Shego raced toward the geisha house. She had one more person to rescue since she seemed to be in “good cheer,” she commented mentally in her mind. She considered it “good cheer” because she was pretty sure that had she allowed Drakken and the Seniors to be executed, she would have lived a much happier and fulfilling life. Instead, she had just broken out a gaggle of traitors and set a small part of the Shogun’s castle on fire, so she figured stealing one maiko would not make much difference in the trouble that she was getting herself into.
So, she made her way toward “Akako-chan.” She slid into the girls’ room, expecting to be tackled again. She braced herself for it, but she was surprised when nothing happened. The room was bare, as if no one had ever lived there.
“What the?” Shego muttered and she punched the floor in anger. “Where the hell is Akako-chan?” she asked the air.
The pale woman tore out of the room and went to ask the lady in charge where her Akako-chan was. The only thing was that she did not know where to find that lady. So, she had to search the whole place. It was a good thing she knew what the woman looked like or she would have just been going through every room and yanking up every person that she saw to find out where the redheaded shamisen player was.
She crept into the room and pulled out a shuriken. She put the weapon to Vivian’s throat while sitting down on the woman. Vivian coughed as she woke up for the second time that night; the first time had been a little more pleasant. Shego put her hand over Vivian’s mouth as the blonde woman screamed.
“Shh! I don’t want to have to hurt you too much. I just have one question and then I’ll disappear and you can forget you ever saw me,” Shego informed the blue-eyed female.
“Mmm?” Vivian asked in an unclear, muffled sound thanks to the hand covering her mouth.
“Where’s Akako-chan?” the fire-starter inquired and she lifted her hand up slightly for the blonde to give her a clear answer.
“I don’t know,” Vivian answered while shaking her head to further insist that she did not know where the petite redhead was.
“What do you mean you don’t know? She’s your maiko. Now, tell me where she is,” Shego demanded to know in a low growl.
“She’s gone,” Vivian stated.
“What do you mean ‘gone’? You sold her or gave her away?”
“No, she’s just gone.”
“Then when is she coming back?” Shego asked.
“What do you mean ‘she’s not’? This doesn’t make any sense. Where is she?” Shego snarled.
“I don’t know. She’s gone.”
Shego wondered if Akako had run away. The thought actually made her smile. She was happy that the girl had left her gilded cage. Maybe she was out searching for what she wanted from life. Well, that was good news, but Shego did feel just a little dejected knowing that she was not going to see the girl anymore.
“Did she run away?” Shego inquired.
Vivian was not sure what to say. Should she agree with that lie or make up one of her own? Well, she supposed that she could go with that one since it was not like she could offer up any information on the girl. She hoped that it would get rid of the person holding a blade to her throat.
“Yes,” Vivian confirmed.
“Okay. You don’t go looking for her, got it?” Shego ordered.
Vivian nodded to show that she understood, especially since she did not have any plans to go looking for “Akako.” Shego thought that she was saving the girl because she knew that people would go out searching for a missing geisha. She wanted to help give the girl a chance.
Shego was then gone within the blink of an eye, almost as if she had never even been there. Vivian breathed a sigh of relief and rubbed her throat. Those girls were still giving her trouble and they were gone. She wondered what the woman seemed to want with Akako; the only reason she knew that it was a woman that had been in the room was because of the voice. The darkness had obscured the features enough for her to not have guessed what the person was if she had not started asking question. The blonde thought that she might have to warn Betty and those girls.
She considered getting up and getting dressed to go tell Betty that some woman was looking for that redheaded young woman, but she decided against it. She would tell Betty about what happened tomorrow when the brunette came in for tea. She thought that she had that time because whoever that woman was seemed to know about as much about Akako as Vivian herself knew, which was not much. Vivian thought that because the woman had referred to the redhead as “Akako-chan” and even though it was never said, Vivian knew that was not the girl’s true name.
There was also the fact that the woman was using the term “chan” when referring to the girl. She did not seem to be a threat, but more worried about the redhead’s wellbeing. Still, Vivian would mention the incident to Betty just in case it was something serious.
With that decided, Vivian tried to go back to sleep. It was not as easy as she could have hoped. But, she at least was not again interrupted that night again.
Betty was actually hoping to get some sleep. She went home and took a long hot bath. She sighed in the water and soaked for a while in the liquid bliss of hot water. She then threw on a plain yukata and went to lie down. She smiled as her head hit her pillow. Sweet sleep without any worries for the moment; how beautiful.
“Director-sama!” a voice called and Betty shot up from her resting place.
“Why?” Betty shouted in her head.
“Director-sama! The palace is on fire!” one of her agents reported while racing through her home and trying to get to her room.
“The palace is on fire?” the brown-haired woman echoed in disbelief.
“Director-sama!” The agent finally reached the room and practically ripped her shoji open. The agent was met by a barefoot in his face, which easily dropped him. He fell to the floor.
“You know better than that,” Betty said to the agent while standing on his back. She understood that he was excited and everything, but he had to remember his place and his manners.
“Sorry, Director-sama,” he groaned. He had heard that she had powerful kicks, but now he could testify to that statement. She was also very fast, he noted because he had not even glimpsed the foot before he felt the force on his skull.
“Now, what’s happening?” Betty inquired.
“The palace, it’s on fire! They’re trying to put it out and everything, but I thought you should know,” he reported.
Betty sighed and decided that she was going to go check it out. She returned to her room and through on some clothes. She exited the room and started marching out of the house while her subordinate was still laid out on the floor.
“Are you coming or what?” Betty huffed, speaking to her agent.
He climbed to his feet and chased after the boss like a puppy. They marched to the palace and saw that it was on fire, but things seemed to be under control. The fire was not big and close to being quelled completely. Betty considered going to check on the prisoners, but they were on the other side of the place, so she doubted that the fire had any effect on them. Besides, there were plenty of guards around them to make sure that nothing happened and she trusted the guards for the most part. Well, the Shogun trusted the guards and she was obligated to trust the Shogun, therefore by trusting the Shogun, she trusted the guards.
There was also the tiny fact that she really just wanted to get some sleep. She had time to herself for the first time in a long time and she wanted to actually unwind before she did snap in two like everyone suspected she would one day soon. She stuck around for a couple of minutes, until the fire was totally put out. She asked for some details and was assured that it was a small fire probably started by someone carelessly emptying pipe embers or something on some dry leaves. She nodded to show that she understood and she was glad that it was rather insignificant because that meant she could go back home, which she did.
Betty eased into bed again and tried to get some sleep. She thought about the day that she was going to have tomorrow, relaxing. It seemed almost like a dream to be able to do such a thing. She would spend the day with Vivian, who made just about the best tea of all time in her opinion. Maybe she would ever spoil herself and have some junk food. She could use some sweets and good conversation that Vivian tended to offer up.
She smiled as she finally drifted off to sleep. Relaxing sounded like such a great thing to her tense, overworked mind and body. She could not wait for tomorrow.
Betty shot up from her resting place as she heard her name being called again like the world was coming to an end. She got up from her bed and as one of her employees opened her shoji, he was met with her foot. Turned out, she kicked her own nephew. The agent that had been calling her was standing a few feet away.
Betty looked a bit shocked when she realized that she knocked her nephew out cold. She bent down and apologized to the boy while trying to shake him awake. When he started mumbling, she turned her attention to the other agent, who was looking away. It would seem that he knew about the greeting that met anyone that charged Betty’s private chambers and that was probably why he let Will go to open the door.
“What happened?” Betty demanded to know.
“All of the prisoners are gone!” he reported.
“What?” Betty asked in disbelief and then she dropped her half-conscious nephew. Will hit the deck with a big “thump!” His aunt went to grab her other agent.
“The prisoners escaped!” he repeated.
“What the hell do you mean they escaped?!” she shrieked in an enraged tone. A colony of prisoners in secured cells managed to escape? What did the guards have jobs for if such a thing was feasible?
“They’re not in the cells anymore!” he answered while trembling in the grip of his furious boss.
Betty flung the agent to the floor and went back into her room. She threw on her clothes and pushed open her shoji with a frightening force. Will and the other agent gulped because of her evident anger. They would not have been surprised to see flames rising off of her because of her fury. They watched her march down the hall.
“Are you two coming or taking a nap?” Betty growled like a lion.
The pair of agents climbed to their feet in a hurry and followed behind their leader. They went to the holding cells and saw that they were all empty. Betty growled in anger while inspecting the bars. She looked at the wood and noticed that it seemed burned, but cleanly done.
“What could make these marks?” Betty wondered to herself. She might have considered a weapon, but she could not figure out what kind of blade would leave burn evidence. It was just that the cuts were so precise. “How did they get out of here?” Betty inquired.
“We don’t know. The guards were all knocked unconscious until this morning. They don’t remember what happened. We don’t really know what happened with these bars either,” Will reported.
“Well, do we know how they made it out of the palace?” Betty inquired. Even if the prisoners had gotten out of the cells, they should have been mixed up with all of the corridors and dead-ends. They should still be trapped in the castle somewhere.
“We’re not too sure. We think they might have taken a secret passage way,” Will answered.
Betty was confused. How was it possible for those people to know what route to take to get out of the castle? She had agents that still got lost around the place. There were vassals that had lived there all their lives and they still got lost in the castle and she was supposed to believe that a huge group of people had all found the right way out of it one night? It was not even logical, let alone believable, so she felt that it could not be reality.
“They had to have help if that was the case, inside help,” Betty thought.
“What should we do?” Will inquired.
“Give me a moment to process all of this,” Betty said.
Will nodded and left the boss alone for a moment, so that she could think and come up with a battle plan to correct the guards’ mistakes. Betty quickly figured out what she wanted to do and she then split her team up. She wanted one group to trace the escape route of their prisoners and she wanted the other group to trace how the escape was engineered. She then put some agents on trying to uncover if an insider had assisted in the escape since one of the secret tunnels was possibly used to break out. She then remembered the fire from last night and considered that was probably a distraction, so she wanted to know everything possible about that fire. She then ordered all of her agents to get moving. They did not have time to fool around.
Betty sighed and got moving herself. She figured that if the prisoners had escaped and made it out of the city, they were probably heading to the Seniors’ castle in their province. If they made it that far, then they were going to be able to fortify themselves in the castle’s walls and wage a proper battle. She did not want that.
The one-eyed woman figured that she had better get the fastest tracker that she knew on the case. She was going back to the Possible manor and she was going to have to borrow Kim again because no one else would be able to the job as rapidly as the redhead in her opinion. She quickly made her way to the house and discovered the family “enjoying” a typical breakfast.
Kim was yelling at her brothers to stop taking her pickles while Mika, their mother, was trying to get them under control while James was sneaking the boys’ pickles from them. It would seem that the Possibles really liked pickles. Or they just liked getting on each other’s nerves.
“Director-sama,” the whole family said sheepishly as they noticed the one-eyed woman standing in the doorway.
The family needed to be rather embarrassed in Betty’s opinion. They all looked rather ridiculous with Kim holding her brothers at bay using one arm and a foot. Her mother was holding Kim’s other hand because the teen seemed to be ready to punch her brothers with that hand. James was caught reaching over to the boys’ dishes and plucking away their pickle slices. It was utterly amazing to Betty that such a group could hold the title of samurai.
“Kim-dono, a word, please,” Betty requested.
“Um…of course,” Kim answered in a confused tone. She had been home all of one night, so she could not imagine what Betty might want with her now. She turned her attention back to her brothers. “You eat my pickles and you don’t even want to know where I’m going to put my chopsticks,” she informed the boys.
“Kimmie,” Mika scolded her daughter for such a threat.
“Sorry, Mom,” Kim apologized, even though they all knew that she did not mean it. After all, if she was truly sorry, she would not have said it in the first place.
Mika did not say anything and Kim was excused from the meal for the moment. Kim stood up and stepped out to join Betty. They could hear Jim and Tim freak out when they noticed their father had eaten all of their pickles.
“Kim-dono, I need your ability,” Betty said in a low tone.
“Which one?” Kim inquired suspiciously. She had many useful talents and now she wanted specifics when dealing with the one-eyed female.
“I need you to track the Seniors,” Betty informed the girl.
“Aren’t they in jail?” the redheaded warrior inquired.
“Long story short, they escaped.”
“Escaped?” Kim echoed. How could they escape? Could the bodyguard have had something to do with it? She hoped not. With luck, the guards that had been watching the Seniors were just extremely bad at their jobs and the Seniors somehow engineered their own getaway.
“Like I said, it’s a long story. I just need you to get on your horse and track them as quickly as possible,” Betty implored the younger woman.
“Well, they’re probably heading toward Senior’s castle,” Kim pointed out.
“I’d like to be sure of that, so if you could get going, it would make my life a just little easier,” the one-eyed woman commented.
“I can’t just leave. I just got in last night. My parents would freak out.”
“Look, I need to find them before they get a chance to regroup. I’d like to catch them before make it to the castle. What if they have more guns there? Or even worse weapons considering some of the weird things that were packed away in those boxes. So, I need you to get going now.”
“You want me to stop a whole army of people before they make to a castle?” Kim inquired incredulously. She could do anything, but come on, some things would take a lot more than just her to pull stuff off.
“Take your sidekick and his wife and get moving,” Betty commanded.
“And now you’re dragging Ron and Yori into this?” the teen asked in disbelief. She had just separated the couple of two months and now she was butting in on their lives again? The leader of the secret police seemed to be getting a bit outrageous in Kim’s opinion.
“This is serious! Those people want to destroy the government and split the empire. Don’t act so selfish,” Betty replied in a snarl. The stress was obviously already getting to her. She could not believe that the prisoners, all of them, a whole freaking group, had escaped. What did they have guards for if that could happen? What was the point of her gathering information and going into dangerous situations if prisoners were now just able to walk out of their holding cells? Questions like that were constantly bombarding her mind now.
Kim frowned; she disliked being told that she was selfish by a woman that had just snatched her out of her home for more than two months and placed her well below her station. She had just shamed herself for the woman and her sense of duty and she had the nerve to call her selfish. Kim had half a mind to go back and finish her breakfast, leaving Betty to do whatever she had to do on her own.
“Director-sama, I know it’s serious and I know what those people want to do. I also understand that you’re under a lot of pressure, but I just got in and your lack of respect on my end makes it hard for me to want to go out and do anything for you, especially after what I just finished doing for you,” Kim pointed out.
Betty’s face tightened in a mechanical manner as if a crank was turned to make that happen. She wanted to strike Kim for being difficult at a time that she did not need anything aside for support and cooperation. But, she knew that the redhead had a point. She had already asked so much of Kim and the redhead had little obligation to her. Yes, Kim had an obligation to the nation like any other person, but it was not her task in life to hunt down criminals. Kim just did it because she felt like it.
“Kim-dono,” Betty sighed. “I need you to do this. I want them caught before they make it to his castle. If they have more guns and things, we could be in for one tough fight. It would be best to stop them before they make it there and I know you can track them down the fastest. I can have more people follow behind you, but I just need them caught fast.”
Kim looked away. “Fine, I’ll track them for you. Let me go get my gear and then go get my friend,” she replied. She had to do something because she could tell that Betty was near the end of her rope because it seemed like all their effort and work might be pissed away. Besides, she had worked on the case for so long that she could not just allow the traitors to get away.
“All right. Keep in touch in the usual manner,” Betty said and then she was going to leave, but she stopped herself. She did not face Kim. “Arigato gozaimasu (1), Kim-dono,” she said in a clear tone.
“No big,” Kim replied.
Betty took her leave to go and handle the situation even further. Kim returned to her family and the meal. She sighed as she thought about how she was going to have to leave again. Her parents were going to freak, she thought.
“Mom, Dad, I need to go,” Kim blurted out. It seemed like the best way to go about things instead of dancing around the issue like a bug.
“Go?” the parents echoed in puzzled tone.
“Yeah, Director-sama needs me to track some people for her,” Kim informed them.
“But, she just asked you to do something and you only got back last night. That’s not fair,” Mika argued.
“Not at all. Aren’t there other people that can do things like this? We don’t want you gone for another couple of months,” James added in.
“Well, I should do my part, like everyone else. I mean, Mom, if someone was sick today and you went to see them and then they were sick again tomorrow, you wouldn’t go?” Kim asked.
“It’s not the same thing,” the elder redhead argued.
“It all boils down to you want to help and I want to help. We all have to do what we can,” Kim pointed out.
The parents sighed. They knew that there was no stopping Kim because there never was any stopping her. She was going to take off and do what she wanted anyway. So, Kim was excused again and she went to get ready to leave. She packed up some things for her journey and was then on her way to go pick up Ron and Yori. She was halted by her mother before she made it out of the manor.
“Here, take some food too,” Mika instructed her daughter while handing over a neat bundle to the smaller redhead.
“I’ll try not to take too long, Mom. I promise,” Kim vowed.
“Just be safe in whatever you do,” the elder female pled.
Mika nodded and let her child go, again. She wished that Kim was just staying home for a little while. She had been worried about Kim being out for so long and had some difficulty sleeping for that time, as she often did when her daughter vanished for a length of time. She supposed that she would always worry until Kim settled down and even that was doubtful.
After all, Kim was engaged to Will. Mika had been against that agreement, but the matriarch of the Possible clan had to have her way as always. She wanted the Possible family to have connections with the Director family because they were rather powerful. There were also the connections with the Du family, which was another powerful family. So, Kim and Will were going to be getting married and Mika was just hoping that no one got hurt in the process; although everyone was almost certain that some injuries were waiting in the wings of that union.
Kim sat with Ron and Yori to explain the situation to them. The couple looked upset, which she expected from them. When she sat down with them, she could tell that they were not going to like what she had to say because they hugged up next to each other, as if telling her that they were not going anywhere. She hoped that they changed their minds now that she explained the circumstances to them because she did not wish to go along on her own.
“So, you guys with me?” Kim asked with hope in her eyes, voice, and smile.
“It’s not that we’re not with you…” Ron replied hesitantly.
“You guys are not going to just let me go after a bunch of fugitives on my own. I mean, that would be so wrong,” the redhead commented.
“Of course we wouldn’t do that to you, Kim!” Ron replied with a giant grin. He laughed a little bit and then he hugged Yori closer to him. They were not cold, cruel, or heartless, after all.
“Then why are you holding Yori-chan like as soon as I leave, you two are going to cut out on me?” the redhead inquired.
“We’d never!” Ron said in a rather exaggerated tone.
“You do it all the time,” Kim pointed out.
“That we do,” Yori muttered. Ron used to get a kick out of disappearing on Kim when he was with Yori just because it was just nice to get over with something every now and then. They still did it on occasion, but not for something important or serious.
“Look, we’ll help. We’ll help,” the blonde young man replied.
“Well, we need to get moving then. Pack some gear and let’s go. With luck, we can catch these people and be home in a few days and never have to think about it again,” Kim declared.
“She enjoys this wishing out loud thing,” Yori commented, speaking to Ron.
“I know. I do the same,” Ron admitted with a goofy grin.
“I probably get it from you,” Kim remarked.
Shego caught up with Drakken and the Seniors. They had stolen horses, just as she had done. They had also wisely left their men and others to fend for themselves to make an expeditious and more subtle getaway. She was willing to bet that was not Drakken’s idea; it was too practical and smart at the same time to be born in his rotten mind.
“Shego!” Drakken basically hooted when her horse pulled up next to his. He was rather pleased to see her and thankful that she had done her job, namely guarding his body by removing him from that damp cell.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. What, you thought you’d gotten rid of me that easily?” Shego remarked. She guessed that it was all right that she had not been able to bring Akako with her. After all, she already was going to be bombarded with questions about who she was and how she managed to break them out of jail. She doubted that she was going to answer any of those questions. She would not have liked having to hear questions about who Akako was if she had brought the maiko along.
“This is the young lady that freed us?” Senior inquired.
“Names Shego,” she informed him.
“And who are you?” Senior asked curiously.
“She’s my sidekick,” Drakken stated.
“Sidekick?” Shego growled and she looked at Drakken with an expression of pure fury.
“What?” Drakken asked because he noticed her face.
“Sidekick?” Senior echoed and then he looked carefully at her. It was easy for him to connect the dots as to who she was, especially since she had the green skin and all. He was not sure what he should say now that he knew just who she was. “I hope my son didn’t offend you,” he commented since he remembered all of the times that Junior had sent her off to be with the little shamisen player. But, then he was a bit curious because a few times Shego voluntarily left with the redheaded maiko. Maybe she connected with the musician in someway, but he was not sure how. Knowing that she was woman now only bemused him on her time at the teahouse.
“No sweat,” Shego replied while glancing at Junior. She could not be mad at him for acting like a brainless monkey since she got to meet someone somewhat interesting.
“Might I ask about that thing with your hands?” Senior inquired.
“Yeah, how did you make fire with your hands? Are you a demon?” Junior asked again.
“Didn’t we go through this before?” Shego countered because of the demon comment. She was willing to bet that birds nested in his skull instead of a brain.
Junior eeked while his father was not deterred. “But, how do you do that thing with your hands?” Senior asked.
“It’s just something I do. Don’t question it. Just be happy that it and I felt like saving your butts,” Shego replied.
Senior was surprised by the response. He was not used to being treated in such a brisk, almost foul manner. He frowned, but he did not antagonize her further. He did consider that his son had a point; she probably was a demon.
Shego did not care what they thought. She was not interested in telling them about her personal life and why she could do what she could do anyway. She was not there to explain herself to them, which was something she believed they needed to understand and accept. They needed to just be happy that she could do everything that she could and that she was on their side for the moment. After all, with the way she worked, that could change within an instant since she felt no sense of anything toward them. They were just amusing to her and the running right now was amusing to her. In her opinion, they were lucky that Akako had run away or she might have just taken off to wherever the little redhead wanted to go.
1: Arigato gazaimasu: thank you very much.
Next time: Kim, Ron, and Yori set out to find the fugitives while Shego is annoyed, thinks of “Akako,” and attacked by someone close to her.