In Search of An Oasis
‘Uwah; this place looks like a ghost town. I know that things have really slipped in some areas recently, but I never imagined towns being totally deserted,’ the woman with black hair and purple ends commented in a curious tone. Under the stars, she and her emerald-eyed acquaintance cruised through a seaside town on the west coast of the island, less than ten kilometres away from the airport, the sound from the flat-four EJ20 powerplant of their chariot reduced to a quiet burble.
The lack of people in the area and the intermittent signs of a rushed mass exodus creates an eerie atmosphere for this town. I’m not complaining though; it means we’re likely to be left alone and not run into trouble with criminal groupings or anybody who might be connected to one, hopefully...
As the hatchback continued to crawl toward the coast, Hikari’s eyes darted to the roadside. Eh? I haven’t eaten in a couple of days; the cabin in the woods had no food supplies; it was pure luck that the truck had a single pack of biscuits left in the cabin, which I ate on Monday morning. ‘I haven’t eaten in ages, so maybe we could stop off and check out this shopping centre for a bit?’ she asked the woman whose head rested peacefully against the headrest beside her.
Waywardly, she replied, ‘Sure, why not? It’d be a major anti-climax if you died of hunger on me now,’ as she lifted her head from its resting position and her emerald eyes revealed themselves beneath fluttered eyelids.
Hikari calmly pulled the car into the main car park and then the internal car parking complex, where she parked on one of the upper levels of the building. After the pair departed from the hatchback, Hikari advised, ‘Although I don’t expect there to be trouble ahead, stay sharp.’
‘Shouldn’t I be telling you to stay sharp? You’re the one who declared herself to be my protector, after all,’ Tsubaki replied, with a firm glare.
That I did, Hikari thought, as the pair advanced, into the central area of the shopping centre. ‘Hmm; the gym is lit up. Not brightly, but I can see faint hints of light reaching out to the entrance.’
‘I thought you were hungry?’ the doctor sternly questioned. Stick to the original task at hand, please.
‘Right, right, mother. There’s a coffee shop down on the ground floor; they’ll probably have food and drink that’s coming near to the end of its use-by or best-before date, so let’s check that out.’
Ugh, I’m pretty sure your mother invested all of her skill points into patience, unlike me. I can totally imagine you getting a kick out of seeing me frustrated, so I’m keeping my mouth shut for the time being.
After entering the small shop, Hikari’s amethyst eyes instantly gravitated towards a display counter. Delightful; there’s still a batch of baked treats, wrapped in plastic film in the main display counter.
‘Awesome! That’s enough for us to be able to take some for later as well, I think,’ Hikari exclaimed, with a joyful smile on her face. She shuffled to behind the glassy structure and extracted the goods, taking two for herself and handing the rest to Tsubaki, who gave Hikari an insulted look.
Um, if anything, you’re supposed to be assigned the role of pack mule, the doctor internally remarked, sending an irritated glare in Hikari’s direction.
‘Aww, don’t be like that; I can’t eat and hold them. That and I need to keep my hands free, being the protector and all,’ Hikari replied, with a smug smile gradually appearing, along with her voice becoming increasingly teasing. Come on; show me an interesting argument, Sensei.
Without a word, Tsubaki begrudgingly grabbed the treats and the two women left, to continue exploring the shopping centre.
Although the gym is practically calling out to me, food and drink remains the priority.
When the pair ascended to the first floor, they first visited a small restaurant. The duo entered and her eyes drifted towards the floor. ‘Hmm, nothing obvious by way of food and drink supplies…’ Hikari murmured.
‘That’s odd; I’m pretty sure there are the faintest traces of blood on the floor.’ Tsubaki remarked, under her breath.
When Hikari returned from her search for nourishment, she spotted Tsubaki’s focus and as she drew close, enquired, ‘Whatcha looking at?’ Before the doctor could answer, Hikari’s eyes fixed to the same target, ‘Hmm, so somebody probably is here and is holed–up in the gym, possibly still bleeding?’ She searched for eye contact with the doctor before continuing, ‘You’ve probably already considered the fact that they’ve almost perfectly attempted to clean up, right? Do you still want to go and help them?’
Tsubaki’s lips quivered a bit in response. That could go two ways; we walk straight into a dangerous situation, or if left alone, somebody dies because they didn’t receive medical attention in time. Nervously, she responded, ‘I don’t have my equipment, but yes; we can improvise.’
‘Alright, stick close behind me then; let’s go and check it out.’
After the short walk to the gym, before taking a second step beyond the large, glass doors that formed the entrance, ‘Shit!’ Hikari quietly cursed while ducking and pulling Tsubaki down with her.
For only an instant, I’m pretty sure I spotted movement from the far end. ‘Stay down and follow me,’ she firmly instructed, before the pair quickly crawled up to the wide front desk.
What even was that? We have an enemy? Hikari eased herself to a side edge of the desk, and very cautiously edged forward, eyes fixed toward the far corner of the gym.
Uwah. I could only get one eye into view before a woman with short hair and strong shoulders shot an arrow at me.
She’s fast and sharp too; that one nearly grazed me.
Tsubaki closely watched the black and purple-haired woman, with a fearful frown on her face.
Hikari smiled briefly before looking into Tsubaki’s mildly terrified, emerald eyes, advising, ‘Stay put; I’ll take care of this.’
Well, this is new; trying to beat a stealth operator at their own game. That’s a bold move, I’ll give you that; let’s see if it works out for you, shall we?
You’ve probably been shooting at slow-moving targets this whole time, let’s see how you fare against an agile target that moves erratically...
She quietly shuffled to the other side of the desk and swiftly launched into action, much like a trained athlete, covering an impressive distance with the initial propulsion from her feet.
An arrow whizzed by shortly after the initial launch. Nope; you’re gonna need to be faster than that or be able to predict where I’m heading next.
She continued to accelerate, and with a series of seemingly wild and random manoeuvres, she narrowly avoided the stream of arrows that hurtled her way.
It’s a good thing I packed them. While still quickly advancing, Hikari retrieved a metal flower from within her skirt and promptly sent it ripping through the air.
The metal flower flashed over the head of the black and pink-haired archer, who instinctively ducked.
Not good; it’s difficult to aim when being under attack and when the target moves so quickly and erratically. She’s within ten metres as well. At this point, I’m probably better off preparing for hand-to-hand combat.
A second shuriken ripped along, not far from the ground, forcing the archer to jump up on the spot.
The woman with the side ponytail dashed to within arm’s length of her target. The use of a dodge, followed by a twist of the short-haired woman’s wrist and a punch with her free hand knocked the large implement cleanly out of her hands, resulting in a dull clatter, as the woodwork hit the floor.
Buoyed by the sound, she smiled at her black and pink-haired rival menacingly.
Close quarters; let’s see if those muscles can beat speed and agility.
She broke into delivering a rapid series of punches and kicks to the torso and legs of her opponent, regularly shifting her position and circling her opponent.
Amid the barrage of strikes, she occasionally mixed in elegant twirls along with a playful smirk and sturdily blocked almost every incoming fist or foot, offering her opponent a teasing smile on each occasion as well.
Ugh, it’s a good thing she doesn’t land those strikes much; judging from the intense pain each one delivers, I imagine these hits are as lethal as those from an Amazon warrior...
This is nothing like the sparring that I did with Renka yesterday. This woman has no reservations about dealing damage. The only saving grace right now is that she appears to be messing with me and enjoying herself, rather than fighting for a quick defeat.
Yeah; this is starting to get a bit boring; time to put an end to this, while I have an opening.
Swiftly, a left hand with dark purple nails on its fingertips drew a tanto from its thigh holster.
The tanto rose, with its dark grey blade pointed at and prepared to sweep toward the black and pink-haired woman.
‘Oi! Unless you want your pretty little partner’s head to be ruined by 9mm rounds, I suggest you fall back,’ a calm, yet unmistakably serious voice called out from across the gym.
With an irritated scowl, Hikari stepped back from the black and pink-haired woman, dropped her weapon and raised her open hands, in surrender.
She turned toward the voice.
Huh? If I weren’t directly involved, this would be pretty funny; she’s wearing nothing besides a towel and in a two-hand grip she’s aiming a 17 handgun at the front desk. ‘If you’re gonna point that thing anywhere, you should be pointing it at me,’ Hikari suggested, with a serious and slightly irritated facial expression.
‘You okay, Kasumi?’ the woman asked, her gaze and weapon still firmly fixed on the whimpering woman with the double-bun hairstyle. I’ve only got two rounds left; ideally, I don’t want to have to shoot you, but right now you’re the best option for keeping that gothic-loli bitch in check.
‘A bit sore, but I’m alright, thank you,’ she replied, tapping different areas of her body, occasionally grimacing.
‘You’re lucky she’s a tough one,’ Renka concluded, less coldly, as she leisurely lowered her pistol.
She shook her head, instructing Tsubaki to move from the desk and join her companion.
The doctor yelped and then scampered across the gym, to reunite with Hikari. ‘So how did you two end up here?’ Renka questioned, suspicion still heavily evident in her voice and her right index finger resting against the handgun’s trigger guard.
Hmm?? Shiny amethyst eyes, black and purple hair with a water lily and a braid in it? Why do I have a strange, unplaceable suspicion that we’ve met before?
Both Hikari and Tsubaki tried to explain at the same time and after a second false start, irritated, Tsubaki snarled beneath her breath, ‘Hey, idiot, we both know you’re not really the diplomatic type, so please shut up,’ before explaining aloud. ‘We were just seeking temporary refuge and this one here needed some food because she hadn’t eaten in a few days.’ She playfully knocked Hikari on the head with a fist, and in response to being hit, her black and purple-haired counterpart stuck her tongue out and made a face as if to say “Silly me; what am I like?”. After the brief pause, ‘The restaurant on this floor that we checked out had faint traces of blood, and because we saw the lights on in here earlier, we figured there might have been an injured person in here; I’m a titled doctor, you see.’
‘What a nice story.’
The four women turned and quickly scrambled, to flip over and take cover behind a large, metal table. Renka reeled in her backpack using her feet. ‘It’ll probably help if I lined the table surface at our backs with the vests,’ she murmured. An armed man; one of about ten or so who’ve flooded into the gym and covered the front entrance/ exit; this should be fun….
After pressing her back against the table, the member of the party with purple irises also assessed. They’re quite different in appearance to those that the guys I’ve made fools of in the past couple of weeks. Pretty classy all-black attire; smart shoes, trousers and turtleneck cardigans, along with long, black trench coats and leather gloves; professional assassins, mostly likely. Unlike what I’ve been dealing with for the past couple of weeks, these guys are all armed with suppressed weapons as well.
Once the armour vests were all in place, after discreetly being arranged to form an armour wall, Renka looked at the three women sat to her right and suggested, ‘I guess this is the part of the story where the author wants us all to work together and become allies, heh,’ with a playful smile.
Both Kasumi and Tsubaki returned deriding glares, while Hikari on the other hand quietly laughed in reaction.
Lord, help me. If I do make it out of here, I’ll have to babysit TWO idiots? Tsubaki internally remarked.
The man who led the swarm into the gym disrupted the relative quiet. Keeping his voice calm, yet imposing, he offered, ‘If you ladies would be so kind, we’re only interested in the chick with the purple hair. Hand her over to us and we’ll happily let the rest of you walk out of here unharmed.’
Hikari remained still, sat up against the table, showing no reaction to the man’s proposal. Of course they’d be here for me, why’d I think it’d be anything else? I’ve got three others around me; and the one to my right doesn’t even deserve to be here in this mess. I did inadvertently promise to protect her, so I might have to surrender, to ensure her safety and handle everything else later…
Yeah; not gonna happen; she’s mine now. After a short period of silence, Renka confidently stated, ‘Sorry fellas, but I’ve got some business to settle with her first, so maybe you could come back in like a week, or something?’ She gave Kasumi a playful smile after finishing, along with sending up and showing off a glossy, bright orange nail at the end of a middle finger.
Yeah; now we’re fucked. Into her right hand, Hikari took Tsubaki’s left hand, gazed solemnly into her eyes and quietly reminded, ‘You know how I said I’d do whatever I needed to, to prove my worth to you? I know you’re all about saving or prolonging life or whatever, but I hope you won’t hate me for what I’m about to do.’
‘What are you-, eep!’ the doctor cut off from speaking and jumped slightly, panicked by the women’s makeshift shield being impacted. No warning or anything? How rude.
The table regularly jolted as it soaked up the incoming projectiles.
Uwah. A thin, light green holographic layer, similar in colour to your nails is completely enveloping you, Tsubaki! Hikari noted, as all three of the women stared with wide eyes and astonished expressions for a short while.
Directly staring at Tsubaki with a look of admiration and amazement in her eyes, Hikari excitedly exclaimed, ‘Uwah! You’re glowing!’
‘Now isn’t the time for flirting, idi-, wha?!?’ She opened her eyes. Huh?!? I’m shrouded by a green, translucent(?) layer!?
The doctor jumped back in panic.
After becoming exposed, bullets raced in, straight toward her head.
‘Huh?’ Well, if that wasn’t the most confusing phenomenon I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life. Bullets are hitting me, or the layer surrounding me rather, and harmlessly falling to the ground before actually reaching my body.
Hikari retrieved her tanto from its holster and shifted to a crouching position.
‘Um, girls, what happened to Hikari??’ Tsubaki blurted.
‘What do you mean; I’m still here,’ a disembodied voice which sounded like the woman in question responded.
‘So, you’re telling me that you’ve turned invisible?’ Tsubaki mockingly questioned, her eyes narrowing.
Hikari looked at her arms and hands. Ehh? I can feel every bit of my mass and the associated sensations, but my body and clothing have all turned completely transparent. ‘Yep; that’s exactly what I’m telling you,’ she gaily replied.
Renka chimed in, enthusiastically, ‘Marvellous! The almighty author has decreed that you two are the heroines who have been given the power and responsibility to ensure that we survive this situation.’
Despite the developments, again, both Kasumi and Tsubaki shot Renka a derisive stare.
Why are you staring at me, Doctor? I can understand Kasumi, but you’ve got a special barrier surrounding you. That makes three of us with some special ability... I should reveal mine, but I’d still rather not if Kasumi doesn’t have one, well, that and we don’t really have time right now.
Hikari responded with a light chuckle, accepting Renka’s outburst, ‘Well, I guess that’s my cue then,’ she quietly declared, determination evident in her voice. She hopped out from the side of the table that Renka sat against and scampered around, behind the pack of men. Sort of like bowling, except the formation is an arc, the ten targets are grown men and they’ll be moved down by a blade rather than a ball…
A confident slice across one of the men’s lower legs marked the beginning of the black and purple-haired woman’s murderous campaign.
A trail of blood streamed from the opening and while destabilised, she guided his hand, aiming his weapon at the head of the man standing next to him on his right.
What? You’ve never been assaulted by an invisible force before? What a wuss…
A fairly quiet pop and puffs of smoke from the ejector port and suppressor tip of the man’s pistol instantly relieved the man next to him of his senses and control before his body tumbled to the floor, with a trail of blood escaping from his head as he lay motionless on the floor.
During the shooting, Hikari also jammed the tanto into a gap of the ribcage of the man struggling to hold the pistol that she manipulated.
When she retrieved the tanto, an unhealthy patch of red soaked the man’s cardigan.
Two down, eight to go… she remarked, while shifting her attention onto the man that stood to his left.
She collected the handgun from the falling man and among the snaps of suppressed weapons from the armed group, two bullets to the head quickly concluded the lives of two more men, one shortly after another, followed by the slide of her weapon locking back.
Four down; six remain.
Crap; they’ve finally wisened up to my games, have they?
She rolled away and tossed the firearm, making a dull thumping sound as it connected with the head of an enemy. I need to get back in among them, otherwise they’ll turn me into Swiss cheese. The gym space paused briefly, as chilling cracks and quick, bright flashes dominated the area.
Peering over the barrier briefly, with a mischievous smile, the captain brandished her empty pistol, confirming the she dispatched the last two 9mm NATO rounds lingering in the 17’s chamber and magazine into a leg of each of the two men that stood closest to Hikari before winking and quickly sinking out of view.
Um, thanks, I guess? Going for the head would have been more helpful, but whatever… Heh; simpletons. They’re all back to dealing with the table, as if the real threat isn’t a few metres away from them.
The black and purple-haired woman collected two of her shuriken and with two quick flicks of her wrist, the speeding flowers forced the two men stumbling about to slump to the floor, with blood trickling out from the areas of their skulls which had sharp metal petals completely buried in them.
Six down, four to go.
Hikari again rolled away, as the flurry of bullets rushed in two directions.
They’re still maintaining an arc formation so this next part should be fairly easy; at least I shouldn’t be at risk of getting shot.
Like an irritated ram goat, she charged at her enemies and used her own body mass and momentum to topple two of the men over like bowling pins, accompanied by a clatter of polymer frames against the floor.
While the pair scrambled on their knees and reached across from lying on their backs, a single deep stab into the side of each man’s neck and blood-filled coughs and splutters preceded their struggles fizzling out before their bodies and limbs fell still.
Elegantly, Hikari used her hands to spring back up on her feet and quietly launch herself away from where she had just slaughtered the two scrambling men. And then there were two…
She quickly circled the last two of her enemies, who continued to riddle their recently-deceased associates with more bullet holes.
As she set her stance behind her targets, she paused for an instant.
Ah; so, I guess this transparency ability only works to level the playing field then? she pondered, while driving her tanto into the left calf of the man standing to her right, before using a low kick to cut down and knock over the second, standing to her left.
Hikari retrieved the tanto while her enemy sank. Almost immediately after the blade swapped to her left hand, the man who she overturned with the kick received a confident pierce through the heart after his back thumped against the floor.
After retracting her weapon from the man’s chest, she forcefully carved a long trail along the right-hand man’s right quadricep and anterior tibialis muscles, causing him to loudly yelp in pain and collapse.
A swift and merciless draw of the tanto across his throat triggered a faint spray of blood, relieving him of his life seconds later.
Eh? I can still hear a wimpy, pained groaning, about five metres behind me.
Using a graceful and steady-paced back handspring followed by a half twirl on the spot, she approached the man and slowly turned him over using one of her feet, so that he lay on his back.
She knelt down at the side which had blood fairly quickly streaming from it.
He’s also continuously coughing up blood; presumably a lung’s been punctured and is filling with blood. Well, I guess asking directly who sent these guys is off the table then.
Her face donning a cold expression, she put the man out of his misery with a quick and deep stab into his neck, stilling his eyes and body as well as bringing the gym back to silence within seconds.
Eyes wide, stunned, Tsubaki remained sat, staring at Hikari. Uwah; not even the smallest shred of remorse evident about her.
The black and purple-haired woman rose and used a calm and controlled back walkover followed by another twirl to reach other women. Once facing them, she emitted some subtle pained whimpers as she pressed her left hand against her right shoulder area. Hikari looked straight into the doctor’s eyes and unwaveringly asserted, ‘Don’t expect an apology, Hon. I’d do it again as well if it meant keeping you out of harm’s way.’
Hmm; so, these two are like that? Both Kasumi and Renka thought in reaction, while the doctor’s mind raced.
It’s as if a category five hurricane is wreaking unmitigated havoc and causing all of my thoughts to incoherently fly around in all directions at once.
She’s just delivered so much death. My duty as a doctor, to save or at least prolong life; what on earth am I supposed to think in the face of this mess??
The other big problem I have right now is that this woman, who I only met last Monday, is able to continuously slaughter with no signs of any mental anguish or remorse.
To confuse matters further, the justification that she gave for using such a murderous ability was that she did so to keep me safe from would-be attackers and harm.
I’m starting to feel dizzy and a bit light–headed; there was also a moment back there where I was impressed by how graceful and beautiful her movements were, in the fleeting moment where she showcased her gymnastic(?) experience and skill. Worryingly, the sensation that ran through me wasn’t all that different from when we stood chest to chest in the clinic when it got destroyed.
As if that wasn’t enough, factoring in the possible prospect of her being wanted by some seriously problematic entities and groups is also quite terrifying. To add to the torment, the occasional flash of extracts from the long conversation that I had with her mother is also mixed into the mess.
Unable to cohere her thoughts, Tsubaki remained quiet.
Before long, the voice of the towel-wearing bespectacled woman distracted her. ‘Well, I don’t know who you are, and frankly, after pulling a knife on Kasumi and leading these guys here, you’re still pretty sus, but at least thanks to you, I’ve finally got my hands on a favourable weapon.’ Renka held up the handgun, to present it to the other three women, before inspecting it herself.
A black HK45T, with a sound suppressor. Well, it’s not a USP, but it’s not much different and designed as an evolution of it if I remember correctly, so I’m a happy woman. ‘Well, looking at things logically, you did clean up your own mess, so to speak, so really, I’m only pissed at you for what you tried to do to dear Kasumi,’ Renka added with a friendly smile, betrayed by the lack of warmth in her tone as she finished.
Mixed messages much, Hikari thought.
I say cleaned up; this is still a pretty bleak sight, the captain concluded, as she surveyed the gym floor, littered with wasted assassins, along with their equipment among many pools and trails of blood.
‘One thing though; the owner of this fine establishment won’t be happy, coming back to find blood and dead bodies all over the place. It’s bad enough that they’ll have to deal with all of the bullet holes, so you’re on clean-up duty,’ Renka firmly asserted to the woman with the side ponytail.
Hikari smiled warmly in response, ’Ah, don’t worry about it; I’ve got people that can take care of all of that. I’ve actually already summoned them, so if you’re going to loot, you should do it quickly,’ she advised, with her smile turning from warm to encouraging and mischievous.
A clean-up operation at this time of night/ early morning? Kinda suspicious, but also intriguing… ‘Ehh? Is that right?’ Renka queried, with curiosity and a bit of suspicion lingering in her voice, matching her narrowed eyes. After a short pause, she resumed, slowly, ‘Say… Earlier on, your girlfriend over there said that you were seeking temporary refuge. I can probably guess what you were running from, but where were you running to?’
Hikari’s face reddened a bit during the statement that preceded the question. Simultaneously, the doctor’s face experienced a similar but more intense colouration process.
Hikari summoned a wounded expression before weakly confessing, ‘Alas, that lovely woman is not my lover, sadly,’ turning and briefly gazing longingly at her. She quickly perked up before adding, ‘We were going to get on a flight away from here, but didn’t want to drag a shitstorm along with us, or run headfirst into one,’
Renka’s eyes lit up at the revelation. She eased herself closer to the black and purple-haired woman, causing her to instinctively drop her left hand, to her thigh holster.
Along with a discreet hand signal, the captain requested with a hushed voice, ‘Come, I want to ask you something, privately.’
When the two stood close enough, the captain whispered in Hikari’s ear, ‘Between you and I, I was actually hoping to get hold of a boat or plane or something at some point in the near future, so that I could disappear with Kasumi to somewhere peaceful. It’ll take a lot of preparation, but it looks like you’re planning something similar for the dear doctor over there, so I’d be willing to forgive you if you help me reach my target. Oh; and of course, you’re welcome to join us when we leave.’
After a subtle nod, the woman with the violet water lily in her hair smiled mischievously, ‘Sounds good to me; you can consider us allies, then.’ In any other scenario, I’d most likely decline. I guess you’re stuck with the strong yet utterly bizarre suspicion that we’ve crossed paths before at some point as well?
‘Oh, and that doctor’s name is Tsubaki, by the way, and I’m Hikari.’
‘Ittō rikui Renka of the Ground Self Defence Forces.’
So, this concludes Phase I; one plus one and then two plus two... If you've stuck with this niche story up to this point, then on behalf of the main quartet; thank you :3 I'm hoping you'll find yourself well rewarded in the upcoming phase, where a slightly different writing style gets used, various mysteries are at least partly resolved, new dynamics emerge and develop and the heroines' resources restrictions are lifted. There will be a little break between now and the next chapter upload on Honeyfeed, as I sort out some AFK stuff and graphics and text updates on the illustrated version. (If you want to skip the wait, then the full-format version is your friend)