Paperwork was the death of all old ninjas.
Lieutenant Daker stared down at his desk, his dark green eyes probing scattered piles of paper spread out across the hard translucent surface. Half of them were lined up perfectly, the other half in scattered piles with no rhyme or reason. Below the pages, he could see through the blue-tinted material to his shoes below. His eye caught sight of a scuff mark on his right shoe and a matching one on his left. Shaking his head, he spread the piles of paper across the desk to obscure them.
“She’s going to kill me.”
He leaned back in the expensive leather chair and stared at his office. It was spartan, except for the hundreds of pictures of his wife that filled the far wall. A door leading outside was made of frosted glass, he could see his name through the translucent material: Mafor Daker. Underneath it, his position within the organization: Lieutenant of Love. He chuckled dryly to himself, he wasn’t really of “Love” recently, more of the Lieutenant of Paperwork, Employee Management, and Endless Hours.
A soft, cultured voice interrupted him. “Woolgathering?”
Mafor jumped slightly and looked up at his office door where one of the most beautiful women he knew was leaning against the frame. Her cream-colored suit matched her skin and eyes perfectly, almost as if it was made for them. His eyes traveled up, to the milk chocolate eyes and then to her forehead where he could almost make out the shadow of a symbol, the sign of her former master, Order. Now, she had a different symbol over her heart, the same symbol that he shared over his own heart, this one was hidden underneath her perfect suit.
“Sorry, Erin, just avoiding some paperwork.”
She never seemed to smile as she stepped into the room, holding a leather-bound folder in her hand. He could see the faint hint of disapproval in her eyes just moments before she spoke.
“Two of those have been there for nine days.”
“I know,” he groaned to himself, “but I just can’t find the energy to do them.”
“Well, I might be able to bring cheer to your day.”
“Oh? And how would you do that?” He couldn’t help feeling a little suspicious.
“If you make these six and a half decisions, you can go home.”
He just repeated her, “Six and a half.”
Daker thought he almost saw a hint of a smile on her lips as she came around her desk, standing right next to his left side. She cracked open her leather binder and pulled out a short stack of paper. Somehow, she managed to keep every corner perfectly lined up as she set it down in front of him. He noticed that she had painted her fingernails, each tip a perfect crescent that matched her suit’s color. He started to mention them, then decided to keep his mouth shut. Instead, he peered at the top one.
It was a business proposal. It only took a few minutes for him to read it. As he read it, a strange feeling of discomfort filled him and he set it down. He noticed that it was slightly off-angle from the rest of the stack, but ignored it, feeling a smile growing as Erin’s eyes locked on to the skewed page.
“I don’t like it.”
Erin, a frown across her face, didn’t pull her gaze away from the angled page. “Why? The numbers add up.”
“Oh, I have no doubt about that, but there just seems to be something wrong.”
Her voice was flat, almost emotionless, but still had the faint accent of the northern districts.
“We researched the contract for the last four days, none of my crew found any possible way of abusing that contract. It is, for a lack of a better word, perfectly Ordered.” He always hated that word when she said it. As a former vassal of Order, an ordered world was a perfect one. Daker didn’t believe in ordered worlds. Not to mention, something in his gut told him there was something wrong with the contract.
“Pass on this one, something is wrong.”
“No, there isn’t.”
He gave her a sharp look, “Yes, there is. Just because the numbers don’t say it, there is something wrong with it.”
She resisted, her jaw squeezing shut for a moment, then she bowed her head.
“Very well. I’ll have it terminated.”
“It can’t wait?”
“Then terminate it, Erin.”
She nodded in hesitant agreement. Daker looked down and realized she managed to straighten the corners on the paper and once again the pile was perfectly square. Grinning inside, he watched as she picked up the pages of the contract, exposing the next one. Struggling to keep a straight face, he fanned out the pages and read the next one.
It was another proposal, this one he felt more comfortable. The one after that was a marriage contract, one of the staples of his business. He paused over it, his fingers dancing along the pages to prevent Erin from straightening them again.
“Who is this with?”
“Lord of Fauna, just a five year or child, whatever comes last.”
“Is it unreasonable?”
Shaking her head, she gave him an answer, “No. The Bassan female has expressed interest in the vassal for a few years, but the vassal’s lieutenant wants to make sure they are truly dedicated to each other before he tries to sponsor her for becoming a vassal.”
Mafor chuckled at her dry response, “And how much research did you do?”
“Took me three days, it is a clean deal.”
He signed it. The fourth and fifth decision were also marriage contracts. Each contract represented an annual income as long as the couple remained together, or produced a child. The third marriage contract was an aggressive one, a hundred years of monogamy or four children, whatever came first. It was also worth ten times the first one. He had an uncomfortable feeling about the contract, but just from the commitment it represented. He approved it after a few moments of thinking.
Finally, he got to the last few pages, his sixth decision. One only more… or half of a decision, and he could finally go home. He stared at the page for a few moments before he realized what it was.
“Erin, this is an order for termination.”
A curt response, “Yes.”
His eyes peered down the semi-standard form, the bane of all lieutenant. The enforcement order came when a marriage contract was in danger of being broken, typically by one of the members straying from their duty as married couple. He stopped on the names, Jackson and Faye Mann. Then, he read a brief summary of their marriage, a century or four children. Inwardly, he swore to himself, it was one of the expensive contracts. Breaking one of those could raise his bonding rates and also ruin his reputation.
“Damn, a big one.”
“Bonding rates will increase by 2.1 to 3.4% for a mean increase in monthly expenses of a hundred forty-one thousand favors.”
“Ouch, that is-”
“1.6% increase in monthly expenses.”
She said nothing in response, so he continued reading. The order came with the prior resolutions of the man of the contract, Jackson, straying from his marriage, both times with prostitutes. He felt a snarl starting to curl his lips, vassals of Lust, destroyers of the family way. He read the preliminary evidence of the affair, the third one if it is true, then frowned. Paging back, he stared at the beginning of the order.
“You have this as a termination, Erin. The contract provides for three violations before termination. There is only two.”
Dakar always hated terminations. They either meant handing over years of profit and interest while destroying his bond rates, or in extreme cases, killing off the one who violated the marriage contract. As a former ninja, he was involved with more than a few terminations and each time it got harder to do.
That is why he was doing paperwork instead of being on the streets.
Erin cleared her throat, “He violated the contract.”
“He can do that, up to three times with increasing penalties.”
She repeated herself. Daker sighed and looked up into her serious expression.
“Enforcement, third penalty. You know the rules, Erin.”
She said nothing, but he could see the muscles in her jaw tighten. For a moment, he was starkly reminded of the woman he first met five years ago. Feeling affectionate, he reached out and stroked her chin. She jerked it away from him.
“Your wife won’t approve.”
“Yes, she would.”
Her milk chocolate eyes leveled against him.
“No, she,” she almost spit out the word, “doesn’t.”
He chuckled, “Well, then, I better keep my hands to myself.”
“Yes, you should.”
Underneath the bitter words, he heard just a faint hint of amusement. It also broke some of the seriousness in her eyes. Erin reached down and slid the top page from his hand. She placed it back into her folder, and pulled out a replacement one which ordered for an true enforcement instead of a termination. Happier with the order, he filled out his parts and handed it back.
Erin squared the corners of the pages in her hands as he looked at his desk. Surprised, he could only chuckle at the eight perfectly straightened piles were lined up along the top edge. He started to ask when she did it then realized she did it while he was reading paperwork. He watched as she closed the folder with a snap, then walked toward the door of his office.
She reached the door frame when he called out her name.
She paused at the door, lit from behind from lights in the hallway.
“You said six and a half.”
For the first time that night, the ghost of a smile crossed her lips.
“Yes, I asked the maid to make pot roast for dinner, do you mind?”
He smiled, “No, that would be wonderful.”
Erin’s smile didn’t fade, “Then, I’ll meet you at home, my love. I be there within twelve minutes of you coming through the front door.”
“I can’t wait.”
She closed the door behind him and Mafor stood up to get ready for home.
“Married to my work and married to my assistant.”
He slipped his jacket on, “Life is good.”
Roma Serious winced as she pushed open the door with her left arm. A burning pain shot up through her shoulder and she released the door almost instantly. It swung close and tapped up against a large leather suitcase she was trying to shove through the narrowing opening.
No one answered so she dropped the suitcase and glared at it.
Still no answer. She took a deep breath, letting out a loud hissing noise in concentration, then kicked the suitcase with the bottom of her feet. An explosion of air rocked the small apartment as the suitcase launched itself forward, scraping against the carpeted floor almost ten feet before it impacted into a couch. Despite being made of heavy wood, the couch jumped another couple of feet to thud against the wall of the apartment.
She winced and pushed her way into the apartment, letting the door shut behind her. Her left arm ached, but it was nothing compared to her right hand which was wrapped in bandages. She leaned heavily against the door, cursing herself for being unable to manage even a suitcase.
From one of the far doors, her husband stepped out from the shadows. Shaking his head, he smiled warmly at her, “I was coming you know, just had to put the little one to sleep.”
“Oops, sorry. How is he sleeping?”
“Like a baby, of course.”
Still grinning, he swept forward and wrapped her in a tight hug.
“Oh, I missed you, my Thomas.”
Roma gingerly wrapped her own arms around him, resting her head on his shoulder, enjoying his manly smell.
“Oh, I’m seriously ready for a week-long vacation.”
“By amazing coincidence, I believe you are required to have one,” He made a meaningful glance down to her injured hand, “but only if you were actually injured in the line of duty.”
Roma groaned, “Oh, its worse than that.”
“You killed someone?”
She nodded sadly, “Yeah. Someone sent two assassins after me.”
Thomas frowned, obvious concern in his sudden sharp gaze, “Not during the mission, you gave me the all clear.”
“No, at the airport. I think from the DelMuto case.”
“That case never ends, does it?”
He released her, gently cupping her injured arm. She hissed from the pain, but he kissed her on the cheek before inspecting the injury. Then, he kissed her on the shoulder and a sly smile crossed her lips.
“Oh, let me at least get out of my outfit.”
A seductive smile crossed his lips, “Oh… I plan on it.”
He just started to remove her outer jacket when the phone started to ring. Another phone beyond another closed door started to ring out in harmony and both of them sighed. Roma shook her head, wanting to get back to the more enjoyable tasks.
“Ignore it, it can’t be that important.”
The phone stopped making noise and she smiled in triumph. Her husband shared a smile and resumed his stripping. He managed to slip her jacket off, sliding it over her bandages and injuries. Below, she was wearing a skin-tight outfit, custom-designed for her body and offering as much protection as medium body armor. He slipped one hand along her breast, seeking out her nipple when the phone rang out again.
This time, it was a shrill pitch, almost a klaxon. Both of them froze as the phone rang out again. In the other room, from where Thomas first entered her vision, a young baby started to cry. Roma let out another groan of frustration.
“You get it, it can’t be for me.”
Thomas slipped away from her to pick up the phone. Roma took the chance to slip away into the bedroom. The dim light felt good against her tired eyes as she carefully padded over to the crib in the corner. Her baby, one of the two loves of her life, was sobbing. She automatically gathered him up in her arms. Cooing at him, she held the boy in her arms until the crying stopped. Slipping the now sleeping child back into the crib, she leaned over and watched him sleep for a few minutes.
In the front room, she could hear her husband speaking in very tight, unhappy tones. She resisted the urge to just crawl into bed. Her eyes focused on her left arm, where a massive burn covered her from elbow to shoulder. The wound throbbed, but she just brought her eyes back to her baby, her lovely baby, and just smiled.
Thomas kept on speaking, getting louder, and she finally realized that something was seriously wrong. Not that the emergency ring didn’t give that away. Grimly, she returned to the main room just as he was hanging up the phone. Without looking, she reached back with her foot and pulled the baby’s room door shut.
He nodded, “You have a mission.”
“A mission!?” Clamping down on her voice, to prevent herself from waking up the baby, she took a deep breath before speaking in a calmer tone.
“I have a month off. That’s mandatory.”
He came up and wrapped his arms around her, “I know, but Lieutenant Daker said it was important.”
At the name of her lieutenant, she groaned. She only had two bosses, Daker and the Lord of Love herself. No matter how much she complained, she would never disobey them.
“What is so important that Daker has to violate the Lord’s order?”
“Century or four. He’s on his third violation, they just caught him heading over to Lust.”
She felt her blood grow cold, “Third… Lust?”
“This one is serious. Daker said that he thinks someone paid Lust to break the contract.”
“Why would someone want the contract broken?”
Thomas sighed and started to remove her form-fitting outfit, stripping her down now with brisk efficiency. Roma let him, her mind spinning. Thomas kept on speaking, becoming more business-like as he gave her a summary.
“Jackson Mann is an engineer, really good at what he does. Works for the Lord of Steel, not quite a lieutenant but really close to being promoted. He was doing great, but then he fell in love with some lady named Jackie. She was a Bassan. It was great for a few months, his productivity apparently shot through the roof. You know the Kessler building? He designed that.”
She frowned as he pulled her leg free. Naked, she let him draw her into the bedroom. Right above her heart, she could see the tiny mark of Love. It was dark colored, but it reminded her that she was sworn to the Lord of Love for the rest of her life.
Thomas opened up the largest closet and peered inside. It was filled to the brim with swords, throwing stars, even a wide variety of obscure devices. The far side held uniforms, most of them designed for stealth and form-fitting. He sighed as he peered through, flipping through the outfits, discarding one for having tears, dropping one on the floor because it had an even larger burn, finally he stopped at the last one, a bright white uniform.
“Apparently, my love, you are hard on your uniforms.”
Standing naked in the center of the room, Roma watched as he pulled it out. He smiled at her.
“Your winter stealth outfit, lovely, is the only thing that’s still intact.”
“Well, help me get it on? My arms are a little sore.”
Thomas grinned as he came forward. As he helped her dress into the new outfit, he continued with the briefing.
“With her, he his productivity went through the sewers. He barely could concentrate but it got worse when she was killed, maybe by assassination. After that, he actually went up to his lieutenant and told him to have him removed as a vassal. Naturally, the lieutenant seeing how wonderful he was as designing things refused to forward the request to the Lord. After that, he almost committed suicide. The Lord of Steel himself got involved, but even he couldn’t break the suicidal tendencies. So, it came down from high above, one contract of love. And we got one very happy engineer who went on to build the Maralog and the Tessin Scientific buildings.”
“Maralog? I never heard of that one.”
“You know the big diamond-shape building? The one that the prior Lord of Night used to have as an office?”
Roma thought back to the building, one of the most impressive ones she had seen in her life. Despite the fact she almost broke her arm while trying to scale it. Giving an appreciative whistle, she slipped her arms into the sleeves of her outfit and shrugged it on. Her husband gave her a kiss on her office mark before zipping it up.
“So, he’s a great designer. Makes buildings a proper ninja can’t break into. So, why is someone trying to break the contract?”
“His new building. Steel has commissioned it for the last ten years, rumor has it that Steel is planning on using it as a potential replacement for the Assembly.”
“The… Assembly. You mean where all the Lords meet? Are you serious!?” Her voice had a shrill tone to it.
Thomas kissed her and spoke in a dead-panned voice, “Yes, I am Serious.”
She choked on a laugh, then decided to give it up and just let the quirky smile on his face break the tenseness. He chuckled after a moment and finished getting her into her outfit. He gathered up a set of weapons from the closet and helped her sheath, place, and hide every single one. When he finished, he stepped back to admire her. She calmed down upon seeing his smile and turned around for his entertainment.
“Are they tearing down the old Assembly?”
Thomas shrugged, “Not our job to know. Besides, its only rumors.”
Roma paused, “Yeah, rumors.” She let her words drift off as she stared at Thomas and wished they could spend the rest of the night together. He interrupted her thoughts by heading towards the door.
“Come on, love, we have a slut to kill.”
“And a marriage to save.”
An hour later, they were speeding down one of the controlled access highways. Thomas was driving, a radio ear piece in his ear as he watched the road carefully. Roma was in the back, making sure every weapon was sharp and in place, checking her outfit, and checking her weapons.
She glanced to the back, where their child was in a carrier and sleeping. As she watched, he cracked open one eye and reached out for her. She felt a well love rising up in her chest and she reached out, just enjoying the delicate feel of the tiny fingers wrapping around hers.
Roma mouthed “I love you” silently to her child. From in front, Thomas spoke up softly, half distracted from his driving.
“Calm down love, we’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
“I know, but… I don’t like this mission. I’m injured, sore, and tired.”
“And you are the best ninja Daker has.”
“Yeah, what about Snails?”
“Got injured yesterday, failed a termination.”
Thomas eased the car into an anonymous alley. In the shadows, he brought it tightly against a brick wall and shut off the engine. As the motor popped into silence, he crawled into the back and sat down next to her. He had his own smile as he stroked the child’s head.
“And how is our little Dax?”
Roma smiled, “Soon he’ll be helping us on these missions.”
“I can’t wait.”
Neither said anything for a few moments, just enjoying the close feeling of being together. Roma stretched, “Well, I better get going. Use channel nineteen?”
“Use eighteen, nineteen has been getting some cross-traffic and Technology won’t track it down.”
“Eighteen it is. Any chance of the front door?”
He shook his head, “No, I saw two assassins at the front door, one was the Death-trained Lust vassal, you know the one who almost nailed your perfect ass?”
“Yeah, she was there. I don’t know the other one.”
“Well, doesn’t hurt to try, I’ll go the long way.”
She slipped out of the back of the van, closing it behind her. She heard Thomas lock it from the inside. She rested a hand against the cold metal of the door, then stepped away into the shadows. Despite the white outfit, she knew she could remain hidden from sight from all but the best of trackers. She found a rough spot of bricks and stared up. Above her, most of the hotel rooms were dark and silent. Only three were lit. Narrowing her eyes, she noticed a flickering of light from the highest one, the penthouse.
She took a long and deep breath, focusing her energies. She could feel her palms and feet tingling and reached out for the brick. She could almost feel every crack, even the smallest motes of dust, as she grabbed it. Biting back the soreness in her left arm, she lifted herself up. Her innate power assisted her as she started to crawl up the wall, dragging herself up from ledge to ledge.
It was hard work, climbing outside of a building, but it had the advantage of being fairly secretive. She watched as she climbed, her essence holding her tightly to the wall even as she passed the tenth floor. The shadows were smaller here and she had to concentrate to keep in them, her white outfit would give her away if she made even the slightest of mistakes.
It took Roma almost thirty minutes to climb up the outside. She paused, catching her breath, on a ledge. Above her, less than eight feet away, was a huge wall of windows. Light poured out of the glass, moving near the center and she suspected she knew whatwas. Her arm ached and she held it out in front of her.
In the cool wind on the thirty-third floor, her arm shook from exhaustion and strain. She looked up nervously at the window, then back down. She pressed a finger against her ear, activating her hidden radio.
“Love? I’m worried.”
Thomas’ voice spoke to her from almost inside her head. She smiled at his voice, regaining some strength from his closeness.
“Something wrong, honey?”
She realized she was still panting, “Everything is sore. My arm hurts and I don’t know if I can fight.”
“Have you checked to make sure it is him?”
Roma paused, “… no.”
He chuckled, “Why don’t you check first? You might be sitting below the window of a college couple just making out.”
Laughing silently to herself, Roma focused on her left arm until it stopped shaking. Then, she lifted herself up and peered into room, using the tiny shreds of shadows that remained from the brightly lit room.
Roma saw the vassal of Lust first. Small breasted and slick with sweat, she was riding the crotch of a man with wild abandon. Roma gasped as she stared at the prostitute, watching as her perfect body moved in the bright light. Her entire body shimmered with sweat and slickness and Roma found herself staring at the woman’s breasts. Even in movement, they appeared to be perfect. From nipples that were like small erasers, to the tiny disk of darkness around them. Somehow, she has an allure that was almost mystical, drawing her to stare even as Roma tried to pull her eyes away.
She was whispering before Roma realized it, “She’s beautiful.”
From the tiny receiver, her husband spoke up with a wry tone, “But you don’t like women and, besides, you’re sleeping with me tonight.”
Shaking her head, Roma chuckled and ducked below the side of the window. She could still see the beautiful vassal of Lust in her mind. “Thanks, Love.”
“That’s why I’m here. Is it him?”
Roma peeked up into the window again. They changed position while she was talking, and now the Lust woman was on her hands and knees, face buried into a pillow. Jackson Mann was behind her, thrusting as hard and as fast as he could. She knelt down out of sight.
“Yeah, it’s him.”
“Yeah, banging the Lust slut. Hard.” She tried to erase the memory, but she could feel a growing attraction to the woman. She fought against it, concentrating on her husband’s face. Soon, the almost supernatural attraction faded away and she could breath again.
Thomas chuckled, “Having trouble, honey?”
Roma caressed the transmitter behind her ear, “Not with you here.”
Above her, Jackson roared out with an orgasm. She could hear him slumping to the bed, then the sound of quiet talking. She squatted and tried to listen, but the glass distorted the words and she couldn’t catch them. Taking a deep breath, she listened for anything interesting, then silence filled hotel room.
She almost peeked up again when a bang hit the window of the hotel. Startled, she crouched down into the shadows and looked up. They were doing it again, this time with the slut up against the window and him behind. Swearing softly to herself, Roma crouched even further into the shadows as they went through an enthusiastic round of sex before dropping back on the bed.
Ten minutes later, they were going at it again. Then twenty minutes later. Thomas chuckled over her radio, “Still going at it?”
Roma didn’t say anything and just waited. Finally, the sounds of sex died down. To her relief, the room was plummeted into darkness. Around her, the cool wind teased against her skin, but she waited until she was sure they were no longer moving before peeking up.
Inside, both vassals were sprawled out over the bed. Neither was moving. Moving very carefully, she lifted herself up to the window and balanced on the tiny edge. Reaching behind, she pulled out a small device and pressed it against the glass. It hummed very softly and the glass started to dissolve. Moving slowly, she dragged it along the glass until it dissolved a large enough opening for her own body to slip through.
Shutting it off, she replaced it in the sheath and raised one leg through the window. The carpet inside was soft and deep pile and she held her breath as she slipped her body through it, her back muscles screaming out as she rocked on her toes and crouched down inside the hotel room.
The stench of sex was heavy in the air. Roma padded forward, one hand reaching for a short dagger. Her toes made no noise against the carpet as she circled around the bed, watching the two carefully. Her heart was skipping quickly and she felt every sense of her body vibrating with the intensity. Something was strange about the prostitute, she seemed too perfect and almost tense in her sleep. Roma frowned as she paused half way around the bed, staring at the perfect ass and legs.
Her eyes dropped down to the crease of the girl’s knee. She saw a tiny imperfection, the only one across her flawless skin. It was a scar from some sort of edged weapon. Roma had hundreds across her own body. Seeing that scar, she focused on the woman, the almost mystical seduction gone with the rising sense of danger.
The woman was a fighter, Roma could see the muscles playing underneath the smooth skin. Then, the prostitute lifted her head, a sly smile on her lips and looked straight at Roma.
“Enjoying the view?” She spoke with a purr and Roma felt an uncomfortable tremble in her body. Concentrating on her husband’s face, she backed up slightly. The slut smoothly moved into a sitting position, sliding her hands back to lean against the pillows, brazenly shoving her breasts forward.
“So, you’re the assassin they sent to enforce this deal.” Roma crouched down, wary now. The utter calmness of the woman’s voice. The vassal of Lust was not even worried about having a ninja standing at the foot of the bed. Her eyes flashed over to Jackson, who snored and rolled over, before her eyes moved back to the naked woman.
The woman smiled and arched her back, Roma fought the urge to look way. The woman purred as she spoke, “Don’t worry, he’ll be sleeping for at least ten minutes.”
“Who are you?”
Roma froze, the slut’s voice echoing in her head. Just like Love used Death-trained ninjas to enforce contracts, the Lord of Lust used the same type of trained people to silence clients who caused trouble or to assassinate choice targets. And Laughing Comic was one of the best that Roma heard of, the seductive woman had never failed and had at least sixty kills to her name.
Laughing Comic smiled, rocking her shoulders back and forth, “I see you’ve heard of me. And you are?”
For the first time, the smile on Laughing Comic’s face faded slightly, “You can’t be serious.”
“Oh, I am definitely Serious.”
“How did they get you involved? I thought you were on vacation.”
“Well, some slut got me out.”
Laughing Comic made a humming noise, then cocked her head, “Fair enough.”
The vassal of Lust looked over at Jackson then back to Roma, “Well, you have nine minutes left. Shall we do this?”
Roma fingered the hilt of her short knife, then snapped her hand forward to throw it toward the ninja. Time slowed as the blade swung toward the naked woman, then there was a flash of sheets then an explosion of feathers. Roma dove backwards as shards from a wineglass slammed into the floor right at her feet.
The feathers drifted down to the bed and Roma saw the ninja amidst them, still naked, but holding a pillow in her right hand. The knife slipped out of the sliced pillow but Roma glanced toward the harmless looking other hand. A glint of some light showed the broken stem of a wineglass, a hidden weapon.
She barely had a chance to notice the weapon before Laughing Comic surged off the bed, her body shimmering with movement as she moved faster than most mortals. A whistling noise caught Roma’s attention and she managed to yank out a short fighting stick and throw in front of her. She felt the impact as she rapidly backpedaled, the impaled stem of the wineglass vibrating in her fighting stick.
Comic’s body flashed as she jumped off the bed. Roma dropped down into a sweeping kick from left to right. When the assassin easily jumped over it, Roma screamed out and swung her fighting stick into the naked woman’s side. It impacted with a dull thud. There was a flash of surprise in Laughing Comic’s brilliant blue eyes, then a gloating smile as Roma felt something sharp stab directly into the burn wound on her left arm.
Swearing, Roma threw herself ungracefully away from the assassin. She hit the ground and rolled into it, narrowly avoiding a television set almost the size of her front door. Seeing a flash of flesh, Roma parried a kick aimed again at her burn wound. Frowning, she punched Laughing Comic hard, and kicked at her knee. This time, the assassin backed away and Roma held herself ready for another attack.
“That looks like a nasty wound there, Roma.”
Roma remained wary as she started to circle toward the glass. In the corner of her eyes, she saw Jackson waking up. He gasped as he sat up straight, staring at the two women in fear.
Laughing Comic chuckled softly, “Ever wonder how they found you in the airport?”
“Yeah, I believe in removing my opponents from my fights. Like Snails, he was a hard one to knock out, but…” she left the words unsaid. Roma felt rage beginning to rise up inside her and she forced herself to push it down.
The slut smirked, “Don’t worry, I’m going to cut that little throat of yours before I hunt down that husband of yours.”
Roma froze, her hand squeezing around the handle of her fighting stick until the knuckles cracked. Deep inside, a banked fire of passion suddenly flared into life, searing through her veins as she felt the world tremble around her. Roma had to force the words out as she hissed angrily.
“What… did… you… say?”
Laughing Comic hesitated, but then the cocky smirk returned quickly. “And that little bastard of a child.”
The fire exploded inside her, filling her with the raw energy of Love itself. It gathered around the symbol over her heart, the tiny mark of her lord. As she stepped sideways, she felt the fighting stick start to crack from the new strength of her grip and she had to force herself to relax. Comic circled around her, gracefully moving but Roma was fighting a growing urge to rip her throat out right then and there. With a blunt stick.
Glaring at the assassin of Lust, her heartbeats pounded loudly in her ears as she started mouthing silent words as fast as she could. Rage and anger rose up into an inferno, but Laughing Comic didn’t realize anything was happening until her office mark, the elegant heart symbol on her skin, started to smolder.
Roma choked out the words to her spell as she felt energy seeped into her, granting her speed and strength to protect the ones who mattered most to her, her family. The mark exploded in a gout of pure energy, burning away the suit as she snarled at the naked woman.
“I’m… going… to kill… you!”
Laughing Comic started to say something, fear showing in her eyes.
“Damn it, I forgot about that stupid thing you Love people do-” she had to pause to change her position, “-when your spouse is threatened.”
Roma surged forward, her stick coming up from below. The assassin managed to get intercept with the pillow in her hand. It impacted the stick but exploded from the force of the blow. The fighting stick snapped but Roma continued with the blow, slicing the jagged end up. It cut into her opponent’s shoulder, cutting from sternum almost up to the collar before Laughing Comic managed to bend backwards saving her throat from the jagged end.
A kick slammed into Roma’s stomach, but the ninja threw herself into it, rage boiling up as she slashed again and again. Laughing Comic continued her flip backwards, rolling over the bed to grab a towel near the edge. She came up with a laugh and spun it around in a rat tail. Roma jumped on the bed. Her feet sunk into the soft surface as she slashed out at the vassal of Lust. Laughing Comic jumped on the bed as well, cracking the towel. Energy coursed along the length of the fabric weapon and it caught Roma in the right shoulder. She almost screamed out as the towel tip cut into her, slicing to the bone. A fountain of blood splattered against the ceiling.
Laughing Comic snarled at her, circling around on the bed, the hapless Jackson in the middle of their fight.
“I’m going to kill you, Roma. And there is nothing that little power from Love can do to stop me.”
Roma whispered, fighting back the intense rage that boiled inside her.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, I am.”
Laughing Comic swung the towel around, energy surging along the length of it. It screamed out as it came down. Roma ignored it, throwing her left arm into the blow. It cut deep, snapping the bone of her left shoulder. With her right arm, she punched with all her strength, the snapped-off end of her fighting stick punching into Laughing Comic’s chest, right below the rib cage.
The naked woman froze, a startled look on her face. She looked down at the weapon in her stomach, then up at Roma.
Roma snarled, “Not my family, you won’t.”
Laughing Comic started to say something, but Roma twisted the stick, jamming it up behind the ribs and the vassal of Lust died almost instantly. She slipped off the stick, falling to the ground in a perfectly-shaped corpse. Roma panted, her lip still trying to curl.
“I am serious, never fuck with my family.”
Slowly, she turned her body to look at Jackson. The vassal of Steel was staring up at her with utter fear and terror. Roma held up the bloody stick before him, still panting.
“You see this?”
He nodded, unable to speak. Roma felt her leg grow weak and she sat down on the edge of the bed. She continued to brandish her stick.
“Do you want to be killed by this?”
Jackson shook his head violently. Roma took a deep breath, her body shaking from shock. Her left arm refused to move and she could feel the bones grinding together. Winching, she shook the weapon and splattered blood on the sheets and Jackson.
“Then you better make a choice, Jackson.” She paused, half worried that she was threatening the wrong person. He gulped loudly.
“You have to decide if this is going to be your last warning or the termination of your contract.”
“D-Don’t I have another chance-”
Roma snarled, “No! You choose now. Either you enjoy the next eighty years of your marriage, without cheating a single more time or I kill you right here and now.”
“What about the viol-”
Roma’s voice grew icy and she knelt forward, thrusting the bloody end of the stick within an inch of his throat.
“There will be no violation. Not now, not ever. If you cheat one more time, I’m going to gut you and the bitch you are sleeping with in the loudest, most painful, and agonizing manner.”
Jackson gulped loudly. “I-I-I won’t.”
Roma crawled off the bed, still brandishing her weapon.
“You better not. You will be happily married, you understand?”
He nodded. She staggered to her feet and gestured for the door.
“I’m leaving now.”
Jackson said nothing. Roma staggered to the door, fingering the transmitter into life.
Thomas replied almost immediately, “Yes, darling?”
“I need help getting out.”
“Shit, you okay?” She could hear the concern in his voice and she let herself smile. With her good foot, she kicked open the door and peered outside. There was no one outside of the hall. At one end was the elevator and she headed straight for it.
“Not really. Front door, please.”
She heard the van being turned on and she turned off the transmitter. Wincing from the pain, she thumbed the down button with the bloody stick and waited for it to open. Carefully, she checked inside, then almost fell to the back. Her left arm started to scream out in pain as she kicked the first floor button. The doors dinged once and the elevator raced for the ground floor.
Roma groaned, rapping her head against the walnut walls of the elevator, “So much easier than climbing.”
When the elevator dinged again, it was on the first floor. She peered outside and saw the two assassins Thomas had seen. They were both beautiful, in the same quality that made her ache for them despite the pain. She hated Lust people, with their unnatural beauty and false emotions. They spotted her coming out of the elevators and started toward her, pulling out swords.
Roma groaned and held up her stick like a weapon, but she knew she couldn’t win against the two other vassals of Lust. Her left arm still refused to move and she couldn’t dodge one sword, much less two.
Behind them, she saw Thomas pull the van up right in front of the hotel. A grim smile stretched across her face as she started forward, heading toward him. The two guards went to intercept her, their weapons glinting in the light of the entry. The van door slid up and she watched as Thomas started to fumble in one of the containers right inside the door. She could tell that the need to protected his loved one was burning just as brightly as hers did before.
The rest of the hotel emptied out quickly as the two guards came within a few yards of Roma. She let her eyes focus on them, hefting her bloody weapon as she tried to figure out their pattern of attack. Both of the beautiful killers spread out, one on each side and she had to turn slowly to keep them both in view. Sandy Waters, a pointless nickname like most vassals of Lust had, was a beautiful, tawny woman who excelled at fighting with a slightly curved short sword and a dagger. Sandy was only wielding the sword now.
Then a whistling sound filled the air right before the entire front of the hotel exploded. It blew glass and shards against all three of the warriors inside the hotel, but none moved, each waiting for the others to make the fatal mistake. Then, as one, the two Lust vassals turned to stare in shock at her husband. Thomas carefully reloaded his rocket launcher and aimed it right for the ceiling of the hotel, above all four.
“She’s coming with me, kids.” His voice was cheerful, but it was strained. Roma felt a swelling in her heart, a love for a man who would kill anyone for her and she mouthed “I love you” back to him.
Sandy started to come closer then stopped to give Thomas a glance. He smiled at her and fingered the trigger for the rocket launcher.
Then, Sandy stepped back, still holding her weapon ready.
“Next time, ninja.”
Roma didn’t care. She gave the other killer a look filled with malice and her desire to kill them, despite the inability to fight. Taking a deep breath, she walked the remaining few yards to her husband’s van and gratefully crawled inside. She got one last look at the two bodyguards, each one snarling with hate in the midst of the rubble. Thomas shoved the door shut, dropped the rocket launcher on the ground next to her, and hopped into the van. Moments later, they were racing away from the scene of the crime.
She made sure the launcher had its safety enabled then crawled over to Dax, who was watching her with all the innocence of the world, unaware of the blood and violence. She felt her pain fading away as she looked at the love of her life and reached out with a blood-streaked finger. Dax grabbed it and giggled, shaking his feet and Roma only saw love in his eyes.
Hours later, a phone rang out softly. Daker looked up from his dinner, but Erin was already standing up. She took the few steps and swept up the phone, bringing it to her ear.
Daker smiled to himself and stirred the alfredo and noodles in his plate, trying to make a mountain shaped as he listened to his wife speaking.
“Yes. No. We’ll deal with it tomorrow.” A long pause, “He’ll talk to both of you later.”
As she spoke, she returned back to her chair, the mobile phone perched on her shoulder. Daker watched as a frown cross her face and he admired how even the wrinkles seemed symmetrical.
“Very good, she has been a thorn in our side for some time.”
Erin started to straighten out her own noodles, lining them up using just the edge of the knife.
“I’ll check on it, Snails was devastated by that.”
Another short pause.
“Have a good night.”
She almost clicked off the phone, then listened for a moment.
“Three months, both of you. Yes, both of you.”
Turning off the phone, Erin looked over at her husband. He watched as her eyes dropped down to his plate and that perfect frown gracing her face again. When she held out her hand for his plate, he shook his head.
“Was that Serious?”
“Yes, they succeeded with collateral damage.”
“Collateral? How much?”
“Explosion to the front of the Grand Monarch Hotel.”
Mafor frowned himself, “Explosion as in Thomas’ pet rocket launcher.”
Erin leaned forward and slipped the plate from his hands. Setting it down in front of her, she started to straighten the noodles.
“Yes, but they also killed Laughing Comic.”
“Really? That’s wonderful news!”
Erin nodded and returned his plate with a smile.
“I’ll deal with the damages tomorrow.”
She stood up smoothly and set the phone back into its cradle. Swaying her hips, she came up next to Mafor who looked up, a smile across his lips.
“You are beautiful.”
Erin lowered her body slightly and drew one finger across his perfectly straightened noodles on his plate, twisting them out of place. With a seductive smile, she licked her finger clean.
“Dessert is upstairs.”
She slipped away and up the stairs. Mafor stared down at the marred perfection of his plate and chuckled.
“Love is very good.”