Chapter 60

“Losing Myself”

When Nagataka opened his eyes, he was nearly jolted to a scream by Isamu. She had her face just a few inches away from his, and before he had a chance to yell, she put her hand on his mouth and held him down firmly. She raised her other hand a put a finger on her lips, gesturing for silence.

After a few moments, Nagataka calmed down and nodded at Isamu. With a small grin, she took her hand off his mouth.

“We have company,” she whispered. She sat back on her haunches, pulled her eyepatch down on her eye, and Nagataka realized she had already transformed into Nereida Caribea.

“Have they found us?” Nagataka said, matching Isamu’s whispered tone. Then, his expression changed to surprise. “Wait, it’s morning already? You didn’t wake me up?”

Isamu raised an eyebrow. “Obviously, you needed to sleep. Is it really the time to discuss that?” She made a short pause, and then continued in a more cautious tone. “They haven’t seen us. I don’t think they’re looking for us.” She stood up, and dug under the canvas covering their vehicle.

Nagataka sighed and shook his head. “How many? Just one?”

“Three,” Isamu replied. After a few seconds she emerged with Nagataka’s homemade spear in her hands. “There may be more.”

“More?” Nagataka replied, raising his voice in his surprise and earning a severe look from Isamu. “This is bad,” he continued, now talking in a whisper again.

“Why? It’s perfect.”

“But…” Nagataka eyed the spear distrustfully. “I’m not sure how well that thing will work. And if there are several enemies-”

“Stop worrying. Obviously, if it doesn’t work, I have mine,” she said, tapping the handle of her sword. “I know they work.”

“I suppose…”

Isamu smirked, and Nagataka had the distinct impression that she was looking forward to the fight.

“Okay, so what’s the plan?” he said.

“I was about to ask the same thing,” Isamu replied. She shook her spear. “What do I do with this?”

“Right hold on…” Nagataka fidgeted with the base of the head, and soon the spear started emitting a low hum. “Okay, it’s on now.”

“How does it work?”

“Okay, lessee… It absorbs Gaia power, and-”

“Gaia power?”

“Oh, that’s what Ran and I call the… whatever thing that gives her her power. You know like the barrier and the arrows and all that.” Nagataka stopped talking and furrowed his brow. “Do you have the same kind of power? We should have checked first.”

“It is not important. So, it absorbs my power.”

“No, no, it absorbs the power of whatever you hit, and sends it back. This worked before to break through Ran’s barrier, so I think it will work on the aliens.”

“Sounds easy.”

“I suppose. But… be careful. One thing is that it can give a lot of feedback and blast you as well as blasting of your enemy.”

Isamu raised an inquisitive eyebrow without saying a word.

“So,” Nagataka continued, “make quick attacks and don’t let it absorb too much, okay? It’s full of batteries and capacitors to give you some leeway, but…”

“But obviously you won’t know until I try it.”

“Uh, yeah, pretty much I suppose.”

“Good, I-”

Their low voiced conversation was interrupted by a loud explosion not far from where they were. In the stillness that followed, Nagataka thought he heard some distant voices, human screams. Then there was a second explosion.

He made a start as if to run out of their hiding spot, but Isamu stopped him, grabbing the back of his shirt.

“Stop,” she said, speaking in a dry voice that sent a chill up Nagataka’s spine.

“But-”

“Don’t lose your head. You have to stay safe.”

Nagataka furrowed his brow. That had sounded like a quote, and Isamu’s demeanour had changed completely.

She’s done this before.

Isamu let go and, without another word, turned to run down the tunnel towards the exit. Her speed kept increasing, and when she reached the threshold, she jumped out with such energy that it looked like she had simply vanished in thin air.

* * *

Isamu moved as quickly as possible, jumping from ledge to ledge until she reached a high spot where she could take stock of the situation. Three manned mecha had landed and were walking through the rubble. One of the three was rooting through the smoking rubble that marked the point of the explosions.

She furrowed her brow looking at it, and tried to calm herself down. She had seen it many times before. Metallic red with white stripes, the vision of those monsters had always been a harbinger of death and destruction.

A loud thump caught her attention, and she saw that a fourth mecha had landed behind her, well apart from the others.

Perfect.

She grasped her spear tightly with both hands, and jumped down to ground. She ran at full speed at ground level, coming around and closing in towards her enemy from the back. When she was just a few meters away, she jumped high and, grasping the shaft of the spear with both hands in a wide grip, made a sweep aimed at the glass-domed cabin of the mecha.

The impact almost wrestled the spear out of her hands. She could swear the impact had come before the weapon touched the armored robot, but she reacted well and managed to hold the sweep. It all happened extremely quick, breaking the resistance, the glass dome shattering with her attack, and a blast that caught her directly and sent her veering off-course, crashing to the ground without a chance to do a better landing.

There was a still moment in which she wasn’t sure where she was. As the world spun back into view, she saw the damaged mecha still rambling about. She could see the blue figure of the Livuan struggling at the controls, and the mecha’s movements becoming more coordinated. It stopped, turned towards her, and her brain finally kicked into gear.

Crap, move!

Her legs struggled under the confused commands of her brain, and she lost her footing when the first shot from the mecha’s outstretched arm landed near her. Two more impacts followed, and she was tossed about like a rag doll, miraculously avoiding a direct hit.

The fourth explosion was different. It sounded different, and it had come from a distance away. Isamu managed a glimpse through the cloud of dust and debris that had engulfed her, to see smoke coming out of the back of the mecha, and even further away a vehicle. A buggy. She couldn’t make the detail of Nagataka standing on the back with a shoulder-mounted RPG, readying a second shot.

The next second happened extremely slowly in her mind. She saw the mecha’s arm coming up, aiming towards the buggy. As if out of its own volition, her hand reached for her blunderbuss, and she raised her aim as a blast of energy shot out of the mecha’s outstretched hand. It was too late. The blast of energy from her gun blew the arm away, but the shot crashed where the buggy had been, and the resulting explosion made Nagataka disappear from view.

She felt as if something cold had settled inside her belly. She rushed out, grabbing the fallen spear as she ran, and closing the distance to the very surprised Livuan at blinding speed.

The pilot only had enough time to save his own skin by moving the mecha backwards in a desperate manoeuvre, trying to avoid the falling, screaming human female that had so far nearly destroyed his vehicle.

Isamu hadn’t realized she had been screaming.

Having this time landed on her feet, she turned and launched a frontal attack with the spear, going towards the chest of the mecha and the large opening she had just carved in it. The Livuan had ejected as soon as Isamu had turned, and got to see his armoured mecha explode into a thousand pieces of biomechanical goo.

As soon as he landed he scrambled to his feet and pulled an energy pistol out, quickly aiming in the general direction of his vehicle’s remains.

He didn’t even see the spearhead that sliced his arm clean. It was all a confused blur of movement and the figure of the strangely clad human female that kicked him on the chest and sent him flying. It didn’t stop until the female pinned him to the ground, holding his neck in a crushingly strong grip.

They locked eyes for a moment. The Livuan’s thoughts raced in confusion; he had seen and killed many humans before, they had always been weak and scared. But there was no fear in the merciless eye that was looking down at him.

“You scum,” Isamu muttered, speaking between clenched teeth as she tightened her grip. “Pray before you die that you didn’t hurt him, or I’ll hunt down and kill every last one of your kind.”

The Livuan’s eyes didn’t show any signs of understanding. They showed only pain, when Isamu tabbed him in the stomach with the spear and, with a twist, turned it to thrust it upwards through the alien’s chest. Bones snapped and blue blood poured out, and the last feeling the unfortunate pilot had was of being hoisted upwards.

Isamu caught a glance of red through the corner of her eye, and finished with the livuan to turn her attention to the incoming enemies. Three mecha, the three that had been killing humans, perhaps. She unsheathed her blade and drew her blunderbuss, but this time she didn’t smile.

* * *

“Nagataka! Can you hear me? Nagataka!”

What… ugh… That voice…

“Nagataka, come on, wake up!”

He struggled with the sopor that seemed to have taken hold of him, and slowly managed to open his eyes. Everything was blurry, all he could see was the solid blue of the sky, and a dark shadow to his right. The vision became gradually sharper, and he managed to make the familiar face of Isamu looking down at him. She had pulled her eyepatch up, but was otherwise in her Nereida costume.

“What… where am I?” he mumbled.

The relief Isamu felt was accompanied with the tension had had kept her energy up disappearing, and she nearly fell from her sitting position with a rush of enormous relief. She didn’t answer Nagataka’s question, and when the boy tried to sit up, she visibly hesitated, as if she wasn’t sure she wanted to touch him.

“What’s… Nereida Caribea, what…”

His strength failed him, and he would have fallen down if Isamu hadn’t grabbed him. She helped the young man up to a comfortable sitting position, with his back resting on a fallen piece of debris. As soon as he was down, she let go like she would have a burning log.

“Are you hurt? Does it hurt somewhere?” Isamu said. She was looking at him up and down, but avoiding looking at him directly. “One of those… They shot at you and… Obviously, what else you stupid girl?”

“No, I’m… Ugh, it hurts all over. What was I…. Oh crap. Right. The mecha.” He looked at Isamu, who had turned away from him and was endlessly wringing her hands. For the first time Nagataka realized she was covered in grime, and goo, and blue liquid. “What happened?”

Isamu didn’t answer, so Nagataka looked away and tried to see where he was. The signs of battle were obvious, and there were remains of alien mecha all around them, twisted and snapped metal mixed with smeared and diced biological material.

What a mess.

Then he saw it. At first he wasn’t sure what it was, or perhaps his brain wasn’t quite ready to process it. He struggled to his feet without Isamu moving an inch or saying a word, or even looking at him. She stayed on the same spot, kneeling down on the ground, while Nagataka took a few hesitant steps.

Not far from where he was there was a dead alien, a meter above ground. Impaled on something – something that turned out to be the spear he had built.

He walked back and looked down at Isamu, who still hadn’t moved.

“What happened?” he said, speaking in a very terse voice.

It took Isamu a couple of seconds to respond. She struggled to regain her composure, and turned to Nagataka after taking a deep breath. Her expression was close to her usual serious one, but there was tension in it too.

“I killed them.”

“Well yes, I can see that. But…”

Isamu didn’t answer. She gulped noisily, and a couple of times she looked like she was about to jump to her feet and then thought better of it. It was Nagataka who, without warning, fell down to his knees and embraced her.

She gave a surprised start, but didn’t move an inch. She only froze.

“It’s okay. Ran told me. She told me it’s easy to lose control.” He paused, and then repeated the only thing he could think of. “It’s okay.”

Isamu didn’t say anything. It had felt like she had been stabbed by an icy dagger when Nagataka had mentioned Ran.

Always Ran. It’s just her. It’s… I don’t care. I don’t.

And then, awkwardly, she put her arms around Nagataka and let him hold her close.

0 Comments ↓

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply