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Tokyo Demons Book 2: Chapter 2

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“You don’t know when you’re coming back?”

Takeshi shook his head as he dug through his backpack. The money was there, and a few pairs of underwear, and two watches to pawn…but the little earring box was missing. He sucked on his teeth and looked up at his brother.

“Did you pack my lucky stud?”

Ban blinked. He winced and looked away, his eyes glinting in the light of a streetlamp. Takeshi looked closer at his brother, and suddenly noticed that Ban’s pupils were dilated.

Takeshi grabbed Ban’s hair and jerked his head back and forth. “You little shit gobbler!” he snarled. “Did you smoke up before riding my bike over?!”

“I-it’s fuckin’ one in the morning!” Ban complained as he tried to pull free. “I didn’t know you were gonna call me!”

“Fuck the time! And fuck you!” He released Ban’s head and instead shoved him as hard as he could. “If you don’t get clean, I’m gonna come back to Tokyo just to shit on your sleeping face!”

“Takeshi.”

Mitsuko’s soothing voice cut through Takeshi’s rage. He spat at his brother before turning to her.

She was dressed to the nines in a black cocktail dress, her long hair piled onto her head and impaled with sparkling chopsticks. Miki looked like shit beside her, his clothes torn and his bottom lip swelling up. If Miki hadn’t driven them over in Mitsuko’s car, Takeshi never would’ve guessed they’d been hanging out at that hour.

Mitsuko’s heels clicked on the concrete. “If the cops have something on you, we can deal with it here.”

Takeshi shook his head. “Not this time, baby.”

“Not even through my dad? The party he dragged me to was crawling with politicians…” She trailed off as something lit up her face. “Wait–I think the old fart hitting on me was a police chief! Maybe I could–”

“Mitsuko.” Takeshi closed his fingers around her shoulders. He trailed one finger along the fabric that dipped near her collarbone. “Not this time.”

Miki muttered something to himself. “At least leave us a contact number,” he demanded.

“Nope. Too risky.”

“I don’t fucking care, Takeshi!” Miki’s eyes blazed. “You can’t just walk out on us when the cops are cracking down on Seiryuu! If they come for us after they’re done–”

“They won’t.” Takeshi released Mitsuko. “Not if I go.”

Miki blinked. “What?”

Ban snorted a laugh as he scratched his head. “Fuck,” he drawled. “You cut a deal with the pigs, Aniki?”

Anger flared up in Takeshi again. He ran at Ban with his fists raised; Ban giggled and stumbled back, staying out of reach. Takeshi flipped Ban the finger.

“That’s not what I said, fuckface.”

Ban laughed. He slid a cigarette between his lips and searched his pockets for a lighter.

Takeshi walked back to Mitsuko and Miki. He gestured for them to come closer.

“Give Ban my place in the gang,” he said under his breath.

Mitsuko’s eyes widened; Miki’s jaw dropped.

“Are you out of your goddamned mind?!”

“He needs something to keep him busy. He’ll just do more drugs if he’s bored.” Takeshi shrugged into his backpack. “Help him shine, yeah? He’s not as stupid as he looks.”

Miki clenched his fists. “Yes, he is!”

“Don’t be such a fucking downer.” Takeshi snapped his finger at Mitsuko. “You work a lot better with a good image. The Riot Girls can clean up nice, but Byakko’s a shitstorm that’ll just fleck you with turds.” He snapped at Miki. “And you’re a planner, not a leader. Let Ban front so you can get real work done.”

Takeshi suddenly noticed some faint pink smears around Miki’s chin. He reached out and rubbed at them; Miki jerked back from the touch. Takeshi rubbed his fingers together and felt cream against his skin.

He smirked and dragged his eyes to Mitsuko’s mouth. Sure enough, her pink lipstick had smeared above her upper lip.

“Damn,” he murmured. “Were my little cats in heat?”

Miki growled and looked away. “You’d better come back,” he warned. “Or we’ll track your crazy ass down.”

Takeshi opened his mouth, then closed it. He assumed he couldn’t come back, but with the way Mitsuko and Miki stared up at him…his eyes flicked over to Ban, smoking calmly in the parking lot. Ban checked his watch.

Takeshi couldn’t make any promises. So he just raised his hand and closed it into a fist.

“Byakko forever.”

Mitsuko gently cradled his fist in her hands. Miki, after a second, slid his own hands into his pockets and turned away.

“Fuck you, asshole.”

           

Ayase could see the sun setting when they arrived at the police station. Their driver, a huge man in his 20s with a Chinese accent, parked the moving van and gestured to Emi in the passenger seat.

“Call your cop.”

Emi nodded and pulled out her mobile. But before she could even dial, a police car in the parking lot flashed its lights through their windshield.

Ayase strained her eyes. They said Nakajima’s partner would bring Emi to Fukuhashi…was that him? She couldn’t make out more than an outline behind the steering wheel. Emi pulled her hair into a ponytail and looked back at the benches in the van.

“Any last requests?” she asked. When Jo stared at her incredulously, she quickly waved her hand. “Er, not like that! I mean…is there anything else you want from your dorm?”

Jo shrunk back and said nothing. Adam ignored her and kept wrapping white tape around his knuckles. But Sachi, leaning his head against the metal siding of the van, suddenly sat up.

“Um…yeah.” He swallowed. “I forgot to put it on the list, but in the drawer next to my bed, there should be a necklace with a gold cross on it. Do you think you could get that?”

Kadoyuki’s dark eyes flicked to Sachi. He said nothing and dropped his gaze to the floor.

“Sure.” Emi nodded her thank-you to the driver and slipped out of the car. Ayase watched Emi tug at her blouse; Ayase’s school uniform was clearly too small for her.

The driver whistled. “Pretty girl,” he murmured as Emi jogged to the police car. “And popping out of a school uniform. Even better.”

Sachi frowned. “It’s a disguise,” he argued.

“Whatever, four-eyes.” The man leaned over the seat and gestured to Ayase. “You’re the girl that went to Motoi before, right? Get up front so you can navigate.”

Ayase ducked her head and walked up the van to the front seat. The driver flipped his middle finger to the police car as they drove off.

“Fuckin’ pigs,” he muttered. “I can’t believe we agreed to this.”

Ayase unfolded the paper with her directions. “Wei-san,” she said. “That’s your name, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Get on the highway as soon as you can and I’ll direct you from there. We’re going east.”

Wei grunted an affirmative. Ayase could hear someone shift in the back.

“Can you go over the plan again?” Jo asked, his voice thin. “If you’re really using explosives, we need more details.”

Wei grabbed a toothpick from the dashboard and slid it between his teeth. “The twins handle the explosives,” he explained. “They wanted a car bomb inside the building, so we tracked down one of the Core ops that works the night shift and planted one in his trunk. As long as he shows up for work tonight, we’ve got a bomb in the parking garage.” He waved a hand. “But it’s just a distraction. Once we draw their attention, the twins’ll set up some charges around the locked loading dock in the back. That’ll blow us a hole we can storm through…after they put out the fires, obviously.”

“Put out the fires?” Sachi repeated weakly.

“They were arsonists for Seiryuu way back in the day. Controlled fires are their specialty.”

No one said anything in the back. Ayase didn’t know what comfort she could offer them, so she didn’t try.

But she did, for a moment, close her eyes. She wanted to check on the Motoi building. The three insects she’d left in various places hadn’t drawn attention, thankfully…and nothing had changed outside Shouri’s room. That meant Shouri probably hadn’t been moved.

Ayase opened her eyes. Good, she thought.

Wei glanced at Jo through the rearview mirror. “Oda,” he said. “You were recruited by Seiya Fujisawa, right?”

A pause. “Yeah,” Jo murmured.

“Apparently his body’s been on ice since Kiseki was trashed–they needed it for the police autopsy or some shit. Some of the guys were gonna go to his wake when it finally happens…you wanna come?”

Jo let out an audible breath. “Ask me if we survive this,” he muttered.

“Oh, man the fuck up.” Wei chewed on his toothpick. “Those Core dicks may have guns, but we outnumber ’em.” He grinned and tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “And we’ve got Takeshi back.”

Ayase thought on that a minute. She’d met Takeshi on the night he’d brought the Pitch, but she was still trying to wrap her head around the dynamics of the Byakko gang. Takeshi used to lead, and now was back to head the attack against Core…he’d told his gang the truth about Core’s massacre at their hideout, so she was pretty sure he’d sold this mission as revenge.

She resisted the urge to look back at Adam. In the small bag strapped to his belt, he carried a few vials of Pitch. He had to hand it off to Nick once they all met up…and nobody could know about it. That worried her worse than the talk of explosives.

Once on the highway, Ayase read Wei her directions. The trip felt much faster this time around; the darkening sky still clung to twilight when they rolled into the industrial district. Wei parked them on a random side street in front of an empty car.

“Time to go, kids.” Wei climbed out of the van and headed for the back. Ayase caught up to him just as he opened the back doors.

Adam jumped neatly to the ground, his headless broomstick tucked under one arm. He held out the sledgehammer Wei had packed.

Wei accepted it. “Thanks,” he said as the others crawled out of the van. His eyes fell on Adam’s stick. “You fight with that thing?”

Adam blinked. Jo sighed and stretched out his arms.

“You’ve gotta talk to Adam in English.”  Jo snapped at Adam, pointed to the stick, then asked “Fight?” in English.

Adam nodded. “Wudang,” he replied.

Wei’s face lit up. “You’re trained in Wudang martial arts?” he exclaimed. “My uncle was a Wudang badass! Are you Chinese, man?”

Sachi shook his head as he rubbed a hand over his mouth. “Vietnamese,” he clarified. “And American.”

“Hunh. Well, no one’s perfect.”

Kadoyuki checked his watch. “We’re a little early,” he said. “Where are we meeting the others?”

“At some abandoned factory a few blocks away. I saw a gas station when we drove in–anyone need to piss or anything?”

Sachi shook his head as Kadoyuki translated for Adam. Jo, for some reason, seemed weirdly distracted…he looked around in all directions, squinting his eyes.

“Oda?”

Jo’s fingers twitched. “Maybe,” he said absently. “I mean…yeah. Where was it?”

“About a block that way. We can–”

“I’ll go by myself,” Jo interrupted. “We’ll draw attention in a group. Just wait here.”

Ayase furrowed her eyebrows at him. “We really shouldn’t be splitting up now, Jo.”

“We’re not. I’ll be back in a minute.” He took off at a jog, throwing a severe glance behind him. “Just stay here.

He disappeared around a corner. Wei muttered something around his toothpick and shifted on his feet. He flicked the wood to the concrete.

“So,” he said. “You guys’re in high school?”

Ayase nodded. “Although we’re not really…going anymore,” she murmured.

“And why’re you part of this whole thing? You friends with the Gaijin Timebomb?”

Ayase frowned. Wei seemed to notice the look on her face, because he smiled slyly.

“Don’t worry,” he drawled. “You can tell me.”

There was something unnerving about the way he stared at her. Before Ayase could think of a way to deflect, Kadoyuki interjected.

“Core hurt all of us,” he said quietly. “We wanted to join the fight.”

Wei leaned back against the van. “Have any of you been in a gang brawl before?” he asked. “It’s not exactly a class trip.”

“We know.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Do you?”

Ayase drew her mouth into a tight line. She didn’t want any more questions. She wanted to go. She silently willed for Jo to come back.

Wei’s gaze dragged over to Sachi. Sachi, for some reason, was staring at Wei’s feet.

“Got a problem, four-eyes?”

Sachi blinked and jerked his head up. “No!” he blurted. “I was just…um…” He swallowed. “I don’t mean to stare.”

Wei grabbed his left pant leg. “Sure you do,” he said darkly. He pulled up the nylon of his track pants.

To Ayase’s surprise, his sneaker was attached to the end of a metal prosthetic. It wasn’t even shaped like a leg–it was more like an iron bar with a joint near the knee. The details of the joint disappeared under the fabric.

He released his pant leg. “Motorcycle accident,” he said coolly. “About four years ago.”

Adam whistled. He said something in English, but Ayase missed it.

“What’d he say?”

Kadoyuki frowned. “I think…he asked if it’s difficult for you to fight.”

Wei crossed his arms. “It slows me down,” he answered, “but I can do almost anything I used to. Just have to get creative sometimes.” He shrugged. “Like when I’m fucking.”

Sachi turned red. Nobody translated, but Adam still smiled and flashed a thumbs-up.

Jo returned a minute later, his expression unreadable. “Sorry,” he murmured. “We can go now.”

Wei stood up from the van and smiled in dark confidence. “Good,” he clipped. He slung the sledgehammer across the back of his shoulders.

“Party time.”

***************

Byakko, apparently, had broken into the abandoned factory. Wei pounded on a crumbling door and was prompted for a password. After the door opened a crack, Jo was quickly ushered inside.

He froze.

The factory floor was crawling with people. The dull roar of their chattering echoed in the open space, punctuated by laughter and the occasional string of shouted curses. Jo stared out at the sea of bleached hair and dark hoodies in the rapidly vanishing light.

Jo remembered the night Seiya had flooded his dorm parking lot with Byakko–Jo’s last night in Fukuhashi, when Kiyoshi had gone back to Core. But Seiya’s army was nothing compared to this. This was twice the size, at least. And based on the baseball bats that poked over their heads and the glint of metal in their hands…this squadron of thugs was armed.

“Jo!”

Jo snapped out of his daze. He turned just as Mitsuko threw herself against him, her arms wrapping around his neck. Before he could say anything, she planted a quick peck on his lips.

“You came!” she cooed. “Miki thought you’d chicken out.”

Jo pulled back from her and tried to collect his thoughts. “Mitsuko-senpai,” he blurted.

She laughed. “You don’t have to call me senpai anymore. We hit first base, honey.”

Mitsuko’s outfit resembled the ones around her–a dark hoodie, albeit a fashionable one, and thick tights under her breezy short skirt. A headband pushed her golden hair out of her face.

But it was the expression she wore that surprised Jo. She looked…excited. Happy. She giggled at him like they were at a birthday party.

She pulled back from him, her fingers still entwined behind his neck. “Hey!” she called over his shoulder. “Roomie!”

Jo glanced behind him. Ayase nodded at Mitsuko, dipping in a stiff bow.

“The Gaijin Timebomb wants to see you. He’s over there by Takeshi.” She gestured elsewhere.  “And hurry up, yeah? I think we’re moving out in a few minutes.”

Ayase gestured to Adam. The two of them hurried off without a word.

Someone called for Mitsuko. She turned as a pair of armed girls emerged from the crowd. When they met eyes with Jo, he stared in surprise.

They were from his class. The smaller one was the kogal he’d robbed on the first day of school.

“Damn,” the kogal murmured as her eyes moved from Jo to Sachi and Kado. “Is our whole homeroom here?”

Mitsuko finally released Jo. “You guys are in the same homeroom?”

“Yeah.” The taller girl, who dragged what looked like a heavy lead pipe, pointed to Sachi. “Since when do you wear glasses?”

Sachi smiled weakly. He splayed a hand over his chest. “I’m Sachi,” he said, possibly for Mitsuko’s benefit. “And that’s Kado.”

“That’s Ruka.” Mitsuko gestured to the kogal, then the taller girl. “And Keiko.” Mitsuko smiled at Kado. “Kado’s a cool name,” she commented.

He frowned. “It’s…Kadoyuki, acually.”

Jo’s eyes trailed to the kogal’s hand. Ruka held some weighted, awkward contraption that looked like a souped-up slingshot. She seemed to notice Jo’s gaze, because she sucked her teeth rudely.

“Hey.” She thrust her hips out and held the slingshot over her crotch. “You wanna suck my dick?”

Mitsuko waved her off. “Jo, you guys didn’t bring any weapons. Unless you’re packing and I just don’t see them…” She lifted Jo’s shirt.

Jo abruptly pulled his shirt down, a whoosh of air flapping against his skin. “We…weren’t sure what to bring.”

“Oh. Well, there are plenty of bats and pipes by the door–a few people brought extras. Take whatever you want. And hey, you guys want a switchblade?” She grinned and lifted her hoodie up, revealing a T-shirt and a thick belt above her skirt. She unstrapped two of the many knife handles belted to the leather. “I’ve got plenty!”

Jo felt the color drain from his face. Mitsuko quickly demonstrated how to undo the safety clasp and flick out the blade with a simple button. She beamed and held the knives out.

Sachi and Kado exchanged glances. They carefully accepted the weapons…Sachi murmured a thank you.

Jo took a breath. “Mitsuko,” he said at last. “Why are you so excited about this?”

She furrowed her perfect eyebrows. “What do you mean?”

“It’s just…you know we’re rushing an armed stronghold, right? And these Core guys have guns?

Keiko shrugged, swinging her lead pipe by her side. “It’s gonna be dark,” she said simply. “So we’ll be hard to hit.”

“Yeah,” Ruka added. “Don’t be a limp dick.”

Jo bristled. His guilt over robbing Ruka started to fade.

Mitsuko brushed a thumb over Jo’s chin. “The attack on Kiseki humiliated us, Jo. Those bastards ransacked our home and killed a bunch of our boys. And Kenta-san! After everything he did for us…” She shook her head. “This is about more than just revenge. If we can’t protect our own people, we’re worthless.”

She reached into the pocket of her hoodie and rummaged for a second. Then she smiled brightly, pulled out her fists, and tapped a pair of lightly spiked brass knuckles together.

“And it’ll be nice to wreak some havoc like the old days!”

Jo’s stomach sank. Even in the dark factory, he could see the glint in her eyes. He’d seen the same look when she’d robbed him back in school. He’d interpreted it as sexual interest, or the overcompensating confidence of a woman on her guard…

But now he didn’t know. Was Mitsuko fronting again, to distract everyone and herself from the danger they were walking into? Or were her reactions honest, and she was actually…enjoying this? Enjoying the thought of the violence?

Yikes.

It was yet another conflict that roiled in his gut. He liked Mitsuko, but damn if she didn’t make him nervous.

“EVERYBODY SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

Jo looked up. The chattering of the crowd quieted as someone climbed on top of a rickety old contraption. The metal beneath him creaked as he clicked on a flashlight to reveal his face.

Takeshi grinned. The bleached spikes on his head seemed taller and more ridiculous than the day Jo had met him. A few people whooped; Takeshi made a rude gesture.

“I told you to shut your holes.” He pointed to the door. “We just got word that four Core fuckers in management are in a police car on their way to Tokyo. And the last of the day shift guys are outta Motoi by now.” He snickered. “There’s only fifty or a hundred guys in there now. And by my last count, we’ve got more’n two hundred Byakko and Riot Girls here itching to kick some ass.”

The crowd erupted into cheers. Takeshi screwed up his face and flailed his arms.

“Shut the fuck up! There’re still people working on this street!”

The crowd quieted. Takeshi snorted.

“Use your goddamn heads, people. When we move outta here, we’re gonna do it in groups of ten or twenty–be quiet and keep your hoods off or you’ll look like the piss-drinkers you are. Motoi’s that swollen cock of a building up on Dickface Hill. Spread out so we’ve got coverage around the whole base, got it? And then when you get the signal, swarm up it all at once.” He turned the flashlight out to the crowd. “Where’s my Ruka?”

The kogal raised her hand. “Here!”

The flashlight snapped to her. “We can blind one of the security cameras so you and a few guys can sneak up first. Once you’re up there, I want you taking out every camera you can. You saw the schematics, right?”

Ruka lazily fingered her slingshot. “Yup.”

“Good. And snipe all lights out while you’re at it, babydoll.” He flicked the flashlight back to himself. “The signal is the car bomb going off inside the building. Once you guys hear that, rush the hill but keep your fucking voices down–we don’t want them knowing how many people we’ve got. Ruka’s gonna buy us a little blind time, but they’re probably gonna go into lockdown and reinforce the entrances before we get there. That’s where the twins come in.” He flicked the light to a pair of men standing near the door. They were in their teens or early twenties…Jo couldn’t tell from a distance. One of them had a shaved head.

“They’re gonna set up charges by the loading dock in the back. When they tell you to back off, get the fuck out or you’ll be blown sky high. They need a minute to secure the entrance, so nobody charge that hole ’till they tell you it’s clear and the roof’s not gonna cave in over your heads.”

The bald twin lifted a palm and delicately pinched his thumb and forefinger together at Takeshi. Takeshi nodded.

“Oh, right. They’ve gone hardcore Buddhist or something, so they’re not supposed to fight. Cover their pacifist asses.”

A few people snickered. The light whipped toward the crowd.

“Hey. Freedom of choice, motherfuckers.”

Jo rubbed his temples. This was starting to feel like an unholy mashup of a sergeant’s speech and a political rally where no one could read.

“We’ve got a bucket of white zip ties by the door. I want EVERYONE putting one on their left wrist–no exceptions. You don’t all know each other and it’s gonna be a clusterfuck out there.” He raised a hand. “And another thing! We’ve got a friendly in the building, probably on the sixth floor. Her name’s Shouri.”

Jo perked. The Church’s hacker, he thought.

“She’s chubby and half-white with freckles.  She might be doped out of her mind, so don’t be surprised if she freaks out on you. Tell her Jesus sent you.” He jumped off the metal contraption with a loud, wobbly CLANG. “Now let’s fuck some skulls!”

Half the crowd cheered, but the other half quickly shushed them. Bodies started shuffling toward the door as Takeshi ran ahead.

A warm hand gripped Jo’s. He turned to see Mitsuko smiling at him, that excited glint in her eye bright with affection.

“You’re gonna be a hero,” she whispered. “Just you wait.”

Some of the knots in Jo’s stomach loosened, almost despite himself. She leaned over and kissed him. He caught her face with his palm and kept her there for a moment, letting his lips trail slowly over hers…the warmth of her skin calmed him a little, and there was something reassuring about the way her fingers trailed down his neck. He forgot his reservations about her, if only for a moment. Like he always did.

He pulled back and looked at her through half-lidded eyes. “I hope confidence,” he murmured, “can be swapped with saliva.”

She chuckled. “Worth a try,” she hummed as she kissed him again.

***************

Ayase, her eyes squeezed shut, jammed her fingers in her ears. The whispers of the Byakko members milling around the hill were too loud. She needed to concentrate.

Concentrate.

Her single insect inside the Motoi security room was in position. She couldn’t make out many details on the camera screens, but the reactions of the four operatives in there would be enough. Her insect in the empty loading dock rested on the floor, undisturbed. And after another few seconds, she finally heard the changed guard take his seat in the sixth floor hallway. She inched her insect out from behind a wall lamp.

The man outside Shouri’s door relaxed in his chair. He yawned and scratched his neck.

Ayase unplugged her ears. “Everything’s settled inside,” she whispered.

“Good.” She felt Nick lean closer to her. “Bring your outdoor bugs near that camera.”

Ayase shifted her attention to the four bugs resting on the outside of the building. She settled them on top of the camera, careful to keep them from touching the lens.

“Done. Should I block the lens now? Is that girl with the slingshot ready to come up?”

“In a minute. Ayase, look at me.”

Ayase opened her eyes. Nick, his face careful, closed his huge hands over Ayase’s shoulders and turned her to face him. Ayase twisted at the waist, the weird intensity of the moment confusing her.

He stared into her eyes. “People are gonna die here,” he said quietly. “Maybe some of your friends.”

Ayase clenched her jaw. “I know that’s a risk,” she murmured.

“It’s more than a risk. Core won’t go down without a dirty fight. And for all we know, everyone in there is a juiced-up Pitch addict with super strength who won’t give a second thought to shooting teenagers in the head.”

Ayase took a breath. “What’s your point?” she retorted.

“I know you’re gonna want to help. But whatever you do, don’t change into the swarm where people can see you.” He shook his head. “I don’t want you changing into the swarm, period. But if you have to, if you absolutely have to, do it in hiding. We can’t let anyone in Byakko or Core know what you can do.”

Ayase paused. For all she’d complained about her secret being spread within the Church, it was vindicating to hear Nick agree. She nodded.

“Got it.”

“You’re our secret weapon, Ayase. If Core knows we’re controlling a girl who controls insects, all our future spying and half our combat advantage vanishes. The fight with Core is only starting tonight; we need you for the long game.” His fingers dug into her shoulders. “So promise me, promise me, that you won’t go full swarm in front of them. Even if some Core operative has his gun halfway down Sachi’s throat.”

A chill ran down Ayase’s spine. When she shuddered slightly, Nick’s grip loosened.

She didn’t need the mental image. She knew the risks. But she wasn’t going to deliberate or she’d lose her focus. She could do this. They would win.

And she’d protect her classmates, no matter what. It didn’t matter that her swarming ability was limited. She could be creative. And her spying would make this mission faster and more efficient.

“I don’t, um…want you to get hurt in all this.”

A different mental image surfaced in her mind–of Sachi, a blush spreading across his face as he squirmed in front of her. And him smiling at Kado, weakly assuring him that he’d help him out in Motoi.

Her heart expanded in her chest, pumping heat through her veins. She nodded resolutely at Nick.

“I’ll be creative,” she whispered. “I promise.”

He released her. “I’ll call Takeshi,” he whispered back. “When I tell you, block that one camera lens with your bugs–but be subtle, so it looks like they’re gathering naturally. Then that slingshot girl can sneak up in the blind spot to take out the cameras on the signal.”

“Right.”

As Nick pressed a speed dial on his mobile, Ayase closed her eyes and returned to Motoi. She could hear a faint ringing from somewhere.

It wasn’t Nick’s mobile–it came from the control room. One of the operatives picked up the phone and put it to his ear.

“Yeah?”

Ayase perked her insect senses. The operative’s eyes widened. He suddenly jerked his head toward the computer screens.

Ayase froze. Her bugs above the camera went rigid.

The man shook his head and turned his attention back to the phone.

“Everything’s clear outside,” he said. “Are you sure?”

Nick whispered something to Ayase. She whipped up a hand to silence him.

One of the other operatives sat up in his chair. “What’s the matter?” he asked.

The man on the phone nodded, then covered the mouthpiece with his hand. “It’s Junior!” he blurted. “He says we’re about to get attacked!”

Ayase’s heart leapt into her throat.

As another operative stood from his chair, Ayase repeated the line to Nick. She kept her attention on the room as he dropped into silence.

“Junior?” Nick repeated after a second. Then, suddenly, she heard his teeth grind.

“Touya!” he hissed.

A piercing alarm suddenly rang through the Motoi building. It blew out Ayase’s antennae as the operatives called something over the loudspeakers.

“Fuck!” Nick shifted by her side as Byakko voices rose up in surprise. “Ayase, forget the camera! Takeshi, blow the car bomb!…It’s too late, just do it!”

Ayase snapped her attention to the sixth floor, outside of Shouri’s room. The guard jumped to his feet and pulled a gun from his jacket.

A dull BOOM bled out of the parking garage, sending muddy vibrations through Ayase’s senses. Ayase clenched her fists.

That’s it!

The outdoors leapt to life around her. Hundreds of teenagers roared against their orders, their voices drowning out the alarm as they surged up the hill.

Ayase kept her eyes shut, struggling to keep up with her split perspective. Something slapped against her back and the underside of her knees, flipping her body into the air. The terrifying loss of control dropped away the second she felt a huge pair of arms cradle her against a chest.

“Tell me what you see inside,” Nick ordered. He ran, his boots pounding against the pavement.

Ayase threw her attention back to Motoi. But as she fought to hear the operatives over the blaring alarm, her mind couldn’t focus. A giant question stained her thoughts.

She swallowed the saliva that clogged up her throat.

How did this happen? her mind cried. How did Touya even know?!

Now their plan had to rely on chaos.

Proceed to Chapter 2, page 2–>

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  1. Lianne Sentar

    If you’d like to comment on this chapter, please do so below. You can also see the comments from the original web publication here.