Again, these are characters from a potential project of mine, called Anti-Villains.

The rain began to fall, drumming light beats on her helmet. She walked to the edge of the alleyway where they had been lurking. She’d had a clear line of sight on their target, but now, she could barely see the café across the street.

“Ryuujin is nearby,” the Knight of Avalon told the Squire. This was going to complicate things.

“It could just be rain,” Squire said, giving the Knight the kind of look only a daughter can manage. “The forecast’s been calling for rain all week.”

The Knight loosed Excalibur in its sheath, a feat only she and her daughter could do. “I can feel it. This is the Murasame’s work. Do I need to speak to the Lady about your water magic?”

The Squire rolled her eyes and waved a hand above her head, muttering some words in Gaelic. The water parted above her, raindrops sheering off to avoid hitting her. “My water magic’s fine. It just doesn’t let me tell the difference between regular rain and magic sword rain. Maybe I should talk to the Lady about you.”

The Knight frowned beneath her helmet. There was no denying that her daughter took to magic in a way she had never managed. The only spell she could reliably cast was to use water to communicate, and even then, she had to set the other side up in advance.

She wasn’t about to admit that to her daughter, though. Teenagers were insufferable know-it-alls, and Paula was worse than most.

“Learn to tell the difference yourself, then,” she said. “It could save your life. Don’t you agree, Ryuujin?”

“There is wisdom in her words,” a heavily accented voice said from behind them. The Knight couldn’t help but smile to herself when her daughter jumped. She turned at a more sedate pace. She didn’t draw Excalibur, but kept her hand on its hilt.

Ryuujin stood in the middle of the alleyway. Like always, he looked as if he’d just wandered out of an old samurai movie, dressed in kimono and hakama. The white silk clung to his skin, and blotches of color could be seen, the magic dragon tattoos he was named for. He held his katana, the Murasama, lightly on one side. The naked steel hummed slightly, as it absorbed the raindrops striking it.

“Are we going to do this again?” the Knight asked him.

“You could always stand aside,” Ryuujin replied. “I have never wished to cross swords with you.”

“Nor I with you, but I won’t let you kill men in my city.”

“They are not worthy of your protection.” He turned to the Squire. “Do you know the man you are protecting? Do you know what he has done?”

The teenage superhero stood up tall and tried to sound confident. “H-he works for the Yakuza. He’s been shaking down merchants in the area.”

Ryuujin shook his head. “That is what he is doing now. Do you know what he has done?” When it became clear that she had no answer, he went on. “In Japan, he was a murderer. He was known as Osoi Shi, the Slow Death, because of the way he would draw out his victim’s suffering. Are you willing to die protecting such a man?”

The Squire glanced back at her mother, and the Knight knew she had better intervene. “We’re not here to protect him. We’re here to stop him. But I won’t let you execute him without a trial.”

“Enough,” Ryuujin said, “we’ve had this conversation before. He will arrive here soon. I suggest we settle the matter before then.” He sheathed his sword, and the rain slowed to a drizzle. He tapped the tattoo above his heart, and it glowed beneath the damp fabric, an echo of a roar carrying across the alleyway.

The Knight nodded, and handed Excalibur to her daughter.

They both stared at each other for a moment. Then, acting upon some unseen cue, both warriors leapt at each other.

It was a fight they’d had many times before. Ryuujin was better at unarmed combat, but her armor limited what techniques he could use effectively against her. She was the stronger of the two, her armor enhancing her muscles, but the dragon tattoo he had activated put him in her weight class, and he was nimble enough to dodge most of her blows.

Ryuujin had just leapt up on to a fire escape to evade the dumpster she had kicked on him, when shouts of Japanese drifted down the alley. Risking a quick glance back, she saw Osoi Shi climbing in to an armor plated hummer.

“You cannot protect him forever,” Ryuujin spat. He walked away before the Knight of Avalon could remind him — again — that she had been there to arrest him, not protect him. Ryuujin had prevented that just as much as she had prevented his murder.

Except the hummer was still there. The engine roared and the tires squealed, but it didn’t move.

“What’s going on?” she asked the Squire, as she approached the teenager’s hiding spot.

The Squire shrugged. “You were still fighting Ryuujin, and he’s got too many guys with him for me to fight on my own, so I snuck into his car and stuck Excalibur through the floor and into the road. Asphalt counts as stone, so unless he’s got Queen Elizabeth with him, he’s gonna have to walk.”