Chapter 5: The Claw of the White Tiger
In the shadows, a white haired boy stood, hands in the pocket of a black buttoned up long coat, and darks eyes set upon a neon den. When he had first learned of Asabi he had expected it to be a quiet town, a silent domain where everyone knew each other, and no one was hard to find, but the information Kouta had delivered had changed that impression around. Right now Ushio stood in the delinquent district where teens roamed wildly through the night, and successful single women found a place of solace. It was small building of two floors, nestled between a three-story office on its right and a bar on its left, and it stood out more than them both, welcoming potential patrons with neon cursive that scrolled over its door. Velvet Touch, it read, and made Ushio wonder if it was a simile for the atmosphere or the workers that dwelled within. He didn’t dare try to enter, and didn’t think he’d have a chance if he did, but from where he stood on the other side of the street, he could see the soft lighting, and barely see several couches that lined the walls within. He wasn’t a fan of anime but it was the type of scene he had seen in them before, and had always expected a host club to be. A host club, a den where single women went and would be flattered by the handsome men who dwelled within. At a time in his life, a girl had told him that he could potentially work in one and left him a little flustered, but as he stood there, a job was not what he sought.
It was eleven o’ clock now, but the call had come at five that day. Kouta - very assured of himself Ushio assumed - had told the young agent about the rumors and led him to where he stood. On a quiet night about one month ago, a mother had come to the club and received a kind gesture as one of the hosts walked her home. When a jealous ex-boyfriend appeared and brandished a knife, the host had defeated him with nonchalant ease, using blades that possessed no form and blowing the man away. It was written off a merely a tale, because no mother in this small town could afford such luxury, but it was a good enough lead for Ushio, to bring him where he was.
“According to the rumor the guy is easy to notice. He’s a bit taller than you and me and always wears an overcoat open. His hair is pretty long, and the rumor said he drew it back into a pony tail when he left, so that’s what you should look for.” Kouta provided a description, but as Ushio had begun his surveillance and saw, several longed hair men enter the building, he wonder if the description would be of any use. So far, at least five of them had left and yet he was still there, clinging to the smallest detail and hoping that one would draw their head.
Suddenly the sixth longhaired man exited, and drew his hair behind his head before lighting a cigarette up. After a few puffs and a wave goodbye, he began walking down the street, and Ushio followed, mixing with the crowd that walked toward him. If he had to guess, the man was going to the end. He would turn the corner after that and be at a parking lot where he would get his car. That was where Ushio planned to confront him, and how he’d get information was already decided. The streets quieted as he followed the man around the corner, and kept following him pass the lot and further down the street. The silence became eerie as Ushio realized they were alone, and as the man stopped and let out a puff of smoke, he wondered if he had been lured into a trap.
“I know you’re there.” The man said and Ushio’s eyes became sharp as he took a few steps back. “Who are you? Some jealous boyfriend? An obsessed ex? Or maybe…” The man began to turn and as he saw Ushio, his eyes widened. “Wow, didn’t expect this. Which one of our visitors has you by the balls kid?” He laughed, and Ushio calmed down.
“I don’t know any of your visitors.” He replied and the man sighed.
“Really? I guess I’m not surprised, I mean what she would need with a teasing host club when she had a brat like you.” The man referred to the hypothetic customer and Ushio suddenly got an idea.
“That’s right.” He said. “What would she need with someone like you? Someone so old and dried up, you couldn’t remotely make her happy.” He said and the man’s smugness faded away.
“What’s your girl’s name kid?” He asked and Ushio smirked.
“Tae Yui.” He replied and the man ran his hand through his hair.
“She’s a hot one, pretty rich too. She’s bold, and knows what she wants, and she’s smart too. So it makes me wonder – how does this guy I’ve never seen before know her name.” He said and Ushio shrugged.
“Isn’t it obvious?” He asked.
“Yeah, you’re either someone from her past or someone from Prospect.” The man replied as he hand came free of black hair, and he gave Ushio everything he needed.
“Then we can skip the pleasantries. Since you know Yui tell me where she is.” He barked and the man laughed.
“Tell you where she is…” He remarked as the colored faded from his hair, and black stripes appeared on his cheeks. “You know there’s no way I’ll do that.” He said as his hands came up and the smoke that rose from his cigarette bent and wrapped around them.
With a thrust forward of the man’s hands, Ushio almost found himself impaled on the translucent tiger claws, as the smoke shot forward and gave the man a name. Blocked by a ball of electricity that gathered in front of him, the claws sank toward the ground and swept up a mist, then came back at Ushio tenfold, bigger than they were before. The ball was knocked away and Ushio was thrown to the ground, left at the mercy of the man he’d called Byakko right before a spear fell down. As Byakko’s arms came back then forward again, the tiger claws were launched, and Ushio grabbed his spear and quickly batted them away. As they swooped up and detracted, he noted their solid feeling, and charged Byakko as they continued to withdraw. With them withdrawn Ushio took the momentary chance and swiftly thrust his spear, but was barely able to cut Byakko’s coat as he stepped aside. He felt the solid feeling of the smoke claws, as he was slammed into a wall, but managed to avoid a fatal feeling as he broke free of their might. The cratered stonewall produced dust as Byakko moved his hands, and Ushio quickly threw himself to the side as the claw came down. Again, he took advantage of Byakko’s lapsed defense, as he thrust his spear toward the man’s side, but found it stopped as his hand came up and for a moment he stared with surprise. With his spear firmly halted Byakko turned to the boy, and began to pull his hand back, but found himself in pain as Ushio smirked and a second spear was slid from the first. He toppled back as he stared at Ushio standing rather smugly with two partisans in hand, and was almost able to launch another attack before he felt something stab into his back.
“What…” He murmured as he reached his arm around and felt the warmth of blood.
“Mine are the reflecting spears, when damage is dealt by one it is reflected by the other.” Ushio informed him, and at the smugness, Byakko glowered and mightily swung his hands back.
As Ushio charged, he swung them forward, and repelled the agent with might of a battering ram as he was thrown through the air. When Ushio crashed into the ground, his back arched up and his spear clattered a few feet away. He saw the claws quickly withdraw, and when he was sure they would zip forward and shatter every bone in his body, he instead heard a voice.
“What do you mean that’s enough?!” Byakko replied to the voice.
“Exactly what I said, if you kill him, more Prospect agents will come.” The voice replied and Ushio sprung up to find out who it was.
There behind Byakko a teenager stood, a white muffler wrapped around his face and hands in the pockets of a burgundy duffle coat. He waved at Ushio as his eyes went wide and Ushio quickly retrieved his spears, and stood with them at the ready. For a moment the boy stared, his eyes now as wide as Ushio before he took a moment to shake his head and made Byakko scoff.
“What do you mean, if I let him live they’ll just come any!” He continued to object, and black hair swished as the boy nodded his head.
“No they won’t.” He laughed.
“Because, this isn’t a Prospect mission is it Ushio-chan.” The boy said and gave Ushio more than the reason he needed, as he charged toward the boy and found his spear stab nothing.
He stomped in defeat as he stood there alone, and wondered why he thought he’d even land a blow. He cursed at his mission’s failure, then pulled his cell phone from his pocket and began pressing the keys.
IT’S NOT JUST TAE YUI, he texted, Nobuki is here too…