This is chapter 4...written by the wonderful Melissa. Okaia manages to get herself into some trouble. Enjoy! Please read and review.

Chapter IV

Okaia's Mistake, Suspicions Arise

Okaia eagerly spun her head around in different directions. She was in the middle of a busy dusty road with bustling businesses all around her. In the crowd of people she disappointedly could not figure out which way to go. "Okaia! Slow down, will ya?" Ayashi called out. She looked ahead at the wild, bouncy redhead with more of a motherly affection for her youthful companion. Okaia was full of innocence yet had powerful energy and was a force to be reckoned with. She doesn't realize sometimes just what consequences her actions have. Good thing I followed her.

"Okaia! C'mon! You aren't going to catch up with him! You don't even know which way he went! Besides, we have some exploring to do!" Ayashi merely stated what was already obvious to Okaia, who let out an exasperated sigh. Okaia had hoped to catch up with the really hot guy they had just been invited to dinner with. She had no desire to explore the town for information. Even though the bounty was important to everyone, she knew that she'd never be able to concentrate on the task at hand before dinner that night. No matter where she looked, Okaia kept seeing his gorgeous sea foam green eyes.

"But Ayashi! Everywhere I look there he is! I wish it was 7 o'clock right now!" Okaia looked at Ayashi with desperate pleading eyes, the kind that she knew would get her just the sympathy she desired.

Ayashi was not prepared for the sudden large moist pair of orchid eyes right in front of hers. Oh no, not that look again! That baka! She's really laying it on thick this time. "Look, maybe we should try to get the hotel back. Lawrence did say that he would let us stay another night. Even if we don't go back there after dinner, maybe you would like a place to relax for a bit. Let's go get the keys back and I will do a little investigating while you get a little beauty sleep. Besides, you probably want a place to beautify yourself before the long-awaited dinner tonight." Ayashi started to lead Okaia towards the hotel.

Just then Okaia said, "Aaaahhhh! This is so frustrating! How can he just appear like that and then disappear? He was right here and then he was gone! What is he, a freakin' magician? Oh, but those eyes could sure do some magic on me! And I bet he's got a great six-pack on him……… Ayashi, I can't believe this town has no place to buy guns! What kind of a place is this?" Ayashi toppled over at the abrupt and random change in subject. Okaia was notorious for a short attention span whenever she got distracted by her one true passion. Ayashi didn't know any other person who loved to study the mechanics of weapons as much as Okaia, and she swore that inside that imaginative and disorganized head was an encyclopedia of weaponry. That is one of the reasons that they all relied so much on Okaia, and all together they made quite a remarkable group. All of them secretly hoped that with this bounty they would not have met their match.

They arrived at the hotel soon after and retrieved the keys from Lawrence. Ayashi made sure to flash Lawrence a grateful, friendly smile before heading up the stairs. Okaia was on the bed lying on her back when Ayashi was prepared to head back out to hunt for more information on the bounty. "Behave yourself!" she warned Okaia before closing the door behind her. Okaia sat on the bed and stared out the window daydreaming. Those eyes! That smile! I can picture it now… Okaia drifted off into blissful images of Vash looking with passion into her eyes, caressing her and whispering sweetly into her ear. And of course, there was "the kiss" that she could never get quite right in her fantasies of any guy. Oh, if only Ayashi wouldn't get that look when she's around him! Of course, I always told her that she influenced my taste in guys, so she should consider it a complement anyway. Okaia always had looked up to the other three like older sisters or motherly figures in her life, and of course Ayashi was more like the fearless leader, the diplomat of the group, so Ayashi tended to be a little soft with her. Okaia acted more immature around the others mostly because she could get away with it, and she didn't mind being a little babied by the others when she knew how much they went through to protect her. They knew how capable she was when she needed to be from the previous bounties they'd gotten together. And it was fun being the center of attention, but also she was grateful for time once in a while to sit alone for a bit. For now she would do what she did best, keeping the group's weaponry in tip-top shape. Besides, they needed good weapons to catch such a large and dangerous bounty. Okaia didn't realize that her one-track mind would eventually get the best of her.

After an hour of cleaning guns and knives and lying on the bed tossing and turning, Okaia said aloud, "Aaaahhhhh! I can't take it anymore! I am so bored!" Just then a glint of something shiny caught Okaia's attention. Okaia looked as the sun shined on a pile of guns still lying in the corner of the room.

The glint kept bothering Okaia. She closed her eyes and turned over on the bed trying to sleep, but she could still see the pile of guns in her mind. It was as if they were beckoning her to do something with them. She was very curious as to whether or not the town had a store to sell guns, or any weapons for that matter. Knowing that there was a pile of guns on the floor that could use tweaking made Okaia go crazy. It was like fingernails scratching down a chalkboard. Okaia decided that she would just leave for a bit and come back. No one would ever know that she'd been gone, and what trouble could she really cause merely looking for someone selling weapons? Any weapons in their possession would do nothing but good. The more weapons they had to fight bounties with, the better! Besides, Okaia was worried about their bounty since they had little factual information to fall back on in their search.

So with that, Okaia crept out of the room and locked the door as carefully as she could, even though she was the only one there. She ran down the hall, walked down the stairs and out the lobby so she wouldn't make Lawrence suspicious, and immediately started out at a fast pace. Okaia didn't even care that her wild red hair made it look like she'd just gotten up in the morning. Nothing would keep her from her frantic search now!

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Ayashi wiped her hand across her forehead in an involuntary reaction to the intense heat from the sun beating down on her face. It seemed that she was getting nowhere in her search. Everyone in the repair shop said they knew nothing of a person like the $$60 billion bounty. She had spent a lot of time in there trying to coax people into giving out little bits of information, but for some reason, even her greatest and most luring charms couldn't work. Had she really lost her powerful persuasion techniques? Actually many of the people seemed to ignore her not because they didn't know but because they did know. Well I'll be damned! They are actually so scared of him that they don't want to help anyone who might try to get rid of him! Is he really that terrible? Ayashi knew that he must be, for such a large bounty could only be built up on the head of a very dangerous and ruthless man. "I won't let anything get in my way!" Ayashi said out loud as a few onlookers in the streets gave her a weird look. She didn't seem to notice. "The answer I'm looking for has to be somewhere around here! I mean, how big is this town, anyway?"

Ayashi proceeded until she reached a restaurant called Henry's Hot Treats. She decided she would go inside and order something small so she wouldn't seem suspicious to the people here that were so afraid of the mere legend of the man. She peeked inside first through a small, smudged window and saw that not too many people were in there.

The door creaked as Ayashi pushed it open and stepped inside. The restaurant had somewhat dimmed lights and mellow music softly playing on speakers around the whole room. The atmosphere inside was much nicer than the misleading outer appearance. Good, she thought, this is a cozy environment. People shouldn't be too much on the edge. Time to turn up the charm! Ayashi saw a sign that said to wait to be seated. She sat on a long bench and waited for someone to notice her. It seemed that there was only one waitress working. Ayashi figured that this poor woman was really busy even though the restaurant wasn't. She saw a middle-aged man and woman enter and sit down at the other end of the bench. Ayashi saw her chance to strike up a casual, prying chat. "So!" Ayashi began, "Does this place serve good pie?"

The woman looked up. "Yes, great cherry pie, but not better than I can make!" she said with a laugh. "You might try the lemon meringue, but I actually prefer a different desert that isn't usually in restaurants. This place has the greatest donuts in the town! In fact, they are so popular that many people come in and just order a bag of donuts to take home."

At this Ayashi's eyes practically popped out of their sockets, and they began to appear more glazed than the donuts themselves. "Miss, are you okay?" the man asked.

Ayashi was silent for a moment, and then she shouted, "Alright, then! I guess I need to hurry and try those donuts. I… I can picture them already! I… I can smell them!" The couple gaped at Ayashi as her eyes grew large enough to actually look like donuts.

"Miss! Please! Calm down!" the man said. "Are you sure you're okay?"

Ayashi returned to a normal stance and tried to look serious and focus on her task. She said quietly with a faux sadness in her voice, "It's just that with someone like the Humanoid Typhoon around, I figure I don't have much time left to enjoy such perfect delights!"

The woman stared in shock. "Well what an awful thought! My dear, no one is even sure if he is here! Right, Merve? He has blonde hair, but that's all they have as a guaranteed description," the woman stated.

Merve chimed in, "You know, he used to have that long red coat, but I guess he lost it. Maybe he finally got rid of it so he couldn't be identified. My friend is with the police and I have heard many rumors, and the biggest one is that he really hasn't killed anyone lately, but that doesn't make him any less ruthless. Maybe he just has to concentrate too much of his energy into evasion now that his bounty is so high, and everyone's heard of him and looking for him."

Ayashi looked at her watch and realized that even though the customers gave her some good info, she couldn't wait around to hear more. She couldn't believe that it was already after four. She desperately needed to get home and change. But she couldn't just leave such delicious sugarcoated treats for everyone else to eat. She decided to buy a large bag of fresh donuts on her way out.

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Okaia's wild hair waved in all directions behind her as she bounced up and down streets excitedly with only one pleasure on her mind. But she knew enough to be sneaky, watching out for any of the others, especially Ayashi. No one had mentioned seeing a weaponry or blacksmith-type shop anywhere, but she was determined to find one if it existed. She anxiously searched for a sign that there was hope for this town after all when she noticed a simple wooden sign hanging out for everyone to see. "Yes! Guns!" Okaia squealed in excitement as she lunged to the door and tumbled into the store. She bounced all around, gawking like a child in a candy store. Guns of every shape, size, make, and model were displayed on every wall from floor to ceiling while small hand guns in glass cases were in the center of the store. There was also a separate side room with swords of every kind imaginable, but Okaia was more interested in the "good stuff" that consisted of the largest and most accurate guns she could find.

Hmmm. None of these can match the range of my baby! Okaia thought. But that one looks smoother. It's a quieter shot. And… does that one actually have a faster spring than mine? Wow! It does! And that one back there would be perfect to fight against our bounty with! And maybe the smaller one would be good for Arana or Ayashi to have.

Okaia went up to the counter. "Hi! I'd like to purchase a few of your guns!" she said in a friendly voice to a large, bald man with a red moustache and a scruffy beard. He looked down at Okaia and didn't smile. Okaia said, "Please, could you get down that long one there? And that smaller one off to the left?" She pointed at four guns she wished to purchase, but apparently this person wasn't used to friendly people in his store.

The man didn't move but glared at Okaia and said in a deep voice, "Whaddya thinks this is, some kind o' joke?"

Okaia looked hurt. "Sir, I am not joking. I really want to buy those guns!"

The man laughed at Okaia and said, "Listen, I ain't gonna' learn you to shoot. I don' just give out 'em lessons, and besides, I cain't sell more'n two guns at a time. Why don' you just git home, miss?"

Okaia gave him a glare. He could probably sell as many weapons as he wanted to whomever he thought deserved them. She changed her tone and replied, "Look, sir, I won't put up with you insulting me and saying I don't know how to fire a gun. I have a very good and noble reason for purchasing these guns and I would appreciate it if you would honor my request and trust that I can pay you all the money right here, right now."

Okaia stared at the man with pleading eyes but with a serious undertone, and he looked surprised, but then he changed to a softened tone and looked sympathetic toward Okaia. "Look, miss," he began, "I know that everyone is on th' edge 'bout that there Humanoid Typhoon. I'm sure you could kep any money you got with ya an' use it some other way, an' I'm touched by your noble cause, really I am. But I cain't let no one else innocent like you go out there unlearned an' become another victim to 'im. No one's bin able to catch 'im an' I don' thinks no one will soon. You'd just waste your time, your money, and prob'ly your life, all because that heartless bastard decided to go on a rampage." His entire face had hardened and tensed up.

Okaia was silent for a moment, feeling dejected that he didn't think she could handle a gun. Also, she didn't know much about the Humanoid Typhoon, but he was probably the bounty she and the other girls were after. But she couldn't blow their cover and tell him that now, especially when trying to buy several dangerous weapons. Okaia wondered if someone close to the man had tried something and gotten hurt somehow.

"Sir," Okaia said, "I must say that this isn't a lost cause. I honestly do know how to fire. I want the long one because it has such a sturdy and fast spring. The big gun up there has a smooth barrel and better accuracy. The smaller one is strong and loads easily. It has a little backfire to it and is off by ¾ of an inch, but that can be easily adapted to. The fourth gun is somewhat large for a handgun and has a very rapid, powerful shot. It has good range and will stay on course from very far away. Now please let me buy these skillfully made guns. I don't have all day to argue with you." Okaia decided not to mention that more likely than not she would end up scrapping at least two of them for parts anyway.

A look of complete shock and slight embarrassment came over the man's face. "Alright, ma'am," he said cautiously. He let Okaia buy all four guns without any more fuss, and he didn't even ask why she wanted the four guns. He looked a little nervous as he rang up the prices, and as Okaia left he stared at her with wide, unblinking eyes until she was lost in the crowd of local shoppers in the road. Well, he thought nervously, this won' be a borin' day after all! He let himself to collapse into a chair and heave a sigh of relief that the strange woman was gone.

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It took awhile for Ayashi to convince herself to not touch her new bag of sweets until she got back to the hotel. She was awfully proud of herself. If the others asked really nicely, she might even let them have a half of one. There! Now isn't that generous of me? Ayashi told herself. Too bad I wasn't able to discover anything more important… But Ayashi at least had discovered that the bounty did indeed have blonde hair. That was at least a start.

Ayashi noticed with a slight disappointment that instead of Lawrence at the desk there was a middle-aged woman with short, wavy blonde hair and a lot of cheap perfume. Apparently Lawrence didn't run the hotel completely alone. Ayashi walked past as the woman filed her nails while looking bored but not anxious to get any more customers. I sure hope Okaia didn't get into any trouble while I was gone, thought Ayashi. Of course when she bought those donuts, she was still staying on task. Yeah, the others wouldn't want her deprived of sugar or else how could she be a fully efficient and fearless leader? Ayashi unlocked the door of 219 with the key she had gratefully retrieved from Lawrence earlier. Okaia had the key to room 217, so Ayashi knocked on her door.

Okaia answered the door but seemed a little jumpy. "Oh hi, Ayashi!" she said quickly. "Glad to see you're back! It's getting a little late, but we still have a while before dinner."

"Yeah, we do," Ayashi answered with a suspicious look in her eyes. Okaia certainly didn't look like she'd been sleeping at all. "So, how was it sitting in here bored with nothing to do but catch up on beauty sleep? See anything interesting out the window?" Ayashi asked. She knew Okaia wasn't the greatest liar in the world.

"Oh, I'm fine! Fine. Just fine. Nothing happening in here. Nope! Just polishing my weapons! Gee, I wish there was a weapons store in this town where I could find more polish," Okaia rambled nervously. Ayashi looked at her suspiciously for a moment and then softened her look. Apparently there had been no trouble the whole time. Besides, Ayashi wasn't in the mood to argue with Okaia after having such a long day that still had a long way to go.

"What's that you got there, Ayashi? That bag smells pretty good!" Okaia turned Ayashi's attention to the bag of donuts, which she had forgotten to set down in the other room.

"Oh…" Ayashi began, thinking of how to explain her purchase to Okaia, who definitely did not understand the lure of the tasty treats. "Well I thought I would buy some donuts for the… uh… good of the mission. Yeah, so everyone can have a little something." Reluctantly she shoved the bag toward Okaia. "Here," she offered the bag to Okaia. When Okaia took one she moaned audibly as the bag became one donut lighter.

"Gee, you don't have to be so nice about it," Okaia said with a frown on her face. She was going to criticize Ayashi's outlandish spending of their shrinking supply of money before she remembered her secret purchase. Of course her purchase really could help them. She decided that Kena would appreciate a handgun, and maybe the good spring could go in either Ayashi's gun or her own, with some adjustments, but that wouldn't be hard for Okaia to do. Her passion for guns rivaled Ayashi's love for donuts.

All thoughts were interrupted when Arana and Kena rushed in. "Geez!" Arana began, "It took you long enough to let me know we were coming back here to get ready!" Kena went straight for the room she had shared with Ayashi and Ayashi followed looking apologetic. The four of them dug through bags of clothes and makeup and hairpins in their rooms, looking for that perfect accent for the evening. Arana continued talking to Okaia. "I mean, we were wondering where we were going to be able to get ready before leaving, and then I realized that you two were together somewhere…"

"Oops! Must have slipped our minds!" Okaia said. "Sorry, but now you have time to get ready here!"

"Well we didn't find out much anyway. But I've discovered that there are a lot of rude men in town. What did you discover?" Arana caught Okaia off-guard. She didn't want to tell anyone about her little excursion. They could learn about that later when it wouldn't make them so mad.

"Oh, uh… I just stayed here the whole time while Ayashi went out. I cleaned guns, laid on the bed, you know, stuff like that!" Arana could tell that Okaia was nervous and probably hiding something but she didn't want to pry. Besides, she figured that if there were a problem it would unfortunately reveal itself soon. Okaia quickly blurted out, "She bought a huge bag of donuts!" Arana was amused at Okaia's attempt to get suspicion off of herself. Well whatever it is I sure hope it doesn't ruin our dinner tonight. Aaaahhhh! I need to dig out a better outfit! Okaia was just as frantic about her own outfit, looking for the most flattering skirt she had brought with her. This was the time to make a good impression.

While Okaia was making an obvious effort to make herself stand out, Ayashi was shyly rooting through her things to find the best compliment to her cute navy top. "By the way," Kena said to Ayashi when they were getting ready, "Arana and I already had a little something to eat. There was this big group of rude men at the bar and after dealing with them I really worked up an appetite! Besides, we'll see how well this clown can cook tonight." Kena was still skeptical about what they were about to do. Who knew how much this guy really knew, and this would be one more unproductive night. Kena wanted to help everyone stay on task since the fearless leader seemed a little preoccupied.

Ayashi tried to keep her composure although she was appalled that such a handsome and perfect man could be called a clown even by Kena. But there was no time to argue. Very quickly the suns began to set off in the distance, and Ayashi heard a mother yelling to her son in the street that it was after 7 and he should be inside. An inward panic slowly crept over her. "Kena! Oh my god! What time is it?" Ayashi startled Kena, who found a small wall clock in the hall reading 7:17. "I must have set my watch to the wrong time! I was off by an hour! Oh no, we're already late!" Ayashi ran into the hall wearing a bra and underwear and one black sandal and proceeded to pound fiercely on the door to room 217.

"Okaia! Arana! We're late! Hurry up!" Ayashi shouted through the door. Okaia looked mortified and rushed to finish getting ready, at last grabbing her coat and chasing after them while they all rushed down the hall, making quite a spectacle of themselves to the other guests. They decided it was best not to frantically run through the streets, so they had to resort to a seemingly time-consuming walking pace.

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While everyone headed down the road towards Vash's house, Okaia stopped to look at a picture of a rifle hanging in a window of one of the many stores surrounding them on their way. She frowned when she realized that it was a toy popgun. "Okaia! C'mon!" Kena called. Arana recognized the boy named Ben from earlier. He was running to the toy store but stopped and smiled when he saw her. She smiled and waved at him as she walked by. "Hey guys, I think I see Vash in the distance heading towards us because we're late!" Kena called back to them. She was being honest, but she also knew that it would get Okaia to hurry better than anything else.

Okaia rushed to catch up to them, but in her clumsy hurry she failed to see the strange little black cat in the road staring at her as she tripped over it. When she hit the ground, Okaia's four new toys fell out along with her large quick-fire machine gun. They were sprawled out on the ground in a pile. Arana winced in pity for Okaia since she knew what was coming.

Ayashi asked in a curious voice, "Okaia, where did you get all this?" She thought she knew, but she had to be sure. Okaia remained silent, staring nervously at her feet. She absent-mindedly scratched the back of her neck in awkward silence, something she always did when guilty. "Oh, no. Don't tell me you went on a shopping spree!" Okaia still remained silent. "Dammit, Okaia! We don't have the money for that! Besides, when will you get time to tinker? Huh?"

This time Okaia spoke up with a voice raised in self-defense. "Well they're really good ones! One has a great range and aim, this one has a fast spring, and Kena, I thought you'd like this quick-load if I could teach you to account for its discrepancies and inaccuracy. Besides, I mostly just wanted the parts to improve everyone's weapons! Do you know how much they could help us get our bounty faster and get home?"

At that moment Arana shot a warning look at Okaia while Ayashi shot back, "Well I don't care if you saw a freakin' unicorn with psychedelic wings and a plasma cannon coming out of its ass! You rea-"

But Okaia interrupted, "Plasma cannon? Ooooo! But I didn't see anything like that!"

"Shut up! I'm trying to tell you why you can't blow all our money away on junk!"

"Junk? Junk? It's not junk! Besides, how many donuts did you buy for the 'good of our mission'? Huh?"

Arana politely interrupted them, "Guys, you're starting to cause a scene! People are starting to stare. Okaia, pick up your weapons before someone sees them and gets suspicious. They're already overly cautious around strangers." Arana's eyes pleaded with her with a worried look on her face.

Okaia knew how important this mission was to everyone, and she had almost ruined it all for them in a few seconds of yelling. Okaia stared at the different-sized guns sprawled out at her feet, and as she did she began to sense that a large crowd was interested in what these strange newcomers were yelling about, not to mention the fact that her pile of guns would draw even more negative attention. Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment as she swiftly scooped up her new weapons and stashed them in her cape. She flashed a quick, sad look of shame and immense apologies at the other three.

Kena was about to tell Okaia that there was probably no damage done when Vash walked up to the group as the small crowd dissipated. Okaia stood up as quickly as she could. "Ladies! Hey! You actually came!" he said. Then he eyed Ayashi's donuts. "Oh, are these for me? Wow! You didn't have to get me anything!" He stuffed a few in his mouth. "Thanks! These are really good! How thoughtful of you!" Ayashi gave Vash an eternally evil glare as he turned his head to grab more of her donuts. He didn't though, and Ayashi was wondering how he could notice her glaring at him when she saw the real reason that he had stopped.

Vash would have grabbed more donuts if Okaia hadn't suddenly grabbed his arm. Oh, no. She has that look in her eyes, Kena thought. Ayashi had no choice but to grab his other arm just to make sure Okaia didn't get overly possessive and flirty with him. After all, such a kind and sexy person shouldn't be put through such childish antics, she thought.

Okaia said, "Oh, I hope you don't feel like we're intruding! I just wanted to get to know the people in town, and you were just so… nice!"

Vash responded enthusiastically, "Oh, don't worry about it! Let's go back to my house then for the wonderful dinner I've planned! You can even meet a friend of mine there, and you don't have to be so polite!" While Ayashi gave Okaia a glare, Arana picked up the bag of donuts that seemed to have slipped from Ayashi's arms when she grabbed Vash.

Okaia tugged on both sides of her cape with her left hand, better make sure all the loot is secure this time, then she proceeded to "trip" and fall forward. "Oh!" she cried. Vash had no choice but to save her from hitting the ground by wrapping both arms around her and pulling her back to her feet. "Oh, I'm just so clumsy sometimes! I'm sorry," Okaia said.

"Hey, you don't have to be sorry!" Vash replied. Ayashi thought, he seemed awfully reluctant to let her go. Damn that Okaia! She grabbed Vash's arm again and he led them off to his house with Arana following.

Kena stayed behind them all, deep in thought. Look at him. This is ridiculous! Do they really think he'll have useful information? Or is that just an excuse to visit him? If you ask me, that tale he told us earlier is a complete lie… and how good of an opportunity did he have to notice Okaia's new stash? He certainly didn't react. I wonder if he really didn't see or if he's up to something. How much did he see and hear? And then again, he did react pretty quickly when Okaia "fell" back there…

Kena continued to follow the others down the dusty desert road toward Vash's house, and she decided to try to put her bad mood and her suspicions aside for the sake of the task at hand. She did keep a close eye on Vash for the rest of the trek, though. Besides, she was pretty hungry, and hopefully they were walking both to their dinner and to some answers for everyone's questions.

So, what did you think? Don't forget to would be greatly appreciated!