Chaos in the Cherry Blossoms Part 7

Chapter 7 Rainfall on Judgement Day

Sylvia dragged Shinji through the parking lot and out to her car on the street after retrieving her pistol from the stairwell. It was a bit damaged from the fall, but nothing she couldn’t fix. Sylvia placed him in the passenger seat and then closed the door. She went to the trunk and removed her body armor and her katana. She placed them in the back and then grabbed a towel and wiped as much blood off her body as she could. She put a new jacket on over her clothes, closing it as tightly as she could, then slammed the lid shut. She walked over to the driver’s side, got in and started the engine up. She sped away and into traffic. She looked over at Shinji who had regained some strength and was able to sit up now. Sylvia continued her focus on the road.

“Sylvia, I can’t begin to thank you enough.” Shinji stated. Sylvia didn’t respond.

“After what I said to you and how I treated you… I don’t deserve a friend like that.” He continued.

Sylvia reached over and turned the radio up as loud as it would go. Unfortunately, Jazz music is not the best genre for passive aggressively raising the volume to avoid a conversation. Shinji reached up and turned it back down.

“C’mon Syl, just say something, even if it’s only a sarcastic quip. Anything. You’re scaring me.” Shinji pleaded, but Sylvia never replied, she just kept intently driving towards off into the distance of the setting sun. The two sat hushed for about half an hour before Shinji spoke again.

“Are you mad at me?”

“…”

“Will you at least tell me where we’re going?” he asked. The number of things he wanted to blurt out to break the tension was building up and giving him a headache; he just wanted his friend to speak to him, to say anything at all to acknowledge his presence. The pressure in the small space between them was too much to bear, until a few minutes passed and Sylvia finally broke her silence.

“I should have said ‘you’re falling for me already.’ I can never think of cool one-liners until way afterward.” She stated remorsefully.

“Wait, what?” Shinji questioned confused

“I threw a guy down the stairwell; I should have said ‘you’re falling for me already.’” Sylvia repeated

“O-oh. Ok.” Shinji replied meekly. “Mind telling me where exactly we’re going?” Shinji asked again.

“There’s a motel and nightclub on the outskirts of town. We’re going to go there to regroup.” Sylvia finally answered

“Regroup? Regroup for what exactly?” Shinji probed

“For the next battle.” Sylvia responded simply.

“The next battle? I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the fuck outta dodge. Magic Man can get us passports, fake ID’s we can start a new life. I’m going to Hawaii and sipping on an expensive whiskey with my toes in the sand personally.”

“Fine, I’ll finish this myself and meet you there.” Sylvia replied

“Finishing what? You avenged your parents. Is that not enough for you?”

“You and I both know this doesn’t end until Nobiru is dead.” Sylvia said forlornly

“Syl, are you that determined for-”

“No. But I’m not letting him hurt anybody else, least of all you. Besides, he’s hellbent on revenge himself and he’s a highly skilled and connected assassin. He’ll find us.”

Shinji sighed and laid his head back on the headrest of the car.

“I probably should argue with you more, but I can already tell nothing I say is changing your mind, is it?” he asked

“Afraid not.” Sylvia answered dutifully. Shinji looked over at her as she faced forward looking at the road out the front windshield of the car.

“Sylvia, your head is bleeding, are you ok?” Shinji inquired, concerned about the blood trickling down the side of her face and the swelling that had started to occur near her temple.  

“I’m fine.” She replied simply.

“Pull over so I can test you for a concussion at least.” Shinji stated

“No need. I think I would know by now if I had a concussion.” Sylvia said stubbornly.

“It would be very easy to not notice it because of the adrenaline. Just please let me check you.”

Sylvia pulled the car onto the side of the road and slammed on the brakes aggressively. She turned toward Shinji who held his pointer fingers out and asked her to follow them with her eyes as he moved them out, in and up and down. He then pressed both his hands against the side of her temples.

“Any dizziness?” he asked as if it were a standard doctor’s visit.

“Is my driving that bad?” Sylvia responded with a dry wit, which drew a smile from both of them.

“I think you’re ok.” He detailed. His hand lingered on her cheek for a moment which drew another smile from her before he moved away back to his seat.  The two sat in silence for a while until they reached the Infinity hotel and nightclub on the outskirts of town. The Infinity was a sleek building of modern design with sharp angles and bright neon lights. The nightclub was on the first floor and above it was the hotel, most of the rooms hung out to the side as the hotel expanded across the lot. You could hear the pulsating electronic music and see the glowing atmospheric lighting of the nightclub from the parking lot. Sylvia and Shinji walked to the front desk of the nicely, if pretentiously decorated, hotel and checked in. Room 496 on the very top floor. They walked up, put their stuff down and Sylvia immediately got in the shower. The warm water soothed her aching muscles, but the water ran red with blood from her head and arm.

She got out and got dressed again. Shinji was watching TV with a plastic bag full of ice against his head.

“You want some food, I’m starving.” Shinji said nonchalantly

“No, I’m good.” Sylvia replied

“C’mon Syl, you gotta eat something.”

“Really I’m-”

“I know what to get you.” Shinji interrupted her. Sylvia really didn’t have the energy to argue. She instead focused her attention on repairing her firearm. The firing pin had been damaged and the spring knocked out of place by the fall. She disassembled the gun with expert accuracy. She continued working on the gun until Shinji returned with dinner in plastic containers inside a white plastic bag. He had a bucket of ice in the other hand with a bottle of sake stuck inside of it to chill.

He walked over and saw that Sylvia was reassembling her gun after fixing it. She put the elegant Walther PPK back together with the same precision that she took it apart with. She then made sure there wasn’t a round chambered and pulled the trigger a few times.

“Wow, you put that together fast.” Shinji stated, placing a container of food on the table next to her. “Was something wrong with it?” he added, just trying to make comfortable converstion.

“Yeah, the firing pin was misaligned and it was causing the slide to not reset properly. I think I fixed it.” Sylvia replied, racking the top of the slide a few times. She put the magazine in the gun and placed it back in its holster with the safety on.

“I can do open-heart surgery, but anything to do with guns just goes in one ear and out the other.” Shinji said with a chuckle.

Sylvia opened her container of food and looked inside. Steam filled the air as she placed the lid on the table. “Chankonabe?” she remarked as she looked over the stew with large chunks of beef and vegetables in it.

“Yep. I remember how you said you always wanted it after training because it filled you up.” Shinji replied “I figured the same might apply to now.”

Sylvia smiled “How do you remember all of this from when we were kids?” she said excitedly

“I just have a knack for knowing what makes people happy I guess.” Shinji replied modestly.

“Well, it’s why you’re such a good friend.” Sylvia said.

The two sat and ate, Shinji drank a glass full of the sake. Sylvia was picking at some of the rice around the edge of her bowl after having finished the hearty broth. She seemed deep in thought.

“There’s something on your mind Sylvia, I can tell.”

Sylvia took a few bites of rice and said “Usually when I’m in a fight, in that moment of life or death… My mind is crystal clear. I don’t hear the voices in my head. I’m not worried. I just… I’m there, alone in that moment.”

Sylvia paused for a while. Shinji put some ice in a clear blue glass and poured a drink from the bottle and slid it over to her.

“You know I don’t drink.” Sylvia said coldly

“Sylvia, we’ve both had quite the day, so just drink it. You don’t have to get drunk.” Shinji replied.

Sylvia took the glass and stared at the clear liquid inside.

“So, you were saying?”

Sylvia took a small sip from her glass and put it back down on the table. “Today was the first time my mind wasn’t completely clear during a job.” She detailed

“So… What do you think that means?” Shinji prodded her.

“I… I don’t know what it means.” Sylvia said, letting out a frustrated grunt.

“Come on Syl, just say it.”

Sylvia stood up angrily and walked over to the other side of the room towards the beds. She sat on the edge of the bed on the far side of the room closest to the window. Her silhouette was illuminated by the soft pink light of the neon inside the night club.

“Why is it so hard for you to talk to me about your feelings Sylvia? What are you afraid of?” Shinji snapped at her from across the room. He took a moment to collect himself, realizing the harshness in his tone wasn’t helping anything. “You can kill 40 people for me but you can’t tell me how you feel?”

“Hand to god Shinji, it would be easier for me to shoot the next person who comes through that door than it would be for me to understand and tell you how I’m feeling.” Sylvia replied back at him. “I don’t know where I’d even begin if I were to try to open up.”

“I think you do Sylvia.” Shinji replied gently

Sylvia heaved a massive sigh and looked down at the glass in her hand. She downed the entirety of the alcohol in one gulp then set it aside. Shinji walked over to her with the bottle and poured her a fresh glass over her now mostly melted ice. Sylvia looked down and swirled the drink around a few times. Shinji sat on the edge of the bed, giving her enough space while still being close enough to offer some reassurance and comfort. She took another large sip from the glass and started talking, slowly and quietly.

“When I was 12, right before I finished middle school, I was in the library and the librarian came up to me… Apparently I had been talking to somebody who wasn’t there for almost 20 minutes. They called my parents in and they took me to the doctor’s office…” She paused and clicked her fingernails on the edge of the glass. She collected her thoughts for a few moments by looking out at the city illuminated by lights off in the distance out the window.

“Go on. It’s ok.” Shinji encouraged her.

“Of course, I got diagnosed with schizophrenia, OCD and borderline personality disorder. Now, my father was…Let’s say… Not the most understanding of the frustrations of being a parent. Remember, he was Yakuza, so any problem he couldn’t solve with brute force or by throwing money at wasn’t worth his time and effort. Despite my mother’s protests, he sent me away to this mental institution…”

Sylvia paused and took another drink from her glass, but she could barely keep it down. She was shaking badly. Shinji placed a calming hand on her shoulder. She looked at him and he nodded.

“At this institution, they gave me electric shock therapy. For two weeks they strapped me to a chair and shocked me for an hour straight every day.”

“Syl…” Shinji interrupted under his breath remorseful and sympathetically. “That’s fucking barbaric.” He said angrily. “Sorry, it just makes me angry that somebody would treat that as real medicine. You’re doing great, please continue.

“Now I’ve been hit, cut and stabbed more times than I can count, and I’ve been shot 3 times… This was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt.” She took another swig from her glass, finishing off the last of the wine in it. Shinji took her cup from her as he saw her hands were trembling uncontrollably. He placed his hand on hers and it helped quell her nerves.

“One day, I fought the orderlies on the way to the chair…” She stopped to ponder her words some more. They almost didn’t want to form on her tongue, but she knew she had to force them out. “And they didn’t strap me in properly and I… Well, I’m not surprised that I ended up getting a huge scar from the electricity.” Sylvia had been fighting back tears for good while now, but eventually, the floodgates opened and she started bawling. Shinji reached over and pulled her in for a hug. She continued to cry into his shoulder for over a minute, and he just sat there, holding her with one arm wrapped around her body and the other comforting her by holding the back of her head against him gently. Finally, she looked up at him and wiped her eyes.

“Sorry.” She said through sniffles.

“Don’t apologize, I can’t even imagine how hard this was for you. I’m so proud of you Sylvia, it took a lot of courage to open up like that.” Shinji replied with a bright smile. Sylvia smiled back at him.

“Thanks for listening to me Shinji. I really don’t deserve you.” She stated. She paused to reflect for a moment. “You’re more than just a friend to me.”

“And what do you mean by that” Shinji prodded

“What I’m saying is you’re lucky I don’t wear eyeliner or otherwise that shirt would be a worthless right now.” Sylvia joked out of nowhere, mentioning his white shirt.

“Syl, you’re using humor to deflect from your emotions again.” Shinji scolded her gently.

“Fine… What I’m saying is I think I know why my mind wasn’t completely clear today.” Sylvia said “And it’s because I think I finally realized that fighting isn’t my only purpose in life.” Sylvia looked up at him and he pulled her in for an impassioned kiss. As the kiss continued, Sylvia could feel the weight of the universe being lifted off her shoulders, as if she had just felt genuine love for the first time; and it was enrapturing. The kiss ended and the two sat next to each other on the bed in a calm embrace. The pair were dead silent because they didn’t need to talk. Finally, Shinji spoke up.

“So, what do we do next Syl?” he inquired

“We call Katarina, meet up with her and we end this.” Sylvia replied simply. “I suggest we get some shut eye, tomorrow will be a longer day than even today.” She added ominously.

“Right.” Shinji said succinctly. He got up and moved toward the couch to pull out the dingy futon mattress from the couch in the living room area.

“For god’s sake Shinji, we’re adults and we might not even be alive this time tomorrow. Just get in the damn bed with me.” Sylvia said authoritatively. Shinji got into bed next to Sylvia and pulled the covers over them. He placed his arm around her waist and pulled her close. Sylvia gripped his hand and interlocked their fingers. The two drifted off quickly to sleep.

The sun was covered by rapidly forming dark clouds as Aiko Matsuhara’s coffin was lowered into the perfectly measured hole in the ground. The funeral procession continued as members of the clan from all around the country came to pay their respects to the leader of the family. Many people came to talk to Nobiru, but everything they said went in one ear and immediately out the other, and he held up his end of the social pact in the most basic way possible. Later on in the afternoon, Nobiru and Genchiro were talking in Nobiru’s office at the clan headquarters.

“You’re not thinking clearly Genchiro.” Nobiru said

“I am not letting you fight my battles for me. God knows you didn’t even want this life to begin with.” Genchiro replied, angrily throwing his hands up and placing them at his sides.

“I didn’t choose the life of a Yakuza, but I ended up with it because of Yamazaki and Umata. It’s time I finish the job, and this is my fight, not yours.”

He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one up. He took a long draw off one, filling the office with wispy smoke.

“I’m a capable fighter Nobiru, you know this. I can’t let you die over some stupid revenge plot. Your father and your uncle would both kill me if they were here. Who will lead the family if we’re both gone?” Genchiro stated. “And the men will listen to me better. They respect me more, no offense Nobiru, but they’re all kind of scared of you.”

“Fear is a great motivator.” Nobiru said coldly “And besides, when have you ever cared about what’s best for the family?”

“Bite your tongue boy, your father’s banishment from the clan was his fault alone.” Genchiro barked back. “I’ll let that comment slide and deal with it another day, Nobiru.  I will lead 30 of our best fighters, if something goes wrong, you can join in, but until then, you stay away and watch from afar, understand?”

Sylvia was polishing her pistol and making the last adjustments to make sure it worked properly before the impending battle. There was once again a baseball game on the hotel tv. Shinji was standing behind her pacing back and forth anxiously.

“Seriously, how do you stay so calm in the face of imminent death?” he asked, nervously running his hand through his hair.

Sylvia simply shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe I’m just confident in my abilities, maybe I’m just at peace with my own mortality. The truth likely lies somewhere in between”

There was a loud knock on the door and Sylvia pulled her gun out. Shinji answered it and Katarina stepped in, holding 3 different cases in her hands. She was wearing a green and white Russian military jacket and a red eyepatch with the sickle and hammer of the Soviet Union embroidered on it. Around her shoulders was a brown and white shawl that hung down near the small of her back over her left arm. A scarf like addition covered her mouth and nose. She walked in and placed all the weapon cases on the table, carelessly knocking everything else off. She opened up a case and pulled out an AK-47 assault rifle. Kat slung it around her shoulder and then opened up another case. Inside was a brand new Benelli pump-action shotgun. She offered it to Sylvia, but she just looked at her with a smug chortle.

“Nice poncho Lee Van Cleef.” Sylvia laughed

“What is cool, no?” Kat replied

“Maybe if there is a spaghetti western convention in town, sure.”  Katarina rolled her eye at the snide remark and returned her attention to the weaponry in question.  

“Is that good?” she asked again, even more aloofly this time.

Sylvia tucked the gun under her chin and mimicked like she was feeding shells into the firearm. Then she turned it over and pumped the slide a few times. She nodded and said “Perfect.”

“So please reiterate, what exactly is the plan here going to be?” Shinji asked out of the blue.

“We stay up here, use the hallway as a choke point and stay on the high ground using this.”

Finally, Katarina opened a case that was closed with several clasps, and inside was a pristine marksman’s rifle. An MTS-119, a Russian made bolt-action rifle chambered in large 7.62-millimeter rounds with an expensive scope on the top. The wood grain rifle had a tripod attached to the beginning of the barrel and a padded stock to have a better feel on the shoulder. She took it to the window and wrapped the black curtains around the gun. She set up the tripod and then looked out the window down the scope. She could see people eating and drinking at the nightclub bar from her spot. She adjusted the sights to take into account the slight breeze that was blowing around the city. She then opened up the window and took out her knife, cutting a hole in the screen just wide enough to maneuver the barrel through. She then moved the gun back enough so that it would stay out of sight from the outside. Sylvia loaded the shotgun full of shells, then put a belt full of extra rounds around her shoulder. She put the gun on the table and then focused on sharpening her throwing knives with a whetstone.

“What am I going to do while you’re fighting?” Shinji asked

“Oh, Kat, give him one of your sidearms please.” Sylvia said without looking up.

Katarina looked up from her continued calibration of the rifle to begrudgingly hand him one of the revolvers from the holster on the front of her hip. She spun it around her finger a few times before presenting it to him.

“You have to pull the hammer back every time…”

“Yes, I know how single action revolvers work, thank you.” Shinji interjected, annoyed. He walked back over to the couch and sat down, carefully holding the firearm in his right hand. Sylvia and the gang had just about finished gearing up for the fight when a cavalcade of cars entered the parking lot. They went around to the back of the hotel and Katarina looked at Sylvia. Sylvia responded with a simple nod and took Shinji into the bathroom of the hotel room.

“Stay in here where it’s safe until we can leave, ok?” Sylvia instructed him.

“I’m not hiding in here while you fight, I know how to shoot guns too.” Shinji said pridefully

“Shinji, this is way too hot for you. I appreciate the bravery, but leave this to us professionals, ok?” Sylvia commanded him. He sighed and sat down on the edge of the bathtub. Sylvia got up to leave and Shinji grabbed her by the arm as she opened the door.

“Sylvia, wait.” He said. He tried to conjure up the courage to say what he really needed to, but in the end, he couldn’t muster it. He ran a quivering hand through Sylvia’s sleek black hair and gently tucked it behind her ear. “… Just be safe out there, alright?”

“Thanks, but I’m not the one that needs to be safe.” Sylvia replied calmly with a sly grin, wrapping her Japanese flag headband across her forehead and tying it off in the back. Shinji smiled in response. Sylvia opened the door and walked out where Katarina was standing with her back up against the wall, holding her assault rifle, whistling Vivaldi’s Winter with a serene determination. The fire alarm had gone off in the hallway, and now there was a mass exodus of people out of the hotel and into the parking lot.

“Well Kat, good luck I guess.” Sylvia said quietly

“Let’s just do our jobs, ok?” she replied coldly

“Oh c’mon, we’re friends now, just admit it.” Sylvia said with a snicker.

“There are worse people I could risk my life for to make money.” Katarina resigned “Here’s to working together one last time.” She added, holding out her hand. Sylvia pushed past it and hugged her. At first Kat responded only with annoyance, but eventually she hugged her back. Sylvia ended the hug and pulled up her eyepatch to reveal both of her steely blue eyes.

“What was that for?” Katarina asked

“I just wanted to see your beautiful eyes one last time in case we don’t make it out.” Sylvia said with a goofy smirk, which drew an expected irritated sigh from the Ukrainian.

“Wait, if your eye isn’t messed up, then why do you wear the eyepatch?” Shinji chimed in. The group could hear the footsteps of a large amount of people coming up the nearby stairwell as the battle drew near. Katarina paused to think for a moment, then flipped the eyepatch back down.

“To give myself a challenge.” She answered. Just then, the door to the hotel room was kicked in. About 10 men entered. 4 were immediately shot down by Kat and Sylvia as they arrived, but the rest made it into the room. Sylvia pumped two shots into the wall where one goon had hidden, spreading buckshot and dotting the wall with lead but not hitting any flesh. She was hiding behind the wall to the bedroom as the enemies continued to rain bullets like hellfire onto their location. Kat made eye contact with Sylvia and yelled “Take my gun and just start spraying. We need something with more stopping power.”

Sylvia nodded in response as Katarina slid the assault weapon over to her position. She then grabbed the sniper rifle from the window, and placed it on top of the mattress. She propped out the tripod and aimed down the iron sights. She fired one round and the sound from the firearm was thunderous as the bullet ripped a huge chunk of the plaster off the wall.  Dust from the drywall was flittering through the air as Kat ducked down below the bed and pulled the lever aggressively to reload. Sylvia started filling the room with bullets, drawing out one man that she quickly disposed of. She flipped over the holographic sight on the gun and changed the angle of her shot using the iron sights and took out another man who had exposed himself in an attempt to hit Katarina. Sylvia moved forward with extreme care. She was behind the kitchen counter which led to the entry way of the room where the last three men were camped out. Another loud shot which tore a part of the kitchen counter into large chunks, sending sawdust through the room. Sylvia took the momentary distraction to make her way to the other side of the counter. She took out her dagger and attacked the gangster hiding in the kitchen, a huge muscular man about twice her size.

She first cut his Achilles with the knife, then grabbed his neck and pulled him down to her level where she was kneeling, sticking the knife into his breastplate. Another assailant had burst out of the entry way and fired off two shots which Sylvia blocked using the man she had just killed as a human shield. She quickly pulled out her sidearm and fired two shots into his head. She grabbed her knife out of the man’s chest and slid it back in its sheath. Suddenly, the last man burst out of the closet. Sylvia instinctively dove back towards the cover, shooting her gun, but had missed. He pulled up his gun to shoot, but suddenly there was another earth-shattering noise and then silence except for the clanking of a single shell casing hitting the carpet. The shot from the marksman’s rifle had hit the man dead in the torso, creating a hole where his chest once had been. Copious amounts of blood and other organic matter had been spewed across the door and entryway of the room.

Sylvia stood up and caught her breath temporarily. She then checked her sidearm bullets and put the clip back in the gun. She then made her way to the doorway where she used the sight of her rifle to check the hall for any other attackers, then returned to the room.

“Nice shooting.” Sylvia said entirely too casually.

“You too. So, what’s the plan?” Katarina asked in response

“I assume they fell back to the ground floor, probably in the night club area. I can go down there and deal with them while you run overwatch.” Sylvia offered, removing the assault rifle from her shoulders and grabbing her shotgun. Katarina nodded in silent approval and moved to place the rifle back in its spot in the window. Sylvia reloaded her sidearm and then placed it back in the holster. She then knocked on the door and opened it. Shinji was sitting on the edge of the bathtub, his body was quaking uncontrollably, but his expression softened as Sylvia entered the room.

“Just checking in on you.” Sylvia noted.

 Shinji jumped up to hug her, but Sylvia pushed him away. He felt dejected by the action, but understood the mindset that his friend must have and inwardly scolded himself for being so situationally deaf. He once again tried to say what he needed to, but clutched at his words, this time only being able to mutter “Keep being safe.”

“Thanks man. You too… You can hit a doorway with gun, right?” Sylvia said in her classic, calm, pressure resistant wit, tossing him the assault rifle. The two shared a wayward snicker before Sylvia left. Shutting the door in her wake.

She then made her way to the hall, where she once again looked. It was all clear, advancing to the stairwell. She opened the door, and immediately was shot at. She waited for the bullets to stop before opening. There was one man in the stairwell, a floor below. Sylvia pulled up her shotgun, two pumps and he was down. She moved to his position, then ducked down. She waited, but heard nothing. She then fired off one round of her sidearm into the wall and stomped her foot to mimic her walking down the steps. She waited again and nothing. She quickly made her way around down the stairs, checking every corner of the stairwell for hostiles before moving on to the ground floor.

Meanwhile, Shinji was anxiously thumping his leg up and down, thinking about what he needed to say and how much he would regret it if he never did. He jumped up and ran out of the bathroom door.

“Where are you going?” Katarina said angrily, as she was fixing the sights on her rifle.

“I’ve got something I need to tell Sylvia.” He exclaimed, running out of the room much to the chagrin of the Eastern European assassin.

He ran to the stairwell and opened the door. He ran down a few flights of stairs. Sylvia heard the footsteps and reactively reached for her pistol.

“It’s me, it’s Shinji, don’t shoot!” He declared, making himself visible. He ran down to meet her, but Sylvia was not as happy to see him.

“What are you doing here Shinji?” Sylvia berated him, aggressively slamming her handgun back into its holster. “What were you thinking trying to sneak up on me like that, you’re lucky I didn’t fucking smoke you!” there was a palpable amount of frustration and passion in her voice.

“I’m sorry Sylvia, but I had to say this to you because if I never got the chance to, I’d regret it forever.” Shinji said with a desperate tone in his voice. He spoke in their native tongue because he wanted to make sure all his words were chosen with the proper precision. What he had to say was far too important.

“Remember when you asked me if I had a crush on you when we were younger and I said I did but I got over it?” Shinji rattled off lighting fast.

“Yeah?”

“Well, I lied. I never got over it, I was obsessed with you then and you occupy my every thought now. I love you Sylvia, no matter how flawed a person or how checkered a past you might have, I love you because nobody will ever make me feel as alive as I do with you.” Shinji said, pouring his very heart and soul into his every word.

“I really like you too buddy.” Sylvia said with a nervous laugh. “But I’m kind of busy.”

“That’s all I get, an ‘I really like you too buddy?’ I find it utterly fascinating for somebody to be this emotionally stunted, like from a purely scientific standpoint.”

“Shinji, you know how I am, I’m hardly the warrior poet type to begin with. Also, I’m absolutely covered in blood right now.”

Shinji pulled her in for a hug and then a fervent, emotional kiss. When their lips separated, he wiped a bit of blood off her cheek with the cuff of his shirt sleeve. He smiled at her and said “You’re really more of a cynical, sarcastic anti-hero… And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Sylvia grinned back at him and gently guided him along his way back to the room.

“Awwww, aren’t you two cute.” Angel said “Now where were we, oh right, counting bullets. What were we on again, oh, you don’t know because you’re getting distrac-“

Sylvia took a few deep breaths and cleared the mechanism in her head, trying to rid herself of the intrusive thoughts. After a moment, the voices were again silent.

She walked down the hallway, leading to the back of the DJ booth in the nightclub. As she rounded a corner, she saw two men standing by a door to the stage. She pulled up her shotgun, two quick shots. She hit one square in the chest, killing him instantly, the second shot was just to the left of the other man. He had taken damage from a few pellets of the spread from the buckshot, but nowhere near enough to be lethal. Sylvia put the barrel of her gun on the corner of the wall and pulled it up to shoot. Again, she missed, quickly ducking back around the wall as two shots hit the wall near her from the other side, digging into the wood. She pulled out her pistol and dropped down a few inches, reaching her hand around the corner and blind firing 3 shots two of which hit the man in the leg and the abdomen. She pulled up her handgun and fired properly this time, sending a bullet right through the back of his head.

Sylvia moved up to the door, but right as she went to open it, a man pushed it open. She shot her pistol, but the man had pushed her hand up and thrown off her shot right as she fired it. She fired again and again it was parried away. The man crashed through the door, knocking the gun backwards out of her hand. He went to fire a shot, but Sylvia had already drawn her sword. The man was cut nearly in half in one swift motion before he could even aim his weapon. Her handgun had been busted open, the slide completely off the gun and the firing pin was about 10 feet away on the floor. No time to repair the gun, she carried on. She entered the next room, the backstage area. She needed to reload her shotgun, but it would be risky with no side arm. She found a corner to sit in and she pulled out a throwing knife which she held in her hand as she moved to feed the shell into the gun.

Right as she was about to do so, she felt the presence of another enemy. Sylvia stood up and used the butt of the gun to hit the assailant in the face, then once in the groin and then hooked his legs for a judo take down which turned into an arm bar. She pulled on his shoulder until there was a grotesque crack and his arm was broken through the skin. Another man had shown his head around the corner. She instinctively threw the throwing knife in her hand and it hit the attacker square in the head. She turned her attention back to the other enemy, pinning him down with the barrel of her shotgun. She jabbed the tip into his throat while manually loading a shell into the chamber and pulling the trigger, which coated Sylvia’s shoes in high velocity impact spatter and bits of bone and brain matter.

She fully loaded her shotgun and made her way along the outside of the DJ booth. There was a huge dancefloor enclosed in glass that was currently darkened. To her left was a railing that hung out over the rest of the club’s bottom level. As she turned a corner, a man came flying down from out of nowhere, as if from the heavens and attacked her with a katana. She did the only thing she could do to react in time which was to bring her shotgun up over her head and block it. The man kicked her into the rail and knocked her off balance. This sword flipped the gun out of her hands and it fell precariously to the floor on the bottom level. Before Sylvia could even pull her own katana out, the man had been stopped by a bullet to the dead center of his forehead. His body fell to the floor instantaneously. Sylvia looked over her shoulder and stuck a thumbs up in the air, knowing Katarina would see it in her gun’s scope.

Katarina gave a grin as she saw the hand gesture. She racked the bolt on the rifle, ejecting a smoking shell casing to the floor, then trained her eyes on her next target. Sylvia inadvertently leaned against a button that turned the dancefloor lights on. Flashing red and white lights sprang into life, slowly revealing the black silhouettes of attackers hiding on the dance floor. They continued popping up into motion; about seven of them in the fairly confined dancing area. Loud, energetic electronic music kicked on to the beat of the lights flashing. She stepped onto the dance floor as she wrapped her hand around the hilt of her katana. A wicked smile crawled across her face as she drew the weapon and pointed it towards her enemies. The attackers moved towards her. There was a flurry of steel as Sylvia parried and dodged seemingly endless amounts of blades. She slid along the slick floor, cutting one man’s leg, leaving him in a screaming heap before she reached down and stabbed him in the chest. She pulled out her knife and parried one swing with it, pinning the assailant’s sword to the ground and stabbing him in the side of the neck. 

Katarina focused in on the dance floor for her next mark. All she could see was the silhouettes of the people in the enclosure, but she could identify Sylvia by the headband waiving behind her in the shadow of her figure. Kat gripped the gun, her finger light and relaxed on the trigger. She waited until the perfect moment, took a deep breath steadied her reticle and pulled it. The rifle shot, her shoulder and arm perfectly controlling the recoil. The bullet cracked through the thin glass of the dance floor, leaving a symmetrical spider-web like patter and struck one of the thugs in the chest. She pulled back on the lever, and then put it back down into place. She quickly acquired another target, she took another deep breath and held it, cradling the butt of her rifle against her shoulder again, finger hovering over the trigger. Complete silence and then the exhale of her breath, followed by the rapturous crack of the rifle’s fire. The bullet was once again true to its mark, hitting another thug clean in the side of the head. Katarina even had to smile in admiration at her own skill, hitting a moving target at 2500 feet.

Sitting on his motorcycle and looking through binoculars at the scene of the fight, Nobiru turned to his uncle.

“Our men are getting slaughtered out there. I’m going in.” he stated boldly.

“No, you’re not. I will.” Genchiro replied sternly. “You will draw Sylvia away. I want the doctor.”

“Good, I only care about Yamazaki anyway. Do what you want with the doctor.” He said, starting up his motorcycle and revving up the engine.

“C’mon Kat, leave some for me.” Sylvia sighed with a smirk. Parrying a swing and swiftly cutting under it to slice the man’s abdomen. Sylvia reached down and grabbed her throwing knife, tossing it at a man and hitting him in the leg. He screamed in pain, and Sylvia quickly attacked him, cutting him open. She met the last attacker’s sword at the apex of his swing and dug the heel of her boot in to resist against it, but she lost her footing on some blood and it caused her to slip backwards off balance. She was able to parry the sword away from her, but she took an acrobatic kick to the sternum that sent her flying against the wall. The force of her body hitting the glass completely cracked it open, leaving a hole in the wall with sharp shards of the material sticking up. Sylvia had dropped her sword and went to reach for it, but had to dodge another blade coming at her. She instead baited the man into stabbing at her, then dodged it and put some distance between her and her enemy. She quickly took the belt off her coat and wrapped it around both her wrists, gripping it in her hands firmly. She waited for the man to approach her. He swung his sword and she stepped to the side, catching his arm with the belt and jerking down on it so he dropped the sword and simultaneously set him up for a vicious elbow the temple. She then wrapped the belt around his neck and pulled it as tight as she could. The man desperately clawed at the cloth around his neck, even elbowing Sylvia in the hip, but she fought against it, crashing his head against the glass wall and then slamming it down on one of the shards of glass jutting out of the hole in the wall. It lacerated his throat and his breath gurgled blood as he reached up to stop the bleeding, but soon fell still as blood sprayed against the glass partition.

Katarina looking through her scope saw two motorcycles moving towards the nightclub. She stood up and quickly knocked on the bathroom door.

“Stay here, I’m going downstairs.” She walked over to the wall near the doorway and reached under her watch which was turned so the face was to the inside of her left wrist. She put four small metallic disk-shaped objects around the perimeter of the doorway.

“What are you doing?” Shinji asked. Katarina didn’t answer, but instead took her wrist watch off and shoved it in his hand.

“If you press both buttons at the same time, it sets off the concussion blasts around the door. If somebody comes in, you press, ok?” She said shortly

“Whoa, this is some serious spy shit!” Shinji exclaimed. “Alright, I got it.” He said, excitedly.

Katarina nodded, took back her revolver and moved down the hallway. She went towards where Sylvia had been previously. One man was standing in the hallway behind the entrance to the stage with his back turned. Katarina took out her knife, gripped it in her hand and slowly closed in to the man. She made one swift motion, cutting the goon’s chest and throat. His body fell to the floor lifelessly, and Kat moved on, casually putting her knife away.

Sylvia was catching her breath from the battle, picking up her blade and shaking the blood off, when the loud sound of shattering glass came from below her. Genchiro had broken through the front door of the club in a motorcycle and jumped off, standing among shattered glass and splintered wood. Sylvia moved behind a wall and watched as he walked towards her spot. Through the window of the club, she caught a glimpse of another man on a motorcycle. She could clearly make out Nobiru’s oni mask and proceeded to make her way to the front to chase after him. She went past the backstage area and ran into Kat on the way.

“What the hell?” Sylvia said as the two nearly bumped into each other.

“What are you doing?” Kat asked her in surprise.

“I saw Nobiru, I’m going after him.” She said succinctly.

“Good. I’ll take care of Genchiro.” Katarina responded

“Is Shinji, ok?” Sylvia asked as she ran away

“I gave him ways to protect himself.” Katarina answered.

Sylvia nodded with a quiet and calm assuredness. She vaulted over a rail and made her way downstairs. Katarina opened the door to the stage area and saw Genchiro standing there across the hallway at her. He had his gold-plated revolver hanging by his waist. He smiled with a strange calmness about him, straightening up his spine.

“I have to say, that was some mighty fine shooting Ms. Kovelev. You are every bit the marksman I’ve heard you to be.” He stated. Katarina did nothing but look back at him with an intense stare.

“I want to propose an offer to you.” He continued. Again, Katarina said nothing but instead moved her hand closer to the Colt revolver on the front of her hip.

“Bring me Yamazaki and the doctor, I’ll pay you handsomely.”

“How much?” Katarina asked with a lack of sincerity in her tone.

“30 million for Yamazaki, 5 million for the doctor.” Genchiro replied.

Katarina looked down for a moment, then adjusted her stance. “I don’t consider myself a particularly moral person, I am a merc after all, but I still have some loyalty, and Sylvia showed me mercy when many others wouldn’t. I owe her for that.” Genchiro’s eyes narrowed as he turned towards Katarina. Katarina adjusted her posture, waist facing towards him, right foot forward. A classic gun slinger’s stance.

“I was looking forward to working with a legendary assassin like yourself. It’s too bad we couldn’t strike a deal…” He paused for a moment, his fingers moving towards the handle of his gun.

“…You know, I was once quite the shot myself. Maybe even as good as you.”

“Something tells me that’s a lie.”

The music on the dance floor had long since stopped leaving nothing but an anxious tranquility in its wake.  There was no sound in the club except for the whipping wind coming from outside. There was a dampness in the air as the two opponent’s eyes narrowed in an intense standoffish glare. Katarina moved her thumb to push the hammer down on her revolver, readying the firearm with an ominous but satisfying click. She tossed her wool shawl over her shoulder so it draped off her back without impeding her arm’s movement and placed her hand just above the grip of the revolver on her belt, her left hand holding the bottom of the rough leather holster. Genchiro did the same, his hands dancing anxiously across the butt of his weapon like licks of a raging flame. Time stood still as the two stared each other down. They watched each other intently as their fingers moved across their weapons, engaged in a deadly game of chicken, waiting for the other to make the first move.  Katarina observed as Genchiro’s hand finally jerked towards his gun and she pulled her weapon, firing well before him. The shot hit him dead between the eyes on his forehead. Genchiro’s body fell to the floor without resistance, like a lead weight falling to the bottom of the ocean. Katarina arrogantly spun the weapon around on her finger, a few times by her waist and a few revolutions above her head before coolly placing it back into its holster.

Meanwhile, Sylvia had made her way to the lobby and out the front door. She stepped out into the rain, the wind blowing her headband valiantly behind her as she located a motorcycle and jumped on top of it. The key was in the ignition of the powerful black sports bike with a low profile. She turned the key and the engine bellowed into action as she revved the handle bars. She could barely make out Nobiru on the other side of the massive parking lot, driving off towards the horizon. She throttled the bike and shot towards him, chasing after her target as the rain fell around her.