The clean-up after the attack on the Aleph A.I. Node took the rest of the day, and by the time I finally finished my report the Neon lights where already the only light to be seen on the outside as I left Neon-jo through the actual exit instead of the elevator directly home I’d usually use.
I had decided that, if my day off had been cut short so harshly, I’d at least spend my evening in a more relaxing way. Of course exiting through what was basically a castle gate and being greeted by the slightly panicked stares of people nearby who then quickly turned away to not look even more suspicious to the most likely Imperial Service guy leaving the Neon-jo, wasn’t exactly relaxing, but two blocks and a street crossing later I had already blended into the crowd and turned into just another random guy walking along the street.
It was at this time that I think The Neon Dragon shows it’s most interesting and beautiful side. The streets are filled with all sorts of night life, be it business men and women who after their long hours of work finally get to buy their groceries, or spend the evening with their colleagues or friends in one of the countless Izakayas that litter the side streets, or the countless prostitutes and street performers vying for the attention of the passing by crowd.
As I walked along the street, staring at the moving crowd and the countless neon lights above it, I almost crashed into a young woman dressed in a Maid outfit which appears to have had some sort of body modification that actually gave her real cat ears and a tail. As I bowed in apology and hastily accepted the advertisement card for her Maid Café to make up for my carelessness to her, I wondered for a while about the double standards of the Yu Jing society when it came to stuff like that. Body modifications like blue skin, extra arms or glowing eyes, stuff that you’d see in every bar of “The Gulping Toad” when a Nomad trade ship has recently landed, where usually frowned upon, and where actually forbidden in most areas of Yu Jing. But when it comes to old Asian fetishes like unnaturally big eyes, cat modifications or stuff like that, even the law seemed to simply ignore it.
Amused I dropped the thought and continued onwards, leaving the cat maid behind as I made my way to a small plaza where the crowd had formed little rings around street performers. The ring I eventually ended up in surrounded a pair of artists that where drawing paintings in the air with some sort of semi liquid floating substance that shimmered in different colours, and somehow stayed in exactly the places where the artist put them with over emphasised elegant hand gestures , eventually forming what looked like a traditional Japanese ink drawing of an ocean with a Torii in it.
Stunned by the beauty of the floating picture and considering whether to buy it for home or not, I almost didn’t feel the hand of the pickpocket, slowly sliding over my wrist holo in attempt to transfer some credits with some sort of low level hacking program.
Quickly grabbing the wrist of the wannabe thief I forcefully twisted it around which resulted in a painful yelp from my soon to be prisoner, followed with a panicked “Let me go! I didn’t do anything wrong!”. Raising an eyebrow I looked down at the thieve that was easily a head shorter than me and asked in a disappointed voice “Really? That’s what you are going with?”
Just as a rueful smirk appeared on the thieves face and I grabbed for a restraint band from my belt, the crowd suddenly started screaming in surprise as a human came flying in right through them and the beautiful picture, to land right on one of the artists that smashed into the ground with him.
The crowd quickly parted along the flying corridor of the person, revealing a huge half wolf half man creature that I quickly identified as a Cameronian of sorts. Apparently in the spectator ring next to ours, a pair of Scottish foreigners had been holding a wrestling contest, and something must have gone terribly wrong.
The Cameronian howled a rage filled challenge to the man that had just ruined the lovely picture, and in response to it the thrown man picked himself up from the ground, and started panting like a mad man, his muscles twitching and moving like crazy. With a howl even more rage filled than his challengers, the man suddenly started a painful looking transformation into what would eventually become a Cameronian as well. His muscles started deforming, his joints and bones making snapping noises all over his body and as his face started to grow into a long snout, he also grew in height and muscle mass right before our eyes.
Eventually most of his clothes ripped apart, except for his Quilt which seemed to have been made specifically with a transformation like that in mind, and we could see fur growing all over the Beast man’s body.
Before the Cameronian could finish his transformation, the other one was already rushing towards him through the quickly building corridor. The beast was obviously so furious or ignorant about other people’s lives that he simply stomped over one of the fleeing viewers that didn’t make it out of the way fast enough, the person’s leg breaking with a loud crunching noise followed by a pain riddled squeal from the balding fat business man.
Realizing that if the fight between those two would continue, even more innocent bystanders would get hurt, most of all the artist that still lay at the feet of the second Cameronian, frozen in fear from the transformation happening right in front of him, I sighed in frustration and unsheathed my Tanto that I always had at my side.
Shouting with as much authority as I could I jumped in the path of the onrushing beast “IMPERIAL SERVICE! STOP RIGHT THERE OR I’LL DROP YOU!!”.
Oh how I had wished for my heavy suite of armour right then and there. Obviously the enraged giant Cameronian wasn’t very impressed by my threat, most likely because the blade of my Tanto was barely longer than the claws on his hands, and so it continued to rush on towards his adversary, almost ignoring me if it wasn’t for the fact that he was preparing his right arm to flick me aside.
Now to be honest, what I was about to do was a very VERY bad idea, and almost everyone else would have wasted his live meaninglessly in a situation like that right then and there, and there was a good chance that I would be one of those persons anyways. But to my defence, I have to add that I have been fighting against Caledonians of all sorts for the majority of my recent campaigns, and have faced my fair share of Cameronians as well, giving me experience in fighting them that most others would not have.
So as the giant beast came crashing at me, swinging at me with his trunk like arm and claws, I rolled forward right towards and under the arm that he was swinging at me, avoiding the razor sharp claws by only a hairs width, which I noticed by the fact that I was missing quite a bit of them after the battle was over, and slashed at his ankle with my Tanto.
The masterfully forged blade, a family heirloom for several generations, cut through the creatures skin and muscles like paper, resulting in a pained howl from the creature as it stumbled and fell right next to the other Cameronian.
I was hoping for a moment that the other Cameronian would spare me the trouble and finish off the wounded other one, but no dice, it seemed like the fact that I wounded one of them, somehow remembered the two fools that they were actually on the same side, at least when compared to my side, and so, once the wounded Cameronian made it back to his feet, both of them decided to dash at me.
By this point most of the crowd had left the area, with only the thrill seekers and mad ones remaining within viewing distance, and so I had enough room to push my arm forward and pressing the activation switch on my holo wristband.
At first nothing seemed to happen, and the Cameronians just came crashing onwards towards me, one even smirking at the moronic gesture I was making towards them as if that’d stop them, but then the smirk turned into pain riddled surprised howl as his fur suddenly evaporated, quickly followed by chunks of skin and muscle, and eventually even bone.
The other Cameronian jumped to the side while his comrade quickly disintegrated into bio sludge, quick enough to avoid any major damage, but not fast enough to avoid it completely. Realizing that I had some sort of unseen weapon, a Nanopulser to be precise, the Cameronian snarled at me in anger, and quickly turned around to flee.
He was limping as the Nanites had already begun eating away at one of his legs before he managed to jump away, which, knowing the normal speed of Cameronians, was the only reason I decided to dash after him. Even limping the Cameronian was very fast, his tall stature allowing for extremely long strides, forcing me to run at full speed behind him to keep up.
Seeing me chasing him the half man half creature’s wobbling run took on a frantic nature, which wasn’t exactly typical for Cameronian warriors, but after seeing what had happened to his comrade, was only understandable.
I followed the Cameronian for several minutes, jumping over various obstacles that the beast man threw in my way while doing so. If it wasn’t for my artificially enhanced muscles and lungs I would have had to drop the chase long ago, as a normal human’s constitution simply didn’t stand up to a Cameronian one, but even with those enhancements I was beginning to lose ground on him, even though his wounds where slowing him down as well as he lost more and more blood over time.
Just as I thought I’d have to drop my chase before dying of asphyxiation, the Cameronian turned around a corner into a dark alley way, and as I dashed into the alley way behind him, he was gone.
Instinctively dropping down on the ground to maybe avoid a possible ambush I scanned the alley way, but no matter how I looked at it, the Cameronian wasn’t there anymore. The surrounding buildings where too tall for the creature to jump on, even given their extremely powerful legs, and there was no other obvious way to leave the alley way either.
Out of breath and not happy with the idea of searching through the area almost unarmed and on my own, I did what I should have done long ago before even charging after the Cameronian, I clicked on my holo wristband, and contacted Neon-jo for backup. Maybe the Caledonians had a hideout in the area with some hidden access pointsthat the beast man had used, which ment….it was time for a little recon!