Author: liralen. All the mistakes are mine.
RP System and GM: The GM was amberley, running a variation on "Don't Rest Your Head" by Fred Hicks.
Characters: Apricot (untrained street shamen by diony), Rei (Street Samurai for Justice by space_parasite), and Blanc (fight-happy razorgirl liralen)
Rating: PG-13, again mostly for violence
Word Count: 3178
Summary: An alleyway enacts justice, and far more interest is shown in the little goblin girl than can be ignored.
A/N: This is Carl's version of Shadowrun, which is like a mashup of Shinto and Ghost in the Shell. There are a few great play quotes that Marith caught, some of which I couldn't quite turn into story as neatly as I would have liked. The best of which was the following:
GM: I dunno, does an alleyway have an inherent sense of justice?
Rei: Yes. It is an alleyway that I've been in.
GM: Good point.
<< The Previous Chapter <<
Rei saw Le Merle Blanc rush in. Her dandelion white hair glowed above the flying white of her canvas duster, mirror gray eyes shifting colors as she ran. Her slender limbs always looked like anyone could just snap them, but he'd never seen her even flinch when hit. She jumped the first goblin ganger. Under the cover of her entrance, Rei stepped to the side and appeared right where he was needed, right up against the lovely girl with the gem red hair. He engulfed her in his long coat and with her eyes hidden, he disappeared with her, and appeared further up and across the street from the alleyway. He could watch the entrance from there.
After attempting to release her from the folds of his coat, he found that she burrowed right back in. She leaned her slender, soft length against him and sighed brokenly. She was beautiful, pale skin, high end party dress, high heels, and that jewel bright red hair. Certainly not fit for this part of town.
"I'm Rei. Pleased to meet you," Rei ventured.
"I'm very pleased to meet you." She breathed very deeply, décolletage swelling alarmingly. "I'm Ruby."
Indeed you are, thought Rei, but said nothing.
"I have to find my sister! She's wandering around here, somewhere..." Ruby sighed.
Rei pulled out his PDA and showed her the picture from the wanted poster.
"Why do you have a picture of my sister?" Ruby sounded more puzzled and surprised than upset.
"It's from a poster we found on a lamppost. Did you put them up?"
"No, why is someone else looking for her? I'm just trying to get her home. Have you tried calling the number?"
"Oh! You haven't found her yet. That makes sense. You do this for the monetary rewards?"
"This is what I do," Rei said quietly.
"Does it pay well?" Ruby asked, snuggling in. She seemed to imply that, perhaps, that he could get better paid working for better people.
He hid a smile. "Well enough." Out of the corner of his eye, he watched two feather boys on a single minibike pull up by the mouth of the alley the others were in.
"You do have a very nice coat," she purred, rubbing up against it and, consequently, him as well.
"It's a family heirloom," he said absently. One of the feather boys was fumbling with something under his coat.
"Still very nice..."
It was a shotgun.
Ruby yelped as Rei firmly set her aside. He yelled, "STOP!!"
He was just a little too late, as the feather boy just brought it up and fired on the first figure to come out of the alley.
I moved. I swung wide of the corner to be able to see the threat, and saw Rei in black, like the vengeance come, his coat flying as he nabbed the guy on the stupid mini-bike. The one with the shotgun swung it at me. He looked as if he were moving through solid water. I didn't need it, but the squawk from the guy on the bike made him flinch.
And I was on him like fire on wood. He was still trying to train the sawed-off at me, when I grabbed it and shoved it down, sliding my hand from the barrel to the stock. The idiot fired it at the street, and buckshot went everywhere, some of it bouncing into my leg. I growled, the clinic was going to be so pissed off at me.
I continued the momentum of my motion, twisting the stock to break his hold on the thing, my elbow coming up to use my upper arm as a fulcrum to apply a shoulder lock that had him bending forward so fast he nearly planted his face in the sidewalk he'd just shot. I yanked up on his wrist and helped him. When he went limp, I got a better arm lock on him, and led him back to the alley.
Rei had an easier time of it. We're about the same height, and when no one thinks I'm listening I hear them call us Apricot's pair of blackbirds. It fits well enough I don't dissuade anyone. Ever since Apricot called me her "Le Merle Blanc" the name has stuck. So Rei is her blackbird and I'm her white blackbird.
When we got back, it was pretty obvious to me that the goblin leader had had it. He was twitching a little, breath rattling, one hand gentle on Apricot's arm, and it looked like he was just happy to have the company. But Apricot's face was set in a determined frown.
She looked up when we arrived, one tear on her cheek. Her voice went hard, short, "What is this about?"
If the boys had any sense, they'd duck their heads and pray, but either they didn't know about our Apricot, or they just didn't have any more sense than feathers.
"Five hundred nuyen."
"Five hundred nuyen for shotgunning a guy out?" The outrage flowed from Apricot, palpable to me and mine.
The guy Rei was holding shrugged. "What do we care? They just said the next person out of that alley gets shot. We get the money, and we're good."
"They didn't even give you a description of who to shoot?"
"Naw. Just shoot whatever walked out first. My brother got him just fine, and we've got the hard cold. It's like free money." The driver smirked.
"Well... I hope your five hundred nuyen was worth it. Blanc, hold him. I need his hands." Apricot sounded flat.
The way she said it made my eyes close for just a moment. Then all ten of us put our strength together, and the poor little feather boy had no chance at all. He screamed and kicked and flailed. For once I didn't really care that he was kicking the shit out of my shins. He deserved at least that.
"Use the monofilament," I said.
It was easier for Apricot to handle than my sword. The monofilament had no soul to endanger with this particular problem.
Apricot tied off the guy's forearms with the ripped halves of one of Ruby's scarves. She plucked the control button for the filament from my sleeve, and then did it in one, clean slice. The air filled with screams, curses, and vows of vengeance. We'd heard worse. The hands fell with a wet meat thud onto the pavement.
Two huge rats scurried out from the garbage cans, and with their big, yellow teeth and little sharp claws, they harried, yanked, and pulled those two hands away into the darkness.
That shut the guy up.
Rei let go of his brother, who was crying with rage as he came at me, but I held still and gently gave the slumped form of his handless brother to him.
Apricot said softly, "Look nothing's free. There's no such thing as free money."
The boy spit at her feet.
"Hey," Apricot added. "We'll take you to the clinic."
He shook his head. "No. He's my brother, I'll take care of him." The feather boy slung his brother over his shoulder and walked out the alley and swore. Someone had stolen his mini-bike. He turned and trudged off.
I went out onto the street, and cast about. There. The shiny casings from the shotgun shells. They had given Apricot something, and just hadn't known. I picked up the still warm shells, went back to the alley, and handed them to her. She sat back down by the teenage goblin's side.
"I guess I have a goblin, now," she said quietly.
The goblin boy had passed out, but his breathing was solid now, not that on and off stutter of someone dying.
I sighed and stretched my sore knee. Rei got the first hold on him and got him half up before I went under my side of the big boy.
When we got to the clinic, they were all, "Didn't we just... oh my GOD!"
It's nice to have good attention. This time I saw Rei actually talking to the receptionist and pass her something that made her smile. I never dig too deep. Just like they never dig too deep with me, but it's kinda cool thinking dream boys might carry platinum credsticks.
This time they put me out to take care of me, and as I was going down, in the background someone was talking. "You can always check, and get weird shit like 'I'll trade you hands for an eye.' Man, Craig's List gets creepier every year."
We headed back to the bar and found it still pretty empty. There were no more Seraphim, so the bartender was didn't look exactly happy, but not quite as glum as before.
"So, we followed the Seraphim, did they come back? They all just disappeared from where they'd taken us." Apricot greeted the bartender with the question.
"Haven't seen 'em since. You can come and... uhm... follow 'em any time." The barkeeper frowned in thought and then came out with a doozy. "Hey, Apricot, you think you could attract a crowd?"
I cringed, remembering the last crowd Apricot had attracted.
"Sure. But, what do you want the crowd to do?" Apricot sounded cheerful as she asked the far more important question as far as I was concerned.
"Uhm... drink! Be happy, and uhm... buy food!" The barkeep's answer was pretty straightforward.
"Sure!" Apricot said, and she started talking.
The door started opening, and goblins started coming in. Big ones. And they started ordering drinks. That made the bartender kind of happy. What made him really happy is that they stayed polite after a few pitchers of their favorite brew.
"So, can I have a place to stay, tonight?" Apricot asked hopefully.
The tender shook his head. "Sorry. I don’t know of a place you could have right now, or anyone looking for a roommate."
"How about some food?" Apricot wheedled.
Rei coughed. The food here was all greasy bar food, stuff that I wasn't sure I wanted to have, either. I just looked at Rei and, with just his one eye, he avoided my look more easily than usual.
"I can buy dinner," Rei said.
"Sushi?" Apricot asked hopefully, cute dark eyes gazing hopefully up into Rei's eye.
He sighed. "Sure. Sushi."
"Yay!" She danced about and then said to the bartender, "Rei's buying sushi!"
The bartender smirked and looked at Rei. "Hey, you can afford to buy drinks, then, huh?"
And so he did. Apricot went into the backroom and changed out of her bloody clothing. I sometimes wonder how she does that so naturally. As if getting splashed in blood was just the natural order of things when dealing with whatever it is that she talks with. Though, perhaps, I shouldn't be the one to talk. My duster was as white as flour, ashes, or clouds. In my line of work, getting a splash or two is the natural order of things. That my duster likes... eating it... that's something else.
Rei took us to Ichiro's, a little sushi bar in the U-District, cheap for the student clientele.
Apricot cheerfully returned the greeting with the sushi chef and, soon, he and she were chatting like old friends. He switched to English about halfway through and started talking about how he really wanted to go back to Japan to train. He'd been working towards that for some time.
He and Apricot helped me pick out white things to eat on a whim of mine. Scallops, albacore, white fish, and yellowtail were all tasty and fun to eat. We all got our little platters of sushi when there was the sound of motorcycles outside the door.
Six Japanese guys with kanji tattoo'ed onto their arms came in and sat on either side of us at the sushi bar. I was glad we'd sat Apricot in the middle of the two of us, as the boys started getting rude, harassing the sushi bar man, and ordering strange things.
The sushi man just accepted the abuse meekly and served them what they asked for, half of which they didn't even bother eating.
Stupid boys. But they were wearing colors, and looked like they were trying out for Yak Jr. status. I studied the tattoos and wrinkled my nose. Quietly I asked Apricot, "Does that say what I think it does?"
She nodded and hid a giggle behind her fingers. "Yeah.... it says 'Swim or Death'."
I shook my head.
Another engine pulled up, the whisper quiet of an all electric vehicle, nothing but the sound of rubber on pavement. A girl in the same style of clothing as the boys that had come in but with clean seams and silkier cloth came into the restaurant. She was as Japanese as Apricot, and walked like she could fight if she had to, but didn't have to that often. Her tattoo read "Speed and Death".
She walked up to Rei. Apricot and I exchanged looks and grinned and watched.
"I hear you're looking for a girl," she said, having to tilt her head up to look at him.
"Cause I'm asking nicely."
"I appreciate it, but that's not enough of a reason. I help people."
"Is there some way we can make it work? Just bring her to me..."
Rei shook his head. "I'm afraid not."
She shrugged and persisted. "If you find the girl first, at least let me be first to make an offer." She pulled a pen from behind her ear. I frowned. It hadn't been there to start. With the felt-tipped marker, she wrote a number on Rei's hand. Then she smiled and handed Apricot the pen.
So she did know whom she was really dealing with.
She turned on her heel and walked out of the restaurant.
The leader of the bully boys looked to the bar man and nodded at Rei. "Hey, he's treating."
Rei rolled his eyes, but nodded to the suddenly much happier bar man. The six punks walked out and there was the cough and roar of engines hauling them away.
Apricot studied the pen. It was a nice little giveaway. "Kiyatxunl Imports" was written along the side, along with an address, phone number, and Net address. Apricot tucked it away. She looked up Rei and I. "So it looks like other people are interested in that girl you tried to save, Rei. Where do we start?"
We all went back to the corner where Rei first saw the girl, by the Goblin slums. The three of us went out in widening circles, asking if someone had seen the girl, the monster, or the magician.
There were two elves who nodded at Apricot's request. "Oh, sure. We saw the monster. The slaying of that beaste should make for an excellent story. Follow us, we shall take you to the beaste, the master of the beaste, and the little girl they seek."
Rei gave me a glance as the two elves headed into a basement. Like I said, he likes looking ahead...
A group of elves appeared around us as soon as the door closed.
"What are you doing?" Apricot asked, before they could do anything.
And, like magic, they just answered her question. "We are looking for the goblin girl, Yamako. We wish to help her complete her quest, whatever it is."
"What if her quest is to destroy the city?" Apricot asked, frowning.
"Well, she is the heroine of this story and we are her knights. We must help her complete her quest no matter what. And if you aren't going to do the same thing, we must fight you."
With that announcement, they attacked.
I drew Seishin Bunretsu from my heart. She came singing from her sheath and gleamed light in all directions from her shattered pieces. I'd made enough once to try and have her re-forged from the pieces. The blacksmith had managed to put all the pieces together, but admitted defeat in the end. Her cracks never completely disappeared, even under fire and hammer on stone rather than cold iron. He admitted she had a magic he wasn't strong enough to cover and commended me on the odd strength of my soul.
She sang through the air in minor and augmented chords, or at least, that's what Harold said in the back of my head. He was the musician of us all.
The elves admired her light and song, and then we fought.
The fight made three of the girls in my head start giggling helplessly, so I wasn't quite as fast as I usually am, but... it was funny, too. What made it even funnier for me was Apricot cheering me on and ooo'ing and aaaahing the spectacular wide parries and blocks, the big attacks and the graceful stop thrusts.
This particular batch of elves were far more into the form of the fight than functionality. No attacks from behind, no strokes out of sequence, Mother forbid a parry not be followed by a riposte. Rei looked utterly bemused to be caught in the midst of this, and he hacked away manfully and tried not to laugh when an elven lady collapsed gracefully his curved sword found her arm. I found Huyu responding and going into formal kendo mode with Seishin Bunretsu's manic encouragement. So I sat back and watched for a while, but stepped in when the elves started to use thaelol sequences in their attacks.
There are advantages to having been an Elven princess, I guess.
At least they lost beautifully.
And the leader started going into this beautiful, flowery speech in High Elven about how they were all going to get stronger and come after us again just to prove their dedication to the art of battle...
I stifled a yawn, no reason to let them know I understood a word of what they were saying. There were reasons I had my ears docked.
Apricot cheered and clapped when they posed for her in attitudes of defeated dejection. "Well, at least you didn't lose the girl, since we didn't have her to begin with, but that was a really excellent fight!"
"Oh well." A careless wave of a beautiful white hand, a flip of silver hair, and the leader waved away that detail. "Nothing of value can be gained without struggle."
Then Rei stepped in and said, "While we might not help her with her quest, I do want to protect her. Just so you know."
The silver head bowed. "You are brave warriors. You wish to find her and protect her from the evil-hearted ones dragging the monster that reeks of pain. We have had a marvelous fight with the Spirit of Justice and have been defeated." A graceful bow in Rei's direction. "So we must grant you a boon, we happen to have the number of the flame-haired sister of the girl everyone is seeking. Would that do as a boon?"
"Sure," Rei answered in his usual manner. "Can I have yours as well?"
The leader laughed and bowed his head. Rei's phone chimed a single pure note. They flowed out of the room with graceful bows to Rei. I bowed back to the last one and saw him falter, as I bowed the exact bow of a rogue knight to those who are her betters.
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