Chapter 20:

Chapter Twelve - Friday II - 海辺 AKA A Day At The Beach

In Search of An Oasis

A deep orange glow flooded in through a single window announcing that Friday morning daylight arrived and once again, four women found themselves convened in a small, basic two-bed bedroom, sitting across from each other in pairs.

‘Given that both you and our master vocalist here were wiped out by the time we got back last night, there was no time for a debrief, so here we are,’ Renka introduced, staring at the doctor, who laughed nervously in response to the assertion.

‘I guess we’ll start with the abilities, integrations, conditions or whatever you want to call them. From what little research I did, phenomena similar to what we’ve witnessed in the past few days has only been observed throughout history with women at the centre, in extremely limited numbers. I’m guessing a number of them were branded witches or cursed. Only one in every ten million people is supposed to have what we do, so it’s pretty wild that we managed to have six individuals with extraordinary capabilities in one place yesterday, right? That said, I guess we’ll take it in turns to try and explain how these abilities work, apart from the doctor, who eloquently lectured us on hers two days ago,’ Renka invited, with a friendly smile.

Why are you staring at me specifically? ‘Huh? I’m going first?’ The woman with a side ponytail and violet water lily hair accent protested, sitting up and easing herself from leaning against the hotel room’s bed.

‘Alphabetic order says yes,’ Kasumi bluntly confirmed.

Ugh, whatever; this isn’t the time for a possibly not-so petty argument. ‘Well, there isn’t much to say; I guess my ability works based on light? I theorise that being able to adjust how light interacts with my body is why I can turn transparent. Whether or not I can use it to turn something that isn’t physically connected to me transparent remains to be seen and I’m still not quite used to keeping the effects of the ability under control and lasting as long as I’d like either.’ She turned, to look up, at the doctor, who sat on the bed, ‘How do you manage to keep it under control?’

‘Well, it does seem like the control aspect of these abilities are linked to mental capacity and possibly one’s affinity to nature…’

‘What does that even mean? Are you trying to say that I’m stupid?’ Hikari questioned, irritation evident in her voice.

‘Yes,’ Tsubaki blankly replied. ‘Ow!’ Really? Pinching my leg? How childish can you get? Your claws are digging in a bit as well.

‘Heh, you might be able to defend yourself against energy-based attacks, but have nothing going for you in the case of a physical attack,’ Hikari quietly jested, with a teasing smile.

‘Moving on, next up is the pure song,’ Renka interrupted, beaming a friendly smile to her left, straight at the black and pink-haired woman who sat beside on the opposite bed to the other pair.

‘The best explanation I have is that I can control the dispersion of sound; both the intensity and the direction. Although sound waves for the most part disperse through air spherically, I’m able to isolate regions of the waves, though probably need more practise in order to use it accurately. I suppose the only reason that girl survived is because of the sound waves’ excessive energy being converted by the conversion field and her ear protection?’ Kasumi explained, her gaze scrolling between the woman sat next to her and the doctor seated across the room.

‘And last but not least; me!’ Renka gleefully exclaimed. ‘Kasumi figured it out before I could tell her yesterday, so I’m guessing you probably already suspected me as well,’ she suggested, her eyes fixing on Tsubaki. ‘If you’re wondering why that hand grenade blew up in the thrower’s hand and why the guns that you so kindly picked up for us both suffered a misfire; that was me.

‘I’ve actually had that ability for a few years. So far as I know, I can transpose(?) thermal energy. If or when there’s no local energy source, then I exchange some with the energy held by the magma in the earth’s mantle,’ the captain concluded.

‘Hmm, impressive,’ Tsubaki quietly remarked, nodding. Partly the ability and partly the fact that they’re all capable of explaining them fairly accurately at least makes me feel a little bit more satisfied with the company that I’m keeping.

‘With the abilities out of the way, now we’re onto the second item on the agenda; the show and tell, where we have a run through the looted equipment,’ Renka excitedly declared. ‘To get things started, we have some communications equipment; I did look around the internet for some manuals and it looks like we have here some long-range two-way radio transmitters and receivers, along with throat mics as well.

‘I guess you and Hikari probably won’t wear them, either because of your collars or the wiring, but we have four of each,’ Renka explained, with a friendly smile, waving around the almost tennis-ball-sized unit and one of the slim, black, low-gloss horseshoes that formed the main body of a throat mic. Her smile, fading, she added, ‘We do have one problem though; no chargers for anything, so, we’ll have to use them sparingly for now,’ with a slightly deflated tinge.

Her eyes soon brightened up however. ‘Next up, we have offensive weapons; we’ve already been through them, so to cut a long story short, we have two DMRs, a very quiet SMG as well as three spare mags for each, five for the SMG and a healthy supply of spare parts. We have lots of ammo for the SMG, but not much for DMRs, so we’ll have to take care with those.

‘You girls didn’t pick up anything else, did you?’

In response to three shaking heads, the woman with a lock of orange hair commented, ‘In theory, that takes us onto today and what our plans are.’ There is also the matter of who our main enemy was yesterday, but I still can’t make head nor tail of their ambitions and conclusively connect the various strange occurrences together.

‘Continuing to proceed south, in search of a port? Maybe then heading east once we reach the coast?’ Kasumi suggested.

‘Any objections?’ the captain asked. Really? Just shaking your heads; you two have been far too quiet. You’re not plotting something or having your own chat via telepathy or something?

‘I guess that’s everything for now then. We’ll head out in fifteen minutes then,’ Renka concluded with a smile.

‘Tsubaki-Sensei, before we go, could I borrow you for a minute?’ Kasumi asked.

Me? You hardly ever say anything, so it feels strange being asked something by you, heh. ‘Sure, what’s up?’ the doctor cautiously questioned.

‘I wanted to discuss my tranquilliser arrow tips with you.’

Eh? So, they do use non-lethal stuff from time to time then. If only we could inspire one particular mass slaughterer even a little bit… ‘You have my attention; go ahead.’

After a relatively quick descent from the hills, to the south coast of the island, the quartet and their diesel-powered chariot journeyed along a relatively convoluted route, as they progressed eastward and inspected the various ports that lay along the land’s lower edge.

A voice called out from the second row of the pickup truck’s seats. ‘It’s more or less lunchtime, so maybe we could stop at the next one that we come across and eat while enjoying the pockets of sunshine and the sea as the waves gently come and go?’

‘I like the way you think, Sensei. We won’t be able to soak it up for too long though; it’s annoying that we still haven’t found a port with spare capacity to launch a large, civilian cargo ship or even a decent capacity private watercraft,’ Renka remarked, her pleased smile fading away as she voiced her concern.

‘Well, you won’t have to wait long, Tsubaki; it looks like this is the entrance to the nearest beach area. Kinda strange that they have it so walled-off, but they have a neat-looking drinks hut and seeing as I’ve already turned off the main road, I guess we’re checking it out,’ Hikari playfully informed.

After having parked up nearby the structure that she had seen earlier, the truck’s pilot observed. It’s pretty cute; it has the main building almost like a typical shrine, but has a conventional western-style drinks bar arrangement, with stools set right in front of the counter.

Hmm; that’s weird; there’s an old man perched on top of his car, closely studying the beach beyond the fence. Speaking of, on closer inspection, that fence does look like a hasty installation job; perhaps recently erected, which might explain the interested party. ‘Excuse me, um, is there something happening on the beach?’ the captain queried, her voice addled with curiosity.

‘Ah, hello there. Well, we kind of have a dire situation on our hands,’ the man revealed, prompting Renka’s eyes to widen behind the glare-reflecting lenses of her glasses.

‘Eh, what kind of situation?’

‘It looks like an armed group has secured the beach and they don’t look like the SDF or police, which is a massive problem for us, because this beach is home to a large number of turtle hatchlings and eggs.

‘Normally, the mothers wouldn’t lay eggs until the summer, but because we’ve had unnaturally warm weather this year, it’s evidently been warm enough for the mothers to believe that it’s a good time to lay eggs. Laying them in spring is bizarre enough, but having them hatch this early in the year is unheard of.

‘I said we have a dire situation; the main problem is that the baby turtles need a clear path to the water if they want even a small chance at making it to adulthood. Generally speaking, only one per thousand hatchlings actually makes it to adulthood, so ideally we need every one of them getting to the ocean safely.

‘Another problem that we have is with the eggs themselves; there are lots of them buried in the sand and it looks like the guys on the beach are going about their business with zero concern for where they’re walking. The eggs are normally buried quite firmly in the sand, but with the equipment that they’re lugging, it makes me really nervous.

‘My heart kind of sinks, knowing that the beach has been taken over and that there’s the possibility of a mother turtle attempting to return here to lay eggs and getting killed for her troubles. In case you hadn’t already guessed; a lot of sea turtle species are endangered.’

‘Are you okay over here?’ a calm voice quizzed.

‘Ah! When did you get here?’ Renka blurted, after flinching and turning her head, to face the black and pink-haired woman.

‘I heard everything after “until the summer”.’

That’s ages! Though I guess it’s hard to keep all of your senses sharp when being given such a captivating/ depressing lecture. ‘You two, would you care to join us over here and listen to what the old man has to say?’ Renka loudly invited, emphatically gesturing with an arm for them to join her.

As the pair of women arrived at the car where the old man had perched, Tsubaki enquired, ‘So, what did we miss?’

‘I think we’re having a slight change of plans today.’ Turning back to the old man, the captain requested, ‘Grandpa, could you please tell these two what you just told us?’

After a three–minute–long lecture, the doctor hesitantly asked, ‘So, I guess we’ll be heading over there, to get rid of the people on the beach and secure it for the sea turtles?’

‘Good to know you’re on board, Sensei,’ Renka remarked. ‘How about you, Kasumi, Hikari?’

‘A chance to flatline some guys, clear a path for the hatchlings and help with their mothers’ breeding patterns? Of course, I’m in,’ Hikari confirmed, with a mischievous grin while Kasumi nodded.

‘You young ladies are going to take on that group by yourselves?’ The old man asked, with a puzzled tone and furrowed brows.

‘Well, three of us have the skills; we have the means and you’ve given us the motive, so I don’t see why we wouldn’t. If this area were a police or military priority then they’d probably already be here and/ or the coastguard or Maritime SDF would probably have made contact as well,’ Renka replied, her voice sounding distracted.

‘Ah, well, good luck out there and thank you,’ the old man concluded, his voice calm, though his face displayed a warm and friendly smile.

‘This’ll give us a great chance to test out our new equipment and train the abilities as well,’ Renka suggested, offering a friendly smile as the quartet walked back to the Hilux.

‘Tsubaki-Sensei advised me not to reuse the tranquiliser delivery ends for the arrows and I only have a few new ones left, so I guess I’ll be joining you with one of those rifles,’ Kasumi coolly informed, prompting an unsettled frown from the captain.

‘You sure, dear Kasumi? For all the time that I spend training with firearms, and despite my tendency to be merciless with them when threatened, I much prefer ops where their use is kept to a minimum; I hope you know that?’

A sympathetic nod came back in reply, helping calm Renka’s expression.

After parking the truck as close alongside the fence as she could manage, Hikari collected a set of small metal flowers from the glovebox, before leaving the truck. ‘House rules; no walking or standing on the roof with outdoor shoes,’ Hikari warned, sternly glaring at the other three women as their doors clanked shut.

After clambering to the truck’s roof, ‘So, what do we have here?’ Renka quietly asked herself as she analysed through binoculars.

‘I count twelve men, three pickup trucks and one small quadcopter as well,’ Kasumi reported.

‘They’ve also got a Rigid Inflatable Boat down there as well,’ Renka added. ‘We don’t know exactly what’s going on down there, so I guess Hikari’ll be scouting ahead for us. Try to not kill anybody, please. You’ll have opportunity to satisfy your bloodlust later,’ she firmly asserted.

‘If you could safely bring down the quadcopter, I’d really appreciate it.’

‘Anything for you, my dear.’ Hikari lightly answered, attempting to peer directly into the doctor’s eyes.

As her ponytail slightly swayed in the coastal winds, the captain murmured, ‘I guess there’s not much for us to do now, besides watch, wait and hope that the beach doesn’t turn into a huge bloodbath before she gets back.’

What a nice frolic along the light brown sands of the beach. Well, aside from the big armed group currently occupying it, with some kind of improvised import operation?

No armour; an interesting choice, though they are all packing holstered handguns and two of them have either 370 or 420mm barrel 416 rifles. Thankfully, I haven’t spotted any hatchlings yet, though I guess it’s only a matter of time.

It’s still funny to me; lingering metres away from supposedly alert gunmen and them being completely unaware of my presence, although my movement does still make a bit of noise.

I guess first up is trying to figure out what they’re here for. It doesn’t help that half of them are speaking foreign languages, though I guess that ties in with the fact that CSS are an MNC. That said, taking a note of which ones do speak the local language might help in narrowing down who’ll likely be the provider of useful intel.

Eh? One of them is fishing something out of the water. A package? Wait, no; an aquatic drone hauling a package? I could’ve sworn those things couldn’t travel very far and needed a beacon resting on the water’s surface in order to work... There’s no way to confirm the contents of the packages, though the little compass emblem on the breast area of their jumpers, combined with their clothing, matches up with the guys that I took out last Friday.

I guess the next thing to sort out is the quadcopter. There’s no way to ground it without alerting everybody, but the bigger problem is that none of these guys are holding a transmitter. It’s holding position, but there’s no way to tell if it’s autonomous without searching the vehicles. Sorry, Tsubaki; you’ll have to wait a little while to get your hands on it.

So, I know the when, where and who and have a general idea on the what. It would be interesting to find out how they managed to secure the beach, but I guess we can figure that out once we’ve eliminated the threat.

‘Fortunately, I found no struggling hatchlings, so I’ve returned empty-handed,’ Hikari declared, as she reunited with the other three women. ‘The beach is being held up by guys set up similarly to the ones I smoked on Friday. They’re importing something, using submersible drones and I’ve no clue how they managed to secure the beach, but if I had to guess; they’ve been monitoring the seas for military and law enforcement gaps and claimed the territory as their own overnight.’

‘Let’s hope we don’t find any flattened mothers over there then,’ Tsubaki remarked, with a nervous frown. ‘Grandpa, what do we do if we find any hatchlings or stray adult turtles?’

‘If you could, pick them and bring them back to me; I’ll add them to the incubator that I have set up in the back of this car. Please take care when handling them.’

‘So, I guess that’ll be my main role then; Hikari might have a delicate touch, but you two definitely don’t give off careful handling vibes.’

‘You’re probably right, though it does take a steady hand to operate a precision rifle and if last week is anything to go by, Kasumi can certainly handle me quite well, soo…’ Renka playfully protested.

‘Right, right, save the flirting for later, please,’ Tsubaki insisted, with a brief sigh. ‘Do you have everything?’

‘Yep; I’ve already run Kasumi through the basics of the rifle, but seeing as she’ll be using the last of her non-lethal arrows, I’m carrying it for now.’

‘Well then, lead the way,’ Tsubaki encouraged, fixing her attention on the black and purple-haired member of the group.

Ugh; the first time she urges me to take the lead on something and she does it so coldly. Anywho, Operation Sea-Turtle Aid is a go. Let’s hope the transparency works as I want it to, Hikari considered while the four women popped out of view, apparently leaving the old man standing alone, spectating from the roof of his car.

I see you’ve been practising, Hikari? Or are we about to have a mishap with this little experiment of yours? ‘Be sure to stay behind us, Sensei; it’s not ideal, but until we’ve secured the beach, I want you to mostly stay close but away from danger. Not close to Hikari, obviously, because that’ll get you killed. Seeing as you’ll be hauling back any stray hatchlings or turtles, you’ll probably have to use that field of yours and deal with temporarily being visible on the way back to us. You won’t have to use it for long though, so don’t look at me so funny.’

The captain’s voice quietened, ‘We’ll wait for you to strike first, Hikari, and then clean up the rest of them.’ Thankfully, that means at least a few of them will survive and we can hopefully squeeze some information from them.

With minimal visible traces of their presence, the four women carefully proceeded along the light brown sands, Hikari’s eyes regularly alternating between studying the floor immediately in front of her and into the distance. Different day, same old shit really, though I’ll admit the addition of special abilities does make operations a bit more interesting. About fifteen metres left to cover, time to start the party, I guess… ‘I’m breaking away, to get close to my first target,’ Hikari quietly informed, before scampering across the sand, near to a trio of men.

Yep; the same guys that were speaking the foreign language earlier. They’re isolated as well, heh.

Her plan set, Hikari retrieved a single star from her skirt and her main blade from its resting place against her left thigh.

She briskly charged at her first targets, sending a shuriken menacingly hurtling towards the head of one of the rifle carriers.

Shortly after the small cracking sound of the skull reached her ears, a forceful low kick cut down a second target and before the man’s head hit the ground, she lunged at a third target, arm outstretched, with her blade drawing a neat arc through the air, swiftly slicing the front of both of the man’s lower legs, forcing them to shudder uncontrollably.

Of course, he’s trying to ready his rifle, Hikari assessed, as she quickly turned back to find the man she had knocked over attempting to grip his weapon and sit up.

The man sat up with his weapon, as he watched with wide eyes as one of his colleagues lay face down, blood flowing from his head and another groaning, grimacing and slowly working his way to the ground, as his trousers dampened with crimson, around the slashes.


A strong kick rapidly ejected the rifle from the man’s hands before the same shoe jolted his head back, prompted a sturdy thumping sound and triggered a nosebleed as he lay resting on the floor, before a swift draw across the throat prompted choking and spluttering for a short while, before he fell silent and motionless. And now to rinse and repeat the process for the clown crying about his legs bleeding.

Time to see how good this HK45 is in action then. There are two pairs fairly close together, so I guess they’re a good place to start. ‘The left-hand targets are mine,’ Renka whispered.

With her handgun firmly gripped between both hands, the captain took aim and a steady stream of subdued bangs marked the start of her offensive campaign.

Almost instantly, the men started to hurriedly look around for an assailant, while also studying the men whose arms had been pierced by bullets seemingly fired from an unknown source. Two down and that panicking won’t help you either, buddy.

Renka took out another pair of legs while one of the men stood and flicked the safety switch of his pistol, view panning in every direction. ‘The smart play was to do like your friend and take cover behind one of the trucks.’

While the captain and her HK45T persisted, her black and pink-haired counterpart assessed. I guess that means the central four are mine. One of them is in the water, so by the time we’ve struck all of the others, they should still be struggling to come ashore, so we’ll skip him for now. Here goes my last of these arrows…

Kasumi reeled off a trio of arrows in quick succession, while a group of the men surveyed the area, aiming their HiPer handguns in multiple directions, with index fingers resting against the triggers, amid the irritated and confused shouting.

Two of the men in the group that she engaged loitered for a while before limply falling into the sand, face-first. ‘I guess we’re both flanking then.’

‘Sounds good to me,’ Renka happily agreed. I guess Sensei found some little friends in need of rescue, because I’m pretty sure I only hear two people’s movements now.

Damnit, Sensei. You might be invisible, but that green glow very much isn’t. Couldn’t you have waited until they’re all taken care of, to use the fields? Then again, I guess you are at risk of getting shot now, Renka discussed, as she tentatively rounded the pickup truck, with her handgun drawn.

Facing the open seas, Well, at least he’s not moving about too much; no need to worry about wasting my last arrow, Kasumi assessed, as she once more raised her longbow.

With little hesitation, an arrow ripped through the twenty or so metres which separated her from her target. Almost an instant after firing, her head rapidly turned. A loud clank?

Yeah; I didn’t feel like wasting ammo and the truck body was right there; an environmental takedown was the economical choice… Renka commented, while brushing her right kneepad and watching the pained grimace worn by the fourth man in her target group as he hissed and struggled to pull his head away from the truck’s quarter panel.

The HiPer handgun flew from his hand, to softly crash into the sand underneath the truck; ejected by a kick from the boot of a woman who quickly proceeded to use the same boot to pin the man to the ground.

‘I still have four rounds left, unless you want one drilled a limb or two, could you please stop with the struggling,’ Renka requested with audible irritation, as her presence returned to view. ‘Uh, yeah, Sensei, now we’ll need those fields,’ the captain quietly and nervously informed, pressing one of the buttons on her neck collar.

‘That’s cute; one of them’s decided to get creative and hide underneath one of the trucks,’ the black and purple-haired woman remarked, as she watched one of the men attempt to slink away. I guess there’s no other choice but to use a-

A sonic pop tore through the relative quiet of the beach, prompting Hikari to twirl on the spot and her brows to furrow.

Uwah; the pink one’s already onto using the rifles? Is the bipod really necessary, just to deal with one target trudging through water though? I guess the dropped 416 is fair game to deal with the last cockroach then. It’s a good thing that using my ability on myself and things directly connected to me is much easier than using it on anything else, because that was pretty tiring, Hikari considered, as she transitioned from spectating the black and pink-haired woman, to collecting an assault rifle from one of the men who lay still as a rock on the sand.

After eyeing and fiddling with the weapon and its 3rd gen polymer magazine for a short period, she gently set herself down on the sand, laying on her right shoulder, with a steely expression and the rifle held with its sides parallel to the beach floor.

Thank god for Aki; it’s nice to have the shoulder back to normal. Unfortunately for you, Mr enemy-of-nature, this is the end. I’ll admit though; hiding under the truck with your weapon primed like that is probably what I’d do in a similar situation.

A loud blast shattered the relative peace of the beach and a sharp trail of blood sprayed from underneath the truck.

Now to figure out where they’re hiding the transceiver equipment for that quadcopter…

‘We might need Sensei’s help, because a 7.62 usually does a lot of damage, even if he was in the water,’ Renka informed, as she wrestled to zip-tie a man whose chest she knelt on. ‘I’ll help you haul him back to land in a moment, once I’ve secured these idiots,’ Renka advised, her voice conflicted between sounding friendly and irritated.

‘Ugh, why are people always so much heavier when they can’t move?’ Renka complained to Kasumi as the pair hauled a completely soaked member of the armed group toward one of the truck beds.

‘Two days in a row that you get to do medical field work, Sensei. Yes, it was us that injured the guy, but let’s not worry about that,’ Renka jested, to the freshly-returned doctor.

‘Great, so now I’ll have to make another trip, to get the medical kit. Why didn’t you tell me this while I was off the beach?’ Tsubaki questioned, with a frustrated tone.

‘Um, we were kinda busy and it slipped my mind, I guess,’ Renka replied, with a nervous smile and shrug of her shoulders.

While the doctor retrieved her kit and then provided medical attention to the still sopping wet enemy, Renka and Kasumi loaded a number of the men with bound wrists and ankles onto the load beds of two of the trucks, before spending a lengthy period studying the contents of every phone which they got their hands on.

While three of the women worked away inshore, Hikari pondered as the outboard motor of the RIB spluttered into life. Here’s hoping the coastguard or MSDF aren’t patrolling nearby when I head out there, though I can visibly hide, I’m certain they have other monitoring systems. After a brief glance at the open waters and skies above, The waters don’t look too bad and the skies still seem fairly calm and settled too, so this should be a fairly simple dumping process. It’s probably not the best thing for the environment that I’ll be dumping them while they still have their underwear on, but I’m not in the mood to handle that, she internally discussed, as the boat eased itself off the shore and onto the less gentle waves, which endlessly rolled and crashed ahead of her. Perfect time to set off on a southerly bearing; the shimmer on the greyish-blue surface of the sea from brief flashes of direct sunlight is pretty nice. Come to think of it, I’ve never been out on the seas like this before, apart from when I was a small child…

Little more than five minutes later, as the black and purple-haired woman strolled back up the sandy shore, ‘You’ve cleaned up your mess, I presume?’ the captain harshly questioned.

‘Terminated enemies dumped at sea, spent casing recovered and clothing to be disposed of has been gathered as well. I’ve also called in some help, to recover the weapons,’ Hikari replied, with an innocent smile. Let’s see you find something to complain about now.

‘Very well. We’ve still got the small matter of getting these trucks off the beach. The old man says that he’s confident he could safely guide a three-car train of pickups off the beach, without disrupting any hidden ecology, so get yourself a pair of gloves, a cloth or something and let’s get them out of here,’ Renka calmly instructed.

No complaints or jabs at me? Are you feeling alright? ‘If I had to guess, I’d say neither driving too slowly, nor too fast is the way to go; too slow and the truck has more time to exert its weight on any particular contact patch. Drive too fast and the torque delivered to the wheels will likely kick up sand and disrupt any nests. I hope you’ve been keeping fit, Grandpa,’ Hikari explained and jested, as she held open the driver’s door of one of the trucks in a cloth-covered hand.

‘For a man who must be in his eighties, I’m impressed by how freely he can jog backwards,’ Hikari quietly jested, as she kept her eyes trained on the elderly leader, who continued to wave her forward. ‘When you and I are old and grey, I hope we’ll still be moving like that too, Hikari suggested, briefly eyeing the doctor, who moved in parallel to the man leading the procession.

Us growing old together? I can barely picture us growing into next month together, let alone fifty years or so into the future, so I’m going to pretend that my radio isn’t on for whatever reason. It’s a good thing the other two aren-

‘Come on, Sensei; she’s just hinted at wanting to grow old with you by her side, are you really going to leave her hanging?’ a loud voice interjected, prompting a brief irritated furrowing of the doctor’s brows.

Ah, there it is; that cute and helpless expression you normally show when you’re cornered. You’re fighting a losing battle, but I’m sure you’ll come to realise it on your own soon enough...

After a three or four minute period, the train of pickup trucks emerged from the sands, onto paved roads, after doing so, the three women parked them nose-to-tail and the purple-eyed leader explained, as the door of her truck softly clunked onto its latch, ‘My associates will be taking care of these; I’m sure they’ll be interesting in learning about the technology they were using out at sea and also what these guys have been up to, if they don’t already know. I think that’s all of the beach clearing taken care of, so, um, now what?

The four women turned, to focus their attention on the old man.

‘The local community would probably be highly thankful if you removed the obscene fencing that has blocked off our lovely beaches from the rest of the town.

‘Once you’ve taken them all down, maybe you could join me at the waterfront, for something which I believe you’ll enjoy,’ he suggested, with a friendly smile.

‘So much for this being the beach chapter,’ Renka exasperatedly muttered, under her breath.

Following another twenty or so minute period where the quartet efficiently worked, to tear town and cast aside tall temporary metal gates and wood panelling, they carefully descended towards the waterfront and calmly rolling and breaking waves, where the old man knelt down with a few buckets resting on the sand next to him.

‘Ah. You young ladies have finished? I presume you would like to see at least some of the turtle hatchlings making their way into the oceans. These buckets have hatchlings that are healthy and developed enough to make the journey across the sand.’

All four of the women’s eyes lit up with anticipation and one of them almost squealed while the two buns in her bobbed up and down, as she verged on jumping with excitement.

‘If you could slip your hand underneath them when taking them from the buckets, they will probably prefer that to being pinched between an index finger and thumb.

‘Once you have them in hand, gently set them onto the sand. They’ll know which way to go, so you won’t need to stand over them or anything.’

Tsubaki bolted almost instantly, with a large smile on her face, following the man’s lips falling silent.

Uwah, Tsubaki; where did this late blast of energy come from!?

Eep! I saw them earlier, but they’re still too cute! Although a lot of this journey has been a test of my patience and nerves, this is genuinely an enjoyable moment for me. I mean look at their tiny flippers, the adorable mini carapace and the innocent head poking out from the front!

‘It’s pretty adorable, right? Does kind of make me wonder how the mother copes with losing so many before or in their adulthood, though I guess the kind of strength required to carry on in itself is inspirational, either that or turtles don’t worry about that kind of thing and just accept it as normal.’

Way to dampen the mood. Where did that even come from? ‘Um, are you okay?’, the doctor asked tentatively, as she studied the pensive look on Hikari’s face.

‘Yeah! Sorry! I’m fine, thanks; wouldn’t want to ruin the heart-warming scene of a bale of turtle hatchlings that we rescued making their way to the oceans,’ Hikari urgently responded, summoning a startled smile. Ah; that was a close one. I’ll tell you about it someday; just not here and now, with others around.

‘I’d say that’s mission accomplished, wouldn’t you?’ Renka softly asked, as her eyes remained fixed on the beach floor covered with tiny creatures gradually making their way into the waves which continued to break and gently roll up the shore, to the knees of herself and the black and pink-haired woman that knelt down next to her.

‘The hatchlings are on their way and we’ve been able to return the beach to control of the locals without the authorities turning up, so I’d say so.’

‘Oo, wait! Before you set down your last group of hatchlings, let me get a photo; this is definitely one for the memories scrapbook,’ Renka insisted, with a serious expression, despite the excitement in her voice.

After taking turns to snap photographs with the baby turtles, Renka loudly requested, ‘Oi! Team Awkward, would you care to join us for a group photo?’

‘For the record, that label is totally your fault, not mine.’

Returning Hikari’s condemning glare, Tsubaki internally replied. It’s nice that they wanted to involve me in their group photo, but did they really have to make me the butt of yet another joke in the process?

After the aged gentleman captured photos of the quartet together with some of the hatchlings, following a period of careful arranging and multiple failed test runs, the quartet also managed to take photographs with their elderly conservationist counterpart in addition, before setting down the last of the hatchlings and sitting down, to spectate on their slow voyage toward the sea.

‘Ah, I see they’re returning now.’ The old man commented, following the sound of the metal shutter rolling up behind them. ‘The beach will probably remain quiet for the rest of the day, but some of the locals are evidently returning to check on their businesses. I heard they’d like to offer you their goods or services for what’s left of today as thanks for liberating the beach. You’re free to enjoy the seaside for the few hours or so left, but I humbly request that you take care and leave before sunset.’

‘Yeah, Grandpa; we know; the mother turtles typically turn up at night time and won’t be best pleased if pesky humans are interfering with their visit. We were paying attention,’ Renka playfully retorted, with a friendly smile.

The sight of the sun, shimmering off the seemingly endless ripples of the ocean that stretch out ahead; it’s something that I haven’t seen in about twenty or so years, right before that car journey which ended in disaster...

‘Hey, while the purple one is busy doing whatever that is, do you mind if I tell you a story, while we sit here and watch the waves?’

Sitting beside her on the sandy shore, ‘Sure; I’m always happy to listen to whatever you have to say,’ the woman with an orange trail of hair gently waving near her glasses’ left lens calmly replied, with a comforting smile.

‘Set in the latter-2000s, the story follows a little girl who lived in the west of this island. Her parents spent most of their time at work throughout the year and the child often yearned for their presence. It wasn’t like the parents were a complete lost cause; the young lady received pretty much everything that she wanted from her parents and when they were at home, they also took the time to either sing to her or play a melody from a musical instrument when she went to bed.

‘Along with playing the instruments, the girl’s parents also taught her to play some of them; a process which she took great delight in, despite the difficulty at times.

‘There came one year, where she noticeably felt the lack of her parents’ presence; she often wished for them to spend more time at home and spent almost all of her time learning the flute and trumpet from a personal tutor.

‘The girl most strongly missed her parents’ presence when they left for an international job at the time of her birthday in that year. Although the parents regularly phoned the little girl, to check how she was coping and to comfort her, she still felt quite lonely, not having any particularly close friends to speak of, or any siblings.

‘As a token of apology and maybe compensation as well, the girl’s parents took her on a long journey during the summer break, exploring mountains, forests, waterfalls, theme parks and beaches.

‘There was one day, with a visit to the beach, where the girl’s parents took her jet-skiing, parasailing, building a palace in the sand and even burying the father at one point.

‘The girl’s mother had a habit of always hand-writing a note, to leave on a table, or door for her daughter, whenever she was set to arrive home late from work, or had to leave early for a long-distance journey. The text would always be neatly scribed onto small sticky-note squares.

‘Although she missed her parents throughout the year, the trip that she had been taken on firmly reminded her that her parents still loved her, definitely more than anybody else in the world did.

‘During the drive back from a seaside visit, the car collided with a lorry, heavily compressing the front.

‘The little girl that sat in the back of the car at the time woke up the next day lying on a hospital bed, in severe pain and without any sign of her parents to be found anywhere.

‘Once a week or so had passed and her pain had eased enough to allow her to sit up in the hospital bed, the doctors informed her that her parents were pronounced dead at the scene of the traffic accident.

‘Naturally, she was distraught following the information and after spending a month in the hospital, she returned to the wider world, which to her felt a lot colder and not because of the incoming autumn.

‘The lonely feeling that she previously held had further intensified, owed to the fact that she regularly flitted about, between relatives, until a nearest aunt decided that she was old enough to live on her own. Up until that point, she regularly switched schools and never had any one long–lasting constant in her life, aside from summers spent in the mountains with her grandparents.

‘By the time she had reached high school, she had taken the loneliness and fashioned it into strength, branded as independence and determination. The teenager resolved to save up enough money to open a music shop once she had finished school, serving her hometown and using publicity gained from performances, to help boost the image of the store.

‘I’m certain you can already guess how the remainder of the story goes and that it’s still a work in progress, but there is one thing I left out;

‘When the girl’s mother left the little notes for daughter, they were always written on sticky notes. That day, when the girl’s mother made the little palace in the sand with her daughter, she composed a short poem and used the adhesive strip to form a flag.

‘It’s a bit worse for wear, but it’s still in an okay condition,’ Kasumi concluded, as she fiddled about in her jacket momentarily, before handing the retrieved artefact to Renka.

And now I have to battle intensely to prevent myself from crying.

“Always in my heart,

It matters not, where or when;

Dearest Kasumi.”

Here I was, thinking that the hair highlights were a simple style choice, but reading the beautifully-written haiku on this rose-coloured sticky note, I feel kind of bad for having always thought of them in such superficial terms.

Instantly, Renka leaned across and wrapped her arms around Kasumi.

Uwah; that’s pretty tight.

Her voice weak and constricted, Renka offered, ‘I don’t really know what to say; there’s nothing I can do to fix the past, but I want to do everything that I can, so that you don’t feel lonely, under-appreciated or anything going forward. I want to be that constant.

‘No; that came out a bit wrong.

‘I want to be your constant.’

‘Thank you.’

Ugh, right in the midst of a sentimental moment and that idiot is over there doing cliched beach shit; why did I open my eyes? I should have just kept them shut and wallowed in the security of Kasumi’s embrace and the tenderness of this moment of bonding.

‘Uhhh, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be leaving soon, Hon; it’s time to wake up.


‘Helllooooo!’ Hikari exclaimed, prodding the doctor’s cheeks.

‘Nothing, huh? Time to be a bit more direct then, I guess.’ She firmly gripped a point of one of the doctor’s ears between an index finger and thumb.

‘Ah, there she is,’ Hikari quietly commented, with a bright smile.

‘What is it with you and leaning over me? And why am I so deeply stuck here!?? Also, why are my sand boobs so small??’

‘Hmm.’ Hikari put a hand to her chin and explained, with a mischievous smile, ‘I like the sight of you underneath me, I guess. I mean, you look wonderful all the time, but there’s something more satisfying about you being beneath me.

‘You’re stuck there as part of my revenge for your recent harsh treatment of me; I deemed this to be an appropriate punishment. Don’t worry, there’s more, but we’ll get to that in a minute...

‘Your sand boobs are that small as part of the punishment; don’t think I haven’t noticed how conscious you were yesterday or when getting ready this morning. Much like Goldie-locks when she found the third bowl of porridge, I think they’re just right, by the way; the real ones, I mean.’

‘Right... Would you care to free me from this sand trap then?’ The doctor asked, with an irritated glare shot directly at Hikari.

After laying chest down, Hikari quietly spoke, ‘I could, but it looks like the other two are busy having an intimate moment and I don’t really plan on letting you go until it’s time to leave; so, really it’s up to them when you think about it…

‘Don’t worry; I’ll be here to keep you company as we watch the sun depart over the horizon.

AHHHHH!!?! Why the ears?!? Of all of the low-down dirty tactics that you could use at a time like this. Now my mind is in a weird place as well as my body, the doctor mused, while stifling a yelp or two.

‘Fear not; you’re buried under the sand, so it’s not like I can do anything particularly lewd. Though I will admit, it would have been a lot more fun, sharing this sunset together without you trying so hard to resist me,’ Hikari softly added.

Ugh; please kill me now. The soft caress of your breath on my ear is helplessly causing my mind to dance to your tune, as if I’ve been charmed like a snake in one of those street acts. Why do I get so easily overtaken with lust in moments like these? I really need to spend some time getting my thoughts in order because at this rate, I’ll accidentally bundle myself straight into your arms without properly thinking it through, or turn you down with similarly insufficient consideration.

Now really isn’t the time to be having this dissection though.

‘I can practically see your circuits overheating, heh. Now really isn’t the time to be calculating your feelings for me, Tsubaki. Just enjoy the beautiful sunset and the soothing sensation of my voice wafting over your ear,’ Hikari gently suggested, before playfully adding, ‘while of course, keeping in mind that this situation could be oh-so different and that you are still hopelessly stuck, heh.’

She’s given up I guess; now she’s resigned to making those cute whimpers that she normally does when she’s defeated.

‘If it makes you feel any better, I’m not really doing this to pressure you. Although I do really want to be yours and for you to be mine, if it’s not our mutual wish, then it’s worthless. Just don’t overestimate the limits of my good grace and patience...’

Ugh; am I now turning into a masochist or something? Despite the threat at the end, the tingling covering my skin and the already unbearably hot sensation flowing through my body, I’m pretty sure it intensified as she asserted herself there, as if her desire and how she voiced it sparked another source of energy within me despite my tiredness. For the sake of convenience, just this once, I’ll accept that it’s your charming ability that’s influencing my thought process right now.


Interested in sea turtles and a brief bit of coastal ecology? The web references used to guide the information concerning these topics can be found in the full format version of this story :)

Steward McOy