Author’s Note: Before we begin, I would like to make it known that this is my contest entry for the Kitsune Vs Tanuki competition. Now that it’s out of the way, enjoy.
My name is Debora.
But most people know me as Debby.
I am a danuki, and tonight is likely the night that I will die.
The streets were silent tonight.
Darkness had begun to seep through the building of this lively city, bringing out the younger crowd who craved the night life, even through these icy times. They lit up the streets to meet with friends and companions as they made their way through the winding paths that the night would take them.
But that wasn’t true for everyone.
Mauricio silently stared out the window from the backseat of the black sedan, watching as the street lamps flew by, breaking up the shadows of the night as they drove down the old road.
The city may have been lively tonight, but the roads sure weren’t.
“Junior.” A voice called out, breaking the silence between them.
“Don’t call me that.”
“Boss gets to call you that. So do we.” She responded coldly.
Mauricio lazily shifted his eyes towards the passenger side seat opposite of him, but did not move his head that was resting on his hand to show his annoyance to her, not that she would care.
“Remember what the boss said Junior. Second floor office. We can’t have another incident like last time.”
“Last time is the reason I’m here. If I was there last time, I wouldn’t have to be here this time.”
She grunted in annoyance, bringing a subtle smile to his face as he continued to stare into the void of the night.
The undead were notoriously difficult to get a reaction out of, showing that he had really managed to push the buttons on this ochimusha.
“I know. Second floor office. Make sure I got the right raccoon, bring her back alive if I can.”
The ochimusha grunted in affirmation as the mummy driver began to pull up on their destination.
Far from the peering eyes of the city night dwellers, near the port that had shut down for the night, they arrived to the warehouse district, parking in front of one its buildings in particular. Soon, several other cars began appearing, parking at all sides wherever they could fit. Many remained idling, particularly those near the only exits as their passengers all began to appear out from their vehicles.
All of them.
Mauricio had worked with the lot of them before.
They were reliable… most of the time. You didn’t have to worry about their safety or comfort, nor did you need to be concerned about their loyalty. Perhaps not the brightest bunch, but effective.
Stepping out from the car, he was greeted by the cold night air that tried to enter through the cracks and crevices of his leather overcoat.
He padded his chest to ensure that his gun was still on him before turning to the ochimusha that came with him.
“I’m going in. Stay out here with everyone else. If anyone else comes out, you know what to do. If I’m not out in two hours, burn it.”
She nodded, turning to the crowd and swirling her hand in the air. The others took their positions, some behind cars whilst the remainder made sure to surround the building wherever a car could not fit.
Mauricio made his way to the door of the warehouse, pulling out a copy of the key the boss had given him for the job and unlocking the way in. There could be no signs of forceful entry.
Closing the door behind him, he found himself surrounded by engines and car parts. A good cover.
Surveying through the room, past the shelves and welders, he found the point of interest he was looking for. A staircase at the far wall attached to a modular office. The bottom one was the typical one, walls lined with windows to peer inside, a jumble of papers and plans with scribbles that made it seem like jinko had written on it. But that was of no interest.
Rising up the steel steps, he arrived to the second story office where he was greeted with only a plain door.
No windows, neither on the walls or door themselves. No bulletin boards. No nothing. Just a door.
Walking up to it, seeing as he was trying to make it as civil as possible… at least as civil as you can make these matters possible… he knocked.
“Come in.” a voice responded from inside, as if though expecting him.
Twisting on the door handle, he entered the room.
A stark difference to the outside, the ‘office’ was significantly warmer and furnished in a matter to be expected from his target. A polished hardwood floor that spread from wall to wall, a bookshelf to his left lined with trinkets, drinks, and of course books. To his right were frames pictures and newspaper headlines along with other hung valuables such as a katana and even a flag. Before him laid a large persian rug that took up nearly half the room, upon it were two leather armchairs facing the desk with a small table holding an ashtray between them. From behind the desk was a large brown tail strewn with gray hairs that hung lazily by the side of the decadent swivel chair. Whoever was there was watching the screens before them, showing them the feed from the cameras outside.
Mauricio reached into his coat for his gun, just in case, when he felt the all too familiar sensation of cold steel being held up to his neck.
“Don’t you even dare.” A whispered voice commanded behind him.
He didn’t move a muscle. He was afraid to even breathe with the kunoichi pressed up against his back.
“Stand down Saya.” The voice from before rang out, raising her hand to the side but remained facing the screens.
The kunoichi exhaled sharply, hesitating for a few seconds before withdrawing her weapon.
“Please, go check up on the valuables while I entertain our guest here.”
Mauricio didn’t turn around to face his would be assailant, but he could guess that she did not take kindly to the idea of leaving him alone with her boss. Regardless of that, she followed her instructions and exited the room.
Upon hearing the door close, he breathed a sigh of relief and turned his attention to the now standing danuki. Her back was still to him, for she was pulling the framed black and white landscape picture of the city down over the monitors to hide them in plain sight once again.
Finally, she turned around to face him.
There was not a hint of fear in her face or her motions. She simply smiled to him, enhancing the slight wrinkles that had begun to form on her over the years, and welcomed him forward.
“It’s been awhile, hasn’t it… Marco? No, it was Mauricio, wasn’t it? Forgive me for my poor memory, we had only really met a handful of times all those years ago.”
It had been a while…
“Hmph, I take it the old bitch wants me dead.”
“Not quite. She’d prefer it if you’d come along quietly.”
“Hahaha! We both know that would be the least preferable option. She isn’t exactly known for letting one off with a slap on the wrist.” She said, taking a few steps away from her desk towards the bookshelf where her whiskey set stood.
She dropped a few chilled stones into her glass before turning to ask him if he’d like any in his.
“Would you-” she stopped upon seeing him holding his gun to his side, “oh put that down. We both know I’m not getting out of here alive if you’re dead.”
She was right. So, he placed his weapon down beside the ashtray between the chairs.
“There we go. Now, would you like yours on the rock or not?”
“With. Room is plenty warm to merit it.”
“Hehe. Fair enough. There’s a coatrack in the corner if you’d like to take that off.”
He decided to keep it on, he wasn’t particularly keen to leaving his gun on the table with his back turned. Even if she wasn’t going to kill him.
Stepping towards him, she offered him a glass to which he refused and reached for the other.
It was a smart move when taking a drink from an enemy, but useless here.
Returning to her desk, she raised her glass to him and took the first sip.
“Now, do you know why you’re here?”
“Really, to kill you.”
“Hmph, of course. But no, that’s not what I meant. What I’m asking is why were you specifically asked to come here and kill me?”
He was not sure what she meant. Perhaps to ensure the job was done right? Maybe it was because it was important.
Seeing that he was pondering the answer to her question, Debby decided to speak up.
“You and me… we’re a lot alike. We both ended up in this shithole of a city and we weren’t sure if we were going to make it or not. And then, out of blue one day, everything changed.”
She sighed as she reminisced on the past. Taking a seat behind her desk, she gestured him to do the same.
“The Gozanis.” she began.
“I had lost my mother at a young age, and had never met my father. So, it was the streets that would be the ones to raise me.”
She took a sip from her glass.
“Ahh… Life wasn’t easy back then. For anyone in that matter. Let alone those of us that called the alleys our home. It was tough. It made you tough. You had to be if you wanted to survive. Sometimes you were on a lucky streak, someone drops their wallet or you make a clean getaway… other times… you’re not so lucky. I thought it was going to be one of those times when I tried to snatch a bag of groceries from this idiot and he managed to chase me down a dead end. Gotta admit, didn’t think he’d be able to keep up with me. But when I saw his face and found out he was Antonio Gozani, I swear I nearly shit myself in that alley. We heard about this new guy trying to muscle his way in to the city, brought along a bunch of his crew with him too. But he was just out and about, shopping like everybody else. I didn’t know I was snatching from him. Oh, my heart dropped. He started walking up to me and two more of his boys showed up out of nowhere to block the only way out. I thought I was going to die that day.”
She paused, pressing her lips to the glass of her drink once more.
“I thought I was going to die. He walked up to me, and I was just shaking, couldn’t even stand I was so scared. And he squatted down… and grabbed his bag. That was it. He gave me a good hard look before opening his mouth and saying ‘Kid. You hungry?’ I was in shock. I couldn’t even react. I just tried to rob this man, a gang leader, and he was acting like it was no big deal. The words wouldn’t come out. He reached into his bag, pulled out some bananas and said ‘Here. Be careful.’ And left. No kicks, no punches, no nothing. I swear, I sometimes still can’t believe that happened.”
She sighed once more, taking one last sip from her whiskey before reaching into her coat pocket to pull out a pack of Carey’s Red. A bottom shelf cigarette. Mauricio couldn’t help but raise a brow at the sight.
“What? Everyone needs a vice. Mines are just expensive whiskey and cheap cigarettes.” Pulling out a lighter, she lit up her smoke and took in a deep breathe. “Ahh… a reminder of my past life…”
“Like I was saying, days went by, and I kept spotting him. Just out, like a regular joe. Anytime he saw me he’d call me out and ask if I was alright. Even took me and a few other street kids out to eat. He took a liking to me, and before I knew it, he took me in and made me a part of his family. This man, a man I tried to rob, had every opportunity, and probably right, to beat me down and leave me with the trash I was. But he didn’t. Instead of violence or wrath, he met with kindness and gave me something no one else had ever offered. He gave me a bed, a home… a family. He had a son, Franky. You know him, Franky. He was my older brother from then on. Smart kid, just like his dad. And his wife, oh she was the sweetest lady I knew… at least until you pissed her off. Hehe, you don’t become a mobster’s wife being innocent that’s for sure.”
She took in another drag of her cig before tapping it on the edge of the gradually filling ashtray she kept on her desk.
“Now that I was part of the family, I started to take part of the family business. I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. Using friends from all around and everything I knew, I was able to find out where anyone was whenever I wanted. The old man liked that, used it to get a good chunk of control here in the city, until he was basically in charge of the organized crime going on. The old group didn’t like that, so he sent them a message and made them leave town. I swear… that was always a problem he had. He was too damn nice. I mean, sure he did a lot of questionable shit. I fucking saw him murder a man with his bare hands, but he offered them mercy. Gave them a chance. That fucking… ugh I’m getting ahead of myself. Where was I?”
She put out her cigarette in the ashtray.
“Yes,” she snapped her fingers before leaning back into her chair, “with those bastards gone the city was his. Those were the golden years. Gozani had his fingers in everything. Construction, smuggling, politicians, the works. The old man practically rebuilt this city from the ground up, brought in people, brought work, LEGAL work, everything. Hell, he even set up orphanages and soup kitchens to help those down on their luck. I know the man was no saint, but to us he might as well have been.”
She swung around in her chair to look back at the picture of the city. Most of it seemed to still be under construction.
“It was because of him that this city grew too. Well…” she smiled, turning back to Mauricio, “Soon enough, he became old and tired. He wanted to relax and spend time with his wife. So, he handed the mantle over to Franky, and before we knew it, we lost the old man. Died in his sleep. Never seen cemetery so packed. But what can you do? Time stops for no one. Either way, he left the business in good hands. The city moved up, it grew and expanded, and so did the family. Over the years, Franky got himself married to an echidna, and it seemed like nothing could go wrong… boy was I wrong.”
Looking up to the wall on her left, her eyes landed on a framed newspaper closest to her. The front page featured a store engulfed in flames as the headline bore ‘ARSON ACROSS CITY’.
“The riots of 89.” Mauricio muttered, the memories viciously flashing through his mind.
“That’s right. A new group came to the city, wanted to step in on what we made. Naturally, we gave them a chance to leave… their response was… intense. They began to murder entire families in cold blood, burning down stores and homes, anything and everything that had to do with Gozani. We gave them a chance, and they spat in our face.”
Mauricio swallowed the lump in his throat.
His family was once very close to the Gozanis. Being immigrants, they didn’t have many people to turn to, but Franky took them in and helped them start a deli. Said people needed to have a taste of home every now and then. The man was practically an uncle to him, and he was grateful for what he did for them. But what happened next…
“He tried everything he could to find them, but the longer he took the more fires occurred and the body count kept rising. He was at the end of his line when he got the letter… They had kidnapped his wife and sent the head of one of her snakes to him.”
She rubbed her temple, shaking her head as the image of the envelope came to mind.
“I puked when I saw that. And he had his eyes set on murdering the entire crew for this. I swear, I had never once seen my brother than angry in my life. It was terrifying.
Franky staged an all-out war in the city. It was the first time and last time anyone saw him with any sort of bloodlust. And then the fights began. The entire city was a battlefield. Homes were being broken into, establishments being flipped upside down. No one was safe. The fights lasted all night, and by morning only one side was left standing.
We lost… Gozani had died.”
Debby slammed her fist onto the table, shaking the glass and ashtray.
“That fucking idiot! I told him his kindness would bite him in the ass one day! That old… ugh.” She sighed.
“The Gozanis had many enemies, this was no surprise, but the old man was known for his mercy, something his son picked up from him as well. He wouldn’t involve the friends or families of his enemies. If he had beef with you, he was going to handle it with you and you alone. It was a personal code of sorts for him. Gave him a form of respect amongst his enemies
Back when I was still learning the tools of the trade, I mentioned there was a group that didn’t like the old man stepping in on their turf. They threatened to kill his family if he didn’t stop this… so the old man killed their leader to send a message. Their leader was a kitsune, a five-tailed fox. Now, back in the day, foxes were pretty rare to find on this side of the hemisphere, let alone any with more than three tails. So as far as we knew, the old man had killed a god that day, which might have helped why everything went so smoothly after that. After taking care of their leader, he went to her family, told them what had happened, and politely asked them to leave by morning. Sure enough, they left without a trace, never to be seen again. But after so long… who would’ve known… that her daughter would come back to exact revenge.”
She clenched her fist as she continued.
“If I had tried a little harder to convince him otherwise, pushed him to take them out. If I had gotten a hit on them maybe his son would still be here today. That stupid idiot! That mook! That-that!”
She was crying.
“God… I miss them.” She managed to squeak between the tears.
One was a father to her, and the other was her brother… of course she did.
She took in a deep breath and wiped away the tears.
“I saw it all. I saw how she killed him. It was in the middle of the bloodbath, he was beating down a goon when he saw her. His wife. She was just standing there like nothing had happened. I couldn’t believe my eyes, hell he couldn’t believe it either. He ran up to her to hold her in his arms and then… she stabbed him. Right in the stomach. Her face was a twisted smile as her hair turned blonde and her tail split into seven. A seven-tailed fox… I couldn’t believe it. She killed him. I screamed and ran up to that bitch but when she turned to look at me, I froze.
I couldn’t move.
The look in her cold dead eyes…”
Her fist was shaking.
“She was a real monster…”
Debby retracted her hand towards her, resting it against her lap as she tried to keep herself from shaking.
“If someone hadn’t dragged me out of there, I’m sure she would’ve killed me next. After that, they went to his house, looted the place and burned it down.”
There was a pause between the two. A stillness in the air. Until Mauricio decided to ask the question.
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“Yes… as to why you’re here. After the battle, she continued her killing spree in order to rid the city of Gozani. She murdered entire families, related or not, anyone with the faintest ties to Gozani. Any drop of loyalty that there was for the family spilled along with their blood. Nearly half the city disappeared… now, what about you? And your family? I remember that your family took part in the fight on our side all those years ago. So, why is it that you’re still standing here today at all? You were practically welcomed into the family by Franky, and you welcomed him into yours. But why were you spared?”
He could guess as to why, now at least. Back then, he didn’t know and simply counted his blessings that they had made it another day with their bodies still intact. But, as time went on, it became increasingly clear…
“Hehehe,” she smirked, “Mr. Casanova here had gained the affections of pretty little dame. One that had just moved into the city that had stepped into the family deli and barely knew up from down. All just before the blood had begun to spill.
You had ended up becoming the interest of the daughter of Gozanis future killer. Ms. Laura Marie Vulpario. Of course, you didn’t know she was a fox, she kept those features hidden under orders of her mother. And it’s because of her that you managed to be spared from her mother’s wrath. She was her only soft spot. And now, she’s testing you to see where your loyalty truly stands.”
Mauricio sat there in silence, unsure of how to respond. He knew that the boss was easy on him because of his relationship with her daughter, but he didn’t think this whole job was just to test him. He also didn’t know that there was anything left of the Gozanis after that battle all those years ago, so he swallowed his pride and worked for the Vulparios in hopes that if they ever did find out their ties to the Gozanis that they would show mercy. With this job, he didn’t think he’d see a ghost from the past.
“Look,” Debby began, “I don’t care if you kill me. In all honesty, I’ve done more than my fair share to deserve it. But I have one final request before you do so.”
She rose from her chair and asked him to follow her as she began to head towards the door.
“Oh, and please leave the gun.”
He couldn’t help furrow his brows in response.
“What the hell am I going to do? The building is surrounded, mostly by ochimushas no less. Can’t exactly kill em, and they’re too damn loyal to bribe. We covered this already.”
“… fair enough.”
Leaving his gun on the table, he followed the danuki out from her office and down the stairway into the rest of the warehouse. They made their way around the shelves by the until reaching a set of metal lockers. She raised a finger to him to tell him to give a minute with it, as she dialed in the combination for the lock attached to the leftmost door. Opening it revealed it was mostly empty save for a few dirty magazines and work gloves. The danuki reached inside, pressing her finger against the wall of the locker in several locations until finally-
Something had unlocked.
She waved to him to move back before swinging all three lockers together to reveal a secret door below them hidden within the outer chassis of the locker frame.
Debby closed the door for the leftmost locker before stepping in to slide open the trap door to reveal a staircase within. She gestured to Mauricio to hold the lockers open, as the door seemed to want to swing close as she began to descend into the hole and then signaling him to follow once she turned on the lights within the secret tunnel.
Upon entering, the lockers closed on their own revealing a latch on the bottom that would allow them to open it from down here if they needed to.
“Close the other door as well. Just to make sure no light leaks out.”
After doing so, he followed her down the short pathway until reaching a single door, one with light shining through the cracks.
Opening the door, Mauricio was blinded for a moment, needing time for his eyes to adjust until finally he saw… a blue sky with a rainbow?
Entering the room he was greeted with blue painted walls decorated with clouds and rainbows. There were rolling hills and towns and all sorts of animals plastered across the walls of this room, but that was probably the least strange thing to see here.
Human and mamono alike, some were barely up to his waist while others were just entering their teenage years.
This was damn daycare.
“I’m glad to see you’re alright.” A familiar voice mused from behind him.
Mauricio flinched, swinging his elbow back to the source, only for it to be blocked by the kunoichi from before.
“Yes Saya.” Debby responded in a calm manner, as if she knew she was already there.
“And… our guest?” Saya asked, eying the still surprised Mauricio while still gripping onto his elbow.
“He has shown a willingness to hear our request… you can calm down, he didn’t bring his gun down here.”
“Hmph.” Saya responded, releasing him. “I will survey the surroundings to see what our course of action should be if things do not turn out favorable.”
Debby nodded, to which Saya turned around and exited the room into the hallway.
“Don’t worry about her, she’s just worrier.”
“I can see th-” he stopped.
When he turned to face Debby, something had caught his eye. Something familiar…someone familiar.
Behind Debby about halfway through the room, a woman stood amongst the children. A snake woman bearing a dull bluish skin tone… it couldn’t be.
He began to walk towards her, making sure not to bump into any of the kids running in his way.
Upon seeing a few of the children point towards him, a snake from her head turned to look at him with its only remaining eye before she turned her head to do the same.
“Go on and play with the others.” She whispered to them with a comforting smile just as he arrived to her.
“Mauricio… is that you?”
His chest swelled, and he began to cry.
Kneeling to ground, he could not stop the tears from rolling down his cheeks.
“Mauricio…” she whispered, resting her hand on his shoulder.
Almost instinctually, he took her hand and kissed it before resting his forehead onto it all whilst still shedding tears.
“L-l-lady Gozani! We t-thought you died!”
“Mauricio please, lower your voice. You’re going to scare the children.”
“I’m sorry.” He responded, but he could not stop crying.
“C’mon, stand up.” She told him, offering her now slightly wet hand to help him up.
Once he was on both legs, he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her, to which she returned her comforting embrace. He could even feel her snake rub against his hair.
She was practically an aunt to him, and would always drop into the deli to spoil him and his sister. Her disappearance hit them hard.
After he had finally calmed down, she smiled to him.
“It’s good to see you again. You’ve grown up so much since the last time I saw you. Is your family… alright?” she asked.
“They’re okay. My sister, you know how she left for college thanks to you. She graduated, moved to another city and started a family. Our mom lives with her ever since our dad died.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“No, don’t be. Heart attack. My mom and the doc had been telling him to watch his diet for years, but he never listened. It was only a few years ago, but we’re managing.”
“That’s so good to hear that they’re doing alright.”
“Yes, but what happened to you? We thought you were dead.”
Her snake sank, and her expression became sullen.
“Well… a part of me did…”
She took in a deep breath before continuing.
“It’s true that I was kidnapped. One moment I was outside and the next I had a bag over my head and was shoved into a car. I don’t remember much after that, everything is a bit of a haze around then… After some time, it seemed that they didn’t need my anymore, and they beat me until they thought I had died… I guess that’s the good thing about being cold-blooded. It’s easier to pass of as dead… They dumped my body off and just drove off. Terribly sloppy job, thank goodness. I dragged myself into a nearby alleyway until I collapsed. After that, someone must have found me and hid me away.”
“They succeeded in taking a life that day… just not mine…” she murmured, raising her hand up to her stomach and pressing against the scars hidden beneath her clothes.
Debby stepped in and cleared her throat.
“Excuse me, but it’s getting rather late. Shouldn’t the children be getting ready for bed soon?”
“Oh, absolutely. I’ll start getting them ready. Mauricio, it was so good to see you again.”
With that she gave him one last hug and a kiss on his cheek like she used to when he was a kid before turning to the children to let them know that play time was over.
Debby tapped onto Mauricio’s shoulder and gestured him to follow her out of the room and back into the hallway.
“We found her on the brink of death shortly after Franky died. We made sure no one said a word about it, it was… for the best. She was out for at least a week, I was by her side the entire time… but when she came to, it destroyed her. She knew right away something wasn’t right. Where was Franky? What happened to her? Is the baby alright? It… didn’t go over well. Overcome with grief, she became silent… an empty doll.
With Franky gone, everyone went into a panic. It made them easy targets. One by one, entire families disappeared. I did what I could to help them escape, I gave them new names, new identities, a way for them to escape and start new lives anywhere away from here… but some didn’t think it would be enough. They had seen the crazed look on that creature’s face… they knew she would not be denied their blood. So, they gave me their children. Newborns and toddlers, barely old enough to walk. Most of the older ones were able to be sent away to distant family members… most of them at least. Any that I couldn’t send to friends or family stayed with me. And just to be sure no one knew what was going on, we traded the kids for corpses.”
At this point, the two had made it back to the warehouse and were about to re-enter her office.
“The morgues were overflowing with them, and a new one showed up every day. So, we gave them a corpse about roughly the same size as their kid and waited for the inevitable… The Vulparios had an inclination towards burning down entire homes with the families still inside. When the police arrived and stated the number of dead bodies, we could at least trick her into thinking she had taken the whole lot. The last thing we needed was for her to think there were any survivors.
That’s how I ended up with over 20 kids under my watch. I couldn’t keep managing what was left of our empire with all of them, I had to do something. And then, a miracle happened. I was busy with the toddlers when one of the newborns I had in the nursery room started crying. Before I could finish, they stopped. I panicked and ran over to see what happened and I couldn’t believe it. Lady Gozani was just standing there, cradling the baby in her arms and humming to them until they calmed down. Her eyes were still empty, but you could see that she was still there. I nearly cried and woke up the other little ones. It was because of them… they managed to pull her back out. It took years for her to be what she is today, and even so she’s only a fragment of her former self. I know she’ll never be the same again, but I am eternally grateful to those kids for bringing back my sister.”
They had already returned to the office and were seated in the same spots they were before.
“Now… for my request…”
Debby cleared her throat, folded her hands together on the table and stared straight into Mauricio’s eyes.
“Kill me if you must… but please let Lady Gozani and the children go.”
Mauricio couldn’t even respond before Debby opened up a drawer on her desk and threw open a file.
“I have already acquired a suitable home for them by a remote village far from this festering shithole. New identities have already been arranged and records have been wiped. Transportation has been prepared and is ready to set off at any time.
I had only just managed to finish all this when I found out you’d be coming here… I ran out of time to sneak them out… Please, the only thing I ask for is an opening. Let them leave. They don’t deserve this.”
Mauricio sat there for a moment, silently as the danuki pleaded with him.
He looked at his watch, his time was nearly up. Grabbing his gun, he looked back to Debby and responded.
Outside, a mummy could be seen staring at her watch, counting the seconds as they approached the two-hour mark.
The door shook, grabbing everyone’s attention, many lifting their pistols ready to fire.
“It’s me.” A voice rang out once it cracked open.
Everyone lowered their weapon seeing Mauricio step out holding a large sack in his hands.
The ochimusha that arrived with him walked up to him.
“We done here?”
She looked into the empty warehouse.
“Burn it down?”
“No. Leave it. We have to make it look like we weren’t involved. Already made sure it looked like an accident inside. We have to keep this area clear of any of our guys so that when the cops get here, they can’t point the finger at us like last time.”
She grunted, turning around and signaling to the others to head out.
The two entered their own car, him in the back with the bag and her in the front passenger seat with the mummy driver.
They were off to see the boss now.
The fireplace was burning brightly when they arrived.
Both Mauricio and the ochimusha stepped into the boss’s study where she could be seen sitting behind a desk at the far end signing away at a pile of papers. The walls were lined with all forms of literature written in dead languages, a gift from her stepmother once her father had remarried, that was split by the fireplace. Placed above it was a portrait of a man, a wight, and a young kitsune whose eyes seemed to follow all who entered the study. And in each corner of the room stood guard a single set of armor, ready to serve at a moment’s notice.
“Come in.” she announced, not looking up from her work.
The room was dimly lit, the only sources of light came from the fire and the lamp that sat on the now eight-tailed fox’s desk. Her golden tails nearly shimmered in the light, making her chair seem more like a throne.
“I take it everything went as planned?” she asked, still signing away at her desk.
“Not as planned, but as expected.”
She couldn’t help but smirk, pausing from her work to look up at the two.
“Is that so? And what’s with the bag there Junior?”
“A gift.” He responded, lifting it up.
The fox lifted her hand to the side and waved it towards Mauricio, signaling to the Living Armor hiding in the corner to retrieve the bag for her.
Each step rang with the sound metal as it made its way to him, its fingers creaking as it opened its hand to receive the sack from Mauricio. It made its way back to the desk and opened the bag to allow for the boss to peer inside.
Her eyes widened upon seeing its contents, and a smile that hadn’t formed on her face in years returned to her once more.
“Hm…hmhm, heh, hahah, haHAHA!” she began to cackle.
She stood from her desk and walked around until she was just in front of Mauricio.
“Junior my boy. This is the best gift you could ever give an old hag like me. Hahaha! You did a good job, a great job in fact! I was right to trust you with it.” She patted both his shoulders and continued, “I will be honest, I’ve had my doubts… especially ever since you became my daughter’s fiancé, but it seems that they were unneeded. Now with that dreadful relic from the past gone, the city is finally mine… our should I say yours?”
Mauricio blinked in astonishment as she licked her lips.
“Consider it a wedding gift. We both know that my daughter is too innocent and naïve for this sort of business. You’ve proven yourself capable time and again my boy. When I’m gone, I will give it all to you.”
She laughed and stepped back behind her desk, reaching into the open bag to pull out a danuki’s tail.
“Hahaha. You two are free to go.” She directed to the two, “Someone call a taxidermist, I want this hung on my wall by morning. And call my husband, we’re earning my 9th tail tonight!”
The two left as she cackled once more.
Out in a village far far away…
My new name is Allyssa.
I am a human.
I live with a lamia.
We take care of over 20 children together.
I walk with a cane from an accident I had many years ago. I’ll lose my balance without it.
“No… you’re going with them.”
Mauricio… thank you…
The Gozanis will forever be in your debt.