"Hmm…let's see now. Is it a right, then left? Or should we have gone left by that tree back there?"
Keena tried to snatch the map from Bard. "I don't think you're reading it right! Let me do it!"
He held it out of her reach. "Now now. I've dated enough women to know that they've nary a sense of direction. After all, my job as alpha male is to take care of everything while you two do nothing, look pretty, and be comfortable."
"No sense of -- ! Let's see you try to find your head when I knock it off of your shoulders!"
Bard retracted the map and began tapping Keena's head with it. "No, foxy. Down, girl."
Keena's face became flushed in scarlet. "YOU SON OF A B -- !"
Rei took the map from Bard shoved him backward. "Will you two stop arguing? You're both about as bad as siblings."
Keena stopped for a moment. "…you have siblings, too?"
"No. Glad I don't, after putting up with you two."
Keena took a deep breath and began to cool down. "Sorry. I just wish mister 'Alpha Male' would admit that he doesn't know what he's doing, and that we are lost."
"Of course we aren't lost. I know exactly where we are. Titansburg is only two miles away."
Rei glared at him. "I thought we decided we weren't going through cities!"
"Well Rei, we have to have proper nourishment. Hot water and some wild vegetables aren't going to tie us over long. As another point to add, I know you two are probably wanting to bathe~♪."
Keena rolled her eyes. "I suppose I can't say no to any of that, but you do understand the dangers we face, right? We can't just go into a town. As soon as we're spotted, militias will have us swarmed. Last I checked we've been harboring a wanted criminal. No offense, Rei."
"I honestly don't care what you refer me as. But I do care that we need to start walking AROUND the town, not THROUGH it."
"I am well aware of everything that has been going on. Which is why I took the liberty to patch this up!"
He reached into Rei's bag and pulled out several articles of clothing.
"Wha-? How did that get in there?"
"Sorry Rei. I put them in there while you two were asleep. But with a change of appearance, maybe we can avoid drawing attention."
"Where in the world did you get the material to make those?" Keena asked.
"From the cabin of that truck. They were shoved behind the seat. I just trimmed them to fit Rei. Or at least I hope I did."
"That's a nice idea, Bard, but I'm not changing in front of you."
He laughed. "I knew you'd say that. The woods should provide plenty of cover. Just meet us here when you get changed."
"I noticed you'd taken those awful logos off of this thing." Rei said as she met back up with them.
"I figured you would prefer I did. And I don't think advertising Magnum Chaos was going to keep us under the radar any more than you being undisguised."
"Nice thinking." She said. She put on a long coat that stretched almost to the ground and pulled back her ponytail.
Bard frowned. "Take the coat back off."
Rei obeyed. "Is it not convincing enough?"
"The coat is, but your ponytail is a different story. Take your hair down."
"What's wrong with my hair?"
"That's what you're most recognizable feature is. Take it down."
"I don't want to."
Keena huffed. "Rei, he's right. This whole thing is pointless if you don't listen. The ponytail has to go."
Rei sighed. She hesitantly pulled the band from her hair and let it flow freely.
"Now put the coat back on, and this time leave your hair underneath it."
Rei put the coat back on, and then her HYD-00-IX. Then Bard shoved a cap on her head.
"Hey, what gives?" She said.
"It'll help keep your face shaded a bit."
"Whatever. I still don't understand why we are doing this. I object."
"Rei, we need proper rest and nourishment. You can't save your parents running on fumes."
Rei huffed. "Fine. If it'll appease you, then just…fine. Let's get this over with."
As the trio entered Titansburg, Rei was surprised at how little strangers were paying attention to her. Bard or Keena weren't attracting looks either. Overall the town of Titansburg seemed to be a small town of lower class citizens trying to make it through life. Rei noticed a couple soldiers clad in armor, but they looked bored and weren't paying much attentions to their surroundings. This was immediately clear when four were seated around a barrel playing cards.
"Ok, Bard. Since this was your stupid idea, what do you -- ."
Rei looked around. She looked at Keena. "Where did he go?"
She shrugged. "I just noticed he was missing…"
As if on cue, Bard was running up to them. "Lodging is taken care of~♪."
Keena rolled her eyes. "Next time tell us where you're going before you slip off."
He ignored her. "Despite the appearance of the town, the motel has complementary meals, and it's not half bad. On top of that it gets us off the streets out of sight."
Rei pondered. "If it gets us out of town quicker, then I'm ready to eat and go to sleep."
Bard led them to the lodging he had mentioned. Inside the room there was already a few trays of food.
"If it doesn't hurt your feelings, I'll be in the next room." He said, grabbing a sandwich while walking toward the door.
"Not at all." Keena said.
Rei simply waved, her mouth already full of food.
Bard laid his cloak across the foot of his bed. White, semi-wild hair was pulled back into a small ponytail of his own, that fell just below his shoulders. He scratched the sides of his head and laid down. As he closed his eyes and fell asleep, his consciousness shifted elsewhere.
"Brother, what's happening?"
"Don't worry, sis. It's all under control." He said. His hand rested on a familiar katana, that once belonged to his fallen master. "They chased him into the cavern over there. I was told to stay outside and keep anyone else from entering."
"You've always wanted to do this yourself. And you're sitting on the sidelines?"
"I know sis. I want to, but I made an oath to Master Arcan. I intend to keep that promise. They have the number advantage anyway. As long as he is brought to justice for his sins against our families, then I'll be content whether I slay him personally or not."
"All you ever talked about for years was vengeance. After you told me what happened to Arcan and the others I was happy to fight alongside you. Just because you give up doesn't mean I will. I'm going in after him."
"It's far too dangerous. And you're right. All I cared about was revenge. But the soldiers that cornered him in that cave won't let me get involved. They kind of remind me of Arcan. They said that I should let go of my anger and hate. The more I think about it it was like what Master Arcan used to say. 'Do not let negative emotions force your hand. Rash actions can lead to fatal mistakes and can be your undoing'."
"His presence is a severe threat and needs to be dealt with, yes. But it's not our place, at least not yet. I'm sure some --"
Three figures had emerged from the mouth of the cavern.
"What word? Has he --"
"He has been dealt with. No need to worry any longer. Should he remain undisturbed, he shall sleep for an eternity."
"You mean he isn't dead?"
"Calm down sis. Listen."
"I'm not calm? Unlike you, I understand the severity of the situation. Why would you give him any probable chance to destroy everything again?"
"Just listen for one second. Arcan had always --"
"Stop it! All I ever hear from you is 'Arcan, Arcan, Arcan'! Neither of you ever let me speak or do anything for myself. I'm not a defenseless little girl!"
"Sis, we never said you were. We were just concerned --"
"Well stop being concerned! You aren't Arcan, so stop acting like him! With or without your permission I'm going in to end this properly."
He stepped in front of her. "No. I won't let you pass."
"Ugh! Why do you have to be such a soft stick-in-the-mud who's always too afraid to bear his fangs! Until you want to stand up for what you know is right and let anyone tell you otherwise I don't want to ever see you again!"
"Now just hold on a minute!"
"I'm not holding on to anything anymore! Especially not a wimpy little know-it-all like you!"
"Just listen to me!"
"No! I hate you!"
With those words, she ran off.
"Stop! Don't! Just…listen…please…"
One of the soldiers spoke. "She lacks restraint. She simply believes you're not giving her enough freedom and dislikes the thought of being overshadowed by her older brother. If she cannot be taught by others, then she must learn herself or suffer."
"Don't say that!"
"I speak the truth. She compared you to your former master presumably because she never liked his methods of teaching. From the looks of things, he taught patiently. That was demonstrated by yourself. She wanted to rush into things dangerously without thought. She simply feels no one is letting her do as she wishes. One as rash as herself can only learn the value of patience through life lessons."
"…I understand. What will happen to…him?"
"We will move the body elsewhere, somewhere that he cannot regenerate."
"…and what about the --"
"We already have made plans for that. No need to worry."
"Tell me this: why DID you let him live?"
"When he spoke to us, we learned that he was not fully alien, but was in fact a human merged with the generic material of various aliens. His mind was under the influence of strong mithril substances. I did not feel that death right now was justified. We managed to separate his mind and body from these ill effects. But they will never be truly gone. If he breaks free of the prison we have placed him within and reunites with all of his power again, then history may soon repeat. For now, this is farewell."
"…thank you. My people and the rest of the human race can now rest in peace. I swear by my Master's sword on my side I will help exterminate any remaining alien threat."
He blinked. "Can you repeat that?"
Bard awoke suddenly. There was heavy knocking. Keena's voice called from the other side.
"Come on, get up and open the door!"
Bard quickly arose and donned his cloak. "I'm awake, what is it?"
"Rei needs help. That Hunter guy showed up in the middle of the night and broke the door down. How you slept through it I'll never know. But I intervened and let her escape but then he ignored me and ran after her. I don't know how much time we have left, so let's go!"
Bard secured his lute, unlocked the door and ran outside with Keena. Police lights and sirens were everywhere.
"We have you surrounded! Drop your weapons!"
A familiar voice yelled out from somewhere.
"Ah, screw you. Take this bullshit somewhere else, I've got work to do!"
An RPG-31 rocket flew out of nowhere. It collided with a police cruiser and it exploded. Surrounding cruisers also exploded.
Military soldiers were running toward the explosion.
"Call the base, we need backup now!"
Keena grabbed Bard's hand and started tugging. "We need to find Rei, now!"
A bead of sweat rolled down the side of Rei's face. She tried to keep her breathing light. She held her knees to her chest. As every second passed she wanted to open the door and leave the security of her closet, but she knew Hunter could also be nearby and spot her. She didn't know what to do. Suddenly, she heard footsteps. She nearly had to hold her breath entirely. Was it him? Had he found her? Or was it someone else? The footsteps passed and then faded. Rei exhaled and relaxed.
A fire axe smashed a hole through the front of the door.
Rei quickly picked up her Trinity that she had earlier laid beside her and loosed an arrow.
The arrow didn't pierce, but it still exploded on contact with his armored helmet. Rei kicked the door open and ran.
"You little bitch, you're gonna pay for that!"
Rei turned, narrowly avoiding an R700 shot. She ran until she hit a dead end. There was a door to the left, but the handle was broken off, and it wouldn't push open. She was trapped.
"Well, well, looks like the little birdy can't fly away."
Hunter was now facing her. He held his rifle up. Rei's armor engaged and she wrapped her fingers around the string of her bow.
"Don't even raise your weapon. The moment you draw an arrow is the moment I pull the trigger. Not that I'm going to wait anyway. Tell Satan I said hi and that he's next."
The door Rei had tried earlier flew open, smacking into Hunter. His shot flew off in the distance.
"…I guess this makes us even, Keena. One second slower and Hunter would have fried me."
"What? He's right here?!"
"Ah, there you are, milady. My deepest apologies, but --"
"Apologize later, Bard, let's move!" Rei said, and shoved him through the door.
The three of them ran until more cruisers pulled up.
"Stop! Get on your knees and put your hands behind your head!" They shouted. Their guns were aimed straight toward Rei.
"You too! Drop your rifle now!"
A voice spoke from behind them. "I only take orders from my trigger finger. Now shut up and let me conduct my business."
Rei and the party turned. Hunter had already caught up with them, and his R700 was aimed at Rei. She reached behind her.
"Don't pull one weapon. I'd hate for the police to see you turned into a pool of blood."
Rei closed her eyes. "Who said I was pulling a weapon?"
Hunter never let down, but appeared puzzled. "Then just what are you planning?"
"Something Dad would think of."
Rei pulled a sock from her pack and began to rub it through her hair.
Hunter laughed. "That's cute, but I don't have time for circus tricks."
Rei threw the sock at Hunter. It stuck to the front of his chest plate.
"What the --?"
Rei quickly turned toward the soldiers and policeman and yelled:
"Twenty-three nineteen! We have a twenty-three nineteen!"
Policemen and soldier alike rushed forward. They ignored Rei completely and began to dog-pile Hunter.
"Twenty-three nineteen!" They all cried as they dove on him.
"Keena! Bard! Let's go!" Rei began to sprint toward the nearest exit from the town.
Visit Titansburg, almost get arrested and almost get killed by Hunter. I'm getting tired of this crap.