Aria, Rin, and Ryota sit there in the apartment. Aria and Rin on a plain couch, and Ryota sat on a wooden chair that he had brought in from his kitchen.
Ryota: Its good to see you again Aria. I’m glad you came.
Rin: So you’re The Ryota, huh? The one who has been doing so much in the athletic world.
Ryota: Yeah, I am.
Rin: I’m glad. I didn’t know you were Aria’s brother.
Ryota: When our parents divorced we didn’t see much of each other after that.
Rin: Oh, I’m sorry.
Ryota: How have you been, Aria? We haven’t talked in years.
Aria remains quiet.
Ryota: The last I saw you, you were being pulled away by our mother.
Aria doesn’t speak.
Ryota: I know you’ve had some hatred at dad for divorcing.
Aria: (mutters under her breath)
Ryota: I’m sorry?
Aria: Hatred doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about that man.
Ryota looked disappointed.
Ryota: Oh, I’m sorry.
Rin: Its not your fault.
Ryota: I’m sorry to have dragged you into our little family squabble.
Rin: No, please, don’t worry about me.
Aria: And what has become of that man.
Ryota: He lives alone now, out in the country.
Aria: Good. He deserves to be alone.
Rin: So you’ve made a good living for yourself, Ryota.
Rin seemed desperate to change the subject.
Ryota: Yes. I’ve done well. Performed well would be the better way of saying it. Though its not as popular as it used to be, a lot of people still look up to athletes as heroes. A bit of normalcy I suppose.
Rin: I suppose so.
Ryota: Are the two of you close?
Rin: I’m Aria’s teacher.
Ryota: Ah, I see. What do you teach her? Math?
Rin: (nervous laugh) No, not quite.
Ryota: Oh? Then what? Science?
Ryota: Then what do you teach my sister?
Rin: Well, I, uh…
Aria: She teaches me self-defense.
Rin: I guess you could put it that way.
Ryota: ...ok then.
Rin: (thinking) Doubt he even knows his sister is a trained fighter, let alone how he would react to that.
Ryota: How long have you two known each other?
Aria: About ten years.
Ryota: That long huh.
Ryota: Well, the both of you are certainly welcome at my home. You’re more than welcome to stay, but unfortunately, I have practice to go to.
He stands and grabs a nearby bag.
Aria: You have to go?
Ryota: I’ll be back later. Feel free to make yourself at home.
Rin: Are you sure you’re okay with that?
Ryota: Well, I can’t bring you to practice, too short-notice, and I’d like it if the two of you were to stay longer. I have a guest room the two of you can share.
Aria: I don’t…
Rin: We’d be happy to.
Ryota: (smiling) Great. Be back later.
Ryota quietly leaves.
Aria: (openly sighing) This is still a really bad idea.
Rin: You should give it a chance Aria. You and your dad just stopped talking to each other, huh?
Aria: I don’t want to talk about it.
Aria gets up from the couch and goes into the kitchen leaving Rin in the family room.
Rin: There’s more to this...I know there is.
Meanwhile, with no clues in sight as to where Athena might be heading, the group heads back to Kei’s home. House was quiet. Everyone was still out.
Shigure: Now what, Kei?
Kei: We’re going to get in touch with Ame.
Saori: That’s near impossible right now. Even I can’t get a hold of him.
Kei: I’m going to go through a different channel.
Saori: And that’d be?
Kei: Follow me and you’ll find out.
The group head to Kei’s room and he sits in front of a desk. A panel suddenly lights up showing recent calls. He quietly dials a number and waits for the person to pick up.
Josh: So, you and Ame… how did you and Athena meet him?
Saori: Its...kind of a long story.
A voice message starts playing. It was voicemail.
Kei hangs up.
Kei: Might as well tell it, Saori. Might be a while before I can get this person on the line.
Saori: If that is what you wish, where should I begin?
Josh: From the beginning. You said your father was a drunk, so you left the house and started wandering.
Saori: That is correct. From that point on, we simply went from city to city. At some point, I know neither time or date for certain, we stumbled upon the Kaka village in Kagutsuchi by accident.
Kana: Okay… so what happened there?
Saori: A bunch of kitties begged us for food. However, we had nothing to give them. The clan elder however, heard our story and gave us a place to live. It wasn’t the fanciest housing, but it was a place to lay our head.
Josh: Did she offer you to look for a job while you were staying in Kagutsuchi?
Saori: She encouraged us to look, for sure. We tried several different occupations. We were waitresses, but that fell apart when Athena couldn’t keep the serving tray level at all. We were doctor’s assistants, but that didn’t pan out when we accidentally mixed the wrong ingredients. We tried simply being shoe shiners, but we couldn’t handle the smell of people’s feet.
Josh: Wasn’t much better in the Corps… while you were disgusted by the smell of feet, I had to put up with the stench of corpses. (Sighs) Nevermind. So you fell on hard times.
Saori: Very. But at some point while we were out in the streets of Kagutsuchi, he just kinda showed up. Kinda scared us half to death when he did that. Believe it or not, dude that big is scary fast. Almost like a ninja, there one second, gone the next. Kana: Ninjas of Ronin-Gai. Yeah, I know about them. When the Ikaruga Rebellion was quelled, many of them decided to settle in Kagutsuchi. I assume you’ve met one of them.
Saori: If that’s a ninja, then they’re very loud. I don’t know how many times we had to stop that guy we met from jumping to conclusions or yelling into the sky about something random.
Kana: (Imitates the loud voice) “OH MY!” I know this guy. Bang Shishigami.
Saori: Sounds right. Couldn’t talk quiet if his life depended on it.
Kana: Yeah, the dude is loud, like a hundred elephants. And so… what’s next?
Saori: Ame offered us opportunities. Basically just things we’d have to do from time to time. So one time it was cleaning a bookshelf, another time it was physical labor, he gave us easy tasks to start because he knew we weren’t ready for the stuff that we handle now.
Josh: Obviously, he started giving you more difficult tasks later, since you became his agent.
Saori: Yes, at which point we were required to start going through training for more serious tasks. But that only happened after we were old enough.
Kana: Wait… how old were you when you left your father’s house?
Saori: I was ten, Athena was nine.
Kana: Jeez… that’s harsh. Two little girls who have to survive in such a wretched hive. I hope no one has ever done anything inappropriate to you.
Josh: At least Saori wasn’t subject to any of it. I know it.
Saori: Well, the Kaka clan were always very nice. A little clingy, but nice. And Ame would escort us everywhere when we were little, so that no matter what happened, he could step in as necessary. He was kind of like a fatherly figure.
Josh: But you had to do things that were certainly regrettable when you’ve become older.
Saori: ...you could say that, but they were our decision. I mean, probably the toughest task I had was the beastkin slave trade. But Kei kind of put an end to that when we came into the city nearby.
Josh: You pretended to be a slave… you were abused during that time.
Saori sighs. She turns around and lifts up her shirt half way to reveal a bruise.
Saori: That goes without saying.
Josh: I’ve seen that bruise, but I didn’t ask about it so that you wouldn’t have to relive these painful moments.
Saori: Its all in the past now anyway. That man is in jail and he isn’t getting out before he expires anyway. Ame saw to that. I think Athena was the one who had the tougher one before she moved out here.
Josh: But you weren’t alone… that’s all that matters.
Saori: That’s true. We’d keep in touch on almost everything...except now…
Kana: (Puts her hands on Saori’s shoulders) Hey, we’ll find Athena before anything bad happens. Don’t lose your spirits.
Saori happily nods.
Saori: Yeah, I believe you guys. Don’t worry. I know that with you and Josh around, we’ll bring Athena home safely.
Josh: That I promise. So… what about the man who’s escaped? He’s certainly a figure from your past. Did you owe him money… or did he do something terrible to the two of you?
Saori: While its true he murdered our mother, I’m almost certain greed was a motivation. Its very likely my mother had racked up debts to unknown people, and when she couldn’t pay back those debts, she had to pay a different way.
Kana: (Growls) She paid with her… no, that’s so horrible.
Josh: They collected with interest. And the sum increased every day.
Saori: Taking of two little girls pretty much on her own, I can’t imagine all the burdens she probably had to bare. Even working two jobs, we barely saw her, but because she was a beastkin, she couldn’t make enough money.
Josh: (Closes his eyes) Some people think that the beastkin are very exotic. No wonder they forced your mother into this.
Saori: It was more personal to Athena, then it was to me. She’s the one who had the opportunity to face him face to face once before, but it was under different circumstances. For starters, it was on a mission that Ame allowed Athena to come with him on. Running into him was purely coincidence.
Josh: Another shady deal, I suppose. What happened?
Saori: Its not how it started out. Supposedly, there was a rumor going around that a casino was rigged. Ame took it upon himself to look into it. When the two arrived, they simply played a few of the games, or rather, Ame did. Just to test them out to see if the claims were true. He lost all of his twenty dollars, but he definitely found that the games were rigged in favor of the casino. It was during that time, as he sat there playing blackjack, that the man came and sat beside him.
Kana: Hm… gambling is a serious industry here, so they had some shady dealings with the people who killed your mother.
Saori: Supposedly the man owned the casino. Seemed to be dead set on proving his games weren’t rigged. Yet when he won all of the games against Ame, all by underhanded methods, it only proved to Ame that the dealings were crooked. Ame announced to him that he was under arrest. The man stood up and pulled a gun on Ame. He claimed that he had done too much and was ‘too big’ of a piece in the black market to have everything fall apart.
Kana: That was way too rushed to say that to the guy’s face. I mean, the casino is full of his people, so obviously it wasn’t the smartest move.
Saori: From the report Ame filed, it seemed as though he hadn’t played all the games for the fun of them. It was to check his surroundings and make sure that none of the dealers or anyone around had a gun. Despite being crooked, I imagine they had to at least make the place feel welcoming.
Kana: Still, that wasn’t a wise move.
Saori: I’m inclined to agree with you, Kana. I never thought it to be wise to stir up a hornet’s nest. But that’s what Ame did.
Josh: What’s done is done. What happened next?
Saori: From what I read, he ordered Ame to leave his casino, but he refused. He then took notice of Athena and made some crude remark about our mother. At which point, Ame punched him square in the face.
Saori: He fell to the ground and before he could respond to Ame’s physicality, Ame stepped on his hand and forced him to release the gun. Ame kicked the gun away from them and then picked the man up and put him in a headlock. He gave the man two choices. He could go to jail, or he could see what it would feel like to become an owl.
Josh: What? Oh… I get it.
Saori: With no one to back him up, he chose jail time. From there, an independent police force busted in and begin to clean up the place, arresting all the dealers and crooked people who worked there.
Kana: And Ame wasn’t arrested because he was with them.
Saori: Yes, Ame took that man to jail himself.
Josh: Anything happened in the court?
Saori: Seemed pretty cocky for a guy going away for a while, but nothing that was really noticeable.
Josh: So he was sentenced to prison.
Saori: About seventy years in all.
Kana: Helluva time. No parole, I suppose?
Saori: Nope. And I doubt he got out after only ten years for good behavior either.
Kana: (Sarcastically) Brush your teeth every morning, clean your room, work in the prison yard, and you get a parole absolutely free.
Saori: It leads me to believe that someone else paid for his release, and my likely best bet is that the branch paid for it.
Josh: But you don’t have any proof, so we can’t know for sure.
Saori: No I don’t.
Kana: Then we gotta find it. I may have some clues, but I think Athena went for them first.
Saori: I don’t know what she’s doing exactly. She could be looking for clues, tailing him, I don’t know.
Josh: That just makes it even more complicated.
Saori: As long as Athena doesn’t do anything she’ll regret later, she’ll be fine, but knowing how she feels, I’m worried it could drive her over the edge.
Kana: I can relate to that. Vengeance will drive her to the point of no-return. She may be convicted for this, even killed.
Saori: Being beastkin means that its unlikely we’ll get benefit of the doubt, its going to be looked at as if she was hunting him down, while true, won’t tell the entire story.
Kana: Our Justice system may be imperfect, but it’s fair. You just need not to get on their bad side.
Saori: Yeah, a little late for that, especially for us.
Josh: If this operation doesn’t work out, we may join her in prison. We shouldn’t attract attention, and we may even have to break the law a few times. You have to be prepared for this.
Kei: Let’s not jump to conclusions just yet.
At that moment, the call is finally picked up and a woman appears on the end.
Miwa: Oh, hello Kei, and friends.
Kei: Finally, do you know how long I’ve been calling you?
Miwa: We weren’t home, so what can I do for you?
Josh: We need your help, Miss Suzuki. A friend of ours went missing, and a convict who has been connected to her past has escaped from imprisonment.
Kei: We’re hoping you can get us in touch with Ame.
Miwa: Give me twenty minutes.
Kei nods. The phone remains on while she goes off.
Kana: (Sings) I know what there is to know about the waiting game~.
Saori: You do have a lovely singing voice Kana.
Kana: Well, thanks. Not many people have complimented my singing abilities.
Saori: You should do it more often, I think.
Kana: (Sings) Whatever you say~!
Saori smiles. Shigure smiles as well. Kei just let them be.
Kana: (Lets off a sigh) Okay… we have some time.
Saori: Then mind if I ask a personal question Kana?
Kana: Go ahead.
Saori: Have you found anyone you like yet?
Kana: (Raises her eyebrow) I… I don’t know. I mean I’ve had some relationships, but I’m not really sure I liked those people.
Saori: Well I’m sure you’ll find someone you really like soon. I mean Kei and I both did.
Kana: I guess. Dudes, girls… their gender doesn’t matter to me.
Shigure: Oh, so you’re open to all kinds of possibilities then. That’s pretty interesting.
Kana: (Raises her brow) Oh… and you’re interested. Warn you, I’m not big into bondage.
Shigure: (nervously laughs) Oh no, I’m quite content with just Kei. But I may know a sibling that would take a liking to you.
Kana: Oooooooookay… I’ll consider that.
Miwa sits back in front of the screen.
Ame then appears behind her.
Ame: I hear you’re trying to get in contact with me?