The massacre; its story distorted,
Struggle; mind-blowing,
Its truth; embedded,
Weaponry; the tools, the key to the cause.

... ... ...

Helena's thoughts

As of the current situation, the gunshots heard died off for a short moment before another brief session of it took place. The source seemed to be moving, but it is a possibility that it might be this 'Raquel' Claire had been informing me while en-route to the settlement. No matter, I best find that damned killer that gunned down my platoon. Last traces of that bastard was here, but for the past countless days, years, been to no avail. However, I have a feeling that this time round, there will be progress.

... ... ...

5th Chapter
Links

Raquel swore under her breath the moment she was able to get away from those 'things' that were chasing her. The temple somehow warded away those… things that were after her. She had wasted one magazine of the sub-machine gun's bullets, even though it was enough to mow down a considerable number of- she paused. There was a sudden sense that she was being watched as she delved deeper into the seemingly large temple. The sudden moment of eerie silence would often shatter by faint groans, or even high pitched shrieks, all of which just echoed down the hallways of the building. Grey eyes examined the atmosphere of the temple. One thing was sure though; the albino did not like it.

"I swear I'm being watched, constantly," she thought, her hands still gripping onto the MP40. "I best remain on my toes-."

A sharp pierce was felt from within. That was enough to set her into a spasm, just after she passed the main hall of the building. She winced, thinking that she would be able to bear with it for a while until she finds a more suitable place to rest. However, her hopes were very much nullified. Raquel's knees buckled in before she collapsed to the ground. Her hands that were holding the weapon now wrapped themselves around her midriff, as if trying to subdue the pain that surged in her. The broken rib could be a danger to her life, but at such a place to occur, the albino had to move on. Her left hand trembled for a second before digging into one of the pockets of her overcoat, grabbing the painkillers while popping two capsules at the same time.

"Come on, swallow them before something else happens," thought Raquel, consuming the two pills without the need of water to wash the bitterness off the medicine in her mouth. "It hurts so much, even though proper bandaging had been done."

Even though she was open to any form of assault at that point of time, there was no way she could bear the injury for now until the painkillers' effects kicked in. All the albino could do at that moment was simply sprawl on the ground, helpless, until the pain subsides. Now just simply breathing was hard for her. Each breath would cause a short, sharp pain near the midriff area. Twin-tails was beginning to break down-.

"Something's here," a thought ran through her mind.

Grey eyes widened; her ears picked up faint footsteps from a distance, most probably from the same hallway where she was. A sense of urgency kicked in for Raquel, despite the fact that her injury was very much unbearable. Her free left hand groped the wooden walls before grasping what it seemed to be a handle. She was not sure what it was, but in order for the source of the footsteps to not spot, or even feel her presence, Twin-tails made haste for it. Biting her lips in order not to utter a sound, she forced herself up to her feet while her right hand grasped the MP40. Her legs trembled; the pain had not subsided just yet. Raquel then paid attention to the footsteps again. As expected, it was getting louder. She had to find a place to hide, or at least conceal away from view. A faint creak was heard when she pushed the handle she had been holding. The sliding door opened, leading to what it seemed to be a bedroom, possibly where a caretaker of the temple might live. Taking full advantage to it, she shuffled her way into it, while silently shutting the door behind her.

"Seriously, I can't take it anymore," muttered Twin-tails, grabbing what it seemed to be a futon placed neatly at the far end of the rather square-like room. "I don't care if I get taken away now. This rib fracture is more serious than I thought it would be."

It was unnatural for the albino to decide on this decision, but no matter, even if she were to continue in her current condition, there would be a chance where she might not be able to make it. The investigation on the village may have to be on hold for now. Just moments after she set up the futon on the ground, carefully, she lay on it, while using the blanket to keep herself warm, while trying to resist the piercing pain in her. Only the painkillers could ease her agony, but the effects kicking in were taking too much time.

"I feel, pathetic," she uttered before retiring for the day, not realising the footsteps earlier on now had become louder before it ceased; in front of the door where Raquel entered.

"Would you, or would you not uncover Touka Village's story?"

A faint click was heard, coming from the hammer of a handgun before its barrel aimed at the said door. Time stood still at that moment… before its trigger was squeezed.

… … …

"Damn and blast!" Helena cursed under her breath before opening fire on her Mauser C96. "I wasn't hoping this would occur again, but it just did."

Claire did not bother uttering a word at their current situation. She was both confused and disturbed at what they were faced with. They seemed like usual people, complete with clothing, but were hell bent on killing both the blonde and the albino. The Swiss, not being the type who would be able to notice her surroundings after concentrating on a certain something, felt a hard thrust from behind. She was not sure what it was, but she knew it hurt, a lot. That was not her worry though. The force she had inflicted was somehow able to get her swiped off her feet, hitting the dusty hard soil with a thud. A faint 'tch' left Helena's mouth- clicks were heard on her handgun. Frustration kicked in as the former soldier took drastic measures. Noticing the blonde slowly getting to her feet, the albino literally grabbed her by the waist, and pulled her away before tossing a stick hand grenade at the somewhat blood-thirsty mob.

"Into the back door, by the tree!" Helena instructed before they scrambled away, hopefully at least to avoid the imminent grenade explosion.

"Bloody hell!" Claire swore at that point. "Why the heck am I still in a state of confusion?"

The albino did not reply at that time- an explosion overwhelmed them before diving behind the tree instead of entering through the door next to it. A faint grunt was heard from the Swiss, knowing that she had hit the hard soil, again. But even so, that was not enough to distract her from the mess that German had made. Blue eyes took a peek at the mob earlier on. As expected, the grenade had an immense effect on them; bodies were seen strewn all over the ground, leaving a massively bloody mess. A tug was felt from behind; it was Helena.

"Screw them for now. Get through that door, or we'll end up as bratwursts for them," she insisted.

Not a word left the duo's mouth soon after before they scrambled through the said entrance, not even taking a glance at what they had entered; the temple. Slamming the wooden door behind them, Claire literally fell to her knees before taking gasps of breath. Never once she felt so much adrenaline and panic at the same time. However, that was her downfall once she begins panicking; the Swiss would never be able to concentrate much on what she was doing, or even the surroundings. Claire knew what she was like out there; a sitting duck. But no matter, she had to calm down, and regain that sarcastic nature of hers; that was the only way for the Swiss to be back up and running again. However, there was something about Helena that she could not figure out. She knew what it was, but could not find the right words to say it, or even just think of it.

"Come on Claire," the blonde thought to herself. "Relax already. I can't think straight once I panic."

"Not the type who would multi-task, hmm?" the German commented, obviously on the Swiss' inability to concentrate much in the midst of confusion. "Anyway, looks like we may have ended up in a temple of sorts. Else, those mindless dimwits out there would have ripped through the door."

"Very much what you have said was re-assuring about those things not being able to get past that door, what the hell are they anyway?" Claire countered, asking the most obvious question.

"Manifestations of souls trapped in deceased bodies. It happens at a certain time every night, but I cannot pin-point the instance it occurs. But whatever it is, they are filled with agony and hatred, considering what had happened to this village when I first set foot in Japan to hunt the traitor down," the albino responded, before leaning against one of the building's support pillars. "Shall I explain the current situation a little deeper? We have a lot of spare time now."

"Best keep it brief, I still have to find Raquel," the tall woman replied, somehow regaining her composure.

The former soldier shrugged as a physical response before leering at the blonde for a moment, while her lips moved, "I like that determination of yours, even though in the bleakest of all situations. Right then, keeping this short, a mass massacre took place in this place called Touka Village. Rumours claim it was a Kempeitai officer who had caused it. However, there was something out of the ordinary; weapons used were the MP40, and Mauser C96. Those weapons originated from the Third Reich, and there's zero possibilities that a Kempeitai officer wielding them."

"But considering that Imperial Japan and the Third Reich were allies at that time, there is that tiny chance that the Kempeitai officer would have wielded them to distort the truth that a German soldier was responsible for it," Claire assumed, crossing her arms while listening to the history of the village.

"That is one of the possibilities I have taken into consideration, however, there is yet another weapon used in the massacre; a Gewehr 98. That rifle was used in both World Wars by us Germans, and in this situation, the investigations never stated it because of one reason."

"Which is?"

A frown was seen on the albino's face as she removed her overcoat. Grabbing the leather strip that was somehow worn over in a sling manner, she produced the said rifle, showing it to the blonde.

"It was my very own rifle. That bastard nicked it from me and used it in this massacre. I found it lying around on the outskirts of the village before I got stuck in here," Helena's voice was somehow filled with rage at that point of time.

"You're being framed then," the Swiss concluded ever so vaguely. "But that traitor you're after, it seems that his plans failed when you were not targeted by the investigations."

"Hmph, that was my only saviour to the situation, but whatever it is, we best find that traitor, and this 'Raquel' you have been talking about. Just how similar we were in terms of looks?" Helena asked rather frankly, knowing that being tense consistently would very much have an effect on their fatigue.

"Simple," Claire replied before stating… rather the obvious. "You have narrower eyes, while Raquel has broader shoulders."

"I wasn't… expecting such a plain response somehow," the former soldier commented, raising her eyebrows in amusement. "But it is logical throughout."

A faint gunshot was heard within the temple, catch both their attention. Claire was very much straightforward and suggested on simply advancing to find out on the situation, but Helena had other ideas.

"That sounds like a Parabellum Luger. Don't tell me he's here?" she uttered under her breath thought the blonde heard it, just.

"Who's he?"

"We best put that matter aside. First things first, to the source!" the former soldier insisted.

The duo did not communicate soon after that. All they could think was simply rushing to the source of the gunshots. Both of them had different opinions in their minds, but did not bear to express any of them; they knew it might be a cause of conflict between them.

Claire, being the taller and long-legged one, went ahead of the former soldier while a thought rushed into her mind, "Raquel, you better not be injured. You're always injured prone in assignments."

Helena, tailing behind from a distance, remained having a rather calm expression; but inside, she was a mess, "You better be there. It's been 64 agonising years in this pathetic place."

Another blow ensued, still at the same location. However, Raquel's voice was heard. The Swiss took a faster pace to the source, while grabbing the bulky Mauser handgun in her hands. Blue eyes turned in a panicked manner as she looked for the possible sources of the sound. Reverberation of the gunshot echoed down another corridor, but it was faint. A bloodied cough rang into her ears as she turned her head to its direction; 2 o'clock to where she was. A sliding door was in that said location, and ajar. Cocking the Mauser, she ceased running and paced her way slowly to the door. Blue eyes were locked onto what was beyond that entrance, to the point she was oblivious to Helena's presence behind her.

The former soldier snapped her fingers to catch the Swiss' attention, but to no avail. Somehow, she felt as if something was hiding nearby the door, not within. Icy silver eyes scanned the area. Though it was dark, and damp, Helena was used to such poor lighting. Slipping the Mauser C96 back to its case, she grasped the Gweher 98 rifle that was slung to her back, and cocked it. Now she was faced with a challenge; while Claire carelessly advanced towards the sliding door, Helena had to keep an eye on the surroundings- she aimed her rifle at the open area next to the room the blonde was heading. She swore she saw a shadow moving past the two pillar supports of the temple. An eerie silence overwhelmed her; only the footsteps made by the tall woman were heard. The former soldier strained her ears to catch other foreign sounds; she was sure there was something else in the temple.

Having stuck in this blasted village for 64 years was simply infuriating. During that time, she had searched fruitlessly for the murderer, searching every inch and stone of the settlement. Now the fact that someone she knew that was not the murderer was also in this dreaded place… She shook her head. There was no time for her to ponder on such theories. A clack was heard; it came off as a faint ring in her ears, but Helena knew what it was. If her assumptions were right- an audible gunshot overwhelmed her as a bullet barely missed the former soldier. A burning sensation was felt on her right cheek, but she was unfazed by it. Using the iron sights of her bolt-action rifle, she aimed at what it seemed to be a faint silhouette of a person with what it seemed to be a rifle in its possession. Her eyes narrowed as Helena aimed at the targeted location- she squeezed the trigger.

The gunshot overwhelmed the albino for a moment; the sound was not the problem, the occasional occurrences of flashes coming from the mouth of the barrel upon firing were the one that got her. She flinched at that second, costing her time to reload when-

"Huh?" she muttered before blood streamed down her head. "When did-."

Another blow came through, piercing through her neck this time round. Helena did not utter a word; she stood there for a split second before collapsing to the ground, not exhaling the air she breathed in earlier on.

"I expected this would happen…again."

"Helena?" Claire called before a bullet somehow splintered away from the blonde's direction. "Holy sh-."

Swiftly, she kicked herself away from the open area next to the room she was heading. Luck was not on her side as her footing slipped, literally had her stumbling to the ground back first with a loud thud. The blonde flinched for a moment, but spared no time on the momentary numbness on her back; something had to be done about the unknown assailant. Unfortunately, visibility for her was simply too poor. The bad lighting was just what she hated most; after all, her shooting skills were below mediocre. The door she was heading for was still ajar, and there might be a possibility that the assailant might be heading there as well. Drastic measures had to be taken.

"The hell with it!" thought the Swiss before she scrambled for the door.

Several rounds ensued, all directing towards Claire. While most of them missed by a mile, there were two that splintered off the sturdy stone supports. One grazed her left deltoid, another dug its way into her right thigh. The blonde let out a faint gasp; she never expected to get injured at that particular part of her body. In fact, all she predicted was a gunshot wound on either arm. Pain surged through her body, but the tall woman managed to drag her way into the room, slamming the door shut. She knew the sliding door was useless at protecting them; after all, the only thing that separated her and the assailant was a wood frame of the door, and paper that covered it. Claire had to deal with Raquel, quickly- another round came piercing through the defenceless door. Blue eyes were wide open as she felt a burning sensation on her torso.

"Not my midriff," Claire thought, aiming the Mauser towards the source. "Screw you!"

The blonde did not care how many times she had squeezed the trigger. All she had in mind was to stop that unknown attacker from killing her. Gunshots from her side ceased. Blue eyes glanced at the handgun; empty. Recalling the part where Helena showed her how to reload, she knew it would take enough time for that killer to finish her off. Her left hand fumbled on one of her two nightsticks- the sliding door caved in.

"Wh-what?" those were the only words she uttered at that time before something bowled over her while a right fist came swinging to her face, hard.

The immense impact by that punch had a small trail of saliva and blood splattering on the wooden flooring to her right. Claire winced- the same limb then shoved her skull planted to the ground, ever applying more pressure to it. The blonde knew she had to break free; else her head would crack like an egg. Though her right hand was restrained by that unknown assailant, the left was still free, gripping the nightstick. She could not bear the piercing pain ripping through her skull; frustration kicked in. With a full arc swing, the nightstick hit the attacker's nape with a harsh blow. Not a sound left its mouth- Claire opted for a second attempt, this time re-adjusting her target. However, instead of swinging it in an arc, she aimed for the skull head on by the temple region. A crack was heard before wailings were heard. Its grip on the blonde loosened, allowing her the chance to boot the assaulter right at the torso.

"Damn you power struggling, slovenly midland!" she cursed under her breath before fully utilising her two nightsticks. "Bring it-."

"Claire, move!" a voice rang into her ears; a commanding one at that.

By instinct, the Swiss kicked herself away from the space, and had her back against the wall. Cocking of a weapon was heard before the familiar tone was heard.

"Die, lowly peasant!"

Just a split second after that taunt, a flurry of bullets came raining onto the assailant before there was a short pause. Cocking of the same weapon was heard yet again before another bout of lead projectiles pierced through the same target. The one-sided gunfight ceased. All was silent, except for yet again, the cocking of the firearm. Claire was very much confused and slightly deranged by what she had witnessed, especially when after she got a good look at the deceased attacker. It was a villager, dressed as a Japanese military soldier. But that was not the case, it was the probable age of the killer; 10. Deep thuds from Helena's boots were heard as she entered the room Claire was in. The Swiss turned her attention to the former soldier. She wanted to ask so many questions at one time, but the one that came out from her mouth concerned about Helena herself.

"Why are you wearing that peaked cap from the 3rd SS Division Totenkopf? And why is your face a bloody mess?"

The albino remained silent for a while, tending to her Mauser C96 712 machine pistol before exchanging it to the standard model to reduce ammunition wastage, "I am from that division and as for the second question… I will have to blame you for that. You lack the ability to notice the surroundings around you. It's pathetic."

The last two sentences offended the blonde, but considering the situation they were in, she had to forget it. Blue eyes looked downwards to see the bullet wound on her torso. There was none; all she noticed was yet another graze by the left side of her hips. A heavy sigh left her mouth. Claire was not sure whether she was blessed with good luck, or just simply plain damn lucky to evade that. An audible bloodied cough was heard within one of the storage partitions of the room. The tall woman spun to the source, which led to a shut sliding door obstructed by a desk and a chair. Without any help from the former soldier, the blonde frantically shoved the two obstructions away before slamming the door open.

"Raquel!" the Swiss's voice echoed slightly in the area.

… … …

-"The residents of Touka Village still insist on not moving to the new location we have provided, even though it has better living conditions."

--"Very much I know, they prefer the old way of living. But this is the era we have to change our lifestyle. We will have to force them out-."

-"I had enough of their stupidity! This had been going on for the past 6 months! We are way behind schedule. I suggest we kill them."

--"Are you insane? Then we will be charged for massacre!"

-"That's where we plan the 'plant'. Blame it on someone else. And I'm thinking it in terms of a German…"

--"Hmm… But I do have a better solution to that…"

"Huh?"

… … …

"Raquel!"

A familiar voice rang into Twin-tail's ears as she cracked her eyes open, seeing Claire's face.

"About time," the wounded woman responded before coughing unintentionally. "While you disappeared, look how I ended up you oaf."

"As if I was standing far away from you when we parted suddenly, anyway-," the blonde paused when she noticed a patch of blood to Raquel's right. "Wait, you have an internal injury?"

"One of the ribs broke," she replied before trying to re-assure her partner. "But these painkillers at least did its job to soothe the pain."

However, that was not the only thing that got Claire worried; there was a grating sound within Raquel whenever she breathes, "Damn you Raquel. Do you have to get injured in every assignment we are given?"

The blonde turned around to glance at the former soldier before deciding to ask her for assistance-.

"We'll have to get that partner of yours out of this village," Helena insisted ever so suddenly. "While I can take my time trying to find that murderer of my platoon, Raquel there might not last long with such an injury."

"Even if you say so, how? You were stuck in this village for countless years and you still can't find the way out," the Swiss countered.

"Then what, find the murderer first? This village is already overrun by those dead villagers with trapped souls inside! There's no way Raquel could withstand all that chaos outside."

A bout of coughing from Twin-tails caught the squabbling duo's attention before she insisted on her decision while getting up to a sitting position, "There might be a possibility who caused the massacre of this village; either a German, or a Kempeitai solider. I want to get to the bottom of this story of this village."

Raquel's decision was very much against to what the other two were planning. However, before they could even utter a word, a heavy bellow of a sub-machine gun overwhelmed them. Claire and Raquel hit the ground, at least to prevent those flying bullets from hitting them. Helena had other ideas; grabbing a stick grenade, she pulled the cord after unscrewing the cap, and hurled it to the direction of the source; the corridor both her and Claire came from.

"This is going to hurt!" warned the former soldier before kneeling behind the overturned table.

… … …

The plan for the escape; the plan to tell the tale of this village,
Injuries; accumulate to a major mess,
The voice; Helena knew and recognised,
Devastation; the futile search of her team's murderer.

… … …

Helena's view of the current situation,

Things have very much changed from the constant monotonous vicious cycle I had gone through over the years. I knew that when I recovered from those bullet wounds on the forehead and neck, everything was different now. I have broken away from that cycle. Claire and Raquel had managed to save me from that dreaded sequence. However, we are still stuck in this village. We have to find a way out, but do we have to solve this mystery of the village, like Raquel said?

Is that the answer to the escape of this dead settlement? But putting that aside, that gunshot from a Parabellum Luger… Could that be him; the other soldier that was looking for that murderer and having the same fate as mine? I pray that it is you; you pulled me away from the Nazi's ideology after all…