Maki pushed past Hiro as soon as he opened the door and zoomed out. After a mere few seconds, her feet staggered to a halt. She wrapped her arms around herself. Her teeth rattled. “H-How d-did it g-get so cold?! It w-wasn’t that b-bad earlier!”
“Welcome to the desert.” Hiro kept his hands snug inside his pockets. “Don’t be too loud. The others might hear us.”
“Of course. They’ll only get in the way.” Haruka patted Maki’s head and sauntered behind him. She was unbothered by the frigid temperature.
Maki was moved to tears. “Haruka, you’re s-so nice to me.” She jumped to embrace her, but quickly withdrew herself. “Urgh! Why does your skin h-have to be so c-cold?”
They snuck back to the entrance of the farm. Maki peered through the delivery truck’s window. “Yo! This your ride? Can we take it to their base?”
Hiro shook his head. “No can do.”
“What? Why nooot?”
“I don’t have the keys with me. They’re in the other house.”
“Oh, is that it? Leave it to me, then!”
Two of her hornets picked the door’s lock with their stingers. Maki gleefully hummed as she entered the truck and took out the compartment under the steering wheel. Several cords were in display; she connected two of them together. The truck started in no time.
She gave him a thumbs up. “All done!”
“I… You actually did it.”
“No duh. I can’t be a criminal and not know these basic things. Now then!” She clasped her hands together. “You can drive this thing, right?”
“O-Of course I can!”
That was a blatant lie. Hiro only drove it two times before. The second resulted in a disaster that made Miles ban him from driving altogether. Still, he wanted to prove himself at least somewhat useful to the girls.
A voice thundered from the other house. “HEY! Who’s that in the truck! Get out of there!” One by one, the lights in the home turned on.
“Get in now!” Hiro hurried inside the driver’s seat.
When the girls hopped on the back, he stepped on the gas. Through his rear view mirror, he saw Johnny and Granny Jay coming out of the front door.
“Wooo!” Maki stood up and spread her arms wide. “Now, this is speed!”
“Maki, you’re going to fall.” Haruka held her knees together as she sat down.
“Haha! No way! Hiro’s got this!” She bent down and peeked inside the rear window. “Right?”
Hiro gripped on to the steering wheel with all his might. His teeth chattered; he didn’t blink. His foot pushed the accelerator all the way down. By the time they were halfway from the village square, the truck had reached maximum speed.
Maki fell on her behind. “Dumbass! Slow it down! Turn right!”
Hiro turned the steering wheel all the way, but did not let his foot go. The truck slid and hurtled straight toward a tree. Haruka formed a whip and used it to pull Hiro’s foot off the gas. She slammed on the brakes, and the truck skidded to a halt.
Maki jumped and yanked Hiro’s door open. She grabbed him by the collar. “You IDIOT! Why didn’t you tell me your stupid ass can’t drive?!”
“I-I’m sorry! I’m still new!”
“New? NEW?! Literal babies can drive better than you!”
“I panicked! We were going too fast!”
“Then pull your damn foot off the gas!”
“I-I couldn’t move it!”
“Alright, step aside!” Maki shoved him aside and sat in his seat. “I’ll show you how the pros do it.”
“Wha— Wait, I… I can still drive.” Hiro placed his trembling hand on the steering wheel.
“Absolutely not! You’ll get us killed!”
“But… Can you drive?”
“You are the last person in the world qualified to ask me that.”
“But you’re… you know…” He raised his hand just above his waist.
“What? Too short?”
Haruka giggled. She quickly covered her mouth when Hiro turned to her.
“I already told you, asshole!” Maki’s finger jabbed his stomach. “I’m a full-fledged adult!”
“Then do you have a license?”
“We’re criminals, you twat! Why would we ever want the government to have our personal records?”
“The bigger miracle here is that they decided to give you a license!”
“I don’t have one.”
“WHAT? Then why did you ask?!”
She shushed him. “Save it. We don’t got all night. Get in and tell me where their base is.”
With Hiro’s directions, they passed through the village square. At his request, they stopped by the alleyway where he and Haruka met. He retrieved Granny Jay’s ruby necklace from Kin’s corpse. On its back were the inscribed words:
To my beloved Jay:
My love. My joy. My life.
They then drove a few miles outside Ushiro. He pointed at a large metal warehouse sitting atop a small hill. A long driveway connected it to the hill’s bottom. A tall barbed-wire fence surrounded the entire compound. Danger signs warned of the electric shock any fool would receive should they attempt to climb.
When they got close, Maki slowed down and parked behind one of the bushes. “We’re goin’ the rest of the way by foot.”
They stooped down and walked along the fence’s perimeter until they made it to the entrance gate. Two Bandito guards idly browsed their phones.
Maki made several hand signals to Haruka. “Execute order beta, beta, charlie.”
Haruka chopped her on the head. “Speak English.”
“Ow…” Maki rubbed her head and chuckled.
“These two can’t seriously be criminals,” Hiro muttered to himself.
With a wide grin, Maki pointed at the guards. “Go kill ‘em. Make it nice and quiet.”
“Understood.” Haruka formed two red knives in her hand and hurled them at the guards. They pierced their temples and lodged themselves firmly within their skulls. The men plummeted to the ground.
Hiro gawked as Haruka knelt down beside them. She stabbed their necks with needles that protruded from her wrists. Their bodies quickly deflated and left behind thin, shriveled masses.
Hiro looked away and gagged. Maki smacked his back several times. “Sorry ‘bout that, hobo. It takes a while to get used to seein’ her drink ‘em.”
“Stop.” Haruka glared at her.
“Whoops! Forget I said anythin’. Now, movin’ on to what’s really important, let’s talk about our game plan.” Maki pointed her finger right in front of Hiro’s nose. “If you thought your role was over, you’re dead wrong. You’re comin’ with us!”
“Wait, wh—” Hiro stopped himself from raising his voice. “I’m what now?” he whispered.
She picked up a pistol from one of the corpses’ holsters and chucked it at him. “Here. You’re gonna need this.”
He couldn’t keep his eyes off it. “This… This is a gun.”
“Wooow. What a surprise. Yes, idiot. It’s a gun. Consider this your first test. Try not to die out there.”
“Test?! Wait, I’m not ready! I’ve never killed— I mean, what do I do? I thought I was just supposed to bring you here and—”
She snapped her fingers at him. “Relax, pussy! What kind of revenge would it be if you never did the dirty work yourself?”
“But I-I’ve never used a gun before.”
He could see the utter disappointment in her face. She pulled the gun from his hands and undid the safety. “There. Just pull the trigger. Can’t believe I’m dealin’ with such a child.”
“Look who’s talking.”
“The adult, that’s who. Hmph!” She pouted at him. “Anyways, you said those bozos’ boss killed your friend, right? I’m leavin’ you in charge of him then.”
“What?! You want me to kill their boss?”
Maki jerked her head back and looked at him with disgust. “Please, you're too much of a sissy to even kill a fly, which makes you perfect for the job. We need him alive for questionin’. Just… I dunno, shoot him in the leg or somethin’. We’ll handle the rest.”
His heart rate soared. “Are you sure I have to do this? What if I mess up? I’m not prepared for this.”
She nodded slowly and tapped on his arm. “You’re either comin’ with us, or we kill you right here, right now. Can’t jeopardize the mission, after all.”
“Okay, okay!” He stepped away from her hand. “I’ll… try to do something about it. What about the nanobarrier you showed me earlier? Can I have that too?”
“Nope! I only brought one, and I’m usin’ it to save my own ass.”
“But I’m not as brave or crazy as you! I don’t wanna die!”
“And you won’t!” She wrapped her arm around Haruka. “We’ll take good care of you. Right, partner?”
Haruka sighed. “Fine. So long as he’s not too much of a burden.”
“Perfect! We’re all set, then! Race you there!”
Maki bolted up the hill in excitement. However, it didn’t take long for Hiro and Haruka to catch up. By the time they reached her, she was dragging her feet and panting.
Hiro slowed down to her pace. “Should we take a break?”
“Shut… up… We’re almost… there…”
“Do you want me to carry you again?” Haruka asked.
She raised her arms. “Yes please.”
Her whips wrapped themselves around Maki’s waist and lifted her up in the air.
“Faster, my loyal servant!”
“Say that one more time, and I'll drop you.”
They sat behind a large rock several feet away from the warehouse. Two Bandito members guarded the large metal door. On Maki’s command, Haruka put her down.
“Just two guards? Man, these guys are a load of pushovers!”
“The lights are all on,” Hiro said. “Looks like the rest of them are inside.”
“Perfect! Time to go ch—”
As Maki got up, Haruka grabbed her shoulder and held her down. “The guards will see us.”
“And? We’ll be the last thing they see.”
“They’ll warn the boss, and he’ll escape.”
“Tch. Do you always have to think of everything?”
Haruka stood up. “Give me assistance.”
Maki sighed and opened her bag. “Okaaay.”
Her hornets stealthily flew toward the guards and stung them. Their mouths foamed as they dropped to the ground. Haruka summoned a spear and finished them off.
“Guys, guys! Over here!” Maki stood on her toes to peek at the window.
Stacks of wooden crates littered the inside of the warehouse. The dim lighting made it difficult for them to get a good look. All they could see were the backs of several Bandito members that stood in attention.
Maki cupped her ear against the window. “I can’t hear what they’re sayin’. Can we just bust in?”
Haruka lifted her hand and was about to chop her head. “Maki, I told you—”
“Actually,” Hiro said, “that doesn’t sound like a bad idea.”
There was a sparkle in Maki’s eyes. “See? Hiro gets me!”
“What do you mean?” Haruka asked him.
“If you bust in, everyone’s attention is on you. That’ll mean I can sneak up to the boss more easily.”
And less enemies for him to encounter.
“Haha! Would you look at that?” Maki pointed her thumb at herself. “I’m a genius!”
Haruka placed her hand on his shoulder. “Are you ready?”
Hiro recoiled back in surprise. Her skin felt frigid. His eyes were glued to her arm as he rubbed his shoulder. “Y-Yeah! I hope so…”
She turned around and hid her hands from him. “Sorry.”
“Nonsense! You’ll be fine!” Maki took out several hamster-like balls from her bag. “We’re gonna make a big distraction, and your job is to sneak around the back and intercept their boss. Not too hard, right?”
“I guess.” Hiro looked at the gun in his hand.
“Either way, you got ten seconds before I blow the door up. Now step aside and do your job. Capiche?”
He sprinted away as fast as he could and took shelter behind a nearby rock. When he looked back, Haruka had already hidden off somewhere. Maki summoned the nanobarrier in front of her and tossed the balls at the door. A grand explosion tore it to shreds.
Maki laughed hysterically. “Goooood evenin’, bozos! Remember me?”
The frenzied Bandito members took out their guns.
“Hold your fire!” Fujio, their boss, sat on top of a crate in front of his crew. He was unfazed by Maki’s explosive entrance. He opened the palm of his metal arm and aimed at her. A golden muzzle extended from his wrist. “After all that running around, you decide to show up out of nowhere and cause this huge mess? Why are you here now?”
She snickered. “Oh, I wasn’t runnin’ around. I was arm wrestlin’!”
“Speakin’ of which, you guys should probably do the runnin’ riiiiight about… Now!”
She pulled out two submachine guns from her bag and rained bullets at them. One by one, Bandito members dropped dead. Those who possessed nanobarriers activated them on time and protected themselves.
“Sneaky brat.” The boss fired at her. It ricocheted off her nanobarrier. “Kill her!”
They unloaded their cartridges at her. Both Maki and Bandito were at a standstill; none of their bullets even made a dent in their nanobarriers.
Maki pointed her gun at the ceiling. “Your turn!”
Haruka broke through one of the windows with a large red shield. With her other hand, she created several tentacles with sharpened tips. They maneuvered through the barriers and stabbed whoever they passed through. Those unfortunate enough to get hit crumpled into pale masses of flesh.
They turned their attention to her. While her shield blocked their bullets, she tossed a red blob into the air. It exploded; a web of sticky fluid fell upon them. She cleanly sliced the heads of her stuck foes one by one.
Bandito’s numbers dwindled. In desperation, they circled around Haruka and fired from all sides. She was forced to surround herself with shields. Maki took several hamster bombs and rolled them on the floor; those distracted by Haruka were blown to bits.
“Eugh… Those girls are insane.” Hiro watched on as the mass slaughter continued. At the corner of the window, he saw the tip of a black hat bobbing up and down. He leaned forward to get a better look; Fujio rummaged through a crate near the other side of the warehouse. He carried a set of missiles in his arm.
“Are those the pierce rockets Maki talked about?”
As much as he hated it, he knew this was his chance to move. With no guards outside, the path to the back of the warehouse was all clear. He gripped his gun tightly. Sweat formed along his brow. It was now or never.
He closed his eyes and exhaled. When he opened them again, they shone green, completely focused on the window. He took a few steps back and placed his arms in front of his face.
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