Disclaimer: I do not own s-CRY-ed or its characters. I do own the now embarrassingly prolific original characters that have been added to this story for a hint of spice, including Zondo, General Makafushi, Genso, Hiro, Nezumi, Dr. and Mrs. Hajime Juro, dead Ariel and poor dead (second) Hideki. No infringement intended or implied.
A/N: Hi again! Sorry it took so long- I'm doing clinical rotations for my PA so I'm in the hospital every day- even weekends!! Blech. And I still have to study. Double blech. Actually having fun, but missing my writing. So I'm very excited to bring this to you!
Many thanks to all who reviewed!! Seems people are really looking forward to this chapter- hope it meets expectations. Actually now's a good place to insert the…
WARNING: This chapter contains some sections with strong violent and sexual overtones. If such content offends then please do not proceed. The rest of you- have at it!
Chapter 14- Complicating
Chin cradled in her hands, Kanami doesn't have to bend over very much as she leans her elbows on the windowsill in the front room. Peeking through the mini-binds out to the moonlit grass on the lawn, she appears lost in thought. However, the other occupant of the room, who shares a gift like hers, knows what she's thinking…
"They're probably there by now."
The boy's voice issues from behind the cover of a rather large map, held aloft like an open newspaper. Elian is reclining sideways on the couch against the armrest, one sneaker propped on the cushion, the other with the toe barely grazing the floor. Knowing the girl can't see his face, he allows himself a silent yawn.
"Probably." She answers back, staring off one more time outside to the missing earth that Urizane had used to form his transporter. From what she's heard of the large man's gift, she guesses the four fighters are probably already at Ito's Cove. She uses her fingertip to tug down the blinds in her line of sight, but her thoughts are drifting off to someplace else.
From the couch, Elian finds himself frowning at her reply and how little it reflects what she's really thinking. "It's silly to worry about them, you know."
Kanami nods as if he can see her. "Yeah, I know. But I can't help it- I always worry. That's just how I am." She tilts her head contemplatively at her own answer, then turns around to face the couch and the open map. "What about you?"
The young boy's frown huddles up into his eyebrows, but he still talks through his screen of paper, "What about me what?"
She stares at the large sheet as if looking through it as she leans against the sill behind her, "I mean what do you do in situations like this?"
"I wait." The map ruffles with an impatient snap.
Kanami is about to try and clarify what she meant but changes her mind. He's being purposefully evasive. Actually, he's been a bit testy ever since Asuka's disappearance. And while she doesn't know much about his powers, she can guess they are likely the reason for his mood. And though she knows she shouldn't meddle, the girl just can't help herself…
"No, I don't think you do."
The young boy blinks in surprise behind his cover. "What?"
Kanami clears her throat before continuing. "I… I don't think you wait. When you were at HOLY, I bet you went on lots of missions like this, right?"
He is confused by her directness and wonders where she plans on taking such an odd conversation. "…sometimes."
"Because of your power. I've never seen an Alter quite like it before. It's really amazing."
He hadn't expected praise, not from her and not when he is like this. So he skirts her compliment, "Kazuma and Ryuho have much stronger Alters; I can't compete. Even Cougar's…" As he searches for an adequate response he can feel his cheeks heating up a little.
But she cuts him off with her enthusiasm, "But your Alter does so many different things! It's almost like you have different kinds of Alters!"
His embarrassment makes him glad for his makeshift shield. How can she say such things? "Urizane can do practically anything with a watermelon. I'm sure his Alter is even more versatile than mine…"
Still, the little girl persists, "-And you control it so easily- like you've had it all your life. And you're so young! Like me, except I can't control mine at all. It just comes out when I least expect it." A bit of sadness creeps into her voice at this admission and she drops her head. "Actually, I've been meaning to tell you I'm sorry."
The large map finally makes a tentative descent, revealing a head of scruffy blue hair and a pair of bewildered eyes. "What? Why would you owe me an apology?"
Sorrow heavy in her features, Kanami pointedly stares down at the floor, "Because it's my fault that your powers are so drained right now. Because of my Alter and what happened at the farm today. And then when you used all that energy just to wake me up and bring me back. If it wasn't for me, maybe you would have gone with them… I'm sorry, Elian…"
Stunned, the boy just blinks at her as the map crumples forgotten onto his lap. "Is that what you think happened?"
Kanami just shrugs noncommittally, "I figured. But I don't really know- I can't read you like the others…"
The young man looks away, sighing heavily. "Kanami, you don't need to apologize. It's not your fault, it's mine."
"There's a lot you don't know about me… and my power. I'm not who you think I am."
Now Kanami is the one confused; she wonders why he won't look at her anymore. "What do you mean? Who else would you be?"
The boy scratches his temple absently as he stares down at his knee, thinking. "It's hard to explain: I've never really talked about it before. No one really knows about me except Urizane, and maybe Cougar… I guess Ryuho knows about my father, but other than them… to the rest of HOLY, I was a bit of a mystery."
A quick glance over shows a girl rapt with curiosity perched on the edge of the windowsill. "What kind of mystery?"
He smiles sadly, "Kanami, how old do you think I am?"
She tilts her head in curious thought again before answering, "I guess you're a few years older than me. You look about 10 or 11, right?"
"Not quite. I'm actually 5. I'll be 6 in October."
Elian finally looks her straight in those wide green eyes, "I'm a clone, Kanami. Of my father- HOLY's former Commander. I'm an experiment."
"I don't understand…"
He purses his lips, searching for the right words to explain, "I won't bore you with the details- the whole thing's rather convoluted- but the short version is that ever since the Great Uprising the Mainland has been trying to harness Alter power. And since its discovery there have been experiments- on Native Alters and their DNA- and refining."
He can see the fear clouding her gaze, but continues. "The genetic material of my father- believed to be the first Alter user- was copied and manipulated and eventually they produced clones. I was designed to be a new kind of entity, with different powers and abilities. I'm not human…"
Kanami's sadness seems to creep into her voice, softening it to a whisper, "That's what you meant when you told Kazu-kun that you were a computer-"
He sighs again, "Yeah. So now you know. I've been engineered to age rapidly until puberty- in a few more years. It allowed me to gain my Alter abilities sooner than normal- I've been able to use my powers for almost 2 years now. And I've been anticipating them for even longer than that. At HOLY everything I did was focused on harnessing the potential of my unique gifts- I was trained since before I can remember. I have enhanced mental capabilities, too. I finished school last year- all of it."
"No wonder you're so smart. Like Mimori…"
He almost chuckles at that as he drifts off vacantly, as if remembering. "I guess. Since HOLY fell and my father died, Urizane's been my guardian. But I don't train any more. I've lost my edge, my stamina. Back then, I would have never lost so much power like I have today. I've gotten so weak- I'm slower now, and I can barely sense anything. It's so frustrating…"
"…Wow, that's… wow…" Kanami looks utterly overwhelmed, a myriad of emotions flitting across her face.
But the boy suddenly shrugs, seemingly shaking the weight of his words out of his body as if he's only just told her of the weather outside. "But anyway, all of this is to say that my being like this isn't your fault. So don't feel bad. I'm to blame for not living up to my potential- for not doing what I was made to do. I let myself forget what I am. I wanted to pretend I was human…" And at that he grabs his map again, hoisting it high in dismissal and perhaps to hide any lingering emotion in his face, which at the moment feels tight with tension.
Kanami is stunned into silence, processing Elian's words as if he'd spoken them in a foreign language. She slowly begins shaking her head as she stares at the map shielding him from view. "You're wrong…"
Elian's rigid voice sounds from behind the sheet, "Sorry Kanami, but that's the way it is…"
But Kanami's jaw tightens, her scowl deepening until she can't stand it any longer, "No, you're wrong!" And with a forceful rush she pushes off to the couch and peels down his map so that she is staring him face to face.
Elian is so stunned that he can only blink wide eyes at her as she speaks, "You are human! It doesn't matter that you were made different, or that you were born different- you're still human! You have feelings and you can make choices- choices that make you who you are. Just like the rest of us. Alter users are just as human as other people and you're just as human as we are."
He finds his voice, but it is somehow weak, "Kanami I told you- I'm a clone, a comput-"
She pins him beneath a patient but critical glare as she stubbornly persists, "No! You're smart, so stop saying stupid things. You're not your dad- you're someone else. And you're not a computer, either. A computer doesn't have feelings! A computer wouldn't have friends, or care that those friends were in danger…"
Elian's face wilts, his mask of indifference falling away to reveal a pained expression. "I guess, but it's just that-"
He watches as her eyes soften again, sincerity maturing her features right in front of him as she continues, "And you know, a computer wouldn't have known how to comfort me when Mr. Cougar was dying in the living room last week. A computer wouldn't have cared about helping me wake up and reuniting me with my Kazu-kun. So don't tell me you're a computer, because you're not. You're a person- just as much as anyone else here; just as much as me. Deep in your heart, you know I'm right."
Suddenly he is feeling confused again and rather foolish, "I-"
But she simply turns around and leans casually against the back of the couch looking out towards the window again, "-It's been a long day and we've all been through a lot. Stress makes people say weird things- things that worry them but that they don't even mean…"
"You're a really kind person, Kanami."
At that she turns again and smiles at him, "And so are you. I guess we'll all have to do a better job of reminding you of that." Then she yawns and stands up to give a little stretch, "I'm heading off to sleep- it's way past my bedtime. You should probably get some rest, too."
"Yeah, I'll do that."
Then, before he can really register what's happening, the little girl leans over and drops a soft kiss on his cheek, "Goodnight Elian." Again blinking his surprise, he watches as she heads to the doorway, noting the somewhat triumphant set of her shoulders.
She smiles to herself as she disappears through the door and heads down the hall. On the way she passes the blonde who is about to head back into Mimori's room and nods at her as well. Finally reaching the back bedroom, Kanami crawls under the bedcovers fully clothed and closes her eyes, anticipating the boisterous return of their friends in a matter of hours. It's been a long exhausting day. But even as she drifts off to sleep, a smile still gently bows her lips.
Peeking her head into Mimori's room, Cammy tries to use the dim candlelight inside to assess the state of the girl in the bed. Against the soft golden glow the silhouette of the lump under the covers appears motionless.
The lump doesn't move, but a single sound drifts from beneath the blankets. "…Mmm?..."
Cammy smirks, "Okay, I'll just take this sandwich back to the kitchen then."
The lump finally stirs, covers edging down to reveal a dark head of hair and the shadow of a pouting face. The voice wavers as if she's still asleep. "Wait…. 'um back…"
"So you're hungry?"
Mimori answers by raising an arm and pushing the covers off her torso, "Mmmm, starving… I feel like I haven't eaten all day." She makes a move to sit up but groans in protest before any progress can be made, "Oh God, I forgot how many places I hurt in…"
Cammy is at the edge of the bed in no time, gently placing the plate on the nightstand, "Take it easy, Mimori- I'll help you sit up. And just in case, I brought these," between her fingers she rattles the little bottle of analgesic tabs out of Mimori's kit.
"Ah, you're a life-saver, Cammy." She blinks sleepily as the blonde lights a few more candles nearby- the new light reveals a clean gauze bandage on Cammy's neck, where the mercenary had held the knife on her.
The younger girl takes her friend's hand and hoists her upright, then sits next to her to prop her up with an arm around her shoulders, "There ya go. Here, eat something," and she reaches back and retrieves the plate, placing it carefully in the weary girl's lap.
Still groaning from the act of sitting up, Mimori nevertheless descends hungrily on the food practically inhaling the first few bites. In a very un-Mimori like gesture, she talks with her mouth full, "Dang, that's a great sandwich…"
Cammy chuckles at her friend, "Urizane made them- you should've seen him in my apron, though."
Mimori nods while chewing, "How funny. Where's Kanami?"
"Heading to my room, probably to get some sleep. Elian's still in the front. The guys have been gone for about a half hour; the deadline's almost here…"
At the growing distance in Cammy's voice, Mimori stops chewing and drops her head onto the girl's shoulder. She delicately swallows her mouthful before attempting to offer comfort, "Cam, everything will be fine. Asuka will be back safe and sound before you know it…"
Cammy nods stiffly, "I know. I've got four of the strongest Alter users in the Lost Ground tracking down my wayward, kidnapped boyfriend. I have no reason to be anxious, right?"
Mimori nods on the girl's shoulder, "Right. We know he's still alive and they'll do whatever it takes to bring him back."
However, her saddened friend seems to explode, "But Mimori, it's been hours since he was taken! A million things could have happened since then! And you didn't see that man- that monster! He was ruthless!! I can still see Asuka's head banging on the floor-!" a choked wail follows her words and Cammy covers her mouth.
Mimori pivots a little to pull down Cammy's hand and wipe at the fat tears rolling down the girl's face, "Shhh, Cam, stop this. We have to be strong for him. What's Asuka going to think when he gets home and you're a wet, soggy mess? Maybe we'll have to patch him up a bit, but he's a strong guy! Don't do this to yourself."
Cammy sighs audibly but wills up the proper strength to compose herself. "I know! I can't help it. I just… love him so much…"
"Well, that's pretty obvious," Mimori teases, dropping her head back on the blonde's shoulder affectionately. A large yawn escapes and her eyes sag heavily.
But Cammy takes the opportunity to valiantly turn the girl's comment against her. "Yeah I guess it is. Almost as obvious as the budding romance between you and Mr. Studious, don't you think?"
Mimori raises her head in surprise, "What?"
Even with lingering traces of tears in her eyes, Cammy's mischievous smile is unmistakable, "Oh, don't even play dumb, girl! Everyone can see how strangely Ryuho's suddenly started acting. I almost didn't recognize him tonight- he's like a completely different person! And it's all about you, Mimori."
At the doubtful expression on her friend's face, Cammy continues, "Oh, come on! Ever since he came into this house last week he's been avoiding you like the plague. But now suddenly he's watching you like a hawk?! And I doubt he's let you walk more than five steps since you guys returned- like he's decided you should take up permanent residence in his arms. What in the world did you do to the poor boy?!"
Mimori finds she can't help but blush, "I… I don't know how to explain it. Cammy, I think something's changed in him! I'm not sure what it is, but he just seems more like himself and less like that emotionless wall that I've been banging my head against for the past few months…."
The blonde's eyes narrow suspiciously, "More like himself? Like when you were kids?"
Mimori nods, "Yes! Like he finally sees me! For the longest time it felt like whenever he would look at me he was looking through me- like he couldn't even stand to think of me as a real person. But today, today all of that changed. I'm not sure why…"
Cammy gives the girl's shoulder a gentle but meanigful squeeze. "Maybe finding you in the clutches of that lying sicko and his whole gang of thugs was enough to knock some sense into our resident iceman. I mean you're so strong, Mimori, but you could have died today- a couple of times, if our bathtub conversation was accurate. Maybe seeing you so vulnerable was enough to make him confront the possibility of losing you. Because let's face it- we've all known that Ryuho's been fighting some serious feelings for you."
But Mimori appears surprised, "Why would you say that?"
Cammy rolls her eyes, "We're not blind, Mimori. Even before all of this the boy couldn't get within ten feet of you without a carefully crafted scowl on his mug. Sure he's frigid, but do you think he does that around anyone else?"
Looking confused, Mimori offers, "Kazuma?"
The blonde shakes her head knowingly, "No, that's different. That's a testosterone contest to see who's got the bigger…" she sends a sidelong glance to her friend, "…Alter." Mimori sputters as Cammy winks at her. "They constantly butt heads because they can't stand how much they have in common."
Mimori nods thoughtfully, "I guess so."
"But you," Cammy continues, "that's a different story. Like I said, he freezes you out every chance he gets, but it's still obviously a front. It's a cover for a bunch of serious emotions just boiling inside him- hell, last week they exploded! Remember the screaming match between the two of you?"
Now it's Mimori's turn to rolls her eyes, "How could I forget? Ooh, he made me so angry!! Cam, I swear I just wanted to haul off and sock him!"
"I know. What better way to push you away and resolve the whole thing? As smart as the boy is, I really think he thought pissing you off and making you hate him would solve all of his issues with you." As Mimori ponders her comments, Cammy rubs her chin contemplatively, "And that's what makes today such a mystery…" At her friend's doubtful frown the blond gets indignant, "Mimori, do you think it's a coincidence that he's the one who went after you? Who found you despite the fact that you were lost in the middle of a giant city in the wake of a typhoon and an earthquake? Who fought off an entire gang of thugs for you and then offered to carry you all the way back to this house? In less than 24 hours he's gone from 'shunning hermit' to 'Mimori's number one fan.' So I'll ask you again- what did you do to the poor boy?"
Finding herself pinned under an accusing stare, Mimori gulps guiltily as she struggles with just how to answer that particular question. "I guess… I kissed him."
Startled, Cammy simply blinks, "You what?"
Suddenly nervous, Mimori averts her gaze down into her lap, fidgeting with the plate as she attempts to explain, "Well actually, he kissed me. Right before he left this morning, he came to apologize… about the fight I guess… and he just looked so gorgeous and I wanted him to kiss me but then he actually did and I think I almost passed out!- God, it was so hot!- but then he just walked away!!"
The blond frowns, "What do you mean walked away?!"
"He just walked off! Right down the cliffs! I didn't think I was ever going to see him again! I was so upset I went to headquarters to clear my head. Then you know most of the story from there- storm, earthquake, kidnapped- and just when I think I'm a goner he appears out of nowhere and saves the day! Beats up more than 20 guys and then whisks me away like some fairytale!"
"Must have been some kiss…"
"I'm serious, Cam! He's actually carrying me home but I'm so frazzled that I end up picking a fight with him! But before you know it we're kissing again! And now that's all I can think about!!"
With a huff Mimori drops her head back onto Cammy's shoulder, but the younger girl is smiling knowingly, "Well that explains quite a bit. And judging from the looks of things he's probably just as caught up in the day's events as you are, if not more so."
"More so?" Mimori is intrigued despite her yawn.
"I'm pretty sure he was seconds away from ravaging you just before I went for your sandwich. I think your injuries were the only thing keeping him off you."
Mimori's eyelids are contentedly heavy. "Cammy!! You're (yawn) just awful…"
"And you're falling asleep on me. Guess we should put you back to bed." Cammy takes the plate from Mimori's lap and gently helps her lay back down. The weary girl happily complies snuggling into her pillow, eyes already closed. "Sweet dreams. I'll send Prince Charming in when our valiant heroes return- after they drop off my special delivery."
Mimori smiles to herself as all of the candles are blown out, bathing the room in a serene darkness, "Thanks, Cam. Everything will work out just perfectly, you'll see…"
Cammy smoothes the covers and makes a quiet retreat, pulling the door shut silently behind her. She knows her friend is right- after the day they'd had things could only get better. By morning everything would undoubtedly be alright again.
On the bluff overlooking the seaside piers a gruff whisper threatens the night's deep silence…
"Where the hell is this fucking boat? And how long have we been here, anyway? What the hell?" Lying on his stomach, Kazuma squints out across the water again, fidgeting restlessly.
The rough teen frowns at Cougar's response, particularly since the man's reclined posture and closed eyes makes him look as if he's asleep, "What?"
Without opening his eyes, the speedster repeats himself lazily, "We're looking for a ship, Kazuya- not a boat."
Kazuma pouts as his whisper slowly escalates in volume, "Whatever. All I know is we've been out here lying on this cliff for God knows how long with no sign of a slimy kidnapper or a big freakin' ship anywhere! How long before I get to blow something up?!"
Finally having enough, Ryuho hisses at the fidgeting fighter next to him, "Will you keep it down? Do you want to give away our position?"
"To who?! Dude, we're the only ones out here!"
The older teen scowls slightly, "Not for long. The ship should be approaching any minute, so calm down and sit still before we lose the element of surprise." Ryuho settles back down and looks out over the ocean.
Peering through a pair of watermelon-striped binoculars, Urizane finally chimes in, "It's too bad we couldn't find this mercenary on our initial sweep. It would have been easier to rescue Tachibana before we had to deal with this Commander guy."
Ryuho nods, "We'll just have to wait them both out."
Kazuma huffs, "Great! More waiting. This is retarded!"
The young ruffian glowers at his lounging friend, "Ka-zu-maa! And are you kidding me? Cougar, you of all people should be chompin' at the bit to get some action! What about all that hostility at the house? You suddenly got cold feet or something?"
The redhead finally smiles broadly, "Hardly. But even I know that vengeance without timing and objectivity is a wasted endeavor. I probably want this more than any of you, but I'm not about to go off half-cocked and fuck it all up. Ryuho's right- our advantage is the element of surprise; we'd be foolish to waste it."
"Hmph, whatever," but Kazuma settles down quietly, staring back out at the water. "So I'm guessing there's a plan?"
Ryuho nods, still scanning the water. "Yes. You and Cougar will take the ship while Urizane and I take the mercenary."
Kazuma snickers, "You think it'll take two of you to take that guy? Think you're losin' your touch, hero…"
Without even sparing the teen a glance, Ryuho merely replies, "No I don't, but I don't want to underestimate him. Tachibana was an officer of HOLY but this guy still managed to get the better of him-"
"-But he was holding Cammy hostage!"
"-Doesn't matter. I want to be prepared for anything. Once we handle the mercenary and get Tachibana to a safe place one of us will join you two to destroy the weapon. Then you get to do what you do best…"
Kazuma smirks approvingly, "which is…"
"Sink the ship."
The young fighter finally cracks a huge smile, "Sweet. I can definitely handle that!"
As Ryuho rolls his eyes amusedly, Urizane exclaims in an excited whisper, "I see the ship! It's coming this way!" Everyone but Cougar cranes their necks and squints at the horizon for the approaching dot in the water.
Still lounging on his back, Cougar offers, "Lose the binoculars. The moonlight might reflect off the lenses and give us away."
Ryuho renews a low whisper, "Looks like another 15 minutes- right on time. When the ship docks don't wait for us- you guys get going."
Kazuma can barely contain his excitement, "Hell yeah! 15 minutes 'til showtime…"
With a start Kanami sits bolt upright in the bed, panting and sweating. Taking a moment to get her bearings, images and emotions from her all-too-vivid dream suddenly resurface again and she throws back the covers, stumbling out the bedroom door. However, in the hallway she collides with Cammy, who is on her way to join the little girl for a moment's rest.
"Kanami, what's the matter?"
The little girl replies breathlessly, "They're coming, Cammy! They're after them- what are we going to do?" At Cammy's confused expression Kanami quickly explains what she saw in her dream, putting the older girl immediately on her guard.
"Kanami, go wake Elian and tell him what you saw. I've got something to take care of. Don't worry, we can handle these guys."
Kanami is about to protest because there are so many, but the stern look on Cammy's face sends her running to the front room for Elian. Meanwhile the older girl disappears into the bedroom and heads straight for the top of the closet.
Elian awakens to the persistent nudging of small hands on his shoulder. When he opens his eyes a thin voice is pleading to him, "Please wake up…"
"Kanami?" he sleepily rubs his eyes before blinking up at the girl, then frowns at her worried expression, "Is something the matter?"
"Men are coming! They're after Ryuho and Mimori and they're coming to the house! I saw it in my dream."
Sitting up on the couch, the boy is about to offer some words of reassurance when he remembers who he's talking to- 'Kanami's Alter manifests as dreams…' He is suddenly very much awake, eyes mirroring the girl's worry. "Kanami, what did you see in your dream?"
The girl nods and closes her eyes to remember again, "Fighters. About eight, maybe ten or more. All injured in some way. There were others they left behind, much worse off. They're coming for revenge… and to reclaim what was stolen from them. They want pain… from our friends… and anyone who gets in their way. They want… to hurt us-"
Elian grabs her elbow, "-Alright, that's enough. Let me check," and he closes his eyes, sweeping the area with his Alter. To his dismay he finds them, closer than he'd like and approaching fast. Four vehicles and perhaps ten or more men. A scan of the house reveals one occupant sleeping in the middle bedroom while another loads a shotgun in the back. Apparently Cammy was preparing for the worst.
Opening his eyes, he immediately registers the fear in Kanami's deep green orbs as she clutches his arm, "What are we going to do, Elian?" In a split second of calculations he has an answer.
"Go to Cammy and stay with her- don't leave her side. Tell her no matter what happens no one is to go outside, understand?" He gets to his feet, staring over towards the front door.
She nods vigorously, "But what are you going to do?"
He turns her around and gently nudges her towards the hallway, "What I've been trained for. Don't worry, just go."
She stops in her tracks, "But Elian-"
"-Go, Kanami! Go to Cammy, and remember no one goes outside!"
"O-okay…" and she disappears from the room.
Suddenly alone in the living room, the boy allows himself a deep inhale and a nervous tug on his long shorts. Elian walks to the front door, opens it and walks out onto the porch. Outside the night is slightly chilled and bright with moonlight. He can already hear the approaching engines coming up the road towards the driveway. Reaching behind, he pulls the door shut and makes sure it's locked, then walks down to the top step of the porch. With a final sigh the boy takes a seat and waits.
Genso is behind the wheel of the first truck that pulls in front of the ranch style house that the doctor described. The other three vehicles pull up alongside him, and doors are soon opening as men climb out at the ready. Eyeing his remaining fighters, Genso can't help but smirk in satisfaction... Won't be long now…
However, as he finally takes in the house an odd sight catches his attention. Just minutes from midnight, he's nevertheless surprised to find a young boy sitting on the porch steps. The youth is completely silent, eyeing the entire party with open curiosity. A hint of apprehension tugs at the giant man's mind- perhaps they have the wrong house…
Taking the lead as usual, Genso slowly approaches the porch, smiling broadly, "Hey kid. I'm looking for… Ryuho." As he speaks the gang leader watches the boy carefully, gauging his reaction to a lawn full of strange men.
But the boy just shakes his head casually, "Sorry Sir, nobody here by that name."
Genso raises a thick black eyebrow skeptically, "Oh yeah? Hmm… What about a girl? Name's Kiryu? She and I go waaay back…"
He catches the tiniest twitch at the top of the boy's mouth before he replies, "Nope, sorry."
Genso tightens his lips in frustration. It doesn't feel right- something's up… "Hmm, guess we're out of luck, huh?"
With a shrug of his shoulders the kid replies, "Guess so."
Hearing a nervous whine from Nezumi, Genso glances back to his men. They're all waiting, albeit less than patiently, to see what their leader will do. On some their frustration is evident- many still carry injuries from earlier that day. Turning his attention back to the kid, Genso decides to play it cool, "So what's a kid like you doing outside in the middle of the night?"
The youth seems a little surprised by the question, but answers nonetheless, "Waiting for more earthquakes."
The large man can't help but chuckle, "You like those, huh?"
A goofy grin erupts on the kid's face, "Yeah, they're pretty cool."
"Yeah they are…" Genso shoots another glance at the house, curiosity brimming. The boy is convincing, but he could be a decoy. He needs a look inside. "…Say, me and the boys are awfully tired- we've been driving around for a while now looking for our friends. Can we come in for a sec- get some water, use the head?"
" 'Fraid not." The kid suddenly looks somber, slowly shaking his head.
But Genso wants into that house. He takes a few steps closer, "How about just me? Just for a sec?"
The kid frowns a little, "Sorry. Um… my Pa wouldn't like that."
The fighter takes a few more steps closer, "He inside then?"
"Yep… with my… six brothers. They're all ranch hands."
Genso chuckles, "Oh yeah? All six of 'em? Hmph. How come I think you're lying to me, kid?"
Still frowning the boy shrugs. "Dunno. Doesn't matter, though. You can't come inside. Sorry, but you should probably go now."
The giant man smirks, "Yeah, well… we'll do that. Just as soon as I talk to your Pa and six brothers," he tosses a knowing glance over to his men who all erupt with laughter. "But one way or another, I'm going in that house."
But then the boy surprises them all by sighing heavily and standing up, "Yeah, I didn't think it would be that easy, but it was worth a shot. Oh well." On his feet, the kid suddenly looks and sounds a lot older. Genso hitches an eyebrow again at the odd transformation as Elian continues, "It doesn't matter, though, because you'll be leaving- one way or another. This is you're last chance to turn around and go."
Genso doesn't know whether to laugh or get on his guard. The young man's tone is so mature and serious- so threatening- that he's not sure what to make of it. His men seem to feel the same; they suddenly grow silent and begin moving toward the house. The large fighter narrows his eyes critically at the youth, "And if we don't?"
Elian finally smirks himself, "Then you're transportation will be leaving without you."
With his last words a shimmering translucent bubble materializes around him and within seconds the engines of all four of the gang's vehicles suddenly rev to life. All of the men turn in shock as four sets of headlights come on, then watch dumbfounded as the trucks begin rolling backwards, gaining speed. Several of the men immediately chase after the vehicles as they back out across the lawn and driveway as Genso, Nezumi and the few remaining men look on in bewilderment. Angered, Genso turns back toward the boy only to watch as his glowing bubble rapidly expands above and behind him until it encases the entire house. The rat-man behind him shouts, "Boss! He's an Alter User!"
The lawn rocks with the sound of two trucks colliding as the giant fumes, "I know that, you dumb-ass! Tell them to get back here and get rid of that shield!" As Nezumi runs off after the retreating vehicles and fighters, Genso barks at the remaining men, "Don't just stand there- shoot it!"
Two men draw guns from their waists and take aim at the house. Two shots are fired and two points on the shield flux inwards, identical waves rippling across the surface as the bullets are absorbed, stuck in the membrane like a splinter in thick skin.
Confused, the men look to their leader, but Genso only barks back, "Keep shooting, damnit!" Nodding, the men begin firing again sinking more bullets into the seemingly impenetrable shield. Hearing the gunshots and wanting a piece of the action, the men chasing the vehicles double back and open fire as well, peppering the shield with hundreds of bullets that generate waves of light so bright they obscure the house and kid on the other side.
As all of his men shoot at the Alter shield, Genso reigns in his seething anger to analyze the situation more objectively. He hates Alter users- all of them thought they were God's gift to the Lost Ground- but he knows that all of them have some sort of weakness. Unable to properly see the kid through the wall of trapped and hovering bullets and the energy pulses they are generating, he slowly walks to the side to get a clear view. Behind the glowing membrane he can see the kid again, standing on the porch steps, eyes closed and arms out, palms open as if guiding the shield's force with them. But with every bullet, the kid seems to twitch minutely, mouth twisted and eyes tight as if he's struggling against each impact. His forehead shines with tiny beads of sweat and his breathing steadily increases- the kid is tiring fast.
Genso smiles to himself as he watches the kid's frustration deepen, then waves his hand at the shield signaling his men to keep firing. When the hail of bullets increases, the boy seems to nearly curse; his hands raise higher as if reinforcing the shield. But as he does this the glowing membrane pulses and some of the trapped and hovering bullets fall harmlessly to the ground.
Intrigued, Genso nears the shimmering barrier and tentatively touches it. A small shock surges against his finger but the digit slowly passes through unharmed. Interesting… could it be?… But as the giant opens his hand to send it through the cloud of light the kid mutters an "I don't think so" and the shield pulses around the leader's hand, ejecting it.
Cursing at the pain, Genso massages his hand and watches the boy again. The kid is panting, dripping sweat as his arms wilt but he stands firm, jaw set tensely as he concentrates behind closed eyelids. Won't be long now- we can wait the little bastard out if we have enough bullets…
But no sooner does he consider this than the front door handle noticeably jiggles. The kid's eyes suddenly fly open as he swivels his head to glance over his shoulder towards the opening door. His glowing barrier pulses again as he shouts, "Cammy!! No!!" just as a blonde girl with a very large shotgun steps onto the porch.
"I'm here to help, Elian! Just keep it up!"
"What are you doing?! I said stay inside!!"
Sensing his opportunity, Genso draws his own gun and pushes it against the barrier. He watches as the girl raises her firearm to her shoulder, taking aim at his group of men. But as the boy turns to look at her the giant can feel the shield give a fraction. Pushing his entire arm through the light, he takes aim and fires two shots.
With lightening-fast reflexes the boy whips his head in the leader's direction and moves to dodge but it's too late. He goes down as the girl screams, the glowing shield disintegrating as his body hits the porch.
"NO!!!" the girl recovers as the hundreds of bullets trapped in the shield rain down to the ground; she leans over the shotgun and fires into the crowd of fighters that suddenly surge towards the house. Two men fall and another one trips but several make it up the stairs to her, snatching the weapon and tackling her.
Genso makes his way up to the porch as his men pin the flailing girl to the floorboards, her cheek digging into the wood as she cries, "Get off me!! Elian?!! ELIAN!! I can't believe you SHOT him!! He's just a KID!!"
The giant stands at her head so that she's staring at his boots. "He was in my way." Looking at the sprawled figure near the steps, he walks over to inspect his handiwork. The kid is on his side, a small pool of blood forming under his head and shoulder. Genso uses his boot to roll the boy onto his back revealing a deep shoulder wound and a patch of blood in his hair just above his ear. To his surprise the kid is still taking scant shallow breaths. "I'll be damned- looks like he's still alive… for now at least."
"Elian? Oh God, just let me check on him!"
But the massive fighter ignores her as he begins yelling, "Ryuho!! Come out you coward!! Sending kids and little girls to fight your battles for you! Get out here, you candy-ass punk, and get the beating you deserve!"
As he yanks open the door to enter the house Cammy hollers, "Ryuho's not even here! Nobody is! They've all left already!"
Genso scowls at her words as he pauses on the threshold, "Maybe so, but I'm going to see for myself. Four of you, come with me- search the house, shoot anything that tries to fight back. Nezumi and Suji- keep an eye on that girl, and find out what she knows. If the kid gets up, shoot him again. The rest of you- go get the trucks and bring them back; we may need to hunt down that pompous little prick after all. My patience is wearing thin."
Orders given, the giant disappears into the dark house, four men close at his heels, leaving behind a struggling blonde and a bleeding little boy on the porch.
As they lie in wait in dark silence for the ship to draw nearer, Kazuma fidgets restlessly. Never one for patience, each passing second feels like an eternity to the eager young teen. Glancing around at his comrades, he can't help but notice Ryuho's rigid posture and nearly blinkless stare. Even for the stoic fighter, he seems unusually tense.
"Dude, are you okay?"
"Hmm?" Caught somewhat off guard, Ryuho lowers Urizane's binoculars to glance over at the whispering brunette before curtly answering, "Fine." He turns his attention back to the water and the ever-approaching silhouette but then pauses to consider the question. Peering sidelong at the younger fighter he inquires, "Why do you ask?"
But Kazuma just shrugs, "Dunno. You just look really tense."
The older teen narrows his brows pensively, "Oh. I'm just… considering strategies. Of course there's tension." He is about to turn his attention back to the ocean when Kazuma continues-
"Ah. 'Cause I thought maybe it was your new girlfriend…"
Ryuho nearly drops the binoculars over the bluff's edge. "What?!"
The scruffy teen simply shoots him a knowing look, "Man, you know. The doc! Y'all are like- 'together'- now, right?"
Ryuho is in the process of huffing defensively and scowling when Kazuma begins elaborating on his theory, "-Because it seems kinda obvious. You run off and save her. Fine, no big." He watches the green-headed fighter blanch as he continues, "But then you're watchin' her like some sorta guard dog… carryin' her around like Cinderella… and disappearin' in the back with the girls for God-knows-what. Tonight you try to strangle me for some stupid comment-"
"-It's nothing, Kazuma," Ryuho mutters, clearly affected.
But the brash youth pushes, "-and we can't forget how before all that, right after you left this morning she stumbles into the house lookin' like she's been mauled or somethin'! Dude, what's going on?"
Ryuho's face remains stiff but his wide eyes betray his shock before they shift nervously toward the ground, "It's none of your concern…"
But now Cougar and Urizane are conspicuously attentive as Kazuma relentlessly pushes, "Wait, so you're saying there's nothing going on between you two- even with all that history? Or are you still stuck on that dead girl, what's-her-name?"
The last comment seems to hit close to home. Perturbed, Ryuho pretends to watch the ship as it nears the island, "I didn't say that. I'm just saying it's nobody's business."
Cougar cocks an eyebrow as Kazuma gives a knowing nod, "Whatever. I'm just sayin' that if it's got you this distracted then it gets to be all our business. You can't tell me you're all worked up over this fight."
Eyeing them all before turning a serious gaze on Kazuma, Ryuho finally admits, "Don't worry- I'm fine to fight. I'm not worked up, just… I have an odd feeling…"
Cougar tilts his head pensively, butting in, "-About Mimori? What do you mean?" Urizane seems to be the only one to notice that for once Cougar gets the young woman's name right.
"I…" the green-haired youth falters before finally giving up, "…nothing. Let's just get this done and get back."
Kazuma shrugs, moving to his feet as the ship slows to dock against the pier, "Whatever, dude. But it's time to rock and roll. Whatever's up with your gut's gonna have to wait."
Ryuho just nods, pushing aside the nagging tension at the back of his mind as he prepares to leave their lookout. Little does he know that his fight for concentration on the situation at hand is actually with his newly acquired women's intuition…
Hundreds of little pings are sounding in Mimori's dream. It's a strange sort of noise that she can't recall ever hearing before but, oddly enough, it doesn't bother her. After all, she's aloft in a haze of exhaustion-induced slumber, a cloud so thick that the real world shouldn't be able to reach her. By all rights she should be absolutely knocked out. And yet, as human brains are wont to do, her unconscious mind still retains a thin tether to reality- a reality where two loud bangs sound and a girl is screaming…
Such discomfiting sounds make no sense in either world- the waking or the dream; Mimori is powerless to process them properly. Thus the banging and shouting do not put her on her guard, nor do the heavy footfalls on the hardwood in the hallway. Only when the bedroom door opens with a loud creak is she finally roused enough to realize that someone is entering her room. Blinking groggily, it takes her a second to figure out that she can't see anything because the room is pitch black. But even in her disoriented fog she knows who it must be- "Ry… Ryuho?"
Suddenly she is blinded by a bright beam of light shining in her face from across the room. "Wha…?" Squinting against the harsh glare, she tries to raise her hand to shield her eyes but is impeded by the stiff pain in her arm and shoulder. Wincing, she squeezes her eyes shut as the beam approaches accompanied by more very heavy footfalls. Not Ryuho's… A cold flush instantly courses through her- there is a stranger in her bedroom…
Breath held, she strains her ears only to catch a sickeningly familiar chuckle that teases from high above her in the darkness. No! It can't-
"Not even close, bitch."
Mimori screams right before a giant hand closes over her mouth, squeezing her jaw as it pushes her head into her pillow. The beam of the flashlight tilts up and she finally sees a face she thought she'd never see again- that of the callous leader of the gang that had kidnapped her.
Frantic, Mimori struggles against his grip as Genso trains the flashlight on her with his free hand. She grabs his wrist with both of her hands but her grip is pitifully weak; his forearm is so massive that her thumbs and fingers barely touch as she tugs against it. Her brain screams to fight but her battered body just can't comply- even with all the medicine in her system she is in more pain than she'd thought possible.
Genso's icy laughter echoes in the dark as Mimori's tears stream down between his thick fingers. She closes her eyes, willing him away with blind prayer. But instead he taunts her with a deep cool voice that paralyzes her with fear, "Seems we're looking for the same guy, though. Where's your boyfriend? I'm getting impatient with you people."
She can barely hear him over the sound of her own heartbeat- it hammers so loud in her chest she can swear he hears it, too. But if Genso can he ignores it, continuing his one-sided conversation with her, "The little blond outside says he isn't here. I bet if I let you talk you're gonna tell me the same thing, huh?" His grip eases a fraction, just enough for Mimori to numbly nod her head.
"Yeah, I figured. But you know where to find him, don't you?" As her eyes grow wide he smiles triumphantly, "Thought so. And you're gonna tell me so I can finally give that candy-ass punk what's comin' to him! I'm sick of these stupid games!"
His brimming rage causes him to unconsciously squeeze her jaw, making Mimori moan against his palm in pain. The delicate sound recaptures Genso's attention causing him to peer down at her with an odd look.
"You know, this whole thing started because of you. If you hadn't escaped we wouldn't be in this predicament…" His eyes drop down to the covers hiding the rest of her from view. Maintaining his grip on her mouth, he yanks back the sheets with the hand holding the flashlight and then focuses the wide beam on her supine figure. "…You look different without all that mud…"
As her vision adjusts to the darkness past the beam she watches his eyes rove over her body, examining her in an uncomfortable amount of detail, "Mm, that hip looks pretty nasty- must've had that the whole time. Still, you're quite the little package, aren't you?" She doesn't respond, doesn't move a muscle as he continues, licking his lips. "I'm tempted to have a go at you right now. Shame I'm in such a hurry…"
When he slackens his grip on her mouth Mimori tentatively lets go of his wrist, hands falling back to her shoulders as she shuts her eyes, waiting for him to back away. But instead she feels the bed sag as he puts a knee up, then feels his fingers softly touch her jaw, making her gasp. "Mmm… so soft though. Fuck, you're tempting!" He drags his hand slowly down her neck to her chest, cupping a breast through the material of her sleep shirt. She shudders beneath his hand, holding her breath in obvious fear. Genso smiles at her reaction, his dominance so easily established. "Shit, girl… Your boyfriend just might have to wait until after we go a round or two." With a smirk he adds, "I bet you're a screamer."
Mimori bites back a sob as Genso's large hand continues trailing down her body- against her waist and across her good hip. Her brain is racing a mile a minute as she tries to think of some way out of the situation. Her adrenaline has dulled some of the ache in her body, but she knows that even at her full strength she's no match for the enormous fighter. The feel of his fingers tugging on the waistband of her shorts beneath her shirt snaps her back with a start and she unconsciously yelps, "Don't-"
But suddenly the flashlight falls, beam swinging wildly as Genso drops it to instead grad a tight hold on Mimori's throat. The bed springs whine noisily as the massive fighter pounces, straddling her legs as he practically lifts her by the neck, "WHAT'D YOU SAY?!?"
Mimori can only sputter, gasping for air that won't come as he leans in close, lip curling hatefully. "Listen here, bitch! I call the shots! I want it? I take it! You don't get to say shit!" Then he pushes her back down, pinning her by the throat as he begins yanking her shorts down her legs.
Pain rocks through Mimori's joints and her lungs burn for air as her arms flail helplessly behind her. As her vision begins to darken at the edges, her hand slides beneath her other pillow and bangs against a familiar trinket. Desperate for escape, she uses only a second to re-focus on the giant towering over her and the arm descending to her throat. Then every iota of energy she can muster is pushed into her swing as she drives the shard of her necklace into the inside of Genso's wrist. Sharp Alter matter slides against tendons and arteries and grates against small bones as the shard slices into the joint capsule, wringing a startled curse from her assailant. "SONOFABITCH!!"
Genso reels backwards, nearly falling off the bed in retreat- it feels as if he's been bitten by a huge snake. Blood pours from his wrist as he inspects it, but after ensuring that his hand is still attached he looks up to find Mimori panting, pulling herself away from him on shaking forearms. Anger renewed and surpassed, he snags her bad leg and yanks her back towards him, "GET BACK HERE, BITCH!!"
Still clutching the necklace, Mimori swings it wildly, hoping to catch him in the face, "No!! Let go!!"
Genso snatches the shard from her with his good hand and hurls it across the room- it lands in the wall like a dagger with a harsh 'thunk.' As he tries to wrangle the struggling girl beneath him, he finds that the fingers of his bleeding hand don't want to work properly. The bedroom door suddenly flies open behind them, two of Genso's men investigating the ruckus. Seeing the frightened look on their faces he realizes that his blood is all over the bed sheets and the girl is putting up one hell of a fight.
Slightly embarrassed, the leader suddenly clocks the girl in the temple with his good hand, immediately knocking her out cold. When neither of the men moves, Genso barks, "Don't just stand there- find me some rope or something and tie her up."
As one pulls a phone cord out of the wall and begins winding it around the unconscious girl's hands, Genso gestures to the other with his injured wrist, "Go find Nezumi- I need him to wrap this thing."
Fingers closed around his wrist to staunch the bleeding, Genso looks back at the girl on the bed, his ego a bit stung by the turn of events. "Bring her with us- the other girl, too. This one definitely knows where he is. When we find him I want to shoot her in the head right in front of him."
Nezumi nervously runs into the room a minute later, "Boss! We found another kid in one of the rooms in the back- a little girl hiding in the closet-"
The giant huffs impatiently, "-Did you shoot her?"
The rat man merely blinks, "uh… no boss. Did you, ah, want me to?"
Genso rolls his eyes- how hard is it to follow simple directions? Sighing, he replies, "No. Just bring her along, too. But if the other ones cause any trouble, then yeah- shoot 'em. Now get over here and fix this thing. My hand's not working right."
"Right, boss. Good thing you write with the other one."
The leader finally chuckles, "Good thing I shoot with the other one."
A/N: Another one down! Think I threw a few curve balls in there, too. Yes the opening scene was long but I've wanted to explore more of Elian's past and this was a good opportunity to work in my theory on some of his missing background. His birthday? Made it up. Now you want to know if I went to all that trouble to kill him off, right? Hmm, good question. Guess we'll find out next time! How I love to torture them so… (Poor Mimori and Cammy- kidnapped twice in one day? Did I really do that?)!!
Please review!! Curious to know what you think. Comments, criticism, flames- bring 'em on! Just thanks for reading!
PS- Eternal Crystal Rose, I have yet to get a working email from you, darling! The PMs automatically erase them- try one more time? I'm curious as to what you're looking for…