“Let’s just get some coffee.”
Aiko sighs, as if to say, “Yes, let’s go but I still hate you.” Yeah, well the feeling’s mutual.
The Starbucks is too crowded. The line goes to the door and the seats are all taken up. “Man, I hate lines.”
“Well, you wanted to go here.”
“Yeah, this was a mistake.”
“Yeah. Should have never met up with you,” I mumbled.
“No, I discretely heard you say…” Distinctively. Get it right. “What?”
“What do you mean ‘what’?”
“It looked like you were about to say something. You get that look on your face.”
“No. I wasn’t going to say anything.”
“Whatever!” I sigh, throwing my hands into the air.
Aiko’s face gets fireball red. “Don’t do that. Don’t you do that!”
Someone pokes me in the back. “Hey! You’re next in line. They’ve been calling for you.”
I take a deep breath. “Oh. Sorry.” Everyone around is looking at us. Let’s just get this over with.
Aiko nudges me out of the way. “Grande Chai tea with soy, no water. Five pumps. He’s paying.”
Shit. “Um, I’ll have a… pumpkin latte. The cold version.”
“Iced pumpkin latte?”
“…yeah.” I hand her the card.
“I’ll take the small.”
“Yeah, the small one. Tall.”
I hold out my card. “Uh, debit.”
“Here or to go?”
“Here. I mean, to go.”
She glares at me and changes something on the register. “Name?”
“Huh?” I’m waiting for her to take the card.
“Your name?” She could probably look at the card and get my name. “It’s Kouta. What’s your name?”
“Pretty name. I feel like we go through the same conversation every time, Tara.” I expect Aiko to get jealous but she’s already hitting on some graybeard in a suit.
Tara flashes me a fake smile. “Your coffee will be ready in a minute. Next please!”
I bring back the drinks. Tara managed to procure the old guy’s table and slip him her number. She thinks she’s sly, like a little female ninja and shit. She has money, sure, but she never bothered to learn the trade.
“Here,” I throw the drink to her side. “So, when can I pick up my shit from your dad’s? It’s kind of embarrassing that it’s there at all.”
“I’ll have my people drop your stuff off. Just give me your address.”
I take a sip. It scalds my tongue. I try to swallow it fast, which was just as bad an idea for my throat. “You can understand if I’d rather you not know where I live,” I say hoarsely.
“Hmph. Well, good luck getting your stuff back.”
I run my hand through my hair. “Just set a place and time. That’s all.”
She sits back, probably thinking about how best to take my balls away from me.
A shuriken chops into the table.
“Ninjas? You really hate me that much?”
No time to talk. The ninjas leap out from the ceiling, one from the back, where they’d been lurking. Only three. Good. I can probably take three as long as there aren’t more waiting to ambush me.
The first leaps down, chops the table in half. No time to grab anything with my hands. I kick the chair into his face and he chops that in half. I stomp his sword to keep it down and uppercut his jaw. Ninja are trained not to pass out, so I know it will take more than one well-placed punch. Still, I have to duck under another sword swishing toward my ears and let this first one go free. I kick back but he’s already gone. These guys aren’t going to let me finish the fight fast.
#2 swings again and I turn to the side, jump above the next swing, and duck beneath the third. I roll over the remaining half of the table to the area where the couches are. Tara is frozen in fear, so I push her to the back room. “Move!”
I am an eel, twisting around their blades. Ninja swords are fast, yes, but the human body can twist and turn like a mirage. Intuition has to read moves in addition to what the eyes see. I toss the coffee machine at them, followed by the register. They chop out with their swords to move through, as expected. I take my knives out of my pocket and throw them out. #2 is able to block the one heading for his neck but not the one that skewers his liver. #3 throws his own projectile, a shuriken aimed at the back of my head. I duck and back flip over the counter. I launch an obvious sweep kick, which he easily jumps over. The ninja points his sword down to impale me. I do a kangaroo kick from the ground and catch him in the stomach. Even with the wind knocked out of him, he tries to impale me but I catch it in my palms. #1 flies over the counter, also aiming to impale me. I twist and slide my head out of the way, spinning to tear the wakizashi out of the #3’s hands. I smack #1 with the hilt, using the change in momentum to slide the hilt up into my own hands. I stab behind me to catch #3 in the stomach, removing the sword to catch #1’s next strike. I backpedal, backpedal, flip back over the couch, smashing through the front window. The ninja flips after me to bury his sword into my head. I block upward and he plants his foot into my chest. I think I hear a rib crack. I raise the sword above my head as a distraction and return a kick of my own. He sees the feint, steps back and throws a shuriken. I move slightly so it catches my arm and not in any vital areas. I pull it out and toss it aside.
“Hyaa!” I cry, tearing the wakizashi down, only to cut air. My wounds have made me slow. The ninja flips back and pulls his sword back for a killing blow. I raise my arm to block, though I know a stab like this will mortally wound me if I don’t disarm perfectly. To my surprise, a body rises up behind the ninja. He looks back to meet the new challenger, but too late. A knife slides aptly into his neck and out again, creating a fountain of blood, splattering across an outdoor table.
“Father!” she screams, blood spattering her face. “Come out!”
A dark-haired man walks out, coffee cup in hand. “Dooshite, Aiko? I thought I was doing you a favor? We both want to be rid of Kouta.”
“That’s not true!”
“I thought you hated this man. Why do you kill my men so needlessly, child?”
“I… I don’t… I…”
“Hmph. You still love him.” He looks down on her in disgust. Aiko kneels to the ground, hiding her face in her hands.
I breathe heavily, now fully feeling the cracked rib and shuriken wound. I really don’t need this right now.
“Look, I’m just here for my stuff. Aiko and I are through.”
“And why should I believe you?” I see his hands moving slightly toward his beltline. “You meet my daughter in private and think I won’t know. You insult me!”
“Sir, I don’t—” I barely have time to raise my arm to my gut before I have another shuriken enter my already-pierced arm. The cracked rib has slowed me down.
“You think I’m a fool? Men like you and I don’t give up. We take what we want.”
“Father! Stop it!”
He steps over and slaps her to the ground. Not that I care about Aiko specifically but some very primitive sense of chivalry demands that I step up to defend a woman being slapped.
“Hey! Your fight’s with me!” I’m a moron.
“Hmph.” His eyes are the eyes of a killer. Like, a guy who would sooner slit your throat than have you breath on him. Like a hardcore, kill puppies for fun kind of dude. Wait. I’m a killer, too… aren’t I?
“Let’s, um… let’s take this out back.” I point the sword to the kitchen and accidentally smash it into what little unbroken glass their was. Oops.
We walk through the kitchen, myself taking the lead since I suggested it in the first place. I try not to think too hard about the man behind me ready to cut me in half. The workers are all huddled up in various corners looking like terrified mice. I guess we’re pretty terrifying, us carrying swords and me all covered in various people’s blood, including my own. I must look like something out of a Japanese horror film or something, like the one with the guy who gets off on stabbing girls in bags while raping them. Tara screams in horror at the sight of us and starts sobbing. Oh well. I guess I never had a shot with her anyway.
I’m not sure what I expected from going to the back. It’s not much more isolated really, and I didn’t come up with any sort of plan to get out of this during the short walk from the front to the back. Time to face the piper, I guess.
The sword in my good hand feels heavy, like it’s mocking me. I could still be at home. I didn’t have to be here with a ninja sword killing ninjas. I just wanted to get my stuff back…
Aiko’s father takes the jodan stance, sword raised above his head. He wants to cleave me in half, though maybe he’s being overconfident. At least I hope he is. I take the gedan stance, if only because I don’t have the strength to hold the sword much higher.
“Father!” Aiko bursts out and we make our moves in the distraction.
Admittedly, I would have a large amount of steel going through my brain right now if I didn’t have the shuriken still tucked up my sleeve. With his neck exposed, I toss star right into his throat. He pauses mid-swing to feel at his neck. If he wasn’t gurgling from the blood collecting in his throat, I would almost have sworn he was trying to laugh.
“Father! No!” Aiko races toward her dying father. He tries to push her out of the way but is too disoriented from all the blood escaping from his neck wound to have any sort of strength or balance. Aiko removes the ninja star from his throat to put pressure on it, though by doing so, she probably has sealed his fate. The blood is too much for her hands to stem.
“Oh my God! Father! No! Stop! S-s-stop!” She is bawling over her dying father, who has stopped trying to laugh now as he grows paler by the second.
“Shut up! Go away!”
I consider asking her about getting my stuff, but this may just be one of those times to cut my losses.
Sorry Aiko. We were never going to work out, but I never intended to hurt you this badly. I don’t expect you to forgive me but hopefully someday you’ll be able to move on. Preferably without sending your ninjas bring back my severed head for closure.