Here it is, Chapter 6, the one you've been waiting for: Ryou's infiltration of the Battlefront starts now! Yes, this means I'm skipping the majority of the prequel story, but there's not much to work with, truth be told.
I've read into Heaven's Door (the manga adaptation to Track Zero), and it's gonna be a bit... tricky to work from where I am. I won't rewrite, if I can help it, but I should be able to press on from here. Just gotta tread lightly.
Of course, not being able to read Japanese, I'm only able to read HD as far as the translation will allow me, so I'm going to pace it out so I don't inadvertently hit a "to be continued..." as I write Guardian Angel. I'm trying to be canon here.
I've also been lacking in drive lately. Add that to family issues, and the next chapter will probably be an even longer wait. Sorry, not much I can do but say it's already started... just not necessarily planned.
Ryou stopped at the intersection of the halls to catch his breath, trying as best he could to keep from collapsing. She got away again. It wasn't the first time Nakamura had caught him spying, and it wasn't the first time she outran him.
He walked back to his dorm at an agonizingly slow pace, his heart racing way too fast for comfort. Ryou had hoped he could get in and fall asleep before Tachibana made her way over to see how he did. The golden eyes that met him at the door said otherwise.
"Are you okay, Ryou?" she asked, receiving a short nod in response. He simply flopped onto the bed and lay there for a while, trying to relax.
After a few minutes, Tachibana started prodding. "What's the news on Nakamura?" Ryou held up a finger, telling her to wait, soon letting it fall back to his side.
Time ticked by, and she grew more and more impatient. Just as she was about to snap, Ryou sat up abruptly. "I lost her again today. She's definitely watching out, maybe even has someone following me, I don't know."
Tachibana seemed unnerved by this, and asked, "So, what are we going to do?"
"Well, I don't know what can be done... she's watching for me, and only ever goes from her dorm to her little hideaway now. Only her little band of rebels ever gets within ten feet of her."
She smiled a bit, earning a strange look from Ryou. Not a moment later, Ryou had realized the plan he had unknowingly created.
"Looks like I'll need a disguise, then?"
She looked him up and down, stating, "You're not very distinguishable, though. It doesn't have to be good."
She wasn't wrong, he was about as normal as they came, aside from his big stride and scar, both of which were easily concealed. Ryou walked to the mirror, then reached into the closet for a hooded sweater and a scarf. He threw the scarf around his face, concealing all but his eyes, which shone all the brighter because of it.
Donning the hood, Ryou turned to the mirror and marveled at how well such a simple disguise worked. He was now an anonymous entity, no name or past to speak of. He turned to Tachibana, who nodded in approval.
"Of course," Ryou started, noticing the scarf muffled his voice a bit as an extra level of disguise, "I'll need a suitable weapon."
Tachibana got up and walked to the door, another small laugh preceeding her voice. "I'm sure you'll figure something out."
Making his way to the tunnel entrance, he felt two powerful arms swing forward to bar his way. He looked up to one of them - a man standing at around six foot nine - and laced his voice with cocky sarcasm, "Surprised you saw me coming from up there."
The behemoth smirked despite himself, only saying, "No one gets in without Yuri's say-so."
Ryou laughed like he had never before, "Oh, man! Some chick is calling the shots?! Here I thought this was the base of those badass rebels. Came over to sign up, but hey, looks like I got the wrong place!"
As he turned to walk away, a woman spoke up behind the two giants, "What the hell is THAT supposed to mean?!"
Ryou spun on his heel to find himself face-to-face with Yuri Nakamura. He put on the most arrogant smile he could manage, then patted her cheek and said, "Sorry, sweetheart, but I was just leaving."
She said nothing, grabbing his hand and twisting the wrist at an unnatural angle. Ryou winced slightly, then countered with a counterturn of his wrist, grabbing her arm and spinning her around so her back was to him. He grabbed her other arm as she tried to lash out again, saying, "Now, that's not very sociable. What did I do to deserve such a warm welcome?"
She aimed a low kick, barely missing, but enough for her to break his grip. She took a couple steps back, saying, "Who are you?"
Even though she couldn't see the smile under the scarf obscuring his face, she could see his eyes mimicking his smile. Ryou answered, "I could ask the same of you, sweetheart."
She reached back, pulling out a pistol and aiming it straight at his head, "Call me 'sweetheart' one more time...!"
Ryou didn't wait for her to finish, instead reaching behind him and pulling out two revolvers, aiming both in a similar fashion. He took a quick look at the revolvers, one light blue, the other pitch-black. Damn, I love Angel Player!
He let the smirk drop from his face, saying, "What? What will you do?"
She cocked back the hammer of the handgun, and he mimicked the motion twice over. The revolvers didn't need ammo, being creations of Angel Player and technically one of Ryou's Sound Skills, though these didn't need a verbal cue like the others.
It was now that Ryou noticed the behemoths behind her were brandishing one PKP Pecheneg machine gun each. Are you serious?! Belt-fed guns?! He immediately regretted the decision to stay with something so small, slowly lowering his own weapons and seeing Nakamura do the same.
She chuckled a bit, "You've got balls, kid, but it takes more than that to join the Battlefront."
Ryou pocketed the revolvers, putting on the safeties as he did so. Sure, they were purely cosmetic since he would control any misfire, but it was part of the act. "And what exactly does it take?"
She smiled a little, and Ryou realized it was the first time he had seen her do so. "For one, you gotta be a fighter."
Stifling an oncoming wave of laughter, he replied, "And what makes you think I'm not a fighter?"
"You backed down, didn't you?"
"From two machine guns."
"You still backed down."
"If I had a chance to win? No."
That broke the flood gates. As he erupted in laughter, he managed to say, "Oh, man... you seriously believe there's a chance to win against that? I don't know whether that's brave or insane. Maybe a touch of both."
Nakamura didn't seem to like being called crazy, "What gives you the right to say that?"
Ryou was starting to like the cocky smirk he was using. Almost felt natural. "If you won't run from belt-fed weapons, what kind of sanity could you have?"
She said nothing, either deciding there was merit to his words, or that there was simply no point in arguing with him. Nakamura turned back to the entrance, nodding to the giants who still had their guns trained on Ryou. They eased up enough to let him through.
As they walked down the long, concrete tunnel, she asked, "So, where'd you get those guns?"
Of course, he could have made some half-assed story about finding them, but Ryou always liked messing with people's heads. "They were a gift from God, to rain judgement on the unjust," he said with a laugh.
She shot him a disapproving look, reminding Ryou what exactly the rebels were rebelling against. "So, what, you're here to kill us or something?"
"If I was here to kill you, don't you think I would have already done it? I hate this... mission... God put me on. Why leave it to one man to rid the world of evil? Why even believe that would be possible?"
Nakamura snickered, "Maybe it was never your mission alone. Who knows, who cares? Point is, you'll get answers sticking with us. One way or another, we'll draw him out." Draw him out?! She can't seriously want to take God head on!
She stopped in her tracks, and Ryou followed suit, the scarf shifting a bit as he turned his head. "I never did get your name," she mentioned.
Name, name, why didn't I think of a name?! Okay, Ryou, be vague. "Heh, sometimes even I can't remember it. Is it really that important?"
She simply nodded, waiting expectantly. Think fast... angels are servants of God, but they call Tachibana "Angel", don't they? Hmm... what if I pulled rank on them? The last part brought a smile to his face, making him glad the scarf could cover it.
"I've no name that I can give you, but if you really need something to call me... you may use Archangel."
She shifted uncomfortably at this. "Archangel? As in, the head angel?"
He turned forward, "Ha, more like fallen angel."
Nakamura looked unsettled nonetheless. She simply resumed her pace, saying, "Yuri Nakamura, around here they call me Yuri, or Yurippe, though last thing I need is someone else calling me that..."
"So, Yurippe..." Ryou began, stressing the unwanted nickname, "I take it this means I'm in?"
She gave a sigh of derision, and simply said, "Just shut the hell up and follow me..." He gave a loud groan, causing her to turn around with what seemed an unneccessary fury, "What?!"
The recruit gave a look of disappointment, replying, "Does this mean I have to take orders from the lady boss too? I just gave those two hell for it, don't make me a hypocrite."
Yuri almost laughed. Almost. "You'll take orders, or answer to them, either one. Good enough?"
He let out an exaggerated sigh, "I guess..."
Following Yuri down the labyrinth of tunnels, Ryou realized more and more how stupid a frontal assault would have been on this place. Not only was it impossible to find your way through, but Yuri seemed to know them like the back of her hand. Any attack down here, and she could have easily found a way around and flanked the attackers.
Yuri said something that he didn't catch, and an arm came down to block his path. Not a malicious guardian like the others, more like someone who's just following orders. Archangel looked to the guy, who sported a strange variant of the school uniform and... wait... the shield...
The same shield from Yuri's notebook he had sto-... he had found... was now sitting proudly on the shoulders of each of these rebels.
"Sorry, man, but Yuri calls a weapons check on all new recruits." He had a slightly smoky voice, a laid-back tone to it. His apology sounded sincere, but he got the feeling that if this guy wanted to, he could get him out of the weapons check. Nevertheless, Ryou relented. He reached into either pocket, taking out the revolvers, and eyeing each one before he put them in his hands. They really were of admirable comstruction, unrealistically light but unbreakable. The dark revolver, which he called "Damnation", was made to look like it had a carbon-fiber frame, the handle being made of a dark cherry wood. The lighter, named "Redemption", looked to have a frame of blue-tinted steel and a handle of gleaming ivory.
The weapon-checker took the revolvers, releasing the catches on each cylinder and emptying the ammo into a box. He looked a little closer at the cylinders, noticing that Damnation took seven rounds, while Redemption took five. "Why don't your guns take six like normal?"
Ryou pulled up the smirk again, "Don't ask me, ask the one who made them." At the last words, he pointed straight up, wondering if that was still the general direction of heaven.
He handed the revolvers back to Ryou, who promptly pocketed them and resumed his pace behind Yuri. She seemed a little annoyed by the delay and said over her shoulder, "Don't worry about Hinata, he's just an idiot. You'll probably need to tell him five times over again before he gets it."
Laughing a bit, Ryou followed on. They were in some large concrete room bustling with life. It seemed all the rebels had abandoned their places at the school to come here. He took a whiff of the air, immediately questioning their decision. The place was cold, damp, and smelled like a sewer, why would anyone willingly live here?
Yuri looked at Ryou, noticing his distaste for the place. "Don't worry, our HQ's nicer than this."
"Wait, this isn't HQ?" She replied with a smack to the back of his head.
"No, you idiot. You seriously believe we'd camp out in underground tunnels?"
"Well, take what you can get, right?" he added innocently.
"We can get much better than this, no problem. And we have."
Ryou laughed a little, saying "Well, color me impressed then. Your real HQ doesn't smell like mildew and human waste."
They kept walking down the tunnel in silence until Ryou spoke up again. "So, what exactly is your end goal? What're we working toward?"
Yuri looked at him incredulously, "You joined us without even knowing what we do? My God, why can't we recruit anything but idiots?"
She took a deep breath, readying to tell a story that it seemed she had told a million times before. "First off, you know what this place is, right?" Ryou nodded simply. She continued on, "This is the Afterlife, in its simplest. We can't die here for the simple fact that we're already dead, although we can tire, be hurt, and be incapacitated, but we'll always recover.
"What does this have to do with our mission? Nothing, really, except the people who come here. Everyone in this world lived terrible lives full of pain and regret. We strive to find God and make him answer for putting us through such torment. Of course, it's not that easy luring him out. I suggested we kill a bunch of the NPCs..." Ryou looked at her in shock, I knew she was bad news, but SERIOUSLY?! "...but Hinata talked me out of it. For the record, I still think it woud work, don't you?"
No, you homicidal bitch! What the hell are you THINKING?! "Well..." Ryou began, trying his hardest not to let his thoughts - and no small bit of panic from being in such close proximity to a psychopath - show through his words, "...I think Hinata might have a point."
She turned forward with a "hmph", saying something under her breath. He made out the words "spineless recruits".
Ryou stopped in his tracks, letting Yuri walk on without a word. This is what he was afraid of, she wasn't causing nearly as much disruption as she would on her own. A full-fledged slaughter of the NPCs!? Who planned something like that!?
What's more, the whole "taking on God" thing was sounding more and more crazy every time Ryou heard it. Did she seriously believe that God, all-knowing and all-powerful, would fall to mere humans?
It was clear to him now that simple divide and conquer may not be the best course of action anymore. To let Yuri run free, unchecked by the others, would do more harm than good. No... he needed to help Yuri pass on before dismantling this Battlefront of hers. This would work as well, you take down the leader and the grunts scatter, but it would be considerably more difficult. Ryou had encountered many people who clung to their unfair lives, and while the people themselves were unpleasant, they were never violent, especially not to this degree.
She must have lived through hell on earth to be like this, and Ryou would be the angel to ease her pain.
Author's Note, Version II:
This next part of the story is probably gonna be the most difficult to write, so I may just focus on something else for a time, but I'll come back to this, don't worry. Just keep your eyes peeled (because the Angel Beats! fanfictions flood in from everywhere at once, right? *rolls eyes good-naturedly*) and remember to give some feedback! I know this isn't perfect, so constructive criticism (and obviously praise) is definitely welcome.