Rika hid in a the tunnel's single shard of shadow, sharing it with a wiry man. She was standing behind the wiry man, pressing the crowbar into his throat. He was trying to yell and scream, but her pressure was far too tight and all that came out was a gurgle and the softest groan.
Not loud enough to attract the attention of the two men rushing down the tunnel.
Even in the dim light, Rika knew that the two were the same on the bridge. Their panic hadn't subsided since they were spotted in the ravine. They panted, skidding to a halt. One leaned against the wall while the other rested himself on his knees.
"Goddamnit, where is he?" The leaning man spat out gathering phlegm from his throat. "Why wasn't he with the rest of them?"
"Probably drunk off his ass, that's why. You know the boss gets pissed when he's been drinking. He usually slums it down in the miner's barracks to sleep it off."
"Well then why the hell have we been running around for!?"
"Cause it's down this hallway you jackass. Now come on!"
The men found new energy and pushed their way down a turn in the tunnel. When they were out of sight, Rika released her captive. He fell forward to the ground, already dead for several minutes now. She tucked the crowbar into her belt and stalked to the corner.
The two men waited at the end of the tunnel as squeaks and whirs filled the air. A rickety elevator ground to a halt and the men pulled the cage door open, stepped in and flipped a switch. Buzzing filled the air again, and it began its descent. Rika waited until the elevator was out of sight, then rushed to the edge. There was no door separating the shaft from the tunnel, only a few planks of wood to hold the structure in place. She could see the elevator squealing down.
She grabbed onto the cable and rode it for as long as it turned. When the elevator came to a stop, she waited a few moments for the occupants to exit, then rappelled the rest of the way, landing on the top of the cage. There was a gap between the tunnel ceiling and the top of the cage, just enough for her to slip through. She lay on her stomach, peering through the gap.
"Come on Taro, get the hell up you drunken bastard!"
"It's too early...leave me alone..."
The room was lined with simple wooden bunks. Only a few electric lamps buzzed in the room, while other men slept. The two men were standing by one bunk on the other end, each nudging the drunk man with their feet.
"But it's time! Things are moving ahead of schedule, we gotta do what you trained to do right now! Drunk or not! Now get your ass up! It won't work if you're not there, you know that."
And that was what Rika wanted to hear.
The drunk man knew all the important information about the mine's destruction. And he would be much easier to manage.
The two men hefted the third by his arms, dragging him out of his bunk. They were both straining under the third man's weight, concentration locked on getting him standing.
Rika rolled through the gap of the tunnel and before she hit the ground her hands snapped out twice. The blades whistled through the air, aimed at the base of each of their necks.
Except the third man lurched, spilling his guts onto the floor, sending both men stumbling back in revulsion. The blades missed their target and impacted the wooden door on the opposite side.
"Shit! One of Dai's men!"
" Go go go go!"
The two grabbed their compatriot again and dragged him on his heels to the door, swinging it open. Rika was already dashing down the length of the barracks. The three men got through the door and slammed it behind them, Rika just clearing the puddle of sick and grasping onto the handle, giving it a hard yank with one hand while the other rest on the hilt of her knife.
It didn't move.
She shook it, then pulled with both hands. They had barred it on the other side.
Rika pulled out the crowbar and jammed it in the back of the door, prying at the hinges. It took five good pulls each, but the rotting wood and rusty hinges were no match and the door fell toward her, the bar of wood resting in place. Many of the miners were rousing now, grumbling and yelling in the dark. Rika slipped under the bar and into the next room.
This chamber was much larger than the others. Minecarts and minetracks emerged from tunnels in every direciton, all leading to rows of minetracks beside a loading dock. Full-sized rail tracks awaited the carts, where two squat trains with powerful engines and large cargo car each waited to follow the tracks through the gaping hole in the side of the mountain, leading onto long bridges that connected mine to mine without having to lower themselves back to the ravine floor.
The three men were stumbling to one of the trains. They were yelling and waving, motioning at Rika.
Apparently more of Senji's men were nearby.
Rika vaulted herself onto a pyramid of crates and leapt from that onto a row of minecarts piled with dirt and coal. The bandits soon separated themselves from the miners, drawing long knives, swords, and hefting other tools. One took a swipe at her ankles, which she hopped over, sailing past the last minecart in the row and onto the track.
Another attacker jabbed a long tool with a spiked end at her, but Rika brought the crowbar down hard on the tip, sending it off-course and toward the ground. Rika used the momentum from her downstroke to bring the bar of metal up and around, bashing it into the collarbone of the attacker and shattering it. The next attacker came from her left, swiping a knife. She hefted the crowbar around again, but it was too slow and the knife took a long slice from her bicep. The attacker stepped back before the crowbar came to bash his head in.
Rika dropped the crowbar. That was not a hunting tool.
When the knife fighter struck again, Rika's hands snapped like vipers, one gripping his wrist while the other took hold of his elbow. Using his arm as a lever, Rika spun him around, smashing his stomach hard into a filled minecart, knocking the wind out of him.
Her instincts moved her body, causing her to duck before she was even aware of the sword wipping across where her neck had been. She threw herself backward immediately, stumbling until her back landed into the edge of an empty minecart. She felt the wheels turn under her pressure. The swordsman went for another decapitating blow, so Rika leaned hard into the cart, digging her heels into the track. The cart slid back, lowering her angle and letting the blade pass precariously close to her face.
She started to push, her heels clamboring for the next rung in the track every second, gaining more speed. The swordsman ran to catch up, this time raising his weapon for a vertical strike. Rika kicked upward, using the edge of the minecart as a pivot point. Her feet snapped into his descending wrists, knocking his sword backward. She continued the motion until she flipped herself into the minecart, landing inside.
The swordsman slammed his blade down again, but Rika lowered herself into the minecart, letting it catch the blade. Her hands snapped up and grasped the back end of the blade, holding it in place while the swordsman pulled. She felt his foot press against the minecart to use as a brace and he pulled.
Rika let go.
The swordsman fell onto his back and shoved the minecart away at the same time. Rika peered up. The swordsman scrambled to his feet, then jerked hard in his neck when one of her throwing knives buried itself in it.
Rika vaulted over the edge of the cart, freeing her Nanaya blade. A pickaxe attacker swung his weapon in a wide arc, aiming for her back. Rika stepped straight into him, cutting off the arc of his swing and thrust her blade once into his chest.
Another attacker leapt in with a shovel, thrusting the point at her like a spear. Rika snapped a kick into the flat end of the shovel - a very easy target - and sent the nose up. She then kicked again, this time aiming for the handle between the attacker's hands. The foot flew through the handle, snapping it in half and striking him in the stomach.
The chamber filled with a hiss.
She ran to the platform and sprung herself onto the loading dock, running for the train that was already in motion. Before she could make a jump for the back, the last of Senji's men sprung from behind a crate, a barrel in his hands. The barrel hit Rika in the shoulder hard, sending her sprawling to the ground. The attacker raised the barrel again, this time hurling it at her with all of his strength. A quick roll to one side helped her avoid it, but also delayed her return to her feet. The barrel-fighter jumped on her back, pulled back her hood and took a handful of her raven black hair, using it as a handle to drive her face into the ground.
The injector blade clicked from her wrist into the barrel-fighter's side. She let the poison flow steadily, until the vial was drained. His fingers were stiffening in her hair.
With one smooth move, she lashed her Nanaya blade through her hair, severing the shoulder-length locks and threw his paralyzed form from her back. She was on her feet.
The train was already rushing across the bridge, heading for the next mine.
She looked around. None of the other trains seemed to be ready to go, most in disrepair.
She rolled up her sleeves and looked around. She was going to need some tools.