Crafty's One-Shots (Jun 7th, 2020: Path of Least Resistance)

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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Apr 26th, 2020: The Slightest Nudge)

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:41 pm

DISCLAIMER wrote:The following post was written in response to Stiles Long's writing contest. Each participant was given a list of KS character pairings and a list of locations. One of each was chosen for this fic.

There was a limited set of options available to participants in the contest and it may be that this fic resembles others. Any such resemblance is coincidental.
Well this was interesting.

I had some fairly standard ideas at first, but a frustrating conversation with friends gave me a new perspective on my potential prompts - one which resulted in a story that is both unique and cliche, pretty much by design. Luckily, I had a bit more time than usual to work on this idea, because it really did require a lot of attention. It’s one of those where I had to come up with more exposition than I could possibly fit into the final version, despite the story’s length.

So what kind of prompt would push me to write such a story? Well, it’s a bit of a long one: We were given 4 character pairings and 6 scenarios. I decided to use all of them. Not every combination, mind - just at least one of each. As such, I ended up using each of Emi and Misha, Hanako and Kenji, Kenji and Shizune, and Lilly and Misha; at the track, in a convenience store, on a blind date, taking a big test, in the nurse’s office, and meeting a senior student. As you can see (even without opening the spoiler), not exactly my usual fare. It might also be a bit rough around the edges, because I didn’t have any time to seriously proofread it myself, or send it to anyone else for proofreading, really. Still, it has a bunch of interesting concepts and twists in it, so I think it's well worth reading.

But anyways, enough rambling, let’s get on with the story: please enjoy Path of Least Resistance!
Main route: COM(promise)
One-shots: Crafty's One-Shots (Dark Winter Sky, Dreamy, Path of Least Resistance, Project Blue Curtain, and more!)
Old poetry: Google Drive Collection

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Path of Least Resistance (1/4)

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:41 pm

Path of Least Resistance
Hanako wasn’t the first one in class today.

In her first year here, she had always been first, or else not bothered to show up at all. The prospect of walking to her seat while everyone else glared at her, their gazes burning on her skin... it had been too much even to consider. Either she would show up obscenely early - aided by her relatively sporadic sleep schedule - or she would simply stay home all day.

Lilly had changed that, once she moved in at the start of their second year. Her friendship had helped Hanako in a number of ways - one of which was their morning routine. Not much of a morning person by nature, Lilly counteracted Hanako’s early-bird tendencies somewhat. At the same time, the two of them walking to class together helped to calm Hanako’s nerves, as well as prevent her from deciding to simply stay home on a whim.

Of course, by now, she didn’t always need Lilly there. Today, for example, Lilly had left very early - apparently one of her classmates needed help, and as the class representative, she felt obligated to assist - leaving Hanako to wake up, get ready for the day, and head to class on her own. Not particularly worried about timing, Hanako had simply gone at her own pace, trying to enjoy the crisp morning air, and thus forfeiting any attempt at being the first one into the classroom.

She could still briefly feel the stares of her classmates as she walked through the door, but the feeling passed; those who arrived earlier than her usually had their heads on their desks, trying to claw back a few precious minutes of sleep. The exceptions were Misha and Shizune, who always seemed rather perky, but usually filled the time by having conversations in sign, which meant they couldn’t look at much besides each other.

The relatively quiet morning had left Hanako feeling peaceful; plus, it was Saturday, so she would only have to sit through half a day of class, then eat lunch and talk well into the afternoon with Lilly. And beyond that, tomorrow was Sunday, which meant that she could relax and read a book all day. Eager to get this morning over with, she quietly walked to her desk.

Before sitting down, however, she noticed a small piece of folded-up paper lying on the seat of her chair. Curious, she picked it up, and noticed that her name was written on it in neat print - clearly someone had left it here specifically for her to find. She felt a pang of nervousness; who would want to leave a note for her? Why? Despite her trepidation, she knew that there was only one way she’d ever find out.

The first thing she noticed upon opening it was the neatly-written text, matching the name on the back. Whoever wrote this had clearly put some effort into making it look good.
Dear Hanako,

Unfortunately, my duties as class representative will require my full attention this afternoon, and thus I will be unable to meet you for lunch. I had hoped to speak with you, since I didn’t get a chance this morning, but I’m afraid it will have to wait until later.

However, in the interim, I have arranged for a friend of mine from 3-2 to meet with you instead. He’s quite an interesting fellow, who always has something to talk about; I’m certain the two of you would make quite the pair!

I know that meeting up with someone you’ve never seen might be confusing, so instead, you should wait for him by the bleachers near the track. He’ll come and talk to you. And do try to relax - he’ll probably be just as nervous as you are!

Best regards,
Lilly
Hanako’s immediate response was terror, followed by suspicion. She was no stranger to practical jokes at her expense, including many a “secret admirer” who was a myth at best and a cadre of guffawing peers at worst. Even now, as she read the note, someone could be watching, ready to burst into laughter at whatever reaction she displayed.

After a few seconds of trying her best to remain completely expressionless, however, she began to calm down. The signature at the bottom was distinctly Lilly’s: it was a series of swirly, barely-recognizable English characters, with a distinct downwards loop and upwards swoosh at the end. Hanako had seen her write it before - it was a beautiful mark, and yet she made it look effortless.

That said, Hanako had never seen Lilly actually write a note before - she generally relied on someone else, sometimes Hanako, to write things for her. But then, maybe that was still the case - perhaps she had dictated it to one of the classmates she had gotten up early to help. Or maybe she had written it herself; Hanako had learned not to underestimate Lilly, especially when it came to relatively ‘ladylike’ skills that normally required sight.

Now far less wary of the note, Hanako realized that she couldn’t really turn it down - if Lilly really had gone to all the effort of finding someone to spend the afternoon with Hanako, and writing her this letter, and putting it on her seat... Besides, if Hanako didn’t show up, then whoever was supposed to meet her would be left waiting. Worse, since they were in 3-2, they probably had poor vision, so they might accidentally think that someone else was Hanako! Either way, Lilly would certainly hear about it from them, and she’d be so disappointed...

If Lilly really had gone to all this trouble, even when she was so busy, then Hanako would give it a shot. And if it did end up being yet another joke at her expense, she’d tell Lilly, who would get the pranksters into so much trouble for pretending to be her.

As she finally sat down, tucking the note into her bag, Hanako realized that she could no longer tell whether she wanted class to be over quickly, or drag on forever.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It had been quite some time since Shizune had spent an afternoon to herself.

Misha had, by this point, become such an integral part of Shizune’s life that it was almost strange to be spending much time without her. Sure, they weren’t together every moment of every day, but they usually at least knew where to find each other if the need arose. This was different; Misha was actually off somewhere else, leaving Shizune to fend for herself.

It wasn’t like Misha was that far away - she was only staying over at a friend’s house for the weekend, not more than a couple miles off of campus. And she had her phone with her, so they could text whenever they needed to. And Shizune had a pen and pad with her, ready to write notes back and forth with whoever wanted to talk to her, just like she had for years before meeting Misha.

Still, she couldn’t help but feel a little alone.

She tried her best to focus on her surroundings: the warm afternoon sun made the lush school grounds seem brighter. The fresh air was invigorating, but it seemed that not many students were trying to enjoy it. From here, she could only see two: Emi, running around the track, and Hanako, sitting on the bleachers.

It was unusual to see Hanako outside like this. She generally kept to herself, only ever really talking to Lilly, and spending a lot of time in the library. Sometimes, she even left class early just to go there - a habit which frustrated Shizune to no end. Not that the two were unfriendly; it was just hard to connect to a girl who kept entirely to herself, save for being friends with Lilly.

But, regardless of their relationships with Lilly, Shizune was the class representative for Hanako, which meant that she had a duty to look out for her. And it appeared that she could use some looking out for right now: she was clearly nervous, her eyes darting back and forth, as if looking for an attacker, trying to melt down into the bare metal of the bleachers.

Before Shizune could come up with a reasonable guess as to why Hanako was so skittish, someone approached her: a boy that Shizune recognized from 3-2, with thick glasses, scruffy brown hair, and a striped scarf around his neck - entirely inappropriate for the current weather, but never mind.

He seemed nervous too, but in a completely different way. He was clearly trying to project an air of confidence, but it was broken up by twitching and worried glances to either side. It was clear that neither he nor Hanako really wanted to be there, but they managed to keep themselves in place and exchange a few words. Even from this distance, it was clear that the conversation was stilted at best.

And yet, after a few more seconds of awkward conversation, the boy began to walk away, and Hanako followed. What in the world had the boy done to manage that? It took a moment for Shizune to wrap her head around - by which point, it was clear that they were both heading in the direction of the dorms.

Something felt very wrong.

Almost automatically, Shizune got up off the bench she had been sitting on, and began to follow them. Hanako, possibly the shyest girl in the school, waiting around alone outside, before following some random high-strung boy into the dorms after exchanging only a few words? No, there was definitely something fishy going on.

Luckily, Hanako seemed to be focused on following the strange boy, and the boy, despite often looking over his shoulder, never seemed to notice Shizune following them. They went into the dorms, up several flights of stairs, and around a corner into one of the hallways, where the boy quickly opened one of the doors, and they went inside.

Shizune stayed standing out in the hall, staring at the now-closed door, not quite sure what to think. This seemed completely uncharacteristic of Hanako. Sure, it was a boy from 3-2, so they both probably knew Lilly, but even so...

Unfortunately, after a few more seconds of standing there dumbfounded, a blinding spike of pain shot through the back of her head. She clutched at her ears with her hands, but the throbbing echoes of pain remained, and she dropped to her knees, tears beginning to run from the corners of her eyes, and a few red droplets falling to the floor around her.

Luckily, the second wave of pain knocked her unconscious, and her body went limp, flopping gracelessly onto the floor.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A spark. A jolt.

For a moment, the fog cleared. It returned immediately, but was now thinner, and less oppressive.

The second jolt blew it away completely, and woke Shizune up properly. Her eyes opened right away, but it took her brain a bit longer to boot up. That familiar spark - she was being revived? Why? What had happened?

Without her glasses, her surroundings were only a blur, but it was a blur with a distinct warm light: the afternoon sun. She remembered that much from before, and remembering it led her down a path in her mind. She had been outside, and seen Hanako speaking to a strange boy. She had followed them into the boys’ dorms, and then... pain. Overwhelming pain. That must’ve been why she needed revival. But what could’ve caused that much pain without any warning?

Trying harder to focus on her surroundings, she noticed that something else felt familiar. Something about the colors; they felt like home. A few figures were standing around her: one on her left, and two on her right. The one closer on the right was gesticulating, his body language displaying anger at the one further on the right. None of them looked like nurses - actually, this definitely wasn’t the nurse’s office. How had she been revived here?

The one closer on the right turned around, noticing Shizune, and walked towards her, reaching out to her face with something - her glasses! She closed her eyes, felt a familiar metal frame slide over the top of her ears and onto the bridge of her nose, then opened them again, ending up face-to-face with... someone she could only just remember, and even then, only after some thought.

He had been a third-year last year, if she remembered correctly. He should’ve graduated by now... unless he was staying on as a ronin? She didn’t interface with that program much, and those few fourth-years tended to keep to themselves, so it was definitely possible, especially since he was wearing the standard boys’ uniform.

Looking around a bit more, she recognized the strange boy with a scarf from earlier on her right, and to her left - Hanako! She didn’t look particularly happy, though; in fact, she looked more depressed and forlorn than Shizune had ever seen her. She was huddled up against one end of a bed, her hands hugged to her chest.

Having taken in the room somewhat, Shizune understood why it had felt so familiar, and yet so different: it was an unused dorm room. The bed and desk were bare, but in terms of layout and basic setup, it was identical to her own. She tried to get up, hoping to get her bearings a bit more, but found herself unable to - her hands were held in place down by the floor, preventing her from moving around.

Craning her neck to get a look behind her, she saw that a pair of handcuffs were clamped around her wrists, and the chain between them was linked to some strange contraption on the floor. Confused, she turned to look at the others in the room again-

And found the fourth-year looking down at her, a knowing smile on his face.

Something was terrifyingly wrong.

He turned around and picked up something from the bed: a small whiteboard, and an accompanying marker. It looked like he knew that Shizune was deaf, and had planned for it. After writing for a bit, he turned the board around to show Shizune, who read the neat writing as her heart fell into her stomach.

[Hello, Shizune. Let’s have a talk about XERU.]

Carefully controlling her expression, Shizune raised one eyebrow, signalling that she didn’t know what he was talking about. He wiped off the whiteboard and wrote another message.

[Do you know anything about XERU?]

They were on to the ‘yes or no question’ phase, apparently, since Shizune couldn’t exactly write anything with her hands bound like this. She shook her head side to side. The fourth-year sighed, and wrote another message.

[This is what happens when you lie.]

With that, he turned around, walked over to Hanako, and promptly slapped her on the face - not hard enough to injure her, but hard enough that she recoiled away, one arm reflexively covering her face, the other - Shizune only now noticed - handcuffed to the head of the bed.

Things were quickly going from bad to worse. Shizune began to seriously consider her options.

[I healed you with electricity, straight out of the plug. You must be an operator in the Tohoku region.]

The fact that he knew that much actually made Shizune’s decision easier. Maintaining eye contact, she worked up some energy, then released it into her hands - where it fizzled.

The fourth-year laughed. [Trust me, those handcuffs are properly grounded.]

Great. This guy knew his stuff. But his design wasn’t foolproof. They were on an upper floor, so any grounding connection would have to be artificial, likely using the mains. That meant that, somewhere between Shizune and the foundation of the building, a weak point had to exist. She took a deep breath, then strained against her cuffs, and began putting as much electricity through them as she could manage.

As sparks began to fly, and the metal around Shizune’s wrists started glowing a dull red, the fourth-year’s face grew panicked. Perfect - he was on the back foot now. Maybe he’d give up, and this could all be over.

Instead, he ran over to the desk, grabbed something, then leaped back over towards Hanako.
He held her in one arm, and stretched the other out towards Shizune, displaying a small knife, which glinted in the now-orange sunlight coming through the window.

The message was clear. Shizune stopped, and her bindings cooled down, a small wisp of smoke rising from where they met the wall. The boy lowered his knife, and released his grip on Hanako, who was by now rather shaken.

After handing the knife over to the third-year with thick glasses, and giving him some instructions, the fourth-year began writing another message. [I don’t want to hurt you or Hanako, but I will if you force me to.]

Shizune stared back at him defiantly.

[If you want to say something, Shizune, why not speak using your barriers?]

How the hell did this guy know so much? It was as if Shizune was playing with her hand face-up on the table. Begrudgingly, she thought of a response, then thought about how to mirror it, and finally focused intently on the air in front of her. Slowly, a series of solid blue shapes, glowing and flickering like little arc lamps, began to spell out her reply.

[Fuck you.]

The fourth-year burst into laughter. For a moment, Shizune worried that he’d hurt Hanako in response, but he simply returned to his whiteboard. [I take it you’re eager to leave?]

Warily, Shizune nodded.

[Easy enough. I can let both of you go right now, on one condition.]

Something told Shizune it wouldn’t be that simple.

[Just transfer your operator powers to me.]

Shizune sighed, and focused on the air again. [Operator powers can only be passed down a bloodline.]

The fourth-year’s face contorted into an angry glare, and he immediately spun around to hit Hanako again before returning to his whiteboard, writing with angry slashes of his marker. [Powers have traditionally been passed along family lines due to nepotism and greed! It’s now known that they can be passed to anyone!]

Shizune was once again surprised at the extent of this boy’s knowledge. She herself had only heard about trials with operator transfers in other regions a few years ago. It had tempted her back then, but her father would’ve killed her if she did it. By now, she was used to the position - and even if she wanted to give it up to someone, the boy who had just kidnapped her, along with an innocent classmate, wasn’t her first choice. [I refuse.]

[Then I’ll just have to wait until you accept.] He went over and opened up a laptop on his desk, and began to type, shifting his focus away. He was clearly in for the long haul - luckily, it didn’t seem like he was going to hurt them in the meantime.

That said, Shizune still wanted to get out of here as quickly as possible, and she had one more trick up her sleeve, which would hopefully prey on that panic she had seen earlier. She spelled out more words in the air, which caught the ronin’s attention once more: [You must know that there’s another operator in this region, who won’t just let you do this.]

[Indeed I am aware, and prepared.]

Hoping against hope that this final bluff would work, she closed her eyes and concentrated. After opening them again, she smiled at her captor. [She’s on her way.]

To her dismay, he smirked calmly in return, then got up, sauntered over to Hanako, and hit her once more.
Last edited by Craftyatom on Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Path of Least Resistance (2/4)

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:42 pm

Misha had really needed this.

As much as she was happy with her daily routine, it definitely took its toll. School, student council, sleep, repeat - it could be draining sometimes. That’s why she needed something to look forward to; something that she could mark on her calendar and count the days ‘till. And for the past month, that had been today.

Misha had met Emi shortly after arriving at Yamaku, and they had quickly become friends. They were both bright and charismatic, but also both needed some time to relax every now and then. For Emi, that time was generally the weekends, when she went home to stay with her mother, who lived not far from campus. And when Misha mentioned that she needed a bit of an escape as well, Emi invited her over without a second thought.

They had been picked up from Yamaku on Saturday afternoon by Emi’s mother - who, as always, insisted that Misha was to call her ‘Meiko’ and not ‘Ms. Ibarazaki’. After a home-cooked dinner that made Misha realize just how much she had been missing out on by eating in the school’s cafeteria, they sat around joking and gossiping in the living room. Misha sort of wished that Shizune had come along, to enjoy it all with them, but it wasn’t really her kind of thing.

Finally, sometime around midnight, the two girls had pulled out a pair of sleeping bags, and camped out on the floor of Emi’s room. It took a fair bit longer for them to actually get to sleep, but no matter - they could sleep in as much as they wanted to on Sunday morning.

Sure enough, they woke up late, and even then, only because the smell of breakfast had seeped into every room in the house. After another fantastic meal, they had all hopped into the car, and Emi’s mom had dropped them off in the city, where they were determined to have as much fun as two girls possibly could during a day out on the town. The only worry on Misha’s mind was that she had texted Shizune the night before, but hadn’t received a response yet. Never mind - she was probably busy doing some relaxing of her own.

They had started by going to watch a movie, then stopped to get ice cream at Misha’s favorite place, and were now on their way to the main attraction: the department store. Unfortunately, Emi had spent most of her money on the movie tickets. Fortunately, there was a bank on the way there, where she could refill her purse, so to speak. After all, it was a girls’ day out - no reason to be stingy.

Emi was pleasantly surprised as they approached the ATM outside the bank. “Wow, there’s no line! I thought this place would be really busy.”

Misha shrugged. “Maybe because it’s Sunday?”

“Maybe.” Emi approached the machine, pressed a few buttons, and frowned. “Oh.”

“Hmm?”

A few more repeated button presses. “It’s not working.” She sighed. “Well, that’s why there wasn’t a line. Guess we’ll have to go inside.”

As they walked over to the door, Misha tried to peer through the large windows on the front. “Are they even open on Sunday?”

The thought worried Emi for a moment, but as she grabbed the door handle, the door swung open easily, a cold breeze flowing from inside. “Looks like it!”

Her enthusiasm didn’t last long, however; inside was a line of at least ten people, all queueing up in front of a single teller, who looked a bit frazzled. Both girls slumped their shoulders in unison.

Emi turned to Misha. “Well, I’ve gotta wait here, but if you want to go do something else and meet up afterwards, go ahead.”

Misha scoffed. “Nah~, it’s fine, I’ll wait. It’d be boring without you anyways!”

They smiled, then filed in behind all the others and began to wait.

It wasn’t a particularly comfortable place to wait; it was all quiet, so they couldn’t really talk without seeming rude, and the air conditioning was set way too low - it was refreshing to step inside, but way too chilly to be standing around. Emi rubbed her upper arms to try and keep warm, and Misha reflexively checked her phone. Still nothing from Shizune. Maybe she should send another message? Or would that come off as needy? After all, she was-

Her attention was ripped away when a man, who had just come through the front door behind them, yelled “Everybody on the ground!” They swung around, and saw that he was wearing a black face mask, and raising his right hand - which held a gun.

A few surprised screams emanated from the crowd, but in short order, everyone - including the two girls - had dropped to the floor, keeping their heads down as the masked man approached the teller, yelling a few phrases and angrily pointing the gun at him, which only exacerbated his frazzled demeanor. Without hesitation, the teller began to grab handfuls of money from below the desk, and tossed them over the counter, where the robber stuffed them into a bag hanging at his side.

The girls huddled close together, both of them shivering, and not just because of the cold. It was only after a few seconds had gone by, everything now seeming oddly quiet save for the rustling of money a few meters away, that Misha realized she was still clutching her phone in one hand. With the robber preoccupied, maybe she could call the police. Her heart racing, and her eyes darting back and forth between the keypad and the masked man, she typed in 1-1-0, and was about to hit send, when a familiar noise in the distance began to break the silence:

Sirens.

The noise grew closer and closer, and as Misha looked up at the robber again, she could tell he was panicked, despite not being able to see his face through his mask. For a moment, he muttered to himself, but as the sirens were joined by flashing red lights shining through the windows, he regained his nerve.

As the first car came to a stop outside, the masked man reached down, grabbed one of the customers cowering on the floor, pulled her to her feet, and placed the barrel of the gun against her head. Making sure not to leave much of himself visible, he presented his newfound hostage to the front windows. Outside, the police began their preparations, but were now acutely aware that the situation had gone from bad to worse.

As she watched the scene unfold, feeling as if she were in a dream, Misha couldn’t help but wonder how the police had gotten there so quickly. It had only been a few seconds - hadn’t it? Their response time wasn’t that good, and it was unlikely they had simply been in the right place at the right time. It even seemed like they were prepared for a gunman. Something about it felt off, but she put it aside, trying to focus on more pressing matters.

Matters were indeed pressing, as the police began using a megaphone to speak to the robber. He clearly didn’t have a plan - there was no way out. It wasn’t a comforting thought - if they couldn’t talk him down quickly enough, he’d really start panicking, and everyone in the building would be in danger.

And with that pressure weighing down on her, Misha came up with a plan.

Carefully, quietly, she started to write a message to Shizune on her phone, then stopped. Shizune hadn’t answered her phone for a whole day now. This message couldn’t wait a few minutes - it was a matter of life and death. Misha erased her message, then began to look through her contacts list for the only other person who could pull this off.

Emi noticed, and was afraid. “Misha!” she whispered, “What are you doing!”

Misha, having turned the volume on her phone down as low as it could go, simply motioned for Emi to remain silent. Taking one last look at the robber to make sure he was preoccupied, she hit send, and called Lilly Satou.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lilly was trying, with some success, to relax.

She had been looking forward to lunch with Hanako yesterday, but had gotten caught up talking to a classmate for a few minutes after the bell rang, and by the time she had made it to 3-3, Hanako was nowhere to be found. Lilly had knocked on her door last night, not having heard her get ready for bed, but there was no response.

She was just in a rough patch, Lilly thought. Sometimes, just like everyone else, Hanako needed time to herself, and it was important to respect that - it’s what any good friend would do.

In fact, it had made Lilly realize how much she needed some time to herself as well, and so here she was on a lazy Sunday afternoon, reading a book with one hand and sipping some tea with the other. It was incredibly pleasant. If only Hanako could’ve enjoyed it too... but never mind.

Unfortunately, the serenity of her room was shattered by a jingle coming from her bedside table - from her cellphone. Somewhat annoyed, she waited a moment, in case it was a call from someone unimportant.

Her phone dutifully notified her: “Incoming call from: Misha.

Unfortunately, that was someone important. Even so, Lilly considered letting the call go to voicemail - her relationship with Shizune and Misha these past few months had been strained at best - but decided that she really shouldn’t, and picked up the phone to answer. “Hello, Misha?”

The background noise on the other end almost entirely drowned out Misha’s whispered reply: “The bank on block 17!”

That was confusing. “What?”

“He has a gun - please, hurry!”

Lilly understood. “On it.”

She hung up the call and tossed her phone onto the bed, placed her teacup back on her desk as quickly as she could without breaking it, and stood up, arms outstretched in the center of her room. As she concentrated, the air around her grew impatient, and eventually began to crackle, short arcs growing longer and wider until they cocooned her in a bright white glow.

When they subsided, she was barely recognizable. A flexible, skin-tight suit covered her entire body below the neck, plain white except for some marks and gadgets on her limbs. Her hair was done up in a neat bun on the back of her head, and a pale yellow visor covered her eyes.

The bank on block 17, was it? She hadn’t been in a while, but remembered roughly where it was. A memory from long ago stopped her, though: she had no idea where Shizune was, and really, had no way to contact her. Then again, maybe she was already with Misha, and just needed help. Content that there was nothing for it, and only one way to find out for sure, she prepared herself.

Time to make an entrance.

After another crackling flash, she was gone, her room now empty. Very shortly thereafter, a similar flash occurred in the back of the bank, and Lilly’s feet touched the cold marble floor.

Her training kicked in, and she instinctively spun around in a complete circle, her arms outstretched. Wherever her hands pointed, she could feel - plaster walls, fake plants in the corners, wooden teller kiosks, and spread across the floor, people, cowering on their knees. And of course, there in the center of the building, a single figure standing up: the gunman, presumably.

She faced him, pointing both hands in his direction, and took in more detailed information. The single figure was actually two, a man holding a woman by the neck - a hostage, she guessed. In the man’s right hand, Lilly felt cold, machined metal - the gun, not yet fired. He was facing away from her, looking at the front of the building, which was presumably where the police were.

She needed to get his attention.

Her outstretched hands, still watching the man carefully, began to glow. They crackled, louder and louder, until arcs began to skitter off onto the floor, an otherworldly hum accompanying them. Finally, having heard something, he turned his head to look.

With one hand watching his gun, and the other watching his face, Lilly could tell that his jaw dropped at the sight. Perfect. A show of overwhelming force was far better than the alternative. The gun remained still, though, so she decided to speed things along with her most commanding, regal voice.

“Put the gun down, and I won’t turn you to ash.”

Sure enough, he made the easy decision. The barrel of the gun swayed, its aim deviating off to the side, as his arms went limp. Following it carefully, Lilly made sure to reduce the intensity of her power in turn, committing to de-escalation. With the gunman nearly disarmed, the hardest part was over; all that remained was-

A loud crack split the air, and Lilly grimaced, her ears ringing briefly. The noise hurt, intensely, as if it was reverberating through her whole body, especially her chest. In fact, it grew more and more acute, and finally, after a few short breaths, she realized that it wasn’t the noise that had hurt - it was the bullet that caused it.

Having completely lost focus on the gunman, she put one hand to her chest. Sure enough, there, along with the pain, was something warm, wet, and sticky. She had always been told that blood showed up vividly on these white uniforms. It must’ve looked terrifying to the people around her.

Which reminded her of something important. As she dropped to her knees, now feeling too tired to stand, Lilly lazily surveyed the floor with one hand. Sure enough, she felt Misha’s distinctive hair, and luckily, it was moving towards her. Perfect. She almost felt like waving hello, but was robbed of the opportunity, as she slumped forwards onto the ground, feeling even more tired than before.

Despite all this commotion, Lilly could still feel Misha grab her hand, though somehow it felt more distant than usual, like someone speaking in another room. “Grab her other hand!” she called. Lilly wasn’t sure whose hand she was supposed to grab, but fortunately for her, she felt another hand touch hers instead, mooting the point. “Come on, Lilly, we have to go!”

Lilly didn’t really feel like going anywhere. She was beginning to feel pleasantly warm right where she was. “Where~?”

“The Nurse!”

Maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea. He’d probably let her relax, and she needed a day off.

With a flash of light, Lilly, along with the two girls holding onto her, disappeared from the chaotic scene unfolding at the bank.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He didn’t want to jinx it, but it had been a surprisingly quiet day for Nurse.

There wasn’t much going on around campus, it seemed - everyone was taking their time, which meant no emergency visits for broken prosthetics, or scraped knees, or heart palpitations, or-

A flash of light filled the room, and shortly thereafter, he heard a sickening thud. As his pulse quickened, he turned around in his chair to see Emi, Misha, and Lilly sprawled on the floor - the latter in her operator suit.

He had jinxed it.

He quickly reached down and began to help the girls up, only to realize that one of them was bleeding, and his heart jumped into his throat. It took a second to figure out which one, but to his complete and utter relief, it was Lilly - looked like a wound in her chest. A gunshot wound? No matter, he needed to get working. “Help me get her up onto the table!”

Misha complied, but Emi just stood there, dumbfounded, as the scarlet-stained body was lifted into position. She probably wasn’t used to anything like this. In the worst case, she might even be having flashbacks. Nurse would have to remember to talk to her about it later.

In the meantime, he went over to the wall-mounted External Defibrillator, and began customizing the settings. It wasn’t often he got to use the machine to its full potential - hopefully it hadn’t degraded in the time since he last used it. Content with the numbers appearing on the display, he grabbed the paddles and turned to place them on his patient.

After getting them into position on her sternum and abdomen, he noticed that Emi still had one hand on Lilly’s leg. “Stand back!”

“Wait!” Emi remained put. “She was shot, why are you-”

“Emi, STAND BACK!” The urgency in his eyes finally got through to her, and she quickly pulled away.

With that, he started the sequence, and the distinct sound of high-voltage machinery filled the room. Unlike a normal defibrillation, this one dragged on, with more and more charge pouring into Lilly’s body. At first, she simply twitched weakly, but as the process wore on, she began to clench, and eventually, yell. That was a good sign - she was waking up.

It took some force to keep the paddles held in place, but eventually, the sequence stopped, and Lilly went limp again - mostly. Nurse had to consciously prevent himself from checking her pupillary reflex - wouldn’t do any good here. Instead, he settled for checking her pulse, which seemed strong.

This caught her attention, and she spoke, though her voice was rather raspy. “Yes, yes, I’m awake.”

“Perfect. Maybe you can tell me what happened.”

Lilly groaned, but Misha stepped in to explain. “Emi and I were out in the city, and we went into a bank to get some cash, but then someone came in to rob the bank.”

Nurse wasn’t fazed. “Alright. Sounds like a police job to me.”

Misha continued. “The robber had a gun, and when the police showed up, he took some poor lady hostage, and it looked really bad, so I called Lilly...”

“Hmm. Alright, fair enough.” He turned to Lilly. “So where’s Shizune?”

“I... I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? Why not?”

“Because...” She exhaled deeply. “Because I went in alone.”

Nurse rolled his eyes, and was about to chastise her, when Misha jumped in. “Shi-chan hasn’t answered her phone for a day. She’s probably busy with something.”

“Oh, okay. So then, Lilly, what did she say when you linked with her?” An awkward silence followed. “I mean, you did link with-”

“I didn’t link with her beforehand.”

Nurse threw his hands up in frustration. “There it is. I should’ve known. We can’t just have a normal operation around here, can we - it’s always gotta be Lilly this, Shizune that, no-I-swear-I-can-handle-it-alone. Somehow, you still haven’t learned that if you’re going to engage someone with a gun, you should bring your partner, who can literally block bullets with her mind!” He sat back down in his chair. “What would your father say, if he saw you getting taken down by some petty thief with a gun?”

Lilly shook her head slowly from side to side. “The gunman... didn’t shoot me.”

Nurse’s jaw dropped. “Excuse me?”

“The gunman didn’t shoot me.”

“Oh, right, sure. And the blood you left all over my office when you jumped in, that’s just heavy menstruation, I suppose?”

Lilly groaned again. “I was watching his gun carefully. He was surrendering when it happened. Somebody else shot me.”

“So the criminal with a gun, who you were jumping in to stop, put it down. And you were then shot by...?”

“I don’t know. Someone else. Maybe one of the officers outside.”

After putting his head in his hands for a moment, Nurse turned to Misha. “Did you see anyone with a gun? Besides the gunman?”

“Well... No...”

He turned to Emi. “And you, did you-” He stopped, recognizing that she wasn’t in much of a position to be answering questions, after what she had just seen. “Well, never mind.” He turned back to Lilly. “Anyways, regardless of who shot you, Shizune could’ve prevented it.”

She pursed her lips and remained silent.

“So, until I can organize some kind of exercise to get you two to get along with each other, you’re forbidden from operating, in any capacity.”

Lilly deflated a little, her expression clearly disgusted at the idea, but said nothing in return.

“Right, with that cleared up, I should start cleaning, or else the next person to come here will die of a heart attack. Speaking of which...” he turned to Misha again. “Could you fill Emi in on all this? I’m a bit busy, and you’ll probably do it better anyways.”

Misha smiled, just a little. “Okay, I will.”

“Thank you so much.” He turned to Emi. “I’ll leave you in Misha’s care - it’ll be difficult to believe, I know, but trust me, she’ll be telling the truth.”

Emi nodded, still clearly shaken, and they left, as Nurse began cleaning and Lilly rested.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Neither Emi nor Misha had said anything since leaving the nurse’s office. They had both silently headed for the roof, knowing that whatever was said next, it would be important, and it would be private. A few guesses, both bright and grim, had popped into Emi’s head, but she pushed them away. She was going to hear the full story from Misha, and that would be that.

When they finally made it up onto the roof, they both headed for the bench in the middle, then sat down. Neither one was quite sure what to say, but eventually, Emi started them off. “So... Lilly.”

Misha nodded, but didn’t say anything yet.

“What did she... Was she... What is she?”

“Well, she’s... She’s an ‘operator’. It’s kind of like, well...” She chuckled. “It’s like being a superhero.” She waited for Emi to object, but no such thing occurred.

“I guess that makes sense. I mean, she had that sleek suit, and she was shooting lightning from her hands, and teleporting, and... She could see, somehow?”

“Oh, yeah, that. Basically, if she points her hand at something, she can feel it, even from far away.”

“Oh! Which is why she did that whole spinning thing first!”

“Exactly~! That’s how she gets her bearings.”

“Wow...” Emi thought about it for a moment. “But then, if she can see like that, why does she need to be at Yamaku?”

“Well, she can’t see very well, and only little bits at a time. She still has some issues with it... which might be what happened today. Besides, she can’t exactly tell everyone she meets about it - this is supposed to be a secret, you know.”

“A secret? But then... why are you telling me?”

Misha shrugged. “Well, after everything you had seen, what else could we say? All we can do is explain it, and ask you not to tell anyone else.”

“And those people in the bank? What about them?”

“I’m not sure, really. Usually, the police just tell them they used some sort of new technology, and leave it at that. They probably have a lot of questions, but again, we do try to keep it secret.”

Emi caught on to her usage of ‘we’: “Do you have superpowers?”

Misha chuckled. “No, no, I just help out sometimes. I’m Shizune’s translator, which means I get to know her really well - sooner or later, I was going to find out, so they let me in on it. I’m just happy to help Shizune out, however I can!”

“Right, Shizune - so she has powers too? I heard Nurse talk about her stopping bullets!”

“Yep~! She has the same lightning powers, can create barriers that stop almost anything, her glasses tell her where different sounds are coming from, and she can fly.” Once Emi’s jaw dropped, Misha added “Well, actually, they can both fly, as long as they’re suited up. It’s just that usually Lilly doesn’t need to, since, y’know, she can teleport.”

It took a bit for Emi to come to terms with the concept of flying classmates. “So, uh, when you say ‘both of them’... How many of these superheroes are there?”

“Not many, unfortunately. Generally, there are only two in any given prefecture. They can be in pretty high demand sometimes, if there’s a big emergency. But that’s why we have XERU!”

Emi raised an eyebrow. “Ze-ru? What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s, uh... Shoot, how does the order go in English... ‘EXperimental Emergency Response Unit’, I think. It’s basically a police department dedicated to using these special operators to help people around the country.”

“Wow... It really is just like in the movies!”

Misha chuckled. “Sometimes, yeah. It’s usually pretty quiet, though. They only get called out if it’s really bad.” She sighed. “Or if I call them, I guess.”

Now it was Emi’s turn to giggle. “That’s awesome! It’s like having your own personal superhero! How cool is that?”

The concept was a bit silly, but Misha smiled. “I guess you’re right.”
Last edited by Craftyatom on Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Craftyatom
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Path of Least Resistance (3/4)

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:42 pm

Naoshi generally enjoyed mind games.

Of course it was fun to try to figure out what was going on in other people’s heads - extracting motes of truth from the veneer of lies they put up. But beyond that, it was also fun to be on the receiving end; in some ways, it was a far more interesting puzzle to solve, having to recognize misdirections and put oneself in the mind of the deceiver. It was a rush.

Unfortunately, Shizune’s mind games were beginning to wear on him.

She had initially refused to believe that Lilly was dead, despite Naoshi’s assertion that he had shot her - and gotten away with it. In fairness, it wasn’t like he had expected her to take his word for it - in fact, he had expected her to know almost as soon as he did. When one operator in a region died, he knew, the other temporarily held onto the orphaned power. They couldn’t use it - they just held onto it until a suitable replacement could be found.

But Shizune insisted, no matter what Naoshi did, that she didn’t have Lilly’s power.

Of course she would. It was in her best interest to pretend not to have it, because if she did but refused to give it to him, Naoshi would inevitably have escalated his torture of the poor girls. He wasn’t particularly interested in doing so - he wasn’t a sadist. He had made sure to provide for both of his captives, to the extent that he could; that said, Hanako hadn’t eaten anything since she got here. He didn’t want to have to force feed her. Maybe an IV? There had to be plenty of those lying around here somewhere...

Focus. Lilly’s power. Shizune. Although it was in her best interest to pretend that she hadn’t received Lilly’s power, she surely also knew that such a thing wasn’t particularly believable, and that Naoshi would likely begin to punish her regardless. Besides, surely she would’ve shown some emotion upon receiving that power, and realizing that Lilly was dead? He had gone back to check the footage, and she hadn’t so much as flinched. All of which led him to believe that Lilly might still be alive.

But that’s what Shizune wanted him to think. That’s exactly the kind of thought that could make him too paranoid, and be too soft on his captives. He didn’t have unlimited time - sooner or later, someone would come looking for the missing girls, and even with the link broken, finding them wasn’t impossible, despite his best efforts. So the longer Shizune could drag all of this out, the more likely she was to be rescued.

It was infuriating. That someone could even survive injuries like that... it was an affront to those who had died that way. All those people who could have been saved. Good, innocent men, overshadowed by some precocious kid, who couldn’t even work with her partner.

The concept of torturing his captives was suddenly a bit more palatable.

Before he could think about it much, however, the door was unlocked, then opened, and Kenji walked in, dutifully locked the door afterwards. Naoshi was glad to have someone around besides the girls in chains, even if it was... this buffoon. “Hey Kenji.”

“Oh, hey man. What’s up?”

“Not much. Girls haven’t done anything interesting since this morning.”

Kenji smirked. “Not like they could if they tried, eh?” He laughed.

Naoshi didn’t even smile. He really wasn’t in the mood - and, surprisingly, Kenji noticed.

“Hey, is something up? You seem kinda bummed.”

Maybe it was worth venting to Kenji a little bit. Couldn’t hurt, right? “Yeah, I’m just... I just keep second-guessing myself.” He sighed. “What if Lilly isn’t dead?”

“Oh, Satou?” Kenji shrugged. “Yeah, she’s fine.”

Naoshi’s heart skipped a beat. “... What?”

“What?”

“You- how do you know she’s alive?”

“She was in class today. Didn’t seem like anything was wrong.”

That was the opposite of what Naoshi had needed. Why hadn’t Kenji contacted him about this earlier? Was he even aware of what had happened, what they were supposed to be doing? Of course not, the boy was barely aware of his surroundings most of the time. If anything, his very presence was probably nothing more than-

Calm down. No point getting angry at him. If nothing else, he had just provided Naoshi with some vital information. He had lost track of the situation, but it was definitely possible to catch back up with it. His planning was far fuzzier than he would’ve liked it to be, but sometimes, that simply couldn’t be avoided. What mattered was what he did next, what plans he had yet to make.

Everything had just gotten harder, but the game was far from over.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lilly wasn’t used to shopping alone.

Despite her proficiency with navigating tight spaces with her cane, there was simply no replacement for sight when it came to picking items off a shelf - for her, everything was essentially unlabeled.

Normally, she relied on Hanako to help - they did their shopping run together on Mondays, and after Hanako had picked out all the right items, Lilly talked to the cashier while they were all rung up and placed into bags.

But Hanako was still holed up in her room, despite Lilly’s best efforts. She hadn’t heard anything from her hallmate in days - she was starting to get worried. Still, as it was Monday afternoon, she couldn’t put off shopping any longer. And so, alone but determined, she arrived at the usual convenience store in town, prepared to manage it all herself.

As she walked through the automatic doors and picked up a basket, however, it turned out that she wasn’t as alone as she had thought. “Oh, hey Lilly~!”

“Oh, Misha, hello.” She was so relieved that she didn’t even bother asking whether Shizune was there before making a request. “I, uh... I don’t suppose you could quickly help me find some things I need?”

“I guess so, if it would help.” She moved alongside Lilly, who put her hand on Misha’s shoulder, and they began to make their way around the store. “Doesn’t Hanako usually help you with your shopping?”

“Usually, yes, but she’s remained in her room for the past few days, unfortunately.”

“Really? Why?”

“I’m not sure. She hasn’t even responded to me through the door. It’s like she just... disappeared.”

Misha sighed. “I know what you mean. I haven’t seen Shi-chan recently. She hasn’t texted me, she won’t answer her door, I haven’t seen her around... She wasn’t even in class today.”

Lilly raised an eyebrow. “Really? That seems rather unlike her.”

“Right? I haven’t seen her at all since...” She thought about it briefly. “Since class on Saturday, I guess.” She paused, still in thought. “Actually, that was the last time I saw Hanako, too.”

“Hmm... Odd.”

Both girls continued shopping, but there was an air of uncertainty between them. That conversation had convinced both of them that something was up, though neither knew what, and didn’t want to speak too soon.

It wasn’t until they exited the store that they spoke again, with Lilly starting: “Do you think that, perhaps, we should-”

“Check on Shi-chan and Hanako?”

“Precisely.”

“Yeah, definitely.” Misha looked up at the steep, winding road that led back up to Yamaku, then looked around, making sure that nobody else could see them. “Say, do you think you could take us back up there really quickly? Just so we could start searching sooner.”

“Misha, you know as well as I do that Nurse forbade me from doing such things.” Her indignant attitude faded, however, once she realized how much these plastic bags were digging into her hands. She sighed, then grinned. “But, I suppose, time might be of the essence here. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

“Hooray~!” Misha grabbed onto Lilly’s arm tightly. “Onwards, noble steed!”

Lilly couldn’t help but chuckle a little before they both disappeared in a flash of light.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Something was definitely wrong now.

Lilly and Misha had used the spare keys to check both Hanako’s and Shizune’s rooms, and found nothing. It was as if neither room had been used in days - which was cause for alarm.

Of course, Misha’s first thought, upon confirming that both girls were truly missing, was to go to the nurse’s office. Lilly felt particularly uneasy about that prospect, but tried not to let it show. After all, if Hanako and Shizune were at stake, then it was worth whatever lecture she was about to get.

Misha knocked on the door, and heard someone call “Come in!” from the other side. She opened the door and hurried through, with Lilly close behind her.

Nurse turned in his chair to face them. “Ah, Misha, Lilly, good to see you. What brings you here?”

Lilly got straight to the point. “Hanako and Shizune are missing.”

“Missing? When did you last see them?”

“They were both in class on Saturday, but we haven’t seen either of them since.”

“So... they missed class today, is what you’re saying.”

Misha jumped in. “Not just that! We even checked their rooms, and they weren’t there either! And all weekend, Shi-chan hasn’t been replying to my texts, and we tried calling Hanako, but she didn’t answer either!”

“Hmm. I see. That is quite a while.” Nurse took a deep breath, then ran through it in his head. “Lilly, have you tried reaching out to Shizune with the link? It should be pretty easy to track her down that way, shouldn’t it?”

So it had indeed come to this. Lilly sighed. “No, I have not.”

“Well, that seems like the logical next step. Why not give it a go?”

“Because...” She hung her head. “Because I severed the link.”

Misha gasped, and Lilly heard Nurse drop something in surprise. “You WHAT‽”

“I severed the link. Two weeks ago, we, uh... we had a falling out.”

Nurse put one hand on his forehead and groaned. “Unbelievable. Absolutely un-be-lievable.” He looked back up at Lilly. “You had a complete telepathic link with your operations partner, handed to you on a silver platter, extremely useful for all sorts of situations, like this one right now, and you just threw it away because of some stupid high school drama‽”

“Yes, sir.”

“And that’s why you never called her for help with the bank situation - because you had absolutely no way of contacting her at all, due to your sheer stupidity. By that point, she was probably already missing, and you had no idea. You still have no idea.”

A tear rolled down Lilly’s cheek. “I’m sorry, sir.” Misha put one hand on her shoulder.

Nurse sighed deeply. “I’ve seen a lot of stupid decisions in my time. You’re making a serious bid for number 1.” After a few more seconds trying to come to terms with the whole ordeal, he turned back around and began typing on his computer. “Get out of here, both of you. I’ll call in an actual professional to go after Shizune and Hanako. Then we’ll all sit down and have a long talk about how the hell this happened.”

The two girls turned around and left. When the door finally closed behind them, Lilly put her head in her hands and began to sob.

Without a moment of hesitation, Misha grabbed her in a hug.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“And, well... That was that.”

Lilly hadn’t really been up to the roof before, but Misha had insisted, and telling her story to Emi over lunch had been nice - it wasn’t often that Lilly got to talk to someone about her work with XERU, due to its secretive nature, but since Emi had been filled in already, it was fine. Good thing, too; Lilly had really needed to get that off of her chest.

Emi was astonished. “He really said that to you?”

“Indeed. And he was right to.”

“Aww, come on, that’s too much! Sure, you made a mistake, but so what? Like he’s never made any mistakes!”

“It was a mistake that I kept making, over and over. And now someone might get hurt.”

This dampened Emi’s spirits considerably. “Still no sign of them?”

Misha shook her head. “Nope, still nothing. They only started looking yesterday, though.”

“Still... I mean, they were right there after school Saturday - how could they just disappear?”

Lilly perked up. “After school Saturday? What do you mean?”

“Well, that’s the last time I saw them, at least. Don’t know about you guys.”

Misha almost choked on a bite of food, she was so excited. “No, I only saw them in class on Saturday - where did you see them?”

Somewhat surprised at being put on the spot, Emi stuttered. “I-I, uh... I was just at the track. Hanako was sitting on the bleachers, for some reason.”

“Oh my gosh, really? What was she doing? Where did she go?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know what she was doing... she ended up talking to someone, and then they both left. And I saw Shizune go the same way afterwards.”

“Someone? Who? What were they like?”

“Geez, Misha, calm down! I don’t know his name, it was some weird guy with glasses. I think he’s in 3-2.”

“Hmm.” Lilly raised an eyebrow. “This boy from 3-2, did he happen to be wearing a scarf?”

“Yeah! It was... shoot, I think it was bright red. Do you know him?”

Lilly smiled. “Indeed I do - and it sounds like he might know where to look next. Shall we pull him out of class, once lunch is over?”

Emi and Misha agreed, and all three of them ate their lunches as fast as they could. Finally, just as the bell rang, they headed down the stairs, into the hallways, and towards classroom 3-2.

Pushing open the door, Lilly strode up to the desk at the front, hoping that Ms. Miyagi would be there. Misha and Emi followed along, providing her with a bit of extra confidence.

Luckily, it seemed that the teacher was there already. “Hello, Lilly. Did you need something before class starts?”

“Ah, yes. If it’s not too much trouble, could we speak with Kenji for a moment?”

Misha put her hands on her hips. “It’s for important student council business!”

Ms. Miyagi chuckled. “Well, in that case, how could I refuse?” She looked over the class, and called out to the boy in question. “Kenji, could you come up here a second?”

Kenji flinched, looked up for a moment, then finally got up and came to the front of the class, completely silent, wringing his hands.

“Lilly and her friends here would like to speak with you. Feel free to take your time, and I’ll have someone fill you in on anything you missed.”

“Y-Yes ma’am.” Kenji bowed his head, then turned to the trio of girls. They all filed out of the classroom and into the hallway, which was fairly quiet, as classes were just about to begin.

Immediately, Misha jumped in. “Hello Kenji, nice to meet you~! We just have a few questions, and then we’ll let you get back to class, okay?”

He nodded, but said nothing, and it was clear to Emi that he was feeling nervous. “Relax, you’re not in trouble. We just think you might’ve seen something important at the track a few days ago.”

“The t-track? I’ve never been to the track! I’ve never seen a track in my life!” Beads of sweat began to form on his brow. “What, do I look like some kind of track-person to you?”

All three girls were surprised by his outburst, Lilly especially. “Calm down, Kenji, it’s just-”

“Whaddyameancalmdown? I am calm! I’m the c-calmest guy here! I’m as calm as a clam!”

Emi realized that this wasn’t going anywhere. “Maybe it would help if we went someplace quieter. Okay, Kenji?”

Before he could reply, Misha clapped her hands together in excitement. “To the student council room!” She bounced off down the hallway, and Kenji followed, his arms crossed in front of his chest. Not entirely sure what to think of it all, Emi and Lilly followed.

Misha quickly unlocked the door to the student council room, and held it open as Kenji went inside, taking a seat at one of the desks. The three girls took seats across from him, and Emi started the conversation.

“So, Kenji, we’re looking for help finding two missing girls.”

“Missing? Nobody’s missing! They’re probably just home sick! Why didn’t you check in on them, huh?”

Lilly nodded. “We did, actually. Neither of them are in their rooms, which is what worried us. They haven’t been in class, either.”

“Well how was I supposed to know that, huh? I’m not in their class, it’s not my job!”

Emi frowned. “Not in whose class, Kenji?”

He gasped, freezing up for a second. “I-I, I mean, the class with the missing girls, probably! I don’t think anyone’s missing from my class, no sir!”

“Right. Look, I saw you talking to one of them the day they went missing, and I just wanted to ask if-”

“ALRIGHT!” Kenji burst into tears. “I admit it, okay? It wasn’t my fault! He made me do it, I swear! I didn’t want to, but he said it was the only way! I was just following orders - you can’t arrest a guy for following orders!”

Emi and Misha were taken aback by the outburst, but Lilly recognized an opening. “What, Kenji? What did he make you do?”

“Kidnap them! He forged a letter to the purple one, and had me take her to his hideout! I didn’t even know the blue one was there until he brought her in too!”

“Oh my god.” Misha’s eyes went wide. “Purple and blue - Hanako and Shi-chan.”

Kenji nodded furiously. “Yes! That’s them! The purple one stayed quiet, but the blue one started doing some kind of voodoo bullshit, and he said I had to hold a knife to the purple one in order to get it to stop!”

Lilly could guess what Kenji had seen, and why he might’ve been tasked with threatening Hanako. That’s probably the only way Shizune could’ve been kept captive for any length of time. But one big question remained. “And who was it that made you do all this? What’s his name?”

Kenji lowered his voice to a whisper. “Naoshi.”

The girls each waited for the other to say something, but none did. Finally, Misha shrugged. “I’ve never heard of a Naoshi on campus.”

“Of course you haven’t! He’s like a ghost, it’s insane! He always knows exactly what’s happening, and where! He’s some sort of tactical genius, with a plan for everything! That’s why I couldn’t say no, he just... he always gets what he wants!”

Lilly nodded sternly. “This hideout of his - can you take us there?”

“I... I guess so, if you really think you can handle him. It’s just an unused room in the boys’ dorms.”

“Perfect.” She turned to the girls next to her. “Emi, go tell Nurse everything that happened here.”

“On it.” She sprinted off.

“Misha, come with me and Kenji.” She stood up confidently.

“We have a hostage situation to deal with.”

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Path of Least Resistance (4/4)

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Jun 07, 2020 11:43 pm

[I’m watching you.]

The small whiteboard, with its infuriating message, was propped up against the bed, facing Shizune.

Since being captured, there had always been at least one other person in the room - either the third-year or the fourth-year. Yesterday, however, the third-year had left during the day, presumably to attend classes. This left the fourth-year on his own, unable to leave.

Or so she had thought.

Today, he had apparently needed to leave, which should’ve been a perfect opportunity.for escape. Unfortunately, he had mentioned that he was monitoring the room by camera, and also that he had hidden a bomb around here somewhere. Shizune might’ve been able to protect herself and Hanako, but without knowing where the explosion would come from, she couldn’t stop it from potentially hurting other people in the dorms.

And so, instead, she simply had to sit there, fuming; after all, she was being watched.

Just great.

She felt the floor vibrate a little - evidently, one of her captors had returned. So much for the perfect chance to escape. The lock on the door turned, and the third-year walked in, appearing somewhat shaken. After looking around, and calling out into the room - maybe wondering where the fourth-year was - he poked his head back out into the hallway.

To her complete and utter disbelief, Shizune watched as Misha and Lilly walked through the door behind him, the latter using her hands to scan the room.

Misha immediately spotted Shizune. “Shi-chan!” She knelt down and hugged the bound girl.

Hanako, perking up at the sound of a new voice, was just as relieved. “Lilly!”

“Hanako?” Carefully feeling her way towards the bed, the two girls also hugged each other, and Hanako began to tear up.

Unfortunately, Shizune knew they were still in trouble. She immediately used her barriers to write a message to Misha: [Ask the boy where the bomb is!]

“Uh... Kenji, where’s the bomb?”

“Oh, that? It’s in the bathroom. Naoshi kept reminding me not to use the middle stall.”

After taking a moment to realize what had been said, Lilly disentangled herself from Hanako, leaped towards Shizune, and quickly teleported them into the bathroom down the hall. Shizune, her hands still cuffed behind her back due to the reckless jump, burst through the door of the middle stall, saw a strange device attached to the side of the toilet bowl, and created a spherical barrier around it.

After a few seconds of nervous waiting, it detonated with a dull thud, the sphere glowing white hot, but slowly cooling off. Shizune created larger and larger containment vessels, dropping the pressure bit by bit, before finally releasing it, letting the smell of hot metal diffuse into the room.

Misha burst through the door shortly thereafter. “Oh my gosh, are you guys okay?”

Lilly breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes, I believe so.”

Shizune nodded, then concentrated, her hands sparking and glowing until her handcuffs fell to the floor, no longer structurally sound. She relished in being able to sign for the first time in days: [We’re fine, I contained it. How’s Hanako?]

Right on cue, Hanako burst through the door, ran towards Lilly, and grabbed her in a hug. “Lilly! Lilly, I was so scared, please...”

Lilly gently stroked her head in an attempt to comfort her, just as Kenji entered the room as well, holding the key that had unlocked Hanako’s handcuffs. “Well, that’s something. I’d say we finally have a leg up on-”

His phone rang, and he froze. As all of the girls went silent, Kenji took it out of his pocket, squinted to see the screen, and went white as he saw who was calling. After swallowing nervously, he flipped it open and put it to his ear. “Hey, N-Naoshi, what’s up? I just-”

“Kenji, put me on speakerphone.”

“Huh? Why? It’s just me and the hostages-”

“NOW, Kenji.”

Realizing that he didn’t have much of a choice, Kenji pressed one of the buttons, and held his phone out in the open, for all of them to hear.

“I have to say, that was impressive. I wasn’t sure you’d be able to get to the bomb in time. Then again, I’m rather glad you’re alive; this way you can simply give me your powers, instead of me having to go take them.”

Lilly was confused, but Misha translated for Shizune, who had a handle on things. “What makes you think we’ll just give them to you?”

“Because I happen to have some leverage. Say something for your friends, won’t you?”

Misha and Lilly gasped as Emi’s voice came over the phone. “This bastard... Pretended he was having a heart attack, then pulled a gun on me. He took me-”

She was cut off by Naoshi taking the phone back. “I’m done playing games. We’re in the forest past the track. Show up, unarmed, and I’ll guide you to me, so you can finally give me your powers. Bring anyone else, she dies. Contact the authorities, she dies. I see so much as a spark out of either of you, she dies. Understood?”

The room fell silent for a few seconds, nobody wanting to reply.

“Excellent. You have one hour. No prizes for guessing what happens after that. My advice: don’t be stupid.” And with that, he hung up, leaving the small group alone in the bathroom.

Misha immediately turned to Lilly. “What do we do? We can't just let him kill her!”

Kenji interjected. “He knows what he’s doing. There’s no way you’ll be able to sneak up on him.”

Lilly pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to think, wanting both to drown out everyone’s voice and listen to their advice at the same time. Both Misha and Kenji were right - they couldn’t let him take Emi like that, but what else was there to do? He said he wanted their powers - not like they could let that happen. Who knows what he’d do with them! And yet, without knowing where exactly he was, or how he was monitoring them, there was no way they could snatch Emi out from under him.

Caught up in her thoughts, she flinched when someone grabbed her hand. It took her a moment to realize that it was Shizune - who had placed her own hands, palms-up, under Lilly’s.

It was a chance to undo the biggest mistake she had ever made.

A smile on her face, Lilly pressed her own palms into Shizune’s, then concentrated. Slowly, she re-formed the link between them, regretting that it had ever been broken.

Immediately, Shizune opened a deep conversation between them, and their thoughts began to meld together.

He wants our powers. That’s what he wanted when he took me hostage, and it’s what he wants now. Somehow, he knows that such a transfer is possible - he knows everything about XERU. He’s angry that transfers have historically been limited to bloodlines.

But we can’t give him our powers! He kidnapped you and Hanako, and tried to set off a bomb in the dorms!

And he shot you, apparently.

Is that so? I knew it wasn’t the robber. Can’t wait to tell Nurse I was right.

Anyways, I agree, we can’t give in to him.

But what choice do we have? Kenji says he’s constantly monitoring things, so he’ll know if we try something.

I think his monitoring isn’t that complete. He’s watching a lot of places, but not all of them. I can think of a fair few spots he won’t be able to track us.

But then what? That doesn’t fix the problem - Emi’s still in danger!

He’ll be hesitant to kill Emi. She’s the only leverage he’s got left. If we find out that she’s dead, there’s nothing to stop us hurting him in return.

True... but even so, if he thinks we have the upper hand on him, won’t he kill her out of spite?

Yes. That’s why he needs to believe that he’s winning right up until the end.

But he’ll only think he’s winning if we offer him our powers!

Not quite - he’ll still think he’s winning if we offer him ourselves.

Ourselves? But... But then...

Having finally understood, Lilly pulled her hands away, and the conversation ended. Pursing her lips, she turned to Hanako and Misha.

“We need to get going. We don’t have much time.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lilly and Shizune looked like quite the odd couple.

Both were dressed in elegant yukatas, and they walked hand-in-hand, with Shizune guiding Lilly, who had left her cane behind. Despite their bright and cheery attire, they both wore somber looks on their faces as they walked slowly through the school grounds.

Finally, they arrived at the treeline by the track, and stopped, unsure of where to go next. Naoshi had told them to come here, and that he would “guide” them, but no more. Both had left their phones back in their rooms, knowing full well that they might be considered tools or weapons. And yet, without them, how were they to know where to go?

Luckily, an answer presented itself. Lilly heard a ringing sound nearby, and carefully walked in its direction. She approached a tree stump, and Shizune recognized the sheen of something plastic. Looking closer, it was a cellphone; she picked it up and handed it to Lilly, who answered.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Lilly. You took your sweet time - your hour is almost up.”

Her face remained solemn. “Transfers of power are always performed in traditional garb. This is the best we could-”

“Tradition! Always with your traditions! Even when your friend’s life is on the line! What utter fools...”

Lilly picked up as he trailed off. “Speaking of which, she is still safe, yes?”

“See for yourself.” He fumbled with the phone for a moment, but eventually a familiar voice came through.

“Lilly!”

“Emi, thank goodness you’re okay.”

“Listen, Lilly, don’t do it! It’s not worth it, I’m-”

The phone was pulled away from her, and Naoshi returned. “I think that’s enough. Satisfied?”

“Yes.”

“Good. In that case, there’s one more thing I need from you before we begin. There should be two pairs of handcuffs by where you got that phone. You know what to do.”

Lilly pointed to the tree stump again, and after some searching, Shizune found the handcuffs. They quietly cuffed themselves, then Lilly picked up the phone again, though it was now a bit harder to do so. “Done.”

“Perfect! Now, just start walking into the woods - I’ll be watching.” Lilly heard an electronic whirr pass overhead - presumably the means by which they were being watched. That was the least of her worries, however; the prospect of walking blindly through a forest floor, while having to use both hands to hold a phone to her head, was terrifying. Still, there was nothing to be done. She pointed into the forest, and Shizune put her hands on Lilly’s waist before starting to walk forwards, acting as their eyes.

As they began to walk, Naoshi’s voice came over the phone again. “While I have you here, I’d like to tell you a story.”

Lilly groaned, having enough trouble concentrating on walking. “Must you?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Sigh. “Very well, then.” After all, she needed his directions.

“This is a story about a good, innocent man. A man who believed in helping others. A man who was willing to put his life on the line for what was right - so much so that he signed up to be a police officer. It wasn’t the best-paying job, especially for a man who wanted to start a family, but it was the right thing to do, so he did it.”

“For many years, he did his best - he became a renowned member of the force, willing to take on any task, no matter how challenging. He learned to use every tool in his arsenal well, including something special: XERU. A pair of operators with immense power at their disposal, who could strike with unprecedented speed and precision. Turn left.”

Lilly stopped, waited for Shizune to stop as well, then pointed to her left, and they went off again.

“It was beautiful, really, the way he worked alongside those men; if only they could’ve worked a bit better with each other.” He paused. “Did your father ever tell you why they split up?”

“Yes.” He hadn’t really, at least in any detail, but Lilly would say anything to stop this-

“They split up because they were petty. Your father was chasing some fanciful foreign woman. A divorced single mother, of all things. His partner - Shizune’s father, who was married to your aunt by this time - wouldn’t have it. They quarreled and quibbled on and on, and finally fell apart when it came out that your mother was pregnant with you. Years of teamwork, made moot by you and your skanky mother.” Lilly furrowed her brow, and almost thought of saying something in return, but Naoshi stole the opportunity. “Another left here.”

Left? Again? But they’d be... Never mind. She stopped, pointed left, and they changed course.

“For the next few years, your fathers worked alone, to the disappointment of our good man, who now had a child of his own. It was never the same, having only half of a team at any given time. It wore him down, having to put up with this pair of childish operators - but he kept going. His family needed him. Another left.”

Surely it would’ve been easier just to go right. Or maybe he was enjoying this, toying with them. With a groan, Lilly pointed left, and despite some hesitation from Shizune, they turned, then kept walking.

“Finally, after almost a decade of this tomfoolery, your father decided to take it even further. He was going to leave the country, and run away from everyone he had known here. Of course, he couldn’t just leave - Sendai needed two operators. So he had to choose a replacement. Of course, that was no problem. It was a relief to our good man, really: maybe he could finally work with a team again. It all hinged on who that next operator would be.”

“It could’ve been any one of the competent, well-trained members of the police force. Or maybe someone from the JSDF, who would be used to tough situations. But no! Your father, the absolute pillock that he was, decided that he wanted his child, and nobody else, to carry that title! But okay, fine, he had a teenage daughter, she could be taught to operate - NO! That daughter wasn’t his! She was made from some other bastard’s baby batter! She wasn’t worthy! Your father insisted that the next operator follow his fucking BLOODLINE!”

Lilly could hear the word yelled from somewhere fairly close by in the forest, as well as through the phone - they were closing in on him, but he had been slightly to the-

“Take another left.”

Nearly fed up with all these lefts, the two girls turned, hoping they were almost there.

“Of course, Shizune’s father, spiteful bastard that he was, couldn’t let this stand. He wasn’t going to be partners with a child. He, too, retired - and left his own child in his place. And so it came to be that XERU, the most powerful instrument of good in the whole region, was now nothing more than a pair of clueless girls. And, fittingly enough, one was completely blind, and the other, completely deaf. What a sorry sight.”

The phone beeped - Naoshi had hung up. Lilly was confused for a moment, but understood when she heard him call out to her, now close enough to speak directly.

“And what of our good, innocent man? What of the righteous?”

Lilly pointed in the direction of his voice, and Shizune obediently began trudging forwards - luckily, Lilly could use her hands for balance now, since she no longer needed the cellphone.

“He couldn’t stop - protecting people was his job. He would just have to try his hardest. For the most part, things were manageable. XERU had been a boon, not a necessity. But finally, one rainy day, he found himself preparing for a hostage situation, with nothing but run-of-the-mill officers to work with. He put himself at the front, like any self-respecting leader should. He wasn’t going to watch as good men died before him.”

Finally, the girls stopped, now face-to-face with Naoshi, who was holding a furious Emi with one arm, and pointing a gun at her with the other.

“My father died that day, Lilly. He died because he cared about other people - and your fathers survive because they never did.”

Lilly hung her head. “I’m sorry, Nao-”

“Save your breath. I’ve had plenty of time to come to terms with his passing. My mother may have been nothing without him, but I swore I would avenge him - that I would make things right. I was taught about XERU and their follies by the officers who had known and respected my father, and raised me like a son. I promised myself that I would never let his fate befall them. And right here, right now, I’m ready to realize that promise - realize my destiny.”

Once again, the electric whirr overhead caught Lilly’s attention, and she raised her voice to speak over it. “This is the point of no return, Naoshi. This is your last chance to turn back.”

He laughed heartily. “Turn back? On the contrary - I’m diving head-first into a glorious new age.”

“As you wish.” Lilly knelt down, and Shizune followed, the two of them holding their bound hands out, as if making an offering.

“How pitiful. The greatest force this region’s ever known, prostrating themselves to me. At least the only way is up, I suppose.” Emi struggled, but in vain - Naoshi stepped forwards, muscles tensed, ready to receive his new gift. “Now then, Lilly, I believe we’ll start with-”

A roaring gust of wind, seemingly bursting out of nowhere, smacked into Naoshi and Emi like a freight train, knocking both of them a meter or two from where they had been standing. As he hit the ground, Naoshi lost his grip, and Emi tumbled away from him. He kept a better grip on his gun, but bounced into a tree, and dropped it nearby out of shock.

He immediately rolled onto his back in order to take stock of the situation. Lilly and Shizune were still kneeling in place - his power was still right there, waiting for him. But then, where had that gust-

“Wahaha~! Ahahahahaha~!”

Looking up, he saw Misha floating above him, wearing a distinctive white suit with various highlights: an operator suit.

“What’s the matter? Blown away by how good I look?” She giggled incessantly at her own joke, and Naoshi could practically feel his blood boiling under his skin. He quickly reached out with his right hand, and grabbed his gun - only to feel his right arm be suddenly and forcefully pressed into the ground, causing him to release his grip.

Not just that, but soon after, his left arm, and then his legs. Confused, he stared at his right arm. Wisps of soft light began to shine from his forearm, eventually taking the shape of a gloved hand. They grew, upwards, taking the shape of an arm, a shoulder, a body, a head - and finally, long locks of dark hair, framing a face. A face whose right side was covered in heavy scars.

The face smiled a terrifying, devilish smile, and Naoshi’s heart barely had time to sink into his stomach before he was blasted with searing streams of electricity.

As Lilly and Shizune stood up again, Misha swooped down, having mostly recovered from her giggling fit, and landed next to Emi, brushing her hair to one side. “How’s it going?”

Emi chuckled, and sat up, unable to stand without her prosthetics. “Not too bad, all things considered. I’ve definitely seen worse.” She winced as she inspected her scrapes and bruises, but retained a smile.

Lilly slowly made her way over to Hanako, who was intermittently shocking Naoshi again and again. “Careful now. Wouldn’t want to hurt him too much.”

“Huh? O-Oh, right...” She shocked him one last time, watching him spasm beneath her, before standing up. “Okay, d-done.” She grabbed his limp body and put him onto her shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

Misha, now holding Emi in a princess carry, floated over. “Wow, Hanako, you’re so strong!”

She blushed in response. “It’s just the... the powers, you know.”

“Do I ever! Emi feels light as a feather!” She tossed the legless girl up in the air a few times for emphasis, eliciting some giggles, then turned to Lilly. “So, uh, what do you think? Can we keep these powers, or do you want them back?”

Lilly grinned. “Let’s talk about it later. For now, Emi needs to get her prosthetics back, and Naoshi needs to be turned over to the authorities - Nurse will do.”

The suited girls nodded, then flew off with their charges, leaving Lilly and Shizune in the middle of the forest, hands still cuffed.

Lilly sighed. “Do you think they’ll come back for us, or should we start walking?”

Shizune, unable to hear her, put her hands on Lilly’s waist, and pulled her in the direction of the school.

Lilly sighed. “Fair enough, no point waiting around.”

And with that, the pair headed off, back through the forest.

END.
Main route: COM(promise)
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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Jun 7th, 2020: Path of Least Resistance)

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Mon Jun 08, 2020 11:14 pm

Oh man. You sort of wrote an anime set in the KSverse with this fic, and to me that's a good thing. A lot of originality on display here with the different aspects of the story's speculative elements being slowly explained over the course of the story to keep it engaging. Like the concept, like the execution. I can definitely say this was the most fun I've had reading a KS fic in a good while.
An Unusual Friendship (Misha x Hanako Route)
Riposte (Rika Mini-Route)
One-Shots Thread (Random Smut/Meme Stories)

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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Jun 1st, 2019: Brief Exchanges)

Post by Hoitash » Sun Aug 30, 2020 9:13 pm

brythain wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 2:37 am
Okay, Crafty, you win. It's the most ridiculous and insane and entertaining tragicomic one-shot in the forums. It's even more topless, or over the top, than Hoitash's stuff.
Alas, I have failed. Now I must commit Sudoku to atone for my misdeeds.

I'm really bad at Sudoku. Numbers are hard.
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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Jun 7th, 2020: Path of Least Resistance)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sat Nov 14, 2020 1:46 pm

That was quite entertaining.

A few logic quibbles, though:
- The genius plan to lure Hanako to the track field to kidnap Shizune depended wholly on Shizune accidentally being there, noticing Hanako meeting Kenji AND deciding to follow them.
- The genius plan to take out Lilly depended wholly on Emi and Misha accidentally being caught up in a robbery AND being able to send a notification to Lilly.
Both things no amount of genius would have been able to predict...
And that genius still had to rely on Kenji... Which actually makes the genius thing questionable in the first place. Normally the plan should have fallen apart when Kenji met Hanako at the bleachers.
It would probably have been more efficient to simply kidnap Hanako in the first place...

Then again that would have made the story a lot shorter and less enjoyable :-)
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Jun 7th, 2020: Path of Least Resistance)

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Nov 15, 2020 5:41 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 1:46 pm
A few logic quibbles, though:
Fortunately, there are reasonable explanations for both of these! Unfortunately, you'll have to take my word that I had indeed planned them out beforehand, and simply left them out of the story because the reader lacking that information drives the suspense and progression.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 1:46 pm
- The genius plan to lure Hanako to the track field to kidnap Shizune depended wholly on Shizune accidentally being there, noticing Hanako meeting Kenji AND deciding to follow them.
[...]
It would probably have been more efficient to simply kidnap Hanako in the first place...
The plan was to only kidnap Hanako. Once she was hostage, they could leverage her to go after Lilly and Shizune, who would've been on the back foot. All Kenji had to do was calmly introduce himself as one of Lilly's classmates, then bring her to Naoshi's room, while making sure that they weren't being followed. In this regard he failed miserably, but Naoshi was keeping an eye out just in case, and his quick thinking turned Kenji's blunder into a windfall - it actually let the next part happen much easier.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 1:46 pm
- The genius plan to take out Lilly depended wholly on Emi and Misha accidentally being caught up in a robbery AND being able to send a notification to Lilly.
The robbery was staged: the robber was hired to perform an actual robbery, and told to hold out until "help arrived" if the police showed up. Naoshi actually tipped them off (hence their surprisingly speedy arrival), ensuring a hostage situation, which would hopefully result in XERU being called in. Misha and Emi being there, and getting Lilly in quickly, was entirely unexpected, but happened to work out. Naoshi was one of the other "customers" cowering on the floor of the bank, from where he shot Lilly, framing the robber. Of course, for ballistics reasons, he had the same model of gun as the hired robber, who was given one less bullet, completing the picture.

It all sounds a bit contrived, I know, but the point is that everyone had a plan going in, and those plans were (as they often are) continuously being ruined, requiring quick thinking and adaptation from all sides. That's how I hoped to let readers suspend disbelief: a villain who knows exactly what will happen from the beginning is unrealistic, but a villain who has incompetent assistants, unpredictable opponents, and is surprised by every twist - but is smart enough to change their plan to work around it all - is a bit closer to home. The biggest issue is that, really, it's difficult to convey that sense of hurried re-planning from the other side of the story; it's only at the end that the reader gets some hints at Naoshi being frazzled, having to take riskier and more audacious steps to try and keep everything together.

Regardless, I'm glad you liked it - so much so that you were interested in the details behind the plot!
Hanako Fancopter wrote:
Mon Jun 08, 2020 11:14 pm
I can definitely say this was the most fun I've had reading a KS fic in a good while.
Thank you all for the kind words and comments! Definitely makes me feel like this story was well worth writing. :)
Hoitash wrote:
Sun Aug 30, 2020 9:13 pm
brythain wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 2:37 am
Okay, Crafty, you win. It's the most ridiculous and insane and entertaining tragicomic one-shot in the forums. It's even more topless, or over the top, than Hoitash's stuff.
Alas, I have failed. Now I must commit Sudoku to atone for my misdeeds.

I'm really bad at Sudoku. Numbers are hard.
Sorry. If it's any consolation, I can help you with that :P
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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Jun 7th, 2020: Path of Least Resistance)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sun Nov 15, 2020 6:01 pm

Okay, in that case it's just Emi running out of cash and choosing that exact bank to get more which is a bit hard to believe...
Also, if Naoshi was the one who shot the gun, he must have noticed Lilly teleporting out, and thus known she wasn't dead - yet he seemed pretty certain she was...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Jun 7th, 2020: Path of Least Resistance)

Post by Craftyatom » Sun Nov 15, 2020 6:56 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sun Nov 15, 2020 6:01 pm
Okay, in that case it's just Emi running out of cash and choosing that exact bank to get more which is a bit hard to believe...
Yeah, it is quite a coincidence. Just sets it up better for the reader, that's all.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sun Nov 15, 2020 6:01 pm
Also, if Naoshi was the one who shot the gun, he must have noticed Lilly teleporting out, and thus known she wasn't dead - yet he seemed pretty certain she was...
Excellent point! I had a line about him being the one who shot her, but I really should've included some specific language about him seeing her teleport out, and hoping it would have been too late. Of course, Emi and Misha play into that as well, which comes back to coincidence and storytelling.

It's nice to have some critical analysis of the plot - I enjoy internal consistency among fantasy (And, based on Katawa Kijo, I would guess that you do too!), and it can be hard to see what I've missed.
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Re: Crafty's One-Shots (Jun 7th, 2020: Path of Least Resistance)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sun Nov 15, 2020 7:29 pm

I thought a bit about why you brought up Katawa Kijo in this context, but I guess I did hint at several later developments quite early on in that story...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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