- Issue #49 – George
- Issue #50 – Operation: All In
- Issue #51 – Amore Detestabilis
- Issue #52 – Scenes From a Changing World
- Issue #53 – The House on Dawson Bay
- Issue #54 – Shadow of the Kurounagi
- Issue #55 – Beer Money
- Issue #56 – Family Matters
- Issue #57 – Waylaid
- Descendants Special #5 – Women in Free-fall
- Issue #58 – Alert UMW: Mages
- Issue #59 – Return of the Magi
- Issue #60 – Rust Buckets
- Descendants Annual #5
It was still raining when the two cars provided to the heroes courtesy of Kunio pulled down the long alley and into the vacant lot where the Karasu no Yūrei awaited them. The sleek ship was up on its landing spars, water sheeting off it’s sleek, black exterior.
As the cars drew near, the cargo ramp lowered, minded by a pair of Kurounagi shinobi, garbed in rain ponchos and hoods. They waved for the visiting heroes to drive up the ramp, out of the rain and into the cargo bay.
The Karasu no Yūrei wasn’t built to carry a great deal, but there was just enough room for the two coupes to squeeze in side by side and still open their doors. As soon as they were clear of it, the ramp raised and the shinobi guards set about securing the cars for transport, as the engines started up.
By the time the Descendants and their back-up started to pile out, Kunio appeared at the door leading to the stairs up to the passenger cabin with Haru and Annalee hot on his heels.
Though his eyes were questing for his son, he did his due diligence as leader of his clan. “Were you followed? Did you make any contact with any members of the Shiroi Hōseki no Shishi?” He didn’t wait for a reply before pointing to the men securing the cars. “Tsuiseki sōchi no tame no kuruma o kensaku suru.”
“I’ve already swept for bugs” Codex replied, going around to the back door of the car she’d arrived in. “As well as our persons. We’re clean.” She carefully lifted the boy out of the back seat. “And your son is safe.”
“Kage-kun…” The authoritative mask slipped a fraction as the father in Kunio came to the fore.
“He’s been drugged.” Codex explained as she carried the boy to him. “Nothing dangerous; his vital signs are strong and his breathing is regular.
Kunio met her halfway and took the boy in his arms. He didn’t take his eyes off him. “I suspected as much. He is, after all, my son, and even at ten years old, he has been taught well enough that he would need to be drugged to keep him from escaping.” There was pride in his voice.
“Anata ga sore o kanō ni suru baai, sensei, watashi wa kare o mezame saseru koto o kokoromiru kanō-sei ga arimasu.” Haru was swiftly at his leader’s elbow, an o-fuda in hand.
“Hai. Jōkyaku no ryōiki ni kare o toru to, kare o iyasu. Watashi wa watashi no bijinesu o teiketsu shite mamonaku, kare ga hyōji sa remasu.” said Kunio. He reluctantly handed Kage over to Annalee, who then followed Haru back up the stairs to the passenger compartment.
He turned to watch them go, only returning his gaze to the heroes after they were out of sight.
“I am in your debt on many levels.” He said at length. First, he locked gazes with Chaos through the other man’s visor. “To meet my own needs with celerity, I tricked you, attacked you, and kidnapped you from your homeland.” Then he directed his attention to Darkness, “To win back my loved one, I stole yours from you.” His gaze swept Codex, Whitecoat, and Barn Owl. “I have drawn you into a conflict because I did not believe I could win it on my own, and taken you away from your own works; your own conflicts.”
The plane vibrated as it lifted off vertically into the night sky.
“My thanks will never be enough. My apologies will never be enough. If I diverted every fund rightly available to me, it would take one thousand years for me to pay your for the service you have performed, and repay the damage I have done.”
“We couldn’t take it anyway.” said Chaos. “We helped you because there were kids in danger, but your organization still deals in assassination and espionage. If it wouldn’t cause an international incident, I think we’ve be obligated to take you down.”
“Even then, I’m tempted because of what you pulled on us.” added Darkness. The edge in her voice made Chaos’s pronouncement sound friendly by comparison.
Kunio let out a rich, deep chuckle. “Of course. Perhaps some other time, we can be enemies, but today, I am in your debt.”
“No excuses for the things your people do then?” Chaos asked.
“None at all. We are, after all, shinobi. We do what we do and we know that it is often at odds with society. However abhorrent you find our actions, Japanese culture finds it worse. That is why our very existence is largely fictionalized or denied. And to be honest, we like it that way.” He and Chaos stared one another down for a tense moment before Barn Owl spoke up.
“So what happens now? I’m not saying I agree with him, but it seems wrong to try and bring him in right after we helped save his kid.”
Whitecoat nodded. “That, and we don’t exactly have enough clout in Japan to just toss a pile of ninjas on the steps of the local PD and expect them to process them on our word.”
“And I do not want to order my people to attack those who just saved my son.” Kunio said.
Codex took the situation in. No one wanted to point out that powers or no, Kunio had them at a temporary advantage; sealed in his plane, high over Japan and surrounded by his clan. “A truce.” She suggested plainly. The others looked to her to elaborate, relieved that she was the one to suggest it.
“Obviously, none of use want to follow through on this. And what’s more, I’m not sure how the prelates of New York do things, but the Descendants aren’t law enforcers, we’re in the business of protecting people, primarily.” She extended a hand to Chaos and Darkness. “You remember how we let the Interfacers slide? Or the Kin, who we should have reported to child services, but we all know that would have been a disaster; entering them into the system while Tome was looking for them.”
Neither Darkness, nor Chaos had an answer for that, so Codex nodded to Kunio. “Higurashi-san, we will accept your hospitality without quarrel, but we refuse to stand idly by if your clan poses any danger to the pubic while we are in a position to stop it. Do we have an accord?”
“Indeed. Though I did not anticipate any assassinations happening on the flight back to Tokyo.” He motioned for them to follow him up to the passenger compartment. “However, I remain in your debt nonetheless.”
“You wouldn’t consider removing the criminal activity from your business model as a pay to pay us back, would you?” Whitecoat ventured.
To the shock of all, Kunio paused in thought.
“Is he actually considering it?” Owl asked Whitecoat. “It can’t possibly be that easy to go up to a criminal and go ‘pretty please stop doing crime’.”
Whitecoat shrugged. “You ever try it? Has anyone? Maybe the entire system of law down through human history has been working the wrong angle.”
“If this works, I’ll eat your hat.”
Kunio laughed. “Perhaps just a small bite, Owl-san. You are correct in that simply asking nicely, even in pursuit of a great debt, cannot change the reality that things like corporate espionage provide the capitol necessary to maintain the clan’s day to day workings, especially as the numbers of budding Onmyoji continue to grow. The costs of housing, feeding and training they and their families will rise as well.”
“Ha. Told you.” Owl nudged Whitecoat with his elbow.
“Is this really something you wanted to be right about?” Darkness asked.
“Ah, but he is not entirely correct.” Kunio interrupted. “I can partially honor Whitecoat-san’s request and decree that the Kurounagi will no longer take contracts on lives. No more assassinations.”
Whitecoat was forced to do a double take. “What, are you serious?”
“Completely. Very few of the remaining clans take death contracts in these days; without Onmyodo, modern forensics can too easily expose them; only the most skilled and brash do so any more. It will not harm us to follow their example as a show of good faith to you.”
“Sounds like a good deal to me.” said Whitecoat, reaching out to shake hands with Kunio. “Lives for lives.”
“It is a start.” Kunio agreed. “But still not enough. In time, I wish to fully repay my debts, but at the moment; Codex-san, I would like to present the Descendants with a gift…”
They parted ways with the Kurounagi clan at the airport and sent the ROCIC transport home; they had other arrangements for the trip home that Codex didn’t want the government to know about.
Two days of sight seeing and impromptu public relations appearances followed, making the whole thing look like a collaboration between the Mayor of Tokyo and Descendants Rights Worldwide. Since he was now listed as a consultant for DRW, Nermal got to spend his trip in a hotel on their expense account instead of at his friend’s house.
On the third day of what was becoming a five day trip, Ian and Alexis (not Chaos and Darkness) took a train to Kyoto in order to pay a visit to a rented hanger at Kansai International Airport.
“You know, when most people take a break, they typically abandon staring at a computer screen for tourism and laying around the hotel, not the opposite.” Ian said as he wandered in through the flight deck door.
It was a more open space then most, with two forward facing seats for pilot and copilot and two more seats for ops facing to the left and right behind them. Instead of a windscreen, there was one, large digital screen that not only occupied the front portion of the craft, but half the flight deck’s ceiling.
Laurel wa sin the pilot’s chair, hunched over her tablet computer as she entered commands. “I’m converting our very own shinobi stealth plane over to controls in English. It might not look glamorous, but in my book, this is intensely awesome.” She turned the chair to face them and smirked. “Besides, don’t tell me Alex hasn’t been climbing the walls thinking about work.”
“I can hear you, you know?” Alexis called from the passenger compartment.
Ian laughed. “I can’t disagree with a word you’ve said. Except the ‘shinobi’ part. Ninja sounds cooler.”
“The Kurounagi prefer ‘shinobi’, so that’s what I use.” Laurel shrugged before standing to stretch. “But anyway, I thought the two of you would be spending at least one more day romancing in Tokyo; didn’t want to be a third wheel.”
“Aw, you’re never a third wheel, L. We missed you.” Ian put an arm around her.
Alexis appeared in the doorway, smiling. “In fact, we were on our way to visit Nijo Castle and wanted to know if you wanted to come with.”
Laurel laughed and hugged Ian for his trouble. “And here I thought I left you with perfectly good playmates in Whitecoat and Barn Owl.”
“Oh, well someone,” Alexis poked Ian in the ribs, “Is still skittish about being around them unmasked.”
“I still can’t believe you did that.” he admitted.
“It was a logical exercise in trust building.” said Laurel, slipping away from Ian to check on the progress of the program she was running. “We are trying to engender a greater spirit of camaraderie among the prelates, and Whitecoat is a good choice; he knows who Alloy is already and has never betrayed him.”
“A calculated risk, I’ll admit, but Barn Owl has been a prelate since before we even got into this Tome mess, and he’s been incredibly helpful with the PSA campaign, not to mention his independent efforts to unite the prelates of New York.”
“And they did come halfway around the world to help rescue you.” Alexis added. “That’s increased both their stocks in my book.”
“I never did say a proper thank you to any of you for the prompt rescue.” Ian said. “I…”
“Ian, we’ve known each other since we were teenagers. You and Alexis are engaged. If the Earth itself swallowed you up, you couldn’t expect anything less of the two of us then flying down the throat of a volcano to rescue you.”
“And you’d do the same for us.” Alexis added, wrapping her arms around him and leaning her head on his shoulder. She smiled lazily at Laurel. “But… there really is a lot of work I need to do at the Institute during summer session. How long until we’re ready to fly, L?”
“Oh no you don’t.” Laurel folded her arms. “I said we’d stay for five days and I meant it. Whether the plane is ready in three hours or three days won’t change that. The Karasu no Yūrei goes nowhere until I’m ready for us to go, so there.”
“So we’re keeping the name?” Ian asked. “What’s it mean?”
Laurel laughed. “I never took Higurashi-san to be overly theatrical, but the name says differently. My best translation of Karasu no Yūrei is Ghost Raven.”
The others stared at her, then Ian snorted. “Kind of on the nose for a ninja spy plane. I’m voting that we keep Karasu no Yūrei then.”
On the other side of the globe, the North Carolina woods were not agreeing with Sean McAllister. There was a narrow path, but it was only there in the sense that the plants grew over instead of on it, and the bluish light from his camp lantern threw crazy shadows across it, making it even more indistinct.
“Hey Billy!” He shouted to his companion, a few yards ahead of him on the more or less theoretical path. “You too lazy to cut a real lane out here or what?”
Billy Jolson was a man almost as skinny as the path. His curly, black beard and hair were almost wider than his entire body. “I told you, this place is a secret, Sean.” He snapped. “We can’t just go cuttin’ roads and shit out here without nobody noticin’.”
“Shit lot of good it is if you can’t even walk to the damn thing without breaking your neck.” Sean looked around at the forest. This was real wilderness; no wide open spaces between trees here. Smaller trees, to bushes that hoped to become trees one day choked the forest floor and where they didn’t the vines crept over every root and rock, just waiting to catch the foot of the unwary. Somewhere up ahead, there was a faint, yellow glow, but he didn’t think much about it because he was trying not to trip and break his nose.
“Just what the hell is this about?” He finally asked after what felt like the tenth near-spill.
Billy took off his truck hat with the hand holding his lantern and scratched his head. “Remember how you always cussed and complained about the psionics? How they weren’t real people, and how they were going to try an’ wipe us out?”
“I mostly remember how ya’ll acted like It wasn’t a thing; buying up them goddamn Sonja Remington calendars and talking about what kind of freak powers you wish you’d got.”
“Yeah, well things change.” Billy said, forging on toward the yellow glow. “You heard about that prison down south where they kept the bad ones?”
“They’re all bad ones, Billy-boy. Some just never got caught.” Bitterness tinged every word.
“The real, real bad ones.” Billy corrected. “You know what I mean?” Sean grunted for him to continue. “So me and the fellas started thinkin’ maybe you was right the whole time, Sean. And if them guards couldn’t stop ’em, what chance would we have?”
Sean laughed sarcastically. “Not even a snowball’s chance.”
“That’s what we thought.” Billy agreed. Now they were close to the glow, close enough to see that it came from a large work lamp set in a clearing. The light was partially reflected by camouflage netting in the trees and lots of metal. “You need military stuff to deal with one of them.”
They stepped into the clearing and Sean stopped dead, staring up. Billy kept explaining. “You remember Joe Tyson’s little brother, Al, right? Joe told us he had a… what do ya call a green thumb but with parts and stuff? Whatever that is, the guy’s got it. God damn does he got it.”
Surrounding them in the clearing were trees, augmented with scrap metal and lumber into makeshift scaffolds. Between them, six metal and ceramic behemoths stood; powered armor, ancient models from the late twenties and thirties, the kind whose ‘arms’ were used for knuckle-walking like apes and which only stood bipedal when in firing position.
All of them were built on partial existent frames, the rest cobbled together from seemingly whatever Al Tyson could get to work with, from old car parts, to appliances. One of them had a main hatch made from a refrigerator door cut down to size. Another had a lawnmower blade mounted to a forearm as an impromptu weapon.
Hanging from a homemade pulley system nestled in one of the scaffolds as Al Tyson, a red faced man with an uneven haircut and a nick taken out of his left ear.
Billy waved to Al, who gestured back vaguely with the circuit board he was installing before getting back to work.
He turned back to Sean. “See, we agree with ya now, Sean. Someone needs to put ’em in their place. All of ’em. And since the army ain’t done nothing, it falls to good and true patriots to do the job.”
A dark smirk crossed Sean’s face. “You asking if I’m in?”
“You’re the one that knew the whole time. Shit, Sean, we’re asking you to lead.”
Sean marveled at the armors, imagining them at full power. “How long?”
“Al says we can christen ’em come Independence Day. Should be ready to do some damage a couple of weeks after that.”
“I’m in then. But you tell Al we’re gonna need a taser big enough to put down an elephant on all of these things.”
Billy gave him a disbelieving look. “Sean, we got rockets, we got machine guns, hell, one of ’em’s got a laser. What good’s a taser gonna do?”
“I thought you was a hunter, Billy-boy.” Sean shook his head mockingly. “Everybody knows that you’ve gotta bring the right ammo to hunt the right animal.”
End Issue #54