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File 03

Whoosh, Thud, Whee~


January 4th, 2027 AD.
Digital City, Thandre, 13:15 Hours.

A freelance mercenary, who others referred to as 'Mr. Smiles', double checked the security feed inside Thandre station's monitor room. Getting into the civilian restricted zone was rather easy; a few silenced rounds between some unsuspecting guard's eyes, a couple of snapped necks and a pilfered set of keys meant he could go where he pleased and no one could oppose him till the next shift. Not that the next shift mattered, he'd be gone by then.

The reason he wanted the monitor room in the first place was to find the two targets on his client's hit list, for he'd been warned that one of the two was elusive. Yet, he found the both of them casually chatting to each other on the screens, one carrying a black satchel bag while the other wore some ridiculous yellow attire.

"A 'civil servant' and a treasure hunting prodigy, eh?" he murmured to himself, before smiling behind his extravagant, multicoloured masquerade mask. He brushed aside his blonde fringe and adjusted the peacock feather clipped behind his ear, then pulled out a red pistol from underneath his black business suit. It was time to give his prey extra breathing holes.

"This is almost too easy—" He stopped short when he noticed a bunch of other suspicious figures on the screens. "What? Such undignified criminal thugs dare intrude my playground?"

Things went downhill from there, and he quietly lamented. The chaos on the monitors began to unfold as some crazed [Elemental] let loose her fiery fury, and the crowd began to stampede toward the exits. The elusive one had already vanished in a fight with one of the thugs, and Mr. Smiles realised he had to act now if he wanted to get credit for killing the other. On the bright side, at least the new situation provided the perfect cover.

"Be a good boy and wait right there for me," he said to the monitors. "I need to clean up a little here first."

Mr. Smiles grinned as he grabbed a USB out of his pocket and plugged it into the monitor network, releasing a trojan virus into the system. The colourful visuals in the room turned into grey static, fading into eventual darkness, as the recorded history on the camera feeds was corrupted and destroyed.

~X~

January 4th, 2027 AD.
Digital City, Thandre, 13:22 Hours.

The fireball overhead provided James with the perfect distraction. As the two thugs recoiled and focused their attention to the flames for the briefest moment, he bolted into the crowd and let the directionless stampede take him away. The two thugs recovered from their stupor and gave chase, intent on fulfilling their objective.

James frowned when one of them seemed to shift and slide around the frightened people like an expert contortionist. A close quarters fight in such a place would put him at a disadvantage, since his Ethereal Power was best used at a distance. He knew that the only way he'd stand a chance for now was if he could make sure neither of them got within arm's reach.

The agile thug closed in at an alarming pace. Five people away. Four people away. Three, Two. In desperation, James craned his head around for escape routes. He needed to find another place to break away from the chaos and lose his violent entourage. The people were all clamouring for the exits, and it slowed him down.

He ended up with two options: to zig-zag inside the nearby commercial stalls on his left or make a straight break for the maintenance room to his right. Gambling on whether or not the maintenance room door wasn't locked felt too risky, so he focused on the only choice left.

The thug was almost in reach, arms outstretched. Before the man's fingertips could seize the hem of his shirt, James sprung into action. He turned a sharp left on his heels and broke out of the crowd, surprising the thug who grasped at now open air. James never bothered to look back, and bolted with all his might.

His heart thundered in his chest as his lungs worked overtime, trying to keep him running as long as he could. For a moment he thought that he'd shaken off the thugs. Then a sharp whizzing noise zipped past his ear as something zoomed straight past him. The offending object struck a newspaper stand a mere few feet away with incredible sonic force. Printed pages fresh off the press 'sprung to life', fluttering about all around him like an invisible bomb had gone off.

James breathed out in relief at the close call. 'Was that an eight of spades card lodged into the stand? One of them must have a [Projectile] power— whoa!'

Another card flew past him and missed his head by inches, colliding into a toy store display window and shattering it into a multitude of glass fragments. James grimaced. Getting struck by one of those cards would spell game over without a doubt. He changed up his plan with haste. A nearby coffee shop came into view, loaded with bolted down tables with wooden chairs and a big service counter.

A king of hearts beelined to James, primed to strike him in the back and end the chase. It instead rammed itself halfway through a wooden table before coming to a complete stop. James had leapt over the table in the nick of time, using it as one time cover save. He stayed mobile, kept his head low, and shuffled around the tables and chairs like a rat in a maze. A few more cards zoomed at him but chairs and tables took the brunt of the force, the sonic aftermaths ruffling his clothes and hair being indicators of how close the cards had been.

"Quit running, damn brat!" he heard one of the thugs call out to him in a deep voice, "Ain't nowhere left to go for you but six feet under!"

'That voice is way too close!' James cried in his head. The barrage of sonic cards softened up as he turned and saw the agile thug shimmy around tables and chairs like his whole body was a constant stream of water.

'He must be a [Shift] user,' James guessed as he watched the unnatural display. The situation was not getting any better. The grotesque smile of his would-be killer made his blood run cold, but he wasn't out of ideas just yet.

He remembered the large counter. Abandoning his cover, James jumped onto the wooden tables. The shifter made a quick swoop for his legs. His fingertips only brushed James' shoes as he dove for the big counter, while at the same time a card screamed toward the pair. The card smashed a hot jug of decaffeinated coffee, spilling glass and hot liquid everywhere. James shielded his face from the brown liquid and glass as he fell behind the counter, the thug behind him cursing loudly. "Gah, that shit stings!" The thug glared at his comrade. "Stop flinging cards like a retard and pay attention, dammit!"

James shared the same sentiment, biting his inner lip down hard to subvert his attention from the searing pain on his arms. Trying his best not to let the tears of pain flow, he wiped his hands furiously on his shirt and then reached into his black satchel.

'Come on, come on, where is it!'

His hand trembled while it groped around in his bag, bumping into numerous knick knacks he had brought with him to the station.

The shifter threatened him on the other side of the counter. "Nowhere to go now, boy. Maybe if you hand over the paper I'll settle for breaking one limb instead of two."

James ignored him, focused solely on whatever was inside his satchel bag. He steadied his breathing, calmed his mind, and prayed multiple times. The thug stepped forward. James' hand stopped short when it felt a rubber substance. The thug cracked his knuckles, and grinned like he had just been given the moon on a silver platter.

He leaned over the counter slowly, a moment before he'd see James. "So how is this going to go. You want me to break your legs or your arms first?"

"Depends on how fast you are," James replied.

"Huh, what's that mean—" The thug peered over the counter and came face to face with a prone, grinning James. His sudden answer came in the form of a small rubber bouncy ball smashing between his eyes. His head shot backwards and James winced as the man fell back with a crash. With a final, long-winded groan, it went quiet on the other side.

"A bouncy ball!" The last thug had finally spoken up, his voice nasal. "Y-You knocked him out with a flimsy toy?!"

"I think his head colliding with a chair or table sealed the deal, but yeah, I did," James replied behind the counter, half surprised his little idea had resulted in such a favourable outcome. 'Looks like the last guy and I share the same ethereal category, [Projectile], though he uses cards and I use balls. This will be interesting...'

James gulped at the information he had gathered. Picking himself up into a crouch, he stuck like glue behind the counter and racked his head for more ideas. 'He can flush me out just by bombarding my hideout with those wind blasts. Damn, this guy must be hiding close by too. He knows he's got the advantage, since I don't know where he is.'

Sighing, James slumped against the counter and decided to take a short breather. The deadlock wasn't going to solve itself, and his opponent seemed too weary to make the first move. So long as the thug doubted his advantage, James could buy more time. However, in the end, James needed to 'see' where his opponent was before he could do anything super risky. Even if he could try and talk with the thug to get a rough estimate of his location, he had no balls in his satchel bag that could explode or create smoke screens. All he brought with him were a few bouncy balls, a couple of tennis balls and a packet of glass marbles. He had also took with him a torch and an aerosol can, along with a lighter, but they wouldn't prove useful in this situation.

'I'm all out of ideas... do I just wing it and hope for the best?'

He grimaced at the thought until something moved in the corner of his eye. He turned and saw his image staring back by one of the display windows in front of a shoddy antiques store. It also reflected the tables and chairs on the other side, along with the unconscious thug napping awkwardly over a chair while the cautious thug hid behind a table on the opposite end. Behind him, was a third figure creeping towards the scene.

'A woman?'

What fascinated James the most about her was the stylish trench coat she wore, a completely white design that covered most of her body till her upper thighs, mixing well with her complexion. Her long mane of light brunette hair was tied up in a simple ponytail, and her eyes shared the same enchanting hue. She was also blessed with some... sizeable 'assets'. James couldn't help but notice them hidden under the trench coat. 'Wow, uh... yeah.'

Then he froze for a moment when she looked at the windows. It felt like she stared straight at him, and he gulped on instinct. 'A woman's intuition is the scariest thing, I swear.'

She put a finger to her lips in a sort of 'hush' motion, and flashed a friendly smile. Was she here to help him out?

"Y-You move an inch and I'll blow you into next Tuesday!" The remaining thug shouted, unaware of the woman creeping up behind him. "I mean it!- I really will!"

"How convincing." James rolled his eyes, but kept the conversation going. Keeping him distracted would help the woman out, and he decided to wing his words. "By the way, before you go and shoot me forward in time, I have a question for you."

"W-What?"

"What's your favourite boob size?" James realised too late what he had said, and facepalmed in epic regret. 'So much for smooth one-liners, dumbass.'

The thug almost reeled back in shock. "My favourite boob size? W-What, are you that desperate to live you'd ask stupid stuff like that to stall for time?"

'Well, can't have regrets now.' "I guess so? Humour me before I do something dumb."

"N-No way, that's just stupid!"

Of course, an expected reaction. James shrugged.

Fortunately, the guy seemed blissfully ignorant of the woman ready to pounce. "E-Enough of this, eat wind bitc—"

The sentence ended in a loud grunt. The woman made her move, jumping on the struggling thug and coiling her arms and legs around him so he couldn't move his limbs. She wrapped her arms around his head, initiated a sleeper hold, and didn't let go. Even though it seemed hopeless, the guy writhed with all his might. But in the end, he felt consciousness soon leave him in favour of darkness, and went limp in her grasp.

Impressed by her speed and precision, James gazed at the scene in silent awe. There was no doubt in his mind that she was an experienced individual in fights. He sincerely hoped that she hadn't taken out the other guy in order to turn him into a permanent cripple without any interruptions.

James decided to ask. "Uh, just so we're on the same page, you're not here to put me in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, right?"

He watched the woman gently put the thug down before standing up. Dusting herself off, she then placed a hand on her hip and another on her ear. "My name is Parcell Chimes. I work for the National Ethereal Security Association, and right now we should be whoosh whooshing out of here."

The 'whoosh whooshing' terminology made James blink a couple of times before he understood what she meant. "Huh, run? Why?"

"A contracted mercenary who goes by the alias Mr. Smiles is out for your head, and my partner just informed me that she saw him in the upper levels." Her lips went into a thin line. "He's been known not to miss with his red pew pew gun."

Funky way of speech aside, he understood by a glance that she was not joking. "Okay then, lead the way. By the way, I'm—"

"Mr. James Liber. Twenty years old, male, with a good level of intellect. Likes computers and revels in life threatening situations. Occupation, exceptional junior treasure hunter of three years under the jurisdiction of the Worldwide Artefact Hunter Association, abbreviated as WAHA. Known to react best under extreme pressure and tries his best to come up with mediocre one liners. Also, 'He may have possible incestuous feelings toward his sister, teehee~', as quoted by a-"

"You don't need to tell me who told you that last bit," James deadpanned. "I swear, one day karma will bite that woman in the ass."

Parcell shrugged with a smile. "It's my job now to get you out of the choo choo station safely. Will you cooperate?"

James grinned and jumped over the counter. "I already told you to lead the way, didn't I?"

"You did." Parcell nodded, and James caught her glancing at his pants with an awkward look.

Following her gaze, James looked down and noticed a rather well placed wet patch on the groin area of his pants. 'Ah, the coffee from earlier—'

"—Gah, I didn't pee my pants, I swear!"

Parcell simply put a hand over her mouth and giggled to herself. "It seems you also do amazing first impressions... pffft—"

James almost felt the need to smash his head against a brick wall. Maybe he should have taken that thug's offer to kill him after all...


A/N: Please don't kill papa for being so late, Senti. qwq

Special thanks to Jax Creation for giving my third grade stuff a look over. Appreciate it a lot. -w-b

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