Nikko, “Good enough, Daria, go back around, over the fence. Let Daphne know what’s happening, I’m going to see if I can disrupt the situation.”
Daria checks in, “I’m in the yard again, same scene, daughter is playing with herself while the Shadow watches. Father and mother looking on like everything is normal.”
Nikko walks to the front entrance, knocks on the door. There is silence. She knocks harder.
Daria, “Family did not respond, but the Shadow did. He’s is trying to keep them in place, but the noise has distracted him from exerting control.”
“Get that Nikko?”
Daria can’t mental Nikko directly, but Nikko can hear Daria when she’s in my head, I’m sort of a wireless router.
“Yes. Keep her feeding data.”
Nikko bangs on the door again, says in Japanese, “I need help with my car, Mr. Yamata is a friend, he said to ask you to see what the problem is. Is this the home of Hisao Sato? Please, Nobu Yamata said you would help me.”
Daria, “Father is starting to stir, the girl is getting dressed. Shadow appears to be focusing on each one.”
“He’s erasing memory, the name of Sato’s employer, someone important to him, weakened the Shadow’s control, we’ve learned something. Nikko, hang on, let the Shadow finish. He will likely disappear to his room and wait out events.”
Daria, “Shadow has left the room, gone down a hall.”
“Got that Nikko?”
She knocks on the door again, same request. This time Sato answers the door.
“My boss sent you? What’s the problem?”
Nikko whispers, “I’m an undercover policeman, the man renting your room has stolen a valuable antiquity. We know you are not involved, but we need you to get your family out of the house now. Someone is going to take you to a safe place, hurry, before he suspects something. Keep calm, call your wife and daughter, do it now.”
Sato is quick, doesn’t panic, “Masako, Kiku, poor lady needs help with car, please come to stay with her while I see what the problem is.”
Dutiful wife and top student show up in a moment.
Nikko, “Go with these people, now, your father will explain on the way.”
Janah is there, she exerts an immediate calming influence, Danika adds her energy to the atmosphere, the family walks off with them without questions. Plus, they’re Japanese, contradicting father in front of strangers is not done. They’ll be taken to the temple, Disciple Mori will see they are settled for the evening.
Now only Sloane, Nikko, Daria and I remain. Nikko enters the house, Daria is already in from the rear. Sloane and I follow as far as the hallway, Nikko and Daria continue down.
It’s not a Japanese house with shōji walls and doors, it’s western, with beige painted sheetrock, curtains on the windows. Furniture standard, couch, reclining chair, could be a house anywhere in America except for books and magazines in Japanese, and a couple of cute pastel electronics, a tablet and a phone that must belong to Kiku.
Nikko bangs open the only closed door and earns herself a body slam against the wall. The Shadow appears, he has his hand out, gearing up for another qi shot at Nikko.
Sloane races down the hallway, deep wolf growl from her throat. Then a screech. Daria’s right behind, I’m right behind her. Sloane has her jaw locked on the Shadow’s outstretched hand, she twists her head, now he’s got half a hand.
Daria grabs him by the throat and lifts him tip toe high. Geez she’s strong, the Mongol must go two fifty.
I feel him trying for a mental push, but blood flow to his brain is minimal, it’s no more than a breeze of energy.
I help Nikko up, “Get him passed out Daria, we don’t want to do it here.”
Ten seconds later, big boy is a hunk Mongolian beef on the floor. Sloane wraps his hand in a towel, wraps the chunk, half his palm and his fingers in a plastic bag. She sets to cleaning the blood off her cheeks, then the spatter on the wall and the pool on the floor. Daria hauls him to the back yard, opens the gate. I go through with Sato’s car keys, he has a Nissan and a small pickup, I start the pickup and back into the yard. Daria tosses the slab of Shadow in the bed.
Nikko brings out a roll of duct tape and an extension cord, “This should keep him wrapped until we get to a disposal site,” she uses the cord to fasten his wrists behind his back, the tapes a dozen rolls around his ankles. For insurance, she tapes his knees together and zips the roll around his mouth a few times. I toss a tarp over him. Good enough for a short drive.
“Dasha, get Grace B to find a quiet spot that we can get to by car, we need to dump the body where it isn’t going to be found.”
Grace B can access Google satellite or one of the other services faster than you can say satellite view. She’ll get exact coordinates and map it back to where we are. I just follow my phone’s instructions. Good to have sexy technology when you’re looking for a disposal site.
“Sloane, double check the house, get all of the Shadow’s stuff and bag it. Daria and I will get rid of everything. Then take Nikko to her room so Janah can check her out. Daria, we may as well haul the statue now. When we finish, we can take it to the temple.”
It’s in his room, hardly hidden in a closet. We’re not clear on why he took it. It would be hard to move through an airport. I suppose he could pack and ship it by freight. I have no idea what it’s worth, a buyer would need an expert to value it and that might easily raise suspicions. But it’s only speculation, we aren’t going to interrogate the Shadow, we’re going to kill him.
Which turns out to be pretty simple. The hardest part of murder is making the body disappear when you don’t want anyone to habeas the corpus, which means literally in Latin, ‘you may have the body.’ Is that non-habeas corpus? Beats me.
Grace B finds us a dirt road that leads up a mountain. It’s black dark up here. I pull to the side of the road, Daria tosses him out of the bed of the truck, Thump! I run my blade across his throat, right through to top of his spinal cord. We pitch him off the cliff into the dense forest below. Predators will do the rest.
On the way to the temple, I stop, buy bleach, a few gallons of water and a push broom. We scrub the bed of the truck, bleach the tarp and throw it all away in a restaurant dumpster half full of fish and noodle remains. Then on to the parking area outside the temple complex. Glad no cop stopped me, I don’t have a Japanese driver’s license, and it isn’t my truck.
Grandmaster Jian is all smiles, “You did it. I am amazed and thrilled. And, the thief? Or should I know?”
“He’s lost in the forest, not going to make it out of the woods.”
Disciple Mori, “Can the family return home?”
“Sure, what do they know of the situation? We can’t have them blabbing about their lodger.”
“Before she left, your companion Janah spoke with them. If any neighbors are curious, the lodger left to return home. In Koyasan, people take in lodgers all the time, tourists who don’t want the expense of a ryokan.”
Janah’s in my mind, “I told them that Nikko said she was the police to get them out of the house for their own safety, to protect their young daughter. And the temple didn’t want to prosecute the thief and cause a stir or give people ideas about stealing artifacts. He agreed to leave and never return after expressing great sorrow over his misdeed. I told the girl her parents might lose face if it became known that they took in a thief, however innocently. She bought in, this is Koyasan, not Tokyo, kids honor parents and acknowledge tradition here.”
I tell Jian, “It’s handled then, I have the keys to Sato’s truck, we used it to bring the statue,” best not to mention to other use we had for it.
I hand the keys to Mori, Daria and I do the requisite bows and leave before more questions occur to them.
Janah, “Fine, fat bruise on her shoulder, I worked on it. Who was the Shadow anyway?”
“If you believe his passport, Ganbold XXX. He’s not a porn star, way too ugly.”
Janah giggles, “Mongolians don’t have surnames, they have given names, they use XXX on passports as a surname. It’s a confused country, part Russian, part Tibetan. They chop up long names into nicknames, nobody knows who they are.”
Lauren comes in, “Mooommm, are you okay? Nikko got banged up and you didn’t come back with her. I could be an orphan.”
“Skip the drama, I’m sure Sloane explained, but I appreciate the fake show of concern. How’s Miss Perfect?”
“Perfect of course. Amaya and I were just discussing our best qualities, which are all of them.”
Dasha appears surrounded by the children, “They haf been in celebration dance in honor of Cassandra and Oceane for finding artifactual Buddha rock.”
“Where are my mystical wonders?”
“Exploring the mysteries of the universe?”
“Nyet, hafing sexy time.”
More productive than exploring mysteries of the universe, more fun anyway, lucky Danika.
Dasha goes to our private line, “Dahfoney, you will come to twins’ room later, we will haf also sexy time. Sister ees always ready for sex when she kills Shadowy peerson.”
“Sounds delicious, may I include Janah?”
“We haf already include Janah.”
Nothing like a little death to kick start the hormones.
Our evening is lovely, four of us at play, and gets lovelier when Katja and Katya make a cameo appearance that turns into starring roles. There was no standing ovation, nobody could stand, but there was a chorus of bravos.
This morning, only Amaya is needed at the location, Katja and Katya go along for security purposes, it the final, final of filming, primarily scenery shots from the drones. Amaya doesn’t like long takes of nothing, but it’s Koyasan, the scenery deserves a bit of screen time.
Ellen, “Being in the movie was amazing, the training sequences were rough, we actually trained. In fact, we started making the eight mile run for real. Sarah’s annoying, she just strides along. I had to work that bitch, and that bitch worked me right back. Some of the trail is steep.”
Sarah, “It was a challenge. In New Orleans, there’s nothing uphill. Here, there is uphill and thinner air.”
“What’s thin air?”
“There’s the same percentage of oxygen-argon-nitrogen at altitude, but less of everything, less oxygen, less nitrogen, carbon dioxide, which is tiny anyway. So you breathe less oxygen. To compensate, your body make more red blood cells, which means more oxygen gets absorbed. It takes a few day to catch up. We’ve been here long enough, the first few days of training was tough.”
“Our Arizona home is about fifty five hundred feet.”
“We were better off being there for a few days rather than coming to Koyasan from sea level.”
Mani, “Katja and Katya like it here, it’s good for Katya, like the slow flow of New Orleans.”
Su, “It is a more peaceful life than most in America. Danika and I are spoiled, we live the Arizona mountains most of the year.”
Ellen, “How did the talks go at Koyasan University?”
Su, “Oh my, students full of questions, equally full of opinions. That was fine, it gave us lots of ground to cover. They are intimately familiar with Shingon of course, and the branches back to Vajrayana from India. I spent a fair amount of time on Shaolin.”
“What was their take?”
“Some found it refreshing to be God-free, others like the ritual of Shingon, more of a methodology and the comfort. We had a nice discussion of sutra and tantra.”
Lauren, “What is the difference? I’ve heard Daphne talking about sutras, Amaya sings the Heart Sutra sometimes.”
“You could say sutra focuses on the negative, words and phrases like suffering, the body is the source of defilement, renounce greed, anger, desire, envy, denial, monks should be celibate. Tanta is positive, life is to be celebrated, truth is relative, not absolute as in sutra. Words like generosity, clarity, appreciation, action, and acceptance rather than renunciation.”
Grace B, “No sutra bitches around here, just tantric sluts.”
We explode in laughter, humor has to have a basis in reality or it isn’t funny.
We kill the day strolling the grounds, beautifully maintained gardens, tons of visitors, almost everyone in Japan has a pilgrimage to Koyasan on their list, and the foreign visitors seem to grow every year. Fortunately, it’s secluded and you can’t just drive up the mountain, it takes a bit of persistence to get here.
A representative of the university calls for Su. She’s on the phone twenty minutes, then returns.
“How flattering, they want me to return and lead a symposium on Shaolin, there will be other Buddhist disciplines as well. Perhaps even the Dali Lama.”
Danika, “Su, that’s amazing, you accepted of course.”
“I could hardly turn down such an honor, you must come with me, I also took the liberty of mentioning Janah as Abbess of out temple in Manhattan. The invitation extends to her as well.”
Nikko, “I doubt we can keep the kids away from a return visit, perhaps we should make arrangements to take over the ryokan again. My parents would love to visit, Daphne and Janah’s as well.”
Su, “What a grand idea.”
“We need to ask Chan and Ning, Black and Sonia, we’ll have most of our extended tribe here. How long is the symposium?”
“Then we can do a week in Kyoto, then a week here, I should give Sis a heads up. Do you have dates?”
Su, “They are waiting on the Dali Lama to accept or decline, perhaps he sends one of his representatives, I don’t know.”
Amaya, “Ask them if they want it streamed live, we can do it easily, and it will not cost them anything.”
Su, “I should mention it before we leave, they will want to talk it over.”
Janah and the Dali Lama, that should be interesting.
The children come buzzing in, Uma hops in my lap, looks up at me in her adorableness.
“Zycyryn said the Buddha is back home now. They do not care about Buddhas, but they are pleased that you and the others helped return it. The dead one is of no consequence, they said he caused pain.”
“People are who they are, they have no choice in the matter. We only take lives when death prevents the future suffering of others.”
Uma cocks her head, “We know that Tetya Dafna. When we return home, you will instruct us in gung fu. We are too small to be fighters, it is the movement, like our dance, flexibility and discipline we want.”
“I will be delighted. And how about Qi? It is a part of gung fu.”
“Of course. Mama Daria does some of it already, she says we must go slowly.”
“She is right, and protecting her children from overextending, which is dangerous.”
“That’s how Shadows are made, we will not be Shadows, the Zycyryn will not permit us to be hurt, or go crazy from Qi training.”
I have to remind myself that the children are only children in appearance. The weightless sprite in my lap in neither childish nor immature, and is in contact with parts of the universe that I can’t tap into.
“What do you want to do tomorrow, day after we go back to Arizona?”
“See temples, they are beautiful, and colorful, and the people have reverence for their purpose, even if they misunderstand some of it.”
“What do they misunderstand?”
“There is no reincarnation, death is death. The body merges with the Earth. New births are not old people in new bodies, that is silly. The body parts may be recycled, the software is ever new.”
“I was never much on reincarnation either, but we have a different problem.”
She giggles, “We will live forever, at least until the sun burns out. Kota B says we only have a few billion years.”
“By then, people will be living on other planets in different solar systems, with bodies modified to endure the trip and thrive in different atmospheres.”
“But Tetya Dafna, the universe is filled with life, there are millions of other planets with life, or that had life that went extinct. Many are far more advanced than we are, many are still one celled organisms. That is why there is no reincarnation, there is no point to it.”
Janah, “Philosophy from a six year old.”
“It isn’t philosophy, she knows, it’s how it is. By the time we catch up to these kids, they’ll be a few more light years ahead.”
“That’s how light works, no matter how fast you go, it still stays ahead by the speed of light.”
Flight to Arizona goes without a hitch. Cost a bundle to fly us all private, but we have bots to transport and prefer to skip as much customs and security nightmare as we can.
Grace B turned on the air conditioning when we landed at Prescott Municipal, she kept the air filtering systems working while we traveled. The place doesn’t feel like it’s been closed up we arrive.
We face the rest of the day only mildly flaky, determined to push through the jet lag and collapse tonight. The pool is a good solution. A pile of nude girls fills the cool water for an hour. The children and our resident water baby Oceane remain for a second hour.
Dasha, “I have burgers thawing, we will haf for dinner, just only pickle, we do not haf fresh vegetable.”
I’m fishing around the freezer, “I have shredded cheese I can thaw, and we have packs of frozen vegetables, we can butter and sauce them, it’ll be enough.”
Susan calls, “Back in one piece I assume. Loved all the photos, the little ones are so cute, Amaya did herself proud with the robes and their casual outfits.”
“They wear chemises around here, but she insisted they couldn’t travel without a nod to fashion. It’s Japan, cute is the national pastime.”
“Also got your note about returning next year, we’re in, so are the others, Black was pumped. Just need dates.”
“Su is waiting on the Dali Lama.”
“The Dali…what’s that mean?”
“He’s been invited and wants to participate, his people are sending over a couple of options.”
“Get out! You’re telling me Su is going to be in a symposium with the Dali Lama?”
“Looks like it, I hope he can keep up, Janah doubts anyone knows more about Buddhist principles across sects than Su. Might teach the old boy a thing or two.”
“James is going to be in philosophy heaven.. He can’t wait to have discussions with the Shingon. Ning was beside herself, nice of you to include David Li and Miyako.”
“David Li is the co-abbot, along with Janah. She has to be away so much, she’s sort of the Abbess Incognito. David is in regular touch though, she knows what’s happening in our mystery temple in Chinatown. He always calls with any major decision, despite the fact that Janah always say do what you think is best.”
“David Li is not going to bypass his father’s beloved Master J.”
“Happy to hear everyone is going, I may have to rent a 747 if we expand the attendees.”
“I want to fly first, so the dates as soon as you have them.”
“We’re all flying private, Grace B will arrange transportation when the time comes.”
“Wow, first class plus, you went private this time, right?”
“Yes, and while first on most international is royal, private is so much better, envision nothing at customs, and nothing at security. Someone comes and checks, but they figure if we want to blow ourselves out of the sky, it’s fine with them.”
“I’ll let you go, I’m sure things are still foggy, pass by with the children when you get time. Oh…wait, you’re in Arizona.”
“We return New York in a week. Katya and crew are here. They’ll fly to New Orleans the same day we leave for New York.”
“See you next week then, bye.”
Janah, “Sis sounded enthusiastic.”
“Mom, Lacy and Taylor are travel junkies, they go through passports like fat girls go through ice cream.”
“You’re not making any PC points.”
“Not losing any sleep over it either. Besides, people have no control over that stuff, if they did, they wouldn’t get fat in the first place. Nobody on the planet except Sumo wrestlers and offensive linemen get fat on purpose.”
“You should write a book.”
“One day, when things slow down. Nikko has notes on us from the day we met her, encrypted in a cloud someplace. If we live forever, it’s going to be a massive tome. I need to get dinner started, Dasha will be…”
“Dahfoney, you will quit bullsheeting wiz momma and Janah, time to work or everyone will go hungry.”
Janah giggles, “And I have no intention of going hungry, get busy.”
Amaya is joyfully back to her bar tendering job, she was too busy with the film. In fact, drinkers mostly abstained while we were in Koyasan.
They enjoy cocktails by the pool while I drizzle clarified butter and light coat of Tonkatsu sauce over mixed vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. I put the mix in a baking dish, cover it with foil and into a three hundred degree oven.
Grace B has the grill fired up, I’ll spread the burgers on it when the vegetables have baked for a half hour.
Dasha, “Haf only frozen buns, I can toast lightly een oven, they will be fine.”
Soon enough, girls are preparing burgers and dishing out the veg side, Amaya has cabernet open.
Su, “Vegetables are divine.”
“Butter and Tonkatsu cover a multitude of sins, even freezing.”
“They remain remarkably crisp for frozen.”
“Flash freeze technology has improved the quality of frozen food immensely. Still difficult to freeze fruit without it turning to mush when it thaws, particularly berries. Dark cherries do okay, and some sturdier fruit, like mango or papaya.”
Janah, “Berries are mostly water, freezing then thawing bursts the skins and the water drains, leaving mush, particularly if you heat them.”
Dasha and I make a massive grocery run today. We’re only here a week, but it’s more than twenty people. Fresh fruit and vegetables alone are a bunch of bags. Grace b plotted out meals, then listed the specifics we needed to buy. Even though we’re leaving, Danika and Su will remain, so our food to days ratio doesn’t need to be perfect.
The rest of the week is spent on the race track, hiking the hills, swimming, Sarah, Sloane and Cassie are dirt bike junkies, but Katja gives it a hard go. She missed a jump and crashed, but we insist on proper protective gear, aside from bruises and a scrape, she’s good to go. In fact, she went again the next day.
Naturally the shooters spent time and buckets of ammunition at the range. Our mobile targets are challenging, keeps the assassins in shape. Although their work generally involves sneaking up on someone they don’t know and putting a round in his brain. They do, however, get work that involves a more fluid approach, like when one drug gang hires them to resolve a conflict with a competing gang. They get the added bonus of keeping piles of drug money they find, Katya figures they’ve stolen more than three hundred million in cash and a fair amount of gold. They don’t steal drugs, have to leave something for the DEA.
We used to launder their money, then Nikko guided them to larger commercial properties, stocks and muni bonds. She helped Katya set up shell corporations overseas and they bounce the money around themselves now. Nikko says their net worth approaches three quarters of a billion dollars. Not bad for girls who never went to college, Katya and Katja never went to high school, they self taught in libraries and on the net.
“Everyone set to go?”
Kota B, “Girls are.”
Danika drives one SUV, Su the other, they get us all to Prescott Municipal where our Blue Sky rides await. We have three planes, one for Katya and the others, two for us. Dasha and Daria fly with the children and Kota B, the rest of our squad on the other.
At Teterboro four hours later, parents meet us and haul the small crowd home. We have little in the way of luggage, just tablets and laptops, phones, our electronic life.
Emma B, “Welcome home. Dinner is being delivered in an hour courtesy of Fong’s. I included the parents, Lacy and Taylor.”
Susan, “Yay, I don’t have to cook.”
Lacy, “When did you ever cook?”
“Cooking includes perusing take out menus and calling for delivery.”
If you’ve followed our stories, you know my mom can’t boil water without burning it.
Cocktails made and delivered, conversation circles around the children who aren’t.
James. “How do Zycyryn affect the course of daily life? Or do they influence at all?”
Nadia, “Only if we interact with them, first you have to know they exist at all. If you can feel their presence, you can ask, demonstrate intent. Then, like Cassandra, they may allow you to visit the past, the past you never saw, or sometimes the future.”
James, “Do you, or any of the children ask them for things?”
“Not really, we are happy knowing they are there if we did. They show us the rest of the universe, and universes beyond.”
“May I ask, what else is out there?”
“More than even imagination can construct, changing, evolving, destroying itself and starting again. Our universe sprang from another universe that had collapsed in on itself. One day, ours will disappear and emerge as yet another universe.”
Susan, “Not before we go to Koyasan I hope.”
The children giggle, Tasia says, “No, not even before the Earth melts into the sun. Humans may be gone by then anyway.”
Lacy, “Do you know what happens?”
Karol, “People become more adaptable, disease is erased, there is universal immortality. They will travel to a new Earth, there are many suns in our own galaxy, more than two hundred billion. Each sun has planets and many of those planets have the right combination of air, water, temperature and seasons to support life. Many of them already do.”
“And the Zycyryn showed you that?”
This is the end of Book XVI
When next we meet, it will be fifteen years into the future. Things will have changed.