Chapter 5:

Wonderous Woman

The Underwriters

“Was there anything else that happened between you guys checking in and Seela going missing? Anything at all, no matter how small?”

Hibiki stared straight at the two while Maya chirped her thoughts out loud as usual. She typed wildly on her holopad, making sure not to miss a single word.

Cynth and Holly looked at each other before one of them mumbled, “Well, she left us a pretty weird message in the group chat. It was totally not like her.”

"What was the message? Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense, any clue can help us in our search.” Yui sat on the edge of her seat and glanced back and forth between the two, looking for any signs of lying.

“Here, we’ll send it to you. I hope it can help.” Holly took a screenshot before sending the message over while Cynth’s tears started to roll out again.

“Please, find her for us. She’s our sister. She’s like our entire world.”

“We’ll do our best. Now, we’d like to ask you to please leave while we search her room.” Yui stood up and gestured towards the door.

Cynth and Holly reached out to pet Maya one last time before leaving Seela’s suite with tears staining their faces.

Yui and Hibiki spread out across the room while looking for anything of importance. Clothes were strewn everywhere, making it seem as if Seela had left in a hurry.

“Should we look at that message? Maybe it’ll explain why Seela left so fast in the morning.”

Yui paused before bringing a floating screen up. Hibiki walked next to her and stood on her tip-toes to look at the message too. Finally, her commander noticed her struggles and lowered the screen for her. Maya chirped, vindicated that her owner finally knew how she usually felt.

“Let’s see. ‘Sorry gurlz, but I gotta dip for a sec. Some loser messaged me lying abut my dad and I need to set ‘em straight?’ Well, that’s a clue for sure. Was she taken by the person she met?” Looking up at her commander, Hibiki waited for a response.

“Most likely. Those ‘lies’ she mentioned are probably part of the kidnapper’s motive. If she was taken, that is.”

“But why else would she go missing if she wasn’t kidnapped?”

Yui sat back down and pulled Hibiki next to her before speaking, “All cases are different. Sometimes, a client just gets lost. Some are straight-up murdered for revenge before we can get to them. Not everyone wants ransom money.”

“I can’t imagine you getting called to save someone, and they just got stuck in the woods.” Hibiki giggled again and Yui chuckled along with her.

“You’d be surprised. Luckily, the pay is high enough to make it all worth it. Let’s head to the tracker location now. I think we’ve got all that we can out of this room.”

“Yeah. And I don’t hear anything hidden either.”

“Hm? You could hear something like that? I shouldn’t be surprised at this point, little bird.”

Hibiki followed behind Yui back to the elevator as she began explaining, “Yeah. At max volume, I can hear the hum of turned-on electronic devices or the sound of blood rushing through veins. It gets kinda overwhelming.”

“I now understand why you keep the volume on those ears of yours low most of the time.”

“Yeah, it took years to get used to and I still have problems sometimes.”

Hibiki felt a silver stare on her before looking up to see a slight smile.

“I’m glad you’re here to help. But don’t overdo it. Okay?”

With a nod and a hidden blush, the elevator stopped, and they left the building. Commander Yui brought up the tracker information and inputted the current location into an app. Shortly afterward, a sleek black car pulled up and automatically opened its doors.

“Wow. This is some taxi.”

“It costs quite a bit, but it’s a little more covert. Staying hidden is important for these cases.”

“Gotcha.” Hibiki added her commander’s latest words of wisdom to her notes. Back inside her cage, Maya excitedly hopped all around while examining the brand-new vehicle.

“Btw, it looks like that bird of yours is pretty capable as well. That lullaby was handy.” Maya puffed up proudly while allowing Yui to poke her.

“Maya is pretty handy. If we ever get in a fight, I can show you her full capabilities.”

“Oh, but I’m much more interested in what you can do, little bird.” Yui grabbed Hibiki’s chin and whispered. She watched as Hibiki squirmed out of her grasp and slid to the other side of the car.

“Uh, sure. Okay. Yeah. I’ll totally show you. One day. Soon. Maybe.” Hibiki rambled while Yui watched lazily.

Rolling to a stop, the two got out at a destitute beachside bar. A couple of locals dotted the entrance while no customers were visible inside. The words on the sign, La Rendez, were partially busted with only a couple of letters actually still flickering with any light. Meanwhile, the building was open but silent.

Yui and Hibiki wandered inside while looking for any sign of the girl. The GPS signal had not moved at all, meaning that Seela’s tracker was somewhere at the bar. No lights or people were visible. The only evidence of recent visitors was a faintly disturbed layer of dust. If it wasn’t for the faintest bits of light entering through the dirty windows, it would be hard to see much of anything going on.


Hearing her name called so directly, Yui responded fast.


“I’m going to turn my volume all the way up. Please cover me.”

“On it.” Yui poised her entire body to attack, electric blue coursing through every single one of her veins. Keeping Hibiki within her sight, she honed all of her senses to be ready in case any intruder came inside.

Hibiki tapped on her ears and was immediately overwhelmed by a cacophony of sounds. The cries of birds, yells of beachgoers, rushing waves, and hum of every electronic device within 50 miles all entered her hearing. Closing her eyes and focusing, she separated out every single unimportant sound. Within a few minutes, she heard it. The only sound besides Yui’s roaring veins and Maya’s ticking heart that could possibly come from within the bar.

Dashing to the left and back behind the bar, Hibiki called for Yui once more.

“Yui, there’s something behind this case. Can you move it for me?”

With strength surging through her body, Yui effortlessly pushed a 6-foot-tall case filled to the brim with dusty bottles of wine and whiskey. She watched Hibiki’s eyes widen as she used a single hand to nearly top the case over.

“That’s. Wow.”

“Impressed, little bird? I hope that’s not all it takes to enchant you, otherwise, I’ll need to keep a close eye on you.”

Hibiki’s nose scrunched up like a rabbit while she asked, “Why would you need to keep an eye on me?” Yui laughed at the girl’s innocence before looking at what had been uncovered.

“Good girl. We wouldn’t have found this door if it wasn’t for you. Remind me to give you a reward later.”

“Okay?” Hibiki followed Yui into the dark room and looked for a switch. Lights quickly flickered on and Hibiki blinked to adjust to the sudden brightness.


Hibiki’s eyes finally adjusted just in time to see Yui bend down and grab hold of a tiny beeping button. A conspicuous red splatter dotted the floor. Crouching down to look, Hibiki recognized the device as a tracker.

“If that’s Seela’s tracker, then the blood is. Oh, no.”

“Our trail just went cold.” Yui stood up and rubbed the tiny device before putting it into her pocket. She seemed to think over her next words and then stated, “Well, we know that she definitely was taken by someone at this point.”

Crouching down, Hibiki stared at the red spot on the ground.

“Is this a large amount of blood? Is she okay?”

“She should be fine for now. Based on the amount of blood here, I’d say the kidnapper just cut her enough to take out the tracker.” Pausing to take note of Hibiki’s facial expressions, she continued. “I can’t guarantee that she’ll be safe for much longer. Our best bet is to wait for a ransom request at this point.”

“What happens if we don’t get one? What if this is one of the cases where you said the kidnapper doesn’t want money?”

Commander Yui’s lips spread into a thin line as silver made contact with black. For once, Hibiki wished that the noise would drown out the quiet suffocating her.

“If the kidnapper doesn’t want any money from Mr. West, then he’s probably doing this for revenge. In that case, we might end up finding a corpse instead of a living person.”

Hibiki looked down at the tiny blood spot one more time before deciding to leave her ears on maximum volume for the first time in years.