Chapter 3.1: When the cicada cry

It was a beautiful afternoon in Shentang, the sun was high in the sky, the cicada’s cry could be heard regularly in the background, and there were even cherry blossoms falling down in my field of view every now and then.

I felt instantly reminded of my youth  as I could have easily been sitting right in my own backyard back then, if it wasn’t for the entourage of sternly staring Japanese sitting right in front of me, watching my every move with distrust and even hatred in some of their eyes. One wrong move from my side would jump them right into action, and I was sure the blades lying on the floor at their side weren’t just for show, just like mine and my associates next to me weren’t.

But maybe I should spend a little bit more time to explain how I had even gotten here in the first place, so the events that will unfold in the next few minutes won’t be too much out of context…..

After the events of the Wotan Blockade where I was tasked with coordinating the few Yu Jing Elements of the Blockade alongside the mysterios Voice of the Dragon who only went by his codename “Masterofmelee”, and the apparently unavoidable breach through the blockade of the Combined Army Infiltrators, all signs indicated a soon to follow invasion of Huangdi (Svalarheima).

Even though my performance during the Wotan Blockade was deemed admirable by the Celestial Emperor and the resulting Imperial Service Investigation Task Force (searching for someone to put the blame on after what some deemed as “another failure”) it was decided that it’d be best for me to vanish from public attention for a while once again, and since it had worked so well the first time around after the Flamia Island incident, I was sent back to “The Neon Dragon”, with the official duty to protect the military and economic preparations in the area, and the inofficial agenda of “staying out of trouble for a while”…

As a General it had been somehow silently accepted that I had been sent for training to the Imperial Service Outpost in The Neon Dragon, but now that I had been promoted to “Shogun” Rank (actually Field Marshal, but due to my japanese heritage someone in the administration department, or at least someone with sufficient hacking skills to disguise himself that way, apparently had found it funny to enter the title as “Shogun” into the registries, and it had stuck…) this no longer was acceptable.

One of the main reasons for that was the simple matter of security…a Shogun of Yu Jing was a valuable military target if there ever was one, and even though I already am accompanied by two very capable bodyguards, I used to live in a simple flat apartment before I departed for the Wotan Blockade.

So by the time I had made it back to The Neon Dragon on board of the “Dancing Panda”, this time having to take the longer route of the circulator until it passed the system again, some adaptations had been made, not only to my living quarters, but also to the way The Neon Dragon would function in the near future.

The Neon-jo, a giant asian style castle relentlessly reflecting the countless neon lights from all around it and former headquarter of the local Imperial Service Branch had been hastily repurposed (or better said was mostly still being repurposed when I arrived) into what would become my official headquarter, with me now being tasked with coordinating all Yu Jing Military and Security Forces present in the area. The Imperial Service Units that had been stationed there mostly remained in The Neon-jo or where sent to smaller outpost stations.

The local Military Barracks would now also fall under my juristiction, and with the increase in weapons production and research in The Neon Dragon which was supposed to happen in the following months, further troops where stationed in The Neon Dragon, including my old JSA Regiment which had followed me here from the Wotan Blockade, resulting in a few very fond memories.

Sadly I didn’t have time to make quite as many fond memories as I would have loved to, as my new responsibilities made days feel like hours and months like days as I struggled to wrap my head around all the tasks a Field Marshal of Yu Jing had to deal with even during times of relative peace, at least officially.

And to make things worse, by the time I had finally gotten used to everything, and had actually found some time to spend with friends and things I’d love to pretend where still my hobby even though I barely got around to them anymore, rumours of a Japanese uprising had started to spread, and for some reason some of the higher officials of the party seemed to think of my name when they heard the words “Japanese” and “Problem” in one sentence, resulting in some unexpected and unwanted sudden attention.

I mean I had thought that by now the fact that diplomacy wasn’t exactly my strongest point had gotten through to those in charge of my assignments, which frankly weren’t too many people anymore as a Field Marshal didn’t have to answer to too many people besides the Emperor himself, yet somehow I had still ended up here on Shentang, tasked with talking to the local representatives of the japanese population in order to find out how much was true about the rumours of rebellion. Apparently it was found that someone of japanese descent would cause less stress during the talks as I’d at least know the customs that had to be adhered when talking to traditional japanese representatives, even though there officially of course wasn’t any such thing left in the Yu Jing society….

Apparently someone had even loudly proclaimed to “Let the filthy dog deal with his dog companions, no true inhabitant of Yu Jing should have to bother with these second rate citizens…”, and to my knowledge that person was now serving the rest of his time on a new assignment on Huangdi, as apparently the Emperor wasn’t too pleased with people like that pouring further oil into the fire, especially at times like this.

Nevertheless, here I was, sitting in front of the japanese representatives, all clad in traditional japanese clothing usually shunned at in other regions of the Yu Jing Empire, their traditional swords resting next to them, just far enough away as to not directly provoke, yet close enough to be used when needed. I myself had been granted the right to bring my own associates, and thus I was sitting there in a mixture of or traditional japanese outfit and Yu Jing General’s garb, specifically designed for the occasion so as to represent my heritage, but also make it clear that I spoke for Yu Jing as a whole and was loyal to none other than the Emperor and the State itself.

Beside me sat Pheasant Agent Kuang Fu Bao, who had stayed in his role as my more or less adjutant ever since I had been promoted, as well as Kanren Umibozu, whom I had brought along for his fast experience in undercover and terrorist matters. He clearly wasn’t too compfortable all slicked up and finely dressed as he was right now, but he had adapted like he always did when undercover, and was eyeing each and every movement around us closely.

Of course officially both of them had just been presented as my assistants, so nobody really bothered to interact with them at all, all eyes focused on me instead.

“So….you have come today to talk to us about…what exactly…Shogun…Fuyu…they call you now if I recall right?”

Almost stunned by their sudden directness without any bells and whistles I took a second to answer, but then resolved myself and answered quickly.

“Indeed that they do, and I have been sent here, as I am sure you already were informed, by the Celestial Dragon himself to inquire about a situation that seems to be unfolding as we speak”

Apparently the spokesperson of the japanese delegates enjoyed my original surprise as the faintest hint of a smirk dashed across his face for a second before it was replaced by his usual stern demeanor again. With a short nod he responded “You are talking about the Tatenokai I presume?”

Straight to the point again, I started to actually like this man even though he clearly didn’t seem to like me too much. “Indeed, there have been rumours of the Tatenokai finally having gained enough strength to start openly rebelling against the Party and the Emperor, and we obviously can’t let such terrorism unfold under the Celestial Dragon’s watchful rulership…”

At my mention of his majesties watchful rulership one of the other japanese representatives suddenly started to snort in disgust, obviously considering my words a tasteless joke. He quickly earned a punishing gaze by the spokes person of the group and fell silent again, but it was clear that some of the people present weren’t exactly fond of out Emperor … “We have heard of these rumours as well, but I can assure you that they are nothing but rumours indeed, the Tatenokai have been quite silent in the last few months. Some claim that this is due to the tightened security and regular search parties for Combined Army Infiltrators, apparently quite a few of them have been captured or killed in those raids as well, instead of actual Combined Army Infiltrators….”

The man seemed almost sad as he mentioned that, but I didn’t get a chance to inquire him about that fact, as suddenly a group of Geisha’s walked towards us, each one carrying a covered plate in front of her which hinted at some sort of food beneath it.

“Ah excuse me Shogun Fuyu, I forgot to mention that I organized a few apperitives for our talks, just a sign of good will for our cooperation in this matter in the near future…”

Before my own alarm bells could ring at the odd way the man had pronounced this just now, Kanren Umibozu was already grabbing my arm hastily to warn me that something wasn’t quite right.

The Geishas had placed the tables in front of us and as they quickly stepped back, they uncovered the lid on top of the table, revealing what wasn’t  traditional japanese sweets or other culinary niceties, but rather a set of chopped off heads, each cleanly cut at the neck by what I assumed was some sort of blade, a Katana most likely by the context…

Disgusted and alarmed both me and my two companions rose to our feet, unsheating our blades as we did so, and with a cruel laugh on their lips the japanese men in front of us did exactly the same, while almost spitting at us in rage “These are the heads of the search party that killed Kempeitai Yumiko Harada instead of the Combined Army infiltrators they where actually supposed to search for….she was my wife! And today, you will pay for your crimes against the Japanese people! And it will mark the rise of our people against the Yu Jing oppressors! Cut them down!!!”

At this all members of the japanese delegation dashed towards us, swords ready to strike, and even the Geishas pulled blades from the back of their Kimonos and came rushing towards us.

Luckily my subordinates were quite capable at close combat and I myself had served in a japanese Domaru unit for quite a while as well, which meant that we managed to easily cut down most of the supposed Geishas before the real threat of the men behind them managed to reach us. These men were apparently real trained warriors instead of the more indirect assassins that the Geishas had apparently been, and I didn’t look forward to the melee that would undoubtly unfold within the next second or so.

Luckily I didn’t have to test my somewhat rusty skills against those stern warriors, as at this point the familiar sound of a heavy machine gun started to ring out across the beautiful garden as my Hac Tao Bodyguard Lu Bu revealed himself a few meters to our side and behind me on a section of old fashioned japanese house wall, peppering the onrushing group of men with a hailstorm of bullets.

Their traditional styled clothes were no protection at all against the high tech bullets that came flying at the men, and in a shower of blood and gore most of them hit the ground instantly. The leader of them miraculously survived the first salvo and came rushing further towards me, hatred and surprise as to his failed ambush clearly shown on his grim face “I’ll take you with me Fuyu, for Yumikooooo!!!!”

His angry shout was quickly silenced in his throat by a blade piercing straight through it from the back, skillfully thrust by my other bodyguard Ninja “Kabuki Queen” who’s flickering silhouette could be seen right behind the man for a split second, before vanishing from view once again. I could have sworn that her helmet display had depicted a grinning racoon as she stabbed the man, but maybe my eyes were just playing tricks on me…..

With their leader dead and the return salvo of Hac Tao Lu Bu ripping through the last remaining members of the japanese delegation, the garden suddenly fell deadly quiet, the only sound being occasional blood drops hitting the ground, and the cry of the cicadas in the background…

Just as I was about to say something my wrist armband suddenly played the urgent alarm sound and a holo echo of Celestial Guard “Shen Jing” appeared in front of me “Sir! We have just found the the japanese delegation in a truck not far away from your location, they have all been killed and branded with Traitor marks and a traditonal letter from the Tatenokai next to them! Sir, whomever you are talking to, they are not who you think they are!”…

With a frustrated sigh I shook off the blood from my blade and sheated it….maybe this time they’d believe me that diplomacy just never worked out for me….