Personally I think this is a better fic than my previous two. It has a better story, and I've had help with the English language.
Shayera – because I love her
Naye – who wanted fanfics as a Christmas gift
X-parrot – whose writing inspired me to write this story
Water and Electricity
"Ban-chan! Look at me! I can do it! Look at me!"
Ban couldn't help but laugh at Ginji who was happily swimming in this little bay they had found at the coast near their vacation spot. It had been worth the effort, teaching Ginji how to swim. Those happy eyes and that grin in his face made Ban feel like he was on the top of the world.
For the first time in a very long time the GetBackers had had some luck with money. They had been so well paid off for their last job that they decided to go for a vacation at the sea. Ginji had been really excited.
"The sea! Maybe you can teach me how to swim, Ban-chan?"
Ban had looked at him, hesitating. "Eh… as long as you don't kill everybody in the water. Water and electricity, you know."
"We can find a place where we can be alone, can't we?"
"Thank you very much, stupid. What about me? You wanna electrocute me?"
"Ban-chan… You know I can control it. I won't kill you or anyone else. I just thought it would be nicer to be by ourselves. At least sometimes."
That, Ban had agreed with. He preferred to be alone with Ginji. Sure, he didn't mind spending a day or two on a beach filled with pretty girls, but together with other people he always had to watch out. That was a habit he had developed long ago. It's what happens when so many people try to kill you.
Ban had thoroughly chosen the place. It was a small hotel, distant from other inhabited places; only a few other houses lay nearby, and they soon found out that the hotel didn't have many guests. It was close to the shore and there were steep cliffs going down into the water. Ban had made some diving from them, and he had to admit he liked Ginji's excited exclamations and admiration. 'Ban-chan! You can do everything, can't you?' Ginji himself hadn't jumped, much less dived, from the cliffs. He wasn't very good at swimming, that guy. Only, right now he seemed to get the hang of it.
"You fool. Why didn't you do it like that in the first place? That's how I told you to do it all the time."
Ginji smiled. "I know Ban-chan. It's just that I couldn't figure out what you meant before."
This bay was perfect, Ban thought. It lay between some cliffs and it was just a coincidence that they had found it. They were out on an early walk and decided to leave the established paths and walk through some rough terrain to the cost. Their aim had been to find some lonely spot on a high cliff were they could watch the sun rise out of the sea. They had found it too; they had been sitting together, Ban with his arm around Ginji's shoulders, Ginji's head leaning against him, watching a beautiful sunrise. It had made Ban feel... well, not exactly soft, he wouldn't go that far, but his tension had melted the way it sometimes did when he was alone with Ginji, and that, together with the sunrise, made his worries seem to disappear somewhere, if he ever had any. They had risen quietly but didn't leave the cliff. Ginji had walked along the edge, looking down, no fear of heights, and suddenly he had called for him.
"Ban-chan! It's a little bay down here with a sandy beach, and I can't see any traces of other people there. Do you think we can climb down somehow?"
Ban had taken a look and agreed with Ginji; the bay looked tempting. Together they started to search for a way down the cliff to the bay. Since they didn't find any obvious, simple way down, they decided to try the climb anyway. It had been a hard climb, but they had made it and could explore the bay. Ginji had been right. There weren't any traces at all from other humans. No trash, no towels left behind, no broken twigs at the bushes near the cliff, no nothing. The cliffs almost completely surrounded the bay with only a small passage out to the open sea. It couldn't be easy to find this bay even from the seaside.
"Ban-chan. You can teach me how to swim here, right?"
So he did. They had left the hotel early every day since then, to swim in this bay. And now Ginji was swimming beside him, looking extremely happy.
"Do you think there are caves under the water, Ban-chan?"
"Probably, it's that kind of rock."
"Can we dive and have a look?"
"Moron. You barely learned to swim proper; don't you think you should practice some more first? Besides, if there are caves they might be deep down and we don't have any diving equipment. And you wouldn't know how to use them if we had."
"Do you, Ban-chan? Do you know how to use those things?"
"Yeah," Ban admitted. "I've got a diving certificate."
"It's amazing, Ban-chan. You know so much and've done so many things. Did you do anything but learn a lot of stuff when you were a kid? How did you find the time?"
"It was rather busy." Ban said shortly. He didn't want to talk about his childhood at the moment.
They got up from the water and lay down in the sand. The sun shone high above, and it became quite hot, but Ban didn't mind that at all. The snake inside him made him enjoy the heat and he slumbered in the sun. Ginji was wide awake though. He felt restless and after a while he sat up again. The thought of some caves beneath the surface put him in an excited mood.
"Ban-chan, I know you're awake."
"No, I'm not," Ban slurred sleepily.
"Can we hire some diving equipment so you can teach me how to use it?" Ginji didn't care about Ban's glare.
"Why not, Ban-chan?"
"Too damned expensive." Ban yawned and took a hold of his partner's arm and dragged him down beside him. "Lay down, you fool, and think about the food were gonna eat back at the hotel instead."
"That'll only make me hungry." Ginji said with a smile, but he obeyed, put his head on Ban's chest and closed his eyes.
When Ban woke up an hour had passed by. The sun had vanished behind the cliff and the air had become chilly. He thought he had heard the sound of an engine. Maybe there was a boat approaching. Dammit. He had hoped no one else would come here. Yeah. It was definitely a boat, and the sound came closer. Suddenly Ban got the feeling he shouldn't be seen here. He rose to a sitting position, making Ginji's head fall down to his lap instead. That, of course, woke Ginji up, too.
"Time to go back to the hotel, Ban-chan?"
"Ssch." Ban hissed. "Take your clothes and come. Hurry."
Ginji didn't ask any questions. He trusted Ban and knew when to do what he was told, without questioning the order. They hurried to the bushes near their climbing path, Ban making some effort to hide their tracks, and they threw themselves behind the bushes at the same moment as a boat became visible in the passage to the bay. It was a small motor boat with three men on board. They didn't steer to the shore, though; instead they drove the boat near the cliff to the right of Ban and Ginji. There they turned off the engine, and two of the men started to put on wetsuits and oxygen tubes. Their voices could be heard over the water's surface.
"You've got the box?"
"Yeah. Right here. Can you take it like this?"
"No problem. Three meters down, was it?"
"Correct. Under a projecting piece of rock, remember? It's quite a small entrance. Are you sure you can come through? It's not many meters to the cave from the entrance and it's not waterfilled so you could try without the equipment if you're good at holding your breath."
"No, thank you. I want to be able to breathe all the way in. It's idiocy to try it without the oxygen tubes."
"If you say so. But when we discovered this cave Isobe-san was there without anything."
"Isobe is an idiot. Besides, Kitayama-san measured it and said it would be alright, so we should manage."
"Alright then. Get off and hide it."
The two men with wetsuits jumped off the boat, one of them bringing a box about 2x2x3 decimeters in size, and disappeared under the surface.
Ban swore to himself. He had been right in hiding. At least two of these guys he had met before, and he had no wish to re-establish the acquaintance. Hell, he never wanted to hear from Kitayama and his gang again, but here they were, disturbing his and Ginji's vacation. He realized that if those men had been up at the hotel they might have heard that he was here. He had put up an advertising poster at the hotel's notice board and even put his and Ginji's name and room number on it. Dammit. Ginji had asked him not to, because they were on vacation, but no, he had to put it up in case they could make some extra money. How stupid could a man be? Ban angrily hissed to himself all the names he used to call Ginji, and made up some more to cover what he thought of himself. Ginji watched him but said nothing. After less than 10 minutes the two divers were back. The third man helped them up into the boat and they were off.
"Ban-chan. What was all that about?" Ginji wanted to know. "How did you know we should hide?"
"I don't know how I knew. I just did. But the men were criminals hiding something."
"Yeah. In a cave. I figured that out." Ginji said without sarcasm. "You seem to know them, Ban-chan."
Ban looked at his best friend. Ginji really wanted to enjoy this vacation and now he, Midou Ban, probably had led them into danger again. He sighed and began telling Ginji about Kitayama and his gang.
"That bastard who sat in the boat when the others were down in the cave is called Sensou and he's bad news. The quiet guy who didn't say a word is called Chikara and he is no plaything either, I can assure you. I've actually never heard their real names. They're both in a gang called Batsu, which is lead by a guy called Kitayama. That hell of a gang does just about anything, either for money, or just because they think it's fun."
"How do you know them, Ban-chan?"
"I've only met Sensou and Chikara and some other guys, I don't know their names. The first time I met them was when I was on my first job with Himiko and Yamato. They had the same commission we had, only from another client."
Ban went silent for a moment. How much would he tell Ginji? It was probably better to tell his partner the whole painful truth even if Ban didn't like to admit errors.
"I guess they had heard of me and knew I was coming, because they were ready for me. They had chains that could stand my strength and a damned hood to put on my head to avoid my eyes. They caught us off guard, or me actually since it was I who underestimated them and thought them to be just some ordinary thieves, tied us all up and then beat me half to death and left me, probably thinking I was done for. If I had been alone they would have been right."
"Ban-chan!" To Ban's relief Ginji sounded more like he was upset that someone had done such a thing to his friend, than embarrassed that Ban had let someone do this to him.
"The bastards also got away with the requested item. Himiko and Yamato weren't badly hurt so they could free themselves. Yamato had to carry me away while I was unconscious and bleeding. Himiko and Yamato nursed me back to life afterwards. So because of my damned mistake, we failed our first mission together and didn't get paid. "
Ban was surprised by himself. This was a story he never had thought he would tell anyone. Not even Ginji. It was enough Himiko knew about it and she had never mentioned it. But now when he had to tell his friend about Batsu and make him understand the danger, it was best for Ginji to know what kind of guys they were. That way neither of them would underestimate the gang.
"But you survived, Ban-chan." Ginji's voice was quiet and soothing. "That's what matters. I'll always be grateful to Himiko and her brother for helping you that time. If they hadn't I would never have met you and I would still be in Mugenjou, maybe already having lost myself... But you said that was the first time you ran into them?"
"The second time was pretty much the same, at first. We had the same job. But this time I was ready for them, and since they had defeated me before, it was they who underestimated me. I still couldn't use my Jagan, because as an extra precaution they had sunglasses, but this time it was I who won the fight and Chikara who left it unconscious. Don't misunderstand me though, it was a damned hard fight and if they hadn't underestimated me and left him alone with me, maybe they had won again. But this time we completed our mission instead of them."
"What's so special about them? I mean, we have met dangerous guys before."
"I've been told that Chikara and Kitayama are from the same tribe in the north. I think they are cousins or something like that. That tribe is divided in two halves. One consists of normal people, but the other half consists of people with special power or abilities. When a child is born in that tribe, their wise men carry out a ritual where they find out if the child has any special powers. About 25 percent of all the children have. If it does, it will be raised in a manner that helps the child to increase his abilities. I've heard that they even use some special drugs to help them to do so. Chikara has about the same strength as I have, and about the same speed."
"What about that Kitayama guy?"
"Kitayama isn't a fighter. What I've heard is that he has the power to foresee parts of other people's future. When he have chosen what to do with his victim, he can look into the victim's eyes and see what's going to happen to that person in the near future. If that future doesn't suit Kitayama, he chooses to do something else. That way he always knows how to handle his opponents. If he wants to, he can show the future to the victim."
"Show it? How?"
"Kind of my Jagan actually, but it isn't Kitayama who rules it. He merely shows a vision of the victim's future to him or her.
"I don't think I'd like that", Ginji admitted.
"No", Ban agreed. "If Kitayama shows your future it must be bad for you or else he wouldn't show it."
"What about the others in Batsu?"
"Sensou is a true master of different kinds of swords and knifes. He is trained by the legendary swordsman Fujishima and is said to be his best student. Both Chikara and Sensou have an incredible fighting aura and they enjoy fighting and causing pain to others. The other ones in the gang I don't know much about, but what I've heard is not good. There is especially one guy that people hardly dare to talk about, but I don't know why. The only thing I've heard is that he's supposed not to be human."
Ginji smiled at Ban.
"It's alright, Ban-chan. We've both been temporarily defeated at other situations, haven't we? Remember when we should retrieve the arms of Venus? Miroku Yukihiko managed to take my joints apart so I couldn't move."
Why was it Ginji always was so understanding, Ban wondered? Ginji had the ability to know how he felt and always seemed to understand why, sometimes better than he knew himself.
Ban sighed. "I know you won't like it, Ginji, but maybe we should interrupt our vacation and go back to Tokyo."
"Why, Ban-chan. They're not after us, are they?"
"I don't know. They have sworn to kill me and it could be that they saw our posters at the hotel, and if they did, they'll come after me, and you too, because you're my partner."
"Well, let's get back to the hotel and find out, Ban-chan. They don't know me, do they? I'll just walk inside and ask the hall-porter if anyone asked for us. He would think I asked if anyone wanted us for a job, right? If anyone from Batsu is there he won't recognize me, so it would be safe."
Ban thought about it. They needed to get their stuff back from the room anyway. Still, there were things that could go wrong. Someone could have described Ginji so he got caught. Of course, Ginji wasn't a defenseless baby, so he guessed it was the best thing to do.
"Alright. Let's go."
They dressed themselves and Ginji started to climb up the cliff. Ban was about to follow when he felt something again. Like someone was watching them from behind. He quickly turned. Nothing moved. He couldn't see anyone. The bay wasn't big and except for those bushes where he and Ginji had hidden, there was nowhere to hide. Except under the water, but the surface was still and quiet. Ban shrugged. Paranoid, that's what he was. He followed Ginji up the cliff.
It took about half an hour to walk back to their hotel, and most of it was through the woods with no paths to follow. Ban could see their own trails. They hadn't tried to hide them, didn't think they would need to. He looked for signs of other people's trails but couldn't find any. Good, at least they weren't followed to the bay.
At the edge of the wood was a road that ran along a stream deep down. They followed the road to a power station with a bridge across the stream, right before a small waterfall, from where the power station got it's power. Ban supposed the hotel got its electricity from here.
They still hadn't seen anyone, even though Ban had watched out thoroughly. But as they crossed the bridge they were coming closer to the hotel and where other people used to walk. Ban held out his arm to stop Ginji.
"Let's go around to the backside. I'll wait in the garden while you get in."
They took a roundabout way and managed to enter the garden without being seen. Ban sat down on some rocks.
"If no one asked about us, come and get me. Else, you get our stuff from the room and check out and we're out of here."
"Got it, Ban-chan."
Ginji smiled, did thumb up and disappeared in to the hotel.
There was no one in the hall except the man behind the desk. Ginji went to talk to him. It was a small man with an oily smile and a hunted look in his eyes. Ginji hadn't liked the man when he first saw him and he hadn't improved since. He smiled friendly at the hall-porter anyway.
"I'm Amano Ginji. Has anyone asked for me or my partner? Someone might want us to do a job for them."
He pointed at the GetBackers-poster Ban had put on the notice board.
"No, Amano-san. No one has asked for you yet."
"Yet? What do you mean?"
"Well, I read your poster and saw that you are retrieval specialists, so when this thing happened this morning, I told them about you."
"Anything happened this morning? What was that? Who did you tell about us and why?"
"Sadamoto-sama had a burglary in his mansion early this morning. Some thieves took a valuable script from his library. You didn't happen to see them? You were out quite early too, weren't you?"
The man gave Ginji one of his oily smiles and Ginji shuddered some. That man gave him the creeps.
"No, we didn't see anyone, and we didn't do the burglary either." Ginji said, irritated. "So you told this Samamoto guy about us. What did you say?"
"Oh, don't misunderstand me. I've never meant that you had something to do with the burglary. I just called up to the mansion and told one of the staff that we had retrieval specialists staying here at the hotel. I thought you might consider this as a favor for you, getting a job and earn some money, I mean."
Again that oily smile, and a greedy glance in his eyes were seen. Obviously he hoped for a big tip, for getting them this job. Ginji looked disgusted at him. It took quite a lot to make Ginji dislike other persons, but this guy was just so…slimy.
"Okay. Let me know if they ask for us." Ginji turned from the man.
He'd better go tell Ban-chan about what had happened. It didn't look like Batsu had been to the hotel, so maybe they could stay. If they got that request, Ban-chan would probably accept it.
Ban sat on the rock, smoking, when Ginji came back.
Ginji told Ban about what the hall-porter had said. Ban blew out some smoke and considered. That could be an easy job. It was probably the script that had been hidden in the cave under the bay. Batsu didn't seem to have found out he was here, and if they got that job it would be really easy money, and maybe a lot if it, too. That Samamoto sounded like a rich guy. Ban couldn't resist.
"Okay. Let's stay for a while longer and see if we'll get that job."
Together they went inside. Ban went first to the notice board and took the poster down. At the desk the hall-porter was talking on a telephone. He put the phone down, gave them another oily smile and handed them their key when they stepped forward to the desk. Ginji quickly snapped the key before Ban could get it. Ban glared at him but didn't say anything. Instead he made a short nod at the hall-porter.
"You'll let us know if you hear anything about that job, won't you?"
"Of course, Midou-san."
They went upstairs to their room. Ginji opened the door and rushed in to the shower. This time he beat Ban to it. He undressed and let the water rinse his body from the salt. Ban entered the room more slowly. He still wasn't sure Batsu didn't know he was here. They had to be very cautious from now on. That fool, Ginji. What if someone had been sitting there waiting for them? Well, no one did, so it didn't matter this time.
Ban could hear his partner sing in the shower. Normally he didn't mind that—Ginji had a surprisingly nice singing voice—but Ban wasn't in a singing mood right now.
"Shut up, fool, and hurry up. I need a shower, too."
Ginji turned off the shower, dried himself and came, still naked, out to the room. Ban looked at his body, where the muscles moved under his skin as he walked over to the dresser to get clean underwear. Ginji sure had an athletic body.
"Ban-chan, weren't you in a hurry to get a shower?" Ginji smiled at him.
"Yeah, right." Ban went to the bathroom to get that shower. A cold one.
When he stood under the running water he could hear the phone ring. Ginji answered but Ban couldn't make out any words. He hurried to finish the shower, and went back to the room.
"We had a phone call, Ban-chan."
"Yeah. I heard. What was it?"
"It was that Samamoto guy. He wants to meet with us in the hotel's restaurant in an hour."
"Heh. I guess we're on a roll, Ginji. First we could afford this vacation, and now an easy job here."
"Are you going to tell him we think we know where the script is, Ban-chan?"
"You really are a moron! Of course not! We say it will be a hard job, charge him high and accept the request if he is willing to pay it. If he's not, I'll talk him in to it."
Ginji looked annoyingly doubtful, Ban thought. "Sure, Ban-chan."
Ban dressed himself, found a comb and started to get his hair in some kind of order. When his hair became wet, it hung like it used to do before he met Ginji, but when it dried, it started to stand up in spikes again. His hair had started to act like that after he and Ginji had been partners for some time. He really didn't know why, but he supposed it had something to do with Ginji's electricity that always flowed around him, even when he didn't use it and it wasn't visible. He guessed this electric power had to influence anyone who lived this close to Ginji.
Ginji had gone out to the balcony, looking out over the sea to his right. He was really happy to have this vacation with Ban, but now he could see his best friend was worried. Not afraid, Ban-chan was never afraid, but worried. That made Ginji worried, too. Maybe he could convince Ban-chan not to take this job and they could go back to Tokyo instead. Ginji didn't like the thought of being close to a gang who wanted Ban dead. He'd always have to live with that, of course, Ban had many enemies, but it wasn't necessary to stay around them if you didn't have to.
Ban entered the balcony. He lent his back against the rail and lit a cigarette.
"Ban-chan. Are you sure about this job? I mean, it's alright if we go back to Tokyo now. It really is."
"Ginji… are you scared?"
"No, of course not." Ginji looked a little hurt. "It's just that it's one thing to meet all the guys who want to kill you when we're on a job. A man's got to do what a man's got to do." Ginji smiled a little. "But this is not a job, we don't need to be sitting here, waiting for those guys to find you."
"We've got another job, coming up."
"We don't need that job, Ban-chan."
"Fool. What do you mean, don't need? If we get enough pay for this job, maybe we can get ourselves an apartment."
So that's what's on Ban-chan's mind, Ginji thought. The apartment. Ban-chan talked quite a lot about an apartment. Ginji, knowing Ban so well, knew that he wanted that apartment mostly to make him, Ginji, happy. Ginji would like an apartment, too, but he wasn't used to live very comfortable the way Ban lived when he was younger, so he was happy as long as he was together with his friend.
"You're more important to me than an apartment." Ginji said, very seriously.
"Come on. I told you. It's easy money. We can hire diving equipment tomorrow and dive into the cave, get the box, deliver it, receive the payment and be heading back to Tokyo by tomorrow evening."
"What if it's the wrong box?" Ginji's big, brown eyes looked into Ban's narrow, blue ones. That, Ban always had a hard time to resist. He sighed.
"Alright. Then we pretend to have got an emergency call from Tokyo and leave. Satisfied?"
Ginji didn't feel very satisfied, but still, Ban had made an offer to compromise and give up a job if it wasn't as easy as he had imagined. That must be the first time ever he had done such a thing, and Ginji knew that too was to make him happy. He smiled at Ban.
"Yeah, Ban-chan. I'm satisfied."
After an hour they left for the restaurant. When they entered they saw immediately who was their client. An important looking man with expensive clothes sat at a table where he had full control of what happened around him. Two men, who obviously were bodyguards, sat beside him. Ban put on his most polite face and approached the table, followed by Ginji.
"Samamoto-sama?" He bowed. Ginji stared at him but followed his example. "We are the retrieval specialists, the GetBackers. My name is Midou Ban, and this is my partner, Amano Ginji."
"Please sit down." Samamoto gestured at the two empty seats opposite him, and Ban and Ginji sat down.
"So you are retrieval specialists? You look rather young. How long have you been in this business?"
"Close to two years. And our success rate is 100%." Ban gave Ginji a look to stop him from saying the little word 'almost' that he else was bound to say.
"Two years. And so successful." Samamoto smiled dryly. "Did this hotel's hall-porter tell you what happened at my house this morning?"
"Some. There was a burglary and the burglars took a valuable script from your library. That is about all we know."
"The correct word is invaluable. The script is a two thousand-year-old writing from China. It is written by one of my ancestors, and it has been in my family for all this time. To the thieves it is worth money, to me… as you understand it has other values than just money to me. If you can get it back I'm willing to pay you two million yen…each."
Ban had difficulties not to show his satisfied surprise. Four million yen! And he hadn't even needed to negotiate. But… what would happen if he did some negotiating? He opened his mouth to try to squeeze some more money from this rich guy.
"Ban-chan! That's more money than even you thought we could get, isn't it! We can get that apartment now! You do accept, don't you?"
Under the table Ban punched Ginji. Hard. Of all the times for Ginji to be excited over money it had to be now? With a huge exertion he calmed himself and managed a smile.
"Eh… Can you tell us something else about the theft? Do you have any suspicion of who it might have been, or where it has been taken?"
"Ban-chan," Ginji whispered. Why couldn't that damned guy shut up, right now? Ban hoped he at least didn't start blabbering about them probably already knowing where that damned goods were. But at Ban's angry glare, Ginji did shut up.
"One thing I can say is that I suspect that the script is not yet taken very far. I can say that because I do have some control over who is coming and leaving this place. My men keep a constant watch over every coming and going in this area, and they have told me no one has crossed our borders since the day before yesterday. Another thing is that the script was rolled to a scroll tied with a ribbon." He looked at them appraisingly. "I realize this is a difficult request. That's why I offered such a large payment. If you don't think it's enough or you don't think you can handle it, then just say so and I'll send for someone else from Tokyo."
The Monkey Trainer! No way he would give away this job with even a remote chance that the Monkey Trainer could get it instead! Ban smiled confidently at Samamoto.
"No problems. Of course we can handle it. We'll start searching right away."
"Good. If you need an advance payment you can talk to my secretary over there." He pointed at a skinny woman sitting at another table in a corner. "Tell her to give you one percent of what I offered you."
Samamoto and his bodyguards left the hotel and Ban went to see the woman about their advance payment. He got it and returned to Ginji who still sat at the table.
"Ban-chan! So much money! You were right to put up that poster. I'm sorry I didn't want you to."
Ginji seemed to have forgotten all about Batsu or anything dangerous at all.
"You're such a damned fool, Ginji! If you just had shut up maybe I could have got him to give us even more money."
"Ban-chan… I'm sorry. I never thought about that… But we don't have to be greedy, do we? I mean, it's enough to get us an apartment, isn't it?"
Ban slowly calmed down when he looked at his partner. The money in his pocket also helped to make his mood rise.
"It's alright, Ginji." Ban smiled at his friend. "Do you still think we should give up if the box in the cave is the wrong one?"
"Oh, I forgot about that, Ban-chan." Ginji looked thoughtful. "I still think it's best to give up the job if the box doesn't contain the script. As I told you, you mean more to me than an apartment. And you promised, didn't you?"
"Yeah, yeah… I did. But four million yen, Ginji! That changes the conditions, doesn't it?"
"Maybe we can talk about it when we've seen what's in that box, Ban-chan?" Ginji suggested.
"Yeah, we'll do that. Let's order some supper now, I'm starving. And…" Ban took up some of the bills and waved with them. "We can eat as much as we want of anything we want."
They looked at each other and laughed.
After supper they went back to their room to discuss. It would have been nice with a walk, but Ginji insisted it would be best to stay in the room, just to be on the safe side. Ban didn't really agree. All that food, and the thought of all the money, made him feel very content. He felt pretty sure Batsu didn't know he was here. They sure as hell would have made some move now, if they had known. He sat down at the coach and took out a cigarette. Ginji threw himself beside Ban at the coach, put his feet up on the table and laid his arms behind his neck.
"Where can we hire diving equipment?"
"Here at the hotel. It was in their ad, you must've seen it."
"Guess so. But I didn't think about it." Ginji gave Ban a happy smile. "Now, you must teach me how to use the equipment anyway."
Ban shook his head. "No, it'll take too much time. I'll go get that box alone."
"Ban-chan! I want to dive into that cave, too!" Ginji was really upset. He had been looking forward to be able to dive and see caves under the water's surface.
"Idiot. I'm not gonna risk that. It takes some time to learn how to handle these things. If you must dive too, we're not gonna finish this job tomorrow."
Ginji was disappointed but he supposed Ban was right.
"Alright then, you dive alone. But promise to teach me to dive some other time."
Next morning after breakfast, they asked the hall-porter for the diving equipment. The man smiled a greasier smile than ever and said in a voice that probably was supposed to sound regrettable:
"I'm sorry. All our equipment is broken."
"All of it?" Ban sounded suspicious.
"That's right, we've had some heedless guests here, so one by one the units broke."
"And I suppose it was impossible to repair them?" This pissed Ban off. They were so close to be rich, and lack of the right equipment was not part of his plans.
"I'm very sorry. No one here can repair them, and we just couldn't find the time to take them somewhere. There are not many guests who asks for them anyway."
Ban angrily turned from the man. "Come, Ginji. We must talk."
Ginji followed him out on the empty terrace in front of the hotel.
"What'll we do now, Ban-chan?"
Ban lit a cigarette while he thought. He didn't want to give up so easily, and there was another option. What would Ginji think about that, though?
"I'll do the diving without any equipment." He blew out some smoke.
"No way, Ban-chan. You heard that guy who talked to Sensou in the boat, he said it was idiocy to dive without it."
"But Sensou said another guy had made it," Ban reminded him.
Ginji wandered back and forth on the terrace. If Ban was going to do this…
"I'll go with you, Ban-chan."
Ban groaned. "No, Ginji. Don't be more stupid than usual. How the hell could you do that? Shit, you can barely swim."
"You're wrong, Ban-chan. I can swim now, you saw me."
Ban had to unwillingly agree. As soon as Ginji had got the knack of it, he had swum like he had known it for years. Shit, he saw in his partner's eyes that he wasn't going to give this up. That fool guy was so damned stubborn.
"Besides, Ban-chan, it's more about holding your breath, right?"
With a deep sigh, Ban gave up.
"Alright, we dive together."
Ginji's eyes glittered when he smiled at Ban. "It'll be fun! Thanks Ban-chan."
They left the hotel for the bay. It was a good thing they at least had flashlights for underwater use. This time they held a thorough watch out. No one was following them; in fact they couldn't see any people at all. Ban did his best to hide their trails anyway. No need to take unnecessary risks. When they reached the cliff, Ban went for the spot where they used to climb down, but Ginji took his arm.
"Ban-chan. Can we jump down from this cliff into the water?"
Ban considered it. It was about ten meters down, and the water was deep enough to make a safe jump. Heh, Ginji really enjoyed this. What the hell, why not?
"Okay. But jump with your feet first, and when you come down into the water, spread your arms and legs so you don't go deeper down than necessary. You can go first, but move away before I jump, so I don't fall on you."
"You sound like Teshimine-san, when I was a kid and wanted to do something I never had done before." Ginji laughed. "Don't worry, Ban-chan, I'll do as you say."
They both undressed, put on their swimming trunks and hid their clothes. Ginji blinked at Ban and ran to the edge. With a big 'whoopee!' he jumped, lamp in hand, out off the cliff. Ban looked down and saw him reach the water. Ginji's yellow hair disappeared under the surface but was soon up again. Ban heard him laugh and saw him swim a few meters to make room for Ban.
"This is so fun, Ban-chan! Come!"
Ban had to laugh himself; Ginji looked so damned happy. That guy knew how to enjoy himself and forget about troubles, and that made Ban happy, too. So, he laughed again and imitated Ginji. Ran to the edge, called out, 'whoopee!' and jump in the same clumsy way Ginji had done.
The water surrounded him and he swam up to the surface, just to find Ginji waiting for him, splashing him with a cascade of water.
"Hahah, Ban-chan! Got you!" Ginji was laughing and splashing like he was a child who enjoyed playing with his friend in the water. Which, Ban smirked some, was what he was in a way.
"Hey… you damned fool, Ginji. We got a job to do."
"Sure, Ban-chan. I'm coming. Who'll swim first?"
"First of all, I'm gonna dive down to the entrance alone, Ginji, just to make sure we can find it. Then I'll come back and we dive together, and I'll show you the entrance. Before we go into it, we return to the surface. Then I'll go down again and swim all the way to the cave, and after one minute you'll follow me."
"Why can't we do it together, Ban-chan?"
"Fool, because if I have to turn back I don't want the passage blocked by you."
"Alright. Go find the entrance, Ban-chan."
They swam as near the place where the Batsu members had dived as they could calculate. Ban took a couple of deep breaths and dived to find the entrance. It should be three meters down and under a projecting piece of rock, he remembered Sensou saying. He looked at the surface, trying to estimate the depth where he was. Thanks to his earlier diving experience, he thought he could do this quite well. When he guessed he was on the right depth he started so swim along the cliff. Over there! There was a piece of rock that projected from the cliff. Ban swam down under it. Yes! There it was, the entrance to the cave. Now he had to get Ginji. Ban felt the excitement rise inside him. This was exactly what he had dreamed of. A job that would make him and Ginji so wealthy they could do whatever they wanted to, and pick and choose among their jobs. Maybe they could employ the Monkey Trainer to do the lesser jobs. He would enjoy like hell being that Monkey's boss! And very soon the dream was about to come true! He quickly swam straight up. Ginji was a few meters away.
"Did you find it, Ban-chan?" Ginji's voice was eager.
Ban laughed with pure happiness. "Of course, Ginji. It wasn't hard. It's right below this spot. The entrance is a bit small, but I looked inside it and it gets wider."
Ginji came over to him.
"Ready to have look, Ginji?" Ban asked. This was actually a test, too. He wanted to see if Ginji at all was able to dive down to the entrance and back up without problems.
"Take some deep breaths, Ginji, and follow me."
They both inhaled deeply a couple of times and dived down. Ban had to admit Ginji at least had no problems at all moving in the water. He swam confidently beside him, flashlight in hand, eyes open and looking like he was expecting something wonderful. They reached the entrance and Ban shone with his flashlight into it, to show Ginji what it looked like. Ginji still looked expectant and it didn't seem like he was running out of air either. Ban pointed upwards to let Ginji know it was time to return to the surface. Back in the air Ban watched Ginji but he showed no signs to be breathless. In a way, Ban had hoped Ginji would have some problems so he should back off and not insist on diving all the way to the cave. Ban didn't like the idea of Ginji running out of air in the middle of the tunnel, but he supposed there was nothing to worry about. Ginji seemed just fine.
"Ready, to go, Ginji? Remember to take some deep breaths before you dive. That way you got a surplus of oxygen so you can hold your breath longer."
"Yes, Midou-sensei." Ginji giggled a little. "I'll be alright. Ban-chan. Go on, I'll follow in a minute."
"Alright, see you in the cave, then."
Ban dived straight down, found the entrance and swam into it, letting his flashlight sweep over the tunnel's walls. At first there were algae growing on the wall, but a little bit further in the walls were empty. The tunnel was longer than he had expected. Not many meters, had Sensou said. How many meters did Sensou reckon was 'not many'? Maybe he should go back before Ginji came and blocked the tunnel. It was wide enough to allow him to swim easily through it, but if he had to swim back it had to be backwards. He still had quite a lot of oxygen in his lungs but if he had to return he had to do it while it still would be enough to take him out of here. Just a little more. There! In front of him the light didn't shine on a rock ceiling, but on a water's surface. Ban swam upwards and all of a sudden his head was out of the water and he knew he had reached the cave.
It was bigger than he had expected. He let the light shine in all directions. The ceiling was quite high and there was about three meters to the wall to the right, maybe ten meters to the left and one meter behind his back. About six meters in front of him he could see a narrow shelf in the rock, big enough for a man to stand on, and there was the box he had seen Chikara and the other man bringing down here. Ban's heart took a jump and he hurried over to the shelf, heaved himself up and sat beside the box. He tried to open it. Of course, it was locked, but the lid couldn't be kept shut when a hand with 200 kg's strength meant to crush it. Ban eagerly opened it. Inside wasn't the scroll he had been expecting. Instead there was an envelope. Ban shone on it to read what was written on it. It read: 'Midou Ban'.
Ginji saw Ban disappear under the surface and he could see the light from his flashlight. He counted slowly: 'one, two, three...'. Soon, the light disappeared too, as Ban went into the tunnel. Ginji giggled to himself; he felt like he was a little kid, playing hide and seek. Sixty, alright, Ban-chan, here I come! He obediently took the deep breaths he had promised to do, and dived to the entrance. Since it was directly under him he had no problems finding it.
He swam into the tunnel. He hoped the tunnel didn't divide into more than one. No, the men from Batsu hadn't mentioned it, and Ban-chan would have come back and told him if there were more tunnels. He wasn't out of air yet, but he started to wonder how long this tunnel was. But since Ban-chan hadn't returned it must be okay, so Ginji, trusting Ban, swam on forward. There was something. It must be the surface in the cave. Ginji moved towards it and crossed the surface. He could see Ban sitting opposite him, reading something. Ginji opened his mouth to call for him.
Then everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Ban turned his eyes towards him. His black hair flat on his head, and looking extremely angry. Suddenly a rumble was heard and Ginji felt how he was hit by something big and heavy, and he found himself under the water again, not being able to go back to the surface. Distantly he could hear Ban's cry:
A letter. For him. He had a bad feeling about this. He opened the envelope and took out the letter, unfolded it and started to read. It was written in an cheerful, hearty tone which made the whole situation seem even more unreal.
'Greetings and goodbye, Midou Ban! We could kill you without letting you know what happened, but it's more satisfying to tell you about it. That way your last moments will be more agonizing, and that suits us fine. By the way, did you know Chikara lost his voice and became mute after you fought him the last time? That's why he came up with this little scheme. Well, we better start telling you before you die. Samamoto is one of us. He owns this whole area and when he discovered that you and your partner were coming for a vacation here we were so happy. You, walking right into our web, without suspecting anything. Too good to be true, we thought, but you came. As I just said, Chikara came up with the plot and I really liked the idea, so I let my men set this up. Knowing you won't say no to this kind of money, it's easy to lure you into the trap, even though we know you will worry about our presence. We are keeping a watch on this cliff and bay, so when we estimate you're inside the cave, reading this letter, we will blast the tunnel. Goodbye, Midou. Kitayama, leader of Batsu.'
At the same moment he heard Ginji's voice, and he looked up. "Ban-ch…" Then there was an explosion, the cave was shaking and right above Ginji, an enormous piece of rock came loose and fell down on his partner.
Ban roared. He threw himself into the water, not caring if some other rock would fall down. Ginji. What happened to him? The cave was still and quiet after the explosion, only the water rippled some. He had forgotten his flashlight on the shelf, but he saw Ginji's shine somewhere beneath him. Ginji… it had looked like that big stone fell right on top of him. Not even Ginji would survive that. Ginji, you better not be dead, you fool. He dived.
Ginji was a couple of meters in front of him with his head about one meter under the surface. His left leg was stuck under the rock, and his left arm was bleeding and hang limp. But when Ban approached Ginji turned his head to look at him, alive and conscious. Ban knew the relief in Ginji's eyes when he saw his friend was reflected in his own. The flashlight lay on the bottom shining on them. Hang on, Ginji, I'll get you out of there. Ban tried to smile encouraging to Ginji, who smiled back. He tried to grab the stone and lift it. It didn't move one millimeter. Dammit! He tried to push it to make it fall over. The same result.
Ginji was running out of air now, he could tell. Ban mouthed an 'I'll be back' to him and swam hastily to the surface, took two deep breaths and dived again. Ginji's eyes had a panicked look when he returned. Ban gestured to him to let out what was left in his lungs, and fortunately Ginji understood. Ban took his head in his hands, pressed his mouth to Ginji's, held Ginji's nose shut and blew the air in his lungs into Ginji's. Then he headed back to the surface to fill his own lungs.
Back to Ginji he examined the ground around his leg. It looked like the leg wasn't crushed, but stuck into the tunnel entrance with the stone keeping Ginji from pulling it out. He tried to move the stone again. Of course it didn't move. Hell. What use did he have of this strength of his, if it wasn't enough to move this damned rock on top of Ginji's leg? He looked for something he could use as a lever. Nothing in sight around them. Again he fetched fresh air and filled Ginji's lungs. He swam to the shelf, got his flashlight—he didn't want to leave Ginji in the dark—and began searching for a lever. It wasn't a very efficient search since he had to get down to Ginji every 30 seconds to give him more air.
The panic rouse inside him. How much longer could he go on with this? And even if he somehow could manage to free Ginji, what good would it make? They were sealed in this cave anyway. Bloody fool. Don't you give up now. Of course you can get Ginji up, and you'll get out of the cave somehow. There weren't any other options. He would never abandon his best friend ever. He'd free him. Somehow. Just as long as Ginji didn't give up. Ban knew that if Ginji thought he couldn't be rescued, he would start breathing water to make sure Ban didn't collapse in an impossible attempt to save him. Ginji hadn't read the letter. He didn't know what had happened. He could do such an idiotic thing just to save Ban. When he went back to Ginji this time, he smiled as encouraging as he could to make Ginji understand he still hadn't given up.
He now searched the bottom of the cave down in the water, for something that could help him move that piece of rock. Still nothing. He swam back over to Ginji, to take another look at his leg. Maybe he could see something now, when he had a flashlight in his hand instead of only the one laying on the bottom beside Ginji? What was that? It looked like a smaller stone was stuck like a wedge under Ginji's leg, where it was caught in the tunnel. Could it really be? Ban reached out and touched the stone. It moved a millimeter! Back to the surface, give Ginji some air. Ban returned to the smaller stone grabbed it…and crushed it! Ginji's leg moved downward to where the stone had been stuck. Ban took his friend's leg and carefully pulled it out. Ginji was free!
Up in the air, Ginji hang on Ban, taking deep, heavy breaths.
"Ban-chan…Thank you!" That was all he could manage right now.
Ban helped him up to the shelf and sat down beside him. Ginji was shaking now and had closed his eyes.
"Ginji? Are you all right?" Stupid question, of course Ginji wasn't all right. He must be in shock. His left arm was still bleeding and was obviously broken. In fact, his leg seemed less damaged than the arm.
Ginji took his right hand in his and squeezed it slightly. He brought their hands to his mouth and kissed Ban's hand. "I need to rest, Ban-chan," he mumbled.
"Sure, you do that, I'll keep watch." Ban tried to sound like everything was just fine. As long as you are alive, Ginji, I'll watch over you.
Ginji fell asleep, his breathing calm and steady. Ban put his hand on Ginji's chest to be sure to feel if that breathing stopped. He turned off the light. No need to waste it. He felt a tear run down his cheek, but he didn't bother to sweep it off. Ginji was safe, for the moment. His chest was heaving under Ban's hand. Ban, too, fell asleep.
When he woke up, Ginji was already awake, shining with the flashlight on Ban. He didn't shake anymore, Ban saw. Instead he smiled gratefully at Ban.
"Ban-chan. Thank you."
"You've already said that." Ban grunted. "How do you feel?"
"Just fine. Thanks to you. It was smart of you, Ban-chan, to find out how to give me air. I didn't think of that."
It was obviously a lie that Ginji felt fine. Ban knew Ginji didn't complain before he was half, or more, dead.
"Fine, eh? What about your arm?"
Ginji looked at his arm. The bleeding had stopped, but the wound was red and looked infected, and the lower arm was broken.
"Guess I could use a doctor when we come back." Ginji turned his face to Ban. "Ban-chan, what happened?"
Ban sighed. He was extremely happy Ginji was alive, but now he had to tell him that it might be just a temporary condition.
"Ginji. This whole thing was a trap. Batsu made it to snare me. The job, everything, was a fake." He gave Ginji the letter that still lay on the shelf, and Ginji read it.
"But how did they know we would find out about this cave?"
"They were probably watching us when we were out at the bay, so they played us a scene. I remember I thought I felt someone looking at us. I just can't figure out where they were, watching us."
"So we're shut up in this cave. Ban-chan."
"I guess so. I haven't been down in the tunnel to see what it looks like. I had some other stuff to do, you know."
Ginji smiled apologetically. "I know Ban-chan. But how do we get out of here, if we can't get out through the tunnel?"
"First I must dive to the tunnel to see if there is any chance we can get through it. If not…" Ban shrugged. "Well, we'll talk about it then. I'd better do it right now. I'll take one of the flashlights. Can you manage for a minute or so?"
"Of course, Ban-chan. Go ahead."
Ban dived into the water again. He swam to where Ginji had been stuck and tried to find a way into the tunnel. It was totally blocked. Dammit! But he hadn't really expected anything else. He returned to Ginji, and turned off the flashlight.
"No, we can't get out there."
"Can there be another way out, Ban-chan?"
It'd better be. No way he would let Ginji die in this cave. Not when he finally had succeeded in rescuing him from drowning. That must mean they weren't supposed to die yet.
"It might. I don't feel like the oxygen is running out, do you?"
"No, the air feels fine to me."
"That must mean there's some kind of ventilation somewhere. If we're lucky it's possible to get out that way."
"Better start looking, Ban-chan, before we're out of light."
"But we don't need batteries when we've got you, right?"
Ginji grinned at him. "Yeah." His grin faded. "At least I hope so, I'm still really tired."
"Rest then, while I search."
Ban went for another search in the cave. This time he wasn't under such stress as the last time, so he could explore it more thoroughly. What was that on the opposite side from the shelf, behind where the tunnel had been? No, it was only a small hole. He shone on every square decimeter of the cave's walls and ceiling. Up there! That looked like another tunnel! Ban hurried to climb up to the hole and look inside it. Yes, it continued to the left and upwards. He crawled inside it. He felt a breeze, so there must be an opening to the outside somewhere. Hopefully the tunnel was big enough for them to climb through. It looked quite narrow, and it couldn't be an easy climb. Especially not with an injured Ginji. Ban was thinking. They couldn't climb side by side so he had to either let Ginji climb first and help him from behind, or climb first himself and drag him up when needed. Shit. Even if it was possible to get out this way, it sure would be difficult. He climbed down again and returned to Ginji.
Ginji could see on his partner's face that he must've found something.
"What've you found, Ban-chan?"
"There is a tunnel over there. The air is running through it so it must have a connection to the outside. As far as I can see, it's possible to climb inside it, but I don't know how far it can take us."
"It's our only chance, isn't it, Ban-chan?"
"It's the only one I can see right now, anyway. It'll be hard on you though. You've only got one arm. How's your leg?"
"My leg's just fine, Ban-chan. A little bruised, but I think I can use it."
"Stand up and try."
He helped Ginji rise and Ginji tried to walk on the narrow shelf.
"No problems, Ban-chan, it's just fine."
"Let's start right now, then. We'll have to get in the water again to reach the hole. Come on."
They slid from the shelf to the water, Ban keeping an eye on Ginji if he would need some help. Ginji made a small grimace when his arm accidentally hit the rock beside him, but the grimace was so small Ban wouldn't have seen it hadn't he been looking so closely. They both managed to get over to the wall where the hole was. Ban pointed at it.
"It's up there. You go first."
Ban knew it would be hard on Ginji climbing first, with only one arm, and a leg Ban wasn't so sure was as fine as Ginji assured him. On the other hand, if Ginji climbed first, Ban could prevent him from falling.
"You'll need some light. Put this in your swimming trunks. You can't hold it, you know."
He gave one of the flashlights to Ginji, who managed to do as Ban had told him. The light shone up to his face and gave him a ghostly look. Ginji pulled the flashlight a little more to the side.
"I can't have it shining in my eyes."
He looked up to the hole. It was about two meters above him. He reached for a small crack in the rock, found somewhere to put his feet and got up two decimeters. He stopped.
"Ban-chan. Is it this steep all the way?"
"What I could see inside the tunnel wasn't. But I don't know what it'll be like later on. Why?"
"Well, right now I've barely started the climb. Two decimeters. Not much, heh. And I already need your help, because if I let go of the crack with my hand, I'll fall. If that happens when we're inside the tunnel in some place where you can't reach me to help me, we'll both be stuck."
Ban knew what Ginji was about to say.
"No, no, no Ginji, you damned fool. I'm not gonna leave you here alone."
"Why not, Ban-chan? You'll have a better chance to get out without me and then you can get some help for me, too."
"Shut up. I'll help you with this climb instead. Leave the thinking to me, you're obviously worse off than I thought, if you think I'll leave you behind in the dark."
He put his shoulder under Ginji's behind and helped him heave up a little more. Slowly Ginji climbed on and managed to reach the hole.
"You're right, Ban-chan, it's not as steep in here." He sounded relieved.
"Keep going, I'm coming."
They climbed upwards. So far it wasn't as bad as either of them had feared. The tunnel didn't get any narrower and it wasn't too steep. Ginji managed quite well and Ban followed easily. What would happen if the passage became so narrow they had to turn back? Ban refused to think about that. Suddenly Ginji came to a halt.
"The tunnel splits."
"The passage is broader here. You can climb up and have a look for yourself."
Ginji moved a bit to let Ban climb up beside him. Ban looked around. As Ginji had said, he could see two tunnels in front of him. One was broad, but very steep, turning from the wall upwards, like a chimney. The other one was leading in almost the same direction they had followed before, but it was so narrow Ban wondered if they could get through. Bloody hell! None of these passages looked tempting. What were they supposed to do? He turned from one to the other, trying to figure out which was the right one. If either. Or both, and in that case, which was the easiest. Impossible to know.
"What'll we do, Ban-chan?"
Ban looked at his partner. Ginji couldn't hide the pain from his voice. Or maybe he was so tired he didn't bother.
"Let's rest for a couple of minutes, Ginji. It's a good spot for resting."
After the climb, this place felt almost comfortable. It was narrow, they almost sat on each other, but it was so good to sit for a while. Ginji's leg had swollen and was covered with bruises. His arm looked even worse. Ban couldn't help but be impressed by Ginji making it this far with those limbs of his. Ginji coughed, some blood came out from his mouth. Ban stared.
"Ginji! You're hurt inside, too!"
"Can't do anything about that right now anyway." Ginji didn't even try to explain it away. Dammit! They got to get out soon.
It was a good thing the air was still breathable. Ban could feel the tiny breeze against his face. Suddenly he started. The breeze! He lent towards the broader tunnel and tried to feel the air moving. Probably not this one. He moved over to the other one. Yes! He could definitely feel the breeze from this one.
"Ginji! This one. I can feel the air moving here."
Ginji looked hesitating at the passage's entrance.
"It's good you found out, Ban-chan, but do you think we can get through this?"
"We have to, don't we?"
"Let's go then." Ginji sighed and headed for the tunnel.
"We can rest a little longer if you need."
"No, it's okay, Ban-chan. I'd like to get out of here, soon."
He started crawling into the tunnel. It was hard to make his shoulder come through, but with a little squeezing it actually worked. Ginji gasped a little from the pain when his arm was pressed against the wall. He draw himself further inside. It was a little broader inside, but not much. Ban was watching him disappear. If Ginji could come through, so could he. Ginji was broader than him. He followed his friend. Suddenly there was a crash. Ginji's flashlight was squashed against a stone he just passed.
"The flashlight was crushed, look out for glass shards." Ginji's voice was very tired. Ban wondered if his partner could go on much longer.
"Here, Ginji, take my flashlight." He climbed as close to Ginji he could and handed him the flashlight. "Can you reach it?"
"Yeah." Ginji took the flashlight, leaning against the tunnel's wall, putting Ban's flashlight in his swimming trunks instead of the broken one. Ban could feel Ginji shaking again. Don't quit on me now, Ginji.
"I don't think it's much further to go. We've been climbing upwards for a long time. I guess we're almost at the top of the cliff now. You'll only have to hang on for a little longer, Ginji."
"Keep going then, fool. You said you wanted to get out of here. It's just a little more climbing and then we're out. Go on."
Ginji started the climbing again and Ban was right behind him. For five more minutes they climbed in silence. Ginji concentrated on one move at the time. His arm and leg were both aching, but he couldn't stop now. Ban was behind him, and if Ginji fainted Ban wouldn't be able do a thing about it. So he just climbed on and on.
It was a dark climb for Ban. The only light was a weak one that sometimes reached him from Ginji's flashlight. The breeze felt stronger, they really should be near the outside now. Ban heard Ginji's voice above him. His tiredness mixed with excitement.
"Ban-chan! I think it's a little lighter! I can see without the flashlight!"
He crawled around a bend in the passage.
"We did it, Ban-chan! I can see the exit! It's just a few meters more."
Ginji disappeared out of Ban's sight and he could see the light from the exit himself. He, too, crawled around the bending. He could now see the exit and Ginji laying beside it. Ban hurried to get out. The sun was bright, and the light hurt his eyes after the gloominess in the cave and tunnels. Ginji lay exhausted outside, but he looked happy.
"You're alright, Ban-chan?"
"That's my line, stupid. You're the one injured."
"Right now, everything feels wonderful. Don't you worry about me, I'm just fine. Where are we?"
Ban looked around.
"We're on the cliff above the cave. It's not far from where we laid our clothes. I'll go get them."
Ban went to get their clothes. They still lay where they had put them. He took the clothes and went back to Ginji.
"Wanna rest some before we get out of here? I don't think we can rest very long, though. If the Batsu members find out our clothes are gone, they might understand we made it out of the cave and start coming after us again."
"Just one minute." Ginji smiled. "But don't give me any dreams, Ban-chan. I'll stick to reality a little longer."
Ban sat down at his friend's side. He examined his arm and leg.
"When we're back at Honky Tonk, I think I'll connect you to a socket. That way we may avoid the hospital bills."
Ginji laughed softly.
"Yeah. Maybe I need that. Come on. Let's get dressed and get going."
Ban dressed himself and then helped Ginji. That guy sure did his best to manage by himself but it was easier this way. He laid Ginji's arm around his shoulders and put his own arm around Ginji's waist to support him. They slowly walked through the wood.
"How can we get our stuff?"
"I guess we can't. We must concentrate on getting to the Ladybug without being seen, so we can get out of here."
And that was gonna be hard enough, Ban knew. So did Ginji.
They reached the road outside the forest. There were no one in sight, but to be on the safe side they didn't walk on the road, but along it, at the edge of the forest. When they reached the bridge, they crossed the road to get over it.
At that moment Ban felt a sting in his neck, and at the same time Ginji fell down to the ground, dragging Ban with him. Ban discovered he couldn't rise from the ground. He could see and hear, but not move, not even talk. He and Ginji were facing each other and he could see the same thing had happened to Ginji. Ban immediately knew what had happened. Hell! Batsu had caught them! They hadn't been cautious enough when they walked from the cliff. Or maybe they had been seen all the time, since they came up from the tunnel. Chikara, Sensou and another man that fit the description for Kitayama, came into his sight. Both Chikara and Sensou were wearing dark sunglasses. Not Kitayama, though. Chikara wore a tube and some arrows. Ban guessed he had blown arrows dipped in some drug at them.
"Good catch, Chikara." Kitayama said. "I told you, we shouldn't underestimate Midou again." He looked at Ginji. "His partner doesn't look so good, though."
Ban felt a pain in his arms as he brutally was raised from the ground by Chikara. Sensou did the same to Ginji.
"Chikara, don't kill him right away." Chikara loosened his grip a little. "Don't you think you'll enjoy it more if we extend the fun a little longer? Maybe we can keep him alive for a couple of days at least. We'll take him to the house at the cape and let you and Mizuno Ikimono play with him."
Ginji tried to fight himself free, but not a muscle moved. They were gonna torture Ban?! He had to get free so he could prevent this.
"What'll we do with this weakling?" Sensou was shaking Ginji. "Can we use him somehow?"
Kitayama looked thoughtfully at Ginji.
"Amano Ginji. Never heard of him before." He turned to Ban." How could a man like you be involved with a good-for-nothing boy like this?" He turned back to Sensou. "He doesn't seem to be able to do us any harm, and he's half dead already, but throw him in the waterfall to be on the safe side."
Ban struggled inside but nothing happened on the outside. He couldn't do anything but stare raged at Kitayama, who saw the look in his eyes and laughed.
"So that's why you're together with him. You love him, don't you? Makes me enjoy his death even more."
He gestured to Sensou, who dragged a helpless Ginji to the bridge, and while Ban was just as helplessly looking, threw him over the rail down into the waterfall.
Ginji. Ban heard how the Batsu members were laughing, but he didn't care. He was concentrating on the feeling of Ginji's presence. Ban could feel he was still alive, but for how long? His concentration was broken by Kitayama, who took his chin in a firm grip and looked into his eyes.
"Don't try your Jagan on me, Midou, it won't work. I'll just want to make sure about your near future."
First, there was only darkness. Then he heard Kitayama laugh, an evil laugh. "This was unexpected, Midou, but I like it! Have a look!" And Ban saw his death... caused by Ginji.
Ginji couldn't do anything as Sensou dragged him to the bridge. He could see the panic in Ban's eyes. Ginji knew that panic was for him, not for Ban himself. Then he was sent flying over the rail, towards the water.
Beside the waterfall was the power station. From there, wires were leading electricity to the hotel and the other buildings in the area. On those wires Ginji got stuck. He felt the electricity flow inside his body. Mending his wounds, recharging his energy, even destroying the effect of the drug. This prickling feeling, deadly for others, was what brought a seriously wounded Ginji back to life.
Chikara let go of Ban and he fell to the ground. No. This couldn't be true. Death was one thing, but Ginji… He must prevent it somehow. Only, right now he couldn't imagine how. The drug still held him in its grip, and until he could move again there was absolutely nothing he could do. And when he was able to move, it may already be too late.
Chikara left. Ban lay on the ground feeling more helpless than he had ever done before. He could accept his death, but Ginji should not have to be the cause… In his mind he saw Ginji as he had seen him the first time they had met outside Mugenjou. He remembered how Ginji, with his smile and those big eyes, had made him feel warm inside right from the beginning. Ban didn't know what he would do if he lost Ginji; couldn't stand thinking about it. Now Ginji was going to lose him. Even though Ban usually didn't dare to admit it, he knew Ginji would miss him as much as he would Ginji. The only thing worse than losing each other, must be to be the cause of the other one's death. They needed each other, loved each other. It was as simple as that.
He heard the sound of an engine. A familiar sound. Chikara was back with a car. Obviously they didn't want to carry him to that house on the cape, and the car Chikara brought was his own Ladybug. They probably were going to dump it somewhere, and didn't want it standing on the parking lot in case the police was looking into this afterwards.
Ban thought of Paul. He knew where they were staying and when they were expected back. It would probably take some time before he started to worry, though, even if they didn't come back at the expected time. But then, he may call the police. Kitayama, of course, couldn't know how long it would take before someone, if anyone, would miss him and Ginji, so he probably wanted to dump the car as quickly as possible, just to be on the safe side.
Sensou and Chikara threw him into the car and got seated themselves. Kitayama seated himself in the driver's seat, turned on the ignition again and drove off. Chikara sat beside Ban, took a grip of Ban's hair and bent his head backwards. With a knife he threatened to cut his throat. That wasn't much of a threat, Ban thought, since they had said they wanted him alive for at least a couple of days. Chikara continued by cutting shallow, but stinging cuts in his flesh. That guy must have been damaged in more than his vocal cord, in their last fight, Ban thought between the pain. His mind must be really sick to enjoy something like this. Ban had actually suffered a lot more pain than this before, but he knew this was only a foretaste of what was coming.
Ginji heard the engine start and carefully lifted his head over the rim of the bridge, under which he had been hiding for a while. He saw the car drive away along the road. When it had disappeared, he climbed up to the road.
Ban had just saved him from drowning, found a way out from the cave, and helped him do the climbing. This time it was his turn to rescue his best friend. Ginji had no idea of where they had taken Ban. 'The house on the cape?' But it had sounded like it was in this area anyway. He started to run along the road in the same direction as the car had disappeared. After twenty minutes of running, the road divided in two. Another choice of paths. Ginji smiled grimly. This wasn't a difficult choice. One road led in to the country, the other one continued in the same direction as the shore. If the house was on a cape it must be that latter road.
The car had reached the house. Since the drug still effected Ban, Chikara dragged him out of the car, not caring where or what his bodyparts hit. The house looked strange. It lay very close to the sea level and didn't have any windows. Ban was brought inside and he could see there was only one big room, with just one stationary screen to help divide the room to one bigger and one smaller part. He couldn't see the smaller part, but in the bigger room there were hooks in the ceiling and shelves with ropes, whips, chains, tongs and the likes along the walls. There was also a table and some chairs, but no other furniture. Chikara and Kitayama tied ropes around his wrists and hang him up at some hooks to the left, at the side opposite the door.
"We'll leave you here with Chikara and Mizuno Ikimono." Kitayama said. "Have a nice day, Midou. But I guess they'll enjoy this more then you."
Laughing, he and Sensou disappeared. Ban could hear a motor boat starting and driving off. He wondered who this Mizuno guy was. It probably didn't matter; things were as bad as he could think of right now. His arms were aching, but he didn't care. Ginji. I'm so sorry. Don't come. You'll regret it the rest of your life if you do. But knowing his partner, he knew he would come, and then…
Ginji ran along the road. There was not a building of any sort to be seen. Not a car or another vehicle. Not a person out for a walk. And no enemies attacking him. At least that was something to be grateful about. How far had they taken Ban? What did they do to him? Ginji could feel he was still alive and that was something else he was even more grateful about. Ban-chan. I'm coming. I'll get you out of there. I promise. He didn't know how many Batsu members there would be, but he knew he wouldn't let them kill Ban. Ginji felt a prickling sensation when the electricity inside him started to build up by his anger.
They were hurting him! Ginji knew Ban was in agony. It was a stronger feeling than he ever had had before. Usually he wasn't able to feel Ban's pain like this, but maybe that was because he usually was involved in some other fight while Ban fought his enemies. This time Ginji was fully focused on Ban and to get to him, and that might be the difference. He tried to calm himself down. Surely he would soon reach the house, and then he just had to fight them all. It didn't matter how many they were; he was going to defeat them. He had too.
The road bent, and through the trees on his right he could see the sea and a small house, standing very close to the shore. Ginji left the road and walked through the forest instead. He couldn't let himself be surprised by those villains. Sneaking closer to the house, he could see the Ladybug standing in front of it. Good. That meant there was no mistake, it was the right house. He looked around. No one was to be seen, and the house had no windows, so no one could be watching him from the house. He ran as fast as he could from the protecting wood to the wall of the house. Still no sign anyone had discovered him. From the inside he could hear sounds of whiplashes. He took a deep breath, prepared to enter the house.
The sound from the whiplashes stopped. Instead he heard footsteps. Ginji hurriedly rushed around the corner to the other side of the house. Luckily there was no windows here either. From the other side he could hear footsteps walking away. Ginji waited until he couldn't hear them anymore. He had no idea who it was who went away, or why, but it meant there was one less enemy to worry about for a little while, if he hurried. He peeked around the corner, no one in sight. Then he rushed to the door and opened it; it wasn't locked, and went inside.
Ban was there, alone as far as Ginji could see. He was hanging by his wrists from the ceiling and he was bleeding heavily. His clothes were in rags and there were marks from whiplashes, burns and cuts all over his body. Ginji rushed to his friend.
He hurried to untie the ropes, carefully laying Ban down on the floor. Ban still couldn't move, but maybe the effect of the drug was beginning to fade, because it looked like he could almost move his lips, trying to say something. It was a very small move, though, and nothing was heard, but he looked into Ginji's eyes, urging him to get away. Ginji interpreted his look as a plea to hurry.
"I'll carry you, Ban-chan."
Ginji bent over Ban to get a grip around his partner to lift him. Ban's blood got all over his clothes, but he didn't mind. The important thing was to get Ban out of the house. He had managed to drag him to a sitting position, leaning against a corner, when he heard a noise behind him. Ginji quickly turned around. From behind the screen, a spot of the room Ginji hadn't been able to see when he entered - and furthermore forgot all about at the sight of Ban - a man stepped forward. It was the hall-porter. At the same time the footsteps were returning and Chikara came back through the door. He smirked at Ginji and tried to walk over to where Ban was lying. Ginji placed himself in his way.
So, this was how it was going to be, Ginji thought. Himself against Chikara and the hall-porter. Ginji was surprised to see him here. The hall-porter didn't give the impression of a fighter, and if he was that Mizuno whatever, he must be a dangerous guy, at least if you could judge from what Kitayama had said. Right now, he didn't have that slimy look, though. He was looking at him with cold eyes, showing no feelings at all in them.
Chikara attacked him. Ginji barely dodged the attack, and made a counter attack. It missed, instead Chikara hit Ginji over his jaw and Ginji flew over the room and hit the wall. Chikara was quickly over him, but Ginji managed to roll away from him and managed to kick Chikara in his stomach. He got an elbow in his neck and fell over; Chikara was over him again. Ginji's fist shot up hitting Chikara's nose. The fight was waving back and forth all over the room. Man, this guy was fast, and strong. The hall-porter still hadn't done anything. He had seated himself on a chair, watching the fight with cold interest.
How long had they been fighting? Chikara almost looked like he hadn't been in a fight at all, while Ginji breathed heavily, his blood now mixed with Ban's on his clothes. Chikara easily avoided even his flashes. How was he supposed to beat this guy? He thought of what Chikara had done to Ban and felt his anger rise once again. When Chikara attacked again Ginji fell, Chikara threw him in a wheel-like movement down on the floor behind the screen out of sight from Ban, but at the same time as he hit the ground, Ginji saw an opening and his left fist hit Chikara in his head.
"For Ban-chan!" He cried out and Chikara lay still.
Ginji couldn't believe it. Was the man faking? No, it didn't seem that way. Ginji was exhausted. He slowly rose and staggered out to where he and Ban could see each other again. Ban could obviously move a little now. He made fruitless efforts to move his arms and to say something. Ginji took a step towards him. His path was barred by the hall-porter.
The man was looking unaffected at Ban. "Do not struggle so much. You will not be able to move before I have defeated your partner, and then I will give you some more of that drug Chikara was away to get." He turned his attention to Ginji.
"So, you defeated Chikara, did you? I must tell you, I had not expected that of you. You seem so naïve and weak. There are more to you than meets the eye; I will give you that. But now…" the hall-porter smiled grimly. "You will meet me. Say goodbye to your friend."
Before Ginji's eyes the man began to transform. He grow taller and broader, his clothes changed and his skin color became greenish. His hair disappeared and his eyes became even colder, like a fish's eyes. He now looked like the water creature Kitayama had named him, Mizuno Ikimono.
"What you saw before was only an image I wanted you to see. This is the true me."
Mizuno raised his hands and… Ginji was hit by two jets of water, which nailed him to the wall. He tried to escape the jets, but they followed him wherever he went. Ginji could hardly breathe but he managed to get to one of the chairs and hold it up for protection. That would give him a few seconds of breathing space. Mizuno stopped the jets for a while and he lowered the chair some. He noticed that the sea had raised over the house's ground level and he was now standing to his knees in water. A good thing Ban was sitting up and not lying on the floor. Mizuno saw his glance and laughed a cool laugh.
"Mine is the power over water and all the sea. It was I who kept watch over you two, when you were swimming in the bay. The day we hid the box in the cave, I could see that your partner felt my presence, but since I can move in the sea without making any waves, he did not understand where I was. I have called for the water to help me hinder you in your childish attempts to rescue him. I also like the sight of blood and pain. That is why I volunteered to help Chikara working with Midou Ban. Maybe you would like to hear what I did to him?"
The jets started again but immediately transformed into swords, and while attacking Ginji he started to tell him how he and Chikara had tortured Ban.
Ginji didn't want to hear. It wasn't something you would like to listen to. He tried to focus on defending himself, but Mizuno's voice was penetrating and he couldn't help but hear. The fight was hard. Ginji didn't get a chance to attack, he barely could avoid the most fatal attacks from Mizuno, and he was already exhausted from the fight with Chikara. This is not going to work, he'll defeat me and then he starts over with Ban-chan. Ginji felt the rage inside him. Torturing Ban! He wouldn't let them do that any more! The electric power was stirring in his body and his electric currents met Mizuno's water swords. Mizuno laughed and continued talking. Ginji increased the power.
"You'll never do that to Ban-chan again!"
This time he could see Mizuno react to the electricity. But he still didn't look worried; he only made another cold, unnerving laugh, mocking Ginji. Ginji lost control of himself.
Ban sat in the corner, leaning against the wall, still not able to move anything more than a couple of centimeters. The electricity was led by the water to him. He had felt the shock when it reached him. The scene that now started in front of his eyes was the one Kitayama had shown him. He recognized it well. It wasn't likely he would forget something like that. He knew this was it. The next electric shock that reached him was much bigger; Ban almost lost his consciousness. He gasped. Ginji… He saw his partner loosing himself, provoked by Mizuno's talk. Ginji was disappearing and instead there was Raitei, raging. Goodbye, Ginji. Remember you made me happy. Don't hate yourself, I know you did this for me. Raitei's enormous power flew towards Mizuno who screamed, but the current didn't stop. For Ban everything went black. It was the end.
Raitei was out of control, and not until Mizuno's screaming had long since faded away did the electricity stop floating in the air. The water on the floor had sunk back to the sea. Slowly Raitei got back into the depth of Ginji's self, and there was only Amano Ginji left. Suddenly Ginji realized those exact words. Only Amano Ginji left!
He rushed over to his friend's body lying on the floor. His eyes were open but unseeing. There was no heaving of his chest, no breathing. Ginji desperately felt for Ban's pulse. Nothing! He closed Ban's eyes, he couldn't bare to see those eyes like that.
"Ban-chan! What've I done?"
He had killed his best friend! His electric power had killed him. He had done what Ban had told him not to do, and lost himself to Raitei! Right now Ginji didn't wish for anything better than Ban to punch him and yell at him for not having obeyed him. But Ban didn't move. Ginji remembered he had also told Ban he could control his electric power, when Ban had hesitated on teaching him how to swim. Ban had said he didn't want to be electrocuted in the water, but that was what he had done! He had to save him!
Ginji had some ideas of how to get a heart beating again. He laid his hands on Ban's unmoving chest where he thought his heart might be, and started to press rhythmically. After a few times he stopped and felt for a pulse. Still nothing. He bent Ban's head back and gave him mouth to mouth even if he didn't had the slightest knowledge if that would help, but Ban's brain needed oxygen and he just knew he had to do something… For a couple of minutes he took turn pressing Ban's chest and blowing air in his lungs. His cheeks were wet by tears. Ginji wept. Sobbing he was working with Ban's slack body.
"Ban-chan… don't leave me! Come on… please. What'll I do without you, Ban-chan…" His words became whispers as he didn't have the strength to talk anymore.
Ginji was at the edge of giving up hope now. Wasn't there anything else he could do? Wait, hadn't Ban-chan mentioned something about giving people whose heart had stopped electric shocks to make them start beating again? Ginji hesitated only a second. He had killed Ban with electricity, could electricity get him back now? There was nothing to lose. Ginji felt how sorrow was replaced by determination. He put his hands back on Ban's chest and carefully started to build up electric energy again. This time he wouldn't lose control. This was a fight, and the enemy was death. It was the most important fight he ever had to do. If he lost this one…
He charged. Felt for Ban's pulse. Nothing. Again. Still nothing. Again!
There it was! Ban's heart was beating by itself and his chest heaved as he started breathing again.
"Ban-chan, can you hear me?" Carefully he shook Ban.
Ban opened his eyes. The sight of his narrow, blue, seeing eyes was the most beautiful thing Ginji had ever seen.
"Ginji?" Ban coughed. "I thought I was dead."
"You were, Ban-chan." Ginji was crying again. "I killed you!"
"That's what Kitayama showed me. You killing me." He coughed again and managed to sit up. "Good, I can move again. Stop crying, Ginji. Tell me what happened. We're not dead both of us, are we?"
Ginji made an effort to stop crying and began to tell Ban everything that happened from the time when he'd been thrown over the bridge to the waterfall.
"Yeah. I knew you weren't dead, but when Kitayama showed me you were going to kill me, I wondered which would be best for you," Ban said.
"If I really had killed you, I guess I'd rather be dead. But you're alive, Ban-chan, and me, too."
He suddenly bent over Ban, and hugged him.
"I'm sorry, Ban-chan. I know I shouldn't have become Raitei. I… I just… I'm sorry."
Ban returned the hug. He wasn't in a mood to yell at Ginji now. He knew how Ginji must feel and didn't want to make him feel worse.
"It's alright, Ginji. It's because of me all this happened, right? Next time try to remember what I said about water and electricity, though. Go on, tell me more, what happened?"
Ginji did so and when he was finished he looked anxiously at Ban.
"Are you mad at me, Ban-chan?"
"For such a tiny thing like killing me? Just kidding, Ginji, don't look so scared. As I said, it's all my fault in the first place. You defeated two of the most dangerous guys there is, one of them without being Raitei. And you revived me, didn't you?"
"You are alive, Ban-chan, right? I'm not dreaming, am I?" Ginji sounded worried.
Ban smiled gently at him.
"If you are, I'm having the same dream. I certainly feel alive and I can assure you I'm not using my Jagan. But what happened to that water bastard and Chikara?"
"Mizuno has disappeared. There is no sign of a body. I don't know what's happened to him. Chikara… I guess he's dead. I must've killed him, too. He is lying behind that screen."
Ginji went to have a look, and came back looking sad.
"Yeah. I've killed him. Strange, Kitayama didn't mind that. When he showed you your future I heard him say he liked what was going to happen."
"He probably didn't know. His vision was my future, through my eyes, and I didn't see what happened to Chikara. The vision started when you fought the water bastard."
He looked at Ginji who was sitting beside him with a sad expression.
"Don't look so sad, that bastard deserved what he got."
"Maybe so, Ban-chan, but I don't like to kill anyone. But I have to admit," he said with a tiny smile. "I'd rather have him dead, than you, Ban-chan."
"Yeah. I guess you could have revived him instead of me, but you had to make a choice, you know," Ban said teasingly to Ginji. "Don't you think it's time to get out of here?"
"Yeah. Can you walk, Ban-chan?"
Ban rose. He took a few steps on the floor. For a guy who was dead a couple of minutes ago, he felt just fine.
"Sure. I'm alright. Is the Ladybug still outside?"
Ginji nodded. "Um. But I don't' know where the keys are. Maybe Kitayama got them."
"Let's look in the car if they're there. Else we'll have to walk."
They went out to the car, and they were lucky. The keys were in the ignition lock, so it was possible for them to drive instead of walk. Ban looked at the blood on his body. He didn't like the idea of getting his car all bloody. Ginji saw his look and took off his vest.
"Here, the most blood is on your back, and the vest got most blood on the front. If you put this on you can at least prevent some blood from getting in the car."
Ban took the green vest. He needed it, not only to prevent his car from getting all bloody, but there weren't much of his own clothes left. His shirt was all gone, and so was his undershirt. Of his trousers there were a little more left, but not much. He sighed, this was not good. Of course, better naked than dead, but still…
"Can you drive, Ban-chan?"
"Of course, you moron, you didn't think I'll let you drive, eh?"
Ginji smiled. Ban was definitely feeling better. He acted like his old self again. That was a relief. Ginji seated himself at the passenger seat beside the driver's seat. Ban sat down behind the steering wheel.
"How do we get out of here? Samamoto said his men controlled all roads to see who came and left."
Ban searched for cigarettes anywhere in the car, while he was thinking. He found a packet, together with his lighter. At least he hadn't lost that one. That lighter had belonged to Yamato and he treasured it. He lit a cigarette and enjoyed inhaling the smoke from the tobacco; it made him feel calmer. Heh, it seemed he had been a little shaken by all this after all. Well, he wasn't going to tell Ginji that. Lucky they didn't have many things left in the hotel. Of course they couldn't go back there and get anything, but it still hurt Ban that they would have to buy some new stuff, now that the four million yen wasn't going to happen. He thought of something. What if… He put his hand in the pocket in his trousers. The pocket was still intact, and inside it lay the money he got from Samamoto as an advance payment. Ban laughed.
"Heh, I found this money in my pocket. Those bloody bastards forgot to take them from me."
"That's good, Ban-chan, but how do we get out of here?" Ginji asked again.
"Fighting again, I guess."
He hoped he didn't have too. His entire body was aching like hell, but he couldn't let Ginji do all the fighting alone. Ban started the engine and turned the Ladybug to get to the road. The road ended here, so they had to take the same way back as they came from. They drove off, no other people in sight this time either. When they reached where the road split in two, Ginji asked:
"Where do you think this road leads, Ban-chan? Maybe we can leave this place that way and avoid driving past the hotel?"
"Nah, it probably leads to Samamoto's mansion. It's the only road I can think of that does that, and I don't think I wanna pass his house."
"Guess not." Ginji agreed.
They reached the power station and approached the hotel. Still no one had tried to stop them. They passed the hotel.
"Strange." Ban mumbled. "Even if they don't know we've escaped, they know this is our car and they would check it out."
Only a moment later they were stopped by a temporary road block, and two of Samamoto's men approached them, guns in their hands.
"Step out of the car, and keep your hands where I can see them."
"Of course." Ban said politely, stepped out and looked the men right into their eyes. His own eyes turned reptilian as his Jagan began the men's visions. He let them see Samamoto getting out of the backseat, telling them everything was alright and to let them go. The men bowed and pulled off the road block, letting them pass without any further trouble.
"Phuu! That was the first easy thing today!" Ginji loudly exhaled.
That was the only time they were stopped. Ban didn't dare stop the car for anything else but to get more gas. They drove all night and in the morning they reached the Honky Tonk at the same time as Paul opened the café. He stared at them.
"You look like you've been through hell and back!"
"We have." Ginji agreed.
Ban pulled up some bills and put it on the desk.
"We need food, plenty of it."
"Coming right up."
Paul went to fix some food for them. The GetBackers seated themselves at a table, taking a good look at each other. Their bodies were covered in blood, Ban's worst. He was still wearing Ginji's vest with no shirt under, and he had wounds and bruises all over. They had neither been eating nor sleeping in 24 hours and they had been to hell and back, not once, but three times during that time! And it showed on their faces. No wonder Paul was giving them worried looks from behind the desk.
"You look terrible, Ban-chan. Maybe I should connect you to a socket instead?" Ginji laughed.
"Fool. Remember what happened last time when you tried electric power on me?"
"Actually, the last time saved you, Ban-chan."
Ban yawned. "Yeah. I guess you're right, but I think I'll pass the socket treatment anyway."
Ginji yawned, too. "I could fall asleep right here and now."
He shook his head trying to clear it some. "Was this a successful retrieval or not, Ban-chan?"
"Of course it was. The request wasn't what we first thought, but we both got it back."
Ginji thought about that and then he smiled, looking with his big eyes into Ban's. They were still blue, narrow, and some called them cold, but Ginji loved them. And the eyes saw him; they didn't have that unseeing look Ginji knew he would never forget.
"You're right, Ban-chan. We both got what we treasured most back."
Paul came with their food. Ban and Ginji smiled at each other and started to eat.