Chapter 8:


The Forbidden and the Gifted

[12:00 p.m., July 18th 2044; Warsaw, Polish Czechia. A tall man with vivid tattoos on his arms appears at a Train Station and stands in front of the platform with a train destined for Kiev, (Former) Ukraine. The train appears deserted, and the man walks towards the third carriage and takes his seat as sunlight beams down on him – a conductor then appears to take his ticket]

Conductor: The 12 O’Clock to Kiev, sir?

Ichigo: That would be so.

Conductor: Your name?

Ichigo: Ichigo sir.

Conductor: Ah, not from around these parts?

Ichigo: No sir.

Conductor: You know where you’re heading to right? You sure that you’re supposed to be travelling to Kiev?

Ichigo: If that’s what it says on the ticket, that’s where I’m heading.

Conductor: Did you even purchase this ticket sir?

Ichigo: Yes, I did.

Conductor: Then how do you not know where you’re going?

Ichigo: Well, I know where I am going, I just don’t know where it is.

Conductor: What sense does that make?

Ichigo: All the sense in the world.

Conductor [Visibly confused]: Well, whatever, you’re grown enough to know whatever the hell you’re doing. I don’t get paid enough to babysit. [Pauses, then looks at Ichigo again] Head on in, the train’s gonna leave soon.

[Ichigo enters the train, which is apparent in its decrepit and desolate state. Ichigo takes a seat halfway about the carriage, and looks out the window]

Ichigo: Man, this is boring. At least give me an interesting job, y’know.

[His eyes begin to close, as a flashback of the previous day begins inside his small house]

Young Shin [To Ichigo]: Aw, you gotta go so soon! What’s it for, what’s it for?

Shin’s Mom: Shin, don’t get your brother all flustered before his job. You know better.

Young Shin: Sorry mom, but it’s no fair! He just came back!

Mom: I know sweetie, but it’s probably something important.

Young Shin: Since it’s something important, I wanna know!

Mom: Ichi?

Ichigo: That’s fine, haha. [To Shin] I’ve gotta go for a little travel out of the country.

Young Shin: Aw, but didn’t you just have to go somewhere?

Ichigo: Last time it was to Malaysia, this time I’ve got to go a little bit farther.

Young Shin: To where?

Ichigo: Somewhere in Europe.

Young Shin: Where?

Ichigo: Even if I tell you, you won’t know. You only know like five countries apart from Japan, don’t you?

Young Shin: Nah! China, Korea, Russia, England, France, America… see, I know more than five! Don’t think so low of me just cause you’re so much older!

Ichigo [Laughs, then replies]: Hahaha, okay mister geographer, but I doubt you know where Poland is.

Young Shin: Poland?

Ichigo: Yup, that’s where I’m going. [Pauses] Oh, mind me, it’s actually Polish Czechia. [Looks at Shin] Do you even know where that is? You were talking mighty fine a second ago.

Young Shin [Sheepishly]: No…

Ichigo: See? I told you that you wouldn’t know.

Young Shin: Oh, shut up! Plus, you promised that the next time you’d be travelling it’d be with all of us! Right mom?

Mom [Glances at Ichigo]: Well, you did say that Ichi…

Ichigo [To Shin, smiling]: Oh shoot, I did say that didn’t I? Well, after I do this, I’ll be all clear and have my time off! By then, we can arrange to go to a bunch of places. You wanted to go to some nice islands, right?

Young Shin: Yeah, I was just telling mom about Hawaii!

Ichigo: Perfect, perfect, then it’s settled. When I come back, we’ll go somewhere like that, on me. That sound good?

Young Shin [Whines]: Yeah, I guess. Just make sure you get this job done quickly, okay?

Ichigo: You know me, I’m the best in the business!

[A knock is heard on the door, and Shin and Ichigo’s mom walks over to open it]

Mom: Hello? Oh, Yuki, Hiki! How are you guys?

Young Yuki: We’re great! Is Shin home?

Mom: Yeah, he is, he’s just here. [Turns around and calls to Shin] Shin! You have company!

Young Shin [Yells]: Coming!

[Shin and Ichigo walk to the door]

Young Yuki: Ichi! We’ve missed you!

Ichigo: Hiki! Yuki! God, it feels like forever since I’d seen you guys! What’re you guys up to?

Young Yuki: Tak, Kenj and Hiki are gonna be moving out soon so we were gonna play a class game of football today!

Ichigo: Oh really?

Young Yuki: Yeah! You wanna come join us?

Ichigo: I would love to, but I can’t today. I’m busy with a ton of work.

Young Yuki: Awww. You’re always swamped with work aren’t you Ichi?

Ichigo: That, that is very true.

Young Yuki: Is work hard?

Ichigo: Well, I’d be lying if I said it was easy. [Laughs] But it’s certainly rewarding, I’ll say that.

Young Yuki: Where do you work?

Ichigo: Oh, all over the place! I do a lot of package deliveries and that kind of stuff for the big companies, so that’s why it’s kinda stressful, but it’s worth it!

Young Yuki: Aw, so that means you’re going to be out again?

Ichigo: Yeah, but I told Shin that once I’m back, I’ll take some time off to spend time with all of you before you guys go off into your upper-class years.

Young Yuki: You promise?

Ichigo: Yup, I promise. Shin won’t let me live it down if I don’t keep my word, you know?

Young Yuki: Okay, make sure you play with us when you come back!

Ichigo: Will do! I’m out tomorrow, so I’ll try to be back by next week so that I can get some time in with Tak, Kenj and you too Hiki.

Young Yuki: Okay! [Turns to Shin] You ready to go? We’re gonna start our first game soon!

Young Shin: Yeah, I’m coming! You guys need a ball?

Young Yuki: Tak brought one, so we’re okay. Hurry up and come!

Young Shin: Okay, okay! [Turns to Ichigo and his mom] Bye! I’ll see you in the evening!

Ichigo: Yup, see you!

[Yuki, Hikari and Shin close the door and walk towards the schoolground]

Mom [To Ichigo]: So, you leave tomorrow then?

Ichigo: Yeah I do, early in the morning. Gotta drive to the international airport.

Mom: Really? You got to go all the way?

Ichigo: Yeah, there’s a flight from there into Warsaw directly.

Mom: Really? Since when?

Ichigo: Honestly, I don’t even know. All I know is that cap said that there is one, and they get pretty decent business.

Mom: Still, it’s surprising they fly from here and not Tokyo.

Ichigo: Oh no, they probably fly out from Tokyo as well. Maybe there’s just a sect of Polish or Eastern European people around here?

Mom: I don’t think so… although we’re from such a small place, who really knows right?

Ichigo: Fair, fair.

Mom: Really though, are you ever gonna tell them the truth?

Ichigo: Oh, about my job? [Pauses] Maybe when they’re older. I don’t need them knowing what I do, and I don’t want them thinking this is the right type of life for them.

Mom: Even Shin?

Ichigo: Especially Shin. He’d be the first one to try and become the second version of me because it’s ‘oh so cool’ or whatever. He doesn’t need to get into a job like this, even if the pay’s great, and especially if he hasn’t been specially scouted out like I was.

Mom: To think this all started because they saw how good you were back in those martial arts classes…

Ichigo: I don’t regret being a part of it though and getting selected and all that. I do think they honed the best in me, and I’ve become really effective in this. But this really isn’t for everyone, and I definitely think there’s better opportunities in the making for someone like Shin.

Mom: Ya, I don’t think he needs to get into this type of stuff. Having both of you turn out like that… I can’t bear to imagine.

Ichigo [Sticks his index finger up and interjects]: Oh, that’s right! That’s what I was meaning to ask! Shit!

Mom: Language!

Ichigo: Sorry, sorry! But I forgot to ask Yuki where Hiki and all of them are going!

Mom: Huh? What do you mean?

Ichigo: Yuki mentioned that they were going somewhere. She kept asking me questions, so I never got to ask him where he was going.

Mom: Oh that? You didn’t hear?

Ichigo: How am I supposed to hear anything when I’m never in town?

Mom: Okay, that’s true.

Ichigo: So, what is it?

Mom: For their upper classes, Taki, Hiki and Kenji are all gonna be going out of town to Yokohama.

Ichigo: Seriously?

Mom: Yup. Apparently, they got selected for something or the other.

Ichigo: Like me?

Mom: I think theirs is more academics-based, but it was still scouting, nonetheless. They got offers to a school and accommodation, so they’re probably gonna be heading out.

Ichigo: Shin and the others?

Mom: It was only limited to three kids unfortunately, and you know those three.

Ichigo [Sighs]: Yeah. They’re just different. Good for them though.

Mom: Oh yeah, definitely. I do feel a bit bad for Shin though.

Ichigo: He’ll be fine. He’ll meet some new people in his upper-class years and he’ll keep with the guys who aren’t going as well. It may not be the same experience, but I think he’ll do well.

Mom: I hope so.

Ichigo: Don’t hope, haha. He’s the brains out of the both of us, I’m the toughness. It’s nice how unevenly distributed it is so we really know our strengths and weaknesses.

Mom: That’s fair. But you… you don’t go ahead and get yourself in too much trouble with this mission, alright?

Ichigo: Yeah, I know. I’ll get it done and not try and cause too much havoc.

Mom: Don’t rush things though, get it done the right way, we need you home in one piece, okay?

Ichigo: Yup, will do! I didn’t get my nickname for nothing, you know?

Mom: I hate that nickname, Hell –, what was it?

Ichigo: Hellhound.

Mom: Ah, right. Cause you’re a really no-nonsense type of person on the case?

Ichigo: That I am, that I am.

Mom: Well alright, I have a night shift, so I won’t get to see you off tomorrow, so make sure you see to Shin when he comes home, and make sure you say goodbye to him either tonight or tomorrow, alright? He’ll be a mess if you don’t.

Ichigo: Will do. Don’t stress over me, I’ll be back before you guys know it, then I can go and play whatever games I want with my brother, for once.

Mom: Okay, I’ve got to head out, hopefully traffic won’t be too bad. Be safe on your trip, okay Ichi?

Ichigo: Yes mom, I’m 20 now and have been doing this for enough time to keep myself safe, haha. I’ll be fine, you make sure you get to work on time!

Mom: Okay, have a good trip Ichi!

Ichigo: Bye!

[His mom opens the front door, and hops into the family car before reversing and leaving]

Ichigo [Flops onto the couch, then speaks to himself]: I wish I didn’t have to lie about this one to ya, but you wouldn’t let me go if you knew what this was about.

[Ichigo closes his eyes, and the scene flips to the next day, early in the morning]

Ichigo [To himself]: Well, I got to say bye to Shin last night, so there’s nothing else. I can get going in peace.

[He walks down the stairs, only to see Shin downstairs]

Ichigo: Shin? It’s 5 am! Why are you awake? Getting such short amounts of sleep isn’t good for your brain you know!

Young Shin [Sleepily]: I know, I know, I just wanted to say goodbye to you once more.

Ichigo: Aw, thanks bro. I’ll miss you. I’ll make sure to get you something from out in Europe, I promise.

Young Shin: Promise?

Ichigo: Yeah, I promise. Now hurry off to bed, you look so sleepy.

Young Shin: Okay, I will. Have a good trip bro!

Ichigo: Thanks man, I appreciate it!

[Shin heads upstairs lazily, as Ichigo stands in front of the door and puts on his coat. He sees two headlights outside of the glass door, and opens the door]

Ichigo: Man, it’s cold as shit out here! Dang, no wonder people hate waking up this early to go out, y’know?

Takuya [Rolls down his window]: Yo, Ichigo, short time no see!

Ichigo: Man, it’s good to see ya, but why the hell is this such an early wake up?

Takuya: That’s just how the flight was scheduled, nothing we could do there.

Ichigo: Man… [Pauses] It’s just you in the car though, right?

Takuya: Yup.

Ichigo: So, shotgun?

Takuya: If you want it, take it, haha.

Ichigo: The heating better be blasting you scrooge.

Takuya: Scrooge? Me?

Ichigo: Yes you.

Takuya: Oh, come on, that’s no way to talk to the man who gives you your luscious salary.

Ichigo: You could quadruple it if you wanted to, you know?

Takuya: Oh, come on, don’t bring that stuff up!

Ichigo [Opens the passenger side door and sits down]: I knew it, the heating's not on, damnit!

Takuya: It is!

Ichigo [Looks over] Being on the lowest god-damn setting isn’t being on damnit! Turn it up already, Jesus Christ!

Takuya: Fine, fine. How are you finding this cold though?

Ichigo: Compared to the afternoons this is freezing mate. Plus, you know where I was last.

Takuya: What, Sydney? It’s hot there now? Ain’t it winter?

Ichigo: Their winters are pretty warm and waking up doesn’t feel like you wake up in the back of a damn freezer.

Takuya: It’s like 6 degrees mate. [Pauses] Anyway…

[The car reverses out of the driveway and off onto the road]

Ichigo: What time’s the flight?

Takuya: 7:00.

Ichigo: Why the hell is it so early?

Takuya: Cause you’re flying back in time, so you’ll probably arrive at like noon local time.

Ichigo: Still, this is a pain. I’d rather take a night flight and arrive at midnight.

Takuya: You haven’t heard?

Ichigo: Heard what?

Takuya: They don’t allow flights to land after 11 pm now. There’s curfew in place till 5 am.

Ichigo: Really, eh?

Takuya: Tensions are flaring out there. People are saying that it’s probably gonna erupt into a full-scale war between those countries.

Ichigo: Hasn’t it already?

Takuya: Well, not officially. Then again, I don’t think anything’s gonna actually be recorded officially.

Ichigo: So, what your saying is, it’s a shitshow out there?

Takuya: Yup.

Ichigo: And you’re sending me in there… for what?

Takuya: There’s some troublemakers.

Ichigo: Troublemakers? The countries in chaos and you’re worried about troublemakers?

Takuya: Listen, I wouldn’t be asking the ace in the hole for this job if it wasn’t something big.

Ichigo: Fair, fair, but why the hell do I have to intervene? It’s all the way across the water in Europe. I know I do a bunch of international jobs, but they’re already beating the shit out of each other out there, can’t we just let em go?

Takuya: Not really.

Ichigo: Eh?! Why not?

Takuya: There’s one guy we’re kinda worried about.

Ichigo: Oh yeah? Spill.

Takuya: Last name’s Katarov. First name isn’t known. Big, tough, Russian guy.

Ichigo: You got a picture or something?

Takuya: Check the tablet in the glove.

Ichigo [Reaches down and opens the tablet, revealing a sketch of Katarov]: This is all we have?

Takuya: Y’know getting pictures of wanted criminals is damn hard.

Ichigo: Okay yeah, that’s fair. But still, you guys think this guy, singlehandedly, is gonna cause a mess in a place that’s already ripe with chaos?

Takuya: Yes… yes we do.

Ichigo: You’re crazy. You told me that this job was gonna be tough, I thought I’d have to bring down a group of people or someone in power or something. This guys just another criminal. Whatever though, I’m not gonna complain about getting something lighter than my pay grade.

Takuya: As much as I’d like to tell you that you’re right about it being easy, it just isn’t. Criminal or not, this guy’s probably on your level when it comes to one-on-one fighting.

Ichigo: That’s a lie.

Takuya: I’m being honest. He’s a pretty wanted guy for his opposition of the state, and he’s worked a bunch in the shadows, according to the information I have.

Ichigo: I don’t buy it. Yeah, he’s criminal, yeah he works with some other sketchy guys. You guys in the law really blow everything out of proportion and vilify everyone and everything. Scummy.

Takuya: That I can’t deny – we’re damn good at vilifying people we don’t. But there’s just something different about this guy, cause it wasn’t us who recommended you for it.

Ichigo: Huh? Then who did?

Takuya: They did. The Polish Government did, at least.

Ichigo: Really? [Pauses] Wow, that means I’m really well regarded internationally. Dang, I’m shook.

Takuya: You’d think that our ace in the hole would be world renowned, right? Like, I’m all for saying that this could be blown out of proportion, but they’re paying huge for you for this job, as you probably already know.

Ichigo: Yeah, when I saw the amount, holy shit. I didn’t think you guys had it, and whad’ya know, I’m right. Damn scrooge.

Takuya: You’re right on that note at least, there was no way that our people would’ve been able to fork over that type of money. That amount, it’s ridiculous.

Ichigo: So, you really think this is a big deal? That this guy’s someone special?

Takuya: Well, I’m the one who scouted ya out, so I’ll never talk bad on you, and I’ve never seen you lose a one-on-one scrap. You’re tough as nails for sure, but this guy just has a different type of aura to him. It’s not like it’s big, tough, and intimidating, it just resonates and sends shivers.

Ichigo: Does he have any lackeys or so?

Takuya: Well, none that we really have any leads on, but I wouldn’t really be surprised if he did. The way he talks and carries himself, that’s where that aura comes from. Plus being strong? Yeah, you bet your ass you’ll have a decent following.

Ichigo: So, what the government wants is for me to smash this guy down before he gets too big of a following and all that? Especially with all the tension building?

Takuya: That’s what it seems like, yeah. It’s weird cause we have a name, we have a face, we have all the information needed besides a picture, but we barely actually know anything about the guy.

Ichigo: No witnesses of what he’s done before?

Takuya: Nope.

Ichigo: Victims?

Takuya: Too dead to talk.

Ichigo: Former colleagues? Friends? Family?

Takuya: His parents passed some years back; he doesn’t have any brothers or sisters and other relatives claim to not know much or anything about him.

Ichigo: What about the colleagues?

Takuya: He doesn’t have a work history recorded. Maybe went under another name or something of the sort to get out of taxes and all. Who knows, we don’t have that information at least.

Ichigo: You think they have that type of information though?

Takuya: Whad’ya mean?

Ichigo: You think they haven’t given us information on purpose?

Takuya: Huh? Why would they do that? They’ve forked out such a grand…

Ichigo: Yeah, yeah, they’re paying a ton or whatever, but couldn’t this just be a way to lure me out to fight this mystery guy and lose?

Takuya: Why the hell would they want that?

Ichigo: I don’t know. Couldn’t that be a possibility though, assuming he’s as strong as he is?

Takuya: Sure, it’s a possibility. It’s also a possibility that I grow wings and become a friggin bird. Some things just aren’t gonna happen.

Ichigo: No need to be sarcastic, scrooge.

Takuya: It’s true though. Like, what would they gain out of doing something like that?

Ichigo: Take down your enemies most threatening guy at the hands of a criminal, not your own hands.

Takuya: Enemy? [Laughs] Oh Ichi, that’s right, you’re clueless in how politics and all work.

Ichigo: What?

Takuya: You think we’d have a truce with these guys if they were our enemies? You think we’d oblige to their demands in the state that they’re in?

Ichigo: Well, no.

Takuya: Exactly. The Polish are a pretty good ally for us in Europe, so we help each other out in times like this – obviously with a cost though. Obviously, we aren’t gonna be sending in a battalion to go to bat for them during their little tension with the other Baltic countries, but if there’s a pest that we can get rid of, we’re happy to oblige if they can come up with a rich enough payout.

Ichigo: Yeah, alright. That’s fair enough.

Takuya: Why’d a double-cross cross your mind all of a sudden though?

Ichigo: Oh nah, it just felt weird that they’d really need me for this, because I’m still not fully convinced of this guys strength… unless he really is a menace and they’re just hiding information, but I guess it’s wait and see, right?

Takuya: Yeah. I think the one issue is that you’re fighting there, not here.

Ichigo: That’s not a problem. I’ve done a number in enough countries; I can handle that.

Takuya: No, no, I mean like, you’ve never had a job that was in a country that was in the situation that they’re in right now, right?

Ichigo: Eh, that gives me more reason to run rampant. I can finally have a good enough fight, y’know? I’m tired of getting bored.

Takuya: Oh, so you’re enthralled by the thrill?

Ichigo: You could say that, yeah.

Takuya: Interesting, interesting. I mean, you do look like someone who’s got a lot of pent-up anger and all that, ahaha.

Ichigo: It’s not only that. I’m always doing chases and the lot in big cities where there’s so much surveillance. Sure, I’ve become good at being an assassin, or whatever you call them nowadays, but I always loved a straight up fist fight with no rules and everything on the line.

Takuya: But didn’t ya say that you think that this guy’s weak?

Ichigo: I think he’s weak, but I don’t know that for sure. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if he was strong as hell. Having a tough guy to take down makes you feel better about the victory if you aren’t holding back, you know?

Takuya: Yeah. Hopefully he isn’t worth the price they put on his head though.

Ichigo: I don’t think anyone’s worth the price they put on his head. Hell, I don’t even think I’m worth that much.

Takuya: Aw, don’t downplay yourself. Those brats from Sydney would probably value you at that, if I’m being honest.

Ichigo: Those guys were such bums, man. Sydney’s nice and all, but man, their thugs are a bunch of wusses. I didn’t even have the heart to beat em too badly, I just handed em off to the authorities.

Takuya: Wow look at ya, taking the under and throwing people in jail, rather than just killing them. That’s a first.

Ichigo: Knock it off. [Laughs] If you give me actual demons, yeah, I’ll slaughter them. These guys were just some hot shits who thought they’d make waves. Seeing how scared they were was enough for me to be honest.

Takuya: Haha. [Looks up throw the windshield] Oh shit, we’re already here.

Ichigo: No way man, how’d we get here so fast?

Takuya: We’re like 2 clicks out, but we’re basically there.

Ichigo: Don’t tell me…

Takuya: Going 150? Yeah, you bet your ass I did. And no one can pull us over cause of the car.

Ichigo: It’s crazy the number of privileges you guys in power get, y’know.

Takuya: Oh, I’m well aware, aha. But for the most part, we do the right things, and hell, you’re apart of us, even if you’re undercover. [Pauses] Anyway mate, go and do what you need to do, I’m counting on ya to not disappoint us, alright mister hellhound?

Ichigo: Yeah man, I won’t disappoint. Hopefully the job’s something interesting enough and worth my while at least.