Sai’Li paused at the entrance to the boardroom, stepping out of her sandals and padding on stocking feet to the spot at the low table they had set out for her. Everyone stood as she approached and they exchanged cautious bows and pleasant introductions before kneeling on the cushions. An attendant offered tea which she accepted, setting the porcelain cup on the table.
“Your invitation was most courteous and your hospitality likewise.” She said from behind her fan. “May I know the reason you asked me here?”
Tanaka opened a lacquered box on the table and withdrew a cigarette. He offered them, but Sai’Li instead reached into her sleeve and withdrew a jade and gold kiseru. She carefully tamped tobacco from a small golden box into the bowl and leaned forward to allow Tanaka to light it for her. The smoke smelled sweet and exotic, making Tanaka’s cigarette seem harsh and uncivilized.
“It seems as though there’s a bit of tension between you and the Yashida clan.” Tanaka said, “I’d like to put that to rest.”
“Disagreements are bad for business.” She said, exhaling a stream of smoke and taking a sip of tea.
“We sent two of our people to see you.” He said, “They never reported in.”
“Is that all this is about?” Asked Sai’Li, “I do have to congratulate you on the loyalty of your subordinates, they have been refusing to break their word despite not being allowed to depart while still in your service.”
“You have them?” Tanaka demanded, “Release them to me at once.”
“Now my dear Tanaka, I cannot allow disrespect to go unnoticed or unpunished.” She chided, “They are being treated well and I expect we shall have the opportunity to reunite you soon.”
“You are hardly in a position to negotiate.” Snarled Tanaka, “You came here without any support, for all that pet tiger of yours would be able to do against us.”
Her fan snapped shut with a crack and she fixed a glittering green eyed stare on him. “Do not make the mistake of thinking that I am in any way threatened by what little resistance you can offer.” Her kimono shifted color, becoming a pristine white with delicate black and gold spider webs covering it.
“You aren’t going to distract me with petty tricks and idle threats.” Tanaka said, “If we do not allow it, you will not leave here alive.”
“You do not have a choice whether I live or not Tanaka.” Sai’Li blew more scented smoke into the air. “I’m sure little Asahina has told you what I am.”
“You expect me to believe that line of shit?” Tanaka laughed, “I’m not-”
“I do not tolerate disrespect,” Sai’Li said calmly, taking another sip of her tea. “Please moderate your language. I am not offering any threat, nor do I intend to do so. Also, I am your guest who has kindly agreed to travel in order to meet you in person after you rudely sent your subordinates in response to my earlier request.”
She drew more smoke into her lungs and let it trail out from her nostrils. “Furthermore, I am sitting before you alone. A single woman surely does not provoke such a fearful reaction from a strong and powerful man like yourself who has a half dozen armed gunman itching to see what the color of my blood is.”
Tanaka brought himself under control with a visible effort. “Apologies for my outburst. If I may be so bold; as a gesture of good will would you return our retainers to us?”
“Perhaps.” Sai’Li tapped the ashes out of her kiseru and refilled it, lacquered nails clicking on the jade as she tapped the tobacco in. “I wish to ascertain your loyalties first.”
“I am loyal to my family,” Tanaka said.
“Who does your family owe loyalty to?” She asked, letting him light her kiseru.
“We are our own family.” He said, “We do not owe loyalty to anyone.”
“Is that what you believe?” Sai’Li raised an eyebrow, “If you read your histories I think you will find something different.”
Tanaka opened his mouth to answer, but Sai’Li moved her hand blindingly fast. Her fan snapped open between his head and the window. The sound of a bullet ricochet was followed almost immediately by the sound of a rifle shot. The delicate looking silk of her fan was unmarred, but the bullet clattered to the table mangled and bent. The guards leaped into action, two tackling Tanaka to the floor, one shouting instructions into an earpiece and another drawing a pistol and pointing it at Sai’Li.
Asahina waved a hand, stepping between the windows and Tanaka. A second gunshot glanced off an invisible shield that surrounded her before a bolt of black energy lanced from her finger to punch through the window of a building across the street. Tanaka snarled curses and his guards stood up but kept themselves between him and the window.
“It appears you have some things to deal with,” Sai’Li said calmly, tapping the ashes from her kiseru and stowing it. “As a benevolent gesture, I will return your people to you.”
She stood and took a ring off her finger, stretching it into an oval five feet tall. Looking through it, Tanaka could see a well appointed room with barred windows that looked out onto a cliff over the ocean. Ichi and Shinobu turned from the window to look at the portal in surprise.
“Your master has convinced me to be lenient.” Sai’Li said, “You are free to go.”
After they stepped through the portal cautiously, Sai’Li collapsed the ring and put it back on her finger. She turned to leave, “Come Ignis.”
There was suddenly a six hundred pound tiger in the room. It looked around at them all contemptuously before it began to fade from view again, starting from its tail until only the mouth and eyes remained. Those faded as too as they walked through the door.