Chapter 19:

Chapter Eleven - Thursday II - Fortunately...

In Search of An Oasis

As the light glinted off the roofline while the sun lingered near its peak, high in the sky, ‘Um, driver, why are we all standing here looking at a pickup truck? We arrived here in one of this island’s finest rally-derived creations; what happened?’ the glasses-wearing lady asked, with a deflated frown.

‘It was borrowed, so I had to return it to its owner.’

‘Before it could end up wrecked, like the last one,’ the doctor mockingly interjected.

‘Quiet, you,’ Hikari barked, scowling. ‘Thankfully, this one’s been bought outright, so now I’m the proud owner of an imported Decuma Grey 2024 Hilux Invincible X double-cab pickup truck,’ Hikari proudly announced. ‘I know; it’s kinda boring, but at least it won’t draw much attention while we flit from place to place.’

‘Yeah, I guess that makes sense,’ Renka conceded, her voice still carrying evident dejection.

‘Added bonus, ladies; it has loooads of space for luggage or whatever,’ Hikari advised, taking steps back and knocking the rear quarter panel as she spoke.

‘That’s great, the next thing that we need to decide is whether we head north, south east or west. Personally, I vote for east or south east, as we’d come across a number of ports that are pretty conveniently connected to the industrial capital, which we’re currently standing in,’ Renka explained.

‘This is the furthest east that I’ve been in a very long time. It would be nice to continue exploring eastward,’ Kasumi offered.

‘Hmm, now that you mention it, keeping the industrial hub in close reach does sound quite attractive, from a logistics perspective,’ the doctor added.

‘Yep; much easier to build or develop things, isn’t that right, Sensei?’ Renka asked, with a playful smile and imploring stare, met by the doctor with fidgeting and an awkward yelp.

‘I’m cool with whatever, so, I guess we’re heading south-east and then east, along the coast,’ Hikari interjected.

Thanks, occasionally you can be useful, I guess, the doctor internally remarked, while relaxing her shoulders and offering a relieved smile, met with a friendly smile from the black and purple-haired woman.

‘Alright ladies, load up and let’s head out.’

As the display on the truck’s dashboard showed a few minutes after 13:00, the grey Hilux pickup truck casually made its way along the winding mountain roads, dashing through and between large shaded regions, sheltered by thick forests.

This area is lovely; luscious green trees completely covering these mountains, overlooking valleys and there’s a twisting river leisurely flowing, roughly fifty metres below. It would be nice if we could have stopped here for a break, though I guess we haven’t actually done anything to warrant one, the woman sitting directly behind the driver, with a two-bun hairstyle and green ribbons pondered as she gazed out of the window beside her.

Curiosity lingering heavily in her tone, ‘Uh, captain, do you hear what I hear?’ the black and purple-haired woman at the wheel of the truck queried.

‘The rattle of automatic gunfire in the distance?’

‘Cool, so it’s not just me then. Should we stop by and check it out?’

‘Really? We’re just going to waltz straight into a battlefield?’ the doctor sharply protested.

‘Well, thinking about it tactically, either we pass law enforcement while approaching and carry on our merry way, or stop by, see law enforcement and then carry on our merry way, or as I’m hoping, we stop by, find a potential ally and/ or a lead on our enemy before continuing on our merry way. There’s no harm in checking it out, surely?’

‘We are quite low on weapons and resources though, so it could be risky,’ Kasumi added.

‘Well, we have Tsubaki’s protective fields and I can disappear into thin air more or less. You two might be under-resourced, but the four of us should be able to at least contribute, if there aren’t law enforcement or military officers in play.’

Oh great; democratic majority doesn’t favour me here, does it? Well, I guess we could head in and I could maybe protect or treat somebody in trouble. Clutching at straws, but at least I might maintain some of my doctor’s integrity and my normal way of life.

Heh; my normal way of life.

‘Are you okay back there, Tsubaki? You’re awfully quiet,’ Hikari quizzed, her voice only mildly evidencing concern.

‘Yeah, thanks. Let’s head in and see if there’s any help we can provide,’ Tsubaki reluctantly conceded.

‘That’s the spirit,’ Hikari replied, as the 2.8l diesel engine roared through the cabin and all four of the occupants compressed back into their seats while the truck lurched forward.

Less than two minutes later, ‘So… Hikari, how good are your off-roading skills?’ Renka asked, curiously peering across the cabin.

‘They’re alright, I guess. Why? What do you have in mind? Climb the hill for a better parking spot?’

‘Ding! Correct.’ the captain replied, with a friendly smile.

‘I hope you’re strapped in properly back there, because it’s gonna get a bit bumpy, I think.’

The truck veered off the narrow mountain road, with the front skid plate lightly bumping the earth as the ascent commenced. Slowly and carefully, the truck crawled forwards, over rocks and tree roots, violently shaking the occupants at regular intervals for the most part of sixty seconds.

‘Not bad, I guess the real test will be whether or not she makes it back down on her wheels or on her roof,’ Renka joked.

‘Watch your step, ladies; the last thing we need right now is mindless injuries,’ Hikari advised.

Renka and Kasumi hopped and skipped toward the load bed of the truck and rummaged around in their backpacks after retrieving them.

While crackles of sustained gunfire rang out from below, the captain lifted a pair of binoculars up to her glasses and assessed. No time to admire how neat this little village is, with its clusters of homes, a school, and the shrines mixed in among it all, I guess. ‘Alright, now let’s see who’s dancing at this party…

‘Hmm, not good.

‘I’m looking at a lone woman, pinned down by a team of about twenty or so guys, closing in fairly quickly. No signs of law enforcement, so gather your weapons and equipment and let’s hurry down to a closer vantage point,’ Renka firmly commanded.

The women hurriedly collected their weapons, Renka slipped on one of her plate-carrier vests and an armour plate, along with a pair of armoured gloves. Tsubaki retrieved her backpack before Renka swiftly led the quartet through the hillside forest, down to the roadside.

‘No twisted ankles or damaged legs now please, girls,’ the captain advised.

The quartet stopped at the guardrail and both Kasumi and Renka spectated the scene below through their binoculars, with the captain coldly remarking, ‘Whoever she is, she’s one tough girl.

‘All of those guys advancing on her, but she’s still holding her own… She probably won’t last much longer though. She’s been tagged as well; lord only knows how she’s still moving. Sensei, you’re sort of in luck; if you want to save at least one life, this is probably your best chance.

‘Hikari, you’re up. Two of those bushes in the distance at about two o’clock have suppressors sticking out from them and I’m pretty sure they shouldn’t be moving from the hills onto that rooftop,’ Renka invited.

A little misfire for both of you, courtesy of yours truly should keep you busy until our murderous kitten arrives to take care of you personally…

‘Uh huh,’ Hikari responded, as she darted off and descended towards the almighty rattle of continuous gunfire that raged on below.

Hang in there, hopefully we’ll get you out soon. At least this’ll keep you covered for now, the doctor encouraged, as a faint green layer appeared around the woman who intermittently exchanged speeding bullets with the wave of enemies drawing ever closer to her.

Shit; a hand grenade being cooked.

Almost instantly after Renka caught sight of the threat. A loud blast rocked the scene and a wild spray of blood accompanied the expanding and rising cloud of grey smoke. What a shame, there’s now six or seven of them missing limbs and still trying to crawl away. Never a good idea to cook one of those in my presence, when I can very easily transpose thermal energy and use it to melt that fuse much quicker than it will on its own…

Here’s hoping Kasumi shows us something soon; It’d be nice to no longer have to hide this from her. Even while focused on the intense battlefield in front of me, the thought still weighs heavily on my conscience and adds a little sting to my breathing, the captain pondered, with a sorrowful frown.

The frown soon vanished, as the captain lifted the binoculars to her glasses again and murmured, ‘Heh, it looks like the wheelman is having fun.’ Thank fuck she’s on our side; she’s really not holding back with slicing them like meat to be cooked. What a sadist; she’s slashed and stabbed pretty much every limb, to ensure that they can’t fight back before having a friendly chat with them.


What was that?? One of them just blew themselves up with a hand grenade? Never mind that, where do these guys keep coming from? A lot of things don’t make sense here, not least the fact that bullets aren’t reaching me anymore, thanks to some green protective shield(?) Just as well; even though this vest has a level III plate, I don’t think it’d hold up for much longer. That and the stinging in my left shoulder is excruciating; I’d be completely screwed if this gun was any heavier.

Saki’s gonna be pretty annoyed when she gets back here…

‘Great; now I’m down to my last mag as well,’ the woman muttered to herself, after pulling the trigger of her PDW, to be met only with a mocking click. She ducked from the village’s main street into the nearest alleyway, dumped the spent magazine, collected another from a pouch attached to the front of her vest and shoved it into the well before quickly tapping the small bolt release button while bringing her left hand back to gripping the handguard.

She flipped her hair, before pressing her back against the wall at the corner of the building that absorbed the flurry of bullets heading in her direction.

She stood still, face carrying nothing other than an irritated frown. ‘Well, if this shield can stop bullets across my entire body, I might as well,’ she murmured.

She sprang out from the alleyway, raised her weapon and with quick pulls of the trigger, it quietly popped in regular bursts, amid the hail of bullets which stormed in and fell harmlessly at her feet.

Probably not a good idea to advance, because they’ll no doubt try live capture with the way that they’re being mercilessly picked off at the moment.

Despite the almighty wave of incoming bullets; the deafening cacophony of continuous blasts and large mass of hot smoke rising from various ports, the lone woman maintained a determined scowl and with steady single pops, the swarm of enemies gradually thinned, with trails of blood emitted from the masked heads of shooters that gradually approached.

The pack is thinning but more are still coming. How many of these fuckwads are there?? If my count is right, I’ve only got ten rounds left as well... the lone woman thought, as her black, heeled ankle boots began to backpedal slowly along the village street.

‘I’m open to ideas here, because unless we send Hikari down there, that girl is probably gonna end up captured and even sending our trusty murder machine isn’t a guarantee for a successful outcome,’ Renka nervously invited.

‘I might have something that could work,’ Kasumi coolly suggested.

‘Well, what are you waiting for? I don’t see any of your weapons or equipment in hand.’ Renka queried, with narrowed eyes.

‘I’ll need you both to line up behind me before I can try it, we don’t have time to waste, so please hurry.’

Both the doctor and the captain shuffled across, to form a single-file train behind Kasumi, who took a deep breath.

‘Uwah!’ both Renka and Tsubaki quietly exclaimed, eyes wide and jaws almost falling slack in awe.


Not just her voice and the long note that she’s beautifully delivering, but the sheer destructive effect of it. It’s powerful enough to rumble everything many times more effectively than that grenade ever could, Renka assessed.

I guess all four of us have a connection to a mechanism of science then. Sound waves from voice shouldn’t be anywhere near as intense as that. Clearly, she knows how they work, given her advising us to form a line behind her. Despite the disconcerting rumble ahead; everything behind her remains fairly calm, though the sound would probably deafen anybody without ear protection under normal dispersion behaviour, Tsubaki concluded, as she watched on.

Good, that should do. Thankfully that energy conversion field takes the sting out of the waves for the girl down there but still has pretty dire consequences for all of the guys attempting to charge at her. Judging from the fact that they’re all dropping their weapons and involuntarily collapsing to the floor, I’d say this level of amplification is about right. It’s a good thing there don’t seem to be any more reinforcements pouring in, because I’m getting perilously close to the full extent of my breath here, Kasumi internally commented, as the fluctuations of the simple “ah” that she broadcast totally blanketed, shook and permeated almost everything within view ahead of her.

Be still, my beating heart. After hoping that this day would come for what feels like an age where guilt has rasped away at me, I’m genuinely at risk of falling apart and being fully incapable of containing what I think about her. The sight of her, so cool and calm while she delivers a colossal wave of power. I might as well be standing in front of her with how my heart has me completely paralysed at the moment. Never before have I wished that somebody would take me, like I desire it right now, the captain mused, lips quivering and her breathing becoming audible as her eyes slightly wobbled while studying the black and pink-haired woman in front of her.

A few seconds later Kasumi noted, I can hear the rustling trees behind us again. The scene below also has scarce evidence of movement.

Why are there arms being firmly wrapped around my waist from behind? ‘What a-‘

‘Uh!’ Renka sharply interrupted. Softly, she requested, ‘Please, just let me have this.’ After a brief moment of silence, ‘Thank you,’ she gently finished with, nesting her head against the neck of the black and pink–haired woman.

Ugh, get a room, you two.

‘See, Tsubaki? That could be us one day,’ a playful voice called out.

‘Dear god, give me strength,’ the doctor pleaded exasperatedly, looking up to the skies.

‘Uh, girls, do you hear that?’ Renka nervously asked, pulling back from Kasumi.

‘It is pretty loud; there’s no way we wouldn’t,’ Kasumi bluntly replied.

‘Huey at 10 o’clock, with side-shooters as well,’ Renka confirmed, peering through her binoculars. ‘So, um, who here has anything that functions as a surface to air weapon?’

At the moment that the words finished leaving Renka’s lips, the thunder of a loud blast shook the scene as a wild cloud and then fireball erupted above.

Emerging from it, a fiery mass of metal hurtled towards the earth, painting a long, trail of heavy, dark grey smoke across the sky.

‘Never mind, I guess,’ Renka playfully murmured. ‘Here’s hoping it didn’t land on somebody’s home or something,’ she quietly commented, with a nervous frown.

‘Honestly Aki, I leave for twenty minutes and you manage to get yourself into a national-security-threat level incident with a paramilitary organisation,’ a young lady with a twin ponytail hairstyle called out, as her black wedge boots deftly skipped about between the corpses, motionless bodies and occasionally convulsing man who lay littering the relatively narrow village streets.

‘Ah, hey, you’re back!’ Aki replied, brushing down her jeans and t-shirt.

The other woman asked, with a concerned frown, ‘What happened here?’

‘I’m guessing those guys from last week weren’t particularly happy with us and decided to come back and force a better answer,’ Aki replied, with a deep frown and shrug of her shoulders.

‘It’s a good thing I left with it then,’ the other woman replied, tapping the MLOK handguard of the M32A1 held against her chest with her left hand.

‘No shit. I’m impressed. Have you been practising with training rounds or something? You took that heli out of the sky with one shot, so far as I could tell.’

‘The reflex sight is a big help; unlike you, I’m not massively into all of this gunfighting stuff, but I do at least have the patience to make sure I only need to fire one grenade.

‘In other words, I kind of got lucky, heh.’

‘Ha, figures.’

‘How about you? This can’t have all been your doing? I mean the jumble of body parts and that pretty thick slick of blood over there suggests somebody brought explosives to the party.’ Frowning, her eyes drifted down slightly and fixed on one spot. ‘Also, your vest is pretty messed up and I’m almost certain your shirt didn’t have a hole in the left shoulder when I left for the shop. Are you alright?’

‘Ugh, so many questions.

‘I don’t really know; a lot of interesting stuff happened here. First off, one of these guys pulled out a hand grenade and I think they fucked up using it or something.

‘To make things weirder; before getting completely overwhelmed, some thin green holographic(?) protective barrier appeared around me, stopping bullets from actually hitting my body or the protective equipment.

‘Not weird enough for you? An excruciatingly loud wail of what I can only describe as a pop-chart or orchestra-level singer incapacitated or injured the remaining foot soldiers. Not sure if it was the barrier or the captured earbuds, but something saved me when it struck…

‘My shoulder’s still in a lot of pain though and I doubt I can heal it on my own because I’m almost certain there’s a bullet stuck in there.’

‘We should hurry to get that looked at, I swear those things can poison if left untreated for long enough…’

‘Hikari, what are those?’ Tsubaki asked, staring, with a confused frown.

‘Oh, uh, after I went over to have a little chat with those sentient bushes, I figured Renka might like a souvenir or two, so here’s a standard G28 and a SCAR-H TPR to choose from, along with B&T suppressors and spare twenty-round magazines. The G28 has an ARD fitted as well.’ Hikari offered, keeping eyes fixed on a captain who regarded the rifles with an interested gaze.

‘It’s like Christmas has come early! I’ll take both of them, thank you!’ Renka gleefully accepted, with a big smile, taking the long, grey TPR from Hikari.

Heh; the MoD reportedly paid over US$52k per unit for G28E2s five or so years ago, so that’s a golden find. Not that the TPR isn’t, with its neatly-mounted 3-27x56 PM II High Power scope with an MSR2 reticle, which should be good for both CQ and LR combat… As she inspected, ‘I will have to take them apart, to clear out the misfire and blocked chamber effects, but other than that, these are a great find. Could be pretty useful for defensive purposes, fired from the back of that truck of yours for example…

‘Anywho, enough of the gun adoration, we need to go and link up with the, uh, two(?) ladies down there, to try and figure out what just happened here.

‘Does anybody have anything that we can use as a peace signal?’

Kasumi shook her head.

Hikari frowned, ‘Nope.’

Tsubaki also shook her head.

‘Well, Sensei, your top is white, so I don’t know why you’re shaking your head.’


‘You heard me. If you could please let us borrow your top, to use as a peace symbol, that’d be much appreciated. Ideally, before the ladies down there move on.’

‘You did put on a bra this morning, didn’t you?’ Hikari teased.

Ugh, why am I always the one on the receiving end of the teasing and jokes in this group?? ‘Fine!’ the doctor huffed, as she reluctantly slipped the straps of her backpack away from her shoulders.

After hurriedly scampering down the winding mountain road, into the village, the green-eyed woman struggled to skitter through the corpse-peppered street as she raggedly waved a white garment. ‘Um! Hello!?’

‘What the?’ Aki questioned as she turned, raising her PDW and pointing its muzzle toward the rapidly approaching woman.

‘Eep!’ the doctor squealed as she paused and raised her hands. Uwah. I’m almost certain that she’s younger than me, but she looks terrifying! Almost the textbook definition of a Sukeban; the cherry-red streak in her short hair, the black boots, spiked collar and bracelet but mainly the ear piercings, large spear-shaped cartilage piercings and the nose stud. It does look kind of cool though, I’ll begrudgingly admit...

Huh; the woman next to her has an almost matching fringe.

And matching sapphire eyes.

And a matching cherry-red streak in her hair.

I’m pretty sure their vests each have one component of the yin and yang symbol as well. Unlike the troublemaker’s clothing, her dress looks pretty elegant. From head to toe, greyscale is definitely a theme so far as outfit goes, heh. Speaking of, her nails are white, while the delinquent’s nails are black; matching their yin and yang emblems…

‘Now, now, Aki; I highly doubt an unarmoured woman waving a white top around is a threat. It looks like this one, no, these ladies come in peace,’ the dress-wearing lady calmly advised, gently forcing the suppressed muzzle of the woman next to her to point at the ground. She regarded Tsubaki with a curious glare, ‘Who are you and what brings you to our village?’

‘Um, my friends(?) and I were passing by and heard the racket, so we figured we’d stop and see if there was any assistance that we could offer?’

‘Why are you answering that like it’s a question?’ Aki barked, scowling.

‘This one here gets nervous very easily, don’t mind her,’ a black and purple-haired woman explained with a slightly naughty grin, playfully stroking the doctor’s back and side.

That’s no excuse to touch me. Ugh; I hate that the gentle sensation of your momentary caress sparks desire that competes with and defeats the logical part of my thinking… the doctor remarked, while quickly squirming away from the attending right hand with dark purple nails.

Cripes; and the doctor isn’t your lover, Hikari?... Her eyes drifting away from Tsubaki, back to the two women with red streaks in their hair, ‘To answer your question, the nervous doctor there is Tsubaki, the flirty mess standing next to her is Hikari. This dashing, tall, stoic, woman with the pink highlights is Kasumi and the Ittō rikui giving you the explanation at the moment is Renka,’ the captain interjected, with a friendly smile.

‘As for the why; it’s exactly as dear Sensei here explained, except she forgot to mention that we were also curious to know what was going on. That said, now that we’ve explained ourselves, we’d like to know who you are and just what the hell happened here?’

The lady with the twin ponytails responded, ‘Saho (佐保) is our name. I am Saki (佐希) and this here is my dear twin sister, Aki (壮),’ she explained, drawing the characters in the air with her right hand before clasping the hand with the young lady stood next to her. Hurriedly, she added, ‘Don’t worry; we’re close, but only in a Satou sisters kind of way. You know; that one story about the moon and doughnuts?’ with a light chuckle.

She paused briefly, while Hikari, Kasumi and Renka giggled and Tsubaki’s confused gaze flitted between the gaily smiling sisters and the three women issuing them approving nods.

Satou sisters? Doughnuts? Are they more things that I should know about, but don’t?

‘If you’re wondering why the village looked and sounded a bit like a scene from one of those messy urban battlefields we sometimes see on the international news, it’s because those same guys paid us a visit a week or so ago. Supposedly they wanted to clear away some of our peaceful village in order to mine for minerals. We politely told them to fuck off and not come back. It looks like we might have hurt their feelings.’

‘Ehh? Is that so?’ Renka quietly asked, her voice low and heavily laden with curiosity.

Either they were protecting the representative of whichever corporation wanted to mine here or they belong to/ are the same corporation with mining interests. If the latter is true, then that would imply that CSS are involved with not just testing, but also the development and manufacture of ordnance as well. It’s impressive that they’ve managed to stay off the SDF and NPA intelligence radars for so long. I guess they never factored in ordinary people fighting back and banding together against them or are getting complacent though...

In the midst of Renka’s deducing, ‘So, the Ittō rikui says that you’re a doctor, right?’ Aki quizzed, her glare fixed on Tsubaki.

‘Yes,’ she tentatively replied.

‘Do you think you’d be able to take a look at my shoulder? Normally I’d be able to heal injuries pretty quickly, but while there’s a bullet stuck in there, that’s not a good idea.’

‘Sure thing, it’d be nice to carry out some ordinary medical work, even if it’s only briefly,’ she confirmed, with a subdued smile.

‘Um, you said you normally heal injuries pretty quickly, if that’s what I think it is, does that mean you’d be able to sort out my right shoulder? Last week was a particularly bad one for it,’ Hikari requested, sliding her jacket sleeve slightly away from her chest.

Oof; I didn’t think there’d be that much bandaging under there. ‘I’ll do it, on one condition. You tell me what you did to end up with that much reinforcement there,’ Aki replied, facing Hikari with a stern expression before briefly flashing a teasing smile.

‘Heh, do you want the short story or the long one?’ Hikari playfully asked.

‘Well, how about we share stories over dinner. The villagers will probably want to show their gratitude, so maybe we’ll treat you all to a homemade banquet in the park, under the stars,’ Saki warmly replied.

The quartet exchanged glances among themselves before Renka replied, ‘You can count us in,’ with a warm smile.

‘Before then, while Aki’s getting fixed up, could you please help me with cleaning up this mess? Law enforcement and military don’t really come around here and I don’t think the village residents will be too happy with the evidence of a bloodbath that’s been left here.’

‘Well, we did kind of contribute to the mess, so I guess it’s only fair, to be honest. That and I’ve seen some interesting bits and pieces lying around,’ Renka replied, with a mischievous smile.

Her eyes meticulously scanning the scene, Renka assessed. What a mess; I hope they have a plan to deal with all of the discarded limbs and the slicks of blood that’ve stained the street. It’s a good thing the grenade’s blast radius didn’t catch any homes or buildings forcefully enough to do anything other than give them a light charring.

‘If you don’t mind, girls, could we leave the weapons, ammo and equipment for last? I get the feeling there’s some fun to be had perusing all of the gear that’ll need a new home,’ the captain requested, smiling innocently.

The four women spent the next half hour or so hauling away the incapacitated operators, after Renka ensured their harmlessness, with the use of cable ties, zipped around their wrists and ankles. Once the live men were hauled away, Saki returned with sets of latex gloves. ‘Now you all get a taste of what your doctor friend gets up to, heh. We’ll be bringing all of the haphazardly scattered pieces of gunman to the village furnace,’ she informed casually. ‘Don’t worry; we’ll be sending the live ones to the police, but we’ll wait until you ladies are well clear before then,’ she concluded.

As the sun flirted with the edge of the horizon, dragging the last remnants of bright blue with it, the women hauled the last of the remains to the village furnace and upon returning to the main street, Renka paused, casting her eyes down. on the remaining ordnance which vastly littered the street. ‘Hey, Saki, we’ve already got a fair few plate-carrier vests, I think your village might be better off keeping them all. I know they probably won’t be the best fit for you, your sister or any of the other women around here, but at least they’ll be useful/ if/ when more asshats with guns turn up.’

‘Ah, yeah; thanks, I was wondering why you immediately stripped off all of the vests,’ Saki replied with a little laugh.

‘You two can go ahead back to the truck if you want; we should probably pack up our equipment, plus the new additions and bring the truck back from the hill. Unless you want to spectate me having fun with the spoils left behind from that scuffle earlier.’

‘Right,’ Hikari replied.

‘I’m okay with staying and spectating,’ Kasumi flatly replied.

Just me? The lonely walk back to the truck awaits; yayyy…

‘Alright, suit yourself,’ Renka coolly replied, shrugging her shoulders directly at the woman with greyish-blue eyes.

‘Now, what do we have here, first thing’s first, we are definitely keeping the radios and comms equipment, so if you could gather up all of the receivers, earpieces and throat mics, that’d be a great help,’ Renka requested with a friendly smile.

‘Got it.’

‘Now for the fun bit; these guys turned up with a lot of guns; 433s, ARX 160s, P90 TRs, a big collection of Five-seveNs and HiPer handguns too.

‘Forget all of that though, I only really have eyes for the MP5s that they’ve left behind.

‘Let’s see… MP5A3, A5, MP5-N and I’m pretty sure there’s an SP5 there too…

‘Ooo; there’s an MP5SD2 as well. It’s got a tri-rail handguard too. A healthy selection of parts to build my ideal setup from...’ she quietly mused, with an excited grin.

What to choose, what to choose. The SD is a high maintenance bitch that requires cleaning much more regularly, but it’s one of the quietest weapons going, unlike the lower-maintenance, higher muzzle velocity counterparts.

Who am I kidding? Of course I’m taking the SD, but taking the sliding stock and the reflex sight from one of the A5s, the laser pointer from the modified N and the trigger pack from the SP5, though I might keep one of the three and four-mode modules too; it’d be a waste to not keep the full-auto options on the table...

‘I’m sorry if things get a bit boring; this woman has got a fun building session ahead of her when she gets her tool set from the truck, heh,’ Renka advised, with a playful chuckle.

Her eyes weakly maintaining eye contact with Kasumi’s, ‘Before she gets back, there’s something I’d been really wanting to tell you for a few days now,’ Renka nervously suggested.

‘You had an ability and were waiting to see if I had one too?’


Kasumi briefly sniggered in response to Renka’s stifled reaction.

Her cheeks glowed bright red as she meekly forced, ‘How did you know??’

‘Thinking about it logically, if Tsubaki and the purple one’s abilities only revealed themselves when their lives were in genuine mortal danger with somebody dear nearby, along with me being almost certain that a similar thing had happened to me, if you didn’t already awaken an ability during your military service, then you probably would have yesterday morning.

‘I was right next to you, spectating through the binoculars when that grenade “accidentally” took out that group of guys. That on its own didn’t give it away, but combined with the fact that the snipers both had weapon malfunctions, I became suspicious that either all of their equipment was faulty or somebody, probably with an ability to mess with thermal systems was interfering. Also…

‘The twins’ given names are directly related to their ability.

‘The purple one’s given name is directly related to her ability.

‘My given name is directly related to my ability.

‘Your given name is-’

‘Right, right, I get it. I’m sorry,’ Renka sheepishly conceded.

‘It’s fine; I know you were only trying to think about how I’d feel. I would probably have done things differently, but I’m not you,’ Kasumi calmly concluded with a small hint of a friendly smile. I guess that misfire on our first outing was your doing as well, but it did keep me from getting shot, so I’ll let that one go…

Still staring at Kasumi, while frozen, Renka pondered. Is it too early to say I love you? You can’t just see straight through me like that without me giving some kind of feedback, surely? Deep breaths, Renka. Deep breaths. Good things come to those who wait, right? I say that while I’m essentially a firework with mere millimetres of its fuse remaining. Breathe slowly, I must…

As the chorus of rapidly-chirping crickets emerged, the last remnants of bright blue departed beyond the horizon and the twinkle of the stars above took full advantage of the blackening backdrop. ‘So, what do you have for us? It smells lovely,’ the specs-wearing captain asked with a warm smile, as she sat down on the grass beside Kasumi, whose face almost matched the colour of her bright orange hair highlight, thanks to the central wood fire that sat between the two trios of women.

‘Um, why are you sitting over there?’ Hikari interjected, with a condemning glare aimed directly across the flames.

‘For the purpose of symmetry and balance,’ Tsubaki calmly answered. Narrowing her eyes, ‘Why? Are you jealous?’ she quizzed, with childlike playfulness.

‘If you two could please save your lovers’ quarrel for later, let’s at least try to be polite guests,’ Renka asserted, glaring at both women, forcing them both to shrink back slightly.

While the lady with green ribbons streaming from both of her hair buns smiled innocently, directly opposite, the woman whose hair had a water lily atop remained staring blankly at her. Well played; I hope you know that I will get you back for that…

Following a brief display of a friendly smile, ‘Right, so, what we have here is a healthy assortment to choose from; Hitsumabushi, Temaki, Ebi Furai , Saba Misoni and some Hijiki seaweed salad as well.

‘The doctor here informed us that she’s a veggie, so we also personally prepared a few tofu-based dishes and simmered Kiriboshi Daikon for her as well,’ Saki explained.

‘Eh? You personally prepared some of the food too?’ Hikari quizzed.

‘Yeah; we also used some of the red bean paste that we had lying around to bake some stuff to take on the road with you,’ Saki concluded, still smiling.

‘Surely, skills like those would be pretty useful in a restaurant or something, what are you both still doing here, in this quiet village on a weekday?’ Tsubaki queried, her head turned (with a raised brow) to face the two women sat to her left.

‘We actually did work in an “or something” place up until three weeks ago; we ran our own little coffee shop and tea house in the capital city,’ Aki informed, with an irritated frown.

‘Let me guess; it was destroyed?’ Kasumi enquired.

‘Yep, one night, while we were busy sorting out our inventory our humble pocket of relaxation and tranquillity was ripped apart by the gunfire from a firefight between two armed groups or something,’ Saki responded, her friendly smile having vanished. ‘The building ended up completely riddled with holes, along with most of our inventory and our insurance didn’t cover terrorist incidents so, we were forced to return home, here in the mountains.’

‘Yeah; I sort of know the feeling, my music store was completely cleaned out and destroyed in a similar fashion,’ Kasumi coldly explained. ‘I think the doctor’s clinic went the same way as well,’ Kasumi added, prompting Tsubaki to nod.

‘It wasn’t all bad though; some of them were kind enough to leave behind a healthy amount of weapons and ammunition, as well as ear protection and body armour, even if it is uncomfortable,’ Aki added, forcing a smile.

‘Ah, I was wondering how you got hold of your gear, what were they? An M32 and a SCAR?’ Renka questioned.

‘I have a SCAR-SC and my sister has an M32A1; we had to look up what they were and how they worked,’ Aki explained, as both sisters raised their weapons in presentation fashion.

‘Ah, you’re a woman of culture as well, I see. A suppressor, compact reflex sight and it’s chambered in 300 Blackout, too; nice and light, though the hunt for ammo must be fun,’ Renka remarked.

‘Yeah; it’s not the easiest thing to find ammo for, so it’s a good thing it can be set to fire once per trigger pull. I imagine our home village wouldn’t be standing right now if we didn’t pick these up, so I guess everything happens for a reason, even if we do kinda miss our cosy little business venture.’

‘Well, before the captain gets carried away with weapons talk and the food gets cold, maybe we should say our graces and begin?’ Kasumi coolly suggested. I’m not so sure that everything happens for a reason, though admittedly, I am beginning to slowly come around to the idea…

After distributing food and chopsticks, along with the other preparations, the women all quietly ate, with the barely audible crackle of the fire and the then–louder rapid chirping of crickets becoming the main sources of sound for a few minutes.

‘Sooo, you know how you mentioned quick healing earlier, how exactly does it work?’ Hikari quizzed, eyes fixed on the sister with the shoulder length hair and multiple piercings.

Aki peered at the woman on her right, prompting her to clear her throat before explaining, ‘I took a close look into how Aki’s cells behave after extracting the bullet from her shoulder. It’s pretty fascinating; while you, I and pretty much everybody else besides these two heal at similar rates, (depending on nutrition, environment and a few other factors), these two sisters have a significantly quicker rate of mitosis/ cell division.

‘As I’m sure you’re already well aware, growth and repair largely depends on cell division, so, naturally, healing rates do as well.

‘I say they have a significantly quicker rate, but actually they can control the rates of cell division. I’ll let you explain the rest,’ Tsubaki concluded, peering back, to her left.

‘Dear Aki here, discovered her ability like, what? Eight or nine years ago, when we were fourteen? And she decided to use her ability on one of the village elders, to reverse the growth of and soon after, completely eradicate a cancerous tumour.

‘Despite extending the old fart’s life and easing her pain, she got herself branded an outcast for her effort, explaining why we moved to the capital; it kind of became unbearable to live here,’ Saki informed.

After a fairly quiet period of eating through the contents of the numerous bowls dotted around the fire, Saki broke the relative tranquillity of women’s dinner, ‘You’re all finished?’

After receiving nods and thanks from the four quests, she continued, ‘Great, um, Tsubaki, could you please help me carry these bowls and whatnot back and help me bring the tea out?’ She leaned in, to her sister and quietly uttered, ‘I know you and the one with the lily in her hair have some stories to exchange and I’m pretty sure the other two might appreciate some time to themselves.’

‘Um, okay,’ Tsubaki confirmed, smiling innocently at Hikari as she sprang up from the grassy floor.

What are you smiling for? I have the fun sister to talk to in the meantime, so you’re not gonna get the satisfaction of a reaction from me, Hikari remarked whilst maintaining a straight face.

As the woman with purple hair ends regaled Aki with tales of the skirmishes that she had taken part in the previous Monday and Tuesday, accented with intermittent laughter and nods of respect, Renka and Kasumi regarded the pair in silence, with interested stares and highly receptive ears, until soft footsteps approaching from behind cued the storyteller to turn and track off from her speaking.

Seeing you approaching with that loaded tea tray does make me wonder what you’d look like in nothing but a kitchen apron. Or what living together would look like…

‘Here we go, I know you ladies will probably want to be getting home or whatever soon, so I’ve also brought these as our humble gift for you to take with you on your travels; some Dorayaki, Taiyaki and veggie-friendly Takoyaki as well, Saki informed, gleefully presenting a range of polymer tubs, filled with baked treats.

The remaining three guests expressed their thanks before Saki and Tsubaki distributed the tea out to the party members. Before a short period of discussing the general state of affairs on the island and how things were in each of their home and work areas leading up to their meeting on that particular Thursday.

After the two sisters had retreated, tea kits in hand, they returned, to collect their weapons, still resting on the soft, grassy surface near the fire. Both with weapons in hand, the pair with red streaks in their hair bowed, ‘On behalf of our humble village, thank you for today! We know the old folks will probably complain and bicker among themselves about the mess and destruction, but ultimately they’ll be thankful that they still have homes and the local deities haven’t been disrupted or upset,’ Saki offered, with a warm smile as she straightened up.

Renka quickly turned her head to the right, regarding the three other women stood beside her before replying with a bow also, ‘Thank you for being such gracious hosts! Yes, we came of our own free will and definitely benefitted massively in terms of loot, but I think it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as memorable without you two. Hopefully we’ll have the pleasure of crossing paths again before too long and under better circumstances,’ she concluded, as the quartet returned to their regular standing postures with friendly smiles, bar Kasumi, naturally.

‘Good luck on your quest, we hope you find what you’re looking for,’ Aki offered, encouragingly, with crossed fingers.

‘Thanks,’ the four women replied in failed synchronicity before giggling and turning, to stroll back across the garden to the peacefully resting Hilux while the two sisters waved them goodbye.

As the diesel engine jumped into life at Hikari’s turn of the key, the front occupant beside her lightly commented, ‘What a day, huh? Pretty busy indeed. I guess we have a lot to sort out in the debrief tomorrow morning. It would have been good to do it tonight, but it looks like Sensei probably wouldn’t appreciate it.’

Directing her amethyst eyes up to the rear-view mirror, ‘Heh, asleep already?’ the driver lightly commented. Aww, how cute; I guess you did have a busy day today. That’s definitely one for the scrapbook. I guess a good old princess carry is on the cards for tonight…


For area reference, articles used to guide cost figures and recipe links, please consult the illustrated version or your nearest search engine. I would add them here, but you wouldn't be able to copy and past the links anyway.

Steward McOy