Chapter 05 : A Slice of Life
"Hey." Eli replied to Jun who just got in the garage. Right now she's performing basic maintenance to her bike in the morning. She woke up rather early, as per her usual routine. Out of all the members, she woke up the second earliest, only beaten by Tidal who is rather strict in her own schedule.
One of her usual morning routine is performing basic maintenance to her bike, like what she's doing right now. But because she just woke up not long before, she's still wearing pretty much her sleepwear, which consists of a white tanktop and atlethic pants. Her hair is also not done in a ponytail like her usual.
"I didn't get to say it before, but nice bike by the way." Jun said before taking a seat near Eli. "Thank you. Ain't she a beauty?"
"I gotta ask though, why an MV? Why not other brands like Honda?"
"Meh. They're good, but I prefer my bikes to be as beautiful as me." Eli said teasingly, which earned a chuckle from Jun. "You ride?" Eli asked while still keeping her eyes on the engine.
"Yeah. Back when I had jobs that requires them. But I never had a bike myself." Jun stood up and started looking at other bikes that they have in store. Although not as much as the cars, they have multiple bikes here, ranging from Honda, Yamaha and even Ducati. Perhaps he should take one for a spin sometimes.
"Haha. Well, we have some of them here, why don't you take one?"
"Woah, can I?"
"All vehicles here aren't really owned by anyone. They're all owned by us. But we kind of picked our own and the others then refrain from using it unless given permission. I'm more of a bike person myself, so I chose this girl as my daily driver." Eli grabbed the fuel tank of her bike and looked at it while smiling. Her expression clearly showed her passion for bikes.
"Huh… So everyone has a vehicle for their own?"
"Not all of us. Only a few that likes to drive. You drove Honoka's car before, didn't you?" Eli stood up after a cleaning the bike. "Ah yes, the DB11."
"That's a car she chose herself. She turned it to her daily driver and believ it or not, none of us ever drove it, except for you."
"Oh? Is that so?"
"She must've trusted you so much to entrust her belongings to you. Even now I still wonder how you got so close in the first place."
"Well, when we were little, we live near each other that we met everyday. Couple that with the fact that we went to the same school made us even closer."
Eli then turned the engine of her bike to warm it up. It growls nicely and earned a nod from Jun. His expression tells that he likes the sound of the engine. After a while she shuts down the bike. "Hey." She called out to him right before he's going to look at the other cars. "Hm?"
"I just want to apologize for my behaviour when we first met. I have some… trust issues. So can we just like… start over?"
Jun stopped and looked at her. He extends his hands towards her. "Okay. I'm looking forward to working with you from now on, Eli."
Eli noticed his hand and wiped her hands first before extending it to a handshake. "Yeah. If our leader trusts you, I'm pretty sure I can too."
"Don't worry. Just rely on me on all driving jobs."
They shook hands and looked at each other with a better understanding of one another.
"Hey. Don't flirt with each other early in the morning."
Both Jun and Eli flinched. They looked at the voice and saw Rin grinning while resting her head on her hands. She's wearing a yellow short-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of shortpants. "You surprised me." Jun exclaimed, Rin laughed at his response before apologizing. However she went silent after laughing, as if thinkig about something.
Eli noticed her silence and sighed. "Are you still thinking about last night?"
Last Night, Meeting room…
"You gotta be kidding!" Rin stood up and exclaimed. She slammed her hands on the table and leaned her body forward with an annoyed expression. "What do you mean we gotta let the case go?!"
"It is what it is… We cannot go against the board of directors. Unfortunately we just have to abide by their decisions." Honoka crossed her arms and leaned back against her chair while looking down, clearly disappointed by their decision as well.
Rin clenched her fists. "Fuc—"
"Screw them. Who cares about their decisions? We're here to bring down the Syndicate, not to babysit a bunch of old men that could only sit down at their desks all day. If anyone's going to bring the Syndicate down, it's gotta be us." Jun stood up besides Rin and just let out what he was thinking. The others are rather surprised by his bold style of speech, but most of them agreed and nodded their head.
"Are you telling us to ignore their decisions?"
"Exactly. And if we succeed in bringing them down first, they won't have a say in it."
Honoka stared at Jun with an unusually cold eyes, but quickly warmed up and sighed. "You've always been like this…"
It was faint, but everyone in the room could see their leader smile.
"I just… loathe myself for not being able to say anything then." Rin looked down in embarassment, while fidgeting her thumbs. "…Maybe because I was in a gang that I dislike rules." She continued.
"It's not about rule. I, myself, follow a rule when they make sense. But when the rule makes no fucking sense, I couldn't care less and just straight up ignore it." Jun continued looking at the bikes at view. "… or maybe because I was a rebel when I was little, ask Honoka about that." He continued while looking at both girls with a slight embarassment in his voice.
"Welp. No use in thinking about that, I guess. Speaking of which, what were you guys doing?" Rin spoke up and changed her tone to a bit more joyful. "He asked about the vehicles, and how some of us owned them. I guess he wants one for himself." Eli replied.
"I see. I see. That sounds like Jun, alright."
"Hey." With a deadpan face and tone, Jun responded.
"Just pick whatever, we could use all of them anyway." Rin hopped and approached Jun, pushing him from behind towards the many cars the garage offers. "Ah. Now that you mention it, what car do you usually use?"
"Hm? I don't really like heavy cars, so I usually use a smaller sports car, but I do prefer my Lotus Exige."
"Hmm, Yes. It suits you."
"Somehow I feel that you're mocking my… certain lacking areas."
"Just your imagination." Still deadpan from before.
Suddenly, something caught Jun's attention. He broke free from Rin's scary gaze and walked towards a car. "Something caught your eyes?" Eli asked while walking towards Jun who still has his gaze fixed to the car.
Jun walked towards a car that is cloaked in gray cloth. He took a walk around it, examining its shape and figured that it's a mid-engined car. He looked at Rin, who responded with a shrug as if saying that she's not responsible for it. Jun grabbed the cloth and unwrapped the car, revealing its brand and name.
That is all that Jun can say as he examined the car even further. Unlike other cars in its brand, which usually came in red, this one came in a rather metallic dark grey that manages to accentuate the car's curves and its design. Sure the brand 'Ferrari' may be synonimous with supercars that the masses like and therefore a bit overrated, coupled with the fact that if you ask anyone what their favorite supercar is, they'll probably say a 'Ferrari', but it can't be ignored that they make damn good looking cars.
"The F8 Tributo? This car's new. How'd you even get this?"
"Ask Smiley any car, and she could hook you up the next day."
Jun spent a few more minutes examining the car and finally decided that he's going to take the car for himself. "About the keys, ask Smiley about it, she's the one who organized all the wheels here." Eli said before taking her bike for a joyride. Rin excused herself afterwards to do her morning exercise. Which leaves Jun to find where Smiley is.
He looked around and eventually found both Smiley and Lily in the computer room. They're currently working on the drones that he stole yesterday and are examining them for clues and interesting points about them.
As Jun walked inside the room, Smiley noticed him but Lily still fixated on her work, not realizing Jun's presence. "Oh, morning. What do you want?"
Jun then asked for the keys to the Tributo.
"The new car? Don't tell me you're going to use it."
"Well, that's the plan." Jun walked closer as Smiley opened a drawer and took out the car keys. She handed him the car keys, but pulled it before he grabbed them. "Don't scratch it."
"It'll be fine." Smiley then gave him the car keys and went back to the drones. Lily is still fixated on the computer screen. "Anything interesting?" Jun put the keys into his pocket and walked towards Smiley who's dismantling the drones.
"A bit. The trackers are connected to a server somewhere, but we can't pinpoint the location yet. Hopefully soon though." She kept her eyes on the PCB that she took out the drones, looking at it and the various parts that she had dismantled from the poor drone.
"Give or take this evening, I'll give—" Lily looked back and jumped in surprise at the sight of Jun. "Ah! Since when did you—"
"Uhh… Five minutes ago?"
"I-I see… Sorry. I got too into something when it interests me the most."
With the promise of a new information by evening, he got something that he could at least look forward to. In the meantime, he has a lot of free time. Before testing his new ride, he thought to at least look around and study the building so he doesn't have to walk around and ask just to reach a specific room.
Instead of taking the elevator, he took the stairs to the floor below. He never really look around the building much. The first time he got here, he thought of this building as just a run-down apartment, but the entire building is actually owned by their groups, from the roof to the basement and thus the entire three floors of the building are privately-owned and he can wander around.
Jun walked around before the elevator chimed. The elevator doors then opened and revealed Maestro, carrying two boxes full of things. "Oop. Sorry." Jun stepped back and let Maestro walked pass him, but she's clearly struggling to carry those boxes. Jun sighed and offered.
"Here, let me carry the other one."
"Woah, hey. Watch out! What are you—"
"Come on, just give the other box." Jun stretched his arms out and grabbed the top box. As expected it's pretty heavy and it's surprising how Maestro could carry it from the basement by herself, even with the help of the elevator.
Both of them reached a room that looks like an infirmary from the inside. He then reminds himself that Maestro is good at medical stuffs. He then put down the boxes on one of the bed per Maestro's instructions. "What are these things?"
"Equipments. For medical purposes." She put down her boxes as well and started rummaging through its stuffs. She took out various equipments and interestingly, some of them are labeled. Did she took it from somewhere else, a hospital or a clinic perhaps?
He looked at the box in front of him and sure enough, they're labeled something.
Maestro jumped in surprise and looked back at him. "Y-Yes?" She stammered. "No. It's just the names that are written in these boxes." Jun stopeed before realizing something. "Huh, isn't Nishikino the name of that hospital…" His sentence is cut off by Maestro who grabbed the boxes from his hands immediately.
"Ahh! Nothing! It's nothing! Just a coincidence!"
Sureee. He's not buying it. Either she stole these equipments or that she has someone inside of that hospital that supplied her with these equipments. OR she has some sort of connection with the Nishikino family. Either way, after calming down she walked towards a cabinet and grabbed a pack of supplements before giving it to Jun.
"Supplements. If you're working here, you're going to need it, especially since you're a driver and you need to take care of your body more." She said before turning on her laptop that sat on the desk. "Huh, I've never thought about that. Thank you, Nishikino."
Once again, Maestro jumped and her face blushed. "Don't call me that!" She pushed Jun out of the room in embarassment.
Jun smirked and scratched the back of his head. "So it's her name…"
He continued walking and heard a few grunts from a room. He looked at the small opening of the sliding door and found Tidal training alone. The room appeared to look like a traditional Japanese dojo. She's wielding her sword in front of a pitching machine. The machine shot a ball faster than its usual speed. The machine seems to be modified to some degree to reach that speed.
Despite the speed, Tidal kept calm and swung her sword in a line. Cutting the ball directly in half.
Jun widened his eyes and unconciously clapped his hands, alerting the swordswoman. She immediately dashed towards him, and in a blink, had the tip of her sword pushing slightly against his chest. Jun instinctively put both his hands on the air. "Woah! Time out!"
Tidal realized who it is and sheathed her sword. "Oh, sorry. I got too wary of my surroundings when I'm focused." She apologized and bowed, which made things a bit awkward for Jun.
Tidal is a very serious and straight-forward woman, even more than Eli, so she's pretty hard to get along with. But he has been slightly curious about what she does in her spare time and now is a good time to know more about her.
"It's fine. By the way, this room is surprisingly… Japanese."
That's right. The room itself is decorated with multiple caligraphy that spelled out various motivational messages and the entire room is tatami-floored. "Yeah, my parents own a dojo and it sort of rubbed on me." She chuckled slightly as she wiped off her sweat with a towel. Surprisingly she doesn't have a problem on sharing her past, maybe because it's something that she's not even bothered with.
"So you spend your free time training here?"
"Mm-hmm. The perks of being in a strict family is that their regulations will stick with you for the rest of your life." Tidal walked towards a sword stand before putting her sword there. "Okay Hashima, can you fight?"
"Huh? Well… barely. I could probably hold my own against one person. But Rin kicked more ass during our escape." Jun said, rather surprised at her sudden question. He just answered honestly and it gained a nod from Tidal.
"Then I guess you should train more. I would be willing to teach you if you want. As long as it's martial arts involving melee weapons."
Jun could feel his confidence slowly being crushed, but Tidal has a point. It would be really convenient if he could at least learn a few moves in martial arts. "I would consi—"
"Don't you think for self-defense, a gun would be better?"
As if mirroring a dramatic entrance from a manga, Hope came by and leaned on the door frame. Tidal sighed, "I do agree that a gun is a better weapon in this day and age, but it's pretty ineffective in close-range combat and the sound could potentially alert others around you."
Hope nodded in acceptance. "True, not even silencers could get rid of a gunshot sound completely." She then looked towards Jun. "But if you ever found yourself interested in gunplays, you can visit the armory and the range in the basement." She continued.
"Okay, I'll consider it."
Jun left the dojo and made his way towards his new car. He started it up and was greeted by the growl of the engine, something never grow old on him. Just as he was preparing for a joyride, he heard a light knock on his door window. He looked outside and saw Avian.
"Hey, may I come along?"
All right, might as well since he has nothing else to do today.
It wasn't for anything big. Turns out Avian just wanted to buy some supplies since she's running out of raw materials for costumes. Surprisingly, the woman has a lot of connections with the stores that they visited and most of them even has secret operations hidden behind the counter.
"I'm sorry for taking up your time." Avian came back from the store carrying a few bags of materials and stuffed them in the trunk. "Nah, it's fine. I have nothing to do until Lily finished her research." Both of them entered the car and drove off.
"Oh, is it about the drones?"
"Yeah. She said that the trackers could lead us to the server location."
"I guess it's thanks to your reckless operation." Avian giggled. "You really angered Honoka. I never saw her that angry before." She continued.
"Huh, really?" The conversation went silent for a few minutes. "Speaking of her, since when did you know Honoka?" Jun looked at Avian before she smiled and closed her eyes, remembering her past.
"Since… I enrolled in law school. Honoka has been a determined girl in terms of justice, me and Umi—Tidal, just get along since our aspiration is similar to one another." Avian rested her head on the seat's headrest. She looked outside as Jun nodded and decided to not push the topic further, preferring to hear it if she wants to tell him instead. Or when Honoka decided to tell him.
Since waiting for Lily's search takes a while, Jun decided to visit Honoka in her room to hopefully have a chat and catch-up with one another.
Entering her room, it's clear that she's pretty organized. Her desk is neatly tidy and the bookshelves are arranged properly, alphabetically and by its genre. The desk is riddled with paperworks and documents about various things, although most of them are collected data about their previous operations.
Looking at the room, Jun felt that Honoka changed from what she used to be. Either she's influenced during her time in law school or it's just her keeping a professional face in front of her colleagues, Jun felt that this room is not what she expected Honoka to be in.
However, Honoka is nowhere to be seen in this room. At least not in this part of the room. The thing is there's a door that leads somewhere. He realized that there are only one door outside, so whatever room's on the other side, it only has one entrance. He opened it and it's not locked, he stepped in and surprised to find Honoka laying on her bed with only her t-shirt and short pants on, watching Netflix in a messy room. Now this room is more like Honoka, thought Jun.
Honoka's face lit up and she immediately reached towards the remote and turned off her TV. "Knock first!"
Jun laughed. Seeing her like this made it feels that he saw the old Honoka. Part of him is glad that she's the same as ever.
After calming down, Honoka and Jun sat down with her sitting down on her bed and Jun on a chair. "At least now I know that you haven't changed that much."
"Of course. It's hard to maintain a professional face every time. Sometimes a girl needs her break too."
"Well, I guess kicking back for a while isn't a bad thing. You don't have anything else to do today?" Jun smiled and Honoka moved and laid on her back. "None. I'm waiting on Lily's update regarding the trackers."
Honoka moved slightly and looked at Jun. "In the meantime, why don't we just have some fun?" She invited him to sleep besides her, notioning her head towards her side. Jun chuckled before making his way towards the bed. He laid besides her and looked at her face.
The two of them stayed like that for a while, and it seems like something is about to happen but the knocking of the door jolted them back to reality. "Dammit." Honoka cursed. Jun chuckled and grabbed her waist. "Continue tonight?"
Both of them went out and collected everyone to meet up in the meeting room.
"Got anything for us, Lily?"
"Yes. We've found out the possible location of the server." Lily said before showing the map in the giant screen. "That's pretty far from here…" Rin rested her head on her hand.
"Yeah, we'll need to prepare more for that. Which is why we can't afford to fuck this up." Smiley said before sitting down on one of the chairs. "Ahem. We may also need another strategy as I'm afraid that Matryon's previous strategy will be compromised since they knew your face already."
They spent the next few hours setting up a strategy, brainstorming various possibilities and strategies and ending up with the one they think best.
Back in Honoka's room…
"You think the plan will work?" Jun asked Honoka who's still tidying up her desk. "Are you nervous since you're the key part of it?"
"Yeah… kind of."
Honoka chuckled, she then walked over to him and gave him a hug from behind. "Don't worry, we will watch your back, okay?" She said reassuringly. He smiled and hold her hands. "Wanna continue what we did before?"
Honoka blushed slightly before smiling. "I thought you'll never ask."
With a swift movement, Jun grabbed her by the waist and kissed her lips. She struggled a bit but relaxed and let Jun support her body. They kissed for a good minute before letting go. "I never know that you're this aggressive." Honoka said while licking her lips, enticing Jun as he hold her in a princess carry.
"Guess I changed for the better."
"And I like it this way." She said while holding his face with her hand before planting another kiss. They went back to the bed and the night is… history.