Chapter 78


Nagataka had been watching the fight with increasing restlessness, but there wasn’t a lot he could do. He had set up a mine field for Ran, but she had not done one thing to bring the fight towards him. The red marks of the mines shone uselessly through his glasses.

“Why doesn’t she come this way?” he muttered. He was standing behind the jeep, drumming his fingers on one of the empty mine crates.

“There isn’t much you can do, you shouldn’t even be here.”

Nagataka looked at Kitteh and furrowed his brow. A talking cat was bad enough, but that one was getting on his nerves on top of that. He didn’t even look like he cared much what happened to Ran.

“Don’t be so sure.” Nagataka reached behind the driver’s seat, and pulled the backpack out. He strapped it to his back, reached to the dangling cable coming out of the top, and plugged the end into his holstered gun.

He looked at Kitteh, but the cat didn’t look particularly interested in his preparations. He was sitting on the wooden crate, looking at the battle in the distance.

“What’s wrong?”

The feline didn’t answer, and he looked quite absorbed by the fight. Nagataka took his binoculars, lifted his glasses, and looked ahead. What he saw didn’t look good. Ran was having trouble coping with both enemies at once, and they were increasingly driving her into a corner.

“Something is not right,” Nagataka said. He had seen Ran fight before. She was good. More than good, all of them were; he had seen them take down multiple enemies all at once. But she wasn’t fighting like then. It looked like she didn’t even see the attacks coming.

“This is dangerous,” Kitteh said.

“I can see that. She’s not into it, we have to do something.”

“Not that.”

“Huh?” Nagataka looked at the cat, who was still fixed on the fight. As much as he could tell looking at a cat, he thought the feline looked worried. “What’s dangerous then?”

“She is.”


It didn’t make any sense, but whatever it was, he had to think of a way to help Ran. Maybe he could go back to Dome city and get some help; he didn’t know what had passed between her and Nereida Aegea, but she would be able to help.

There’s no way I can make it to Dome City in time. Dammit, what are we going to do?

While he was thinking, he heard a distant explosion, and turned to see Ran land precariously closer to their position. Worst of all, it didn’t look like she was getting up.


It took an eternity for Ran to react, or so it felt for Nagataka. Luckily her enemies didn’t look like they were in a hurry. However, his attention was diverted by a familiar voice he had not expected to hear.

“Well well, look who’s here.”

Nagataka turned on his feet with his heart leaping into his throat. He hadn’t seen many Livuans before, but Tikaae, he recognized. The alien had come out of nowhere, or so it seemed. His elfin grin sent a chill up Nagataka’s spine, and he found that his voice was gone.


“What a treat. Instead of an attack, we get two little tasty treats for us to enjoy.”


“Me,” the Livuan replied, slowly taking a few steps towards Nagataka.

“What have you done with her?”

“Her? Oh, her. That girl. Yes, we’ve put her to good use. Don’t worry, she’ll do too.”

Tikaae’s comments were punctuated by a scream. A scream of pain. Nagataka turned to see Ran crying in pain, twisting on the ground engulfed in in a shocking energy ball.

He didn’t get a chance to cry out for her, or even do anything other than, by instinct, move out of the way just in the nick of time to avoid Tikaae’s attack. As Nagataka jumped to the side, Tikaae’s blade buried itself into the metal of the jeep. He didn’t see the second attack, a backhanded punch that sent him hurling into a wall.

The wall turned out to be the ground, something Nagataka didn’t realize for a while. His face burned in pain, and the entire world was uneasily twirling around him.

“Taking your eyes off your enemy in the middle of a fight,” Tikaae said, disapproval in his voice. “Not that you have a way to fight me today. Didn’t bring your little toy this time?” Tikaae put his foot on Nagataka’s head, pressing down to keep him in place. “Say goodbye to-”

Tikaae’s speech was interrupted by a near series of explosions. He looked away to see Daal’s mecha fall to the ground, and blow up in pieces under Ran’s attack. He cursed loudly in his guttural native tongue, a long and elaborate curse Nagataka couldn’t understand.

It was, however, a good chance; or so he hoped. He fumbled on the ground, trying to reach for his gun, but only got his hand stepped on by Tikaae. It was a relief for his head, but the pain on his hand was even worse. It felt like his bones were about to snap. He grabbed the alien’s boot with his other hand, trying to free himself.

“What do you think you’re do… Oh look, a gun. You think that can hurt me?”

“It… Hrm-”

Nagataka was struggling pointlessly, while Tikaae seemed to be happy simply looking at the boy’s desperation. He looked like he felt quite safe, not doubting the outcome for a moment. Like a cat playing with a mouse.

Only cats are more sneaky, a point he came to appreciate when a black and furry creature jumped on his face and started clawing away at full speed. Tikaae screamed in surprise, and stumbled back trying to get the cat out of his face.

“Damn you! You little-” He finally managed to grab Kitteh by the skin and pull him off his face. “What the hell is this thing?”

Kitteh hissed, clawing away trying to free himself from Tikaae’s grasp. Tikaae’s face was covered in cat scratches, blue blood tickling slowly from several of them. He looked like he didn’t understand what had happened, or how that tiny furry creature could have hurt him.

As if he had given up on finding an explanation, he stretched out his arm, extending the blade on his forearm. Kitteh made a loud growling noise, but couldn’t free himself from Tikaae’s grasp.


It was Nagataka’s voice that preceded what was a considerable blast. Blue blood splattered from Tikaae’s right thigh as a bullet shot right through it. Nagataka himself was thrown back to the ground again, and he lost his grip on the pistol, which flew out of his hand and bounced off the end of the attached cable. Smoke was pouring from the barrel, and the smell of burnt plastic accompanied it.

Nagataka scrambled to his feet, and tried to pick the gun again. He had to use his left hand, when he failed to even feel it with his right. It had gone completely numb.

Kitteh had scrambled away as soon as Tikaae had dropped him, and wasn’t anywhere to be seen when the Livuan turned to Nagataka.

“Damn you human, I’m going to-”

He stopped with a gesture of pain when he tried to put his weight on his wounded leg. Nagataka raised his gun and pointed at him, an uneasy and awkward grip on the pistol that didn’t allow for very good aim. Even though he was down on his knees, he felt very unsteady.

It looked like a stalemate. Tikaae didn’t move, looking at Nagataka, and Nagataka kept his eyes on the Livuan, not trying to shoot.

Crap, I have to touch him for this to work. If I shoot now… I’d have to make it look like I didn’t miss on purpose. I can’t aim with my left. I don’t even know if it’ll work a second time, it smells like something burned.

The stalemate didn’t go for long. Tikaae’s eyes raised to look behind Nagataka, and his lips moved in a muttered imprecation. Nagataka realized the elfin grin had gone from his face. He found the thought quite satisfying.

With a final venomous look at Nagataka, Tikaae turned around and jumped away with his good leg, disappearing from view in seconds. As he did, Nagataka saw what had made him take off. He had expected it would be Ran; he didn’t expect what he saw

Her right leg was covered in blue blood, and so was her bow, which she was more dragging from one end than carrying in her hand. More than that, she had a strange, almost manic look on her face. It didn’t look like she had recognized Nagataka.

“Ran? Are you okay?”

“Let’s go,” she said, speaking in a deadpan tone. “I know where she is.”

“What? I mean, right! Are…?”

Nagataka looked back in the direction Tikaae had disappeared, and then at Ran, who had simply turned away and started walking towards the forest.

What happened to her?

He stood after a brief struggle with his own legs, and walked off after Ran. As he did, he spared a glance towards the battlefield, but all he could see was the remains of the humanoid mecha on the minefield.

Shouldn’t have left that one escape… It doesn’t matter, let’s go find her.


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