“The Way of tea isn’t just about making good tea, but about an attitude of life, “ Colleen’s grandfather said, and Colleen recalled it every time when she washed her hands to prepare for the ritual. The tea bowl, whisk, and tea scoop must then be carefully purified. She placed them in their set places, according to the way she’s taught and prepared the hot tea. She drunk it slowly, let the slightly bitter favour of the tea flow over her tongue, to reach every taste bud. As the water in New York spoilt the tea, she rarely had chance to do this ritual. However, recently Misty had ordered for her bottles of water from Japan, and she still smiled at the consideration. A sense of homesickness rose, as part of her pointed out that the flat was too small and the environment was so different from her home town but it dispersed like always, because ------
Misty came out from the bedroom and said, “One cup for me?”
Misty’s hair was ruffled and she was just wearing an old T-shirt and a pair of jeans, but Colleen still thought she was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. She poured a cup of tea for Misty and smiled as she drank it. Misty loved dark coffee but Colleen had hope that she could one day convert her to the light of tea, and it seemed that the day was coming. When Misty finished the tea, Colleen took the cup back from her hands, not quite touching. She cleaned up and put the utensils back to original place, and then they headed to the office.
Back at the office, Misty said, “Remember the case we got yesterday when you were not here? A mother was looking for her sixteen year-old daughter, who’d been missing for three days. She called the police, but she was worried enough to find us.” She took out a photo. “It is her.”
Colleen looked at the photo. A Japanese teenage girl in high school uniform smiled back at her in the photo.
“She’s Japanese.” Colleen said.
“Yes, Her mother is an expat.”
“What’s her name?” Colleen asked, still looking at the photo.
“Aiko. Aiko Suzuki.”
“It should be Suzuki Aiko.”
“Sorry. Anyway the police aren’t so concerned because she’s 18. They said she might be going out on her own. But the mother swore that she wasn’t. Said that she was the most obedient girl in the world. She is going to a new school and the mother said she was very excited about it.”
“Every mother says that. But 18 year-old...”
“I know, but there’s something weird. The school her daughter is going? Xavier Institute”
“She’s a mutant?”
“I am not sure. The mother seems to think it is only a strict boarding school for the talented students. But it may be an angle”
“Do the X-men know?”
“Actually Jean introduced her to me. You know, Jean’s having a truce with... I phoned Jean to look for the student’s school records and if she knew any other similar incidents but she said there’re not yet reports of this. She was concerned though and told us to keep contact.”
“I hope it will only be a simple missing person’s case. Mutants make everything complicated.”
“I agree with you. Let’s go to the girl’s home and see if we can find some clues,” Misty said, and they left the office.
“Thank you for coming,” the girl’s mother received them at her flat, with red-rimmed eyes. “I will be grateful for any help.”
“Don’t worry, Mrs Suzuki, you can depend on us,“ Misty said, “Let me introduce you: this is Colleen Wing, my partner. Colleen, this’s Mrs Suzuki, our client.”
“Nice to meet you,” Colleen said and bowed.
Mrs Susuki replied with a bow, “Nice to meet you, Miss Wing,”
“Could you show us to Aiko’s room? We may find some leads there,” Misty said.
“Sure you can. This way.“ Mrs Susuki led them to a room and opened the door. Inside they found a world of green: green closet, green bed cover, green wallpaper, green everything. “Please take your time here,” she said.
Misty went to the drawer to look for any diaries. Colleen went to the computer, switched it on, and hit the email site bookmarked. Luckily the girl saved both her name and passwords. She surfed through the emails and frowned at what she found. “Come and see this, Misty,” she said.
“What do you find?” Misty asked, leaning over her shoulder. Colleen pointed to the screen. The email said, “Dear Akira, Of course I want to see you. Meet me at the boat house in Central Park, 3:00 pm. Aiko.” It was dated three days ago.
“It is worrying,” Misty finally said.
Colleen agreed. New York was a mean place, and devoured naive girl year by year. Time was running out. “I will go through the computer to see there’s anything about this Akira. Could you call your detective friends to see if they’ve make any progress?” Colleen said. The man’d better not do anything to the girl.
Misty only smiled, “All right.” She then made a phone call, “Yes it was Misty, Celestia, I need your help.”
Colleen searched for the emails transpired between this Akira and Aiko. No luck. The guy didn’t leave anything. But he couldn’t hide his IP address. Colleen tracked it and found out an address. She searched it and found that it was a building in a seedy area. She told Misty about it. Misty nodded, “I will let the detective in charge know.” She sighed, “The police is actually better than us at knocking every doors. They have the shield too.”
“We should go too, just take a look,” Colleen said. We should do something.
Misty smiled, “Let’s go then.” They returned to the living room.
Mrs Susuki looked up at them hopefully, “Do you...”
Colleen said, “We have a lead.” Then she added in Japanese, “We will get your daughter back. Don’t worry.”
Mrs Susuki looked surprised, then she replied in Japanese, “Thank you very much. I will do anything to get her back.”
Colleen then asked her in English, “Why do you send your kid to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters? Is she...”
“She is...” Mrs Susuki hesitated, “She’s …” She spoke in Japanese, “Gifted.”
Colleen nodded. “Wait for our news.”
They took a cab to the building and knocked the Superintendent’s door. An old man with bleached hair came out and asked, “What do you want?”
“Have you seen this girl?” Misty asked, showing him a photo of Aiko..
The superintendent squinted at the photo. “She looked familiar,” he said. He took the photo and turned it, then he finally said, “I remember a girl like that walked into 508 three days ago. You don’t see many Asian girls here in the building. Mostly white, Black and Hispanic.”
“Thanks,” Misty said, “What’s the resident in 508 like?”
“A no good tramp if I could tell. Always hanging around here, doing nothing.”
“Why didn’t you do something about the girl?” Colleen said.
“I am a superintendent, not a guardian.”
Colleen frowned. Misty pressed her arms. “Let’s go.”
“I can’t believe it,” Colleen said in the lift when they’re going to the fifth floor.
“I know. But first things first. Maybe the girl is still there.”
“Maybe she’s all right,” Colleen said, not sure who she was convincing.
“She’ll be.” Misty lightly touched her.
They arrived at 508. Colleen put her ear to the door and heard that there were people inside. She knocked the door and shouted, “Anyone home?”
There was no response. Colleen shared a look with Misty, then kicked open the door. She proceeded cautiously in case that the guy had a gun.
Someone rushed out from a room and pointed a gun at them. Colleen jumped out of the line of sight, kicked the gun out of his hands and flipped him over her shoulder. She bent down and grabbed his neck from behind. “Talk. Where did you take the girl?”
“What girl?” the man asked.
“Don’t play innocent. The Japanese girl you abducted.” She tightened her grip. The man started to breathe loudly.
Misty said, “I think you’d better tell us the truth. She’s really mean”
“All right, don’t kill me. I brought the girl here, I admit, but I did nothing to her.”
“Then where’s the girl?”
The man nervously licked his lips. “I gave her to agents of Hydra.”
“What?” Misty and Colleen asked.
“They want her, and I don’t know why, but you don’t say no to them.”
“Anything more?” Colleen asked.
“No, I swore that I told you what I know.”
Colleen said, “You’re scum.” She knocked a knife-hand into his throat. The man fainted.
Misty pulled her sleeves. “Let’s go.”
“All right,” Colleen picked up the gun in case that he woke up. Then they left, leaving the door open. Colleen threw the gun in a dustbin on the way.
Back at the office, Colleen said, “It’s weird that the Hydra agents didn’t abduct the girl right away.”
“Maybe they want to cover their track,” Misty said.
“How do we follow it up?”
“I will call Jean to see if we can get some help there. Dan, too. He may know something.”
“Let’s do it.”
Misty made the phone calls. After an hour, the phone rang again. Misty picked it up and said, “Yes, Jean. It’s Misty. Professor X is available again finally, great, and the address is...” She jotted it down on a piece of paper. Then she covered the phone and said, “The X-Men want to go too.”
“Do we really need so many people?” Colleen asked.
“It’s one of their own. They feel responsible, “ Misty said, “Besides, they think that the Hydra agents are holding more than one prisoner.”
Colleen cursed, “Damn it. We have no choice then.”
“Let’s go,” Misty said.
Misty and Colleen arrived at the place where Hydra Agents were said to hold mutants. There was a warehouse, seemingly abandoned. Storm, Cyclops, Jean and Nightcrawler were already there waiting in a small plane. Jean broke out into a smile when she saw Misty, “Hi! I missed you so much!”
“Jean and Nightcrawler will go first to rescue the kids,“ Cyclops said, “We go in as the main attack force.”
“It ‘ll be fun.” Nightcrawler said, “My fair lady here, may I have your hand?”
Colleen was confused, but she stretched out her hand. Nightcrawler pressed a kiss on it.
Colleen retreated her hand immediately. What a weird guy, she thought and said, “Let’s do it,”
Nightcrawler and Jean disappeared. There was a sound, “Bang” and a smell of sulphur. Coleen looked up to find the source.
“Nightcrawler,” Cyclops said, as if he knew what she was thinking about. Colleen felt uneasy. She had no idea how she was so easy to see through.
Colleen looked at the empty place they left. Despite knowing their ability, teleporting still seemed creepy to her.
After a while, Cyclops said, “ Jean tells me the front is clear. We can go.”
“She used a phone?” Colleen asked.
Colleen corrected her thought. Telepathy was creepier than teleporting.
They got off the car and stormed into the warehouse. Cyclops and Storm went first, followed by Colleen and Misty.
The Hydra agents saw them and attacked them. Cyclops pulled one Hydra agent over his shoulder. Storm flew to the roof and blew up several guys to mid-air. Colleen grabbed an agent’s arm and pulled it, then punched him in his nose. She glanced at Misty, who was thumping a fist on an agent while another agent tried to ambush her from behind. Colleen shouted, “Look out!” She ran behind the agent and kicked him from behind, hard. The agent collapsed on the ground. Misty turned and said, “Thanks.”
Colleen squeezed her hand, and then they fell back into the fight.
“Hey, I found the prisoners!” Jean cheerfully shouted from the above.
The agents fought more vigorously, but when Colleen gouged the eyes of the last one, they finally had to surrender. Colleen and the others tied them up. Jean and the prisoners went down to the ground.
“Are they all right?” Colleen asked.
Jean said, “They’re fine, a bit hungry and scared. But a good meal and night of sleep would do wonder.”
Storm asked, “Why do the Hydra agents want them?” Colleen figured that it was probably for Misty and her sake. They could talk with their mind after all.
“They want to build an army of brainwashed mutant soldiers,” Jean said, looking serious.
It said something about their life that it was plausible. “How do they find the youths?”
“They set up a mutant online chat room to lure them. I guess X-Men should follow this example.”
“We should call the police,” Misty said, “Kidnapping is a serious crime. “
Jean and the other X-Men looked at each other. “We will go first. We don’t have … a good working relationship with the police,” Cyclops said. Jean disappeared first, followed by Nightcrawler, who winked at her before his disappearance. Following that were the same sound and smell, so Colleen figured that it must be left by him. Storm flew away. Cyclops presumably left for the plane.
“Then it’s only us and them,” Colleen said to Misty, pointing at the boys and girls being rescued.
Misty nodded and pulled out a phone to call the police. Colleen was left with the kids. She felt awkward looking at the scared faces. She wasn’t exactly a kid person.
The police finally came. They collected the agents and the prisoners, and then asked Misty and Colleen to the station for a statement. The process was tedious. When they finally left the station, half a day had passed.
“We did a great job, and we can collect a fat bill from our client,” Misty said.
“We should celebrate,“ Colleen said, “What do you want for dinner?”
Misty winked at her, “We should go to the nice Japanese restaurant that you like.”
“Good idea,” Colleen said. She stretched out her hand, held Misty’s hand inside, and closed around hers. Misty’s hand felt solid.
“Let’s go,” Misty smiled at her, and squeezed her hand back.