Anka leaned against the cool bark of an ancient tree, trying to catch her breath as she took a quick swig of water from her bottle. They'd been walking all morning in the early spring weather, up a steep mountain path with their science class- a task she'd been looking forward to until they'd actually gotten around to it. She glanced ahead wistfully as her class left her dozens of feet behind and straightened, gritting her teeth as she took a step, she'd twisted her ankle the previous evening and it was making the hike miserable.
Nagi watched boredly as the others finally caught up to him. "I can't even think of an insult for how sad this is..." he said as he caught a glimpse of the large group of students and their teacher huffing and sweating.
"Nagi, let's go, stay with the class," the teacher chided.
"I'll sit here meditating and still beat you back," Nagi said calmly as he assumed his meditative pose, closing his eyes and jokingly begining to hum.
"That's a write up, Nagi," the teacher replied.
"Okay," Nagi shrugged as he slowed his breathing, still not opening his eyes. "Bye, have fun," he bade them as he listened to them cracking the twigs beneath their feet and the rustling of the brush beneath their hiking shoes.
"You serious about beating them to the top?" Anka asked as she stopped a few feet from him, leaning against the rock he was balanced on and taking another swig of water. She glanced at the retreating figures of her classmates and teachers, "They... don't pay very good attention to us, do they? I mean... we're a group of kids for crying out loud... Miles away from civilization, trekking up the side of a mountain surrounded by miles upon miles of forest. On top of that..." She glanced skyward as the blue skies were steadily turning a deep grey, "I think it's gonna rain."
"Of course I'm serious," Nagi said as he opened one eye. "They're slowed down by large numbers," he pointed out, closing his eye again. He sniffed the air, nodding once afterward, "And it's gonna rain. You can smell it..." he tapered off as he straightened his poise, simultaneously relaxing his muscles, and continuing his controled breathing.
"So... any chance you'll tell me just why it's so easy to talk and be a total rebel when it comes to the rest of the school and staff and yet you can barely speak without stuttering or blushing when Nami's around?" Anka gave a half-hearted grin as a few fat raindrops hit her cheek.
Nagi blushed and opened both eyes, hopping up quickly. "Wanna get a move on? We'll get soaked," he said quickly, starting up the trail.
"Oh no you don't." Anka grabbed his arm and braced her legs against the ground, "You're not getting off that easy. We'll get soaked either way. Answer the question."
Nagi scratched his cheek with his free hand, "Oh, come on..." he pleaded. "I'm sure that's obvious," he said softly. "And you're her best friend. You'll tell her everything I say, right?"
"I'd like to hear it from your own mouth. And just because we're best friends doesn't mean I tell her everything." Anka rolled her eyes playfully, "I see how the two of you look at each other all the time. So why don't you tell her?"
"Because I'm so articulate around Nami to begin with," Nagi said sarcastically, casting a playful glare at Anka. "And yes, I really, really like her. There, happy?"
"It's a start." Anka grinned, clearly amused, "Come on, let's try and catch everyone now... We don't wanna get caught alone, who know what the others in our class might try and make up about the two of us." She rolled her eyes.
"That'd be stupid," Nagi said softly as he continued walking, "Since everybody knows that I...you know..." he muttered before clearing his throat.
"Hey... Most of them have active imaginations." Anka replied, a few steps behind him as she attempted to ignore the shooting pain in her ankle. The rain began to fall heavier, the air itself grew cooler as the wind picked up.
"I have one too," he admitted, smiling slightly as he slipped his hands into his pockets, glancing up at the large rain drops that were falling quickly, muddying the path before the pair.
"And the weather reports said clear skies throughout the day." Anka snorted, "Typical spring storm." She rubbed her arms and shivered, "Can barely even see the path anymore... If things get any worse..." She worried, nibbling her lower lip.
"Calm down," Nagi said as he stopped walking, holding an arm out to stop Anka. "I don't think we should be up here..." he said gingerly as he stared down at the sloppy path.
Anka stopped moving but her feet weren't quite ready for the sudden lack of motion. She skidded forward, pinwheeling her arms to try and maintain her balance, "Nagi, look out!" She exclaimed, too late as she fell into him and the pair tumbled over the side of the path and into the brush.
Nagi pushed himself up slightly before his hand gave out in the slick mud. After a moment he tried again, shifting his gaze to Anka as he forced himself up, stumbling into a sitting position. "Anka? Are you okay?" he asked softly.
Anka gasped as she pulled herself up. Looking over at Nagi now she couldn't resist bursting into a fit of giggles, he looked ridiculous, mud and leaves all over his face and clothes. After a few minutes she managed to calm herself, "F-fine I think..." She muttered, looking around, "But... weren't we at the halfway point of... one of these mountains?" She shook her head to clear it of the cobwebs, not really succeeding as the rain grew heavier, "Ow!" She exclaimed as a small white ball of ice bounced off of her shoulder, "The hell?"
"Hail," he muttered as he wiped his face on one of his sleeves. "Anka, come on, we've got to get out of the open," he said more urgently as he fought his vertigo, scrambling to his feet.
Anka scrambled to her feet, "Where will we go? I can't see more than a few feet in front of us." She stumbled and nearly fell again.
Nagi pulled Anka back to her feet, "I don't know...." he replied as he started to slowly move forward, still disoriented from their fall. "There's bound to be a hollow tree or something..." he said to assure the both of them.
"Yeah... well... let's hope your right." Anka shivered, "It's getting cold and if we don't get out of this rain... we'll probably wind up getting sick."
"Okay, so I heard something was true about girls. Can I know that much of the secrets of best friends?" Nagi asked, walking a little ahead of Anka.
"Mmm... depends on what it is." Anka said after a moment, "There are of course things that I can't say but I'll do what I can."
"Uh, Okay..." Nagi started. "Does a girl really listen to her best friend about...well, who they date?" he asked quickly before stumbling backward, holding his nose between his cupped hands. "Ow..." he uttered as he pulled his fingers away from his nose revealing a few droplets of blood.
"Are you oka-" Anka let out an exclamation of surprise as her face met solid wood, "W-what the hell?!" She stumbled back a few steps.
"I think I'm fine," he said frankly as he dabbed at the blood again. "You?" he asked as he rubbed his nose.
"Other than the raging migraine and being chilled to the bone? Peachy." Anka replied sarcastically as she felt along the length of the wall, "Hey... a window!" Her tone became excited.
"Good, shelter," Nagi sighed in relief as he followed after Anka.
"I think my whole body is just one massive bruise." Anka muttered as she found the gaping doorway and groped her way inside.
"You'll be fine," Nagi assured her. "You might have a few sprains and bruises, but at least nothing's broken," he said optimisticly as he followed her inside.
"Quit being such an optimist all the time." Anka muttered, tripping and cursing silently to herself as she slit her palm on something sharp as it stuck out of the wall.
Nagi instinctively drew his hand back when he felt a surge of pain run across his palm, "Gah! What the hell?" he demanded as he stared down at the blood that was pooling in his palm.
"Nagi, you okay?" Anka whirled around, her hands held out as she groped at the air around her, trying to locate the older boy.
"Yeah," he said dismissively as he glared over at a now visible nail protruding from the wall. "Cut on a nail," he explained calmly.
"It's not too safe in here after all, is it?" Anka gritted her teeth as she jammed her toes against something heavy, "We need light..." She complained, "And heat..."
Nagi reached toward her, taking her hand, "Hang on," he whispered as he fumbled through his pocket, finally revealing a box of matches.
"Light one... Lets find out what we've got to work with..." Anka ground out.
"Let's see," Nagi slipped his hand from out of Anka's grabbing and striking a match against the sand paper strip. He blinked, adjusting to the quick flash of light, "Well, it could definitely not be worse," he concluded after glancing around the building.
"There's a fireplace.." Anka pointed, "Don't know how safe it is but better than lighting a fire with all this old wood and burning ourselves out..."
"Good point," he shrugged, approaching the fireplace gingerly and tossing the dying match into the pile of wood. "I swear that somebody doesn't want us to remain in good health," he remarked as he flopped down in front of the fire place.
"Leaves..." Anka knelt and scooped up a few handfulls, tossing them into the fireplace, "We need kindling..."
"There's a little bit in there," he shrugged. "And whatever's outside is probably too wet to use."
"Which is fine since there's a bunch all over the place in here." Anka sat as smoke flooded the fireplace and the flames started to eat at the leaves.
"Sit down and warm up," Nagi suggested. "You're colder than I am," he commented as he fell backwards into a comfortable position.
"You act like all that stumbling and falling hasn't affected you." Anka muttered, scooting closer to the budding fire.
"I'm fine," he replied as he closed his eyes. "And you didn't answer me."
"Answer what?" Anka's first question faded behind this one, she'd forgotten from the jar of running into the building.
"The thing I asked about best friends," he said calmly.
"Oh! Well... I don't know." Anka shrugged, "But I think those decisions are best left to the person themselves."
"Uh.." Nagi blushed, "I see," he murmured. He drew in a deep breath, releasing it slowly as he began rubbing his nose again.
"Hey, wanna play a game that Nami and I play when we're bored?" Anka asked cheerily as she scooted toward the fire, turning so she could face Nagi.
"Sure," he shrugged, satisfied when the pain in his nose finally subsided.
"Okay, it's called 'I never...' and if you have done what I list you have to raise your hand. It's normally a drinking game, but obviously we're not allowed to drink," she smiled.
"I think I got it," Nagi said simply.
"Hmmm..." she stared down at the ground, stirring her thoughts. "I never kissed anybody..." she said nodding.
Nagi's cheeks reddened, "I guess you're counting Nami kissing me?" he guessed slowly raising his hand.
"Yup!" she said happily.
"Okay..." Nagi sighed. "I never had a pet," he raised his hand.
"Oh!" Anka waved her hand in the air, "I have Yaryck!"
"I never... fantasized about my entire future, including marriage and kids." Anka said with a sly grin, grudgingly Nagi lifted his hand into the air, "Seriously?" She giggled, "Now you've gotta tell me about it..."
"Oh...you know..." Nagi said slowly. "Nothing major. Getting married out of college, having two kids a boy and a girl, working nine-to-five hours for the most part, modest home..." he said nervously tapering off.
"Only two kids?" Anka quirked her eyebrow in amusement, she opened her mouth to continue but just then the door flew open and a brilliant burst of lightning lit up a large figure in the doorway.
"Who's there?" Nagi demanded, attempting to hide the fear in his voice.
"What're yeh kids doin' in my hideout?" A gravelly voice spoke.
"Taking shelter from the rain, what else?" Anka demanded bravely, her heart fluttering nervously in her chest.
"So kind of yeh to set the fire." He laughed harshly, metal flashed in the darkness, "Now grab them ropes by the fireplace girly and tie yer friend up nice 'n tight."
Anka shrank back, "L-like hell I'll do something like that! Go away!"
"Anka," Nagi whispered as his eyes looked the man up and down noting the blood stains on his clothing, "Do it. We don't have a choice but to listen to him," he reasoned. For God's sake...they had do have noticed two kids missing by now. We really only have to bide our time. This guy is wanted for several counts of rape and murder...and if he tries anything...
he tapered his thoughts as his eyes fell to Anka.
"Just do it girly or I'll make yeh wish yeh hadn' come here." The man growled.
Anka drew in a breath and reached for the rope, glaring at the man as she approached Nagi, "What're we gonna do?" She muttered under her breath.
"Whatever comes to mind when he..." Nagi breathed, not able to articulate his thoughts.
"When he what?" Anka asked as she finished knotting the rope.
"Goo' girl, now sit on yer hands." The man growled as he slammed the door behind him and slipped a previously unseen deadbolt into place.
"What do you mean?" Nami questioned. "How could you let them get lost?! Haven't you ever heard of a head count?!" she snapped as her eyes welled with tears.
"Things like this can happen," the principal said calmly.
"NO! Not to my
friends! It can't happen!" Nami whimpered, her anger shrinking into sadness as she dashed out of the room.
The teacher looked at the principal, "How did she even know they were missing?"
The principal blinked. "Nobody but staff knows..." he conceited. "How did she...?"
"Hey, slow down. No running in the hall!" Lulu said playfully as she caught up to Nami.
"No time for games," Nami said as she pounded her fist against her locker.
Lulu's expression changed to concerned, "What's wrong, love?"
"Nagi and Anka went on that nature walk with their science class this morning and they're lost..." she said before tears streamed down her cheek.
"No big deal. They got left behind and they'll send somebody back to look for them," Lulu said as she squeezed Nami's shoulder affectionately.
"No, something bad has happened..." Nami said quietly. "I can just...tell..."
Lulu blinked a few times, trying to understand what Nami was trying to convey. After a moment she smiled, "I'll get us a ride and we'll go find them ourselves. How about that?"
Nami smiled, hugging Lulu tightly, "Thank you!"
Lulu grunted, "You love them that much, huh?"
Nami blushed, "Anka's my sister and Nagi..." she tapered off, "is my friend..."
"Yeah. Right," Lulu rolled her eyes as she slipped her cellphone from her purse. "Maria? I need you to give me and Nami a ride." Lulu paused, "Thanks," she smiled as she closed her phone.
"I'm going to tell Layla," Nami said calmly as she started away from Lulu.
"Who?" Lulu asked.
"Nagi's sister," Nami clarified. "She's in gym class now..."
"Getting in with the family. Smart," Lulu smiled wryly.
Nami sighed, "It's not like that..."
"What do you mean they lost my brother?" Layla asked coldly.
"He and Anka could be in trouble for all we know..." Nami sighed, her gaze shifting to the ground.
"Well what are we waiting for?" Lulu asked. "Maria will be here soon."
"Nagi and Anka...hopefully they got out of the storm..." Layla said thoughtfully. "That is why the class came back early."
"They're smart," Nami offered, mostly trying to assure herself.
"Front door, faster, faster!" Lulu rushed the other two. "Come on, waiting on Maria, come come..."
"She seems dedicated..." Layla remarked.
"Yeah," Nami let out another sigh.
Maria glanced over at Lulu. "Honey, do you want to tell me what's going on? Is this another ploy to skip school again?"
"No, the school lost my brother and their friend on a field trip," Layla responded. "And we're a bit concerned."
"With the storm and all...I would be too," this Hispanic woman admitted, swallowing hard.
Nagi gritted his teeth and dug his nails into his own flesh when he balled his fists as he started to accept their fate. We're kids. They have to know that we're gone. I just have to protect Anka long enough for them to get here. Long enough for him to realize that somebody's looking for us. We can promise to not speak of him or his whereabouts in exchange for our freedom... his thoughts began to race as the gravity of the situation hit him. I saw her walking with a limp. She at least has a twisted ankle so running wouldn't be an option even with opportunity. Not an option for both of us anyhow... he thought as he shifted his gaze to Anka.
"You haven't said a thing," the man said to Nagi as he grabbed yet another rope from a table. "Are you not going to talk to me?" he asked as he knelt down beside Anka, starting to tie her with the rope.
Nagi glared away from the man. "Don't hurt her," Nagi said threateningly.
"What was that?" the man grinned wickedly at Nagi as he tied the rope's knot. "You think yer in a position to threaten me?"
"Don't hurt her," Nagi repeated.
"I have the upper hand if you haven't noticed," the man said as he pulled out a knife, letting it glint in the light of the fire as he angled it a few times. "And I can tell by the look on yer face that you know what I do."
"I know," Nagi replied.
"And you think yer in a situation to threaten me?" the man cackled. "I'll slice her throat and make you watch."
Nagi glared at him, "If you even so much think of hurting her...you'll regret it!"
"I'll have to put you in your place," the man cackled as he brought the knife to Nagi's cheek. Nagi held his breath in as he felt the cutting of the blade across his cheek. "Now, I can tell that you want to find a way out of your bindings. And then you want to escape by letting her go first, you after I'm incapacitated."
"Now, who would be stupid enough to do that?" Nagi asked in monotone.
"If you think about it again I'll cut you for each time it does cross your mind," the man grinned as he pulled Nagi's blood from the blade, rubbing it into his fingers, smelling them afterward.
He can't possibly know what I'm thinking. Lucky guess. I'm calm and we're prisoners. That'd be the obvious thought...right? he asked as he watched their captor walk back to the deadbolted door, shoving a dresser in front of the door. Nagi flinched from the pain of his cut starting to close.
"Nagi, are you okay?" Anka hissed under her breath, her gaze worried as she glanced over at him, wiggling her fingers against the tight bindings nervously.
"Girly, what'd I jus' get done telling yer boyfriend over there?" The man growled as he whirled to face them again.
"W-what're you talking about?" Anka asked nervously, glancing briefly towards Nagi, he stalked over to her and lifted her roughly by her arms- which were bound behind her back.
"Let her go!" Nagi exclaimed.
"Shut up boy." The man growled, glaring his way as he pried Anka's fingers apart and pulled a small cell phone from her grip, "So, Nami yer friend girly, he squinted at the screen, "Lucky yeh didn't get much of a message out or I'd have ta cut my game a little short."
How'd he know that? Nagi asked himself. The phone was practically silent! he growled as his glare intensified.
"Let's keep you from getting any word out," he said as he tossed the cellphone into the fire. "Just to be on the safe side."
"No!" Nagi growled as he began to struggle against their bindings. My distraction was wasted... he sighed in futility.
"Distractions don't work when somebody is never distracted," the man grinned. "So don't try it again or I'll do something really fun."
Nagi's...cheek... Anka whimpered in disbelief as she watched the cut close. But...how?
"What's wrong with his face, girl?" the man asked as he glanced over at Nagi. "What? How's the possible? The laceration! It's gone!"
"Huh?" Nagi blinked.
"What happened to your cut?" the man demanded as he inched closer to Nagi.
Nagi raised an eyebrow, "What are you talking about? Chances are it's bleeding by now, sure."
"Nagi...it's...gone..." Anka whispered in surprise.
"Uh?" Nagi glanced up at the older man. What are they talking about?
"You really don't know," the man said in defeat. "You're clueless."
"Nagi, what's going on?" Anka asked, still puzzled.
"I don't know..." Nagi said simply.
The man smiled, "Yer a curious case. I'm going to study you further."
"Can I ask what you mean?" he inquired.
"You just healed before our eyes and you don't know how you did so, and you have no romantic feelings for this girl but you feel a need to protect her. A curious case indeed," the man knelt on the ground facing the fire.
"Study?" Anka asked.
"Yes. So, Nagi. Why do you want to protect this girl?" he asked with a grin.
"She's my friend," he said simply.
"But it's deeper than that," the man observed.
Anka blinked. What is he? A shrink? "Can't you just let us go, please? If we'd have known this shack was inhabited by a freak like you-" She didn't have time to finish before she felt a sudden, sharp pain to the side of the head and her vision faded to darkness.
"I got a txt from Anka..." Nami gasped. "But it cuts off."
"What's it say?" Layla asked as she glanced at the message over Nami's shoulder.
"It says: Nagi and I fell in a mudslide. Obviously we were caught in the thunderstorm. We found a place to get out of the storm and a man came into the shack. He made me t-"
"It ends..." Layla blinked.
"Something bad did happen..." Nami whimpered.
"She could have just used all of the available characters and the rest is coming in a message soon," Layla said optimistically.
"Why the hell does she punctuate in emergencies?!" Nami growled.
"Anka?" Nagi hissed. "Anka? Please wake up..." he pleaded, his voice becoming more frightened.
"Mmnng?" Anka eased her eyes open. "N-Nagi?" she asked weakly.
"He's asleep," Nagi assured her. "But, how are you feeling?" he asked.
"I've felt better," Anka said dryly.
"I told Nami the whole thing," Nagi said calmly.
"W-what?" Anka asked as she went to move, still restricted by the ropes.
"The message got sent," he said with a wry grin.
"What the fuck is that supposed to be?" Nami growled as she glared down at her cellphone and the jibberish Nagi had sent her.
"What is that?" Maira asked.
"Nami, you gotta teach your boyfriend how to txt," Layla said dryly.
"Seriously. Hellen Keller can do better than that," Lulu rolled her eyes.
"Okay, what I can make out...is serill...and ktlldr has tp tidd tp..." Nami said, puzzled as she glared down at her phone.
"Well he'd have to be txting blinded..." Maria said softly.
"But he has enough hand-eye-coordination for txting blinded. We've all seen him at sports," Lulu cut in.
"What if his hand movements are restricted?" Layla asked.
"Restricted. T. I." Nami stared down at her phone before gasping. "The D and E are both on the 3..."
"Yeah, a lot of letters share a number pad," Lulu said sarcastically.
"Tied instead of Tidd..." Nami said in realization. "Nagi's fingers are a little bigger than mine..." she said calmly as she glanced over at her free hand. "So his hands would slip onto other keys more often than mine...considering that we have the same phone..."
"You're too good at detective work," Layla blinked as she stared down at Nagi's jumbled message.
"You want to take the time to decode this?" Maria guessed.
"If Anka's got cut off, then Nagi waited until he wouldn't be noticed by whatever man entered the shack..." Layla reasoned, "Or clearly his message would have been worse than this."
"Why Nami?" Anka asked.
"Hmm?" Nagi whispered.
"All of your siblings have cellphones," Anka pointed out. "Why wouldn't you txt them?" she hissed, leaning toward Nagi.
Nagi blushed, "Well, she'd believe me first off. And she's..."
"She's what?" Anka asked.
"Nami's number is the only one I have memorized by both the digits and where her contact info is located in the list..." he admitted.
"I'm sure that is the only reason," Anka rolled her eyes.
"Come on," Nagi sighed. "If I were trying to impress her don't you think I'd find a way to rescue her instead?" he uttered as he shifted his gaze to the left of Anka.
"Surely she'd swoon to you protecting her best friend," Anka teased.
Nagi blushed, "That's not why he's not getting away with hurting you."
"You're a lady," Nagi said flatly, releasing a sigh. "So, he's killing chivalry in more ways than one."
"I know, lame, dork, lovesick geek..." Nagi said flatly.
"I was actually going to say rare," Anka smiled warmly at Nagi. "But how long has he been out?"
"A few hours. Don't really have an accurate time count..." Nagi shrugged.
"What'd I miss?" she sighed still struggling against the binds with each movement.
"This guy thinks he's going to hurt me by getting inside of my head. He wants to know my motivation and feelings for everything..." Nagi sighed.
"That's all psychology. Just stay catatonic."
"He's a mind-reader," Nagi cut in.
Anka stifled a giggle. "A what?"
"There's no other way he knew so much..." Nagi shook his head. "I know what it sounds like...and how crazy I have to sound...but he knew things that only you, Nami or Layla could have known..."
"You seriously think he's a mind-reader?" Anka asked coolly.
"That and he's a wanted man. He's wanted for seventeen murders...all of his victims are between the ages of eleven and fifteen, they're all pretty young girls and..."
"Anka, he's not going to do that to you," Nagi said firmly.
"Do what?" she inquired, a bit unnerved.
"He's also a rapist..." Nagi finally uttered.
"...He rapes the girls...before he kills them?" Anka shuddered as her eyes filled up with tears of realization.
"And Anka," Nagi cleared his throat. "If I don't come out of this with you...tell Nami what I told you."
"Tell her everything," he said nervously. "Tell her about my fantasy...every detail and tell her that I followed the two of you around until we were on the roller coaster and I was trying to talk to her...and tell her that she's beautiful and..." his cheeks continued to redden as he spoke.
"And?" Anka whispered as she stared into Nagi's eyes.
"Tell her that I..."
Is he going to...? Anka shook her head. "You can't be going to say what I think you are..." she uttered.
"Tell her that I loved her," Nagi said before closing his eyes.
"Tell her yourself," Anka said with a smile.
"Don't tell her if I live though," he added quickly.
"Again, tell her yourself. You're not going to die," Anka said confidently. "But hearing you say that might make some good dirt in the future..."
"Uh?" Nagi blinked.
"Got any other secrets I can hold over your head?" she asked with a grin.
"Is this where the hike was started?" Maria asked as she stared at the endless tracks and footprints in the muck.
"Yeah, there's a set trail that leads to the other side of the mountain. I took this hike at my previous school..." she sighed.
"We have to call the police!" Nami cried.
"Well we told our parents to put out an Amber alert already..." Lulu said softly.
"No! Nagi's message..." Nami began quivering as she stared down at the garbled attempt at the English language.
"It's a chilly Spring night..." Maria sighed as she pulled her jacket against her, huddling for warmth.
"Maria..." Lulu stared down at the message, replacing the letters that Nami had in her head. "Nagi and Anka are in some serious trouble..."
"I just got off the phone with a dispatcher," Layla frowned.
"What now?" Nami asked coldly.
"And it'll be a while since there is no actual address and there is a chance that this is a prank..." Layla sighed.
"Anka...Nagi..." Nami gripped her cellphone.
"What is it?" Maria asked as she stared over Lulu's shoulder.
"Serial killer has up tied up," Lulu said as she turned to Maria.
"How does he know the man is a serial killer?" Maria gasped.
"He and I watch America's Most Wanted..." Nami tapered off.
"And it's a damn good thing, too," Layla gave Nami's shoulder an affectionate squeeze.
"We need to get looking for them now," Nami said as she took a running start up the trail.
"She's picking athletics up after my brother..." Layla huffed after tailing Nami for a short period of time.
"Doesn't she realize it will take hours...even days to find a shack somewhere in the mountains at night with only the four of us?" Maria asked.
"She'll find a way to argue," Lulu assured the woman. "Logic is panic's prey. And Nami is too stubborn to give up without a fight."
"Even if we find them...we're not armed..." Maria huffed.
"Don't argue with Nami. I've known her a short while and I can tell you that it is impossible to win an argument with her. It's like her first language."
"Wakey, wakey." Anka and Nagi were forced from their exhausted stupors by a bucket of icy water splashing over them.
The pair spluttered and glared up at the man that stood over them, "Why can't you just let us go?" Anka demanded.
"Tsk, tsk... you're both still so lively... And don't know how to listen." He turned his gaze to Nagi, "I said no communications..." He kicked Nagi forward and pulled his phone free, opening it he looked over the message that Nagi had sent and laughed before throwing it, too, into the still hot embers.
"You are really going to regret this..." Nagi spat.
"You didn't manage to send one clear word to the recipient," the man sneered.
"What?" Nagi asked, surprised by the sincerity in the man's voice.
"It was all garbled...not even one word was legible. It looks like a two-year-old wrote it," the man said flatly.
"Two wasted lifelines..." Anka murmured, sighing in defeat.
"No..." Nagi shook his head. "That was..." he paused, "Our only...chance..."
"Indeed, but lucky for you neither could send a clear message, so I'll let you live a little longer," the man grinned wickedly.
Anka glared, scowling fiercely, "Don't worry girly, yeh'll both break for me soon enough... No matter the 'experience' you have." He laughed and turned to Nagi, "So what game shall we play today, hm?"
"I'm indecisive. Why don't you pick?" Nagi snarled.
"G-game?" Anka questioned, taken aback by the innocence of the word.
"Well when yeh fell asleep on us ya missed a fun game," he grinned widely. "Maybe we should play that one again. So she can have fun too!"
"Fun?" Anka repeated. Doubtful... she thought as she judged Nagi's reactions to the man's words.
"Now, how'd ya meet Nagi here?" he asked as he settled on the ground beside them. "And remember that if you don't answer I'll inflict a nice li'le wound on Nagi's neck."
"We got stuck on a rollercoaster together." Anka growled, mind briefly flashing through the times as her agitation grew.
"Oh? And were you afraid then?" he grinned as he stared at her face.
"Leave her alone," Nagi cut in, getting shoved over.
"No, you're not interrupting our game," the man whined childishly. "Now, Anka. Were you afraid?" he sounded quite interested.
"You're the mind reader." Anka jutted her chin out stubbornly, "You tell me."
He struck her across the cheek in agitation, "That's not the point now tell me." He growled, setting the point of his blade against Nagi's collarbone.
"Terrified, happy?" Anka muttered fiercely.
"Oooh! Definitely!" the man grinned. He removed the blade from Nagi's throat. "Now, how did you manage to get here. This is pretty far into the mountains."
"We flew." Anka muttered crossly, "With all the rain and whatnot there wasn't a choice but to keep moving. I wish we'd kept moving."
"Oh, now that tone will get you nowhere," he said as he ran his knife along Nagi's neck allowing some blood to surface.
"Nagi!" Anka cried.
"No more sarcasm," the man said indignantly. "And I'm glad you stopped by. I don't get much company nowadays."
"I can see why," Nagi growled as he felt the wound begin to close.
"Now, who is this Nami. She seems to be the common denominator with the two of you in every way," the man remarked.
Nagi's eyes glistened with fear. What does he know about Nami?
Anka's eyes began to fill with tears. No...he can't know about Nami...
"Well? Who is she?" the man demanded as he pulled Nagi into a sitting position, tapping the knife along his neck in an unknown pattern.
"She's our friend!" Anka forced her eyes shut as she spoke.
"And how did you meet her?" he asked.
"I met her when I met Anka," Nagi said calmly.
"We met when we were kids," Anka whispered.
"Tell the stories," he said impatiently. "Nagi, tell yours first." He crawled over to Anka, placing the knife on her throat.
"Nami! Wait up!" Layla cried as she huffed, still having not caught up to Nami.
"No!" Nami cried, as she continued running through the rain, slipping on the mud.
"You'll fall!" Lulu called as she and Maria caught up to Layla.
"Fall..." Nami registered the word and stopped. "They fell," Nami remembered. "We have to fall."
"What?" Layla breathed as she finally caught Nami.
"We need to fall. They're down the mountain," Nami said calmly.
"How do you know that?" Maria questioned.
"They were in a mudslide," Nami remembered. "So they went down," she replied with a smile.
"I have French tips!" Lulu whimpered.
"You don't have to follow me," Nami said as she gripped onto a tree branch.
"Nami, wait!" Layla called grabbing Nami's wrist as Nami slipped, barely catching her.
"Oh. My. GAWD!" Lulu shrieked.
"What?" Nami asked as she met solid ground again, making a disgusted face when she saw what Lulu saw.
"Is that a...corpse?" Maria asked slowly as the mud ran down the figure of a young teenage girl.
"Oh dear, Lord," Layla whispered.
"There's another one!" Nami squeaked as she watched the mud uncover another shallow grave.
"We're going to need more than just us, Nami..." Maria said in a whisper.
"Very good session today." He said, amused as he stood and cleaned the blood from his blades, "You two are soooo much more fun than the others."
"You won't be able to keep going forever." Anka moaned, biting back a hiss of pain, "They will find us soon..."
"My dear.... we are miles away from where you got yourselves lost. By the time they find you... It'll be too late," He grinned darkly.
"It's been two days..." Kelly said in realization.
"Don't tell Nami that..." Lulu pleaded.
"She's been determined to find them and we've only searched about a quarter of the area," Dan said quietly.
"You know it'll break her if we face her with reality..." Lulu sighed as she glanced over at Nami who was resting, but still vigilant.
"Layla won't give up hope either," Maria offered. "And your father said that the helecopter's circle of the area is about half done and so far they've found nothing."
"They're still looking right?" Lulu asked.
Maria nodded. "Your father is going to a press conference with the public to talk about your missing friends tomorrow morning."
"Is he really thinking about his career right now?" Lulu demanded.
"No," Clarisse, Lulu's mother said gently. "He's thinking about you and how much they mean to you."
"Mom..." Lulu gasped in realization.
"We have more search parties, too. They're headed up the mountain side to continue looking," Clarisse announced. "More locals are joining in."
"What's that?" Anka whispered.
"He sleep talks," Nagi grunted.
"He sounds so...scared..." Anka said in disbelief.
"Nightmare, maybe?" Nagi shrugged to the best of his ability.
"Ironic considering he is the nightmare," Anka sighed.
"Yeah..." Nagi half-smiled.
"He did that...game...to you, too?" Anka asked. "When he knocked me out?"
Nagi nodded. "He kept threatening to hurt you if I didn't play," Nagi frowned, "So I played."
"What'd he ask?"
"Weird personal things," Nagi grumbled. "Like if I'd had sex, how often I masturbate, if I'd ever looked at porn..." he shuddered.
"Why was he asking fairly normal questions today then?" she tilted her head to the side in confusion.
"You got me," Nagi shrugged.
"Did you answer him honestly?"
"Do you have any cuts on your body?" Nagi retorted. "I don't have anything to hide and if I did I couldn't hide it from a telepath."
Anka blinked, "You couldn't even tell Nami something that personal. How'd you manage to talk to him about that?"
"It's not too hard," Nagi replied. "Just weird at first. And I'd much rather have Nami ask me stuff like that."
"Well, have you?" Anka teased, trying to remain optimistic.
"No to all three," Nagi sighed, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Best friend note. Tell Nami that Nagi is still trainable," Anka whispered.
Nagi blushed, "Uh? Wha?"
"Just a note," Anka said playfully.
"Nagi, wake up." Anka hissed for the fourth time.
"What is it?" Nagi cracked his eyes open.
"He's gone..." Anka replied, glancing arounde furtively, "I don't know how much time we have but... we really need to find a way out."
"Well that's just dandy with ropes keeping us down," Nagi said dryly.
"There are nails everywhere...we can cut them somehow, I'm sure," Anka said quickly.
"I have...an idea..." Nagi said as he slowly inched toward the fire.
"What are you doing?" Anka asked with concern as she tried to loosen herself from the ropes.
"Burning them off," Nagi said as he brought his body into the flames, the ropes searing instantly off of him.
"Nagi! You idiot!" Anka cried, both scolding him and pitying him.
Nagi rolled onto the floor extinguishing the flames from his body and clothing before he collapsed. "Freedom..." he moaned happily.
"Yeah, so how about helping me out?" she asked.
"Oh," Nagi hopped up, untying the ropes that bound Anka. "Come on. If he comes back we can at least fall down another hill and make it harder to find us."
"Yeah," Anka nodded, rubbing her rope burn from around her wrists.
"Let's go," Nagi said as he ignored the searing pains in his body as he unlocked the door. "I know they've been looking for us..."
"Well, I'd like to think that at least our friends have reported us as missing," Anka said dryly as she stumbled behind Nagi, "Which way do we go?" She sounded frantic as they stepped outside.
"Well, I figure the opposite direction that that monster went is a start." Nagi replied with a frown as he glanced towards the ground and then the sky, "Looks like he went east... So west is our best bet."
"Bad, bad, children." The familiar voice that spoke from their right froze them in their tracks as several logs were thrown and caught them off guard. He patted the axe blade onto his palm before bringing it into the air.
"Come on!" Nagi hurridly grabbed Anka and began dragging her away from their captor as the stumbled through the mud.
"You can't get away. This is my territory and I know it like the back of my hand..." he warned them as he ran at them with his axe in the air, brandishing it as he continued chasing them.
"I'm not about to die like this!" Anka cried as she and Nagi tripped in the mud, attempting to scramble to their feet.
"Anka, run..." Nagi grumbled as he pushed himself to his feet.
"I won't abandon you, Nagi!" Anka exclaimed, scrabbling in the mud for something to use to defend themselves, she came up with nothing but one of the logs that had been pitched at them. Drawing in a sharp breath she hefted it up and held it out defensively, arms shuddering from the impact of the axe in the wood, she twisted and pulled, jerking the axe from his grip before flinging both it and the log away from them.
Cursing to himself Nagi ran at the man, head bent and tackling him to the ground, fighting against the pain that shot up his arms and shoulders he wrestled with the bigger man for several long minutes before he was pinned to the ground, a large hand wrapped tightly around his throat.
"No! Let him go!" Anka cried, beating against the man's back with her fists.
"Yeh just don't know when to behave." He growled, swinging his free hand around and jerking her to the ground as well, he pinned her with his knee as she struggled against his grip.
"Let us go!" She cried indignantly, clawing at his face, "Nagi, Nagi!" She gasped as the fingers of his other hand closed around her throat tightly.
"I had hoped to draw out our game a little longer..." He sounded sad, "But if you don't behave, I have to punish you."
"Nagi? Anka?" Nami's voice asked.
"I am going to heaven...I hear Nami..." Nagi said dreamily as he eased his eyes shut.
"Nami?" the man smiled wickedly. "You're the girl..." the man tossed Nagi to the side, instead advancing toward Nami.
"Nami, run!" Anka managed.
"Nami!" Nagi gasped as he grasped toward her.
"Good, girl. If you behave I'll be nice to your friends and we can all play a fun game together..." he said as he reached to put his hand around Nami's throat.
"Don't you TOUCH HER!" Nagi shouted indignantly.
"What'd you manage to do now?" the man asked as he tugged at his leg.
"You made me have to come clear out here and ruin my brand new Blahniks!" Lulu roared as she slammed her over-sized purse down onto the man's head.
"You hurt my little brother!" Layla shouted as she elbowed the man in his gut, punching him in his nose and kicking him in his shins.
"You're never getting away with this!" Maria scorned him as she slapped him on his head.
"Ow..." he grumbled before falling forward.
"Anka!" Nami ran to her best friend's side, holding her tightly.
"Sis...do you have any water?" Anka asked weakly.
"I have mineral water," Lulu said frantically as she bent down, passing Anka the bottle. Anka glugged down half of it before Nagi ripped it from her hands and finished the bottle.
"That is the most disgusting things I've ever tasted," Nagi said with disdain.
"It's good for you. Fat free," Layla said quietly.
"It's water..." Anka said flatly. "I don't think it can actually be fattening."
"Make sure they're okay," Maria said as she pulled out a cellphone. "I'm going to tell the others that we found you."
"Layla, pin him down," Lulu said calmly as she dug through her purse.
"Why?" Layla asked.
"For..." Lulu pulled out a pair of fuzzy handcuffs, "Restraints."
"Uhhh..." Nami blushed.
"I need sleep...and food..." Nagi said as he collapsed against Nami.
Nami caught him and smiled, "And a shower..."
"Definitely some first aid..." Layla cringed when she noticed the lacerations and burns on her brother's body.
"How'd you guys... manage to find us?" Anka asked hoarsely.
"It was pretty hard," Nami admitted, "We've been scouring the area for days... I'm sooo glad you guys are okay." She threw her arms around Anka.
"Nearly okay," She winced.
"How the hell did you guys even get this far away from the trail, anyway?" Maria asked, flipping her phone closed.
"Dunno..." Nagi managed, "It was pouring and we ran for cover."
"Who'd have thought that your shelter was the home of somebody like this, eh?" Lulu said dryly.
"Well...your father's helicopter will be up here soon enough with a medical team and a few officers," Maria announced.
"I don't even want to ask what this sicko did to you..." Lulu shuddered.
"Tied us up...starved us...destroyed both of our phones...made us answer questions or else he'd cut the other..." Nagi sighed as he wrapped his arms around Nami's waist. "Nami..." he whispered.
"Yes?" she asked, a bit confused.
"I'm sorry if I fall asleep on you for a change..." he murmured as he nestled into her.
Nami laughed, "It's alright," she said as she pet his hair.
"Whoa-" Anka nearly toppled over, being caught by Lulu.
"Careful, dear," Lulu said soothingly. "You two have been through a lot."
"Yeah..." Anka agreed as she stared at the half-conscious and barely attentive Nagi. I don't think I could have done this without him... she thought as the whole experience played through her head again.
I'm so stupid... Nagi thought as he fought to stay awake. I can't believe I told Anka everything about my feelings for Nami... he smiled. But I know she'd rather tease me than tell Nami everything I said.
Nami's so smart. Why is she infatuated with Nagi who clearly has an idiotic streak? she wondered. But at least he loves her. Anka smiled, "Nagi?"
"Yeah?" he uttered beneath his breath.
"Can we talk?" she asked.
"Uh...sure..." Nagi eased his eyes open and stopped leaning against Nami. Anka led him a few yards away from the others. "What is it?"
Anka threw her arms around him, him returning the gesture. "Thanks for everything..."
"You don't have to thank me," he assured her as he squeezed her tightly.
"Wonder what they're talking about..." Layla mused.
"I don't know," Nami shrugged.
"How'd you do that fast healing?" Anka sobbed.
"I don't honestly know," Nagi said softly. "Never been one to get hurt as a kid to know if I'm a freak like him..." Nagi glanced down at their captor. "But it might not be something to just go around talking about..."
"Yeah," Anka nodded.
"Well, I'm not looking forward to staying up for another day for police statements and everything else...medical attention..." Nagi shuddered.
"Me either," Anka sighed. "Nagi?"
"I feel different..." she admitted.
"Whoa, what kind of different?" Nagi asked with concern.
"Calm down, I'm not in love with you," Anka said dryly. "I can't really describe it."
"Closer?" Nagi guessed.
"Well...yeah..." Anka agreed.
"Well, as much as I'd hate to forget it, we'll always remember everything that went through our heads...we'll never forget any of this," Nagi said as he glanced down at the palm of his hand. "I must be a freak. Even this healed before the prisoner part," he said referring to the cut he first received upon entering the shack.
"You're right. About the remembering everything part. Not the freak part," Anka said quickly. "Well, not in a bad way."
"Thanks..." Nagi smiled. "Well, I'm milking this for what it's worth," he said sheepishly.
"Nami's affection," he blushed, "Sis, what did you think I meant?" he asked as he started away from her.
"That, naturally," Anka laughed, "Bro..." She glanced down at her palm which had been cut a few days prior. "It didn't bleed..." she said as she noticed the closed wound that was smeared with blood.
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