Dragon slapped the sheaf of papers down onto the glass table. "There's the pattern, such as it is. Ketsueki strikes pretty much at random. Last attack reported was the one you saw. I hate to say it, but we may have to wait until the next one to get any clues at all."
Motaki nodded and closed his eyes. "You don't like working with me, do you, Shidan?"
Dragon cocked an eyebrow at him. Motaki shrugged. "Just making conversation. We have a great deal in common, you know."
"Yeah. We both called ourselves Black Dragon and we both worked as assassins. Of course, one of us got smart and learned a better way."
Motaki let out an exasperated breath. "There is no reasoning with you, brother. Every one of my victims has been proven guilty before I killed him. Sometimes, I provided the investigations, even though the police had been paid not to. They were criminals and murderers of the highest order, and therefore deserved to suffer the ultimate punishment. Would you have me leave them to run free?"
"How did you get started on this?"
"It began that day after I left the house, do you remember? I was angry at father for forcing me to use my martial skills as an assassin. I wandered aimlessly around Japan until eventually I was inducted into the Dragon Cult. I learned a great deal there, but they did not take kindly to my improving on some of their techniques. They frowned especially on my improvements upon their channeling of ki."
"During my time with the cult, I learned a great deal about the amount of power abuse that was going on in Japan. When I suggested to some of the members that the cult might put an end to it, they told me that ours was a higher mission. That night, I left the cult. It wasn't long after that when I killed the first Yakuza Oyabun."
The two Dragons stared at each other in silence. Suddenly, the silence was broken by a ringing phone. Dragon walked over to the desk between the two hotel beds and picked it up.
"Golden Dragon here...Yes, I would be very interested. Thanks, Kato. We're on our way...What? No, I meant I'm on my way."
Motaki was putting on his mask when Dragon turned around. "That was Detective Nijimi, they just found a body that looks like...where are you going?"
"I am going with you," Motaki said. "We agreed to work together on this case."
"I will not associate with you in public, especially not in front of the police. You will stay here."
"As you wish," Motaki muttered.
With one final glance, Dragon grabbed his fedora and stepped outside. Moments later, Motaki left through the hotel window. His hands held to the building as if they had adhesive on them. He began to slowly crawl down the side of the building.
Dragon landed next to Kato Nijimi, who was standing outside an isolated restaurant. The sign above it read, "Golden Dragon."
"Hi, Dan. You're not going to like this. I think it was meant as a message to you."
The two men stepped under the police lines and into the restaurant. The white walls were splattered with blood, and fifteen patrons lay dead in various parts of the restaurant. Some had been propped up with cups and utensils in their hands in a mockery of life. Others had been sliced into parts and strewn about the restaurant. It was a scene of unbelievable carnage.
Dragon poked around the restaurant, looking for any clues as to when it might have occurred and how the creature had done it. After ten minutes, he was shaking his head. "I don't know. He apparently wants to show me that he can kill people right under my nose. And it scares me, but the evidence points to the theory that he did this all alone."
"Maybe he's challenging you," Kato suggested. "Didn't he try to kill you when you came into town? Maybe he wants you to find him. There are other Golden Dragon restaurants in Tokyo. I checked."
"In Tokyo, only about three. The other two, unfortunately, are on opposite sides of town. If you try to protect one, he may well slaughter the other's patrons long before you can reach there. I would offer police assistance, but it seems likely that anyone who could do this could easily kill my men."
Dragon nodded. "It's okay. I'll cover it. Thanks for clueing me in."
Dragon walked outside and was about to take flight when he heard Motaki's voice. "Which restaurant shall I guard?"
"I thought I told you to stay at the hotel!" Dragon said.
"You did. I ignored you. You may have been leader of Wildside, but you are still my little brother. And we are allies, not teammates."
"I take it you know where both of the restaurants are?"
Black Dragon nodded and said, "Perhaps you would be better off taking the one on the north side. It is farther away, and you can travel faster than I."
Black Dragon gave Dragon the street address. "Good luck, brother."
"No killing, Motaki. Our agreement."
Dragon flew off to the restaurant. He was a little worried about letting Motaki work alone after he had disobeyed his orders before. But he did have a code of honor, and he had expressly stated that he would not kill Ketsueki, so Dragon figured he was safe.
Dragon landed outside the Golden Dragon restaurant. It was in a small shopping center, but at ten o'clock at night, it was the only shop open. Dragon changed into his street clothes and stepped in through the door.
The restaurant was small, only two tables. An older woman walked through the doors from the kitchen and said, "Just yourself?" Dragon nodded and was guided to the near table. The woman gave him a menu and walked back through the double doors in the back of the restaurant.
Dragon had begun to scan the menu when the front door swung open. Kato walked inside, smiling at Dragon. He took a seat across from him. Somehow, the smile seemed wrong. Dragon had a flash of realization just in time to jump back from the table.
Four claws swiped through the air where Dragon had been sitting. In Kato's place there now sat Ketsueki. "So, you remembered my shapeshifting abilities. Good, I wouldn't want the kill to be easy."
Dragon switched into his costume and found himself backed against a wall. "So, I never talked to Kato tonight, did I? You wanted me here."
Ketsueki inclined his head towards Dragon. "Indeed. And I overheard your conversation with the Black Dragon. Your older brother? Very interesting. I knew exactly where to go to avoid the little bastard."
The kitchen doors swung open and Dragon winced, expecting to see the old woman walk in. Instead he saw a blur of black strike Ketsueki in the back. Motaki stood behind the creature and said, "Your ploy was clever, Oni. But I sensed your true nature and followed Golden Dragon here. Now you face both the Black and the Golden Dragons."
Ketsueki smiled. "And you face the minions of the Wyrm!" he shouted.
Two more creatures, smaller but otherwise identical to Ketsueki, emerged from the back room and dragged Motaki into the room through the swinging doors. Dragon noticed that one of them was wearing the old woman's apron. The sounds of combat echoed from within.
"Now, perhaps, we can finish our battle, Golden Dragon."
Dragon was not in the mood to talk. He roared and flew directly into Ketsueki, crushing him into and through the nearest wall. The two of them flew into the street, thankfully clear of people.
Ketsueki executed a roll and came up with his clawed hands wide. He flew past Dragon, cutting him across the chest again. He landed and turned for another attack, slashing Dragon before he could react. "You may not feel the sting as much as a mortal, but you will fall eventually."
Ketsueki leaped again, preparing to claw Dragon's throat. Dragon's hand shot up and caught the beast by the neck. "I've learned patience over the years, Ketsueki."
Dragon slammed him head first into the ground and heard a sickening crack. The sidewalk split open from the force of the impact. Ketsueki did not move, except to twitch once.
"Oh, no." Dragon let go of Ketsueki and bent to check on him. He was barely able to pull his face back as the creature swiped again with his claws. The two squared off once more. Dragon noticed that a trickle of blood was coming from Ketsueki's neck, and that his head was sitting at an odd angle. I did break his neck, Dragon thought, and it still didn't stop him.
Both combatants were momentarily distracted when the head of one of the other creatures flew out into the street and rolled past. "Your brother is not as squeamish as you, Golden Dragon. Perhaps he will join the Wyrm."
Dragon took another jab, which Ketsueki ducked. Well, thought Dragon, he only promised not to kill Ketsueki, the bastard. At least they're not human.
"We can dance all night, Golden Dragon," Ketsueki called out. "Only one of us gets tired and only that one will die. You haven't the power to destroy me, even if your feeble moral code allowed it. And once I've killed you, I believe I'll pay a visit to your lovely wife and unborn child."
Dragon felt a surge of familiar rage, but with it came an unfamiliar feeling of power. His head began to pound, and he felt his clothes constricting him. He heard the ripping of cloth and when he looked down, he saw that he was growing golden scales all over his body. The Coil Gene is activating again, Dragon thought, King Cobra's genetic tampering with me has finally cost me my life.
Ketsueki was frozen, staring in awe at Dragon's transformation. He didn't even notice the second of his allies heads come rolling out of the restaurant and Black Dragon following it, only to stop and stare at Dragon as well.
Dragon began to grow faster and his shape altered as well. His face elongated and became less human, eventually turning into a snout and glowing red eyes. His body became larger and more serpentine until eventually he looked like an enormous Golden Dragon.
"You've made a very large mistake, Ketsueki," Dragon boomed. "You should never have threatened my family."
Dragon brought a huge paw down on Ketsueki. The stunned creature seemed unable to move. When Dragon lifted his paw, only a puddle of steaming black goo remained. Dragon's paw was glowing with golden light. Suddenly, he reverted to human form and gazed in shock at his right hand, now covered in the black substance.
"I...I just went to grab him. When I touched him, he disintegrated. How..."
A glowing image of a dragon's head appeared in the air before Dragon. "I am Okage, the Golden Dragon," it said in a soothing voice. "My spirit has been bonded with yours since you took the gem. Now, you have absorbed all of the power that I have to give. It is time for me to return to the gem."
"Wait," said Dragon. "Tell me about my power. What just happened? What do I do now?"
The dragon's head was gone, but Dragon heard a voice inside his head. "Very well. Listen carefully, and when you are done, return the gem to its resting place with the Dragon Cult. In 2320, there will again be a need for my power, and I need to begin recharging."
"In ancient times, long before humans walked the Earth, there were wars in the Dragon Lands. I, Okage, was lord of the Eastern Realms. I ruled very strongly, but I tried to be fair to all. Most were satisfied with my rule."
"However, there arose from within the Realm a rebellion, stemming from a young dragon called Daraku Suru. He sought to convert dragonkind into a conquering force, expanding into the other dimensions that we were in contact with."
"Daraku Suru made an alliance with the Oni, an extraplanar race who were also in contact with Earth Japan. Suru and his minions were infused with part of their power and given some of their agents. Thankfully, our Archmage found and shut down the gate to the Oni dimension, but not before many of them had entered our world."
"Led by Daraku Suru, the Oni destroyed most of dragonkind. Even the Archmage fell before their might. With his magic gone, Daraku and his followers decided to reopen the dimensional gates and conquer the multiverse. I formed the core of the resisting army. We attacked the ceremony, hoping to destroy them before the gates could be reopened. Meanwhile, our surviving mages erected a magical barrier to shut down all gates to other dimensions, isolating the Dragon Lands. Without immense magical help, no free travel would be permitted to other dimensions. So it remains today."
"But we failed in our quest. Most of my army was destroyed, and Daraku absorbed all of his followers into himself, giving him more than enough power to destroy me."
"What happened next I still don't know, and probably never will. However, I know that my soul was imprisoned within a magical crystal, which you have come to call the Dragon Gem, to be released at times of great need. My immense magical nature allows lesser beings to draw upon my power and form powers of their own, based on their own needs and desires. Due to my alignment with the forces of good, true power is reached only when that being aligns themselves with the forces of good. This is why you gained more power as you surrendered your Black Dragon persona and became the Golden Dragon. I must admit, some of that was my doing. I influenced your name choice. But the strength of will to become a hero was all your own."
"This is all I know. Please return the gem to the Dragon Cult."
"Wait!" Dragon cried. "What became of Daraku Suru?"
"Ah. He and his absorbed followers became known as the Wyrm. I do not know in what form he exists today."
Dragon heard another voice in his head, and he felt Okage's presence fading. "Golden Dragon."
The voice belonged to Sagan. "Your wife is about to give birth. Return at once to the temple."
Dragon had flown halfway to his old home before he realized that Black Dragon had escaped him again.
Dragon landed in the streets outside his home to find Sagan already there, standing inside a golden portal. "Time is of the essence."
Dragon flew through and was transported into his room. Kimberly was lying on the bed, screaming in pain. He had missed the childbirth experience with Alex, and it scared him. "Is she dying?"
Sagan smiled apologetically. "No, but the baby is not coming easily. She has been in labor for half the day. Our mystics tell us that now is the time."
Dragon walked over to Kim and held her hand. Alex was already there, holding her other hand. "I'm here, honey," Dragon said. "I wouldn't miss this again."
Kim squeezed Dragon's hand so hard that he actually felt it.
A robed figure was standing between Kimberly's legs, and he gingerly pulled the child from her. She stopped screaming and panted heavily, sweat pouring from her brow. Dragon gently kissed her forehead and stroked her hair back.
"It is a girl," said the robed man. "Congratulations, Golden Dragon." He held the child out to Dragon.
Dragon felt a cold chill run up his spine as he looked into the baby's face. She looked normal, except for yellow slitted eyes, sharp teeth, and a forked tongue. "Cobra," he muttered.
"What? Dan, what's wrong?" Kim tried to sit up but was unable.
Dragon stared at his child and held his finger out towards her. She reached up with her tiny hands and grabbed it. Her eyes and mouth closed and she looked as Dragon had expected her too all along; perfect.
"Nothing. She's a little...unusual. But then, who in this family isn't?"
Dragon handed his wife their child and saw her smile. Tomorrow, he thought, and probably for the next two months of this vacation, we'll deal with the Coil Gene's effect on my child. But for today, everything was right with the world. He was with his wife, his son, and his newborn daughter. And he was the Golden Dragon. He finally understood what that meant now.