S-CRY-ed Fan Fiction ❯ Evolution of the Lost Ground ❯ Preparing ( Chapter 13 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Disclaimer: I do not own S-cry-ed or its affiliated characters. I am only borrowing them for a time to insert into my strange little saga of adventure here. There are original characters that are indeed mine, but I hope you won't hold that against me or the story. Thank you.
A/N: Hullo folks! LONGEST UPDATE EVA!!! (God, I hope people are actually reading it).
This one's a funny chapter- nothing and everything happens, with a pretty healthy advancement of the plot (and a healthy dishing of fluff, just `cause). Then there's still several chapters to go. I want to make sure I finish this because damnit I'm so close (relatively speaking)! I have ideas for new fics (diff series') that I'm itching to delve into and I want to continue `Casualties of War' despite its low readership (where's the Cougar/Mimori luv?). It's a bit more artistic compared to my other stuff and I think I intimidated myself out of updating for a while (cough*ayear*cough). But maybe I can multi-task it into popularity.
Anyway, I ramble. You came to find out what's going on with our intrepid heroes!! So let's get this show on the road…
Chapter 13- Preparing
Despite the brightness of the waxing moon, the entire front lawn of Asuka Tachibana's house is bathed in a mystic green light as Elian works furiously in the shroud of his glowing Alter.
As the young man's fingers dance across countless translucent keys surrounding him, mysterious, disembodied voices from the intercepted transmission project into the chilled night air. The end of the message echoes around the entire party:
“…Change of plans- forget the girl and leave the city. Even if she's still alive, which I highly doubt, she's of little threat to us now. We're coming inland and I want you to rendezvous with us- the coordinates will follow. 2 hours, Zondo, and go underground in the meantime. Once you're aboard you will help the technicians rezone a new target area- I want to launch the weapon one more time.”
“Yes, General. What about the boy? Do I dispose of him?”
“Hmm… An Alter user. Let me look at his file again. …………… Our intelligence lists him as a former member of HOLY. They also list him as a transmogrifier- a lumino-kinetic type, class III - is that correct, Zondo?”
“Yes sir, from what little I've seen of it. Hmph, I wasn't that impressed though.”
“Well, I'm intrigued nevertheless. Bring him if you can; his abilities may be of use to us. He goes to the lab, understood?”
“Perfectly! General Makafushi, I'm at your disposal.”
“Good. We'll dock at the rendezvous and await your arrival. If you're late, we'll launch without you. Lieutenant, end transmission.”
The resonating voices suddenly disappear, and the night fills with a stark silence. The glow of Elian's Alter fades from sight leaving behind only the moon's silver sheen on the wet grass. The rest of the party, scattered in the driveway, absorbs every echoing word just uttered. No one speaks…
…until Cougar raises his head, looks around at his friends and finally seems to notice the dropping temperature and persistent drizzle.
“Let's all head inside and figure this out.”
Moments later, everyone is filing into Tachibana's darkened living room. The home owner's absence is eerily palpable but no one dares mention it.
Sensing another impending powwow, Kazuma again takes his usual spot on the couch, this time with Kanami next to him. Elian marches heavily to one of the diagonal side chairs and, upon sitting, props his hands rigidly on his knees and closes his eyes. Urizane takes the matching chair opposite, while Cougar opts to lean against the fireplace.
As people find seats, Cammy busies herself with the task of relighting the many candles that Asuka had placed around the room earlier in the day. She moves methodically, seeming to run on instinct rather than any coherent plan of action. However, when she bends down to light the hearth the poor girl finally falters, piling and re-piling the logs, then fumbling with the matches with shaky fingers- no doubt her first attempt at what must be one of Asuka's usual tasks. Sensing the ragged edges of an imminent break, Cougar leans down from his nearby perch and gently takes the box from her. She looks as though she just might start to cry again. But instead she wordlessly stands and takes a seat next to Kanami on the couch as Cougar proceeds to light a fire.
Ryuho is the last to enter, carefully toting Mimori who in her embarrassment conveniently hides her face behind a curtain of inky damp hair. The two girls on the sofa quickly scrunch together to make room; though she refuses to look, Mimori can feel everyone's eyes on them as Ryuho slowly and delicately lowers her onto the cushions. While grateful for his gentleness (she hurts in more places than she ever thought she could), she finds the attention they are receiving from the others rather unnerving. Still, despite her embarrassment she offers a quiet `thank you' that earns only a nod from the stoic man, who rounds the couch and settles his back against the wall directly behind her, much like a watch dog. From there he watches with passive interest as Mimori and Cammy automatically clasp hands.
After everyone seems settled, Urizane gets the ball rolling, “So, uh… where do we start?”
Kazuma immediately spouts, “We start with the ship. If they're coming to shore then we can get to `em. How `bout I just blast the entire thing?!”
From the edge of the room Cougar counters, “Is that wise? It seems safe to say that Tachibana is at least alive for now,” he makes a point not to look at Cammy, “but we'll have to go in carefully if we want to keep him that way.”
From the opposite wall Ryuho adds, “While recovering Tachibana is a priority, the most important thing is to neutralize this weapon before they can launch another attack. Still, timing will be everything. It would be easier to destroy the weapon and perhaps the entire ship if we can free Tachibana before his captor can hand him over to this Commander.”
Heads nod together and Mimori offers her thoughts, “Since we don't know the mercenary's current whereabouts, the best way to do that would be to get to the rendezvous early and lie in wait. Then we could free Asuka and destroy the weapon practically simultaneously. But that requires knowledge of their precise time table and their exact rendezvous point. Do we have that information?”
Everyone's attention shifts to Elian, who for the entire conversation has had his eyes firmly shut. They seem to dart dizzily beneath his closed lids and his small but nimble fingers twitch minutely against his knees, as if he were playing a piece of music in his head. Without opening his eyes he quietly speaks,
“9 minutes, 37 seconds since I intercepted the transmission. That leaves a little over 1 hour and 50 minutes before the scheduled rendezvous and launch of the weapon. I'm working on deciphering the coordinates that came with the message, but they're heavily encrypted- it's code I haven't seen before. I'll need more time to get them.” The boy frowns in frustration and his fingers begin to twitch even faster.
Urizane nods in encouragement, “Keep at it Elian. You've got plenty of time to get them and we've got plenty of time to get ready and plan out strategy.”
Kazuma rolls his eyes, “How much strategy do we need, dude? Why can't we just blow the bastards up? Whole thing, kablooey! What's wrong with that?”
Ryuho smirks from his perch against the wall, “Typical. Haven't you given any thought as to the nature of this weapon? If what Elian has shown us is true, then it can create both storms and earthquakes the likes of which we've never seen before. What else can it do, and are there any more like it out there? We must neutralize any future threat to the Lost Ground if we are to consider this mission a success.”
The rough teen scowls in response, “So, what, you wanna bring this thing home and play with it?! We can worry about that later! We'll grab this commander guy and interrogate him! Bring your rubber hoses or whatever.”
Cammy finally joins in, “That's actually a pretty good idea, Kazuma. We should find out what this commander knows and who's behind all this! What was his name?”
Mimori and Cougar say the name simultaneously, both with a hint of disgust in their voices. They look at each other in surprise but neither offers anything else.
After an odd silence, Urizane asks, “So who is he?”
Mimori's eventual answer is somewhat hesitant and aloof, “He's a General from the Mainland Army. He was instrumental in many of their projects with the Lost Ground, including HOLD and then HOLY. All behind the scenes. He worked several projects with my father, but they never really got along. He's retired now, or at least he's supposed to be retired. He's supposed to have been in Europe for the past year. But it would seem he's been busy with other endeavors…”
Cammy carefully prods, “He seemed to know a lot about you, Mimori. And now he thinks you're dead. Why would he want that? And what's he going to do with Asuka?”
Mimori sighs audibly before answering, “He's probably been after AIMED because of all the attention we've been bringing to the Lost Ground lately. We've got foreign governments interested in helping us gain our independence, getting us from under the thumb of the Mainland and whatever agendas they may have. Whatever Makafushi is up to, he wants it done in secret. We've been stirring up the kind of attention that could probably ruin his plans.”
Kazuma angles and leans forward for an unobstructed view of the girl, “So you don't think he's after you? I dunno, Mimori. I gotta say- that first message with the video? He seemed pissed as hell to see you on it. And I don't care what it sounded like- he definitely took out a hit on you! And now he's pissed `cause he's not sure your dead!? I mean, yeah, he may have been after AIMED in the beginning, but now? Sounds pretty personal if you ask me.”
She looks down at her lap guiltily, “He's probably worried that I still have all of my media and government contacts from the Mainland and overseas. But you're sort of right. I'd be lying if I said I was one of his favorite people. Actually, he dislikes my father but he's always hated me. He's a crooked man but I've always seen right through him.”
She pauses to collect her thoughts, running her free hand through her gritty bangs, “It kind of makes sense, actually. Before I left the Mainland he was totally opposed to my taking a position at HOLY. I was so vocal in my support for Alter users. He was obsessed with Alter users as well, but I always suspected that he was only interested in finding ways to manipulate their power. But then there were so many others just like him. Still, when Mujo and the refining plot surfaced I half expected to find Makafushi involved…” As recognition dawns on her she turns an inquisitive gaze on Cougar. Behind a raised, slightly swollen eyebrow she asks, “Was he?”
Arms crossed and foot propped against the wall behind him, Cougar coolly eyes the young woman from a sideways glance before offering her an abbreviated answer, “He was.” An odd emotion is silently exchanged between them before Mimori finally looks away, collapsing softly into the couch.
But Cammy is now attentive, “That still doesn't answer my question- what about Asuka? What's he going to do with him? What `lab' was he talking about? Cougar?”
The speedster's jaw is tight with unspoken tension and Ryuho wisely intercepts her pleading words, “Nothing's going to happen to Tachibana. We're going to get him back so there's no point in worrying over it.”
Cammy, who has turned completely around in her seat to listen to the man behind her, calms visibly and formally nods her head. Whether he realizes it or not, Ryuho has just promised to return their captured friend safe and sound. Then she seems to remember something. “You should know- there was a device on Asuka's neck. That man had a remote control for it and he… he used it to torture him. I… I don't know what it was.”
Cougar's voice unexpectedly breaks in again, “It sounds like an APD: Arachno-Paralytic Device. It uses electrical impulses to knock out voluntary muscle control. It also uses electrocution for `compliance'. Nasty little things. You can't just pull them off- there's a special way to disengage them. I know how.”
Cougar's eyes seem to glaze over as he speaks, focusing on some distant memory he'd just as soon forget. No one knows how to respond to such a strange revelation and the room soon falls into silence. Though curious over the speedster's mysterious past, they all seem to realize that they're just scratching the surface of something more insidious than anyone is comfortable with.
“So… uh… have we got a plan?” Urizane looks around nervously, “How much time have we got now?”
“1 hour, 41 minutes, 26 seconds.” Elian doesn't even open his eyes.
Kazuma, blatantly gaping at the kid, mutters under his breath, “Man, he's like a friggin' computer…”
At that Elian's body stops and his eyes pop open. Turning his head to face Kazuma, an odd resentful smirk curls the young boy's lip as he replies, “I am a computer.” Then his eyes shut again and resume their frenzied dance beneath his lids, his fingers once again twitching reflexively.
Purposefully redirecting the conversation back on topic, Ryuho continues Urizane's train of thought, “Alright. According to Elian we have a little over an hour and a half. Since they're coming inland we can assume we'll be heading for the shore- perhaps the docks- which are less than half an hour away-”
“Less if I'm driving,” offers Cougar.
“And even less if I teleport us there!” Urizane counters.
The two immediately take up a heated staring contest as Ryuho continues, “Fine. Let's plan on reaching the rendezvous 15 minutes before the deadline. That gives us well over an hour to prep. Once we have the exact coordinates we'll adjust the timetable accordingly. Can everyone be ready by then? Obviously Mimori will be staying behind.”
Mimori immediately looks over her shoulder to frown and narrow her eyes at Ryuho, “…obviously…”
Kazuma watches the exchange, chuckling a bit. “That's a relief! I thought she was gonna insist on comin'! No offense, Mimori, but you look like you're the one who needs a doc right now. What was it- ten rounds with a Mack truck?”
The young woman turns her slit-eyed stare on him, both her smile and tone thick with sarcasm, “Thanks, Kazuma…”
This only eggs him on, “Woah! Just kiddin'! Don't worry, Tiger, the next one's all yours!” This earns a well deserved eye roll from her, a poor substitute for the slugging she really wants to give him.
Kanami pipes up at last, “Don't worry Mimori. I'll be staying with you. Kazuma's not gonna let me go anyway.”
“Damn right I'm not,” echoes the suddenly serious teen. “You've already fallen out of a barn loft today, Kanami. No way I'm lettin' you get caught up in the middle of this mess! Knife-wielding mercenaries and weapons that make earthquakes? Yeah, I don't think so.”
The little girl merely shrugs in an `I-told-you-so' kind of way. “It's alright, Mimori. I'll help you get cleaned up, okay?” Several eyes fall on the many patches of mud and blood on the older girl's clothes.
Cammy jumps in, “Oh, I'll definitely help, too. Then I'll be ready to go.”
At this Urizane balks. “Uh… hey, Cammy, is that a good idea? You've had a long day, too, ya know. Maybe you should be recovering here with Mimori?”
Cammy instead swivels her head in shock. “No, I should be saving my boyfriend! He tried to save me and I'm gonna return the favor!”
She stands from the couch and slowly advances, making the rotund man unconsciously lean back in his seat. “Because in case you haven't noticed, I'm not handling this whole thing very well! I'm a wreck- and I can't just sit here twiddling my thumbs when there's something I can do about it! And I know you're not planning on giving me that `girl's can't fight' bullshit!-”
Urizane cringes in his chair but Cougar finally comes of the wall, his voice stern as he answers on the other man's behalf, “Wouldn't dream of it. You escaped a calculating, well-trained kidnapper today. An impressive feat by any standards…”
At this her eyes slide over to the man who marches in front of her with the mien of a general. But when Cougar surprises Cammy by very deliberately placing a heavy hand on her shoulder, she winces at the flare of her aching muscles. This reaction seems to confirm his suspicions. “…But you're hurt, Cammy. We don't take wounded soldiers into a fight. You stay behind.”
She tilts her head up at him, fixing her mouth to protest. However, after a minute of staring at Cougar, she suddenly slumps her shoulders in defeat.
“Fine. But you bring him back, okay?” One firm nod of his head is all that she gets from him as she begins to babble, “I mean it… Don't come back without him. Even if it's just to bring back…” She suddenly clamps her lips tight and turns away, heading back to the couch.
Recognizing that the meeting is finally over, Kazuma manages to saunter nonchalantly over to Ryuho's watchful perch. Checking on a hunch, he speaks low so as not to be overheard by the girls, “You were in a fight.”
Ryuho betrays no surprise, just leans there impassively, “What of it?”
“Is that gonna be a problem? You good to go tonight?”
Ryuho casts the teen a derisive glance communicating a world of meaning. “I feel fine. Completely healed. You just try to keep up.”
In turn Kazuma just smirks, “Hmph. Whatever, dude. You'll be eatin' my dust.”
But as the ruffian strolls away, Ryuho realizes the implications of his own words. `I really do feel fine… healed… How can that be?'
Sure enough, a quick check of all the wounds that Mimori had been inspecting just this morning on the cliff reveal that they have completely healed. Testing his joints, Ryuho finds he is still a bit sore, but no longer fatigued, as if he's had a complete night's rest and a whole handful of those pills Mimori had been giving them. He searches his mind for a familiar presence, calling for her, `Sheris? What's going on? What have you done?'
He can sense her excitement, like a little kid with a surprise to share, “Oh, nothing! Just thought I'd take `Eternal Devote' for a test drive…”
`You healed me? How were you able to do that?'
He can feel her emotions practically bubbling now, making him feel a bit light-headed. “Don't know, but it worked- mostly. I'd say you're at about 85% right now. After your fight in the alley I knew you'd never get the both of you back to safety without my help. I've been slowly healing you ever since. Isn't that cool?! I can't believe you're just now noticing! So much for Mr. Observant…”
He's about to launch into a huge protest, but then thinks better of it. His response holds an uncharacteristic amount of humility, `Thank you for that.'
The warmth of her blush rolls gently through him, but she tries to play it down, “Ah, no problem. Just go save the day, alright hero? You can owe me one.”
He nods in affirmation, then catches a head jerk from Cammy requesting his assistance with Mimori, who to his dismay is already trying to stand on her own.
“Mimori, will you just wait a sec?” Cammy is unsure whether to offer a guiding hand or stay out of striking distance.
The older girl winces as she gets to her feet, hand in a death grip on the arm of the couch. Still, she wears a mask of determination and annoyance, “I'm fine, Cammy. Just because Ryuho won't let me walk anywhere doesn't mean I can't. It's not that bad.”
Cammy's worry is evident nevertheless, “Well, it looks that bad. Just take it easy- you're kinda scaring me…” Her eyes jump from the ever darkening bruise on her friend's face to the mutilated and bloodied sweater that's revealing just a bit too much at the moment. The longer she stares the more curious she gets over the circumstances that put Mimori in such a state. `We're gonna have a serious dish session before the night's out if I have anything to say about it.'
Mimori is about to continue her gripes when a jutting pain streaks up her left leg and stabs deep into her hip. Instantly freezing in place, she squeezes her eyes shut from the shock of it. `Oh God, the pain! It's so much worse than before…' She bites down on her lip but feels herself teeter…
Suddenly a strong arm snakes around her waist and her less injured side is gently pulled against a firm wall of muscle. The voice hovering just above her ear has an admonishing tone, “Well I hope you've gotten that out of your system.”
She wants to frown, but the surety of Ryuho's firm grip and calming voice are instant soothers, coaxing her to lean back into him a little. The odd yet comfortable sensation of his body supporting her weight is rather distracting. And his hands- one firm on her waist, the other barely cupping her shoulder… `So strong and yet so delicate at the same time…' Any further protests seem to die on her lips.
“It's alright to accept a little help. Just for tonight.”
Mimori's frustration escapes in a sigh; she refuses to turn and meet his gaze but does relax her shoulders in surrender. Then, in a gentle sweep she finds herself cradled in his arms once again. It doesn't hurt, not with him.
She makes the mistake of looking up into Ryuho's eyes and any lingering resistance suddenly melts away. “Just for tonight,” she whispers back shyly.
Cammy, who pretends she hasn't seen a thing, takes charge of the room. “Hey everyone- take some of the candles with you but don't leave them unattended; nobody's burning my house down! The good news is that even though the electricity's out, the water heater and stove are gas, so those of you who need to clean up-” she looks pointedly at Ryuho and Mimori, “can do so with hot water. Help yourselves to whatever's in the kitchen- it's probably gonna go bad otherwise. Just make yourselves at home. You know- like always.”
Urizane offers, “Well then I'll fix up some grub, if that's alright?”
Cammy nods, giving him an apologetic smile, “Thanks, that'll help. I wanna get Mimori settled before you guys leave. Come on Kanami, Ryuho.” And she leads a small party towards the back bedrooms as the rest of the group disburses.
The house of Doctor Hajime Juro now more closely resembles a makeshift emergency room, with all of Genso's wounded gang cluttering every available flat surface, including the tables and floors. As the Doctor's wife sees to some less injured “patients” down the hall, the doctor puts the finishing touches on yet another set of stitches on the man lying on his dining room table. The gang's hulking leader watches from a nearby chair, filling and dwarfing it with his commanding size. He leisurely smokes a cigarette and sips on a glass of the doctor's best scotch.
Dr. Juro's voice is deceptively calm as he tugs on the tiny needle with his forceps, “You never did answer my question, Genso. How did you find me? I closed the city clinic weeks ago.”
The giant man smiles coolly in response, eyeing the tidy surroundings and flicking ash on the cherry wood floors. “Has it been that long? Well let's see… since you haven't been coming around the neighborhood anymore I had to find you some other way. It was rather easy to track you down- a matter of days, really. Oddly enough, we haven't needed your services until now. But you know how the men are- eventually they always need you.”
Irritation creeps into the physician's voice, “If you knew where I lived, you could have just sent for me.”
At this Genso tilts his head in mock contemplation. “Hmm, I suppose I could have. You wouldn't be foolish enough to refuse one of my invitations, I'm sure. You're certainly smarter than that. But then I would have missed out on the company of your lovely wife.” His gaze slides over to the far wall, as if he can see right through it to the woman bustling on the other side.
Juro instantly fumes, biting back his words through clenched teeth, “She stays out of this! It's bad enough you're in my house! I can't even imagine what she must think of me for even knowing you!”
The large man simply raises an inquisitive eyebrow, “What other secrets have you kept from her?”
The doctor scowls angrily, refusing to even consider an answer. He quietly refocuses on the deep abdominal laceration that he has successfully closed. It's the second one amidst a slew of critical injuries that put the ones he saw at the barn collapse earlier today to shame. “So should I even ask what happened? Was this a rival gang? I thought you guys had run everyone else out of the area.”
Genso falters only a fraction. “I thought you weren't interested in getting any deeper into it. Wasn't your policy always `don't ask, don't tell'?”
“I suppose so. There's just so many this time. I was just wondering…”
The hint of displeasure that creeps into the giant man's voice is just barely audible. “Curiosity steers the innocent into darkness, doctor. I suggest that a man like you keep as close to the light as he can.”
Following the sound of Cammy's voice, Ryuho carries Mimori through the bedroom that she and Kanami share, straight to the adjoining bathroom. Inside, the tub is filling with water as Cammy bustles about the tiny room in preparation. A tall stack of towels sits next to the sink, in which a couple of wash clothes are already floating.
As Ryuho enters, Cammy thrusts a glass of water under Mimori's nose. “I raided your kit. Take these,” and drops a handful of pills into the woman's surprised grasp. Appraising the medicine, Mimori raises a doubtful eyebrow. “Cammy, I don't need all of this…”
Cammy pauses and also looks down at the pills (as does Ryuho) with a questioning look on her face. “No? It's the same medicine you were giving the guys when they first got here: a pain killer and anti-inflammatory, a muscle relaxant, and a broad spec. antibiotic. I figured you didn't need the sedative.” Then the blond gives the woman in Ryuho's arms a quick up-and-down. “Trust me- you need it all. Take `em.”
There is such finality in Cammy's voice that Mimori grudgingly complies, downing the handful and chasing each pill with a long gulp, all the while rolling her eyes at a rather amused Ryuho. He tries to keep from openly smiling by focusing on the task at hand. “Should I put her down?”
Cammy shakes her head as she takes back the glass, “Not just yet. Let me get her shoes off while you've still got her up. Should I even ask what happened to your shoelaces, Mimori?” After setting down the glass, she quickly and carefully removes the girl's sneakers. “And where the hell are your socks? Oh my…”
Once exposed, the red and purple swelling of both of Mimori's feet is obvious, especially along the edges of her heels and toes. There are also numerous tiny cuts peppering her skin. As Mimori watches both Cammy and Ryuho staring, she cranes her head to see, “What is it?”
“Mimori, your feet!” Cammy peers into one of the sneakers and shakes it. “What the hell? There's bits of glass in your shoes!! Does it hurt?”
Mimori sort of shrugs, “Yeah, they feel big and swollen, but I didn't feel any glass. It was in my shoes? Maybe from the window…”
Cammy blinks and shakes her head. “God, Mimori! You know, I've been trying to play it cool and not put you on the spot, but I can't take it any more! Once I get you in the tub you're gonna tell me why you've got a friggin' black eye, glass in your shoes, and dirt and blood all over your clothes! What the hell happened to you today? I mean, I was kidnapped and I don't look half as bad as you!”
The older girl drops her head and unconsciously sinks into Ryuho's chest. “It's not a black eye. And I swear I'll tell you, Cammy- just not right now, okay? It's just… I'm tired… and…”
Cammy gives her a hard stare, then looks up at Ryuho's entirely impassive face. After a moment she sighs heavily, “Fine. Later. But not too much later. Why am I letting people walk all over me today?” She inspects the bottoms of Mimori's feet for any stray cuts or shards.
“You're a good friend, Cam.”
“Yeah, yeah. We'll see how long you say that once I get your clothes off. It doesn't look like there's any glass in your skin. Ryuho, set her down so I can get her sweater.” Cammy then fingers the material with a disgusted frown.
Ryuho complies, slowly lowering Mimori lightly onto her swollen feet until he's sure she can support her own weight. He still ends up needing to circle a strong arm around her waist, and he can feel her leaning heavily against his chest and hip. Nevertheless, Mimori is immediately clutching the front of her sweater closed in a death grip.
“Uh, Cammy… shouldn't we let Ryuho go and clean up now? He's had quite a day himself.” She rapidly blinks her eyes at the blond in a look that screams `I'm not undressing in front of you-know-who, thank-you-very-much!'
Fully catching her meaning and knowing that Ryuho has too, Cammy rolls her eyes, “How do I say this without offense? Ah… Mimori, though you are a delicate flower of femininity, you are more than I can handle by myself. I need Ryuho's help. We all appreciate your modesty but don't worry- I'm sure he'll be a perfect gentleman, isn't that right Ryuho?”
He sighs, thinking Cammy could have perhaps phrased it better. “I'm only here to help, Mimori.”
However, Mimori's look is still doubtful. “I know, but…” her eyes hold a wilting desperation as they vault between her two would-be caregivers. It's bad enough that she still has to lean most of her weight on him, and she's already starting to tire from standing. But Cammy's explanation offers no comfort.
`God, anything else… I mean, is all this really necessary? I'm supposed to be the clinician here! I can take care of myself… well… not really, but… it's not that I'm wholly opposed to the idea of Ryuho seeing me, um… eventually… but under these circumstances? After today I probably look like a punching bag under my clothes! And then Cammy's right here… God, what a nightmare! This really stinks…'
As each excuse circulates in her head, Mimori slowly realizes that Cammy and Ryuho are right. Time to suck it up. Still, she doesn't have to like it…
However, before she can voice her surrender Ryuho finally frowns at her, a cloud passing over his features as he stiffens against her slightly. “I understand. It would seem as though you don't believe I can behave in a professional manner. I know you'd prefer I weren't here and that the circumstances were different. But the situation is unavoidable, short of fetching another member of the house to take my place-”
Cammy interjects, “I can go get Cougar, or Kazuma, or…”
Now it's Mimori's turn to balk, “NO! God, that's not what I meant!” And too late she realizes that she's probably hurt him- in ways that up until today she hadn't even realized he could be.
Turning apologetic eyes up at him, she whispers, “I'm sorry. It's just that I feel like I'm being a burden… and I guess I'm a little self-conscious. You've been wonderful… about everything… and… I'm sorry. I would never doubt your intentions.”
To her relief Ryuho's frown seems to smooth away in a blink, almost imperceptibly, until his face falls back into that signature impassive mask. However, she can feel his arm tighten just a fraction against her back as his fingers barely slide across her hip for better purchase.
“For someone who's hell-bent on taking care of people, you're being surprisingly resistant to accepting any help. After over a week of tirelessly caring for a house full of critically injured Alter users, you could at least let one of them try and return the favor.”
This wins a shy smile from her as she murmurs, “I guess I hadn't thought of it that way.”
Cammy, who is getting rather adept at feigning ignorance, does her best to minimize the awkwardness of the situation by not talking for once. However, it is of course at moment that Kanami arrives with a very familiar pair of large scissors, “Here they are, Cammy. Just like you asked.”
Mimori narrows her eyes as she watches Cammy take the proffered shears, “You've got to be kidding…”
Rounding on her disheveled friend, Cammy simply shrugs, “Told you.”
After several minutes and surprisingly less protest than expected, Cammy cuts and peels away the last leg of Mimori's jeans as Ryuho props her up. She hefts the now useless material into Kanami's awaiting arms to join the remnants of the sweater. “Uggh, denim is so heavy when it's wet. You got it Kanami? Do us a favor and burn that stuff.” The little girl retreats with her bundle, closing the door behind her.
Meanwhile Ryuho is busy inspecting all of Mimori's newly-revealed skin for signs of damage and answers to some of his lingering questions. Now clad in only her bra and panties, she can no longer hide the startling marks from her day's ordeal. Most obvious is the large blotch stretching across her left “hip”; the huge circular bruise is 3 different colors radiating outward, the edge of which disappears under the hem of her panties. It looks painful and almost detracts from the many smaller bruises running up and down her legs and arms and across her back, marring skin that looks paler than it should. Two nearly identical marks stretch down the front length of her forearms, indicating they were sustained as she either shielded herself or landed roughly on them. There are also many tiny lacerations biting into the skin along her arms, chest, stomach, and back, indicating more contact with glass shards from which her sweater did not protect her. Ryuho finds he can't put his hands anywhere without touching some wound except along the narrow cloth of her undergarments. He realizes that even as he has carried her around for the evening he's probably been aggravating these smaller injuries.
“Holy shit!! Mimori, you're… oh, jeez!” Cammy has finally taken a good look at her nearly naked and entirely battered friend.
Behind tired, closed eyes Mimori only shakes her head and murmurs, “It probably looks worse than it is, Cam…” Still, the blond is muttering to herself as she bends down to take a closer look at Mimori's legs, washcloth in hand.
But despite Mimori's words, Ryuho can feel her getting even heavier against him. Now far from caring about her state of undress or their generous body contact (she's curled herself into his chest), she seems oblivious to the fact that she's twisted a hand into his shirt-front for support, as if she might slide down his body onto the floor at any moment. But he figures that after the day she's apparently had, even just standing is undoubtedly wearing her out. Coupled with the anxiety of having Cammy take giant scissors to her clothing, he wonders why she hasn't fallen asleep yet.
Gazing down at her weary face and lowered lids, he amends that she's likely well on her way. As if in answer, her head slides from his shoulder onto his neck and a very warm temple is soon resting against his throat. His frown returns as he sweeps a hand beneath her bangs to lay a palm against her heated forehead. “I think she has a fever.”
As if in answer Mimori begins shivering against him and Ryuho immediately grabs beneath her knees and swings her up into his arms again. To his dismay her legs are cold and clammy, probably from the rain and those damn damp jeans. Her quivering deepens uncontrollably and he fights the urge to swear. “Her skin is too cold, Cammy. She's shivering.”
“Crap. Um, put her in the bathtub; we'll worry about her underwear later.”
In the tiny room a pivot and a step is all that's needed to put him just above the tub. He drops to one knee and prays the temperature is right before slowly lowering her feet and bottom into the water. But he immediately halts when she sucks in a huge breath of air. She shakes even more violently once in contact with the water and he panics, feeling the heat against his own skin.
“Are you alright? Is it too hot?” He doesn't even bother to mask the concern in his voice.
Mimori shakes her head, not realizing that the fist wrapped up in his shirt has tightened from the pain, “No, it's fine. I just need to get used to the temperature. I've been cold all day- the water feels good. Just… go slow, okay?”
With great care he lowers her into the water by degrees until she is submerged. Ryuho waits until her shivering ceases completely before he finally pulls his arms from beneath her and out of the water. He lingers for a moment though, and Cammy again pretends not to notice as he pushes Mimori's bangs to the side to get a better look at the marks on her face. He uses his wet fingers to clean a spot on her cheek, assuring himself that the grime and muck marring her beauty will come off. “Be a good patient.”
Without another word he rises, nods to Cammy who hovers behind him clutching her washcloth and a bottle of shampoo, and quietly slips out past Kanami, who has returned from her errand to the trash can. As Ryuho exits the bedroom he takes care to close the door behind him. He heads down the hall, back to the room he had vacated just that morning, intent on taking a much-needed shower of his own.
Once he's gone, Cammy and Kanami descend on the girl in the tub, washcloths and soap prepared for overdrive. As she squirts a mound of shampoo into her hand, Cammy finally catches Mimori in an inquisitive stare.
“Alright girlfriend, spill it- all of it…”
After only 20 minutes Ryuho is showered and changed. This time Kanami somehow managed to leave him a set of Kazuma's clothes, including a pair of pants that Ryuho is shocked and a little unnerved to find fit him perfectly. A growl from his stomach reminds him of Urizane's promise of food, and he heads down the hall to the kitchen, hoping for more than merely watermelons.
Once there he finds Urizane busting about the room, ducking in and out of the fridge and pantry, preparing food. There's a stack of sandwiches on the kitchen table, a pot of something (coffee?) boiling on the stove, and something else in a bowl on the counter waiting to be stirred that looks rather delicious. The oddest element, though, is Cammy's tiny `Kiss the Cook' apron stretched across the Alter user's generous belly.
Kazuma is plopped at the kitchen table, one foot balanced on the edge of another chair as he calmly munches on one of the sandwiches. He eyes Ryuho in his clothes as the silent teen approaches the heaping plate on the table.
Urizane turns his head, “Help yourself! Figured we could all use some fuel before we head off to defend the island and beat these bad guys.”
Ryuho picks up a sandwich, “I didn't know you could cook.”
Urizane chuckles, “Oh, anybody can make a sandwich. But I'm actually pretty good in the kitchen. At least I haven't heard any complaints from the kid. Or the `human race car' for that matter- he's always over lately, eatin' up our grub.”
Kazuma talks around a huge mouthful, “He's right, man- it's good. Best sandwich I ever had. I didn't think you could make anything `sides watermelons.”
“Haha! Well they're still my favorite. But Elian's sick of `em.” He chuckles to himself as Ryuho takes a seat and digs hungrily into his sandwich. His next inquiry catches the man mid-chew, “Hey, Ryuho, what was all that noise we heard from the back? The girls fightin' over somethin'?”
Ryuho politely finishes his mouthful before absently answering, “In a twist of irony, Mimori is being a rather uncooperative patient. She doesn't seem to like the idea of relying on others, but Cammy and Kanami are rather persistent.”
Kazuma smirks, “It figures, huh? Guess she's finally gettin' a taste of her own medicine.”
Urizane chuckles again, “Is that what the scissors were for? Kanami marched out of here with those things like a girl on a mission.”
Ryuho rolls his eyes, swallowing another bite, “She was fetching them for Cammy. But Mimori didn't seem to like the idea of Cammy cutting her jeans off.”
Urizane gets a funny look and Kazuma smirks even broader, “Ohhh, damn… Well if she didn't want Cammy to do it- Hell, I'da volunteered for that job-”
But no sooner do the words escape Kazuma's lips than he is being hauled up against the wall by his throat, staring down into livid, flame-red eyes.
“Shut your mouth!”
Entirely stunned by the aggressive move, it still takes Kazuma less than a second to realize what he's just said and to recognize the line he's unwittingly crossed. Mindful of his faux pas, he wisely backpedals as best he can, “Shit man! I was only joking!”
It's at this point that Elian trudges in wearily with Cougar right behind him. The young boy freezes in his tracks when he sees the clash between the two older men, causing Cougar to nearly bowl him over from sheer momentum. Soon everyone is staring at Ryuho's iron-tight grip on Kazuma's neck, wondering what the next move from each will be.
Ryuho eventually reigns in his temper and loosens his hold, finally letting air pass unobstructed through the trapped windpipe. But he still needs to make his point to his insensitive rival. Leaning in closer, he seethes through gritted teeth, “It's not funny, Kazuma. You have no idea what's she's been through. Just… don't.”
Kazuma fights his raging instincts to assert his dominance and instead wisely swallows his pride just this once. In a humble retreat he offers, “Fine! I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it! She and I are cool, okay? I totally respect her.”
Ryuho releases his hold and backs away from the brash teen, “Then act like it.” He turns away, but Kazuma can still hear him whisper before he slowly reclaims his seat, “she's going to need her friends right now, not… that.”
Kazuma's neck is fine but his ego is stung, mostly from his own guilt. He really hadn't meant anything by it. Just teasing a girl that he's slowly growing to admire. But whatever she's gone through today to end up looking like that… the whole story suddenly seems more ominous…
Urizane does his best to dispel the tension, “Hey Elian! Grab a seat! Any news? Did you figure out the coordinates?”
The youth plops messily into the chair next to Ryuho's and grabs a sandwich, grumbling, “Finally- not that we needed to. God, it's so obvious! We're going to Ito's Cove, Pier 5.”
Kazuma, who has taken his seat again, looks confused, “Obvious?”
Elian responds like it's the most logical answer in the world, “It's the only place on this side of the island large enough for a full-sized ship to dock.”
Cougar, who has leaned up against the wall near the door, offers support, “The coordinates still help. For all we knew they could have chosen to land on the other side of the island. As it is, Piers 1 and 8 are just as big as 5 and on opposite ends of the cove. So now we know exactly where they'll rendezvous. If we'd gone in without knowing, we might have missed them, or perhaps given ourselves away. We needed those coordinates, kid. Now that we've got them, we've got the advantage.”
Elian still seems less than enthused, offering a sarcastic quip, “Happy to oblige…” before finally wolfing into his sandwich. He chews slowly, swallows, then wearily drops his head on his other hand.
Urizane shoots Cougar a nervous look. The speedster nods knowingly, then pointedly asks Ryuho, “So Cammy and Kanami are going to stay here with Mimori, right? Are we sure they'll be alright here while we're gone? Those people have a file on Tachibana- that merc knew to come here to find him. Maybe we should leave a fighter behind, just in case…”
Kazuma wrinkles his nose curiously but Ryuho catches on immediately, “That's a good point, Cougar. We need someone to defend our base of operation. What do you suggest?”
“Well, I can't do it. I'm afraid I can't miss this particular battle- personal reasons. What do you think, Urizane? Maybe you or Elian?”
Urizane smiles and jumps right in. “Gosh, I could stay behind, but I don't know how much help I'd be…”
Elian finally lifts his head off the table and looks around, “You guys are trying to stop me from going with you.” Ryuho maintains a straight face but Urizane blanches visibly. The boy continues, “It's okay. I'll stay behind. We all know my powers have been weakening. I'd just get in the way…”
At that Cougar straightens up, interjecting, “You're never in the way, Elian. You've been an asset to us at every step. But your powers have been drained, not weakened, by all the work you've done today. Your Alter needs to recover.”
Urizane chimes in, “Cougar's right! You've been a huge help!”
Ryuho calmly adds, “Elian, thanks to you we've known where they were, who they're after, what they've been planning and how to stop them. We have their timetable and the precise location where they'll be vulnerable. We're going to save the Lost Ground because of you. No one's made a more significant contribution to this fight than you have.”
Kazuma firmly nods, “Seriously dude.”
The young boy smiles weakly, but there's no mistaking the hint of pride shining behind his eyes, “Well, when you put it that way…”
Kazuma adds, “Keep an eye on the girl's for us. We'll be able to fight if we know they're safe.”
Elian nods, taking his final appointed task to heart. “Yes sir.”
At that point Kanami's small frame standing in the doorway is finally noticed. She just watches, grinning for a few seconds before finally turning bright eyes onto her target, “Cammy says she needs your help again, Mr. Ryuho.” At his nod she turns and disappears again, but not before at least one of the room's occupants catches her bashful smile at him.
Ryuho rises. “Let's be ready to leave in 20 minutes- that will give us another 30 minutes to beat their scheduled rendezvous.”
They all murmur their agreement and Ryuho exits, heading back down the hall.
Ryuho isn't quite prepared for the site waiting for him on the other side of the bathroom door. As he enters the tiny room, he immediately notes the warmth crowding the small space in addition to its occupants. To his surprise, Mimori is not in the tub as expected but instead perched on the lid of the commode, leaning against the back with eyes closed in apparent sleep.
She's wearing a long sleep shirt with an oversized towel draped across her legs. White gauze wraps encircle several places along both arms and Cammy sits on the floor, putting the finishing touches on one of the wraps covering the girl's feet. Looking between the tub and the commode, Ryuho briefly wonders how Cammy and Kanami managed to get her from one to the other.
Hoping not to wake the sleeping beauty, he keeps his murmur low, “You needed my help?”
Cammy looks up and mimics his tone, “She was able to help us get her out of the tub and get her night clothes on, but now she's worn out. If you'll get her to her room, we'll be just about done here.”
“Alright.” Mindful of her injured hip, he approaches from Mimori's right and stoops low as Cammy rises out of his way and exits behind him. `Maybe I can do this without waking her.' Ever so carefully he sneaks one arm beneath her back and the other beneath her knees, before standing smoothly, girl once again cradled against him.
She smells so clean and so much more like `Mimori' now. Beneath the towel he can feel bare thighs and the frayed hem of what must be a pair of shorts. To his relief he can also feel the moist heat of her bath lingering on her skin as it touches his own. From what he can see of her, she's also regained that subtle glow he's used to. Even in sleep the broken hostage seems to be gone. The wounds left on her body are now only badges of her courage, physical remnants of her fighting spirit and survivor's instinct.
But after only a moment, she surprises him as she stirs and raises her arms to circle his neck. As she lifts her head from against his shoulder the long plait of her still-wet hair brushes his arm, tickling the skin. Soon two bottomless chocolate brown pools are blinking up at him.
The sleep-laden rasp in her voice makes the single word slither down his spine as sensually as if she'd dragged a light finger down his vertebrae. He fights a reflexive shiver and simply mirrors her back, “Hey.”
He can't seem to stop staring, eyes tracing over her features as her lids flutter hypnotically. The bruise running along the top of her cheekbone has deepened to a purple rimmed with yellow, but she's still unmistakably beautiful to him. Her lips are parted ever so slightly and the urge to dip his head and softly cover her mouth with his own is so strong that he almost forgets their surroundings and company.
But suddenly she's ducking her head and pulling back a hand to cover her mouth as she coughs roughly. Her body shakes against him and the towel across her legs drops to the floor. Ryuho's face falls into a frown as he looks down at her, “Are you alright?”
Her voice is still a bit gravelly, “Yes, I'm fine. Sorry about that. Cammy thinks I've caught a bit of a cold…”
He relaxes a bit, “I know. I wouldn't be a bit surprised- you've been half-dressed in wet clothes nearly half the day. Are you sure you're okay?”
She smiles up at him, fingers absently plucking at the material of his new shirt, “How many times are you going to ask me that today?”
The tips of his ears are suddenly burning in embarrassment, but he still maintains his impassive look, “Until I'm sure you're giving me a straight answer instead of trying to be brave.”
She glances down at her fingers as they play with his shirt, “Is bravery so terrible?”
Her eyes returning to his face is perhaps his undoing. A smile finally pushes at the corners of his lips as he replies, “No, bravery is admirable- as long as you never hide behind it. I only want your honesty.”
She averts her eyes and bites her lip against an obvious smile. He wonders why until he catches her glancing back curiously, eyes stirring with a trace of heat. “Only that?” Her hooded gaze lands somewhere in the region of his mouth and he gulps heavily.
He is suddenly very aware that the list of things that he `wants' from her is not only considerably longer, but could probably never be mentioned in any of their present company. The thought of the proper setting for the divulgence of such a list has him on the verge of shivering again.
Thus Cammy's head popping in the doorframe catches the couple off guard, “You've got her? Oh, she's awake,” despite her observation Cammy still whispers.
Ryuho is trying not to frown at the girl, but his façade is somehow more difficult to replace this time. Remembering he is there to perform a task, he inquires, “What do you want me to do with her?”
Cammy just shoots him a dubious look, then gestures to the room behind her, “Take her to bed, of course.”
`Oh God…' The tips of his ears are instantly burning again and Mimori is suddenly hiding her face in his shoulder- he swears he can feel her chuckling. But he'll do as he's told, even if it's not exactly the translation he had in mind. “…of course.”
Cammy turns on her heel heading out, “I'll be back in a bit- I'm going to get her a little something to eat.”
As the blond leaves, Mimori finally emerges from his shoulder, looking up at him mischievously. “You heard the lady- take me to bed…”
He forces himself to close his eyes and take a very deep breath. There is absolutely no safe response to that, so he simply carries his precious cargo over to where the bed sheets have been turned down. He lowers her gently onto the mattress, making sure that her good hip is angled down to take the majority of her weight. She still winces a little, but is soon stretched out on the bed, mostly along her side. She tugs the nearest pillow closer and finally drops her head onto it wearily. It is then that Ryuho finally notices her tiny shorts. `Dear God what is she wearing?' Before he can stop himself he asks, “Don't you have anything longer?”
She raises and inquisitive brow at him, “I always sleep in these. They're really comfortable. It's not like I leave the house in them, if that's what you're thinking.”
A rather enticing sensation thrums through him as he makes a conscious effort to look… anywhere else. But her answer only prompts another question, “You wear those around the house?”
She rolls her eyes before explaining, “Up until a week ago I didn't have a house full of men tromping about. Just Cammy, Kanami and Asuka. Actually, they used to be a pair of his pants.” On the last word she is overtaken by an immense yawn and just manages to cover her mouth from politeness.
She needs her rest. He decides to set aside his own hang-ups on her clothing (Tachibana's pants?) for now. Because, really, he's wearing someone else's clothes, too. Ryuho wordlessly pulls her covers safely over the garments in question, tucking the blankets around her shoulders. Her long braid is spread across her pillow and as his eyes follow it to the elastic at the tail, something shiny catches his eye.
Reaching behind her head, he retrieves a familiar silver shard on a thin necklace. His eyes widen in recognition as he handles the token, sinking to a seat on the edge of the bed. It suddenly dawns on him that she hasn't worn it for the entire time he's been staying there. As if reading his thoughts, Mimori shyly answers, “I thought it might upset you so I stopped wearing it…”
He's about to offer protest when the truth of her words really hits him. If he had awakened to the sight of her wearing that necklace… His likely reaction has him flooding with guilt until another thought tugs at his curiosity. “So you've kept it under your pillow instead?”
She averts her eyes but answers honestly, just as he's asked, “I, uh… still needed to keep it close. As reassurance… Despite what ever else was going on between us, and no matter where you were it let me know that you were still alive. And because… I don't know… because it's the one part of you that I'll always have, that's mine alone. I guess it was just a little piece of hope. At least, that's how it felt- up until just this morning.”
Without even realizing it, he clings to hope as well. “And now?”
Behind a sleepy but very appreciative smile, she replies, “Everything has changed…”
That smile fills him in ways that still take him by surprise. Honesty- I guess it's my turn… His words are soft, as they are meant only for her, “Actually, Mimori it really hasn't changed. I learned that today- as I was looking for you, when I finally found you with those despicable dogs, when I fought for you, but perhaps mostly as I carried you home…”
He is suddenly very aware of the warm curiosity reflecting in her eyes. He clears his throat to continue, recognizing that though the terrain is still a bit foreign, the path is undeniably right. “This… is hard for me to say, but I don't know of any other way to let you know. And you deserve to know- after everything you've done, after all this time… it's the very least I can do.”
“Ryuho, you don't have to-” but he silences her with a gentle finger.
“I do, Mimori. Because it turns out that you've had more of me for longer than either of us has likely known. I hate that it took nearly losing you for me to see that. And before I leave tonight I need for you to understand how important you are… to me. It's been a rather hectic day, but if you've been wondering whether I've just gotten caught up in the moment, I can assure you that's not the case. That's not how I operate. Everything I've told you today- I've meant every word. So believe me when I say that no matter what happens from here on out, things will be different between us.”
It barely seems real. How long has she waited, dreamt of hearing words like this from him? And now that they've been spoken- with more sincerity than she'd ever thought possible, and after the day she's had today- Mimori is at a loss for words. “I… okay. I… I'd like that.” She half expects him to sprout a second head or disappear in a puff of smoke.
“Good. For now, though, you need to rest and regain your strength. You made a promise to try and not make me crazy and I'm going to hold you to that.”
The teasing tone of his voice is somehow soothing and before she knows it Mimori is yawning again. Her eyelids sag as she responds, “I can try.”
He shakes his head as he bends over and savors a quick but firm kiss from her that leaves a tingle in its wake. Her eyes finally slide closed with a sigh, “Be careful.”
He stands and smoothes the covers once again, “Sleep well.”
Slipping soundlessly through the door, he shuts it carefully behind him. On the other side he is met by Cammy, carrying a sandwich on a plate toward the room. He shakes his head and she nods, wordlessly retreating back to the kitchen.
`I am Ryuho, the greatest fighter the Lost Ground has ever seen. And if I ever see you again I will be the man who kills you. Now get out of my sight!'
Genso flicks his half-smoked cigarette on the wood floor with the others in irritation as these words echo in his mind, playing against the backdrop of the insane events just before them. It replays over and over in his head, like a movie. And he wrestles with it- kicks it about, rips into it dissecting every element, trying to make sense of something that his mind just won't accept- can't accept- as reality.
It was a trick, a setup. That prissy little fucker had done something, faked something to mess with their heads. All of them.
Yeah, the little snot-nosed punk probably had some skills. Had to 've to mess up Hiro like that, then the others… His gaze slides over to the doctor and his weary slump as he works to patch up yet another of his seriously wounded fighters. Too many… too many broken bodies sprawled around the house. Yeah, maybe the kid was real good…
But nobody's better than Genso. Nobody.
As far as his crew knows, their ruthless, stone-cold, blood-thirsty, bad-ass leader is undefeated. And Genso's entire identity exists around that truth. One way or another, everyone around him had learned to never challenge the top dog once he'd laid claim to something. Valuables, weapons, women…
It isn't about the girl (although he has to admit, the more he thinks about her the more he's convinced she'd have been the fuck of a century… Seems he hadn't realized how much he wanted her until she turned up missing). All in all, the challenge itself was insulting enough.
But no… It's all about him. Because in the span of a few minutes he'd taken everything…
The longer he chews on it the more the outcome haunts him, rolls around in his gut like a ball of acid, eating away at him from the inside out.
A fucking mistake. An undeniable lucky-ass mistake that Genso longs to correct. Another fight, a rematch- on his own terms. With a beating so ruthless, so bloody and disgraceful that everyone would-
Nezumi, the little rat man, is suddenly shuffling up to him with a desperate look on his face. In his claw-like grasp he clutches a small picture frame, and he pushes it into Genso's hands before the giant man can even bark his annoyance. “Boss, look!”
Glancing down at the photo beneath the glass, Genso sees an image that tenses every muscle in his body. His eyes narrow into angry slits and he stands, instantly looming over the doctor. “This girl- who is she? How do you know her?”
Dr. Juro is at first so stunned that he doesn't even realize Genso is referring to the picture. However, he soon looks at the image being thrust into his face and recognizes a familiar scene from several weeks ago. Smiling at the camera are two older teens, each toting large boxes of medical supplies as several small children giggle and pose between them. It's Mr. Tachibana and his good friend-
“Miss Kiryu? Why do you want to know?” Dr. Juro gulps uneasily at the sudden intensity burning in the large man's eyes.
Genso's voice is low, but barely controlled, “I have unfinished business with her. Now answer the question, Juro.”
The physician is suddenly shaking in this behemoth's presence. He's never seen anger such as this before, and the site is more frightening than he could have ever imagined. “Sh-she's just a teacher. Sh-she and a friend helped get m-m-medical supplies for the clinic. Th-that's when that picture was t-t-taken.”
The little rat wrings his hands, “Is that the guy, boss?”
Genso shakes his head, sneering, “No, but he looks kinda like him. This one's a bit smaller, but he's got that same snobbed-up arrogance about him…” Then the fighter pins Dr. Juro under his stare again, “Who is Ryuho?”
The doctor blinks rapidly, searching his memory in vain, “I don't know! I've never heard that name before. Should I have?”
The giant huffs impatiently, “Her candy-ass boyfriend! He's a fighter.”
But the doctor can only cower, replying, “The only fighters I know are you and your men.” With every passing moment the doctor becomes more and more certain that he is about to end up worse than the guy lying on his table.
The giant hisses in displeasure and suddenly the doctor's collar is tightly bunched in the fighter's iron fist, wrenching him nearly off his feet and into the most menacing face he's ever seen. The large man seems to spit venom as he speaks, “Juro, if you and your family want to escape my unrelenting wrath to live another day on this earth then you will tell me exactly where I can find this girl…”
The doctor can only nod his head frantically in reply. `God forgive me…'
Only then does Genso finally smile.
`Ryuho- Tonight you die by my hand.'
A/N: And another one down! Cliffie? *shrugs* sort of. BTW, have you noticed that this is set in the longest day ever? Same day since about the 4th chapter- kinda reminds me of `24'. Guess I'd better bring midnight soon… And before anyone says Ryuho is all OOC, I redirect your attention to the episodes after he lost his memory: defrosted that frigid heart and actually showed some emotion. So yeah.
Thanks for reading. Love it? Hate it? Please REVIEW!! Whenever, wherever, whatever! Already started the next update- I'll try and get it up in a reasonable amount of time (uh… school). No promises other than I'll make it worth the wait. See you guys!! Thanks again!!
Luv, Mira ^_^