“...ey! Hey! W… up!”
Hiro felt his body being shaken around violently.
He fluttered his eyes open. The rising sun’s rays passed through the small gap in his curtains, hitting him directly in his face. When he looked up, he saw a blurry mix of blue and red right above him.
“Wake up already!”
Without warning, Hiro was jolted awake by a searing pain in his right cheek. He gasped and struggled to open his eyes, squinting against the bright light. As his vision slowly cleared, he saw Maki straddling him with her hand still poised in the air after delivering a sharp slap to his face.
“Okay, okay!” he yelled. “I’m awa—”
She slapped him across the other cheek, leaving behind a large, red imprint of her hand. “You awake now? Or do you need another one?”
“Yes to what? Another slap?”
Hiro flinched in fear as Maki raised her hand, ready to strike.
“No! Stop!” he said.
“...You just wanna slap me again, don’t you?”
“Was I too obvious?”
In one swift movement, Hiro sat up on his bed, causing Maki to lose her balance and tumble backwards. Her head struck the hard floor with a heavy thud.
“Ouch! What’d you do that for?!”
“Ugh, my head…” He let out a huge, prolonged yawn as he rubbed his temple. “What do you want, Maki?”
“Oh YEAH! We gotta leave! Like, now!”
“There are police cars outside!”
They both hurried to the living room. There, Haruka was slowly and meticulously drying her hair with a towel, attending to every nook and cranny. She seemed unbothered by the red and blue lights flashing outside.
She turned to Hiro and Maki. “Morning. Sorry. Used your shower.”
Hiro stopped in his tracks. “Oh, uh… Don’t worry about it.”
Maki slung her bag over her shoulder. “You done yet, Haruka? Can’t you see the police outside?
“They came before I could finish.”
“Why’d you even take a shower anyway? That’s your fault. Couldn’t you just do that back at the base?”
“I don’t want to be stinky like you.”
Maki pouted. “Hmph! How dare you!”
Haruka stuck out her tongue in response.
“Wait…” Maki pointed at Haruka’s face. “I know why! It’s ‘cause we’re bringin’ a boy with us!”
Haruka turned away. “No.”
“Ha! I knew it!”
Hiro stifled a laugh by covering his mouth with his hand, but the gravity of the situation quickly sobered him up. He cautiously walked towards the window, sticking his head out just enough to look outside. His heart sank as he saw two police cars parked in front of Granny Jay's house. A uniformed officer sat on one of the cars’ hoods, speaking into his radio receiver.
“They’re right outside,” he said. “What do we do?”
“Hmm…” Maki rubbed her chin. “We have to get to the main entrance of the village somehow. That’s where I parked my baby.”
“Wait, you had a car?! This whole time?!”
“Yeah! It’s hard to explain, but it’s kinda hard to bring around. Plus, it was way more fun zoomin’ around through your retro truck! So long as you’re not drivin’, of course.”
“Okay, but by the village gate? Someone’s bound to have found it by now.”
“Nah, nah! They can search a million years. They’ll never find it! All we gotta do is get there.”
“What? Are you serious? Alright, well, even if that’s the case, we still need to somehow get past the police outside.”
As they were talking, the phone rang in the kitchen. Hiro was dumbfounded; hardly anyone ever called their home, and if they did, it was usually to speak with Miles. But Miles was no longer around, and no one had called since. He walked to the phone and picked it up.
“Hello?” Sweat gathered along his brow.
An old, feeble voice responded. “Hiro! Hiro, is that you?”
“Hiro! Thank goodness! I’m glad you’re safe! Are you alright?”
“There’s policemen at our door! They’re asking about a massacre. Are you hurt?”
“No, I’m alr—”
“The killers are still on the loose! Stay here with the police.”
“Mom, who are you talking to?” Hiro heard Johnny say from the phone.
Rapid footsteps could be heard getting louder and louder. It was clear that more than one person was fast approaching.
“H-Hey! What are you doing?” Granny Jay yelled. “Give it back!”
“We can’t let you do that, ma’am,” a different voice said. It was a slightly higher pitch than Johnny’s. “Now, come with us, we have some ques—”
The call was cut off.
Maki placed her hands on her hips. “So? Who was it?”
Hiro’s forehead furrowed, and his mouth opened slightly with a hint of horror. His fingers curled into a fist around the phone. As if bracing for impact, he tensed his body. “Guys… They found out about Bandito. We need to go. Now.”
“What?! I thought it’d at least take a day or two. How’d they know so fast?”
Haruka took a step back, distancing herself from Hiro. “Was it you? Did you tell them?”
“No, no! Of course not!” He raised his hands up. “You still think I’d set you up like that? Why would I be here talking to you if I could just turn you in right now?”
She paused for a few seconds. “Fine, but I’m watching you.”
“Stop gettin’ on each other's throats already. This is an emergency.” Maki took a peek at the police cars. “If we wanna make a beeline for my lil’ baby, then our best bet is to steal their car.”
“You wanna steal a police car?!” Hiro was wide-eyed in shock.
“Duh. We’re criminals, silly.”
“Yeah, but… I mean… What about being secretive? They’re gonna know who we are. They’re gonna know what we look like. We won’t be safe anywhere!”
“Calm down! You’re startin’ to piss me off! It’s a lil’ too late for you to back down, so get your act together! Unless you wanna stay here. Have fun in jail, I guess.”
He felt stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“No.” Haruka aimed her palm at him. “If he stays, we have to kill him.”
A point of no return, rather.
“Okay, okay! I get it,” Hiro said. “Still, there has to be a better way than just barging in and taking their car. What’s the point of hiding in the shadows if you were just gonna cause ruckus anyway?”
Maki waved her hand dismissively. “You don’t have to worry a damn thing! Leave it to us, as usual!” She opened her bag and took out a handful of her hornets. They silently flew up, passing through the hole in one of the windows that she got stuck in previously. Without alarming the police, they made their way to the cars. Completely focused, Maki wore her goggles and turned them on.
Haruka waited in front of the door. “Just tell me when.”
“Gimme a sec… Alright! I disabled the dashboard camera. Hiro, give her your cloak!”
“Huh? Why?” he asked.
“‘Cause mine reeks of booze! Though, I mean, I don’t mind her showin’ her face to the people outside. If you want her to kill the witness in the other house, that is.”
He tossed his cloak to Haruka.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Go wild, girl!”
Haruka wrapped the cloak around her whole head and went outside. Like an elegant dance, she swiftly decapitated the two policemen outside. She then entered Granny Jay’s house. Almost immediately, Johnny’s ear-deafening squeal reverberated in the air. In a short amount of time, Haruka returned with two more headless police. She tossed them into a pile with the other corpses, and, creating a long red javelin, she stabbed them all at once. Even though he’d seen it several times the night before, the sight of withering bodies was still just as harrowing.
“That’s our cue!” Maki readied her bag. “Anythin’ you wanna take before we go?”
“It’s too late to pack clothes now, huh?”
“Meh, all I saw in your room were borin’ white shirts anyway. I’m sure we got some clothes that’ll fit you in our base.”
“Oh yeah. You were snooping around my room.”
“Of course I was. I was bored. Anyways, you ready or nah?”
He took one last look around the living room. “Yeah. I’m ready.”
“Then let’s get outta here!”
The three entered one of the cars. With Maki in the driver’s seat, they sped down the road, headed for the village square.
Hiro leaned over to Haruka, who was sitting at the front passenger’s seat. “Say, there was an old lady and a hairy guy living in that other house. Did you happen to see them?”
“D-Did you do anything to them, or…?”
“I told them that if they left the house, I’d kill them.”
He breathed out a sigh of relief. “That’s good. She’s safe.”
When they were almost at their destination, they heard a crackling noise coming from the radio transceiver. Soon after, a female voice spoke.
“Officers over at the Walker residence, can we get an update on the situation? Over.”
The three were dead quiet.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” After roughly five minutes of utter silence, she spoke again. “We’re sending another unit your way. They’ll be there in approximately thirty minutes. Standby for further instructions. Over.”
The crackling sound ended.
Maki slammed on the brakes. The car came to a screeching halt. “Alright, change of plans. We can’t be seen in this car. We’re walkin’ the rest of the way. Man, how’d they find out so fast? I’m pretty sure we killed everyone.”
Hiro looked down. He recalled everything he had told Johnny the night before, including the wiping of Bandito.
“Well, whatever. Hiccups like these can happen any time. Let’s get movin’ before they find our mess at the farm.”
The three continued the rest of their trek on foot. Not long after, a police car with blaring sirens was fast approaching. They hid behind a large rock until it zoomed well past them. When they were nearing the village proper, Maki scanned the area with her goggles.
“Gosh, they have a whole squadron along the perimeter,” she said. “Sneakin’ around would be impossible. Unless…” She turned to Hiro.
“They don’t know what Haruka and I look like, so we can’t show our faces. But technically, you can show your face as much as you want. They already have pictures of you lyin’ around. Plus, your friends are probably gonna rat you out anyway, so… You can be our distraction!”
“Are you telling me to turn myself in?” Hiro asked. “You’re insane!”
“Hey, whatever works, right? We’ll come to your rescue once we get to my baby!”
“Or you could just run off and get me arrested after using me as bait!”
“Yeesh, don’t be such a damsel in distress!” She tapped his shoulder. “You still don’t trust us? After all we’ve been through?”
“Haruka still doesn’t trust me either. It’s only fair.”
“True, true. But ignore her for a second and focus on me. You got my precious guarantee; if things go south, we got your back. Okay?”
“I-I still don’t know…”
“Frankly, I don’t care. We don’t got time. Here, take these. I managed to take some from those bozos last night.” Maki took out a few nanobarriers from her bag, as well as a handful of hamster-shaped bombs. She placed them in his hand. “Get as near as you can to the gate. Then, use the bombs to get everyone’s attention. We want as huge of an explosion as we can get!”
Hiro shook his head vehemently. “That’s a suicide mission!”
“No, no! This is a hundred percent full-proof! The nanobarrier’s immune to explosions and bullets anyway. You’ll be fiiine! Once the coast is clear, Haruka and I will sneak around with my baby and come get you.”
“I don’t know if I can do this,” he said between rapid, shallow breaths.
“Think about it this way: if you don’t, we’re leavin’ you alone, and you’re endin’ up either dead or in prison. So man up, or give up. Either way, we’re movin’ head. Best of luck!”
With that, she grabbed Haruka’s arm and hurried over to one of the nearby alleyways. Hiro stared at the bombs and nanobarriers in his hand. These lightweight objects now became the difference between life and death for him. As heavy as the situation was, he didn’t have time to just stand around and loiter. With a stinging slap to his own face, he snuck towards the village square through a different path.
He snuck around from alley to alley, being extra careful to avoid any policemen he could see. With how cramped Ushiro was, it wasn’t too difficult for him to get near his destination without getting seen. Standing between him and the gate, however, was a large, open road packed with police cars. He placed his hood over his head and briskly strided towards the gate.
“Hey, you there!” he heard one of the policemen say. “Where are you going? We can’t let people leave Ushiro yet. There’s an investigation going on.”
All of a sudden, Hiro sprinted forward as fast as he could. As much as he hated creating such a large cloud of suspicion over him, he didn’t want to harm any of the police officers with the bombs.
“Hey! Where are you going?” The policeman gave chase, but was no match for Hiro’s speed. “Come back here!”
Nearby officers joined in. “Stop right there!”
He ignored them and, his eyes now blazing green, continued to run.
They took their guns out. “Freeze! Or we’ll shoot!”
When he heard their threat, Hiro set up the nanobarriers all around himself and crouched down. As they approached him, he tossed the hamster bombs at the street, causing a fiery explosion. Not long after, sirens came from all directions. The smoke cleared; he was surrounded by the police left and right.
Hiro shut his eyes tight, gritting his teeth as the sound of ricocheting bullets pounded against his ears. Soon, the gunfire stopped, and he slowly peeled his eyes open. As he surveyed his surroundings, he was relieved to find neither he nor the nanobarriers had suffered any harm.
One of them spoke through a megaphone. “This is the police! We have you surrounded! Put your hands in the air and surrender!”
“I-I have more bombs!” Hiro yelled out. “Don’t come any closer!”
“We don’t want this to be any uglier than it has to be! Lower your shields and put your hands up!”
“How will I know you won’t shoot? I can blow all of you up right now! Don’t get any funny thoughts in your head!”
The police looked at each other. For a while, no one said a word. It seemed acting like a lunatic worked well in making them keep distance. Eventually, a striking figure appeared—a robust man with a full head of gray hair and a long goatee. He took the megaphone and leaned against a police car.
“Men, point your guns down.” The gray-haired man spoke in a casual manner, but the tone of his voice was one imbued with authority.
The officers did as they were told.
“This is Officer Eichi, chief of police,” he continued. “We want to solve things as peacefully and humanely as possible. Now, the rest is up to you. Do you want to do things the easy way, or the hard way?”
“How can I trust you?” Hiro lowered his pitch to try and match Officer Eichi’s. “Bandito was here for years and you just ignored them!”
“So you admit to killing them?”
Hiro gulped nervously. “I didn’t kill anyone.”
“Listen, if you come with us, we can have a nice, long chat. Our investigation team will look into it.”
“Only if you let me go after!”
“We’ll do our best, but mass murder isn’t exactly an easy thing to get out of. If you want even the slightest chance to get out without a scratch, you need to surrender. Now!”
Hiro ran out of things to say.
“Time’s running out! We want to help, but you have to let us help you first!”
As he was speaking, another police car arrived. Out came two officers together with Johnny.
“Is this the man?” they asked him.
Johnny pointed at Hiro. “That’s him, alright! He’s guilty, officers! Guilty!”
“This ugly bastard…” Hiro whispered to himself.
“Hiro? Is he here?” Granny Jay stepped out of the car. In her haste, she stumbled and fell hard onto the pavement. The policemen rushed to her aid and helped her back to her feet. Blood oozed from her knee.
Hiro’s eyes were locked on to her.
“Hiro!” she shouted with a raspy voice. “Stop it right now! Do you have any idea what you’re doing?!”
Officer Eichi motioned for her to stop. “You stay right there, ma’am. We’ll handle this.” He turned to Hiro. “Listen to her, young man! Take your shields down and raise your hands in the air.”
“What’re you guys waiting for? Get him already!” Johnny tried to take the megaphone away, but was tackled by three officers.
Suddenly, a pair of red whips emerged from behind the village gate. They stayed suspended beside Hiro. The police were all on their toes and stepped back, raising their weapons.
Hiro stood up and looked at Granny Jay. “I’m sorry. This is Goodbye.”
He shut down all of the nanobarriers. Before the police could react, the whips opened up like flowers and fully engulfed him in a cocoon-like structure. All the officers fired at once, but the bullets couldn’t penetrate the thick, rubbery membrane. Hiro was dragged into the air and disappeared behind the gate. The policemen hopped into their cars and rushed out of the entrance, sirens blaring. To their surprise, however, there was no sign of Hiro whatsoever
He had vanished completely without a trace.
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