Categories > Original > Sci-Fi > FAQing Hostile: The Sword and the Sheath

Part 2: Arashi's Tale

by MarkPoa 1 Reviews

Kenishi's in danger. His only hope is his loving wife, Arashi. There's more to this lady than meets the eye.

Category: Sci-Fi - Rating: PG - Genres: Action/Adventure, Humor, Parody, Romance, Sci-fi - Characters:  - Published: 2006/03/28 - Updated: 2006/03/28 - 7102 words

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The year was 2134.

Otakuland--the center of otaku culture in the entire world--had been
destroyed by its own defense system. Thousands of poor otaku within
the settlement walls died with their home. Only a precious few
remained alive and animated, yet scattered across the coast.

We were going to help them find a new home.

But first I had to save my husband.

********

The Sword and the Sheath
A FAQing Hostile Gaiden Duology
By Mark Poa
FAQing Hostile series spawned by Twoflower

(Note: FAQing Hostile is a round-robin series hosted at
http://www.improfanfic.com . This story was originally hosted at
http://www.improfanfic.com/faq/ )

********
Part 2: Arashi's Tale

********

Series Chronology: This duology takes place between chapters 5
and 10 of the main FAQing Hostile storyline. It provides a possible
view to the adventures of the hovercraft Rurouni's occupants as they
search for Otakuland survivors.

*******

I didn't know when things started to go bad. But, in a hostile world
like ours, I wondered why I should even be surprised.

Our mission so far could have been considered a moderate success. We
had managed to find several Otakuland survivors and unite them under
one settlement, to make sure the remnants of the otaku culture would
have a place to thrive. And it also made it easier to harness all of
our resources to help our tribe survive.

We knew there was another option, but Kenishi and I agreed that these
people may not be ready to go on such a long trip.

Or another shock.

Anyway, the bad stuff started when Kenishi agreed to go and try to
rescue the otaku in SeaWorld. I thought it would not be much trouble.
But, when Yosh and the others came back in the Rurouni, injured and
without my husband, I knew something had gone wrong.

Ken-chan had been captured.

This mission was going to require a kunoichi after all.

******

Farina tried to convince me not to go. She was going to have a tough
time doing so.

Youji had already tried. He tried to convince me that there was no
way Ken could still be alive. From his flabbergasted look when I said
no, I could tell that he probably wasn't used to women who were as
fiercely determined as I was. It was probably due to the lack of them
under his command. Well, this was one woman who didn't give in easily!

"Take someone with you, at least," he tried to persuade me.

But I couldn't. I had my reasons for wanting to go alone.

I finally convinced him to let me go alone. Most likely, he thought I
still would have gone even without his permission. Well, in that
respect, he was right.

Farina, however, kept trying to dissuade me even while I was preparing
my things.

"I don't understand why you should be the one to go," she stated, her
voice quivering. "Why not ask Youji or one of his men to go for you?"

I opened my equipment box. Inside it were my kunoichi uniform and my
weapons. I took out the uniform and laid it over a chair. I started
to remove the sash on my kimono.

"I couldn't. Youji and one of his men just received word about some
otaku near the coast. They have to tend to that first. No one else
here can pilot the Rurouni," I explained as I removed my clothes and
folded them properly. "The only other person whom we taught to pilot
the Rurouni was Yosh and he's injured. You and the others are going
to need Cutter and whoever else is staying here to help you defend
yourselves, in case..."

I lifted the kunoichi uniform from the chair and held it close to my
body. It had been a long time since I last wore it.

I turned and gave Farina a smile. "Don't worry, Farina-san. I was
trained as a kunoichi assassin back in Otakuland." The frown on her
face still remained. I could tell that she was still unconvinced.

I lifted the top of the outfit over my head and pulled it on. Despite
the fact that I hadn't worn it in a while, it fit like a second skin.
I put on the leggings next. They were a bit worn but still good
enough and fitted comfortably. The outfit was completely black, ideal
for the type of sneaking I would be doing. I decided against wearing
the face mask. The thing always made me sneeze at the most
inappropriate times in the past. I started choosing my weapons from
my "collection". Picking up my choices, I placed them in pockets
around my belt and leggings.

My kunoichi outfit probably intrigued Farina. She hadn't spoken a
word while I dressed. On the other hand, it might also be because I
was rarely seen in anything but my kimonos.

I stifled a sigh before it could escape my lips. I didn't want to
show any signs of worry or fear to Farina. That would only give her
leverage to convince me to stay.

"Look," Farina finally said, "I understand what it must feel like to
lose a husband. Mine was killed during a fight with the Ears. I
mourned his loss but I learned to move on." She turned around and
threw her hands up in the air. "We don't even know if he's still
alive, for Urd's sake! For all we know, they could have fed him to
their dolphins or something."

I only had one argument left. I decided to use my trump card.

I stopped my preparations and smiled at Farina. "I know he's still
alive." I placed a hand to my chest. "I can feel it in my heart."

Farina looked at me with a quizzical look in her eyes. She sighed in
exasperation. "You're just too stubborn and I'm getting tired of
arguing with you. I guess I have nothing else to say then, Arashi-
san. Except good luck."

I smiled at her, though she probably won't know the real reason behind
it. I didn't want to go into that sappy shoujo act until it was
absolutely necessary. But I guess it worked anyway since she started
helping me pack up.

And they said I wasn't a good actress back in Otakuland.

******

It took me less than half a day to reach SeaWorld territory. I parked
the Rurouni a short distance from SeaWorld and took out the tarp to
hide it. The tarp was the same color as the sand dunes around the
hovercraft. The whole thing blended in with the surroundings. No one
would notice the covered hovercraft from a distance.

Could the Handlers have spotted Kenishi and his friends when they
first came here? It could have been one of the reasons they were
caught. From what Cutter told us, the Handlers seemed aware of them
escaping. My husband was sloppy like that sometimes.

There was that twinge of guilt again. I felt it as I made my way up a
dune. Ever since Cutter and the others came back without my husband,
I kept asking myself why I didn't go with Kenishi on the first rescue
mission.

I remembered what I had said to him after that meeting. I realized
that all of it was true. Those wounded in our temporary hospital
needed my help. There were just too many of them! I couldn't bear
seeing those people--especially the children--suffering. I felt I had
to stay. And Kenishi understood that.

Or maybe I was too confident in my husband. I had seen him handle
rescue missions before without any setbacks. I had even gone with him
on some. I knew that he could have handled something like that.

On the other hand, I also knew that he would willingly sacrifice
himself if it meant that his companions would be safe. That's one of
the things I loved about him, his selflessness in the heat of battle.
How could I have known that he would sacrifice himself this time?
Maybe because I didn't think he'd need to? Maybe because I thought he
would be smart for a change?

There were too many maybes. I shook my head to clear the confusing
thoughts. But I couldn't shake the feeling that, if I had been there,
I could have stopped him from making the sacrifice. I could at least
have fought with him to keep things from coming to the point where he
had to make the sacrifice. Or I could have been with him in his
capture.

If I had gone with him.

So, was that it? Was I doing this because I felt guilty about not
going with Kenishi? Was I trying to absolve my guilt by going on this
potentially suicidal mission to rescue him, when he could already be
dead anyway?

NO! I had told Farina the truth; I believed he was still alive. I
still believed it. Kenishi wouldn't be that easily killed. My coming
to his rescue would not be for nothing.

I reached a place where I could get a view of the SeaWorld settlement.
I scanned the outside walls, noting entrances and hiding places. I
couldn't make out the inside too much, so I would probably have to
play it by ear once I get past their primary defenses. Not too much
trouble. Settlements like these often had similar layouts, and there
was bound to be a map of some sort inside.

I also noted a possible escape route where I could smuggle Kenishi
out. I didn't know how wounded he was or if he would even be able to
carry himself. I muttered a hope that he could still walk, at least.

The sun had not yet set. I had to wait a few more hours before I can
make my move. A ninja's best weapon was the darkness and I would need
all that I could get.

I returned to where I left the Rurouni, lifted the tarp, and went
inside. I entered our room. I sat on the bed and assumed a lotus
position. I started my meditations, something I always did before a
mission like this.

This time, however, I had a bit of trouble entering a calm state. I
saw scenes in my mind - visions, if you will - of Kenishi being
beaten, tortured, and killed. In every scene I saw, I could almost
hear my name coming from his lips.

I opened my eyes. I stood up and decided to get some tea before
continuing my meditations. I needed to calm my nerves. Worrying
would do neither me nor Kenishi any good.

Still, those scenes had already made me nervous.

******

It was the kind of night that ninjas hated the most: a night with a
full moon. Shadows were too scarce. It was going to be more difficult
than I thought. Slightly more difficult, but I believed that I could
do it.

I watched the sentries marching back and forth atop one of the
observation towers near the walls. The observation tower was placed
such that it looked like another abandoned advertisement pole. I
would have missed it if not for the gleam of moonlight reflected off
one of the Handlers' guns. I noted two sentries there.

I readied my grappling hook. As I prepared to launch it, the words of
my sensei during our training came to mind:

"Make no sound and stick to the shadows. Learn to embrace the shadows
like a second skin around you. And...hey, you! Drop that cigarette
and come over here!"

I blinked. That was a weird recollection. I probably shouldn't have
taken that extra cup of tea before leaving. On the bright side, that
extra tea would help me stay alert during this mission.

I saw my opening and threw my hook, quickly reeling myself in before
the sentry looked my way. Hiding behind a post, I peeked to see if
they caught my movements. No reactions. Good. The old reflexes from
my ninja training were still there. I had thought that all that
traveling in the Rurouni would have made me rusty.

I checked to see if they were looking my way. As soon as they turned
their backs, I ran as fast and as silently as I could and made for
another hiding place. I reached it and blended with the shadows. I
looked at the sentries again. Still no reaction. I couldn't help but
grin. I still got it!

So far, so good. But I had to make sure I didn't get too over-
confident. I moved towards a window I had noted earlier. The room it
led to had a door marked "Main office", meaning that there was
probably a map in it. Luckily, the window did not have any glass,
which made my entry easier.

I entered a room with broken furniture all around and something that
smelled like a dead rat.

I covered my nose at the offending smell. Seems like no one was by
that room in a long time.

I took out my penlight. It emitted a small amount of light, just
enough to help me see but not enough to alert the sentries outside. I
moved the light around the room, taking note of the things inside.

It was a mess! And from the thick layer of dust covering the floor, I
could tell that this room had been unused for a long time. The
Handlers may have salvaged whatever they could from this place, then
left it unused. Funny, I thought there would be someone in their
tribe who was inclined towards housekeeping.

This was no time to be thinking about neatness. I explored the room,
looking for something I could use, preferably a map. I pointed my
light towards one wall.

Ping pong!

A map was framed on the wall. Its glass cover was layered with dust,
but there was a good chance it was a map of the grounds. I moved
closer to it and took out a kunai from my belt. I smashed the glass
covering the map. The glass completely broke after two hits. It made
a noise, but not strong enough to be heard outside.

After removing the bits of glass around it, I removed the map from the
frame. The map was a map of the grounds all right! I thanked Kami for
that piece of luck.

Holding my penlight between my teeth, I fixed the light on the map. It
was dated a little before the Great Wars and Catastrophes, meaning
things were still pretty much the way depicted on the map. I studied
the map, taking note of the main buildings and landmarks. I didn't
know where they could be keeping Kenishi, though. From what I
remembered from Cutter's story, the three otaku they had come to
rescue had been supposedly kept near the dolphin tanks. I found and
marked the three buildings nearest to them on the map. Those three
buildings were my best bets. I started tracing a route from the "You
are Here" sign to the nearest building.

So far, my luck had been good. I only hoped that it continued to stay
that way.

******

I was still in luck. The path I took had a lot of old souvenir stands
and restaurants, making the shadow-hiding stuff easy. So far, I had
already encountered two Handlers going about their own business.
Since they didn't see me hiding inside an old public toilet, I let
them move on. I didn't want to alert them. If I had to fight with
anyone, I had to do it quietly.

I would be fooling myself if I thought I wouldn't have to fight. That
was a given no matter how good a ninja or assassin was.

I did manage to avoid fighting until I was almost to my first target
building. That was the first time I was spotted.

It was mainly due to my own carelessness. I was on a fast walk down
an alleyway when I thought I heard a sound. I instinctively jumped
behind the nearest kiosk to my right.

Behind the kiosk was a Handler heeding the call of nature.

He stared at me for a moment, surprised. Then he shouted, "Hey!"

Then, to my surprise, he tried to close his pants zipper with one hand
and grab for his gun with the other, hindering his movements. That
was a dumb move. A very dumb move.

I moved quickly. Before he could even finish zipping up or drawing
his gun, I had drawn my kodachi, moved behind him, and slit his
throat. The blood flowed like a spray out of his open throat. He
fell down dead without so much as a gasp.

I stopped to slow my heart. After which, I took the cloth from my
belt and wiped my blade clean.

I wondered what reactions Farina and the others would have had if they
had seen me then. They'd probably be shocked that someone as Kasumi-
like as I could kill like Miko Mido.

Normally, I would have preferred to avoid killing anyone. But the
moment I acted, my kunoichi training took over. The old reflexes did
what they were conditioned to do. I didn't regret it, though. The
Handler would have killed me if I had given him the chance.

I was still lucky that time. The Handler was apparently new to all of
this. If he were experienced enough, he would have grabbed for his
gun and fired at me without bothering with his pants first.

I replaced the kodachi in its sheath, still maintaining utmost
silence. The Handler could have a partner waiting for him to get
back. Or someone could have heard his shout earlier. I slowly moved
to the corner of the kiosk and peered around it, scanning the
surroundings.

No one.

I breathed a sigh of relief. It was almost too close. One could
never be too careful in these missions.

I went back to the dead Handler and moved him quickly to a less
obtrusive place. If someone happened to pass by here, they probably
wouldn't notice him. If they did notice him, the pose I arranged
would make it look like he was taking a nap break. Either way, it
would stall them from the discovery for a bit. Maybe the bit of time
it would take to get Kenishi out of here.

Before moving out, I scanned the area again. Still no one around. I
hoped that the remaining way to the building would bear no more
encounters.

I moved.

******

I finally reached the first building where Kenishi could be. Still
hiding, I saw that there were two guards at the door. That was a good
sign. It meant that there was something important inside the building
that needed guarding. The building itself consisted only of two
floors. However, the top floor could be ruled out as a holding
facility since the caved-in roof would prove to be an inconvenience
for that. That left the first floor. From my vantage point, I could
see that one of the windows of the first floor had some light coming
from it. That looked promising. There was definitely someone inside
of it.

When they turned to the other side for a moment, I threw my grappling
hook up the side of the building. It landed in one of the second
floor windows with a slight clang. I crouched in the shadows and
waited to see if they heard the noise.

"Hey, you hear something?" one of the guards asked.

"Must be one of 'em bats 'gain. Just don't mind them, they like to
hang out in the secon' floor," his companion answered.

I released the breath I was unconsciously holding. I hated it when I
made some kind of noise. If my sensei were here to see me now, I
would have gotten an earful for the "sloppy execution" of my stealth
skills. I pushed the device in my palm to reel in the rope and pulled
myself up.

I moved quietly around the second floor. No stairways or holes to the
first floor around here. I moved to the window fronting the building
where the two guards were.

It looked like the only way into the first floor would be through the
front door.

First, I had to take care of the two guards.

I figured that the old poisoned riceball trick would work here. Those
guards appeared to have been standing there for some time. They were
sure to go after something to eat.

I doubt they would go after a riceball, though. And even if they did,
I didn't bring any poisoned ones with me.

The poisoned McDonald's apple pies would probably do.

I took out two of the pies I brought with me. I flung one a little
near the alleyway I earlier hid in. The other pie quickly followed
it. The two made a soft plopping noise when they landed.

"'Ey you 'ear that one?" I tensed as the one standing nearest to the
thrown pies made his move. He cautiously approached the place where I
had thrown the pies.

"What's up, Mel?" His companion was younger and was probably the more
nervous of the two.

The one called Mel spotted the two pies. He picked them up and I saw
a grin plastered on his face. "'Ell, looky here. Seems like 'em
ration keepers done left some extra pies o'er 'ere!" He chuckled and
tossed one of the pies to his partner. The other one caught it and
chuckled too.

"Good, I was getting kind of hungry. You don't reckon they dropped
some canned soda there too?" He opened the package and took a bite.

Mel shook his head. "Naw, weird dat. Musta 'ave been left there by
that new guy, Checkers. 'Eard he was forgetful." He took a bite from
his pies.

Sugoi. They took the bait, like I hoped they would. Those pies were
laced with a strong tranquilizer. I also added in some laxatives to
make it more potent. I wanted to make certain of my distractions. If
they weren't knocked out, they'd be running for the nearest tree.

I waited three minutes for the drug to do its job. When I heard them
snoring peacefully below me, I jumped from my vantage point and landed
near the two sleeping guards. I dragged first one, then the other, to
the side of the alley.

Kami, the one called Mel weighed as much as a Gundam! When I finished
dragging him out of sight into the alleyway, I felt the urge to rest a
while before continuing but I knew that any delay might well mean my
capture. After all of this was over, I would definitely get myself a
hot bath and some sake! I left the two in the alley and went to the
front door. I unsheathed my kodachi and opened the door.

Rolling forward, I entered the building, all my senses on full alert.
I didn't know what to expect inside. It was best to be careful.

I found myself in a hallway lit by four lanterns hanging in the walls.
There were four doors, two on each side of the hallway. I closed the
entrance door behind me and tried the nearest door.

It was unlocked. I opened it and looked inside. Judging from the
harpoon guns and boxes of ammunition inside, this was probably an
armory. No one was inside, fortunately, so I closed the door and
tried the others.

The other two doors were similarly unlocked. I wondered what kind of
security these Handlers thought they had with only two people guarding
this building. And it wasn't a very unimportant building, too. One of
the two rooms held their medical supplies and the other one was their
radio communications room. It was kind of stupid of the Handlers to
leave them with minimal security. No one was in any of those rooms.

I thought about placing one of the small dynamite sticks I brought in
the armory and igniting it before I left. If I set a fuse on it, it
might provide a distraction for my escape later. I wished I had
brought a remote controlled charge with me. If I had, then I could
set the explosion off whenever I wanted to rather than depend on the
timing of a fuse.

Well, first of all, I had to get my husband out of here.

The farthest door was the only one I hadn't checked. When I went over
to it and tried the knob, I found that it was also the only one
locked. That was a good sign. Maybe Ken was being held here.

Or maybe not.

I placed an ear to the door. I could hear some movement inside, but
couldn't make out anything. At least there weren't loud noises. That
would have meant there were more than one person inside.

I took out my lock pick. It had been a while since I last picked a
lock and, judging on how long it took me to open that door, I was a
bit out of practice. The door opened, though, and I returned my lock
pick to its compartment under my belt. I opened the door and entered.

It was dark inside. Only a small window allowed the moonlight to enter
the room. But I could make out a man sleeping in a bed in one corner
of the room. Unfortunately, he had his back turned to me, so I
couldn't be sure if it was Kenishi. I moved closer to examine him.

"Ken-chan?" I spoke up.

That was when I heard the man snoring. Kenishi never snored.

Worse yet, the man woke. His eyes instantly opened at the sound of my
voice. Worse still, he was alert in no time and apparently had no
trouble seeing in the dark, judging from the way he scowled when his
eyes focused on me.

"Who are you?" he growled as he stood up quickly.

I was taken by surprise at his sudden awakening. As it happened, I
stepped back and tripped, falling on my behind. Ow! I rubbed my sore
bottom and grimaced.

The man saw this and, from what I could make out in the moonlight,
smirked. "Well, lookee what we have here." He studied me sitting
before him. "The gods of the waters must have heard my prayers. Or
else, those guards thought to bribe me with a gal." The man was huge
and from the way he sounded, could be someone higher up among the
Handlers. Ha took a step forward. "Don't know where you came from,
girl, but you're guite the looker. Now, come here. I haven't bedded
a gal in ages." He advanced closer towards me, licking his lips. I
could practically sense his lust. Looking at him, I recalled those
ecchi villains in those hentai films from Kenishi's stash.

Unfortunately for my would-be-rapist, this was one gal who didn't act
like a nubile hentai anime girl.

I laid down and executed a flip that brought me to my feet. The man
was obviously surprised by this. He probably thought I was a
scavenger girl brought in by his guards and an easy prey. He was dead
wrong.

I drew two ninja stars from under my belt and threw them at him. One
hit him at the right wrist; the other lodged itself in his left
shoulder. He screamed in pain and cursed. Those two injuries would
hinder him from getting or using a weapon.

I unsheathed my kodachi. The man gasped when he saw the exposed
blade. He backed slightly, but I didn't give him any more chance to
escape. I jumped and flipped over him. Landing behind him, I grabbed
his left arm and twisted it behind his back. He yowled in pain but
stopped squealing when I brought the blade of my kodachi to his neck.

"Don't be so stupid as to think I wouldn't do it," I hissed at his
ear. I increased the pressure on his arm, my hand-to-hand training
giving me some advantage over his bulk. He flinched slightly when I
pressed the blade closer to his neck. However, he did keep quiet.

"The otaku you captured. Where is he being kept?" I asked him, still
not letting him go. Kami, I wished he'd answer fast. I wanted to
release him soon. The stench of his sweat and other smells I couldn't
identify were making me nauseous.

"W-what?" he stammered, then tensed when I pressed the blade close
enough to draw a thin line of blood. "Okay, o-okay. Y-you're talking
about that g-guy with the eyepatch, right? H-he's held in the
building near here. T-the one with the r-red roof." He gulped
loudly. "P-please let me go. I h-have a wife and t-two kids!"

He was lying about the wife and kids, I could tell that much. But his
information on where I could find Kenishi was the best I had to go on.
I twisted his arm more then pushed him to the side. He crumpled into a
heap in the corner.

I kept my eye on him warily. He looked really scared and was
shivering. A small puddle had formed beneath him. If this guy was a
leader like I thought he was, he was pretty pitiful. He was too
pathetic, I didn't want to waste the effort of killing him.

Unfortunately, he had other plans. When he saw that I had sheathed my
kodachi halfway, his face formed a frown and he yelled "Bitch!" before
lunging in with a taser in his hand.

A slice across his neck and a kunai to his chest ended his wretched
existence.

I cleaned my kodachi blade but decided against retrieving my shurikens
and kunai. They probably reeked of the Handler's bodily fluids by
now.

Worse yet, my clothes would probably smell of his stink for being near
him. When this mission was finished, I'm going to have these things
disinfected.

I left the room and proceeded to go to the ammunitions room. I needed
a diversion if I was going to break Kenishi out of his holding cell.

******

The building with a red roof. I could have killed the Handler twice
for leading me like that.

I hid in a tree across the street where I first saw a red roof.
Trouble was, there were three buildings there with red roofs. I
looked at the map I took from the office. The second building I had
encircled on the map was across the street. Apparently, the symbol on
the map stood for those three buildings.

I muttered something I rarely said outside of a mission. A curse.

"Kami fudge it!"

There, that felt a little better. But it still didn't give me any
ideas on which building contained Kenishi. Despite my luck so far, I
didn't want to walk into a building and accidentally wander into a
barracks. One accidental mistake was enough.

I heard an explosion back from the direction I came from. The fuse I
left in the armory had already ignited and created a large explosion.
The explosion lit up the night sky like a fireworks show during the
May festival in Otakuland. As I expected, the Handlers would be in a
state of confusion because of it.

I saw several of the Handlers leaving the three buildings across the
street. A lot of them, actually, though there were noticeably fewer
people coming from the building in the middle. When I saw the number
of people coming out, I thanked my training that I didn't barge into
any of them without first setting up my distraction.

Two Handlers ran close by the tree I was hiding in. I didn't pay much
attention until I caught what one of them was saying...

"...about the otaku? Shouldn't we leave someone to guard him?"

"Tank's there. No one's going to be busting him loose tonight anyway.
Now, come on! They say the fire's spreading to the food supply!" his
companion replied as they hurried past.

The two had come from the middle building. That was probably where
they were keeping Kenishi.

I waited until I was sure no more Handlers would be leaving the
buildings. I jumped down the tree and looked around. From this
distance, I could judge from the thick smoke that the fire was
spreading. I quickly ran to the middle building and entered it,
kodachi in hand. No one was around in the first floor. Even if there
was no one around here, that Handler mentioned someone named Tank
guarding Kenishi, so I still stayed alert.

I heard movement in the basement downstairs. Bingo. I took out a
smoke bomb and lobbed it down the stairs leading to the basement.

"The hell!?!" I heard a voice shout as the bomb released its load.
Then there was coughing and a thud. I covered my mouth and nose with
a face mask and proceeded down to the basement.

The smoke was already starting to thin as I made my way downwards.
The smoke bomb included sleeping gas enough to knock out a single
person. I peered through the dissipating smoke to make out the
unconscious guard.

It was a woman? Well, well, well. What a surprise. I hadn't thought
that "Tank" was female. Still, it wasn't any of my concern. I made
my way to the door she was guarding. It was locked.

I got Tank's keys from her pocket and unlocked the door. It was a
cell with only one window to allow the moonlight in. Kenishi was
sprawled on his stomach on the floor.

"Kenishi!" I shouted, surprised by some new scars on his back and
arms. Those degenerates had tortured him! I kept back the tears that
threatened to erupt from my eyes.

Kenishi opened his eyes and blinked in my direction. He smiled weakly
and rolled on his back. He tried to sit up.

"Kuso! Those guys hit me harder than I thought. Now I'm hallucinating
that my wife is here," he said with a weak chuckle.

My poor Kenishi! I rushed to his side and helped him to sit up
straighter. "No, Ken, I'm really here! Please tell me you're okay!
Please!" I pleaded to him as I cradled his head in my arms. I felt the
tears starting to form in my eyes.

Kenishi blinked. He tried to focus more clearly. "Rashi?" I nodded,
tears starting to fall. He held out a hand and touched my face.
Using a finger, he wiped away a tear from my eye. "It's you! It's
really you! Aww, hon! Don't cry like that! You know I hate it when
you cry!" He moved his face closer to mine and kissed me.

All the worries, all the fears and anxieties I had, all disappeared in
that kiss. I could feel his love, his hope and faith replenishing my
energy. For that one moment, we were alone in that cell. I felt as
if the Handlers and everyone else were miles away. It was only me and
Kenishi. I felt that the past few hours had all been worth it. Kami-
sama, it had been worth it!

We reluctantly broke the kiss. I looked at his face and saw him smile
weakly.

"My Goddess! Are you ever a sight for sore eye!" He grinned at me. I
returned the smile back. I managed a small laugh.

"Do you think you can walk?" I asked him, unsure of his condition at
that time.

"Don't see that I have much choice if we're going to make it out of
this." He started to stand up, then collapsed. I tried to catch him,
but his weight pulled me down so that I was lying over him.

"Hey, hey, Rashi! I know you're glad to see me, but we better not
give the Handlers an idea of how much we love each other," he joked.

I blushed and smacked him once in the head without thinking. He
grimaced and rubbed his head. "Ara, I'm sorry. Did that hurt?" I
asked, genuinely concerned. He looked up and chuckled mischievously.
I hit him again. "Baka! Hmph, serves you right!" I scolded, though
relieved that he was joking around. I couldn't help it. I finally
smiled.

"Here!" I tossed him a bottle of painkillers. "Take some. It will
help lessen some of the pain." He opened the bottle and dry-swallowed
two pills. "I don't have anything to put on your wounds for now,
though. You'll have to wait for when we get to the Rurouni."

"I can make it. I already feel my strength returning," he replied,
getting to his feet. He succeeded that time.

I handed him one of the pistols I had taken from the Handlers' armory.
He checked it, then gave me a thumbs-up sign.

I realized that I had used the word "when", not "if". No doubts about
it. We were going to make it out.

******

Getting out of SeaWorld turned out to be easier than getting in.

Immediately after leaving Kenishi's prison, I set explosives at two of
the generators behind the three buildings. The charges were set to
explode a few minutes after we were well on our way. They would
provide us with another distraction.

We took the other route back to the main gates. This was both to
avoid the first fire and any Handler that went there. We heard the
charges we set go off halfway to the exit. The other distraction we
placed was in full blast. From a distance, we could see the thick
smoke coming from the burning buildings.

Despite being injured, Kenishi managed to keep up. He limped a bit
and was perspiring profusely. But otherwise, he appeared fine.

"Must be that kiss you gave me. I feel stronger by the minute," he
whispered as we hid behind some bushes to avoid two Handlers rushing
towards the second fire.

I just smiled at him, then motioned for us to get going when the
Handlers passed.

Surprisingly, the only resistance we encountered was when we reached
the gates. There were three sentries. Kenishi managed to hit one in
the shoulder. The other two fell after my shurikens connected with
their body. We hurried out of SeaWorld, straight towards the
hovercraft.

Kind of anti-climatic, actually, when you consider all the trouble I
had to go through to get in and find Kenishi.

The inside of the hovercraft was never a more welcome sight. After
taking off the tarp and leaving Kenishi to rest in the bedroom, I
drove the Rurouni away from SeaWorld. Once we were safely away from
SeaWorld, I hurried to the supply room to get bandages and medicine
for Kenishi.

He kept chuckling while I was dressing his wounds.

"What's the matter?" I asked, tying the last bandage. "What's so
funny?"

Kenishi tried to stop his laughter. He shook his head. "Nothing,
really. I just found it funny that I was rescued by my megami again."
He winked.

I blushed at that, smiled and proceeded to return the remaining
bandages to the medikit. As I stood up, Kenishi grabbed my arm.

"Hey, don't stand yet," he said, gently pulling me down next to him on
the bed. He brought me closer for a kiss. I kissed back. All other
thoughts were lost in the moment.

I broke the kiss. "Come on, Ken-chan. Your injuries might hurt more,"
I teased him. I could tell that he was feeling a little uncomfortable
right now. For more than one reason.

He grinned. "I just need your loving touch to heal them, Arashi." He
brought me closer for a hug. "You know what?" he whispered to my ear.
"I forgot how sexy you look in your kunoichi costume."

One thing I liked about Kenishi: he knew how to compliment me.

"Like I said..." he started to say.

I shut him up with another kiss.

******

"Arashi-san, are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine, Farina-san," I answered back through the radio.

"I never would have believed it if I didn't hear from you or Kenishi!"
Farina said. "I was surprised to hear you pulled off the mission!
You wouldn't believe Youji's reaction. He couldn't speak for a full
eight minutes!"

I chuckled. Behind me, Kenishi also laughed and placed a hand on my
shoulder. I grasped his hand with mine and squeezed it. I looked
back at him. "You can tell him that we're both okay. How are the
others doing?"

"Good. Yosh and the others are doing fine." Farina paused on the
other side. "Wait a minute, Youji's here. He says he has something
to tell you guys." We heard the sound of the radio being passed.

"Hello, Arashi-san?" Youji's voice came through.

"Konnichiwa, Youji-san," I replied. "What is it?"

"We have received reports from the other radio that a girl in a sailor
fuku was seen wandering near Fort Lott-ErDale. Since you're near that
area, mind checking it out?"

"I don't see why not, Youji-san," I answered.

Kenishi piped in, "Sure, Youji. We'll get on it."

"Glad to hear that. I'm signing off." The radio connection closed.

I turned the seat around. "Looks like we're off on another mission.
Are you sure your wounds are healed enough, Ken?"

Kenishi flexed his right arm. "Hehe, does this look like someone
who's not okay? Come on, Rashi! My wounds are fine already! Your
healing touch is sugoi!"

I laughed. Kenishi continued, "Well, anyway, we'll get through it."
He paused as he looked at me. His eyes conveyed more meaning between
us than words could have. "As long as we're together."

"As long as we're together," I repeated.

"I have to check the something. Be back in a while." He blew me a
kiss and went to the back.

I saw the radio controls flashing. There was someone calling.

"Hello? Who is this? How did you get this number?" I said to the new
caller.

"Arashi? It's me, Vixen. I'm calling from a Role Player village," came
the voice from the other side.

I smiled. Our lives just kept getting full of surprises. We never
knew what was going to happen next.

"Ara! Vixen! Kenishi, dear!" I called to the back. "It's the
Hiroshimas!"

Knowing Strike Team Theta's mission, it was probably more trouble. Or
maybe it would be wonderful news for a change.

But whatever happened, we can get through it... as long as we two are
together.

[THE END, for now...]
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