Takahashi set the spinner down in the middle of the street. The blackened shells of buildings towered to either side and from one, a sign bearing a half naked woman leered, the remains of her wink permanently etched in broken neon. A tattered length of cloth, caught on the door of a car half crushed in rubble, fluttered in the spinner's exhaust.
Lifting the door, Takahashi stepped out into the street, grit crunching beneath his boots. Outside the spinner, the streets of Shinjuku were eerily silent, dimly lit by the garish colours of the city's lights on their crumbling flanks. Tapping his radio microphone to make sure it was on, Takahashi turned in a slow circle. He took his bearings. This was apparently where the call had come from, with a warning of possible supernatural activity. Shrugging his coat around his shoulders, against the cold wind, he slowly drew an ofuda from his pocket, marked with the kanji of equilibrium. If there were presences here, this should reveal them. He lifted one hand high above his head bearing the Ofuda, and then paused, all his senses coming to a pitch.
The wind across his exposed wrist was cold alright, indeed unnaturally chill. The thin piping of the wind in the crevices of the tumbled buildings was joined by the mournful piping of a lone flute. Sliding the Ofuda back into his pocket, Takahashi moved silently to the edge of the street to gain what cover he could from the rubble and proceeded to stalk the source of the sound. In a few minutes he rounded the corner and found it.
Perched on a flat-topped chunk of debris in the middle of the street was a white haired woman, dressed in a high collared jacket and a flowing black cloak. Sitting crosslegged on the stone, she seemed intent on playing the flute held in her hands. The tune, although odd, was somewhat pleasant.
Takahashi repressed a shudder. Of a certainty, no normal woman would be found in such circumstances. Reaching into his coat, he secreted an Ofuda in one hand and then moved out into the street, the grit beneath his boots announcing his presence. The cold intensified as he approached.
Stopping abruptly, the woman set the flute down and looked up. She was remarkably beautiful, with smooth white skin and large ice blue eyes. Takahashi's assessment of her looks was almost instantly interrupted by the realization that this unknown female bore a distinct resemblance to the demoness Marller, including the same facial markings, except her's were bright blue as opposed to Marller's red.
Regarding Takahashi with a calm, almost passive gaze, the woman spoke, her breath coming forth in a fine white cloud. "And you are?" she asked.
"I am Officer Jones of the AMP" he responded formally, with a slight bow. "And whom do I address?"
"I am Mara," the woman responded, rising to her feet, accompanied by a sound reminiscent of shattering ice crystals. "I am here looking for someone."
"And who might that be, if I may make so bold as to ask?"
"My sister, Marller..." Mara paused and regarded Takahashi intently, "Perhaps you've seen her?"
"I have indeed seen her. I recognised your exquisite features as soon as I saw you." Takahashi bowed a gain slightly and spread his hands. "To what end do you seek your sister?"
Mara didn't respond for a moment, but paused to slide the flute into an inner pocket of her coat. Underneath the frost encrusted garment, Takahshi noted that she wore only a thin shirt, that did little to hide her prominent curves. Stepping of the chunk of rubble, Mara dropped lightly to the street before turning back to where Takahashi stood.
"She has gone missing..." Mara sounded almost concerned as she spoke, "I fear she has once again fallen afoul of the sorcerer Shang Tzung..." Mara sighed with a great cloud of fine white mist, "You have seen her? Can you tell me where?"
Takahashi dropped his head and sighed. "I can, my lady, although I fear it will not bring you joy. She fell into the clutches of that sorceror you name - and we battled with him near here. Both fell in that fight. I can tell you where, if you wish."
Mara stared in silence at Takahashi before staggering back against the slab of debris.. "She is... dead? How did she die?"
"Shang Tzung controlled her and forced her to serve him, although she plainly hated him. When we fought, Shang Tzung was injured and lost his control. Marller turned on him, but he was not dead...." Takahashi's voice trailed off and then he resumed, his voice grim. "You may rest assured he did not long survive Marller's death."
Mara studied the ruins that surrounded her. "I do not know this city..." turning back to Takahashi she looked at him with an almost pleading expression, "Could you take me there?"
Takahashi paused a moment, then nodded. "It must be more than coincidence that of all of the people in this great city, you met one who witnessed your sister's last moments. I have a vehicle nearby in which we can be there speedily."
The temple was as Takahashi remembered it. A low, covered wall surrounding several small buildings with the temple proper in the center. The structure was in ruins now, a mass of burned timbers and broken masonry. Thick weeds had grown up since the temple's destruction, giving it a wild and faintly forbidding aspect.
The doors of the spinner rose with a subdued hiss. Takahashi gestured out at the temple courtyard. "It happened here," he said simply. "If you wish to look around, I will stay here, so you may have some privacy."
Mara nodded silently, rising from her seat with an audible cracking of ice across her coat. Stepping out of the spinner she slowly walked into the courtyard, stopping only when she had reach the spot where her sister had fallen. Falling to her knees, Mara simply stared at the ground, hugging herself and shivering faintly.
Takahashi tapped the spinner's wheel lightly with one finger. What now? Although Mara seemed more stable than her sister and her possible anger appeared to have been diverted, he could hardly let her loose to confront some hapless city dweller. Momentarily a vision of the past returned to him. Shivering with cold in the mountains, he heard his father's voice. "Why do we do this? We train our bodies to hardship, so that we may do what must be done. If you follow our family's path - the only honourable course - you will have to expose yourself to dangers worse than this..."
As he heard Mara's approaching footsteps, his thoughts returned to the present and his lips curled in a wry smile. Composing his features into a look of concern he turned to Mara.
"What will you do now? It would be neither prudent nor polite for me to leave you alone in this large city. If you desire anything, I would be pleased to place myself at your service for the rest of this night."
Wiping at tear from one eye, Mara nodded, "Tha... thank you, Officer Jones. I don't think I want to be alone right now..."
As the spinner rose into the night, Takahashi could not restrain a slight smile as he thought of his father's response to this particular evening's work.
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