Taking a long sip of his tea, Takashi relaxed somewhat. The tension he'd been carrying since the fight earlier that day still wouldn't release. It was like there was a tight band pulling at his shoulder-blades. "Saya, Kohta, could you two get a list of nutritional foods that will keep easily, and travel well," he asked.

Kohta nodded.

Saya grinned. "Leave it to me. Kohta, we'll definately some varieties of dried nuts, such as cashews, which contain..."

Takashi switched his attention to Alice, pulling at his sleeve. "What can I do," she asked sweetly.

Takashi smiled. "You're in charge of Zeke, remember. Aside from that, you'll need to be helping out with the food. That's an important job, you see. You know how to make trail mix, right," he asked smiling at the pink haired munchkin.

"Yes," Alice said brightly. "We used to make it when we went to the park."

Takashi nodded. "When we find some dried fruits, and some nuts, you'll be in charge of mixing them up, and bagging them, so everyone will have some."

Alice smiled. "Mrs. Miyamoto's been teaching me how to cook," the girl beamed.

Takashi nodded leaning over to whisper to the girl. "Good. At least there'll be someone who knows how to cook, then," he said with a wink.

Alice giggled, moving off to look after the yipping dog Zeke.

Takashi finished his tea, and sat staring into the bowl, his eyes glazing, remembering the feeling of Oumura's blood on his face, before only noticing when it had dried to his skin. The more he thought, the more he could feel the warm slickness of it as it ran down his face, neck, and hands as he fired the shotgun again and again.

Lost in his own thought's, Takashi felt something on his shoulder, and meant to brush it off, finding a soft hand, bringing him from his reverie.

"Takashi," Rei said concerned.

Both Rei and Saeko stood, one to each side of him, looking concerned. "Yeah," he said stiffly, not completely unlocked from the inner workings of his mind.

"You look tired. Your wound must be bothering you," Saeko said.

"We'll help you up to bed," Rei said. She and Saeko pulled him up, and began to gently tug him towards the bedroom he was sharing with them.

"Right," Takashi said nodding.

Once down the hall, and safely within the confines of the now locked room, they began to pull both weapons and clothing from Takashi. "You were sitting like that for half an hour," Rei said.

"I'm sorry," Takashi said hollowly.

"What happened," Saeko asked as she knelt to begin untying the boots he was wearing. He had tried himself, but it seemed like his fingers were numb, and working woodenly.

Takashi took a deep breath and began to relay the events that had happened in the tower.

The two girls were unwrapping his wound, as he finished relaying the story.

"So...you had to kill people today," Rei said sadly. "I'm sorry, Takashi."

Takashi nodded woodenly.

"It's not your fault, Takashi," Saeko said to him. "It's not like they were going to give you a choice. They were out to kill you."

Takashi shook his head. "It wasn't that I killed them that's... well... I don't know how it makes me feel. It was that it was just so...easy. You just move a finger, and someone can die. I think what's made me so upset...is that I enjoyed it," Takashi said hanging his head in shame.

Saeko looked at Rei, and the girls wrapped their arms around Takashi, causing him to choke out a sob, and they remained there, until soon, Takashi was crying quietly.

"What do we do," Rei mouthed to Saeko.

"I don't know," Saeko mouthed back.

They sat for a few long hours, holding Takashi, who cried, and sobbed until they could hear his throat become raw, tears of grief and frustration streaming down his face. The girls could only speculate that this, coupled with the recent loss of his mother was taking its toll on him, and all at once.

Finally his sobbing stopped, and his breathing became closer to becoming even. "You need a shower," Saeko suggested.

Takashi nodded, not being able to find his words.

Rei and Saeko led Takashi to the shower, where they removed his bandages, and he stepped inside, allowing the hot water to rinse over him, his tears drying, and he felt his heart harden.

The girls left him there, and moved back into the bedroom. "Do you think he'll be alright," Rei asked sitting on the bed.

Saeko shrugged. "He's just had to swallow a very bitter pill. I'm sure he'll be fine, but... I'm still worried."

Rei nodded. "The news about his mom must have hit him really hard. Harder than he let on," she said sadly. "I can't imagine how I'd feel if i lost my mom or dad."

Saeko nodded. "My father and I are close as well. It would really hurt to learn something ill had befallen him."

"But what do we do," Rei asked frustrated.

"I don't think we can do much, except be there for him when he needs us," Saeko suggested.

"That...that just sucks," Rei admitted.

Saeko nodded. "It does..." she said sitting down beside Rei and putting a comforting arm around her.

Rei leaned into her. "I only think he liked it, because those people were responsible for killing his mom," she said sadly.

Saeko gave her a reassuring squeeze. "Now that you mention it, that does make sense. I don't think Takashi is the kind of guy who would just go around killing people because he liked it. I don't even think he knows this himself, yet."

Rei nodded as there came a knock at the door. "It's Reed," came the rumble through the door.

Saeko nodded at Rei, and made for the door, unlocking it.

"How's he holding up," Reed said taking a single step into the room, and stopping.

Saeko sought Rei's eyes, and upon receiving the confirming nod, told Reed what had happened, and what he had said. "Do you know what's happening," Saeko asked.

Reed shrugged. "Nothing too complex. He got some payback for his mom, liked it, and is feeling guilty over it. It broke him a little. It'll heal, so to speak, but it will fill back in with toughness."

"What do we do about it," Rei asked the behemoth standing nervously inside their room.

Letting out a deep breath, Reed shook his head. "Not much that you can do for it. There's nothing he should feel the least bit guilty about. Don't look at him any differently than you did when he left earlier. Just smile, and support him. Don't prop him up, though, just steady him, if you catch my drift," the American finished in his accented Japanese.

Saeko nodded. "A little, I think. If we baby him, he'll fall to pieces. If we just continue, like he's no different or nothing's wrong, he'll piece it together himself."

Rei shook her head. "That's a bit difficult." The frustration clear in her voice and posture.

Reed let out a deep breath. "Sometimes, doing nothing, is the hardest thing to do. And the best option. If he continues to have trouble, come and get me. I won't be able to do much, but I can at least talk with him. I've killed in anger before. It's a difficult thing to live with."

Saeko patted the behemoth on his arm. "I understand," she said understanding in her voice.

Reed searched her eyes for a long moment. "I see you do."

Saeko nodded, as Reed abruptly turned and left leaving her and Rei still alone in the room.

"What did he mean," Rei asked Saeko.

Saeko sat back down on the bed, next to Rei. "Back before this all happened, I was attacked one night. I had my practice-sword, so I wasn't really in any danger...but I let it go too far, and I beat the man to death. The police said it was self-defense, simply wrote him off, and took me home...but I killed him. I killed him because he'd frightened me before I figured out I had the upper hand... he's right. It's a difficult thing to live with. All we can do is accept Takashi."

Rei hugged Saeko to her and kissed her cheek. "I'm sorry, Saeko."

Kohta was sitting in the kitchen by himself, dismantling Reed's Beretta and cleaning it, when the man himself walked in, and sat down at the counter after pouring himself a cup of coffee.

"Almost done with it. Not that dirty, but you did fire it some today." Kohta said shoving a wire brush up out of the barrel as is proper procedure when cleaning a pistol.

Reed nodded. "Yeah," he said hefting his rifle up onto the table, and Kohta was astonished as he removed the suppressor then dismantled the rifle with such speed and precision, it seemed to Kohta a machine was at work.

"At least everyone's okay..." Kohta trailed off questioningly.

"Takashi has taken a hit to his morale. Those people were part of the group that shot his mother. He killed today because there wasn't much of a choice, but he did it in anger. Rage, as you can guess, is laden heavily with guilt." Reed dismantled his supressor, and began to go over the inner chambers with a wire brush cleaning away the residue left by the flash of gunpowder.

Kohta paused for a moment. "I've never killed anyone who was..." He stopped being unable to speak anymore.

"I know. If you do it in anger, it's much the same result. Fuck, I've done it. I've enjoyed it. That's one hell of a power, life and death is. The best way to do it is coldly. Hold nothing but emptiness within. They just need to die. They're in your way. They're going to kill you unless you kill them first." Reed coughed as he finished cleaning the supressor and dried it thoroughly.

Kohta began to check the inner mechanisms of the disassembled Beretta in his hands, cleaning and oiling, and kept his thoughts to himself for several minutes. "How...how many people have you killed?"

The supressor reassembled, Reed began to the process of cleaning and oiling his rifle, his hands working mechanicly, his eyes going out of focus for a moment. "That's a little difficult to answer. I stopped counting when the number made me depressed some years ago. I couldn't give you an exact number... In the anti-terrorist unit we sometimes used heavy ordinance to soften them up. Less than three-hundred, more than one-hundred and fifty..."

Kohta blanched for a moment, dropping the gun's recoil spring before reclaiming it and placing it back beneath the barrel. "That's..." Kohta could find no words to express himself.

Reed began to shove a wired brush up the barrel of his rifle. "A lot. I know. Given, I have fired grenades into vehicles carrying troops, then emptied a magazine along with my fellows into the flames. I can't confirm. I've even been in on the covert operation of wiring an enemy base to blow. There is a lot of blood on my hands, but I can tell you this," Reed said meeting Kohta's eyes, "I have never killed anyone that I have regretted killing."

Kohta's numb fingers fumbled at the pistol as he thought it over. "Even when working for the Yakuza?"

Reed shrugged. "I was a specialty for the Yakuza. They called me in whenever one of them got out of hand, and was causing needless bloodshed."

Kohta nodded a bit heartened as he didn't want to paint the picture of this soldier he so looked up to in shades of black. "I understand."

Reed began to clean the bolt of his rifle. "Miku's father was Yakuza, did you know that?"

Kohta gasped. "No. What..."

Reed leaned over a bit. "You mother never told you how he died, did she?"

Miku stepped out of the hallway, surprising Kohta. Miku shook her head that she hadn't been told.

Reed indicated the seat next to Kohta. "Then sit. I'll tell you."

Miku crossed the space between herself and the seat cautiously. "I knew my dad was a gangster, but... No one told me what happened to him."

Reed shrugged. "Not too much to tell. He was good at his job. He kept legitimate businesses that were paying for protection, protected. He kept out drug-peddlers, junkies, and thieves. He kept the under-the-table businesses in his district separate. This made the legitimate businesses very happy, and willing to pay. His protection was better than the police's."

Miku looked surpised. "I didn't know any of that. Doesn't sound like he was a bad guy. He was a good father to me and all, but you just don't associate one of your parents with being a criminal." Miku got up and poured herself a steaming cup of the coffee that Reed was sipping on.

Kohta nodded. "Sounds like he was a smart guy. Legitimate businesses are more than good covers. If you keep them happy, they not only pay, but are happy to. You also don't have people calling the police about illegal activity if it's out of sight."

"Absolutely right," Reed said laughing. "But an up-and-coming hot-shot decided he was going to move in on your father's territory. He was from another clan. You father caught wind of it, and ruined the whole operation. Well... the upstart didn't take kindly to it, and had your father killed."

Miku took a long pull at her coffee. "I remember... What happened to the guy who had him killed?"

Reed's smile was wicked. "His name crossed my desk. I worked closely with your father on several occasions. He was a man to be admired. He was able to work both sides of the law in the community, rarely stirred anything up, and was still able to turn out a healthy profit. That made him quite a loss to the organization."

Miku wiped at her eyes. "What did you do..."

"They found pieces of him all over the city. You recall they called it the work of a madman on the news. He was dead before I cut him to pieces, bit it was still grisly work." Reed began to reassemble his now cleaned rifle, twisting the suppressor on the very last, and checked the mechanism to assure it worked.

Miku let out a deep breath, seeming to focus to Kohta's eyes. "Good."

Kohta placed a reassuring hand on Miku's shoulder briefly.

Miku nodded. "Your brother wanted me to tell you he's tired of watching Alice all day."

"Shit." Reed grunted as he stood up. "Do you think you can give him a few days break?"

"No." Miku laughed taking another sip of her coffee. "I'm not good with kids..."

Reed moved over and refilled his coffee cup, taking a long pull. "Speak of the devil, and he comes."

Brion walked out of the hallway smiling, though Kohta was less surprised this time. He was slowly growing used to Reed's instincts. The man seemed to be able to hear you breathe.

"She's really not that bad. She likes listening to history." Brion moved over and filled a glass with water from the tap, taking a long swallow.

Kohta laughed. "Alice is at that age where she wants to learn everything. It'd be nice of we could get her some history books to study."

Reed laughed. "World history and most medieval is pretty easy. Brion probably doesn't know too much about Japanese history, but for the most part he may as well have a degree in the shit."

Brion nodded. "She was really interested in the Roman Empire. I've been telling her a lot of it. Reed has a pretty extensive library, and we've both been reading. You've quite a collection of literature, bro."

Kohta laughed. "Yeah, Saya's been eating up some of your books. Though she's currently digging into some nutritional value books, trying to find the best supplies to get us through this."

Brion laughed. "This would be so much easier if we were still in the States. West Virginia especially. The mountainous terrain would be adverse to the DEAD walking around. They're not so agile, and we wouldn't have to seek too high an elevation to act as a perfect defense against them. Food would be less of a problem as well..."

Kohta looked at Brion questioningly. "Why is that?"

Brion nodded over to Reed. "He's got a green-thumb. Can grow just about anything. In the region we lived in, vegetables are easily accessible. I moved out of the city a few years ago, and onto an old farm. My nearest neighbor owns a greenhouse, and sells off vegetable plants and seed for a living. There's also plentiful game around that area, as well as livestock. Fresh food, coupled with the mountainous location would make it a perfect safe house."

Kohta nodded in agreement. "You said the SDF says the States are fairly stable. Especially the ones that were "Right-wing" nutjobs. "

"Yeah. The militias the ATF were always so pissed at seem to be sweeping some of the more rural areas. I really just think they're happy to be of use. Most of the Central government was hit hard, in D.C. it's illegal to own weapons, even though the supreme court ruled the city couldn't place restrictions on the 2nd amendment. Same in Chicago, New York, and L.A. But from what I understood the bigger cities were pretty much wiped-out. We'd need some kind of long-range plane to get there. A C-130 Herc would be nice, we could always Jerry-rig up a cargo-contained additional fuel tank to pretty much double the range. But I don't foresee that happening at the moment." Reed took a long sip of his coffee.

Brion huffed. "I know..."

"We're not getting home any time soon, bro. Just stow it." Reed laughed heartily at his older brother.

"Fuck you." Brion began to laugh as well.

Kohta joined in on the laughter finding it infectious. "Well, I guess when the military base on Okinawa gets back in contact with some form of government in the states it may be possible to hitch a ride."

Miku laughed as well. "I don't things will be politically much better there than it is here."

Reed grunted. "No, but we won't be sitting in the middle of a city, either. We'll be somewhat isolated, and able to care for ourselves. We're good on ammunition for the moment, but who knows how long we'll have to stretch it out. Back in the states the ammunition we're using is FAR more commonplace. As well as high-capacity handguns and rifles. I like your country and all, but they really fucked you here..."

Kohta nodded. "That they did. We really only made it as far as we did, though luck, and Rika's guns. I was able to visit a few gun-stores when I visited America, and even the smaller ones had enough weapons to earn you a few life-sentences in prison over here."

Miku whistled. "Yeah, but wouldn't they be picked clean by survivors?"

"Wishful thinking. Let's deal with the shit we've got, now, and worry about the rest later. Besides, I made sure Brion has a good stock of weaponry and ammunition." Reed set his now empty cup down and yawned.

"What are you, paranoid?" Miku asked laughing.

"Paid off, didn't it?" Reed turned and moved down the hallway, leaving the three alone.

"Guess so..." Miku trailed off at his back.

Brion laughed. "Nothing wrong with being prepared for the worst. No one wants to believe in the boogey-man, till he comes to call."

Miku turned to Brion. "Do you believe in the boogey-man, then?"

"Nope." Brion laughed and followed his brother down the hall.

Kohta watched Brion until the darkness enveloped him. "I think he was speaking metaphorically."

Miku nodded. "Those guys are...strange."

Kohta laughed. "They're Americans. Even their Japanese is clipped and strange."

"True enough." Miku took a sip of coffee.

"There you are." Saya yawned, stretching her arms upward. "Are you about done yet?"

Kohta slipped Reed's pistol back into its holster. "Just finished up. Have a good nap?"

"Too lonely. Weren't we supposed to help Reed out with some firearms maintenance and work?" Saya poured herself some coffee from the dregs of the pot, and set about making another round of the brew.

"Oh shit! That's right. He was going to start on some survival belts as well!" Kohta beamed.

"What's a survival belt?" Miku asked curiously.

Kohta turned to her. "A survival belt, is made out of something called '550 chord'. It's weaved from the very strong filament. It's the same thread they use in parachutes, and has a tensile strength of upward of 550 lbs. The belt is designed so you can unravel it in an emergency situation. You've basicaly got no few feet of workable rope on your person at all times."

Saya laughed. "It sounds like a paranoid person's invention, but it's much easier than carrying around some spare rope." Saya held up her wrist showing a weaved bracelet. "Kohta made me this one. It's got about twenty feet of the parachute cord on it. It's fairly easily unraveled in an emergency."

Miku nodded. "It makes sense. You can never tell what you need these days."

Kohta laughed. "I don't think we'll really need them, now, but if we have to leave the city, we'll want to be prepared for anything." He stood up and took Saya's hand. "We should get going."

"I should head to bed anyway," Miku said. She stood up and made her way down the hall, and Kohta heard her begin to climb the staircase.

"I'm glad she's doing okay." Kohta squeezed Saya's hand as they began to move down the hall towards the room at the back of the stairs.

"Yeah, she had a rough time of it. She seems tough though. I don't think she's going to crack so easily." Saya released Kohta's hand as he began moving down the staircase to Reed's workshop.

"I hope not. Just surviving is going to be tough. We'll need everyone working together." Kohta heard the pleasant tones of music wafting up at him, and he knew Reed was in his shop working. His Ipod was filled with mostly music from the states, but any music these days sounded good to Kohta.

As the two finally reached the bottom of the stairs they stopped to adjust to the new level of light, the stairs being darkened intentionally. Kohta knew the idea was that if someone was coming after Reed, they would be temporarily disoriented by the contrast of light. The staircase wasn't dark, just dim, but the shop at the bottom of the stairs was very bright. It was a workspace, and a lot of fine work went on there.

"Yo," Reed said setting down two spools of cord one black, the other light grey.

"Hey," Saya said cheerily. "Thanks for the loan of your library. I can see you actually LIKE to read. The books there are all wonderful, especially the classics you have. Where did you find them in actual leather-back?"

Reed laughed. "Well, it is my name after all. Just picked them up along the way. Here." Reed handed her a tome.

"The sniper manual," Saya asked.

"It was written by a Navy Seal. It's arguably one of the best practical manuals on modern sniping. It covers most of what you need to know." Reed yawned and twisted his head, causing the vertebrae in his neck to audibly pop. "We can't exactly send you to the Sniper's School in Britain, but this is a very good basis. I've watched you shoot, and Rika agrees, you seem to have a knack for some long-distance shooting."

Saya sat down on a stool and opened the book. Soon, she seemed to be under a spell, her eyes not leaving the printed pages.

"If anyone can learn something just from a book, it's Saya." Kohta laughed standing next to Reed watching his new found girlfriend as she began to devour the book.

"That will give her the basic understanding for it. Rika has been trained at the Sniper's School. She'll finish out most of what Saya doesn't get from the manual." Reed motion Kohta to follow him.

Kohta followed the hulking american into a guncage, where Reed kneeled and pulled out a pelican case. "She'll need something to more than a measly 5.56 to use. I've got an Mk-17, the 7.62 version of the ones we're using. I don't have another SSR, so it will have to be modified, but that's simple enough."

"Nice!" Kohta cleared the weapon Reed handed him, making sure it was unloaded and finding it a bit basic for a sniper rifle. The barrel was extended, but the stock was basic, unlike Rika's. "Do you have another stock like the one on Rika's?"

Reed nodded. "Yeah, but it will have to be somewhat modified. I can do all of that. Let's get you started on some of the survival belts. I really appreciate your help, though."

Kohta laughed. "I"m just going to be weaving some paracord."

Reed shook his head. "That's just one thing more I don't have to do. Frees up some time."

"I understand. Guess we are relying on you for a lot." Kohta said beginning to pull some cord from the spools. "How do you want these done?"

"A Solomon's weave would be great." Reed repled moving over to a cleared workbench and beginning to take down the rifle in hand.

"That's the three separate strands, right," Kohta asked.

"Yeah. Use one black in the middle strand, and two greys on the outside. Start at the buckle, and work your way to the end." Reed nodded over to a small pile of buckles, and weighted pieces of metal that must have been intended as tips. "The tips you'll secure em' to are weighted a bit."

Kohta began his work, clipping the three pieces of cord, securing them to the buckle in a lark's head, and began to slowly weave the belt. It was a slow-starting process, but he knew that as the further he got, the faster it would become, no longer having to pull so much excess cord through the loops.

"Reed, do you have any books on ballistics," Saya asked suddenly.

Reed paused momentarily in his work thinking. "Yes," he said moving over to a cabinet that contained some sort of tools and supplies. He came back and handed the very thick book to Saya. "I use it in my gunsmith process. Gives me an idea of where I stand at. The caliber you're looking for is commonly referred to as .308. Additionally a similar cartridge safe to fire in it is the 7.62 x 51mm. SAAMI considers it a safe alternative to the .308 Winchester round to fire in the weapon, though there are some very slight differences."

"Who's Sammy," Saya asked.

Kohta snickered causing Saya to glare at him. "Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, pronounced Sammy in its abbreviated form, is an association of American firearms and ammunition manufacturers. SAAMI publishes various industry standards related to the field, including fire code, ammunition and chamber specifications, and acceptable chamber pressure."

Saya began to snicker as well, finally finding her humor. "Okay, don't be so vague next time. Not everyone is a gun-nerd."

"The living ones are," Reed retorted.

"Touche," Saya replied accepting the book and beginning to flip through the pages. "So most ammunition is manufactured in the United States?"

"Not at all." Kohta pulled another weave tight, and began to loop more cord. "Ammunition is made all over the world. It's just that the American companies produce higher quality ammunition than most other countries. Non-corrosive and consistent. That's why it's so highly valued. Most other countries of the world have weapon restrictions, and there are even some in the U.S. despite what you hear."

Reed laughed, as he began the long process of properly marrying the suppressor to the barrel of the sniper rifle. Kohta could tell he knew what he was doing. If fitted incorrectly, a suppressor could effect the rifle's accuracy, and even cause malfunctions. "You can pretty much get about anything there, but you've got a lot of red-tape to go through. These suppressors aren't too hard to get a hold of, but the grenade-launcher on Rika's weapon would be incredibly hard to get...legally."

Saya pulled her nose from her book. "I see. So it's quality of ammunition versus cost. I'm guessing that sub-par ammunition manufactured in another company may be much cheaper in the short run, but reliability and consistency more than make up the difference."

Reed shrugged. "That's just for the ammo. The guns I've got you all using, rifles are German in make and the pistols are from an Italian company. You need to make sure you're working with quality equipment. You don't buy a cheap vehicle, and expect it to run like a Benz."

"I kind of like the Beretta though," Kohta admitted.

"They're fine, for what they are. Mine jammed on me in combat just today. Given, the malfunction came at a convenient time, the last shot I fired, but it was still a malfunction. I'd prefer we had glocks for pistols." Reed finished attaching the suppressor and checked over his work briefly. "They're ugly as sin, but they're more than combat accurate, and reliable. Kind of like a Kalashnikov."

"Isn't that the gun the terrorists use," Saya asked.

"Yeah, but they use them because they're cheap and reliable. They've been used since the end of WWII." Kohta pulled another section of the weave tight, and realized he was only about halfway done with the first piece. As the cords got shorter, his work moved faster, having to pull less and less slack with each knot he tied.

Reed set down the sniper rifle he was working on, and moved into his gun-cage, coming back out with an AK-47. "This is the Kalashnikov, this one is Russian, and illegal in America. It's fully auto, and fire a 7.62 x 39mm round. Mikhail Kalashnikov developed this weapon from the German Mp-43, allegedly after being wounded by one. He completed the slightly flawed design of the German assault weapon, and created this. This weapon is the most widely used firearm in the world. You really don't even need to clean them. In Viet-Nam, the American troops would pick some of these up out of the mud, break the rusted bolt loose, and it would still fire reliably."

Saya took the weapon from Reed and checked to make sure it was unloaded, bringing a smile to Kohta's face.

"Why aren't we using these," Saya asked.

"Well, getting hold of 7.62 supressors is quite an expensive process. I've only got three in total. The 5.56 suppressors are much cheaper, and it does the same job as these do, as long as shots are well placed. I've used the Kalashnikov, and on two different continents. It's also a deal heavier than our rifles. They would be just fine, if we didn't have to worry about drawing the DEAD to us." Reed took the rifle Saya had back, and returned it to its place.

"I see," Saya said. She picked her book back up browsing through it. "What are the upsides of using our current rifles?"

Kohta turned to Reed, hoping he could explain it better.

"Well, they operate in much the same fashion as the Kalashnikov. They're much lighter, and easier to handle. In testing, they fired well over fifteen-thousand rounds through them continuously without malfunction...and I thought they look like something out of a sci-fi movie." Reed began to attach the custom stock to the rifle on his work-bench.

Saya laughed heartily.

Kohta snickered as well, but was inclined to agree.

Reed adjusted the cheekpiece on the newly attached stock, and checked the sights. He then loaded up a magazine. "I'm going to check this. Be right back." Reed opened the heavy metal door to the underground range and sat the rifle on a bench inside. He stepped briefly back in to collect a scope, then closed the door behind him.

"I didn't know you could weave," Saya said playfully.

Kohta smiled. "Well, I used to have to help out my mom when I was a kid. I started looking up some fancy knot work on the internet, and made some belts for accessories to the clothing she designed. She called it 'retro', whatever that means."

"So your mom really is a fashion designer?" Saya raised her nose from her book peering at him over her glasses.

"Yeah. She drug me with her everywhere. I mean, seeing the sites in different countries was alright, but I ended up cooped in a hotel most of the time. Dad went with us on a trip to America, he was there to buy some precious stones. At least that's what he told mom. He checked us into a cheap motel in North Carolina, and I got to spend a month training at the Blackwater facility there." Kohta grinned.

"That was the best trip I'd ever had. We ate cheap fast-food, and I practiced at the range all day with my instructor while Dad sat back and smoked his funny-smelling pipe. Of course, it got cut short because Mom found out and practically stormed the place." Kohta laughed aloud.

Saya snickered. "I take it she didn't approve."

"Hell no." Kohta finished the last knot attaching the tip to the now finished belt. "But, Dad saved me from having to go to Milan that year."

"How'd he do that," Saya asked.

"He told me to start paying a lot attention to the models, which wasn't that difficult. When Mom caught me ogling the models, she freaked. I guess she finally realized I was growing up. Anyway, after that, I was allowed to go with my Dad some. Although she never would allow me to go to Amsterdam with him. 'Too much vice,' is what she always said." Kohta got up and began to unwind some more of the parachute cord.

Saya shook her head. "I'd better not catch you ogling anyone else," Saya said feigning indignation.

Kohta turned his head, running his eyes up and down Saya. "Anyone at all, or anyone other than you?"

Saya's cheeks heated. "Idiot."

Kohta grinned. "Anyway, how's your book?"

Saya lifted it up. "Informative. I don't really understand some of these terms. And there's not exactly a glossary."

"Like what," Kohta asked. He took the new strands of cord and began to secure them to a buckle.

"What's this 'apricot' they keep referring to," Saya asked incredulously.

"Oh! That's what's commonly referred to as the medulla oblongata. It's the part of the brain snipers aim for for an instant kill. The bullet passing through there causes a nervless reaction. There's also been some argument that the shot severs a vertebrae in the top of the spinal cord and that's what causes it, but it's kind of hard to tell. Not like they can test for things like that." Kohta pulled more slack through a loop as he heard the very quiet pop through small crack of the door Reed was shooting behind.

"Right. Bullet in the brain pan goes squish. I get that now. But it doesn't really matter with THEM." Saya said flipping a page.

Kohta paused briefly. "We're not just up against THEM anymore..."

Saya sighed. "Yeah, I guess I need to come to terms with it. You're the best shot I know of, why aren't you boning up on being a sniper?"

Kohta snickered to himself. "Honestly, I'm pretty good, but my aim gets pretty shaky If i'm shoot more than a few-hundred meters. I just don't have the kind of mindset it takes to be a sniper. I mean, the best I could do, even in training, was shooting out at four-hundred meters. That's a quarter of mile, and an impressive shot, but most snipers can shoot better at nearly a mile than I can at a quarter of the distance. There are just too many variables to consider and I tend to leave something out."

"Like the direction of the wind or the drop of the bullet," Saya asked.

"Well, the wind is a big factor. But you also have to consider what you're shooting with. Bullet drop and compensation are some of my weak points. I can't do the math in my head, but you should be really good at that. You're a genius," Kohta finished admiringly.

Saya grinned. "I see what you mean. So, you'll be my spotter then?"

Kohta turned around grinning. "Of course."

Saya grinned. "Good. Now, get back to work you lazy idiot."

Kohta saluted and fully invested himself in his weaving, and Saya in her reading.

After several minutes Kohta heard the soft pop of the supressed rifle.

"What's he doing," Saya asked.

"He's zeroing your rifle."

"What's that mean," Saya asked.

"Well, he's giving it a basic point of aim. Depending on the cartridge, and the shortness of the range, he'll probably zero it for about one-hundred meters. But, as I'm sure you know, bullets fire in an arc. Meaning that at the distance of the range, the bullet will be shooting slightly high at closer ranges." Kohta pulled a knot tight. "I'm guesing. He zero'd my rifle in, but my rifle is a different caliber."

Saya nodded. "I see. But is there really that much difference in the caliber of our weapons? They look a lot alike."

"Well, yeah. Yours is way more powerful of a round. The 5.56 cartridge has taken flack for being underpowered, but as long as your aim is true, it's quite lethal. It's smaller, yes, but still carries very good velocity, but with a lower round weight. Your round is faster, larger, and heavier. But the fact it's heavier gives it a better long-range trajectory, as things like wind effect it less." Kohta shrugged his shoulder having been at his work for a while.

"Right. But wouldn't that mean yours has less recoil?"

Kohta turned around beaming with pride. "You learn really fast. Yeah, it has substantially less recoil, and it's considered a closer range cartride. You're able to follow up shots fairly quickly. But your rifle's stock is 'shock-absorbing. So in position, you can accurately fire quickly once you get used to it. It'll still have some buck to it, but it won't be horrible. You can always sling your rifle while we're moving, and focus on close range with your pistol. You're really good with it."

"I'd been considering that. With the longer barrel, stock, and suppressor attached, it looked a little intimidating to be carrying around." Saya shook her head.

"That's perfectly understandable. Especially since you only started shooting recently as well. Nothing to be ashamed of. It takes time to get used to these things. I'm still a little awkward with guns. Sometimes I feel a little silly carrying around a select-fire assault-rifle." Kohta laughed scratching his neck.

"You shouldn't. That serious look you get when you're shooting is really handsome." Saya blushed.

Kohta blushed as well, finding no words to reply.

"Kohta, get Saya acclimated to this thing," Reed called out opening the door.

Kohta snapped to his feet. "Yes, sir."

"I'm not in the military, don't call me sir," Reed said, half amused half disgusted.

Saya laughed. "Right, Kohta dear, don't call the old man, sir."

Reed looked perplexed.

"What's wrong," Saya asked.

"I never thought I'd live long enough to be called 'old'..."

Kohta laughed nervously. "Come on, Saya. Let's get it adjusted for you."

Reed moved over and took out a strange pistol from a drawer and began to look at it intently.

"What's that," Kohta asked.

"Nunya," Reed replied, something dangling out of his shirt.

"What's that," Saya asked. She was pointing the strange handle on a chain around Reed's neck.

"Oh. My father gave me this neck-knife shortly before he died. I've carried it ever since." Reed said slipping the blade from it's plactic sheath. It was heavily pointed, with a short razor-sharp blade.

"That's nice! Say, Reed, do you have any additional melee weapons," Kohta asked.

"Why would we need those?" Saya tapped her foot impatiently.

Reed nodded. "Yeah, I'll dig em' out. Just get that girl to her new gun before she kills you."

Kohta laughed nervously and did as he was told.

Kohta closed the door behind him, and paused scanning the floor and seeing only four spent rounds. "Wow..."

"What is it," Saya asked curiously.

Kohta pointed to the chair behind the table where the rifle sat. "He zero'd your rifle and only fired four times..."

Saya peered around. "Is that good?"

"Yeah," Kohta admitted. "He must have used a laser bore-site to get close, then just fine-tuned it."

Saya looked around on the table. "I don't see anything like that..."

Kohta gulped. "Anyway, let's get this gun adjusted for you. The stock customizes a lot to your length, and the cheek-piece does as well."

Saya sat down in the chair, raised the rifle, and began to adjust the length of the stock, which was set up for Reed, as well as the cheek-piece which was far too low for Saya.

Soon, Kohta could tell, Saya was comfortable with the settings on the weapon.

"Now," Kohta began to explain, "the scope has a built-in peep-site. Just in case the glass gets broken. These knobs here control elevation, which you can use as compensation for bullet-drop, but Rika would be better for teaching you those. Let's just see how you do."

Saya nodded, and leaned over the gun on the table, steadying herself and taking aim. She sat back up. "It feels comfortable. Can I try a few rounds?"

Kohta nodded. "Sure, I'll set you up a target." He moved over and hit the return target button and soon the paper target was skimming back to him. Two shots inside the x-ring, and another. "Holy..."

"What," Saya asked.

Kohta showed her the target, and pointed out the holes.

"Guess he only hit it three times," Saya laughed.

Kohta pointed the the slight widening of the third hole, directly in the middle of the 'x'.

"Wow, that's good," Saya admitted.

Kohta shook his head. "I guess he really knows how to build a gun." He replaced the target and sent it back downrange.

Kohta stood back behind Saya as she loaded the magazine into the weapon, and chambered a round. "Ready when you are," he said smiling.

Taking careful aim, Saya pulled the trigger, and the target fluttered slightly. "The trigger's different."

Kohta looked at her curiously. "I guess he modified it. Or maybe just smoothed it. Is it uncomfortable?"

Saya shook her head. "No..it feels...good."

Kohta nodded. "He probably polished the parts of the trigger making it less...creepy."

Saya thought for a moment. "I understand. The term sounds strange, but right as well."

Kohta nodded. "Try some more."

After a few experimental rounds, Saya's pace began to pick up. She was getting used to the weapon, and was taking less time between shots.

As the weapon locked back Saya smiled at Kohta.

"Never have you been so hot as you are at this moment," Kohta told her.

Saya blushed slightly. "Well...the night is young."

Kohta leaned over and kissed her, his lips gently brushing hers. Then moved over and hit the button to return her target. He took it from the peg and showed it to her, a small group of holes, little bigger than his thumbnail about an inch over the 'x'.

"But I was holding right on the x..." Saya pouted.

"Remember, he zero'd your rifle for a further distance. It'll shoot a little high at a closer range. Here, let's try again," Kohta said returning the target back downrange, and began to reload the magazine.

"...I can't believe I forgot that..." Saya's face flushed in slight embarrassment.

"Really, it's no big deal. I see the recoil isn't bothering you." Kohta winked at her.

Surprised, Saya's face lit up. "Now that you mention it, it doesn't kick much worse than the other rifles. I guess the stock makes a big difference."

Kohta nodded and handed her a loaded magazine. "Remember, aim carefully, and just a little south."

Saya gave Kohta a thumbs up. "Gotcha. I'm going to cut the x out this time!"

Kohta sat in the chair behind the bench, Saya sitting across his lap, her head nuzzled in his neck. This 'cuddling' thing was really nice. When he was with Saya like this, it brought a closeness to them that even sex didn't, but only in some ways. He smiled to himself and hugged her tighter.

They had taken the privateness of the range and had simply taken a short time to themselves, nothing phsyical really need other than to be near one-another, the feeling of cohesion seeming mutual.

"We should really get back out," Saya suggested.

"I guess so." Kohta sighed heavily.

"We do have our own room," Saya reminded him. "There's no reason to sneak off down here."

Kohta giggled. "You're right, as usual."

Saya smiled. "Just don't ever forget that."

Saya collected her new weapon, checking to make sure it was unloaded, and they opened the heavy steel door that lead back into the workshop.

Reed was working hunched over a table, something in a vice, and he seemed to be engraving.

Saya's curiousity got the better of her first. "What are you working on?"

Reed raised the electric engraving tool, and blew his workpiece clean. "Sentimentality."

Kohta raised his eyebrow at Saya, and they moved over to look at what it was Reed was taking out of the vice.

To kohta, it looked like a cross between a broomhandle Mauser and a mini-14. "What IS that?"

"It's a PLR-22, made by Kel-Tec. It's a .22 long rifle pistol. Sort of. It's classified as a pistol. I added a shortened supressor, as the .22 isn't that loud to begin with, and a short adjustible stock." Reed wiped the sweat from his face.

Kohta looked at the behemoth sympathetically, as he understood. "You fixed this up for Alice..."

Saya gasped slightly, everyone had learned about Reed and children with guns.

"Yeah...there's even a small sling to go with it. I'm not so stupid as to believe children, especially with the shit going on now, don't need to defend themselves. So I fixed this up." Reed's legs shook.

Kohta patted him on the shoulder trying to comfort the shaken American. "I understand. Thanks, Reed."

Reed nodded. "I don't think I can manage to teach her to use it. That's up to you. She needs to understand not to be shooting it unless you're with her, understand? And if we have to move, she doesn't even load it unless someone tells her to."

Kohta agreed with a sigh. It was a sad thing, but he understood it completely. Even though it made him sick to his stomach, Reed wouldn't have a child's death on his conscience simply because he didn't like the idea of her carrying something to defend herself. "It must have been tough for you."

Reed shrugged. "Life, my friend, is full of tough bitter things. What makes us strong, is swallowing them, and moving forward." Reed moved off to the stairs.

"What's engraved on the side of it," Saya asked.

Reed paused at the base of the stairs. "Stupid joke. It's engraved 'wonderland'. Alice and wonderland." Reed's laugh was half amused half bitter as Kohta heard him ascend the stairs.

Saya looked at Kohta. "Is it really necessary for her to have this?"

Kohta shrugged. "I don't know. But what if she got separated from us? What if she couldn't get away from some of the DEAD?"

Saya hugged Kohta, seeking reassurance. "I see your point. We don't have to like it, though, do we?"

Kohta wrapped his arms around the only girl in the world he wanted to. "The world we knew is gone. We just have to make our way as best we can through this one."

Rika awoke. Shizuka lying in her arms the sniper yawned widely, and began to unentangle herself from the buxom nurse. That finsihed, Rika stood up and wrapped a blanket around herself feeling a bit chilled.

"That's odd." Rika noticed the window of the third floor room they shared with Reed stood wide open. She moved over intending to close it, when she noticed someone sitting on the roof outside.

"Where did I go wrong, Dad?"

Rika finsihed blinking the sleep from her eyes in suprise. Reed was sitting on the roof outside. Wearing combat fatigues, a tactical vest with no shirt beneath it, and fully armed.

"I tried to do like you did. I tried everything. I thought standing for my country would mean something, but it didn't. I gave this cesspool of a world my all. When my country failed me, I left. I stood in Israel with men and women of like mind, standing against what I thought was tyranny. After the Mid-east I went into Africa as a mercenary on a peacekeeping mission. I thought I was finally standing for something..."

Rika's eyes began to form tears as she remembered all that had happened in Africa. She had been under Reed's command there. So much had happened. Even though she'd met him long before that, that was when they'd truly come together.

"Rika... what's going on," Shizuka asked. She was standing by Rika now, though still nude.

Rika placed a finger over her lips indicated she should stay silent and draped her blanket over Shizuka as they huddled by the open window.

"I was shot three times in service to my country, Dad. I lost some of the depth perception in my left eye from some shrapnel of an I.E.D. some psycho had strapped to a fuckin' kid. In Israel, my whole team was irradiated. I was instantly sterilized and I spent two weeks in a hospital bed recovering form the radiation burns. Two men on my team weren't so fortunate, and died of shock. After that, I and the commander of the unit led more than a dozen assaults against terrorist organizations. We gave no quarter and no mercy. Men begged for God to spare them from me and I killed them anyway." Reed lifted up a large green bottle and took several long swallows.

Shizuka wrapped her arms around Rika. Rika could feel the tears falling from her own face. Reed had just done something he'd regretted. He'd lost his faith long ago, but spoke instead to his deceased father for comfort instead of 'putting his faith into something everyone's afraid exists.'

"In Africa, I was mauled by a Lion. Rika was able to shoot it off of me, but that was the first time I really came close to death. At least that I recall. It had me. I buried my tomohawk into it's face and my knife into its throat. I was sure I was going to die, when Rika shot it cleanly through the heart and it fell dead right on top of me." Reed laughed bitterly and finished off his bottle of booze, unceremoniously tossing it out over the wall surrounding his home.

"I saw both women I loved raped, I killed several children, and I killed half a dozen of my own men. You once said you could never have served as a policeman without god in your life. We used to be mirror images of one-another. But I couldn't serve anywhere and keep God. Were we really that different? Are you ashamed of what I've done?" Reed hung his head and sat his rifle down next to him.

Rika felt Shizuka wipe at her eyes. She turned toward the buxom blonde and silently thanked her with a nod.

"I made a gun for a little girl today, Dad. That's how fucked up this world is, now. No matter what I tried, I don't think it's a better place for my having passed through it. I think I just made everything worse. I didn't make her a gun because she wanted to hunt something, or just go shooting for fun. I made it because I thought she may have need of it... I'm living in times where it's necessary to arm children for their own safety..."

Rika could hear Reed softly sobbing now. She wanted to go to him, but knew it best to just stay where she was. He was working through something and needed to come to the answer on his own. He needed to let it out. The only person he could ever do that to was his father. He loved Shizuka and herself more than he could probably imagine, but the only person he could ever really speak to when something was bothering him had been his father.

Rika wrapped her arm around Shizuka, pulling her tightly to herself. She couldn't see his face, just his back, but she knew his hand would be wrapped tightly around the knife sheathed on his neck.

"Dad, I need you to be with me. Help me find the strength to keep going. Watch over Rika, Shizuka, and the kids with me. I'm not worth saving, but they are. I think you're somewhere happy, now. Some place that's safe. Tell Mom I miss her, and take care of the dogs for me. Watch over Siss, since I'm on the other side of the world. J.J. and Alex are still young, so they'll need your help too." Reed gasped for air, each breath seeming labored.

Shizuka was clinging tightly now to Rika as well. This was hard for them both. They both wanted to go and comfort him, but he was letting off steam, now and very drunk. He was letting out all of the things he'd been burying for so long now and they dared not stop the process.

Rika knew that Reed had really thought that perhaps his two nephews and his sister may really be dead. And that was just another log on the fire. This was something that had been building up for years.

"What have I become, Dad?"

Rika felt Shizuka tense up, but she was able to hush her before the blonde called out.

"...I'm me. I guess I haven't changed much at all. I'm still walking point. You always bitched at me for that. I've made up my mind to help out the kids. My path's been set. I have the skill to guide them, but do I have the strength to walk it with them. They're no longer living in their world, they're living in mine. Do you think my life was just leading up to this moment, or was I just in the right place to help them?"

Rika smiled. Even broken as he was, the man still held out hope. He was placing his hope for the future in the hands of a rag-tag band of derelict teenagers. She looked to Shizuka who was smiling as well.

"I told you they're special kids," Shizuka whispered.

Rika nodded.

"Yes, and as always, you say it far too loudly. Just making you voice breathy doesn't decrease the volume, Shizuka," Reed said.

Rika felt like she'd been caught with her hand in the cookie-jar momentarily before recovering. "We just got here," she lied.

Reed stood up collecting his rifle and hopping back through the window before closing it behind him. "Don't kid me. I've known you for a decade, Rika."

Rika tried, but she couldn't help but smiling. "You're just drunk."

"Yes, I am. Quite. But Shizuka's boobs have a zip-code unto themselves. Yours combined, have their own field of gravity. I thought I was going to get sucked back through the window at times." Reed laughed as he set his rifle down in the corner behind the door, and began to peel off his other weapons and ammunition.

Shizuka pressed her breasts together to create as much cleavege as possible. "But i thought you liked them..."

"That's an entirely different conversation." Reed stretched his shoulders out.

Shizuka huffed, looking put off.

"Cleaning out the closet," Rika asked.

Reed nodded. "It's been building. I did come to a conclusion, though."

Rika raised her eyebrow.

Shizuka looked suprised. "And what would that be," Shizuka asked sweetly.

"Ha! An old Maclelland quote. 'If you're going to be stupid, you'd best be equally tough.' Dad's favorite." Reed laughed heartily. "I should really be bulletproof by now."

Rika took heart in the fact Reed's eyes were clear of doubt. It had been quite some time since she'd seen them so. "I'm glad to see you're back to you, love."

Reed smiled at her, as he unbuckled his boots. "Good to see you still snore."

Rika felt her eye twitch. "I do not snore."

Shizuka joined in on the jibe. She grabbed Rika's ample bosom. "You sleep on your back with these squashing your chest. It's a wonder you can breathe at all."

"You're really one to talk there, Shizuka..." Reed pulled his feet from his boots laughing.

"What do you mean?" Shizuka felt at her own chest. "I sleep on my side so I can breathe properly."

"You do not. You sleep on Rika's chest half the time. That's why she snores." Reed yawned. "I'm going to make a quick check on the kids, then catch a few hours sleep."

Shizuka threw her arms around Reed playfully. "Come back soon..."

Reed cleared his throat. "I do have to sleep at some point..." He began trying to disentangle himself from Shizuka gently, but that was no easy task.

Rika was caught up in the mood, and leapt onto Reed's back biting his neck.

"God damn it," Reed said in English.

Shizuka laughed. "I still forget sometimes Japanese isn't your first language."

"More like his third." Rika said around a mouthful of Reed's neck.

"Fuck. Will you two at least let me check on Takashi? I've got some more work to do before everyone else gets up in the morning and I'm drunk to boot." Reed spoke now back in his clipped awkward Japanese.

Rika bit Reed's ear roughly, before sliding down off his back, and Shizuka slid her hand out of Reed's pants.

"Fine," Rika said smiling. "Just don't expect to get much sleep. We hadn't seen you in two years. Don't think you're going to get a restful night for some time..."

Shizuka nodded. "He's been amorous anyway. I don't think he's slept with anyone in some time."

Rika smiled wickedly. "When was the last time you had sex, before we showed back up, Reed."

Reed thought it over for a moment searching his memory. "Two years."

"But that's when you up and disappeared..." Shizuka trailed off.

Reed smiled as he slipped out the door.

Takashi sat in the kitchen, speaking with Rei's father. He'd come to understand a little more about what had happened earlier that day. Well... from the time more like yesterday, as it was just a few hours until dawn, now.

"I still don't think you did anything wrong, son. You did the best you could in a bad situation." Tadashi said puffing on a cigarette deeply offering one to Takashi.

Takashi accepted one and lit it, exhaling the smoke and sitting for a moment. "I understand it, now. Those were some of the guys involved in killing my Mom. I guess I was more upset about it than I had thought. Just kind of hit me all at once, ya' know."

Tadashi nodded taking a long pull of coffee. "Reed would tell you the same thing. I've seen it happen with some police officers in shootouts before, as well. Their close friend will be wounded or killed, and then they feel guilty after dispatching the culprit. It's more like survivor's guilt in their case."

"It's all the same shit different day." Reed came out of the hall wearing a pair of tactical pants and nothing else. He moved over and poured himself a cup of coffee and was greeted by Tadashi, who handed him a lit cigarette. Reed accepted it graciously and took a long puff sitting down at the table. "The old farts are gathered now. Time for you to get the old farts' lecture."

Tadashi laughed.

Takashi was a bit confused. "What do you mean?"

Reed shook his head. "It was a bad joke. Tadashi hit the nail on the head for the most part. You killed someone today. Liked it a little, didn't you?"

Takashi took a deep breath before answering. "Yeah..."

Reed shrugged. "Honestly, they needed killing. They meant to kill us all back there. But don't make a habit of enjoying. One, you'll turn into a monster. Or two, you'll get all fuckin' emo about it."

Takashi laughed at that, his humor returning somewhat. "I get it." Takashi took a long drag from his cigarette expelling the smoke. He'd let most of it burn up before taking a second puff.

Tadashi clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "Atta boy," Tadashi said in English.

Reed laughed. "The best way to do it, is to view it from a secluded place. Don't hold anything in your heart. It's called 'impassiveness'. A lot of people in the military practice this without knowing it. A CNN reporter once asked what a Marine sniper felt when he shot a terrorist."

Takashi's interest was peaked. "What did he say?"

"The Marine replied simply 'recoil.' Well, needless to say that's not the answer the press were looking for, so they didn't air the interview, but I was in the service then, and heard about it. Made for some good laughs." Reed took a long pull of coffee.

"So how do you manage your feelings in combat?" Takashi felt a bit uncomfortable.

"You did it well enough today. It wasn't until we got back you really thought about it. The key is to just leave it all out there, Takashi. You don't bring this shit home with you, or you end up like me." Reed yawned briefly.

Takashi nodded. "But you seem to be okay."

Reed glanced at Tadashi, and the older man nodded. "Not really. You see, I can't rest at ease. It's sad to say, but this world wrought with chaos is my kind of world. It feels silly to be paranoid over every little sound in times of peace, checking each one out as if it may be an enemy. So, to feel normal again, I threw myself into every combat-zone I could find. It doesn't feel foolish if you know someone's out to get you."

Takashi allowed that to sit on his mind for a few minutes.

Tadashi lit another cigarette. "Can I get some more of these tomorrow?"

Reed looked the cigarette pack. "Sure. Just go easier on the next carton. I'll try and grab some extras. Rika's been hittin' em' hard as well."

Takashi took a deep breath. "So I live in two separate worlds, now?"

Reed smiled. "Exactly. You leave the Takashi that can relax, the normal one, right here. You leave the gunman out on the battlefield. You must be ready to switch between the two at a moment's notice. But that's about the best advice I can really give you. I'm sorry, but that's my extent of expertise."

Takashi nodded. "Yeah, I really don't want to feel that stuff again. It really upset the girls..." Takashi trailed off remembering he was in a relationship with Tadashi's daughter AND another girl...

Tadashi clapped Takashi on the shoulder. "I remember what it's like to be young, Takashi. And my Kiriko used to like women as much as I did. As long as Rei's happy it's none of my business." His eyes turned cold briefly. "But if you hurt her..." He allowed the threat to trail deliberately, and Takashi knew that his own imagination would be far worse than any verbal threat.

"Yes, sir." Takashi took a long nervous pull of a coffee.

Reed snickered. "I need to get some additional gear for outings. You two wanna help?"

Takashi nodded.

"Nothing else to do," Tadashi replied.

"What do we need to work on," Takashi asked.

Getting up and walking down the hallway, Takashi and Tadashi in tow, Reed laughed. "We're short on good melee weapons. It makes sense for us to have something we can use that's completely quiet."

Tadashi laughed. "Got some spare machetes or something?"

"Why, yes I do." Reed led them up the staircase to the second floor, and turned to walk down the hall.

Takashi nodded. "It makes sense. Even the suppressed guns cause a bit of a ruckus, although the sound doesn't carry far, it still carries."

Leading them into a room and flipping on a light Reed nodded. He indicated the walls which were covered in various weapons. "Some of these are mine, and some of these were from the guy who used to own this place." Reed moved over and took down a few sheathed machetes in varying styles.

Takashi eyed the blades along the wall. "Did you set this up?"

Reed shook his head. "No, I added to it. A lot of it was already here. Evidently this fellow was quite eccentric."

Tadashi let out a low whistle. "There are some nice pieces here."

Reed thanked him, and took down some pieces from all around the room. "I don't think we need to get you all into swordsmanship, but a machete is pretty straight-forward. Everyone really needs to carry some of these things. If we can hit a outdoor outfitter later on, we can get some good kits for wilderness survival put together."

Takashi lifted a Gurkha style machete. "I see the use for them. Knives and axes have been pretty basic survival tools since mankind began, right."

Tadashi nodded watching Reed heap a small pile of weapons on an ornate table in the middle of the room. "Yes, and it's really not a bad idea. Especially if we have to move out of the city."

Reed yawned briefly before coughing. "Yeah, and it was Kohta who reminded me earlier. Kid's pretty sharp." Reed moved over to a draw and produced several different kind of tools for sharpening blades. "Most of them are good, but some may need hit a lick or two with a good stone."

Takashi lifted one up experimentally. "I've never had to sharpen anything with a stone before. Mom had one of those electric things for her kitchen knives..."

Tadashi began to tutor Takashi on how to properly sharpen and maintain an edge.

Takashi ate up the information. He found the stropping the blade with a stone was a comforting action. It was doing something that directly produced a result easily seen and useful. Just the act of doing something productive helped to make him feel better.

Reed coughed heavily for a moment.

"Are you okay?" Takashi set the blade and stone in his hands down.

Reed waved him off. "Yeah, just going to grab a drink of water."

Tadashi shook his head. "You don't need to do everything. I know how to hone an edge. Get some sleep."

Reed nodded graciously and left the room.