Chapter 16:

Interlude - Tuesday II, Night (What next?)

In Search of An Oasis

‘Say… If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?’

In the middle of the only lit area of the gym; a floor area for group workouts, two women sat on their knees, opposite each other. One woman with an orange streak, ponytail and thick-framed glasses and one with short, black hair hosting rose-coloured highlights not far from her greyish-blue eyes.

The lady with the ponytail asked the question, eyes longingly fixed on the woman sitting opposite her. While the tone of voice held warmth, it also indicated genuine curiosity.

Her opposite number returned a blank stare. Where did that come from? Now that you’ve asked, I can’t say that I’ve ever thought about it before…

…yeah; I’ve got nothing, so I’m going for what I guess you’ll want to hear, looking straight into the dark brown eyes which sat behind the glasses, Kasumi responded calmly, ‘I’d like to go anywhere that you are.’

I can’t tell if you’re being serious or toying with me, but I’d be lying if I said that answer didn’t turn me on; both the answer itself and the way you delivered it. Typical hunting strategy I guess; strike the prey when it’s most vulnerable or least expecting an attack for the best chances of success.

Is it just me, or did it suddenly get hotter in here a moment ago? What’s going on?? ‘That’s the right answer, I guess,’ Renka conceded with a nervous smile, her face slowly becoming more colourful while she considered her response.

‘Why do you ask? Are you planning on taking me on holiday?’ Kasumi asked, with a calm yet sarcastic tone.

Shit; I’ve been found out.

Firmly, she replied with a guilty smile, though her gaze still remained firmly locked with the equally direct stare from the icy eyes of Kasumi, ‘Well, it’s one way of saying thank you for everything. Well, that and it’d be nice for us to spend some time alone without being a minute or two away from trouble.’

Well, that backfired; knowing how wild you can be, you probably would do anything to make that happen as well, even if it meant getting a plane and flying to some uninhabited island. Could I dare to dream of leaving everything behind, even if only for a short while?

Is it just me, or has the temperature in here noticeably ticked up just now!? ‘Ah, is that so? That sounds nice,’ Kasumi coolly replied.

In perfect synchronicity, ‘I’m gonna go and shower,’ the pair offered, followed by the silent exchange of an awkward glare.

Ugh; awkwardness x awkwardness. Having the same idea at the same time for escaping a conversation which was likely on course to result in either of our emotions running away from us.

After a short silent period of what appeared to be a staring contest, lively laughter filled the gym area, shooing away the tension for both women.

After a short while, both women straightened up and Renka suggested, with a friendly smile, ‘You can go ahead, I’ll keep watch in the meantime. Don’t worry about taking too long; I think you’ve earned a bit of R&R tonight.’

‘So, do you want to tell me where you wandered off to then?’ the doctor firmly asked, despite still being rocked in her seat by the driver's persistent handling of the loud all-wheel-drive hatchback as if she were competing in a time trial.

Playfully, though quietly, Hikari responded ‘You’re so mean, you’re not going to ask how I’m feeling or if I’m okay?’

‘We’ll get to that later, you have other questions to answer first,’ Tsubaki coldly replied. Aside from the rumble of the car’s engine and exhaust, the car’s interior fell silent.

Uwah; the air between us is so tense that it’s unsettling, the driver remarked.

Ugh; so childish. I guess there’s no way we’re moving forward without me answering the question? Hikari responded, with intermittent pauses and hesitations, ‘On Sunday, I went out on an operation to seize a shipment of weapons that were in transit, from friends of the same guys who lost their ordnance stockpile on Friday.’

‘And that took you two whole days? Were you commandeering an actual ship or something?’ the doctor mockingly remarked. How easily can I goad you into revealing more information, I wonder?

Just as I predicted; she’s going to grill me to a crisp. Oh well, I guess I had this one coming. Still, this is no time for weakness, she thought, before beginning aloud, defiantly, ‘Actually wrestling the lorry that carried the weapons away from its previous owners only took a few hours. The issue was that they were a bit better prepared than I’d anticipated; the transporters had air surveillance following the truck and I’m certain they also had a tracker on it as well, so I had to disappear for a little while before the truck could be collected. If you really want to know everything; some friends of the transporters turned up earlier today, when the storm had died down enough. Not sure what happened; if an angry leopard, insulted forest spirit or something turned up, but they all ended up getting sliced like meat at a deli, heh.’

Tsubaki’s eyes narrowed as she looked across, to condemningly reply, ‘Right.’

‘My associates only arrived this evening, to take care of the truck. I rushed straight back from there to get you,’ Hikari firmly concluded, before turning to playfully sulky commentary, ‘I was hoping I’d come back and run into your arms, like a panel from a yuri comedy manga, but alas, no.’ She pouted and altered her vocal tone to upset and disappointed as she finished speaking.

Yeah; I’m not particularly in the mood for your silliness tonight. ‘So, where are we heading now then? Do you have a plan for what happens next?’

‘We’re heading north west, towards the airport area. I was thinking to get some tickets and make an escape, with you of course. We’d probably have to stay completely off the radar for maybe a day at most, but we’d be on a flight towards a new chapter after that,’ she explained, sounding increasingly excited.

‘Ah great; I look forward to seeing how this will go sideways,’ Tsubaki responded, mockingly. There you go again, with the running away. I have no idea how your mother manages to hold herself together with a daughter that flits about so much.

Hikari mumbled quietly in discomfort before replying. Sounding mildly irritated , ‘Ugh, you’re like an old disapproving grandma, you know.’

The doctor directed an irritated scowl at Hikari in response.

After a brief period of glaring, the green-eyed passenger opened her mouth.

Before Tsubaki could make a sound, quietly and firmly, Hikari added, ‘Whatever… Where you’re concerned, I’ll do whatever I need to, to make sure nobody has any effect on my plans to repay you and to prove to you that I’m a worthwhile investment.’

At this point, I’m convinced that you’re hell-bent on that, so I’m not even going to bother fighting you, for now at least, the doctor silently concluded before the scowl of hers gradually faded away.

Steward McOy