"All the secrets of the east
Conceal the beauty and the beast"
The world has a strange sense of irony.
No more than five years ago, before the novas, when the world seemed to be stuck in one long, downward spiral, I was a killer, one of the best in the business that was more popular than many would like to think. I was Hitokiri, simply “The Assassin,” “The Manslayer.” Literally a sword for hire as bodyguard and hunter. I had been one of the best in a very exclusive club.
That was five years ago. Now, in a bright new world with novas, where such killing seems beyond unnecessary and even I am tired of the smell of blood....
Now I’m even better.
I’m a nova.
It happened during a challenge- something I neither look for nor enjoy. It’s sport for the young and stupid who have just enough talent to go to their brains and make it the equivalent of a brick. Killing another killer simply to get a reputation isn’t only stupid, it’ll just bring you rep in the wrong circles.
You want blood, go to a movie. You want death, go to someone who knows people... there you can find the talent.
But the young and stupid just see the tick marks attached to a name. They chase a pipe dream into the abyss, trying to make that leap of faith across the chasm that the experts know to avoid.
They’re like moths trying to smother a flame.
June 5, 2012, 2:28 AM
Nelson’s Café, employee’s parking lot
“It goes as far back as Hammurabi and his laws- ‘If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out, if he break another man's bone, his bone shall be broken’.”
Rika Asari paused mid-step, then blatantly put her car keys into a pocket before turning her head to look over her shoulder. “Do you always begin conversations this way?” she asked casually, taking the opportunity to look over the man who’d accosted her. Mid-twenties, short bleached hair, enormous Attitude, too damn tall, and a ridiculous amount of leather. Altogether, he made quite the Blade rip-off... which had to make him miserable in the combined onslaught of heat and humidity. The sword sheathed casually and quite obviously on his back also made it clear the kid fancied himself a fighter... and gave him two options for his presence.
He drew his sword, a slow, showy motion meant to impress. Rika’s gaze simply flicked for a moment to the oversized katana before moving back to the man. “Only when facing a notorious killer,” he declared.
“The notorious ones are stupid, dead, or pure fiction.” She finally turned to face him, knowing exactly what impression he would take. Rika stood at just over five feet in her sneakers, which combined with her Asian heritage and long braid of black hair to give the appearance of a china doll- albeit a very plain one. Without the waitress apron, her cutoff jeans and t-shirt made her look more like 16 years old than her actual 28. She spread her hands to her sides, palms open and clearly empty. “Not to mention the whole idiocy about me being a killer.”
The sword moved from ‘Pose’ to ‘Gonna kick yer ass,’ and the man gave a nasty grin. “You are Hitokiri. And I’m here to kill you.”
She arced a brow. “Well. That does put a damper on our relationship. What, no ‘my name is blah de blah, I’m here for revenge’ spiel? Let alone try and see if I’m actually the right person?”
“A man comes up to you with a drawn sword, and you just give him the evil eye? Not to mention knowing ‘Hitokiri’.”
This time she snorted. “Any anime fan above the age of 10 who can tell Voltron from Power Rangers would probably know it. Not to mention anyone who can speak Japanese.”
“Still no comment about the sword.”
She grinned, a feral flash of teeth. “I could be a cop.”
“You’re not tall enough,” he retorted with an equally snide smirk.
“But I am tall enough to be some notorious killer?” Rika laughed. “Make up your mind, nimrod, and get your prejudices straight.”
His mocking expression finally faded, and his stance tightened. “Hitokiri, prepare to die.”
Emotion seemed to drain from the woman’s face, leaving behind an icy mask. “You can’t begin to imagine how many times I’ve heard that.”
He struck without warning, katana darting forward to slice across her stomach- but by the time steel would have reached flesh, she’d already dropped, tumbling past him towards the restaurant. He chased after her, sword flashing in dim streetlight illumination to slash down upon the woman kneeling at the steps to the door.
Metal screamed as the katana halted, unexpectedly meeting an old, thick pipe above Rika’s head. She smiled, icy and grim as she shoved the sword away and spun, neatly whacking the killer across the knee. The cracking noise that resulted sounded quite painful.
“Lesson number one- defenseless looking people rarely are,” she lectured, smoothly standing and turning to face him, pipe held ready like a sword. “Lesson number two- never be defenseless.”
“Any other words of wisdom before your death?”
She lashed out, spinning to slam the pipe into his hands and smashing the sword away. Another blow against his other knee dropped him to kneeling. “Three. A killer gets an honest reputation by actually killing honorable targets, not by standing around looking pretty, which leads to four- Hitokiri is a killer you don’t have a hope in hell of taking on. Go home and get a real job.”
“I’ll remember that.”
She wasn’t sure if it was the tone, perhaps muscle movement, or simply intuition, but she jerked to the side. A gunshot rang out, sending pain radiating from her shoulder.
It should have been fatal. It was enough that she hadn’t been hurt that badly in quite a while. “Lesson five,” the man growled. “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.” His finger on the trigger tightened once more, and Rika found herself captivated by the movement. She watched, and the world seemed to slow, as the weapon bucked, spitting out the lethal bit of steel. The bullet raced at her, but it seemed so slow... it was just so easy, to simply move just a hair to the left, and it would go right by.
Of course, no reason to stop there, so down into a lazy roll that hurt her shoulder like a bitch but there were a hell of a lot more important things to worry about, switch the pipe to the off hand and grab the downed katana, up onto feet and turn-
Time abruptly snapped back to its proper format, slow motion ending with the almost puzzling result of the katana slipping back out of the man’s body as the corpse slumped to the ground, head caved in from a follow-up blow from the pipe.
“The hell?” Hitokiri asked softly, staring from weapons to corpse in confusion. Dodging bullets... changing weapons before an assassin could move... killing him before he could do more than gasp and just start to realign his aim... the sheer speed....
It was impossible.
I guess a comic fan would have taken the news better. Or perhaps with a bit more grace. But I never had any interest in them. Maybe when I was younger, they might have caught my interest. And while I am rediscovering just what I missed, I can’t get up any enthusiasm for it. I have better things to discover.
Of course, I have no fond memories of childhood. Only god and possibly my mother- though I rather severely doubt the latter- know who my father was. My mother was just another whore surviving the streets until she could get her next fix. There are nicer ways of putting it. I admire any woman so determined as to survive on her own. If she chooses that path and uses it to advance in life, all the more power to her.
But there is no excuse for anyone to have a child and then sell it. Perhaps them. I have no idea how many siblings I might have, and I’m just as happy not knowing. I recall just enough of life with that woman to be almost content with my lot.
People seem so blissfully ignorant of the darker sides to life. I’ve lived in the shadows so long I wonder how they can stand the sun. I once passed through a college campus, and overheard several students talking. They were utterly shocked and dismayed by a lecture they’d just left- a talk about slavery in the modern world. They lived in the United States, land of the free, home of the brave, and eternally, shamefully guilt-tripping over its past involving racial oppression. No such thing could happen nowadays, not when the U.S. could get involved. That sort of thing was the past.... Too barbaric, uncivilized, dirty.
So damn ignorant. Slavery has existed since the first man realized he was stronger than his neighbor, and could therefore control him. It will probably continue until we all destroy ourselves. Human nature- to be at the top. End of story.
My mentor preferred the term survival of the fittest, but I’ve never really enjoyed his point of view. The man had no true emotions beyond pure smug satisfaction, a self righteousness that went beyond arrogance. He was right, so agree or die. No room for love or hate, fear or pride, confusion or humor. Just certainty.
Annoying as hell, really. Particularly since I owe him for... everything, I guess. He took me- bought me- from my mother when I was young, raising me as his own little....
Apprentice? Successor? Minion?
I don’t know, really. He took me away from a hellhole. He made me a killer. Then he hired me out.... And disappeared.
When my first employer died- not my fault! He sent me off to kill, and was slaughtered in turn. Like I said, a strange sense of irony- I expected to be sent back. Instead I was told Natsume Asari was nowhere to be found. Presumed dead.
The world would probably be better off if he is. I don’t know. I presume that since he hasn’t contacted me since then that he doesn’t want me to know, and it’s one loose end I’m content to leave. Like my mother, even trying to tie it up would only unravel what life I have made since.
June 5, 2012, 3:17 AM
Bellwoods Condominiums, 37A
Keyed up and confused as she was, Rika spent an extra ten minutes going over her home, playing paranoid to excess in the hunt for any unpleasant surprises. When she found nothing, she retreated to the loft bedroom, barely pausing to shove off her sneakers before curling up on the bed, snagging a large, plush polar bear from the pillows. She and the bear cuddled up in a corner of the bed, and the woman’s gaze blanked as she mulled over her encounter.
She wasn’t really bothered that she’d been found, or that the second rate idiot had tried to kill her. It had been inevitable. Rika had known that since she got out of the game.
It was how she’d escaped. The implications were on the borderline of terrifying and thrilling. Novas weren’t just special, they were heroes.
She was a retired assassin.
That would not be good PR.
Grinning faintly at the thought, she nuzzled the teddy bear for comfort. On her more rational days, she knew very well how people would take the idea of finding comfort with a stuffed animal, but she enjoyed the unquestioning, if illogical, support she’d been denied all her life.
Retirement was supposed to be about the things missed during a life of working.
With a soft sigh, Rika pulled her train of thought back on track. So... IF it hadn’t been some strange twist of luck, IF it hadn’t been adrenaline mixed with training.... IF she somehow, impossibly, was a nova....
What do I do? I doubt my credentials could make it through whatever screening they do at the learning centers.... Could I just wing it? She frowned into white fuzz. Just being a nova doesn’t mean I’m going to change radically... doesn’t it?
She sighed again. I like this life. It’s quiet, mundane, and I can do what I want, when I want. I don’t need this. Perhaps it was time to move on, find a new home and make a new identity.
Rika let loose a third sigh, more to settle herself than to whine like the prior ones. Giving her bear a final nuzzle on the cheek, she set the toy aside. It was time for decisions. Thus went life. There was nothing else to it.
One of the first lessons Natsume beat into me was not to question death. It simply is. No heaven, no hell, no afterlife. Just the end to life. Like pain, it is to be expected, and welcomed, because resistance makes things that much more a bitch. Face the void, and you will become it, and then consume all else there is.
Damn depressing, neh?
I’ve read up on myths since. I like the Vikings. “Seek and you will find Val-hala. There's long boats in the harbor/Which arrive there every hour/With the souls of the heroes/Whose blood lies on the flowers/And this heaven is the home/Of every man who loves his sword.” I forget where I heard it.
But I like the idea. Not necessarily the whole drinking hall of dead guys, beer, and wenches, but the thought that when we should be cold and unmoving, instead we experience so much light, and, well, life.
Perhaps through death, we’re all in the search for life. I just hope that one day, I can find it....
And one day leave all the death behind.
Let me out of here!!!! A.K.A. Home
I want to read more! To get back to the fic archive
Beginning quote from Elton John, as well as the Val-hala lyrics. Aberrant and novas belongs to White Wolf. Characters based upon Rurouni Kenshin. No profit made, no infringement intended. Even though they have anime basis, the characters belong to me and cannot be used without permission. Same goes for the story.
Mail me at email@example.com, should the whim hit.