Chapter 14:

Chapter Eight - Monday II - Tuesday II (嵐 Pt I)

In Search of An Oasis

(In the original manuscript, this chapter exceeded 50k characters and thus had to be split into two parts for uploading on Honeyfeed.)

22:00 arrived and the phone alarms abruptly shattered the silence of the room, prompting Renka and Kasumi to abruptly rise from their naps. After a rapid preparation period, the pair descended the building, and at the main’s lobby’s front desk they found the same man who had welcomed them earlier in the day.

Huh? They’re both heading out right now, with all of their equipment and backpacks? he questioned, as his eyes involuntarily fixed on the pair. ‘You’re leaving already?’ he asked, loudly.

Both ladies stopped suddenly. Renka turned and eased closer to the desk, ‘We’re just going for a late-night shopping trip is all,’ she replied, with a playful smile.

Going shopping while carrying full backpacks and weaponry? The desk attendant smiled in response. I guess they aren’t afraid of heading directly into the heart of the incoming storm. He shook his head, apparently attempting to compose himself. It’s painful to the point of almost being paralysing; being pinched between the anxiety and/ or potential relief of possibly soon finding out Kana’s fate. Voice slightly wobbly, he offered, ‘Well, I hope you have fun out there, or should I be saying good luck?... Ah! Um, I hope all goes well?’

The duo turned to look at each other and almost let slip a little giggle between themselves. Renka quickly issued a friendly smile to the desk attendant and thanked him, before re-joining Kasumi and leaving through the hotel’s main entrance.

When the duo emerged from the hotel, gusts of wind greeted them; strong enough to make them sway slightly and chilly enough to trigger brief shivers as they proceeded.

The intense rumbling of thunder is booming in the distance and although it’s night, the looming cloud cover is still impressively threatening. Although the storm’s estimated to be over an hour away from landfall, the early effects are abundantly evident. Mercifully, the immense amounts of rainfall haven’t arrived yet, though it’s definitely only a matter of time, Kasumi assessed.

The pair trudged along side-by-side for about twenty minutes before Renka looked across and called out through the blustering, ‘Our rescue mission starts here I guess. I’ll meet you back at the shopping centre within the next hour,’ concluding with an encouraging smile.

Less than an hour left before midnight arrived and the shopping centre had gained a single-deck public transport bus parked near the rear entrance. In the driver’s seat, a young glasses-wearing woman with a single trail of orange hair sat back, aimlessly staring.

Not long after the turn of the hour, her eyes sharpened. Ehh? A pair of headlights closing in? she noted, while straightening up in her seat.

An instant later, a silver convertible revealed itself, being driven at a relaxed pace, before slowing to a stop roughly ten metres in front of the bus. After the engine fell still, the driver emerged; a tall, young woman with messy, short black hair and rose-coloured highlights, cuing Renka to gather her backpack and tools and disembark from the bus. Almost perfectly in sync, the pair reconvened between the two vehicles with all of their equipment.

So, you drive manual as well; I definitely made the right choice back at the camp, Renka commented, before voicing, with a bright smile, her brightened eyes alternating between admiring the car and its bringer, ‘An S2000? You managed to find one of these with the keys still left in?? Poor thing; I’d definitely at least have locked her doors before leaving her alone. Either way, I can confirm that you have indeed earned the bonus points.’ As Renka commended Kasumi on her achievement. Ah. Way to dampen the mood quite literally. Mother nature, have you no mercy? The first drops shouldn’t be this heavy!

‘We’re going in, starting from the ground floor; secure the most hostages as early as possible, right?’

Renka nodded, ‘Mhmm.’

Kasumi, with her arm-mounted arrow launcher at the ready, led the way to the fire escape that the women then used to methodically infiltrate the shopping centre.

The pair of women slowly proceeded down the corridor that connected the fire escape to the central area on the ground floor. Hmm, it’s not much brighter than outside in here, and that probably includes anywhere that we set down in too.

Pausing at the end of the stretch, Kasumi assessed the area of engagement. The central area’s at least got some lighting switched on and some of the shops are contributing brightness to the region as well, though overall, the centre overall still remains quite dim.

The duo sat almost directly opposite each other, legs outstretched, using their backpacks as makeshift cushions.

A best-of-three match of rock, paper, scissors, determined that Kasumi sat with the better view of the central regions of the shopping centre. The wait to strike would last over five hours, but she still immediately set about studying the movement of the enemy and the situation with the civilians.

‘Huh!? I really should have checked the radio for a weather forecast, I guess.’

Still sat in the cabin where she had been resting for over a day, the young lady with black hair which phased to purple at its ends suddenly awoke, following an intense, crashing of thunder overhead.

Looking through the window, Uwah; the trees are dancing pretty wildly. Unsurprisingly, there are no stars to be seen through the small gaps in the tree foliage.

A tropical storm.

Surely, they’re not going to attempt to try and take me during this? Well, I kinda hope they do, because they’d be absolutely fucked, she concluded, as she surveyed the woods, being ruffled by the winds and rainfall.

There goes the luxury of relying on sound to monitor the directions that lie in vision blind spots. She loaded her weaponry into their usual places and slung her jacket back on. Pondering as she put her shoes on, two options; roam the forest and hope that they turn up at a favourable point or rest in the cab of the truck, where the side mirrors and long-range panes will highlight the blind spots and give me the advantage.

Who in their right mind would go for the first of those ideas? She sprinted to the lorry, with the handgun firmly gripped in her left hand. Despite the rapturous winds, Hikari darted across from the wood cabin to the lorry as if aided by Cybele herself; her form assured and her body’s motion perfectly in harmony with the clashing winds that raged through the forest.

After getting comfortable in the driver’s seat, she quietly joked, ‘Come on fellas; didn’t your parents teach you to never keep a lady waiting?’ She sank in the seat a bit before murmuring, ‘Unless the plan is to bore me to death as a means of elimination.’

After sharpening up and shuffling about the cabin, to adjust all of the mirrors, that should ensure a good panoramic view of the forest from here, which means I’m now free to drift off and nap maybe...

‘So, um, how many arrows did you manage to prepare in the end?’ Renka asked her black and pink-haired companion, still sitting, eyes shut, resting against her backpack.

‘I took the tranquiliser-delivery ends from the small arrows that we carried yesterday and put them on longer arrows, so I have sixteen of them, plus nine ordinary arrows,’ Kasumi replied, calmly.

‘Hmm; we might have to get creative then and it looks like we might have to spill some blood on this occasion.

I’m happy to get into some hand-to-hand combat, so you can use whichever arrows you see fit, keeping in mind whether or not I’ll be able to quickly muffle and subdue them.’ Renka explained, before taking out a 17 pistol, ‘I’ve only got six rounds in one magazine; they’ve got M37 revolvers, P230 pistols and probably corresponding ammo up there as well, so I’m not gonna be able to refill. It didn’t look like they got any USPs.’

The captain glanced up and frowned slightly, not long now, scumbags. ‘I’ll probably take the weight off your shoulders when we get to that furniture place though,’ she offered, turning back to face her partner with a warm smile. Waving the gun about, in a presentation fashion, she rambled, ‘You know; they do make threaded barrels for these things, but they are pretty rare over here.’ After a brief pause, ‘In an ideal situation, I’d have spare magazines and a suppressor on the end of the barrel, but alas, here we are.’ Sorry Kasumi; gotta play the cards we’re dealt, after all.

As daybreak approached and the forecast predicted the storm to have passed by in about an hour’s time, Renka hopped to her feet and started the last of her preparations, pulling on and strapping up one of her plate-carrier vests, kneepads and gloves.

At the same time, Kasumi also rose to her feet, followed by removing her jacket, putting a reinforced glove on her right hand and slinging her quiver over her left shoulder. When the bespectacled officer finished, she moved to join her partner, whose eyes rested fixed on the pack of hostages contained in the central area of the ground floor. She also fixed her gaze on the group, paying particular attention to the three gang members that guarded the captives.

After a short while of observation, the captain rested a fist against her partner’s shoulder, quietly inviting, ‘Okay, let’s bring them all home safely.’

Kasumi cautiously led the advance, keeping her body low and making use of the obstacles that stood between her and the crowds. Both women took care to tread lightly, as the shopping centre stood mostly as a silent void, with the loudest noises throughout the shopping centre being that of the gang members rambling, although in quiet intervals the clattering of doors in the distance could be heard, along with the buzzing of lights within the main central zone of the shopping centre.

Starting off with something nice and challenging, I guess. The main objective right now being engaging three targets in quick succession without at least one of them alerting everybody that they’re under attack.

Renka studied her partner intently during the pause in their advance, I can only imagine you’re strategising, well, so am I, my dear. She tapped Kasumi on the right shoulder and began to whisper, ‘Want a distraction? I could probably lure one of them towards the far corner, leaving the other two in his blind spot.’

Without looking back, Kasumi nodded.

Renka sprang into action, advancing further along the large display that hid both women from the small crowd and their captors.

She slowly and carefully eased herself forward as far as possible whilst keeping the gang members out of her line of sight.

The captain retrieved from her skirt a spent 9mm casing from the previous night.

A strong overarm throw from her right hand, launched the brass cup and after painting a shallow arc through the air, the small metal projectile crash-landed, announcing itself with a short but conspicuous pinging.

Perfect; right in the midst of the dead silence. One of the men began slowly advancing to the relatively dark corner near the edge of the central area, drawing his pistol as he made his way.

Once the wanderer strayed beyond fifteen or so metres away from his two comrades, two arrows zipped through the air in quick succession, the second landing cleanly before the man could shout or properly pan his view to find who let loose the arrow that made him flinch.

Both men limply collapsed face first, as if somebody had flipped their power switches off.

The whumping sound and sight of the bodies hitting the floor prompted whimpering and panicked surveying of the scene from some of the hostages.

Thank goodness they’re staying quiet. We should wrap this up quickly though.

Once the last remaining member of the trio had made it to the corner, he too received a speeding tranquiliser-tipped arrow, landing in a calf muscle. After a short delay, he fell face-first, pulled along by the momentum of his movements.

Almost instantly after the third man fell still, Renka had returned to formation behind Kasumi, with a little smile as she passed, quietly commenting, ‘Three down, goodness knows how many more to go.’

Kasumi moved swiftly toward where the wandering gang member had just been taken down, fixing her gaze on the coffee shop, tucked away in the opposite corner. There appears to be no staff held hostage, though there are three more men, who appear to be helping themselves to breakfast?

Peering from behind Kasumi, over her shoulder, Renka quietly commented, ‘Amateurs; they’re so busy indulging themselves that they have no clue what’s going on outside.’

They’re oblivious partly thanks to the walls and glass, parting the shop from the central area; a barrier that makes a stealthy entrance difficult while you don’t have a quiet weapon and mine will likely loudly shatter the glass.

While Kasumi considered, Renka tracked off briefly, to collect the spent casing that she had tossed moments earlier.

As she crouched down to pick up the brass piece, her eyes darted away. Huh? That’s intriguing; the darkness makes it difficult to make out, but I can see bright yellow…

She casually advanced and picked up the suspicious object, Well, this will do quite nicely, though I can’t imagine the battery has much juice left in it.

I guess it was accidentally dropped by a fleeing shopper when things kicked off.

The captain returned to her position behind Kasumi. ‘I’m pretty sure this thing is just as illegal as the handgun, but at least it saves us spilling more blood and using up all of the tranquiliser arrows straight away, right?’

‘Right. Then you can lead the next advance, and I can assist while you charge at them,’ Kasumi suggested, still facing toward the shop.

‘Sounds like a plan,’ Renka cheerily confirmed.

This confirmation preceded Renka briefly studying the upper levels, if there aren’t any patrols or lookouts on upper floors, we can take our time with securing the coffee shop.

After a short period of observation, she passed by Kasumi and led the pair along a route which snaked around the central display in the middle of the floor, ‘We’ll breach the shop, but minimise the time that they have to react when we appear in view.’

Upon arriving at the edge of the small venue, Renka dropped to a prone position, so that she could crawl along using her elbows. Kasumi remained stood with a foot angled and ready for a quick launch into action, at the edge of a glass window, with her bow and an arrow at the ready.

Renka edged forward and when she reached the door, she paused, to intermittently peer through the front door. The three clowns are busy having a friendly conversation, with a pair of them facing one other. There are a few tables and chairs in there too, and they’re not fixed to the ground, which could be helpful.

‘Alright; here we go,’ she quietly uttered, before springing into action, launching upwards from her monitoring position using an action similar to that of a sprinter departing from their starting block, using her head to open the door.

Renka dashed towards her targets and Kasumi took one sharp and quick sidestep, taking aim as she fell into position in the doorway.

The men jumped back and began to reach down as soon as the door flung open.

In confusion, ‘What the fu-,’

Almost instantly after setting her feet, an arrow bolted through the air and landed in a lower leg limb while Renka still had a metre or so to cover.

A forceful outstretched right arm from Renka, which connected squarely with the asker’s neck sent him tumbling backward.

Renka quickly darted aside, to dodge an incoming trail of hot drink.

Nice try; but I didn’t order anything. I’m out of position, but not too far away to push this lumbering mass onto you before you can draw that weapon.

Following a quick extension and confident shove, like bowling pins, both men came crashing to the floor.

Renka swiftly turned on the spot. Now what to do with you?... Still aimlessly wriggling about on the floor and weakly groaning, a momentary razzle of a stun gun being used on his right arm caused him to groan in agony before falling still and laying in a similar fashion to a felled tree.

No recovery for you, I think, Renka declared, watching the final enemy struggling to push off the inhibiting mass of the man that had fallen on top of him.

A powerful push cleared the lumbering mass from pinning down his comrade.

Which leaves you exposed for this. Renka struck; his arm in receipt of the raspy flickering and flashes of another blast, which triggered a short period of energetic convulsing from the man before calming to a still state. After checking the pulse of the two men who had been shocked, the captain proceeded to restrain all three men, using zip-ties to secure their hands and feet.

Renka gave a little friendly smile as she turned back to Kasumi. ‘Good work. Onwards and upwards; lead the way.’ she instructed, with an encouraging smile. Before heading up, the pair of women quickly surveyed the first floor, using the darker areas of the ground floor as vantage points.

Still the same two places being used by the criminals; a restaurant and the gym, Kasumi assessed.

Longbow lowered, she proceeded cautiously. I’m guessing that gym is swarming with enemies, so it’s probably best to strike the restaurant first.

After a brief climb, when the pair drew close, an unsettling cry hastened the women’s progress.

Peering through the front door, both women scowled and Renka emitted a low grunt. Two men harassing a young woman, frantically crying out for help and pleading for them to stop while she struggles to keep them from groping her.

My blood might boil if I spectate for any longer.

‘Sorry, but these two are mine,’ Renka coldly asserted, with a serious facial expression, before charging in, with her gun drawn, thought its barrel pointed at the floor and her right index finger remained outside the trigger guard.

Enjoy it while it lasts guys, because I won’t be nearly as easy to play with.

After speeding in, without hesitation, Renka heavily bludgeoned one of the men with her 17 pistol and the other received a merciless knee between the legs, followed by an equally forceful kick to the side of his ribs from a rapidly extended leg.

Still aimlessly waddling and rubbing his temple, the man who had first felt Renka’s wrath found himself on the receiving end of an unhealthy dose of electric shock from the stun gun that she swiftly retrieved from her skirt.

His partner writhed on the floor, face screwed up into a pained expression while groaning and clutched his left side. The sound drew the attention of the captain, who instantly shuffled, to tower over him.

‘You’re still making noise?’ she gravely asked, with a condemning frown.

She kneeled down, on top of the man’s chest, pinning him to the floor, before pulling back her right arm and forcefully releasing all of her fury through her glove-clad fist, punching the man four times in the face, before turning to look at the younger woman, who stared at her, eyes wide, frozen in place with her hands covering her mouth.

Uwah; I can’t even say I’m surprised, to be honest. I was wondering when this would happen; I love how passionate and explosive you can be, but wondered if you had a dark side, Kasumi thought, before heading in, to join the two women.

‘Ah… Uh… Sorry about that. Are you okay? Did they hurt you at all? Renka asked the younger woman, softly, with a friendly smile.

Nervously, the younger woman began, ‘Um, yeah, I’m okay, thanks, I guess? Nothing hurts, besides my pride.’ She let out an awkward laugh before pausing for a moment. Hesitantly, the victim questioned, while slowly edging back from the women, ‘So, who exactly are you people? Were you sent here to abduct me or something?’

‘We’re just two wanderers, who’d like to send all of you folks home, send the criminals and their stolen equipment to the police as well as inviting the law enforcement back to this city,’ Renka explained, her voice serious, matching her cold facial expression. An element of suspicion evident in her voice, she queried, ‘Say, you wouldn’t happen to work here, under normal circumstances, would you?’

‘Y-yes; I normally work here on weekends. Why?’ the younger woman asked, apprehensively.

‘Ah! Do you have a brother that works as a hotel manager, or something similar?’

How do you strangers know that information?? Slowly, the younger lady replied, ‘Y-Yes.’

‘He definitely cares about you a lot; the joy when he sees you return might be enough to make him pass out. Actually, he’s the one who informed us that there was a problem in this part of the city,’ Renka explained, with a friendly smile and warm tone.

‘Yeah; you must have the wrong person. He’s never like that when I’m around,’ the younger woman replied, with a derisive tone and expression, after a smirk.

‘You’d be surprised how differently people behave when they’ve lost somebody close to them,’ Kasumi, interjected, her voice cold as a frost-coated winter day.

The room fell awkwardly silent.

Uwah; that was one awfully bleak and chilling statement. Judging from how she looks, she’s speaking from experience? Way to make me feel guilty and regretful about what I said, the younger woman internally remarked.

Renka stared into space. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place perhaps?

Maybe that’s where the parents fit into the equation for her then. That might explain the where; now I just need to figure out the when and how… She directed her eyes onto Kasumi in the awkward silence. It’s hard to feel relief at rescuing the youngster with spirits a bit dampened by considering what the journey to be stood here before me must have been like for you.

Just thinking about you like that; it’s like I’m being sunk by depression, as if I experienced it myself. It’s surprisingly painful and paralysing.

Before long, she turned back, to look at the younger woman, ‘It’s probably going to be another ten or fifteen minutes before we clear this place out, so please hold still for a little while longer; we’ll evacuate everybody once all of the threats have been neutralised.’ Turning to Kasumi, she continued, ‘I’ll restrain these clowns and then the next stop is the gym, right?’

Kasumi nodded to confirm and watched Renka complete her zip-tying duty.

Once the captain had finished, she waved goodbye to the younger lady, with a friendly smile and returned to Kasumi. She quickly settled back into formation behind her, ‘To the gym we go’.

When they arrived, glass doors greeted them, providing a good view into the space, despite the mixture of frosting and clear finish. Large, probably three-metre-wide front desk and generally cosy decorum prevalent in the space, Kasumi assessed.

I’ve also got four men, all using gym equipment. Oddly, there’s not much body armour being worn. Strange, given that the gang members downstairs and in the restaurant were all wearing it.

After another minute or so of observation, between herself and Kasumi, ‘They’ve also got vests lying around on the floor, or in among clothing piles, like those being carried by two towel-clad men who’ve just emerged from either a shower or sauna,’ Renka commented.

Also convenient for us, is that some of the equipment in use faces away from the entrance, meaning that if we charged at them head-on, at least two of them would be unaware for a short while.

Calmly, Kasumi dictated, ‘Three plus three. I’ll take the two facing us and at least one of the treadmill runners at the back. The unarmed guys to the left are yours, along with the nearby treadmill runner, if I don’t get to him first.’

‘Understood,’ Renka replied, with an encouraging smile. Kasumi retrieved an arrow from her quiver and turned to the captain.

A single nod from Renka set the strike on the gym underway.

Within seconds of having passed through the door, Kasumi turned slightly to her right and unflinchingly sent an arrow flashing through the gym.

Renka swiftly advanced to the left of the front desk, prompting the under-dressed men to scramble in panic, turning over piles of clothing.

As she crossed into the workout area of the gym, the woman with the flame-coloured hair accent picked up a 5kg weight without losing too much speed. At a similar time, another arrow whizzing through the air? I’m down 2-0? Thank goodness we didn’t place a wager on this being a race.

The arrow raced into the arm of a man who sat using lateral pull-down equipment, only able to unhand the machine before being hit by one of Kasumi’s arrows and involuntarily sliding to the floor.

In the process of hurriedly searching, one of the men’s towels slipped and fell to the ground.

‘Oi, fucking pervert!’ Renka thundered, along with steadying her right arm, before putting all of the strength she could summon behind sending the five-kilogram weight hurtling toward the naked man.

The target looked up, only to find a speeding large, black, circular projectile which shortly after, firmly connected with one of his pectorals.

Instantly, pained groaning added to the ruckus in the gym before the man fell and slowly rolled around on the floor, clutching his upper chest.

Meanwhile, a treadmill at the back of the gym ejected a limp user who had an arrow sticking out of their hamstring area. That’s three. Come on Renka; at this rate, I’ll end up subduing five rather than three.

The second towel-clad man willingly dropped his towel and profusely turned over almost everything in the nearby area.

‘Nobody asked for the party piece, asswipe!’ the captain barked, along with retrieving her stun gun, before jabbing directly at the man’s abdomen.

After her initial swipe had been dodged, Renka quickly twirled the weapon between her thumb and fingers, before pulling it back and counter striking. At the same time, another tranquiliser arrow ripped across the training area and neutralised a fourth gang member. I saw that gun in his hand; he almost had you there Kasumi and you almost gave me a heart attack.

‘Four-two to you I guess; well played,’ Renka playfully remarked, as the gym complex fell quiet, following the last thud of an unconscious mass hitting the floor.

Now to see if any enemies are hiding in other segregated parts of the gym,’ Renka quietly commented, setting off to explore with her model 17 held close to her chest.

After a couple of minutes, she returned to Kasumi. ‘Clear!’ she shouted from across the space, giving an “all good” signal with a thumb and index finger tip brought together and smiling. After a brief pan of her view, What a mess. ‘Right, I’ll sort out the guys, while you clean up then.’

One of the men still mumbled, groaned and rolled in pain.

‘Yeah, I’m hardly in the mood to be sympathetic, deviant; put some clothes on,’ Renka ordered, with an unimpressed tone.

She quickly threw towels onto them and clinically zip-tied the man, occasionally hitting him whenever she encountered resistance. The other undressed man received similarly harsh treatment during his restraining process.

Once the pair of women had concluded their business at the gym, they emerged and had another survey of the second floor, before ascending the escalator, in formation, with Kasumi primed to let loose from her longbow.

Two at the entrance.

As soon as the men came into her target sight, Kasumi sent an arrow ripping through the distance, straight into the thigh of the one on the left.

The right-hand guard raised his weapon and stood, ready to aim, though an arrow embedded itself just below his neck, quickly rendering him completely powerless and unable to avoid hopelessly tumbling over, coming to a rest on his side.

‘Same left and right flanking formation,’ Kasumi informed Renka, as she continued to press forward toward the entrance of the furniture store.

‘Got it,’ Renka replied quietly, with an excited smile. Probably more of the same, but this furniture store is still likely a hive of enemies, she thought, while advancing along the mostly dark shop floor with her 17 pistol held at chest height, in a two-hand grip.

She occasionally peered across to her right, at the black and pink-haired woman proceeding in parallel, similarly postured to herself, with an arrow primed, though her bow remained pointing downward as she progressed intermittently. Following the sound of vigorous discussion and the buzzing of isolated lighting in the distance, the pair halted at the nearest sheltered points.

Right; ten or so metres away from a large, almost black, wood table, seating five men, two along each of the sides and one at the head, both women observed.

Renka waited, to establish eye-contact with her partner, before gesturing, pointing to herself and signalling “one”, followed by pointing to Kasumi and signalling “two”.

You’re leading and I’m following; like Sunday night? The archer signalled back, with an affirming hand gesture.

Without hesitation, Renka calmly broke from cover and pressed forward, drifting slightly towards Kasumi’s domain, with her target quickly changing from the general area of the table, to the men seated on the table’s left. Two loud blasts obliterated the quiet of the store, each 9mm round triggering grimaces and clutching of right arms.

Kasumi took aim, and the speeding arrow struck the left arm of one of the men on the opposite side of the table in between Renka’s attack. Resulting in one of the women’s enemies lazily slouching, then slumping in their seat.

Renka ducked down and slipped away from her position after firing and the remaining two men raised their weapons.

Renka laid on the floor, leaning on her left shoulder.

Good; they don’t know exactly where I am, but I have a pretty good view of some exposed feet, ankles and lower legs.

With two more (would-be) ear-splitting cracks, the captain sent another couple of 9mm NATO rounds speeding along the floor; one for each of the men, one of whom also received a tranquiliser arrow as well for good measure.

The man who previously sat at the head of the table fell; the nearby clatter of a metal frame accompanied the thump of the body hitting the floor.

Kasumi ensured that the two men who were forced to use their weaker hands weren’t a threat, with two arrows, each landing in the wavering arms which attempted to collect or aim pistols in her direction.

Renka jumped back to her feet and proceeded around the table, with a combat-ready stance and weapon grip.

As she rounded the table, How cute; the guy who sat at the head of table crawling toward his handgun, that’s fallen less than a metre from his reach.

The woman with the orange streak in her hair casually walked over to the last man and pinned him in place with her right foot. He began to thrash his arms about, prompting Renka to temporarily increase the strength channelled to her right foot.

Frowning with irritation, Renka began, her voice low, menacing and conveying an air of terror that would strike fear into even a battle-hardened combatant.

‘So, you’re the fuckwad that assaulted police and held all of the people in this shopping centre hostage. I still have two rounds left; unless you want another dose of lead in places that’ll hurt, but not kill you, I suggest you stop resisting,’ she commanded, further driving the sole of her boot into the man’s body.

Kasumi had arrived nearby. Renka shook her head, inviting her companion to deal with the faltering enemies.

Her attention quickly diverted to the table. That is one huge pile of money they have stacked in the middle, along with the wealth of food, saké and a Type-56 assault rifle leaned up against a leg of the table, it’s like the sort of thing you normally see in a crime drama show.

Despite the years in service, I’m still disgusted by what I’ve seen in the past half an hour or so having moved through the shopping centre and faced off against all of the gang members.

Sounding a bit despondent, she concluded, ‘What a mess. I can only hope that there weren’t any civilian casualties before we got here and that the families of the slain officers take comfort in these scumbags being brought to justice.’ She paused for a short while before continuing, ‘Let’s get these guys ready to haul back to the bus and start cleaning up.’

So, after having a good rummage through the phones, the only thing of note that I’ve managed to turn up is that these guys were invited to conduct some live testing around the time that the hotel manager reported that the trouble had occurred.

Pure conjecture, but my guess would be somebody used the raid on the police as a live testing scenario for some offensive technology.

There’s a name, but no organisation to trace the invitation back to at the moment. If the limited rumours that I’ve heard are true, I wouldn’t be surprised if this links back to that CSS company that also had some connection to the gang from last week…

A lot of research to do, to fill in the blanks, but right now I don’t like where this is heading… Renka concluded, with a concerned frown.

The clean-up process took the women almost forty minutes. At the finish, they returned to the hostages and Renka informed them that they were all free to leave, though they should take care, given that the winds still held good strength and the rain continued to come down in buckets.

‘I think that’s everything taken care of now, so let’s RV with the hotel manager’s sister,’ Renka suggested, as the pair prepared to make their exit.

Although I approve of your choice of getaway car, Kasumi, it does have one flaw; it can only seat two people.

Renka proposed that Kasumi escort the hotel manager’s sister back to her older brother personally. She planned to follow the car and park the bus as close to the hotel as she could, working on the presumption that it would only be parked there for a short space of time, while the women oversaw the safe return of the younger lady.

When the three ladies emerged from the shopping centre, strong winds resisted their progress, though not nearly as vicious as those which ravished the area overnight and through the small hours of the morning.

‘You don’t have clothing at all suited to this weather, so hold on tight; let’s try to make this as quick as possible,’ Kasumi insisted, extending a hand to her younger guest.

Although it’s beyond the time of usual sunrise, the skies are still very gloomy and dark. It looks like the menacing, grey clouds are pretty stubborn and resolved to linger for as long as possible. How much longer can this rain keep up for before the clouds lighten up?? Renka debated while the women jogged to their vehicles.

Within a couple of minutes from having exited the shopping centre building, the bus hurriedly followed the S2000 away from the shopping centre.

The drive to the hotel, much to the women’s delight, passed by uneventful and took little more than three minutes. Kasumi declined to use the full extent of the 250PS or so of power that the car’s F20C engine had to offer, allowing Renka to follow in formation almost nose-to-tail.

Rather than drive in, the black and pink-haired lady waited for her partner to park the bus and disembark.

Renka ran into the hotel’s entrance and parking area hotly tailing the S2000 and dashed straight under the entrance cover, to wait for the other two.

‘At some point we’re gonna have to get some coats – this vest isn’t really made for shielding against water,’ Renka remarked, painting a false sense of irritation with her voice and facial expression when the other two women walked toward her.

‘We? It doesn’t have a hood, but this jacket is waterproof,’ Kasumi bluntly replied. I already know that a bit of rain makes no difference to you, Captain, so expect no sympathy from me. When the pair joined Renka under the entrance cover, they assumed a formation, with the two older women flanking either side of the hotel manager’s sister, as if they were bodyguards escorting a VIP.

The trio only made it about a metre into the hotel’s entrance before an exclamation filled the area.


An absolutely ecstatic man ran towards the young lady at the centre of the formation, giving her a very enthusiastic glomp at their point of meeting.

He made no sound for a good while, though the vice-like embrace that he gave his sister and the eventual subtle sniffling that accompanied his crying enunciated far more about his sentiments than anything else probably would during the moment that the two were reunited.

Both Kasumi and Renka stepped away.

Such a tender and genuine display of affection, Renka internally remarked, with a relieved smile.

She gently moved her left hand around, eventually finding her target and delicately clasped Kasumi’s right hand, as she continued to spectate on the reunited family members

Before too long, she softly commented, with a satisfied smile on her face, ‘Thank you for being here with me, I know I’ve really asked a lot of you this past week or so, but seeing these two here, knowing that we maybe saved a life or two and also taking into account how smooth and even kinda enjoyable it’s been, I’m genuinely glad that it’s you that’s been with me.’

Steward McOy