Gao hadn't been on the Buddypolice's youth division for too long, but he felt like he had dealt with some of the darker aspects of Buddyfight and could handle it. Therefore he felt he could handle all missions given to them and everything would be fine in the end. So when Count Dawn called in the Buddypolice Youth with a solemn face, he felt like reassuring him that they could handle whatever mission he was about to give them. Though since Tetsuya and Zanya were both up in the mountains looking for an Omni-Lord it was really just Tasuku and him.
"Recently the police have handed a case over to us. It was revealed that the criminal was using a buddy in order to execute his crimes. His name is Damien Adam, age 18. Due to the extent of his crimes we wanted the adult division to handle this, but due to classified extenuating circumstances they are unable to take the case at the present time. And we have word that he will not remain in the same place for long." Count Dawn explained while putting his picture up on the big screen.
"What did this guy do Count Dawn?" Tasuku asked.
"Well he has committed multiple crimes including multiple accounts of assault, torture, arson, dealing drugs, and theft, as well a few other minor crimes." At that the Buddypolice Youth remained silent. Had they ever dealt with someone like that before? Kyoya was pretty bad but it was all more or less head games. Gao took a steady breath in.
"We can do this Count, what do you need from us?" Gao's enthusiasm seemed to uplift the group a bit and both Gao and Tasuku turned to face Count Dawn, who let out a resigned sigh.
"We believe we have located his base of operations at an abandoned warehouse near the pier. We need you to confirm this and if necessary take action to end his operations. Be as deceit and safe as possible." Count Dawn explained, bringing the location coordinates up on the screen. "Best of luck."
Tasuku and Gao activated their buddy skills and took off, Jack and Drum trailing behind quietly. Tasuku and Gao were pretty quiet too until Gao decided to interrupt the silence.
"What is it like to skate on air Tasuku?" Gao asked. "I mean it seems more difficult than my sun board, but also more fun."
Tasuku let a slow blink out while contemplating the thought. "I mean I don't know how it compares to yours, but it is pretty fun I suppose. I guess it's kind of like how you feel when you jump as high as you can and you're at the peak of the jump, but it's continuous. Does that make sense?"
Gao let out a contemplative hum before nodding his head. "Oh, but you have used my buddy skill before. Remember when we rode on it to Kyoya's base together?" At the mention of this Gao's eyes widened like he remembered something and was suddenly staring at a very interesting cloud off in the distance. Tasuku looked at him curiously before continuing on. "I suppose you're right, but I was more of a passenger than a pilot."
Gao turned back to look at Tasuku. "Well maybe next time I'll let you try." He said breaking into a smile. Tasuku suddenly became very aware of his heart beat and wondered how Gao could always smile so brightly.
"We're here." Tasuku and Gao said at the same time as they approached the warehouse.
"So how should we go about this?" Gao asked as they landed together.
Before any response could be said, the doors to the warehouse burst open. Only to reveal Damien Adam himself. "Hello there boys, come to greet me have you?"
Tasuku and Gao tried to conceal the surprise on their faces as they turned to face Damien Adam with a look of determination, to which Damien let out a cackle.
"No need to get hot-blooded, you see, a little birdie told me you were coming. Don't go beating yourselves up at your utter lack of espionage skills. Oh, and call me Damien, please." He said in a taunting sing-song voice.
"Well…Damien, you are under arrest for…" Before Tasuku could finish he had to dodge out of the way of a fireball. Crouching in a roll on the ground and cradling his singed foot.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, my buddy can be so rude sometimes." Damien smirked. Out of the warehouse walked Damien's buddy who wore a cloak of red and a cocky smirk that seemed to be the trademark of the pair.
"The name's Ganzack. It's a pleasure." Gao kept his eyes on the pair as he made his way to Tasuku. "You alright man?" Tasuku nodded, standing back up from his sudden dodge, looking over his scorched boots for burns on his leg, while testing out pressure on the foot a sharp sting ran through Tasuku's leg and Tasuku cursed his luck. Both Tasuku and Gao turned their heads to a sound of a laugh emanating from Damien. "You should have aimed better Zakie, we still have two to deal with." Ganzack shrugged before turning his attention to the two boys. "More time to have some fun right?"
Damien laughed and nodded his head. "Yea, you know it's been awhile since I've been in a good fight." Tasuku reached for his star pulsar and activated a Buddypolice barrier. "Now none of us leave until a core deck case is destroyed, so you can either surrender or Buddyfight me." Tasuku proclaimed.
Damien let out a low whistle as he peered around their new confines. "That's cute, but I think you misunderstood my intentions." Without warning, Damien charged at Tasuku who was caught off guard. Gao intercepted the punch aimed at Tasuku and judo flipped Damien over his shoulder with little difficulty. Tasuku's face was still stuck on shock as he looked at Damien who was now on the ground.
Damien let out a light cough before letting the smile return to his face. "It looks like we have a feisty fighter here." Damien droned out while standing up. "Those are always my favorite to break." Gao tensed and forced his body into a ready position, taking few steps forward as Damien backed up. Tasuku who was out of his stupor lifted his hand to the communicator in his ear as he tried contacting Count Dawn, only to be greeted by static.
"You might want to inform blue boy back there that all electronic signals within a quarter-mile of this warehouse are currently blocked." Damien said, eyes fixated on Gao. Tasuku tensed, the buddy police barrier didn't extend outside that range currently, and besides breaking a core deck case the only other way for the barrier to come down was through contact with headquarters. Meaning they'd have to deal with Damien, without backup. Drum and Jack who had been quiet and in shock, realized the situation and attempted to fly towards Gao to detain Damien, but were stopped when they barely avoided fireballs aimed directly at their chests.
"Attempt to interrupt the fight again and the next spell will be aimed at a certain firecracker who I'm pretty sure can't deal with two opponents of our level at once. So if I were you I'd go into mini-size." Ganzack cut in. Drum and Jack backed off while growling, before taking on their mini-forms.
Meanwhile with Gao, he hadn't fought an opponent with quite this level of skill since he had stopped doing martial arts competitively. After every punch he deflected there would already be another one, or a well-placed kick. As much as he didn't want to admit it, Gao was having difficulty keeping up. And since his martial arts was mostly defensive, using opponent's momentum against them, it was difficult to land counter-attacks as well. The tides seemed to turn in Gao's favor when he got a good counter-hit in and Damien had to back up a few paces to recuperate. He wanted to use his advantage, but as Gao went to take a step forward pain shot up through his spine from his side that Damien had managed a solid kick on. That was definitely going to bruise later. Gao settled for taking a couple steady breaths to prepare himself for the next round. He could do this. Damien steadied his footing as he glared at Gao a few paces away from him. He hadn't been this beat up in quite a while. His glare became a twisted smile as he seemed to think of something.
Ganzack peered at his partner with amusement as he seemed to be enjoying himself. Suddenly Ganzack's instincts flared and he moved quickly, having a giant sword just barely miss making contact with him. He turned to see the blue boy who now had his hair length tripled and flowing behind him, using his buddy skill to float in the air so he wouldn't have to put pressure on the burnt ankle.
"Wow." Ganzack said. "I guess firecracker wasn't the only one with some fight. But I can tell he's definitely the more skilled one. A cheap shot will only get you so far blue blunder."
Tasuku shifted his grip on the sword, narrowing his glare and readying his next strike, both of them took off, turning it into and aerial battle. The two exchanged blows for a while, and while Tasuku wasn't doing too badly, it was painfully obvious he also wasn't winning the fight. As Tasuku went for another strike with the Draobrave Ganzack managed to grab onto his arm. He tried to twist out of it, but the grip only got tighter, while grabbing his other wrist as well. A sudden burning sensation on his wrist caused Tasuku to cry out and drop the sword, leading it to degenerate and return to card form. The burning intensified and Tasuku's vision began to blur as he began to scream louder too. Ganzack released Tasuku's wrists and Tasuku was freefalling in the air until the small forms of Drum and Jack managed to catch him. Tasuku woke up fairly quickly but any movement seemed to cause some sort of pain so he let Jack and Drum guide him to the ground. A little after, the burning in his wrists seemed to fade as if it hadn't even occurred moments ago and he examined his arms to reveal no visible burns. Though surprised and still wary, Tasuku would take what he could get.
Simultaneously, Gao was intently focused on the fight when a scream suddenly pierced his ears. Without even looking he could tell it was Tasuku and panic ran through his body. As the sound intensified Gao couldn't help but turn his attention toward the source out of the corner of his eye he saw Tasuku falling for a second and he was about to scream out to Tasuku, already shifting his weight to go catch him, before he saw Jack and Drum get there more quickly, guiding him to the ground. Gao was about to let out a sigh of relief when he remembered he had turned his back to his opponent. He tensed drastically and swiveled so he would be facing Damien again. Just as Gao turned back around he only saw Damien's smirk for a brief second before he splashed some liquid on Gao's face. Gao let out his own cry as he dropped to the ground reaching for his eyes. Whatever Damien did stung…badly. Gao wiped his eyes as quickly as possible and began to blink rapidly. Nothing, he couldn't see anything. The darkness engulfed him in a way he never experienced and to be honest, Gao was afraid. "Don't worry, the effects aren't permanent, in fact it should wear off in a few hours, but that's the least of your worries." Gao attempted to crawl in whatever direction was away from the psycho but he didn't get far before he felt himself being yanked upwards and put into something that felt like a choke-hold. Gao squirmed as he felt his feet leaving the ground, but without much of a bearing it was difficult to tell left from right at this point. When Gao felt something metallic against his arm he ceased all motion and his heart beat picked up pace.
After Tasuku was done checking over his arms he barely had a moment of relief before hearing a scream that came from Gao. A sense of dread washed over Tasuku as he turned towards Gao, just in time to see Damien picking him up in a choke hold and pull out a syringe that he ran over Gao's arm.
"Okay then," Damien started, "it's been great, really it has, but I think I've had my fun for the day, come here Zakie. Blue boy, remove the barrier." Tasuku's glare hardened as he watched Gao go still in Damien's arms and Ganzack take his place by his partner's side,
"Like I would do that for someone like you." Tasuku said harshly, slightly nervous with Gao in enemy hands.
"I'm trying to be civil here, I really am, now that my men have had time to move operations, and I've had my fun I'm willing to go peacefully. So you get one more try."
Tasuku glared at him as he ran through all the possibilities of what he could say to get Gao back. "If that's what you want, return Gao first."
"Oh, you mean firecracker here?" Damien's smile grew more twisted. "I bet you're the kind of guy that takes responsibility for everything that occurs around him huh? I gave you my last warning, but if you insist on making your own demands without fulfilling mine…." Without much warning Damien shoved the syringe in Gao's arm and emptied its contents, "… I guess I get to have a guinea pig for my new drug."
Without much grace, Damien dropped Gao on the ground, who fell like a rock. Then he backed away with his arms raised. Drum screamed in despair. "The firecracker is all yours now, but don't know how long he'll stay breathing if you don't lower the barrier to take him to the hospital. Untested drugs can be quite volatile you see. Especially for children."
Tasuku panicked as he ran up to Gao who was seizing up on the ground. He tried to call out to Gao but he didn't seem to hear Tasuku's voice. He didn't know what to do. What could he do?
"I can't take down the barrier." Tasuku explained, devastated. Damien raised his eyebrows at that. "If you don't, firecracker here will probably die you know." At that Tasuku tensed even more.
"I CAN'T OKAY!" Tasuku shouted. "The only way for it to come down is contact to headquarters or destruction of a core gadget!" If they had lost contact with headquarters then backup may be on the way, but there was no telling when. The only option would probably be destruction of a core gadget. Maybe if Tasuku got rid of his star pulsar somehow, it was obvious he wasn't getting Damien's. No, he needed his buddy skill to transport Gao to the hospital. Then maybe…Tasuku's thought process broke when he noticed Damien had made his way to arm's distance from him, and by extension, Gao.
"Is that so?" Damien drawled out. Tasuku did his best to keep the surprise off his face. "Zakie, here on firecracker's waist, you got it?" Ganzack gave a nod.
"What are you doing?" Tasuku barked out desperately. Ganzack held out his hand which proceeded to catch on fire, he reached down and tightly grasped Gao's core deck case, causing Gao to scream in pain through his muscle spasms. With a swift motion, Ganzack yanked off the belt and a resounding crack could be heard. The barrier began to deteriorate around them as Tasuku grasped onto Gao and scooted as far away from the duo as his bad ankle would permit him.
"Well then kiddies, I'll be taking my leave. Thanks for all the fun." Damien activated his buddy skill which looked a lot like fox fire, and then took off away from the pier. At the time, Tasuku didn't have the will to chase him.
From that point on, time seemed to move slow and fast simultaneously. The thought of taking Gao to the hospital followed by the actual flight there all seemed so slow, but it was all a blur. Tasuku remembered rushing in, screaming for help, nurses asking questions that he answered to the best of his ability, though it would be miracle if he could remember any of the questions. Tasuku remembered someone trying to take Gao from his arms and he clutched him tighter before he forced his body to uncurl and have Gao's weight be lifted off him. There were more questions. Sounds blurred together. He got taken to a room, given an anesthetic, before he lost consciousness he heard that Count Dawn was contacted.
The next time Tasuku was fully aware of his situation, he was greeted by white walls and the heavy smell of antiseptics, as well as the steady beep of a heart monitor, one, that Tasuku realized, wasn't hooked up to him. Tasuku sat up slowly and while he may have been slightly dizzy, otherwise he felt fine. The day's events came rushing back to him like a nightmare and he clutched his head, willing himself to calm down. The heart monitor's pace picked up and Tasuku finally took notice that the sound was coming from a bed next to his, which lay on the other side of a curtain. As the Tasuku reached and pulled the curtain back he heard the heart monitor pick up even more to extremely high levels. With the curtain pulled back Tasuku could see Gao laying in the bed next to him, breaking out into a cold sweat. He seemed so small, all wrapped up in the hospital blankets. A couple of nurses came in hurriedly and Tasuku stared at them dumbfounded. They gave him a glance, saying they'd speak to him in a minute, but decided to approach him later and deal with Gao now.
"I thought we had Mr. Mikado stabilized why is he relapsing so harshly?" The female nurse who seemed to be in charged asked.
"The drug must not have completely left his system yet mam'," a young guy replied. She gave a nod and seemed to be at a loss of what to do.
"I don't want to risk more anesthesia, especially if it may cause a negative reaction with the unknown drug."
By now Tasuku had slipped out of his bed and made his way next to Gao's bed, the nurses currently ignoring him, arguing about treatment. Gao's eyes opened and they seemed to glance around wildly, but not seeing anyone in the room. It was quite evident he was beginning to panic. Torn with grief, Tasuku reached for Gao's hand. At first, Gao tried to pull away rapidly, but Tasuku held on tightly.
"Gao, can you hear me? It's Tasuku. Listen to me okay? I'm here." The tension from Gao's body seemed to all flow out at once.
"T-…Tasuku?" Gao questioned. He throat sounded raw, as if he'd been yelling a lot.
"Yea, it's me, how are you feeling?" Tasuku asked. Asking if he was okay just seemed cruel currently. The nurses looked at Tasuku in surprise, but let him continue.
"Not so hot actually." Gao laughed weakly, it sounded so defeated it was more heart-breaking than soothing to Tasuku's ears.
"Everything's kind of blurry." Gao stated.
"That is probably the effect of whatever was poured on your eyes, we believe the injected drug was a concentrated hallucinogen that hasn't left your body, so we need you under close maintenance."
"Who that?" Gao said, starting to panic again.
"It's just one of the nurses in here." Tasuku soothed. "We're in the hospital."
Gao nodded in understanding, but his body remained tense. "Oh…..the hospital huh. Are you okay Tasuku?" Gao asked.
"Yea I'm fine. How are you?"
"That's good." Gao said, with a long pause in between. "I don't really know how I am. I can see more so than before, but every time I close my eyes there are these images. It's you, and drum and everyone else I care for, they're dead Tasuku! Wait, am I dead?"
"No, no we're all fine. We're alive Gao. Okay? You're listening right?"
Gao remained frazzled, and squeezed Tasuku's hand tighter. "Got it, not dead. Right. NOT dead. Everyone is fine. Oh my….Tasuku my arm! There are insects eating my arm! Get them off!" Gao picked up his arm and slammed it into the side of the bed and lifted it to repeat the action before Tasuku grabbed his arm to keep him from doing it again.
"Gao, there is nothing there. You have to believe me." The stress was evident in Gao's eyes as he was torn between trying to listen to Tasuku and repeatedly slamming his arm on the bed.
"Not there?" Gao questioned. "How can they not be there? I SEE them, heck I FEEL THEM. IT HURTS, make it STOP!" Tears filled Tasuku's eyes at the sight of Gao's overwrought state.
"You have to listen to me Gao! You're hallucinating. It's NOT real. You need to stay calm and NOT hurt yourself. Can you do that? Squeeze my hand okay? Stay grounded in reality." The nurses behind Tasuku began bustling, but he ignored them. Gao's eyes filled with tears as well.
"Okay, I trust you." Gao said, every muscle in his body screaming that it protested. The tightness of Gao's grip on Tasuku's hand multiplied by tenfold and Tasuku held back a hiss of pain. He could do this, for Gao.
"Good. Gao, I need you to relax, the nurses don't want to give you sedative because they don't know what it'll do. I need you to stay calm and fight okay?"
Gao tersely nodded his head and attempted to slowly relax back on the bed. "TASUKU!" Gao screeched. "There's needles, needles sticking in my back! Get them out!" Tasuku lifted Gao up a bit further and felt around on his back, there was nothing there.
"Gao…" Tasuku stated with resigned agony. "There is nothing there."
"PLEASE!" Gao cried. "It HURTS! PLEASE make it STOP Tasuku!"
"I'm sorry Gao, there is nothing there!" Both boys broke down in silent tears, and the nurses seemed to be at a loss. The grip on Tasuku's hand tightened more and Tasuku pulled Gao into a half-hug, using his other free hand to do so. Gao returned the hug, holding Tasuku's shirt tightly.
Another nurse came in suddenly and walked up to the head nurse. "We've isolated the drug used on Mr. Mikado based on his blood sample. We believe that this sedative is safe to use." The newcomer said, handing a clipboard off the other nurse.
Nodding, the head nurse hooked up a new IV bag and Tasuku backed off slightly so it could be attached to Gao. His muscles seemed to relax considerably after a minute, and Tasuku let out a sigh of relief. The terror that filled Gao's eyes minutes ago seemed to shift to a duller spaced-out look. After a while the nurses seem satisfied and left the room, saying if they needed something, they should press the call button. Tasuku nodded and asked them to inform Count Dawn of their conditions.
Afterwards, Tasuku tried to keep Gao preoccupied, succeeding quite well. They talked a lot about nothing and while every now and again Gao's eyes would widen in fear, Tasuku became quite adept at soothing Gao and his eyes would returned to their drugged half-droop in a few minutes of talk-down time.
A while later a nurse walked back into the room quietly and Tasuku looked at her inquiringly. "A Mr. Count Dawn has arrived at the hospital for you?" She phrased like a question.
"I should go talk to him." Tasuku said, directing the statement more at Gao then the nurse. It was already pretty late, Gao should sleep anyway. Tasuku had to stay overnight anyway for observations so he'd be back in a few minutes. As Tasuku stood to walk out he felt a weak grasp on his shirt. Tasuku turned to look at Gao, who was expending all his energy just to maintain the grip.
"Don't go." Gao murmured weakly. At that Tasuku took Gao's hand that was gripping his shirt in between his own two hands.
"Okay." Tasuku replied equally weakly. He returned to his seat that had been pulled up by Gao's bed and continued to grip his hand.
"Could you inform Count Dawn that he can come up to the room to speak with us tomorrow morning?" Seeing as visitor hours were over it seemed like a fair deal.
The nurse gave a nod. "He said that should you refuse to come down that I should inform you that 'preparations have been made to complete the original operation,' whatever that may or may not mean to you is not for me to interpret. Have a good evening boys, if anything arises, you may press the call button for help."
Tasuku nodded and allowed the nurse to leave the room. "You feeling any better now Gao? Based on what the nurses said, the drug should be completely out of your system by tomorrow morning. The worst should be over."
"Yea… but could you stay here through the night Tasuku?"
"I already intended to."
Tasuku ran his fingers through Gao's hair in a soothing motion before pulling him into a hug. Gao returned the embrace as tightly as he could. He had to allow this moment to last. He had to allow the nightmare to come to an end.