Water collarbone deep and towel sat atop my head, I finally started to relax. The dagger never left my reach, sat beneath the water at my side. I knew, from prior experience, that I could draw the blade in one second with the water resistance. My only issue was if someone brought a gun. I could throw the dagger, but I might be shot in the process, and it wasn’t enough to use my abilities when my movement was hindered.
Grinding my teeth, I tried not to focus on possibilities. Possibilities were endless. Certainties were much fewer and further between. What I knew for certain was this: Mochizuki had tried to kill me. Harry McArthur was dead. As was the Vice President of Arlandria I needed to ensure the plan continued smoothly, otherwise all our efforts thus far would have been for naught.
I caught sight of my reflection in the water, noting that where my so-called comrade’s sword had cut, he’d sliced off a good chunk of my hair. Taking the dagger, I removed the rest along the line, the cut now short and bobbed. Not that I was one for vanity, but it didn’t suit my face.
As I was about to set the blade back into its sheath, there was a rustle in the bamboo and I stood up as sharply as I could, scanned around for any disturbances. This wasn’t a good place for me to be if someone planned on sneaking in. If I hid my position in the water, the ripples would give me away. If I left the water and returned to the building, I’d leave footprints on the floor. I frowned and jumped into the flowerbeds surrounding the pool, masking myself as best I could.
A lone figure dropped off of the fence and landed in the water, clad in a dark green cloak and wearing now-soaked camouflage trousers. I saw the badge – Technisian.
Technis was the worst of the little ‘countries’ spread throughout what once had been called Japan. They were a state run by the numerous corporations established there – far more technologically advanced than most, but also far less ethical in the process. There were tales of an undercity rife with crime and murder, while the upper classes lived on the surface with their portable computers and cellular phones. Their military was advanced too… but not this advanced.
I pounced on the soldier, pushing them under the water and disarming them in a flash. Arms and legs flailing, they struggled. I waited, and then pulled them to the surface, tossing their water soaked body onto the hard floor at the side of the pool. I took the rifle – a mixture of metal and composites, bullpup arrangement with the magazine behind the trigger – and aimed it at the infiltrator’s head. Their face was covered by a state-of-the-art tactical helmet, which I was reasonably convinced wouldn’t stand a point blank shot.
My order was unlikely to be followed, I knew that much. If they were Technisian, failure to defeat a ‘technologically inferior’ foe was shameful. For their Special Forces, such a situation would be punishable by death. The weakened soldier raised a hand, a remote clutched in it. They had nothing to lose – and I had a lot. I dove into the shallow water of the hot spring as a significant amount of plastic explosive detonated, the noise still deafening beneath.
As I surfaced, I witnessed a scene that looked like something from a war zone. The ground was dented with a crater, the surrounding area blasted into pieces. The entire wing of the ryokan had been demolished, the view through the corridor now a clear shot of the town below. A wall had been damaged on one side, and the other was spattered with blood and shrapnel. I realised that I hadn’t exactly come out unscathed either, my back and arms stinging with small cuts and burnt flesh. Fragments of fabric and plant matter descended from the sky above like black snowflakes.
My mind was full of questions, even in spite of the pain. I certainly hadn’t been followed – I hadn’t even been close to Technis in months, and I wasn’t stupid enough to get tagged. But that meant someone had. I got out of the hot spring, redressed and headed towards the main door.
“Kanon? Thank the gods you’re alright… what happened?”
I gestured to the demolished wing, and the kitsune’s face fell. “Inari blessed. What manner of monster could do this?”
“Another human, unsurprisingly,” I said, holding up the unusual rifle, still dripping slightly. “One with technology far advanced beyond normal consideration.” I hit the magazine release and found a full stack of rounds – the rear of one bullet displayed 5.56mm x 45mm. Those weren’t rounds I registered being used by anyone… but yet, gut instinct still told me this was Technisian.
Koto looked at me nervously as I reinserted the magazine and checked the chamber. “What are you going to do?”
“Someone led these bastards here. Someone compromised the Resistance, the Juuyuushi and the safety of the Remnants,” I tossed her a small coin from my purse. “I’m going to find out who. And when I do… I’ll have to call a mason, because someone’s going to need a new headstone.”