helipad about one hundred yards from the hanger.

Kunio shook his head. He was standing a few steps ahead of the other three, and off to the right. “Forgive me for not trusting you, but I would rather give my own explanations, hero.”

“What? You think I, a genuine superhero, would abandon a kid—a bunch of kids—just to hang you out to dry?”

“We don’t have any experience with ‘superheroes’ to say what they would do in this situation.” Kunio lifted a pair of slim binoculars to his eyes as the transport’s cargo doors opened. “But we have a great deal of experience with people.”

Codex exited the transport first and took a look around with her own binoculars before signaling to the others still inside. Barn Owl stepped out, extended his wings fully, and flew up in a tight spiral, taking in the surroundings from a different vantage. Soon after, the Whitecoat leapt out and started to walk toward the hanger with Codex, slow and confident with Barn Owl flying cover overhead.

“Only three?” asked Haru.

Kunio lowered his binoculars to shoot and accusatory glare at Chaos. “Except for the woman, those are not the Descendants. What is going on here?”

“I’ll tell you what’s going on.”

The voice came from above, but there was no one there but blue sky and wispy clouds. Only Chaos knew who it was and what was happening. He started to call up to Darkness, but she cut him off.

“And I know who you are too. You call yourselves ninjas. You think you know what it is to move in shadow and disappear into the night. You think that darkness is your ally? Well let me tell you something: you know nothing about Darkness. You’ve made a terrible mistake, and now Darkness is going to make you pay.”

Without pause, two pillars of black heat tore out of the sky. They were separated just enough to pass on either side of Chaos, but he felt the heat coming off of them just the same. Haru and Annalee were taken by surprise and lifted off their feet, thrown several feet from the force of the blasts.

Knowing her position was given away, Darkness released the curtain of black heat cloaking her. It rolled off her like soot colored mist as she pushed through it and into visibility. Even against that backdrop, she was darker still, sheathed in still more black heat that kept her buoyant in the air. With an angry shout, she rocketed down on Kunio with her fist reared back to strike.

No one could have doubted the reflexes of the headman of the Kurounagi. Even faced with Darkness’s impressive alpha strike, it took his mind less than a second to shift to the defense. By the time she reached him, he was already in motion, sidestepping her fist and grabbing her arm as it passed.

He could have stopped her right there, but int his, his reflexes betrayed him, having been honed for combat, not diplomacy. Instead of pulling her to a dead stop, he pivoted on his heel and threw her, the power of the move multiplied by her black heat rendering her far lighter than she would have been otherwise. Where otherwise, she would have fallen a few feet away, Darkness instead went flying toward the wall in an unstable tumbling motion.

It didn’t last long. A blast of black heat into the ground popped her up into the air where two more in opposing directions countered the spinning. Despite being a silhouette against the sky, it seemed to Chaos that she was glaring. She unleashed another thick blast of black heat at Kunio, but this time, it was scattered by a gathering cyclone between herself and the target.

“Stop, it’s okay, Al… Dark.” Chaos took to the air when she paused. “They’re not the bad guys in this.”

“They kidnapped you.” She was gathering particles in one hand as she watched Haru and Annalee get tot heir feet.

“Okay, so they are bad guys.” He admitted lamely. “But they kidnapped me because bigger bads are after kids in their care.” When he reached her, he tentatively pulled her into a mid-air embrace, which she reciprocated by lacing her arms tightly around his body under the cape.

A kiss was out of the question due to the black heat. They’d tried. It ended in coughing fits and dizziness.

“Are you okay? What did they do to you?” She asked quietly in case the ninjas were listening.

“I’m good, really.” Chaos reminded himself that they would have to discuss ways of proving to one another that they weren’t under coercion or (he shuddered to think) mind control in the near future. “Otherwise, I would have just stood by and let you kick in Kunio’s face. By the way, since when can you aim while invisible?”

She tilted her head and through the cloud of particles, he could see bulky goggles over her eyes. “Like them? They’re a loner from our pilot: infrared. As long as I’m not flaring my power, they work pretty well being my eyes while invis.”

Chaos grinned. “Nicely done. Also on that thing you did when Kunio threw you.”

“You’re getting off topic. If they did kidnap you, why are you suddenly okay with that?” She tried to say it gently, but her adrenaline was still pumping and not being able to take on her fiance’s kidnappers had left her aggression as a storm with nowhere to ground its lightning.

He acknowledged her with an apologetic tilt of his head. “The bigger bads I mentioned; they’re ninja with some yakuza groups under their thumb and descendants on the payroll. They took Kunio’s—he’s the leader of this group—son and the price of getting him back is higher than the potential problems of doing something flashy and insane to get our attention.”

Below them, they heard a flurry of motion; Haru and Annalee shifting into defensive stances. Kunio’s voice called for them to hold.

Chaos glanced do to find that the other three heroes had arrived. When his eyes traveled back to Darkness, it wasn’t necessary to see the outline of her face to know she wanted the whole story.

“Yeah, it’s a lot more complicated than that. I’d rather explain it just once though, if you don’t mind.”

“Alright,” She said, her tone more relaxed. “Though I honestly don’t know if I want this to be a huge over reaction, or something worthy of an international response. I’m sorry about his son, but nothing gave him the right to take you.”

They broke their embrace and started to float back to ground level. Chaos chuckled. “So I keep telling him. He disagrees.”

By the time they reached the ground, the two sides were uneasily sizing each other up. Chaos and Darkness’s return, landing behind the three Kurounagi ninja effectively surrounded them.

“It’s okay everyone.” Chaos held up both hands in a soothing gesture. “No one’s in danger anymore, I’m officially un-captured, and now Kunio here is going to explain to everyone just what the hell was going through his head when he thought this was a good idea.” He paused, looking at the gathering before him. “And then someone (Codex) is going to tell me why Whitecoat and the Barn Owl are here.”

“Nice to meet you by the way.” Barn Owl dropped to the tarmac and folded his wings. “We didn’t get to speak when you, Majestrix and ZP came to New York.”

Kunio made a gesture to his two subordinates and in unison, they dropped their hands to their sides and abandoned their defensive stances.

“I believe full introductions and apologies are in order.” He said while offering a small bow. “There will, of course, be reparations, but at the moment, time is short. Your arrival in this country will not go unnoticed by the Shiroi Hōseki no Shishi. Come, I will lay everything out for you in the hanger.”

***

The hanger was spare, with all the attendant equipment and tools for aircraft maintenance stowed along the north wall. A small fleet of cars, from family sedans, to flashy sports cars, to a garish, tricked out and modded van with purple flames on the sides and a fiberglass skull on the hood, were parked on the south wall. And in the center were three planes; one the private jet that took Chaos from Mayfield.

Of the other two, the first as an unassuming prop airplane, the kind used for personal pleasure flying, and the other was something only Codex was familiar with, and even then, only from tech articles.

It was glossy black and shaped like a horseshoe crab or manta ray if it’s tail were cut off and every angle smoothed out. A pair of ducted engines ran almost the entire length of the fuselage and almost disappeared into it visually. The only thing marring the illusion that it was made of a single piece of pure, black metal were the subtle lines delineating the door and imaging ports. There were no windows.

Kunio had ignored any comments on it as he led them to a small circle of folding chairs sat waiting fro them. Once everyone was seated, he retold the story he related to Chaos and related all the information the Kurounagi had on the Shiroi Hōseki no Shishi and their attendant operations. First and foremost was that the group didn’t have any territory in Tokyo. Kunio’s son was being held at one of their money laundering operations, a pre-fab building company in Sendai.

When he was done, it was Whitecoat that ended up speaking for everyone. “I don’t mean to offend here, Higurashi-san, but I don’t think we should follow your plan.”

If he was hoping that addressing him properly would soften the stark truth, he was wrong. Kunio drew himself up defensively and stared him down. “I am leader of the Kurounagi, and have been for the past decade and a half. I have planned and led hundreds of covert operations and small squad actions. I–”

Whitecoat tipped his hat up to meet the other man’s cold gaze with his own as he interrupted. “–have never planned a rescue mission for your own son. You’re afraid, maybe for the first time and that’s making you rush and do stupid things.”

“How dare you.” His voice transformed into a nearly feral growl.

“No.” said Codex. “He’s right. Take your method of getting our attention; there are a number of channels you could have gone through to contact us, but you used a gambit that depended on making an entire team of prelates angry. That wasn’t a sound decision, Higurashi-san.”

He set his jaw and breathed out hard through his nose. “What I did was necessary. Not only for my son, but for all of the people for whom I am responsible. I did what was best!”

Codex nodded. “And what’s best right now is a new plan.” She reached up and touched her com. “Nermal, did you get that?”

“Y-yes ma’am. Pinhole cam was rolling, I’ve been processing the information the whole time.” Codex let his voice play through a built in speaker in her palmtop.

“Good. I want to know everything about that packing plant and the surrounding district. Also see if you can figure out who these descendants are the Shiroi Hōseki no Shishi have hired.” She looked over to Kunio. “Higurashi-san, is there a more comfortable place we can go to plan?”

He scowled, but it softened quickly. Inclining his head, he directed their attention to the sleek, black plane. “Yes, the Karasu no Yūrei has a very comfortable passenger compartment.”

Codex smiled under her helmet. “Domo. Nermal, get in here, we’ve got work to do.”

Series Navigation<< Issue #53 – The House on Dawson BayIssue #55 – Beer Money >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed

  • Descendants Serial is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.