What you get in this chapter is more DarylxTsugumi, more Tsugumi and Ryo time, and more stuff about Inori!
A petite young woman entered into her private GHQ workshop. Her workplace composed of a large desk with a large computer. Occasionally, she would have some robot parts to be making adjustments to Funell, his wife, and his kids. While she was in here, she wore her black overcoat paired with black sneakers and tights. But she had to wear a white overcoat over her black overcoat due to protocol. But she always took it off. She also wore her trademark silver headband with cat ears. Usually she was coming up with better firewalls or improving Funell. Sometimes, she was doing recon work on Pallbearer, and just to be safe, hacking into GHQ databases. She was working on hacking into the USA base databases.
Yet today, she noticed something strange when she walked into her workshop.
"Shu." Tsugumi threw up a wrench, hitting the poor man on his head. "I have peripheral vision. What are you doing on my ceiling?"
"Ow…" Shu rubbed his throbbing head. "I thought you said she couldn't see us since the ceiling is too high."
"My mistake." Daryl replied as he coolly leaned against the door frame. "I assumed the ceiling was high for her since she is the Runt." He playfully teased.
"Daryl, you're already pushing it so far." Tsugumi rolled her eyes while proceeding to her desk. "What do you two want?"
"Your Void." Daryl said.
Shu slowly approached her. "Tsugumi…I'm sorry." He thrust his open palm into her small chest. Reaching deep with white and blue metallic swirls circulating his arm, he felt for the familiar crystals. Soon, he pulled out a pointy crystal shape, which soon formed into a familiar wand. He quickly caught Tsugumi as she fell whilst holding her Void again. Slowly, he brought the wand down to the ground and raised it up, making a perfect replica of the owner.
"So that was her Void making the fakes." Daryl acknowledged in calm surprise. "Nice."
Shu quickly dispelled this fake and put the Void back into Tsugumi's heart.
Soon, the young hacker came to, just slightly shaken. "Ugh. That was as bad as the first time." She struggled to stand back onto her feet.
"It seems like the age limit is rising. It won't be long until one of us has our Void drawn out." Daryl noted with a huff. "I'd like to start using Kaleidoscope again."
"The subjects are still unconscious when their Voids are drawn out. I don't think the Void Genome Emulator is at that phase yet." Shu pointed out as he powered down the Emulator in his hand. "Besides, you can't have your Void drawn out…you know?"
"Is it because your heart is at a critical stage?" Tsugumi narrowed her eyes at him, not so much Shu, while both were gaping. "I know what's going on. Sprout."
Suddenly, the air grew cold around the group of three. For Shu, who was not able to see a glaring contest going about, was actually visibly uncomfortable with the situation. The blind man nervously backed out a door, even without his stick, and prepared to make a run for it. "You know…I have stuff to do. Got to go! Bye!" And Shu evacuated the area like a meerkat scurrying into its hole. If he was going to die, he preferred to not have it from a lover's fight where one was an ex-psycho.
Tsugumi huffed and stomped up before Daryl. "I can't believe you would keep this a secret from me!" And she further proved her anger by purposely jabbing him in the chest.
"C-Careful!" Daryl quickly jumped back while clutching his chest. "If you know everything, then know you're not supposed to touch there!"
"Why didn't you tell me before? Who knows how many times I've touched you there? And how many times I will hit you there!?" Tsugumi balled up her hands into fists.
"Calm down Runt."
"How can I calm down, knowing your risking your life every time we go into battle", Tsugumi darkly retorted.
"Tsugumi," Daryl grabbed onto her wrist and held her tightly. "I didn't want to worry you."
Slightly angered and yet slightly flustered, Tsugumi quickly yanked her hand away. When his smooth fingers wrapped around her wrists, she felt a small jolt shoot up her arm. Her heart was racing faster and faster! She felt heat rise to her head, as if her head was inflating. She didn't know if it was still from anger or from an emerging excitement.
"Daryl…" Tsugumi bit her lips as she stared up into his amethyst eyes. "I-I want to believe you…but…"
"But what?" Daryl demanded, but he quickly stopped when he noticed Tsugumi jump a little. "Tsugumi…I'm sorry."
"No. It's not that. I've gotten used to your…moments…" Tsugumi replied, even though she remained sullen. "It's just that…you've been lying to me… Now that I know this, I think back to all those times I could have accidentally hurt you. The time you first saved me from the Pallbearers…now I know there was a reason you were sent to the hospital as well. Daryl…why did you have to lie? How does it protect me, knowing you're getting hurt as a result?"
"Tsugumi!" Daryl grabbed her shoulders, promptly stopping her rant.
Tsugumi froze up this time. In her head, she wanted to get away from him. But, on the other hand, she wanted him to pull her closer. Her heart raced once again. She felt her cheeks turn from pale tan to white to pink and finally, to red. Why was this happening to her? Why did she feel so torn? Can it be…? Is she…?
"I'm sorry for not telling you. I just don't want you to get caught up in my mess."
"Daryl…you're too late." Tsugumi stammered. "I'm already in too deep to get out of this. So, at least, don't leave me out of the loop anymore because…I'm here for you too. I'll always be here. Can't you trust me?"
Daryl caressed her cheeks with the palms of his hand and gently wiped away her budding tears. "Tsugumi…thank you…for everything."
She whispered back, "Daryl…"
And the two fell silent. Tsugumi allowed her hands to relax on his chest while she savored the spots he touched her. Even when they stood a foot apart, she felt herself drawn closer and closer. She wondered if he could feel her heat rising in her cheeks. She couldn't control herself. She merely just let him lead her in. Her hands clutched tightly onto his clean white shirt in anticipation. She felt her breathing grow irregular. One of his palms now caressed her upper back, drawing her into almost an embrace. Her soft lips quivered a little in his hot breath of air.
What was she doing?
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
Tsugumi could even feel his communicator vibrating against her stomach. The young woman quickly pulled back, shy and embarrassed, using her long hair to hide her face. "Um…you should answer that."
Disgruntled, Daryl pulled out the annoying device. "What!"
He heard Yahiro through the line. "Major General Yan. Something unexpected happened."
"This better be good!"
There was a slight pause, followed by a series of murmurs. Not long after, he heard a shuffle and Yahiro was speaking once again. "Inori Yuzuriha has awaken."
"She awoke around three in the afternoon. Her vitals are normal, her heart rate is normal, and her breathing rate is normal. She's been out of that fluid for around ten minutes and is contained. However, she is not the old Inori Yuzuriha all of you once knew. Her memory is wiped blank. Like a newborn baby." Jessica reported.
However, it seemed only a few had listened to her. Everyone else was looking at the single window where Inori was behind. She wore a strapless white dress that went down to her knees. Her pink hair was still in two pigtails, but she was missing the red clip she always wore. Her red eyes seemed to stare off in space, neither making any contact with her friends nor her former enemy. She was a lost soul.
Shu asked, "Does she really remember nothing? Nothing at all?"
"Nothing", Yahiro confirmed, "She couldn't recognize me and Ayase."
"Inori hasn't even spoken to us." Ayase sniffled. "What's happening to her?"
Daryl rolled his eyes. "All of you stop crying. You should have expected this. Inori Yuzuriha was a manufactured, biological life form meant to be a container of the Apocalypse Virus. This Inori is a brand new Inori, who was made for the same reason. Obviously, she would not have her old memories."
"But she still had a soul…" Shu grumbled and grabbed Daryl. "I'll go in and talk with her."
"Shu. It's not safe." Yahiro pulled his friend back.
"I have had both the Void Genomes and the Virus inside my body! I'm going to be okay!"
"Boys." Jessica pointed. "She got up."
Everybody held their breaths as the pink haired female nimbly stood up and looked up at the ceiling. She wandered here and there, as if she now finally grasped her surroundings. At this time, Tsugumi heard a spike ring from her laptop and she abandoned the group for her scavenged find. She silently pulled onto Daryl's coat, ushering him to look at it as well. Nobody noticed. All eyes were on Inori. The absent-minded girl aimlessly wandered around the room/ Her pure bare feet made soft sounds against the plastic white floors. Her pink hair flowed gracefully behind her as she swayed endlessly. Finally, she made her stop in front of a window, looking on at every person behind it. She pointed.
Did she recognize somebody?
She was pointing at a very confused Jessica, whom pointed back at herself and mouthed out, "Me?"
"Why you?" Ayase asked.
Jessica shrugged. "I have no clue. This is the first time I've met her."
"Girls. She's doing something else." Yahiro stated, pulling their attention back.
Inori retracted her arm from Jessica and brought it to her jawline. She placed her hand around the back, just in front of her ear, and motioned for Jessica to follow.
Jessica did. But instead of feeling smooth skin, she felt something hard and sleek. It was also fragile since whatever was there loosened and broke off of her skin. Jessica finally brought her hand down, seeing shards of purple crystals. "What is this?" She asked and showed everyone.
They all froze. Ayase looked genuinely scared and Yahiro looked like he was ready to panic. Shu was also frozen solid and even he quickly backed away. And the man couldn't even see! Tsugumi was shielded by Daryl as he started barking out orders.
"Jessica! Get back to your room! Now! Don't get close to Inori!" Daryl yelled and she obeyed. "The vaccine! Are there any left-over vaccines?"
"I looked into our inventory. We still have a couple crates." Yahiro reported.
"Get a few samples and give it to Jessica. She's already at the 4th stage." Daryl commanded. Yahiro also followed his word and he dragged Ayase along, probably to be some sort of comfort when they administer the vaccine into Jessica.
Shu glanced back at the window and noticed Inori had wandered away and was absently looking at her chair. Was she the one who caused the Apocalypse Virus to resurface? She looked so harmless. She couldn't have!
"Shu. Don't be worried. We're safe." Daryl said and he swiveled Tsugumi's laptop for him to see. "Tsugumi found something. It's files about this Inori."
"Daryl's hunches were correct. This Inori was created to contain the Apocalypse Virus. Except…she wasn't the only one made. She was made in a new project called: Project Angel. It seems like they were shooting for about twelve life forms to be made so the power of the meteorite could be split off into these twelve life forms." Tsugumi reported while she scanned all the data that scrolled upwards. "But it seems like only a little bit of the meteorite was injected into Inori in order to start her heart. No wonder the USA let us take her; they had a bunch more life forms to use and a lot of that meteorite left to inject them."
Shu found it hard to follow along. All this was too new. All this was too much to handle at once. A brand new project? Twelve new life forms which also included Inori? Inori had no memories? It was too much!
"But there's some good news. They measured the radioactivity levels of the meteorite and it's slightly lower than our meteorite readings." Tsugumi smiled at the good news.
"Since we've been exposed to even higher radiation, it explains why we're not breaking out in crystals and Jessica's the only one showing symptoms. We have a higher immunity than Jessica."
Shu glanced over at Daryl, almost pleading him to say yes.
Daryl sighed, "Alright Shu. You can see her when we deem that it is safe."
Shu looked like he won a puppy.
Jessica made a quick check-up on her face. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. The purple crystals she previously had all fell off once the vaccine was injected. She was instructed to inject those every week, not that she minded. She was used to needles…GHQ injected a lot into her when she first got admitted. Jessica quickly placed her glasses back on and retracted the mirror back into her desk.
"Everything fine, Jessie?" Tsugumi smiled and soothingly placed her hand on Jessica's shoulder.
Jessica nodded, "It works. Where's everybody right now?"
"Daryl's holding himself and Yahiro at base. They're formulating a plan ever since we just got hold of the Twelve Angels Initiative. Inoreen was just let out so Aya-nee and Shu are spending time with her. They're trying to jog up any memories, if there are any." Tsugumi helped up Jessica and led her away. "I thought you could come with me and pay a visit to our little prisoner. Maybe play a game or two?"
"Ryo? That little brat?" Jessica scoffed. "Why? He kidnapped you! He almost turned me blind!"
"Yeah. Yeah. Maybe you can get him to apologize? He's not a bad kid once you talk to him." Tsugumi insisted.
"Have you been talking to him?"
Tsugumi nodded. She felt bad for the boy after their first chat so she visited to get his hopes up. Sometimes, she managed to make him smile. It was a rare, cute smile. But that was only because she brought him some fruits. He sure liked eating peaches and strawberries. He reverted back to a thirteen year old kid when eating while otherwise, he was always sullen and moody like a depressed teenager.
"Daryl's going to be pissed." Jessica said with a whistle.
Tsugumi pouted, "I'm twenty-two and I'm talking to a thirteen year old boy. He's just a little kid."
Jessica weirdly stared at her. "You sure have a soft spot for this kid."
"He grew up alone. I can understand that." Tsugumi finally arrived at the jail cell where Ryo was being held, entered in the correct passcode, and the door cleanly slid open.
Ryo, the little dark haired kid, was comfortably lying down on his cot while staring up at the glass ceiling. He slightly turned around with the sound of a sliding door, but he was quick to ignore it. There was only one person who visited him this much, always trying to make him spill his secrets. "It's you again." He didn't really mind her company. It was relaxing to have her around since she was always cheerful. Good thing he knew which lies to tell her and which truths. But she didn't seem to take any of them into account.
"Hello Ryo-chan." Tsugumi waved while pushing Jessica in.
Jessica noticed the little kid shift a little as he laid there. What an interesting reaction! She walked in and brought in a small table. "Hey there, boy who made me blind, how are you?"
He scoffed. "Why'd you bring her here?"
"I thought you'd like a playmate." Tsugumi cheekily replied. She remembered a few weeks ago when she last visited Ryo. He spent most of the time complaining how bored he was in there. So, she found someone who was closest to his age, Jessica, and brought her here.
Both of them turned and yelled, "I'm not that young!"
Tsugumi chuckled. She laid out her virtual chessboard game and set it up for Jessica and Ryo. "Play this while I get some tea."
"I don't know how to play chess." Jessica retorted.
'It seems GHQ doesn't teach their officer simple strategy simulations. How stupid!" Ryo smirked as he slid down from his bed and sat opposite of Jessica. He was the white pieces while Jessica was the black pieces. He proceeded to make his first move once Tsugumi exited the door. Once he placed his pawn in its first spot, the timer above them began.
"You seem to have warmed up to her." Jessica shot back the same smirk and copied his move. Who knows? After a few more moves from him, she'll catch onto a few rules and start playing for real.
He sneered, even though he bit his lips before answering, "Don't be ridiculous. She keeps pestering to talk to me. I only answered to humor her."
"Get off your high horse. She knows you're lonely and that's why she wants to talk to you." Jessica replied, remembering back when she showed Tsugumi her father's video messages. "She does the same to Daryl." Jessica noticed a change in his stature and disposition. "Oops, I forgot. You don't like him…ever since he killed your mommy and daddy."
He knocked out one of her pawns, making it disintegrate into virtual pieces. She definitely hit a sore spot there…especially since she said the last bits in a mocking tone. He glared at her and spat, "Why are you even on his side? Didn't your father die because of him? You should be in the same unforgiving position as me."
"Oh I am." Jessica coolly replied as she moved a bishop. "I don't forgive him. He's still the violent bastard that killed your mother and father. He's a violent bastard that my father died to protect. He's just less of a violent bastard ever since Tsugumi showed up in his life. He likes her, you know. Sorry if that ruins any chances for you."
"I don't like that woman!" Ryo shot at her.
Jessica scoffed. If he was going to say that, he'll need to wipe that red blush off his face to sell his point. The boy was looking away with a denying glare at the floor. That boy totally has a crush. Whatever, it wasn't her problem. "Anyways…until Daryl knows how to be a better person, I'm not going to forgive him. And I assume you're not going to forgive him either." Jessica said as she made another move, only to have it crushed by Ryo.
"Look Jessica, I know how it was like during the outbreak and the panic. I was five years old then and I survived till now. I know what people are like and how far they can be pushed past redemption. Daryl isn't getting any to tell you the truth. I know when I look into his eyes He's committed too many sins."
He started to notice that Jessica was getting uncomfortable. Perfect.
"And I know for a fact…it won't take much for Daryl to go back into being the crazy man we all know. As long as it benefits him, he'll do whatever it takes to achieve it. I recall him plowing through Pallbearer's forces to get to Tsugumi and just beating the crap out of Pallbearer's forces. He did not have the look of a redeemed man."
Jessica froze. Ryo was right. Kill 'Em All Daryl was still there, buried somewhere in Daryl's soul.
"By the way…" Ryo slammed his piece on the most crucial spot in front of the King. "Checkmate."
Tsugumi had walked back in at that point, carrying a tray with three cups of tea. "Wow! You guys already finished playing? Who won?"
Ryo smirked, "I did."
"Oh well, Jessica, maybe next time?" Tsugumi set down the tray and gave each occupant of the cell a cup of tea. When she handed a small cup to Ryo, she asked, "By the way, Ryo-chan, do you know why Pallbearer tried to kidnap Inori?"
"I don't know." That was his immediate answer as he sipped from his cup. "The leader has his reasons. I'm just one of his many soldiers who follow his commands."
"What kind of soldier are you?" Tsugumi curiously asked.
Ryo rolled his eyes. "When you first saw me, what was I doing?"
"Ah! You're an Endlave pilot, I see." Tsugumi chuckled, "Hey! If you ever want to join this side, I'll let you have a few rounds with Daryl. I know you really want to."
"I'll do that in the battlefield, when I face that jerk again."
"Yes you will." Tsugumi teased back.
Jessica merely sat in the back and watched this strange conversation ensue. On one hand, Tsugumi was trying to engage Ryo in small talk. On the other hand, Ryo was keeping his distance, but once in a while, his walls fell through and he would loosen up to Tsugumi. It was a strange thing for her to witness.
She wondered how Daryl would feel about this…
I am finally able to finish this chapter! Time to post and disappear for a few weeks since college applications are taking precedence in my life. Please review!