Greetings to all!
Not even gonna apologize; I'm just gonna sit here and wait for objects to be thrown at me. I went dark for a month, A FULL MONTH, and am only now providing a chapter in the middle of the next. I feel bad, really I do, but the gamer in me wanted to play the Mass Effect Trilogy from start to finish. A bad tendency of mine, and its the second time my guilty pleasures have yielded a lengthy gap in time between my updates. So again I apologize for making everyone wait so long.
So, its time for me to shut up and announce to you all the March update of A Certain World of Darkness!
When most people find themselves caught in an unsatisfactory situation; it is unsurprising to find them mentally asking themselves why it was happening to them. It didn't always happen; some typically take adversity in stride and show little to no concern as to why things were occurring to them specifically.
Then, of course, we have someone such as Kamijou, a normal high school student who generally had poor luck to begin with.
While he often complained about his misfortune, he still sometimes addressed the issue to himself at times. It was hard to blame him really, but considering his track record it wasn't surprising. His perseverance was probably his greatest feature, considering he still tried to live out his days as a normal person in spite of the abnormalities that he often times finds himself involved in.
But tonight, was thing stood now, was turning out far more abnormal than anything else he had gotten into thus far.
"Why is this happening to me?" Muttered Kamijou, currently hunched over on the ground with his elbows pressed against his knees. "What the hell did I do to deserve this?"
It was a question that he had been asking himself for the past fifteen minutes now. A set of questions that had no conclusive answers as of yet and would probably remain unanswered. Even if he did know, he doubted it would solve anything anyway considering the people pursuing him were dead-set on killing him.
Their last attempt on his life nearly did the job; but even if it failed they still succeeded in instilling panic into his already overstressed mind.
Seriously, just a few hours ago he was studying for a test.
How was it that, in the span of almost an hour, he had not only been subjected to two attempts on his life but also survived both of them as well?
How the hell did he go from studying to running for his life in such a short amount of time?
"Kami-yan, come on, we can't stay in one place for too long. The more we move around, the fewer opportunities they have to get the drop on us again."
The only bit of solace he had was that Motoharu was here with him. It was probably the only thing keeping him from being in this mess completely alone and alive at this point. While that bit of knowledge did make him feel uneasy, he wasn't about to allow such concerns bother him when it had saved his skin twice in the same night.
But even that small sliver of comfort was not without its price. While he acquired assistance, it only served to put his friend in harm's way as well. That was something Touma was not okay with having on his conscious, especially since Motoharu had a sister to look out for while he himself lived on his own.
It actually put a bit of weight on his heart knowing he was not only putting his friend in danger, but also knowing that if things took a turn for the worst; his sister would be without a brother from tonight onward.
"Kami-yan, are you listening?"
"Huh, oh, y-yeah." Despite the inner turmoil, Kamijou still responded and put himself back up into a standing position. "I'm just…nevermind."
Now wasn't the time to voice his concerns about this whole situation they were caught up in. The seed of doubt was already planted in his head. Putting it into Motoharu would do nothing but get them both killed; especially since the blonde seemed to more level-headed about it all. A strange thing in itself really, but he certainly wasn't going to complain about it.
He would ponder it, sure anyone would if they saw how well he was taking all this. But complaining? That was obviously the last thing he was going to be doing in this situation, especially since he was the reason he was still alive at this very moment.
"At least you're holding up alright, all things considered." Murmured the blonde teen under his breath; though still noticing his friend's shaking legs; a byproduct of the intense fear still eating away at him. He had calmed down since the explosion, but the fear and unease still present nonetheless. "Anyway, we made ourselves a target just sitting here. We should go ahead and head out now before anything else happens."
"But we can't keep running around all night like this. If anything, aren't we endangering more people by being out in the open? In case you forgot, they blew up an entire store just to get us; so who's to say they won't get tired of this whole thing and just start attacking while we're blending in with the crowds?"
A valuable point if Motoharu was to be honest, though a point that the blonde hadn't already mused himself over the course of time.
"If they wanted to do that, then they would have done it by now. Maybe they want to minimize the amount of bystanders killed in the crossfire. Or maybe they're trying to wear us down, make us tired or overstressed, and waiting for us to make a mistake. Either way, staying put won't do us any good. Until we have a secured a safe place to stay, we need to stick to the streets and blend in as much as possible."
"Easier said than done." Mumbled Kamijou, taking in both his and Motoharu's current appearance and noting how unnatural they would look in a crowd of people. "What place is safe when they can create an explosion like that without anyone noticing? How'd they do that anyway? We weren't even there for very long to begin with."
"I don't know Kami-yan, and I'm not about to sit in another corner store to find out how they managed it." Of course, both of the boys knew it was a gas explosion, but that still left the question as to how or what acted as the igniter to create it in the first place. But, as Tsuchimikado stated, he wasn't about to let it happen again to answer that question; something Touma obviously agreed with. "As for a safe place…well, I'll have to get back to you on that. But in the meantime we need to stay mobile; so come on."
Having no better option at the time being, Kamijou took one last calming breathe to steel his nerves before following after his friend and classmate without delay. Since the last event, both boys had taken to weaving in and out from allies and the backstreets near some of the many dorms that made up District 7. Up until a few moments ago, they had been restricting themselves to areas where crowds were thicker and vehicle traffic was minimal.
The only reason they had stopped was for the sake of evaluating the severity of any injuries they had sustained in the last incursion. Going into a store was a definite negative; which would have been a problem if either of them needing things like bandages, disinfectants, or even painkillers. They couldn't risk another occurrence like before, but thankfully neither of the two really needed them.
Touma could have used them for his forearms, but he wasn't going to risk it over a couple of scrapes; even if they did sting.
It didn't take too long before both boys saw the open streets once more, the night lamps doing their job at illuminating the gap between the two buildings in which the boys were moving through. It was at this point that Touma absentmindedly noticed that he had spending far more time in these back-allies lately than he cared to admit.
He himself wasn't able to determine if this was a positive or a negative thing; but for the time being chose to dismiss it.
"Well…this ain't good."
"Tell me, Kami-yan, what's missing from this picture?"
Gesturing towards the streets, Kamijou did as silently instructed and peered around him. As far as he could tell, however, nothing seemed remotely out of place. Everything was mostly in order, the streetlights and streetlamps were active, and cleaning robots were roaming around like normal.
Nothing was wrong here, nothing was out of place.
The only thing that was missing was the complete lack of human activity.
"Where is everybody?" As soon as he proposed this question, Kamijou was hit with the realization that actually resulted in making him sweat a bit. "Please don't tell me-"
"Sorry Kami-yan, but it looks like that explosion did more than just batter us." Interrupted Tsuchimidado gravely as his gaze hardened from behind his blue sunglasses. "We were too close to the dorms to begin with. It's only natural that the students around here would shut themselves indoors and let Anti-Skill take care of things. It doesn't do us much good though; we're pretty exposed now."
"Can I punch you please!? Can I please just punch you for telling me something I really didn't need to hear!?"
Motoharu merely waved off the boy's complaints as his eyes searched for anything that even remotely looked out of place. He knew what he was looking for, having seen it back at their own dorm prior to their departure. The issue about finding it mainly revolved around the size, as what he had caught a glimpse of was quite small.
If his guess was correct, then that would mean the object he was looking for had to be close by. Something of that size couldn't be capable of getting a clear picture at a distance, not with such a small lens.
"What do we do then?" These words cut through the blonde's musings enough to warrant his attention as he turned towards his classmate. Said classmate, however, was slowly becoming pale and was actually sweating a bit due to the level of panic he was dealing with. "We can't go out there, we can't stay here, so what the hell are we supposed to do?"
An interesting point, what were they supposed to do from here on?
Backtracking wasn't an alternative since there were a lot of unknown factors involved with such an idea. If someone was tracking their movements, then that could mean someone could be hot on their trail. Going out in the open would leave their asses exposed to whoever was surveying them and lead to who knew what. For all they knew, more Skill-Out thugs could have been moving out right not to corner them as they spoke.
The only alternative was to get out of this district as fast as possible. Moving on foot wouldn't get them anywhere and take far too long if they kept taking these back allies. Even if they did they could be walking right into their opposition's hands; leaving them utterly screwed.
Taking the public trams would have been the preferred method of choice then; but that too presented its own set of problems. To get there, they had to either travel out in the open and exposed to reach them. If they were to take it, there was still no guarantee that they would be safe inside the cars either.
Neither of the options promised safety and both possessed several risks that could not be overlooked. But between the two options the best option was pretty obvious since, despite the risks, it was the best action to take.
"The public trams are our best bet as it stands." Answered the blonde finally after several moments of tense silence. "I'm pretty sure there's a station at least four to five blocks from here. If we can get to it and out of this district, they won't be able to track us anymore."
"Why don't we just go talk to Anti-Skill like I said at the dorms? I'm sure they could at least get us out of the district just as fast."
"They blew up a store just to get rid of us. What makes you so sure they can't do something like that or worse to a transport vehicle that's carrying us in it?"
Kamijou actually flinched lightly at that logic. True as it may be that there were armored vehicles in Anti-Skills possession, there were alternative methods that could be used to disable it. If the person tailing them could create an explosion out of nowhere, they would likely have an alternative method that could be used to take out a vehicle.
Motoharu's next words further confirmed these thoughts by as he persisted in driving his point home.
"If they could do that, then I'm willing to bet that taking out a squad car isn't as hard for whoever's behind this. But taking something that's going twice as fast as a car is a lot harder for someone to track; especially if they don't know where or when we get off of it."
As much as Touma wanted to disagree, he couldn't find it in himself to just blindly disregard Motoharu's logic. There was a possibility that panic was overwhelming him, impairing his better judgment, but he himself couldn't be certain. So far, he was alive because of the blonde's actions; whether or not he would have been just as safe in Anti-Skill's hands was unknown.
He probably would have been just as safe in their hands, or he would have been dead by this point. Touma couldn't be certain, what was for certain was that he was alive now and that was in no small part due to Tsuchimikado's effort. He had to put at least some amount of faith in his friend for the time being, all things considering.
Again, his state of panic was probably clouding his judgment; but under these circumstances he had to go with what was keeping him alive at the moment.
So, after swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, his voice came through in the form of a question.
"You said the tram station was near here?"
"Yes, but we have to move now before-"
Tsuchimikado cut his own words mid sentence upon hearing a disturbance further down the alleyway they were currently in. He wasn't the only one who heard it either, as Kamijou also turned his attention down the path from which the noise had originated from. The disturbance itself could have been anything, from a garbage can falling over to someone's footsteps reverberating off the walls of the tight space.
Though neither boy could directly pinpoint what they had heard, it was still more than enough to spook them and with good reason.
"Time's up, move!"
Kamijou didn't need to be told twice, promptly following a few paces behind the blonde as they ran through the oddly deserted street. Neither of the boys spared a parting glance behind them to see if whatever they had heard was pursuing. There was no point to such a thing; mainly because both knew the answer.
They might not have known who or what it was, but both knew whoever or whatever it may have been was not too far behind them.
Generally speaking, when people evaluate something, most tend to neglect looking past the exterior and focus purely on what they could see alone. It was a regrettably bad trait of society, but one that bears mentioning due to the consistency people often performed this mistake. The best, and arguably the most common, display of this faulty habit is how we perceive others.
Many often try to discern who a person is based solely in how they appear; from physical appearances down to the material items they wear. There were many examples of this everywhere; some having more ground than others in terms of justification.
Did that make it right just because they were correct? No, it did not, but people still did it regardless and would continue to do so regardless of the result.
Subconscious or not, people would always judge others based only on what the image portrays and not what lay beneath the surface display. Eventually they could see passed it and view what was hidden underneath. But that required effort and time, two things which one lacked when assessing a person in passing or through brief instances of interaction.
Never judge a book by its cover, as parents often told their children, for what you find may surprise you.
It was a lesson that every child had heard at least once in their youth, yet hardly heeded.
"I guess this is gonna be a pretty bleak memory after all." The speaker, despite her words, sounded more dissatisfied than anything else; though the monotony was still present in her voice. "Maybe I should have milked it out a bit more? Probably would have given me better results than this."
With as much enthusiasm as one has clipping their toenails, she proceeded to wipe away the blotch of dark red liquid from her fingers on her jeans as she walked. Like the rest of the area, it was vacant of any signs of life, but not for the same reasons one would expect. It did have some life, the blaring lights of the two squad cars could tell anyone that much.
"I wonder if we could salvage one of these…" Having approached one of the vehicles and sidestepping a few obstacles laying on the road, she gave the cars a good once over before clicking her tongue. "Tsk, not worth it; those idiots would probably overlook the trackers on them anyway."
Adjusting the sling on her shoulder, the young woman retrieved her phone before dialing an all too familiar number to her. A few rings later, the line connected and a swift response soon followed.
"I didn't get a call yet, so I'm assuming you're both forfeiting an eye once this is over." Said the woman matter-of-factly, her expression sober as she leaned against the patrol vehicle. "Where are these rats heading off to now?"
The longwinded and, mostly, predictable response the person gave only succeeded in making the girl roll her eyes. Typical Shougo, trying to save his own ass when he was backed into a corner without an escape route set in mind. Anyone would of course do that, but it was less forgivable when it's done by the same person time after time.
She still got her answer, regardless.
"So they're heading for the public trams in D-Sec huh?" Sparing the area a once over for indications that would assist her, she found what she was looking for and smiled. "Alright, in that case, I'll give you one last chance. If you take them out before I do, I'll settle for a few fingers instead."
Judging by his interruptive response, the suggestion wasn't much to Shougo's liking; not that he had much say in the matter.
"Oi, Shougo, I wasn't finished you sniveling little shit! I was about to say that, if I kill them, you forfeit both your eyes instead of just one."
His retorts of unfairness, though warranted, went largely unheard by the woman; as did most things when it concerned the teen and his complaints. Shougo considered it unreasonable, but in her mind it was far from that. Taking into consideration how long this supposedly easy matter was taking to get resolved, her frustration was justified to a point.
Reprimands needed to be distributed as a result of this embarrassing display of inadequacy. This level of incompetence here was too staggering not to imply some sort of punishment. Sure, she could accept a few hiccups and mistakes, as she was aware that nothing or nobody was without flaws. But this, this embarrassing spectacle she was now stuck dealing with would not be forgotten.
Not by her and, when this was over, most certainly not by either of her overseers either.
"All you're doing at this point is annoying me, when what you should be doing is dealing with this fucking mess you've made. You should be happy that I'm being generous enough to give you this chance; anyone else wouldn't get the same kinda treatment from me."
Even the cowardly Shougo had to admit there was some level of truth in that. Even if he didn't voice it, she knew that her words had an impact on him. Though, if she were to guess, he would be grinding his teeth right about now.
"If you have a problem with this new arrangement, then start looking for a place I don't know about to hide after we're done here."
And with a push of a button, the call was over long before Shougo could utter a single syllable. There was no doubt in her mind that the teen was furious, though not furious enough to voice his disdain directly at her. She knew he did it even without anyone telling her and, for the most part, she allowed him to do so.
Having a coward was better than having a suck-up in her eyes. Shougo was at least smart enough to be of use and wise enough not to ever try and cross her.
Pushing the subject aside, the woman re-evaluated her current location to determine the fastest route to her destination. From what she had seen, most of the roads were deserted thanks to the 'bombing' incident that occurred not long ago. Mainly it was the sections of the district closest to the incident that were deserted save for Anti-Skill and her own men.
That being said, the woman known as Queen had assessed what course of action she should take.
"Hnnn, might as well make it a night to remember."
"Is it still behind us?"
"I'm not in the best position to answer that Kami-yan; but the feeling in my gut is telling me yes."
This was the kind of banter Kamijou and Tsuchimikado shared as they sprinted through the still oddly vacant streets of the district. While they did happen upon a few stragglers roaming about, those individuals were either alone or with one other person in their company. There were no groups, there was no crowd to slip into, and whatever had spooked them before was undoubtedly being persistent in pursuing them.
Thus they had to run if they were to get to their destination faster and to hopefully avoid any further confrontations. Being out in the open was far from smart but they still chose to stay close to the buildings nearby. In the event that something did happen, they could quickly slip into the allies and continue forward.
Hiding wasn't an option and staying to fight was ill advised unless given no other alternative.
"How much further is it now?"
"I can't say for sure, but it shouldn't be much further from here."
"I'm really starting to doubt you're sense of direction." Said the spiky haired youth under his breath, something that went largely unheard due to his friend's lacking retort.
Admittedly, he still found it strange to be out when the streets were this deserted as they were. For a usually active place to become so quiet and empty felt mildly unnerving. Having hardly gone out when it was late at night, seeing it like this was truly a strange sight to behold. Perhaps if his life wasn't being threatened, he may have been able to appreciate it a bit more or at least found it less disturbing.
Under these circumstances, however, the emptiness of the streets felt more foreboding than anything else. Especially since all he had seen lately aside from the few students roaming about were the drones that were usually…
"Hey, Tsuchimikado, have you ever seen drones like those before?"
The question proposed actually caused the blonde to slow his pace enough to safely look in the direction his friend was facing; whereas Touma stopped dead in his tracks. Said drones Kamijou had referred to were unlike most of the standard ones students were more accustomed to seeing during the day.
Unlike the cylindrical shaped frames of cleaning and security bots, these in particular were spherical in shape and looked to be around the size of soccer balls; probably larger when they were closer. Had it not been for the sheen on their gray metal exteriors, Kamijou may not have given them much thought.
As it stood, there were four of them, all of them appearing to be rolling along the pavement at the cross-section they had just recently passed. It wasn't until all four of them turned onto the street they were located on that Kamijou began to grow concerned.
"Oh crap…" That response did nothing but shift his concern into dread. "Kami-yan, get behind something!"
Just as these words came out, the one leading the four spheres came to a stop right in the middle of the road. Upon doing so, five different compartments folded outwards along the exterior of the drone's body. Four of the five became the supports needed to ensure stability along the surface it was on, elevating its main body slightly off the ground.
The fifth compartment was the reason for Motoharu's warning, as the compartment revealed a solitary barrel that extended outwards in the direction in front of it.
Of course, neither Kamijou nor Tsuchimikado stuck around to watch this all unfold. They had already begun moving long before the little transformation could complete. Nevertheless, the act itself took less than ten seconds to do so it didn't need to readjust its position; so it simply started shooting.
With this, the once quite district streets were replaced with the repetitive sounds of gunfire; forcing both boys to do what they could to avoid them. A task much easier said than done, as both had very short span of time to find a suitable place to hide behind before the bullets started coming.
"What the hell are these!?" A trivial question to ask, it was still something Kamijou felt the need to address from his choice of cover; which happened to be a vending machine. He wasn't even sure his voice would carry over the noise of gunfire, but he persisted with his questions regardless. "Are those the things that have been following us!?"
"I'm going out on a limb here and saying yes!" Affirmed Motoharu from a good ways ahead, using the wall next to the doors of the building he was closest to as his form of cover. "Kami-yan, don't move from your spot until I give the word!"
"You don't have to tell me twice!"
Due to his position prior to seeing the drone, he had gained a bit more distance than Touma had. This meant that the drone's accuracy diminished enough for him to take some form of action before he would need to return to cover again. That didn't make it safe for him to do much, but he was certainly in a better position to do something attest to Touma.
Taking a quick peek out from behind his cover, he could see the remaining three were quickly approaching their location. If they stayed then the remaining ones would just flank them both and it would be over. With that awareness, Motoharu slipped his hand at the small of his back and removed the good luck charm tucked away between the waistbands of his trousers.
After waiting a few moments, the blonde moved out of his cover and took three shots towards the drone shooting at them. It was his second shot which hit its mark, which happened to be the front leg being used to support the main body. The instability caused by this resulted in the main body tilting downwards, forcing its aim to descend into the pavement and off the two of them.
Without delay, Kamijou did as instructed and stayed close behind Motoharu, who was following his own advice. By the time the two reached the street-corner, the other three drones had taken firing positions and rained a volley of bullets at the two of them. Thankfully, their bullets didn't connect with flesh and instead filled the building walls with holes.
"Where the hell did you get a gun; actually, why the hell do you even have a gun in the first place!?"
"Is this really the right time to be asking me that?"
Understandably, Touma ceased all further complaints on the subject and continued to run. Now was not the time to bring up these questions; maybe later but definitely not now. As the two of them continued their advancement, Kamijou felt it necessary to peek behind them once the repetitive gunfire had ceased.
In doing this, he began moving double time once he saw the three remaining sphere's come rolling around the corner and rapidly closing the distance between them.
"They're catching up to us!"
"Thanks but I didn't need to hear that!"
"That makes us even then!"
Forgoing a retort, Motoharu took in as much of the surroundings as he could in the limited amount of time they currently had. Fortunate enough, they were already approaching the overpass they needed to get to the tram station to begin with. The problem was, while they did provide two sets of staircases for each side, they would still need to climb them to escape.
They had no cover there, which made them both easy targets should the drones start shooting at the foot of the stairs; which they would the instant they tried to climb them.
Like they had much choice, they needed to get up there to reach their destination anyway.
"Don't take the steps coming up. Take the set on the other side and move as fast as you can!"
By the time the two reached the overpass, a single drone had shifted back into its firing position and repeated the process it had done before. In response, Motoharu had ceased his advancement forward to return fire as Kamijou passed. The action itself only fueled his ire as his bullets ricocheted off the plated exterior of the machine as it persisted.
Ceasing his efforts, Motoharu quickly followed after his friend as another drone joined its brother and proceeded to unload their rounds at the two retreating teens. Thankfully, because of their firing position, their bullets had no clear line of shot at the two.
The third, however, did possess such an advantage; at least once it reached the foot of the stairs. By that time Touma had already reached the top and Motoharu was nearly there himself. That didn't stop the drone from shooting,
The only reason the blonde wasn't littered with holes probably had something to do with the leap he took three steps from the top just as it opened fire.
When the barrage of gunfire ceased, the boy's could only hope this meant they were stalled. Provided the drones didn't have a means to climb stairs, they were essentially in the clear; something that caused both teens to sigh in relief as they took a well deserved break.
They were exhausted, aching, and sweaty, but at the very least they were alive.
"That was fun wasn't it?" Addressed the blonde in a jesting manner; having rolled over until he was on his back after his successful swan-dive to safety.
"Your idea of fun and mine are very different Tsuchimikado." The spiky haired youth's relief was only outshined by the intensity of his exhaustion; both physical and mental. In all seriousness, this was way too much for an ordinary high school teen like him should to deal with. "Please tell me we're almost there so I can get out of this nightmare."
"The station is straight down that way." Pointing in the direction they needed to go, the blonde's hand soon flopped lifelessly down next to him. "As long as we don't run into anymore problems, we should be in the clear."
"Don't jinx us Tsuchimikado."
"That's rich coming from you, Kami-yan."
Too tired to argue, Kamijou simply remained where he sat as he soaked in as much air his lungs could hold without bursting. All things considered, it was a miracle he had survived as long as he did in the span of what felt like hours. He avoided being thrown off his own ledge, survived an explosion, and managed to get away from a group of killer drones.
His track record was piling up in terms of things he had survived today. A disturbing fact once he thought about it, considering he shouldn't have been in a situation like this to begin with.
Touma himself wasn't sure if this was a blessing in disguise or fate messing with him again to give him a sense of hope.
Thankfully the faint sirens blaring in the distance drowned out those thoughts before they could really seep in. As tired as he was, and in spite of the dangers of it, Kamijou actually took the risk of peeking out from the protective wall of the walkway they were on. The drones, it seemed, were now nowhere in sight, possibly taking an alternative route to reach them. As much as this unsettled him, he still felt a bit of relief swell up inside once it became clear that the sirens were getting closer to their general location.
"Finally, some good news." Uttered the lad, his body becoming increasingly more lax as indicated by his posture. "Maybe those drones won't be so aggressive now that Anti-Skill is moving around."
"Maybe, but who knows with those things." For once Motoharu seemed to be agreeing with him, or at least wasn't immediately disregarding the notion Touma made. "Let's just keep going as we are. With luck, those things might be taken out by Anti-Skill or something. They are better equipped than I am in terms of weaponry after all."
"Remind me, when this is over, to ask where you got that exactly."
With a chuckle and a dismissive gesture, Tsuchimikado eventually joined Touma in standing before both began to move down the path leading to their destination. Unlike the road below them, this area was meant primarily as a student walkway. It was a wide path, but not an actual road for motor vehicles to use; making it a pure, vehicle free, boardwalk.
Unnerving as it was to see it so lifeless; neither of the boys paid it any real mind at this point. If anything they were grateful for its vacancy, as it was a more comforting sight than machinery trying to kill them.
That very same vacancy also provided its own set of consequences as well. Moments later, those faint sirens blaring in the distance were drowned out by a loud bang ringing out in its place; one that was clearly heard by both teens.
Vacant streets they could accept and be at peace with; silence, though, was a different case. When those same sirens they heard before became silent, both teens had already assumed the worst; be it on a conscious or subconscious level.
In that moment, both Touma and Motoharu spared each other a glance. The former hoping that his company still heard what obviously wasn't there anymore and the latter providing the grim truth Touma didn't want to accept. All this did was make Touma swear aloud before continuing forward; having no desire to say in this nightmare any longer than he had to.
"Oi, Kami-yan, wait u-"
Motoharu didn't get the opportunity to finish his sentence, nor did Touma have the chance to fully absorb the words he was being addressed with. Within the faction of time it took for either boy to react, something had made contact on the ground within the gap which currently separated them.
By the time Touma had partially turned to look back at his friend, his senses were assaulted with intense heat, blinding light, and what he could only describe as a rushing air. Having shielded his eyes out of reflex, Kamijou soon found that the source of all this had come from the flames that he was now standing in front of.
Had he been a second slower, he would have been in center of it.
"Tsuchimikado!" While the flames themselves didn't extend any further than his knees, visibility was still hampered due the plume of black smoke which had risen as a result. "Tsuchimikado, are you alright!?"
"Don't stop, keep running!" Given the level of urgency in his voice, Touma was highly against the idea of leaving until he was certain the blonde was unharmed. Not just for his own safety, but to ensure the safety of his friend as well.
As such, he had remained stationary for a total of seven seconds before Motoharu's visage entered his range of vision; having skirted around the flames. The thing which made it odd was that he had been running and showed no signs of slowing or stopping even as he approached. This led Touma to believe that those drones they had escaped from had already caught up with them.
Had that been the case, he would have wondered how they had caught up with them so quickly. As it turned out, however, that wasn't the case; though the result was not much better.
He didn't even get the time to open his mouth before the blonde's body slammed into his midsection and knocking them both flat onto the pavement. While he did feel the pain from this action, it was shortly forgotten as a something loud pierced his eardrums.
Not bullets, like he had been expecting, but instead a loud rushing of air like before. Only this time it was much fiercer, louder, and resembled rushing wind. He didn't need to look hard to realize what the sound was, for it had swept right over their prone bodies in a blaze of orange and red.
First drones, now fire; could his misfortune get any worse than this!?
Without wasting a minute, Motoharu swiftly removed himself from his previous position and off his friend. Still in a prone position and his firearm still in hand, he aimed down the length of his body towards the cloud of black smoke where the jet of flames had originated from and fired without second thought.
Given the usual response following gunfire, or the lack there of in this case, Motoharu wasted no time in staying put and moved as quickly as he could off the ground and on his feet. A decision t served to his benefit as another jet of flames soon burst from the cloud and struck directly in the spot Tsuchimikado was laying before sweeping along the patch of ground around that area.
Something that didn't bode well for Kamijou, who barely managed avoid getting burnt to a crisp in the process.
"Somehow I'm okay, but I'm really starting to hate this!"
Shuffling as far back as he could away from the cloud of black smoke, Kamijou eventually managed to successfully attain a standing position just as Motoharu was making his approach back to him. That advancement was stalled as yet another jet of flames came rushing out of the cloud, forcing both teens to do what they could to avoid it.
Clearly these flames were intended to keep these two from regrouping.
Cursing, Motoharu made another attempt to disable the target using his pistol. The results were still the same unfortunately as before, no response that indicated harm had come to the aggressor. The reason behind that was soon explained when a obviously humanoid in shape emerged from the black smoke. Unlike Motoharu, this person was not skirting around the flames; he was just walking through it like is a puddle of water on the road.
Based on what both parties could see, he stood around their height, who's face was covered in a standard looking gas-mask. The attire being worn was a form-fitted suit that was gunmetal gray in color with tones of black scattered about. What caught both Kamijou and Motoharu's attention was not the suit though; rather it was what was being held.
At first glance, it appeared like a standard riot shield that Anti-Skill were usually seen using, only with a few obvious differences. This was almost completely rectangular in shape while the top and bottom portion of it slightly curved back towards the owner. The width of the shield extended out enough to take up the person's entire frame while its length was three-quarters of the owner's own height. In the center of the glass was thick plate of black metal with what appeared to be a single hole positioned near the far left side of it.
What it was for Touma didn't know; but from what he could tell it looked large enough for his hand to go through it. Also, based on what he could see, he could determine that the bullets fired did connect; only they didn't seem capable of penetrating the reinforced glass.
…was it wrong of him to be somewhat disappointed about that? Judging by the impact points, those bullets would have all hit the person right in the chest. Shouldn't he have been more concerned about his friend trying to kill another person instead of being disappointed?
Maybe, but the subject of his moral standing would have to wait until later; preferably once he safely got out of District 7.
"Oh, this just keeps getting better." Snarky as the comment was, there was no misplacing the dread found in Kamijou's voice as he took in the sight of the new arrival. "First drones, now this!"
Incidentally, as these words left him, Touma found out the purpose behind the hole present on the metal plating. As the individual who emerged positioned something which he had been holding in his free hand and inserted it through the opening provided. Said object appeared to be a nozzle, and with the shield still raised and pointed at his general direction, yet another burst of white-hot fire jutted out at him; erecting a startled outcry as the boy ran further down the path they were on to avoid it.
"Look on the bright side!" Shouted Motoharu over the roaring flames, following his friend's example once the trajectory of the stream began to shift in his direction. "At least we're not dealing with both at once!"
"That isn't making me feel more comfortable at all! In fact, it actually makes me feel worse than I did before!"
"Sorry, Kami-yan, I'm not much of an optimist!"
Despite how much as he wanted not to, Kamijou braved a glance over his shoulder to see how much distance they had covered. Logically, that riot shield would weigh far more than the average ones used by Anti-Skill given its size. And while he may not know a whole heck of a lot, he knew one key factor about flamethrowers; though his source material was far from proper. For something like that, they needed to carry a fuel tank or something like it; which was not something you could lug around like a school backpack.
One would think with all that weight that the person chasing them would be eating their dust right about now.
So imagine his surprise when that wasn't the case; fact the distance between them was still well within range. As proven when Touma was once again forced to evade as another stream of fire raced up to try and meet his back. So close was it from him that he could actually feel heat produced by the flames on the base of his neck. Even so, the gap between them and their attacker was great enough for them to possibly get away from.
Too bad Motoharu jinxed the two of them; as four familiar gray sphere's rolling down the path they were currently on. Given that the only person with protection of any sort was the person chasing them, it was clear what was about to transpire if they did not do something soon.
Frantic and running short on time, Touma's eyes shot in every direction in hopes of finding a means to escape. Sadly he discovered no such thing near their current location; as the only staircase he could see was very inconveniently placed ahead of them. Motoharu could reach it if he really hauled ass to get there, but even that was a risk since they would be well within the drone's firing range.
Touma, could probably reach it without coming out of the incursion littered with holes, but that assessment was sketchy at best. With so few options available, he guessed it was a risk worth taking as any option was better than staying on this path. Apparently, Motoharu was thinking along the same lines as he was, if the considerable increase in the blonde's pace was of any indication.
And to Touma's relief, the blonde had reached the stairs faster than he originally expected. The drones had yet to change and the person behind them was still a good enough distance away for him reach the same spot safely.
But someone found it in themselves to throw a wrench into his temporary salvation. Well, maybe it would be more accurate to say the guy with the gas-mask was responsible. Also he didn't decide to use a wrench, rather a small canister of sorts that shattered upon making impact on the stone steps and promptly set the area aflame.
It wouldn't have been a problem if it landed at the foot of the stairway; he was confident he could make a jump like that and get to the stairs. But he hit the steps, and they were ascending which meant he could probably jump over one, maybe two, steps tops. The flames themselves coated at least four or five, which he damn well knew he couldn't jump over without getting burnt.
To further destroy his chances, a second canister came down shortly thereafter and produced more flames right by the base of the stairs. Worse yet, Kamijou was just coming up to that particular area, meaning the flammable substance used inside had sprayed outwards as it was being ignited and splashed onto the boy's clothes.
The only saving grace to be had was that Touma was able to remove the fire off his clothes thanks to how little of the fabric was hit. But that piece of solace was heavily outweighed by the dread and panic as the two offending parties closed in. He was trapped, the stairs were out, and his only convenient means of escape had been blocked off.
Motoharu himself mirrored Touma's words as he searched for anything he could use to provide assistance. There was one option he could use, but doing that was a larger risk than he cared to admit. But he was getting desperate, he had to do something before Touma turned into a burnt-out husk.
Seeing no other option, Tsuchimikado mentally resigned to himself that his trump card was necessary if Kamijou was to survive this.
Before he could act on it, however, Kamijou did something far more reckless. Just as the drones had reached the appropriate range, the spiky haired boy moved towards the ledge. By the time the both drones and the individual were prepared to open fire, Kamijou had effectively surprised the blonde into complete silence.
Simply put, Kamijou had hopped over the railing and fell to the street below.
That was no small feat to perform, and typically these overpasses extended at least two stories at the least. The fact that Touma had done that to escape was probably the worst option he could have done. If he survived, likely something would be broken as a result. Had he misplaced the distance between this walkway and the road, his remains would be splattered all over the concrete.
Touma most definitely knew this and the fact that he did it regardless showed either how desperate he was in escaping or that he resigned himself to his fate and decided to end it on his own terms.
Not a pretty way to look at it, but that was the conclusion Motoharu came to.
Well, at least he was still alive.
It seemed Motoharu wasn't the only one who was confused about this either. Peaking over the ledge, the mask-bearing individual caught sight of the teen who was still very much alive on the street; even if he was currently on his back and clutching his left shoulder. The sight would have been odd considering how he jumped off if it hadn't been for the bus stop shelter he was positioned by.
"Ya gotta be kiddin-" Muttered Akatoki from inside his mask, his tone forming a mixture of aw and disbelief at what he witnessed. "Well, shit, that was ballsy of 'em, I'll give 'em that."
Coiling back up into their original form, the four drones quickly began moving to intercept the teen now on the open streets. Motoharu, who already had speculated there being more of them, was proven right since he knew one was practically useless. That meant there was a high possibility that they would try to corner him again now that he and Kamijou were separated.
They got off lucky this time, but he wasn't about to test his luck a twice. From this point forward, he needed to stop acting as the prey and start acting like the hunter. To do that, he needed a plan, and for that plan to work he needed to get out of the open.
But first, he needed to regain the flame-spitter's attention.
A few shots of his pistol soon accomplished this, even if all it did was scar the glass surface of the riot shield a bit more. It was still an impressive display of reaction time, though the blonde had reason to suspect that it wasn't something that came to the guy naturally.
"You didn't forget about me did you, nya?"
The response he was rewarded with was the change in angle before fire once again rushed to meet him near the top of the steps. By which point, Motoharu had already moved away; forcing Akatoki to give chase.
And thus, the game of cat and mouse began anew with no clear indication as who was playing which part.
"Okay, that was a bad idea." Still nursing his now throbbing left arm, Kamijou wasted as little time he could to move further ahead towards his destination. "Jeez that hurt."
In retrospect, his method of escape would indeed have been classified as a bad one. The bus stop shelter wasn't meant to be used as a platform for people to fall on top of, especially since they were commonly made from glass. Still, it stayed intact and it provided him with a means of escaping the situation relatively unharmed.
In fact, the only damage he sustained was when he slipped off the top and fell shoulder first onto the pavement.
That had definitely not been one of his most graceful of moments.
None of that mattered much to Touma now that he reached a relatively safe area to move. He was just thankful that the glass didn't shatter upon his landing and for surviving the ordeal in general. So, overall, it wasn't actually a bad idea. It certainly was an ill-advised course of action, but it worked, he was still alive, and that's what counted.
But in spite of his escape from immediate danger, he still put into account the lingering threat roaming about the streets. After all, those drones had been swift in reaching them above ground, so he doubted he would be getting away from them so easily. No amount of running would save him if he got cornered again like before. The fact that he was all alone now further cemented how utterly screwed he would be if those things caught him.
But his salvation was in clear sight, so that was something.
Due to the location in which he fell, the road was just a straight path to the station and he could see it in the distance. While Tsuchimikado's detour may have been for the sake of escaping the drones, this road was an equally strait line to the station as the path he was originally on. The path above and the street he was now on did run parallel with each other, so it wasn't that much of a surprise. The only difference here was that he would need to climb up the escalators to get into the station, opposed to just entering the building and jumping on the tram.
But what if the train wasn't there? Would he be forced to wait and hope it arrived before these people got to him? Did he have a chance at surviving that long if that was to be the case? What if the station was shut down entirely? How would he get out of this mess if that was to happen?
Questions like these were quelled as thoroughly and as quickly as they appeared. As bad as his luck was, as misfortunate as he's been, he couldn't let those doubts stop him from pressing forward. At this point, there was no other option for him and if the worst was to happen he would just go back to his original idea from the beginning.
Tsuchimikado may have believed it wouldn't work, but he still had some measure of faith in the law-enforcement of the city.
And judging by the repetitive sounds of distant gunfire, Kamijou's faith was not misplaced. He couldn't see it nor discern where it was coming from, but he could still hear it nonetheless. It was likely that, in the heat of the moment above, the disturbance had been missed. Because it wasn't until he reached this point that he could hear them without having to strain his ears. It probably explained why the drones hadn't ambushed him yet, since he was sure those machines would have still been roaming around down here by now.
Once more, Kamijou's confidence in Anti-Skill's capabilities was not ill placed. While it was a pretty selfish thing to admit, he was glad those people were dealing with the drones and not him at the moment.
Imagine Breaker aside, he was still just a struggling, but overall normal, high school student.
That all said, Kamijou simply kept running and had no intention of stopping until he was either in good hands or out of this district. That was all he really could do, and that thought admittedly bothered him more than one could ever hope to understand.
In his efforts to escape certain death, he had abandoned the very person who had kept him alive this whole time. He had left Motoharu just to save his own skin, justified or not it still left a less than pleasant taste in his mouth.
What further soured his mood was the fact that Tsuchimikado had nothing to do with this. But in helping him back at the dorms, Motoharu had been dragged into this chaos. Chaos which he was in some way responsible for which ultimately put his blonde friend directly in harm's way.
Truly this couldn't be right, there was no justifying how things have turned out this way. He shouldn't be the one running to safety like this. This whole thing was his fault to begin with; he wasn't sure how but it was still his fault. So why was it that he was escaping like this while his friend was still out there running for his life? Why was it that, while he was approaching his form of salvation his friend was out there just trying to stay alive?
Truly this was just a different form of misfortune under the guise of good luck. In allowing him the possibility of living passed this night, he would forever be forced to remember what he had been forced to leave behind.
And Touma would probably never in his life live this moment down.
Welcome to the bottom!
Okay, so this chapter really doesn't have much in it. Mainly just running and all that good stuff. Frankly, I don't know how you guys are gonna take this. It's really up in the air to me. To be honest though, I wanted to experiment with a few things; work on applying more dialog than normal along with some banter. Still trying to find that sweet spot between monologues, descriptions, and actual dialog; so please, please, please give me some feedback on this one.
In regards to the chapter itself, well, I can't really say much. I feel like I'm rushing it but I had no intention of this arc taking very long. Probably wrap it up in the next two chapters if my plans fit on paper. It never works in that way, but it should if I do it right. Anyway, yeah, it feels rushed and not as fleshed out as the ORDER arc, but I don't wanna drag this out anymore than I need to.
As usual, if there are any inquiries, thoughts, or concerns that arise in your mind, feel free to address them to me and I'll do what I can to answer them. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed my little piece of work.
Goodbye for now.