It all happens in a flash. Arms catch me and I slow abruptly, then stop completely. I gasp, eyes flying wide, and see Kougami. His face is twisted in pain in the dim blue lighting. I glance around, finding us on the ground. The girl is behind him, having had to support him so he could catch me. I scramble from his lap and back up into a wall. Kougami groans, getting to his feet.
"A-are you okay?" I stammer, mortified. I seriously just screwed up! I could've died!
"I won't be able to sit on my ass for some time," he states, helping the girl up, "but I'm fine."
Finally, I get a good look at the girl's face. "Yuki?"
She blinks, kneeling down by me. "That's me."
"W-we went to school together," I remind her, having to force out my words.
"Oh, you do look a bit familiar," she realizes, her eyes lighting up. "Kougami, hand me one of those chemical lights." She holds what looks like a glowstick up to my face, nodding.
"Hey." I look up at Kougami. "Why were you falling? Do you remember anything before coming here?" I hesitate. Of course he'd ask me that.
"I got home from work and collapsed," I lie. "I was so tired I didn't even change." All I can do is hope my story matches up with Yuki's. If we were both supposedly kidnapped in the same way, he'll think there's a meaning behind it. He appears to think before offering me his hand to help me up.
"Come on, we have to keep moving." I accept his assistance without asking why. I do not want to meet with one of those robotic beasts while they're hunting. A glint on the ceiling above us reveals a platform covered in spikes, ready to fall. I let out a yelp and jump back, causing the others to notice it, too. "They've got some weird traps," he notes.
"Who's they?" I probe.
Before he can answer, Yuki exclaims, "Look! It's like the bag from before!" She grabs it off the podium before either of us can stop her. We all jolt when an alarm begins blaring. Without a word, Kougami takes our hands and takes off sprinting. I do my best to keep up, despite my shaking. Any sign of fatigue has long vanished. As we run, one of the dogs pounces from behind. Yuki screeches, and we veer around a corner. Her breathing is already coming hard.
Those machines won't differentiate me from their actual targets. They'll just as soon tear out my entrails as bite off Kougami's head.
A gunshot startles me and we make another turn, Kougami cursing. A second causes me to flinch, and a pain shoots through my left side. I clench my teeth and bare through it, although I nearly miss my next step. I can't slow down, we can't afford to stumble.
After a while, we stop to rest and hide. Kougami and Yuki begin a conversation about about being the foxes of the hunt while I examine my side. I roll up my shirt to see my injury, gagging when I catch sight of a half-circle indent in my skin. Blood oozes from it, running down my side. I'm lucky it didn't hit me anywhere serious, but a bullet wound is a bullet wound, and it hurts!
"You've been shot!" Yuki notices. Now I have both of their attentions. Kougami goes to rip his shirt to make a bandage, but I stop him.
"Take care of yourself," I direct him, tearing my jeans. I didn't miss that he got hit with the first shot. We both tend to out wounds, tying cloth around ourselves to staunch the bleeding. I'm still in the middle of making a knot when Kougami flattens against the wall, covering Yuki's mouth. I follow his lead without wavering, freezing and holding my breath. Overhead, one of the beasts scans the area for us. Missing our location entirely, it turns to leave.
Kougami motions for the bag Yuki had picked up earlier, and she hands it to him. From it, he removes the device I'd seen Shogo tinkering with earlier.
"It's a portable transponder," he informs us. "We can use it even if they're blocking the signal."
Hope colors Yuki's expression. "So we can-"
"Yes, if we had the battery and antennae." And as quickly as the hope had come, it fades. Well, I know exactly where to find the antennae, but I can't exactly tell them, can I? I have to pray that one of them figures it out.
"Stay here," Kougami instructs. "I'll go and cause a distraction."
"What are you doing?" Yuki and I cry in sync.
"We don't stand a chance against two of those things. I have to take one out." Is he insane? Although I say that, what he says makes perfect sense. Then Kougami is gone. What ensues is clashing, crashing, and bullets. Yuki and I huddle together, worried for his safety. Shogo wouldn't kill off a new toy so soon. I have to trust that.
We jerk when he suddenly returns, and we bolt to our feet. He slips something into the transponder as we dash. He found the battery. The words to tell him about the antennae are on the tip of my tongue, but I can't let them out. I assume he managed to somehow get rid of one of the dogs, otherwise he wouldn't have come back.
"I can't run anymore!" Yuki gasps. We skid to a stop and I collect as much oxygen in my lungs as I can. "Don't stay silent, Mr. Kougami! You're kind of creepy when you do that!"
"Sorry, I was thinking. I know why you're here. You were the bait to get me down here. But what about you?" He's referring to me.
"How should I know?" I huff. "But aren't we slowing you down? Maybe we're here so that you don't make a run for it." I've been thinking for a while, and I'm convinced that is indeed the reason Shogo kept Yuki alive.
"Damn it!" I turn to Yuki in surprise. "I'm just a pawn in all of this, aren't I? You two could probably keep running, but here I am making us rest. You should just go! Leave me!"
"That's not happening," I snap.
"I don't think this is a one sided hunt," Kougami voices, inspecting the transponder. "With this, they're giving us a chance to win. They're testing me, and staying with you has something to do with it." He pauses. "Yuki, take off your clothes."
I breathe an internal sigh of relief. He figured it out! How, I'm not sure, but it doesn't really matter. I'm just glad he did.
"Do what he says, Yuki." Reluctantly, she strips. It takes a bit of convincing, but soon enough we have our antennae. Kougami immediately calls for backup. While we wait, we stalk in the shadows. It's probably best if I slip away before the MWPSB gets here, but for now, the safest place that I can get to is by Kougami. Perhaps if I approached Mr. Senguji it'd be better, but I can't guarantee he wont shoot me before seeing who I am.
Kougami motions for us to stay, before he runs out into the line of fire. For a moment I'm confused, but then I see a glowing machine rolling towards him. A metal beast attacks it before it can get to Kougami, but he slides and grabs something from it. Then I see that it's a dominator. I almost cheer out loud. He barely manages to avoid the dog before shooting it, blowing it to bits of scrap metal.
My heart is racing. He's going to do it! He's going to win Shogo's game! With both of the metal dogs disposed of, the fight it finally even. Man verses man, each with their own respective weapon. Yuki and I might just make it out without any more injuries. But this is still dangerous. These two men are trying to kill each other.
I cover Yuki's eyes when I see the dominator change to the lethal eliminator. She in turn buries her head in my shoulder, tightly grasping my arm. I don't look away in time, and see Mr. Senguji's arm explode. It's not as bad as it would've been had he not been almost entirely metal, but it's gruesome to witness anyhow. Then Kougami is shot and pushed out of sight. Mr. Senguji follows and I scowl.
"Come on, Yuki. We can't loose track of where they are, or we might end up in between them." She nods slightly and we begin to move. I make sure we're both low to the ground, but we need to move as fast as we can. I follow Mr. Senguji, keeping our distance and hiding appropriately. We move up a ramp just as he rounds a corner. To avoid being seen, I yank Yuki quickly behind cover. Unfortunately, I knock into a barrel and send it tumbling.
Crap, there's no way he didn't notice that! I slow my breathing, collecting my thoughts. There's nowhere for me to go at this point, but it isn't me Mr. Senguji is hunting for, and I doubt it's Yuki. His aim is for Kougami, so there's the possibility he won't shoot.
He jumps around the barrel and aims his gun directly at out heads, causing us both to start, but he doesn't fire. I release the breath I'd been holding. I was right, he won't shoot me.
And then a gun goes off. Mr. Senguji turns around just in time to be hit with the dominator. The last thing he does before exploding is smile, which sends shivers throughout my body. I reach to Yuki to shield her, but I'm not fast enough. The entire back half of his cyborg body is blown off, and he collapses right in front of us.
Yuki leaps to her feet, going over to gaze at the mechanical body. "We did it! We beat that monster! Mr. Kougami!" When she says his name, panic enters her voice. I get up and join her, seeing him collapsed on the floor and covered in blood. Oh my god! Just how many times did he get shot?
We rush over to him as he gets to his hands and knees. "I'm sorry this was all I could do," he apologizes. "As soon as you two are out of here, get treatment immediately. You both saw way too many things. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you from that."
"No, you were amazing!" Yuki expresses, a smile on her face. I gaze at her in amazement. Wow, she's a strong girl. Most people can't go through something like this and genuinely smile so soon after. After she says this, he seems to black out.
All of a sudden, Yuki is jerked backwards and I hear the clank of metal. I whirl around to see Shogo, handcuffing Yuki.
"Stop it!" she screams. To me, she yells, "Get out of here, go!"
Shogo looks over at me, a slight worry in his eyes. "Are you alright? Were you hurt at all?"
"I got shot in the side, but I'm fine," I guarantee. Yuki studies me, obviously baffled under her terror. Kougami shifts, drawing our attention back to him
"I would love to stay here with you and talk the whole night through," Shogo says, addressing him, "but since you don't seem in proper shape for that, I'll see you again soon." Despite the situation, I almost snicker. He made his words rhyme on purpose.
"Let me go!" Yuki demands as he pulls her away. "Mr. Kougami! Help!"
I place a hand on her back as we walk. "He can't do anything, Yuki. He's in too bad a shape."
"Why aren't you running? Don't worry about me and get out of here!" I smile at her sadly, causing her to suddenly realize, "Wait, don't tell me you working with this guy!"
"I'm sorry," is all I say. She bursts into tears and I avert my gaze. No, I'm not proud of letting this happen, but at the same time I don't want to defy Shogo. Despite his methods, I also believe that Sybil needs to be taken down, and that's not going to happen with peaceful protests. I just regret Yuki had to be caught up in all of this.
"I promise you, you'll get to see Akane again," I tell her. "Right Shogo?" I say the last bit pointedly, prompting him to say yes.
" She will," he smirks.
She looks to me in desperation. "Please, Esther, help me!"
"I didn't think you remembered my name."
"Somebody help!" she cries. "Please, Somebody!"
I can't raise my head. I don't want to see her tears, or that horror that lies in her features. Remember, this is all because of Sybil. Sybil needs to see that it isn't perfect, and that we won't let it control our lives. No, I don't think Yuki will make it out of this, but if heaven exists, at least that's where she'll be. I'm sorry, Yuki, for having you get involved. And I'm sorry to you too, Shogo, for not being strong enough to accept things as is.
"Shogo, when all of this is done, I want to sleep." But I don't want to dream. I just want to escape reality, if only for a little while. "Today has been extremely draining."