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Welcome to the Steel Fists Academy

Discussion in 'Ryona City' started by TheQuietAuthor, Feb 11, 2016.

  1. TheQuietAuthor

    TheQuietAuthor Ryonani Teamster

    Jul 30, 2013
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    I'll start off by saying that I did not write this story nor the series that will entail after.

    This was given to me by someone who wishes to remain anonymous for the time being. This person wanted to write a fiction that is based on one of the locales in Ryona City, Steel Fists Academy. It mainly features a character owned by that person, Hikane, a young kunoichi with a turbulent and mysterious past.

    I hope you all will enjoy this work as much as I do.

    Idoro likes this.
  2. TheQuietAuthor

    TheQuietAuthor Ryonani Teamster

    Jul 30, 2013
    Likes Received:
    "That was the second incident in two weeks."
    "I'm sorry, but I had to. But I was careful, nobody saw."
    "How would I know if nobody saw?"
    "Well, nobody who must not see. I promise I'll be better."
    "You did that last time, too. No, it's time for action."
    "It is done. You are going to a different place, one where your abilities won't raise any eyebrows."
    "What place would that be?"
    "A college. We're transferring you there."
    "I can't go to college."
    "You will. The paperwork has been requested and is on it's way. You will start there next semester. Until then, keep a low profile."
    "What about my friends?"
    "You can keep them. Tell them you finished your certificates early and are moving on already. But be careful. Do not mess this up."
    "I won't. Thank you."
    "Light's out."


    The man placed the glasses on his nose again, checked his watch once more, then depressed the button on the phone sitting on his desk which allowed him to speak with his secretary directly: "Is my 4 o'clock not here yet?"
    "The new transfer? Miss Hikane Sirai?" the woman answered, seemingly confused. "She'd been waiting here for a while now. I thought she'd entered already?"
    "Well, she isn't in here." the man answered matter-of-factly.
    "I'll check." was the answer, accompanied by the sound of her chair moving and some words unintelligible.
    Moments later, the door to the office opened, revealing a wide-eyed staring girl and the secretary, the latter wearing a bemused expression on her face. "It turns out she was too shy to knock. I couldn't see her parked in your doorframe," the secretary said with an encouraging smile directed at Hikane. The girl in front of her seemed unreachable for the moment as her eyes wandered over the office, looking at all the trophies, photos and certificates adorning the chamber. A pair of boxing gloves was hung prominently at the center of the longest wall, with a trophy underneath prolcaiming it's owner as the regional champion in heavy-weight boxing some twenty years ago. Other than displaying personal achievements, it was a fairly large room fully dedicated to displaying why this college is a great place to hone your body and mind. It had a regal and disciplined aura to it, much like the man presiding over it. Claus Bernari was a heavily built 50-something year old with brown hair showing grey streaks, a no-nonsense look on his face and elegant glasses covering his eyes. The dark gray suit he was wearing seemed tailored exactly for his stature, but it could barely hide the fact that underneath it laid the steeled body of a seasoned fighter.
    Next to the office-dressed secretary, the little girl was a peculiar sight. She was about a head shorter than the woman accompanying her, and looked like she would just about enter high school. Her purple hair was kept in a pony tail by a red ribbon tied into it and her brown eyes were filled with the boundless energy of youth. Most odd about her, however, was her clothing. Dressed in a white, Kimono trimmed with red that was a little short around the legs, she truely seemed to stem from another place and time. Black bridal gloves and legwear covered more of her skin, and her waist was tied with a large purple belt complete with a big red bow on the back. She looked like something out of a TV program much more than a college student. But here she was, in the flesh, eyeing and wondering.
    The man simply nodded at his secretary "Thank you, Mrs. Robyn." The woman nodded and closed the door behind her as she left the room.
    "Miss Sirai, I presume? Welcome. Please, take a seat." He gestured towards the empty chair across his desk, and closed his laptop computer. Hikane nodded at his gesture and quickly scrambled to the chair, sitting down much faster than a more relaxed person might have. The man paused, then got his most pressing question out in the open: "Do you speak English?"
    The girl nodded. "Hai. I mean, yes. I do." Traces of a foreign accent were audible but she spoke clear enough.
    "Alright, good. Then I'll just say 'Hello' again." the man smiled, which, by the look of things, didn't happen too often. Hikane nodded again, then suddenly looked like she remembered something. "Oh, right, sorry. Hello, Bernari-senpai. It is an honor to meet and speak with you, and sit on your chair."
    The man's smile didn't fade, quite the opposite. As a professor and intellectual, the girl's behaviour made sense to him: "Ah, yes, the utmost respect for your teachers and elders. One cultural difference that I'd wish to influence our area much more than certain others." The girl stared at him blankly. "Is that why you didn't knock?" The girl nodded. "Hai. I was taught to be called in, not knock when I want something. It is my elders right to call upon me."
    "I see. Another thing we should introduce here. But speaking of introductions, we should get to know each other a bit. I'm Claus Bernari, vice-principal of this college. I lecture on foreign cultures and their history, as well as geography. They go hand in hand, I find." The girl nodded, keeping quiet. "I'm also a three-time champion of heavy-weight boxing in this State, though I don't want to point out my accolades too much. What I'm trying to point at, or point out, is the nature of this instituation. At this school, we combine the training of body and mind. We offer courses as diverse as the next college. However, beyond that, we offer a unique opportunity and the reason why people come here, and that is a strong focus on martial arts of any kind. Whatever the style, whatever the conditions, there's a club for it around here. And if there isn't, you might just be the person to found it. The clubs and teams compete regularly within each other and against one another, and every student is ranked according to their ability from F to A, with A being the best. Our students go far and wide in national competitions and beyond. A degree from this school is as good as any, but winning a cup and taking it home – that's truely an astounding feat recognized by martial artists around the world. The perfect start for a professional career as a fighter." The man paused. Normally, this would incite all kinds of reactions in his listeners. Hikane was just staring at him and nodding occasionally, she was profoundly hard to read. "We are a proud organizer of many fights and surrounding events, and there is all kinds of supporting courses like what a fighter should eat, the most effective training methods and how to substitute a broken arm in everyday chores. Yes, injuries happen, but our medical section is top-notch and has strong ties to nearby hospitals." That, too, should elicit reactions. Hikane was the same old. Or young, really. "So, if you're looking for an Ivy League education in Physics, this might not be the best place to come. But if you intend to study and become a fighting machine on the way, poised to conquer the world of martial arts for fortune and fame, this is the right spot for you." Hikane nodded. "Hai. It is an honor to be here." The man glanced at Hikane, then asked: "Do you have any questions for me? Else I would ask you to introduce yourself."
    "Just one", the girl responded. "What vices do you do at this school?"
    The man blinked, baffled. A completely unexpected question.
    "How... do you mean? Like, drugs? Or doping?"
    Hikane tilted her head. "Well you said you are the principal of vice, and then I wonder what vices you're the principal of, Bernari-senpai."
    Realisation tumbled into the man's mind, and his expression slowly changed to a mirthful one more and more as he started laughing, confusing Hikane immensely. "Wha.. was that the wrong question? I'm sorry." she added quickly.
    "No, no" the man caught himself and adressed her concern. "It's a matter of language. 'Vice-principal' means I'm the principal's left hand. The second in command, so to speak." Hikane's eyes widened again. "Ooooooh, I see. I'm sorry for thinking about vices!" The man waved her off: "It's alright. Now, Miss Sirai, tell me about yourself."
    "Okay! I am Hikane of the Sirai family. We have moved here from Japan when I was six years old, I was born on Okinawa. My father was an aircraft pilot, my mother a nurse. I've attended school in Japan and here, and I like drawing mandalas. I have practiced martial arts since I came here, my sister taught me. Two years ago, my parents and sister all died in a car crash, and now I live on my own." Claus raised his hand to interrupt the girl, who was already going to continue. "I have read about that in your application, and I want to take this moment to express my condolences for your loss, Miss Sirai. You must have it exceedingly tough now, on your own in a foreign country." Hikane bowed down slightly. "Thank you for your sympathy, Bernari-senpai. It was a bad loss, yes. But this country is not foreign to me anymore, I've been living here for eleven years now."
    "Ah yes, your age. It said you are 17 years old?" "Hai. I turn 18 in two months." The man leaned forward and looked at her over the edge of his glasses. Could this girl really be 17? She looked no older than twelve or thirteen. "I see. I must admit, you strike me as a bit, how to say, small. Which is no problem in itself, but this school can be a bit tough. We want it that way, to emphazise our strong focus on martial arts. People are expected to be able to look out for themselves. Are you sure that you belong here?" Hikane nodded vehemently in response, determination radiating from her: "Yes, I am sure. I can fend for myself. I have to. I do it every day. And I can fight. My sister has taught me well."
    Claus bushed his glasses up again. "Alright. And you can afford the tuition fees?" Hikane nodded again: "I inherited a lot when my parents passed away, so I have enough money to last me through my education. Provided I work a bit on the side and don't take extra years. It will be tough, but I can make it. I will make it."
    The man settled back into his chair. This girl seemed to have a strong core behind her young exterior. Probably due to being by herself since she was 15. "I see. Is that why you applied for our economics course?" Hikane tilted her head and rolled her eyes up, wondering. "Well, maybe. I had not thought about it that way. I just find money and what you can do with it interesting, so I want to learn how to do that fully." Her resolve seemed unwavering.
    "Good. It's good to pick something you have an interest in. And economics can be fascinating, especially it's interdepence with the cultures that birth them. A lot of a country is reflected in the way they do business."he paused. "Ah, but that's just part of my subjects again. Apologies." Hikane shook her head "No need, I'm curious about these things, as well."
    Mr. Bernari warmed up a bit innerly. He liked the girl, even though he was still sceptical about her age and outward appearance. But her background checked out, all the documents on the application were in order and complete.
    "Well, your application had everything required, and your high-school record shows that you have what it takes to study here. Whether you have the right mettle for us will be determined when you get your introductory courses, where you can try out various styles and decide what you like best."
    "Thank you, but I already have my style, Bernari-senpai."
    "I see, butyou should attend these courses regardless.In addition, due to your particular situation, I am going to enroll you for a special program. We take a broad approach to martial arts, and some of our students have opted to become mentors and coaches of individual, new pupils. The spots for this program are limited. There are various ways to qualify for a ticket. For you, it'll be a small competition for beginners that you may take part in. The best three will qualify for a personal mentor. So we can recognize talent early and max out their potential. But I'm warning you: A lot of our first-year-students have a background in martial arts and are here precisely because of our reputation. I won't be easy."
    Hikane raised her hand as if to answer a question, which the professor reflexively acknowledged by nodding at her as he would do in a lecture. "What does it mean to have a mentor?", she asked.
    "Well, one of our senior students who is experienced in ring fighting would take you under their wing. For you, as a girl, you'd get another girl assigned to look out for you, help you when you have trouble in your clubs, go to competitions with you and all that kind of things. Like a coach you might have seen in martial arts matches on TV." Hikane nodded. "And why do you think I would qualify? You said I look very small and might have trouble with the fighting."
    "You have the spirit for it" the man acknowledged her. "And besides, it would be a good opportunity to show that you can fight well already." "Thank you," the girl answered.
    'I also think that you really need an older person to look out for you, little miss-live-alone' the vice-principal thought to himself, but he didn't want to bring the subject up again, even though the girl seems to have taken it well.
    "Well then, is there anything else you want to ask?" the man asked.
    "When will I learn if my application to your school was accepted?" she wondered. The man smiled.
    "It already has." Hikane gasped. "Really?!"
    "Yes, as I said, your application is in order and I like your spirit. The rest is formalities."
    "Oh thank you, thank you so much, Bernari-senpai!" the girl folded her hands in her lap and squirmed on the chair.
    "No need to thank me. I'm sure you'll make us proud. You will get your confirmation as well as a letter with all the important dates coming in the mail soon. And make sure you look up and register all your courses online before the start of the semester."
    Hikane beamed enthusiastically. "I will. I will be a good student and bring honor to your institution."
    Claus looked at her again, then nodded approvingly. "Welcome to the Steel Fists Academy."
    Baku|Haku and Idoro like this.
  3. TheQuietAuthor

    TheQuietAuthor Ryonani Teamster

    Jul 30, 2013
    Likes Received:
    The hall was far from being chock-full, but there were certainly enough people present to confirm the suspicion that some event or other was taking place. Usually used for the training of various clubs, the room was equipped with easily convertible ranks for spectators to occupy for a tournament like this one this. The center was taken by fighting ring, with ranks on the one side of it and a small area for a jury to sit on the other. A few dozen spectators occupied the ranks, which wasn’t much by Academy standards. The event was not a very prestigious one, yet very important to those taking part. After all, the top three participants of this event would be eligible for the tutor programme that promised to put a personal mentor by the lucky winner’s sides for their time here at the institution. While she thought she'd not need it, there was no harm in trying, Hikane figured, and thus she stood in line at the registration. In front of her were a couple boys seemingly much older than her, one of them boasting to the other how he'd won multiple competitions already, the other mostly passively nodding it off. Both of them had different ways to cope with the excitement, Hikane figured. Herself, she was calm. She knew she stood a fighting chance in this tournament, and even if Hikane lost she would be alright. Having a mentor would be nice, probably, but missing out wouldn't be the end of the world. There were still lots of opportunities to train, and she was honestly a lot more excited about the studies than the fighting. She knew how to fight, but she didn't know much about how the world worked, so she was looking forward to changing that.

    "Muromachi period" a woman behind her suddenly exclaimed, pulling her out of her train of thought and causing her to look around curiously. Behind her, she saw an elegant lady in a long, black dress matching her dark hair who'd just arrived. She seemed to be in her late forties and definitely well off in life, at least to anyone who knew expensive clothes from cheap ones. At her side a younger girl, apparently her daughter. Despite the fact the younger girl in the flowing, light-blue summer dress had blonde hair, her facial features showed very clearly the relationship between the two.
    Hikane looked up the the woman and asked tacitly: "Uhm, I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean?"
    "Your Kimono" the woman proclaimed. "That style came into fashion as the Daimyo system was established. Though I believe the original version were a bit longer around the legs."
    "Oh, right." Hikane didn't know quite what to say, and the fact the strange woman stepped nearer and took a close look at her outfit wasn't helping her find words more easily. "I've never seen any as authentic as this one. Where'd you get it? And do you just wear it regularly?" the stranger asked.
    Hikane responded. "I do. And I got it from my mother. She used to sew a lot." She paused, pondering. "But it is authentic, I think. We are from Japan."
    "Oh, really?" the woman seemed delighted. "I mean, obviously your ethnicity shows, but you were born in Japan? First generation immigrants?"
    "Hai. I was born on Okinawa." the girl responded. The other’s enthusiasm threw Hikane off a little, but it wasn’t the first time she’d encountered something like this.
    She'd met a few people here who were crazy about Japanese things, though she never really understood the hype. This one, however, seemed to know what she was talking about.
    "Oh that's wonderful. My name is Maria Lothring, and this is my daughter Estelia." The pretty blonde by the woman’s side nodded slightly. "Hello, pleased to meet you."
    Hikane returned a smile. "An honor to meet you, Maria-sama and Estelia-san." The girl bowed deeply. "I am Hikane Sirai."
    Maria nodded. "Well then, Hikane. Are you waiting in line for your older sister?"
    Hikane shook her head. "No, I'm waiting in line for myself. I'd like to participate in the tournament."
    "Oh. You don't look to be in the age for college, my apologies. But I guess Asians are just a bit smaller overall. That's so adorable."
    The Japanese student didn't know how to respond, so the girl just laughed awkwardly, then turned to Estelia: "Are you going to be fighting as well then?"
    "Ah, not today." her mother answered for her. "We bought a spot in the Mentor programme for her. We're just here to register as the mentors are assigned right after the tournament."

    Right, that made sense. Some of the spots were sold to help fund the programme, though even then a certain minimum of experience for the participants was required, since a personal mentor didn't make much sense for an absolute beginner. But any parents rich enough to just buy the spots wouldn't send their children on an academy like this one if they didn't think them to be potentially amazing fighters.

    The silence emanating from Hikane's pondering of her first lesson in economy was promptly broken by Maria again. "So, are your parents here as well? Or are you all on your own?"
    "Oh, sorry. My parents are not here." She tried to avoid the topic.
    "Ah, that's a shame. I'd love to ask your mother for the patterns to your lovely getup so that I can make one just like it for Estelia." She couldn't avoid the topic.
    "Ah, I can get you the patterns." Hikane said. "And sadly, my parents are deceased."
    Maria stopped herself immediately, though Estelia's reaction was much stronger still. Her calm, friendly expression faded into one of utter horror as she imagined losing her parents at this age, undoubtedly.
    "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..." Maria started, but Hikane waved her off.
    "Please, you couldn't know. I am sorry to bring this up even." She proceeded to explain her situation, which she'd gotten used to by now.
    "Right." Unconsciously, the older woman clenched the hand of her daughter a bit, who returned the gesture in kind. "Well, if you ever need help with anything, just tell me, okay? I'll do what I can. I'm a lawyer, my husband runs a business. So if you need an internship or anything, just come to us."
    "Oh, that is most kind of you." Hikane bowed "I'll be sure to remember it."
    "Next!" the girl doing the registration shouted, relieving Hikane of what felt like an awkward conversation.

    Her relief was somewhat short-lived, however. After the registering, Maria approached Hikane again, and quickly started dragging her all over the place. An unknowing observer would've thought she was a mother of the two, with Hikane seeing her big sister off to college.
    It turned out both of them had enrolled for the economics course, and from then on the quasi-adoption was all the more perfect. The girls agreed to do their homework and other tasks together as well as possible, and Maria was of course eager to invite Hikane over to visit them frequently for that. It all happened a bit faster than the immigrant was comfortable with, but then she'd rather make friends too fast than not at all.

    As they were discussing, Estelia noticed a group of senior students standing nearby and occasionally glancing over to them. "You think they want something from us?" she asked after pointing them out. Maria shrugged: "Let's find out." Without hesitation, she approached the three girls. One of them was dressed formally and wearing an 'organizer' plaque around her neck, the second was a blonde in street clothes including a dangerously short plaid skirt. The last stood there in a rather revealing red-and-black two-parter outfit that would look well in the ring. Her red hair was kept in a ponytail.

    "Excuse me." Maria simply barged into their conversation. "Is there anything we can help you with?"
    Their conversation interrupted, they turned to the newcomer. The formally dressed one spoke first. "Ah, good day, Miss. We were just discussing a little issue we had in regard to Ms Hikane Sarai." She looked at the girl who'd now moved up as well. "Hmmm?" she inquired with a curious hum.
    "I'm Janice, vice president of the student council and organizer of this tournament. We're trying to get the brackets sorted, but we ran into some trouble concerning you, Ms. Sarai. Simply put, we don't have anyone else in your weight class."
    "Can't you just put her in the lowest?" Maria inquired.
    "Well we could, but that's still almost a 30 pound difference to the next lightest contender. And that bracket is the fullest anyway."
    "Well then she'll have to fit in?"
    "She could. But there are other issues than the unfairness. Among them insurance policies. If we send her to fight against other newcomers that have never fought in the Academy before and she gets injured badly, we're possibly looking at a lawsuit for irresponsible pairings. Our Academy has to take great care in avoiding events such as that."
    "Oh, right. Yeah, that can be really troublesome. And expensive." Maria nodded knowingly.
    "What if I didn't fight against a newcomer?" Hikane suddenly piped up, causing everyone to look at her with mildly confused looks.
    "You mean like, against one of the more senior students?" Janice asked, and the small girl nodded in response.
    "Well uh... legally that would put us in the clear I imagine. We can cite that we put you up against an experienced fighter who would take care not to injure you. Nevermind the fact you'd be less likely to be injured in the first place due to them actually watching out." she paused, thinking. "But you would be at a severe disadvantage. I mean, the problem is that you were too light for the other beginners. And now you want to face off against a senior member of the Academy?”
    “If it makes the scheduling easier for you, then I will do it.” Hikane confirmed. She wasn’t that hot for the mentor spot anyway, and she’d hate to be trouble for anyone.
    "She’ll do one fight rather than have to fight multiple times, so that evens it out a bit." the blonde chimed in. "Don't you have a few spots left to give out for outstanding successes anyway? So she doesn't take away one brackets' rewards."

    "True." Janice nodded. "We were intent on auctioning one off, but we can re-purpose it. I'll just have to call the student council president quickly and make sure she hasn't already made plans for it. And we have to find a spin for it. I mean, we're not giving spots away like this regularly. But I'll think of something."
    "Swell" the blonde nodded. "Now we just need someone to put her through her paces." In unison, the two girls turned to the third in their original gathering, the pretty but quiet redhead. She returned their stares with a quirked eyebrow.
    "So how about it, Dabby? You're all geared up already anyway."
    "Eh. I just came swinging by after training, that's why." she answered. It seemed she wasn't too hot for the idea.
    "Ah, so you're a bit exhausted already, so that evens the match a bit. Perfect."
    Dabby answered merely by blowing a copious volume of air through her nose. Janice turned away and got on her phone, apparently to clarify things.
    "I can break your arm too if you think that's more fair?" the blonde inquired, obviously joking but with just enough seriousness in her voice that Hikane got scared. This prompted the the redhead to roll her eyes, but she said nothing.
    "Are you alright with this?" Maria asked Hikane.
    "No, no. No need to break her arm or other limbs." The little one responded hastily. Maria chuckled. "That's not what I meant. I mean you taking on one of the senior students."
    "Oh! Yes, I would be alright with that and honored by the opportunity."
    "I thought you'd say that." Maria said adoringly. It seems the clichés of the unafraid little Japanese girl really got to her.
    Janice turned back to the group. "Alright, I've spoken to Fara and she agrees this is a good idea."
    "Perfect. Dabria has volunteered to do the fight."
    "Violet, you-" Dabby started to protest, but her words couldn't stand against the confident smirk of the cocky blonde.
    "Wonderful. Thank you." Janice smiled. "That would make things a lot easier."
    Dabria sighed, then shrugged. "Alright. I'll do it." She turned to Hikane "But I won't go easy on you, youngins." The girl bowed: "Please don't."

    In the course of the next couple hours, the tournament unfolded without irregularities. Hikane was amazed by the variety of styles present. She knew a bit about Japanese martial arts but there were so many more presented here. From traditional boxing to Muay Thai and Kung-Fu. It seems there was no base left uncovered when it came to the diversity of fighting styles. She’d always considered herself to be quite top-notch when it came to martial techniques, especially for her age, but there were so many moves and attacks presented here she’d never imagined. She felt a lot smaller all of a sudden. And, while she’d been a bit indifferent about whether actually getting a mentor or not before, seeing how much she could still learn here fueled her desire to succeed immensely. Her nervousness, too. After all, her opponent was pretty much out of her league when it came to weight and was much more experienced in the ring. In her time waiting, she’d tried to get a bit of information on her adversary. Or well, she waddled behind Maria as she took everything into her own hands as soon as Hikane so much as mentioned it, from buying snacks to asking other senior students about this Dabria Elmoore.
    Turns out she used to be one of the most promising members of the girl’s fight-club, but something happened and she started losing ranks, swiftly. As to what that something was, rumours seemed to outweigh facts. Though a number of people said this had to do with a mobbing campaign online that targeted her, eventually causing her to stop fighting for ranks. This also lead to a new rule, namely that images of the fights and afterwards could be taken by officially appointed documenters only.
    Aside from that, during the preparatory courses for the mentoring she’d apparently scored great marks across the board, prompting Maria to try and convince Janice that she should be assigned to coach Estelia. Any way she looked at it, Hikane figured that her opponent would be quite strong. It was about time that her considerations would be put to the test.

    The final bout of the heavyweight group just ended, and the hall cheered for the victor, a boy named Thomas Steepwood whose expertise in kickboxing seemed to dwarf all other fighters.
    Janice took the stage, wielding a microphone. “A spectacular showing. Congratulations, Thomas, on a well deserved victory.” Hands were shaken, but Thomas seemed too roughed up to address the audience himself. Besides, it wasn’t that big an event anyway, this was not about prestige but about getting the mentor spots - more important for the participants, maybe. But not as interesting for the audience.
    “Before the mentor-pupil pairing are announced, we got a surprise for all of you.” Janice addressed the sparse audience, and it was quite obvious that she had not been elected as vice-president for her showmanship. “Well, not a surprise so much as a small shift in our schedule. Due to special circumstances, we will be assigning another mentor spot today. Or will we?” She looked at the audience with what could pass as an attempt of a mysterious expression, but nobody was really impressed. She’d already killed the tension with her first two sentences. Janice got the hint, and continued matter-of-factly. “One of the contestants today was unable to fit into any of the other groups due to her weight. Instead of participating in the tournament, she will get the chance to get an additional spot in the mentor programme. However, it will not be gifted to her out of charity. Instead, she will have to fight and best one of the trainers herself.” Murmuring went through the crowd. People were wondering what the deal was, this seemed a bit irregular. But Janice continued. “With the president of the student council’s blessing, Ms Hikane Sarai is eligible to receive a mentor for her time at the Steel Fists Academy IF she can best one of our senior students in the ring. Volunteering for the opponent spot was Dabria Elmoore, so thanks again for that.” Dabby stood near the ring and waved to the crowd, which prompted some more murmurs. Only one person started laughing out loud. “I thought you’re not giving this away as charity?” she said in-between snorting. “Shut up, Laura” the blonde, who went by the name of Violet, immediately responded. Dabby seemed uncaring, and Janice continued. “Can I please ask Hikane Sarai to the front?”
    “That’s your queue!” Maria beamed at her. They had taken a seat in the back of the ranks so that Hikane could see everything from a bit of an elevated position. “Go out there and show them, tiger.”
    “Good luck” Estelia added with a reassuring smile. Hikane swallowed heavily and got up, making her way towards the front. People looked around to find the announced fighter but without success until she popped out from the ranks at the bottom and walked toward the stage, a bit hesitant. At that moment, at least half of the assembled people broke out in a collective “Awwwww” as Hikane was about a head shorter than anyone else in the room. She looked around nervously, not fully understanding the reaction.
    “They’re admiring your bravery.” Janice tried to affirm her, which seemed to work better than her attempts at entertainment as Hikane nodded and continued walking to the stage. “And your cute dress.” Maria shouted from the ranks. People chuckled, and she felt she’d done her part.
    The girl slipped into the ring readily, and to everyone around the setup must’ve looked very mismatched as Dabria in turn climbed in. She was at least a foot taller than Hikane and probably twice as heavy, nevermind looking much more belonging here in her combat outfit against Hikane in her cutesie Kimono. Other than Maria and Estelia, there was at least one person in the room who thought she stood a chance however. The little one found that reassuring. Plus, her opponent seemed nice enough. She wouldn’t mind too much losing to her.
    The redhead took a stance in the opposite corner of Hikane and eyed the little girl, seemingly unsure how much she could beat down on her opponent without breaking her. Outside the ring, Dabria had looked friendly and easygoing. And while her look hadn’t changed, Hikane certainly saw her with different eyes now. Red-haired and beautiful, with a strong build that she showed off quite well thanks to her minimalistic combatant attire, a spandex two-parter. It intimidated Hikane quite a bit. Her fighting style mostly revolved around ambushing her opponents and quick, decisive strikes. Functional, but not really the best for a stand-up fight, it had started dawning on her as she’d witnessed the others fight in the tournament. But it was too late to turn back now. She inhaled deeply and focused on the task at hand. That’s what her sister had taught her as the most important thing. Focus.
    “Unlike the jury-ruled matches we’ve seen before, this one will go by Steel Fists default rules.” Janice informed the audience, then turned to Hikane. “That means the fight is one round, and lasts until either of you two gives up, faints, or leaves the ring. Do you understand?” The girl nodded.
    “You should ask Dabby that.” the girl from the audience shouted again. “She seems to have trouble understanding this.” Most people ignored this, but Violet seemed infuriated, stomping over to her and glaring angrily. She continued to exchange angry but unintelligible words with whoever that was that kept interrupting.
    “Oh.” Janice added. “And don’t kill your opponent.” Everyone laughed slightly, as that rule never really had to be mentioned. Hikane’s laughter was delayed and distinctly awkward, however.
    “Alright then. On your marks.” The combatants stood opposed to each other. Dabria offered her hand but Hikane didn’t seem to notice and left her hanging, only bowing slightly as a gesture of respect. “Good luck.” she smiled slightly as she withdrew her hand, dropping into a combat stance.

    “Fight!” Janice cut the air between the two and made a hasty retreat toward the ropes. Immediately, Hikane was crouching and her bare leg shot out against Dabria, who barely managed to pull her foot up in time to let the attack pass harmlessly. The small girl didn’t waste a moment following through, however, continuing her spinning on the floor and striking with the other leg as well, hitting Dabby right above her right ankle. It made her whince, but the pain was not overly serious as the attack simply lacked the force for that. Dabria stepped forward, her leg shooting out in an attempt to kick Hikane against the chest with a frontal blow. The crouching position made her an easy target. The little Asian saw the attack coming and threw herself backwards, the tip of Dabria’s boot just so touching her nose before she rolled away and jumped to her feet again.
    “You’re fast.” Dabria nodded. Hikane didn’t respond, her thoughts focused solely on the fight. Her opponent had much more reach than she does, staying away wouldn’t do. She dashed towards Dabria, who’d expected as much and raised her knee to greet Hikane. What she had not expected, however, was Hikane jumping up and catching the rising knee with both her hands, her legs split like scissors and flashing her white panties at the surprised Dabria. She used the momentum of her opponents attack to propel herself higher. Attempting to still get a hold of the little runt, Dabby turned to the side and tried to bring her elbow up to where she thought Hikane was flying past, but the other girl’s angle was too steep and she promptly flew over the surprised looking Dabria. Hikane brought her foot down on Dabria’s shoulder in order to push the larger girl to spin a bit further, as well as spin her own body around. Not understanding what was going on fully, Dabria continued to turn right until her face got to meet Hikane’s outstretched leg. She’d used the other’s shoulder like a wall to make herself go like a spinning top, and the force carried by her attack was significant as Dabby was struck heavily in the head. The redhead’s vision exploded from the unexpected hit and she reeled back as Hikane dropped to the floor. She looked on as her opponent shook her head, then raised her hands in a more defensive stance.
    “Haha, it’s like a fly beating up a frog.” the uncough girl from the audience shouted. “*ribbit* *ribbit*” a few girls around her started to chuckle, but the rest of the hall ignored her, seemingly fascinated by what looked like it would be not quite as one-sided as they’d thought.

    Ignoring the jeers from the audience, Dabby took to the offensive to play her advantages over the other girl. She lunged forward, then turned for a roundhouse kick against the side of her opponent. It was aimed lower than normally, but Hikane still managed to duck under it by rapidly lowering her body until it was at a 90-degree angle from her legs. Dabby’s foot struck against Hikane’s ponytail but didn’t cause any damage. With the other’s back now turned towards her, Hikane dashed forward to try and strike against her opponent’s back, but managed only not to get hit by the trap Dabby was letting her run into. The larger girl thrust her elbow backwards and Hikane side stepped it at the last moment, ruining her angle of attack. She dove to the other’s side and Dabby followed her elbow thrust with a horizontal swing of her right arm as she twisted her torso further. Hikane was forced to pull her head back sharply in order to avoid the fist to her face. But she regained her balance much faster than Dabby could, and lashed out with two fingers against the other’s head. Dabby tried pulling away, but Hikane corrected for her dodge and struck true, her fingers drilling themselves into Dabby’s temple painfully and sending waves of torment through her skull as she was treated to an instant-headache. As she stumbled back, Hikane spun and kicked Dabby in the hollow of the knee, causing the stricken girl to wobble as she tried not to fall over. ‘Just a little tipping... ‘ Hikane thought as she threw her right palm against Dabby’s side, getting a good hit against a rib and causing the redhead to grunt in pain. Reflexively, the other girl brought her arm back and managed to hit Hikane by the wrist as she tried to defend herself against the attack. The little girl whinced in pain as she pulled back. She needed to land a lot more hits than her opponent in order to win this. And it seemed to her that this Dabria took a lot of punishment before slowing down.

    After this exchange the combatants put a bit of distance between them and eyed each other. Sweat glistened on Hikane’s forehead and ran down her legs, the fight was taking it’s toll. Her opponent looked less exhausted but distinctly more agonized as she’d taken a few hits to rather sensitive areas, and while not physically exhausted her concentration was slipping, or so Hikane hoped. At least her body was covered in a thin layer of sweat that reflected the shine from the spotlights as well.
    “Just keep hitting her, imagine it was a punching bag.” the stranger from the audience chimed in again, but her interference seemed to distract Hikane more than it infuriated Dabby. She just took a step forward and swiped at Hikane’s legs, but the little girl jumped over the leg coming for her feet gracefully with a standing backflip, causing the audience to murmur in acknowledgement of her skill as she landed a feet further away from her opponent who was just getting up again.
    The reach problem hadn’t solved itself, so Hikane was once again forced to approach her opponent swiftly. Again, Dabby raised her knee to fend the girl off, but her arms were brought up and ready to punish Hikane if she tried her maneuver again. Which is precisely the reason Hikane went for a completely different approach.
    Rather than jumping up, she threw her torso back and dove in with her legs first, sliding over the ground and striking upwards with her index- and middlefinger against Dabby’s thigh. She scored a good hit and Dabby grunted, but she’d missed the mark by a few millimeters that would’ve paralyzed her leg entirely. Due to the miss, Dabria, oblivious of what her opponent was trying, brought her foot down again forcefully. She stomped right behind Hikane who just so felt the heel of the other graze her left temple. That could’ve ended the fight for her if it had been aimed just a little bit better, Hikane realised. Her momentum was sufficient to bring her back up to her feet again, but Dabby had already turned around and faced Hikane, seizing the initiative. She waded forward like a juggernaut, playing her weight and reach advantage as she threw a flurry of punches against her young opponent, advancing steadily. This attack normally served to soften up the opponent's defenses, but Hikane couldn’t afford trying to block these attacks as the strength difference was too great. So she took to dodging them, gracefully and with lightning speed. Yet she couldn’t to do so without losing ground, slowly backing up as she looked for an opening in Dabria’s attack. She tried diving in and striking against the other’s bare midriff, but her fist barely managed to connect with the other’s belly and not near any pressure points. She retreated hastily as Dabby tried to use this opportunity to grab onto Hikane. She figured she’d be tossed right outside the ring if that happened. That gave her an idea, however.
    Their dance continued, with Hikane avoiding the other’s attacks and backing up, until the ropes were only a few inches behind her. Then she made her move, jumping backwards and, to the crowd’s amazement, landed on the top rope gracefully as she balanced her weight. Dabria looked impressed, but saw an opportunity to end the fight as she struck with both arms against Hikane’s calves in an outward-scissors style attack. But her target was too fast. Bounding from the rope, again the little Asian took flight, planting both of her feet in the middle of Dabria’s face as she flung towards her. “Oummpf.” was all the redhead managed to get out as she toppled backwards, while Hikane propelled herself into a backflip, into the ropes once more, only the lower this time. She pushed them back, using them to change direction and be flung back towards Dabby. Throwing both her fists forward, she again hit her adversary in the stomach area, only with much more force and her full, if modest, weight behind it.
    Dabriah slumped forward as she was struck again on such short notice, but eventually she gave in and collapsed on her back, with the little girl landing on top of her as there was no way to recover from this all-in attack. “Or maybe it’s a frog taking on a stork. A lazy, clumsy stork.” the obnoxious girl from the sideline shouted with delight.
    The larger girl grunted as she hit the floor, her belly hurting badly. Her cheeks flushed red slightly as she’d been downed by a much weaker opponent. But at least the little upset was in range now and unable to make one of her swift getaways. She wrapped her arms around the small girl’s waist, however she didn’t manage to secure her arms as they were still stretched out. But she figured that wouldn’t matter much as she started squeezing Hikane on top of her, bear-hugging her as well as possible while lying on her back. There was no “tapping out” rule here so she might as well not waste time getting up.
    Hikane squealed as her body was pressed by the stronger woman, her arms and legs flailing and hitting Dabria again and again but not doing much to her. ‘Just give up’ Dabria thought. Hurting the little one really didn’t sit well with her. However, being beaten in front of an audience by said little one sat with her even worse, and she shook the thoughts of mercy off and tightened her grip. Tears welled up in the corners of Hikane’s eyes, but she swallowed hard and once again focused on the task at hand, retreating into her mind and leaving the pain outside. Her hands went to dig in Dabria’s axels, and try as she might she couldn’t squeeze them tight enough to prevent Hikane’s nimble fingers from getting in there. The redhead clenched her teeth, expecting the little girl to tickle her and try to get herself loose that way. The reality however, was far more discomforting.
    The small fingers dug into Dabria’s skin, right above her ribcage, and hit precisely where she meant to. Dabria’s arms were suddenly flushed with a prickling sensation, and to her dismay she found herself unable to continue squeezing Hikane. In fact, she found herself unable to use her arms at all, the strength from them completely gone as Hikane’s attack had left them paralyzed for the time being. The larger girl’s eyes widened in shock as she realised what was happening, but it was too late to do anything about that. Pushing herself up, Hikane placed both her knees on Dabria’s smitten belly as performed a slight jump. Dabria coughed up and a bit of spittle flew from her mouth as the same spot was hit again, then once more as Hikane jumped to her feet, landing on her bare midriff once more.
    Like a trampoline, the little lady used the other’s body to propel herself backwards, causing Dabriah to jerk up and agonize once again. Hikane raised her hands and cartwheeled forward, one hand landing on her opponent’s belly, the other coming down on the chest. The manuever flashed her panties to the room, causing a few murmurs of a distinct intonation, but all that went straight past the young contestant. Her legs followed and struck down on Dabria’s face. The stricken one’s head smacked back hard against the ground, disorienting her and causing her skull to throb in pain as the assault seemed to come from all sides, and to all spots of her body.
    Her opponent used that time to sit down behind her, propping her head up and placing it in her lap. The small legs had some trouble lifting the other’s torso up, but she managed to get into position. Then, Hikane wrapped one arm around Dabria’s neck and started pulling back harshly. Rather then lock her in, Hikane proceeded to push against the larger girl’s ribcage between the 3rd and 4th partition on the left side, which forced Dabria to exhale sharply. The pain from the precise blow disfigured the expression on her face into one of agony.
    Dabria struggled, or tried to. Her arms still unusable, her legs kicked around, but to not much effect. Her face turned red, then took on a shade of blue as her struggles began to cease, and her thoughts lost coherence as her mind spun out of control. Hikane, meanwhile, focused on holding her like that. She knew that her opponent wouldn’t have long until she passed out. But she felt somewhat bad for her, as well. She looked to Janice, who was looking at the little combatant in awe. “Did… I...win?”
    Janice shouted to her, cheer in her voice. “Not yet, she has to pass out or give up.”
    “But how does she give up… if I hold her… like this?” Hikane wondered
    “No point in worrying about that” another girl shouted from the side of the ring. It was not the obnoxious person from before, but a different blonde girl, with a youthful look and her blonde hair in twin-tails. She wore an outfit similar to Dabria’s, only in light blue rather than red-and-black. “Dabby never gives up anyway.” The speaker seemed annoyed rather than amused.
    “Just continue.” Janice encouraged Hikane. “Dabby knows how much she can take. She can just raise her arm as a sign of surrender.”
    ‘Well alright’ Hikane thought, nodded to Janice and continued to wrest Dabria into submission. She, in turn, had ceased to struggle and slumped back against the little girl, in a strange display of what could be mistaken for sisterly affection if the older girl wasn’t quite so red in the face and apparently out of this world. Drool dripped from her mouth and onto Hikane’s arm, but she didn’t care about that. What was a little wash she had to do in the face of a victory like this? The crowd got somewhat excited and cheers were heared, taking Hikane away and making her beam with joy, giving the scene with the subdued Dabby before her an even more grotesque appearance. This little girl, smiling happily and with her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth in a cutesie fashion held on as her ‘older sister’ played dead in her arms. Maybe she just let Hikane win to encourage her? Nah, unlikely. It was too embarrassing what happened here. She’d have raised her arm by now then. Instead, Hikane would just continue to --
    It was then, at that precise moment, that the flaw in the logic dawned on little Hikane, and her eyes widened in shock. She released the pressure on Dabby immediately and let her fall back on the mats, but she’d lost consciousness already and now adorned the ring quietly with her splendid, beaten body on display. Hikane panic’d and looked around to Janice, who approached the two of them. She kneeled down and checked on Dabria.
    “Is she…?” Hikane looked mortified. Janice stood up, looked at Hikane with a serious expression and nodded. “Yes. She is done. You win by K.O.”
    “You mean she’s not dead?” Hikane asked, a sliver of hope in her voice. Janice laughed. “No, silly. She’s just asleep. Meaning you won. You WON!” She shouted in excitement, grabbing Hikane’s wrist and raising it, prompting the crowd to cheer loudly. The sensation, paired with the relieve of learning that her opponent was still alive, caused Hikane to laugh in tears of joy and take in the full excitement of victory as she turned to the supportive crowd.

    The entire audience celebrated the victor. She noticed Maria and Estelia having risen to their feet and were happy as could be. The whole turmoil didn’t last that long as Janice made her announcenemt about this spectacular performance, congratulating Hikane on her victory through the open microphone again.
    The girl who’d kept shouting into the match came to the ring and used her mobile phone to snap pictures of the scene, prompting Hikane to smile widely into the camera, one foot on Dabby’s chest, and pointing her fingers out in a V-shape. Her mirthful expression quickly faded, however, as an infuriated Violet came stomping towards the photographer.

    “Fuck off, Julia. Taking photos after the fight is only allowed to the assigned staff.” she fumed.
    The other girl tilted her head to the side and smirked widely: “That would be for ranked or tournament matches only. This fight was clearly a special event, and those rules don’t apply here.” Underlining her point, she snapped another picture.
    Violet also snapped then, snatching the phone from a startled Julia’s hand and throwing it on the floor where it broke with a shattering sound, prompting Hikane to cover her mouth with her hand.
    “What the hell? You bitch! That was expansive and brand new!”
    “Don’t drop it, then.” Violet sneered as she stomped on it with her heel, extinguishing any hopes that it might be repaired.
    “You’re gonna pay for that.” the other shot back, now equally infuriated.
    “In your dreams. I was just protecting Dabby’s image from your defamations.”
    “Fuck you. What’s with you sticking up for that girl all of a sudden? Queen Bitch turned into Nurse Patheticos?” Hikane figured the two had a history, but she didn’t dare ask anything about that at this time. Janice approached them, looking sternly at Violet.
    “This loud-mouthed spectator here dropped her phone.” the girl said with grim confidence, her heel still on the cracked device.
    “Uh-huh. I’m going to have to write you up for this.” Janice lectured.
    Violet shrugged. “Like I care. My record is a huge mess anyway.”
    Janice sighed and turned to Hikane again. “Come with me please, Hikane. You’ve got some papers to sign before we can assign you a mentor.”
    A new figure approached Hikane, a guy with short blonde hair carrying a large camera.
    “Congratulations on your victory, Hikane.” He smiled widely.
    “I’m Simon, and I write for the Academy paper. I’d love to do a report on your victory. Can I snap a few photos with you quickly before Janice drags you away?”
    Janice seemed slightly annoyed but allowed it, and so Hikane did as she was told, still not quite sure about that had unfolded with Violet just now. But she had her mind on so many other things, she couldn’t worry about that right now.
    Baku|Haku and Idoro like this.
  4. TheQuietAuthor

    TheQuietAuthor Ryonani Teamster

    Jul 30, 2013
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    After things quited down a bit, Hikane wasn’t sure how to would proceed. Lacking a better guess, she headed for Janice and asked about the assignment, as she was quite curious who her mentor was going to be now. Janice smiled. “We will decide that now that we know you got a spot.” Hikane nodded, and was ready to turn and leave, when Janice added “You uh… you might want to take a shower? You’ve been sweating quite a bit.”
    Hikane’s cheeks flared red. “I’m sorry,” she responded.
    “Don’t be,” Janice answered with a gentle smile. “You were incredible. If you wouldn’t be sweating after putting Dabria to the mats like that, that would be inhumane.”
    “I don’t have any extra clothes with me though,” Hikane was still flustered, ashamed of how ill prepared she’d come here. Most of her fights didn’t last as long as the one she’d just won. Janice presented a solution in the form of a generic white Judo-suit to borrow along with some towels, and the girl finally agreed to get herself washed. On the way to the locker room she went past a few people who said nice words to her and citing her victory as amazing. The warm feeling of her victory began to spread a bit throughout her again. Once she arrived in the dressers, however, her heart sank as she saw who else was there.
    Dabria was draped onto a bench, apparently still out cold. Next to her were the two blonde girls Hikane remembered. One of them was Violet, the other the twin-tailed, young looking girl who’d said something about Dabria never giving up.
    Violet was pouring a bit of water on Dabria’s forehead from a cup, while the other girl ventilated air towards her with some sheets of paper.
    “Waaah, sorry, I didn’t meant to intrude.” Hikane said in a panic and turned around immediately, trying to get away before these friends of Dabria would try to hurt her.
    “No, it’s alright” the twin-tailed girl answered. “You earned your place in this room more than she has.” She nudged towards Dabria. Hikane froze, unsure what to do, but the girl approached her.
    “Hi, I’m Elizabeth, but you can call me Eliza or Liza. I’m Dabria’s step-sister.”
    “Step-sister?” Hikane asked, unsure how family relations worked in detail.
    “Yeah. That means that we’re not really related but our parents are married now, basically.”
    “Oooh, right.” Hikane nodded. “It is an honor to meet you, Liza-senpai. I’m Hikane. And I’m really sorry for what I did to your step-sister.”
    “Eh, she’s had worse.” Eliza shrugged. “Besides, she kinda had that coming stepping into the ring again. Of course, SOMEONE had to convince her to go.” she looked over to Violet as she spoke, clearly unhappy with her involvement.
    “I honestly thought it would be a fun match to see. And it was!” the other girl responded.
    “Uh-huh. Except Dabria has gotten her ass put to the mats once again despite promising not to. Fainted, too.”
    Hikane looked confused. “Uhm… why didn’t she give up?” she inquired timidly.
    “Nobody really knows.” Eliza groaned. “My most recent theory is that her nervous system works at a much slower speed than anyone else's, so for her to take the clue that she’s been bested takes too long to register within that thick skull of hers.” Hikane’s confusion didn’t end then, but Violet’s laughter made her finally realise that this had been a joke and she giggled slightly.
    “In all honesty, though, you were really impressive. You really made Dabby look like a slow brute compared to your quick and swift movements. Like, when you jumped on her leg and got on top of her - I’ve never seen anyone do that before. Where did you learn this?” Eliza seemed much happier talking to Hikane than worrying about her sister again.
    Hikane’s expression brightened as she was praised. The question of her method of training brought her visually down a little, however. “I learned from my sister.” She simply responded.
    “Well, your sister was a talented fighter, or teacher at least.” Eliza concluded. “If she was part of this Academy she’d likely be an A-Rank I imagine. Like myself.”
    Hikane’s eyes widened at the blatant boast. An A-Rank! Praising her! Her painful memories of her sister’s loss were shoved away on the spot.
    “Whoa, you’re really strong, huh?” she asked, unwittingly patting Eliza’s ego further.
    “Well, I like to think I’m in a different league than dear Dabby here, even if we both had the same trainer. Oh, and while I don’t want to rain down on your parade at all… please don’t think that just because you beat Dabria in your first fight means that you can just waltz through here and dominate everyone. You’re good, but you need some practice still.”
    Hikane nodded fervently: “Hai. I know. What I’ve seen from the others today was really impressive, as well. I don’t think I would have won against all of them. But I hope that my mentor can help me get better.”
    Eliza smiled. “They will, I’m sure.”
    “Are you a mentor, as well?” Hikane wondered, a bit of hope in her eyes that she might be assigned to this nice person. But her hopes only lasted until Eliza shook her head. “Nope. I’m still ranked. You see, anyone who is a mentor cannot continue as a ranked fighter. That’s why there are so few spots for the programme.”
    “Ooooh, I see.” Hikane nodded in understanding. “So are you waiting here until the ambulance comes to pick Dabby up?”
    Eliza and Violet exchanged glances for a second, then Eliza turned to Hikane again: “Nah, there won’t be an ambulance coming to pick her up. She’ll be fine.”
    “But eh… shouldn’t they make sure that Dabby will be alright? I thought people are always brought to the hospital after being knocked out in the ring.”
    “Normally, yes.” Violet chimed in. “But Dabria is a bit of a special case.” She was done administering water to the smitten redhead and got up as well. “You see, she’s been in hospital so often that there was some trouble with the insurance, and her parents. So we’ll just make her wake back up here.”
    “Ah.” Hikane seemed dismayed. “I’m really sorry for that. I didn’t know. If I had, I wouldn’t have treated her as harshly. Or not even gotten into the ring. I don’t want her to be in trouble on my behalf.” Her voice seemed to overturn itself as she spoke so hastily, but Eliza just patted her head in response. “No worries. It’s really not your fault. Dabby should’ve known better and not gotten into the ring in the first place. I mean, she probably didn’t think you’d be so capable.”
    Hikane’s discomfort made way for a timid smile again.
    “I didn’t think it would go as it did, myself.” Eliza added “But you got here on account of a recommendation of the school’s vice-president. Which speaks for itself, really.” The timid smile widened.
    “When I saw Dabby go into the ring again, I kinda feared the worst for her… and when you ran circles around her while showering her with needle-like attacks, my fears kinda turned into reality. I mean, I’m really glad you made it, but I had a sliver of hope Dabby wouldn’t get beaten quite so badly. Again.”
    Hikane looked down somewhat guilt ridden. She wanted to say she was sorry, but she already had done so often enough. “You see, my step-sister lost a number of matches in a row. Quite harshly, and lost a number of ranks to that.”
    “Against us two, no less.” Violet chimed in. “Easiest rank-up I’d ever gotten.”
    “Right” Elliza took the word again. “And that, together with the fact that half the school seemed to make fun of her for it, lead to her mother forbidding her to go back into the ring.”
    “Whaaa, really?” Hikane looked at them in disbelief.
    “Oh I didn’t know that actually.” Violet added.
    “Of course, you wouldn’t have pushed her to go in otherwise.” Eliza concluded.
    “Right. Let’s assume that. Benefit of the doubt and all.” There was something scary about Violet that Hikane couldn’t quite place, but she had other things on her mind for the moment.
    “What will her mother say now?” Hikane blinked.
    “She won’t find out. Hopefully.” Eliza responded. “So eh… if it ever gets to that, Dabby tapped out and surrendered from your fight, alright?”
    “Riiiight.” Hikane seemed hesitant. “Uhm…” she looked down again.
    “Hmmmmm?” the other girls inquired in unison.
    “She couldn’t have surrendered.” Hikane explained. “I kinda, sorta made her unable to speak when I put my arm around her neck.”
    “Well yeah, but there’s other signs of surrender that Janice would’ve recognized, like her tapping the mat three times.”
    “Uhmmmm….” Hikane started again. “But she would’ve needed to be able to use her arms for that.”
    Violet quirked an eyebrow. “How do you mean?”
    “Pressure points. I struck hers in the armpits so she couldn’t use her arms to squeeze me with anymore.”
    Now it was Violet’s eyes turn to widen in amazement. “Whoa, really? Like in those cheesy martial arts movies?”
    Hikane just nodded.
    “Really, you can do that? Can you demonstrate that on her?” the blonde pointed at Eliza excitedly.
    “Don’t you dare.” the blue-dressed girl shot back at Violet, intimidating Hikane in the process.
    The little girl shook her head. “I won’t do that unless I’m fighting someone. It’s not right.”
    “Thank you.” Eliza threw in.
    “Awww.” Violet frowned in mock disappointment. “But that’s so cool! I totally want to get you as my student now.”
    Now it was Hikane’s turn again to be amazed. “You’re a tutor?!” she asked, wide-eyed.
    “‘f course. Well, it’s gonna be my first year, but I’ve totally passed those courses and stuff.” Violet grinned. She knew exactly what the girl was thinking but enjoyed the teasing just a bit too much. “What’s with the wide-eyed stare?”
    “N-Nothing. It’s just… “ Hikane babbled, not sure how to get out of that one.
    “It’s just that she didn’t think a fierce fighting machine like you would give up their ranks and career as a fighter at the school in order to teach the little ones.” Eliza helped out.
    “Well, you know me. I’m big-hearted like that.” Violet smirked.
    “I know that Dabby is a teacher.” Hikane tried changing the topic. “Is she a good one?”
    “Well she better be.” Eliza looked at her. “I don’t want to have to try and find another thing for her that has something to do with martial arts but doesn’t have her end up ready for hospital again and again.”
    “She did really well in the preparation seminars.” Violet added with a more serious tone. “Some of her teachers said she had the best marks ever, or at least in a long while.”
    “Mhmmm. Were that the same people that thought her to be the prodigy of the all-female club?” Eliza added with a dismissive tone.
    “Hey now, aren’t you supposed to be talking her up a bit? You’re her step-sister and all!” Violet protested.
    “Don’t get me started on that.” Eliza rolled her eyes. “God knows I tried and help Dabby out. But seeing her all messed up like this again frustrates me. More than her, apparently, else she’d have stopped by now.”
    Hikane looked awkward once again, and Violet snatched the opportunity to discuss her favourite topic so far again. “So those pressure points, where did you strike them?”
    “Huh? Oh. Well, first I tried to hit one at her thigh to bring her down. But I missed.”
    “You mean when you slid between her legs?” Violet seemed eager to know more.
    “Hai.” “Well, it’s hard when you’re moving like that. But it looked cool anyway. From where I was sitting at least. Like David versus Goliath or something.”
    “Only David had a weapon and got lucky, while Dabby is more in the Too-slow-and-too-thick department of things.” Eliza added.
    “Right right. So what then?” Violet spurred Hikane on.
    “Well, when she squeezed me like that I managed to sneak my hands in and push her right here.” Hikane indicated the spot under her own shoulder. “That made her stop. Usually for just a few seconds, but I had beaten her silly before so it took her system longer to recover. ‘Her chi was already disrupted’, as my sister explained it.”
    “Well her Chi has been in disorder for a while now.” Eliza added. “Maybe she should do Yoga.”
    Hikane nodded. “Well, Yoga is really good for focus.”
    “That was a joke.” Eliza explained. “Or well, something like that.”
    “But Yoga is good…” Hikane mused, then shook her head. “Anyway, what was that thing with the phone about?” Her curiosity got the better of her and she asked Violet despite being a bit afraid of her.
    “Hmm? Oh, just making sure that this bit-- eh, that the girl I had a disagreement with would stop defaming Dabby.”
    “As I said, people had been making fun of her for a while now because she lost so badly. Even I added some to that… I kinda started all of it” Eliza admitted. “But Violet here certainly isn’t innocent.”
    The addressed girl just shrugged. “Still think Julia deserved that.”
    “You realise the pictures she’s taken were probably uploaded to her cloud storage immediately and got saved anyway?”
    Violet shrugged again, longer and more exaggerated this time. “Well… she still deserved it.”
    Hikane scratched her head. “Owh… if I had known I wouldn’t have posed like that. I just thought it would be cute. And I was really happy that I’d won.”
    “Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.” Eliza responded.
    “Literally” Violet added.
    “And uh… didn’t that guy that showed up later take lots of pictures anyway?”
    “Hmm? You mean Simon?” Violet raised an eyebrow.
    “The boy with the camera. I forgot his name. He wanted to take pictures of me as well.”
    “Yeah, that’s Simon, my roommate.” Violet nodded. “But that’s different. He has a blog and writes for the school paper. He’s probably gonna write about this fight and it’ll be published both online and in the next issue of Pages of Pain, our Academy’s magazine.”
    “And how are we gonna keep it a secret from her mother then?” Eliza groaned. She made it sound like she was having a bad day while Dabby lay still knocked out in front of her.
    “Seems we’ll have to go with the ‘couldn’t surrender’ excuse after all.” Violet mused.
    “I can go and talk to this Simon person again and tell him what I told you, then he can write about it?” Hikane proposed.
    “Good idea.” Violet smiled. “I’ll make sure he doesn’t get anything out before we filtered it so that her mother wouldn’t be mad.”
    “I think the images of Dabby getting mistreated like that might be enough for that already.” Eliza didn’t seem convinced. “I think Simon was capturing the whole fight?”
    “Yeah, he snapped a lot of pictures. He said that Hikane flying around Dabby like that really made for great imagery. Also one he snapped right as you struck her temple and her face looked all silly like she just had had the best sex of her life.”
    Eliza shot her an angry look, and Violet quickly addressed Hikane whose face had flared red. “Eh, we can talk about these things, right? I mean we’re all 18 or older here.”
    “I’m seventeen.” Hikane said, looking down.
    “That’s basically the same thing.” Violet concluded. “Either way, I’m worried those pictures might fuel the fantasies of some creepy folks who get off on that kind of thing.”
    “You and me both” Eliza added. “So maybe poke Simon and get him not to publish those images? There’s enough others for his article. Like when Hikane jumped over Dabby’s hands like a frog or launched herself at her like an arrow. Those were some really neat moves by the way.”
    “I’ll try.” Violet seemed ponderous, “but he was really fond of that image. Said it captured the essence of the fight really well, with Hikane striking lightly but precisely to cause Dabria to be all over the place and looking like she was getting it truely.”
    “Just do your best. Or your worst. Whatever helps.” Eliza nodded, then turned back to Hikane. “You might want to get underway with your showering if you want to be on-time for the announcements.”
    “Oooh, of course.” Hikane agreed and went about her business.
    The shower worked wonders to soothe the girl and help calm her down a bit. She’d never fought in front of an audience before and been quite nervous. But the applause and cheers were really nice, she thought. She could get used to it. While not too fond of the idea of going to this school in the beginning, her early success changed her opinion, and she was now looking forward to the fighting as much as the lessons. However, all the people she met and things she learned, it felt like she was being dumped right into the middle of other’s lives. She’d never been the most social girl, to put it mildly. Talking to others was difficult for Hikane, she never really felt comfortable in social circles. But she was happy hearing others talk and just drawing mandalas as she heard their worries, hopes and just mundane affairs. It was just relaxing for her to listen to them without adding too much of her own.
    She stepped out of the showers, wrapping a long towel around her body as she began blow-drying her hair, lost in thought. She didn’t notice the door opening, but the new entry caught her attention quickly as she addressed her.
    “Hey” the familiar voice of Dabria sounded behind Hikane, and she twitched nervously from the sudden disturbance, turning around.
    “Oh, hello Dabria-senpai.” the little girl answered, her mouth opening again but she didn’t find any words to fill the opening with, or to drive the awkwardness away that had entered alongside Dabby.
    “Congratulations on your victory.” Dabria smiled, exhausted but honest. “You deserved getting in on the programme.”
    “Th-thank you, Dabria. I’m glad that you’re alright and well.”
    “Been through worse.” the redhead simply responded as she rolled her shoulders.
    “Whatever you did to my arms was really impressive, though. They still feel really numb.”
    “Ah, hahaha.” Hikane laughed awkwardly.
    “Either way I’m glad you got the spot. You earned it.” Dabria smiled at Hikane, though exhaustion was written all over her face.
    Not thinking much of it, she grabbed her top by the seam and pulled it off over her head, exposing her C-cup breasts, still moist with sweat, and causing Hikane to gawk awkwardly while her cheeks flushed red.
    Dabria proceeded to inspect the spots where she had been struck, in particular the one turned slightly blue between her ribs. “Oh and that one really stung, as well. Really drove the air out of me.”
    “Ehhh...hai. It’s called ‘The crane plucks the bee’s nest’.” Hikane stammered forth, still staring at the other’s shapely body out on display, clearly bearing the marks of the defeat it suffered at her own hands.
    “Really huh. That sounds like you just made it up.” Dabria smiled lightly before proceeding to pull her spandex pants down as well, revealing her bosom and finally prompting Hikane to turn away, focusing intensely on blowing her hair now.
    “N-no. It really is the name. The crane has a beak that allows it to strike precise spots, and the bees get angry when being plucked, like the air leaving your lungs.”
    “Uh-huh. And why would the crane pluck those bees then?” Dabria seemed unconvinced as she massaged her thighs gently, her fingers pressing into her skin and feeling up how bad the damage to her legs was. Meanwhile, Hikane stared at her reflection in the mirror, looking on as Dabria felt around her pelvis and even into her crotch as she traced the lines imprinted by the fabric of her attire.
    “Maybe they like honey.” the little girl responded. She didn’t know the answer, so this was as good a guess as any.
    Dabria just chuckled slightly. “Maybe.” She sighed in relief as she finally got to scratch those spots where the seam of her panties had dug themselves into under pressure, as well as they precise strikes Hikane had landed. The whole scene became too much for Hikane then, and she absentmindedly stared at the attractive redhead as the hairdryer was pointed wherever.
    “Who knows, maybe you end up being my pupil after this display. That would be quite funny, don’t you think?” Dabria mused. There was no threat in her voice as if she wanted to get revenge on the little lass. “I would certainly be glad to have a talented student such as you. But then, after what just happened, maybe you should be teaching me.” Dabria continued to inspect herself, and Hikane was too captivated to respond.
    “Staring is considered rude, by the way.” Dabria said almost indifferently, before looking up and meeting Hikane’s gaze in the mirror.
    “Waaaaah! I’m sorry! I’m sorry Dabria-senpai. I won’t be staring again. I was just--”
    “It’s alright, don’t sweat it.” Dabria said as she turned and disappeared into the shower, bringing her bottle of shampoo. “Just try and get used to not being alone in the showers. Oh, and watch out for people trying to slap your butt with a wet towel. Hurts more than you might think.” Hikane decided her hair was dry enough by now and it was time to make her escape. “Goodbye, Dabria, and thank you again for the fight.”

    “Bye.” Dabria acknowledged the other girl leaving, then turned her attention to the shower. Or well, inwards, as the water poured over her body and that magic moment began when it felt like the pain was all but washed off of her, and she found some respite. It also helped clearing her head fully and regaining the senses in her arms as the water rinsed over her well-defined muscles. She sighed in a mixture of resignation and indifference. She should’ve known better than get badgered into this by Violet. There was little to gain for her from a fight like this. If she had won, it would not really have impressed anyone. This way however impressed people, but then certainly not about her.
    On the other hand, someone had to get in that ring, and at this point in her fighting career, there wasn’t much left to lose anyway. She’d given up her rank in order to become a tutor, and she would make sure she was a good one, despite her ongoing inability to have a match go her way. At least Hikane seemed like a nice enough girl who really deserved the spot, so maybe it wasn’t all that bad.
    She poured some of her 2-in-1 shampoo and started rubbing it over herself, taking her sweet time with it. She was in no hurry to learn whom she might be paired with, as there was nothing she could do at this point anyway. Instead she enjoyed this warm feeling enveloping her body, which had been sore and aching from her workout even before she stepped into the ring. Foam formed on her skin and ran down the girl’s curves, an enticing show if anyone had been watching. She couldn’t help but rub those spots again that Hikane had poked. Even now, they still felt painful just to touch lightly. That girl really knew what she was doing. But the relief from the warm water still felt like a heavenly embrace, something that almost made the ordeal worth enduring.
    If only those damn images could be washed away as easily as her pain. Of course, some asshole had to take pictures of her and upload them, despite Violet’s more-or-less heroic efforts to prevent such a measure. But the fight would likely be reported in the school paper anyway, and she knew her mom and step-dad always read it. So there was no getting out of explaining what she was doing in the ring, despite her promise to her mother not to fight again. She’d wound up in the hospital a bit too often before quitting her career, and her old lady had lost her patience and forbade her to fight until unconsciousness again. But then, what was she supposed to do here? Her intentions to give up were all but swept away by her opponent’s sneaky techniques that left her helpless in the much smaller combatant’s grasp, and the referee hadn’t realized this until it was too late.
    Luckily Eliza had made sure she got back on her feet in here rather than the hospital, and the little girl certainly hadn’t given her the worst bruising in her life. Seems she hadn’t needed to either, as those attacks of hers, while weak, stung immensely due to her great precision. Dabria couldn’t help but wonder how her opponent had done that. Who knows, maybe she would get Hikane as her student after all, despite the pretext. Then she could teach her all about the world of organized martial arts that seemed new to her, as well as proper shower etiquette. And maybe Dabria could pick up a thing or two from the little one, as well. Tutor - pupil relationships were always symbiotic, or so they learned during the preparatory courses. Maybe there was something to it.
    Most of the spectators had left by the time Hikane came out of the dressing room. There was nothing exciting to watch anymore, just the revelations on the mentor pairings. Thus only a few senior students remained, as well as a few more junior ones and their company. The little upshot was now wearing the white Judo suit she’d been given, and despite being the smallest available it was still too big for her, making her look rather adorable as she went straight to Maria and Estelia. A few people recognized her underways and smiled acknowledgingly at her.
    “What a show. You were great.” Maria hugged Hikane matronly and lifted her up, causing her to flail her legs slightly. “Maybe they should put you down as one of the tutors rather than a pupil, hmm?” Hikane was placed on the floor again, and she chuckled slightly while scratching her head. “Thank you, Maria. But I think I can learn a lot still.”
    Estelia stepped up to Hikane and smiled broadly. “Well done.” she simply said, then leaned forward for a somewhat more restrained hug than her excited mother had put forth.

    “Lists are out” Janice announced, prompting everyone to stop whatever they were doing and head towards the tables. Multiple copies had been put on display, and accordingly multiple crowds formed. It appears there were quite a few tutor spots, three dozen in total. Maria, Hikane and Estelia looked over one of the lists. “Look, Estelia! You got Dabria Elmoore as your mentor, just like you wanted.” Hikane exclaimed cheerfully.
    Estelia seemed slightly confused by that statement. She hadn’t found the corresponding entry yet, and she wasn’t quite so convinced that it was her who had wanted Dabria to be her mentor.
    “Ah I see.” Estelia acknowledged as she finally found it. “Now where’s your name?”
    A loud exclamation of joy from the neighbouring set of lists distracted the trio, as the blonde called Violet seemed to have found her pairing. “Wooo, I got the little pipsqueak that beat Dabby’s ass.” She grinned widely and looked around, not taking long to find the startled Hikane. She approached her new pupil with sure strides. “Isn’t that great? I get to be your mentor! So we can train together and you can show me those awesome moves that make people vomit when you pinch them and stuff.”
    “You’re supposed to be teaching her, not the other way ‘round.” Eliza said, rolling her eyes as she stepped up behind the excited Violet.
    “Huh? Oh yeah, sure. Of course. I’m gonna teach the shit out of this little flea of death.”
    “Eh… ah...ehahahaaaaa.” Hikane laughed awkwardly, not sure how to handle the situation. Violet didn’t seem to mind. “So Hikane, yes? Can I call you Hikki? Or Hiks?” The blonde’s eyes sparkled with a mixture of excitement and admiration.
    “Uuuhm, you can call me what you like, Violet-sensei.” Hikane responded, bowing deeply before her new mentor. “It is an honor to be your student.”
    “Sensei, huh? I like that. I used to be called Queen V, but this is so much more awesome. Exotic and stuff. Hey, what’s your phone number?” Violet-sensei asked as she whipped out her phone.
    “Uhmmm…” Hikane looked down at her toes, then recited her home number, struggling a bit with the last digit, as Violet typed it out into her address book.
    “No I mean like, your mobile number?” Violet clarified.
    “I don’t have a mobile phone.” Hikane responded without looking up.
    “Oh. Right then, this’ll do. You got something to write here, so I can give you mine?”
    Hikane shook her head, but Maria nodded and took out pen and paper from her handbag, passing it to the girl.
    After violet dictated her number, Hikane took a few moments to try and memorize it. Dabria approached the group meanwhile, but she was spotted by the excited blonde a few meters away. “Hey Dabby! I got the little runt that whooped your ass.” she smiled teasingly.
    “Ah, well done.” Dabria responded. “At least one of you knows how to fight then.”
    Violet chuckled “Now now, don’t make me kick your ass again. Or set my little Bringer of Pain on your butt to take you down the second time today.”
    “I think you’re still confused about how this mentor - pupil thing is supposed to work, Violet.” Eliza threw in, but Violet completely ignored her.
    “Whom did I get?” Dabria inquired.
    “Me.” Estelia waved and smiled shyly.
    “Ah, nice. Hey there, I’m Dabria Elmoore.” the redhead approached her new pupil, and the two girls shook hands courteously.
    “My name is Estelia Lothring.” the other responded.
    “And I’m her mother, Maria.” the older woman chimed in.
    “A pleasure to meet you, as well.” Dabria added and shook her hand too.
    “We asked around a bit about you when you volunteered to be Hikane’s opponent today. I heard a lot of good things about your performance in the preparatory courses. People seemed to agree that you would make a great mentor, so I pushed to have you in charge of my daughter’s training.”
    “Ah, why thank you.” Dabria smiled.
    “However,” Maria continued, “after seeing you in the ring I must say I’m not quite so convinced anymore. I mean, training and performance are different things, but surely one who is to educate others needs a firm understanding and experience in the ring herself, lest she teaches the wrong things.”
    “Ouch!” Violet said, her excitement not abating. “Get wrekt, Dabby!”
    The words hit the redhead like a truck, causing her to wince and reel back visibly. She’d been worried that her credibility as a mentor might suffer from her defeat, but this was more head-on than even she expected.
    “My step-sister will do just fine.” Eliza said chimed in. “Dabria is really good with the theory and very determined. And she’s had one of the best martial arts teachers there is, so no need to worry.”
    Maria seemed unconvinced. “Really now. And who might that be?”
    “My father.” Eliza said, not even trying to conceal the pride in her voice. “And I’m sure he’ll help Dabby out if any problems arise.”
    “Well, if you say so.” Maria countered. ”There was plenty of information and pertinent imagery available online to show that this wasn’t a one-time mishap with Dabria. We paid for her to become Estelia’s teacher. I’d hate to see our investment go to waste.”
    “Mom, stop it!” The red creeping into Estelia’s cheeks had finally boiled over and burst out. “Just because Dabria was beaten by Hikane doesn’t mean she’ll do a poor job teaching me!”
    Maria glanced at her daughter, then shrugged and addressed dabria again. “I suppose we shall see what becomes of this. Regardless, I trust you will do your best and am eager to see my daughter’s skill grow under your guidance.”
    The redhead simply nodded, too dumbstruck to respond properly.
    “As for now, I must leave. I have an appointment with a client. Farewell.” She nodded at the crowd, then turned to leave with Estelia following right behind her.
    The dark-haired woman paused once again and looked back at Hikane. “Are you coming?”
    “Eh… of course!” Hikane had no idea what she meant or why she would go with them, but she didn’t dare to question Maria. The three of them left the hall together.
    Idoro likes this.
  5. TheQuietAuthor

    TheQuietAuthor Ryonani Teamster

    Jul 30, 2013
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    AUTHOR’S NOTE: Usage of tags is important in order to warn the reader of material they might find offensive. On the other hand, they can give away key parts of a story and thus there’s a danger of spoiling the audience. As a compromise, the relevant tags for each chapter will be included in spoiler tags.
    Death, Underage Protagonist

    From Dusk till Mourn

    A bead of sweat formed on the girl's brow as she focused intensely on the task at hand. Bright light kept pulsing from the hot metal pin as she soldered the final piece into place. A slight nudge of her finger, and the transistor was perfectly aligned with the connecting band of wire running through the circuit board. She turned the device around in her hand, scrutinizing her own work until she found it satisfactory, then put the soldering iron away. With that done, she turned to her friend, Sasha.
    "Alrighty, think our package is done. How're we for a destination?"
    "Looking good" the blonde replied "Just weeded out another three options and I'm down to two addresses for the meeting. I'm thinking this Hotel Aika is our best bet."
    "Well, bets are nice. Except if you lose them." Diane gave back. "See if you can make sure. I'll go get us drinks."
    "Perf." Sasha nodded as she turned her attention to the computer screen before her again, fiddling about with the mapping tools to piece together the final clues of the puzzle.

    Diane went out the door and down the hallway to the vending machine. No other students were around at this time, everyone was busy with their clubs or learning for exams. Technically, the two of them were a club as well, the 'Adventure Club', though they were certainly the least advertised student group ever, since they didn't want any other members, just access to the university's resources that allowed them to pursue their investigative hobby.
    The two had known each other since pre-school and their bond only grew over the years. When they both got accepted to Ryona University, or RyoU for short, they were overjoyed and immediately planned out their courses together. Due to some machinations, Sasha was able to register their antics, best described as "unpaid private detective work", as a club and they got a moderate amount of funding out of it. Not the world, but certainly enough to keep doing what they had always been up to, only now with gadgets. They were originally asked to just join the University Paper Club but figured that would hold them down too much. Certainly though, the case they were working on right now would be printed in more than just the university's press.
    With a metallic clatter, Diane deposited the coins in the vending machine and the robot got to work as it pulled out two cans of soda and gently lowered them to the retrieval flap, rather than just dropping them out of metal spirals like the previous models used to. This way at least the carbonation wouldn't cause the drink to burst all over your face in case you forgot to let them rest for a bit. Which, Diane had to admit, she did quite frequently. Luckily, technology was there to fix her tardiness. She'd made that a bit of her life motto.
    When she returned to their club's assigned room, which was hardly more than a storage room, Sasha turned around and crossed her arms triumphantly, looking at her friend with a cocky expression.
    "Guess what?" The expectant girl asked.
    "They've found another planet?" Diane responded in mocking misunderstanding.
    "Maybe. But no, I ruled out the other option because one of the signals we'd picked up could only have come from the hotel, rather than the old train depot!" She smiled widely. "Meaning we got our destination for that package of yours."
    "Ah, great. Now we just need a way to deliver it."
    "On it already." She pointed to the screen where a script was running and lines of code were running by quickly. "I'm brute-forcing my way into the hotel's system right now. I should have the list of reservations shortly. Then we just have to figure out what room they rented for the meeting with the names we picked up, and make sure we get your bug in there."
    "Ah, awesome. This'll be the find of the century. Imagine the headlines: 'International Drug cartel busted by two student heroines.'"
    "I've been imagining them for a while now." Sasha smirked.
    Diane passed her the soda, and they enjoyed their little refreshments while the script was doing the dirty work. "So what else is new?" the dark haired girl inquired. "I know you were browsing the news while you should've been working."
    "I *was* working." Sasha insisted. "Or well, gotten the work done. But it's just the usual really. Politicians dressing their lies in pretty phrases, lame sports results for lamebrained lemurs, gang wars costing more lives by the day and a mysterious assassin keeping the police on their toes."
    "That last one sounds a bit out of the ordinary." Diane inquired.
    "Well, it's really just a media darling case." Sashas answer came promptly. She seemed to have read quite a bit about the case. "A bunch of seemingly unrelated murders all connected by nothing other than a calling card or something. Victims are apparently random, method of death differs from being tossed from lethal heights to broken necks to knives buried in someone's arteries."
    "Wow, sounds harsh."
    "Well, given the murder rate of this city, it's really just a small drop in the bucket. Less than 1% of all murders committed in the city in the last month were in connection with this 'Dusk', as they're called."
    "Ha, I'd like to have your confidence." Diane mused "Going out like, 'statistically I'll be save.'"
    "What are we if not statistics." The blonde responded playfully as the computer's screen lighted up. "Oh, speaking of statistics. Seems we got some results."
    Her program returned a list, as she'd hoped, and the two girls set down to compare the names they'd gotten from the clues they collected from various radio-frequencies across the city.
    Soon, they would have their target, and the next phase of their operation could begin.


    “You getting a signal?” Diane asked impatiently. She looked back at her friend who was fiddling with the small improvised receiver.
    “Well, yes.” Sasha gave back absentmindedly. “But it’s weak and distorted. I think they got a jammer in place or at least the room is actually shielded.”
    “Boo. So now what?”
    “Oh we’ve got ways. You’re good at lip reading, right? So you observe them and tell me what you think they’re saying, I compare it to the bits and pieces I’m getting out of this here, and write down the most probable things they’re saying.” the blonde gave back, shaking the electronic device in her hand.
    “Then why did we even bother with the bug?” The other asked. “Not like we can prove anything with this.”
    “Oh come on, don’t be such a downer. We’ll find a new trail and get our evidence, don’t you worry. Also we can go have a nice fat latté after this is done. My treat.”
    “Works for me! Oh, here they come.” Diane said, making no effort to mask her excitement.
    So far, their plan had worked flawlessly. Thanks to Sashas gift for charming people, they’d managed to sneak into the hotel and deposit the listening device as “trial members of the clean-up crew”, as a certain blonde had put it. Now all that was left to do was reap the rewards of their endeavour.
    A total of 5 people occupied the room they observed, two of them undoubtedly bodyguards, dressed in black suits and with dark shades, they cut imposing figures. Other than them, it seemed one side of the party had a young couple doing the talking while the other was an elegant lady in a long evening gown that seemed wholly out of place in a meeting such as that. Their conversation began, and Diane was thankful that they seemed to talk about mundane things, so she had some time getting used to their articulation while Sasha behind her scribbled frantically to keep a record as exact as possible. Finally, they got on to the good stuff.
    “...last delivery…… not….. specifications….. Must…. improve.” the elegant lady seemed serious when speaking.
    “...problem...manufacture….. next batch….. perfect…. shipping…. now.”
    The girls on the roof were focused on their tasks. They didn’t catch it all, but the gist of it was pretty clear.
    “.....next….saturday…. on dock….%$&.”
    “What was that?” Sasha asked the listening device, as if it was going to answer.
    “It was Dock number 58. A transport coming from South America loaded with Bananas. They’ve hidden the stuff inside the fruit’s shells, apparently.”
    “Oh, great! You’re amazing, Diane!” Her friend cheered.
    “I know right. Now, all we gotta do is alert the authorities to do a random search on that boat. Or maybe investigate ourselves.” the dark haired girl mused.
    “Well, we got until Saturday to figure that one out. For now, let’s get outta here.” Sasha added. The two got up and headed to the secondary stairwell that served as the building’s fire exit.

    The two finally arrived at the ground level, and Diane quietly opened the fire exit door. The building was decayed enough not to have an automatic fire alert, and she was pleased to see the back alley it lead into empty, save for trash containers and more trash than fit into them. Lighting was dim, only a single weak bulb above the exit shed some light into the dark alleyway, but that was just the way the two preferred.
    “Coast’s clear.” the blonde confirmed, and the two left the building for good. It was hard for them to contain their excitement and make a normal appearance, not least due to their attire. Just out of here and round the corner, and they’d be out of here.
    A rustling from the side caught their attention, and both of them twitched nervously, their eyes straining against the darkness to see what caused the noise. It seemed to come from a nearby pile of newspapers.
    “Probably just a rat.” Sasha said, unable to hide the nervousness in her voice. Diane seemed unconvinced, and slowly approached the pile of refuse. Her heart skipped a beat as her eyes made out another pair of eyes staring back at her from between the papers, finally realising that someone was huddled in there. Their face was dirty but bright-eyed, and the poor soul seemed to be shivering.
    “No actually it’s a hobo.” Diane corrected her friend.
    “P..please. I’m hungry.” a meek girl’s voice emanated from the run-down face, followed shortly by a thin arm reaching out.
    “Time to go.” Sasha urged, but Diane couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor little thing. She digged through her pockets and found some change, then proceeded to approach the girl and pass it to her.
    Sasha sighed impatiently as the other passed over her hand’s content to the girl. “Are you done with your charity?”
    She got no response. “Hello? Our train is going soon.” Nothing. Finally losing her patience, she stepped up to her accomplice. “What’s the matter? What are you --” and then, she saw what had caused her to be frozen in fear. In her hand, stretched out to pass a few spare coins to a suffering young girl, Diane held a rock dyed in yellow colour in trembling fingers. Sasha’s eyes widened as the realisation hit her. This was the calling card of an Assassin. Of Du--
    Her train of thought was ended abruptly as the pile of papers was tossed into the air. Both of the girls immediately unfroze and looked in panic at the spot the rubbish had risen from, but found of barren of anyone.
    “Look out!” Diane suddenly shouted, giving Sasha just enough time to spin in place and face her attacker as she lunged forward, trying to kick the investigator in her side. She barely managed to get her waist out of the way as the surprisingly small foot shot past. The assailant didn’t let up however, and as soon as her foot touched the ground again she pulled her other up, this time with more success as she buried the heel in Sasha’s belly as she didn’t get far enough away that time. “Ouufff.” she exhaled as the air was driven out of her, stumbling back and clutching her stomach.
    Meanwhile, Diane frantically searched through her pockets as she tried to even the odds against this attacker who was much more adapt at hand-to-hand combat than the two combined. She found her pepper spray and thrust the dispenser forward, but her aim was ruined as an open-palm strike hit her hand from below and sent the bottle of deterrence flying away. She didn’t have time to regret it’s departure however as the attacker followed through with another palm strike to her solar plexus, striking her right above the breasts and causing her vision to explode in sparks as her nerves overloaded from the precise strike.
    “Hnnaaah!” Sasha shouted to get the attackers attention as she charged towards the little girl, trying to get a hold of her so that her quickness would be negated. With outstretched arms, she rushed towards her target. As she made contact with the girl’s back, however, she quickly hunched forward and ducked under the attack, using Sasha’s momentum to throw her over her back and send her crashing into the stricken Diane with her head ramming the other’s belly, and both of them losing their balance. The two investigators landed on the floor with two thuds and whimpers of pain, Sasha landing face-down on top of her friend. The yellow calling card fell to the floor with a clacking.
    Suddenly, Sasha’s head was yanked back by the hair. Being pulled up harshly like that hurt the sensitive skin on the back of her skull immensely, and she let out a small yelp of pain. “H-hey. Wha--aargk!” she got out as two fingers jabbed in the back of her neck, striking between two of her cervical vertebrae and squishing the nerves running down her spine. Her eyes widened in shock as what felt like liquid fire spread through her back and through her entire body. She tried to fight back, but her body would not respond. It would not even flail. It was entirely unresponsive and numb save for the pain washing through her, but it didn’t last long as her circulation shut down and her consciousness began to fade. Her last thought was that she hope that somehow, Diane would be spared.
    The dark haired girl saw what happened to her friend but was powerless to stop it. “Sasha! No!” tears welled up in her eyes as the life faded from the other. She looked at their attacker in a panic and crawled backwards, trying to get away somehow, but her back soon met the fire exit door that would not yield from this side. The attacker stepped closer, now illuminated by the light above the door and in plain view. It was, for all intents and purposes, a little girl of asian descent wearing traditional oriental clothing and wearing her long hair in an elegant ponytail. She was surprisingly cute, and that made a harsh contrast with the brutal and lethal task she was carrying out. Diane sobbed and put up her hands. “P...please. I surrender.” The attacker paused, standing only one step away from her. “You killed her! You killed Sasha! Why… why?!” she tried to shout but couldn’t as the emotions overwhelmed her and she broke down crying again.
    “Because it was asked of me.” the girl simply responded.
    “What kind of reason is that?!” Diane’s voice broke up in anger as she glanced again at her friend's’ corpse cooling off just a few inches from her. The girl didn’t respond. Instead, she raised her hand, the edge pointed towards Diane. “No...no! I promise I won’t tell anyone! You can have all of our data, everything! Just please let me go home.” She started sobbing again. The attacker looked at her blankly, no emotion recognizable on her visage. “You will go home. And you will see Sasha again.” she added, then her hand shot forward and struck Diane squarely on her throat, crushing her windpipe and rendering her unable to breathe. Her eyes widened and she tried to draw breaths in a panic, wheezing. But it was no use. Soon, her struggle turned slower and slower, and finally she succumbed to the lack of oxygen, her face turning blue as she slumped forward.
    Hikane looked around herself, the silence of the aftermath even more ominous than the pleas and fears of Diane had been. But it was no use. She pulled the dead, dark-haired girl away from the fire entrance and next to her friend, then proceeded to pick up the yellow stone and place it in her hand. She took another from her pocket and deposited it in Sasha’s palm. Her mission was almost complete, though she hated this next part. For that, she had to search through the girl’s pockets and destroy their data storages, to make sure no information gathered would become available to those who found the bodies. She proceeded to do so, and found Sasha’s phone. On it, she had a glance at the background image, apparently from one of their vacation. Seeing the two like that made the girl smile. They seemed to be good friends, and them now being together forever helped the girl out as she continued to erase the work that the two had died for.