I could have gone full force with my next few attacks, but until I know, for sure, that the children are safe...the last thing I wanted to do was agitate the hornet's nest I've been thrust into.
Stealth is the better option. At least for now.
I couldn't help but to wonder if Takeshi was alright up there. Perhaps it was wishful thinking on my part...but despite all of the troubles that we've been through together...and all of the years that we spent apart...my heart still longed for his touch. Even though it wasn't a path that I was ever meant to follow, personally...I sometimes regret not becoming a part of the Ogata clan with him. Perhaps I could have talked him out of this mess before it got to this point.
I waited for two of the hooded ones to pass me, hiding behind a desk...and then silently rolled across the aisle to find another shadowed spot behind a file cabinet. Controlled breathing was key. I didn't want them to hear me. Not yet.
My eyes searched the entire area, hoping to see some sort of sloppy movement from these weird little 'Goonies', thinking that this was some kind of adventure. But I couldn't catch sight of them just yet. I was certain that they'd bunk things up sooner or later. The only question is...will I see it before our enemies will?
Staying low, I walked with a low squat to quickly make my way around another one of the partitions, and waited for them to pass. However, I heard someone else coming towards me from the other direction at the same time. I spun around to the desk closest to me and felt around for an object of decent size. All I found was a paperweight. I could use something bigger, but it'll have to do.
I scanned the room for a corner that they could run towards and keep me shrouded in darkness at the same time. Let's just hope that the kids aren't anywhere near it.
I tossed the paperweight against the wall, and three of the hooded ones immediately popped their heads up, scampering over there to investigate while I moved around the partition to sneak past them while their backs were turned. I continued to creep forward, and suddenly ran into one of them as they rounded the corner right in front of me without warning. Without thinking, I swiftly took my blade and thrust it upward before he was able to draw his weapon or alert the others. It penetrated the soft spot under his chin, and he gurgled quietly on his own blood as it slid all the way down my blade, puddling at the handle until it ran over the back of my hands. I yanked it out of him and caught the body before it could fall and make any noise...slowly rolling one of the computer chairs out to drag and stuff his corpse under the desk to hide him.
I cleaned off my blade with his uniform and then continued to search the room for the others. I've been rather lucky so far, but there's no way that I can take the time to kill all of them off one by one like this. Time is of the essence. Who knows what else they may have waiting for us before we're able to walk out of this building alive?
"I'VE GOT HIM!!!" Yelled one of the men behind me, shining his bright flashlight directly at me. But, by the time the words left his mouth, I had taken a different hold of my sword...and I through it directly through his heart! Sideways, so as to fit between his protective ribs! I ran up to him and took hold of the handle, jumping up to dropkick him and send him reeling as I flipped backwards, pulling the blade from his chest, and landed on my feet. Just in time to find two more men that I dispatched with ease...surprising them with their own sudden flow of gore as it bled through their suits.
Then, I ducked down and went back into hiding before anyone else was able to find their way towards the source of the noise. I had to move quickly. Dodging in between desks, staying low as I navigated my way around the maze of office cubicles, and then dived forward to somersault to my feet again and put my back against the wall.
"Whoah..." Came a quiet whisper from the desk in front of me.
It was then that I saw three little heads peek out from behind the office copy machine, staring at me with a sense of awe as apparently they've been watching me for the past few minutes.
Angrily, I mouthed the words, "Where WERE you??? What are you doing???"
"You were going too slow..." Kenshiro whispered out loud, and I quickly pressed my finger to my lips to tell him to shut up! Which only made his whisper slightly lower in volume, "...We were trying to get out of here and meet you outside." Dear Lord...PLEASE don't tell me that I've lived this many years in darkness just to be taken out like this!
I wanted to scream at them all and remind them to stay right here by my side...but giving our location away for the sake of a pointless argument with a group of children just didn't seem to be worth it at the time. So, I just suppressed my frustration, got them to make direct eye contact with me, and then pointed towards the East wall to guide them over to the elevator. They were still pretty small, so I was sure that they could make it over there without being seen if they kept their heads down. But I had to keep an eye out for potential threats, regardless. So I made sure that there was some space between myself and the kids as they moved forward. I'd have to scan the entire room before letting my guard down. And when little Katrina pressed the 'down' button, I knew that the guards were sure to hear the alert and the doors opening before we got a chance to enter. But I expected that.
As long as I have all of Takeshi's children in the same place at the same time, with only one entrance that I can defend with my life if need be...then I'll be alright. But I cant have them running around free like a group of scared ferrets! There's no way that I can be in three places at once.
We kept moving...slowly. Stealth was the key here. But I kept my hand firmly gripped around the handle of my sword, just in case there were any surprises waiting for us around any of those corners.
What was taking the elevator so damn long? I was beginning to worry now.
But then, I could hear the large metal box as it slid down the shaft, and I'm sure the others could hear it as well. And then...
The doors to the elevator opened up and the children hurried inside, huddling up together against one of the inside corners. Kenshiro standing with his arms out in front to protect his younger siblings. Immediate mission accomplished, I suppose.
"The elevator!!! Go, go, go!!!" They shouted at one another, but I already had my sword drawn, ready for battle.
"Hold the doors open!" I told them, and had to lunge forward to meet the enemy head on. I didn't give them the chance to catch their balance before slicing them into pieces too small to allow them to operate with any level of efficiency. I felt as though I was moving super fast, even for me, and as their limbs began to fall to the floor I took notice of the fear in their approach. No mirror mask could hide that from me.
"Let me help!" Kenshiro shouted, but I told him to stay put. I needed to keep them together. I needed to keep them safe.
I sliced one of the Hooded Ones' throat open, and when I saw one of them jump up on the desk next to me in an attempt to get to the elevator before I could stop him, I spun around with my sharp blade severing both of his legs just below the knee. So when he leapt off of the desk, he had nothing to land on...screaming out in agonizing pain.
I rolled over the desk to kick another soldier in the chest, and the moving back to take two more on as fast as I could. Trading my blows back and forth between them, my swordsmanship...a poetic ballet of blood and gore as they fell, one by one at my feet. And as soon as I got the opportunity, I rushed into the elevator and pushed the kids back against the back wall to allow the doors to close and finally giving myself a chance to catch my breath.
I think I had taken a few hits, here and there, but nothing that would wound me to the point of having to compensate for the pain of it.
"You took them ALL on!" Kenshiro said.
"Are you ok?" Said Katrina.
"I was watching. You are REALLY fast!" Natpea said.
But even with all of the children talking at once, I had to just close my eyes and take inventory of what damage I had suffered so far so that I'd know how much energy I had left to work with. I tuned out their high pitched voice and just tried to meditate for a moment. Breathe in...breathe out. Breathe in...breathe out. Ok, so what's my next move. I won't be able to take this elevator all the way to the ground floor, or they'll concentrate all of their forces on that level to ambush us the second we leave this metal box. I need to think. I need to relax.
"What do we do now, Norio?" Natpea asked me, but I just pressed my finger to my lips and hushed him up so I'd have time to think. I just need a minute or two. That's all. Just a minute or two.
I tilted my head back to lean against the wall and do all I could to numb the pain that I was feeling, while still recharging my mental and spiritual 'battery' for when I might have to confront more enemies within the next few minutes.
I should be holding my sword in stillness. That should have been my goal. But they forced my hand. They forced me into a position where I had to strike. And yet, I still remember...the greatest lesson that any true Samurai could ever learn is how to hold his blade in stillness. My father used to tell me that. Passed down from his father, and his father's father before him. Relax, Norio. Maintain your grace. Striking out in anger makes you weak.
Oh how I wish I could afford to be weak right about now.
I do remember the night that my father died at the hands of some shadowy figure that was never brought to justice for his crimes. A single strike...piercing his heart. Killing him almost instantly. Another good man who thought it necessary to play the role of a 'gangster' as though the rest of his family would somehow respect that. We didn't.
The first time, it was Takeshi who stood up and fired the shots that murdered my father's first, would-be, assassin. In a restaurant uptown, with some of his associates surrounding him at a table made for liars and traitors. Not a single one of them would have taken a bullet for my father...but Takeshi was able to leap into action and stop the shooter from killing my father when he came looking for him. A noble gesture, for sure. One that made my father pledge a blood oath to him for saving his life. An oath that I'm now picking up for him...now that he's gone.
Karma is always hunting those that deserve its wrath...and my father couldn't avoid it forever. It was always two steps behind him, every moment of his life. And no amount of paranoia or security was going to be able to save him from reaping what he sowed with his illegal actions against the people of Tokyo.
I guess I should have expected it...but when I learned of his murder, it broke my heart just the same.
Why didn't Takeshi join me in darkness? We had a pact. A plan. Had I not been waiting for his decision...I might have become a vampire before my father was killed. I might have been able to save him. There is no sharper blade than regret. Not even mine.
It was at that moment that I suddenly heard a couple of loud thumps on the roof of the elevator, and my eyes sprung open as I immediately grabbed for my sword again.
"Shit..." I grumbled. "Get low! Down to the floor! All of you!" I said to the kids, and I had to leap up towards the little hatch at top of the elevator just as it opened up and I saw more of our attackers peeking in to see if they could get to us before we got any closer to the lobby.
I thrust my sword up through the ceiling and impaled the attacker's foot on the edge of my blade, causing him to scream out loud as I shimmied my way out to stand on top of the descending elevator and face three more men as they tried to take out their intended targets down below.
We swiftly traded furious blows with one another, back and forth, with me handling all three of them at once. And just as my arms began to get sore and tire themselves out, I kicked one of the hooded ones in the throat and held my leg out as the elevator continued its journey, holding him against the side of the shaft as every bump and sharp edge hit him in the head over and over again on our way down.
I wasn't able to hold it for too long though, as I saw more elevator doors open up above me, and more men began to crawl into the shaft and slide down the cables in an attempt to overwhelm me. I was trying to cut them down as fast as I possibly could, but they just kept coming. And it was att his point that I saw Kenshiro stick his little head out of the top of the elevator, with his brother and sister giving him a boost...and he rolled out on the top of the elevator to fight with me. DAMMIT!!!
"KENSHIRO!!!" I yelled, pulling him out of the way just seconds before one of the hooded ones took his head off with a slash of his hunting knife. Kenshiro was definitely a fighter, but he was much too young and weak for his little punches and kicks to do much damage or have much of an impact at all on the fight. So...while I was glad that he was able to distract some of my enemies for a few seconds...I found a quick moment where I was able to sweep Kenshiro's legs out from underneath him and he fell back down through the top of the elevator. I think he might have hit his head on the way down, and it wasn't my intention to hurt him! But I needed him out of the way! Even if I die in this mindless pursuit to get them out of the building, at least they'll be able to get out of here somehow. At least, that's what I'm hoping for.
I kept fighting as hard as I could while the children tended to their big brother, who was now tearing up and sniffling quietly, holding his hand over a rather large knot on his forehead. Shit. Well, that's what he gets for not listening to me in the first place.
As more men seemed to be sliding down the elevator shaft to face me...I looked around to make sure that the elevator had brakes on both sides. Praying that they would work the way that they were designed too.
This is going to scare the living hell out of the kids...but it's the best strategy that I've got for right now. "HOLD ON!!!" I shouted, and I used my sword to hack away at the elevator cables until they snapped...sending the entire metal box into a sudden freefall that caused all of the children to scream and cry while I got low and held on for dear life...the weightlessness of the drop disorienting me while the other hooded ones began to wobble and fall from the shock of it all!
Please work! PLEASE!!!
After dropping a quick five or six floors, the elevator's automatic brake system kicked in and all four sides jutted out to tightly grip the sides of the shaft, bright sparks flying up into my face as the elevator did its best to come to a screeching halt!
I was able to slide back into the elevator and close the hatch above as I tended to my 'cargo'. "Are you alright? All of you?"
Natpea nodded. "We're ok. I think Kenshiro is hurt, though."
"I'm NOT hurt! I'm fine!" Kenshiro insisted, even though I could still see the tears on his young face before he had a chance to defiantly wipe them away with his sleeve.
Katrina was still clutching the floppy disks containing the information about 'Sector V' to her chest though. She had her eyes clenched shut, and seemed to be shaking with fright, even gasping and jerking away from me when I put my hand on her shoulder. "What about you, Princess? Are you ok?"
"I want my daddy..." She whimpered, and both of her brothers moved in to comfort her while she sobbed on their shoulders.
The truth is, that was one request that I could grant them at this point. And I could have told them the truth about that...that their father was...more likely than not...already dead. But now wasn't the time for that. Right now, I needed them to be focused and ready to move when I told them to move. Period. The rest, we can all deal with that later. I have to be present right now. Survival is a must. Nothing else matters.
It was a dangerous move, but I pried the elevator doors open and saw us stuck between floors. We still had six floors to go before we were able to get back out onto the street. My biggest fear, however, was worrying about how long these temporary elevator brakes were going to hold out. If this metal box drops while either one of us is halfway through, it'll cut us in half. But if we stay IN the elevator...chances are we'll be smashed and broken when it drops the rest of the way. So a decision had to be made, and I got the kids up on their feet to go first. I couldn't tell if it was right or wrong, but I was sort of working on the fly here, and the pressure to get this right was intense.
The upper level led out into the building's parking lot. We might be able to run the rest of the way down without much more interference. I just needed to get the children out of this elevator first.
"Natpea...you go first, ok? And then help your sister." I said. Kenshiro wanted to go first, but I told him to wait.
Natpea did as he was told, and was quick to scramble his way through the open hole in the door, immediately reaching back to help Katrina climb up to join him. It wasn't until it was Kenshiro's turn that the elevator jerked violently and fell down another few inches, reminding me that the danger was real. Kenshiro and I looked at one another, and I said, "Go on, boy. They need you. Climb up and protect them."
He did as he was told, and quickly shuffled his way into the building's parking lot as well. That's when the elevator jerked again...and dropped even lower than last time. Shit...this had better work. I said a quick prayer to myself, and then jumped up and rushed to get out of that elevator as fast as I possibly could! Thankfully, just as I was able to pull my right leg out from the shaft, the whole thing began to collapse and the elevator dropped down to the basement floor...nearly taking my leg with it!
I could hear it falling, falling, falling, down....and then CRASHING on the lower level. Jesus...I don't know how much more of this my heart can take tonight.
The kids rushed over to see if I was able to keep going, and I faked a certain level of confidence to give them hope and keep them concentrated on the task at hand. "We're all fine. K? Just six more floors to go...then we're home free. I'm going to get you out of here. I promise." I said.
The kids helped me up to my feet, and I steadied my breath again, hoping to conserve as much energy as possible, just in case we ran into any more troubles along the way.
"It truly is an honor, you know?" Came a voice, echoing throughout the parking lot from behind us. "Norio Myoki...the stories that I've heard about you. Heh...quite fascinating, honestly."
When I turned around, I saw a single man, not much older than me from the looks of him, holding a sword of his own. But his eyes were glowing red. Not one of the human hooded ones that I had been fighting before...but another vampire. Just like me.
He said, "They say that your strikes can cut through the shadows themselves. That you are, and always have been...one of the best." I moved forward to make sure to keep the children behind me, holding my sword steady. "A direct descendant of the legendary Tatsuro Myoki. The one who has been said to possess his level of unmatched skill with a blade. I would very much like to see it in action for myself. What do you say?"
I don't know what this vampire wanted from me, or how he seemed to know so much about me and my lineage...but if it means defending Takeshi Ogata's children from harm...then so be it.
Face me, demon! And let's see what destiny has planned for the both of us!