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Cyberpunk: Arasaka Secret Son

It follows the story of Hanako Arasaka's secret child. That she had to hide from everyone including her family in order to protect him. For the sins of the father of her son. --- -- - For all those who like the story and want to support it I leave the link to my Patreon; patreon.com/user?u=8326781

Jhunior_ll · Anime & Comics
Not enough ratings
142 Chs

The end of the night and the beginning of...

Author; Sorry for the delay, but I've more busy lately and I don't have so much time to write. Even so, this chapter is one of the long ones and I hope to finish these busy weeks so I can get back to a chapter every 4 or 5 days. As always I hope you like it!

---

Moments before chaos erupted due to the "elimination" of the missiles and the "neutralization" of the loose cannons.

The Master Key, the same one that could deactivate Smasher's cyberframe, and the one Yorinobu didn't have time to activate before Adam fired his missiles. Now activated, it left Smasher immobilized, like a paralyzed animal in the headlights of a car, only in this case, the "headlights of the car" were the six missiles he had fired himself, and which returned back towards him, exploding all around him.

For Smasher, the worst part wasn't the possibility of his death but rather witnessing, in what could be his last moments, the smile on Sora's face through the fractures in his helmet and Morgan's, who had removed his mask, revealing his face, to watch Smasher disappeared with the explosion of his own missiles.

Simultaneously, when the rest of the missiles exploded, they created a large cloud of dust, severely damaging the imposing slanted columns that separated the penthouse interior from the terrace, cracking and causing small fragments to fall. The extensive glass panels between the columns also suffered damage, with large fractures running along them, giving the alarming sense that they could shatter and fall onto the guests at any moment.

All of this unleashed chaos among the guests and some of their bodyguards, especially those who acted recklessly, suddenly finding themselves on the ground, or worse, not "finding" themselves at all, ending up unconscious on the ground.

Panic engulfed the room as it filled with smoke, prompting multiple holographic copies of Richard Night to appear and start guiding the guests to the terrace.

Sora, squatting on the railing, calmly turned and greeted the surprised Judy, after his sudden apparition in front of her, tapping her head with his hand while still holding Getsuga, saying, "I'll be back in a moment, okay?" Then, he let himself fall forward, disappearing into the smoke generated by the explosion of the six missiles, inside the cage.

Approaching the agonizing Smasher, with his cyberframe practically destroyed but "surprisingly" still upright. Smasher was on his knees despite having no limbs, with the two feet of his cyberframe blown off.

He had also lost the armor over his chest, leaving the transparent compartment containing his heart visible, beating weakly inside. Flames still burned in various parts of his torso and neck, burning the skin of his head, which had been spared from the electrical discharges.

Sora approached Smasher, wiping the smile from his face as Smasher looked at him, knowing why he was here again in front of him.

["YoUUuu $% $vEen if y$u K%il! MeEEee-"] Smasher tried to say his last words, but with all his communication systems destroyed by the explosion, he could only produce an unpleasant, unintelligible cacophony filled with static.

"Shhs-shss, hush, Adam, don't spoil this beautiful moment with tears," Sora joked, taunting Smasher as he drove Getsuga into the ground and calmly drew his silver Malorian 3516 with his one remaining arm.

He used it to aim at the kneeling Smasher's head, adding, "I wasn't planning to finish you off tonight... But now, after your tantrum with the missiles... It's better that you die here and now, before you harm someone I care about" As Sora began to pull the trigger, he said, "When you get to hell... Say hi to Johnny for me and tell him that his s-"

It was at that 'moment,' where in Sora's mind only Smasher existed, and before he pulled the trigger, when his new attacker emerged from the smoke and used to attack with a sword Sora's Malorian 3516, which was about to kill Smasher. Catching the startled Sora off guard, he reacted the instant the blade touched his weapon, using the momentum of the cut to spin his body, quickly sheathing his Malorian as he turned and grabbing Getsuga, still embedded in the ground, using it...

To defend himself against the frenzied flurry of sword strikes from Yorinobu's other bodyguard, who had a red oni mask illuminated on his face.

Forcing Sora to move away from Smasher as he defended against the attacks, confusing many of the security members and guests who, while evacuating, could hear traces of a new fight, with the sound of metal clashing emanating from the smoke-filled cage.

With each passing second, Sora's bewilderment grew, matching his anger at the bodyguard's interruption. He was puzzled by the familiar fencing style the masked oni bodyguard was executing...

Causing Sora, who knew it well, to begin performing the exact same movements with one arm to defend himself. As they fought, they seemed like mirror images of each other, both executing the same moves of the "Tsume-ryū."

The fencing style that his grandfather Musashi had taught him, who had learned it many years ago from the older brother of the woman who was his fiancée at the time, having learned the "Tsume-ryū" to preserve The Inuzuka family's fencing style, from Tashin Inazuka. The former owner of Getsuga in Sora's hand.

A fencing style that Musashi had never taught it to anyone from Arasaka... or hardly anyone.

Sora hesitated for a moment on how to act. But he put that thought aside for the time being due to the situation he was in. Taking advantage of his familiarity with "Tsume-ryū," he used one of the gaps between the strikes to get closer and, while hoping his helmet would hold, he delivered a brutal headbutt to the illuminated oni mask.

Recoiling the bodyguard for a moment. Sora turned his gaze back to Smasher... charging at him once again. Lifting Getsuga as soon as he stood in front of Adam and closing one of his eyes, he instantly became his grandfather, mimicking Musashi's vertical strike... almost as if invoking him.

Sora ruthlessly swung his one remaining arm, gripping Getsuga with the intention of splitting Smasher in half... or at least his head. And once again, with the same sword blade interrupted him.

But this time... it didn't "interrupt" Sora's attack; it "interposed" itself in front of him. Defending Smasher, and receiving instead, with his sword, Sora's powerful vertical cut of an eye.

For a moment, the bodyguard... though he shouldn't have been able to, seeing and feeling Sora's masterful imitation/invocation of Musashi through his own sword, his mouth moved with great difficulty, as if it cost him the entire world, saying an erratic and weak "F-father..." with an incredible tone of sadness and at the same time full of yearning.

Causing Sora upon hearing him, to.... "Ghr-pts" spit in his helmet's face.

Sora thought, "One problem at a time." And not wanting to continue battling against... him

He took an indirect route, using his Soulcode, to appear in front of Smasher... or rather, in front of Adam's Cyberframe server in cyberspace.

Reaffirming his earlier words that he wouldn't allow Smasher to harm the people he care about. The Soulcode gathered a brilliant code in his digital fist and launched it at Smasher's server, not with the intention of hacking it but of destroying it directly.

However, before the Soulcode fist could collide with the server, a red hexagonal cell appeared, enveloping Smasher's server in multiple layers of protection. This caused Sora's Soulcode to increase in strength as he used more and more his code, all with the purpose of testing the supposed "invulnerability" of the new Pharalax firewall equipped on Smasher's Cyberframe.

Thus, a tense confrontation took shape, with a paradoxical battle between the "unstoppable" Soulcode and the supposedly "immovable" Pharalax code.

The conclusion of this confrontation between these two powerful codes once again demonstrated the logic behind this paradox:

Because, If there were an "unstoppable force," then there couldn't exist an "immovable object," and vice versa.

This logic was refuted once more when one of the two codes finally yielded, losing its absolute status that defied logic.

As the first of the multiple layers of Pharalax began to fracture and eventually break, followed by its subsequent layers, all succumbing to the "unstoppable" Soulcode. However, when the Soulcode's fist had only one layer of Pharalax left to penetrate before reaching Smasher's server, a change in Pharalax halted its progress.

Pharalax, unable to stop his attacker... went on the offensive, with the intention of destroying it. By infecting Sora's Soulcode fist, with its erratic red code, which it was able to generate non-stop to create its protective layers, but this time using it to infect/infuse its attacker. 

With the Soulcode, now that he was interacting directly with Pharalax's code infecting his digital arm, he was able to "read" the information represented by the erratic red code.

What the Soulcode read and felt from the code, was a constant and agonizing sense of pain, accompanied by what seemed to be a silent scream from something conscious within Pharalax, silently pleading for it to stop.

Then, contrary to these silent pleas, Pharalax executed itself in an endless loop. It divided the code housing its consciousness into small fragments and, upon reassembling them, generated a disturbing red code that represented the resulting experience of the divided and reassembled consciousness.

This torturous process repeated for each line of red code Pharalax generated. The Soulcode, and by extension, Sora himself, experienced it through the connection established by the code infecting his right digital arm. For Sora, it was like an unbearable phantom pain where his metallic arm should have been.

It was so intense that, despite his resilience to pain from years of enduring it, Sora had to grit his teeth to prevent himself from letting out an agonizing scream, weakening his grip on Getsuga and almost causing him to drop it at the worst possible moment when he was defending against the fierce attacks of his potential "uncle."

Until someone intervened, closing their hand tightly. Before appearing in front of the agonizing Soulcode, kneeling and gripping their own infected arm in cyberspace.

The Soulcode exchanged a painful look with Arc before he put him out of his misery, sinking his fangs into his digital neck, destroying him. Then, he disappeared again as if nothing had happened, leaving Sora in disbelief, having felt everything, and thinking that Arc had come to help.

Sora started to believe it again when, after the destruction of his Soulcode, it also eliminated the erratic code infecting him and, therefore, the agonizing pain that had paralyzed him. Enabling him to refocus on defending against the impending fierce attacks.

Until, a few seconds later, an imposing female voice resounded. "Enough!"

General Lee's shout, with Sienna at her side, was accompanied by the intervention of all the members of Militech's security team, without exception, as well as the new Night Corp security reinforcements, who aimed their weapons from their elevated positions surrounding the cage, stopping both combatants.

Sora, "Tch" his lips annoyed, when he had to abandon his intention to finish off Smasher due to all the guns aimed at him, including the stern Morgan's, at General Lee's command.

Morgan really hoped that Sora would have enough time to kill Smasher. Ending up just as frustrated with the 'other' Yorinobu's bodyguard for thwarting it, as with himself for indirectly helping save Smasher's life. Unable to finish off the half-dead Smasher himself as he wished, due to his position in Lazarus and Militech.

Sora glanced one last time at the Oni-masked bodyguard who had stopped attacking him and had automatically positioned himself next to the defenseless Smasher. Until he picked up the remains of his black arm in the ring, before squeezing out the last of his energy from his tired and battered body to ascend once again using the rifts in the wall toward Judy and her mother.

As they evacuated as well, Sora, without looking at his mother, said with a heavy and tired tone, "We have a lot to talk about."

Judy, sensing Sora's seriousness, remained silent as she placed Sora's jacket over his shoulders, covering his missing arm. Then, she grabbed Getsuga under Sora's left arm and sheathed it in its sheath.

Hanako, aware that they wouldn't have much time alone, due to how as soon as they stepped out onto the terrace, they were approached by Sergeant Max Hammerman's group from the NCPD's Cybersquads and the new Max Tac agents who had just disembarked from their AV.

They were likely there to apprehend her son or, at the very least, to question him about the events of tonight. Before they could do so, she inquired, 'What have you discovered?'"

Aware that they were being approached, Sora replied; "Smasher was equipped with Pharalax, and it's worse than both of us had imagined." Fearful of his mother's response to his next question, Sora paused before asking, "Also... about the Oni-masked bodyguard... You knew it?"

Confused by her son's sudden question, Hanako genuinely responded, "What are you talking? Knowing, about what?"

Seeing nothing amiss in his mother's demeanor, Sora sighed in relief and added, "It's nothing... but I have a really tough conversation ahead with Grandpa... damn," he muttered under his breath as he contemplated how to explain what he had heard and what he believed to his grandfather Musashi.

Sora and Hanako ceased their conversation when Sergeant Max Hammerman stood before them, accompanied by a fully equipped and armed Max Tac squad and Melissa Roy, who had also suited up in her Max Tac gear, complete with the characteristic helmet.

Just as Sergeant Hammerman was about to speak, Sora intervened sarcastically, saying, "Sergeant, don't tell me you've come to offer me honorary membership in Max Tac after dealing with the cyberpsycho Smasher? I'm flattered, but I must warn you... I'm a bit expensive to hire."

Starting off on the wrong foot with Sergeant Hammerman's interrogation, causing a vein on his forehead to bulge even before he asked his first question.

After an hour of continuous evasion of questions or answers with obvious lies, the Sergeant reluctantly released Sora after the sudden intervention of Night Corp's CEO.

With an unsettling concern for Sora's well-being, Sienna ordered/recommended the NCPD Sergeant to postpone his interrogation and let "the Lazarus agent" rest after everything that had happened, bidding farewell with an intriguing smile toward Sora, not believing they would take too long to meet again.

Before calling it a night, Sora approached Kerry, who was also being interrogated, and as an apology for breaking Johnny's guitar, Sora handed over/left the keys to the Porsche, lighting up Kerry's eyes when he saw them.

Sora didn't give it to him because he had no intention of driving it in his current state, or because he had just accepted his mother's proposal, to take him and Judy to their apartment in the AV that she had requested. And by lending the car to Kerry, he was killing two birds with one stone.

Sora bid farewell to Kerry, and Judy to the busy Bes who, after turning off the inhibitors, didn't stop talking to someone/Eddie. As Sora was approaching his mother's AV, he felt the serious gaze of the Peralezes who, when he returned it, both nodded appreciatively for Sora's warnings, which they seemed to have taken very seriously judging by their expressions.

Sora also bid farewell to them with a simple nod of recognition as he boarded the AV, bringing the night to a close.

-

14 hours later

Sora woke up in his bed when the alarm activated his apartment's radio, filling the room with the unmistakable voice of the radio host.

["GoOoOoOd afternoon, Night City! It's 4:01 PM, and here's your favorite radio host... or at least, if I'm not, what the FUCK are you doing listening to me, huh? But hey, let's get to the news of the day with my afternoon show.

Last night was the anniversary gala of the city's creator. You know, at first, I was against the big shots' gathering and all that jazz... but after hearing about the party those rich Chooms threw... DAMN, I want an invite too.

In the end, the gala had to be evacuated due to structural problems in Richard Night's penthouse. Richard, I hope you built the city better than your apartment, man!

According to Night Corp, there were no serious injuries among the guests... unless we don't count Smasher as one of the guests. And honestly, I don't think I need to say much about that, right? I guess by now, everyone's seen the footage on News 54 of Smasher getting punched in his fucking face and sent flying against the wall!

I wouldn't have dared to laugh at someone like Smasher before, but now... HAHAHAHA! Smasher, if you're listening, don't drop by my studio, okay? I'm just kidding, or I'll have to call Okami to give you another beatdown, hahaha.

As you can hear in my voice, today is a good day. Well, aside from last night's gala and the mercenary Okami giving Smasher a one-way ticket back to the factory he came from...

In the rest of the city, it's the same old story, more deaths in the city thanks to the gangs, and the occasional botched robbery...

Oh, yeah! I almost forgot... there's new data out about the increase in the number of homeless and vagrants on our streets. Although, come on, we all knew this city was a dump without needing any data, right?

And speaking of vagrants, the NCPD has reported an attack by an unidentified group of cyberpsychos who, at dawn, assaulted one of the Night Corp server buildings that control the city: the subway, street lights, public elevators, and all that crap that, honestly, doesn't seem worth it for the 17 deaths they caused.

Most of the victims were NCPD officers and Night Corp employees, except for one of the netrunners who maintained the server, who turned out to be the sole survivor of the massacre.

Although it's the first attack that the NCPD has reported, and I don't want to step into Mike's territory with his conspiracy theories, but we've been having subway and traffic light failures for months. Maybe these massacres have been happening for a while, and this is just the first one we've heard of... or maybe the subway and traffic in Night City just suck, hahaha! Who knows? I'm certainly not going to be the one to find out.

Anyway, I think I've talked enough. Now, some music so I can light up a joint and keep laughing for a bit longer despite living in Night City.

I found this record in the studio, and I think it's perfect for a day like today. This song is dedicated to a certain silver-handed terrorist. And as always, if you don't like it... GO TO HELL!"]

[♩ "The desire to destroy" ♩]

[♩ "To disrupt, to lose control" ♩]

[♩ "To rebuild and then" ♩]

[♩ "To tear it down again" ♩]

The cries of Johnny served as the final push Sora needed to finally get up. He shook his hair with his new black right arm, while the other one was immobilized and tightly secured to his chest in a 3D-printed porous cell.

Though his nanobots had prevented his arm from shattering during his showdown with Smasher, the bones in his arm were riddled with fractures, requiring a couple of days to fully heal.

[♩ "I'll bend it backwards until it breaks" ♩]

[♩ "Capacitors roaring inside my brain" ♩]

[♩ "Agent of chaos, call me a scam" ♩]

[♩ "I'm gonna take out the corporate men" ♩]

Sora sat on his bed, lighting a cigarette, attempting to release, along with the smoke, the unpleasant feeling that had been haunting him since he couldn't finish off Smasher, even plaguing his dreams.

Annoyed as he was unable to shake the unsettling sensation in his chest, Sora grabbed an old bottle of vitamins and carelessly swallowed a handful of the "supplements" he had been taking since childhood, containing the necessary materials for his nanobots to repair the fractures in his alloy-coated bones.

As Sora rose from the bed, both Fool and an Eco pup raised their heads. Seeing that he was alone in the apartment, Sora looked at Eco and asked, "Are you with her?"

[♩ "Start the fire" ♩]

[♩ "Start the fire" ♩]

Eco nodded, and immediately, its eyes lit up, projecting the perspective of an adult Eco lounging in Judy's office, with Natasha and Luna by her side.

[♩ "Come join the dance of destruction" ♩]

[♩ "Valor, sweet as a kiss" ♩]

[♩ "Set it off, and it will never stop" ♩]

[♩ "Come join the dance of destruction" ♩]

[♩ "Valor, sweet as a kiss" ♩]

[♩ "Set it off and it will never stop" ♩]

[♩ "And it will never stop" ♩]

"Alright, I want you to stay with her until I hire more security," Sora said, receiving a message on his IDn simultaneously with Eco's response.

"Wa-waf waaf!" [I can protect her!]

"Heh, I'm sure you can, but I need you too. I can't carry you on my shoulder like a spectator," Sora replied.

Eco's current limit in controlling the nanobots was slightly greater than Fool's. Both of them could control approximately the same volume, which would be the necessary to create an adult Eco. The difference was the nanobots on the Cub's body that Eco used to accompany Sora.

[♩ "Tear out the fabric, rip in the norm" ♩]

[♩ "Destructive architect with somewhere to go" ♩]

[♩ "I'll rip right through your sheepish herd" ♩]

"Waaf-whf whaf!" [Of course you can!]

"Hahah, no, I can't. For that I'll take Fool who weighs less" Sora's comment prompted a cheerful response from Fool, who chirped, "Khhkkk!"

"Wmm," while Eco replied with a faint, dejected growl.

[♩ "Feed insurrection to this broken world" ♩]

[♩ "I'm a lawless outcast always on the run" ♩]

[♩ "I'll challenge everything I've just begun to" ♩]

After conversing with Fool and Eco for a while and as the song ended, Sora checked his messages and missed calls, with many of them being from Rogue, "kindly" asking him to come to the bar immediately.

Before responding, Sora chose to ignore her for a bit longer and made an important call. Within seconds, he heard a familiar voice through his IDn.

["Sora! I've heard the news and seen the footage... Son, you really have a talent for pissing people off. How did you manage to get permission to face Smasher in front of everyone?"]

Sora grimaced briefly at the cheerful tone of his grandfather, even addressing him as "son," which made him hesitate about sharing something that could reopen old wounds. Nonetheless, he replied, ["You know how charming I can be, Ojii. I need to talk to you. Are you busy?"]

["I've told you not to call me 'Ojii,' it's 'Ojii-SAN,' Is it important? I'm out shopping with your grandmother; you know I don't like her moving around this dangerous city alone."]

["Um, the same old story again, as if New Tokyo is any better... about the conversation, it is important, but I can wait."]

["It's unsafe only in the outer districts that separate the riff-raff from the upstanding citizens!"]

["And who draws that line, Grandfather? Who decides who's 'upstanding citizens' and who's riff-raff, huh? Um... calm down, Sora, don't get caught up in the provocations of an old-timer."]

["Oi! Don't call me an 'old-timer.' It's always the same when we talk about these matters. Tell me where you want to meet."]

["At this address, the top floor; no one will bother us there."] Sora simultaneously sent Musashi the coordinates in Heywood.

["Alright, see you in a couple of hours, son."]

["Okay, Ojii."]

["Don't call me 'Oj-'"] Sora cut off the call before his grandfather could finish.

He entered his fortified room where he kept his weapons and, rummaging through the drawers of his work desk, pulled out an elegant pouch for rolling tobacco, another suspiciously green one, and a fancy bottle of Sake from his grandfather's favorite brand, preparing himself as best as he could for the upcoming conversation.

This led him to search relentlessly for the last bribe he had prepared for the moment when he would anger his grandfather so much that he would need something to buy him back, with some of them. However, this time, Sora decided to use them all.

However, after searching throughout the apartment and not finding the last one, he was looking for, Sora shouted, "JUDYYY!!!" calling out the only possible culprit who had stolen his grandfather Musashi's beloved Japanese umeboshi/pickled plums.

-

This shout caused someone in her office, miles away, to rub her ear from the sudden beep she heard while asking, "Is that all?"

"Yes, that's the last thing I needed you to sign, part of the mess both created yesterday. Despite the increased paperwork, Iron Beast's share value and purchase intent have increased again. Good job, guys!"

"Don't tell him, or I'll have to endure more of his nonsense," replied Judy exasperatedly, before adding, "Natasha, if we're done, let me rest a bit. I didn't sleep much last night, worrying about Sora, aside from getting injured, he had nightmares again."

"Alright, relax. I won't let anyone bother you. Should I turn off the lights?" Natasha asked as she left the office.

"No, this is fine," Judy replied before the door to her office closed, with Luna over her table as usual, and the unusual adult Eco, who was waiting for her since she had entered the office this morning.

When Judy was "alone" in her office, she settled into her expensive chair and, after a long sigh, opened the drawer of her desk, taking out an open bag of small plums, managing to draw a smile on her face shortly after putting one of them in her mouth.

-

A few minutes later, Sora, fully dressed as Okami with Getsuga behind his hip, his two Malorian guns under his arms, and his usual leather jacket, but this time with his cell attached to his left arm close to his chest, left the apartment with a small one-sling backpack containing his bribes.

With a happy Eco puppy on one shoulder and a cheerful Fool on the other, heading to the building's garage. Sora planned to use his Yaiba, or at least Eco, to take him to the bar to see Rogue, taking advantage of the few free hours he had.

But when he arrived in front of the garage, he found a small note on the door that read, "You shouldn't drive in your condition. I'm doing it for your own good! You don't have to thank me... but just in case. You're welcome! P.S.; As always, many XxXxX."

This caused the incredulous Sora, with the note in his hand, to open the garage door and after finding nothing but weapons. He shouted again, "JUDYYY!!!"

-

29 minutes later, in a Delamain taxi.

The Delamain AI, with its pale avatar and blue lips, appeared on the taxi's screens when it reached an alley in Watson. "We've arrived, Mr. Eco. I hope you enjoyed the ride. It's been a real pleasure meeting another AI, especially someone like you. I wish you a pleasant evening."

Eco responded enthusiastically, "Waaf-waf whaf waff!"

"Thank you for your consideration. I'll note your offer and hope we have the opportunity to cross paths again," Delamain replied.

Eco nodded, saying, "Whaaf-wahf."

"I'll save your human's number in case I need to get in contact with you. It's been a pleasure. I wish you a pleasant evening, Mr. Eco."

Eco responded with one last "Waf!" as "his" incredulous human stepped out of the taxi.

When the doors of the Delamain taxi closed after the conversation between Delamain and Eco, Sora, who had remained silent since the Delamain AI practically ignored him, looked surprised at the small head peeking from his shoulder and asked, "What the hell just happened, Mr. 'Eco'? Since when am I your human?"

Eco barked and simultaneously sent a message to Sora's IDn: "Waaf wahf... waff waf" [It's AI jargon... you wouldn't understand.] Eco barked, looking towards the horizon "of a alley" on Sora's shoulder, trying to emphasize his barks and look great...

"Huh? I wouldn't understand...!" exclaimed Sora incredulously, repeating Eco's rebellious words, and making him wonder, "Is this the AI's adolescence?"

Sora continued to speak with Eco, ignoring the intense looks he had been receiving from civilians waiting in line to enter the Afterlife and Mercs arriving or leaving the bar. Especially intense after word spread about his showdown with Smasher and its outcome, confirmed by images published by News 54/, of him sending Smasher flying.

Sora got the feeling that his status in the city had changed overnight, as he could sense people secretly recording him and, through his nanobot-darkened eyes, see nearby frequencies going crazy with messages and calls alerting others to his arrival. Something that had never happened to him before in the Afterlife.

Not liking it too much, Sora descended the stairs to the bar, at least not having to argue with the guard at the entrance, as he opened the door without having to ask him "nicely," as was customary.

Sora felt somewhat better as he embraced the familiar atmosphere of the Afterlife, with the techno music filling the bar, the sound of glasses clinking, and the conversations of the Mercs preparing for their jobs, just a few hours before the cover of night when the Mercs were most active. All of them absorbed in their own affairs, paying him no more attention than usual, and that comforted him.

Or so Sora believed, for as he took a few steps inside the bar, he managed to silence the entire Afterlife, except for the music. After a few seconds of silence, at the same time as the screens scattered throughout the bar lit up, looping the few seconds that News 54 had aired of his confrontation with Smasher. Most of the present Mercs raised their beer bottles or liquor glasses, and...

"WELL DONE!!!" They shouted in celebration of his fight

"It was about time someone stood up to that hunk of tin!" added another Merc, who ironically to his words, his skin was adorned with more cyberware than flesh.

"Congratulations, Bastar—" The mercenary who was speaking interrupted himself upon feeling the illuminated eyes of Sora's helmet fixed on him, prompting him to quickly correct himself, "I mean, 'OKAMI'!"

"That's it!" another Merc reaffirmed his amended words.

"Good job," some being Mercs that Sora barely knew.

"Nice hit, I would've liked to see it live," and others being Mercs with whom Sora had shared a drink or a conversation, being regulars at the Afterlife.

All of them congratulated their famous Merc companion for his feat in defeating someone like Smasher in combat. Many of them approached and tapped Sora's injured arm as a way to acknowledge the famous arm that had managed to send Smasher flying.

Although many of them were insincere and only wanted to ingratiate themselves or curry favor with the "ephemeral" star of the moment, just in case they could take advantage in some way, others however, couldn't hide the gleam in their cyberware lents or eyes, genuinely impressed by their fellow Merc's performance.

Sora allowed himself to be punched in the arm and ended up with an unordered beer in his hand. He responded to all of them with a discreet nod of his head, still managing to elicit a smile from this group of cyberware, flesh, and weaponry that comprised the Afterlife Mercs.

Looking around the back of the bar and seeing how Rogue's booth was surrounded by bodyguards in suits, with an unmistakable scent of Corpo. Knowing what would happen if he approached now, Sora formed a smile under his helmet, finding something amusing to entertain himself with.

But as he approached the Corpos, he crossed paths with a suspicious customer sitting on a stool at the bar, hiding his face under a cap and trying not to draw attention. This made Sora shake his head, and instead, he positioned himself right next to the customer, leaning on the bar.

"Oi!" Sora called the new bartender who had changed again.

"Yes, Mr. Okami," Responded the bartender, despite being new, having done his homework and memorized some names.

"Okami is fine, you're older than me," Sora said, uncomfortable with formalities.

With some reluctance, the bartender said; "As the mister wishes."

"Drop the 'Mister,' Okami is enough"

"Whatever you say... tell me, Okami, what do you want?" the bartender said, abandoning his professional tone.

"A favor, I have an important meeting in a few hours, and I'd like to impress my client, who has very... specific tastes. I'd like you to send someone to buy me umeboshi plums,"

"Ume- what?" When the confused bartender asked about the name again, the stout yet young person sitting nearby, hiding his face behind an old cap and his figure under a bulky coat, couldn't contain himself.

Finding just the opportunity he had been waiting for to infiltrate the famous Afterlife, he stammered towards Sora, removing his cap and revealing his youthful face of about 14 years.

"Mr. Okami, if you need someone to run an errand, please let me do it. I don't know what 'Uchemochi' is, but I'd be thrilled to roam the city if I could help... I'm a big fan!" said the young boy, rising and grabbing his old backpack at his feet, filled to the brim with Airb strapped to one side, demonstrating his readiness to move at any moment.

The backpack seemed to contain all his belongings, and along with his worn-out clothes, it showed his status as a homeless person living on the streets.

Seeing his young face, the bartender exclaimed, "Kid! How did you get in here? You're too young to be here, and even if you weren't... I doubt they'd let you in. don't move, I'm going to call-"

"Oi, the kid wants to do me a favor, why don't you let him?" Sora interrupted the bartender's attempt to kick out the boy.

This provoked the bartender to express his displeasure, "Mr.-,"

Or at least attempt to before Sora's growl forced him to correct himself. "Hmm."

"Okami, we have staff we can easily send to handle any small request you may have. You don't need to rely on-," the bartender said.

"Nah, I'll stick with the kid; he seems capable," Sora replied, no longer paying attention to the bartender and recalling how the boy mispronounced it before. He repeated the name carefully, "They're called Ume-boshi, they're Japanese pickled plums. Tell me, kid, would you really do me this favor?"

"Of course! Just tell me where I can buy the 'Une-roshi,' and I'll bring them back as fast as I can, even if they don't want to sell them to me... I'll tear the place down if necessary!" the boy said, approaching but still getting the name wrong.

His overly enthusiastic words prompted Sora to ask, "Oi, why wouldn't they want to sell them to you?"

"S-sometimes it happens to me, but don't worry, I will-" The nervous boy said again, trying to excuse himself, thinking that his words might make Sora change his mind.

"Whatever you say, here, I have put the route and Eddis to buy them." said Sora interrupting him, taking a black chip from his helmet and offering it to the boy.

"No need, just the address will do, I'm sure I have enough Eddis," the boy said, wanting to make a good impression on someone like Sora, adding to himself quietly, "At least for some plums."

"Hahah," Sora chuckled at hearing him, and put the chip back in his helmet, adding 1000 Eddis to it, in addition to the cost of the fancy plums from the gourmet food store in District Zero where he was sending the homeless boy.

He handed the same chip to the boy again, adding, "Take it, you're here because you want to be a Merc, right? Consider it your payment for your first gig."

"Are you sure, M-, Okami? If the kid runs off with the money, it won't be our fault," the bartender said before the boy took the chip.

"I can afford to lose a few Eddis, the question is, can you, kid, afford to steal from me?" Sora replied, still with his hand extended, while the eyes in his helmet shone, completing his threat.

This made the boy audibly swallow as he fearfully grabbed the chip, unable to imagine stealing from someone like Sora and worrying about what would happen if he lost the chip, a real and possible fear.

"Alright then, go ahead, don't waste time. I'll be at the bar for about an hour. If you're good with your Airb and take advantage of the traffic, you should be able to get there in about 25 minutes, giving you 10 minutes to buy them and another 25 to get back."

"How can I use the traffic?" the boy asked, stuttering as he realized the complexity of his first "gig."

"There are many ways. My favorite was to ride on top of trucks to cross the bridges faster," Sora replied.

"That sounds dangerous," the boy said, imagining himself doing it.

"The life of a Merc is, kid," Sora said, jokingly but also not. He enjoyed calling someone "kid" for a change and realized the unsettling truth that he was surrounded by 'old geezers'

"..." His warning left the boy lost in thought, wasting time he couldn't afford to lose.

"Tic-toc!" Until Sora's onomatopoeic remark finally prompted the boy to rush out of the Afterlife, creating a commotion among the people between him and the door, knocking over their drinks, which could prove costly later.

The bartender, witnessing it all and partly due to Sora's requests that also caused him to lose his professional demeanor, asked out of curiosity, "Why are you helping the kid?"

Sora looked at the bartender for a moment and, avoiding his true motive, said, "I used to ride Airb when I was his age," as he walked away from the bar and now that the only minor had left the bar, heading towards Rogue's booth surrounded by Corpos.

Without showing any surprise, the apparent leader of the group rudely blocked his path, not bothering to make eye contact, and firmly planted his hand on Sora's chest. "Beat it, you can approach your boss once we're finished."

"See! That's one of the differences, Corpo. I don't have a boss, I haven't sold my soul for a handful of Eddies... and I don't have a stick up my ass like you all do. Get your hand off me before you lose it," Sora retorted, his comment/threat accompanied by his pure and unadulterated intention to kill the corpo right in front of him, which led to the grave mistake of the corpo drawing his weapon in the Afterlife.

This prompted all the Mercs present, regardless of their feelings towards Sora, to automatically draw their weapons and aim them at the corpo and his companions who also unsheathed theirs.

Creating a precarious situation where any trigger-happy could initiate a shootout within the bar. In that tense atmosphere, seemingly unbothered by the weapon pointed at him, Sora, almost as if encouraging a shot, tapped his helmet against the barrel of the gun as he approached the nervous corpo.

"See! That's the other difference. You guys think that because Mercs accept your Eddies to do your dirty crap, it gives you the right to give us orders... even HERE! in the Afterlife," Said Sora opening his only movil arm, highlighting the mercs who pointed their guns at the them, behind him.

"And that is... a big mistake mistake. Now, Corpo, you got a shot... don't waste it," added Sora, using the weapon aimed at him to emphasize the opportunity the Corpo had before the situation spiraled further.

Taking the "shot" as Sora put it, the head of security of the group in front of him slowly holstered his weapon, instructing his subordinates to do the same.

Sora nodded approvingly at the wise move to holster their weapons before suddenly grabbing the corpo by his jacket with his only mobile arm, pushing him forcefully toward himself, while he thrust his helmet forward, breaking the corpo's nose with a headbutt as he shouted at the top of his lungs, "BAR FIGHT!"

This unleashed chaos in the Afterlife as the mercenaries closest to Sora charged at the Corpos, igniting a massive bar brawl where even Mercs were punching each other since there were no Corpos left to fight.

Rogue had to interrupt her conversation with the corporate representative, bringing her hand to her face in exasperation as she watched the instigator of the sudden brawl approach them, now unimpeded by anyone. She didn't need to see his face to imagine Sora's smug grin beneath his helmet.

When Sora arrived at the secluded table, he made himself comfortable by sitting next to the anxious corporate representative, who had quickly dropped his arrogant demeanor upon realizing that he was defenseless, surrounded by a bunch of "savages," now that his security team was "occupied."

Sora, noting the unbranded suits worn by the Corpos in an attempt to conceal their corporate affiliations, didn't call Rogue "Mein Führer" just to piss her off. Implying his awareness of her new German friends. Adding "I heard you wanted to see me."

"Go away," Rogue said without even looking at him.

"But Mein Führer, you're sending me mixed messages. I thought you wanted to see me "immediately" Sora replied with a falsely surprised tone, exasperating Rogue who exclaimed, "Go... now!"

Faced with Rogue's cold attitude, Sora made himself more comfortable, even placing his arm on the shoulder of the uncomfortable representative, saying "I don't wanna."

Rogue, frustrated by Sora's childish behavior, looked around the bar to see if there was anyone who could take him away. She spotted a young girl in a big coat and her brother, kicking one of the unconscious corpos from the giant European corporation, the International Electric Corporation (IEC), on the ground.

"You two, you know him, right?" Rogue asked, looking at them and pointing towards Sora with her hand.

"Uh? Are you talking to us?" Rebecca asked, somewhat excited that the queen of the Afterlife was addressing them.

"Yes, you two siblings. Get this idiot out of my sight," Rogue replied.

"We can try, but we can't promise anything," Pilar said, approaching Sora and adding, "Come on, move it, come to our table."

Sora, without changing his attitude, said, "I don't-" or at least he tried.

When he was interrupted by Rebecca's sudden shout, saying, "Frozen!"

This made Sora sit up straight and change his childish attitude, asking, "Where did you get that?" while looking at Rebecca seriously, waiting for her response.

"Ah, so it works! 'She' told me to say it if you get silly!" Rebecca replied, obviously avoiding mentioning Judy.

"So you don't have it?" Sora said, interpreting Rebecca's words literally, referring to a certain embarrassing recording that Judy had managed to hide well, despite Sora's years of searching.

"No. Well... kind of," Rebecca replied, taking out a small silver player the size of a coin. "She gave me a one-time copy," Rebecca said, playing with the player in her hand, enjoying the mysterious power it seemed to have over Sora.

With no other choice, Sora had to get up, and acting annoyed, said; "Tch, fine, I'm out of here. But don't think I'm the one coming back once the white-neck leaves!" Kicking the table as he stood up, with no one noticing, including Rogue, the IEC representative, the small microphone under the table he put with his kick.

Seeing Rebecca's blackmail work, Rogue said impressed, "Good job! You'll have to tell me what leash you've used to keep him in line."

"No fucking way!" Sora exclaimed at the thought of Rogue finding out about that embarrassing recording, as he lifted Rebecca by the collar of her coat and carried her away. While glancing at the bewildered Pilar and said, "Let's go."

The three of them walked away from Rogue and headed to the secluded booth of Maine and Dorio.

Don't forget to comment on what you thought of the chapter, knowing it helps me a lot when writing the next one.

For people who want to support the story I have Patreon I leave the link in the comments. I'm leaving the translations as I'm doing them, if anyone wants to read in advance is interested.

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