Chapter 2:

I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love

BANG!! Goes the World

Two girls went down the last flight of stairs as more wiring laid above the tunneled stairway. Graffiti read cryptic codes like " SaVe RaY " and " JoJo IsLAND ". More graffiti clogged the tunnel as they made their way down, becoming just an unreadable mass of multicolored paint. Step by step, the tunnel became a candy factory's worth of color. At the end of the staircase was into a plain old tunnel, plain meaning still the same tunnel with the same graffiti. It formed into a snake-way before ending in a long stretch, where most of the color ended up. The entranceway led to a ladder facing downwards. Stickers of band logos and perverse messages lined the rungs as they went further down. Down onto a railing with a platform behind it. From here on out was an explosion of suburban apartment complexes and hotels sprawling out from their point of view. Sprawling bridges stood over a pitch-black sky which stood above forums of shops and houses, just shy of shaking the heavens. A variety of sirens, riddling trap beats, and occasional popping sounds (best left to interpretation) were the many sounds that were heard amongst the city.

The girls walked down the concrete staircase and towards the floor of the city. A dark blue speakerbox on a pole sat alone with stickers and graffiti lining it. A grainy, text-to-speech voice spoke.

" You are now entering Los Riveracci. Those who enter do not come back. "

The white haired girl glared at her friend with orange hair in a ponytail again, who sighed and put her hand on the other’s shoulder, trying to reassure her that nothing wrong would happen. She gently pushed away the hand and kept walking into the main streets of town.

" I don't think we fit in, " the white haired girl sarcastically commented on the sidewalk. Some folks were dressed casually in their tourist shirts and school uniforms. Others, as the white haired one had pointed out, were dressed in a more rebellious attitude. Biker gangs of men and women in leather jackets and jeans and a variety of hairstyles strutted through the town wielding a variety of smokes. Couples didn't wear casual hoodies, they wore tanktops with chains on their jeans and cross necklaces. It's safe to assume they didn't receive much education in their youth. Neither did the cars that drove by and blasted even louder trap beats. There weren't many of children either, and children who were there were typically accompanied by seemingly down on their luck adults. The orange haired one’s attire compared to the white haired one’s simple white school uniform was considered to be more...common amongst this city.

The girl considered herself a bit of everything in between, a black plaid skirt matching her yellow t-shirt with a black hexagon containing simply the word “ Huh? “ on it. Below the skirt were black knee length spats and laced up black boots. This was a contrast to her friend who donned a white school dress shirt and a red skirt. Below that were just some black socks just below the knee and brown dress shoes. The dynamic here was easy to find.

" Alright, Jessi, I think you had the right idea for once, " the white haired one said. " Find someone who looks neither roided, drugged, or depressed to ask about your sister and Yoo…Yooter. "

" Yuta, " Jessi replied.

" Yuta. Right. "

The two girls kept walking down the heavily anti-gentrified streets of Los Riveracci, looking for anyone that matched the description the white haired one gave. Nothing seemed to work for them. The closest they got was a woman in a red business uniform who’d been bitching about her wimpy husband on the phone for 3 minutes. She got off the phone, looked at the girls, and did not have an answer to their question, walking off.

" UGGGH, is it too much to ask for someone NORMAL?! " exclaimed Jessi, groaning at the ground for how desperate and nervous she was to find her missing friend. The white haired girl stared at her blankly, having begged for Jessi to think about this before they came here. As a long time friend of hers, she never imagined she could honestly be this stupid.

" Jessi, there should be a cop around here. Let's jus- "

" Must be new here. "

" Huh? "

The girls turned around to a black-haired young man looking at them with a level of concern. He adjusted his circular glasses and shook his head. He had a gentlemanly attire for his age, donning a dark blue bartender's uniform with brown shoes. Maybe this was the clue they'd been looking for.

The white haired one spoke first. " Greetings, sir. My idiot friend has been looking for her sister and best friend, and we feel you might have some clues as to where they may be. My sister's name is and my best friend's name is Yuta! I'm Jessi, sir, my best friend here is Cecilia. Call her Ceci. Jessi and Ceci! Yeah!! " She made a confident pose, putting her hands on her hips and stretching her arm to Ceci to introduce her. The man couldn't cringe any harder and had to lay down the truth.

" Must you use that pose and catchphrase every time? " Ceci complained.

" Yeah. We've gotta make ourselves look very fashionable and very nice, " Jessi replied, turning to her.

" Nice doesn't have to be pompousne-

" Girls, girls, " the man interrupted. " Look, I don’t know who any of those people are, but I've got business of my own to take care of. Unless you've got the cash. Otherwise, I don't bother. And for the record, cops ain’t really a thing here. You think they'd have the money to secure this place with police? Go see if the message board has anything. Now shoo. "

The girls were stunned at what just happened as Jessi pouted. What an incredibly rude man that was. Going off about " business of my own ". This was a mistake NOT to be repeated.

" No cops….NO COPS?! " Ceci yelled. " Jessi, we have to get out of here!! If you want to see your friends again, let’s call up an officer from above ground and get them, a TRAINED OFFICIAL, to go and look for them! "

Jessi rubbed the back of her head. " Ceci, I get that, but- "

" No buts!! " Ceci took a deep breath. " Did the video you watch say NOTHING on law enforcement?! "

" W-well, it didn't say anything on abandonment of law enforcement.... "

" Okay, okay….we don't have to leave…alright? We'll find an officer with a BADGE and and he can take us to them!! "

" Alright...they both have some trust issues, you know... "

" Well, I hope they're taking medication for it. " Ceci sighed.

" Look, if we get ambushed, I took karate in middle school. I’m fine. “ Jessi’s attempt to lighten the mood did not impress Ceci, who still merely glared at her. “ …b-by the way, did that guy say something about a message board? "

" Message board? " Ceci raised an eyebrow.

" Like...what, a corkboard or something? "

" So it seems. "

" Hm. How old-fashioned. Wonder where it could b- "

And right behind them, as Jessi spoke, was a wooden cork-board. How convenient. It was plastered with a variety of pieces of paper. Wanted. Missing. For sale. Garage Sale. Baby shoes, never worn. We'll fix it. All of the jobs you expected to see on your average community message board. One of these pieces of paper caught Ceci's eye, pointing it out to Jessi. " Have you seen me? " Below the font was what appeared to be the portrait of....a robot. It had simple round eyes on its visor and a grill for a mouth, like something a dark, suspicious galactic ruler would breath through. It had a black square on its box chest, and arms consisting of simple cylinders and circle joints. There was intricate paneling on those arms, dark grey metal laying under the light grey metal on top. That was all that could be told from that picture. Underneath that was another caption. " Serial number: 910937. Hidden in Tech District. Mobi suspected. Dead or Alive. Warning: sentient. " A phone number and the name " Trina " were listed underneath the-

" Trina....Aik-gasp-oh, god, oh, god, this is it, this is it, this is it, this is it! " Jessi exclaimed, grabbing Ceci's hands and bouncing up and down in place. She was going to find her sister. After years of loneliness and detachment, this was the first step to getting back everything she loved.

" Yeah, yeah, yee-eee-aah! " Ceci repeated through all the bouncing. She pushed Jessi down gently by her shoulders. " Now, now hold on, hold on....I’m still of the mind that you’re stupid and this is a HORRIBLE idea to go this alone. And what would your sister want with some random robot? Who is Mobi? Again. This isn't safe. "

Jessi was giggling so loudly she didn't hear most of what Ceci had been saying. She was too wrapped up in all the emotion she felt from having an answer to their questions. Well, her question, rather.

" Hehehehe, heh heh...let's read this one more time... " She looked back at the poster with more determination than ever. " Robot, Mobi...wait, who the heck is Mobi? "

Ceci gave her another look from behind. " I think the better question is what a " tech district " is. "

" Tech-ooh! They briefly mentioned it on an online forum I read once. And Mobi...yes! It's the biggest tech company in this city! Well, it's not that big, obviously, b-but it's pretty big by this city's standards! "

Looks like that guy from earlier must have heard them, because he reared his head back around. " Two high school girls against an entire tech corporation? I don't like those odds. " He walked right back over.

" First of all, we are in COLLEGE. Second, have you just been standing here the whole time? " Ceci snarked before Jessi groaned.

" Look, " the young man said, " If you're gonna hire a cop here, don’t get your hopes up. This city could only barely afford just one. Don't expect any Nobel peace prize winners is all I'm saying. Then again, expecting any cop to win a Nobel peace pri- “

" Sooooo.... " Jessi muttered, giving Renji a bit of a puppy eye;

" ……sigh, I'll go with you. "

" YAY! " exclaimed Jessi , jumping in the air and pumping her fist. Ceci sighed herself, putting a hand on her forehead, as did the young man. " Promise me you won't be as much of a butt as you were a minute ago, " she asked.

" I'm just keeping my objective on lock, alright? " He gave Ceci an eyebrow. " Call me Renji, by the way. Don't get attached. "

The girls looked at each other and shrugged, letting Renji lead them to the district. They walked down the street to the crossroad where supposedly there would be the tech district.

Ceci realized something. " I don't see a kiosk for a map here. Do you not have those either? "

Renji politely answered her question. " Make one yourself. "

" This is ridiculous!! This place is ran by hobos!! " Renji rolled his eyes at Ceci.

" I can assure you…the people who run this are more confident than you think. We'll just be heading north from here. Give it, like, 10 minutes. Seriously. Chill. "

The trio kept moving towards the district, Ceci awkwardly peeving at the punks and the bikers that surrounded her. They got onto a crosswalk and heard a speaker playing some sort of pop rock tune in Japanese words. It was psychedelic, not something your typical punk would hear in a town like this. Jessi recognized it immediately.

" Ooh! Is this that new Mr. Dolphin album? I've been jamming it for weeks now! "

Renji partook in the music discussion. " Sounds like your average basic bitch psychedelic garage rock band to me. "

" Oh, it is NOT! This and Crow Bites are, like, my favorite bands! "

" That riot grrl band? They're…okay, I guess. Instrumentals are way too polished for my liking. "

Is this one of those nerds who trolled online music forums? Jessi was not having it as she pouted. Ceci pat her on the back.

" Now, you ask me? That new The Howards album? That’s rock right there. "

" UGH, I can't stand screamo bands. Why can't they just dial it back every once in a while...most of the time…all the time. "

" Why don’t you have the stones to handle it? "

" Did you…really just ask that question? “

Ceci felt a bit nervous speaking up. " I-I was always more a fan of the avant-garde stuff…The Divine Woman, Schwarz... "

" Oh, Schwarz makes his own post-rock now, right? He was a member of the Howards. "

" Yeah, I like his music... "

" Well, at least we get along somehow. Maybe I'll give that Crow Bites record another spin... " Jessi giggled at that.

Meanwhile, the environment was getting incredibly...twisted. Pipes started mingling with each other along the walls. What appeared to be smoke signals slowly rose from the top of what appeared to be cylindrical smokestacks. Typically, you'd find something like this at a power plant. Workers in pale denim uniforms and caps carried boxes of materials unknown to the common man. Rarely did they speak a word to visitors other than " evening " or " howdy ". Older men with gruff, scraggy beards and women of many different ethnicities. Seems most of them came looking for a good job in the city. There were multiple posters regarding " company protocol " and " recommended shipment order ". Company logos such as " NJP " and " Lazee " were signed atop corporate buildings. The commoners who did choose to enter the district were treated to tours of a dozen or so of them every 2 to 3 hours.

Luckily for our team, they were getting close to that timeframe for a little " tour ". Jessi picked up on the environment immediately.

" This has to be it....the tech district!! "

" Yep, " Renji answered. " Small world after all… "

Jessi shook her head and cracked her knuckles. " Whatever...I'm coming for you, sis! "

Ceci and Renji sighed. The former was getting utterly tired of dragging these stupid suitcases. The latter was just tired. In the distance, there was a building that was similar to an abstract art museum. It was interesting, but one thing caught her attention. It was the logo the company used. Two light blue dots within a black oval. It appeared to be an animated LED screen, the eyes looking side to side and blinking in a set pattern. But that wasn't the only thing that caught her eye. A small piece of text reading " Mobi " caught her attention as well...

" Mobi...oh, crap, crap, guys! Mobi! That's it! " She pointed at it frantically as Jessi had the brightest smile on her face. Renji nodded and walked towards the establishment calmly. Until Jessi would suddenly grab his arm and rush him there. One looked ecstatic and one looked panicked.

They got to the line that lead them to a tour of the establishment, slowly finding themselves in the middle of a group of civilians. A sign which could be found in no other establishment but this one read " Gang Members get in FREE! " It was a little ludicrous, but a dangerous job deserved compensation. They also offered some nice military, police, and senior discounts. Tours on their own costed about 30 dollars. " Wow. Ghastly, " Ceci remarked.

The two would converse about their favorite punk and avant-garde post rock outfits before reaching the front of the line. Renji reached into his pocket and pulled out a small card. " Town with No Name ", it read. " 3, please. "

" Alright, that 100% discount for both of your escorts, sir? " the woman at the kiosk asked, typing into a computer.

" Escorts?... " Jessi and Ceci shared a small chuckle at Renji's confusion before Ceci's delight turned into slow realization.

"'re a gang member? "

" I told you, police in this town are non-existent, right? " he replied. " It's up to gang members to clean everything up. Otherwise we'd be flat broke. "

Jessi was listening carefully and curiously, but Ceci was fuming. Jessi had acted like a complete idiot, there were no police in the area, and on top of all of that, they were now working with literal gang members. She would've physically disciplined Jessi had she not been her best friend. Jessi asked an important question.

" Don't you guys have background checks? Drug testing, gun license, things like that? Police go through those too, you know."

"...yes, " Renji replied. " We're not savages. Gangs have to get certified by the government. "

Ceci breathed in and sighed. " I’m surprised you even have a government here. At least this place isn’t entirely primitive....only somewhat. " There were no maps or police, but that was a huge relief to their situation.

The two then entered ANOTHER line to actually register their tickets and store their luggage before they entered the " lounge ". Ceci was just happy she didn't have to lug their crap around for just a few more minutes. Now, the " lounge " is in quotes because the actual main hall consisted of an empty bright blue room with a single projector on the roof. Families, couples, and the occasional student filled the room alongside the 3. Renji used this time to turn to Jessi and Ceci.

" What's your plan? " he whispered.

“ What’s YOUR plan, Mr. gang member?! “ Ceci aggressively whispered back.

" The video I watched said it's most likely on another layer of underground, " Jessi whispered. " I don't know how we're gonna get down there though... "

" Did you at least bring weapons? " Renji whispered to Jessi.

" What? "

" Did you bring weapons? "

" Like, a gun or something? No!! The most I have is a stupid walking cane!! " Ceci exclaimed.

" Weapons aren't allowed on campus, bozo, “ Jessi added.

” That makes much more sense ”, Renji said. “ They confiscated my guns at the entrance anyway. Not that I’d need them. “

Ceci and Jessi cringed at that statement, but this was quickly pushed aside as the speaker stepped into the room. Everyone's heads turned at her voice.

" Alright, settle down, settle down. Good afternoon. My name is Tiana and I will be your speaker today. Welcome to Mobi Robotics Solutions Incorporated. We'll be giving you a sneak peek at our projects for now, and for the future! But first, some of you might have some questions. What exactly is our company about, and when did we get our start? “

The projector was turned on, showing white text on a dark blue background. It read " What we're about " with the company logo in the corner. There were three pictures on display: An old man with what appeared to be a robotic prosthetic arm being handed a bowl of popcorn by his daughter. A little girl playing with a robotic dog. A human-sized robot taking an order at a fast food restaurant. Tiana spoke over the slide.

" To begin, our motto is simple: Work For The Future. We use the power of robotics to shape people's lives for the better. Society has a pre-cognition that robotics is a tool of power. A tool of oppression and destruction. However, we believe that with great power comes great responsibility. "

The audience heard a steaming, hissing noise as they all turned around. Three circles in the ground opened up apart from each other and rose up. Three glass cylinders contained the three projects that the audience just saw. The arm, the dog, and the humanoid. The audience got closer to the cylinders to observe and ooh-aah around it.

" The projects you see here are meant to change lives of not just the underground, not just Americans, but the world itself, " Tiana continued. " People. Animals. Plants. The environment. We have several divisions at Mobi regarding climate change, elderly care, special needs, all attuned to serving a specific purpose in mind. "

The cylinders shrunk back into the ground as the circles closed up.

" With that out of the way, let's talk about our history. " The slide changed to a portrait photograph of a man with combed back gray hair and round glasses in a white lab coat.

" Our founder, Professor T.J. Chapman, started from the roughest patches of life. Gangs. Violence. Drugs. He had a wealth of knowledge, but didn't want to make use of it. That is, until just a few years ago. He managed to escape the gang life before that, and wanted to take his talents and turn a checkered past into a new future. Thus, he made his trek to Los Riveracci all the way from California...and Mobi was born. What does the name mean? Short for Mobility. Not very complicated, is it? "

People in the crowd chuckled alongside Tiana. " But it's part of the charm, don't you think? Simple, yet effective. That's our company motto. We may look all high and mighty, but underneath that are people, working class citizens just like you. Just trying to help the world. "

‘ Yeah. Every tech corp says that shit, ‘ Renji thought. He had a somewhat pouty look on his face and a raised eyebrow. He was not impressed. He wasn't impressed by any company that claimed to be " helping society " in some way. They were all bark and no bite, and if they did bite, it wasn't for the greater good. Since he had left Kuma, anyway....

" We won't hold y’all up for too long, " Tiana continued. " We'll run right through these next few segments. "

From then on, Tiana described some of the company's upcoming projects. These were shown off to the collection of viewers. A small robot which dispensed allergy cancelling scents. A robotic gun silencer. Great. Military industrial. They weren’t helping Renji’s case. On the lighter note, there was also a small pink robot with antennae robot for special needs children. Jessi and Ceci giggled at how cute it was while Renji wasn't paying attention and waiting for the opportunity to seize the thing he already forgot they were searching for.

He leaned over to the girls. " What are we looking for, again? "

” Serial number 613617, ” Jessi whispered back. ” Jeez, you don’t even have a gun and your hand is on the trigger finger….”

Renji shrugged and observed the next few products Mobi had. A drone that sprayed pollutant free pesticide over crops. A robotic cat. A recipe databank. All typical quality of life products.

" Before we move on to behind the lab, some of you are most likely curious on what the future holds for our company and our projects. We're going to give you a sneak peek, " she whispered.

The slide went from " Before we go... " as the lights dimmed. One light shone upon a circle in the center as a final glass cylinder rose from the center of the floor. It contained a small grey robot with simple round eyes on its visor and a grill for a mouth, like something a dark, suspicious galactic ruler would breath through. It had a black square on its box chest, and arms consisting of simple cylinders and circle joints. There was intricate paneling on those arms, dark grey metal laying under the light grey metal on top. Its legs had the same paneling its arms did. His shoulders and knees had a light blue top.

" Is this- "

" That's it! This is the- " Jessi was about to shout something, but Ceci stopped her seeing the crowd stare. She whispered to Renji instead. " 613617!! This is it!! It's what sis was after!! "

" Alright, give me a second. Let me think this through. “

Jessi ran through multiple scenarios in her brain on how to grab the robot for sis. Renji tapped his foot nervously watching her.

" This robot prototype is enhanced artificial intelligence via human DNA extraction and programming! The experiments with this robot have been 100% ethical for both man and machine. We intend to use this study to help create potential allies for defense forces, the elderly, and the like. To help alleviate mankind's loneliness. Our intelligence. Our everything. "

That last part rubbed Renji the wrong way a lot. Jessi clenched his fists waiting to see what Renji would say.

" What's the plan? "

" ..... " Renji was still thinking.

" What's the plan?! "

It was too late as the lights went up. The robot began slowly retreating into the ground. The crowd looked back to Tiana. Someone else was there too.

One more man had filtered into the crowd, wearing all black. black jeans, black boots, and black sunglasses. The crowd began to wonder if this man had come to give extra security to the building. But 2 seconds was all they could register as the curly haired man put a hand to his chin, supposedly in deep thought.

This was when Renji would come up with his plan.

“ GET DOWN!! NOW!! “

Bam. Bang.

Two sounds. One after the other. A door swung open from a kick. A gun blast rang out next.

The crowd screamed. More black-donned men and women rolled into the area, toting black pistols and shotguns. Renji began processing the situation even faster now. Jessi and Ceci, for their own safety, ran to the sides of the room, just like the rest of the guests did. Renji and Tiana, on the other hand, ran right out the room. Security guards with guns of their own ran into the area and immediately began shooting at the gang wrapped in black.

The guards ran to the corners of the room, the two squads trading gunfire. They bobbed and weaved, rolling across the floors to avoid the shots since there weren't exactly any barriers for gunfire in this room. A few security guards began escorting civilians out of the building by the load to keep them from getting hurt. Not all of the guards would make it out alive.

Jessi and Ceci clutched each other on their way out. " Jessi, you're not hurt, are you?! "

" I-I'm just fine! I'm j-just fine! " Jessi was shaken by the gunshots, clinging to Ceci with a bear hug.

Jessi began to slump as she stepped too hard on the floor trying to readjust. " Don't trip over yourself!! “ Ceci yelled. “Where's Mr. Moody Mafia Man?!! "

The man in question was busy shuffling through the luggage looking for his guns amidst the screaming civilians and crying children. Tiana ran up to Renji in a panic. " You! You're a confirmed gang member. Can you- "

Finally, he grabbed his two slightly larger than normal handguns. One had a brown color to it, the other a silver. " Already on it. " He immediately ran back into the lobby, clutching the handles of the guns tightly as he made his extravagant entrance, kicking a rival gang member guarding the door square in the face as he turned around. From there, Renji wasted no time, leaping forward with his gun-toting arms out and blasting down one black-clad man. He rolled across the floor in a tumble, refusing to break a sweat and clotheslined an enemy in front of him, slamming him with the butt of his gun to knock him unconscious. His gun hand swiveled back to a quickdraw towards an incoming enemy to his left, knocking him down with just two gunshots. A security guard pinned another intruder to the ground while he wasn't looking. Of course, Renji would have to get past these guys too once the intruders were gone. The security guards would be spared. Renji wasn’t stupid; he knew they played no part in this treasure hunt. The problem was that while the intruders upstairs disappeared, their boss had snuck downstairs.

While the crowd was leaving the area just minutes earlier, a few intruders had taken advantage of the chaos and went after the retreating glass elevator for the robot while it was making its way into the factory itself. Two intruders, one with a revolver pistol and one with a sheathed katana and a black cowboy hat, were being pursued by a security guard with only a gun and a taser. The enemy gunner had a suitcase in her other arm, presumably carrying the robot prototype.

The factory itself was a lot more open for cover from gunfire. The area was white with conveyor belts that operated whenever the factory was in the middle of operating. Between these multiple belts were stations for assembling and storage. To the far ends of the room were two series of lockers for storing personal equipment and tools, and to the ends of that were the testing labs, where experiments were set up on their upcoming projects.

Right now, the guard immediately fired at the woman holding the briefcase. The swordsman proceeded to draw his katana at lightspeeds, slicing the bullet in twine. The guard didn't care, moving closer and firing at different angles and areas, trying to hit the briefcase or the woman holding it, who was already making her retreat. The swordsman blocked or cleaved the shot every single time. The swordsman suddenly was about to rush forward and attack the guard before they were greeted by Renji, planting his feet firmly on the blade and punting the swordsman with his other hand. The security guard took this opportunity to fire at the woman with the briefcase and knock her down. Renji ran to the briefcase and grabbed it. " Owe you one, " he quipped, nodding at the officer who walked over to collect the briefcase, turning around…as Renji slammed him with a superman punch to the side of his face as hard as he could, knocking him out instantly.

" After I collect my bounty. Sorry, mate. " He picked the case back up and stomped on the head of the swordsman slowly getting up hard enough to keep his lights out. Right before he could hurry back upstairs, however, another man dropped through the ceiling, carrying with him a defeated, overly bruised security guard. Both were surrounded by a mysterious aura: a dark purple flaming circle. Renji would recognize an aura like that from anywhere. It was the same man who slowly entered the area earlier, dark curly hair and all. Now, he donned an almost skin tight nylon trench-coat. But that wasn't all that Renji recognized.

" Sorcerers have a bad enough rep as is, Ivan, " Renji addressed. " You can still use those flames to warm someone else. " He quickly reloaded his guns as Ivan shot forth fire in his steps, rocketing to the downed lackeys and grabbing the blade and the large revolver. He began to monologue.

" You think I don't need such power? I want the world to fear us. Starting with you, boy! "

His pretentious, stuffy monologue was over quickly as he drew the blade as fire coated the space between them, leaving a blazing purple trail. Renji showed no fear, firing two more shots which were incinerated on the spot in two slashes. A fire then ran through Ivan's gun as two flaming bullets tried to strike Renji, which were canceled by two bullets of his own. Renji rolled out of the way of a fiery explosion that ensued, trying to fire at Ivan from there as those shots were denied by a flaming wide slash. Ivan wore a maniacal, desperate grin as he pursued Renji with more flaming gun shots, Renj paid no attention to this supposed intimidation, hopping on the conveyor belt to dodge as gunfire clashed between them. A flaming bullet hit a generator in the chaos, causing an explosion to rock the abandoned factory and launch Renji across the room into a wall.

Ivan casually walked over to the briefcase amidst the rising inferno and picked it up. " I don't take joy in this life, I'll have you know. I have no regrets roasting that chickenshit crippled father of mine to smithereens. I killed once and I’ll kill again if I have to, Renji. “ He pointed his revolver at his opponent. “ I think it’s time I smoke out the evidence. "

Right as he said this, however, a chill ran down his spine as he shot up, his grin replaced with shock. A frosty aura began to slowly extinguish the fires that Ivan had just unleashed. A typical bewildered look overtook him.

" What... " he muttered under his breath.

The ground beneath his feet grew colder. He quaked in his boots, reaching for his sword to extinguish whatever aura was surrounding him. He received a harsh kick in the stomach before he could. Ivan toppled to the freezing ground as it melted around his body in an emergency. " Who the hell-?!? "

" And stay down! " Jessi yelled as she launched through the air, planting her boot on his face. She stuck her tongue out at him and winked, pulling her open eyelid down as Ivan whimpered at the coldness of it. " Y-y-you bitch!! I-I w-wanted this b-bounty, d-damn it!! "

" You hurt people just living their LIFE!! And I'd know a thing or two about these " magic " users, you know. "

She lifted her shirt sleeve, revealing a strange marking on her shoulder. Circular, yet jagged. A shape like a pitchfork emblazed upon the circle. All black.

" Looks like I'm not alone...for now. "

His face felt like dry ice. He could barely make any mouth noises, but he certainly tried. " I-I-Ihii dungeddit, y-yourejusalilgirlIma- "

" Renjiiii! I think we wooooon!!....Renji? " She ignored him completely, calling out to Renji, who did not respond. " Renjiiii? "

He got to his knees with his gun, lifting himself up with the barrel hole facing down. " He was very bruised, and blood was spilling gently from his forehead in one streak. " Y-you…you’re a Sorcerer…? "

" I, uh…I guess so. Hope you weren't intimidated by me stealing your spotlight! Heh heh. "

" I can't say I wasn'-....wait... " Renji looked up. " You interrupted my mission? "

" YOUR mission? I thought we were trying to get that robot to my big sis! " She dashed over to Renji, helping him up by his arm.

" Seriously, what the hell is this now? YOU’RE a sorceror? "

"I heard you the first time. My sister said something about it a long time ago... "

" Whatever. Listen, we have to go now!! This bounty is RED HOT if that mess told us anything. We need to get this away from the public NOW. Where is an emergency exit?! What happened to the goons upstairs?! Did you…fight them off?! "

" No, more of those intruders came!! They took hostages...wait, they took Ceci...THEY TOOK CECI!! "

" Damn it....I saw an emergency exit near the testing lab! That'll take us out back! I have to get you out of here!! "


" If someone finds out you’ve got this thing, you’re dead!! "

Jessi shouted out “ NO!!! “, but Renji had to grab her hand as well as the briefcase, dragging her out of the lab up the stairs before heading to the back of the main establishment. There was a large street before her which was fortunately mostly empty by the two of them, besides the occasional worker and truck. Renji slammed the door behind them as he turned to Jessi, who tried to let go of his hand. " Listen, you have to go before someone catches you. If you take this, you’re painting a bright red target on your back!! "

" W-wait!! I-I don't have any escort!! Can you PLEASE help me find those freaks who took Ceci?! "

" For god's sake, I can't be seen around here with you, " he said again, planting his hand into his face and then pulling a small business card from his pocket. It listed his gang name and two phone numbers. " There's a hotel here if you run from here and go north!!! Do not think, just GO!! " He made his escape, not wanting to be almost apprehended again. She heard footsteps coming from upstairs, and picked up the briefcase, stuffing the card in her pocket and running. She clutched the suitcase to her chest. Tears fell down her face and slowly ate at her makeup. Her teeth were clenched in anger and bitterness. She was luckily an incredibly fast runner, and a fast walker, much to Ceci's detriment. Sadly, Ceci wasn’t here to berate her and give some common sense in her time of need. Small bits of ice fell from each footstep. Her anxiety flared up like the flames that'd been stoked in the lab. Trina was closer to her now than ever, but Yuta and now Ceci were being taken from her.

Everything she loved in her life would be stripped away from her one by one.

In times like these, friendship would come in the most unlikely of places.

Welcome to Los Riveracci, baby.

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