Nanowrimo 2007

Ch 3: I should probably cut this into smaller chunks

Chapter 3 – Strike back

After breakfast, the siblings walked into what was now the war-room, which had once been a ballroom. As they walked in, the middle sibling noted that ballrooms were often the best places to be turned into war-rooms, as both required large open spaces to an extent. In the center of the room, a holographic projector had been set up with the map of the world, one being projected above the table, and another on the table itself. The map that she could see being projected had many different colours, identifying different status and conditions. Some were in clusters, others were barely recognisable dots.

From time to time, someone from one of the tables around the sides of the ballroom would walk up to the map and touched the table where it was projecting from, pulling the map to the place she wanted with her gestures on the table. Once she was at the approximate spot, she would quickly double tap, and an enlarged projection of the place she wanted would appear, along with information about the spot and any operatives in the area. Deliberately, there was no information about the operative except for their name and mother’s name. The map being projected above the table shifted colours appropriately as it received more information and updates.

There were several women at the screens when they came in, some with clipboards or other note-taking devices, while others were clustered around various points of the table. They moved away when the three siblings came up. The middle sibling noted the map being projected for all to see had a disturbing number of blue dots. Those indicated attacks with casualties. The darker the colour, the more casualties. As it were, most of the dots and clusters ranged from a light blue to a dark navy blue. Thank the Goddess though, she thought, that none of them were on the verge of turning black. They were still noticably blue.

“Lady Ruminyana, Lady Alexis, Knight Kristan,” some of the women bowed and addressed the three siblings. They were all addressed by their Clan names, a name that was rarely used outside their organisation. The three siblings nodded and waved the women away.

When they reached the table, the youngest, Ruminyana, began manipulating the map in front of her. Her hand movements, though quick, were graceful and elegant. They brought up points of note all over the globe, and as she gave instructions to her sisters, they nodded and listened carefully. As war had been declared and all the Clans had been put on alert, this was no longer just a simple strike back. Even more so when the reports started coming saying that businesses apart from those identified as Clans but belonging to the Alin’sa, their parent organisation were being targeted as well. It would be a long day, but they had been through challenges like this before, and the elder siblings listened to their younger sister.

Once they had received their orders, the middle sister hugged the youngest, while the brother kissed her on the forehead, and then they left to complete her instructions. The instructions had been lengthy, but each of the siblings had their own speciality and niche, and they fitted it well. She did not walk them to the door, as there were other, more pressing matters to attend to. Reports were coming in fast and unorganised; first-hand reports needed some reading to make full sense of what was happening, but she did not need to read the full report to get a good impression of how things worked.

They were losing offices and people everywhere. Their offices were being destroyed, broken into, set on fire, and in some places, bombed straight out of the buildings in which they were located. There were a few places that were unaffected, but these were far and few in between. It was not the loss of property that bothered her though, but the people. They were significantly much harder to replace, and the deaths of their children made things even worse. She had lost approximately a quarter of the total Alin’sa mothers and sisters, and she had not been able to take into account the losses suffered by Menalippe’s Children. THAT loss was harder to bear, for when she had taken on this responsibility, Menalippe’s Children had been a special cause.

As she spoke about the safe house defences with one of the security teams, reports of yet another family being attacked while receiving treatment in the hospitals made her issue an order for the local families seeking treatment to immediately head instead to the safe houses. A few minutes later, when the order was on its way out, she realised that it could be a trap. Since they knew so much about them, would not it make sense that they would know about the safe houses as well?

She quickly rescinded the order, but the damage was already done. Some of the wounded were going to the safe houses. She did a quick mental calculation and then sent out another order. This one was much simpler and would not interfere at all with what her siblings were doing; it was just a single word.

“Disappear.”

When the order was broadcast, a silence fell over the house as they realised the implications. They had not done anything else but fight back, but they were not able to reach beyond the first wave of attackers. They still had no idea who was behind the attacks nor the motive. The man that she had brought back had been useless; he had been hired off the street and the only reason why he had survived was because they had sent him inside to capture the children. Apparently the people she had disposed of outside was far more dangerous than he was. The hired hands inside were of no consequence; she had been their main target.

There would be no use to gathering up all their resources in one spot, especially when the enemy was still carrying out such a scattered but well thought out plan of attack. Her people and her did their best when they were in hiding, working behind the scenes, but doing so at such a time carried its own risk; what if they were eliminated during this period of non-communication? They had lost several bloodlines in this manner, but they had always come out stronger, better, faster.

“Lady…”

“We shall gather at Zhamato,” This would bring them back to the place where their ancestors had chosen to follow their Goddess, and it was a place most rarely visited, though a great many of their people had grown up there. “We begin at once. All safe houses must be empty in 48 hours. I shall not let the enemy visit us in our sleep or when we are vulnerable,” she left the ballroom.

~~~~~

The night was cold. She sat in the tree, watching the house. They were emptying it as she knew they would, but the Master had not taken the young girl’s speed into account. If the girl had waited an hour or so to rescind the order, they would have been greeted by an unpleasant surprise to top off the current ones that were being launched against her and her organisation. Still, things were going according to plan, even if it were not completely. There was room in the Master’s plans for errors and small miscalculations; the girl was human, but she was also one of the charges of Chance, and so she could be counted to be fairly unpredictable. The move to abandon the safe houses came earlier than anyone expected though. She reached into her pocket and withdrew a small radio. Switching it on, she breathed into it several times; it was the code to inform them that the next phase was due to begin.

As she left the tree, she was unaware that she was being followed.

~~~~~

It was noisy. The din hurt his ears, and he ignored it the best he can. If he had been given a chance he would have incinerated the speakers already, but it was a frivolous (though well-deserved) and wasteful use of his powers. Instead he made his way to the bar, and thereupon spoke with the bartender. The bartender nodded, and gestured upstairs. The man followed his instructions and soon found himself in a small room with stale smoke in the air and a man sitting on a couch with a satisfied air, a girl by his side. He had his shirt opened to the waist and his arms around her, his posture and face clearly saying that he had just been satisfied. If one concentrated (though why they would is beyond anyone’s guess), they would have caught the scent of fresh sex hidden under the smoke.

“So, Kishan, what brings you to this neck of the woods?” the man on the couch asked him.

“Arisha,” the man who was standing simply nodded at the young woman. She looked up, seemingly surprised, and then her head inclined a fraction of an inch.

“I’m sorry, but you can’t…” The man on the couch tightened his hand around her shoulder, but Kishan was not looking at him.

“It’s not your choice to make, it’s hers. If she does not want to go home and see a beloved relative before she dies…” Kishan shrugged, and the woman let out a cry of alarm.

“Is it my godmother?”

So that was the story, Kishan kept the thought to himself. Again, he effected a careless shrug, acting as a messenger who could not care less either way. “I do not know who that person is, only that she asked me to come for you. If she wants to leave, then I’ll take her with me. If she does not, then she can stay here if she likes. The choice is hers,” he nodded again to Arisha. When Arisha looked to stand up, he stopped her. With one hand on her shoulder and the other on a hand of hers, he did not allow her to get up. She looked at the man on the couch and then spoke to him in an urgent whisper. He kept saying no to her, not because he loved her, but because she was one of his best money spinners.

“I must see my godmother. You know I will return her as soon as I am able,” she reassured him.

“I do not trust Kishan.”

“Then send some of the boys with me. You know they’ll keep me safe, and none of them would touch me,” she whispered in his ear, her lips brushing his ear. That light touch sent shivers down his spine and awoke a monster in his pants.

“But there are all these new girls to train…” his hands had turned from holding her to carressing her instead. She moved a hand up his leg, the tips of her fingers just brushing his inner thigh.

“You can do it without them. You’ve done it before,” she smiled at him, bringing her body even closer, if that were possible, to him. He made the mistake of looking down to avoid her eyes, which seemed to smoulder with unspeakable tension, and instead found himself looking at her breasts.

Large, full breasts perfect to be grabbed and moulded were half-exposed by the top she wore. He knew her body, having taking advantage of her multiple times, and in the beginning, when he had taken over this place, they had not had a good relationship. She had just started and was wary of him, while he did not like the smart-mouth that came with the beautiful ass and the great breasts. Still, she had helped him keep the other girls in line, and she had taught the others as well about dancing. It was surprising how long she had lasted; most were gone within a few years, but she had managed to last for near seven years, and she looked nearly as young as she did back then, only now she looked slightly more matured. Her figure had filled out and the tips had been steadily increasing for the past few years. And she had not taken a vacation except that one time shortly after he had taken over the place, saying that it was for her studies. She was 25 now, and had been working for the past seven years.

“Well…” he was starting to change his mind when Kishan interrupted.

“I’ll wait outside. Please tell me of your decision as soon as possible,” he left the room, turning formal.

The two guards waited outside the door. Kishan leant against the wall and offered the two guards a cigar, which they declined. He did not smoke, but he carried them around as there were plenty who did, and good cigars among smokers was always welcome. Before he could put the cigar back though, she came out, looking almost haughty. She looked towards the guards before addressing Kishan. “I’m good to go, but we need to find Bruno and Max first,” one of the guards answered her when she asked.

“Bruno’s off today, Max is looking at the new girls in the basement.”

“Thanks. Let’s go,” she lead the way down to the basement.

“Is this about Alin’sa or my mother’s Jewels?” she asked conversationally.

“Neither. Alexis is the one in trouble.” She let out an explosive sigh when she heard that.

“Doesn’t that girl know anything better to do?”

“She’s your sister,” was all Kishan said. Arisha mumbled something that he did not catch, and he was glad he did not. They often did not have very complimentary things to say about Alexis.

When they reached the basement, Kishan again waited outside while Arisha went in. She came out a few minutes later with Max, a stocky middle-aged man. He grinned at Kishan, having met him before. Kishan merely inclined his head, while Arisha then called Bruno on his handphone. They agreed to meet someplace and pick up Bruno before they headed off to Arisha’s hometown. Kishan stopped by his hotel to check out and pick up the car. When he met with Arisha again, she was accompanied by Max and a big, bulky man.

The trip to the airport was silent, at least until they were near the entrance. Throughout the trip, Arisha played with a coin, flipping it over and over again. Kishan knew the sign, but he could not and would not tell her anything unless she asked, and he knew that she would not, at least not until the time was right. The men sat behind, equally silent. Kishan had met them before when he had been on various errands to see Arisha or her boss, they were people who got things done and tended not to stray too far from their orders. In other words they were perfect grunts.

“Kishan, tell me something. Why is Alexis in trouble again?” His answer was immediate.

“She made a bad business decision.”

“I see. So are the rest of my sisters going to be there?”

“Yes. It’s a Reunion.”

“Ah.”

~~~~~

She sneezed.

Rubbing her nose, she suspected that someone was talking about her, and she doubted that it was good. It was either that, or she was coming down with a cold. She did not know which one she preferred; someone gossiping about her or that she was on the verge of catching something. Illness was not an option though right now, so she simply wrapped a cloth around her face, as it seemed to help her breathing. Too much dust in the air, probably. It would not surprise her; effective air-conditioners did wonders when it came to spreading germs.

She looked up and caught sight of the woman she was following. The woman and the librarian were standing in front of the counter, talking. Their soft voices carried over to her, even though she could not catch what they were saying. The other woman seemed completely oblivious to her, flipping her long red hair over her shoulder as she flirted with the librarian. She leant on the counter with her hands under her breasts, pushing them up. As she was leaning against the counter, she stretched one leg behind her.

With each suggestive move, the woman’s cleavage was exposed a bit more and her skin-toned leather skirt rose a bit higher, the sides splitting a bit more, while the man’s eyes seemed to be undecided as to where to concentrate; either on top or below. She took the decision out of his hands by whispering in his ear and looking in a certain direction, as though telling him where to meet her. Then she walked away, her hips swaying seductively. After a few minutes of swallowing his throat, the librarian followed where the woman had gone, trying to look as nonchalant as possible. There was nearly no one in the library, as it was still early in the day.

The girl watching them sighed. After the librarian disappeared from sight, she looked around her, noting that the library shelves were arranged around a common study area, with smaller tables meant for single study on one side and electronical reference stations on the other. It was a rather large library, with space more for books rather than people. This meant that it had more nooks and crannies to hide, and for more amorous couples, a discreet and fairly safe space to meet. She had heard stories about this library; when it had first been built, the books were rarely touched although there were many visitors. Most preferred to browse and hold clandestine meetings, including those of a political nature.

Today, the library was used less for such salacious purposes and more for actual study. That did not stop many from coming in with the intention to do anything but study. Through the years, the library had been expanded and when it was, not only did the book collection swell, but also the “privacy corners.” Those were what the nook and crannies were called. She had heard that there were at least 17 such spots, though the library was rumoured to have at least 15 large ones (for groups of four or more) and 21 small ones (for individuals and pairs). She herself had found twelve, though that was due more to her stumbling across them than actually looking for them.

She looked at her watch. It had been ten minutes since the pair had disappeared, and minus the few students studying quietly and by themselves in a corner, there was no one else in the library. The college had just started classes about two weeks earlier, so most students were off in classes. Thinking it had been enough time, she walked into the direction where the librarian and the woman had disappeared, navigating through the maze-like system as she did so. From mathematics, she moved into psychoanalysis, with books on the subject arranged nicely alongside old thesis papers by former students of the institution compiled into encyclopediac volumes.

From psychoanalysis she passed into psychology proper, and then into nutrition for a brief spell before she came out to career counselling. If other libraries devoted a shelf or two levels at most to the less studied subjects, this one tried to fill up a while case, resorting even to compiling papers and theses written by former students and staff just to fill the space. She stopped for a moment and looked at the titles on display. Apparently she was nearing her goal, for she could hear a soft, barely contained moan. It sounded feminine, and then as she neared, she could hear the sounds of something being slapped. The moans sounded muffled as they continued.

She took a deep breath as she prepared to round the corner. While doing so, she was amused to see that she was looking at the social history section, or more appropriately, the sexual history section. A book on seductresses jumped out at her; it was familiar and brought a smile to her face. The book had spoken about how seductresses were a misunderstood breed; about how they were actually feminists who lived life their own way, women who broke the rules of their society even though they had been deemed as whores. It was a fond memory, even if the book had been rather patriarchal and puritan in a way; she knew some of the Goddess of old were not as prudish nor demonic as the book portrayed them to be.

A sharp groan brought her out of her reverie, and she brought herself back to the matter at hand. Cautiously looking around the bookcase, she saw what she expected to see and perhaps a bit more. The young librarian, a man in his twenties, had his pants down and his shirt opened, pushing the other woman against the wall. Her shirt was open to the waist and her skirt was raised to her hips, which were wrapped around the man’s waist. Arms around his neck, she kept him fairly quiet by her mouth on his lips, even as he was slamming into her for all it was worth.

From her spot behind the book shelves, she could not see details of their intimacy, but she had no reason to. Instead, she stole a glance at the woman’s neck and saw a small tattoo glowing at side of her neck. It was a small red rose, half-opened. As the woman was rocked, her hair fell forward and covered her neck, but the girl had seen all she wanted to see. She moved back out of sight and headed back towards the counter. The other woman would be along soon, and she hoped that it was worth it.

She left the library and went to the cafe across it, waiting for the other woman to come out. That part of the test was complete, though the woman did not need to go all the way. Still, it was up to the woman. They were given leeway to do whatever they wanted as long as their objectives were fulfilled. This one was more than fulfilled. Sitting outside under the warm sun, she ordered a cup of warm chocolate and watched the world go by. When the woman came out, flushed and sated, she simply sighed.

“Sorry Lady Alexis, I got carried away,” the woman sat down across her and ordered a drink of plain water.

“I noticed,” Alexis replied dryly. The woman across her at least had the sense to look flustered. “I don’t want any details of the act, thank you,” she forestalled the other woman. “Did you get the what we needed?”

“Yes. He’s a high-class empath being trained as a low-level cleric. However, it’s too early to tell whether he has any relations to the madmen attacking the Alin’sa or whether he’s being trained by a local hoodlum,” the other woman closed her eyes and spoke, as though reciting from memory. “He’s unremarkable though, besides that he works as a librarian. There were other ways I could not walk however, but I suspect that it could be his past. His records indicated that he was abused when he was a child, so that would explain the doors. There was a great deal of pain hiding behind the doors, leaking,” she finished her report.

“Thank you, Ailsa. Did you remember to clean all traces before you left?”

“Yes. He’ll remember about being with me of course, but nothing more than that,” Ailsa took a sip of the water, rinsed her mouth, and then spit it back out into the glass. “Waiter, I’d like another please, and bring an espresso while you’re at it,” the waiter jumped to her orders, seemingly happy to be serving her.

“Tone down the sex appeal, child. I’ve told you many times not to broadcast it,” Alexis scolded the other woman, despite the noticeable difference in their ages. Ailsa was a woman in her 30s and looked it; she had a timeless glow around her, while Alexis looked like a twenty-year ol

“Alright, alright. Sheesh, you’re worse than Lady Atsuko,” it seemed that Ailsa became very much less attractive; just another ordinary girl out having a drink with another woman.

“You have more to worry from me than you do Atsuko.” The woman looked stricken. “You have your instructions. I expect to see you there within a few days. Let nothing detain you, not even if you have a good lead,” Alexis stood up, left some money on the table for their drinks and left.

She turned the corner and ducked into an alleyway before she took a deep breath and held it. Counting to three slowly, she focused on slowing her lungs and calming her mind. At one, she slowed her lungs down. At two, she quietened the clamour in her mind. At three, she released that deep breath, took in another, and opened her eyes. The world feels a little differently when you’re holding your breath and trying not to let others know that you were. To all intents and purposes, she looked normal.

However, if you looked for her with chi, she would be invisible to your senses. Holding your breath but moving normally was the most common way to accomplish this task. You could see her with your eyes of course, but it would be trying to recognise something that was not there. She chose this way as she wanted to see if her instincts were right. Hoping and praying that she was wrong, she made her way back to the cafe, which was now teeming with students. A different waiter than the one who had served her and Ailsa was wiping the tables now and taking orders; she could not see Ailsa anywhere at all.

Moving quickly, she made her way inside the small cafe, which was much darker than the pleasant outside. Relying on natural light, it looked dim but cosy. The tables were small as they were outside, but instead of using the hard wicker chairs, the chairs here had soft cushions instead, while the corners of the room was softened by various items hiding it. In some places, a large potted plant served that purpose, while in others, there round tables and hangings. At any other time, she would have probably found a corner and curled up on a cushion to read, but the decorations merely served to heighten her tension, for it was far too tempting to simply relax. There was also the soft scent of incense floating in the air, which made her even more cautious.

The man at the counter looked up when she entered, mainly because of the bell ringing over the door. He did not see her though, looking puzzled as to why the bell had rung and the door had opened even though no one was there. Running his hand over his blond hair, he looked like a little boy who was expecting to see a ghost and was ready to run. Instead of doing that though, he left the counter and went to the door, passing her directly. Alexis stepped out of the way, because even though his eyes did not see, if he ran into her he would still see her anyway. When he passed her, she quickly moved to the counter and beyond it, entering the kitchen.

Which was a very noisy, bustling kitchen. She did not know why she expected any different, but she did. It was all white and stainless steel to her eyes though, for if you’ve been in one gourmet restaurant kitchen, you have been in them all. Still she did not see any sign of Ailsa, and she was getting worried. The woman would not have run off so fast, she knew her better than that. Instead, Alexis moved past the chefs and the kitchen and made her way into the small office. As she put her hand on the doorknob, she caught sight of a locker room off to the side.

She left the office instead and headed towards the locker room. Putting her ear to the door, she struggled to catch any sound coming from it over the noise of the kitchen. A strangled moan once or twice did make it, but it sounded different. It was more triumphant than it was pleasurable, and there was also the muffled screams of someone being tortured. Alexis touched the door lightly and found that it was unlocked. In fact, the door would open if she pushed on it; the door had not been closed properly. She was about to do so when she felt someone coming at her from behind. Turning, she saw the man from the counter heading towards her and she moved to the other side of the door, letting him go first.

He opened the door and stepped in, seeming to see nothing out of the ordinary. She followed him in, slipping him by his sides. The room was not much bigger than she had expected, and looked like it functioned more like a changing room than an actual locker room. Interestingly enough though, one of the two lockers had been pushed away to reveal a stairway that led down. Before she could decide whether to go down or remain there though, a pair of hands laid themselves heavily on her shoulders and a silky voice spoke beside her ear, breathing deeply.

“Well well… looks like I netted two Rosé,” it said, and she knew that her disguise, as amateur as it was, had been penetrated.

Not saying anything though, she instead moved her head from the right to the left where the voice was coming from and connected with a large head. The man shouted in surprise, but she was moving much faster than he was. She twisted out of his grasp and grabbed his collar; though he was larger, she had the advantage of surprise and being fast. As he was disoriented, she pulled his collar forward so that he would plunge into the locker room and into the stairway, not caring whether he would break his neck or not. Then she pulled the door open and ran out, though the kitchen had fallen strangely silent. As she ran out, she realised what she had been missing; in her haste to be unseen, she had blinded herself as well. The sounds and steam she had seen had merely been a diversion; the kitchen was actually empty and devoid of people and the utensils were moving automatically, as though by magic.

She did not even allow her the luxury of cursing as she tried to leave the building. When she left the kitchen, the welcoming inside of the cafe had turned into something else. From the inside looking out, she could see that it still looked normal, but came to another realisation. The windows and doors of the cafe were lightly tinted, so while you could look inside out, you could not do the opposite. She quickly made her way past the counter, heading for the door, but just as she reached for it, someone pulled her hand and jerked back.

“Help me!” Ailsa moaned, bloody and battered. Her hair was matted with blood, while there was a cut above her lip which was bleeding. Into her forehead, someone had carved a bloody mark; two circles with their centres meeting each other. She recognised it immediately. With that recognition, she also realised that nothing would cure Ailsa.

“No,” Alexis replied, then shook her hand free, leaving the cafe.

The hot summer air hitting her face never felt so welcoming. With quick steps, she left the cafe. A few blocks away and out of sight, though she was sure that someone was following her, she released the breath she had been holding and looked up. On a building across the street, someone had been watching her, but upon seeing her looking at it, it fell backwards. As a precautionary measure, she stared at the spot where it had been, then blinked, releasing a psychic blast. She was rewarded by a high-pitched scream.

“Gorgon…” she identified the sound immediately. Without waiting further, she quickly made her way to her hotel on foot.

~~~~~

The steam from the bathroom followed her as she left it after her bath. She took a moment to admire her reflection in the bathroom mirror before she went out. Her dark brown hair had been wrapped in a large towel, with two or three small tendrils curling up in the steam or clinging to her face. Deep brown eyes stared back at her from a oval face that looked far too thin; she turned her head sideways and from that angle, realised that she had been skipping meals again. Not only was she thinner than before, but her features were very sharp. Her lips were pale, and there were no colours in her cheeks.

“I got to eat more or Su will kill me,” she muttered, leaving the bathroom.

Making her way to the phone, she saw that a message had arrived in the fax while the voice mail was also blinking. Switching the voice mail on, there was a long silence before it connected and the recording began to play. The fax she picked up and read the only word written on it in a large-sized font.

“Disappear,” was all it said.

Meanwhile, the voice mail had started playing. It crackled, and then began reciting the tale of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, along with the voyage of the Lady Yamatohime-no-mikoto, or the Princess Shrine Maiden of Emperor Yamato. She listened to it for a while and then cancelled her plans to order room service. Instead, she headed back into the bedroom and began packing, opening her backpack to find that she had not even had the time to unpack yet. She threw the towel on her head onto the bed and pulled out a long-sleeved sweater, some underwear and a short-sleeved white tee-shirt. Taking the towel from her body, she used it to dry her hair, rubbing her hair all over. When she had judged her hair was not in the danger of dripping wet anymore, she began getting dressed.

The underwear went on first, a pair of sensible white low-cut bras, along with a pair of boyshorts undies. Then she pulled on the tee-shirt, followed by the jeans she had worn earlier and finally the sweater. After she had pulled on her clothes, she brushed her hair. Her shoulder-length brown hair framed her face in gentle waves, making her look far more innocent and younger than her twenty years. Dark brown eyes covered with a pair of frameless spectacles gave her the look of someone who read too much but was still clueless. Scrutinising her face in the mirror though, she spotted some lines creasing the edges of her eyes and lips. It could only be seen if one was looking for it, and she was. She frowned. Looking old before her time was not something she wanted to do, but she had had no choice. Being on the go for the past few days had demanded it.

She dialled the concierge and requested that transport be arranged to take her to the airport, while she took out the toner and moisturiser and slapped some on her face. When they acknowledged her request, she hung up on them and looked at her watch. She had at least 10 minutes before the cab was due to arrive, so she might as well make the call. Even if the lines were tapped, what she said would be not be comprehensible unless the listener had a degree for knowing obscure and forgotten languages from an era before people had begun to tame this world. Her report though, could not wait.

She packed the backpack again and slung it over her shoulder. Shouldering it carefully, she put a small headpiece into her ear and then used her mobile device to place a call. As she did, she slipped the phone into her pocket and patiently waited for the call to be answered. When it did, the melodius voice did more to soothe her than the bath did. She had not realised just how tense she was till that beloved voice was on the line again and the tension seemed to have flowed out of her body.

“Nee-san?” the voice called her elder sister.

“Sukina-dono,” she called the voice as Master and the term denoted “beloved” master. By her voice alone, the Master knew something was troubling her.

“What is it, Nee-san?” she had to take a deep breath.

“I had to leave Ailsa behind. She had been marked.”

“With?”

“The Vesica Piscis. The second petal of the Flower of Life.” She heard the sharp intake on the other side.

“Did you manage to…” her sister did not need to complete her sentence.

“Her mind has been totally wiped. Completely. She is nothing more than a doll now,” she breathed in deeply.

“Naoko-onee-sama, Alexis…” her sister called her by many names, a sign that she knew her sister was being troubled. “I can’t say that I’m too sorry, but she would have found herself being led to this end sooner or later anyway,” her sister said.

“I know, little sister,” Alexis, or rather Naoko, sighed. “What’s the point of this, really? Why do we even try this, when we know the results? Why do we struggle so much?” she asked the questions even though she knew the answer to them.

“Because it’s the only thing we know. And there are things worth living for, even if we are not remembered by future generations. The most important thing is to leave mementos and memories behind, and hope that the lessons we have learnt will be passed down to others, so they will hopefully avoid making the most of our more drastic mistakes,” she could hear the hug in her sister’s voice, as well as the kettle on the stove. That warned her more than anything.

“Sis, I got to go. Talk to you in a bit?” she told her sister, her hand reaching up to end the call.

“Alright. Take care, Nee-sama,” her sister said, and she knew immediately.

She headed back into the bedroom and touched the handle of a drawer on the dresser. It sprung an extra compartment open and she withdrew a semi-automatic with live ammunition. Checking to make sure that the gun was loaded and that she had space for the extra ammunition in her pocket, she tucked the gun in by her side after making sure that the safety was on. Then she made her way to the window and looked down. The hotel was equiped with nearly everything, including an emergency exit straight to the lobby for checkouts. If she so desired, she could simply skip the checkout and leave it pending or even do it on the way down.

She decided to pay as she went down. It would mean swiping her credit card and leaving a paper trail, but if they knew she was here already, it would make no difference anyway. Closing the bedroom door, she went to the bathroom. Most of the steamed was already cleared out, but there was still a touch of humidity in the air. With a smile, she opened the hot water faucet, then turned the cold water faucet in the sink. The water she left running into the closed tub and sink. This was then followed by her flushing the toilet before she plugged the shaver in and switched it on.

This led to the mirror suddenly disappearing back into the wall and being replaced by a touchscreen. She took the stylus next to it and quickly signed her name, being careful not to leave any marks on the screen. It was a wonder just how little data one needed to create an accurate handprint. Once she signed her name, she swiped her credit card through the side of the door and finally, a life-sized panel opened next to the bathtub. She stepped in just as she heard the front door being knocked on. Not wasting anytime, she hefted the gun in her hand and ran down the stairs. As the lights began going out behind her, she heard the door sliding shut and an extra layer of padding falling into place behind her. It would take them some time to locate her, but hopefully by then she would be out on the street.

And making her way to the airport on foot.