Kensei’s Big Date

Another from the archives. I loved the CoX universe, and I was sorry to see it go. This was my first attempt at a “sequel”, which was pretty fun. Again, thanks to the folks at Cryptic, and the wonderful people I met and wrote with at the RPC. I wouldn’t be writing if it weren’t for you all.

In the gym/apartment belonging to the Kensei, there is little in the way of creature comforts. Half of the spacious studio apartment is dedicated to a floor mat, several pieces of gymnastics equipment and an automatic baseball thrower with a sophisticated feed system that recycles the baseballs. It is very obviously an area for someone who takes their training seriously.

The other half is very spartan, with a small kitchenette, a lone table with four chairs, a low-lying table for tea and a small tatami mat for sleeping. There are windows across this side of the room, while a wall-length mirror covers the gym’s side of the studio. On several of the bookshelves were bonsai trees that the Kensei had pruned and shaped. In all, it matched the personality of its owner perfectly.

Kensei sat at the table, drinking some green tea. His guest sighed in exasparation as he put down the steaming mug of coffee.

“Lad, I think ye should go oot wit the lass just once.” The familiar Scottish brogue of Connor King echoed throughout the cavernous room. “Arter all, ye’ve nivver been oot wit

a girl before, aye?”

“As you say, Connor-san.” Kensei’s voice was distinctive for the lack of an accent, even though he spoke fluent Japanese. He sipped the tea smoothly, enjoying the slight bite of  the hot liquid.

“So why no give it a chance? Ye might have fun.”

The Kensei quirked his head to the side. “Our last meeting was not one that shows me in the best light. The book I read from Bridget-san said that first impressions are most important. I do not call my lying on my back with her foot on my chest while my mouth was agape a good impression.”

Connor smothered his laughter. “Och, laddie, I explained thins to er. She unnerstands. She seemed ta like ye.”

“From what I understand, Connor-san, Marlena-san’s occupation requires that she seem to like everyone.”

“That may be, boot ye gotta unnerstand, I’ve known her since she was a wee one, an she treats me like an ooncle. Ye’ll have a great toime. Troost me.”

Kensei sipped his tea again in thought. It seemed such a simple matter. Take a woman out for dinner and perhaps dancing. Return her to her home. It was no different than the missions his contacts had given him over the course of his career. “Connor-san, what if we are attacked by Nemesis? The Freakshow? The Malta Group? What if—?”

Connor made a disgusted sound in his throat. “What if, indeed? Yer a bloody hero o the soddin city! None o those blighters will mess wit ye, cos they know ye’ll mop the floor wit em. Noo, stop makin excuses an tryin ta get oota this.”

With a nod, Kensei stood. “Very well, Connor-san. I will escort Marlena-san out on a ‘date’. When will such an event take place?”

“Tomorrow night, lad. First, we gotta get ye lookin fancy. We go ta Icon today fer yer ootfit. Serge is all ready fer ye.”

So ka. Let us go.” Kensei mentally shrugged. Simplicity itself. A simple date. What could possibly go wrong?

The bag wove back and forth as Bob the Skul punched it, not hitting it as hard as he could, but making it sway. The Kensei held the bag while Bob worked it over. Sweat fell into the dimunitive man’s eyes, yet he kept pummeling the bag. Kensei spoke over the thumps.

“I do not know why Connor-san is having me escort this woman. There is no reason for it.”

“Ah, just enjoy it. Not many folks get set up with a freakin fashion model.” A one-two combination pushed Kensei back a foot. “Besides, what else do ya have ta do?”

“There was a martial arts competition I wished to attend.”

“Uh-huh.” Bob hit the bag one last time, then toweled off his sweaty face. “Lissenup, pal. My little brother looks up ta you. He ain’t had so much luck wit da ladies either, but at least he tries. Ya wanna be as miserable as he usedta be? Fine. He’s yer friend, though, so will ya just do it so he knows yer happy?” Bob took off the gloves he was wearing and tossed them onto a nearby chair.

“As you say, Bob-san. I will attempt to enjoy myself.”

————————–

In an apartment across town later than evening, five men gathered. One towered over the others, yet deferred to the bearded one. Smoke from a cigar filled the room.

“So we’re in agreement?” asked the hooded man. His voice was low and guarded.

“Yes. It will be up to us to make sure this goes without a hitch.” The voice modulator deepened the voice, making it hollow.

“Knowing him, if we left it up to him, he’d run off at the first hint of danger,” the tall one said.

“Aye, so we gotta take care o everythin while ‘e’s oot. Otherwise, it’ll be a disaster.”

The cigar-smoking man, standing while the rest sat, nodded his head. “Yeah, let’s make sure dis guy at least has some fun in his life.”

“Tomorrow night, we have ta make sure the laddie ‘as the most fun o his life.” Connor King smiled. “We joost gotta make sure he doesn’t have ta go off ta play hero.”

————————————————————–

“Greetings, Ms. van der Wahl,” Kensei bowed, his new suit riding comfortably on his body. It was a Serge Special, perfectly tailored to him. The dark colors accentuated his form without making him seem overly muscular. The fedora on his head was an excellent finishing touch, lending him an air of class. “It is pleasurable to see you again.”

“At least you aren’t running away this time, sweetheart.” Marlena was dressed in quite a bit more than when Kensei last saw her, the full navy blue skirt coming down to her knees. The matching blouse was tight in the right places, loose in others. Modest high heels completed the ensemble, bringing her within five inches of Kensei’s height. “I take it this is more to your liking?”

Hai. Arigato. Gomenasai, Marlena-san. I was… overwhelmed when we first met.” The swordsman was embarrassed by his actions. “I have never seen anyone in such attire.”

Smirking slightly, Marlena guided her arm into Kensei’s. “You need to get out more.”

“I have been told that, as well.”

“Well, then, it’s time for you to show me a good time, so get to it. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

Nodding his head, Kensei attempted a smile. “Connor-san recommended a restaurant for us to dine. It is but a short walk from here.”

“A short walk in Founder’s Falls? You’re crazy.”

“Marlena-san, you are safe with me. None will attempt to harm us.”

“Your words to God’s ear. Let’s go, then. I’ve always wanted to be taken out by a hero of the city. Tell me about how you got started in the hero business.”

The two walked as Kensei began to detail his early exploits in Paragon City. As they strolled, a sniper two hundred yards away took aim with his gun. Hired by the Crey Corporation, the sniper knew how much he stood to earn killing the Kensei. He took careful aim, breathing slowly. The slack in the trigger was taken up.

Yes, it would be a wild time in the town tonight.

“Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?”

The sniper relaxed his finger on the trigger as he felt the razor sharp tip of a nocked arrow at his temple. Gritting his teeth, he took up the slack on the trigger again. “I can fire as you let that arrow fly. You may get me, but I’ll get your friend.”

“I don’t think so, ya lummox.” A massive hand clamped down on the barrel of the gun, twisting it like so much putty. “Ya wanna try again?”

“I have a better idea.” A somewhat gnarled hand touched the sniper’s head. He fell over with a moan, his limbs twitching. “There, he’ll sleep for a few hours.”

“Nice one, Danny,” Connor said. “Ye learn that in yer off-hours?”

“Part of the slim benefits package of being a failed Rikti conversion, old man.” The misshapen face of the hero known as Found smiled. “That was pretty easy.”

“How long have we gotta do this?” Bob the Skul asked.

“As long as he and Marlena van Hardbody are out.” Takyon activated his onboard tracker. The device embedded in Kensei’s suit showed up as a marker on his Heads Up Display. “They’re at the restaurant.” He consulted an online map directory. “You got them a table at Chateau de Triumph? Geez, Connor, remind me to get you to plan my next date.”

Connor laughed. “It’d be my pleasure, lad. Hopefully, this is the only bugger we gotta rough up tonight.”

Over the radio headsets the friends wore, the sound of Ralph’s voice came. “Ummm, guys, we have trouble.”

“Talk ta me, lad.”

“Well, it looks like the Devouring Earth and Nemesis are having it out…”

“So?”

“Right in front of Chateau de Triumph.”

“Oh, bloody hell.” Connor sighed. “Okay, laddie-bucks. We’re nae gettin paid by the hour! Get em!”

———————————————————–

Inside the restaurant, Kensei was listening to Marlena van der Wahl telling about her last photo shoot. They had been dining for almost an hour, yet he felt the time had slipped away.

“So then Candy, who had always been my friend, walked up and slapped that lout right across his face! You can be sure he never grabbed anyone by these” she indicated her chest, “ever again.”

Kensei chuckled. He could taste the spices from the duck he had eaten. While not as greasy as he had feared, it still upset his stomach somewhat. A moment’s concentration and the feeling subsided. “You are a gifted storyteller, Marlena-san.”

“Will you stop calling me that? Just Marlena, please.”

“As you wish.”

“So, did you really save Connor from some very bad men who wanted him strung up for interfering in their plans?” Marlena leaned forward, her carefully coiffed hair barely moving.

“I merely did what was proper. There were ten of them against him. He acquitted himself admirably, but there is only so much an archer can do against those who prefer a more frontal assault.”

“From the way Connor tells it, you took them down in ten seconds.”

Kensei blushed. “Marlena-s— Marlena, I had to act quickly. After all, how remiss would I be if I let my friends fight on my behalf by themselves?”

——————————————-

“Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow OW!”

Takyon bounced to the ground as he took a shot from a Nemesis sniper. His armor had held, barely, and as he rolled to a stop, he sent a stream of cobalt energy at his attacker. His ribs hurt somewhat, but he was still able to fight.

Connor King loosed another arrow, this one fitted with a high-explosive charge. It struck a mushroom-like Herder in the middle, blasting it and its surrounding compatriots to pieces. “Takyon! Report!” he shouted as he let fly several razor sharp arrows into a nearby crowd of Nemesis soldiers.

“Oh, I’m dandy,” came the breathless reply. “I’ll be better in a second.” Takyon ran up to the sniper and unleashed a meter-wide blast of energy into the enemy. “Got im!”

“Good, then can ya try an help me out some?” Bob was in the center of several Nemesis goons. The Herder had been the last of the Devouring Earth to be at this battle, which was just as well. The Nemesis soldiers were blasting at Bob, their bullets stopping dead in their tracks once they struck him. “I can hold em, but I can’t hit em fast enough!”

“Incoming!” came a shout as Ralph soared in, his cape flapping with the wind. Raising his hands above his head, he stopped in mid-air and released a blast of quantum energy. The blast was enough to defeat the rest of the soldiers.

“What kept ya, kid?” Bob smiled, readjusting his sunglasses.

“Had to handle another sniper. He doesn’t like Connor very much.”

“Aye, an that list is a rather long one.” The archer checked his watch. “Let’s get this cleaned oop before they git oot here. We dinna have mooch time.”

“Oh come on, Connor,” Takyon laughed. “She’s probably boring him to tears with stories about hot chicks being bitchy at each other. You know how he is.”

——————————————————————————

“My God, Kensei,” Marlena gasped. “You actually saw your own bones on the ground?”

“Yes, Marlena. This was another world, you realize, where things were different.”

“Like on Star Trek?”

Kensei shook his head. “I do not know what that means. It was a parallel world, and in total ruins from the actions of my… other self.”

“Wow. Do you go to these other worlds often?”

He nodded. “They really all run together, to be honest. I prefer defeating villains on this world before venturing elsewhere.”

Marlena smiled. “I didn’t know you were so well-traveled. Have you been to Europe?”

“Regretfully, no.” The swordsman sipped at his green tea. “Have you been to Japan?”

“Oh yes! I was there a couple of months ago for a shoot. I don’t speak the language very well, so I didn’t get to see very much.” She toyed with her dessert, a piece of chocolate mousse.

“Ah.” Kensei nodded and considered her response.

“Maybe if I had someone to interpret for me, I could go again, this time for pleasure.”

“I can recommend several interpreters to you, if you desire.” Remembering something Connor told him, Kensei signalled for the waiter. “Check, please.”

“Sir, Mr. King has already paid for this meal.” The waiter smiled. Before Kensei could continue, he added, “He also said that any attempt to try and pay would besmirch his honor.”

Kensei actually laughed at that. “As you say. I will thank him myself.” To Marlena, he smiled, “Shall we go?”

“Sure. I was thinking we could go to a bar or nightclub. Do you know any?” Seeing the tightening of the Kensei’s eyes, she smiled again. “I didn’t think so. Good thing I know this place. You don’t take people out often, do you?”

As they both stood, Kensei bowed his head. “With all honesty, this is the first time I have enjoyed the company of a woman who did not have powers.”

“Looks like this is your lucky night, then. Come on, I know just the place for you. Hopefully nothing’s outside waiting for us to come out.”

———————————————————

“Connor, next time ya wanna play matchmaker, youse can go ta hell.”

Bob dusted himself off as he sat on a dumpster. The five companions had been shadowing the couple for the past five hours, and had defeated nearly three hundred various miscreants who inhabited Founder’s Falls. Save for a near-miss when a Rikti drone had attempted to retreat from the battle in the direction of Kensei, the plan had gone off without a hitch.

“Och, tisnae tha bad, is it?” The Scotsman counted up his arrows to make sure he had plenty more in case of an emergency. He was glad that Kensei and Marlena were on the

way home from a local nightclub. This allowed him and his team to rest and recuperate from the beatings they had been through. The night was almost over.

“It’s about to get worse,” Found muttered. “Look.”

In the darkness behind the couple, a full troop of Council soldiers were stalking them.

——————————————————————

As Kensei and Marlena stood at the door to her apartment building in Founder’s Falls, the swordsman considered the biggest question of his career.

“Come upstairs? Is something amiss, Marlena?” Kensei readied his mind to call his blade to him.

“Nothing at all,” Marlena purred. “I just thought you’d like a bit of a nightcap before heading home.”

The Kensei turned his head to one side and pondered the question. According to the book he had read, this was known as a “come-on”. Such a name for the tactic made sense, as he was being told to “come on in” to her apartment. “I accept your invitation, Marlena.”

Holding the door open for the lady, he began to walk into the building.

——————————————————————–

Bob the Skul pounded a Council gunner into the ground, a whimper sounding from the defeated enemy. He did not want to admit it, but this was getting to be over his head. He took in the scene and started to worry.

Connor was down, a lucky shot from a Parasite draining him into exhaustion and unconciousness. Found was barely standing, drawing on the depths of his endurance to keep Bob and his brother fighting. Takyon’s power cells were depleted, and the young man could barely pull himself in his armor across the battlefield. Even Bob was starting to feel the strain. The screams and howls of the Council soldiers were unintelligible to him as he delivered a tremendous uppercut into a Warwolf’s muzzle. Ralph had shifted form into what he called his “Rock Lobster” form, which allowed him more protection from the assault.

“I don’t know how long I can keep doing this, Bob!” Ralph stamped his foot hard into the road, knocking four more Council soldiers unconcious. “I can’t keep this form for much longer!”

Bob grunted as he shielded the young Found from a fiery blast. “Don’t sweat it, kid. We’ve almost got em.” In fact, there were only five enemies left. With both the Skul brothers standing and Danny healing them, they’d be able to mop up the stragglers.

With a scream, the hero known as the Found fell to his knees, then to his face in unconciousness. A hand-shaped burn showed on his back, the rags he wore smoldering where they had been touched.

The dimunitive tank spun around and saw just how deep he and his brother were. As Danny, Connor and Takyon mediported away, Bob scowled at the Behemoth Overlord stepping toward him and his brother. With a sweep of its wings, it flattened the remaining Council soldiers. It reared its head back and roared, windows to either side of the street rattling. With a grin that dripped corrosive spittle onto the pavement, it raised a blazing sword towards the brothers Skul.

“Oh crap,” Ralph wheezed.

—————————————————————————–

As Marlena leaned in to kiss the Kensei, his ears heard a familiar sound. A roar, and nearby. At first he dismissed it as the roaring of his ears from the excitement he felt. When it was repeated, he knew it for what it was: An Overlord from the Circle of Thorns. They had roared often as he had rent them limb from limb. He also heard grunts and a cry of pain and a name: Bob.

“Marlena, would you excuse me for a moment? There is a matter I must take care of.”

“Now?” She said incredulously. “What’s so almighty important?”

“There is a demon nearby I must dispatch. I shall not be gone long.” He withdrew slightly.

“There’s about four zillion heroes in this city. Can’t you take the night off just once?”

“I cannot. Were I in dire straits, I would hope that someone would come to my aid. It will not take long.”

“You’ve got two minutes, Ken.” Without warning, she drew him close and kissed him full on the lips. “That’s for luck. Now hurry up.”

Stunned by the kiss, Kensei goggled for a few seconds. Then, realizing his time constraint, he willed his blade into his hands and disappeared, cloaking himself in the shadows. The sound of battle was nearby, only a hundred yards or so away.

—————————————————————————-

“Now you will taste oblivion, alien,” the Overlord rasped.

Bob was down and had mediported away. Ralph was wounded, but still in his Rock Lobster form. He was barely concious, his form almost wavering back to human. At the monster’s words, Ralph focused his anger, allowing it to consume him. “You beat up my brother, you reject from a bad horror movie!” Ralph began to lay into the demon, his massive fists hammering the Overlord. Glowing tears flowed from his eyes as he continued his assault, surprising the demon. However, it began to fight back, slicing into the hybrid.

Ralph could not hold his form any longer. He returned to his human form and fell to his knees. He fired off a small quantum blast, but to no avail.

“Your pathetic resistance is futile.” The Overlord loomed over Ralph. “I will devour your soul, alien. You will now taste defeat by—” The demon raised its flaming sword and tensed.

Ralph, determined to face his end as a hero, watched the demon. He also watched the ebony blade emerge from its chest. His mouth hung open at the sight, though he jumped to the side as the Overlord fell face-first to the ground.

“Kombon-wa, Ralph-san.”

“Ummm… Hi, Kensei.” Ralph readied a stream of apologies and excuses, but was unprepared for what he heard next.

“Forgive me, my friend, but I must return to my date. Please thank Connor-san for all he has done for me this night. Be careful on your way home. Sayonara.” With that, the Kensei vanished from sight.

Ralph sat in the road for a moment, then stood. He began to laugh, long and loud. He was still laughing when his four partners returned, their wounds healed.

“Ralphie, youse okay?” For all his taunting, Bob cared a great deal about his younger brother. “You took down that baddie all by yourself?”

Ralph just shook his head and flew off without a word. Connor said, “Well, I guess that’s everythin. Thankee fer yer help, lads. I couldnae ha done it withoot ye.”

“Damned right you couldn’t.” Danny was still a bit tender. “Next time, suggest a place in Atlas Park. I can handle Skulls and Hellions.” In a flash, the Found teleported away.

“Kin ye get back all right, Bob? I kin get someone ta ‘port ye somewhere.”

“Nah… I heard dere’s a good bar down here. Gonna check it out.” Bob bounded away, his super-strong muscles propelling him through the night air.

“I gotta get going, Connor,” Sean said. “There’s a stockholders meeting tomorrow, and I’m debuting a new type of power armor. Might be good for that Rogue Isles plan.”

“Aye, lad. See you soon.” Connor watched the golden-armored young man fly away. He congratulated himself on his plan working like a charm. Kensei would never know.

——————————————————————————-

Epilogue:

Kensei was working out at his gym, putting himself through the paces when Connor walked in. Catching one of the baseballs being shot at him, he threw it at the power button, deactivating the machine. The swordsman bowed to the archer. “Good afternoon, Connor-san. You are well this day?”

“Aye, lad, I’m fine. So, how did it go last night?”

“Marlena and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. I thank you deeply for your help.” Kensei bowed again, holding the bow longer than usual.

“Ah, twas nothin. So… did ye get lucky?”

Kensei raised an eyebrow. “Lucky?”

“Aye.”

The Kensei stroked his chin with one hand. “Connor-san, can you keep a secret?”

The bearded bowman smiled. “O course!”

A broad smile formed on Kensei’s face. “So can I. Help yourself to the tea I have made.” With that, Kensei began his exercises again.

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~ by Walker on January 14, 2013.

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