Chapter 3

"Maki-chan, you sure it is around here?" The redhead nodded.

Hanayo followed slowly behind Maki while Rin strode a few step ahead of her friends.

"Rin, don't get too far or else you'll get lost."

"Roger nya!" saluted the orange-haired girl.

They were now standing in front of the ramen shop where Maki last saw their kidnapped friend. They decided to look around for any prominent clues Nico could have left behind. And for that purpose, Hanayo had brought her favourite pet dog, which was a snow-white labrador retriever with the size of a teenage male lion.

They swerved the corner past the ramen shop. They walked for less than ten steps forward before Rin halted abruptly which made Maki slammed into Rin's back while Hanayo fell down because of the sudden impact.

Maki rubbed her forehead and groaned at the annoying ache she was feeling at her nose where it hit Rin's back, "Mou, what's wrong with you Rin? Stopping all of the sudden..."

Rin ignored the redhead's complaint and pointed her index finger towards the alley on her left. "Isn't that Nico-chan's..."

In an instant, Maki sprinted past Rin and the cat-like girl swore she felt a gush of wind strong enough to knock a pine tree down.

Maki stopped and lowered her lavender eyes at the square object lying on the ground with pink embroidery at the sides of it. It seems a bit dirty. She then picked it up and brushed away the dirts.

Hanayo and Rin walked up beside Maki. "Ah, you're right! That's indeed Nico-chan's handkerchief." said the light brown-haired girl." It was dropped here so that means Nico-chan could have been kidnapped in this backstreet." Hanayo considered for a moment before asking, "Maki-chan, may I have the handkerchief for awhile?"

Maki nodded and Hanayo took the handkerchief before letting her pet dog to take a sniff out of it. After a few sniffs, the dog's ear perked up and started muzzling its way to the right, which was opposite to the alley. The three first-years glanced at each other and a mutual understanding was born between them. Slowly, they tailed the white retriever as it was busy tracking Nico's scent. As they ventured deeper, the surrounding became tranquil, save for the sound of sniffles and footsteps.

When they reached to a riverbank they have never been to, the pooch suddenly burst into a dash and Hanayo was having problem keeping up with its speed so she accidentally released her hold on the leash. "Rice-tan!" Hanayo shouted after her dog as they watched it ran across the hill over the river. Without wasting time, the three of them hurried themselves to chase after Hanayo's dog.

Luckily for them, the dog finally came to a stop after a half a mile run. The girls panted as they wearily slumped on the grassland. Realizing their position now at the top of the hill, Hanayo focused her eyes on the object, or rather, a building situated at the bottom of the hill. It was a warehouse constructed with wheat-colored gravel and pinewood as its roofing, it had about five times the size and length of Hanayo's small apartment.

"Rin-chan, Maki-chan, do you think Nico-chan is inside that building?" Hanayo asked.

The two other girls looked down and observed the warehouse. Then, the three of them decided to take a look at the said building. When they were about to near the huge entrance, Maki immediately yanked her friends' shirt collar and pulled them to cloak themselves behind the bushes. A guard armed with a desert eagle appeared from the entrance once he heard the footsteps. He raised his weapon in alert while scanning the surrounding for any intruders.

Hanayo was about to scream when she saw the gun if it was not for Maki covering her mouth. Hanayo mouthed a silent thank you and Maki suggested an idea. The plan was to sneak quietly to the side of the warehouse without being spotted by the guard so that Rin can perform her task of scouting the area inside the building and make a report of the situation inside it.

Abiding to the plan, they arrived at their destination which was the flank of the warehouse. Beside them there was a few large crates and some ropes. Thanks to Rin's love for watching survival movies, she successfully knotted a noose out of the end of the thick rope. Subsequently, she threw the noose up and it caught the protruding fencing of the balcony in her first try. Making sure that the rope was secured, Rin began climbing.

Watching her friend performing such dangerous task, Hanayo silently prayed that the fencing will support Rin's weight. She couldn't bear the sight of seeing her dearest friend spending her whole life in a wheelchair.

It could have been Hanayo's prayers that Rin had safely landed on the balcony. The pumpkin-haired girl looked down at her friends and Maki gave her a stern nod. On the other hand, Hanayo seemed distressed so Rin gave her a thumbs up along with her cheeky grin to ease her worries. Then, Rin proceeded to carry out her duty.

She sneaked to the end of the balcony and climbed a ladder that led her to the rooftop. She climbed and climbed until she reached the middle section of the roof. There was a part which was made up of transparent glass. Rin took out a small pocket mirror and hold it beside the glass window and altered it until the reflection was showing the interior of the warehouse. She then made an observation through the reflection on the mirror.

There were total of 8 armed men standing guard. On the lower floor there were six guards, two of them standing outside of what seemed like a toilet, one at the back door, another two in front of a room locked with a series of chain and including the one guarding the front entrance. On the second floor stood two other fierce-looking men. There was a door behind them. It was in a better condition than the others so Rin assumed that the leader of this gang was inside the room.

She resumed checking the area and the structure of the building so that Rin and her friends will know the place like the back of their hand in order to lubricate the plan.

Just when Rin was about to leave, the door on the second floor opened and a bulky man walked out. Most likely the one that call the shots. She watched as he went downstairs to the locked room and the guards bowed to him before unlocking the chains and opened the door. It revealed nothing but darkness. The boss walked in and switched on the switch but before Rin can see what's inside, the guards had already shut the door. She clicked her tongue as there was nothing more to scout, she backed down and rejoined with her friends. They quickly left the warehouse and went back to the clubroom to submit Rin's report to the other members.

Sound of chain clanking can be heard coming from outside of the door. As the light in the room was cut off, Nico can easily make out the shadow of a pair of feet at the bottom of the metal door. She grimaced.

It was her second day. She was well aware of her current situation. All her limbs were tied so tightly behind her back that she swore she could see how white and pale her hands and feet were if her back have eyes. A ball of cloth had been stuck into her mouth. It stunk, and it made her jaws tired from staying opened for as long as she remember. However, her being in this state didn't restrain her from thinking of a certain scarlet princess.

I wonder what's that girl doing now...maybe sniffing around the neighbourhood like a panther in search of Nico-nii?

She sighed. Her breath muffled by the garment.

The door opened and the light flicked on. A man in his forties swaggered in and looked Nico straight in the eye. The bristle of his shaved beard embellished his undeniably charming features. His blue eyes shone like sapphire. Indeed, he was handsome, but Nico wasn't even interested in the slightest bit.

A bang behind him indicated the door was closed. He walked to a wooden chair nearby and sat on it.

Crossing his legs, his eyes never left Nico's. Two of them had a little staring contest before the man smirked and stood up.

When he was in front of the young girl, he squatted and lifted her chin up. " Only now that I notice, you have such an exquisite ruby orbs with you. How pretty..."

Inside of Nico, she was cursing so vehemently that a timer bomb had been set. Get your flirty hand off me!

He then removed the cloth from her mouth and traced a finger around her lips seductively while speaking in a pitying manner, "What a waste, if it's not for the money," He shorten the distance between his face and Nico before whispering. "I could have make you mine."

Irritation could no longer be contended inside its barrier, Nico aggressively spitted right onto the man's face. He leapt to his feet and slapped Nico.

"You bitch!"

He clenched his teeth and wiped away the spittle. " And here I thought I'll treat you better if you would just be good girl and I will released you unharmed once I got the money! How dare you, I'll make sure no food gets into your mouth for the remaining deadline!"

With that, he angrily pulled open the door before got out and slammed it shut.

Watching the irritated man out of the room, Nico smug at her mischief. Her redden cheek hurt from the violent smack.

After awhile, she felt somewhat regret of her action as she remembered the man's last word before leaving the room just now. A loud sigh escaped her mouth.

Just...what have I gotten myself into?

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