It’s All Relative

Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Klevetati Yoshino

A short time after the mirror’s disappearance was discovered, Kim was dismayed to discover that Yoshino was doing her best to similarly vanish. She’d lost the operations officer somewhere between the flight bays and the bridge. There was little a single person could do when someone wanted to disappear from sight. But when the computer had nothing of use to tell her when she tried to establish a communications link, Kim began to worry. Busy as they were aboard the Phoenix, no one would put aside their link without good reason.

Good reasons were unfortunately a very subjective creation.

Kim finally found her friend in the pilots’ locker room, dressing in a flight suit. Most of Yoshino’s outer robes were lying on the bench, neatly folded. Her link and Isil’zah rested atop the pile.

Kim stopped, quiet for a moment as she took in the sight. “Is that really the way to go about it?”

“I see no need to bring the Rangers into this,” she said, picking up both her swords from the bench.

“I see no need to bring those into it either.”

“It is a desecration, Kim!” Yoshino cried, turning on her friend with blazing eyes. “I can’t allow it to stand.”

Kim kept herself still, within a calm shell. “Perhaps, but knowingly? I don’t believe so. They’re fools, but that doesn’t deserve what you have in mind.”

Yoshino hesitated a moment, her knuckles around the sword-hilts turning brilliant white. “Why not?”

“Because you’d be throwing aside a lot more than that.” She nodded to the pin, and ranger’s uniform. “Making your own law as it suits you, because you’re angry.”

At that, Yoshino seemed to deflate, as if stuck with a pin. She sank to the bench, letting the blades come to rest against her lap, and murmured softly, “Spit in my face.”

“Pardon?”

“There is an old, old story, about a samurai who set forth to avenge the murder of his lord,” Yoshino said, looking up. “After years of searching, he found the culprit, who had become a weak, frightened man. As the samurai loomed over him, sword drawn, the man, in terror, spit into the samurai’s face. Do you know what the samurai did then?”

Kim watched her closely, not sure what to make of what she sensed. “No, I don’t.”

“He sheathed his sword and walked away.”

Kim eased down on to the opposite bench, resting her folded arms on her knees. “And what will you do?”

Yoshino sighed. “I will ask for the mirror’s return.” She looked over at her friend, a slightly rueful smile emerging. “But I do not promise to be polite.”

Kim allowed a half-smile, relieved. “I wouldn’t dream of demanding that.”

Yoshino picked up the link and the Isil’zah, returning them to their proper places. “I do know exactly where they are. I was about to leave, as you see.”

“I’ll go with you.”

“Very well,” Yoshino said, nodding.


 

Yoshino was very fast, but safe enough, at the controls of the Thunderbolt, and soon they found themselves standing in front of a lodging house that, while built above ground, seemed every bit as dank and dreary as the one deep within the volcanic crater.

“It seems prison space would be an improvement for them,” Kim muttered to herself.

Yoshino led the way up the steps and through the lobby, moving unerringly for a room at the back of the second floor. She gently tested the door, then looked back at Kim, eyes wide. “It’s unlocked,” she murmured.

Kim frowned. It wasn’t like a thief to be careless of that detail. She stretched out her senses, and found it still within. “They’re not there,” she said, wary of Yoshino’s reaction to the news.

Yoshino frowned, muttering, “They can’t have moved on so quickly … we’d better check.”

Kim nodded. “Go ahead.” Her fingers slipped to her belt and found her retracted staff.

Yoshino pushed the door open, and stopped short, her mouth closing with an audible click of the teeth. “You’d better see,” she said, opening the door wide for Kim to enter.

Kim stepped inside, and quickly looked around.

The room looked as if a hurricane had passed through, with rifled drawers overturned everywhere, the thin mattress literally torn apart. Trinkets of every imaginable description were scattered about. At the eye of the storm, the two Llort lay on the floor.

“My God,” Yoshino murmured, kneeling down for a closer look, then turned away quickly. The floor around the two Llort was covered in blood. One of the two was now literally faceless, a mask of blood and bone and brain tissue replacing the heavy features. The other had apparently suffered the same sort of attack to the back of his head, with the same fatal results.

Kim grimaced, suppressing a sudden queasiness as she forced herself to inspect the destruction more carefully. She moved further in, stepping carefully between the piles of debris. “I’d say someone wasn’t willing to let a theft pass with just a threat.”

Yoshino sat back on her heels, twitching the hem of her cloak away from the fast-drying blood, then looking around the room. “Whoever did this … doesn’t look like they were here to steal, but as you say, to take something back,” she agreed. A glint caught her eye. “See? Here’s the mirror,” she said, picking it up. “There is a lot of silver in this.”

“And not the only thing left behind of value.” Kim caught up a necklace with one gloved finger. Even smudged and barely revealed in the thin light from the hall, it was beautiful. “All this was just junk to them, by comparison.”

Yoshino stood, tucking the mirror into her pocket. It felt incredibly strange, being placed in the position of seeking justice for those she had been all too ready to kill herself. But her friend had been right. It was not her place to seek revenge for her own accounts. She was not a ronin, but a samurai with a lord to serve.

We live for the One, we die for the One, she thought. “We’ll have to report this,” she said. “To the authorities here as well as our people. I have a bad feeling that this is something bigger than we can handle alone.”

“I agree. What ever it was they had, it’s gone. We’re going to need the help, to find the trail back.”


Copyright (c) 2000 Jamie Lawson and Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.