Tatsuya's eyes scanned the room. The bed covers had been tossed to one side, while the bag that Ayase was crouched down next to was in disarray, but it was clear: Yuuri was gone.
"Her Chrono Changer's gone," Ayase said, standing up. He let out a sigh. "She must have heard us talking," he repeated, "and now she's gone after him."
Tatsuya slowly overcame his shock. "She can't have gone far." He turned and ran out of the room, almost running into Sion and Domon, who were walking back after saying goodbye to Honami who had left in order to allow Mirai some time to have a proper sleep and feed.
"Oi!" Domon shouted at him, watching him disappear down the corridor.
Sion turned to him nervously. "What's happened? Has something happened to Yuuri-san?"
"I don't know."
Ayase came out of the room, looking flustered. "Where's Tatsuya gone?"
"Down there." Sion pointed down the corridor. "What's going on?"
"What? What do you mean 'gone'?" Domon almost raged as the colour in Sion's face paled as he looked on with anticipation.
"Exactly what I said," Ayase snapped back. "Tatsuya and I were discussing how to deal with Serperant and we were heading back to the room before I was going to get you guys, but by the time we got back, she had gone." He let out a heavy sigh. "She must have heard us talking."
Domon's face began to turn red with anger. "How could she have heard you talking if you weren't near her room?"
"We were just outside the door," Ayase replied, his anger rising along with Domon's.
"What we're you doing outside her door?! You shouldn't have left her room!" the yellow Timeranger thundered and Sion cowered back, whereas Ayase stayed calm as he replied.
"We wouldn't have, but the nurse said she wanted some water so we went to get some," Ayase explained, ignoring Domon's reddening face and fisted hands. "By the time we got back the nurse had finished her job and Yuuri was gone."
"Dammit! Why wasn't she under supervision?" Before either Sion or Ayase could say anything, Domon stormed down the corridor to the reception desk which was around a corner, out of sight from Yuuri's room.
There was a nurse sat at the station, typing into a computer. She heard the thunderous footsteps approaching and lifted her head. "Hello, how can I help you?"
Domon's face had turned red with anger. He stomped the desk and slammed his hands on top of the wooden surface, making the nurse jump in surprise. "What kind of hospital is this?!" he thundered at her.
The nurse stood up, a look of confusion and fear on her face. "Sir, I don't understand." Her voice trembled.
"Our friend has disappeared from her room!" he shouted. "Where the hell is she?!"
"A patient's missing?"
"Dude," Ayase said, grabbing hold of Domon's arm, "you need to calm down."
"I'll calm down once I get some answers! What kind of hospital allows patients that have just come out of surgery to just up and leave?!"
The nurse ignored his outburst, her expression turning into one of concern. "Which patient?" she asked urgently.
"Our friend, Yuuri-san," Sion explained. "She was recovering from a gunshot wound."
The nurse nodded and reached for the phone, but Domon grabbed hold of her other wrist, stopping her.
"What kind of hospital just lets patients leave?!" he repeated, snarling at her.
Knowing that a patient's life was at risk, the nurse refused to let her personal emotions get the better of her and she kept her voice steady as she spoke. "This is a hospital, not a prison," she said. "We had no reason to suspect that your friend would leave." She placed the hand that had been reaching for the phone on top of Domon's. "Now if you don't mind, I need to contact security to try and find your friend. I can't do that if you don't let me."
"Domon-san, let go," Sion pleaded.
The yellow Timeranger threw the nurse a look of pure fury before relenting. He let go of her arm, revealing the thick red mark on her skin from the pressure that he had applied during his outburst. The nurse ignored the throbbing in her wrist as she quickly turned and picked up the phone and calling the hospital's security department. The three remaining Timerangers turned away from the desk.
"What should we do?" Sion asked, his voice a whisper. "Do we go and look for Yuuri-san or help the Gaorangers?"
"We'll go and help the Gaorangers," Ayase replied. "Tatsuya should be able to find her."
"Let's hope that Tatsuya can find Yuuri before their security does," Domon said in a low voice.
The other two nodded in unison at the statement, knowing that there was no way Yuuri would willingly return to the hospital with the security guards. They all shared a knowing look before taking off down the corridor towards the stairs and out of the hospital, towards the location of Serperant.
"Argh!" Kakeru let out a pained moan as he was thrown back, landing heavily on his side, his Gao Mane Buster flying from his hand. He shook his head as he slowly sat up, ignoring the pain coursing through his body from the repeated strikes and attacks from Serperant. He watched as his comrades were also repeatedly pushed down by Serperant. He grabbed his weapon and staggered back onto his feet. He didn't know how long they had been fighting the futuristic criminal, but he knew that during the time they had been fighting, they had barely been able to land a scratch on him. It was like he was able to anticipate their movements, even when they attacked at the same time and from different directions and all of their suits were tainted with black scorch marks from the continuously onslaught of slashes and shots from Serperant. He hated to think it, but he had no idea how they were supposed to defeat him.
Gao Yellow leapt into the air, preparing to strike at Serperant from behind with his Eagle Sword, but Serperant turned, blocking the attack before pushing his own sword against Gaku's, sending the Soaring Eagle flying over him. The yellow Gaoranger landed on his back with a heavy thud.
"Yellow!" Gao White rushed over to him, crouching down next him. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah," Gaku muttered, pushing himself up, his sword still in his hand. He turned to Kakeru. "I think we need to call the Timerangers, Red!" he yelled. "We need their help!"
Kakeru frowned beneath his helmet, as he thought. That was something he didn't want to do. He lifted his head and watched as Serperant took out Gao Blue and Gao Black with a single attack before pushing Gao Silver away before any of them could strike at him.
"He's right, Red," Sae agreed. "I don't think we can do this without them."
"We don't have a choice," Shirogane added from his position a few feet away, having overheard the conversation from his position. "We have to contact them." He rolled out of the way as Serperant shot an attack at him, firing his Gao Hustler Rod back at him, but once again, Serperant deflected the attack.
Gaku rushed over to Kakeru, grabbing his shoulders. "This is getting ridiculous," he almost snapped at the leader. "We can barely land a single attack on him. We need reinforcements. We need the Timerangers."
Kakeru swallowed. He didn't have a choice. They were getting beaten, badly and Serperant was showing no signs of being tired. "Fine," he muttered, taking out his G-Phone and dialling the number the Timerangers had given him. He was surprised when he heard the voice of Taku on the other end. "Eh, Taku?"
"Yes," replied the voice of the robotic owl.
Kakeru lifted his head and glanced at the others before swallowing and speaking into his G-Phone once more. "Um, we need to get a hold of the Timerangers," he said. "They told us to call this number. I thought it would go straight to them."
"All messages go through me," Taku stated.
"Oh." He paused. "Can you put me through to one of them?"
"I will need to know the nature of the message."
Kakeru sighed. He couldn't believe it was harder talking to a robot than to a human. "We need their help with Serperant. Can you send them to our location?"
"They are already on their way," Taku informed him and Kakeru raised his eyebrows in surprise and he looked at the others sensing that they wore identical looks to his own.
"Oh," he replied again.
"I have already detected Serperant's presence and have informed the Timerangers of such. They should be with you shortly," Taku said before Kakeru could ask another question.
"Okay… thanks." He flipped his G-Phone closed, a look of confusion on his face. He shook his head, confused as to the conversation he had just had. He had thought conversing with animals and Gao Lion to be strange, but having a conversation with a robot? He shook his head again.
"They're on their way?" The sound of Sae's voice brought him back to his senses.
"Looks like it." He shook his head again, still overcome by having a conversation with a robotic owl.
"Are you sure?" Gai inquired. "You did just have a conversation with a talking owl. Are you sure it understood what you were saying?"
Sae's head shot around to look at him. Beneath her helmet, she frowned. "Red had a conversation with a robotic owl," she reminded him, "from the future. I'm pretty sure he knew exactly what was being said."
Kakeru nodded. "The Timerangers are on their way," he iterated. He held his Gao Mane Buster ready. "But let's try and do some damage before they get here."
Gaku smiled. "Yeah, won't want them thinking they're better than us." He let out a laugh, before charging back to join Shirogane, Sotaro and Kai in fighting Serperant.
Sae stared at the scene and jumped when she felt Kakeru place a hand on her shoulder.
She nodded. "It's just strange," she muttered. "We've never faced a foe this powerful or skilful before."
Kakeru nodded in agreement. "But we've got the Timerangers to help us," he said.
She nodded. "We will win, won't we?" She looked up at him.
"Of course we will. We're full of motivation." He held up and fisted hand, showing his determination and she let out a small laugh, her worries washing away. "You ready?"
She tightened her grip on her Tiger Baton and nodded. "Let's go." She ran behind Kakeru as he raced towards Serperant, jumping into the air and shooting at him.
Serperant lazily dodged the attack and was ready to block Sae's attack, pushing her back. He hissed, his tongue flicking in and out of his mouth. The Gaorangers weren't a challenge for him. They were weak and easily tired. The Timerangers on the other hand… He had been sent to battle them, they were his priority now that he knew that Don Dolnero wasn't around to protect or help. They were a more worthy opponent. The only point of the attack was to lure them out, not the puny Gaorangers. This fight was tideous and it was boring him, but he had to follow orders. He had to wait for the Timerangers to show, no matter how long it took. As he blocked yet another easy attack, he wondered why Ura specifically said that he was to lure the Timerangers out. He had wounded one of them badly which had resulted in them becoming distracted. He knew that that wasn't enough, that they had to be destroyed, but he wondered why Ura was fixated on them. He was an Org. His priority was supposed to be the Gaorangers, yet he was showing more interest in the Timerangers. Serperant didn't really care about what Ura had planned, but he knew that he wasn't going to be used as a puppet for the Org. He was going to take care of the Timerangers and return to the future with Lila. He readied himself for another attempted onslaught by the Gaorangers, while he waited for patiently for the Timerangers. He knew they were going to come.
Yuuri staggered through the deserted streets, her hand clutched to her side. Her vision was blurring and the pain was incredible, but she kept pushing her feet forward. She had to get to Serperant. She had to help him, tell him that Dolnero had tricked him and let him know who he really was.
She had passed hysterical citizens, running past her in the opposite direction. Luckily, none of them had paid her any stead and she was glad of that. The last thing she wanted was to be carted back to the hospital. Not when she was so close. She knew that she was going to be in trouble, that she shouldn't have left, but she had no choice. She had to get to Serperant.
Her vision was turning increasingly fuzzy and darkening as she pushed forward and she could hear a strange buzzing sensation in her ears.
She staggered against the wall of a building, hitting her shoulder forcefully against it, sending painful tremors through her arm and she tried to avoid hitting her side against the wall. She took deep breaths and she leaned back against it, closing her eyes. She needed to rest just for a minute. She could feel a wet, sticky substance on her fingers and reluctantly opened her eyes, wincing as she did so. She looked down and saw that her blood had seeped through her bandages and clothes, tainting her fingers. She had torn her wound open.
"Damn it," she muttered, leaned her head back against the wall again and closing her eyes. She pressed her hand against it, and hissed with pain. She had nothing to bandage the wound. She let out a groan as she pressed her hands firmer against her side.
There was nothing she could do. She had to continue. She couldn't, wouldn't, go back. Wearily, and wincing in pain, she opened her eyes, her vision less clouded and pushed herself away from the wall, taking staggered steps as she continued her journey towards where Serperant was.
She had barely taken a couple of paces before she vision began to darken again. She shook her head. No, she had to keep going. The buzzing in her ears grew louder and her head began to throb as her eyesight continued to go black. She could barely see. She couldn't see the steps in front of her and tripped, but rather than fall onto the hard ground, she felt a pair of warm hands catch her, feel fingers against the bare skin on her arms.
In amongst the buzzing, she thought she could hear someone call her name and her body slumped against the one holding onto her as her remaining energy faded, the arms holding on to her tightened their grip against her skin. She closed her eyes, hoping then when she opened them, she would be able to see again. She slowly sunk to her knees, the person still holding on to her as they mimicked her movement.
"Yuuri," she heard the voice of a male, the person holding on to her, say. Her head was still fuzzy and she barely registered that her name had been said.
"Wha–" her mouth moved, but she was barely able to form the words.
She felt a hand move from her arm and felt a pressure on the top of head, pushing it forward so that it hit what she assumed was the chest of the person holding on to her. The hand moved from the top of head and ran down her hair before cupping the base of her skull.
The two of them stayed like that without a word uttered between them. She wanted to know who she was with, but she still didn't have the energy to speak, but the longer they stayed in the position they were in, the more she could feel the pain in her side and the wet stickiness she could feel on her hand was increasing.
Eventually, the man pushed away and she forced herself to open her eyes. She let out a small gasp of surprise and her eyes widened. "T-Tatsuya?!" She licked her dry lips as she recognised the person.
Tatsuya frowned at her. "What are you doing?" he asked her. "You shouldn't be out here. You're supposed to be in the hospital." There was a hint of disappointment among the concern that she heard in his voice.
She didn't respond. She couldn't tell him why she really left. She knew he would ask a lot of questions that she didn't want to answer, not without getting to Serperant first. Serperant, she reminded herself, she had to get to him. Her eyes flickered away from Tatsuya's face, focusing on the gray concrete to the left of her.
Tatsuya sighed. "Are you alright?" he asked her, noting the paleness of her skin, realising that it was probably the first thing he should have said to her. "Look, I'm sorry," he said calmly. "But you really had me worried." She didn't reply and he sighed again, before carefully pushing her back to look at her wound. He let out a surprised gasp at seeing the red staining her pale skin. "Yuuri!" He hands quickly placed themselves over hers and he pushed down to apply pressure to it. "We need to get you back to the hospital."
Those words brought her back to her senses. "No!" she cried, pushing him away from her, making him fall onto his backside. Her eyes were open and alert, the dizziness and haziness instantly disappearing. Ignoring the soaring pain in her side, she stumbled backwards as she got to her feet, her arms thrown out slightly in order for her to keep her balance. She shook her head furiously. "No."
Tatsuya stared at her, his eyes wide. He hadn't expected that reaction from her. He could see the panic in her eyes. He carefully got to his feet and approached her, though she continued to take steps away from, looking around as she did so, as if trying to regain her bearings. "Yuuri, calm down," he said, holding up his hands. "We need to go back to the hospital. You're bleeding."
She continued to shake her head as she looked around. "No," she repeated.
Tatsuya frowned. "Yuuri, what is it? What's wrong?"
"Nothing," she said, still not looking at him. "Nothing you need to worry about." She knew that was a stupid and pointless thing to say, that it wouldn't stop him from worrying about her, but she still couldn't bring herself to tell him the truth. She had to confront Serperant first. She remembered the way in which had be travelling and her feet moved in that direction once more.
Tatsuya watched her, still in shock at how quickly she had recovered. He shook his head, clearing it as she began to walk away before rushing over to and grabbing her wrist, forcing her to turn around. "What are you doing?"
"Let go." Even though her body was facing him, she continued to refuse to look at him. She didn't want to see the look of dejection on his face. She tried to shake her hand free but to no avail. His grip tightened. "Let go."
"No. What's going on?" His free hand placed itself on her injured side. He sighed. "We need to get this bandaged again."
She looked down and saw the blood that had stained his hands and knew that it had stained hers as well. She couldn't go back to the hospital, but there wasn't any harm in letting him bandage her up. "Fine," she muttered, looking at her hands. "But here. Not back at the hospital and do it quickly."
He continued to frown as he agreed to her terms and let go of her. He pulled off his shirt and ripped off the arms, before tearing a chunk of his shirt apart. He crouched down in front of her and his hands moved to her hips and he felt his cheeks redden as he carefully pushed the bottom of her grey top up, revealing the red-stained bandage. He swallowed as his fingers skimmed across her stomach and he heard her take a breath. He gently pulled the bandage off of her skin before quickly applying the ripped section of his shirt to it. "Are you alright?" he asked her, feeling her wince at the pressure.
"Yeah," she replied softly.
He nodded and continued his work, attaching the two arm sleeves to each other by their buttons to make them longer, before tightly wrapping them around her waist. He heard her take an intake of breath as he tightly secured the makeshift bandage. He swallowed as his fingers trailed up her side and he felt her body instinctively shiver from his touch before his fingers reached her top, cautiously pulling it back down. He then stood up and was surprised to see that her cheeks were slightly flushed. "All done," he told her.
"Thank you," she whispered.
He frowned at her once more, seeing that she still wasn't looking at him.
Yuuri didn't notice his expression as she began to turn and walk away from him. Now that she was bandaged up again, she could get back to getting to Serperant. She had only managed to take a couple of paces before she felt him grab her wrist again.
"What are you doing?" he asked her. She didn't respond, not that he had expected her to since she was in one of her stubborn, determined moods. He let out a heavy sigh. "Is this about Serperant?"
She turned around. Did he know? No, she reminded herself. He was talking about Serperant reappearing, nothing else. "You have to let me go."
He shook his head. "No. You're injured. You're in no position to fight Serperant."
"You don't understand. You need to let me go."
"Why? So you can fight Serperant?" His grip tightened on her wrist.
Yuuri looked down at his head. "Tatsuya," she muttered, "please."
He shook his head sadly. "You have to tell me what's going on, Yuuri, please."
She heard the pleading in his voice, but she couldn't do it. She wasn't ready to utter those words out loud. "I can't."
"Why?" She could almost hear the aspiration in his voice. "Why won't you tell me? Please, Yuuri, just look at me and tell me."
"Why?!" she suddenly shouted, surprising herself as her eyes locked with his and she was surprised to see that despite his tone, his eyes were soft and filled with worry. Worry for her. She felt her eyes brim with tears. Why was he doing this? Why couldn't he just let her go? "Why are you doing this?" Her voice wavered slightly as she spoke.
He gave her an anxious look. "Doing what?" He swallowed. They were at a crossroads, on the brink on her telling him everything. He knew she was hiding something, it was clearly evident. He wanted to help her and in order to do that, he had to know what was going on.
"This!" She threw her free arm out wildly whist being mindful of her wound. Her eyes were feeling heavy with tears. "Why do you care so much?"
He stared at her. He was positive that they had had this conversation before. He thought that they both knew where they stood, together, but it seemed that she was pushing him away again, like she always did. Why is she always so determined to do this on her own? He wondered. She knew he was there for her, but she still refused to allow him in despite coming to an unspoken agreement about the state of their relationship.
When he didn't respond, she shouted at him again. "Why?" she cried. "Why do you care so much?"
"Because I can't lose you again!"
She let out a gasp and took a step back. He had repeated the same words she had uttered to him. Even though she knew that they had come to an understanding, that they were together, the fact that he said those words threw her into a stunned silence. She blinked hard, allowing the tears to fall down her cheeks and she didn't resist when she felt him pull her towards him and she rested her head against his chest as her arms wrapped around his torso as his own were placed around her waist.
"I can't lose you," he whispered into her hair. He hadn't expected her to breakdown like that and it made him realise that there was more going on with her. It wasn't just about defeating Serperant. Something must have happened when she had nearly died. It had had such a devastating emotional impact on him that he had forgotten that it would have had an effect on her as well, though he also realised that she had no idea that they, he, had actually almost lost her completely. "Please," he begged. "Please talk to me Yuuri."
She sniffed against his chest. "I can't," she whispered.
Tatsuya let out a sigh. He needed her to open up. He thought that she had, that she knew she could trust him no matter what, but here she was, hiding things again. He was about to tell her this when she whispered against his chest again.
He stared with unseeing eyes for a moment, her words stunning him. He had realised that it was going to be something big, something important was causing such a effect on her and the right thing for him to was to not to press her, to let her tell him when she was ready. "Okay," he muttered. "Tell me in your own time."
She nodded. "Thank you," she replied, lifting her head so that she was looking up at him, her eyes red-rimmed.
Tatsuya ran a hand over her hair, soothingly. He looked down, his eyes connecting with hers and she was surprised to see how watery they were. She hadn't realised the effect she had had on him and it made her wonder what had happened whist she had been unconscious. She wanted to ask him, but knew that there would be a time for that later when they would both sit down and she would tell about what she knew about Serperant and Naoto. She still had to tell him about Naoto. But, first, she had to get to Serperant. She began to push herself away from him.
"I need to go," she muttered.
"What? Go where?"
"Serperant. I need to get to Serperant," she told him, moving past him.
"Serperant?" He reached for her wrist. "You're not going to fight him!"
She turned. "No." She shook her head sadly. "No, I'm not. But I have to get to him."
Tatsuya didn't understand. If she wasn't going to fight him, then why did she need to get to him?
Yuuri noticed the confusion on his face. "I told you that I would tell you later," she reminded him, her stern voice returning. "You have to let me go."
He nodded in agreement to her first statement. "But what if he tries to shoot you again? I won't risk it." He wasn't willing to let her walk into his senses again. If he shot her once, he was more than capable of doing it again.
"He won't," she softly said.
"You don't know that."
She gave him a small smile. "Trust me." She took a step forward and placed her hand on his cheek. She stared into his eyes before leaning up, closing her eyes and pressing her lips gently against his. Her lips were rough and chapped due to her recent lack of water and she inwardly winced at the thought of the fact that they were sharing their first kiss and she had dry lips. Finally, she thought to herself as she smiled, feeling him respond to the kiss. She couldn't believe how natural it felt. It was an action she had been dreading and had filled with her unease. If it didn't feel right, then their relationship wasn't right. But it did and she felt her body relax as his lips moved against hers, her arms moving and wrapping around his neck as he placed his hands on her waist. After a few moments, she moved away and felt slightly amused at seeing his stunned face. She reached up again. "Trust me," she whispered in his ear before running back towards the location of Serperant, once more ignoring the pain her body felt.
Tatsuya shook his head. Yuuri had just kissed him. He smiled, remembering the feel of her lips against his. Though they had been rough, they had been hers. But he felt annoyance with himself since it had been her who had initiated the kiss rather than him. He heard her voice echo in his head. Trust me. He shook his head again and saw that Yuuri had disappeared. "Dammit," he muttered. Knowing where she was heading, he once more took after her. After all, she hadn't said that he couldn't go with her.
As she ran, Yuuri kept her mind focused. She couldn't think about the moment she and Tatsuya had just shared. There would be time for that later. She had to keep her mind on Serperant, though she had no idea what she was going to do once she reached him. How was she supposed to get him to understand and remember? She shook her head as she ran. She'll think of something when the time came.
The further Yuuri ran, the louder the sounds of battle were, telling her that she was getting closer. She ran down an alleyway and stopped at the top of some steps. Below her, she could clearly see the Gaorangers, half of whom were lying on the ground, withering in agony while the remaining three, along with Domon, Ayase and Sion were fighting Serperant, though their attacks were having little effect on the criminal. She watched as Serperant was distracted by an attack from Sion, Kai and Shirogane while Ayase and Domon used their Vol weapons to shoot him.