My patience was growing thin. As the next day arrived, none of us knew when Chiyo would show up, and rather than just sit around doing nothing, which I found unbearable, I took the time to practice meditating.
The more I engaged in meditation, the more I began to view my Combat Sense as something tangible that I could metaphorically touch and manipulate. This made it easier for me to switch back and forth between my regular self and my other side. While I still did not like these circumstances, I knew that I had to look at it in a positive light. It was the only way I could keep moving forward without getting hampered down.
Evening came. After a light dinner, we all went back to waiting. Azami helped Yumi clean up after dinner, while Kaito watched Yosuke do tricks with a switchblade. Ryuji sat at the table still, looking deep in thought.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” said Ryuji.
“I rarely see you look so serious.”
Ryuji smirked. “You got me there,” he said. He sighed. “It’s Kimura-sensei. I’m still wondering what’s on his mind. The way he’s been acting since we’ve been here isn’t like him. He’s a stubborn man.”
“Where is he?” I asked. He hadn’t eaten dinner with us.
“He’s out in the courtyard,” said Ryuji. “I didn’t want to disturb him.”
“Maybe I can talk to him?”
“I guess so,” said Ryuji. “Just try not to make him upset.”
Arriving in the courtyard, I saw Sensei Kimura sitting in the same spot he had been the other day, looking up at the sky. I looked at the sky. The hologram that mimicked the actual sky had gone bright orange as the mock sun set, the illusions of clouds appearing golden.
“Is that you, Takuma?” the sensei asked, turning his head slightly.
“Yes,” I said, walking to stand next to the sensei.
“You know,” said Sensei Kimura, “I have only seen the real sky twice in my life.”
I looked at the sensei. “You’re lucky,” I said. “I’ve known people who have never seen it.”
“Having seen it,” said Sensei Kimura, “I never want to see it again.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because this one is so much better. This one soothes the mind. It is never faded or dull. It is never angry with rain or wind. It is just... serene.”
I looked at the orange sky again. “I never thought about it that way,” I said.
Sensei Kimura looked up at me, a thin smile spread across his lips. It was a real smile, the first smile I had seen on his face. “Drink in this scene, and your problems will fade. Within it there is endless possibility.”
Endless possibility, I thought to myself. I wasn’t certain, but it felt like the sensei was trying to teach me something.
“I made the mistake of thinking that I would always be fit enough to teach,” said Sensei Kimura. “But, as it happens, my age has caught up with me.”
“Is that what’s been bothering you?” I asked.
“I am losing my thoughts, Takuma,” said Sensei Kimura. “Omoikane, help me.”
I sat next to the sensei. “You made a difference in many people’s lives,” I said. “Ryuji’s as well. He has spoken highly of you.”
“It’s not out of his character,” said Sensei Kimura. “I wanted him to stay here, you know. I wanted him to take over the dojo. But he had other plans, a different road to walk.”
“He still admires you,” I said.
Azami now appeared at the doorway. “Chiyo’s here,” she said.
“You go,” said Sensei Kimura. “I still want to watch the sky.”
Back inside, I saw Chiyo sitting at the table with Ryuji, Kaito, and Yosuke. Yumi sat across the room reading a book, a soft-looking blanket wrapped around her neck. I felt bad for her. She was so young to have to help the sensei take care of all of us adults.
I approached Chiyo. “I’m glad you’re finally here,” I said.
Chiyo stood and bowed. “I am too,” she said. “I have the data chip with ASA X’s core files on it. It wasn’t easy. Our mutual friend went through a lot of trouble.”
“I’m glad it worked out,” I said. “Now how are we going to get out of here?”
“My family’s taxi service,” said Chiyo. “We can go by land or air. Both are autonomous. I also know the codes to disable the tracking.”
“I say we go by air,” I said. “It’s faster.”
ASA suddenly walked up behind me. “Takuma, there is a problem.”
I looked at the android curiously. “What is it?” I asked.
“There are fast moving objects approaching the dojo.”
“What?” I said.
A heavy object now blasted through the roof and landed on the ground, raining debris in all directions. A second object followed, as did a third and then a fourth. After a fifth and sixth burst through the ceiling as well, I dropped my arms from my face to see what in the world had just happened.
Standing resolute in front of us were six OMNI military units. Each clutched tactical military rifles and were armored versus the ones ASA and I had fought in the Pits. The front door now blasted open, and in marched four more OMNI military units. And walking behind was a man I had not seen since that fateful day all those years ago.
It was Ichirou Kazama.
“We don’t mean to interrupt your gathering,” said Ichirou. “I plan to make this quick. It was smart of you to come here. This place is so forgotten it’s not even on our maps. I can’t say I disagree either. Who would want to live here?”
“Takuma,” said Ryuji, “what the hell is happening?”
“My name is Ichirou Kazama,” he said. “What’s happening is I am taking Takuma and ASA and my conniving little sister back to HQ. Then we can all put this conflict to rest. And I must say, it’s been tiring dealing with all of this.”
“How did you find us?” I asked, my hands having formed into fists.
“Chiyo, of course,” said Ichirou. He now glared at his sister. “You didn’t think that with all of the surveillance we manage in this city that you’d somehow slip by unnoticed? We know there is someone at HQ that is helping too. Rin is looking into that as we speak.”
Chiyo was at a loss for words. “How... What...” she stammered.
“How?” said Ichirou mockingly. “We own this city! We are gods here! And gods know everything.”
Chiyo looked at me. She had tears in her eyes. “I’m... sorry,” she said.
“So,” said Ichirou, “if we’ve finished talking I think it’s time for us to go.”
I saw Ryuji and Azami reach for their guns. “No!” I said. “Wait!” I then forced myself to look at Ichirou. “Free my father and mother and all of this will stop.”
Ichirou laughed. “Do you really think you are in a position to negotiate, after everything that’s happened?”
“Free them,” I said, my anger rising, “and this will all end.”
“No,” said Ichirou. “My father is not finished with your father. And as for your mother, we have not seen her for two years.”
“What?” I said. “Where is she?”
“I don’t know,” said Ichirou. “She escaped. Maybe my sister knows.” He looked at Chiyo.
Looking at Chiyo too, I saw that she still remained stunned.
“We’ve wasted enough time,” said Ichirou. “Come quietly or I will force you to.”
I was lost in my anger which swam circles inside my head. I began to shake. You’ve got to focus your breathing, I thought. Think of the sky. Think about the endless possibility and place your anger there, far away.
It was no good. I was still too weak to contain the amount of anger I felt. “I should have killed you that night,” I said through gritted teeth. “I should have killed all of you!”
“You are out of your league, Takuma,” said Ichirou. “You have no idea what I am capable of.”
I shot my most mocking smile. “How about you show me?”
“Now, ASA!” I yelled, in which ASA leapt into action.
What happened next seemed to progress in slow motion. Past my right shoulder charged Ryuji, his two giant pistols lighting up as he fired round after round in succession. Past my left shoulder flew Azami, who stared down her handgun’s sights and fired off several rounds.
This initial attack managed to take out only two of the first six OMNI military units, their armor proving tough. As the remaining OMNI military units now began to return fire, ASA jumped for the OMNI military units, ignoring the spray of bullets that tore several holes in ASA’s torso.
There were two columns nearby. I now dove behind the column to my left with Azami, while Ryuji dove the opposite way to shelter behind the column there. ASA, meanwhile, launched itself straight for one of the OMNI military units, smacking it to the ground and taking control of its tactical rifle to spray down two more of the OMNI military units.
Kaito and Yosuke now opened fire, ducking low from behind the table. Kaito managed to distract two of the remaining OMNI military units long enough for ASA to grab hold of one and toss it with great strength into the other in which both smashed through the wall.
There were four OMNI military units left. ASA now rushed one and landed an uppercut in which a shower of sparks flew high along with pieces of the OMNI military unit’s armor plating. Azami quickly shot this bare spot, causing the OMNI to go down. As this happened, the two remaining OMNI military units grabbed ASA by both arms. ASA struggled, steam flooding out of the holes in its body, and then jumped into the air, lifting both OMNI’s, and slammed them down to the ground. The resulting ground pound crushed both of ASA’s arms.
“ASA!” I yelled, looking from around the column. This had gone too far.
ASA stood, seemingly unfazed, then wobbled a bit and fell to its knees.
“What is the meaning of this!” came a thunderous shout. We all looked. It was Sensei Kimura.
Ichirou, who had been absent from the dojo during the fight, now appeared, waving through all of the smoke that lingered in the air. “You really do have a death wish, don’t you Takuma!” he yelled.
“You there!” shouted Sensei Kimura. “You are trespassing on private property! What is the meaning of this?”
“Who are you, old man?” said Ichirou.
“I am Daichi Kimura,” said he. “You have devastated my sacred dojo. Because of this, I have no choice but to challenge you to a duel. You versus me.”
Ichirou laughed. “Another time perhaps,” he said. He then looked at me. “Takuma, I can keep this up all day. Also, your ASA can no longer fight. You’ve lost. I suggest you end this futile struggle and submit to me.”
“Never!” I said.
“Enough about Takuma!” shouted Sensei Kimura, now stepping forward. “You must fight me, now!”
Ichirou sneered. “Very well,” he said. “I was planning on making this big reveal another time, but you have forced my hand. If you wish to fight me, old man, then you will fight me!”
Suddenly, dropping through the ceiling as the OMNI military units had, came something different, something I instantly recognized.
It was an ASA X.
This version of ASA looked even more human than I had expected. It was the perfect fusion of man and machine. Part of its body was covered in a material that mimicked human skin. Where there was no skin there was the shiny metallic gleam of chrome metal. Its eyes were bright blue, its build tall and rigid.
“Allow me to introduce the ASAdeck,” said Ichirou. “The next generation K-Link. It allows for me to control everything about ASA X, unlike the K-Link which could only be used to give commands.” The ASA X now entered into a fighting stance.
“The rules are that I must fight you,” said Sensei Kimura, “not a decoy of you. This is flesh versus flesh, not flesh versus metal.”
“Oh, old man, don’t you get it?” said Ichirou. “With the ASAdeck I am ASA X! The times have changed. If we are to fight it will be a fight between the civilized and the uncivilized!”
“Very well,” said Sensei Kimura. He now bowed.
“What?” said Ryuji. “Kimura-sensei, no! What are you doing?”
“Quiet, Ryuji,” said Sensei Kimura. “You always did speak out of turn.” And then, in the blink of an eye, Sensei Kimura rushed the ASA X, jumping into the air and landing his foot right square in its chest. As the ASA X fell backwards, Sensei Kimura made for Ichirou.
“No!” I yelled, as an OMNI military unit aimed its rifle and fired.
“Sensei!” screamed Ryuji, as Kimura rolled to the floor.
“Idiot,” said Ichirou.
In the space of a second, I saw Kaito rush past me. He fired off three rounds from his revolver at Ichirou, but ASA X was faster. As ASA X took the bullets instead, Kaito then spun to get a clear aim at Ichirou. Just as he did, ASA X lunged for him. With great speed, ASA X punched Kaito in the stomach. Blood spewed from Kaito’s mouth, where ASA X then lifted Kaito high and slammed him onto the ground, the wooden floor splitting.
“Kaito! No! Damn you!” screamed Ryuji, who now dropped his guns and drew his katana.
I grabbed him forcefully by the arm. “Don’t do it!” I shouted. “It’s too late!”
“Let go of me, Takuma!” screamed Ryuji. “I’m going to kill this bastard!”
My thoughts were going wild. I knew that I could risk using my Combat Sense, but with how we were surrounded I knew that it was suicide.
“You cannot kill me,” said Ichirou. “With ASA X as an extension of me, nothing can touch me.”
“We’ll see about that!” said Ryuji, as I still held him back as he struggled. The venom in his eyes spelled death.
“Ichirou!” came a shout. It was Chiyo. Until now, I hadn’t noticed she had vanished from the room.
Ichirou looked at his sister. “What do you want?” he sneered.
“You’ve been bad, Ichirou,” said Chiyo. “This is father’s prototype ASA X, isn’t it?” She pointed at ASA X. “You and I both know that father would never allow you to use it. That means you took it without permission, didn’t you?”
Ichirou recoiled at Chiyo’s words. “It... it had to be done!” Ichirou protested. “He put his faith in me to find Takuma and his ASA. I am just about to do that.”
“You’re a fool, Ichirou,” said Chiyo. “I also knew you were stupid. You have sullied father’s work. What do you think that’s going to do to him after the way he’s been acting these past few months?”
“What did you call me?” said Ichirou.
“I said you’re an idiot,” said Chiyo.
“You damn brat!”
“You better leave before father finds out!” Chiyo taunted.
Ichirou looked visibly nervous. “I’ll get you for this!” he spat. He then looked at me. “I’ll be back, Takuma. Sit tight for me, alright?” As he left, ASA X and the other OMNI military units followed.
Ryuji now ran over to Sensei Kimura and held him in his arms. “No,” he said, “this wasn’t supposed to happen. This wasn’t supposed to happen!”
I stood motionless, staring at the carnage all around us. I then walked over to ASA, its OMNI body defeated once again. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” I said.
“Fight on,” said ASA. “You must fight on.”
Yosuke went to kneel next to Kaito’s body. “He’s gone,” said Yosuke, his voice sullen.
Ryuji now stood to face me, his rage emanating like an aura around him. “Takuma,” he said in a low voice, “I will kill him. I will kill Ichirou Kazama.”
I nodded. As I stared at the sensei’s body, I suddenly thought of Yumi. I looked around but didn’t see her. Azami was gone too. As I moved to go and look for both of them Azami entered the room. We both stopped and looked at each other.
“Where is Yumi?” I asked.
“She ran the moment those OMNI units arrived,” said Azami. “She ran right into the sensei’s arms. He hid her in a room and made his way here.”
“How will we tell her?” I said.
“Tell her what?” said Azami.
“The sensei is dead.”
Azami stared. She saw Ryuji still bent over Sensei Kimura’s body. Her hand went to her mouth, her eyes stark with shock. I saw her look at Kaito too. “And Iwasaki?”
“Same,” I said, my head bowed. “He made a shot for Ichirou, but ASA X got him.”
“Takuma,” said Azami.
I looked at her.
“Things have changed. This is personal to all of us now. The Kazamas will pay.”
I had thought that I knew what pain was after what the Kazamas did to me and my family. I thought that being separated from my family and forced to live four years in the Pits in the sweltering, stinking heat was the worst pain I had felt. But this pain was new. This pain was raw, unimaginable.I sank to the ground as I began to weep.