Seventy Seven

Janah, “Interesting conversation, the children taught the teacher.”
“He grasped that children was in reference to appearance only. Once he acknowledged them, they offered more explanation.”
We’re around the dinner table, a few cast members and production crew are here, most of today’s filming is complete. The rest of the family went to watch while we were in with Jian.
Zi, “Things clicked along, Eloise will be a pooped puppy tonight, there were three drones covering Chloe’s training sequences. She didn’t fly them, but she constantly followed the screens, on a set of headphones making suggestions about angle, height and distance.”
Eloise has modified the drones, now the operator wears a set of glasses that see exactly what the drone sees. We used to see that on screens, today it’s like you’re on the drone flying. What you see is what the drone is filming. Sensors follow your eyes, want to turn, look in the direction you want to go, higher lower, same thing. Voice controls adjust zoon and pan.
Danika, “Chloe will be ultra exhausted, she does her own stunts. The training was, of course, short takes of this type of exercise or drill, but there were so many of them.”
Su, “And Matt shape shifted perfectly between compassionate monk and cranky drill instructor. When they got into one shouting match they went off script and Amaya said it was better than she’d written it. He called Chloe a scrawny freckle stick, she called him a paunchy fake monk past his sell by date, they went on for a full minute. When they were done, the crew applauded and Amelia did a little dance.”
“Matt’s not paunchy.”
“He is after makeup and wardrobe are done with him.”
“I have to go tomorrow, see Matt fat.”
Chloe and Amaya arrive, trailed by Matt and Claudia.
“Where’s the chunky monk?”
Matt grins, “I have to fatten up again tomorrow. At least I get to use sneaky hand to hand combat techniques. Chloe must have hit the mat two dozen times. My fat-suit gut helps when she kicks me.”
Amaya, “My dearest is a mass of knots, Daria, can you help, Janah?”
“Of course, we’ll have a soak in the baths and do it there. Get a bite of food in first.”
Matt, “I’ve got twists and pains. I don’t expect anyone to sit in a steaming bath with me, but…”
“Dasha and I will work on you after you’re boiled.”
Claudia, “Two hot girls doing massage…I want a front row seat. Things could pop up unexpectedly.”
Matt blushes, “I’m sure it will remain professional.”
“You bet it will. I know you well Mr. Stiff, a bit of intimate contact and your man bit goes ballistic.”
I laugh, “We won’t be nude, just Matt, with an appropriately placed towel.”
Claudia, “I was thinking a diaper.”
While Chloe steams in one bath, Matt boils in the men’s area. Then Dasha and I go to he and Claudia’s. He’s on the tatami mat with a strategically place bath towel. Claudia doesn’t hover, we’re lesbians, Matt’s boy part is not our focus.
“Well, at least you’re holding up, got muscle where muscle goes, and I can see why they need the fat suit, you don’t have any.”
Claudia, “His trainer bludgeons him three times a week, then the exercise bike or runs the other days. He’s pretty good about diet.”
“So we see.”
We generate qi first, he’s still nice and toasty from the bath and various knots and strains begin to melt away. Dasha leans in with an elbow on one particularly persistent spot.
“Ouch! Christ, she’s strong.”
He doesn’t know about bear strength, she could mash him like a compactor.
“Your jaw is tight, quit clenching your teeth in the fight scenes. It restricts movement elsewhere and makes you rigid.”
Matt, “Oh, I do it all the time. You think I’ll get better results without it?”
“I know you’ll get better results without it, and your jaw won’t ache the next day. Sleep with a mouthpiece too.”
Claudia, “I’ll make sure he does.”
“My life is run by a woman.”
“You’re a better man for it, umm, this spot needs a bit of pressure.”
“Owwww, damn girl.”
“We’re done. You can dress, then go put your feet up, read the script or something. We stretched you, don’t double down,. Tonight you’ll be asleep at nine, in the morning you’ll be all fixed.”
“Thank you, much appreciated.”
Claudia, “Okay hotshot, you have your orders, Daphne, Dasha, thank you.”
“Night Claudia,” we head off to the house, dinner is over, girls have moved to their places. 
Janah and I are in with the twins and the children. They’re arranged in two little bundles, Kota B stands guard as she does every night.
Janah, “I was thinking the four of us could sneak off to one room or the other and engage in lascivious lesbian things.”
Daria, “We’re in. Dasha and I will check on the children and join you in a bit.”
Janah and I unburden ourselves of clothing and slip into the bed. We’re busy warming up when the twins arrive, both sets of twins. Things deteriorate splendidly from there.
I won’t do graphic detail, just mention, if you haven’t experienced twins having twincest intimacies, you might want to expand your sexual horizons. Erotic is too small a word.
I blink awake, twins have disappeared, the beds aren’t that big, we had to use the whole room last night as we shifted from one partner to the next. Variety is better than just good.
We slept in a little longer, but breakfast is still in progress. Morning meditation didn’t happen, not for us anyway.
I ask Kota B, “Did the children make the morning session?”
“No, they stayed up after Dasha and Daria left, we read Nishida. It was near midnight when they went to sleep.”
“Good, we see Grandmaster Jian at four with Oceane and Cassandra. Are you taking the children to the filming, or around the complex?”
“We will go to the pagoda in Danjo Garan, have a walk through the giant trees in the pine forest. Perhaps the filming this afternoon. Ellen and Sarah are introduced to Chloe and start training with her.”
“Ah, good, I’d like to see it myself, we can hang around until time to see Jian. Sloane, have Oceane and Cassie ready to join us on the walk to the pagoda. After lunch we’ll check out the filming, then go to Grandmaster Jian. You will come with us, Dasha and Daria need to be with the children.”
Lauren, “Nikko, Zi, Danika, Su and I are going to the set this morning. We haven’t decided what happens after lunch.”
“GPS functioning?”
Nikko, “Yes, Grace and Emma B have everyone’s location on a constant feed, Kota B feeds the children into them as well.”
“We’re our own spyware.”
“That’s what you wanted.”
She’s right, I insisted on GPS implants instead of the jewelry we used to use. Eloise designed a graphene powered chip that slips under a small incision just to the top rear right shoulder. We beam out to our private communications satellites and bounce back to our phones and the B’s from anywhere in the world. Anyone gets taken, we know where they are within a foot.
There are twenty buildings in the Danjo Garan, described as the most sacred site for Shingon Buddhism. Kota B relates the story of its founding by Kobo Daishi, who brought Shingon to Japan, originally spread from India to China through traveling monks from those countries.
Rather than explicate on what has already been explicated, you Wiki has an excellent summary of Shingon Buddhism, known as Esoteric Buddhism for its use of the 3Ms, mantras, mudra and meditation.
Kota B is our tour guide, she pulls the Wiki out of the cloud and gives the girls a reasonably detailed summary of the religion. Shingon is more religion than philosophy, not the Shaolin way of Buddhism. Shingon has Gods, or deities to which prayers are offered for this and that, mantras to guide one to enlightenment, allegedly secret teachings, lots of ritual. Aside from meditation, our form of Buddhism has none of that. Aside from our temple being vegetarian, monks outside can eat whatever they want. If they do not attain priesthood, they do not vow to avoid intoxicants and can drink if they wish. Zi, Danika, Su and I are priests, as are Chan and Black. We vowed, we don’t drink or take any other form of intoxicant. 
For Shaolin, if enlightenment comes, great, if it doesn’t, we enjoy the life we have, or friends and family. I can’t speak for all Shaolin, none of my tribe has any belief in reincarnation. We don’t say there is no such thing, we just don’t claim to know there is. Since we don’t age we’ll only find out about reincarnation if we get killed some other way than aging to death. We’re not vampires, if a Shadow murders us, or a drunk driver plows into us, we die.
But I digress. The children already know we don’t do any of the esoteric practices of Shingon, they absorb Kota B’s explication without comment.
We find a small shop for lunch, then stroll over to today’s location. The scene being shot has Ellen and Sarah in hand to hand training with Chloe, Matt instructing and generally making them miserable. 
“Too much reliance on your guns has made you sloppy and weak. What if you get caught without a gun, what if it gets taken away? Sure, you are experts with a Glock and a rifle, you are nothing without them. What do you do when it’s just you and a bigger bad guy?”
Sarah, “Run?”
Ellen giggles.
Matt stares, he isn’t happy, “Okay, then run. It’s four miles up, four back down. You have an hour, get moving.”
Ellen, “Sheeyt, run eight miles? You’re kidding.”
“The clock ticks, fifty nine minutes. You came to train, you’re getting paid…if you complete the training and finish the mission. Do what you’re told or get gone. I know ten more better than you and they aren’t lazy.”
The trio heads up the trail.
Of course, they don’t run eight miles, it’s a movie. The drone films as they ascend, the edits will chop it into the start, the struggle as they tire, breathless and flushed as the get to the top, then the return trip. It’s all acting, they are moved via golf cart to different locations, sprayed to simulated sweat and dabbed with dirt when they fall.
Twenty minutes later, they’re back from their hour slog, sweaty and gasping.
Ellen, “If I had a gun now…”
Matt, “You’d be too incoherent to shoot straight. Tomorrow, you start the day with that run, every day until we’re done. You may or may not succeed in getting past  Manheim’s people all the way to him, but you won’t get out of breath trying.”
Sarah, “He’s dead. Rapist asshole, my training torture is just added incentive.”
Matt, “We’ll see when you’ve run that mountain for a week, if you can still move.”
Ellen looks at Chloe, “He ever lighten up?”
Chloe shakes her head, “Every day he’s nastier.”

Seventy Eight

They break to clean up, Amaya comes over, “Looks great. Ellen is screen ready, Sarah’s energy juices up the action. I am a genius for casting them.”
“Matt is pumped, he’s in a new role for him, usually he’s the action hero.”
“He gets to strut his skills though. His character may be older and chunky, but he has retained his hand to hand. None of the girls can deal with him, not yet anyway. Before the end of training, Chloe will have floored him, by the end Ellen does. I could not have him pummeled by Sarah too, that would be overkill. She shows her stuff when they wade through Manheim’s bodyguards.”
Danika, “When does that happen?”
“Already happened, we filmed that in LA.”
Danika laughs, “I forget that films aren’t filmed in sequence.”
“Manheim’s been captured, confessed on video and implicated a dozen CEOs and Congressmen in schemes to funnel government contracts to their companies. Then he was executed by Ellen and Sarah. The last scene is done, Chloe at the airport.
Ellen’s character says, ‘You can stay here, work with us. Lots of people want people dead and they pay us well to do it.’
Chloe’s says, ‘Lots of men in Japan have the attitude women are for their personal gratification. I’m going into the attitude adjustment business.’
“The film ends there, leaving open the possibility for a sequel.”
Su, “Ah, of course. Are you going to make one?”
“Likely.”
“We need to head over to Grandmaster Jian, you going to make it back for dinner?”
“I think so, I will tap in and see if it is still available, otherwise we will pick up something.”
Oceane, Cassie, Sloane and I take off, at the temple we’re greeted by the assistant, I never did get his name, then ushered into Jain’s office. 
“Welcome, I have tea coming,” he doesn’t stand on ceremony, introduces himself to Sloane, Cassie and Oceane.
They smile, he opens his hand towards the cushions, we sit.
It occurs to me to remind Cass, I lean to her and whisper, “Stay seated until after tea.”
She smiles up at me and blinks.
Jian, “Ah, here is Disciple Mori with tea, thank you, please set it on the table.”
Mori does, bows to his master and leaves, the door slides closed.
Jian serves, we sip, acknowledge the marvelous flavor. It is matcha, tart and tangy, with a lovely layer of bubbly foam just on top.
“Tea is excellent, Disciple Mori has the touch.”
Jian laughs, “He is not a  scholar, but he is efficient, totally reliable and makes perfect tea. Reason enough to keep him close, my old body is fueled by his tea.”
We enjoy in silence, when we finish, Sloane rises, “Excuse me, I have other responsibilities that must be attended to. Thank you, sir, for the tea,” she bows and leaves.
Jian, “She is today’s security, yesterday it was the twin girls.”
“Yes, they’re outside as well. For better or worse, we are wealthy and have a few unusual skills. Our children, Oceane and Cassandra are unique, we have to be cautious and protective. I don’t have to tell a Buddhist priest that there are greedy and malicious people in the world.”
Jian nods, “It is so. I was a little surprised you do not have professional bodyguards.”
“We are professional bodyguards. Four Shaolin, one samurai, a kendo 6th dan, Sloane, Dasha and Daria have their own skills. The children also have Kota B, who is dedicated entirely to their education and protection.”
Jian turns to Oceane, “Can you tell me about the Zycyryn, help me to understand?”
“They are around you now, do you not feel them?”
“I am afraid I do not possess that sensitivity.”
She waves her hand, sparkles fill the air, flickering so rapidly they appear to be tiny lights all around us. Thousands of them surround Jian, light on his robe and around his head. He stares, obviously in some other place, his face radiates bliss.
She waves her hand again, they disappear instantly, Jian blinks back into everyday illusory reality.
In his silence, tears stream.
When he regains his composure, he says, “I saw the Absolute and was one with it.”
“We are always one with it, our thoughts get in the way.”
“May I ask, how did these girls, children really, come to it?”
“By being childlike, open, without notions of this and that dumped into their heads by adults, books or priests.”
Jian, “Tell me Master Sylk, are we approaching our religion wrongly?”
“There is no right or wrong, only the necessary and the unnecessary. Much of your ritual and prayer is unnecessary, in fact, harmful to understanding. I don’t criticize, most people need structure for other reasons. The world can seem overwhelming and chaotic, rituals calm them, make the world seem safe, or at least orderly. Enlightenment can be scary and is not for everyone. When you go, who is left? The absence of self frightens them.”
Cassie begins to levitate, her favorite place is over Oceane’s shoulder, right or left, it varies.
Jian stares, he actually shivers, his mouth agape, “Miraculous abilities are recorded in our texts, I have never seen any…until now.”
“And per our agreement, you are not free to communicate them in any way, not as it relates to us. You may teach your students that there is far more to the universe than what we commonly perceive. You may even say you have experienced them. You may not say exactly what, surely not by whom or when. Your authority as a Grandmaster will be accepted on its face. And it will not be something fabricated, you have experienced them. We reveal a bit to you so that, as a teacher, you can encourage your students to drop the blinders of ritual. Perhaps only certain students, like Disciple Mori, he is not caught up in scholarship and ritual.”
Jian, “You read him, I told you about his mediocre studies, how did you know about his lack of interest in ritual?”
“His demeanor reveals him, he is practical, not superstitious. He will do as you ask, but he has his own way personally. If you open the other to him, he will step through willingly, it is what he searches for, and it will find him.”
Jian, “I have two or three others. Will you speak with them? Not with the children of course, on your own.”
“I am not their authority, neither should you be. In the case of other students, or even lay devotees, fine, they need the hand of authority even if laid lightly. In the case of the open ones, you show them the door only, assure them that there is far more on the other side. If they are ripe and ready, it is all they need. It will help if you remove them from ritual duty, prayers and mantras. But their own intent is all that is required. You cannot intend for them.”
Jian, “You make it clear to me, and I understand. And thank you for allowing me a glimpse, I have my own intending to do now.”
“Time to go girls, Grandmaster Jian has an organization to run,” we stand, I bow, Jian bows in return, Oceane and Cassie know nothing of bowing.
Outside, Sloane asks, “Went well?”
“He was pleased, astounded as well I think.”
“Cassie did her bit then.”
“And Oceane allowed him a peek at Zycyryn.”
“Get out! Surprised he didn’t faint or something.”
“Sloane, he’s a Shingon Grandmaster. He’s read about similar things, maybe he took them as exaggerations or metaphors before, not now.”
The children who are not children surround Mamas and receive gentle kisses. Maturity has nothing to do with the bond. What’s amazing is that our no nonsense twins bonded at all. Zycyryn influence maybe.

Seventy Nine

The week flies, we are a few days from departure. There’s been spring rain, but the filming continued, Amaya says it makes it more authentic. Not every day is dry and sunny, Koyasan isn’t like our home in Arizona.
Disciple Mori approaches me after morning prayer, “We have a difficulty, Grandmaster has asked for your assistance if possible.”
“Of course, what is it?”
“A small statue is missing, well, not so small that you could hold it in your hand. The complex has dozens of Buddhas in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but his one is a thousand years old, in remarkably good condition and is much revered. By rights it should be in the National Archive and replaced by a replica, which much of our art is already. Would that it had been so.”
“Show me where it was placed please.”
I turn to Sloane, “Have Oceane and Cassie come along.”
Janah is with us, we trek over to a different shrine, it is closed to the public, but with no explanation, no police either.
Mori, “It was set here,” he points to a vacant spot, clearly something sat there, the shading is darker where the statue stood. Only the stand it was on remains.
“It was set away from the visitors, they are not allowed past the ribbon, but it was clearly visible.”
“When was it seen last?”
“At closing, this morning gone.”
“Who has access? When the shrine is closed I mean.”
“Custodial monks, they come in and sweep, dust, the usual.”
“And you have inquired of them?”
“Yes. They do it in the early morning hours, just before the shrine opens to the public. They came to me immediately, I told Grandmaster.”
“How hard would it be to carry and conceal? The spot underneath is only eight or nine inches across.”
“It was a foot high, solid stone, weighed perhaps thirty kilos.”
“Sixty five pounds give or take, not so simple to haul off.”
“No, but there are custodial people over the complex with rolling dustbins. It would fit inside any of those for instance.”
I look around the floor, nothing obvious had been wheeled up or out, no Sherlock tracks for me to examine with my magnifying glass. I don’t have one anyway, my eyes are a magnifying glass. 
Mori, “We looked for tracks, the bins are wheeled around all the time outside, not into the shrine, nothing points to coming up to the shrine, or being rolled inside.”
“Let’s take a look.”
Outside, I focus on the steps, he’s right, there are no tracks. 
“There must be another entrance.”
“In the rear, where custodians go in, and things are delivered or taken away.”
The door is locked now, Mori unlocks it, I examine the steps, nothing unusual, no chipped wood, nothing to indicate anything heavy had been rolled out.
“Nothing here,” we go inside, Mori locks the door.
While curious onlookers gather in front of the shrine, usually open by now, we return the empty stand where the Buddha sat.
“Oceane, take a look, what do you sense?”
She lifts the ribbon, Mori starts to object, then a voice behind us, Jian, “Let her go in.”
Mori steps aside, Oceane slips under the ribbon and walks to the stand. She touches the bare spot, the sides of the stand, her hands slide up around the empty space that formerly contained the statue.
“Carved a thousand years ago, many hands have held it since and it has traveled far. The last aura is dark, black.”
Uh oh.
Janah, “She senses a Shadow.”
“Yep, what do we tell Jian?”
“The truth.”

Makes sense given what he already knows about us. Maybe he knows about Shadows already, but our experience is they have a hatred for the Shaolin that hasn’t spilled over to other Buddhist sects.
“Grandmaster, could we have a few minutes alone here, just Cassie, Oceane and me?  Sloane too. We will come to your office directly.”
He nods, motions Mori to follow him, Janah goes along with them. The double doors close, the place is dimly lit dimly lanterns. 
“Oceane, ask Cassie to go back to last evening, here, what happened?”
Oceane takes both Cassie’s hands in hers, a stretch of silence, then Cass floats up over the empty stand up to the high ceiling. We wait. Twinkles of light, like glitter twirling surround Cass, she’s tuned into the Zycyryn. A quarter hour passes.
The twinkles turn into a spinning cyclone and disappear. Cassie floats down.
She and Oceane commune, then Oceane says, “A dark one came, a monk opened the rear door. The dark one put the stature in a bag, carried it over his shoulder. The monk locked the door and went away.”
“Where did the dark one go?”
There is silence for a minute, then two. Oceane has to keep Cassie on point or the whole bit will slip from her mind like mist in the morning sun. And Oceane can only focus for so long, their only reality is the present, excepting Cassie’s occasional trips to the past. And it is never her past, she couldn’t tell you what she did last night, or two hours ago.
Sloane strokes the side of her head, “Focus Oceane, only a little more.”
She smiles at him, “A room, small and untidy.”
“Where?”
“In the town.”
“He is still here then?”
“Yes, asleep, recovering.”
It would have taken a lot of energy to control the monk, then make the monk forget anything happened or that he was there at all, then haul sixty pounds of granite however far he hauled it.
“Is she done?”
Oceane smiles, she doesn’t ask, ‘Is what done?’ She has no idea what I’m referring to.
She takes Cassie’s hand, we leave the shrine.
“Sloane, wait for Grace B or Dasha in the admin office. I don’t want you have to keep an eye on both of them. When one or the other shows up, take them back to their room.”
I mental Dasha, “Come to the admin offices for the temple, I need you to walk back with Oceane and Cass. If you can’t come, send Grace B.”
“I will be there in a minute.”

I go thru the offices to Jian’s, Janah and he are having tea.
Janah, “I explained Shadows, Grandmaster Jian has heard of them, fortunately never encountered one.”
Jian, “At least that I know about. That there are supremely evil people in the world is no surprise, it has always been so.”
“The good news is that the statue is still in town. The Shadow burned a lot of energy keeping a trained mink under control, and more making him forget the encounter. Then he had to carry sixty five pounds of granite someplace. It must be a house, or a room, he isn’t in a ryokan or a temple.”
Jian, “How do you know where he is at all, or how he gained access, or…?”
“Cassie and her friends.”
“Zycyryn.”
“Yes. She seldom gets specifics, just hints and clues. But Oceane can interpret, read between the lines, decipher what’s unsaid. The translation can be vague, but it’s better than nothing.”
“It is miraculous that it is done at all. You lift an old monk’s spirits.”
“Let’s find the Shadow first. Leave it to us. Your people, or even the police, have no idea what they are dealing with. They will get hurt, perhaps badly if they try to capture him.”
“But what of you. I do not want a piece of rock to cause you injury, or worse.”
“Grandmaster, we have a responsibility regarding Shadows. We are warrior priests, we confront evil, there is nothing passive about it. Shadows are irredeemable, there isn’t a fix. A rabid dog isn’t going to get better, it will only create more misery until its disease kills it, or someone else does.”
Jian shrugs, resigned, “I did not mean to place you in harm’s way.”
“You did nothing but ask us to look into a missing treasure. We stay in harm’s way, why do you think we are so well prepared, and constantly attentive? A Shadow would destroy us with no thought. In fact, in America, they have banded together in the past just for that reason. Unusual in itself, Shadows don’t play well with others, even others like them.”
“Are there so many?”
“They are legion.”
“What can I do?”
“Gather your monks for a period of retreat and contemplation, everything unessential stops. You can do it in shifts, but it will help if there is constant meditation focused on the safe return of the Buddha. Make no explanation, meditation for the statue’s return is a worthy exercise, many supplicants have looked to what it symbolizes for help with this or that problem. It gave them a sense of relief if nothing else. Good enough.”
Jian, “Thank you for your understanding. We shall begin immediately. Mori will organize the monks, the lanterns will stay lit, meditation perpetual until we have news.”
Janah, “And know as a certainty that the monks’ intent will have a beneficial effect on the outcome. And do not search for the monk who assisted the Shadow, even if you suspect who it might be. He had no option and does not remember any of it.
Mori will want to question the likely candidates, it will serve no purpose but to create suspicion where none is warranted. The Shadow could have simply stolen the key, and picking a lock is no big deal.”
I add, “Yes, I looked at that lock, I could be inside in fifteen seconds with two paper clips. You might want to get something less accessible. It is entirely possible no monk was involved at all.”
Jian, “Your Oceane mentioned a monk.”
“And her interpretations of Cassandra’s visions are, as I said, vague. A monk may have been there or it may have seemed logical that the Shadow had a key from someone since nothing was broken.”
Jian, “I will speak to him immediately, there will be no blame, even implied.”
We stand, “We all have things to do, you will hear from us in due course.”
Outside, Janah says, “Nice cover, there was a monk involved, Oceane isn’t that far off base.”
“No, but Mori is a persistent devil, if he insists on trying to find the monk, it only creates animosity. My two cent theory will keep him from becoming an investigative pest.”
“Jian isn’t going to allow that, he’s no fool. If Mori tries to play detective, Jain will be up his butt in a heartbeat.”

Eighty

We return to the ryokan, Dasha and Daria are with the children, Sloane, Oceane and Cassie. Lauren is off watching the filming with Su.
Kota B is stationed at the door to their room, Grace B and Emma B at the two entrance doors. We have no reason to think the Shadow knows we’re here, but we’re still going to minimize exposure to our more vulnerable family members.
Janah and I meet with Nikko and Zi, Sloane has already filled them in.
Zi, “I need to walk the town, places that have rooms to let. Cassie’s description would not fit any tourist hotel, temple accommodations or even a hostel, not in Japan. Things would be neat, clean, not disorderly.”
Nikko, “I’m with her, the Shadow may pick up on Zi, but I’ll be invisible to him.”
Danika, “I have a duty to search as well, two of us can cover more ground.”
“Sloane will go with you. Janah and I will make a third patrol. If I can get him to sense me, he can’t resist taking his shot at killing a priest. Be reminded, we don’t know much about his capability, best to assume he’s a top tier bottom feeder, powerful and ruthless. In any case, he’s a Shadow and must be eliminated.”
Janah, “We’re all on GPS, Grace B will keep tabs on our locations as well. If one of us comes across the Shadow, the others can move to the target as well.”
Nikko, “Do we know it’s only one Shadow?”
“Oceane didn’t mention a second, but Cassie was focused on what happened at the shrine and where he went afterwards. Still, it’s a good point, let’s not assume anything.”
Nikko, “Then let’s get busy.”
Grace B comes in, “I have identified most probable locations and organized them into quadrants. Three teams, four quadrants, but I marked the least likely, it has ryokan that wouldn’t suit a Shadow, they have communal baths and dining.”
Zi, “Where did you find these places?”
“Airbnb mostly.”
Zi giggles, “Duh.”
We don’t have much in the way of weapons, the drones are occupied with the movie and wouldn’t do us much good anyway. We didn’t bring vials of Oblivion, our favorite Shadow killer, we don’t have any of our other pharmaceuticals, Sleep or Truth. 
I do have a dozen shuriken, Danika takes four, Zi four. Nikko and Danika buy stout walking sticks, I go hands free. We begin.
Based on Grace B’s breakout, each team has about eight square miles to cover, which translates roughly into just under three miles up and across. Most of it is either nothing, or shops, restaurants, temples and shrines. 
Janah and I make our way through residential areas, it’s not like suburbs, the population is less than four thousand. Two hours of hiking around town, we’ve provoked nothing, the Shadow may still be asleep or otherwise occupied. Unlike Danika and Zi, who can sense Shadows if they get within fifteen or so yards, I have to rely on the Shadow sensing me. Janah can spot a Shadow, but she has to see him, or her, Shadows come in both sexes. Is there a transgender Shadow? Shadows are confused enough without a sexual identity crisis.
Janah, “You know, if he’s Japanese, it’s possible he has no sense of Shaolin.”
“So his radar would be deficient and he wouldn’t pick up on me at all.”
“Don’t know, I doubt being hypersensitive to Shaolin priests is a given. We’ve discovered that Shadows spring from more than former Shaolin who got greedy for advanced Qi before their minds were strong enough. And some long ago to take disciples who have nothing to do with Shaolin.”
“True. It’s been years, the disciples may have grown into advanced Shadows and trained others, distancing them even further from familiarity with Shaolin. Although the ones we’ve encountered have an intense hatred for us. But we’ve never dealt with a Shadow out of the states.”
I get Nikko on our mental connection, call Sloane at the same time and relay our thoughts. I can be in Nikko’s mind, Sloane doesn’t mental.
Sloane, “I’ll tell Danika, we have nothing so far.”
Nikko, “Same here.”
Nikko can hear me talking to Sloane, “Let’s finish our tour. If nothing happens return to our rooms and we’ll think up the next plan.”
An hour later we’re gathered around in the dining area. It’s just the six of us and Grace B.
“Any ideas?”
Nikko, “Your logic is sound, he may have no real clue about Shaolin. Which means we have to get Danika or Zi in sensing distance. How much more work does Chloe have?”
Chloe is a Sensitive, like Zi. If we could add her to the search team, it would let us cover more ground.
I mental Amaya, “What’s up sweet?”
“Wrapping in an hour.”
“How much does Chloe have left?”
“Almost nothing. The rest is snips that connect one scene with another. She has nothing to do with that. Sometimes the mains are asked to step into a shot so the flow makes sense. I have to ask Amelia. What do you need Chloe…oh shit, a fucking Shadow?”
“Yep, stole a thousand year old statue from a shrine. Cassie tagged him as still in town, but we don’t know where. We spent the afternoon looking. Suspect he’s in a rented room in a residence.”
“I’ll get back to you.”

“Amaya’s going to check the schedule. It might be good for us to patrol again tonight, particularly if  Chloe’s up for it. But I don’t want her going if she’s had a tiring day, or if she has responsibilities tomorrow.”
Sloane, “Daria can spot a Shadow like Janah can, maybe we catch him roaming the street.”
“Good idea Sloane. We need to get this resolved, we leave in a few days and I’d like to get temple their Buddha, aside from eliminating the Shadow, let me check in with her.”
“Daria, we need another Shadow spotter, we’re going to hit the streets again this evening, can you participate?”
“Da, Katja and Katya must stay to guard children though.”
“I don’t think that’s a problem. I’m waiting on Amaya to let me know about Chloe.”

No reply, our twins seldom answer questions they haven’t been asked, it’s one reason Daria is so good intimidating lawyers in real estate negotiations. One of her sardonic stares of disapproval tends to burst inflated egos.
“Daria’s in. I thinks we find something to eat while we walk, sitting here over a fine dinner isn’t going to find the Shadow.”
By six thirty, we’re ready to give it another go. I should have known Chloe is not going to chill in her room while we Shadow hunt.
Chloe, “I mostly sat around today and chewed the fat with Claudia. Matt had scenes with Ellen and Sarah. Mani’s been a lot of help, her dominatrix role was shot in LA, she came along to be with her pals. Amaya put her to work as utility girl. She’s been super.”
Janah, “We have our assignments, Daria with Danika, Daph and me, Nikko and Zi, Chloe and Sloane. Nikko and Zi are taking the quadrant we didn’t get to today, the rest of us will do the other three. Grace B widened the search a bit, there are a few added streets we didn’t walk in each quadrant. The second you make contact, tap the phone, it goes straight to each of us and to Grace B as well. If you spot him and can avoid immediate confrontation, just follow and wait. If he spots you, do what you have to do.”
An hour and a half into it my phone vibes, it’s Sloane, “Mom, Chloe sensed him coming out of noodle shop less than a half mile from here.”
We catch up to them, Nikko and Zi are already here, Daria and Danika are coming up the street.
Chloe, “He came out of a noodle shop, walked to this residential area and down this tiny street. Fourth house on the left.”
The narrow concrete walkway is bounded on both sides by homes, all one story, most with a small courtyard with greenery or plants.
“Sloane, see what you can spot. Zi and I need to keep our distance, we don’t know if he’s got Shaolin radar. Is there a back way in?”
Daria, “I will find out,” she heads to the next corner and disappears to the right.
She taps into my head, “I got over a wooden fence and to the rear of the house. He’s inside with two adults and a girl, maybe twelve, looks like their daughter. She’s walking around nude, parents do not seem to care, in fact, the woman is pouring him sake.”
“He’s not abusing the girl , at least not at the moment?”
“Nyet. Now she sits at the other end of the sofa, facing him with her legs spread, pretending to read a book.”
“Hang on.”

“We have a situation,” I relay Daria’s message, “problem is, do we just barge in? If he gets violent, the house is a wreck, he won’t have wiped the family’s memory, they’ll be stuck knowing what’s been going on.”
Janah, “We have to lure him out. First option is to see if he catches on to a Shaolin. If that doesn’t work we go to plan B.”
Zi, “What’s plan B?”
“I was hoping someone else would think it up.”
Nikko, “Get Grace B to find out who lives here, if she can, where they work.”
I go to Dasha’s mind, “Ask Grace B to find out who lives on block twenty nine, building four, if she can find out where anyone there works, even better.”
Addresses in Japan don’t include street names, there is no such thing. There is a block number, and a building number, usually selected by age, oldest building is 1 and so on.
“Da.”
“Okay, time to stroll by and see if we can rouse the Shadow. I’ll go first, Zi can follow me, then Danika. If none of us sparks his brain, we’ll see what Grace B comes up with.”
I make my pass, go right up , hang for a minute, walk on, nothing. Zi passes, same result, Danika draws a zero as well.
“I’m feeling rejected.”
Daria, “He does not look Japanese, he looks Mongolian or Korean, even further distanced from Shaolin.”
“How big is he?”
“Not tall, he was sitting, but not more than five nine. Thick, not as thick as Chan, but still broad chest, big hands, flat round face. Thick lips, ugly.”
Dasha’s online, “Family ees Sato, father Hisao, mother Masako, daughter Kiku. Mother ees housekeeping, father ees work at car repairing place. They rent small room for extra money. Daughter ees top student at school.”
“Who owns the car repair place?”
“Wait.”

She’s asking Grace B to search, comes back online, “Nobu Yamata.”
“Thank Grace B, the Shadow doesn’t sense Shaolin, we need to get the family safe before we deal with him.”
“Sister can just go in and drag him out.”
“That creates other complications, the Shadow has them under his control right now.”
“Ah, okay. I will follow in sister’s mind.”


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