Some nights, even though you know you should sleep some more and let your body rest and recover, you just can’t calm your mind enough to actually do it.
It wasn’t so much that I wasn’t tired, in fact I was very tired indeed, the past days having been little more than a constant series of battles and new impressions. I guess all that new information just finally decided it needed some processing time, and apparently a long relaxing sleep wasn’t part of that task.
It hadn’t exactly helped that once I had finally fallen asleep for a while, I awoke to an eerie feeling soon afterwards, only to realize that Yuki, my new Automaton, had been standing right next to my bed, staring at me intently without any obvious reason.
As I rose up in confusion, my enhanced eyes quickly getting rid of the sleep daze in my eyes, Yuki just kept mustering me, not even bothering to flinch or move a step back, as most humans would have in a situation like that.
“Wha..ah…eh….what do you want Yuki? Why are you standing next to my bed? How long have you been standing there anyways?” was all that I could muster in my confused state, and it was then that Yuki apparently switched from some sort of standby mode back to full operation mode, which resulted in her stiff surveillance posture instantly changing into a more arrogant position, with one of her hands on her hip and the other one clenched into a fist as she stared at me both in surprise and what appeared to be anger.
With a voice that somehow incorporated both embarrassment and anger she almost shouted at me “You’ve got any problem with it? I’m guarding you obviously! G.U.A.R.D.I.N.G. it’s kind of my job you know, and it’s not like you’ve given me any place to stand guard or idle in, so I just went for the best observation position there was.”
Baffled by the flawless logic of her statement, my still sleepy mind tried to figure out a solution for that dilemma as fast as possible in hopes of not waking up fully during the process so I could fall asleep afterwards again.
I somehow completely forgot that Yuki didn’t exactly need sleep. The Karakuri in the JSA were usually switched off during periods of inactivity, partially to save energy and reduce wear and tear on the expensive tech, but also because they kind of creep out the other soldiers when stumbling through the base aimlessly. Something about those Automaton eyes just makes you feel as if those things where looking straight into your soul…
As I thought so I noticed that my eyes had naturally drifted to the cold aggressive stare of Yuki, who was still clenching her fist in wait for my response. Somehow Yuki’s eyes didn’t seem as creepy as the Automatons…the creator of her must have taken special care to make her look more natural than the normal Karakuri frame it seems.
Damn it! Now I had done it, my brain had left its “sleepy mode” and was awakening my body fully…ruining any hope for additional sleep that night I’ve had.
Frustrated by my own stupidity I turned to the side and slid out of the bed, suddenly standing right in front of Yuki, staring down at her. “You are right of course, how careless of me, I am sorry.” Without really thinking about it I placed my hand on her head and slightly padded it as an apology before walking into the bathroom and turning on the tap to splash my face with some water.
As I looked into the bathroom mirror which showed parts of my bedroom behind me through the open door, I could have sworn I saw Yuki look at me almost in a shocked manner, one of her eyebrows raised in utter disbelieve, but the moment I tried to look closer she seemed to have noticed my stare and her face suddenly turned into an emotionless mask, which in and off itself was odd as Yuki usually made some sort of angry looking face whenever she felt I was looking at her.
What a strange type the programmer of that thing must have been.
As I took a sip of the tooth cleaning liquid, mint flavoured for those of you who care, into my mouth and splashed it around in my mouth I wondered what I should tell Yuki to do during the night periods, and through the times I was at work as well come to think of it.
Stepping into the shower, a surprisingly old style thing for an apartment like this, and started to cover myself in soap I finally shouted to Yuki “Why don’t you read some books while I’m asleep? Or maybe play some games on the Holoscreen?”
Since no immediate answer came I just continued showering, rubbing some shampoo into my long hair and some on my beard as well. “Or maybe surf the Net? There’s tons of interesting stuff out there, I’m sure even you could find something interesting there!”
Finished with wringing the shampoo out of my hair I turned off the shower and turned around to open the door and grab a towel, only to be startled by Yuki standing right in front of the glass shower door, holding a towel in her hand while staring intently at me once again.
Twitching into a defensive position, my palm ready to strike, I loudly cursed at the Automaton “Damn you Yuki! Did you have to sneak up on me like that?”. Come to think about it, how did she sneak up on me like that? I had a lot of training in detecting this sort of things, and my hearing was way above normal levels as well, for her to sneak up on me like that would require an extremely high degree of stea…”Because I’m a Automaton you Idiot, what good is reading books to me? I can just download the information into my memory right away if I wanted to.” Came the disrupting answer of Yuki to my first question, completely ignoring my surprised question, while handing me the towel through the shower door that I had slightly opened for just that.
“And playing games or surfing the Net is for weirdos who have no life. Why would I want to do stuff like that? Give me something interesting to do, or I’ll keep staring at you!”.
After she said so she stomped out of the shower and tossed herself on the couch, apparently satisfied with her own answer.
Once I finished drying myself with my towel, a habit I had picked up during my JSA field time where sonic dryers or other modern things like that simply weren’t present, I stepped back into my bedroom and put on a set of normal black street clothes with a dark green coat over it. I also picked up my trainings bag out of the corner where I had put it straight from the move boxes the previous day.
As I stepped into the living room, fastening my Daisho to the side of my belt, I just nodded down to Yuki, who was still lying on the couch, pretending to stare at the ceiling for some reason. “Fine then, off we go, I’m going to show you something that might interest you more.”
Raising an eyebrow yet again Yuki just looked at me confused for a second, but then she stood up from the couch in one surprisingly fluid motion and just stammered a slightly shy, yet angry at the same time “S…Sure let’s go! I can totally go outside and stuff, no problem with that right? But it better be good!”
And with that we were on our way, in the middle of the night, a tall Japanese man with a set of swords on his hips and a bag in his hand, followed by a 16 year old Schoolgirl/Geisha look alike Automaton, which meant that basically, no one gave a damn about us, as the people of this City where obviously used to these kinds of strange sights.
At first Yuki was staring at her surroundings in what seemed to be awe, her mouth slightly opened, her eyes reflecting the neon signs all around her, but as she noticed me looking at her with a smirk, she instantly put on her angry expression again and pouted at me “When are we finally there O-san? This is like tooootally boring you know…”
Amused by how at odds her words and her previous expression had been, I just snickered to myself for a second and then responded while pointing towards a nearby building “We’re almost there, it’s this building there.”
The building I was pointing to looked like it had been ripped straight out of some ancient painting of old earth, it’s walls looking like they were made from some form of stone of clay, it’s entrance an old style Japanese wooden looking Shoji door with a tiny roof above it.
As I turned towards it I could already hear a disgusted “Tzzzz…” coming from behind me. “You’ve got to be kidding me O-san, that thing looks like it will rot into the ground before we even reach it, why are we going there?”
Getting closer I deliberately positioned myself in a way that would block Yuki’s sight on the tiny shield at the side of the building which proclaimed what it contained, and finally stopped right in front of it, turning around to hide it behind my back, and pointed towards the door. “Step inside to find out. There should be a changing room for females, just wait inside there until I give you a call from outside, no need for you to change I guess…”
Inside it still looked like an ancient Japanese building; everything was made out of wood or tatami, and old looking masks and of all origins where hanging on the walls, next to motivational scrolls that contained wise words written in Yu Jingyu, so that everyone could read them no matter their origin.
On the left side was a curtain showing the sign for “Female” and on the right side one that showed the “Male” symbol, indicating the respective changing rooms, and as I stepped into the male changing room I could hear a frustrated sounding “Fiiiine…if I really have to….” From behind me as Yuki was stepping into the female section.
After I undressed and put my belongings into one of several storage capsules present in the changing room, I carefully put on my Hakama and Kendogi, hoping that what would come next would help me shake off the “too little sleep” feeling that still somehow clung to my body even after the shower.
Stepping through the entrance door to the training room, I was instantly greeted by a loud “CLANG” “CLANG” noise coming from the other side of the huge almost empty room. It was a martial arts trainings dojo, designed to accommodate for most forms of modern martial arts. It came equipped with trainings puppets and holo technology to enhance the experience, and the walls where covered in all sorts of practicing weapons and even more motivational scrolls.
Apparently I was not alone at even this early hour of the day, as the constant noise came from a tall Chinese looking woman that was currently fighting against two Holo Echo covered trainings puppets in the form of angry Onis wielding giant metal Kanabos. The woman had short black hair, was wearing a traditional Chinese Kung Fu outfit, and wielded a high tech Chinese style sword with an elegant grace that instantly spoke of great martial arts skill.
Not wanting to stare too much, and too far away for a formal greeting, I simply moved over to the exit of the female changing room and called inside “Yuki, you can come out, I’m ready.” As quietly as possible, yet loud enough to ensure that she’d hear me over the noise of the fighting in the background.
Ripping the door to the trainings room open and bursting into the room like an angry explosion Yuki immediately shouted at me “About damn time O-san, the noise is extremely annoying and it smells like old hag in there, I’m sure I would have suffocated if I weren’t an Automaton…what the heck is this?”
Just as I was about to explain, a loud screeching noise could be heard from the other end of the room followed by slamming footsteps, and as I turned around to check it I saw that it had been the Chinese woman who had apparently ripped right through one of the trainings puppets neck and was now stomping right towards me and Yuki, anger almost steaming out of her nose. As she came closer she started to shout as well, in a more mature sounding voice than Yuki though. “Did that girl just call me an old Hag? Did she for real? I’m going to beat the shit out of her! I’m not even 30 yet you little brat!”
Surprised to no end about the short fuse of the woman I quickly stepped in front of Yuki, holding both my hands in front of me in an imploring matter “Please calm down, please, she’s just an Automaton who doesn’t know any better yet…” as I said so an idea crossed my mind and I couldn’t supress a little smirk “…if you want to beat the shit out of someone please try me instead, she belongs to me after a…”
I couldn’t even finish before the woman had apparently taken my offer and had swung her sword right for my head in an upward slash with lightning speed. If I hadn’t been a well-trained martial arts practitioner that swing would have split my skull then and there. As it was however I managed to dodge back and strike at her with a quick Battojutsu strike, which forced her to jump back a bit, allowing for some distance in between us.
“Ohooo, so the man really DOES know how to fight, and that sword isn’t just for show eh? Fine then, I’ll be enjoying this!” came the insulting response from the woman, as she instantly came whirling at me again with her blade flinging around her. I managed to take a defensive stance just in time to deflect her powerful blow with a slightly angled upwards strike of my own, which forced her blade above me, opening her up for a counter attack…or so I thought until the woman suddenly firmly planted her foot in between my legs and body checked me away from her with an aggressive grunt.
Reeling backwards from the blow I quickly transformed the backwards movement into a spin that ended in a diagonal upward slash, just in time to catch the blade of the woman that had been coming right after me with her blade ready to strike forward. Apparently not fully prepared for my quick recovery the strike caught the woman off guard and unbalanced her for a moment, which I quickly used to swipe my left foot into the side of her knee, which in combination with the strike toppled her over sideways.
I tried to take advantage of this by spinning around again and striking diagonally down at her on my way back, but since I wasn’t in a good position to strike after the kick, that took too much time which resulted in the woman already having rolled to the side by the time my strike came around.
This time it was my turn to attack I decided, and so as she nimbly jumped back to her feet, I already came rushing towards her, one hand stretched out towards her, the other one held one handed alongside the stretched out arm, ready for a precise powerful thrusting attack.
As I trusted my blade towards her head, she instantly dodged to the side in an attempt to sidestep me, obviously aware of the weakness of a trusting attack like that, but this wasn’t my first time using this technique, and I was aware of it as well, which was why I quickly turned the blade ninety degrees and turned the thrust into a sideward swing aimed at the woman’s neck.
I instantly regretted ignoring the advice of my former instructor to shout “AKU SOKU ZAN!” together with the attack as some sort of good luck charm to ensure the attack would strike true, as the woman once again proved her martial skill by somehow bowing below my sideward strike, only losing a few strands of hair in the process, and instantly rising up again to strike her sword towards my now exposed throat.
Our battle was abruptly ended as Yuki’s loud and angry “STOP RIGHT THERE OR I’LL BLOW YOUR HEAD OFF!” echoed through the trainings hall.
Both of us stopped in mid motion, the woman’s Chinese sword’s blade right at my throat, and turned our heads slightly around to take a look at Yuki. The Schoolgirl/Geisha look alike Automaton was pointing her arm at the woman, her hand oddly tilted to the back of her forearm, revealing a tube coming out of her arm where her hand should have been. Having fought alongside Karakuri I instantly knew that this was a D.E.P and that Yuki was hopefully bluffing, as this thing would blow the both of us up should she actually decide to shoot it.
Surprise showed on the face of the woman, who apparently hadn’t expected Yuki to be so heavily armed, and with a deep sigh the woman eased her tension a little bit, and looked back at me, straight into my eyes. “Fine…I have won anyways…guess you’re not that strong after all…”
The smug smirk that had appeared on her face as she said so suddenly turned into surprise again as I pressed the tip of my Wakizashi slightly into her belly, just below where her liver would be. Like I said, this wasn’t my first battle, and I knew that a backup plan for your backup plan was always better than lying dead on the ground, which was why I had unsheathed my Wakizashi during my thrusting attack with my left hand, and had gone for a second thrust towards her belly as I saw her dodging below my initial attack.
“This appears to be a stalemate,…” I answered in just as smug a voice as she had before, but just as I was about to rub it in some more, my holo wrist band suddenly sounded an important incoming call, and the red coloured glow of the band indicated it was from work.
Slightly disappointed I took a step away from the woman and sheathed my sword “Sorry, gotta take this….”
I walked away to the other side of the Dojo and turned the holo band to silent transmission so the woman wouldn’t hear what we were saying, thanks to some advanced dampening technology which came with those military grade wrist bands.
“Fuyu here…I hope it’s important, I was just about to….oh never mind, what is it?”
The familiar face of Fu Bao appeared on the holo screen, and in apologetic voice he responded “Sorry Sir, apparently the group of us that had been on extended trainings session at the Imperial Palace have just returned, and they seem to have brought a present from the Emperor himself for you with them…it’s huge and apparently you are supposed to open it as soon as it gets here….also I thought you’d like to get to know our returning members, they should start their shift in a few minutes…”
Completely surprised by the arrival of more members of the team, as no one had bothered to inform me that some of them where away, and I hadn’t had time to check the full unit roster out yet, I tried to cover up my missing knowledge by replying “…..fine, I was wondering when they’d return, I’ll be there in 15 minutes…”, and with that I switched the communication off and turned around.
The woman was gone, and Yuki had reverted her arm back to normal, staring at me in annoyance and rolling her eyes slightly to the side while pointing at the woman’s changing room “She left the moment you picked up that call….crazy bitch…sooooooo…what are we going to do now?”
Sad and glad at once that the woman had left without further conflict I released a sigh and looked at Yuki “Sorry Yuki, I have to get to the Neon-jo, something came up at work…..why don’t you try your luck against the trainings puppets in here for a while before returning home? I wanted to do a little more, but the emperor requested my presence…”
I expected to see Yuki start another raging insult wave at me for letting her alone, but to my surprise she seemed more sad than angry, and just replied “Pffffft….fine then…I’ll beat up some trainings puppets while you go to your emperor…”
Not sure how to respond to such a strange reaction, I just nodded and added an apologetic “Thank you, see you later!”, and dashed through the door into the changing room.
About 10 minutes later thanks to the help of a nearby secret elevator I entered the Neon-jo, just in time as it seemed to see the returning member’s line up for my arrival.
As I got closer and took a look at the returning agents, I had to fight really hard to prevent my jaw from dropping to the floor, as I locked eyes with a female that was standing there in full crane uniform, her hair appearing to have been strangely cut at some top parts, and the both of us pointed at each other in shock shouting