The assassins were coming for Jack Death again, but that was okay – by now he was used to it. The three in front of him would die just as all the others did.
His body moved with the speed that was the benefit of years of muscle memory. His aim with the Beretta 9mm was precise, every action flowing into the next: two shots to the chest of the first man to hold him in place, one to the head to finish him off. Grab his body and use it as a shield against the second. Two shots to hold the second man, one to the head. Throw the corpse at the third man to distract him, then two shots to the chest, one to the head. Stop and evaluate.
Seven seconds elapsed. Three targets neutralized. Nine rounds expended, six left in the magazine. No additional threats. Alleyway clear. One unexplained sonic boom.
Jack blinked. Sonic boom?
It had come from down the street, just out of sight. What followed was a pair of approaching voices speaking in English but making no sense.
The first was female. Young. Late teens to early twenties. “Do you have to say the name of the power each time you use it?”
The second was male. Adult. Light accent, possibly Japanese. “I don’t know. That is how it has always been done.”
“Try it without the words, Roy. I’ll bet it will work.”
Jack stepped back into the shadows to watch them pass. He blinked in disbelief as he saw them. The first voice belonged to a high school girl, 5'3", with long dark hair tied back in ponytail, wearing a purple t-shirt, ripped jeans, and long knives scabbarded at her hip. The second belonged to a tall Japanese man with horns on his head, 6'2", dressed like something out of a bad fantasy movie. Behind them floated a humming orb around the size of a beach ball.
Jack holstered his gun and began to follow them at a discreet distance. He was silent – years of training and practice as an assassin had rendered him undetectable whenever he needed to be. A ghost in a dark, bulletproof, three-piece suit.
“What kind of story is this?” the girl said.
The tall Japanese man looked around. “What are those buildings for? Are they banks?”
A movement out of the corner of Jack’s eyes. Two more assassins after the bounty on his head. Jack moved into the next alley and drew his pistol, waited pressed against the wall at the corner where the alley met the street.
“They’re office buildings,” the female said. “A bank would have some a sign saying it is a bank somewhere.”
The first man stepped past the corner. Jack moved. Grab the first man by the arm, put two shots in his chest. One in the head to finish him. Pivot while holding the corpse as a shield. Two shots in the chest, one in the head. Evaluate. Three seconds elapsed. Two targets down. Alley clear. Magazine empty.
Jack ejected the magazine from his gun, reloaded it, and holstered it. Then he moved back onto the street. At an intersection, he saw the two strangers go into the First National Bank.
Jack hung back and watched.
He heard a flurry of gunfire and crashes. A couple of customers fled the building. And then there was silence. The strange pair did not emerge.
Jack waited another couple of minutes, and then approached the bank. He drew his pistol and opened the door. The carnage was unlike anything he had ever seen before. It took him a moment to get over the shock. Remember your training, he thought. Assess. Evaluate.
Seven targets down, six of whom were dead. Three killed by knife-work, one from a sliced throat with the expected arterial spray against the floor and wall, the other two from stab wounds to the head. Four targets pinned to the walls by spikes of drywall and masonry through the chest, three of whom were dead, one barely alive.
The survivor stared at him. Jack put a bullet through his head, putting him out of his misery. One bullet expended, fourteen left in the magazine. No sign of the pair responsible for whatever this was.
Jack climbed over the desk and shattered bulletproof glass shield. Debris from the vault door was scattered across the floor. The door had been ripped off its hinges and tossed to the side. Inside the vault was the remains of a pile of money. But there was still no sign of the strange pair. Somehow they had made their escape, but Jack couldn’t even begin to guess how. He holstered his gun and stepped forward to take a closer look...
...and fell through the solid-looking floor.
There was a blinding light, and Jack felt his entire body stretch and snap back. And then he was somewhere else.
Jack shook his head to clear it. He was in a city, but it wasn’t New York. Keeping to the side-street he had arrived in, he looked out and took stock. Most of the passers-by were Asian, speaking Japanese, and only a few of them were wearing suits. There were a few Americans or Europeans, speaking a smattering of different languages – tourists no doubt.
His training kicked in. First step: threat assessment, evaluation. Number of potential threats: zero.
Jack blinked. That couldn’t be right. He reassessed.
Zero potential threats.
He shook his head. Forget that impossible number – he had to figure out where he was. He was obviously in Japan, and in a major city. The number of tourists was suggestive as well – probably a major hub, then. So, Tokyo, perhaps? There was a tower looming over the skyline that looked very suggestive. A snow-capped mountain to the west as well. Almost certainly Tokyo.
Still, there were zero potential threats. As impossible as that seemed, perhaps he should enjoy it. Jack wandered down the street, taking everything in. Turning a corner, he found a park with a smattering of families and tourists strolling through. A good, quiet place to take stock and think.
Jack found a bench with good tactical sight-lines and at least three routes for escape from the park, and sat down. Then he watched people pass by, enjoying the peace.
He heard the approaching man with ease, and assessed him through his peripheral vision. Male, early 30s, 5'6" tall. Japanese, well built, tattoos. Unarmed. Probably here to do an evaluation of his own.
The man sat down on the bench beside him. Jack didn’t react.
“Not often that one gets to meet his American cousin,” the man said in accented English.
“Yakuza?” Jack asked.
“You have a good eye,” the man said.
“One needs it to be your American cousin,” Jack stated.
“What is your name, cousin?”
“Are you associated with anybody?”
“Are you working, Death-san?”
Jack turned his head to look at the Yakuza. “No. And I’m not planning to.”
“What brings you to Japan?”
“Just visiting,” Jack said.
“And how are you enjoying your stay?”
“It’s so still here,” Jack said. “No tension in the air. It feels...peaceful. I’m not used to that.”
“We pride ourselves on maintaining harmony in the face of visiting foreigners,” the Yakuza said. “The guns laws here are strict, so I would suggest not being caught with those two pistols under your jacket. Otherwise, please enjoy yourself.”
“You going to keep an eye on me while I’m here?”
The Yakuza shook his head. “No need. Your word is good enough.”
“You’re very trusting.”
“No,” the Yakuza said. “Just a good judge of character. You, I think, are not a man who would start a fight unless he was working. You are also a man with enough respect for his peers that you would not lie about whether you are working. That is good enough for me, and that means that it is good enough for us. Stay away from our interests and leave us alone, and we will leave you alone.”
Jack nodded. “One last thing,” he said, fishing out one of the silver tokens issued as underworld currency by the Great Council and handing it to the Yakuza. “Does this mean anything to you?”
The Yakuza inspected it and handed it back. “It does not, Death-san.”
Jack bowed his head. “Thank you for your time and your answer.”
“The honour was mine,” the Yakuza said, standing and leaving.
Jack put the coin back in his pocket. It should have been recognized and useable as currency anywhere in the world. So, he was in Japan, probably Tokyo, but not his world’s Tokyo. He’d need money. That would be easy enough, though – he could just pawn some of the tokens. They were silver, after all.
A commotion drew his attention. A mother and small child were making a scene near one of the trees. The child had just spilled her drink and was crying. Jack sighed. He knew what would come next – the child would be slapped and berated for her clumsiness. It was a common, universal little drama that everybody grew up with.
The mother knelt down and held her daughter, saying comforting words until the little girl stopped crying. Then, she gave the little girl a kiss and wiped the tears off her cheeks.
It took a moment for Jack to realize that his jaw was open in shock and close it. What the hell had he just seen?
There was something strange about this world, and he was going to get to the bottom of it, no matter what.
For over a century, fictional characters have been falling out of their stories into our world. Some, like mech pilot Atria Silversword and isekai protagonist Daiki Yamato, want to go home. Some, like JRPG non-player character Princess Stellaria, want a new life. Some, like superhero Captain Infinite and devil king The Destroyer, want to meet their creators. Some, like monster hunter Jenny Calhoun and super-assassin Jack Death, want justice for their suffering.
And one will fight a bloody war to liberate them all.
New chapter(s) every Friday.
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Art by Foxtail: https://www.deviantart.com/wilsanne07/gallery/
Review by Josh Piedra at The Outerhaven: https://www.theouterhaven.net/2022/05/light-novel-review-reapotheosis/
Print and e-book editions, with a new afterword by the author, will be released on November 21, and are now available for pre-order!