The sun was almost setting in Beijing. A few minutes more, and it would hide behind the gigantic citadels to leave the city in the darkness.
Wearing an open-chest white suit of the finest fabric money could buy and a golden necklace around his neck, Shao Leng waited for his bodyguards to clear the halls of the apartment building.
“Mom…”, said the young girl, “the bastards are here…” “Don’t call them that, I’ve told you a thousand times.” “But you know…” “I know!”, her mother replied, almost angry. A sigh. “Look”, she added, kneeling down to hug her. Mommy’s going to deal with the… those men. No matter what you hear, promise me you won’t come out of your room until they’re gone, okay? “Mom, is something bad going to happen?” “Nothing bad”, she lied. She smiled, but her eyes frowned. “Remember, hide in your closet and don’t come out, okay?” “Can I go to the catwalks instead? I have my air mask right here.”
The girl’s mom realized it was better if Lucy was kept away from the horrors that would follow. “You’re right, honey, go to the catwalks, but promise me you won’t look through the window. Actually, go as far as you can go, and come back in two hours.” “Okay mom.” “Good girl. Don’t come back ealier, because you don’t want to intrude into your mom’s privacy. Mom’s privacy is very important, okay?” The girl frowned when she heard that. It became obvious that those men were going to do things to mom. That wasn’t fair.
“Okay, mom…” The door banged.
“WE’RE HERE FOR THE RENT, WOMAN!!”
The mother saw her child walk out the window before climbing the emergency stairs to the catwalks. She closed the window and the shades. Swallowing and taking a deep breath, she said a brief prayer before running to the door. She unlocked the door. The gang leader looked angry.
“What took you so long?” “I was… in the bathroom…” “Have you got this month’s payment?” “I only got 400…” “Woman, I warned you before…” “Peharps… I could persuade you somehow to give me more time?”
The woman unbuttoned her shirt slowly and bit her lip, partially seducing him and partially out of anxiety. A dirty smile crossed the leader’s face. “Well, if you put it that way… wait, don’t you have a kid?” “She’s out… she won’t come back until much later.” “Hey, you’re a bad mother, you know you should be taking care of your child…” The bodyguards laughed. “She’s with some friends…” “So there’s nobody at home?” The woman closed her eyes and shook her head. She turned around and let her shirt fall to the floor. “Please… make yourself at home.” The entire gang entered the bedroom and closed the door.
Lucy didn’t know what those men were exactly going to do to her mother. She suspected, she was old enough to know about birds and bees… but she didn’t want to think about it. She thought, it was something women were supposed to do, anyway. But it didn’t feel right… not since dad passed away a few years ago. And much less right when the bastards had anything to do with it.
Away with all that. The sun was setting. And somehow, the polluted air of Beijing made the sunset look especially beautiful. And then began the lights show. Little by little, the LED fixtures began lighting up in the markets below. Lucy loved watching the lights. They were mesmerizing.
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What was most intriguing was the curious people that came to the market. Beijing had changed a lot in the last 2 years. Visitors from all around the world came here. Not just white men wearing all kinds of metal limbs and colored glasses that covered their entire faces, but there were crittermen, too. “Transhumans”, they called themselves. There was a guy with dragon skin, people with bug eyes, some even had wings and tails.
Lucy got a bit curious about some of those easterners’ bodyguards. Once every few weeks, people would stare at giant monsters with fearsome claws and teeth. Or with big red masks. Those were the Youkai. Expensive bodyguards, from Japan. She didn’t know if they were people or just robots. But some got angry. They were half-animal, perhaps? Looking at the lights and the people gathering around the market made her feel sleepy. But she also felt dizzy. “Oh, my mask!”
She put on her mask, covered herself with her hood, and fell asleep on the catwalk. In a couple of minutes, the dizziness receded, but the sleep was getting stronger. Before she knew it, a beeping sound woke her up. How much time had passed? The mask was supposed to last 3 hours. “Aw, crap… it’s almost 10PM. I better go home.”
She began climbing the scaffolding to the next catwalk, when she saw a man that reminded her of the bastards. He was smiling and showing off his money to some woman that was almost naked. He began touching her in all places. She imagined the woman with mom’s face, sad, and frightened. An idea came to her. She grabbed a nearby bottle of beer and threw it at the man. When she saw him bleed, she felt good.
“HEY!!! WHO THE FUCK DID THAT!!!”
Near the man, she saw a flickering light. The light was shaped like a human, and when it vanished, she saw that he was wearing one of those weird glasses.
“Above! On the cat walk!”
Shit. They saw me!!!
“Get that kid!!!”
Shit shit shit shit shit
She began to run. She hesitated when arriving to the scaffolding. No, I don’t want them to know where I live! She turned to the right instead. After running around the corner, she saw that there was no more catwalk in there… just a long fall down. Wait, there were some cardboard boxes ahead… maybe if she jumped real fast…
Okay, Lucy… you can do it. One… two…
She didn’t jump far enough.
That sounded like english. And the voice wasn’t like the man with glasses. She felt… fur? A woman had just saved her. She felt herself falling and caught again.
“Hoo aar yuu?” She didn’t understand English. She had tried to learn, but it was just strange syllables to her. “Ahr yuu orrait?” More weird twisted syllables. “Ou.. sorri.”
“Sorry.” That word she did understand. Then the woman spoke to her again, this time in proper Mandarin.
“Sorry, forgot to turn on my translator. Are you okay?” Lucy nodded. “Who are you, why did you attack that man? Did he do something bad to you?” When she paid attention to the woman, she realized she was one of those critterpeople. The back of her arms were covered in fur, and had ears like a cat. Her face looked beautiful. Before she could answer, the bad man arrived to the alley, he was covering his forehead with a red-stained handkerchief. “Hey! YOU! Give us that kid!” “I’m sorry, she’s new around here. She was playing target and somehow she missed… I’m sorry, how much should I pay you for the injury?” “No. No payment. The kid has to be punished.” “Fine. I’ll punish her.” The woman knelt down and whispered to her. “Pretent I hit you very bad, and cry.” Then she smacked her, and Lucy threw herself to the floor, screaming. “DON’T. DO THAT. AGAIN!!! Is that fine sir? I’m really, really sorry.” “No. She has to bleed. Or YOU can bleed instead.”
The woman turned around, and clenched her fists.
“Hell… NO. I offered you payment, and you refused. Now don’t threaten me… or you could be the one who bleeds. And not just the forehead.” Lucy saw a faint glitter behind the woman. It was the invisible man.
Lucy covered her eyes in fear. She heard an impact, and heard some grunting.
The invisible man held the woman-cat by the neck.
“It’s useless to struggle, bitch. He’s a series X29 cyborg. Brand new. You can’t break that hold.”
The man paused before uttering his command. “Kill her.”
Lucy tried to find something to hit the invisible man with, but before she knew it, the invisible man screamed. “Fuck! MY ARM!!!”
The arm fell to the floor.
“Tsk tsk tsk… that’s playing dirty, you know..”
With a swift punch, the woman-cat broke the cyborg’s neck. His head rolled to the floor, and the body fell down lifeless. The rich man stepped back. “What the fuck are you… a transhuman can’t do this.”
He gasped at the realization. “Wait a minute… Youkai!!!!???”
The woman-cat grinned, and leaped to the man’s chest, knocking him down. She extended her claws at him…. she had claws!?!?
“Look, mister. I don’t know who you are and I don’t care. But you don’t mess with this girl. Is that clear?” The man nodded. “Now SCRAM before I shred you into sushi and serve your pieces to the Shogun!” The man ran away, leaving a trail of urine on the floor.
After the danger passed, the woman-cat approached Lucy, looking angry. No. Just upset, like mom at times.
“So, why did you hit him? Did he do something to you? You shouldn’t do that, you know? You could have gotten yourself killed!” “I… I’m sorry…” “Why? Why did you do that?” “Because… he reminded me of one of those bastards.” “What bastards?” “The ones who killed our landlord… they’re the landlords now. And they ask twice the pay… and… and they’re with my mom now… doing things to her… and I don’t know… I…”
The girl burst in tears. “I saw them once… they were touching her, like men in here touch the women in the alleys… they… they…”
“Shh… easy, easy. Calm down. Do you know who that man is?” The girl sniffed… and nodded. “Shao Leng. His name is Shao Leng.” The woman-cat gasped. She paused for a couple of seconds, then nodded at someone. But there was nobody around.
“Who are you nodding to?” asked Lucy, wiping her tears. “Is there another invisible person around?” “Oh no, we’re talking over the net.” “The net? Oh… you got implants?” “Of course I do, silly. Everyone in Hong Kong has them.” “Hong Kong? But… you… the guy said you were a Youkai. Aren’t Youkai from Japan?” “It’s a long story. Look, I’m going to take you somewhere safe, and then you’ll tell me where this Shao Leng is. Deal?” “Are you going to kill him?” “What?” “Please. Please kill him.” “Hey, you shouldn’t wish for those things… but I understand. Don’t worry, we’ll know how to deal with him.”
The woman-cat smiled at her. “And he’ll regret touching your mom. I promise.”
Lucy couldn’t stop resisting the woman’s smile, and she smiled too. “Thank, you, miss cat.” “You’re welcome. Now hold tight, we’re gonna jump up!”
The woman-cat jumped to the scaffolding as if it was no deal. The jumps gave her the chills, but looking at the city from above was beautiful. After a few jumps, they arrived to a very high balcony in a hotel.
“Okay, we’re here.”
The city was much more beautiful than she imagined.
“Hey, what’s this? You brought a kid with you?” said a male voice. There were other critterpeople like Miss Cat.
“Sorry guys! I have an unexpected guest. By the way, what’s your name, girl?” “Lucy.” “Lucy… that’s a foreign name.” “Yeah, my dad was from Esperanza… he chose my name.” “Nice to meet you, Lucy. I’m Jenny, and these are my friends.”
It was good to have friends.