The Chrysalis Project Book 6: Steel Dove Book 3

 

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The Chrysalis Project: Steel Dove - Doves and Swords
  TIffanyis off to Japan by request.
  Truly on her own now, but the
  past rears it's ugly head.
 

WARNING: The Chrysalis Project may be hyper-violent for some readers!

 

 


 

Doves and Swords

 
 
 

Chapter 1

Tiffany stood on the balcony overlooking the beach. She was thinking about Lyssa, who's place as the plain-sight operator, she would soon take. Lyssa was a mistress of warfare. Both physical and of the mind. Not long after Tiffany had completed Special Warfare school she'd heard whispers. Rumors of an elite platoon within the world famous Army Counter-Terror group. Special Operational Detachment-Delta, known the world over as Delta Force, were the cream of the Army's crop. Only those in Special Forces heard those whispers. Hidden deep within Delta was a unit; smaller than a standard platoon. Some mused that it was only an A-Team; fourteen men including the two officers. The most elite and secret unit in the world. The deadliest. No confirmations about its existence; not even from Delta members themselves. If Tiffany had never met Lyssa, she would never know they were real.

The DemonWraiths. A military unit so well trained, they took warfare to new levels and dimensions yet still believed to be a myth. Military urban legend. They fought not only in reality with guns, knives, explosives and bare-handed but also in minds. Not merely psychological tactics but psionic. Projecting their very thoughts elsewhere. It had become widely known about the Central Intelligence Agency's remote viewer project. Clairvoyants working to gather intelligence from miles away, sometimes on the other side of the world. Even the KGB had a program like it back during the Cold-War days. What people didn't know was after the program had shut down, the Department of Defense, National Security Agency and Development and Research Projects Agency picked up that ball where the CIA left it. Picked it up and went farther that ever. Hints by Lyssa were that at least two within the platoon had higher mental abilities. Telepathic of some nature was insinuated.

Furthermore, Delta's in general were resistant to hypnosis. DemonWraiths had been hardened against it, with counter-measures. Cataclysmic Memory Backlash, Lyssa explained, was the full and total immediate recall of a person's entire life. She'd also implied the experience was far from pleasant. People, places, events. even the sounds, smells and feelings; as if it had happened an instant before. Life is completely relived in seconds and then the Kill-Command hit. Even if hypnosis was successful it would only last for a moment before the penalty was inflicted. The subject would never stop trying to kill whomever had been responsible.

Tiffany knew for certain that Lyssa had used advanced psy-warfare on Kimberly post-mission once. Kimberly still had the occasional nightmare, but it was LoneStar and Mindy that suffered night-terrors. If Lyssa and Rodrick suffered stress, nobody knew. Krystel was becoming a story all on her own. Though she had no problem sending Shawna a mission packet, sending Tiffany a packet was another matter altogether. According to Lyssa during the debrief Krystel had been almost remorseful sending Tiffany a packet. Tiffany herself had no reservations about it. She understood the purpose. Assassination or espionage didn't matter, she was capable of both. Being a beautiful model and graceful ballerina was icing on the cake as far as she was concerned. She was able to travel all over the world, though some places were better than others. Rubbing elbows with high echelon, sometimes to remove later on. Having fun, even if duty interrupted it.

The ringing of her phone stopped that thought. An international ID prompted her to answer.

A woman's voice greeted her."Gombawa Tiffany-san. I hope I do not wake you?"

Tiffany replied in flawless Japanese. "Not at all. How may I help you?"

The woman continued in Japanese. "My name is Yuki, assistant to Aki Tomiko-sama. May I connect you please?"

"Certainly Yuki-san, please do." Tiffany said graciously.

A moment later a more mature voice spoke. "Tiffany-san, I am Aki. Our most honored friend referred me to you. Lyssa-san said you may have some time available. Would you be able to come to Japan for my runway show?"

Tiffany smiled. "Lyssa is wonderfully kind. I'd be happy to be part of your show, Aki-sama. I've seen your designs, they're exquisite."

Aki replied warmly. "You honor me with your compliment Tiffany-san. I'll have have your ticket waiting for you with the details to your email."

Tiffany chuckled. "I look forward to it Aki-sama."

As they disconnected Tiffany noticed the text message. It was from Lyssa.
Enjoy Tokyo. Stay at Jade Lotus. L.

Tiffany laughed. she had no doubt that if she checked, there would be a reservation made for her already. Access to Lyssa's houses all over the world was limited. Tiffany didn't have a problem with that, in time she'd have her own network of safe-houses. Curious now, she went online and searched. No listings for Jade Lotus in any of the travel services. Ten minutes after a more advanced search turned up the name and phone number but that was all.

Tiffany frowned as she thought then laughed to herself. If Lyssa suggested it, then it would be in her private database. Lyssa had a special database; keeping files on hotels, restaurants, realtors, shopping, dance and photography studios, local models, modeling agencies, make-up artists and hair stylists. Even nightclubs were kept track of in the extensive files. She ran the name and there it was. A twenty room hotel in the heart of Tokyo's garden district. very exclusive. The only way one could stay there the first time was if a previous guest made the reservation. After that there were no problems.

A combination of boutique hotel and fortified garrison. Security was state of the art and top of the line. Completely dedicated. All the latest bells and whistles, overseen by former Japanese Army and Naval special forces. The Hagakure ninja clan. Hagakure were unique. Absolutely no concern for anyone or anything outside what was their own. Or considered theirs. The hotel was totally self-sufficient. Staffed by Hagakure, they had the usual; desk clerks, maids, maintenance and security. Then they went beyond. Chefs, massage, cosmetologists and professional geisha.

Professional Geisha were traditional event hostesses, that was all contrary to western belief. There were even male and female companions, of both persuasions. If the guest could afford it, very few things were out of the question. Even the food coming in was controlled; farms and fisherman of the clan. The look of the hotel was traditional, but its construction was anything but. Paper walls were actually a special composite to counter eavesdropping. All doors and windows served the same function. No outsider would ever know who were guests. Entrances and exits were concealed, even from the guests. They were met and brought in. After registering a guest could opt to be chaperoned during their stay or be given a special code to a concealed, but highly controlled gate at a nearby Autovend.

Autovends were restaurants serviced by vending machine food. Highly popular in Japan, especially in Tokyo. There was no Michelin rating for Jade Lotus but Lyssa gave it an excellent notation. The best thing, they only accepted payment by wire transfer. Tiffany closed out the search. She smiled as she went to bed, it would be interesting.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Aki looked to Yuki. "Lyssa-san's student will work well for the show."

Yuki looked back, skeptical. "She is an unknown. How can you be sure of her?"

Aki laughed. "Lyssa-san did not have to say the words for me to know that Tiffany is her protege. Lyssa-san married and has children. Her life is complete and balanced. Now she has chosen her successor until her children find their own way."

"Would not one follow their father and the other their mother?" Yuki asked confused.

The designer shook her head. "Not all westerners groom their children for legacy as we do. Most let their children decide their own future. I had been allowed to. My father worked in a textile factory. My mother; a seamstress. They never imagined I would go on to be this. If you ask them, they would give the impression I'd conquered the fashion world all by myself."

They both laughed.

"If Lyssa-san sends Tiffany-san in her own place. That, in itself, says everything. Lyssa-san may be notorious for favors, but that's mostly for ballet. She is now to become famous for stepping back and I suspect for bringing new people, like Tiffany-san, instead of doing everything herself. Concentrating more on her life as a wife and mother. Those things missing before, she now has. I believe she will dedicate herself as she had with everything else. With all that she is." Aki stated insightfully.

Yuki nodded, she'd heard several stories of Lyssa Kordenay-Mason. If half were true, she was a woman to be highly respected. Her name went with equal measures of admiration and fear. A well dressed man with two very intimidating escorts caught her attention. She didn't need to see carefully concealed tattoos to know whom, or rather what, they were. Only Yakuza could stir such feelings of dread without even acknowledging someone's presence. Aki silently nodded for her to leave. Yuki was glad to do so, closing the doors behind her. Just before they clicked she heard a man's voice.

Strong and clear with a hint of malice he said. "So Aki-san. I was very interested to hear you now have Men'swear to your line this year."

Yuki shivered thinking the voice brought images of a sword dipped in poison.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Lyssa stepped into the Command Center. "What is it Krystel?"

"Pacific chatter. Serious uptick from the Philippines." Krystel informed her.

"Philippines? Damn. That bunch finally regrouped. Their infra-structure had been crippled a while back." Lyssa commented.

Maria asked. "You know these people personally?"

Krystel pulled up several reports. "Lyssa did off the chart damage Ma'am, but they have re-organized. Re-organized and re-prioritized. The name Takagami comes up."

Lyssa frowned. "Rings bells, but why?"

Krystel looked puzzled. "What kind of bells?"

"The 'we're about to be over our heads in seriously bad fucking juju' bells. Get LoneStar. Have him prep the Gulfstream. I need to head for Tokyo. Rodrick and Pete will be back tonight. Let the Major know." Lyssa instructed then left.

Krystel called out grabbing the radio. "Aye aye Ma'am."

"Don't you find it odd. Lyssa leaving on whim like that?" Maria asked.

Kimberly shook her head. "No Ma'am. Lyssa and that terrorist group go way back. Two cells and an assault group have been wiped out thanks to her. Looks like somebody finally got up the nerve to lead them again. Not for long."

An hour later the Jet took off.



Chapter 2

Tiffany immediately sized up the well suited young man in front of her.

"Good afternoon Miss Davareaux." He greeted her in perfect English with a slight bow. "I am Takashi. I am to ensure your comfortable arrival to the Hotel."

Tiffany waited the two seconds then smiled. "I'm very honored at the thoughtfulness. Such a capable gentleman looking after me. I know I'm in great care."

She curtsied gracefully. Takashi quickly suppressed the smile of appreciation then took her suitcase and led her out to a black sedan. An hour's ride took them through the city then the windows darkened and the partition closed. Ten minutes later, the back door opened and Takashi held out his hand which she lightly took stepping out. She followed him to a foyer where a woman in traditional kimono waited and bowed to her.

"Welcome Tiffany-sama. This way please." She said after Tiffany returned her bow.

Tiffany curtsied. "Thank you very much."

The woman led her up three flights of stairs then down a hall. At a door she stopped and slid it open, bowing.

"He is waiting on the balcony for you." The woman stated then closed the door after Tiffany entered.

Puzzled at the statement Tiffany stepped from her pumps and went further inside. Three steps in, a floorboard creaked. She froze then glared with hostility at the ancient trick. Uguisubari. Nightingale flooring, floors designed to make a chirping sound when walked upon. Security that went beyond analog. Sneakier than tin cans on a string and a thousand times more effective. Unless one was taught the technique. Tiffany stepped back then angled almost forty-five degrees right and walked forward. She red-lined her memory. In her mind she saw Lyssa walking a pattern. Two forward then a step left then repeat until she reached the balcony.

An elderly man sat at a low table set with tea poured for two. Tiffany silently closed to three paces, knelt and bowed.

"Come young one. Sit with an old man, before the tea is no longer worth drinking." He said in a strong voice.

Tiffany rose gracefully to walk lightly over and sat formally. Wrinkled, but sharp eyes regarded her intently as he smiled.

"Beauty. Grace. Charm. Lyssa-san has chosen and trained well, the one to take her place." the old man said in approval.

Tiffany bowed again. "I am honored to be invited to your table; a humble dancer and model."

The old man chuckled. "Still some training left for you then. Lyssa-san is the better liar."

Tiffany kept her expression stony.

"You thought I would not know the presence of another warrior? I am Yoshida Hagakure, you do understand what that does mean?" He asked rhetorically.

Tiffany never wavered. "You are the lord of this honored family and of this noble house, Hagakure-sama."

The old shinobi smiled. "I see Takashi was indeed right. If only half-measure of your charm on me were to be turned on my other grandsons, I would have to confine them to a monastery far away during your stay."

Tiffany sensed he was more amused than anything else, so she went with it. "Grand-Master Yoshida. Is it wrong for a girl; to be impressed and therefore appreciative, being attended by such great and honorable men?" She even managed a slight blush.

Yoshida laughed fully. "I may have to lock myself away with the boys or risk falling victim to you and suffer a wife's wrath."

An elderly woman spoke, catching Tiffany by surprise. "Indeed. Our golden-haired adopted granddaughter has taught her well."

Tiffany was very impressed with the old woman, for sneaking in.

"I assure you, My Lady. My true hope is, but to gain enough favor for an extra dessert. Or two." Tiffany playfully bantered.

"So young one. What has brought you to us from so far away?" Yoshida asked.

Tiffany had no reason to lie."A friend of Lyssa. She invited me to walk her runway show at Lyssa's recommendation. I'm greatly honored, her designs are very beautiful. Lyssa wanted to make sure I would well looked after while visiting Tokyo."

The old woman nodded. "Then as our Lyssa-san has chosen you, so shall we. Our second golden haired adopted granddaughter, Tiffany-chan. So as she does, you too, will call us grandfather and grandmother. Ojii-sama, Bachan."

Tiffany bowed. "I am greatly honored to be welcomed into such a great and noble family, Bachan."

Tamaki scolded kindly. "Since the tea has been forgotten, then perhaps we should send you to your room. Along the way Tiffany-chan, perhaps proper manners will be remembered."

Tiffany moved like lightning to offer assistance to the woman, as she gained her feet. "Without doubt, Bachan, I'll be well schooled in no time." She bowed again then kissed Yoshida's cheek. "A pleasant afternoon to you, Jii-sama."

He chuckled as he shooed her off. "Away child. Or she'll forbid dessert for the whole of the household while you visit."

Tiffany retrieved her shoes at the door and held her arm out for Tamaki to hold, knowing fully she needed no real help, as they walked back down the hall.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Aki taped the last of the twenty gift boxes. Inside was a men's suit. The size was specific, though the color and style was random. A small brick of ecstasy tablets were nestled inside as well. Years ago, Aki had a bad year and needed to borrow money. Money that had been fully repaid, as per the agreement, plus a bonus to ensure conclusion of that deal. Aki had thought that if she dealt directly with the Oyabun, all terms would be met and final. This new Under-Boss was something unforeseen. Somehow he knew there had been a deal, but refused to acknowledge its finalization. An hour later her office doors opened unannounced. Tetsuo Makagi casually strolled in, flanked by three musclemen.

"So Aki. You have my, gifts, ready?" He asked sarcastically.

Aki worked very hard to keep fear from her voice and eyes. "they're ready. An invoice here; did you want to put this on a credit card or pay cash?"

Tetsuo laughed after a moment. "That's amusing Aki. I like that. It goes toward your debt."

Aki gave him a flat look. "What debt?"

Tetsuo said casually. "The debt from twelve years ago."

Aki glared at him. "First; such debt was a private matter between Oyabun Makagi and myself. You dishonor him by even knowing about it. Secondly: That matter was completely settled according to the agreement. His words, not mine."

Tetsuo backhanded her then seized her by the throat. "I SAY you have debt and I will COLLECT as I see fit!"

His men took the boxes and began walking out.

"After your show, I'll be having a party. All your girls will do, for entertainment." He smiled malevolently.

Aki stood up. "I have models. Not whores!"

He drew his fist back to strike again, then stopped. Aki stood still, focusing on him. As if she wanted to be hit. Mentally he laughed then punched her.

Aki took a minute to compose herself then said coldly. "Entertainment can be found in Shinjuku. Speak to your Oyabun about it."

"You'll provide it Aki." He said then walked out.

At the outer office doors they almost ran into a blonde, disconnecting a cellphone call, reaching for the door. Several moments they stood looking at each other.

"If you keep pretending to be a door; you won't like my idea of 'turning a knob'." She said in English.

One of them understood and shifted uncomfortably.

Tetsuo smiled and said in Japanese. "Too bad, gaijin, you have no idea what I say. I would rip the clothes from you and have you screaming as I take you. Even down in the street below, no one would look, much less help you. Stupid gaijin slut."

She gave him a charming smile then grabbed his groin viciously, curling her fingers under and twisting.

"I may have left my tweezers and magnifying glass behind, but I think I can find something down there, if I REALLY take the time. Now; Open, SAYS ME. Or not even Ali Baba and his forty thieves will find your precious jewels." She snarled.

Tetsuo shuffled to the side with fury all over his face.

Tiffany applied more pressure. "Since you brought up stupidity. Anymore out of you and I may be inclined to take your head off and shove it up HIS ass, to be delivered to somebody with brains."

The men backed away slightly.

"In old times, poor families would sometimes castrate one of their sons and sell him to a choir. Provoke me again, you asshole, and I'll find you a new career path; in the music industry. Got it?" Tiffany hissed.

When he didn't answer, she pulled slowly and he nodded. Tiffany released him, but stood her ground in the doorway.

"Find a place to be. Or I'll find one for you." She said angrily.

He backed off then nodded to his men following them out. Tiffany stalked to the doors of Aki's office and walked in. What she saw made her even angrier. Aki saw the fury on Tiffany's face and tried not to cringe away.

"Want to tell me about dickhead and the three idiots?" Tiffany asked in a deceptively calm voice.

Aki looked with fear. "Tiffany-san, please. They're Yakuza."

Tiffany glared back and replied sarcastically. "No shit, really? Sherlock fucking Hemlock rides again."

"Please Tiffany-san, I'm trying to protect you all from them." Aki pleaded.

Tiffany was having none of it though. "I take care of myself. Now who do these assholes work for?"

Aki relented. "Makagi. Matsu Makagi. Tetsuo is his only nephew."

Tiffany turned heading for the door. "I got this, Aki."

Before Aki could protest again Tiffany was out the door.

As she settled angrily into the car, the driver Ryu asked. "Nee-san, what has upset you?"

Tiffany sighed looking out the window. "So much for a fun, relaxing time in Tokyo. Four assholes to deal with, no need for concern."

He glanced back with the mirror. "The Makagi crew that came out shortly before you did? Carrying several boxes?"

"Now why am I not surprised you knew who they were?" Tiffany commented, almost amused.

Ryu smirked in the mirror. " Really, Nee-san?"

"Ok. So what can you tell me about them?" she asked.

Ryu frowned. "Better to ask Jii-sama. Since Bachan has insisted you join them for dinner tonight, you'll have the chance."

Nothing more needed to be said, Ryu had turned the car into the hidden tunnel to the garage. Tiffany was allowed to know its location and have her own personal entrance code to it.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Lyssa wasn't concerned Takashi had seen her in the private terminal. Either there to collect a guest or see them off, those were his primary duties. A discreet shake of her head told him to stay back. Hopefully that subtle signal conveyed what she meant. She didn't want to be noted in the city. She wanted a quick in and out. LoneStar had stayed with the plane, ready to take off at a moment's notice. Lyssa made it to her house and disarmed her security then began her check out of equipment. The sun had begun to set.



Chapter 3

"You are positive Takashi?" Yoshida asked.

Takashi nodded. "Without doubt, Jii-sama. It was Lyssa-san and she does NOT wish it known she is here."

The Shinobi Master turned to his other grandson. "Tiffany-chan made no mention of Lyssa-chan coming?"

Ryu shook his head. "No, Jii-sama. She was, however, very pre-occupied about the presence of the Makagi men. Tetsuo-san and his usual crew. More accurately, she was angry. They may have insulted her, personally."

Yoshida sat silently then finally spoke. "First I will see to Tiffany-chan, as she is the more convenient. After dinner, I will go see Lyssa-chan at her house. Ryu, have Enji prepare to drive me. Until determined otherwise, we will not reveal Lyssa-chan's presence to Tiffany-chan."

Both grandsons bowed then left. An hour later Tamaki entered with Tiffany in tow, both laughing. They enjoyed dinner and toward the end Tamaki teased Tiffany.

"It's good you did not forget your table manners, this time, child." Tamaki said in approval.

"Your disappointment schooled me well, Bachan. I hope not to warrant remedial lessons again." Tiffany replied, looking chastised.

Yoshida chuckled. "I believe the threat to her beloved dessert was taken to heart."

Tiffany winked. "A girl's charm requires all the sweetness she can get."

They all laughed.

"I do wonder though; Perhaps your charms may attract attention of some would not be suitable. I sense a heaviness about you Tiffany-chan. Perhaps our years may be of guidance." Yoshida said sagely.

Tiffany looked deep in thought then said. "The friend, of Lyssa and myself. She's being harrassed. This upsets me, of course. As a friend should, I want to help her. Unfortunately, the ones doing the harrassment are of the Makagi clan. I believe if I were to speak to Oyabun Makagi directly, he may be persuaded to intervene."

Tamaki said warmly. "A heart as golden as your hair, Tiffany-chan."

Yoshida added. "It is noble, child, wanting to help your friend. Matsu Makagi-sama? I know of him, he takes his honor very seriously."

"He would be greatly upset if say; one of his own were to violate and exploit a deal he made and finalized years ago?" Tiffany mused.

Yoshida now understood. "Well, that would be something all to itself. Yes, I think so. How it is presented will, of course, matter greatly in this. I would suggest, a 'chance encounter'. You and your friend 'accidentally being in the same place at the same time'. If you understand my meaning."

Tiffany smiled. " Serendipity. I like that idea, Jii-sama."

He chuckled. "Very few know, that everyday Matsu Takagi-sama meets with an old family friend at a garden. Like the Lords of Old; they walk and talk. About an hour, from one until two. The garden belongs to a Shinto shrine, what you westerners would call a neutral ground. Perhaps, with your encouragement, your friend may seek the help she needs. Properly."

Tiffany smiled at the simplicity, yet effectiveness, of the plan. "Of course Jii-sama. Your wisdom is a gift I thank you for."

The meal being finished, Yoshida rose. "I have a matter to attend to. I'm confident you will keep each other entertained."

They both smiled and bowed as he left. Down at the car the old man settled in.

"Take me to Yotsuya, Shinjuku, Enji. Lyssa-chan's house there." Yoshida ordered.

The young man nodded curtly and drove.

A forty-five minute ride later the car stopped at a corner.

"We are at the street for Lyssa-san's house, Jii-sama." Enji said quietly then bolted to open the door for him.

"Stay here, Enji. Lyssa-chan may not take well, an unexpected and unannounced visit." He warned.

Enji bowed curtly then got back behind the wheel to wait as Yoshida walked casually down the sidewalk then up to the front door of a house. Carefully he knocked.

"Who calls?" Lyssa asked from inside.

Yoshida answered with a chuckle. "One who is curious, as to why his adopted granddaughter would hide from him?"

The door opened and Lyssa stood aside to allow him in. The Shinobi grand-master stepped inside and followed her to the main room and sat opposite her.

"No disrespect is intended, Jii-sama. I'm just not here." Lyssa laughed.

The old man laughed as well. "And I am simply out for a night-time stroll."

Lyssa poured tea for him then herself and asked. "The Takagami clan, Jii-sama."

Yoshida frowned. " Ozaki Takagami-san. Very traditional. They are what you would call an off-shoot or splinter clan. Years ago; his own daughter disgraced him, but the clan they were in saw no dishonor and its lord refused to take action. In a rage, Takagami-san took his remaining bloodline from that clan. The daughter was killed, not long ago, I hear. They are very much like ourselves, neither wanting or needing much contact from outsiders. The strange part is, Takagami-san is not angry at the killer of his daughter. In fact, he feels he owes debt to whomever it was. In his eyes, she became an abomination."

Lyssa mulled that over. "Honor, before all things."

Yoshida nodded. "In simple words; yes. That is why he has cut off all contact with the Mirumoto clan."

"If someone were to seek him out. Gain teachings in The Way and use them, dishonorably?" She pressed.

Yoshida shook his head. "Takagami-san would not live with shame again. Neither would the off-shoot clan."

"Would Takagami see a warning in that regard favorably?" Lyssa asked.

"There must be NO uncertainty. Takagami-san is very shrewd. He takes nothing at face value and is not lenient." The old man replied.

"Then I should take a meeting with him." Lyssa said. "Where can he be found, Jii-sama?"

Yoshida smiled. "Interestingly enough, I know. Every afternoon, from one until two, he visits a Shinto garden with an old friend. I'm sure you need no explanation of the discussions between a shinobi and a Yakuza that grew up together. It is there you will find him, Lyssa-chan."

Lyssa bowed. "I thank you for your knowledge, Jii-sama. And the answer to your question is, no. If Tiffany does not know I'm here, the better."

"Then I suggest that you be at your BEST there, Lyssa-chan." He smiled standing up. "Lyssa-chan. You sent a sword to me for safekeeping. I understand it belongs to Takagami. The sword of Poisoned Souls. He is going to want it back if he suspects you are the one who killed her. Goodnight, grandchild."

Yoshida left without another word.



CHAPTER 4

"I've been to this garden before Tiffany-san, I just don't see why we should today." Aki protested.

Tiffany reached out and cradled a clutch of cherry blossoms and inhaled deeply. "Aki-san, you're all worked up. Stressed out. To be ready for the show, you need to chill. Put everything from your mind, focus on the now and the beauty before us. Appreciate it for what it is. A beautiful day, stunning colors. I'll be in Moscow soon. There'll be no flowers, no bright shining sun on a pretty day to enjoy. Not like this."

Aki shrugged. "True. I guess you're right. There are no gardens like this in Moscow. Shinti was designed by a very famous samurai. He was very revered."

Tiffany stepped to the center of the pathway and twirled. "Its SO beautiful Aki!"

She hoped the carefree act was working on Aki. Dancing and twirling on the walkway served a real purpose; seeing without appearing to be looking. She now understood the repetitive phrase Lyssa hammered into her.
Mind of soldier, heart of artist, soul of warrior. Beautiful lethality; Deadly grace.

Tiffany noticed her pirouette had garnered attention from elsewhere, the undivided attention of two men. One in a current cut business suit, the other in more traditional attire. She kept her steps light and quick, as they drew closer then abruptly stopped in pose, as if swept back by wind. The two men applauded, so she curtsied deeply.

"Thank you! Thank you gentlemen!" she said appreciatively with a smile.

The man in the suit spoke first. "In all my years; I don't remember the gardens blessed with such graceful beauty. A true delight."

The other man affirmed. "Nor I, old friend. I believe we should talk to the caretakers, about it becoming more frequent. An attractive addition I'd say."

"The colors are so beautiful! I couldn't help feeling like the hummingbirds. This way and that, never enough time to enjoy each one!" Tiffany chattered enthusiastically as she twirled once more.

Both men chuckled at her exuberance.

"I was just telling my friend, Aki-san, that time should be taken to appreciate beauty when you have it around you." Tiffany said gesturing. "She works so hard. A designer. You should meet her. Aki! Aki please come over here and meet these nice gentlemen."

The suited man looked over. "Aki-san? Is that you, its been quite some time. Years."

Tiffany ignored the look of shock from Aki. "Please Aki. These are kind gentlemen."

The suited man asked. "You've been disrespected? Recently?"

Tiffany let some of her anger flare in her eyes. "VERY much so, Sir! A young man was so brutish to us! He was horrible to Aki and I; he treated me as if I were a tramp. A common walker of the streets!"

Slowly the suited man took the over-sized sunglasses from Aki, to reveal the blackened eye.

"Who did this?" he asked with tightly reined anger.

"I didn't get his whole name, but I did hear him called Tetsuo-sama." Tiffany said then described him perfectly.

"Tetsuo Makagi-san?" he asked pointedly to Aki.

On the verge of tears she nodded the answer.

"Poor Aki, she's so sweet and kind. This has upset her so much, it's affected her work. Her new men's wear line is very handsome, but how can she concentrate on the show, all distraught like this?" Tiffany said sadly putting her arm around Aki's shoulders.

She considered elaborating more, but decided against it. Better to not oversell.

"I believe we may be able to convince young Makagi that his interests should be directed, elsewhere." The man in traditional robes offered.

Tiffany looked up, with hope shining. "oh could you? Really?" Tiffany smiled, but then looked alarmed. "What if he finds out? Oh, he'd be so angry with us."

"Put Makagi-kun from your minds. I assure you, he will not be a problem for you anymore." The suited man said firmly and nodded.

Tiffany smiled for them again. "Thank you so much. Please, come to the show! I know you'll see something you like."

The men smiled at them then continued their walk down the path.

After they turned a bend, Aki rounded on Tiffany. "You tricked me Tiffany-san."

Tiffany gave her a puzzled look. "Me? Tricked? What do you mean; tricked?"

Aki glared. "You knew who they were. Knew they would be here. You wanted me to come, because they would be here and we'd meet them."

Tiffany tilted her head. "Were you not being exploited? Wasn't he trying to shame and humiliate you and the rest of us? Wouldn't such a thing bring dishonor to the man you had an honorable deal with? Shouldn't he be aware of a problem and want to deal with it? His way, before it gets out of hand?"

"Yes." Aki muttered.

Tiffany continued. "Was it not THEIR determination that he is a problem, and they should deal with him?"

"Yes." Aki said. "I heard them."

Tiffany cut her off. "Then it's Tetsuo that has been tricked, Aki. Tetsuo and he did it to himself."

"Tiffany, I am afraid." Aki admitted.

Tiffany patted her back, then used an over-exaggerated Southern drawl. "Nonsense M'dear. Why, I've ALWAYS relied upon the kindness o' strangers. And since WE are so KIND; let's go find somebody STRANGER!"

Aki finally sputtered with laughter and joined Tiffany as they walked back.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Ozaki Takagami bid Matsu Makagi good day and continued through the garden. A blonde woman stood at the edge of a small terrace overlooking a pond filled with lotus and koi. He got the very distinct feeling she was waiting for him.

He walked to the railing. "The garden has unprecedented beauty today."

Lyssa noted his English was perfect and without accent, but replied in Japanese.

"Great surprises can be found before one's very eyes. Soke Takagami." She said.

The fact she spoke Japanese as if a life-long local didn't impress him, neither did that she knew who he was. What did, was her exact formality. Soke, not Shidoshi. One not intimate with the world of ninjitsu would mistakenly addressed him as Shidoshi, especially a Westerner such as she. The Shinobi now understood, this was a woman not to be underestimated in any fashion.

"Why do I feel that all the usual pleasantries, are about to be left by the wayside?" He mused aloud.

Lyssa stated. "Men of honor and action have always preferred truth over platitudes."

Ozaki kept his look of deep thought. "At what price; this truth?"

Lyssa turned taking off her pink-lens sunglasses. "The price is only there, if you care nothing for your honor anymore and choose to ignore it."

Takagami dropped all pretense and glared. "My honor; almost destroyed, by my very own daughter. Along with the clan we came from. Without doubt, she now resides in the darkest corner of Hell, as she should. My only hope now; is that Ginzo Mirumoto will too!"

Lyssa suppressed the urge to wince at the name. "Honor may be redeemed. If you want it." Lyssa said.

Ozaki Takagami waited silently.

"A group of terrorists, from the Philippines, are trying to seek you out. They would defile The Way. Use your teachings to commit atrocities." Lyssa informed him.

"Destroy them. That is what you want of me." Ozaki said with certainty. "Do your dirty work, for you."

Lyssa snorted then began to laugh. Takagami was confused. She was laughing, as if he had told her the best joke ever heard.

Finally Lyssa composed herself. "Now why should I bargain, coax or cajole with someone; when there are already those would do so. Not only with enthusiasm, but as a sense of duty. All I need, is where they hide."

Lyssa turned sliding the glasses back on and took two steps.

"You seem to be well informed. About many things." Takagami stated.

Lyssa stopped. "I hear things, yes."

Takagami turned to face her. "What if, I were to seek a bargain?"

Lyssa faced him taking the glasses off again. "That would depend upon your terms."

"My daughter fought a great opponent. An opponent that granted her a death far more honorable than she deserved. Do not misunderstand. It is not that one I seek. Not even the identity. What I seek, is the sword my daughter carried. I require that blade for redeeming my honor, avenging myself upon the one who made her the abomination she became." Ozaki stated. "For that; the Takagami will be indebted with gratitude. Two favors to be granted."

Lyssa's eyes never wavered. "arrangements will be made. The sword will be in your possession within the next thirty-six hours."

Takagami nodded. Lyssa turned and left. The sword in question, she had already sent back to Japan and now sat in hidden at the Jade Lotus.

Takagami turned back to the pond and looked deep into the water. "The answer, finally. It was a true warrior that ended her shame. And I have just met her."



CHAPTER 5

The show had gone well. Tiffany made her own mark; stealing the limelight and strategically disappearing, taking Aki to a hiding place outside the city. Word had gotten back to her, that Tetsuo Makagi was beyond furious. Oyabun Matsu Makagi had not only forbidden any contact, from any member of the clan, with Aki but himself. He had also forced Tetsuo to reimburse Aki, out of his own pocket, for the merchandise he'd extorted. For good measure; Tetsuo's men were assigned to other under-bosses with orders never to be in contact with Tetsuo.

Tiffany knew he'd go gunning for Aki so she waited, watching for him to show up at Aki's condo. Tiffany's patience and perceptiveness paid off, but the satisfaction was short lived. Apparently Matsu Makagi thought along those same lines; he'd assigned a tail-car to follow Tetsuo. Four in the car, none looked thrilled. Tiffany read their lips. They were reporting his activity and it seemed everybody was pissed off. Tiffany followed him as he left, but carefully to avoid being detected by the tail car. He visited a mistress outside Shinjuku, reputed to be a masochist. For lack of better terminology, he had an extensive workout then left.

After a few blocks, it seemed he was heading back to his own home. Tiffany bailed off and rushed to arrive first. It took only a minute to gain entry, the lack of an alarm surprised her til she thought about something Maria had said once. Nobody would dare break into one of her houses, everyone knew she was Mafiosi. Consequently; who would break into a known Yakuza residence, besides herself? A quick check of surveillance revealed two audio bugs, she relocated them into a box deep inside a cabinet and turned off certain breakers that were well marked. Tiffany waited silently, until the sound of the locks being turned.

Tetsuo unlocked the door and strode in, angrily tossing the key onto a table. That bitch Aki had been nowhere to be found. His influence as Yakuza was forfeit, therefore all real resources were cut off. He flipped the switch, but the lights didn't come on. Swearing, he stumbled over to a floor lamp as his eyes slowly began to adjust.

Suddenly pain exploded along the side of his face making his vision blur. Something dark moved off to the side, but it was too fast for him to recognize the kick coming. It connected and he flew over the couch with a grunt of pain, landing almost upside down on his shoulders. The shadow loomed over him then dropped down, slamming a knee to his chest. He felt his sternum snap with a sickening crackle. The shadow hauled him up and held him.

"D-Do. You. Have any idea? Who. I. AM?" He wheezed through pain.

The black-streaked face hissed back. "Any idea how little that matters anymore?"

Tetsuo grabbed for the knife at his back and lunged. The shadow easily bolted back, avoiding the slash. Three more pain-filled times he tried, unsuccessfully. Shadow moved again and Tetsuo took advantage with a feigned lunge, but actually going for the sword on the table.

He grabbed the katana and yanked the scabbard off. "I'll take you before Makagi himself. Head first!"

Tiffany stepped into moonlight and beckoned him. Tetsuo charged; swinging the sword diagonally, but a snap-kick to his knee shattered it, dropping him. A glance up as he went down, the shadow's hand over his mouth gave him a shock. Long blonde hair in a high pony-tail.

"It's all over. You're done." A honeyed voice finally said in his ear.

He'd heard that voice before.

"Who in the hell are you?" He managed to grind out then saw his own sword raising in front of him.

"Let fly; the wings of fury, on cold winds. I am death, calling your name: Tetsuo Makagi." Tiffany said then brought the blade down as he looked up in terror.

The expression of shock and horror remained on his face as the severed head rolled to stop a few feet away looking back. Tiffany wiped the blade clean on his sleeve then sheathed the sword. After double-checking she was leaving nothing behind, she replaced the listening devices and slipped out a side window. A stop in a discreet dark spot a few blocks away, to clean up and change, then she stopped at an automated mailing store. The sword was on its way to Ram's Rock Island, giving her a bit of satisfaction. Lyssa never said she couldn't have souvenirs of her travels. A sword was much better than a shirt or towel anyday, she thought on her way back to the hotel.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Ozaki Takagami nearly telegraphed his surprise. The woman practically stepped from a shadow, like one of his own shinobi. Gone was the stunning beauty that looked at home walking the garden path, replaced now by a black clad phantom exuding death with every move. Swirling black streaks across her face looked from a well practiced hand. The steps of her boots as she crossed the floor were muted and silent as she walked between the two columns of men and women seated to stand in front of Takagami.

A slight nod of her head. "You stated terms of a deal you wished to make."

She held out a sword-bag. Toshigawa took it and then opened it to reveal the hilt. He pulled the bag down, holding the scabbard with one hand. The sword was drawn by his other hand holding the hand-guard. Carefully he looked down the length of the blade.

"The sacred blade of our family has returned." He then addressed Lyssa. "Upon my honor, as of this moment, you hold our debt. Redemption whenever and however you wish. The ones you have passed warning of, will not be schooled in The Way. Their location is my gift to you, Golden Shadow."

Lyssa took the slip of paper then held forth her hand after pulling off a glove, showing the ring on her finger. "My insignia. Fulfill its request."

Takagami bowed, followed by the columns of shinobi and kunoichi. When they sat up a moment later, she was gone.

"Soke, do we follow? Lend assistance?" One asked.

Ozaki stared at the symbol of his family on the far wall. "No. It is not desired. To intrude would be loss of face."

Quickly he took up brush and paper, drew on it then turned it to them. "Mark well; the Keeper of our debt. Any who show it, are to be brought here with every respect."

The thirty shinobi and kunoichi of the Takagami Clan bowed.

"The Golden shadow has returned our honor; for us to avenge ourselves!" Ozaki Takagami declared.

 

~o~O~o~

 

Tiffany stood in the foyer exchanging good-byes. One of the teen girls, had showed her several items to send home to Kasey, Kristine and Mindy. Each were receiving a decorative yukata, a painting and a doll. The teen took pride in mailing the gifts in 'Tiffany Onee-sama', big sister Tiffany's, name.

"Moscow will be cold, compared to Tokyo. Be sure to dress appropriately." Tamaki chided her.

"I have some clothing and will buy more as I need, Bachan." Tiffany smiled.

Yoshida gave her a stern look. "The Russians do not share the same sense of honor we do, young one. The fun and games you enjoyed here, should not be repeated there."

Tiffany giggled. "I'll try to behave, Jii-sama."

Tamaki scolded. "As well you should! You are going there for studies, not mischief, Tiffany-chan."

"I'll train hard, Bachan." Tiffany replied seriously.

She bowed then hugged and kissed them both.

"Away child. Takashi will see you to your flight." Yoshida said gently.

Tiffany smiled and went down the side hall to the garage.

"If her destiny were different, I would see about arranging a marriage into the family." Yoshida commented as they walked out to the courtyard.

Tamaki asked. "Lyssa-chan has foreseen her greatness, hasn't she?"

Yoshida shook his head. "That power, she does not possess. Lyssa-chan is to be victorious in battles after the sacrifice of herself or one innocent. That was what I had foreseen. She has paid the price for her destiny twice. Tiffany-chan possesses great power, but the path of her destiny is not yet cleared for her to travel. Soon, it will be."

They both smiled as a butterfly fluttered past and a dove landed on a branch of the cherry tree.



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