A STORY OF THE DIAMOND EMPIRE
BY SETH MASON
The gates of the large amusement park closed as the last few stragglers made their way out. As the wind blew across the front lot of the park, a paper flew through the air in front of a figure waiting in the shadows. He was nearly invisible, as his body was covered completely in black, and over his face was a smooth black mask. The only disticntive marks on him were the red eyes on the mask, and the mon of Clan Scorpion on his shoulders.
By the time the paper had touched the ground, the figure was gone.
Oroki leaned back in his chair and rapped his fingertips on the desk before him. He looked around the mirroed room of his office, and a slight sigh escaped his lips. The young man looked at the small note in his hands, and thought to himself, It never used to be like this. The Scorpion should never be surprised... Oroki put the note down on his desk and without looking up said, "Zou, bring me the week's reports." Zou simply bowed his elephant-masked head in acknowledgement. The guard quietly opened the door, and walked out, leaving Oroki in silence.
"Oroki, we need to talk."
Oroki snapped his head up, and all around him the room was the reflected image of a tall man in the robes of a Bayushi ninja. Instinctively, his hand went to the sidearm concealed in his kimono.
"Oroki, remain calm. I do not wish this to end in violence." The figure's voice emanated from seemingly every images on each mirror. Oroki had to stop himself from looking around the room like an idiot. For once, he was confused and caught off-guard, and he was somewhat enjoying the new experience.
The door opened suddenly, moving the illusions and reflections and causing the intruder's true position to be seen. Zou stood in the archway, holding a gun to the man's head.
"I don't know who you are," Oroki said as he came from behind his desk, "but I'll make sure we find out just exactly how you made it in here," his smile turned into poison, "only after you scream the name of your mother and beg for mercy." Oroki looked at the man's mask, smooth black with two red eyes painted on. He recognized the design. No, he thought to himself in an instant, it could not be.
"Oroki," the stranger said quietly, shaking his head. Oroki raised an eyebrow, and then the masked figure moved. With nearly unnatural speed, he twisted his legs and torso so that his figure dropped, then came back up just after Zou fired a shot that would have gone though his head. The figure then gripped Zou by the neck with one hand, and with the other hand, he held Zou's shooting arm in a strange joint-lock. "We will have this talk," He finished.
Zou wrestled against the ninja's grip. "Do not struggle, Enforcer." He whispered. "With a simple twist," he moved his fingers on Zou's arm, and the gun suddenly pointed at Oroki's face, "I can make your worst nightmare come true."
The fraction of a second between the ninja's movement and Zou's arm twisting was all Oroki needed. He dropped to the ground, pulling out his gun. The younger man fired three shots at the pair standing before him. Oroki didn't bother worrying about Zou, it was his job to handle this situation and he was failing. But much to Oroki's surprise, the ninja moved Zou so a bullet nicked his shoulder instead of lodging in his lung. The other two bullets slammed into the ninja's torso with a dull noise.
"I have come to warn you, nephew." The man said, unshaken "I have watched over this family every day you have thought yourself unnoticed. I have seen what you have done with your father's position in my absence. You squander what precious little we have left, boy, and this is unexcusable."
"How dare you..." Oroki began.
"I am Scorpion! I am the direct descendant of Bayushi, He Who Dares Anything!" The man paused and added, "I am true to my Emperor, as was the First Scorpion. You, decadant child, have no place to question me."
Oroki almost found himself unconciously nodding in agreement. He stopped himself and asked, "What would you have of me, then?"
"Do not act in vengeance against the Dragon, nephew." He continued.
"In vengeance?" Oroki asked aloud, then he understood. "Hatsu." He said simply.
"The young Kitsuki serves the Empire well. He also suspects what you and I know to be true about your brother's involvment in your old cartel." The ninja paused a second, waiting for a response from the younger Scorpion. Oroki did not give him the satisfaction. The ninja continued, "Deal with him as a Scorpion, not as a petty criminal. End your vendetta to destroy him. His strength and skill will be needed."
Oroki cocked his head to the side. "End?" He asked, somewhat confused. While he had many plans to bring Kitsuki Hatsu down, he had not yet begun upon a single one of them. "What do you mean?"
The ninja was silent a moment, as if weighing a descision. "Very well," he said.
"Why are you here?" Oroki asked.
The ninja moved his hand again, and Zou fell to the floor, unconcious. "I am here to prevent a terrible disaster, boy" He walked slowly towards the younger man. "I am here to lead you off the path that may well destroy you, our Clan, and this Empire." The man stood right in front of Oroki. "You do not yet understand what danger we are in. End this path of corruption you find yourself on. Turn your abilities back to the service of the Empire..."
Oroki found his head suddenly spinning, and the edges of his vision became blurry. The last thing he saw before falling down into the darkness was the man pulling away the black mask. The last thing he saw was the face of his dead uncle...
A sudden tone made Oroki open his eyes and start in his chair. His heart was pounding in his chest, and he looked around his mirrored office, nervously. He was sitting in his chair, in his office. The tone came again, and Oroki recognized the sound of his intercom. "Yes?" he said as he pressed the button.
"Sir, are you allright?" It was Zou. "The door to your office is locked. I cannot get in."
Oroki pushed another button, and a slight clicking sound echoed around the room. The door opened and Zou walked in, cautiously. "It is fine, Zou." Oroki looked at him for a second, then said, "Zou. Take off your mask." The large man did so without question, and Oroki stared into his eyes. Nothing. There was no hint of any kind of distress other than the locked door. Nothing at all. "That is all, Zou. Return to your post." Zou replaced his mask, bowed low, then left.
Oroki leaned back in his chair. A dream? he wondered. Had he been visited by the spirit of his dead uncle? Oroki allowed his mind to drift back to the days when he was a child, when Bayushi Dairyu had read to him stories of the Kami, of the Ancestors, of Sun and Moon. He looked around his office again. All will be revealed in time. A smile formed acorss his mouth. Nothing could be hidden from the patient Scorpion.
The silent figure made his way across the rooftops quickly. Time does not even wait for dead men, he thought to himself. As he quickly stepped between ledges, something in the alleyway below him moved. The ninja quickly looked down and adjusted the setting on his mask's optics.
As the visual adjusted, he saw a huge, metallic insectoid figure moving down the alley. As the settings change took full effect, however, the figure became a bright glow of light, and suddenly the visual flashed, and he got no more readings from the goggles. He swore under his breath and jerked the mask off his eyes, peering down into the alley. There was no trace of what he saw. He quickly looked to the horizon, nothing the position of Lord Moon. Not long now... he thought, and quickly made his way to the small building at the end of the block.
"Hendo," Came a voice from behind the old Shosuro man. The old Scorpion turned to see the tall man standing in his doorway. All around the dark, dirty room, tables were littered with small electronics and trash.
"Ahhh. We meet again, my student." The old man cackled and his long white beard moved around his face like a serpent. "You know," he said, turning back to his table, "I never thought for a moment you were dead. No." He moved around some small circuitry under a giant mircoscope and several sparks flew from the table. "Not for a moment." He turned back to the black figure and smiled, "Not my student. Never."
The ninja bowed before the little old man, and came to rest behind him on his knees. "I am that man you once knew no longer, sensei. I am simply Father."
"Bah," said the old man, and the ninja saw a cataract on his left eye. Age was beginning to take it's toll on his sensei. "You will always be quiet little Fox. The one who never questioned me, for he was always too smart for his own good!" He cackled again.
"Sensei, I must ask a favor of you," Father said, extending the mask to Hendo. "The optics system on this has shorted out and I need to know why." The old man snatched the mask from Father and quickly shoved everything away from he microscope. He slid the mask under the device and looked into it with his good eye. Hendo grunted and made several other noises as he looked over the mask.
"Hmmm..." he muttered, "you have lost the tetsukami." The tetsukami were the minor elemental spirits sometimes incorporated into Shosuro technology to make them work seperate from an outside energy source. The old man said, "It appears to have been removed... no... it escaped." Hendo looked up to the ceiling, and muttered to himself, "Why?"
Father leaned in, realizing the old man was lost to himself, trying to solve the riddle the mask presented. "Yes, sensei?" He asked anyway. Hendo leaned across the table and pulled a small monitor from the pile of junk heaped on the corner. He deflty wired the monitor into the mask, then the monitor to a small battery. "This will show us the last image the optics saw," the old man muttered as the screen flickered. The image was hazy at first, just as Father had remembered it. The alley was clear, but the large, bug-like figure was still too dark and obscured by shadow to make out. Hendo muttered and grumbled to himself, turning small dials, making the picture clearer. A minute later, the figure in the alley was perfectly clear, and Hendo gazed at it, dumbfounded. "I don't understand..." he whispered to himself. "What made the tetsukami abandon the mask?"
"Father stared at the image, now perfectly clear in the screen. He had seen that image before. He paced around behind Hendo, and as he had a thousand times before while he leanred at the feet of the old man, Father looked up to the ceiling.
There was a large mural of the legendary battle with Fu Leng, the Day of Thunder, paitined across the length of the ceiling. Father had spent so much time looking at the image, he knew each detail, each warrior, each foul beast, each small blade of grass. His eyes wandered to the point where the undead one known as Yogo Junzo had his minions gathered around him, with five great Oni.
Father quickly looked down at the screen, then back at the painting. He knew Hendo would no longer be able to see the mural fully, but he tried anyway, "Sensei," he said quietly, "What is the name of that Oni to the left of Junzo?"
"That was the Elemental Terror of the Void, child. Akeru."
Father looked again on the image of the screen, a perfect mirror of the Oni that stood to the left of Yogo Junzo.