Disclaimer:

Series referenced includes Elfen Lied, please support the official release.

[/\]

Mizuko woke up and looked around groggily. Feeling warm soft sheets against he bare skin she looked down and noticed that she wasn't wearing anything. Gazing speculatively around her she realized she was back in her room at the Inn.

There really was only one conclusion she could draw. That Kaede had saved her, and taken care of her. Yuka would have just called the hospital, and she didn't see how Hiko would recognize she needed to get out of her wet clothes on her own. Particularly given during her last encounter with Hiko and clothes, Hiko still clearly regarded them as a curiosity and was perfectly content to run around nude.

Gathering a blanket from the futon around her she wandered over to her bags and pulled out a fresh pair of panties before quickly slipping them on. If Yuka was about she wanted to have at least that extra level of decency. Gathering the blanket around her she walked over to the door and slid it open before peeking out onto an empty hallway. There was however the delicious odor of food.

Mizuko raised an eyebrow. Yuka wasn't exactly the type to show up and make breakfast for somebody else, especially without insisting whoever she was doing so for appreciated her effort. It was like Kaede was intentionally trying to drop not exactly subtle hints that she'd rescued her.

Peeking in she recognized the body language as being Kaede's rather then Hiko's. She quickly pressed her back against the wall of the precipice. As much as she had anticipated this moment, she found herself hesitating, questioning what she should say and do. Steeling her courage she rounded the precipice of the door.

"Good morning." She said nervously.

Kaede sat at a small table wearing one of her oversized t-shirts, and eating breakfast with another place setting laid out opposite to her. She looked at her for several long moment before looking away. "There's nothing that can atone for what I did, but I'm sorry."

Mizuko navigated around the table and sat next to her. She gently asked. "For what?"

Kaede looked at her before looking away again. "You don't remember." She stated with a pained expression.

Mizuko held her hand and clasped it to her. "I remember we were friends. I remember I wanted us to be sisters."

Her last statement seemed like it was severe blow for Kaede. Mizuko hugged her gently. "I might not remember what you did, but I do know I want us to be together. Please, don't leave me."

Kaede started crying, as Mizuko hugged her and tried to comfort her. After a few minutes she was greeted by a curious exclamation of "Nyu?"

Mizuko smiled despite herself. She pulled back and ruffled Hiko's hair playfully. "I needed to talk to your sister."

"Nyu?" Hiko asked while cocking her head to the side.

"She's very nice." Leaning in close she whispered conspiratorially. "I like both of you."

"Nyu?" Hiko inquired while pointing at herself.

"Yes, you too. There's sometimes I want to talk to your sister, but I like you too."

"Nyu." Hiko cooed happily after Mizuko found herself almost being tackled by Hiko's enthusiasm as she hugged her.

"Thank you." She said quietly petting Hiko's hair.

"Thank you, what?" Yuka said walking in, looking at her weird. Mizuko realized that in Hiko glomping her that the blanket she'd been wearing had become displaced and was no longer really covering her while Hiko snuggled up to her. Thus making it clear she wasn't wearing anything other then a pair of panties beyond having been wrapping the blanket around her.

"She helped me out with a few things." Mizuko responded, watching as Yuka proceeded to sit down and began eating from the plate that had been laid out for _her_. Typical Yuka. "That's mine by the way."

Yuka glanced between her and the plate before going back to eating, saying is if it was the simplest and most obvious thing in the world. "Then make another one." That she was stealing something or trying to force another person to do additional work in order to accommodate her theft didn't appear to even register.

Mizuko carefully unballed her fist. As much as she wanted to throw Yuka out the reality was that while this was the family's Inn, and thus she had as much right to use it as anyone, that the family was at best tolerant of her. Snapping at Yuka would only serve to give them an excuse to evict her, even though she could pretty much guarantee that Yuka wasn't even supposed to be over here.

It was at that point that Hiko offered her a portion of her meal. Yuka's response to this was to look accusingly at her, and to demand. "Why are you taking a portion of her meal?" The contradiction presented by her own actions apparently not registering.

[/\]

"How about we go the beach?" Yuka declared upon finishing her liberated meal. The gusto which she did so making it clear she either hadn't eaten at home, or was on the fast track to putting on a few kilograms.

It wasn't like Mizuko hadn't expected this to happen today, she'd just expected it to happen later in the day because Yuka tended to be a night owl. Attempting to reason with her would get them nowhere, as "reason" was normally a one way street with Yuka.

Mizuko gathered her blankets and headed back to her room. Hiko following close behind. Yuka thankfully decided not to follow.

[/\]

Director Kurama looked through the observation glass at the pair of S.A.T. candidates he'd arranged to patrol the coast of Kamakura. They'd been the only group that had suffered any injuries or claimed to have encountered Lucy. Or to be more accurate claimed by S.A.T. Candidate Bando, while being contradicted by the report of S.A.T. candidate that had joined him on that patrol.

The lab results had just come in verifying that both were free of any indicators of Diclonii infection. S.A.T. Candidate Bando's report was also suspect due to his claims regarding his supposed encounter with Lucy not being representative of known Diclonii capabilities or tactics. Instead it appeared he had attempted to create an elaborate cover up, for being taken out by a civilian girl that based on the medical reports had taken him down by a combination of a Taser and contusions to the head. That the Taser prongs had penetrated deep enough into his arm to require a rather extensive surgery to remove tended to indicate it had been fired at very short range, pointing to negligence on his part. Not due to some sort of bullet impervious superwoman that had overpowered him despite his best heroic efforts.

The S.A.T. had already shredded both of the candidates applications and turned over fully custody to the Diclonus Research Institute. It was simply a matter of the Eraser squad going through the motions if they wanted the rest of the world to believe the two were dead. Given the test results for Diclonii infection were negative though there wasn't really any reason to do so. Still, he considered his reasoning regarding these two to have been sound. While they weren't suited for general field use, they could serve well in a capacity where someone expendable was called for. Something that was likely to occur given the imperative from up top was to capture rather then kill Lucy.

So he'd accept their transfer, and keep them on stand by for when they would inevitably prove useful. There was however a more pressing issue.

With no evidence that Lucy had survived or represented a threat to the public the S.A.T. was beginning to question whether there was any reason for them to continue to provide their services under the Diclonus Research Institute's jurisdiction. They were beginning to argue that the DRI was wasting their time on a pointless wild goose chase, and that they were meddling excessively in their affairs. That meant that he needed to play a gambit.

Among their various psychic abilities Diclonii were noteworthy for their ability to sense each other, there were rather severe limitations associated with the ranges at which they were able to do so. Number 10 and Number 11 had established that before managing to break their respective aircrafts containment systems, ultimately leading both to be lost. That meant he needed a particularly compliant Diclonus, and he needed to guess where Lucy was likely to be. That meant Number 7 needed to go to Kamakura.

[/\]

Deputy Director, DRI Shirakawa went through the actions proposed by Director, DRI Kurama. It appeared he was allowing his history to color his judgment. According to the reports Lucy had been successfully shot in the head with antimaterial rifle chambered in 50 BMG, before falling over thirty meters in an area noted for having jagged rocks. That he appeared to seriously believe that Lucy had somehow managed to survive that, and have made it to the mainland instead of being swept out to sea spoke more to paranoia then rational thought.

The government was not going to continue to authorize the considerable funds he was using deploying the SAT and DRI assets in an attempt to locate someone there was no reason to assume was even still alive. Under the basis of insuring public safety the Director would be able to get support for a little longer, but after that they might ask for his resignation.

[/\]

It was a nice day on the beach. Mizuko was making a point to be aware of whether Hiko was starting to burn. So far the closest thing to a problem on that front was that Hiko had been rather enthusiastic about returning the favor of rubbing sunblock on her. Not the she'd particularly minded, but Yuka had started looking at them strangely even though they were both wearing conservative one piece suits. Something that couldn't be said for Yuka's choice in swimwear.

"Would you like to put suntan lotion on me?" Yuka asked hopefully, as Hiko discovered that waves actually had some power to them.

Mizuko eyeballed Yuka's suit. It was a two piece bikini, which appeared to not really have been designed with swimming in mind. She wasn't sure why Yuka would have decided to wear it today given there weren't really any boys around. The tourist crowd having largely died off last week in the face of the imminent restarting of classes next week.

"You can do it yourself." Mizuko said dismissively starting to move towards Hiko to help insure there wouldn't be a problem if she discovered there was an undertow.

"Why are you ignoring me?" Yuka demanded after grabbing her from behind.

"Is this the point where you confess your undying love for me?" Mizuko asked skeptically.

"Haven't you ever thought about us?" Yuka asked far, far too seriously.

"You got turned down again, didn't you?" She felt Yuka briefly stiffen. Yeah, she thought so. "Yuka, I'm not going to be your rebound fling."

"But you've always been there for me." Yuka murmured.

"Yuka I'm your cousin. Of course I've been there for you."

She could feel Yuka sigh. "You're not going to budge are you, even though I wore my special swimsuit."

"Yuka, I am a _girl_."

Yuka let her go and began walking towards the surf with a smile Mizuko found more then a little unnerving. At least for the moment things seemed to be resolved and they could just have some fun.

[/\]

Director Kurama entered the observation room where Number 7's progress was currently being tested. When certain people in power had discovered that there were mutants with the ability to deflect bullets and kill people with invisible weapons, their first thought had been how they could utilize this to enhance their own operatives and influence. Thus a significant portion of the Diclonus Research Institute's efforts were centered around studying Diclonii with the intent of developing either a super soldier serum, or some sort of prosthetic.

These tests involved rather expensive precision coil guns which were designed to work as an approximate metric for measuring a Diclonus' ability to deflect gunfire while having a limited risk of killing them. Thus allowing them to be able to better understand and measure the development of the involved organs. In recent years they'd been able to progress faster as means of studying this organs without surgery became increasingly precise. This allowed their development to be monitored far more closely as there wasn't the issue of the exploratory surgeries being more difficult to arrange and often resulting the Diclonus' death.

Number 7 was in the process of completing such a test. She already passed the point where she was rated as having the ability to stop pistol bullets on the last test, three months ago. After Number 3's little stunt the protocols had been modified so that a Diclonus couldn't easily escape by trying to fake their results. If they followed the normal testing protocol Number 7 would be pelted until worn out, and then be shot with a tranquilizer dart from an automated launcher. While the robotics built into the new testing chambers were more expensive then the old ones, they had served to insure they hadn't lost any security guards to Diclonii in the time between Number 3's escape and Lucy's.

"Stop the test." He said simply, his voice level. He needed Number 7 to be both coherent and available as soon as possible. The normal testing protocols would not accommodate that.

"Are you sure, sir? We won't be able to get accurate readings if we stop now." The technician manning the instruments asked.

"Stop the test." He repeated stressing his words.

"Yes, sir." The technician worked the various controls causing the test cycle to shutdown.

"And unlock the hatch." He ordered in mild annoyance he had to specifically mention that.

The technician looked at him for a long moment, clearly having a hard time believing he had heard that correctly. Kurama had, had enough. "Either unlock the hatch, or I'll demote you to cleaning toilets and promote someone else who can do the job."

Turning to Shirakawa, he said. "Make sure the team is ready. We don't need any other hang ups on this."

Turning to the testing chamber hatch he opened it, causing a rush of air from behind him as the pressure seal was broken. Number 7 had gotten far enough into the test to have suffered multiple contusions to the head and torso. She looked up at him hopefully.

"Did I do good, Papa?" She asked in that pleading fashion of hers.

"There's something I need you to do."

In her desperate quest for his praise the test, and the fact that she was chained to the wall were both forgotten. "What do I need to do, Papa?"

[/\]

Arranging for a dress proved to be what slowed them down the most. The Diclonus Research Institute simply didn't bother to stock normal clothes for the test subjects, and naturally nobody had a spare outfit on hand sized for a ten year old girl. That meant they not only did he have to get her measured, but then they needed to send the helicopter out to get it, have it come back, and get her cleaned up and dressed. By the time all that was done they'd wasted almost three hours.

Director Kurama debated whether they should recruit Mizuko Takeda for added insurance. She'd shown potential after the last series of serum trials, and Number 9 had responded well to her. Shortly before Number 9 had perished during testing trials meant to test the ability of Diclonii to survive falling from high altitudes. The government had been curious if the potential supersoldiers would be able to do covert drops without the aid of a parachute. They hadn't liked the answer.

Convincing Takeda to help them, just so Number 7 would have additional controls on her was however not worth the delay. Number 7 would confirm that Lucy had made it to Kamakura, allowing the S.A.T. to take it from there, and thus insuring their continued support. Takeda's skills would prove more useful once the S.A.T. had confidence there was an issue that justified their involvement, and thus the focus could be turned towards actually trying to capture Lucy.

"Do I look nice, Papa?" Number 7 asked hopefully, twirling in her dress.

Kurama held out a bag with the long range transmitter. "Find Lucy, and press the red button when you've confirmed where she is."

Number 7 took it, and hugged it to herself like he'd given her some kind of wonderful present. "Thank you, Papa."

He began walking towards the waiting helicopter. It was time to get this operation underway.

"Papa, can I ask you something?"

He paused a moment. "What would you like to ask?" Give what Lucy could do to her it wouldn't hurt to humor a request.

"Can… Can I have your neck string?" She was clearly embarrassed and thought she was overstepping her bounds.

He handed it to her as the door of the helicopter began to close behind them.

[/\]

"I still think you're silly for wanting to hide these." Mizuko said as she removed the hair clips exposing Lucy's horns. "I think they're cute."

"Nyu?" Hiko inquired.

"Well I guess it's not you, you're just cute."

"Nyyuu" Hiko cooed at the compliment.

Mizuko carefully put the blue beret on Hiko's head. "There." It had taken awhile to shop for some appropriate clothes. After she'd gotten Yuka out of their hair it had been time to get Kaede a wardrobe. While Kaede could wear her clothes they were oversized on her, and her style really just didn't fit Kaede. She had however made a point to find a blue beret to replace the one she'd given her fourteen years ago.

Dressed in her sky blue dress and beret, she looked very nice, and was no longer in any danger of people giving her a second glance and noticing there her horns. Next came some blue contacts, which she really had to be careful with Hiko to get in. With those in place she just looked like a very cute, if pale, foreigner that nobody would give a second glance for appearing to be weird.

Mizuko pointed her towards the full length mirror, and let her get a good look. "Do you like it?"

"Nyu?" She asked in wonderment as she approached the mirror touching her face in disbelief she was looking at herself.

"I'm sorry about making you dress up in my old things, but we couldn't exactly having you wander around naked could we?"

"Nyu!" Mizuko was sure that declaration included enthusiasm for wandering around naked. Actually if Hiko understood at all she was sure it was entirely enthusiasm for wandering around naked although mainly because she had absolutely no understanding of what the ramifications of that meant and didn't like it when she felt clothes were constraining. Something she'd been mindful of when picking out these outfits.

Given her precautions were now safely in place there was really no reason for them to remain cooped up at the Inn. "Let's go see the town, Hiko."

"Nyu!" Hiko declared enthusiastically.

[/\]

"The S.A.T. is standing by. They've setup a killzone at one of the local cemeteries. If we can lure Lucy there they should be able to take her down." Shirakawa said as Kurama walked off the helicopter's loading ramp.

Kurama nodded his acknowledgement, and turned to Nana. "Go find her."

[/\]

Nana wandered around looking at all the weird things. She couldn't feel Lucy at all, but she didn't want to disappoint Papa when he clearly wanted to find her. She did however feel someone else , someone who felt very different from the people back home. Maybe they'd be able to help? She found them on a big set of stairs she finding difficult to climb.

"Can you help me?" She asked.

The big person in the weird bluish speckled material sat down in front of her while the pretty one in the blue dress crouched down next to her looking at her curiously. "What do you need help with?"

Nana smiled, and pulled a photo that Papa had given her out of a pocket and handed it over.

The person in the weird bluish speckled material took it, and looked at a moment while the pretty one looked at it over his shoulder. "Who is this?" He asked her after a moment.

"She's Lucy. Papa needs me to find her. She's a bad girl."

The person in the weird bluish speckled material ruffled her hair. It felt nice when he did that, but then she realized her hair was messed up and began straightening it out. "You look like you've been looking for awhile."

"Uh-huh."

"I bet you're tired and thirsty."

"Nana's okay." She insisted even though she was tired from climbing all these stairs, and was feeling thirsty.

The person wearing the speckled material scooped her up, and Nana realized something. "You have breasts."

"Yes." They acknowledged.

"But you're a boy, why do you have breasts?"

They looked at her patiently. "Why do you think I'm a boy?"

"You're not wearing a dress." Nana pointed out as she tried to express herself.

"Well, I'm a girl." She said while playing with Nana's hair.

[/\]

"Wow." The little girl was treating a rather basic meal like it was a five star spread. She had to smile at how much she could enjoy what most people considered such a simple thing.

She was bruised and scarred, with fresh injuries that had been bandaged up with gauze and tape. The former had been obscured with an excessive use of foundation, and the latter with her dark extremely conservative clothes despite it being the middle of summer. Wherever this little girl had come from it was not a happy place, and the more the girl prattled on the more confident she felt in her decision to effectively kidnap her.

She talked about being hosed down with high pressure fire hoses, eating some kind of packaged food that was simply thrown at her and she had to pick up off the floor, and drinking water out of some kind of straw in the wall thing. And she talked about it as if this was not only normal but what should be expected. The entire concept that she could talk to someone, eat with someone, or enjoy a nice hot meal were treated as novel concepts. Concepts she was desperate to explore, but novel concepts to the point of being almost alien to her. Thankfully she'd quickly taken to idea of using silverware, but that had also been an alien concept to her.

The little girl who referred to herself as Nana, had mentioned Lucy once or twice since she'd picked her up but had been easily distracted from that. The way Nana kept finding excuses to sit near her, on her lap, or otherwise be physically near her led to suspect that Nana was taking a liking to her. Something she intended to encourage, given what the alternative clearly was.

[/\]

"Well?" The S.A.T. Commander asked drumming his fingers on his desk as Director Kurama stood across from him. The transmitter pack that he'd given to Nana sitting on his desk.

"We'll need to track her down." He said levelly.

"How? By sending another of your supposedly docile monsters into Kamakura so they can wander off? How many more civilians are going to be infected because of your indiscretion, due to not wanting to believe some old nemesis of yours is dead?" The Commander regarded him coldly.

"Number 28 hasn't developed her vectors yet, and is docile enough. Would you rather have us resolve this, or see how many civilians will be infected?"

The Commander looked at him coldly for several long minutes. "_One_ more chance."

[/\]

The complicated part of this was that she'd recognized that the picture was Kaede. Kaede with 10,000 mile stare, and looking like she was being held captive by someone who had killed her best friend but it clearly was Kaede. That meant there was a potential that she'd recognize Kaede, particularly once the contacts and the beret were removed.

There were a few things however that would help to insure this could work. First, Nana clearly had never actually met her "Lucy" and had only seen her in a picture she no longer possessed. Second, Nana's conception of "Lucy" was that she was a "bad girl." Third, it was clear that she'd never had anyone to really talk to and that her "Papa" was some cold standoffish bastard that she'd related to for some reason. Mizuko couldn't see Nana easily trading her company for that and a return to that hellish place.

"There's something you should know, Nana." Mizuko said seriously.

Nana in turn looked at her with her full attention, waiting to hear what she had to say.

"Kaede's like you." She lifted off Hiko's beret, who grabbed it back and hugged it to herself after expressing her surprise.

Nana sat there getting at long look at Kaede's horns before Nana stood up and felt around her temples. Mizuko smiled comfortingly as Nana looked disappointed upon finding that she wasn't hiding a pair horns.

"Come here." Hugging the young girl to her she gently rubbed her back. "You can stay here as long as you like, but please don't tell anyone Kaede is here. Okay?"

"Okay." She responded back, clearly not considering it to be any sort of condition that she needed to think about. Mizuko was fine with that.

Mizuko slid the door open and walked out into the hall, selecting the room next to hers on the opposite side of Kaede's. Entering she said. "Do you want to sleep with me, or would you like to sleep in this room by yourself like a big girl?" She expected Nana to ultimately select the former option tonight, but she wanted to make a point to make the offer and set the precedent there was another option.

"I can sleep with you?" She asked in wonder.

"Sure."

Nana looked at her sleepily for a moment before her eyes closed and her breathing became more regular. She was far too large for her to easily hold for any real length of time, but she held Nana close as she walked back to her room. It would mean another mouth to feed, and body to clothe but it would turn out okay.

"You look like you're a mother." Kaede commented as she entered the room her beret having been restored to its rightful place. She ignored for her a moment so she could tuck Nana into a futon.

"She's adorable isn't she?" Mizuko sat down next to Kaese and hugged her to herself. "Thank you."

Kaede returned her hug as she felt herself begin to drift off. It had been a long day, and tomorrow promised to be an even more busy one.