Graveyard shift at the Crying Carp
Written by: Tanner Staheli
Illustrated by: Tanner Staheli
Published: May 2020
*Contains mild language and violence.*
Deep within the fathomless city of Tatsu, Tekkan lies one of the many different sushi houses known as the Crying Carp; a well-known chain of restaurants that specialize in serving dishes such as sashimi, sushi, squid, and other varieties of seafood. Each sushi house features a large sculpture of a magical carp. While its design was viewed as dopey, and stupid, it successfully captured the attention of hungry villagers and travelers with that ugly frown on its face.
Kasamatsu is a nineteen-year-old chef who labors at one of these sushi joints in Shinobu, a district located a couple of miles away from the main capital of Tatsu. Unlike other Crying Carp houses, the one Kasamatsu worked at closes early at 7 pm rather than the usual midnight. No one really knows why they close so early, but in a chaotic place such as Tatsu, a city filled with gang members, oppressive samurai, and even supernatural beings that haunted the alleys, the schedule of one’s restaurant was the least of anyone’s concern.
Kasamatsu stifles a long yawn and grabs her broom after a slow day of serving raw fish and dealing with loud intoxicated customers. She walks outside for the first time since she opened up shop, her shadow stretches across the empty pavement, feeling the last bit of fresh air that is left in this country of industrial fumes. Standing in front of her restaurant, amidst a sea of thousands of cramped buildings paved in wood, stone, and iron. She looks up to see if she can spot a single star in the middle of the overwhelming haze of steam, and for a second there, she felt at peace. But that peace was soon shattered when she looked to her side and discovered the absolute horror.
Nioh forgot to take out the trash again.
“That bastard”, Kasamatsu thought to herself, wishing she could just fire him. She went back to the kitchen to rattle him out, only to find a letter written in Nioh’s hand. “Hey Kas, My grandpa is dead, please cover for me? Thanks! - Nioh” Kasamatsu was not persuaded by this poorly written message because he has used this same letter nearly 4 times now. Irritated, she relieves a great sigh and does it herself. She walks out of the building to only find the district a lot more quiet, desolate, with almost nobody in sight. She ignores this sudden eerie change in the neighborhood and lifts the barrel filled with a whole day's worth of garbage which looked a lot heavier than it looked.
“I’d hate to inform you of the inconvenience, but we are currently closed, please feel free to return tomorrow morning.”
Kasamatsu said abruptly through the empty silence as she placed the barrel back down on the floor, placing her hand on her blade’s Kashima. A figure suddenly leaped from the shadowed roof behind her, landing six feet away from the doors of her sushi house. The mysterious figure was masked, dressed in all black, and a similar style Kasamatsu wears herself, as well as a similar weapon. “So, you make sushi now?” said the masked man in a familiar voice, “Nice, very tacky,” he said in a sarcastic tone. “I also do sashimi, and sometimes tea,” Kasamatsu replied. “I expected a lot more from you when you left, I even thought you my equal, now here you are making food for the straitened”. Kasamatsu’s facial expression stood still and merely scoffed at his mockery. The masked man was identified as a Ryoshin member, a secretive clan of covert assassins that perform acts of espionage upon commission. “We have been called upon a new master for a bidding larger than anything you have ever earned in your life,” the masked man informed. “The Imperial Samurai are asking us to use our sheer deception and skill to assassinate an unknown band of rebels who are infiltrating the empire as a ploy to sabotage their plans to create a better future. They are paying us a lot more than we can offer, and we need you.”
“Sorry,” said Kasamatsu as she reached down to grab the trash bucket, “I have abandoned that lifestyle.” What came next was the sound of shattered force and the clashing of steel. A shuriken, sliced in a perfect half, pierced the wooden beams at the doorstep with the masked man revealing his hand that released it, and Kasamatsu, standing firm with her sword positioned perfectly between the two ends of the broken shuriken. All of this happened within a single second. “Abandoned, you say?” said the masked man as he concealed his arm back into his long sleeve. “I’m sure anyone who foolishly decides to ‘abandon’ such a technique would sure have their eyes split from their sockets from that.” The masked man thrust towards Kasamatsu with his own blade, clashing their steel yet again as they dueled relentlessly. “You think your deception can work on me? The deception that WE taught you? We know your keeping secrets little one, don’t even dare try to use your petty tricks on us!” The masked man said in unbridled frustration as the edge of his blade was reaching her throat. Suddenly, a thick layer of smoke erupted beneath the masked man’s feet and lost sight of Kasamatsu. Until he felt the piercing of steel from behind.
“There is a difference between abandonment and forget”
Kasamatsu said as her foe fell to his knees, spilling his blood on the pavement. “Damn you,” uttered the masked man as he coughed up more blood. He removed his mask, relieving himself as her long lost older brother, who took part in training her to become the cold assassin she is today. “How could y-you betray us?” her brother spoke from his dying breath as she quickly released her sword from his wounds. “I owe you no answer,” Kasamatsu said with the same soulless expression she kept during the entire encounter as her brother fell to the ground. Despite knowing him her entire life, she wept no tear, the only thing that phased her was removing her brother’s blood from the floor she had just cleaned.
Kasamatsu locked the door behind her after getting rid of all physical traces of her brother's death and looked behind her one last time before entering the hidden door inside her sushi house.
“How was business today? You’ve closed up a bit later than usual”
Spoken from across the room by her master, Angylyn Shioh; A former samurai and leader of the Smoking Serpents, a small movement of individuals who infiltrate and sabotage the upper samurai. “It was fine, rather slow. Nioh bailed his shift again though” Kasamatsu responded. “THAT LAZY SON OF A BITCH I’LL KILL HIM!" abruptly shouted by the drunken Hiro Takayangai, another member of the Smoking Serpents. “DAMMIT Hiro what did I tell you about that kind of language!” Angylyn scolded, but Hiro went back to sleep before she could even finish her sentence. “I’ll take care of him when he comes back,” Angylyn said in an annoyed temper as she headed to her room. "Before you go," Kasamatsu said to her exhausted leader.
"I was informed by an old associate of the Ryoshin clan that they were hired by the Tatsu Samurai to hunt us down."
"Oh, good grief, you didn't give him any clues to our whereabouts, did you? I'm assuming you didn't."
"Good. Well, it looks like we have another threat to deal with, thank you for informing me about this Kas. Now go get some sleep for once you look horrible . ."