With the morning tiredness stretched out of my body and the thought of my belongings getting crushed by my new Automaton Helper pushed into the back of my mind, I dodged the panicked office lady that came dashing along the narrow street in front of my building, and proceeded towards the nearest food stall for some breakfast.
The Office Lady most likely came from one of the Capsule Hotels around the corner, mostly used by those poor souls who worked so far away from their families that frequently returning home during the working days just wasn’t feasible, and those who simply couldn’t afford anything else, and she was most likely heading towards the local Maglev Train Station which would bring her to one of the bigger corporate buildings in the business district.
Enjoying the fact that I myself didn’t have to hurry to work today, I finally reached my destination, a little bakery shop on a nearby street corner, which miraculously turns itself into a Ramen Restaurant once the morning rush is over every day.
As I entered the small shack I was instantly greeted with a loud and cheerful “Irasshaimase!” by the bald middle aged man working behind the counter wearing a “Baking for life!” Bandana on his head complete with a steamed loaf of melonbread with the stylized Japanese sunrise behind it.
Wondering for a second if this was a turn over bandana with “Ramen for life!” on the other side, I quickly nodded in response and quickly skimmed over the countless baked goods on the counter before pointing at one golden brown bun with slight traces of brown powder on it in front of me “I’ll take two of those and….that strawberry soy milk over there please.”
Looking slightly surprised for a moment the man nodded “Two Curry Chicken Bread Buns and that soy milk…strawberry right? Interesting choice if I may say so Sir, I haven’t seen you around before, are you new here or just passing by?”
Fully aware of my odd taste when it came to breakfast I just smirked in response and added “Yeah I just moved here a few days ago, didn’t have time for a proper breakfast the last days, but since it’s my first day off I thought I’d give your place a try, if I like the buns you might be seeing a lot more of me in the future!”.
Apparently happy at the possibility of a new returning customer the man put my buns into a paper bag and turned around to get the soy milk from the see through fridge. “Eeeeh busy work then? May I ask what you’re doing for a living young man?”.
Stretching my hands out to receive my order I thought about lying for a second to keep up the good spirit, but then decided that the truth would yield a more interesting reaction and a better base for the future, and so I simply replied in the same friendly tone I had used before “Imperial Service, I run the local branch since I came here.”
The old man was about to start laughing, but then he took a closer look at me, saw my trained tall body, my battle scars and my demeanour and froze in the middle of handing over the bag and soy milk, forcing me to take them out of his hands to keep the situation from becoming even more awkward.
“Eeee….ehehe…that’s great right? Imperial Service….good job right? Lots of work to do right? With all those…criminals around right?” came the hacked up response of the Baker slash Ramen cook as he slowly backed away one and then two steps, most likely thinking about all the petty little crimes he might have committed, and whether or not I really was only here for breakfast or was just the sadistic spearhead of a full blown Imperial Service Attack Operation on his Bakery.
It was kind of funny for me to see the reaction to my new work in the public, but I decided it was too cruel on the baker to let him continue with his train of thoughts, and so I slowly activated the payment application on my wrist Holoprojector and smiled at the man “Don’t worry, as I said, it’s my day off. Mind if I pay? I’m really hungry.”
His tensed shoulders slumped down a tiny bit as the man realized that I most likely wasn’t going to shoot him, and he proceeded to start the payment transaction, although awkwardly making sure that his back was hiding the area of the fridge that held the officially prohibited imported batch of PanO Softdrinks in there.
This was of course a baseless fear of him, the stuff was officially prohibited by the government, but it was nonetheless as commonly spread throughout the Yu Jing Empire as any other sort of beverage, and I actually liked it quite a bit every now and then. Plus going after stuff like that wasn’t really worth the time of the Imperial Service; we had bigger fish to fry, especially in an area like The Neon Dragon.
I was thinking about giving the man a small heart attack by ordering a can of the now hidden “Freespirit” behind him, but since the man was already muttering some sort of attempt to give my order to me for free as “compensation” I decided against it. The man was fun and if the buns were good I fully intended to return here more often, so sending the owner to the hospital that way really wasn’t in my interest.
Waving my hand in denial and paying for my order as normal I responded to the man’s offer “No need for hand-outs, I can pay for my breakfast, and you wouldn’t want the public to think that I could be bribed with buns now would you? Have a nice day! And maybe until next time!”
I left the Bakery with the slight sigh of relieve coming from the owner behind me, and headed for a small open space on the opposite side of the street where a couple of benches were standing under some trees.
It was rare to see trees in The Neon Dragon, and usually a place like this would be crowded by all the old folks around, but it was still early and in the middle of the week, so the place was almost empty as I sat down on one of the benches and unpacked my curry chicken bun.
Apparently almost empty wasn’t empty enough though, as the moment I wanted to take a nice bite out of my bun, someone suddenly sat down on the bank next to me, and some strange little creature bumped into my foot.
Before I could turn to the side to take a closer look at the person, a clear female voice broke my surprise “Sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with the Baker just now….so you are the new Imperial Service Commander of The Neon Dragon now?”
The woman speaking was as beautiful as any women could ever hope to be, which indicated a little artificial help, but nonetheless her emerald green hair and hazelnut brown eyes almost made my jaw drop as I glanced at her. Her voice was calm and perfectly intonated every word, which together with her perfect looks indicated special training or modulation of sorts, and the fact that she apparently heard my conversation with the baker across the street inside of the building meant that she at least had some sense enhancements in place as well.
Noticing my “analytical” stare at her she smiled at me and tapped her ear “Best enhancements you can get for your money and government connections. My Name is Miyu Onigokko, I’m the local Dragon Lady as people usually say, nice to meet you.”
Taken aback by the sudden revelation I quickly shoved away my curry chicken bun and shook the perfectly manicured hand she had stretched out towards me, an odd custom for Yu Jing really, but most likely she had picked that up during some dealings with foreign representatives, or whatever Dragon Ladies do all day when they are not in court sentencing enemies of the state to their terrible fates.
Glad that I hadn’t stuffed my mouth with the bun yet I replied as elegantly as I could muster “Nice to meet you as well, I’m General Yasashii Fuyu, and as you already heard, the newly appointed commander of the local Imperial Service Branch.”
Too hungry to really care and after realizing that we were actually of at least equal social status, I then stopped resisting the urge and finally took a bite of my curry chicken bun. Amused Miyu leaned back a little and mustered me from head to toe “Not bad not bad, I think you’ll do just fine, you at least look like you have seen your share of real combat, and you’ll get plenty more of that in this city for sure.”
Swallowing down my first bite I simply nodded “Yeah I’ve come to realize that as well, since I came here there hasn’t been a day without combat, this city is a mess. But today is my day off, so maybe I’m lucky and The Neon Dragon will give me a little break?”.
Holding her hand in front of her mouth in a very elegant way Miyu started laughing a little “Hahaha, well I wouldn’t be counting on that General, word is that there is a group of Haqqs currently preparing some sort of attack on The Pearl Turtle local Aleph A.I. node. I actually expected you to be there by now, which was part of why I wanted to talk to you……”
Stunned by this information I almost choked on my second bite of the bun, and just as I cleared my throat and wanted to reply to the Dragon Lady, my wrist Holo Band suddenly started beeping and the familiar face of Pheasant Agent Fu Bao appeared to inform me of just that situation.
Slightly ashamed of getting outdone by the Dragon Lady I rose from the bench and excused myself with a little bow. She just responded with a cheeky “Off you go General! Show them Justice!” and with her waving at me from the bench I dashed back home, informing Fu Bao that I was already on my way.
I just had time to realize that my new Automaton Yuki had for some reason tossed my prized Katana on the kitchen plate together with the Kitchen knives as I changed into my uniform, and to give her an angry stare as I retrieved the sword from the Kitchen and attached it to my belt.
Tossing her the Bag with the second Curry Chicken Bun and the Strawberry Soy Milk I shouted “I’ll be gone for a while, please don’t mess up things too much. And eat this…it’d go to waste otherwise.”
And with that I was already in the elevator, pressing the code that would send me down to the Imperial Service Command Center below my flat. Hurrying to work just like that office lady….so much for my day off….