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Turn It Up Notch

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Tokyo – 9:00:00 AM 

Tsubasa dropped off at the Kazanari estate for a meeting about the management of some of the family's holdings. With Fudou incarcerated and Yatsuhiro gone, the job of handling the properties were passed on to Tsubasa and Genjuuro. Genjuuro asked to cover a huge chunk of the job since Tsubasa had a career of her own to look after, and it was agreed upon by the legal board. When the meeting ended, Genjuuro invited Tsubasa for tea.

Genjuuro attempted to start a conversation. “How’s work treating you?”

“It’s been hectic as of late,” Tsubasa told him. “It’s been one recording session after another, and I just had a shoot for one of the brands I picked to endorse. Are you sure about carrying most of the holdings? You still have the Second Division to watch over.”

“We are in peaceful times, save for pockets of Noise popping up here and there,” Genjuuro said with a chuckle. “I could afford to take care most of the family’s holdings. You, on the other hand, have a career to build. I don’t want you to lose focus since that is something you’ve always dreamed for.”

Tsubasa smiled at that. “Just call me when you need help. We’re the only ones left.”

Genjuuro nodded at that. He looked over at Tsubasa and noticed the worried look on her face, deeming that the cause of his niece’s worry was not within the walls of the estate, but somewhere else.

“You're worried about Maria, aren't you?”

Tsubasa almost choked as she sipped her tea. Genjuuro tried to suppress his laughter and was reduced to a shaking mess.

“Why is it that when we talk about Maria, you lose all your shit?” Genjuuro asked, smiling toothily.

Tsubasa hastily wiped her mouth. “Because you're all teasing me about it and I hate it.”

Genjuuro scratched his head. “Yeah, sorry about that..but you really have to work on keeping your emotions hidden so you won't be caught off-guard next time. If you weren't careful, you could have spat that tea out.”

“If you weren't pushing that topic like Yukine does, I wouldn't be this fussy,” Tsubasa snarled.

“Then why do you get fussy when it’s about Maria?”

“Because you blow things out of proportion,” Tsubasa said. “What’s wrong with two people just sleeping together without any attachments? So what if the person I’m sleeping with is Maria? We’re on good terms, there’s nothing really iffy about that...yet here you all are treating this as some sort of a tabloid issue. You’re just as bad as those intrusive journalists.”

“You’re fussy, alright.” Genjuuro shrugged. “Fine, no more talking about Maria.”

Genjuuro then had the urge of teasing his niece once more. It was just too fun watching Tsubasa lose her composure, especially when Maria is involved.

“Once Chris and Maria return from their mission, I can get you some coupons to that  onsen  we went to,” Genjuuro said.

“What, for all of us at the Second Division?” Tsubasa asked as raised the cup for another sip of her tea. “That’s gonna cost you a lot.”

“Nah, just you and Maria so you can relive your first night together,” Genjuuro jabbed, wasting no fraction of time.

This time, Tsubasa spat the tea.


Val Verde – 8:00:00 PM  

Maria sneezed out of the blue.

She and Chris were strolling around the plaza later in the evening. The meeting with the officials went by without any further trouble and had ended earlier than expected. With more free time on their hands, Chris and Maria spent the rest of the day strolling around the town close to their hotel as well as paying a visit to Sonia and Stephan.

“Hey, you alright?” Chris asked as she unwrapped the grilled squid she bought.

“I’m fine,” Maria said as she wiped her nose with her handkerchief. “This...just came out of nowhere.”

Chris pointed to a group of soldiers not far from them. “You definitely took these guys by surprise when you wheezed.” 

Although the tensions in Val Verde had been subdued, there was still a highly noticeable presence of military forces in almost every street in the area. Chris winced at this, thinking that things haven't changed even after more than ten years.

“You know, once this is over, I was thinking we could have a vacation with the girls,” Maria said. 

Chris, who was chomping on the grilled squid, hummed in agreement. “Kirika and Shirabe will flip once you tell them that.”

Maria giggled. “I’m sure they will, Yukine-san.”

Chris waved her off. “ Oi, oi, you can quit it with the honorifics. You're practically family to me now.”

Maria perked up at that. “Family, you say?”

Chris realized that she thought out loud with her last statement and blushed at that.

"I didn't say anything like that,” Chris denied.

“Hoh, is that so…Chris-chan?”

Chris sped up her steps. “Alright, you know what, European? Let's just get this over with and go home.”

Maria giggled. “Sure thing, Chris.”

The two girls continued their stroll. They dropped by a flea market to look at some of the stalls and peruse for souvenirs.


Tokyo – 10:30:00 AM – 6:00:00 PM  

“I will be taking my leave now,” Tsubasa said. “I’m sorry about the tea.”

Genjuuro shook his head with a barely noticeable smile and bid his niece goodbye.

“Make sure not to let that motorcycle explode,” Genjuuro said. “The insurance doesn't cover intentional accidents.”

Tsubasa chuckled and left the estate. She hit the road not long after and headed to the outskirts of the city. She arrived at a cliffside and parked her motorcycle there. 

You two are basically an open secret now, what do you plan to do with that?  

Tsubasa had given her answer. She shouldn't be dwelling on Ogawa's question any further.

She was perplexed at herself for being unsure.

On the way home, Tsubasa decided to head to a ramen shack—she wasn’t in the mood for making dinner at her apartment—and came across Hibiki and Miku at one of the tables.

“Yo, Tachibana,” Tsubasa called as she walked over to them.

“Tsubasa-san!” Hibiki exclaimed. “Fancy seeing you here.”

“Just making a detour,” Tsubasa said. “I hope I haven’t interrupted your date.”

“Ah, no! You can join us,” Miku invited. “It’s been a while since we last saw you, you’ve been very busy lately.”

“Yeah, I guess I am,” Tsubasa said as she took a seat at the table.

The three settled on their orders and started a lively conversation about work and school.

“Oh, right, any news from Chris and Maria?” Hibiki asked not long after.

Tsubasa’s face became stern. “None so far. It's kinda worrying, actually. They should have reported something by now.”

Hibiki hummed. “Judging from what the mission sounded like, all Maria-san and Chris-chan had to do is talk with important people. I think they’ll be fine.”

Tsubasa grunted. “Yeah, but Val Verde…things haven’t improved there even until now, despite the political tensions being subdued. Who knows when some crazy radicalist suddenly open fires on a government building somewhere there?”

“I'm sure they'll be okay, Tsubasa-san,” Miku told her. “They’re among the sharpest people I know.”

“Yeah, but still…” Tsubasa trailed off.

Tsubasa's clasped hands fidgeted on her loss for words. She had asked Genjuuro how long the diplomatic mission was going to take, and he told her they'd be back not long after the meeting was done. Still, it’s Val Verde, and Tsubasa had grown anxious due to that. She hoped that the two would quickly finish their mission without any fuss. 

Hibiki turned to Miku questioningly, and Miku nodded with a smile.

“Tsubasa-san,” Miku called. 

Tsubasa's hands stopped fidgeting at the calm tone of Miku's voice. Miku placed an assuring hand on Tsubasa's arm. 

“It will be alright,” Miku told her.

Tsubasa took in Miku's words and sighed. Shaking her head, she told them she had been worrying too much. Hibiki shooed away the tense air with a laugh and told them to just dig in and enjoy the ramen. As they were enjoying their meal, Tsubasa's communicator beeped, and she answered it. In a flash, she stood up from the table. 

“I'll be there,” she said.

Hibiki and Miku nodded at her and she hastily left the ramen shack. Not long after, Tsubasa was on a carrier plane heading to Val Verde. She was convinced that political oppositions were to blame for the attack on Maria and Chris, given that they entered Val Verde as diplomats. The opposition may have thought that they were only working with the ruling officials and considered them a threat. The flight to Val Verde had to take almost a day, and Tsubasa couldn’t stay still in her seat. 

“Tsubasa-san, any second from now and you’ll break that seat’s hinges,” Ogawa said. “Please, calm down. Maria-san and Yukine-san are under the care of our trusted operatives in Val Verde, they are secured until we come and get them.”


Val Verde – earlier at 11:00:00 PM  


Chris tapped the Enter key and the report was sent. She leaned back with a sigh and turned to the ceiling. It had been a day since they first arrived at Val Verde and they had no trouble speaking with the officials. She figured their stay there won't take long. 

Ah yeah, back home to my TV and  microwav e ables , Chris thought.  Ah, shit, wait. I have classes.  

The bathroom door opened and Maria walked into the bedroom clad only with a towel wrapped around her body. Chris let out a whistle.

“Yep,  Senpai  wouldn't be able to resist that,” Chris said. 

Maria frowned. “Resist what?” 

“That fine rack you have, European.  Senpai  has a thing for boobs, she wouldn't think twice about having her way with yours.”

“No wonder she's taken you in as her  kouhai ,” Maria said with a giggle. “You’re not bad yourself.”

Chris waved her off with a laugh. “Nah, even if I flash these babies at her, she wouldn't look at ‘em the same way she does with yours. I always notice her struggle to maintain eye contact with you—and most of the time, it's a losing fight.”

Maria laughed as she put on her sleepwear. “Now that, I am highly aware of.”

Chris took her turn at the showers and Maria headed to bed. Maria had half a mind to call Tsubasa, but she stopped herself and thought that it would be too much. To fend off her slight frustration, she took out a book she bought from the flea market and began reading. It was a second-hand mystery novel written in English— Perry Mason and the Case of the Perjured Parrot . Maria was not one to read mystery novels most of the time, but the notion of a parrot allegedly committing perjury caught her curiosity. 

She was two chapters in when Chris got out of the bathroom. In a few minutes, Chris was already snoring. Maria checked for the strapped progressive knife on her thigh—it’s Val Verde, anything can happen—and went to sleep as well.

It hadn't been long when Maria was snapped awake by the latch on the door—someone had intruded their room. She shifted quickly to check on Chris and found her wide awake. With a nod, the two feigned being asleep and waited for the intruder to step in.

The light from outside flooded in, and a shadow followed soon after. Two men entered, both heavy-set and armed. They looked around and found the two women in their beds. With careful treading, they readied their own knives and crept closer towards the beds to slit the women's throats. In a flash, both women jumped out from the sheets and took on the men. They dodged swipes from every direction and attempted to strike. The men were experienced combatants, but the women were on par with them. Eventually, they overtook their opponents and managed to incapacitate them. Once deemed that the men were out cold, Maria took note of the patches on the intruders and found the insignia of one of the political opposition parties. She then grabbed her communicator from her nightstand and made a call.

“We’ve been attacked,” Maria said between gasps.


Val Verde – the next day, around  4 :00:00 PM

Eventually, the pilot announced that they were landing in a few minutes, and Tsubasa headed off with Ogawa to Maria and Chris' rendezvous point. Tsubasa felt a wave of relief wash over her upon seeing both women safe.

“I know you miss me and all,” Maria said with a smile as she approached Tsubasa. “But, traveling all the way out here at such an ungodly hour? I think that's way too much, even for you.”

Tsubasa frowned. “I'm here because I was the only one who's free to respond.”

Maria pouted, feigning disappointment. “Sheesh, Tsubasa, how can you be so cold?”

Tsubasa shrugged and let the conversation drop. Meanwhile, Chris and Ogawa were keenly watching them.

“Don’t let appearances fool you,” Ogawa told Chris. “Tsubasa-san almost lost her wits on the way here.”

Chris stifled a laugh. “What the hell? Seriously?”

“Almost broke the plane seat because she’s fidgeting too much,” Ogawa said.

Chris let out a laugh at that while Ogawa merely smiled. The other two asked them what they were laughing about, to which Chris merely said that Ogawa made a joke—something that doesn’t happen much often unless one is acquainted with him to a certain degree. They all set-off back to the carrier plane for the flight home.