A Highway that Never Ends

Guilty Gear belongs to Sammy Studios and Daisuke Ishiwatari

Notes:
Story takes place during GGXX and draws canon from multiple endings, including two of Chipp's. Chipp has already encounteredVenom from his first ending, Baiken and Anji are still in the Japanese Colony, and Ky now works for the International Police Force.

Story contains slashy undertones, but nothing explicit.


Chapter 1: An End and Two Beginnings

Baiken evaded the Gear's attacks with cool precision, but her counter was too slow to connect. The Gear leapt out of range with a hiss of irritation, showing no sign of fatigue. She, on the other hand, was growing tired with each passing moment. This was a battle of attrition and Baiken was losing. She knew it. The Gear knew it. And it was only a matter of time.

"Dammit."

She used a brief lull in the encounter to shake the hair out of her good eye and readjust her grip on the katana. Blood trickled down her forehead, mingling with sweat, but she ignored it along with the shooting pain in her left ankle. This battle had no place for weakness.

The Gear smirked at her as if reading her thoughts then attacked with inhuman speed. Its claws raced toward her face, but she only narrowed her eyes and sidestepped at the last second. Even as Baiken felt the wind created by the monster's attack pass across her face, she unleashed a furious wave of slashes.

The blade became a whirlwind, cutting her opponent's arm and body and face. But instead of drawing back from the pain, the Gear only became more enraged. It let out a terrible scream as its undamaged hand swung around and clamped onto her sword arm. The bone itself seemed to shatter and spears of pain shot up her arm and through her torso. Her hand spasmed, dropping the sword.

Baiken's scream was a mixture of pain and fury, and the claw hidden in her right sleeve shot out, the chain wrapping around the monster's neck. She pulled it taut, but the Gear didn't so much as flinch. Too late she realized she'd trapped herself as much as her enemy. Too late she realized she wouldn't be able to avoid the claw heading straight for her heart.

Her eyes involuntarily shut for the briefest moment, but instead of the finishing blow and quick death that would follow, there was nothing.

"Eh?"

She looked up at the creature, now headless, and her claw slipped limp to the ground. Even decapitated, the Gear radiated surprise and swayed uncertainly on the verge of collapse. Baiken hesitated only an instant, before recovering enough to retract her metal hand and leap out of the way as the Gear crashed to the ground.

"Good evening, my lady!"

She whirled around at the familiar voice. "Mito! What the hell are you doing here?"

He hid his roguish smirk behind the zessen, now gleaming with the Gear's blood, but she could still feel the amusement that clung to him like damp silk. "I was saving you, Baiken-san!"

She spat in disgust, "Bastard. I didn't ask for your fucking help." She turned away, intending to recover her sword and stamp off, but as she placed her foot down, a fresh wave of pain hit her through the now-fading adrenaline. Her vision turned a splotchy red and she felt the world spinning.

And then she was falling.

Strong arms were suddenly there, holding her – supporting her.

She kept her one eye closed, desperately fighting the vertigo, as she hissed, "Fucker. I said I don't want your damn sympathy."

"Baiken..."

He said the word as a breathy supplication. It was gentle, just as the arms were gentle, and Baiken felt herself unconsciously relax for the first time since that incident – since she'd met that man and had everything taken from her. It had been so long, she had almost forgotten what it felt like to be safe.

Knock knock.

She didn't want this feeling. She wanted hate and rage. She needed the pain never to fade – always there to drive her towards revenge.

Knock knock knock.

She wanted her anger back, but she couldn't help turning her face into the warmth of his shoulder. If she remained still enough, she could hear the soothing thump of his heart through that heavily muscled chest.

She closed her eye and let out a small, defeated sigh. "You're so strong..."

Mito...

She tilted her head, ignoring the pain that continued to throb in her arm and leg. Everything paled in comparison to these feelings and this moment. She would not lose it or him. She would not let anything take him away from her.

Mito.

He shifted his weight and carefully inclined his head. Even as his own mouth moved towards hers, her lips parted and she breathed out his name, her words soft and gentle like newly fallen snow...

"ANJI!"

"Eh?"

Anji's eyes flew open, and his heart missed several beats. He kept from flailing by grasping the covers in a white-knuckled death grip. After a moment he was able to unclench his hands but his heart refused to slow. He wondered how many years had just been taken off his life.

Anji looked up, fully expecting to see Baiken, beautiful and battered and oh-so-willing, but the woman was nowhere in sight. Instead, he stared directly into a pair of upside-down red eyes and a shock of white hair. He felt cheated.

"Oi, Anji. What the hell is your problem? Give me another smirk like that and I'm gonna punch you in the face. Anyway, I need help with this kanji."

Chipp knelt at the head of Anji's sleeping mat. He leaned over and began to wave a small book made of delicately colored rice paper in Anji's face.

Anji blinked in an attempt to banish all pink-haired women, no matter how gorgeous, from his still-groggy mind. If he'd been more awake, he would have growled at Chipp and whacked him across the head with a paper fan. As it was, he was too confused to do anything more than state a fact.

"Chipp, it's the middle of the night."

"Yeah, yeah, but this book is really difficult. There's lots of kanji, an' it's all calligraphy, so it's even harder to read." Chipp's voice was dangerously close to whining.

Anji closed his eyes and debated feigning sleep. With reluctance he decided it was much too late for that since he was no longer tired and the other wasn't that stupid. Instead he sat up and accepted the book, allowing himself a long-suffering sigh that he'd perfected with the young ninja.

"Okay, okay, lemme see." He pulled the book close to his face. Without his glasses, Anji was forced to squint at the intricate symbol at which Chipp pointed. Anji's eyes flickered between the page and Chipp's eager face several times, before his own face went blank. "Chipp, the book's upside down."

"No fucking way!" Chipp wrenched the hapless text away from him, and tried looking at it from several different angles, none of which helped. Chipp's pale face flushed a deep red, visible even in the dim light shining in through the windows.

He glared at Anji as if it were his fault. "What're you looking at! If you wanna say something, then say it! But I ain't a fucking moron!"

Anji shut his eyes, very aware of the fact that it was too early to be dealing with Chipp. He would have counted to ten if he thought it would help.

"Look Chipp, no one is calling you a moron. I promise I'll teach you some more Japanese in the morning, but until then, can't you let me sleep?" The last part sounded a bit more desperate than Anji would have liked, but it couldn't be helped.

The other man didn't seem to hear and continued to stare at the book with a mixture of impatience and frustration. He leaped to his feet and began to pace across the small bedroom.

Chipp gestured with the book to emphasize his words, and Anji winced every time he heard the paper crinkle. "It's no good, Mito. I mean, this colony has a big library and everything, but it's all in Japanese."

"That's because this is the 'Japanese' Colony. It's all rather logical when you think about it."

"Yeah, okay. But I don't have time for this! I gotta start learning now! How can I become president if I don't know all that important stuff!"

Chipp flopped to the floor and went into an all-out sulk. Anji reminded himself as he often did that Chipp was actually a great guy, could be quite charming and was in fact not an idiot. He only looked like one. And acted like one. And usually sounded like one.

"Chipp."

"What?"

"I know how much you want to become president."

"'Cuz everyone else sucks, an' someone's gotta do it."

"Right. But these things take time."

"Yeah?"

"So maybe..."

"What?"

He looked at Chipp, who was watching him with an intent but clueless expression.

"Oh, never mind." Some battles weren't worth fighting. "Look, if you're having trouble with our libraries, maybe you should consider A-Country's Central Archives."

"Yeah, yeah, I already thought about that. It's just, with that bounty on my head, it's hard for me to go anywhere without getting into fights."

Anji avoided mentioning Chipp's big mouth and tendency to brawl with anyone and everyone who looked crossways at him. This also fell under the category of 'battles not worth fighting'.

Instead he shrugged. "Then you'd better talk to a private collector. There's Rita Dylan and Thomas Maynard. They're the biggest collectors – outside the Assassin's Guild, of course. And then there's –"

"Whoa, whoa. Who's got the biggest private collection?"

"The Assassin's Guild. Of course, with all the in-fighting and problems it has had recently, who knows how the library's fared? But..." Anji trailed off as he realized he'd said the wrong thing.

Chipp was the closest thing Anji had to a best friend. They'd met when the young albino had attacked him for laughing at his use of chopsticks, and had become friends when the other subsequently demanded that Anji teach him Japanese. In the times since, Anji had come up with a fairly effective way of handling the other's eccentricities. It involved a lot of patient but half-hearted listening and limiting the amount of ideas the ninja had at once.

Their friendship also meant that he could tell when Chipp got An Idea. Chipp got Ideas on occasion and no good ever came from them. He followed them with incredible tenacity and equally incredible lack of planning. And nothing could stop him. He was like a pit bull only less easily house-broken.

At the moment Chipp's eyes were alight with An Idea, and although Anji didn't know exactly what the other had decided, he knew it couldn't be good.

"I've got it! I'll locate the Assassin's Guild, break in, and go through their books. I bet they have a bunch of stuff on politics too!"

"But Chipp...it's the Assassin's Guild. They killed your master, remember? You think they're going to let you stroll in and browse the 300 section?"

Chipp dismissed Anji's objections with a careless wave. "Whatever. My master would want me to do everything I can to become president. This is more important than revenge. This is about bringing lasting honor to my clan. And besides, with the Assassin's Guild almost destroyed, it won't be hard to sneak into it. I'm a ninja, right?"

"Yes, but –"

"Oh, and thanks, Anji! I'll take that Japanese lesson when I get back, 'kay?"

"But Chipp –"

"And you can keep the book."

Chipp tossed the book over his shoulder as he walked to the balcony. Anji rushed to catch the delicate item as he shouted at the other's back, "Chipp, there must be...!"

The ninja seemed to blur before disappearing entirely, and the other knew better than to think he could catch him. Book in hand, he straightened up, and looked onto the now empty balcony. He dropped his head in a sigh.

"There must be an easier way."

He knew it didn't help but felt better for saying it.


Although he knew other detectives considered it a chore, Ky Kiske gave paperwork the same meticulous attention he would the actual investigation or battle. Many had assumed his past accomplishments would make him arrogant or lazy, and he had surprised both his comrades and superiors when he threw himself into police work with as much diligence as he had shown in the Order.

Once a young officer, awestruck upon learning of Ky's past duties in the Holy Knights, approached him. He'd asked, in a shy and almost adoring voice, if Ky missed the glory of battle and found his role of detective tedious. A faint flush had stained Ky's cheeks but he'd smiled as he replied that he was just glad that the world finally had a chance at peace.

While this was half the truth, he hadn't explained that he also found paperwork relaxing. With each pen stroke, he put a small piece of information into its correct place. Others saw this as a necessary evil, but Ky understood that order was created not from epic battles and endless fighting but from the little details that came together and formed a larger structure.

Before, victories had been pensive and brief – mere lulls as he waited for the next round of terror that the Gears would unleash. Only now did he feel genuine satisfaction in the work he did, knowing that he was helping the world find a way toward peaceful order.

But part of him did miss the fighting. On the battlefield he needed nothing but quick thinking and even quicker reflexes. It was beautiful in its simplicity, and left his mind wonderfully clear. Only then did he understand the exhilaration of freedom. Freedom.

Sol.

For a moment, his pen hesitated, and a shadow passed across his face. Emotions roiled through his chest and shattered the calm he'd found in his deskwork. That was a name from his past and he only wished to erase it from this time and place. Yet he couldn't help a tight frown as he forced his thoughts away from those lazy eyes and arrogant smirk and back to paperwork assigned to him by the International Police Force.

Although he managed to return to the task at hand, he had had only a few minutes to continue before someone rapped a polite knock on the door.

"Come in," He called without looking up.

The door opened and Ky heard a deferential cough. The detective mentally marked his place before shoving the forms aside and turning to gaze at the subordinate officer in front of him. He was Tyler Cobb, considered a veteran on this relatively new force and well respected by his peers. Ky recognized him as a perceptive if somewhat unorthodox officer, and trusted him enough to leave him to his own devices. The normally unflappable older man had a flicker of concern in his eyes that worried Ky.

"What is it, Officer Cobb?"

Cobb's clear gaze bored straight into Ky's own eyes. Now that he was reporting to a superior, the doubt was gone, replaced by cold professionalism. "Sir, we've received reports throughout several countries. It seems there's a group of bounty hunters going after a number of people we've placed on the 'watch' list."

Ky nodded. The "watch" list was a collection of names and profiles of potentially dangerous people. Most were not particularly disruptive, nothing the IPF could prosecute, despite their abilities or occupations that labeled them as possible dangers to society. That bounty hunters were going after them was not surprising, as many countries and organizations had access to the same information as the IPF and probably wanted to neutralize potential threats.

But the uneasy way Cobb shifted from one foot to the other put Ky on guard. There was a big "but" hanging in the officer's words.

"Sir, the thing is, these bounty hunters may or may not be human."

Ky's eyes narrowed. "Gears?"

Cobb shook his head, but Ky did not relax. "No, sir. There's nothing to suggest that. But they all appear to be using some sort of magical weapon." For a fraction of a second, Cobb's eyes flicked to corner of his superior's office, and the Ky's gaze instinctively followed.

His weapon rested within arm's length on the rack behind him. Ky's eyes widened in disbelief. "They have holy weapons?"

"Yes and no. They have Thunderseals."

Ky looked at his paper-covered desk and put a hand to his temple. He took a moment to collect his thoughts and when he spoke, there was an undercurrent of strain in his voice.

"Impossible. There is only one of each weapon. Only I have access to Thunderseal."

"I know, sir. That's why I dismissed the first few reports as the eyewitnesses' confusion. But now there are too many near identical reports to ignore. And also the people on the 'watch' list have started to go missing."

Ky leaned back and ran a hand through his hair. He wanted to sigh and close his eyes if just for a moment, but he did not allow himself to display such weakness in front of a subordinate. Despite his current status as detective, Ky felt the same burden of responsibility as he had during the war – back when the lives of his men and perhaps even the fate of the world depended on him.

Cobb had given him too much information to sort through in a few minutes. If they were managing to capture or kill people on the "watch" list, these bounty hunters must be strong. That they had identical weapons suggested coordinated attacks from the same organization. Perhaps a new group was rising, coming to fill the void the Assassin's Guild had left? And if they had even a small fragment of the power of his Thunderseal...

"Officer Cobb."

"Yes, sir?"

"I want you to distribute my current cases to other officers. I'm going to devote my full attention to investigating these bounty hunters."

"Yes, sir."

Along with the worry, Ky felt something akin to anticipation surge through his body. How long had it been since he'd wielded Thunderseal with any seriousness? How long since he fought an opponent against whom he didn't have to hold back?

He suppressed these feelings as soon as they came and tried to focus on his duty. He wasn't like him, who turned every fight into a game. He would fight for others, not for his own ego.

"Bring me all the files we've got on these hunters and the kidnapped and see if you can contact any of the eyewitnesses. Dismissed."

"Yes, sir." Cobb gave a crisp salute, turned to leave, but hesitated as he opened the door. "Sir?"

"Yes, Officer Cobb?"

Ky didn't need to see the other's face to know he was wearing a sly grin, "Give 'em hell, sir."

Ky couldn't help returning the smile as he straightened the half-finished paperwork. "Don't worry. I intend to."