Girl's Night Out

Part II

"Cut, cut, cut!"

The latest run through of God Bless You degenerated into chaos as the various instruments ceased playing at different moments and in different final rhythms. Out of the corner of her eye, Hisako could see their guest guitarist cringe at the lead guitarist's shouting.

"Yui-chan!" she bellowed before anyone else could speak. "That's the exact same mistake you've made three times in a row. From now on, if you're going to practice with us, you're part of our discipline too. I'll cut you a little slack 'cause you're so new to this, but if I have to stop the band two or more times in a row because of you, you're buyin' us all lunch…as many times as it takes to get it right! Got it?"

The young girl wilted at the harsh words, but despite eyes shimmering with a sheen of tears, she didn't cry. Instead her red eyes met Hisako's brown ones and she nodded, her look a strange mixture or terror and defiance. Hisako had more than half expected the child to flee the room in despair when once again she'd killed the song. She had to give the newbie credit for holding her own in front of her senpai's infamous wrath. Such was a rite of passage to become part of GlDeMo's inner circle, and so far only Iwasawa, Shiori, Miyuki, and Kaori…of those who had any talent to speak of…had passed the test.

Until now.

This girl's a loooong way from joining this band, but the brat's got guts, I'll give her that.

"Hisako," Shiori interjected into the tense silence. "I really could use a drink right now."

"Yeah," Miyuki immediately agreed, shifting both drumsticks to her left hand and rubbing her throat with the other as if for emphasis. "Me too. Could you go get us all something since you're the one who can work the machine, right?"

"And while you're gone," the blonde bassist continued hopefully, "maybe Iwasawa and the new kid can work with us over that one part that keeps tripping her and we can try it again as a group when you get back."

Hisako's jaw dropped at the bizarre scene of the legendary prankster and teaser, the 'terrible twins' who had come up with the group's name as a joke against Hisako, coming to the defense of anyone. The band disciplinarian turned her head to see Iwasawa smirking, a twinkle in her eye that told Hisako all she needed to know.

I'm being played.

The pink-haired focus of all this was now looking quite confused, the dynamics around her clearly way over her head. It was at least clear to Hisako that the new girl wasn't in on it – the little thing had no clue what was going on. Still, she'd already composed herself and looked ready to take another stab at the part that was vexing her.

Hisako snorted and shook her head in defeat. "Have it your way, guys. I mean it, though. If she practices with us, we won't be buying food for a good long time…" She glared at the newbie and was rewarded by a nod, timid yet, and quite frightened, but also full of understanding.

She sat her guitar on its stand and made her way out of the room, technically the Light Music Club space although only one member of GlDeMo, their missing keyboardist, actually cared enough to fill out the paperwork to make them official. It was enough to keep the teachers off their backs during practice, though, and the others were grateful for that even if they wouldn't have jumped through such a stupid hoop themselves.

It was with a mind filled with random thoughts of the strangeness of life (or was that death?), and arms filled with five cold drinks 'liberated' from a school vending machine, that her keen ear picked up faint but distinct sounds that struck her as bizarre even by the standards of the day she'd already had.

Alchemy?

She'd know that melody anywhere, but she'd never heard it like THIS before.

Her original purpose and destination fading from her mind, she approached the orchestra room as the music that had piqued her interest became steadily louder. There was no doubt now that the notes drifting from the not-quite-soundproofed room were those of the trademark song of GlDeMo, just arranged for instruments God or the song's composer certainly never intended.

Still, it's not half bad…

Hisako's knew before looking what she'd see as she peeked through the window of the door. There was only one person in the entire school with both the skill and the human initiative to do something so random as to rearrange Alchemy into a piece for a string quintet.

The GlDeMo lead guitarist wasn't disappointed as she watched five girls in the regular uniform of the Afterlife School playing two violins, a viola, a cello, and a classic stand-up bass. The harsh grader had to admit the school's Chamber Music Club was actually really good. Then again, she knew the talent of the club's president. The skills of the four club NPCs were doubtless what they were only because their dark-haired first violinist, not to mention concertmistress of the school orchestra, demanded and expected it.

Hisako did her best to slip into the room silently, so she could better hear the group's finish. As the last note faded, she announced her presence in classic Hisako fashion.

"Your bass is lagging and I think you're missing something from the refrain, but damned if I can tell you what that would be."

The four NPC's of the group all jumped in surprise at her voice. "Hisako-sama…" the four wide-eyed girls uttered in united shock at the sudden appearance of their idol.

The remaining ever-serene member of the group turned with a humored smile after gently placing down her instrument. "Well ladies, I think we've been found out. Why don't we call it a day early now since I think I have some explaining to do with my senpai. Don't worry, like I promised you, she'll be fine with it. I've got things covered with GlDeMo."

The other girls nervously put away their own instruments and carefully navigated around Hisako, who stood unmoving just next to the door leaning back against the wall with her hands full of juice bottles and an amused smirk on her face.

"So, what do you really think, Hisako?" The lone remaining member of the Chamber Music Club asked, grinning widely from her chair with her hands clasped on her lap, after the others had departed and closed the door behind them. "I want the unvarnished truth from the namesake of Girl's Dead Monster."

Hisako made her way into the room once the door was closed. After setting the drinks on one folding chair, she took another identical chair and turned it around, sitting down with her legs immodestly straddling the back. Her short, blue sailor fuku skirt – characteristic of the SSS girls, in sharp contrast to the just slightly longer brown skirt worn by her more appropriately situated and attired friend – just barely draped down between her legs. She shrugged as she answered the question with a snort. "I don't know the first thing about horse hair or what the Hell you do to a string with it, so am I really the best person to ask, Kaori-chan?"

"Music is music, Hisako," the properly seated girl assured as she reached back with one hand to settle the large, pink ribbon that adorned the back of her hair. "And when it comes to quality sound, I will always acknowledge you as my senpai."

The taller, bustier, and older-appearing GlDeMo co-founder had to chuckle at the not-so-subtle effort to butter her up. "You realize that's twice in ten minutes that I've been played. I'm on to you."

Kaori's youthful face raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Don't try to play the innocent card with me, you sneaky little bitch. I can see your fingerprints all over this Yui thing. You weren't even in the room and yet you were there. Just where did you learn to play people like that, anyway?"

The violinist giggled at the accusation, coming as it was from someone who clearly wasn't nearly as annoyed as her words tried to suggest. "One of my best friends at the boarding schools I went to before I died was a master of gently manipulating people. Add that to how sick I was and dependent on others, and I got pretty skilled at it myself." Kaori considered her friend a moment longer before adding with a wink, "You don't seem too put out, though."

Another chuckle as the outwardly more mature girl's smirk widened into a smile despite herself. "Nah, not really. I haven't seen Iwasawa this happy in forever. I'd been getting really worried, actually. I would never have guessed she was pining for an apprentice. That just blows my mind, but I'll go with it for now."

Kaori's head shifted back and forth a few times as if to suggest Hisako wasn't quite pegging it. "That's part of the answer. I'll tell you the rest, now that things are settling out so nicely. You have to promise me you won't get angry, though."

"Angry?" she responded, surprised at the turn of the conversation. "At who? You or Iwasawa?"

"Nope. Guess again."

"Yui?" Hisako's expression was increasingly puzzled.

"At yourself."

"Huh?" Hisako was flummoxed at just what the enigmatic veteran of life at the Afterlife School was possibly getting at.

"Promise me or I won't answer," the girl insisted stubbornly.

"Um, okay," she answered back nervously, wanting to be annoyed but feeling more anxious than anything at what the perceptive girl was holding back. She wasn't used to feeling outclassed in a game of skill.

She'd never managed to find a way to cheat against this girl.

"Iwasawa was lonely."

"What! But, we're constantly together as a group. How…"

"But what about outside the group, Hisako?" Kaori challenged. "Iwasawa was always a loner, and she was fine with that…or at least resigned. Until you drew her out of her shell. After that, the two of you were inseparable."

"But we still are!"

"Are you?" Kaori challenged again, this time with a raised eyebrow. "What's changed in the past year, Hisako? What happened that coincides with Iwasawa's moodiness and the drought in her music writing that has only now recovered?"

Hisako's stomach churned and she felt sick as she followed the breadcrumbs that the insightful girl seated before her laid out. "Yusa…"

"Mmmhmm…" Kaori agreed. "Iwasawa is truly happy for both of you, but it wasn't easy for her to back away from the intimacy you two had developed since you first met. Even if she couldn't like you the way that Yusa does, it doesn't mean she doesn't still have a terrible crush on you."

"But…shit…" Hisako was stunned. She wanted to dispute the assessment, but she couldn't.

"Hey, now. Remember your promise!"

"How can I not be angry with myself after you tell me this?" Truth be told, Hisako wanted to go bang her head against a wall.

"Because she's happy now. And if you carry guilt into your relationship with Yusa, both she and I will kick your ass. She was my roommate before she was your lover, you know. And we still talk."

"She knows about all this?"

"Mmmhmm." Kaori nodded. "She watches, Hisako. It's what she's best at. Well, that and putting 9mm holes in things. Honestly, she's the one who realized all this first and clued me in. I'm just the one who made sure it didn't screw things up between the two of you, and who has nurtured things with Yui-chan now that there's someone 'safe' to fill the hole in Iwasawa's heart. Yui may worship the ground Masami-senpai walks on, but she's straight as an arrow. I don't see them having the complications that plagued you two."

Silence lingered between the two musicians for several long minutes as Hisako processed what she had just heard. The drinks and her original purpose in coming this way were long forgotten. "So, are you angling to get Yui into GlDeMo?"

"Oh, Heaven's no!" Kaori's head shook rapidly back and forth in denial. "No way. She's months and months away from being ready. I don't think we're in need of another guitarist right now, anyway. Any more than Yui-chan needs to be part of a group. Has Iwasawa popped the idea of her playing out on her own yet?"

"Um, yeah. We'd been practicing with her playing the acoustic guitar for God Bless You when I was kicked out to get drinks." Finally remembering the bottles on the chair beside her, Hisako motioned to them slightly for emphasis.

"Was she really that bad?" Kaori asked with a smirk, no doubt intuiting what had happened for the group disciplinarian to be 'kicked out for drinks.'

"Um, kinda. I am trying to give her some slack for being so new, but I can only take so much, you know…"

Kaori's mouth widened into a grin. "Now that's the Hisako that Yusa and I know and love!"

Hisako knew when she lost a fight, so she changed the subject. "So, speaking of only taking so much, what is this all about?" She waved one hand absently around the room suggesting the Chamber Music Club.

"Oh, our club's newest arrangement, you mean?"

"Yeah, what's up with playing Alchemy?"

"Actually, it's more than Alchemy." Hisako watched as the smaller girl reached across to one of the music stands and removed several papers which she handed to Hisako to peruse as she continued speaking. "I made string arrangements for Crow's Song and Shine Days, too. And before you whack me too hard, remember that Iwasawa gave me permission to rearrange her music."

"But that was just so you could slip keyboard into her songs since she's only comfortable writing for vocals, guitars and drums." As she spoke, the guitarist glanced over the sheets of music. Although the notation was only somewhat familiar, she had to hand it to Kaori the skill with which she had adapted Iwasawa's guitar and percussion piece to more classical instruments.

"Maybe, but I don't really think she'll mind. I wanted to surprise you all with this at the cultural festival next month. The others in the club thought this would be a great homage to GlDeMo and they've never been more excited. I'd hate to disappoint them, so could you keep this to yourself? Please?" The smaller girl's amber eyes were pleading.

"Um, they're NPCs, Kaori-chan."

The girl across from her shrugged, but her expression stayed imploring. "Yes, but they're also my friends, Hisako. Just because you all have subscribed to Nakamura-san's derision of the spirits who belong here doesn't mean I have to. They're good people."

"They don't have souls," Hisako persisted.

Kaori pursed her lips before persisting in resisting Hisoka's reasoning. "That's not for me to say. Remember, I'm the outlier. I never drank Yurippe's Kool Aid. I'm the devout Catholic girl who somehow fell into an ambivalent Japanese Buddhist/Shinto/Christian afterlife reform school."

"But you still like having human roommates. After nine months in a dorm with an NPC after Yusa moved to room with me, your tail was practically waggin' when Yui-chan came on scene and you could trade up to a real person again."

"Well, okay, I can't argue with you there. I was getting bored and I'll admit I was praying for a little randomness in my life again. And Lord knows, Yui-chan is nothing if not random. Would you believe she doesn't even stop talking when she's asleep? I've had to start wearing earplugs at night."

The feigned 'long suffering' look of the smaller girl's featured was just too comical and Hisako couldn't help but giggle at the display. "It looks like Iwasawa isn't the only one who's happier now with the new kid around."

"What can I say? She really is a cute little thing and I'm having a lot of fun showing her around. I've been here longer than anyone except Tachibana-san, but I think Yui-chan's the first girl that's made me really feel like a senpai. I guess I should get used to it."

Hisako caught the subtle hint of glumness in the last statement.

"Kaori-chan, you really believe you can't disappear?" Even as she uttered the words, she knew from Kaori's reaction that it had been the wrong thing to say.

The dark-haired girl's gentle features formed a scowl. "You've been talking to Yusa about me, have you?"

Hisako just shrugged since the accusation was accurate. Kaori's response to her motion was to rise and wander over to the grand piano just a few meters away. As the fall was lifted and a gentle potpourri of notes began playing, Hisoka suspected this was the diplomatic girl's gentle way of ending the conversation. Unsure what she could do to recover from her faux pas, she reached over to collect the drinks and excuse herself in the hopes she could ask forgiveness after some time had passed. She was surprised when the girl spoke again, although the playing never stopped.

"Like I said, I'm not like the rest of you. Once you've fulfilled Nakamura-san's quest, you're all going on to reincarnation. That's what we think this place is for, after all. Helping reform little Japanese Buddhist kids on their way to a cleaner path to their next life. Even Yusa had converted from that damned pseudo-Christian cult that screwed her up so badly to Japanese Buddhism before she was executed. But I don't get do-overs, Hisako. I had my chance, I willingly sinned, and I refused to repent and confess that sin. It's too late for absolution now. This is my Limbo, and I'll spend the rest of eternity here despite my efforts now to be a good little girl. No pun intended, it could have been a helluva lot worse, so I can't really complain."

"You really believe that crap, don't you?"

"I do. How else can you explain how I've played by the rules, for the most part at least, and am still here? I trade back and forth with Tachibana-san for the best grades in the school. I participate in several clubs. Heck, I even partner with Tachibana-san in labs and classes since no one else seems comfortable with her, even the NPC's. I'm still here. Kinda like an NPC myself, I've become part of the furniture." The notes playing from the piano had become distinctly more melancholy as the keyboardist kept talking.

"But you're human, Kaori. You're not an NPC. An NPC wouldn't play such an awesome keyboard improv in the middle of a show. They can only parrot back what you teach them or write out." Hisako waved the sheets of music still in her hand for emphasis. She knew she was having an effect on her friend since the notes had stopped and Kaori was now staring thoughtfully down at the ebony and ivory under her fingers. The guitarist pressed what she hoped was her advantage against the girl's despair.

"An NPC wouldn't have hooked up with Yurippe to create the SSS uniform even as she herself refused to wear it except during GlDeMo performances." Hisako hoped her next volley would have the effect of throwing the guilt ridden girl off her own script. "And an NPC most definitely would never have managed to show up our prankster 'twins' at their own game."

Kaori, who had been grimacing and looking down at her hands, suddenly looked up with a shocked surprise. "Um…what?"

"Last Saturday?" Hisako pressed.

Kaori looked like the classic kid caught with her fingers in a cookie jar. She proceeded to make what could only be termed a comical defense, but in the process her previous self-flagellation had been forgotten.

You're not the only one who can play people, Kaori-chan…

"Um, Hisako," the flustered girl began as her face turned rosy, "wasn't it you who found the George Michael CD hidden in Shiorin's case? And it's Miyukichi who's been studying electronics to take our special effects lighting to the next level. Who else could possibly have hard wired the equipment to play I Want Your Sex as soon as Iwasawa queued the start of Alchemy with her guitar?"

"Who else, indeed. Maybe someone who has dated half the Guild, perhaps?"

Kaori silently considered her friend before a smirk graced her face indicating she knew the gig was up. "Moi? You wound me to the quick, Hisako-chan. How could you possibly think I would do such a thing?"

"It's always the quiet ones you have to watch out for, isn't it?"

"Hmm…you catch on fast, don't you?"

"I wish I could take credit for it, but it's your ex roommate who figured it out."

"I never was able to pull one over on Yusa. Um…does Iwasawa know?"

"Not yet…" Hisako answered, her voice drenched in coyness.

"You wouldn't…" Kaori responded, a look of pleading in her eyes.

"And who is it you think you're talking to?" the brown-haired guitarist threw back, evilly.

"Enslaved to the biggest cheat this side of the Inferno. Shall I go get a leather collar, mistress?" Despite her words, Kaori looked anything but defeated or submissive.

"You are a tease, aren't you?"

"Who me?" The smaller girl batted her eyebrows innocently.

Knowing it was likely crossing another line, Hisako decided the moment was right to ask a question that had been nagging at her for over a year. "I don't care how many guys you date, I still know you're on my team. Why is it you never responded to my overtures? You said yourself there's really no point in trying to change your spots now."

"Yusa needed you more," Kaori responded noncommittally, her expression having become purely neutral at Hisako's unexpected challenge.

"Bullshit. I tried to seduce you before Yusa came on the scene. And anyway, I know lust when I see it. I'm not exactly complaining, but how in Hell did you ever keep your hands off Yusa? You know even now she wouldn't say no to you. Neither of us would."

Kaori's eyes dropped. "Now who's the tease?"

"Tell me the truth, Kaori-chan. I've wondered this ever since I really got to know you."

"Will you promise me not to share what Yusa figured out about my prank. I really don't want the 'twins' onto me."

It seemed odd that Kaori was more concerned about the prank than about the current topic, but Hisako ran with it. "If you answer with the truth, my lips are sealed."

"Now I have to trust the honor of a liar and cheat?" Despite the gravity of the moment for Kaori, Hisako could see the smirk grace the corners of her mouth as the girl gave her a sideways glance.

"Have I ever lied to you, Kaori-chan?"

The girl sitting at the piano slowly shook her head. "You're right, Hisako. I like girls. And yes, I like both you and Yusa…in that way."

"Why then…"

"Why did I ignore you and instead date the boys in the Guild?"

"Um, yeah. If I'm right, you're not even bi like the twins. It's never made any sense to me."

"Well I could be snarky and say it's because I don't want to date the boys I work with on the Diversion Teams…"

Before Hisako could protest the weak answer, Kaori continued.

"…but I know you wouldn't be satisfied with that, would you?"

Hisako shook her head.

Kaori looked away and so Hisako couldn't tell the girl's expression as she spoke. There was no missing the sadness and longing in the words, though. "I guess while you all are trying to bitch slap God, I'm trying to make it up to him and get him to change his mind and let me into Heaven despite my foolishness in life. As stupid as it sounds…"

"So let me get this straight, you're allying with a battlefront against God and his Angel in this world even as you try to convince Him he was all wrong about you? And after all that, you're worried about a little girl love?"

"I didn't say I was making any sense," Kaori responded as her face turned back and a sheepish smile became evident.

"I feel a Shiina quote coming on."

"Bitch," Kaori said, and stuck out her tongue.

"Hmmm, never heard her use that word before."

Hisako suspected if the girl across from her had been drinking something, she would have done a classic spit-take. For several long moments, she seemed at a loss for words, and finally settled on what she doubtless knew was a weak generic effort at redirection. "Don't you have someone else you're supposed to be annoying right now?"

"Oh, they can wait," she answered with confidence. "I'll get back to torturing the new girl soon enough."

"You don't really have anything against her do you? I mean it when I say that Yui's straight as an arrow. She won't even swing both ways like the twins." Kaori sounded certain of her assessment.

"Nah. I'm fine with her. That's just classic Masa and Hisa teasing. There's only one girl I know that Yusa might stray with, and I must compliment her on her tastes if she does. But only if I get a taste too…"

"You like teasing, huh? Flirt," Kaori shot back with an amused smirk even as she rose from her seat at the piano and slowly sauntered over to her brown-haired friend.

"I thought I was a bitch."

"That too."

"Anyway," Hisako said as she now looked up at an expression on Kaori's face that suddenly made her feel self-conscious about her open legs, "how about you help me carry these drinks back before they get warm? I'll share mine with you if you want."

"So you want to kiss me so bad you'll settle for an indirect one?" Kaori teased as she came to sit down on the lip of the chair behind Hisako and wrapped her arms around the surprised guitarist. "Well, I am told I'm damn fine kisser, so it shouldn't disappoint even second hand."

"Conceited aren't we?" Hisako croaked out, her mouth dry as Kaori's hands came to rest just below the curve of her breasts, a bare hint of brushing them as the smaller girl pressed her face against Hisako's clothed back between her shoulder blades.

"I learned under the tender ministrations of the hottest goddess in three all-girl schools," Kaori whispered in a sultry voice as her face lifted off Hisako's body and rose along the larger girl's back. She could feel hot breath on the nape of her neck. She desperately resisted the urge to reach down a hand to examine the state of things between her open legs. "I really am that good," the voice cooed from behind her head.

"And you call me a flirty bitch," Hisako almost gasped

"Takes one to know one?" the voice came from just behind her ear this time, and she could feel the girl's breath passing over the lobe.

"If you two are done lamely trying to seduce each other, Irie-san and Sekine-san are wondering where their drinks are."

Hisako and Kaori jumped at the unexpected new voice…a voice only the two of them ever heard 'in the flesh' – so to speak. In her surprise, Kaori's hands had both risen to grab each of Hisako's rather ample breasts, and the girls squeaked before Kaori let go and jumped up off the chair. A grinning Yusa peeked at the now flagrantly red-faced girls from around the barely cracked door.

"Um, how long have you been listening?" Hisako asked her girlfriend nervously. She glanced up at Kaori to confirm the other girl was equally unnerved by the current situation.

"Oh, wouldn't you both like to know? I think I'll let you stew on that a while. I understand Kaori's tastier that way…"

With that the blonde head vanished out of sight and the two remaining girls were left to share worried looks.

"Can you get me a collar when you get yours?" Hisako's words acknowledging she'd not only been played, but totally pwned, were barely more than a mumble as she reached over to carefully return the music sheets in her hand to the appropriate music stand. She then took a pair of still cool juice bottles into her own hands that Kaori handed to her as the smaller girl held onto the other three.

"Um, sure," Kaori added weakly in an equally defeated tone.

/*/

"You sure about this, Yurippe?" Hinata's voice was filled with concern as he, Oyama-kun, and Matsushita-the-Fifth finished pulling out the chairs and opening the way for a parachute drop by the nine assembled and mostly well-armed girls. "We've been seeing some weird stuff lately when patrolling down there, and Chaa says they've seen it too coming from the other direction. There's only you, Shiina, Yusa and maybe Hisako really good in a fight. Wouldn't it be best if we came with you too?"

"Like Hell I'd let you come. If I did, we'd never get Shiina to join us for the best part of this trip. She'd insist on keeping watch to chase away wolves." Yuri's narrow-eyed glare at Hinata left absolutely no doubt as to exactly who Shiina considered best fit the role of wolf. "Anyway, whatever is down there, if there really is anything, has just been spooking people. No harm has come to any of the patrols, and they're just moving in pairs. There'll be nine of us, all armed…well seven of us at least. I can't imagine we'll be bothered. You boys should worry about your own sorry asses before you worry so much over ours."

"But yours are so much more interesting," Hinata shot back, his expression working hard to make it clear how much the words were just teasing. Yuri and Hinata went WAY back, along with Oyama, to the founding of the SSS. Yuri's nickname, Yurippe, had been a creation of Hinata's, and the two had an easy manner…although there was absolutely no doubt who was ultimately in charge.

"Hence why you boys are staying up here where you won't get into trouble," Miyuki responded before Yuri could. The blue-haired drummer then proceeded to grab Shiori's hand and turned to make her way to the opening to the underground, in the process sashaying the body part which had been in question. The blonde bassist quickly picked up on her roommate's teasing manner and mimicked it.

Yuri watched as the poor boy stared for just a moment longer than necessary at the 'interesting' sight swaying before his eyes before turning his gaze away. "Like I said, this group can take care of itself," their unquestioned leader continued. "You worry about being in charge up here. I'll kick your ass when I get back if things haven't gone perfectly while I'm gone."

Hinata nodded as he raised his hands helplessly in capitulation.

"Come on Nakamura-san," the dark-haired Kaori, still dressed contrarily in her standard Afterlife School uniform, chided the SSS leader affectionately. Despite being the only non-NPC who ever used her family name, and vice versa, Kaori shared a level of comfort with Yuri no one else had ever achieved with the legendary tsundere. Kaori's voice was suffused with humor as she put an arm around the surprised girl's shoulder and corralled her toward the waiting entrance on the floor. "Leave the poor boy a little pride." She added with a wink back at her defeated blue-haired senpai.

Hinata rolled his eyes good naturedly. "We've got things covered, Yurippe," he called out as first Shiina, then Yuri, and finally the still smiling Kaori with her distinctive pink hair ribbon nearly covering the back of her head disappeared from view down the ladder leading to the vast underground network that crisscrossed beneath the school.

Hisako watched as Yui and Iwasawa followed the others down the ladder before her attention was redirected by Hinata's approach.

"Yusa's got plenty of ammo, right Hisako?" Although the Scandinavian blonde was standing right in front of him with a MTAR-21 assault rifle slung over her back and the SIG-Sauer P225 she had made standard equipment for the Diversion Units in a holster at her side, like just about everyone else the SSS second-in-command directed conversation regarding the silent girl to her girlfriend, and Hisako didn't mind playing translator.

"What do you think is in this backpack I'm wearing?" the brown-haired guitarist assured as she reached back to pat the sagging bag hanging from her shoulders. "I think I'm carrying enough for her to single-handedly wrest a beach from a squad of American Marines," she added in a grousing, long suffering voice- but with a smirk at her girlfriend. Yusa's face remained impassive, but through her close association with the American, Hisako knew the blonde girl was giggling inside at the ridiculous but colorful exaggeration.

"Um, you probably shouldn't joke like that too much, you know," the boyish Oyama-kun chimed in as he came to join the conversation. "Especially down in the catacombs, you never know what might actually appear down there. Just about anything could hide out in all those caverns and we'd never know."

"I'd think if there was an army down there, Oyama-kun," Hisako countered reasonably as she started sidling her way over to the ladder her girlfriend was climbing onto at the moment, "Shiina would have run into them at some point when she was living down there for almost ten years."

The youngest of the three founding members of the SSS just shrugged. "I hope so. You all take care, though. And make sure Yurippe doesn't get herself killed, okay?"

Hinata cringed at the memory his peer referenced. "No kidding! You girls may not get it, but she made our lives a living hell for months the last time she bought it. I'm counting on you and that girlfriend of yours to bring our leader back in one piece!"

By this time, Hisako herself was clinging to the ladder with just her head poking up through the hole in the ground down which they were descending. "We'll do our best, Hinata. Just make sure she has a team to come back to, okay?"

The two veterans of the Afterlife Battlefront locked gazes and nodded to each other. I'll handle my job, you handle yours, were the words conveyed by the shared look. With a final nod, Hisako started the long climb down the ladder as quickly as she could, given the hefty load of ammunition on her back.


***Author's Note***

I hope any readers of my Voices of the Present story who came over for the cameo appearance finds Kaori to be enjoyable. She doesn't remember any of this when she appears in the Ghost or Dream chapters, but her time in the afterlife school explains her growth between her death at Astraea and her appearance in Nagisa's dream. She's been fun to include here and I hope those who are meeting Kaori for the first time will enjoy her as well. I promise she won't take over the story, though. Hisako and the Girls of GlDeMo are too awesome to take a back seat to anyone. :-)