Pre-Nano Shorts: Ran

Note: I have two Naokos running in my head; RP Naoko, who’s in love with a Dragon God, and Story Naoko, who’ve you seen make her appearance in places like Keys. This Prologue is Naoko RP, whom I haven’t written in a long time. I need to do this so she doesn’t shut Story up all the time. :P

With that, let’s begin!

Meetings

It was supposed to have been a regular mission. Sneak in, assassinate, and get out. The getting out bit was always the hardest. Especially if you had clients who wanted to make a statement. That was all well and good, but these cases had been getting too common and too frequent. It was putting her girls in danger. These kinds of jobs also left you the risk of being stereotyped by clients, and did not do anything for your reputation. She knew this well, having seen the organisation go through it for a long time now. Flashy jobs also meant they were more visible, but it also attracted the thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. Both types which often caused no end of trouble for her.

When she saw what the location looked like at night, she realised why the client had taken out what they called the “Avoidance is Impossible” policy. This referred to cases when killing the target quietly was supposedly impossible, and was considered to be one of the most expensive they had. Recon had mentioned that the place did look imposing at night, but there was nothing really that would justify the AII policy. Still, the client had insisted and they had agreed to honour his request. She could see what Recon had missed. Unless you were one of them, or looking for them, you would not see them too.

“Ravens, pull back. Mitsutani, to me,” she spoke softly into the communicator.

The temple was on a low hill surrounded by houses on hills higher than it, as though in the center of a bowl. This gave them a clear view of it from a distance. And of the creatures that took flight above it. None of the creatures had seen them yet, so they pulled back just out of sight while the Mitsutani went to her. Besides her, there were only three other clan members in this team of 12. It was a large number considering that the Matrons of the clan still had an argument with her. The women came to her silently, accompanied by their partners from the Kamigoroshi Clan; the Godkillers were rarely far from their sister-clans. It made her miss her own bonded sister.

“We saw them, Mistress,” heads of teams were often called Mistress, and if there were more than one Mistress, the heads would be called Ladies.

“My blood boils seeing them,” one of the Mitsutani was visibly shaking, though her Kamigoroshi sister held her hand as though to steady her. Mental and emotional links among the Mitsutani and Kamigoroshi were not unheard of.

“We pull back for today,” she was firm about it. They did not dispute her, though the Mitsutani who was shaking looked devastated. “We need a real Hunt for this,” the Mitsutani perked up when she said that.

“Understood,” they replied, and the squad pulled back.

~~~~~
Behind the screen doors, they watched the buildings around them. Their senses were heightened by the silence and the darkness. There were only the sounds of crickets from time to time outside, and the steady beat of the sōzu in the garden. If one listened hard enough, the beat of the wings above the temple would probably also be heard.

Some could see the veiled women, others could not, but they could certainly feel their presence. The women did not take any real pains to hide their presence; under most circumstances someone would have thought that they were possibly simply passing through. They knew better though, especially as the women retreated in an orderly manner. Once the women had retreated completely, one of their group broke the silence. He struck a match and lit a cigarette, the small flame lighting up a face that was could only be described as aristocratic. He had chiseled features in a squarish face, looking even more angular due to his thin and trimmed goatee and moustache. No one could mistake his haughty air though. He sat half in the moonlight, half in the darkness, his face hidden in the darkness.

“As you can see, gentlemen, these ladies are extremely efficient,” he released a puff of smoke, “Even if they did retreat for today.”

“They retreated, Ran. How can you say they’re efficient?” the voice came from the darkness. Even his voice gave his nervousness away.

“They chose not to rush into something they were unsure of, avoiding unnecessary conflicts. And I highly doubt they have given up. The contract’s deadline is still a few weeks away. They will come back, and you might see an additional or unfamiliar face around this shrine. But they will not attack you during the day,” Ran replied.

A shadow fell across the screen doors and they fell silent. There was a quiet rattle as most reached for their weapons. Ran though, merely leant back and smiled. The moonlight caught his smile, and in the darkness, he seemed very much a Chesire cat. When the person turned to face the door and the shadow revealed a man, they released a sigh of relief, but Ran tensed instead. Something was not right here. However, the door opened and the moonlight fell on the man, leaving his face in the shadows. He stepped into the room. As the man stepped into the room, his hands disappeared into the voluminous sleeves of his yukata. Saying nothing, he closed the door behind him. He took a deep breath.

Ran got to his feet and made his way to the door. In a hurry, he opened the doors and jumped out, diving to the garden. There was a blinding flash of white light, and then it was not there any more. Turning back, he saw the young man looking at him with curious golden eyes. Then he gave a crooked grin and faded away.

He heard the wingbeats as they landed next to him, but they were too late to save the man they had been assigned to. As the captain offered to help him up, Ran waved him away, still staring at the spot where he had seen the young man. Before the Captain could speak, he spoke first.

“You and your clan did not fail, Avram. There were two contracts, and you were warned only of one.”

“Forgive us, Wing Master. If you have no other duties, we will collect the Fallen and return,” they had stationed two of their people inside, and it was most likely they would find the bodies charred beyond recognition.

“Do so,” he dismissed them with a wave of his hand, and then proceeded to leave the temple.