Chapter 12:

Walking on Air

The Underwriters

Glass feels remarkably cool against the skin, but it's hard to enjoy the sensation when a person is thrown hard against a glass surface. As the AI taxi began swerving to throw Mr. West's people off of their trail, Hibiki got to enjoy the roller coaster experience. She had always imagined what it would be like to go to a theme park and ride on the mega-coasters, but such joys were limited to those with disposable income. Just one ticket would cost the same as a month's rent, and Hibiki refused to go without her dear father by her side.

Actually being tossed and turned in a fast-moving hover car going over 100 mph made Hibiki relieved to have missed out. The constant feeling of vomit rising and falling in her throat was not exactly pleasant.

"I didn't know that AI taxis offered high-speed car chases as an option. That must be a new feature." As Hibiki tried to steel her stomach, she covered her face with Maya's cage. Her feathered friend flew around her trying to soothe her with lovely singing but failed.

"It's a new premium service. I bet you feel lucky, huh?"

"Never better."

Suddenly, the hover car tilted and began to wobble. Yelling out to brace Yui, Hibiki began to slide to the left side of the car as the vehicle began to fall sideways. Commander Yui lept into action. She grabbed Hibiki in her arms and whistled to Maya. Then she allowed extra energy to pulse through her veins. As blue became visible throughout her arms and neck, she kicked the door of the hover car clean off.

Without missing a beat, she jumped out of the machine with Hibiki in her arms and landed perfectly on her feet. Meanwhile, Hibiki's mouth was frozen open as if she was performing an abstract art piece on terror and fear.

The moment Hibiki felt her feet touching the ground, she had to restrain herself from kissing the earth beneath her. All around them were trees cobbled together out of copper and iron, with fake grass flickering back and forth in the non-existent wind.

"I can hear them talking. They purposely waited until we were in the forest to shoot us down."

Yui slightly squatted as she got into a fighting stance. With one arm out in front of her in a fist, she calmly replied. "I know. They probably didn't want us to get close enough to any help."

"Well, let's make them think that we did."

"Hmm?" The commander had no idea what to expect, but Hibiki had already exceeded her expectations time and time again. She waited to see what the girl would do next and was pleasantly surprised.

Maya landed on Hibiki's shoulder and the pair had another silent conversation. Activating camouflage mode, the bird blended in with the fake trees this time before flying in the direction of their attackers.

It was silent. Yui turned to look at Hibiki who simply placed a finger on her lips as a signal to wait. Then came the screams and the sound of explosions. Gunfire. Chainsaws. A cacophony of sounds filled the forest alongside Yui's voice now taunting the attackers that they had fallen for their trap.

Hearing her voice suddenly, Yui suddenly understood. Soon a large group of ruffled henchmen stumbled into view with scrapes, cuts, and exactly zero weapons. Yui quickly adapted and joined the act without hesitation. Seeing the voice that had been chasing them right before their eyes, the men began to step back, but the sounds of footsteps and angry yells behind them put them in a corner.

"I told you that you'd fallen for my trap, didn't I? Did you really think that I wouldn't have backup?"

"Enough! We aren't scared of you!" Three of them rushed towards Yui at once, hoping to catch her off guard. They failed. Miserably. One punch made two fly into a tree which quickly snapped in half at the sudden force. The other was picked up and tossed into the ground, creating a small human-sized crater around him.

More men rushed at her, but Yui sidestepped them like an expert ballerina dancing Swan Lake. With a pirouette, she kicked a man directly in the stomach and sent him flying ten feet upwards. With a turn, she grabbed another and threw him into another group of men.

A bullet slid past Yui's face, grazing her cheek. Instead of flinching, she wiped the blood off of her face and licked it off her finger. Turning to the man who had found a weapon, she rushed. In the time it took the man to blink, six feet of death had run right in front of him. With a spinning kick, he was sent backward with enough force that he broke five trees as he elegantly soared through the forest and embraced the ground.

Meanwhile, Maya's sound mimicry kept the fight contained in one area as she produced an entire army with a single beak. Feeling entirely surrounded, not a single mercenary felt safe enough to break the confines of the trees around them and run. Throughout all of Yui's dominance, Hibiki kept her eyes closed.

Most of Mr. West's minions were focused entirely on subduing the force that was named Yui, but seeing that it was hopeless, a couple decided to take down the other enemy before them. Although her closed eyes suggested that she was entirely defenseless, that could not have been further from the truth. She was the daughter of a former soldier and fighting was in her blood.

Hibiki listened closely. Two pairs of footsteps, approximately five feet, and point seven five inches away from her. One was closing in from northwest of her. She guessed he was about 170 pounds based on the heaviness of his steps. The other was closer to 294 and was approaching from directly behind her. They rushed at the same time, but she struck out at the exact angle of their faces based on the sounds of their nostril breathing. With a stun gun in each hand, hundreds of thousands of volts of electricity in total hit the faces of both men and they went down with a scream.

Seeing that the tiny girl barely clearing five feet had taken down two of them while keeping her eyes shut, no one dared to get close to her. Hibiki even dodged the bullets coming near her, stepping a single inch out of the way each time based on the sound of the tiny wind produced by a single bullet.

However, the immense amount of sounds was straining her as blood began to drip out of her ears. Yui noticed Hibiki's face scrunching in pain as her fingers trembled nearing her ear. Before Hibiki could turn down the volume of her ear implants and gain any relief, she changed her mind due to the still tense situation they were in. The sound of wind entered her ears as a gentle force picked her up and plopped Hibiki right outside of the main action.

A gentle whisper came from Yui warning, "Stay right here and don't move." A light pressure came on her ears as Yui manually adjusted the volume of her ears for her and then rushed back into the center of the ring of trees.

"It's been fun playing with all of you, but my little bird is getting tired. I hope you understand if I end play time here for now." Multiple men ran towards Yui before all being sent upwards simultaneously.

Smashing both of her hands into the ground with enhanced force behind them, a giant cavern was formed. Dirt, bodies, and trees all were displaced and floated in the air for several seconds before landing haphazardly. All the remaining men were knocked out temporarily or permanently upon hitting the ground at 500 miles an hour.

"Commander Yui! You're amazing!" Rushing to her leader who now stood in the middle of a huge hole in the ground, Hibiki peered over the edge of the new excavation and shouted through Maya who had returned.

"I thought I told you to call me just Yui, little bird?" Yui said this while jumping several feet straight up into the air. She flipped in the sky before falling straight before Hibiki.

"I. I was just so impressed that I forgot..."

"Hmm." Silver was looking entirely at brown without blinking. Hibiki shifted from foot to foot while looking everywhere but her commander. The beep of an approaching cab brought Hibiki relief from the silent judgment.

"But seriously, you're so strong. You're amazing. I'm. I'm really excited to be working with you."

"I'm the one amazed by you, little bird. But I never want you to strain yourself like that again. Understood?"

Faced with a demanding gaze that left no room for defiance, Hibiki had no choice but to nod yes. If push came to shove and her Yui was in danger, she would just ignore this conversation. As soon as she realized that she had mentally called Yui hers, her entire body felt hotter than a hot spring in the middle of summer on the hottest day of the year.

She forced herself to think the name Commander Yui over and over again while ignoring the perplexed gaze on her commander’s face watching her mentally converse with herself. Hibiki was so immersed and the volume on her ears was so low that she didn't even notice that Maya had relayed all of her latest thoughts out loud.

The rest of the car ride back to base was spent with Hibiki huddled in the fetal position with her ears turned entirely off. Meanwhile, the commander in question pretended not to be looking in her direction while secretly observing her every move. Hibiki ran into the building with the speed of one thousand blue hedgehogs. Behind her, a certain smirking super soldier casually followed in her footsteps.

Upon reaching the tech lab, Hibiki brought her ears back to a suitable volume. They were no longer on max as she was still healing from their overuse during the fight. Meanwhile, every one of her muscles ached at the sudden exercise.

Yui noticed all of this. She could see Hibiki practically melt into one of the lab chairs in exhaustion. She read the latest update from Tomoe and then spoke, "The holoband's GPS tracker has been hacked. It's steadily beeping away at a specific location. I plan to go check it out by myself. Meanwhile, you can go over everything Maya found here and get some rest."

"But, will you be okay by yourself, Yui? I mean, what if Mr. West sets up another ambush or..."



"This isn't the first time that I've had to fend for myself and it definitely won't be the last. I'm more worried about you." Commander Yui grabbed a chair and rolled next to Hibiki. Grabbing Hibiki's shoulder, she gave an order. "You trust me, right? So, listen to me and stay here. I'll be back as soon as I can."

Hibiki wanted to speak up in defiance, but Yui's voice was firm. She sighed before nodding her head in resignation.

"Okay." Both Maya and Hibiki's heads hung low, with pet matching owner in their shared emotions. This made Yui smile as she stood up to leave.

"If anything happens, call me immediately. I'll answer no matter what and return as soon as possible. Okay?"

Once again confirming that she understood, Hibiki watched her commander walk out the door. For the first time in days, the two were separated and she didn't know how to feel. Thunder in the background went unnoticed as the sign of the battles ahead.