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Roses of Revenge

Chapter Text

"Tsch... the daughter of the leader is this weak?"

"Who said you won?"

"Ah, there we go. The great Yukina hasn't given up yet." A taunting chuckle rang through the air, "Ready to show me your true power?"

Yukina growled as she pushed herself back onto her feet. There were a lot of people watching them. It wasn't every day you saw a fight like this. Two kids of powerful leaders fighting.

There were a lot of demons watching them fight. It wasn't every day they could see this. They didn't want to miss this opportunity. They also wanted to see just how strong they both were.

Why were they fighting? They were meant to date to bring the groups together. However, Yukina refused. This aggravated the boy enough to challenge her to a fight.

Seconds later, they clashed again. Yukina wasn't as strong as others thought. She pretended for the sake of her family. It came back to bite her. She regretted agreeing to lie. It had just caused her nonstop problems.

She was supposed to be strong like the rest of her family, but she would often ditch her training to do other things. Her family didn't know. They thought she attended all her lessons. It wasn't like her teacher would saw otherwise. They'd be blamed for not forcing her to show up.

The boy landed a hard blow. A crack sounded through the area. Something fell to the ground. On closer inspection, it was half of Yukina's horn. He had managed to break it.

Yukina growled and slashed at him. It left deep claw marks in his chest. He growled in pain and returned the attack. It sent Yukina flying back into a wall. She coughed up blood. Her body was at its limit. She couldn't move.

That wasn't good for her. He was going to win. She would disappoint her family. They had so many expectations for her and she wasn't meeting any of them. Yukina wondered if they were watching. Would they still be after seeing how weak she was compared to her opponent?

"I still expected better from you." The boy scoffed as he walked closer to her.

"Leave her alone!" Someone ran into his path.

"Lisa..."

"This fight is over." Lisa stated, keeping herself in between the two.

"This was a fight to the death. It is not over. Now move." The boy growled in displeasure.

"I won't move. If you want to kill her, you'll have to beat me." Lisa stood her ground.

"Fine then. Let's fight."

The two ran at each other. Lisa feigned being weak. She knew what she needed to do. Once he lowered his guard, she'd strike with everything she had. She wasn't going to let him kill Yukina.

Lisa had swore to always be by her side. This was no different. Even if this wasn't the most moral thing to do, she was going to so it. Yukina meant a lot to her. She couldn't just sit back and let her die. That would hurt her a lot. She couldn't lose the one friend she had.

"Why would a weakling challenge me?" The boy spat.

"Oh? You think I'm weak? Hate to tell you, but I'm actually considered stronger than Yukina." Lisa smirked as she went in for a strong blow.

His eyes shot open in surprise. He had no time to retaliate before Lisa was upon him again. Lisa didn't want to kill him, but that was the rule of this fight. The winner was whoever was still alive.

She struck a finishing blow. The boy fell over, dead. Lisa was panting as she walked back over to Yukina. Yukina stared at her. She was slightly confused, but concern was more evident on her face.

"That was my fight, not yours." Yukina said.

"I wasn't going to just stand back and let him kill you." Lisa replied as she helped Yukina to her feet, "Think you can walk a bit?"

Yukina nodded. Lisa glanced around at all the spectators. Most gave her a disapproving look. She knew what she had done wasn't right. You didn't interfere in a fight. But, she didn't care. Yukina was alive. That was all that mattered to her.

Lisa helped Yukina walk to her house. She sat her down on the couch. Yukina sighed as Lisa started tending to her wounds. Lisa didn't notice the sigh and continued to work away. She was glad that she had won. But, she also was a little worried how the other demons would react to her. She had broken a major rule, after all.

"Lisa, you've made an enemy of yourself." Yukina said.

"So be it. We promised we'd always be there for each other. I'm not breaking that promise." Lisa shrugged.

"What if you're exiled for it? Then what?" Yukina asked.

"You'd run away with me, wouldn't you? Like we always dreamed of." Lisa said.

Neither could say any more. The door slammed open to the house, causing both of them to jump. Yukina gulped. Her dad was here. He looked absolutely pissed. It wasn't like she was expecting any other reaction. What had happened was bad.

"Imai. I let you stay because you were valuable. But this behavior is unacceptable. I want you out by dawn." He growled, "And you, Yukina, I'm disappointed. You lost so easily. You've ruined our name. You get out too. Both of you aren't welcome here any longer."

Lisa couldn't believe what she heard. She expected her punishment, but Yukina? She didn't think that would ever happen. Lisa was going to protest, but Yukina grabbed her arm and shook her head.

Lisa frowned. Yukina didn't want to even try and fight back. She was just willing to accept the fate given to her. Lisa backed down. She decided it was best to just give in to the punishment than to fight it.

"Good. You should know better than to fight my word." It was obvious Yukina's father saw that Lisa wanted to fight back.

Lisa just glared at him. He growled at her and then left the house. Lisa sighed. This wasn't good. Yukina was injured. How would they get anywhere?

This wasn't going to be very easy. Leaving town now was dangerous. Lisa would have to support Yukina. If they got attacked, she didn't know what would happen. This could end in a disaster if they messed up.

"I suppose we should go." Yukina shakily stood up.

"But you're injured!" Lisa protested as she quickly grabbed Yukina to support her.

"I'll be fine. I've been through worse." Yukina replied, though she gritted her teeth. She wasn't able to hide her pain.

"You just rest for now. I'll go pack up our stuff." Lisa stated as she eased Yukina back down into the seat.

"Fine." Yukina agreed. She didn't want to admit just how much she hurt. She was too prideful to admit it.

You weren't supposed to show weakness as demon. That made you seem lower. Demons would look down on those who weren't afraid to admit they were hurting. Yukina did not want that. She still wanted to try and retain some of her dignity. That was all she really had left at the moment.

"Just yell if you need me." Lisa said.

She walked up to their bedroom. Lisa sighed as she grabbed a suitcase. They had been through a lot in this house. Lisa couldn't help but remember everything that they had gone through. And now they were leaving it all behind for good. She knew they'd never return. They would be killed on the spot if they tried.

Lisa focused on her task at hand. She needed to pack the essentials and get moving. They shouldn't linger around this group for too much longer. Who knew what fate could await them if they did.

Lisa finished packing what she could and came back down. Yukina stood up again. Lisa didn't think she looked very sturdy on her feet. This was going to be a tough journey. They needed to find a place to call their own. That could be miles away.

"Lean on me for support." Lisa ordered. She was not about to trust Yukina to walk by herself.

Yukina didn't argue and grabbed Lisa's arm. They two of them slowly made their way out of the camp. It was quite big. They got a lot of glares from other demons as they walked. Most were aimed at Lisa. Lisa kept a straight face as they walked. She wasn't going to cower to them.

She had won the fight. Sure, he may have been weakened slightly, but it was still a thought fight. She won fair and square. It just wasn't supposed to be her fight.

Eventually, they reached the end of their territory. Now things were even more dangerous. This was free land. Anyone could be here. Anyone could be waiting to attack. Lisa was on constant guard.

Yukina wasn't in any condition to fight. Lisa was the only one who could. But, she couldn't handle more than one demon. How would she be able to fight and defend Yukina at the same time? That was too much to do at once. Especially with demons out here. They were very cunning.

"Lisa? What are we going to do?" Yukina asked, "Just the two of us isn't ideal."

"For now it'll have to be." Lisa replied, "Once you recover we can consider our next options."

"I want to make a group." Yukina stated.

Lisa paused in her step, "Huh?"

"I want to create a group to fight back against the current rule." Yukina repeated, "That's always been my plan."

"May I ask why you want to do that?" Lisa didn't quite understand why that was her goal.

"I'm sick of how the groups run. Why should I be forced to date someone when I don't want to?" Yukina said, "And rankings. Hate them with a passion."

"Oh yeah... is my marking gone? Yours is." Lisa felt at her cheek where the group symbol should be.

Yukina nodded, "We no longer belong to the group."

"What symbol do you want for the group?" Lisa asked.

Yukina drew the symbol on the ground, "It's a simple marking. But, sometimes simple things are best."

"Well, let's keep moving before someone finds us." Lisa said.

...

After two hours of walking, they were ready to collapse. Lisa managed to find an abandoned house for them. It was decaying and very airy, but it was shelter. Lisa helped Yukina onto an old chair.

They both looked around. The house was still mainly intact. It seemed sturdy enough. They wouldn't be staying long if it wasn't. They didn't want an entire house caving in on them. The house was something they could probably work with. It just needed a lot of work.

"Lisa, let's make this our base. I'm sure we can fix it up." Yukina said.

"Very well. I'll follow wherever you go." Lisa nodded.

Yukina winced slightly as she felt a stab on her cheek. She brought her hand up and felt around.

"The symbol you made... it's appearing." Lisa whispered.

"How does it look?" Yukina asked once the pain vanished.

"Why do you have three?" Lisa was confused. Normally the symbol changed colors depending on ranking. It appeared as though that wasn't what Yukina had in mind.

"Three means leader. Two means co-leader. One means regular member. That's what I want the markings to mean." Yukina explained.

"What about traitors?" Lisa questioned.

"Traitors... I don't think that'll be a worry for us for a while." Yukina shrugged.

"Very well. You rest. I'll see about fixing some of these drafts." Lisa said.

"Wait. Let me make you an official member." Yukina called her back.

Lisa nodded and knelt down so Yukina could reach her face. Yukina very carefully cut open Lisa's cheek. It healed within seconds and the marking symbols appeared. Lisa was given two.

"There." Yukina nodded once it was done.

"Any idea what we'll call our group?" Lisa asked as she stood up.

"Roselia."

Chapter Text

"I'm not weak!" Ako yelled at her opponent.

"Oh? Then how come you haven't managed to land a single blow but I've almost defeated you already?" Her opponent taunted.

Ako growled. She charged at her opponent. He easily dodged her. He landed a swipe at her ear. Ako yelped in pain as her ear was sliced open. Blood dribbled down her neck.

"Weak. You should've let your sister fight for you. Oh wait. She left you all alone for those friends of hers." He spat, "What a traitor."

"Don't talk about her like that!" Ako yelled as she charged again.

She missed again. He tripped her and she went falling into the dirt. Her opponent laughed.

"I think I've won." He stated, "Don't ever try and fight me again. Next time I'll kill you."

Ako pushed herself to her feet. She bit back tears. Why was she so weak? She had to be strong. She had to be. Otherwise no one would ever treat her with respect.

Ako ran away. She lost the fight. Again. No matter what she did, she always lost. Ako had tears streaming down her face as she locked herself in her room. She threw herself onto her bed.

After a few minutes, she got up and went to clean her ear. It was still slightly bleeding. She winced in pain as she cleaned it off with a wet towel. Once she was satisfied, Ako put a bit of medicine on it. She placed a bandage and gauze on it.

Ako went back to her room. She sighed as she plopped down onto her bed. She hated this. Life was unfair. Why was she so weak? Why wasn't she strong like everyone else? Ako wished she knew.

It wasn't like weakness ran in her family. Everyone else was fearsome. Everyone else was strong. And yet there Ako was. Couldn't handle a simple fight. She didn't know why.

"Onee-chan... Why'd you go? I need you here..." Ako whispered.

Ako stayed in her bed for a long time. She couldn't stop thinking about her failure. Whenever she lost a fight, she'd mull over it for ages. Ako hated showing her face after a loss. It was always hard. Everyone knew about it by now.

Ako sighed. She buried her face into her pillow. She groaned. Why couldn't she just be normal? As much as she constantly went on about wanting to be cool, she'd settle for just being normal. At least then people would actually talk to her.

Rarely anyone in her group said a word to her. Ako knew why. No one wanted to associate with a family that had a traitor in it. Ako hated that they called her that. She wasn't a traitor. Tomoe would never do that. She just... did what was best for her. Right?

Now that Ako thought about it, maybe they were right. She had always wanted to believe in her sister. To believe that she was capable of only doing right. But now, in her despair, she started to consider that maybe everyone had been telling the truth.

Was Tomoe a traitor? Sure, she did abandon her group. But, Ako could understand why. Tomoe always wanted to be with her friends. She'd do anything to protect them. And she left with them when one was kicked out.

"Maybe I should leave too?" Ako whispered, "Maybe then they'll see I'm not weak. If I can survive on my own... then I can prove to them in strong."

Ako stood up. She had decided. She would run away from the group. It wasn't like she was wanted anyway. Why would they care if she just got up and vanished one day. It wasn't their problem.

Ako knew very well that no one would come looking for her. They'd all just lie and say that maybe she was taken. Or they would just assume she was dead. Ako sighed. She wished she would be taken.

Groups would sometimes to that. They'd steal members to weaken their enemy. Ako realized she'd never be a target. She was too weak. But, why didn't Tomoe come get her? Why couldn't she have run away with them?

Ako refused to believe that Tomoe hated her. Unless she heard those words from her, she'd continue to believe that she was loved. Ako tried her best to come up with as many excuses as she could as to why Tomoe didn't allow her to come.

But, it didn't change the fact she was still here. That she wasn't with them. It hurt her. She had always looked up to Tomeo so much. And yet, she had been left alone. Her parents were dead. Had been for a while. It had only been the two of them. And now it was just her.

Ako grabbed a bag and packed up a few things. She glanced around. The sun was coming up. Everyone would soon go to bed. She'd wait until the sun was farther up and then she'd leave. Demons didn't like the sun. They'd never come out during it.

Ako waited for an hour. She looked outside again. Not a demon in sight. Now was her chance. She knew a secret way out. No one seemed to know about it but her. That was perfect for now. No one would see her leave. Not that they'd probably care at all.

Ako quietly left her house. She looked at it one last time, before she started walking. She found the hidden path and headed down it. Ako remained on high alert. There was always a chance that someone would see her.

Thankfully, she made it to the end without any issues. Ako nervously stepped into the forest. She started walking in one direction. Eventually she'd have to find something, right? That was what Ako hoped. She'd need shelter. That much she knew.

Ako soon exited her ex-group's territory. She became increasingly nervous with every step. Who knew what could lurk out here. Ako jumped at every noise. Anything she saw out of the corner of her eyes spooked her. She hoped she'd find a place soon. This area gave her the creeps.

"Oh. Would you look at that?"

"Seems like a little demon got lost."

Ako froze. Two demons were here. They found her. Ako didn't recognize anything about them. They looked unfamiliar, they smelled weird, their voices weren't ones she knew. Ako nervously looked at them. They definitely were not something she wanted to fight with.

"U-um..." Ako didn't know what to say. She didn't think they'd let her go without anything happening.

"You know, I'd think you'd make a great game. Shall we play?" One of them teased, "Run and we'll chase. If you elude us, you win. If not, we'll kill you. But not before having more fun. You have a nice body, after all. I'm sure it's not been spoiled yet."

Ako gulped. She took off running. She heard them run after her. Ako was terrified. She had to escape them. But how? They knew this forest. She didn't. She was at a heavy disadvantage. There was only so much she could do.

Ako kept running. The fear kept her moving. She could hear them close by. She wasn't putting any distance between them. That wasn't a good sign. She needed to get farther away so she could hide. But where?

She'd needed a way to hide her scent. That was going to be difficult. She'd have to find something that smelled. Ako kept her senses on high alert for anything like that.

She made a mistake. She had miscalculated a jump and ended up sprawled across the forest floor. Ako was pinned down before she had time to even think about getting up.

"Looks like we won."

Ako felt tears running down her face as she was roughly grabbed and shoved against a tree. The two demons eyed her hungrily. Ako whimpered as one of them drew closer. He ripped her clothes off. Ako weakly tried to cover herself.

"Get away from her!"

"Oh. The mysterious duo has arrived. Don't like us claiming our prize?" The two demons glared at the two covered figures that stepped into view.

"She is a child. We will not allow it."

They fought. They won surprisingly fast. The two demons growled as they sauntered away in defeat. Ako nervously looked at the two demons who had saved her.

"Come. Let's get you some clothes." The shorter of the two held out a hand to Ako.

"O-okay." Ako shakily took it.

They walked deep into the woods. They came to a base. The shorter demon vanished into a room. Ako guessed it was to get her clothes.

"Are you hurt, darling?" The other demon asked.

"J-just some scratches..." Ako mumbled.

"Come sit. I'll make you a drink while we wait." The demon invited.

Ako nodded. She was led to a living room looking area. She sat on the couch. The demon wrapped her in a blanket and then vanished into another room. Ako took the time to look around. Their base was pretty bland, as she expected. But, it felt homely.

"Here. These should fit well enough." The first demon returned with clothes.

"T-thank you, u-um..." Ako wasn't sure what to address the demon with.

"I'm afraid I can't give you my name." The demon replied, "You can call me M for now."

"Okay. What about-"

"Her? Ah... she keeps changing her alias. I'm not quite sure what she goes by now." M sighed.

"Oh."

The unnamed demon came back with a cup of water. She handed it to Ako. Ako thanked her and drank. She trusted them. They seemed to just genuinely want to help her out.

"What do you want her to call you?" M asked.

"Ah. I suppose just call me K." The demon shrugged.

Ako wondered what the letters meant. If anything. They could just be random letters they used.

"Um... what's gonna happen with me now? Are you gonna take me back home?" Ako frowned at the thought.

"You don't want to return home?" K asked.

Ako shook her head, "They hate me... cause my sister ran away with her friends... called her a traitor and they think I'll be one too."

"I see. Well, you can stay for a while. Afterwards, we'll show you to a safer place than the unclaimed woods." M said.

"Thank you! You guys are really nice. Um... who exactly are you, though? What do you do?"

"We are rebels. We want to take down the organization. We don't approve of their laws." M stated.

"Oh. That sounds like a lot of work." Ako commented.

"Indeed it is." They both nodded.

"Well, good luck with that task." Ako smiled.

"Thank you. Would you like to rest? I can show you to a spare room?" K asked.

Ako nodded. K led her to an empty room. There was a bed in it and that was it. Ako thanked her and then laid down. She was exhausted. All that running had taken it out of her.

She curled up on the bed and drifted off. At least she was safe for now. But, would that last?

Chapter Text

"O-onee-chan? W-what are you doing?"

A growl was made as the response.

"P-please? Stop this!"

"Sick... you..." Only a few words could be made out.

"Onee-chan?"

"Ruined... everything..."

"Stop this. This isn't like you."

They didn't stop.

This situation had only happened minutes ago. They were in a dark alley. No one was around. It was only them. No one would be able to stop them. No one could fix this situation. Not that most would interfere with it anyway. You don't get in the way of demons fighting. It will not end well for you.

There were two figures in the alley. One glance and it was obvious they were related in some way. One had the other pinned against a wall. They couldn't break free. Not unless they wanted to hurt the other. And, that wasn't something they wanted to do.

"Sayo, please... you're scaring me." A choked sob came out of the cornered one.

"Why did you have to open your goddamn mouth? Everything would've been fine if you didn't say anything!" Sayo roughly slammed her into the wall, "You were supposed to never mention who we are. Now look where you got us, Hina. We're monsters to them. They'll be on your tail in minutes! And then while knows how long before they'll be on mine. You idiot!"

"I'm sorry, onee-chan." Hina tried to muffle her sobs, "I didn't mean to."

"That doesn't matter. You realize how badly this will effect us? They'll hunt us down and force us to work for them or until they kill us trying." Sayo growled.

"But... but why?"

"Because of mom and dad, you idiot!" Sayo slammed her into the wall again, "They worked for them. But they gave us away so we wouldn't be subject to the same fate."

"I'm sorry..."

Sayo growled as she got in Hina's face, "You'll be more than sorry when I'm done with you."

The threat scared Hina. She lashed out in fear. Sayo yelped as Hina clawed her eye. Sayo backed away as she held her eye with her hands. Hina froze up. She couldn't believe she had just done that. She stared between Sayo and her now bloody hand. She wished it was a dream. She didn't ever want to hurt Sayo. Never in her life would she want something like this to happen.

"Onee-chan, I'm... I'm so sorry! I didn't-"

"Get lost! I'm done with you!" Sayo yelled, before she ran off.

Hina quickly gave chase. She didn't want to be all alone. Sayo was faster than her. Hina lost sight of her just at the edge of town. She frowned. Sayo was gone. There was no way she'd fine her in those woods. There were too many places for her to hide. It was useless.

"Onee-chan... I'm sorry..."

Hina stared at the woods for a while. She was hoping that maybe Sayo would come back for her. It didn't seem likely, though. Sayo seemed really mad. Maybe she hated her now? That thought hurt. Hina wanted nothing like that. She always looked up to Sayo. She loved her. She thought Sayo loved her back too. Did she just ruin it all?

"Hina, correct?"

Hina jumped. She turned around. One of the organization's workers had found her. Hina nervously nodded. She didn't think running would do much good for her. She knew they would be able to find her. It couldn't be just luck that they had found her here in a remote part of the town.

"You'll be coming with me. We'll head to the capital for you to start work. You don't have a say, by the way. It's the law, so you have to come or I'll throw you in jail."

"O-okay." Hina agreed.

She hoped that maybe she could do something by joining them. She wanted to figure out why her mom and dad gave them away. Sayo wouldn't tell her even though it was obvious she knew something about it. What was the big secret around the organization?

Hina hoped Sayo would be okay. She hadn't given away her name or anything, so she wouldn't be hunted down. That made her feel a little better. At least no one knew there were two of them. But, then again... they did look similar. It wouldn't take too much for someone to piece it together that they were related at the very least.

...

Sayo kept running until she found herself at a small lake. She looked at her reflection. Blood started dripping into the water from her scratch. Sayo hissed in pain. Hina had really gotten her good. Thankfully, it didn't seem like she would lose her eye or anything. That was a small relief.

Sayo knew had to find something to treat her wound with. But, what was there? She couldn't go back to the town. That was way too dangerous. Those workers would be around. They might spot her and try questioning her.

She had some money on her. If she could find another open town, she could probably find something. But, towns that were open to all demons were rare. Most only allowed those in the town's main group in.

Sayo had no choice but to set out. Sure, the scratch would heal eventually, but it was annoying. She needed to be on high alert. She could no longer go home. Sayo was now a rogue demon. One that hopped from town to town, barely surviving.

It wasn't a life she wanted by any means, but she had no choice. She may not have been identified by the organization yet, but who knew if that would last. Sayo sighed. She wondered what Hina was doing. Was she still searching for her?

Sayo just hoped she had enough sense to ditch town. The servants of the leaders would be there looking for her. And if they found her, who is to say they wouldn't learn about Sayo. Sayo knew Hina was pretty nimble and smart, when she wanted to be. Hopefully she was safe.

Sayo started heading in a random direction. She had no real plan. She was just going to walk until she hopefully found a town. There were quite a few around this area. Hopefully she'd stumble across one that she could enter.

Sayo was cautious as she walked. This area she was in was unclaimed. Who knew who could be out here. But, that wasn't the only problem. These towns had curfews. Anyone out past them would be jailed for disobeying the rules. Sayo definitely did not need to end up in jail.

She knew curfew was soon. The sun was starting to come up. Demons around here weren't allowed doubt in the day. Why? No one was alive to answer that. Those who saw the truths were killed in jail. It was always said to be accidental, but Sayo knew the truth. It wasn't. They were hiding something.

She was lucky no one had caught on to her investigations. She researched these deaths to see if there was anything strange. They all died the same way, and they were all jailed for the same reason. Sayo soon pieced together they were being silenced because they knew too much.

Sayo came upon a town. She had hopefully enough time to heal her eye. She looked around. It seemed like the town was welcoming of any demon. But, no one was out. Sayo wasn't going to risk it. Curfew wasn't enacted yet, right? Was her timing off?

"Well, looks like it's time."

"Yep."

Sayo hid behind a tree as two demons came out. They were wearing uniforms. Sayo didn't recognize them. She didn't doubt the organization was in charge of them, though. It made the most sense. So, what were they doing?

"Who are we taking today?"

"This house. The man here seems good. We can hopefully test on him for months before his body gives out."

Sayo gulped. What? They took demons and tested on them? What were these tests? And why did they have to do them? What was the organization planning to do? Was the demon alive or dead during these tests? Sayo had so many questions swimming in her head.

"Hey, the radar is picking up life. Someone is out past curfew."

"Get them."

Sayo booked it. She heard someone chasing her. Sayo was panicking. Where was she supposed to go? Ha had a radar that could sense her. Unless she was inside, it would pick her up. What was she going to do?

"You can't escape!"

Sayo picked up the pace. She needed to gain more distance between them. Hopefully it would give her enough time to figure out a plan. What she didn't plan for, was him having a weapon. He started shooting at her.

Sayo wasn't sure what type of bullets they were and she sure as hell did not want to find out. They might kill her or they might paralyze her. Neither was ideal. She needed to get somewhere safe. If she could survive, she could tell people the truth. Maybe they could finally rebel? Sayo didn't have time to be thinking these things right now. First, she needed to escape this crazy demon on her tail.

He kept shooting. Sayo was barely dodging them. She skidding to a halt. There was a giant lake in her way. She looked behind her. He wasn't far behind. Sayo quickly took to the sky and tried to fly over the lake.

Bullets whizzed past her. He didn't fly up. Sayo realized his wings were clipped. He couldn't fly. She would have time to ponder that later. She needed to get across and out of firing range.

She was halfway across when a bullet hit her. It went through her left wing. Sayo faltered and started falling. She tried to pull herself back up, but more bullets hit her. She fell into the lake. She desperately scrambled to the surface.

She was struggling to stay afloat. The current was strong. Sayo gasped for air as she desperately swam toward the bank. She was weakening fast. The current kept pulling her away. Bullets were still being fired at her.

"Just die already!"

Sayo got one last gasp of air, before she was violently thrown under by a wave. She hit the bottom and everything slowly went black. As her vision faded, she saw a lot of blood coming off of her. And it wasn't from her eye. Her head had struck a rock.

She was unable to get back to the surface. Her body was too tired to fight the current. Her breath slowly ran out and she passed out.

...

Sayo groaned as she weakly opened her eyes. Her stomach lurched and she started coughing. Lake water spewed from her mouth. She gasped for air. Sayo managed to sit up. She looked around.

She had no idea where she was. But, she was alive and away from that demon. Sayo stumbled to her feet. She felt exhausted and weak. As much as she would've loved to just lay down and rest more, she needed to get moving.

She didn't know where she was. What if this was unfriendly territory? She could be in unclaimed land or in a demon group's territory. Both weren't good placed to be.

Sayo stumbled as she started walking. Her legs ached. She could barely stand. She spotted a large stick on the ground. Sayo picked it up and used it to aid her. She shivered in the cold. Her body was frozen.

Sayo couldn't rest. Not like this. She might die if she let herself sleep. She needed to get warmed up somehow. That was going to be tough. She slowly made her way down a path she found. Was it a good idea to use this path? She wasn't sure.

Hopefully no one would find her. She just needed to find a place to rest. That couldn't be too hard, could it? Sayo tried to remain hopeful, but she really doubted she'd find somewhere to go.

Sayo had no idea how long she had been walking for. She had to rest soon. Her body would hold up for much longer. Sayo found a shack. She did a quick look around. It looked like an old fisherman's house. It was abandoned and decaying, but it was something.

Sayo gathered up some wood and stones and started a small fire. She stripped and hung her clothes up. She found an old worn out blanket and placed it on the ground so she wouldn't be sitting on the broken wood.

Sayo tried to warm herself up as fast as she could. She laid down and closed her eyes. Hopefully she was safe here. She just needed to rest for a little. Then she'd try and find a better place to live.

...

Sayo woke up later. She wasn't sure how much time had passed. The fire had died at some point. Sayo stood up and went to check her clothes. They were mainly dry. She sighed and put them on. They'd have to do even if they were a little damp.

Sayo left the house and continued down the path. She needed to get moving. This house was nice and all, but with it being on a path, she didn't trust it. She needed to find a more remote location. Somewhere that was hard to find unless you knew what you were looking for.

Sayo had no idea how long she ended up walking for. She came to a mountain. There was a giant cut in it. They path led into it. Sayo guessed there was a town in there. She wasn't going anywhere near that town. If it was protected by mountains, she guessed they weren't very friendly.

Sayo strayed off the path and started walking around the mountain. Maybe it had a cave somewhere? That might make a good hideout for now. Though, she'd have to sneak into the town when she wanted food and stuff. Sayo decided to worry about that later.

She still wasn't feeling too great. Her eye stung where the scratch was and her wings ached from the bullets. She was in pain. Sayo gritted her teeth as she saw a cave. She'd need to fly up to it. Hopefully her wings were well enough to do that.

Sayo took a deep breath and took to the sky. Her wings ached as she flew. Thankfully, the cave wasn't too high up. She made it pretty easily. Her wings hurt a lot, though. She couldn't strain them too much or she might not have wings for too much longer.

Sayo looked around the cave. It seemed to have never been inhabited. Or, at the very least, it hasn't been lived in for a long time. Sayo found no traces of life and everything was covered in cobwebs. She decided to take shelter in the cave until she was well enough to move on. She didn't like this town. It was dangerous to remain here for long.

Sayo sighed as she sat down. Things were not going to be easy anymore. She had to survive on her own. There was no easy access to anything. She'd need to steal things. That wasn't something she wanted to do. It felt wrong. But, she had no choice unless she wanted to live.

"Hina... wherever you are... please stay safe..."

Sayo couldn't help but be worried about Hina. Even if she was still mad that Hina attacked her, she couldn't bring herself to hate her. Sayo sighed. It felt so lonely without her. She was so used to Hina's constant hyperness and now she didn't have it. It felt like a part of her was missing.

There was nothing she could do. She couldn't go searching for her. It was too risky. And, she still had no clue where exactly she was. Where did the lake run to? She wasn't too sure. Sayo had only been to the lake once or twice in her life. She knew very little about where it lead to.

Sayo did her best to examine her wings. She wanted to see just how bad the damage was. It was a relief that she had been able to fly still. That meant they weren't too badly damaged. But, they were looking pretty rough.

Sayo sighed. Wings were the one thing you couldn't fix up. No one had quite figured it out yet. Or, maybe they did and just were keeping quiet. Now that Sayo thought about it, it made a lot of sense. That demon had his wings clipped.

The organization might not want them to be able to fly. Why? That wasn't something she knew. Sayo hoped one day she would learn the truth. Perhaps she could find out more info. Would it be wise, though? She'd have to sneak around and spy on the workers a lot. That was a death wish more than anything. But, Sayo wanted to learn the truth.

She was done with all these secrets. She just wanted things to come out. Sayo hated how secretive everything was. It was a surprise more suspicion hadn't been raised. Then again, she couldn't be the only one around that knew they eliminated anyone in their way. Perhaps there were others like her? That was all she could hope for.

If she could find a few others who knew the dirty truth, maybe they could work together and shed light on it? Was that reachable? She didn't know. Sayo hoped it was. It was her only chance of being permanently safe from being chased down. She would be wanted.

If they learned she hadn't drowned, she'd immediately be hunted down. Would she be killed on the spot if that happened? Sayo wasn't too sure. What if they wanted to experiment on her? That thought sent shivers down her spine. She had no wish to learn about those experiments the hard way. She'd rather be a spectator, not the one partaking in the experiment.

This was going to be an interesting time. Sayo had no idea what she was going to do. Where would she even start? Well, for now she was going to rest. She needed to be in a good condition. Being a rogue demon wasn't an easy life. Injury could mean death. If she couldn't get around well enough, she'd die.

Sayo definitely did not want to die. She had to live. She needed to finally uncover the truth. That was all she wanted. If she died trying, than so be it. At least it would be an honorable death. Unlike if she died of starvation or something like that.

Life was only going to get more interesting from here for her.

Chapter Text

A girl was quietly walking through a town. This town she had called her home for many years. However, it didn't really feel like a home to her anymore. As she was about to round a corner, she paused. There were demons talking. She didn't want to interrupt them.

"Why do we even bother with that girl?"

"I dunno. Boss just said she's important."

"That kid is important? She's a weakling and fucking crybaby! How the hell is she important! She's not even related to anyone here."

These conversation were, unfortunately, common. Everyone in the group tended to talk similar things. It hurt her to hear. There was nothing else about it. It just hurt so much to know the group no longer felt the need for her. She was simply someone they could just toss away once they had no need for her anymore. Well, that was how most of the members were treated.

This group had been kind enough to shelter her when she had nowhere to go. They helped her out. They taught her what she needed to know. But now? No one seemed to care about her anymore. She was old enough to take care of herself. But, that wasn't something she could do.

"What even is that girl's name? I don't think anyone really says it."

"I think it's Rinko."

"Ah. She's really quiet. I don't see why anyone would want her in a group. If we kick her out, she'll probably never get taken in."

"If we kick her out, she'll be dead before a day ends."

Laughter started up. Rinko bit back tears. No one liked her. She retreated away from where they were talking. She couldn't face them. There was no way she could.

Rinko retreated to her house. She went to her room and curled up on her bed. She hated living here, but what choice did she have? You couldn't leave. They'd hunt you down until they were certain you were dead if you did.

Rinko was deemed important. Only the leader knew why. Rinko hid the reason from everyone else in the group. What would they think of an outsider who was more important than them? Rinko never wanted to find out if she could help it.

The demons of this group were very competitive. If they saw Rinko as a threat, what would become of her? Especially when they saw her as a weakling who couldn't do anything for herself. Just how would they retaliate if they learned more about what she was actually capable of doing?

Rinko heard a knock on her door. She went and answered it. There were two demons that were the personal guards of the leader there. Rinko gulped nervously as she looked at them. What did they want from her?

"The boss has a simple request. Show your true self or leave. We won't tolerate this behavior any longer."

That was all they said, and then they left. Rinko quickly shut the door. She had a chance to leave. She quickly took it and ran to pack up her things. She could finally be free of this group. That was the best thing she could ever wish for. Now, she just somehow had to survive outside.

Rinko quickly left the town. No one stopped her. Most were happy she was leaving. Rinko kept her gaze down as she exited the town. She started running once out. She wanted to put as much distance between her and the group as possible.

You see, the group was basically just puppets for the organization. They did the dirty deeds. Rinko hated it. She never approved of the organization to begin with. Her parents had fallen victim to its harsh rules.

Rinko shook those thoughts out of her head. She didn't want to remember any of those. She was starting anew. This was her chance to be who she wanted to be. She didn't have to be confined to rules now.

But, she was going to find a new group to join if she could. It was suicide to not do so. In this age, you needed a group. Rinko wasn't an idiot. She knew that very well. So, she set out to see if she could find a group willing to accept an outsider.

That was going to be difficult. Rinko already knew that. Rarely did groups let outsiders join. The only ones that tended to were illegal groups. Groups that opposed the organization. Rinko was fine joining one of those, if they wouldn't make her fight.

She would gladly give them as much info as she could. She knew a lot, after all. But, now that she thought about it... that might make her a target instead. Would anyone trust her? No one was normally allowed to leave with this sort of information.

So, why was she? Because of her personality. They knew she would have a hard time approaching people. They were right. Rinko felt terrified at the thought of making a scene. But, she knew she had to. She couldn't survive alone.

...

Days had passed with no luck for Rinko. No group would accept her. She was still alone. Rinko had run into quite a few rogues. They tried to attack her, but she was able to run faster than them. Her bloodline was almost dead. She was the last of it. The last demon with better speed.

Rinko put it to good use. She traveled a lot farther than most demons could. But, it didn't make a difference. Nowhere she went would accept her. No one was willing to trust her enough.

Rinko found herself in a friendly town. She wasn't allowed to join, but at least she could get supplies. Rinko bought very basic things. She didn't have a whole lot of money on her. She needed to conserve it until she found a group. She didn't want to steal things.

Rinko was walking down a more desolate road. It was the only one that led to an exit in the direction she needed to go. Rinko didn't like how silent it was. She wished there were more demons around, as skittish as she was with big groups.

A hooded figure stepped into her path. Rinko gulped. She had no idea who this demon was. She just had a feeling they weren't going to be nice to her. Rinko looked them over. Whoever they were, they didn't look to be in the best condition. That made them all the more dangerous. The more desperate a demon was, the harder they would fight.

"Give me what you got or else I'll hurt you." The demon held out a knife as they got closer.

Rinko gulped. She started to slowly back away. This was a rogue demon. One willing to expose themselves in broad daylight, well nightlight. Rinko was about to run when the demon lunged at her. Rinko yelped as she was yanked back. She couldn't get free of their grip.

The demon got her pinned to the ground. Rinko was shaking in fear as she desperately tried anything to get free. She was afraid they were going to kill her. They very well had the opportunity to do so. Rinko didn't know if they would take it or not.

"You brought this on yourself. If you would've just handed over your bag, we wouldn't have had to do this." The demon growled as she sliced part of Riko's left wing open.

Rinko cried out in pain. She mustered up as much strength as she could and kicked the demon. The demon groaned in pain, but wasn't dislodged. Rinko desperately fought to get free. She was growing more panicked every second. She had no way to tell what this demon intended to do besides just rob her.

"Just give up. I've won." The demon ripped the bag Rinko had off of her.

"Give it back!" Rinko grabbed for it desperately.

"In your dreams." The demon mocked her.

Rinko clawed at the demon. It scratched the demon's stomach. The demon growled and retaliated by slamming Rinko into the ground. The demon's hood fell off. The demon had long teal hair.

Rinko didn't know her name. She had never seen her before. Sayo was the same. She didn't care who Rinko was. She just liked her because she was an easy target.

Rinko was left dazed. Sayo pulled away. She threw the bag around her shoulder and was about to leave. She had a slight change of heart. Rinko was laying there still. She wasn't aware enough of her surroundings to do anything.

Sayo sighed. She felt bad about what she did. She didn't want to have to steal. Sayo walked back to over to Rinko and pulled her to her feet. Rinko stumbled as Sayo led her into the woods.

Sayo set her down in a covered area and then left. Rinko was confused. Why had she done that? She had just attacked her. Why was she helping her get somewhere more secure? Rinko tried to stand up, but failed. She fell back to the ground and blacked out.

...

When Rinko woke up, she was now grateful for Sayo moving her. She had been safe from anyone finding her and possibly hurting her. Rinko managed to get back onto her feet. She sighed.

She had nothing now. No money. None of the supplies she had bought. Rinko was scared. What was she going to do now? Was there a chance she could track down Sayo? She doubted it. Sayo was probably long gone by now. And what good would it do her? Sayo was armed. She wouldn't win the fight.

Rinko had no choice but to set out and hope she could find a group soon. If not, she was as good as dead. Rinko winced in pain. Her body ached. Hopefully she could walk long enough to get to another town.

Rinko was in pain with every step she took. She gritted her teeth and tried to ignore it. She had to keep moving. She had no choice. Rinko slowly made her way to the next town over.

By sheer luck, she found some money on the ground as she entered the town. She didn't want to take it, but she needed it. Rinko used the money to get a small room in a hotel for a while. She needed time to rest and recuperate.

Rinko didn't know what to do. Where was she supposed to go? There weren't too many towns left in this area. The next ones were miles away. She didn't want to have to travel that far if she didn't have to.

Rinko curled up on the bed. She wanted to cry. She hates this. Why couldn't she have had a normal life. Why did the organization have to ruin everything?

They killed her parents. They killed them in cold blood. They had made a very small mistake and yet they had been killed. Rinko remembered that day vividly. She had been forced to watch as they were killed.

"Mom... dad... I miss you..." Rinko whispered, "Please... I need help... I don't know what to do..."

Her calls weren't answered. She knew they wouldn't be. Demons didn't die and become ghosts. Once they were dead, that was it. Her parents were gone. They weren't watching over her. They would never be around to comfort her again.

Rinko started crying as she realized just how lonely she was. She had no family left. She had no friends. It was just her in a world that hated her. Demons like her weren't respected. Weak demons had no place in society. That was always the way it had been.

Rinko squeezed her eyes shut tightly as she tried to block out the voices coming into her head. They kept telling her horrible things. Telling her how worthless she was. What a coward she was. That she'd be better off just dying.

"Please... show me what I'm supposed to do..."

Chapter Text

Yukina was walking through one of the few friendly towns around where her and Lisa had set up their base. She had been sent to fetch some supplies while Lisa was busy doing some repairs. Yukina was no help with the work, so Lisa tried to give her something to do.

Yukina was unsure what store to enter. Most of them had no signs stating what they sold inside. Yukina probably shouldn't have been trusted with this job either. Lisa was probably going to regret it when she came back.

Yukina decided to take a small detour down an alley. She walked down it. It wasn't a very big alley. It also wasn't very long. Yukina could already see the other side of it.

Yukina was halfway through it when someone jumped her from behind. Yukina growled as she roughly backed into the wall, effectively knocking her attacker's grip loose. Yukina got away from them and turned to face them. She wasn't running away. She wasn't a coward like that. She'd stand and fight this demon.

The attacker growled as they lunged at Yukina. Yukina blocked their attack and shoved them back. The demon fell to the ground. Yukina was on them and holding them down before they could do anything. The demon yelped in shock as they were easily taken down.

"Get off of me or you'll regret it." The demon growled.

Yukina didn't reply. She just tightened her grip. The demon flailed beneath her, trying to get free. They yelped in pain as they accidentally banged their wings into the ground.

Yukina glanced over. Their wings did look pretty rough. They still seemed sore. It wasn't a surprise a blow like that would hurt. Yukina felt a little bad about how rough she had been. She wasn't trying to maim them. She was just trying to get them off.

"Why did you attack me?" Yukina demanded.

"You should be able to guess." The demon spat, "I was trying to rob you."

"Why?"

"Like hell I'm telling you!" The demon started fighting against her grip again.

"You'll just hurt yourself more if you fight." Yukina stated.

"Then let me go."

"Not until you answer my question." Yukina stated.

The demon sighed, "Don't you know anything? I'm a rogue demon. I live on my own and steal to survive. How do you not know that?"

"I've never run into someone like you before." Yukina said as she slowly got off of the demon, "What's your name?"

The demon stared at her in surprise. Why was she asking? Was she going to turn her in?

"Why should I tell you?" The demon growled.

"I want you to join my group."

"Eh? What?" The demon wasn't sure she had heard her right.

"Me and a friend created a group. Our goal is to overthrow the organization. If you join us, you won't have to live like this anymore." Yukina reasoned.

"You... also wish to destroy them?"

"Oh. Is that a goal of yours as well?"

"Yes. I... I know some stuff..."

"Well, may I have your name now?" Yukina asked as she stood up.

"Sayo." The demon struggled to her feet as well.

"Welcome to Roselia, Sayo." Yukina held out a hand.

Sayo hesitantly took it. She had finally achieved part of her goal. She had found others like her. She had a place that she could belong now. But, would it really work out? Yukina had said it was only two of them. Three was nowhere near enough to win.

"Um... what shall we do?" Sayo asked.

"I'm supposed to pick some stuff up." Yukina replied, "Though, I'm not too sure where to look."

"What are you searching for?" Sayo questioned.

"I forget..."

"Well, I don't think you'll be finding it then." Sayo sighed.

"Then we can go back to our base." Yukina stated.

"Alright." Sayo agreed.

They made their way back. Lisa greeted them. She paused as she saw Sayo. She eyed her up.

"Lisa, this is Sayo. She will be joining us." Yukina introduced them.

"Oh. Alright. You didn't get anything, huh?" Lisa noticed they were empty handed.

"I forgot what you sent me to get." Yukina said.

"You really are hopeless. Well, I'll get it tomorrow then." Lisa replied.

"The markings you guys have... they're different." Sayo commented.

"Yes. They symbolize roles by number. Three is leader, two is second in command, and one is member. Shall I mark you?" Yukina said.

"Very well." Sayo agreed.

Yukina sliced open Sayo's cheek. Like before with Lisa, it healed almost immediately and the marking appeared. She also was given two. Yukina felt she would make a good commander of this group.

"I'd like to hear this information you know." Yukina stated next.

"Alright. Shall we sit?" Sayo asked.

Lisa joined them as well. She was curious as to what Sayo could know about the group. It wasn't often you got any information about what they were doing.

"Well... I'm in hiding from them. My parents were members but, they gave me away so I wouldn't be subject to the same fate." Sayo explained, "I was out past curfew one day and... I heard something."

"And what was it?"

"They randomly take demons to test on them. I don't know what the tests are, but that's what they do. They have radars that can pick up location if you aren't inside too. I got caught. I barely made it out. The demon... his wings were clipped. He couldn't fly." Sayo continued.

"Interesting. So, how'd you escape him?" Lisa asked.

"He shot me down into a lake. Thankfully, I washed ashore and didn't drown." Sayo replied, "I guess he just assumed I was dead."

"You're supposed to work for them? Because your parents did?" Yukina questioned.

Sayo nodded, "Yes. Once you're in, you're in. You can't leave. It's how they keep a steady supply of workers."

"Interesting. We'll have to take that into account then."

"How are you planning to rebel?" Sayo asked, "You'll need a lot of members to even stand a chance against them."

"I have faith that we only need a few members. I plan to focus on sneak attacks. Ones that no one knows about until the damage is done." Yukina explained, "Put fear into them and show demons they aren't as strong as they seem. Then, we won't be alone in the fight. Others will rebel with us."

"I see. How do you plan to recruit more members, though? It's not like you can just go around asking demons to join." Sayo asked.

"We listen to gossip. It's the easiest way to find potential demons." Lisa explained, "Though... most aren't good enough."

"It'll be hard to find many members. The organization will be after those gossiped about too, you know." Sayo pointed out.

"Which is why we want to get to them first." Yukina replied, "None have met the standards I'm looking for yet."

"And I have?" Sayo gave her a suspicious glance.

"Yes. You seem strong." Yukina nodded.

"How did you meet her?" Lisa questioned.

"I jumped her but she got the upper hand." Sayo said.

"You do seem in pretty rough shape." Lisa commented, "Do you need anything to help? We have some supplies if you're injured."

"I'll be fine. It's just my wings that haven't recovered." Sayo mumbled.

"That scratch on your eye looks nasty." Yukina said, "Are you sure you wouldn't want to put something on it?"

"I'm fine. But, thank you." Sayo said, "I can manage. It's pretty much scabbed over by now anyway."

"Did you get into a fight?" Lisa asked.

"I guess you could put it that way." Sayo sighed, "It's complicated."

Sayo wasn't sure about letting them know of Hina. Sayo had heard rumors that the organization had her. Sayo couldn't confirm it, but if it was true, she couldn't risk telling anyone about her. What if they knew the rumors? Would they not trust her anymore then?

"Well, I guess we'll need to set up a new room for you." Lisa stood up, "Yukina, I hope you can handle that much. I'm going to make something for us to eat."

Yukina just pouted. Lisa tended to treat her like a child. It had been that way since they met. Lisa had always been there to protect her, since she wasn't as strong as she was made out to be.

"She a close friend?" Sayo guessed.

"Yes. We've grown up together." Yukina nodded as she stood up as well.

"If you don't mind me asking, why did you leave your group?" Sayo followed her.

"They kicked us out." Yukina explained as she grabbed some bedding, "I was challenged to a fight to the death but Lisa interfered. My father was very angry and kicked both of us out for ruining the group's reputation."

"Oh."

"How did you escape the organization?"

"We- I was given away almost at birth. They don't know about me as far as I know. But, that could change at any time." Sayo cursed herself for the slight slip up.

Yukina raised an eyebrow, but didn't question it further, "So, why'd you become a rogue demon then?"

"Things happened... and I ended up having to skip town and then all the stuff ended up going down." Sayo said, "Now that they're aware that I know some things, if they find out I'm alive, they'll be on my tail in no time."

"Very well. I won't question too much about your past. Just know I expect you to be completely loyal to this group alone. This is very illegal, so talking to outsiders is forbidden unless within good reason." Yukina said.

"I know that." Sayo grumbled, "I have no reason to talk to anyone anyway."

"Good. Well, this will be your room for now. Lisa had been fixing up the place a bit, but there are still a lot of rooms that we haven't gotten around to yet." Yukina said.

"You aren't trusted with helping?" Sayo questioned.

"Let's just say, I may have already given her a heart attack trying to help her earlier." Yukina replied vaguely.

"I see. Well, I'm more than willing to offer some help if need be. I guess this is my home now too."

"Girls! I made some food!" Lisa called to them from another room.

Yukina led Sayo to the current kitchen area. They were pretty certain they'd move it elsewhere once the house was fixed up more. Lisa had made some kind of soup. There was a very broken table with a little less broken chairs around it.

"Were these here when you arrived?" Sayo asked as she eyed up the current setup.

"Yeah. Don't worry. You won't get any splinters. I already made sure of that." Lisa reassured her.

"Alright then." Sayo hesitantly joined them at the table.

"So, what do you think so far? Is this what you were expecting?" Lisa decided to try and start a conversation.

Sayo thought about it for a while, "Well, I was expecting you to be... more refined. But, I suppose this isn't too bad."

"Heh... we did only just start recently, after all. I'm sure we'll get up there fast. Having another helper around will definitely be useful." Lisa said.

Sayo nodded. She knew she'd have to work. It wasn't that big of a deal to her. She knew she'd need to earn her stay.

"I think next thing is getting you a better outfit. That one is looking a little rough." Lisa said, "I can easily make you something new."

"Um... thank you." Sayo blushed slightly.

She was not used to this type of affection at all. She had always been a loner. She was seem as intimidating. Most demons wouldn't dare offer her support like that. They were afraid she'd snap at them for seeing her as so weak.

The only times she did get somewhat similar affection was with Hina. Sayo was the one keeping them alive and Hina was more or less the moral support, as well as the one causing Sayo many many migraines. Sayo tried to push away the thoughts of Hina. She had to forget about her for now.

"So, um... do you have any family left?" Yukina asked.

"Yes." Sayo didn't care to say more.

"Are your parents still alive?"

"I do not know." Sayo replied.

She hadn't thought about her parents much. She was grateful they were willing to break the rules to give her and Hina a chance at a better life, but that was it. She wasn't attached to them. She couldn't even remember anything about them. Sayo knew if she was asked to pick them out of a crowd, she'd fail.

"So, you have other family then?" Lisa asked.

"I do not wish to speak of this topic any more." Sayo gave them both a firm look.

"Oh... you don't like talking about them, huh? Understandable." Lisa bowed her head to acknowledge the request.

"Are you one good terms with these family members you know or is your relationship why you don't want to talk about them?" Yukina asked, not seeming to get the message.

"It's complicated. I have no reason to discuss these personal matters with you." Sayo stood up and stormed off.

"I wonder what happened..." Lisa murmured.

"Perhaps once she calms she may elaborate more." Yukina shrugged.

"I hope you made the right choice bringing her here." Lisa said, "I can't help but feel as if she's hiding something from us."

"She barely knows us. It shouldn't be that surprising." Yukina replied.

"I guess that's true. Well, let's clean up and then I'll see if she's calm enough to get some measurements for a new outfit." Lisa stood as well.

"Alright. I think I'll do a quick remarking after this. Just to keep our scent strong." Yukina joined her as they cleaned up the bowls.

"Okay. Just be back before the sun gets too high, alright?"

"I know, Lisa. You don't need to baby me." Yukina huffed.

"Says the girl who somehow managed to almost break her hand a few hours ago. I'm sorry, but you are completely useless sometimes, Yukina. I have to baby you." Lisa replied.

Yukina gave her a slightly playful glare and then walked away. Lisa chuckled. Yukina never seemed to change no matter what. The only thing new was her actually managing to talk to someone and not mess things up horribly.

Lisa walked over to Sayo's room. She knocked and then walked in. Sayo was staring out the broken window. She turned and looked at Lisa.

"I'm sorry about earlier. Yukina isn't the best at reading the mood." Lisa apologized, "If you don't mind, I'd like to take your measurements so I can make you a new outfit."

"Okay." Sayo agreed and walked over to her.

"Any color you want in particular?" Lisa asked.

"No. I don't care as long as it's not an obnoxious color." Sayo replied.

"Alright." Lisa nodded and grabbed her tape measure.

"Do you really think this group will manage to overthrow them?" Sayo asked.

"I don't know. But, I'll follow Yukina no matter what she decides to do. I promised to always be by her side and protect her. I can't just throw that promise away now." Lisa said.

"It must be nice... having someone close..."

Chapter Text

It had been a few days since Ako had run away. The two strangers she met had kept their promise. They had taken her to a safer area. However, Ako wasn't satisfied. She wanted to prove she wasn't weak. That meant joining a group.

That was pretty hard to do. There weren't many groups that wanted her. She wasn't given a chance. She was told she should go home. Ako was mad. She couldn't go home. Not now. They'd know by now that she was gone. She didn't doubt that they were calling her a traitor as well.

Ako was wandering in a city. She had nothing better to do. She was just listening in on conversations. That was an easy way to see if anyone might be willing to accept her into a group.

Ako heard something come from a desolate area. She felt a little scared, but went to investigate it further. She slowly walked closer to the noise. She froze as she saw the scene. There was a fight going on.

Ako watched in a mix of awe and fear as the demons fought. It was a two on three fight. The three demons were winning. Ako watched them. She was awestruck by how they worked together.

"You'll pay for this! You'll all get caught and executed for going against the organization!" One of the losing demons yelled.

Ako was shocked to hear that. It was extremely rare to find opposers. Most were disposed of within days if being discovered. However, this group was different. They were able to stand their ground. They were able to fight back and win.

Ako made up her mind. She was joining this group no matter what. She wanted to prove herself. What better way than joining a revolution? Ako wanted to help them. She hated the organization just as much as they did. It ruined everything for her. So, why not get revenge?

The two demons that obviously belonged to the organization were killed. That wasn't a surprise. It was dangerous to let them live now that they knew the faces of them. That would give them the ability to make wanted signs.

The three demons spoke quietly to each other and then started to leave. Ako didn't know what to do. She wanted to join. But, how? She wasn't sure what to do.

"U-um... Excuse me?" Ako chased after them.

They faced her with aggression at first, until they identified that she was not a threat. Ako gulped. They didn't seem very friendly. Was she making a mistake?

Ako didn't know anything about them. No one had really heard if Roselia yet. They were still hiding in the shadows. Until they got more members, they wanted to keep hidden.

"What do you want?"

"U-um... I... I want to join your group!" Ako stated.

"No." Yukina stated.

"Why not? I can help!" Ako protested.

"This isn't a game. This group is no place for a kid." Yukina replied.

"I'm not a kid! I can take care of myself." Ako defended, "I can help, seriously."

"Get lost, kid." Sayo cut in, "Go hang out with your friends instead."

"B-but..." They left before Ako could say anything more.

Lisa glanced back at her. She didn't like turning her down like that. But, this group was indeed not a game. It was dangerous.

Ako pouted. She was getting them to le there join no matter what. They'd see. She'd prove to them that she was useful. The only question left was how? Ako wasn't sure how she was going to prove herself to them.

She sighed and went back into the busier part of the town. She'd figure it out soon. For now, she should focus on just surviving. That was the main priority. She couldn't join a group if she was dead, after all.

...

It had been a few days since Ako had run into Roselia. She hadn't seen them since. No matter how hard she searched, they were nowhere to be found. Ako wasn't sure how she could find them. That was the issue. She had no idea where to look. She couldn't go and ask around for them.

Ako was walking down the streets of the town again. She had decided to stay around the town. If Roselia was around here, it was best to remain here. That was Ako's reasoning.

The town was pretty empty tonight. Ako didn't think anything of it. It wasn't that strange. Sometimes the town just was less inhabited. That was how things worked.

Ako heard some voices come somewhere. She didn't know what they were saying, but their tone wasn't a very good one. Ako snuck closer to see what was going on. She knew better than to let them see her. She needed to stay hidden. That was something she was very good at doing.

"...ure them."

"How can we do that? We have idea where they live."

"We have belief they are in the woods. It can't be that hard to find them."

Ako knew they were talking about Roselia. It wasn't hard to figure that out. They were the only rebel group that was in this area as far as anyone knew.

Ako froze in place as they saw her. She backed away slowly after regaining her senses. The two demons were uniforms that made it very clear they worked for the organization. Ako knew she was in deep trouble now. She had been caught spying on them.

"Looks like we got a little troublemaker. Didn't anyone tell you that eavesdropping is rude." One of the demons growled.

"I... I..." Ako had nothing she could think of to say to defend herself. She was screwed.

The demons grabbed her. Ako yelped and started fighting. She was panicking as the grip on her arm tightened. She was scared for her life. Ako wouldn't put it past them to kill her for this. They were a lot stronger than her. This was not going in her favor at all.

"I'm sorry! Please, let me go!" Ako pleaded.

"No can do. The rules tell us we have to kill you." The demon smirked at her.

Ako gulped. The other demon closed in on her other side as well. She doubted she was getting out of this alive. She couldn't win. Ako had no choice but to give in to her fate. She was crying as she realized this would be her end.

The demon with a hold on her grabbed her by the neck. Ako gasped as she struggled to breathe. The demon tightened their grip on her neck. Ako couldn't breathe at all. She was weakly kicking as she fought for her life. She was terrified now. She didn't want to die so painfully.

Ako closed her eyes. There was nothing she could do.

Suddenly, the pressure vanished and she fell to the ground. Ako gasped for breath. She looked at what had happened. Lisa was standing before her. She was protectively covering her from the two demons.

"Well, look who decided to show themselves. Is it worth it to save this weakling?" The demon taunted.

"Yeah. Why bother?" The other demon added.

"She is a child. I'm not going to let you harm her." Lisa growled.

"You think you can take two of us on?" They both laughed.

"Who said she was alone?"

Yukina and Sayo walked over to stand on either side of Lisa. Lisa nodded to them. They hadn't wanted to interfere, but Lisa refused to stand back. Now they had to jump in. They couldn't let Lisa get killed. That wasn't ideal.

"Ah, here's the famed rebel group. I'm looking forward to fighting you guys."

They all charged at each other. Ako weakly moved back. She knew she needed to get out of their way. She'd get hurt if she stayed there. Ako watched as they fought. Both sides were viscous.

Lisa seemed to be fighting the hardest. She was the one who insisted they save Ako. It wasn't that much if a surprise. Lisa and Yukina were fighting together. Sayo was by herself. That wasn't a problem to her. She was easily beating the demon.

It didn't take long before the demons had been defeated. They were dead now. Lisa walked over to Ako and knelt down.

"Are you alright?" She asked.

"Y-yeah... thank you..." Ako nodded.

"Lisa, why did you do that?" Sayo demanded.

"I wasn't going to let them kill her. Are you really going to be that heartless? She's just a child." Lisa defended.

"You could've easily gotten yourself killed." Sayo stated as she crossed her arms.

"I agree it wasn't the best decision, but I suppose it wasn't the worst thing." Yukina said.

"Anyway, why haven't you gone home? You see what happens when you don't have a group to protect you?" Sayo glared at Ako.

"I... I don't have a group." Ako said.

"And why don't you?" Lisa asked.

"I ran away. They hated me. Cause my sister left with some friends... called her a traitor and said I'd turn out just like her..." Ako mumbled, "I can't even go back if I wanted to now..."

"Yukina, can she stay with us?" Lisa asked, "It can't be that bad, can it?"

Yukina eyed Ako up. Ako gulped.

"Fine." Yukina said, "But, you are not a member of our group. You don't get to participate in these things we do."

"W-why?" Ako asked.

"This has shown me you aren't able to handle a mission. Until you prove otherwise, you are not going to be doing anything. We will give you a place to live. That is all." Yukina said, her voice firm.

"F-fine..." Ako agreed.

It was a start at least. She still had a chance to prove herself. Yukina said so. All hope was not lost. Ako hoped one day she would be able to become a full member. That was all she wanted. To prove her worth.

Lisa helped Ako stand up. The four of them walked into the woods. Ako nervously glanced around. It was a little intimidating. Lisa was the only one who was friendly to her. Ako was holding her hand. Yukina was with a blank face as she walked ahead of them. Sayo was glaring at Ako. She didn't want her around. Now they had to babysit a kid.

Soon enough, they arrived at the house. Most of it was now repaired. They had been hard at work at it. Yukina walked inside. She stared Ako down again. Ako waited for her to speak.

"Let me mark you." Yukina motioned her closer, "That is, if you're willing to remain with us."

Ako nodded. She walked over to Yukina. Yukina slit her cheek. Ako only got one mark. She was just a member. And not very trusted.

"Well, welcome to our house. What's your name, by the way." Lisa asked, "My name is Lisa. That's Yukina and that's Sayo."

"Ako."

"Let me show you to your new room." Lisa held out a hand to Ako.

Ako took it and they walked off. Sayo walked over to Yukina.

"Are you sure about this?" Sayo asked, "She's a liability to us."

"For now. I see potential in her." Yukina said, "And, I don't think Lisa would've taken no very well. She might've gone and gotten herself hurt trying to help her."

"I gues that I true." Sayo agreed, "But you really think she can be of use to us?"

"Yes." Yukina nodded.

"I'll trust you on that. I don't see it." Sayo shrugged.

Yukina didn't exactly know if what she said was true. She hoped that Ako would be able to improve. If not, this was going to be a bad decision in the long run.

"I know you don't like her, but give her a chance. Maybe there is more to her than what we know." Yukina said, before she walked away to her room.

Sayo sighed. She retreated to her room as well. This was an interesting turn of events. Now they had to deal with Ako. That was going to effect everything. They'd have to work around her.

Sayo didn't trust her not to try and sneak out with them. Ako was not someone she trusted. Not in the sense that she'd betray them, but that she'd get herself into trouble. Sayo did not want to deal with that.

Lisa helped Ako make a bed in the room. They talked for a bit. Lisa explained what exactly the group was planning to accomplish. Ako was amazed by how much thought they had put into the plan.

"Lisa? Um... do they like me?" Ako asked, "Neither of them seem to really like me being here..."

"It's not that. They just are strictly business. They'll warm up to you." Lisa reassured her.

"Am I really allowed to stay?" Ako still didn't trust this promise.

"Yes. You have the mark. That means you're welcome here." Lisa patted her on the head.

"Okay."

"Are you hungry?" Lisa asked.

Ako nodded. She had been rationing her money a lot. She couldn't afford much.

"Well, you want to help me make something?" Lisa asked, "I'm the chef for us."

"I don't know how to cook." Ako mumbled.

"I'll teach you. Shall we?"

"Okay!" Ako nodded excitedly.

At least Lisa was nice to her. Ako had her on her side. Ako hoped Lisa would be able to convince the other two she wasn't going to be a burden. She knew that's how they saw her at the moment.

Ako was determined to change that. She'd prove she could be useful. She just needed some help. If someone would help teach her, then she was certain she could improve. It was just a matter of actually getting taught.

Chapter Text

Ako had slowly begun to prove herself to the others. She made sure not to make them mad. As much as she hated having to sit back while they did stuff, she knew it would be worth it in the end. One day, she would get to join them. That was what kept her going.

Lisa had grown extremely protective of her. Ako looked up to her as an older sister. It hurt sometimes, though. Lisa reminded her of Tomoe. Ako always hated when she'd remember her. It was hard. She still missed her a lot.

Yukina didn't really change much in how she treated Ako. The only thing that changed was what tasks she was allowed to do. At first, she was stuck doing nothing unless asked to help. Slowly, she was allowed to work in the house without supervision. Ako was now allowed to be outside of the house as long as she stayed in sight of it.

Sayo had slowly gotten less aggressive with her. At first, she refused to have anything to do with her. Ako was just a liability. That was what Sayo said. As Ako tried to make Sayo like her, her demeanor had changed. Sayo wouldn't say she was too fond of Ako yet, but she could tolerate her a lot more than before.

Ako had recently started asking to go into town. She wanted to go out farther than just right outside the house. Ako wanted more freedom. That was always what she wanted. She hated having to stay back. She wasn't that defenseless. She could tell when something wasn't safe.

That was her arguement. She wasn't listened to for a while. Eventually, she got on their nerves enough that they finally allowed her to join them in doing a simple walk around the town.

These walk arounds were to listen for gossip. As long as you didn't act suspicious, no one would give you a second glance. Of course, Ako wasn't trusted to go by herself. They'd all normally split up and then regroup later on. However, Ako was going to be tagging alongside Lisa for this one.

As night fell, they set out. Ako was excited to go. She did her best to hide her excitement. Every time she got too hyper, Sayo or Yukina would give her a glare and possibly a scolding. Ako didn't want to ruin this opportunity for herself. If she acted out, she knew they'd send her back and ban her from doing this again for a while.

"So, um... what exactly are we looking for?" Ako asked.

"We're listening in to see if we can find any rumors of demons going against the organization. Also look out for guards from the organization. Don't act suspicious and they won't think twice about you." Yukina explained, "We will meet up in about an hour and discuss."

"Okay." Ako nodded, taking on a determined expression. She was ready to prove her worth to them.

They reached the town. Lisa led Ako down an area of the town. Ako was doing her best to act normally. It was hard.

"Um... so..." Ako didn't like how silent it was between them.

"We'll browse the windows." Lisa stated.

Ako nodded. She knew that was their guise. They'd pretend to be shopping but they'd be listening in to others' conversations.

They didn't hear anything of interest. Ako was disappointed. She hated that she couldn't prove herself. Lisa nodded to her and they started heading to the meeting spot. Ako didn't know where that was. It was obvious Lisa did, though.

They met up in a remote area of the town. Sayo and Yukina were already waiting for them.

"Find anything?" Yukina asked them.

"No. Just gossip of affairs or petty stuff." Lisa shook her head, "How about you guys?"

Yukina shook her head, "Nothing we haven't heard before."

"I just heard talk of the suspicious guards here now." Sayo said.

"Do you get a lot of stuff normally?" Ako asked.

"No. It's not very easy to find these things out." Lisa shook her head, "It'll take a while to get more info."

"Alright."

"Shall we head home?" Yukina started walking, not waiting for an answer.

The other three followed behind her. They walked down back alleys. Ako glanced around constantly. It felt eerie in these areas. She didn't exactly like it.

As they walked, they heard something. It sounded like some demons talking. The tones weren't friendly tones. Ako was too curious to resist. She peaked out of the alley to look.

"Whatcha see?" Lisa asked.

"U-uh..." Ako didn't know what to say.

Lisa peered out. She gasped.

"What?" Yukina asked.

"There's some demons picking on someone." Lisa said.

The four of them were soon watching. Sayo's eyes went a little wide as she saw who was being attacked. It was Rinko. She was shaking as three demons cornered her. They were taunting her.

Rinko didn't say anything to them. She was cowering as she frantically looked around for a way to escape from them. The demons grew angrier by her silence. It wasn't too long before they attacked. Rinko cried out in panic as she was overwhelmed by them.

They were vicious. They showed her no mercy. The damage was immense for such a short amount of time. Rinko was beaten up badly.

"We have to help her!" Ako said urgently.

"No. That is too dangerous." Yukina stated.

"B-but..." Ako frowned, "They'll kill her!"

"That's not our problem." Yukina shrugged, "Let's go."

"No! If you won't do anything, then I will!" Ako yelled and ran out toward the demons.

"Ako!" Lisa yelped.

"Should we step in?" Yukina asked, "I don't know that we should."

"We should." Sayo stated, before running out and blocking Ako from getting attacked.

Yukina and Lisa were confused. They didn't think Sayo was one to jump in like that. Then again, they didn't know about her meeting with Rinko. That was why Sayo had jumped in. She still felt guilty about having to attack Rinko and take her stuff. This was how she felt she could make up for that event.

Lisa and Yukina glanced at each other, before joining the others in fighting. By this time, Rinko was unconscious. She was bleeding heavily.

"Ako, deal with her. We can handle these guys." Yukina ordered.

Ako didn't argue and quickly retreated to Rinko's side. Ako didn't have much to work with. She decided to use the clothes Rinko was wearing to start wrapping her wounds up. It wasn't like her outfit was covering much anymore.

The other three focused on taking down the demons. It was a tough fight. They managed, though. Not without injuries. Yukina had gotten cut on her nose. It was bleeding heavily. Sayo managed to abstain from any cuts. She just had bruises on her. Lisa got clawed in the right shoulder pretty severely. Ako had gotten scratched on her cheek but it wasn't even bleeding any more.

"Let's get back." Yukina wrapped an arm around Lisa to support her.

Sayo carefully picked up Rinko. They made their way back to the house. Lisa was barely conscious as they walked through the door. Her wound was nasty.

"Ako, get the medical supplies." Sayo stated.

Ako nodded and ran to fetch them. Yukina set Lisa down on a couch they had scavenged a while ago. Sayo laid Rinko on the floor on a carpet. Yukina worriedly glanced between the two girls. Both were badly hurt.

"Here!" Ako set the bag down.

Yukina grabbed what she needed and got to work treating Lisa. Sayo asked Ako to assist her with Rinko. Ako agreed instantly and sat beside her.

"Lisa? You still with me?" Yukina asked.

"Yeah..."

"This is gonna sting." Yukina warned as she placed a towel with peroxide on it onto her wound.

Lisa hissed in pain and squirmed. Yukina cleaned her wound as fast as she could. Lisa did her best to bear with it. She didn't want to make it hard for Yukina to treat her.

Sayo and Ako were doing their best with Rinko. It was hard as her right eye was completely covered with blood.

"Is her eye gonna be okay?" Ako asked as she gently applied some cream to the eye wounds.

"It's not very likely. I think we can salvage it, but her sight might be gone in it." Sayo replied, "Clean her arm while I place bandages on her eye."

"Okay." Ako nodded and got to work.

"Sayo? Why did you run in to save her?" Yukina asked as she faced them. She had done all she could for Lisa.

"I... I met her before." Sayo said.

"You did?" Ako asked.

"Yes. When I was a rogue demon, I jumped her and robbed her." Sayo admitted.

"You feel bad about doing that?" Lisa asked.

"Yeah... she was terrified of me. I can't imagine how bad it was with three demons."

"That was very nice of you." Ako said, "She'll be grateful when she wakes up."

"I don't know... I don't think she'll trust me after what I did." Sayo replied.

She finished wrapping up Rinko's right arm. She sighed.

"Where are we putting her?" Lisa asked.

"She can stay in my bed." Ako offered, "It's fine by me."

"Alright. I'll take her there." Sayo picked Rinko up and did so.

"I suggest we all just rest." Yukina said, "It's been a tough day."

"Yeah."

Yukina helped Lisa to her room. Ako went to see how Rinko was doing now. She was comfortably resting on her bed. Sayo nodded to Ako.

"I suppose you can stay with me for now. I did end up with the biggest bed." Sayo said.

"O-okay..." Ako gulped.

...

A week had passed before long. Rinko was still unconscious. No one was sure when, and even if, she would wake up. They had all continued their daily lives as though nothing had happened. All that changed was just occasionally checking on Rinko and changing her bandages.

It was just turning to night. Everyone had woken up only about an hour ago. Lisa and Ako were out buying things to stock up for food. Yukina had gone out to do a quick patrol around their territory. Sayo was left to guard the house. Guard it from who? Probably no one. Most demons wouldn't travel deep in the forest unless they had a death wish.

Sayo decided to go check on Rinko. Those wounds of hers were still pretty nasty. It was going to take a while before they healed well enough. Lisa's wasn't much better. She had to take it easy and avoid moving her arm too much. Ako was temporarily assigned as her personal assistant to help when needed. Ako didn't complain at all. She was more than willing to help.

Sayo entered the room. Nothing looked any different than normal. She knelt down beside Rinko and carefully checked her bandages. They were constantly making sure they weren't overflowing with blood or the blood on it was crusting. It was also important to keep clean bandages on her to avoid infections. Any infection would probably end in death. There weren't many doctors around. The nearest one was almost three days of travel away from here.

"Nngh..."

Sayo froze. Rinko hadn't made a sound at all before. Was she waking up? Sayo wasn't sure she was the best person to greet her if that was the case. She probably remembered her.

Rinko continued to groan in pain for a while. Sayo watched silently. It wasn't like there was much she could do to help. She couldn't make the pain disappear.

Rinko slowly opened her good eye. Her left eye was still bandaged. It hurt to even try and move it. Rinko scanned the room through her blurry vision. Her gaze landed on Sayo before long. She blinked a few times to clear her vision.

Rinko let out a small squeak as she finally saw Sayo clearly. She still remembered her very well. Rinko started shaking in fear.

"I'm not going to hurt you." Sayo stated, "You're safe."

"W-where am I?" Rinko asked, her voice shaking with every word.

"In a house. We're in the forest. Um... this is an illegal group." Sayo wasn't sure how to answer her.

"Illegal?" Rinko repeated.

"Yes. We're against the organization." Sayo nodded, "Anyway, how are you feeling?"

"Everything hurts..." Rinko mumbled.

"I bet. You took quite a beating. We patched you up the best we could. But... I don't know how well we did. Your eye is probably useless. And, I don't think you'll be able to fly again." Sayo said.

"Why did you save me?"

"I... one of the members of this group ran out to fight so we jumped in to save her. We aren't cruel to everyone. We weren't just going to leave you there." Sayo said. She didn't want to admit the other part of it. That she did it to make up for their previous meeting.

"Can I sit up?" Rinko asked.

"Just be careful." Sayo said.

Rinko slowly managed to push herself into a sitting position. Sayo had to help her a little. Rinko was quite unsteady, so Sayo kept a hand on her back to help.

"Where are these other members?" Rinko asked.

"They're doing stuff. They should be back soon." Sayo replied.

Rinko glanced down at her body. She examined her arm.

"Um... can I have any clothes?" Rinko nervously asked.

The clothes she had had on were destroyed by the fight. They just tossed them out.

"Yeah. I believe Lisa finished making them." Sayo stood up and went to fetch the clothes.

She soon returned with the outfit Lisa had made. Sayo helped Rinko put it on. By the time they finished, Lisa and Ako had come back. Yukina was still out.

"I'll be right back." Sayo got up and went to go tell them.

"Hey. Everything good while we were gone?" Lisa asked.

"Yeah. She woke up." Sayo stated.

"Really? How is she?" Ako asked.

"She's alright. She's still in pain, as you can imagine." Sayo said.

"I bet. I'm gonna go see her." Lisa said and then did just that.

"Let's put these away." Sayo said to Ako.

"Okay..." Ako frowned. She also wanted to go see Rinko.

They worked together to put away the food. Lisa  was dealing with Rinko. She carefully knocked on the wall and then entered the room. Rinko nervously watched her.

"Hello. My name is Lisa. What's your name?" Lisa asked as she sat down beside Rinko.

"R-Rinko." Rinko stammered.

"It's nice to meet you, Rinko. I promise you're safe here." Lisa smiled sweetly at her, "Now, I'm gonna go and cook some food. I'll bring you some when it's done. I bet you're hungry, after all."

"T-thank you..." Rinko mumbled.

Lisa left the room. She spoke to Sayo and Ako briefly and then went to make them their breakfast. Yukina came back a few minutes later. The four of them were in the kitchen talking.

"So, what are we gonna do about Rinko?" Ako asked.

"I'm not sure." Yukina shrugged.

"Would you let her stay if that was what she wanted?" Lisa questioned.

"If she has nowhere else to go, I suppose."

"Can I go ask her?" Ako pleaded.

"You can ask her during breakfast." Sayo atated, "Since you're dying to talk to her, you can deliver her food."

"Okay!" Ako agreed.

Once the cooking was done, Ako took Rinko her food. She brought her plate along too so they could eat together. Rinko was very tense and nervous.

"Hi. I'm Ako." Ako smiled at her, "Here's some food. Hope you don't mind if I eat here with you."

Rinko shook her head. She didn't seem like she really wanted to talk.

"So, where are you from?" Ako asked, trying not to seem too prying.

"Nowhere." Rinko didn't, no she couldn't, disclose that information. Especially not to a group like this. Who was to say they wouldn't assume she was a spy instead.

"So, you don't have a place to go?"

"Yeah..."

"Would you like to stay with us?" Ako asked, "You're more than welcome to join our group."

Rinko didn't know what to do. She wanted to join them. They'd give her protection. But, if they found out her past, would this be a grave mistake? What if she slipped up and couldn't lie her way out of it?

"I... I'd like that." Rinko eventually agreed. She was confident she could keep everything a secret from them. After all, who would think a girl like her was from the organization?

"Awesome!" Ako smiled.

So, after they finished eating, Ako took the plates out and informed everyone what she had decided. Yukina went to go and confirm this. Rinko watched her warily as she approached.

"You wish to join our group?" Yukina asked.

"Y-yes." Rinko nodded.

"What can you do for us?"

"I... I don't know..."

"I'll be observing you then." Yukina said, "To see what you're capable of."

"Okay."

"Now, let me give you the marking." Yukina crouched down beside her.

Rinko gulped. Yukina gave her the marking. Like with Ako, it was just one. Yukina stood up.

"Rest up. You'll need to heal."

"O-okay."

Yukina left the room. Rinko looked at her surroundings. It felt surreal. She was actually free from the group. She had survived. And, she had found a new group. Sure, it wasn't exactly what she was looking for, but it would work. Now, the only thing she needed to worry about was keeping her true identity a secret from them all.

That was one secret that couldn't get out under any circumstances.

Chapter Text

Crying. It was faint, but her sharp hearing picked it up. Who could be crying? Why wasn't anyone helping them?

Yukina looked around. No one was paying attention to her. She could easily slip away. That's exactly what she did. Yukina slipped away from the adults and went searching for the source of the noise.

She found them before long. It was a young girl who seemed to be her age. She was stuck in a pool of mud. It had rained yesterday. The ground was very muddy. Yukina looked around. No one else seemed to be nearby. Who would let a child out by themselves?

"U-um... hello?" Yukina called as she walked closer.

The girl looked up at her. Her face was stained with tears. But, there was also blood. Yukina saw countless bruises and scratches on her. Those marks weren't from nature. They were from demons.

"Help me..." The girl begged in a hoarse voice.

Yukina walked closer, careful to avoid the mud. It would do her no good to get caught as well. The girl was watching her as she weakly fought against the mud holding her hostage. She was exhausted.

"Can you grab my hand?" Yukina asked as she leaned closer.

The girl weakly raised her arm. Yukina grabbed hold and pulled. The girl didn't budge. Yukina tried again, but it was futile. She wasn't strong enough. Yukina looked around. There had to be something she could use.

She tried one last time to yank the girl free, even just a little. She lost her grip and fell backwards. Thankfully, she landed on ground, not mud. Yukina sighed. This wasn't going well. There was nothing that she saw to help.

"I'm sorry... I'm not strong enough to pull you out. I'll get someone to help. Just please stay still. You'll sink if you move." Yukina got up.

"Please... I'm cold... so cold..."

Yukina ran. But, she stopped as she heard a shout. She turned around. She crept back over to where the girl was stuck. A demon was there. An adult demon. Yukina didn't recognize them, but then she saw the mark. They belonged to the same group that girl did. She watched, hopeful that they would save her.

"Get away!" The girl screamed at them.

Yukina froze. That wasn't good. That demon wasn't nice. But, there was no way she could stop them. Could she make it back in time and tell them? No. They'd be too slow. The demon already had the girl out of the mud.

Yukina watched in worry as the girl was carried away. She was screaming and begging to be let go. Yukina felt horrible. That girl was suffering. That girl needed help. Yukina ran back home. She knew she'd be yelled at. Her dress was all muddy.

"Yukina! There you are! Where on earth did you vanish to?" Her mother saw her enter the town again and quickly scooped her up onto a hug.

"I saw an animal and I followed it. I didn't realize I left town. I'm sorry, mom." Yukina lied.

"Oh, I'm just glad you're safe. Let's get you cleaned up, okay?" Her mother smiled in relief and brought her home.

As Yukina was bathing, she decided to ask, "Mom? I heard someone mention a group that had a marking of a skull with blood in its eyes. Why are they talking about the group and not saying its name?"

"Oh... they're a bad group. They abuse anyone who isn't of a high ranking." Her mother replied, "I'm not surprised you've heard them talking."

"What do they do?" Yukina asked curiously.

"You know what your father does to bad demons? That's what they do to anyone who isn't liked." Her mother explained in as little detail as possible.

Yukina frowned, "Even kids like me?"

"Yes, dear. Even kids aren't safe." Her mother nodded solemnly.

"That's bad! They need to be stopped!" Yukina declared.

"I know. We've been meeting with other groups to plan the attack. They will be stopped soon."

"Where are they at? Is it close?" Yukina needed that information.

"Not too close that you need to worry. They're just past the swampy marsh."

"I see... so, are we in charge of the attack?" Yukina guessed.

"Indeed. Now, off to your lesson." Her mother shooed her off once she was dry and dressed again.

Yukina walked off to her lesson as told. She was devising a plan. She wasn't letting that girl suffer. She would sneak in and take her. Yukina needed a plan.

...

When morning came, she snuck out. It was easy to leave without the guards noticing. They didn't look at secret ways to leave. Yukina was soon in the forest again. She ran. She didn't have too much time to do this.

Yukina came to the swamp. She carefully walked through it. She was scared. This was dangerous. Just being out here with no one to help was. If she fell and couldn't get out, she was done for. Yukina made sure to be extra careful.

She managed to survive the walk without any problems. She found the town where the bad demons lived. Yukina quietly snuck around. She had no idea how she was finding that girl again. Thankfully, it wasn't hard. She was in the open. She was tied to a poll in the middle of the camp.

Yukina looked around. No one was watching. She darted in and ran to the girl. She did her best to be quiet. The girl weakly looked at her. She looked even worse than before. Yukina used her claws and slashed the ropes holding her hostage.

The girl fell forward, unable to support herself in her pitiful state. Yukina caught her before she could hit the ground. The girl weakly grabbed hold of her, as if she could vanish any second.

"It's okay. I've got you." Yukina put the girl on her back.

The girl grabbed on tight. She was shaking from the cold. Her outfit was torn. It did little to resist the elements. Yukina adjusted her again and then started for the way she came in. Unfortunately, someone saw them.

"Intruder!"

Yukina ran as fast as she could. She could hear footsteps gathering behind her. She didn't dare take the time to look. She made it to the swamp. She had to go slower. But, she couldn't be too cautious. They were right on her tail.

The girl on her back was not helping. The weight was exhausting her. Yukina pushed on. She was still ahead of them. She heard someone fall into the water. That was good. One less to worry about.

Yukina was almost at the end of the swamp, when something hard hit her. She stumbled and fell. Yukina quickly grabbed the girl and covered her with her body. The girl was shaking in terror as a shadow loomed over them.

"What is this?" The demon was in disbelief. They hadn't realized that Yukina was a child like the girl.

"They sent a child to steal her?" Another demon asked.

Yukina tightened her grip on the girl. She glared at the demons. She wasn't letting them hurt her without a fight.

"Aww, how cute." They mocked her, "So brave, but so foolish."

"Get away from my daughter."

Yukina looked over. Her father was standing at the end of their territory. He had a few demons beside him. The two enemy demons stood their ground.

"She stole a member of our group. We want her back." The one demon stated.

Yukina gave her father a pleading look. She couldn't let them take her back. Not after all that they did to her. The girl tightened her grip on Yukina's shirt. Fear overtook her at the thought of being returned to the group.

"Get lost. Judging from that child's state, I don't think you really care that much." Yukina's father took a step forward.

The two demons growled, but retreated. Yukina gulped. She knew she was in for a punishment. And a scolding. She had nearly been killed. That was not something that was just going to be let go.

Yukina shakily stood up. She helped the girl up as well. Yukina braced herself for the yelling.

"Take them to my house. I'm going to make sure they left." Yukina's father ordered.

Yukina stared at him. He wasn't going to scold her?

"I'll deal with you when I'm done." He growled at Yukina.

Yukina lowered her head. She grabbed the girl and led her to the town. They went into her house.

"Yukina! Oh, I was so worried!" Yukina was immediately wrapped in a tight hug by her mother.

"I'm sorry... but, I met this girl earlier and I... I couldn't let them hurt her any more!" Yukina tried to act brave. She was scared of her punishment.

"Hello, sweetheart. What's your name?" Yukina's mother asked the girl.

"L-Lisa." The girl stammered.

"It's nice to meet you, Lisa. Yukina, help her with a bath. She'll share your room until your father decides what to do with her."

Yukina nodded and helped Lisa walk to the bathroom. She drew a bath. Lisa was unsteady, so Yukina remained and helped clean her off. Lisa seemed grateful for the help.

She was nodding off moments after getting into the bath. Yukina said nothing about it. She focused on cleaning up all the dirt and blood. Lisa only remained awake for a few minutes. Her body was at its limit.

Yukina smiled as she carefully continued to clean her. Lisa deserved the rest. She had gone through so much. Yukina dressed her in some spare clothes of hers and then left Lisa sleeping on her bed. Yukina went back down. She had heard her father return.

Yukina kept her gaze low. She was prepared for the yelling.

"Yukina, I am very disappointed in you. You know how dangerous it is outside the town. And you broke into a very dangerous town." Her father growled, "What's so special about this girl that you just had to save her?"

"I don't know." Yukina replied, "I couldn't sit back and do nothing. Not after I met her."

"You are not to leave this house for a month. And, you are responsible for tending to her wounds." Her father stated the punishment.

"I understand, dad... I'm sorry..." Yukina nodded.

"Go to your room."

Yukina quickly obeyed. She was glad he hadn't decided to beat her for what she had done. He had before.

Yukina went to her room. She shut the door and sighed. Was it worth it? She thought so. She had saved Lisa's life. The punishment wasn't that bad in comparison. Yukina would accept it with no complaints.

Maybe that would show she was strong? No. She had been stupid. She was only a child. That wasn't a smart move. She shouldn't have gone alone.

Yukina sighed. She looked at Lisa. Lisa was curled up under the blankets. Yukina laid down beside her. She looked at Lisa. There were so many scars littering her body. Hopefully most would heal without a trace.

Lisa suddenly jolted awake. She was breathing heavily. Yukina didn't know what to do. Lisa frantically looked around the room. She paused when she looked at Yukina.

"Are you okay?" Yukina asked as she sat up.

"It wasn't a dream..."

"Huh?"

"I'm... I'm free? I'm safe?"

"Oh. Yeah. You're safe with us. They aren't gonna get you." Yukina nodded now that she understood what Lisa meant.

Lisa started crying. She threw herself onto Yukina and hugged her tightly. Yukina held her close as she sobbed.

"Thank you... I'm in your debt..."

Yukina pulled her closer. Lisa kept crying and repeating 'thank you' over and over. Yukina just held her and let her cry.

"Lisa."

Lisa looked up at Yukina. Yukina smiled at her and wiped away the tears.

"Yukina... I..."

"Shh. Get some rest." Yukina shushed her, "It's late."

Lisa nodded and closed her eyes. She stayed snuggled up to Yukina. Yukina gently shifted them so they were laying comfortably on the bed. Lisa drifted off within seconds. Yukina smiled as she closed her eyes.

It had definitely been worth it.

...

As the days went on, Yukina and Lisa became close. Lisa swore to repay Yukina for saving her. She did so by keeping her safe from harm. Yukina found it enjoyable to have Lisa by her side.

They made a good team. Lisa wasn't exactly trusted, though. Demons kept gossiping that it was all a plan to learn more. Lisa hated those rumors, but she couldn't say anything.

Yukina was the only one who fully trusted her. Lisa was forever in her debt for that. Yukina was the sole reason she wasn't kicked out of the group. She was adamant that Lisa was not a threat.

Lisa's old mark had been erased and she was given the new one. A lot of demons didn't like that. That week was horrible for Lisa. She feared leaving the house. No one liked her no matter how hard she worked to prove her loyalty to them.

"Hey, Lisa?" Yukina asked one night while they were in bed.

"Hmm?" Lisa hummed.

"Do you ever want to run away?" Yukina asked.

Lisa sighed, "Yeah... sometimes I do."

"If that happened, I'd want to go with you." Yukina stated.

"Huh? Why?" Lisa was confused.

"You promised we'd always be there for each other. If you left, I'd leave too." Yukina replied.

"Okay. Well, as long as I have you to defend me, I don't need to run away." Lisa smiled.

"Lisa... would they do something so cruel?"

Lisa froze up. She didn't want to talk about it, but it was Yukina that was asking. Yukina wasn't like the others. She trusted her.

"Y-yeah... they have." Lisa shakily confirmed, "They use kids because of sympathy."

"Any kids?" Yukina asked.

"Yeah..."

"You aren't... right?"

Lisa felt her world break apart. Yukina thought that. She had that doubt in her. She didn't fully trust her. Lisa had been blind. Why did she assume that?

"Lisa?" Yukina cupped Lisa's face with her hand and made her look at her.

"You believe that?" Lisa whispered, her voice sounding broken and empty.

"It's... hard. Part of me wonders if you were at some point. But, I don't think you are now." Yukina reassured her.

"I'm not a spy!" Lisa cried out.

"Shh... I'm sorry..." Yukina pulled her into a hug, "I'm sorry, Lisa... you aren't a spy... I know that."

"I never was... I can't believe you'd think that..."

"It was just a thought. I never fully believed it." Yukina said.

"Please... just never mention this again." Lisa pleaded.

"I won't. I promise." Yukina nodded.

Lisa hated that. She hated when people assumed that. Knowing part of Yukina was open to that option really hurt her. So, Lisa swore she'd work harder to make sure Yukina would never doubt her again.

Chapter Text

A hooded figure was swiftly walking down the street. Their gaze drifted around, watching the other demons nearby. They moved with a purpose, so most didn't think twice about them. They weren't acting too suspicious.

Demons didn't trust those that seemed suspicious. Especially not in a town. They immediately assumed they were trouble and would stop at nothing to kill them. As long as you didn't seem to be looking for something while seeming threatening, you were good.

The figure vanished down an alley. Waiting for them on the other side of the alley was a demon. This demon smirked when the figure approached. The figure simply stared at the demon. They put on a hard mask around this demon. And for good reason.

"I see you came. Did you bring what I asked?" The demon said.

"As if I wouldn't." The figure shot back as they flashed open their sweatshirt to reveal a book, "What the hell do you want?"

"You know what I want. Give me the book." The demon demanded, their expression becoming dark.

The figure shrugged, "I don't get why you want the book so bad. There's nothing to it. And, I want something in return."

"Like you would know that. You can't even open it. So why is it worth anything at all?" The demon growled.

"We found it. We did the work. You gotta pay for it. And I know we can't open it. Which is why it's not important at all."

"I can open it. Give it to me." The demon repeated.

The figure stood their ground and shook their head. They knew exactly what that book contained. No way in hell were they giving it up. It was very important for them to keep it. Well, at least important to keep it out of corrupt hands.

"Oh, Ran... I'd thought you'd have learned since our last encounter." The demon pouted.

"I did learn. Not to fucking trust you." Ran shot back.

"Very well. Then I'll just have to take the book from you by force." The demon launched themselves at Ran.

Ran dodged and met them with a counterattack, "No way are we letting that information fall into your corrupt hands!"

"We'll see about that." The demon chuckled.

They continued to fight. Neither side seemed to be winning. Ran was growing frustrated. She just wanted to beat this demon and be done with it. Why was he being so stubborn? Couldn't he take the hint that he wasn't going to get away with this as easily as he thought?

Ran yelped as he struck her cheek. In the moment of distraction, he lunged and got a good grip on her neck. Ran gasped as he squeezed down on it. She clawed at his arms as hard as she could, but he didn't let up.

A flash a color ran at the demon and knocked him off balance. Ran quickly got out of his grip. She gasped for air as she looked at the mysterious demon who had come to her rescue. The demon was hooded as well. She couldn't tell anything about them.

The demon simply nodded to Ran. Ran nodded back, understanding the message. They'd strike together and take him down. That's exactly what they did. They ran at him and easily overwhelmed him. The mysterious demon slit his throat without any hesitation.

Ran gasped in shock. This demon was willing to kill. Ran could never bring herself to kill unless it was absolutely necessary. This demon was dangerous if you got on their bad side. Ran definitely didn't wish to do that.

"T-thank you..." Ran panted.

The demon walked over to her. Ran was expecting them to say something. Instead, they sent her flying into the wall of a building. Ran groaned in pain. The demon crouched down beside her.

They lifted up her sweatshirt and grabbed the book. Ran grabbed for it, only to be sent back into the wall. Her vision swam as her head was banged roughly against it. When she was able to get a grip on her surroundings, the demon was gone. Ran growled in frustration. She had lost the book.

She pushed herself to her feet. She saw footprints. The demon had a trail left behind. Ran smirked and ran after them. They weren't getting away that easily.

Ran kept running until she made it to where they stopped. The forest hid the rest of the trail. Ran frowned. She had lost them. Maybe walking farther would work? They couldn't have gotten that far, right?

Ran carefully made her way through the forest. She was looking for any signs of the demon. She wasn't having any luck, though. Ran had lost them. It was unlikely she'd find them again. What did she do? She needed to get the book back. She had no way to know what side that demon was on.

Ran heard rustling. She froze. That proved to be a mistake. The next thing she knew, she was tackled to the ground. Ran struggled underneath them. The demon was shorter than her, but it appeared they knew how to make up for their size.

Ran got a look at them. It was the same demon that took the book. Ran growled and fought against them harder.

"Give me the book!" Ran demanded as she managed to kick them off of her.

"No. I have more of a use for it than you do." The demon spoke.

Ran lunged at them. It didn't work as planned, but it got the hood off of the demon. Ran's own hood had fallen off when she was thrown at the wall. Ran glared at her attacker.

"Give me the book or I'm going to kill you." Ran threatened. That book meant a lot. She would do anything to keep it safe.

"Good luck with that."

"Who are you?" Ran asked as her and the demon circled each other.

"Minato Yukina. I'm sure you've heard of me by now." The demon replied.

Ran stopped for a moment. She knew very well who Yukina was. Yukina had very openly announced she was leading a revolt and dared the organization to catch her. They had no luck in tracking her down.

"What do you want with that book?" Ran asked.

"I know what's in it as well. It will be useful in our efforts." Yukina stated.

"Give it back." Ran growled.

"It's already at my base. And already opened." Yukina announced proudly.

Ran charged. She was pissed. Yukina sidestepped her and Ran went tumbling into a bush. She struggled to get out. It was a thornbush. Her entire body was getting pricked by thorns now. Ran managed to get free. She growled at Yukina again.

"Pathetic."

Ran growled louder at that. She didn't like being called that.

"Give up. You won't win." Yukina stated.

"Just you watch!" Ran charged again.

Yukina grabbed her and spun her around, sending her crashing through the forest again. Ran yelped as she was thrown into a river. She gasped as cold water connected with her. She struggled up to the surface of the water. The current wasn't strong, thankfully.

Ran swam to the bank and tried to climb out. It was too slippery to grab onto anything. Ran yelped as she found herself getting pulled back in. She prepared to go under again when she was grabbed and pulled out.

Ran coughed up the bit of water that had found its way into her mouth. She looked up at Yukina. This girl was toying with her now. Ran shakily stood up. She held her head low and ran away. She knew she had lost the fight. She was grateful Yukina hadn't planned to kill her, though. At least she was allowed to live.

Ran soon found herself at her own base. She stumbled inside.

"Ran! You're all wet! What happened!?" Immediately someone was at her side.

"It's a long story..." Ran mumbled, "I'm going to get changed and take a bath."

"Where's the book?"

Ran frowned, "Roselia has it. One of their members jumped me."

"Are you okay? They didn't hurt you, did they?"

"I'm fine, Himari." Ran insisted.

"What did they do to you?" Himari asked.

"She threw me into a wall. I gave chase but, she had the advantage of knowing the terrain. Toyed with me and sent me into a river." Ran grumbled, "Seemed like she enjoyed watching me suffer."

"Let's get you warmed up." Himari led Ran to the bath.

"I'm sorry I lost the book..." Ran apologized, keeping her gaze low.

"It's alright. At least it's in good hands." Himari shrugged it off, "They can use it for good."

"Yeah... apparently they got it open." Ran nodded.

"Really? That's amazing!" Himari was in shock.

"Oh, you're back."

"Hey, Tomoe!" Himari smiled.

"What happened to you?" Tomoe looked Ran over.

"Don't ask." Ran mumbled.

"Well, best you get warmed up." Tomoe left them be.

Himari and Ran made it to the bath. Himari left Ran to get warmed up. She went to find the others to explain everything. They were in their living room.

"So, Ran is back." Himari announced.

"What's the deal?" Moca asked.

"Roselia struck and stole the book." Himari stated, "She tried to give chase, but lost."

"Jeez... Roselia is getting mixed into this, huh?" Tomoe sighed, "We really don't want to get involved with them."

"Hopefully they won't ask for anything else from us."

"They have a similar goal to us." Tsugumi stated, "They may try to talk to us."

"I hope not. They're dangerous." Moca said, "We don't want to risk getting arrested and killed for conspiring with them."

"Yeah, but maybe we can help them? We have the same goal, as Tsugu said. We could help achieve that goal." Himari said.

"Himari, I don't think we should. They're illegal." Tomoe said.

"We may be an official group, but we are doing illegal research." Himari pointed out.

"I know..."

"What are we talking about?" Ran entered the room.

"About Roselia." Himari said.

"That Minato is tough." Ran stated, "And she's not afriad to kill."

"Yikes. That's not good for us. Let's not get on their bad side." Moca gulped.

"Y-yeah." Tsugumi nodded.

"Indeed. But, I think she won't kill unless you will turn her in." Ran said, "She didn't have any intent to kill me."

"Do we have any clue how many others are working with her?" Tomoe asked.

"No. But, it's believed Lisa Imai is with her as they left their old group together." Himari said.

"Ran, you met her. Do you think she'll come after us for anything?" Moca asked.

Ran shrugged, "I don't know."

"We'll just have to wait and see."

...

A few days later, Ran was determined to see Yukina and have a rematch. She wasn't going to let Yukina think of her as a coward for running. She was going to prove herself.

Ran wandered to the area where she last met Yukina. She walked around, hoping she would notice she was here. Ran didn't get any signs for a while. She was frustrated. She wanted to fight Yukina again. This time she would be prepared.

Ran was getting tired of waiting. She was about to give up. Suddenly, someone jumped on her and pinned her against a tree. Ran looked. The demon holding her wasn't Yukina.

"Why are you on our territory?" The demon growled.

"I'm looking for Yukina." Ran stated. She guessed this demon was part of Roselia.

"Get lost."

"No. I'm seeing her no matter what." Ran stated.

She had come this far. She wasn't going back now. She was going to challenge Yukina to a fight.

"Fine." The demon growled.

Ran was grabbed roughly and drug through the forest. She stumbled, barely standing. Before long, they were at the base.

"Yukina, someone wants to see you." The demon walked inside.

Ran remained outside. Yukina came out. She raised an eyebrow at Ran.

"I want a rematch." Ran stated.

"You wish to fight?"

"Yes. I want to fight. I'll show you I can win." Ran growled.

"I see no point." Yukina said.

"What? But... but..." Ran didn't expect to be rejected.

"If you insist." Yukina said, "Let's go somewhere more open then."

"Yukina? Whatcha doing?" Lisa popped her head out the door.

"This girl wishes to have a rematch fight." Yukina explained, "I'll be back later."

"I'm coming with you." Lisa declared.

The three of them went into the forest to a clearing. Ran and Yukina stood at opposite ends. Lisa stood in the middle and watched.

"What are the conditions?" Yukina asked.

"First flat on the ground loses." Ran replied.

"Very well. Lisa, would you start it?" Yukina asked.

Lisa nodded. She counted down from five and then they attacked. Yukina was a tough opponent. Ran barely managed to not be thrown again. Ran growled and got a punch on Yukina's shoulder. Yukina managed to trip Ran, but she remained standing.

"What made you challenge me?" Yukina asked as she blocked a punch.

"To get you back for what you did." Ran stated.

"If you hadn't been so quick to fight, we could have compromised." Yukina said as she landed a hard punch on Ran's side.

Ran paused. Yukina was willing to compromise on this? Now she felt stupid for fighting so suddenly.

"What exactly is this compromise then?" Ran asked.

"We get to keep the book, but we'll share the information with you once we decipher it." Yukina replied.

Ran wasn't in a position to accept. That was something Himari was allowed to do. Not her. But, this was good, right? She could get the information for them.

"Fine." Ran agreed.

"Is this fight over?" Yukina asked.

Ran shook her head, "No. I still want a fight."

"Alright. Then let's continue." Yukina nodded to her.

They clashed again. Ran was determined to win or at least get Yukina almost down. That would be good enough for her. Yukina was fighting with a blank face. She wasn't very interested in this. It wasn't hard.

Ran was too emotional. She was just lashing out wherever she wanted. There was no strategy behind her actions. Yukina caught Ran's fist and shoved her backwards. Ran yelped as she fell onto her butt. Yukina walked over to her and simply kicked her. It wasn't a hard kick, just enough to knock her completely over.

"I win."

Ran growled as she pushed herself up. Yukina offered her a hand, but Ran stubbornly refused her help. She stood up and brushed off her clothes.

"Well, now that that's done, shall we go back, Yukina?" Lisa asked.

"If you'd like, you may come. We've figured out part of the book. You can see what it says for yourself." Yukina stated.

"Okay..." Ran was still bitter about losing, but she was not going to give up an opportunity like that.

The three of them made their way back. Yukina walked inside and led Ran to their living room. It still wasn't that nice, but it was getting there. It had more furniture in it now.

"Here's what we've found." Yukina pointed to a paper beside the book.

"You guys work fast." Ran was in shock at how much they had already deciphered from the book.

"We only recruit the best." Yukina replied.

Ran hesitantly read over the notes. There was a lot to take in. This book contained classified information about inhumane experiments the organization had conducted.

"Why did you bring her inside?"

"Hey, Sayo! Come help me cook!"

Sayo didn't budge despite the call. She remained staring at Yukina and Ran. Ran didn't like how Sayo was staring her down.

"To compromise, she is allowed to learn the information from the book, but we get to keep it." Yukina explained.

"Very well." Sayo gave Ran a slight glare, before walking away to help Lisa as she had been requested to do.

Ran read over the notes, trying to remember the important stuff. That was the best she could do for all the information she had now. Yukina remained beside her. Ran knew why. She couldn't be completely trusted.

"Um... what exactly does this mean?" Ran pointed to a section of the notes. She had tried to understand it, to no avail. She hated having to ask Yukina for help, but she had no choice.

Yukina explained it to her the best she could. She herself didn't fully understand it. She admitted that to Ran. Whatever the author had written was not something easy to understand.

A sound of footsteps drew closer, "Yuki-"

Ran whipped her head around at the voice. She recognized it immediately. Ako was standing there. She was frozen in place as she stared at Ran. Ako gulped. She couldn't get out of this now. Ran had already seen her.

"Ako." Ran didn't know what to say, "W-why are you..."

"I ran away from home. No one liked me because you all left." Ako stated, "I joined this group so I can show them I'm not just a kid."

"Ako, this is not okay. You should not be in a group like this." Ran stated.

"You can't tell me what to do!" Ako yelled.

Yukina watched them with a curious expression. Sayo came back into the room to see what the commotion was about.

"You know you can't stand up for yourself." Ran said, "This is not okay. You should not be here."

"I'm learning. I'm getting stronger." Ako growled, "And who are you to talk? You guys left me alone! If you didn't want this then why'd you abandon me!?"

"It was Tomoe's idea."

Ako froze. Tomoe was the one who told them to leave her? But why? Didn't Tomoe care about her?

"W-why... o-onee-chan... didn't want me...?" Ako was heartbroken.

"N-no. It's not like that." Ran quickly defended, "But, you're better off in a big group. Something that was already established for years. Not a new group."

"I'm fine here! You don't know anything!" Ako yelled and then she ran off to her room.

"You know her quite well, it seems." Yukina said.

"She's from our old group." Ran replied, "Her sister is in our group."

"I think it's best you leave." Sayo stated, "Before anything worse happens between you two."

"Yeah." Ran agreed.

"I would suggest not telling her sister. That might cause some issues between them." Yukina said, "It's not a liability either of our groups can risk."

"I understand. Thank you." Ran bowed slightly and then left the house.

She made her way back to her base. Her mind was running wild with questions. Ran didn't know what she should do. She knew they'd ask where she was. She'd have to admit what she did. Should she mention Ako? Sure, it was risky, but Tomoe deserved to know what Ako was doing.

"Ran! Where have you been!? You left without telling anyone." Himari was immediately on her the moment she entered their house.

"I wanted to find Yukina." Ran replied.

"What? Why? You said yourself that she's dangerous, so why'd you go after her?" Himari was concerned.

"I wanted a rematch." Ran didn't see the point in lying. Himari would get it out of her at some point anyway.

"You are an idiot!" Himari whacked her on the head, "You don't just go and fight someone like that!"

"What's all the yelling about?" Moca popped her head into the room, "Oh, Ran's back."

"This idiot went and challenged Yukina to a fight." Himari glared at Ran as she crossed her arms.

"It was just a small fight. We kept our claws in." Ran held her hands up.

"I don't care. You can't just go out and do what you want. It's dangerous." Himari stormed off.

"I got some info about the book." Ran stated.

That caused Himari to pause. She didn't turn around, though.

"They've managed to decipher a lot of it. I was allowed to see what they had learned." Ran continued.

"Fine. One last chance or else someone will be with you 24/7." Himari sighed, "Now come on so we can talk."

"Ooh~ Ran's gonna need to be babysat again." Moca teased as she quickly darted passed her and over to Himari.

Ran glared at Moca, who stuck her tongue out in response. They went to the living room. That was where they tended to discuss important things. Himari called Tomoe and Tsugumi to the room. It wasn't long before they were all situation in a seat.

"So, care to explain?" Himari asked tartly.

"The book has details records about the experiments like we assumed. However, no names are recorded in it." Ran explained.

"Eh?"

"I guess for safety, they didn't want any record of who they were or who they hurt." Ran shrugged, "All the experiments that were deciphered so far took place thousands of years ago. None seem to be recent yet."

"Anything else you need to tell us?"

"Roselia... they're a small group like us." Ran said, "I saw four members. But, there could obviously be more."

"You went to their base!?" Everyone was staring at her with wide eyes.

"So what if I did? I was invited inside, so don't look at me like that." Ran huffed.

"Alright. Anything else then?"

Ran didn't know if she should say it. It was true that if Tomoe and Ako started fighting, both groups would suffer. That wasn't ideal at all. But, Tomoe should know what Ako is doing, right?

"Ran?"

It was obvious they didn't take her silence well. Ran really couldn't decide what to say. But, she needed to say something soon.

"Ako is with them."

Time seemed to stand still. No one said a thing for a while. When Ran looked around, everyone was in shock. She knew that was going to be their reaction. It had shocked her just as much, after all.

"Ako... is a member of Roselia?" Tomoe whispered.

"Yes. She ran away from home. Said everyone hated her since we left. I'm guessing at some point she found them and they took her in. She got defensive when I stated she shouldn't be in that group." Ran explained.

"No... no... she..."

"I think she'll be alright, Tomoe. I know it's shocking and all, but she seems to be fairing well with them." Ran said.

"But... she's..."

"Ako isn't a child anymore. She's grown. She's been working really hard to prove herself. I'm sure it'll be okay."

"I need to see her." Tomoe stated.

"No. That is something that can't happen." Ran replied firmly.

"Ran, you can't just tell us that and not let her see her." Himari cut in.

"If you two fight, it's a liability neither of us can afford. I'm sorry, but I agree with them. You two can't meet up. At least, not yet." Ran repeated.

"Fine..."

"I guess you'll be going back to them at some point, won't you?" Himari guessed.

"Why?" Tsugumi asked.

"We compromised. I get to learn what the book says, but they get to keep it with them. So, I'll have to go back to learn more about it." Ran replied.

"Oh... they're nice?" Tsugumi questioned.

"I wouldn't say that, but they are reasonable." Ran said, "Don't provoke them, they won't provoke you."

"You better learn more about this group while you're there. We need to know how they stand." Himari said.

"I will." Ran promised.

"And no more fights."

"Fine..."

Chapter Text

"Traitor."

"B-but..."

"You disobeyed the direct order not to show mercy. You are a traitor."

"Why does it matter?"

"You know the rules."

"They were still a kid like me! Why should I kill them!?"

This argument was attracting a lot of attention. What exactly happened? They had decided to raid a different town. The demons there had been harassing them for too long. It was time to make them pay for it.

They had even brought some of the younger demons along to give them a taste of their first fight. Tomoe, Himari, and Ran had all been chosen to go. Ran had spared a demon when the orders were to kill anyone in sight. Now she was being reprimanded for it.

"Why did you spare them? After all, you have no problem hurting your own group, so why was it so difficult to kill just one demon?" The general in charge of the attack was right in her face.

"I've never killed anyone before. I don't want to either. Not without a reason." Ran stated as confidently as she could, despite how much she was trembling.

"We gave you a reason. Perhaps it was a mistake to send you." The general growled.

"There was no need to kill them. What harm were they doing. They only harassed us. They never physically hurt anyone. Why was that necessary?" Ran questioned, though she immediately regretted it when she was shoved backwards.

"Ran!" Himari caught her before she could fall over.

"This group is no place for someone who won't kill. Get. Out." The general growled menacingly, before he stormed off.

"Are you okay?" Himari asked as she hugged Ran tightly.

"Y-yeah..." Ran nodded, trying to calm herself.

"So... you're gonna have to leave?" Tomoe asked, unable to believe it.

"I... I guess so..." Ran looked at the ground, "I'm sorry... if... if only I had just done it... none of this would've happened..."

"I agree with you. The amount of violence used was unnecessary." Tomoe said.

Himari nodded. She was shocked by how brutal they were told to be. She would've expected that attack to be saved for a group that killed some of their members. Not one that just threw insults at them whenever they crossed paths.

"Let's go find Moca and Tsugu and talk. They need to know this too." Himari stated.

Ran and Tomoe nodded. The three of them wandered around, searching for where their friends were at. They found Moca hanging out by the small park that was recently put up.

"Hey, Moca. Do you know where Tsugu is? We all need to talk." Himari asked as she walked over to Moca.

"I think she was helping her parents at their shop." Moca replied.

"Well, let's go. This is urgent." Himari stated.

That was enough to get Moca moving without a complaint. This was the second time they'd ever had an emergency meeting. You didn't mess around when a thing like that was called. It was never a joke.

The four of them quickly made their way to the store Tsugumi's parents owned. They found Tsugumi organizing a shelf. Himari went in and talked to her. After a few minutes, they came out.

"Where should we go to talk?" Ran asked.

"We can go to my house." Tomoe offered, "It's just me and Ako so not like anyone can really eavesdrop. And Ako wouldn't tell."

"Alright. Let's go." Himari nodded.

The five friends made their way to Tomoe's house, Tomoe leading the way. They slipped inside and went to an area of the house without any windows. They didn't want to risk anyone snooping on them. It wasn't unlikely they'd have sent someone to keep an eye of Ran to make sure she leaves soon.

"Um... how come you're all here?" Ako asked as she went to see what all the commotion was about.

"Things happened and we needed a safe place to talk." Tomoe told her.

"Can I join?" Ako asked.

"I suppose."

They all sat down on the floor. All eyes were on Himari. She was the one who called the meeting, so it was her job to explain it. Himari was trying to figure out the best way to start the conversation.

"Well... Ran didn't kill a demon when we were ordered to show no mercy..." Himari explained, "She's being kicked out."

"What!?"

"B-but..."

"What are we gonna do?" Ran asked, "I'll be chased out if I don't leave... but what am I supposed to do?"

"I don't know..." No one had an answer for her.

They sat in silence for a while. Everyone was lost in thought, trying to figure out what to do. They needed something they could do. They just were not sure what that something could be.

"I... I'm sure I can find another group to take me in... it's not that bad, right?" Ran asked, though her voice was filled with doubt.

What group around here would let her join? They were all closed. She'd need to travel for a while to even have a chance. Things did not seem very hopeful for Ran at all.

"I know. How about we make our own group!" Tsugumi suddenly stated.

"Our own... group?" Ran repeated.

"Yeah. We can do that. Then we can all be together again." Tsugumi nodded.

"But who would be the leader of the group?" Tomoe asked.

Most eyes turned to Himari immediately. She was always bossing them around and keeping them out of trouble. It made sense they'd want her to be the leader of the group.

"But... then we'd all leave. And we'd be on our own." Himari reasoned.

"So? It's better than Ran being all by herself." Moca defended.

"Could I go with you guys?" Ako asked.

"I don't know." Tomoe told her, "We have to work this out first. You should head to bed anyway."

Ako frowned. She made a big scene as she left the room. Tomoe just rolled her eyes. Ako always hated when she was told to leave.

"Would we bring her?" Tsugumi asked.

"No. It's for the best she remains with a big group. With her... weakness... it's not safe for her out in the woods without protection. We don't have the means to support her." Tomoe shook her head.

"You're willing to abandon Ako?" Ran asked.

"She'll come to understand it." Tomoe simply shrugged.

"So, we're doing it?" Himari asked.

Everyone looked at each other. After a few minutes, they were all nodding. It was time to leave. This group was not meant for them at all.

"What shall we name our group then? And what will our marking be?" Himari questioned.

"Um... you can choose the marking..."

"But name?"

They all pondered the question for a while. What name did they want to call their group? They needed something good. Something that people would remember.

"How about... Afterglow?"

"Afterglow... I like it!" Himari nodded.

"So, what's the marking gonna be?" Moca asked.

Himari was lost in thought as she tried to come up with an idea. What could suit the group? Something simple and plain was probably the best. Himari would rather something more out there, but she knew they'd protest it.

"How about three hearts. One big one and two small ones on the bottom corners of it?" Himari suggested.

"That sounds good." Everyone agreed to it.

"So, shall we pack up and go?" Moca asked.

They all left and went to their respective houses to pack up some basic supplies. There wasn't much they could take with them. They needed to travel light in case they ran into any problems.

Tomoe sighed as she headed up to her bedroom. She paused at the door to Ako's room. She hated that she was going to leave without a word. She just couldn't let Ako get hurt. She needed to stay in this group. It was for the best.

Tomoe quietly opened the door and looked in. Ako was laying down on her bed. Her face was hidden from sight, but Tomoe could tell she wasn't asleep yet. Tomoe entered the room and sat on the bed.

Ako turned around to look at her, "Onee-chan?"

"Hey... thought I'd come say goodnight." Tomoe smiled as she brushed some hair out of Ako's face, "I doubted you'd be asleep yet."

"Goodnight." Ako replied, "So... what's going on?"

"We haven't fully decided yet. We'll talk more later." Tomoe lied.

"Okay. Can we hang out tomorrow?" Ako asked.

Tomoe internally frowned. This was hard. She couldn't let on the fact that she was leaving. She'd have to lie.

"I'll see what I can do." Tomoe said, "I promise I'll try."

"Okay! Night, onee-chan!"

"Night, Ako." Tomoe kissed her on her forehead and then left her to sleep.

As Tomoe closed the door, she felt wetness on her cheeks. She brought a hand to her face. She was crying. It hurt to have to abandon Ako like this. She was all Ako had left and now she was going to run off without telling her a single thing.

Tomoe took a deep breath and went to her room. She quietly packed her things. She debated leaving a note, but decided Ako could learn with the rest of the group. It was probably better that way.

Tomoe snuck back downstairs and out the door. She met up with the others at a desolate area. They were just waiting on Moca now.

"Are you okay? Your face is red." Tsugumi asked Tomoe with worry.

"I'm fine." Tomoe tried her best to smile.

"What's wrong?" Himari asked.

Tomoe faltered in her smile, "I... I feel bad... about leaving Ako all alone..."

"You can stay." Ran stated, "You don't have to come with us. I'm sure we could find a way to meet up occasionally."

"Yeah. If this is too hard on you, please don't do it." Himari nodded in agreement.

"I want us to stay together." Tomoe insisted, "I can handle this. I promise."

"Once we leave, we can't come back, Tomoe." Ran said, "If you're having doubts, don't do it. At least, not yet. You can always join us later."

"I'm fine." Tomoe stated, "I'll be fine."

"Tomoe..." Tsugumi hugged Tomoe's right arm, "Um... are you really sure? Ako does look up to you a lot..."

"I know... it hurts to leave without a word, but I'll be fine." Tomoe reassured her as she pat her on the head.

"Sorry I'm late." Moca finally arrived, "What's up?"

Moca was eyeing up Tomoe and Tsugumi. Tsugumi hesitantly let go of Tomoe, hoping Moca wouldn't tease her about it at all.

"Making sure Tomoe is truly willing to go." Himari replied, "She is leaving Ako all alone, after all."

"Oh."

"I promise I'm fine. It's not that bad. At least I know she'll be safe here." Tomoe stated.

"What if this makes her hate you?" Moca questioned, "Then what?"

"She'll understand it eventually. I know she will." Tomoe replied.

"Well... if you're sure, then let's head out." Himari said.

The five friends took their leave from the town. They didn't turn back once. Even Tomoe didn't look back. She knew she had to face forward or else this would be harder.

"Where do you think we should head to?" Tsugumi asked.

"Let's find somewhere near a mountain to set up our base. I heard rumors of a lot of abandoned mining houses there. We might be in luck." Ran said.

Himari smiled, "Awesome! Less work for us!"

"Hopefully." Ran said, giving Himari a slight glare, "They could be very rundown for all we know."

"Still. We have a structure." Himari huffed.

...

It took them two days to find a place to live. It was a house embedded on the side of a mountain. It wasn't in bad shape. There was nothing inside, though. The entire place was covered in dust.

"So, shall we clean up a room and make that our temporary bedroom?" Himari suggested.

They were all exhausted from the journey. They couldn't sleep on the floor with all the dust around. They needed something cleaner.

"Sure."

They found a decently sized room. It wasn't that big, but enough to hold them all for now. They split up the room and started cleaning it up. They didn't do too much. Just enough so they could not be swarmed by dust bunnies and the likes.

"Well, last thing we need to do is make this our official base." Himari said.

"How do we do that?" Moca asked.

"We have to mark our territory. That can wait till tomorrow, though. But, how about we get our markings!"

As Himari spoke, her marking appeared. The three hearts appeared on her right shoulder.

"Okay, who's first?" Himari asked.

Moca stepped forward, "I'll go."

"Where do you want it?" Himari asked.

"Here." Moca held out her right arm and pointed to her wrist. Himari nodded and gave her the marking there.

Next up, Ran went. She decided she wanted her marking on on the back of her left shoulder. She didn't care to have it exposed at all. Tomoe got hers on the left side of her neck. Tsugumi was last. She got hers on her right leg. It was just visible from under her dress.

Once that was taken care of, they settled down on the ground. They all stayed close together for warmth. Sure, they had blankets, but they only did so much to help. They also liked being close to each other.

They had finally made it. Now they were there own group. All that was left was to claim their territory and they would be done. Things seemed like they were going to go well for them.

Tomoe was still slightly worried about Ako. She knew they'd have all found out by now. She wondered how Ako was taking it. Was she upset? Did she hate her? Tomoe didn't know. She also didn't know if she'd ever get that answer.

Perhaps that might be for the best. Things would be different between them after this event. Tomoe knew that much. She just hoped Ako would be okay by herself.

Chapter Text

It had taken them a week to return to the main branch of the organization. Hina was locked away and kept under careful surveillance. She was harshly interrogated to see if she knew of anyone else that was like her. Hina remained strong and lied to them. She was not about to tell them about Sayo. She would do anything if it meant not having her be subject to this fate as well.

While they had been traveling, Hina had convinced herself this was her punishment. She deserved it for being foolish. She deserved this for being naive. Sayo didn't. Sayo hadn't done anything wrong. She was just protecting them and then Hina went and ruined it. That was what she believed. Hina believed everything was her fault.

So many what ifs played in her head. What could she have done differently? What if she had never opened her mouth? What if she hadn't trusted those people? What if she hadn't flashed out at Sayo in fear? What if... what if she had never been born.

Hina had way too much time to think. She was slowly digging herself into a grave. She was convinced everything had been because of her. It wasn't like the worker was any help. He just confirmed these thoughts. He would belittle her, call her dirty named. Shame her for everything she had done. Curse her for her parents' mistakes.

Hina was ready to die. She tried to hold on, but the constant abuse from the workers was starting to take a toll on her. She just wishes they'd kill her. It would make things so much easier. And yet, they continued to force her to live.

One day, that all changed. Hina woke to jingling keys. She opened her eyes, expecting to see another worker ready to beat her. Instead, she met eyes with a girl around her age. Hina studied her. She wasn't wearing the typical uniform. She was free to wear other clothes. Though, it still was a uniform. It just made her stand out.

"You are Hina, correct?" The girl asked.

Hina hesitantly nodded. She was unsure what to think of this girl. Was she a threat? Was she going to take her somewhere and hurt her? What was her reason for seeking her out?

"My name is Aya. I am a spy for the organization. They wish to create a group of five people to go and learn more information on a threat. You have been chosen as a potential candidate." The girl stated.

"Why me?" Hina asked.

She had never been treated well throughout her entire captivity so why was she a candidate? Why was she going to be given this chance? It didn't make sense to her.

"You are very smart. You would be useful. It could also be your ticket to a better life. If you can prove yourself, they won't keep you locked away like this." Aya replied.

"Do I have a choice?" Hina questioned.

"Technically you do. You either agree or you'll be killed." Aya said.

Hina thought about it. She had the chance to die. But, she had the chance to be free. If she could gain their trust, maybe there was a chance for her to escape?

"I'll do it." Hina stated. She made up her mind. She would do it and try to find a way to escape while doing so.

"Alright." Aya unlocked the chains holding Hina hostage.

Hina rubbed her wrists. They hurt a lot. As she looked at them, she saw they were bruises and bloody. Hina winced at the sight. They were going to be like that for a while.

Aya held out a hand to Hina. Hina hesitated, before she reached out and grabbed it. Aya helped her to her feet. Hina was very unsteady after spending almost a month stuck sitting on the floor. Aya wrapped an arm around Hina so she wouldn't fall over.

"I'll be taking you to the meeting room then." Aya said and started guiding Hina through the facility.

They were going slow, as Hina needed to be careful. Hina took advantage of this and made sure to memorize everything about this place that she could. Who knew when it might come in handy.

Aya didn't say a word to her as they walked. Hina studied her appearance more. Aya was wearing a different uniform than she had seen the other members wearing. She also noted that Aya's wings were horribly mangled.

"Um, what happened to your wings?" Hina asked.

"They clip them." Aya replied, "Makes it easier to control a demon who can't fly."

"Did it hurt?" Hina questioned, knowing full well that would soon be her fate. They'd clip her wings too if she joined.

"Yeah. It hurts a lot." Aya nodded, "And they aren't caring enough to numb the pain at any point."

Hina gulped. That was not good. She did not like the sound of that at all.

"How long did the pain last for?"

"The initial pain lasts for about a week. If you move them the wrong way or hit them in certain areas, you'll get a sharp pain." Aya explained.

"Doesn't sound pleasant..." Hina mumbled.

"Believe me, it's not." Aya replied, "We're here. I suggest keeping quiet unless asked to speak. They don't like when demons talk to them without permission."

Hina nodded, showing she understood. Aya opened a door and they walked in. In the room were three other demons. Hina examined them all. All had the same uniform Aya did. Their wings were all clipped as well. They all appeared to be girls.

Hina's eyes fell on one girl in particular. She had short brown hair. That wasn't what caught her attention, though. It was the fact that there were bandages covering her eyes. Hina didn't dare ask anything.

"I see you've brought her. So, she agreed?" A man spoke.

Hina turned to look. There was a demon sitting in a very fancy chair. He looked important.

"Yes, sir. She agreed to join our efforts." Aya nodded.

"Alright. Girls, come closer. Let me explain what exactly your task will be." The man beckoned them closer.

Aya aided Hina still as they all gathered closer to where he sat. Once all five of them were gathered around him, he began.

"As you four know, a rogue group has openly stated they are rebelling. For this new one, I'll explain the details you all may or may not know." He said.

"This group is named Roselia. From what we've been gathering, they have three active members. There are rumors of two others in the group, though we are not sure about their status." He continued, "The names we know are Yukina, Lisa, and Sayo."

Hina tried not to react. There was no doubt in her mind that that Sayo was the one she knew. It made perfect sense. She hated the organization. Of course she'd join a rebellion.

"Do we have last names?" Aya asked.

"Minato and Imai. There has been no luck in finding Sayo's last name." The man replied.

"So, what exactly do you want us to do about them?" A blond haired girl asked.

"Spy on them and if you see an opportunity, eliminate them." The man stated.

"Alright. So, shall we get Hina into our group?" Aya asked.

"Go ahead." He nodded.

The five of them left the room. Hina nervously glanced at them all. She didn't like this. They were asking her to possibly kill Sayo. Hina didn't know if she could do that under any circumstance.

"So, let's get you measured for the uniform." Aya said.

"Can I have your names?" Hina asked. She better get to know these demons, after all.

"Chisato." The blond girl said.

"Eve." A white haired girl said.

"Maya." The brown haired one replied.

"Have you guys been working for long?" Hina asked.

"Yeah. All of us were born into here." Eve nodded.

"Oh." Hina realized now just how lucky she had been.

"Your parents were brave." Aya commented, "Demons rarely would do something so risky right at the heart of control."

"Yeah... are they... are they dead?" Hina asked. She assumed they were.

"Yes. The punishment for what they did is death." Chisato answered.

"Alright. Let's get you a uniform!" Aya opened a door to a tailor room.

"Okay." Hina allowed Aya to position her and take the needed measurements.

Hina couldn't help but keep looking at Maya. She really wanted to know what had happened to her, but felt that was rude to ask. She needed to stay on their good sides.

"I know you are wondering about me." Maya suddenly said, "Everyone that meets me does."

"I didn't want to be rude." Hina replied.

"That's a first. No one else ever cared." Maya muttered, "But, I don't mind telling you. This was a punishment. They were gouged out."

"Punishment..." Hina gulped.

"I... I got mad at some higher ups and... they decided to teach me a lesson." Maya sighed, "So, word of advice, don't pick fights."

"I'll remember that." Hina replied.

"I'm surprised you agreed to join." Chisato stated, "Why would you?"

"I have my reasons." Hina replied. She couldn't tell them anything. Who knew what they'd do to her if they knew her intentions?

"Fine. Clipping your wings is next. That's going to hurt a lot. Are you sure you wouldn't rather just die?"

"I can handle it." Hina stated firmly.

She wouldn't tell them, but the thought of her wings being clipped really scared her. She had no idea if they were over exaggerating the pain or if it truly was that bad. Hina really hoped it wasn't a painful as they said.

"Welp, got your measurements. Now, the bad part..." Aya sighed.

"How does it work?" Hina asked.

"I literally take a knife to your wings and cut them." Aya replied.

Hina gulped.

"I'll be in charge of the next step. Removing your horns." Chisato stated.

"My... horns?" Hina for the first time realized that these four girls did not have horns.

"Yes. That is our... 'group marking' I suppose." Chisato said, "Don't exactly know why they wanted our horns removed, but there is no arguing their orders."

"Do horns... do anything?" Hina questioned.

"Just signals what breed of demon you are." Maya explained, "So, I'm guessing they decided they didn't want anyone to know our perks."

"I doubt our perks would do much." Chisato rolled her eyes.

"Well, it's the only answer I've been able to come up with." Maya shrugged.

"Does that hurt too?" Hina asked, a bit a panic seeping into her voice.

"No. You're knocked out for it." Chisato said.

"Why they'll do that for horns but not for wings is beyond me." Aya sighed, "You ready?"

"Does my answer even matter?" Hina mumbled.

"No." Aya replied, "Just, try not to move too much.  Eve's wings are an example of what can happen."

Hina looked over at Eve. Her wings were clipped a lot. Eve was dancing on her feet as she looked down. Hina glanced back at Aya. Aya nodded to her and slowly started cutting away at Hina's wings.

Hina did her best to stay still. She bit her tongue to try and stop herself from screaming. It was painful. She didn't realize it would be this painful. Hina felt tears running down her face. She squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her hands into fists.

"Wing one is done." Aya said.

Hina took a shakey breath. Moments later, the knife was on her other wing. Hina could feel blood in her mouth from how hard she had bitten her tongue. She was starting to shake as the pain became worse.

"It's almost done." Aya said, hoping to help keep her still for just a few more minutes.

Hina felt someone grab her arms. She couldn't find the strength to open her eyes. She didn't know why they were grabbing her.

"And... done." Aya finished and pulled away.

At those words, Hina felt her legs give out. Whoever was grabbing her helped her down to the ground slowly. Hina slowly opened her eyes. Eve was in front of her.

"Are you feeling alright? You don't feel ill now, do you?" Eve asked.

Hina gripped her stomach in reply. She did feel ill. Eve frowned and rubbed her back. Aya knelt down beside her as she did so.

"I'm sorry. I know it hurts a lot... but rules are rules..." Aya apologized as she brushed some hair out of Hina's face.

Hina let out a sob. Eve pulled her into a hug. Hina clung to her as she let go and started crying.

"I suggest we do the horns soon. It'll give her some relief." Chisato stated.

"Can you walk?" Aya asked.

Hina shook her head. She didn't think she could move at all. She felt Eve wrap her arms around her and slowly stand up. Hina clung to her as she was carried.

They left the room and went to another. This one had a table. Hina was laid down on the table. Eve stayed by her side to try and distract her from the pain.

Chisato gathered the supplies needed as quickly as possible. She wanted to get this started soon. She always hated watching the pain demons were in from the clipping.

It took a few minutes before she gathered all the stuff she needed. Chisato took a syringe and injected the contents into Hina. Hina slowly fell quiet.

"Do you want us to stay?" Eve asked.

"I don't care." Chisato replied, "Just don't get in my way."

...

Hina woke up a few hours later. She still was in a lot of pain. She slowly blinked open her eyes. She found herself in an unfamiliar room. Hina struggled to sit up on the bed she was laying on.

Eventually, she managed. Hina looked around. The other girls were all on their own beds. Hina assumed this was their room. She looked at them all, hoping one of them was awake. It didn't appear that way.

Hina slowly reached up and felt her head. She felt bandages where her horns should have been. They were gone. She no longer had her horns. She barely had her wings either.

Hina laid back down on the bed. She closed her eyes and willed herself to fall asleep. The pain was still pounding from her wings. It was hard to relax. Hina didn't know if she would be getting any sleep.

She tried and tried, but couldn't fall asleep. The pain was still too much. Hina groaned as she shoved a pillow over her face. This sucked. She just wanted to sleep and pass time quickly. Then she'd be better faster. She'd spend less time in pain.

"Oh, you're awake."

Hina removed the pillow from her face. She looked over to her left. Maya was sitting up. The bandages on her eyes were missing. Hina could see the damage fully.

"It hurts too much to sleep." Hina said.

"Not surprised. Unfortunately, we don't have anything that can help." Maya shrugged apologetically.

"I hate this..." Hina sighed.

"Then why'd you join?" Maya questioned, "Why not take death?"

"Why didn't you choose to die after what they did to you?" Hina shot back. She instantly felt awful about saying that, but Maya replied before she could apologize.

"I see. You're spiteful of them and want revenge." Maya understood what that meant.

"Maybe..." Hina mumbled.

"I am too. But, I know it's no use trying to get revenge. Not when you'd be so outnumbered." Maya said.

"Yeah... that's the worst part. Now I have to rely on fate to get revenge for me." Hina replied.

"Well, welcome to the club. I'm certain all of us feel that way." Maya nodded.

"Um... I never asked, but does this group have a special name?" Hina asked.

"Pastel*Palettes." Maya replied, "Aya chose it when the four of us were first recruited."

"Did you have another?"

"No. They only wanted us. I guess with the threat, they wanted more on our team." Maya shrugged.

"You're pretty smart." Hina commented.

"I've always been very observant." Maya said, "Sucks not to be able to see to observe, though."

"Yeah. I can imagine."

"Well, the alarm will be going off soon." Maya said.

"What's the plan then?"

"Just normal stuff. Patrolling the building, getting Intel, going to meetings. Once you're ready, we'll actually go and find that group." Maya explained.

"Just out of curiosity. What would happen if we refused to kill them even if we had the chance to?" Hina asked.

"As long as they aren't aware, nothing will come of it. None of us will care if someone doesn't jump on every opportunity. It's just common sense to observe first before jumping in." Maya said.

"Okay. That's good." Hina was relieved.

Before they could say more, an alarm rung. The other girls stirred. Maya got out of her bed and went into a different room.

"Hina, how are you feeling?" Aya asked.

"It still hurts..." Hina mumbled.

"The pain will slowly lessen. Just take it easy." Chisato stated.

"Let's get ready and then go eat." Eve said as she vanished into the same room Maya had.

"We'll come back with the food. Don't worry about getting up." Aya said.

"Okay." Hina nodded.

She still wasn't sure how to react to these girls. They all wanted vengeance. But, they knew it was stupid to attack. So, could Hina trust them with more information or not? She didn't know yet. That would be something she definitely found out as quickly as possible.

Chapter Text

"Watch it-"

"Ack!"

"Aya... can you please watch your step?"

"S-sorry..."

Pastel*Palettes was finally on their mission to track down Roselia. Hina had recovered as much as she could. She still would occasionally get pain in her wings, but it was manageable now.

They were currently trecking through the woods near where they were told Roselia may have their base. The terrain was not easy to navigate and as such, there were quite a few falls.

"Where's this hideout we're supposed to make base at?" Eve asked.

"It should be close by." Chisato replied, "At least, according to what they told us."

"I hope it's close. I want to rest..." Eve sighed.

Everyone was in agreement with that. They had been walking for who knows how long. It was taking a toll on everyone to walk this far. Their legs were killing them.

"I wish we could fly..." Hina whispered.

"That would make this easier..." Aya agreed.

"The more you complain, the longer this will take." Chisato cut them off.

They yelped out an apology and fell silent. Chisato was not in the mood to humor all the complaints. She wanted to get this over with as soon as possible. Though, she doubted that would happen.

Thankfully, they soon arrived at the base. Everyone went to the living room area and sat down. They all needed a break.

"So, what exactly is our plan going to be?" Eve asked.

"They want us to collect more information. Specifically about if they are planning an attack. So, I guess we'll be doing a lot of sneaking around and trying to locate them." Chisato replied.

"I heard they are seen in the town near here often." Maya stated, "It might be wise to patrol it secretly."

"Perhaps." Chisato nodded.

"Um... Maya, since you can't see... how do you do these things?" Hina asked curiously, though a bit hesitantly.

"I've learned how to rely on my other senses." Maya replied, not seeming bothered by the question, "I'm pretty good at staying hidden."

"No one thought Maya would ever be able to do something like this, but she proved them wrong." Aya said.

"I see. I guess sight isn't everything, after all." Hina said.

"So, let's rest up for now. When night falls we'll set out." Chisato stated.

"Okay."

They made beds in some empty rooms. Most of them were asleep immediately. Hina was not one of them. She couldn't stop the thoughts running through her head. This was bad. This entire mission was bad. What was she going to do if she had to face Sayo? What would she do if she wasn't alone?

Hina sat up. She looked around the room. It seemed like everyone else was asleep. Hina carefully got up and snuck out of the house. She was going to find Sayo now. Roselia was around here. It couldn't be too hard to at least run into one of them, right?

Hina didn't care about finding their base. She just needed to find Sayo. That was all that mattered. Finding her and warning her of the threat.

Hina carefully made her way through the woods. She didn't know what her plan would be. She just kept walking. Every noise made her jump. Who knew what could be out here. And, who knew if she was seen leaving. She could be being followed for all she knew.

Hina was extremely cautious as she found a river. She stood on the bank and stared at her reflection. Hina sighed and then jumped over it. She continued walking.

Hina stopped as she heard rustling. She looked around, but couldn't see anyone. She also couldn't pinpoint the direction the noise was coming from. Hina slowly took a few steps back from the way she had been walking.

Something snapped just a few feet away from her. Hina gulped. Who was here? What did they want? Was it a rogue demon? Or, could it be Sayo? Hina wasn't sure, but she didn't want to take any chances.

She continued to slowly retreat back the way she had come. Hina wasn't looking to pick a fight. She hoped whoever was watching her would see that and leave her alone. Unfortunately, Hina didn't think that would be the case. She was in uniform. It wasn't likely they'd let an organization member run loose around here.

Hina's suspicions were confirmed when she was jumped on. Hina yelped as she was slammed into the ground. She desperately fought against whoever was holding her down. Hina felt claws dig into her shoulders. She cried out in pain. It hurt a lot. And, now her wings were hurting from being pressed against the ground.

Footfall was heard running toward them, "What's going on?"

Hina immediately recognized the voice. She couldn't see her, but she knew it was Sayo. Hina bit her lip as the claws sank deeper into her flesh. She kicked and wiggled, but she couldn't get free.

"Let her go."

"What? She's part of-"

"I know. Let her go."

Hina was slowly released. Her attacker got off of her. Hina was finally able to get a good look at her. She recognized her as being Yukina. Hina looked over to her side. Sayo was standing there. She had a blank expression, but it was obvious she was faking that.

Hina winced as she slowly pushed herself to her feet. She kept a wary eye on Yukina. Yukina seemed ready to attack at any moment. Hina hoped she wouldn't.

"Why are you here?" Yukina growled.

Hina ignored her and stared at Sayo. Sayo returned her gaze. There was relief in her eyes. Relief knowing Hina hadn't been killed. Hina felt tears forming in her eyes. She started crying and ran over to Sayo and tackled her into a tight hug.

"Onee-chan..." Hina cried as she clung to Sayo desperately, "I'm sorry... I'm sorry about everything..."

Sayo hugged her back, "I know. I'm sorry about how I reacted."

"She's related to you?" Yukina stared at them in disbelief.

As she stared, she couldn't help but start to notice how similar they did look. Yukina cursed herself for not realizing that before she attacked. It did appear as though Hina wasn't a threat.

"We're twins." Sayo replied.

"So, why are you here?" Yukina repeated, her stance lightening up slightly. She still didn't entirely trust Hina, but she was going to give her a chance.

"W-well... I was told I had to join this group at the organization's headquarters or else I'd be killed and we were told to come and learn more information on you guys." Hina explained.

"How many are in this group?" Sayo questioned.

"There's five of us." Hina replied.

"I guess we'll be hiding out for a bit then." Yukina sighed.

"Why did you come out here alone? Shouldn't you be with them?" Sayo asked as she slowly released Hina.

Hina didn't let go of her, "I... I came to find you. I... I... I can't hurt you... and they want us to... they said if we can, we should kill you guys..."

"How loyal are these members of your group?" Yukina asked.

Hina thought about how to explain it. They weren't really loyal, but they had to be. None of them really liked the organization. That's what she had learned.

"Well... they won't go against them themselves, but they all hate the organization." Hina said.

"They'll do as they say, but don't like it, huh?"

"That might be an advantage."

"How?" Hina was confused.

"As long as it's just you guys, no one will know if you don't attack us. That's a way to get back at them. Just stay out of our way and we can stop them." Sayo explained.

"No. They won't let that happen. If we don't give them what they want in some capacity, they'll kill us." Hina shook her head.

"Is that their only punishment?" Yukina grumbled.

"One of our members got their eyes gouged out for talking back to a higher up." Hina stated.

"Brutal." Both of them winced at that statement.

"So... sadly we can't just back off. But, I was told they won't care if we don't jump on every opportunity to kill you guys. So... I don't think we have that as a goal unless it will be directly ordered." Hina offered.

"I suggest you get back. Before they notice you're gone." Sayo said.

Hina frowned. She wanted to hang out longer.

"Where are your horns?" Yukina asked, bot ready for Hina to go just yet.

"Huh?" Sayo looked at Hina's head.

"They removed them. I don't really know why." Hina said.

"And your wings?" Yukina questioned. She was taking this opportunity to learn all she could. Who knew if they'd ever get another chance.

Hina was willing to give them information. If somehow they could use her, that would be extremely useful. But, Yukina couldn't figure out how that would work, so she had to question Hina now.

"They clip them so we can't fly. I was told it's so we're less able to escape or fight back. Those in higher positions still have their wings intact, though." Hina explained. She was more than willing to give them this information.

"That all?" Sayo looked over at Yukina.

"For now." Yukina replied.

"Go back to them before you get caught." Sayo stated.

"But..." Hina wasn't ready to go yet. She still wanted to hang around Sayo. To make up for the lost time.

"Go. I'm sure this won't be the last time we meet." Sayo repeated.

Hina frowned, but nodded. She gave Sayo one last look and then left. Hina trudged back the way she had come.

As she walked, the stinging in her shoulders reminded her of her wounds. That wasn't good. They'd know something was up. What could she do to hide what she had been up to?

Hina eventually decided to try and lie and say she had taken a walk and been attacked by a rogue demon. If they asked where the body was, she'd say they landed in the river and were lost. Hopefully they'd believe her.

Hina tried to make it more believable by acting more injured and tired than she was. She soon made her way to the base. Eve was up. Hina tried to keep calm as she walked in.

"Hina? Where'd you..." Eve trailed off as she looked at Hina, "What happened!?"

Eve ran over to her and quickly began assessing the damage. Hina winced as Eve touched the wounds.

"I couldn't sleep so I went to take a quick walk. Some rogue jumped me." Hina lied.

"Come on. Let's get those wounds treated before they get infected." Eve led Hina to a chair.

"Thanks..." Hina mumbled.

"Where's the demon at now?" Eve questioned as she removed Hina's uniform.

"Fell into a river. I didn't see them come up." Hina said.

"I see. Hopefully they won't cause any issues if they are still alive." Eve sighed as she applied some medicine to the wounds, "Are you hurt anywhere else?"

"I don't think so." Hina shook her head.

"At least these aren't too bad. You're lucky." Eve said as she grabbed bandages.

"Yeah..."

"Are you alright? You seem a bit dazed. Did you hit your head hard?" Eve asked in worry.

"I don't remember doing that." Hina replied, "But I guess I feel a little light headed."

"Once I'm done you should lay down." Eve said.

"Are you our medical member?"

"I guess you could consider me that." Eve replied, "I've always had a fascination with medical stuff."

"Well, that's a good thing to know..." Hina winced as Eve accidentally tightened the bandages a bit too much.

"Sorry." Eve apologized as she quickly loosened them.

"It's fine." Hina replied.

"Welp. You're all done. I'll help you to your bed. You should definitely try and rest." Eve carefully helped Hine up onto her feet.

They took a slow walk to the bedroom. Eve set the uniform beside Hina. Hina wasn't sure why she wasn't asked to put it back on.

"When night falls let me check them again and if they're okay you can put it on. The shirt is a bit tight so I don't want it disturbing the wounds right now." Eve explained, seeming to understand Hina's puzzlement.

"Okay." Hina agreed.

She settled down and closed her eyes. She had been through a lot today. Hina was glad, though. She had gotten to meet Sayo again. She also managed to help them out. Hina was hoping somehow Roselia could manage to take down the organization. She'd do whatever she could to make that happen. Even if she had to betray Pastel*Palettes.

...

Hina woke up to the sound of talking. She opened her eyes and looked around. Night had fallen. She sat up. It appeared she was the only one left in the room. She guessed the others were who she was hearing talking in a different room.

Hina wasn't sure if she should go and see them. She felt a dull pain in both of her shoulders. Hina took a deep breath and tried to push herself to her feet. It didn't work. The pain worsened in her shoulders and she lost her balance. She yelped she crashed into the ground.

"You okay?"

Aya entered the room. Hina couldn't get enough strength to even move from the position she was in. Her shoulders stung worse now. Her arms felt numb. Aya knelt down beside her, worry in her eyes.

"Eve told us you were jumped. I guess they did more damage than we thought." Aya sighed as she helped Hina move so she was once again lying on her back.

"It was fine earlier... but now it really hurts." Hina mumbled.

"Let me get Eve then." Aya left the room.

Moments later, Eve entered the room. She sighed as she sat down beside Hina.

"Looks like things aren't that simple for you, huh?" Eve started removing the bandages.

"I guess not." Hina replied.

"They look pretty red. I hope they aren't infected." Eve bit her lip.

"What if they are?" Hina asked.

"I'm not sure. We don't have the supplies to handle that here. You'd need to go back to the main base." Eve replied.

Hina sighed. She hated this. Why did she have to go and get hurt that bad? All she had wanted was to see Sayo again. But, it appears she forgot the fact that Sayo wasn't the only one in the area who would probably hate anyone that was with the organization.

"I guess you won't be going out and investigating with us, will you?" Eve asked.

"I don't think so..." Hina mumbled.

"That sucks, but your health is more important." Eve shrugged apologetically.

"Hey, Eve? What exactly do you think of Roselia?" Hina asked out of the blue.

"Hmm? What do you mean?" Eve asked in confusion.

"Do you wish for them to somehow succeed or do you want them to fail?" Hina explained.

"Well... I guess I kinda would like if they could succeed. Then we'd be free. But... the chances of it happening are slim so I don't have faith." Eve replied.

"What if there was a way to increase those chances? Would you do anything to make that a reality?" Hina questioned further.

"I don't know. Why are you asking?" Eve gave her a slightly suspicious glance.

"Can you keep a secret?"

"Yeah. I'll keep whatever it is a secret." Eve agreed.

"Sayo is my sister."

Eve didn't say anything for a while. She just worked on coating the wounds in an ointment. She appeared to be thinking. Hina hoped she hadn't made a mistake telling her that.

"This must be hard for you then." Eve eventually said, "You don't want to hurt her, but you know you may have to."

"Yeah... I don't know what to do..." Hina sighed.

"Well, I'm sure she'll be fine for now. We all decided we won't kill them during this mission. She's fine for now." Eve reassured her.

"That's good. You promise this will stay between us?" Hina asked.

Eve nodded, "This is our secret."

"Eve? You done? We were going to head out now." Chisato called from a different room.

"Be there in a minute!" Eve replied.

She finished putting new bandages on Hina's wounds. She patted Hina on the head and told her to rest. Eve gave her one last glance before leaving the room and going to join the others.

"Ready?" Chisato asked as Eve approached.

Eve nodded, "Ready."

The four of the set out. Eve and Aya ended up being sent to explore the town. Maya and Chisayo explored the woods. Eve and Aya stayed together until they reached the town. They decided it was best to split up to cover more ground.

Eve was sneaking around the town in the east area. She was careful to hide in the alleys or on rooftops. She didn't want anyone to notice her uniform. That would ruin this.

Eve didn't see anything of use. No one was giving any useful information. No one was even talking bad about the organization. That was cause to arrest them. At least then she'd have something to do.

Eve wondered if Aya was faring any better. She doubted it, though. Roselia was probably sneaky. They wouldn't expose themselves. They'd be hiding in disguises or sneaking around like she was.

Time droned on by with nothing happening. Eve was ready to go back. This had been useless. But, then she saw something in an alley. Eve carefully snuck over to it. The alley was closed on the other side. The demon who she had seen enter was now trapped between a walk and her.

The demon turned around as they saw the wall and froze. They got into a fighting stance. Eve studied them. She hesitated returning the stance as she realized who she was facing. There was no doubt she was seeing Sayo.

Eve wasn't sure what to do. This was perfect for her to capture her, but... after what Hina told her... was it worth it? She knew that would hurt Hina. So, maybe she shouldn't.

Sayo growled as she started approaching. Eve backed down. She couldn't do it. She couldn't hurt Hina like that. Sayo stared at her in surprise. She had no idea why she would stop.

"Eve? Where are you?"

Eve gulped. Aya was looking for her. Sayo backed up and got into a defensive stance. She was trapped. Eve heard Aya getting closer. Aya wouldn't hesitate like she had. Aya would attack.

Eve quickly left the alley, "Hey. I'm here."

"Why were you in there?" Aya asked, trying to peer down it.

Eve did her best to block her, "Thought I saw something but it was just a trick of the light. Ready to head home?"

"Sure?" Aya was suspicious, but didn't pursue it further.

"Let's go." Eve took Aya by the hand and they started walking away.

They turned down a path. Aya went first. Eve briefly looked back. Sayo had come out of the alley and was watching them. She was still very confused and her expression showed it. Eve just slightly nodded to her and then followed after Aya.

Had she done the right thing? Eve wasn't sure. Her job was to disable Roselia from carrying out their plans and she had just let one of them go. Even worse, she had lied to Aya so she wouldn't see Sayo there.

Eve felt conflicted. She didn't want anyone to get hurt in the group. If Sayo had been captured, Hina would be completely destroyed. But, she was preventing the others from doing what they were ordered to do. They'd get pissed if they learned of what she was doing.

What was she supposed to do? Was there even a way to keep everyone happy?

Chapter Text

"Ah. Sayo's back!"

"What's the problem?"

Sayo had just returned from the town. She had been collecting supplies. She still was unsure what to make of what had happened between her and Eve. Apparently, she'd have to wait on thinking more about it.

"We've gotten word about a new rogue group." Yukina stated, "They're killing demons with no motive. Mainly children."

"You wish to attack them?" Sayo guessed.

Yukina nodded, "Yes. They are too close for comfort."

"So... what exactly are we gonna do?" Ako asked. She was informed earlier that she was allowed to go on this attack.

"That is to be decided." Yukina replied.

"Doesn't someone need to stay with Rinko?" Lisa asked.

"She should be fine." Yukina said.

"Have you discussed that with her?" Sayo questioned.

"Not yet." Yukina said and then she walked away.

"That girl..." Lisa sighed.

Ako bounded over to Sayo, "Nee, Sayo? Is it true that the organization has demons here?"

"Yes." Sayo nodded, "Don't worry. They won't find us."

"I know they probably won't find this house but... weren't you a little scared going into town?" Ako pestered, "They could easily find us there."

"Ako, I doubt they'd be able to recognize us easily." Lisa cut in.

Sayo didn't dare say anything about what had happened. She didn't trust how they would react. Sayo still wasn't too sure about what that meant for them. Why did Eve cover her from her friend? Was there a motive behind it?

"Okay..." Ako said.

"Anyway, ready for patrol?" Lisa asked.

"I get to do that!?" Ako was excited by that announcement.

"Yes. You're allowed to go patrol." Lisa chuckled.

"I'll go put this stuff away." Sayo said and went to a storage room.

Lisa held out a hand to Ako. Ako took it and the two of them left the house. Ako was excited to go and patrol. This was her first time doing so.

They stayed together as they explored their land. They were keeping an eye and ear out for anything that didn't belong. They needed to make sure their territory was safe.

As they got farther away from the house, they became more alert. Lisa was ahead of Ako and leading the way. Ako was a few steps away from her. Both were glancing around constantly.

Lisa paused. Ako barely stopped herself from running into Lisa's back. Lisa held a hand to her lips and then slowly crept forward. Ako followed her cautiously.

They both stopped in their tracks when they heard rustling. They got into a defensive stance, unsure what was making the noise. They had to be a lot more cautious now that the organization had demons here.

Someone stumbled through the trees and into their sight. Lisa gasped as the demon came into view. She ran forward.

"Are you okay? What happened?" Lisa questioned.

Ako ran over to her side. She finally got to see the demon. She froze up for a moment as she recognized who it was. It was Tsugumi. She had a cut on her head that was bleeding badly.

Tsugumi couldn't get any words out. She just whimpered. When she opened her mouth, blood fell from her lips.. Lisa shushed her and carefully picked her up.

"We're taking you to our base." Lisa said, "You'll be okay."

Lisa and Ako rushed back. Ako was sent to get the supplies and inform the others about what was happening. Lisa worked away on cleaning Tsugumi up.

"Can you tell me what happened?" Lisa requested softly.

Yukina joined Lisa and Ako in the living room where they were at. The three of them waited for Tsugumi to talk. She was patched up the best she could be.

"T-there was a group of demon... we were just hanging out and... they... they attacked us..." Tsugumi whimpered.

"Do you know what the group calls themselves?" Yukina asked.

"No." Tsugumi shook her head, "But, their symbol was a burned tree."

"Isn't that..." Lisa trailed off.

Yukina nodded, "That's the group."

"My friends... they're hurt too..."

"Do you have enough supplies at your base?" Lisa questioned.

"No... they almost killed one of us... and two others are unconscious..." Tsugumi started crying.

"Shh..." Lisa pulled her into a hug, "It's okay."

"Are we gonna help them, Yukina?" Ako asked.

Yukina nodded, "We shall."

"Who will go?" Lisa asked.

"Sayo and I will go. You remain here with her. We'll bring them here if we can. There's no telling if they've been tracked back to their base." Yukina stated.

"Okay. Good luck." Lisa said.

"Yeah. We'll be ready to treat them then." Ako agreed.

Yukina fetched Sayo and they left. Lisa and Ako tried their best to comfort Tsugumi. She was still extremely upset. All the crying brought Rinko out to see what was going on. She rarely left the room she had been given. She still was recovering from the attack and wasn't very steady on her feet.

Meanwhile, Yukina and Sayo made their way to the others.

"She told you where the base was?" Sayo asked.

"No. I know where it is, though. She's from the group Ran is in." Yukina replied.

"Oh. I see." Sayo accepted that response.

They went fast and soon arrived at the base. Yukina's fear came true. They were being attacked by the group. Tomoe was fighting back against them but, it was only her.

Sayo and Yukina rushed in the aid her. With their help, the three of them managed to make the group retreat.

"W-why are you here?" Tomoe asked.

"Your friend stumbled onto our territory. We've come to help." Yukina said, "It's safest if you come to our base for now. They may strike again later."

"Alright." Tomoe agreed and led them into the base.

"Is Tsugumi okay?" Tomoe asked them as they entered the room where the other three were.

"Yes. Her wounds have been treated." Sayo replied.

"Tomoe? Why'd you bring them here?"

"Moca! Thank god you're okay." Tomoe ran over to where Moca was sitting on the floor.

"Why are they here? Where's Tsugu?" Moca questioned.

"Tsugu is with them. We're going to their base for now. Until we can disable that group, it's too risky to remain here. They already attacked minutes ago." Tomoe explained.

"Why? What did we do?"

"I don't know..."

"They've been killing kids for a long time. It's not that surprising they'd go after a group like yours sooner or later, unfortunately." Yukina stated.

"Oh... well, you can tell us more when we're out of here." Tomoe stood up.

She nodded to the other two members. Himari and Ran were still unconscious. Himari was beaten up extremely bad. She barely had an area of her body not covered in blood or a wound. Ran was not that much better.

"They outnumbered us. Two ganged up on Himari. Ran rushed to get in between them after she was knocked out, but they overpowered her too." Tomoe explained, "Moca and I managed to get them to run, but she blacked out shortly after."

"They seem more dangerous than I thought." Yukina sighed.

"Well, we'll carry them. Let her lean on you for support." Sayo stated.

"Okay."

Yukina took Ran and Sayo took Himari. Tomoe helped Moca up and then wrapped and arm around her to help her.

It was a long walk back to their base. They had to go slow. Moca was struggling to walk. Sayo had to be extremely cautious about Himari to make sure she didn't make anything worse. Yukina was just struggling in general as Ran was too heavy for her.

The eventually did make it to the base. They set up an empty room as the temporary housing for the group. Lisa and Ako were in charge of tending to the wounds of the others. Yukina was talking to the three conscious members to learn more about the group that attacked them.

Sayo was sent to fetch some food and water for them. Rinko had retreated back to her room the moment they had all walked in the house. She couldn't handle being around that many people. She got scared just thinking about it.

"Will they be okay?" Moca asked in worry.

"They should be fine." Lisa replied, "Thankfully it doesn't appear as though anything vital was severely damaged."

"That's good."

"W-what are we gonna do about that group?" Tsugumi asked.

She had promptly clung to Moca the moment she sat down. She was curled up at her side and mainly had her face buried in her side. Moca was running a hand over her back to comfort her.

"We were in the process of planning an attack." Yukina said.

"Why are you targetting them?" Tomoe questioned.

"It's too risky allowing them to continue. They are too close for comfort." Yukina replied.

"Well, if we can help at all, let us know." Tomoe said.

"Don't know how much you'll be helping in your states." Sayo commented as she entered the room with a tray.

"I'm sure there's something we could do." Tomoe defended.

It was true that none of them were in any state to fight. They'd just be easy targets. But, there had to be something else they could do, right?

It didn't feel right to sit back and let Roselia handle the group all on their own. It felt like they were taking advantage of them. At the same time, though, they weren't sure why Roselia was willing to help them.

"For now, you should focus on recovering." Lisa stated.

"It feels wrong to just sit back and do nothing." Moca said.

"What good will you be able to do if you get hurt more?" Sayo questioned as she handed them all some water.

"Still..."

"We can handle this ourselves." Yukina said, "You don't need to help us."

"Are you sure?" Tomoe asked, "You're a small group too. They're a lot bigger."

"I'm sure we can handle it." Yukina replied firmly.

"If you say so."

"Alright. They're patched up the best we can do." Lisa stated.

Now that there was no more work to do, Ako hesitantly moved over to sit beside Tomoe. Her head was down and she refused to look up at her.

"Ako." Tomoe said.

Ako hesitantly looked up at her. Tomoe held out her arms. Ako slowly allowed herself to hug her. The moment she was touching her, she gripped her tightly and buried herself into her shirt.

"Why did you leave me!?" Ako cried, unable to hold back her emotions.

Tomoe hugged her back tightly, "I'm sorry. I didn't want to, but it wasn't safe for you to join us."

Everyone just sat back and let them talk it out. It was only a matter of time before this would have happened. They would've had to meet at some point.

"I hate you! I hate you..." Ako yelled as she started punching Tomoe.

"I'm sorry." Tomoe pulled her closer, not even attempting to stop the attack.

Ako soon stopped punching and just clung to her again. She was sobbing. It hurt. Everything hurt. Ako couldn't figure out how to make it stop.

"Ako, we didn't want to leave you, but it's true that you weren't going to be safe with us." Moca stated.

"What do you know!?" Ako shot back.

"Ako, step outside until you calm down, please." Yukina ordered.

Ako didn't argue and ran out of the room. Everyone could hear her crying. Ako ran to her room. She slammed the door shut and sunk to the ground. She buried her face into her knees and cried.

A few minutes later, someone knocked on the door. Ako ignored it. She didn't really want to see anyone at the moment.

"Ako? Are you alright?"

Rinko was on the other side of the door. She had grown concerned at the crying and come to investigate.

Ako slowly stood up and opened the door. She wiped away the tears in her eyes, but more fell immediately after. Rinko pulled her into a hug. Ako started sobbing again. She clung to Rinko as she let her emotions out.

"What's wrong?" Rinko asked.

"I thought seeing onee-chan again would make everything better but now it just hurts more..." Ako cried.

"Let's sit. Would you like to talk about it?" Rinko asked.

Ako slowly nodded and let go of her. They sat on her bed in silence. Ako didn't know what she should say. What should she talk about?

"They told me it wasn't safe if I went with them..." Ako mumbled.

"They were just looking out for you." Rinko said, "But, I know it probably hurts a lot. I'm sure they didn't mean to make you feel abandoned."

"I don't even know what I want them to say to make things better. I don't think anything will stop the pain they've caused." Ako sighed.

"Well... maybe if you guys just hung out again, then slowly things would heal?" Rinko offered.

"Maybe..." Ako agreed. It might just take time to heal.

"Ako." Yukina entered the room.

"Y-yes?" Ako gulped, unsure what Yukina wanted her for.

"We want to head out now."

"We're attacking already?" Ako was confused.

Yukina nodded, "Yes. Before they get too bold and start searching for us too."

"Okay." Ako wiped away the tears on her face and stood up.

"Rinko, three of those girls will be in the living room. We'll be taking two with us as bait. They'll draw them out and then we'll attack." Yukina said.

"Do I... do I have to do anything with them?" Rinko asked nervously.

"You may. If any of them need more medical attention you might have to step in." Yukina replied.

"Okay..." Rinko took a deep breath.

Yukina led Ako to where the others were waiting. Ako refused to look at Tomoe or Moca. She couldn't do it. She knew she'd just break down again. For now, she had to focus on this task.

They headed out of the house. Yukina had managed to already find the location of their base from listening in on gossip. This was going to be easy, according to her. This shouldn't be very hard as long as they got the upper hand.

"What exactly is the plan?" Lisa questioned.

"These two will stand out and challenge them. They'll run back a bit and then we'll attack from above. It should catch them off guard enough for us to kill them before they can orient themselves again." Yukina explained, "Then, we'll raid their base."

"What about us? What do we do after we lead them to you?" Moca asked.

"You can hide or fight. Your choice." Yukina replied.

"Are you really sure you guys can handle an entire group of demons?" Tomoe questioned.

"We plan to take down the organization. This is child's play compared to that." Yukina stated.

"Don't you think you may be a little too bold?" Moca asked, "Taking down the organization with just you guys is a pretty daunting task."

"We have the advantage. We found documents related to previous rebellions on a small raid mission. We know what mistakes not to make." Yukina said. She was confident that they were able to succeed where the others failed.

"If you say so."

They walked on in silence for a bit. No one knew what else to say. They also knew they should be quiet. Who knew where those members might be. They could be closer than anticipated.

"Alright. We'll hide here. The clearing ahead is where you should go. Their base is just between those trees." Yukina said.

"Okay..." Tomoe and Moca glanced at each other.

"You can do it." Lisa said, trying to be supportive, "It's not that far of a run."

Tomoe hesitantly walked forward. Moca followed behind her. They had to trust this wasn't a trap. Could they trust Roselia? Sure, they had never done any harm to them. They even made that agreement with Ran. So, they should be able to be trusted. But, they still had their doubts.

Tomoe took a deep breath. She picked up a rock and threw it into the base. Immediately, yelling started up. Moca took a step back. There were a lot of voices.

"Who-" A demon came out, "Oh, back already? Come to get revenge?"

"Yeah." Tomoe stated, "But, you'll have to catch us first."

Immediately the two of them ran back. More demons came out and chased after them. They ran to the trees where Roselia was waiting. As soon as the enemy entered, they jumped down from the trees.

Tomoe and Moca climbed up some trees and watched. They weren't willing to fight unless they were needed.

There were about seven demons that had followed them out. Seven to four didn't seem like a very fair fight. Tomoe watched in worry as Ako fought one of them. She was ready to jump in to defend her if she had to.

They didn't have a very big fighting area. It was hard to focus on who was who from above. Yukina was taking on two demons. She was using the uneven terrain to her advantage and making them stumble. Lisa had one demon as well. She was darting around quickly to keep the demon guessing her location.

Sayo got surrounded by three demons. She was struggling to keep them all at bay, but was somehow managing. This was a tough fight. The enemy was a lot stronger than the others they had faced up until this point.

Ako was doing quite well with the demon on her. She was getting in a lot of blows while barely getting hit in return. Her size definitely was helping her. She was able to move around a lot more. Ako landed a hard kick to the demon's leg and she heard a loud crack. The demon fell to the ground, their leg bent at an awkward angle. Ako took the opportunity and slashed open their neck with her claws. She tried to take a small break to collect herself, but that didn't happen.

Lisa was knocked off balance and crashed into her. They both managed to stay standing. Ako immediately went on the defensive against this demon. Two against one was better. They could probably take this one down easier as a team.

Yukina was not having as much luck. She knew what these demons were doing. They were faking her out to weaken her. And it was starting to work. They still landed blows, so she never could tell which ones were real and which ones would be fake. She was finding it harder to stay focused.

She was hit hard and fell to the ground. A foot was placed on her so she couldn't get up. The weight vanished a few seconds later, though when it did she was kicked hard. Tomoe had jumped in and knocked the demon off. Yukina quickly got to her feet. With Tomoe now beside her, the demons got less bold.

They each took a different demon to attack. Yukina focused on punching them. She didn't really claw them at all. She felt that would make them angrier. So, she was going to try and get them down first.

Tomoe was just slashing at the demon whenever she could. It seemed to be working as the demon had a harder time blocking her blows. Tomoe knew the scratches were hurting a lot. With the new advantage, she easily overwhelmed them and broke their neck.

By that time, Yukina had gotten the demon down. She drug her claws over the demons stomach, wanting them to die painfully. She didn't believe these demons deserved a fast death after what they had done.

Moca had jumped in to help Sayo with her three demons. Moca and one demon ended up separated from the others and were fighting. Moca was slow from her injuries, but was managing to keep up well. She dodged most of the blows without any problems.

Moca dove low and rammed into the demon's stomach. It knocked them off balance. Moca kicked them as hard as she could. The demon went down. Moca stomped hard on their chest, wincing at the sound of their ribs breaking. She grabbed the demon by their neck and smashed their head into a rock. She only stopped when the ground was covered in blood.

Lisa and Ako easily managed to take down the demon they were facing. It wasn't much of a fight. The demon was unnerved by having two demons attacking at once. They couldn't block both attacks and were easily killed.

Sayo was still struggling. Thankfully, now it was only two demons, but that was a lot. Especially with how strong they were. Sayo didn't know what had happened, but they ended up away from the area the others were fighting. They were now deeper in the woods. That was not a good thing.

Sayo was slowly getting backed up. She had no clue what this terrain had around. It seemed the enemy did. Sayo knew they were trying to get her somewhere. Sayo tried to push back, but it only succeeded some of the time. She was still losing ground to them.

Sayo soon found out where they were pushing her to. She found herself on the edge of a drop. She glanced down. It wasn't far enough to kill her, but it would definitely hurt. She somehow had to push back and run. That was her only option at this point if she didn't want to end up down the drop.

"Not bad. A rogue group like yours is pretty tough, but we have the advantage of time. It's obvious you guys haven't been around long with how few members you have." One of the demons taunted.

"I'm sure the others will have killed your friends by now." Sayo replied, taking a step forward.

"Aww, how cute. Too bad we aren't pushovers." The other demon said, before shoving Sayo backwards.

Sayo let out a startled cry as she found herself falling. She didn't tumbled down the cliff. She landed at the bottom alone. Sayo groaned in pain. That drop hurt a lot more than she anticipated. She had expected the cliffside to take some of the momentum away, but that didn't happen.

The two demons flew down. They laughed as Sayo tried to get back onto her feet. They used their feet to keep her down. Sayo was at a very bad disadvantage now. She was on the ground and they weren't. This was not good at all.

"I think we should make your death painful. And then maybe take your body to hang as a prize." One of the demons taunted.

"Get away from her!"

A new demon entered and charged at the two demons. They were knocked back and off of Sayo. Sayo quickly, though not as quickly as she would've liked, got to her feet. Hina was here. Sayo wasn't going to question it.

"Why on earth is an organization member helping a rogue?" The two demons were puzzled.

"Leave my sister alone." Hina growled.

"Aww... how cute. Standing up for your family. Too bad. You're probably all talk."

The two demons charged at Hina. Hina didn't flinch. She pulled something out of a pocket. Two gunshots rang out. Hina had pulled out a gun and shot the demons. Both had been shot in the head and died within seconds.

"Hina... why... why are you here?" Sayo couldn't help but ask.

"We're patrolling around. There was a breakout at a jail. We've been sent to collect them." Hina explained, "You need to get out now. Someone will come investigate since I shot them. Go."

Sayo nodded and flew back to the top of the cliff. She glanced down at Hina. Someone Sayo didn't recognize came into the clearing. Sayo quickly left before she was spotted.

Sayo managed to track her way back to the clearing. The others were all there. They immediately were relived when Sayo entered.

"Are you okay? What happened?" Lisa asked, "We heard gunshots."

Sayo shrugged, "Dunno where the gunshots came from. I was backed away so they could try and use the area to their advantage. I took care of them before they could do much. I just had trouble finding my way back."

"We need to move quickly. Those gunshots probably mean the organization has members around. Let's raid the camp and get out." Yukina stated.

"How?" Sayo questioned, "We cannot handle another swarm of demons."

"I know. We're blockading the entrance. I looked. There's no other way in or out. But, there is a lake. They blocked it off so their camp wouldn't flood. We're going to drown them." Yukina explained.

"Alright. Let's get to it."

Yukina set everyone but Sayo to work on blocking the entrance. Her and Sayo would break the dam. They made their way to it. They'd know when to break it when someone threw a rock in their direction.

"Do you really not know about the gunshot?" Yukina questioned once they were alone.

"They shoved me off a cliff. I couldn't get up fast enough. Hina shot them. Apparently there was a breakout at a jail and they've been sent to round them up again." Sayo admitted.

Only her and Yukina knew about Hina. They were not about to tell the others. It was risky. Even Yukina didn't trust Hina completely. But, she was willing to work with Sayo to try and keep Hina out of harm. Yukina couldn't help but question if Sayo's loyalty would remain to Roselia is they were set on hurting Hina.

A few minutes passed and a rock was thrown. Yukina nodded to Sayo and they started tearing apart the dam. It took a little bit, but they broke it enough. The water current did the rest.

"Let's get back." Yukina said.

She winced and grabbed her side suddenly. Sayo studied her to see what could be wrong. She came to the conclusion it was from the fight.

"Can you walk?" Sayo asked.

Yukina nodded. They took it slow. Sayo kept an eye on Yukina, unsure if it was wise to let her walk. Yukina was in obvious pain. She tried her best to hide it, but she couldn't completely shield her pain from Sayo.

Yukina stumbled. Sayo caught her before she could fall.

"You are in worse shape than you are letting on, aren't you?" Sayo accused.

"I'm fine." Yukina insisted.

"Climb on my back. The last thing we need is you out of commission because you're too prideful to admit you're in pain." Sayo growled, her tone leaving no room to argue.

Yukina sighed and relented. Once she was situated on Sayo's back, they continued walking. Yukina hated showing weakness. It was ingrained in her that weakness meant demons wouldn't respect you. But, she felt that wasn't always true.

They soon made it back to where the others were. You could hear the screams of terror as the demons were getting flooded. They couldn't get out. It wasn't a pleasant sound on the ears.

"Yukina?" Lisa asked, confused.

Yukina refused to say anything. She wouldn't make eye contact. Lisa sighed. That was enough of an answer.

"Let's get back."

...

While they had been off fighting, Rinko had been debating on what she should do. She didn't know if she should go check on the three girls left at the house. She knew she probably should, but she was scared to.

She heard a yelp of panic from the living room. Rinko knew she had to go see what was wrong. She came out of her room and slowly made her way to the living room. Her legs would sometimes give out on her if she wasn't careful. She had to take it slow.

"Is everything okay?" Rinko entered the room.

"U-um... my bandages fell off..." Tsugumi was sitting on the floor, bloody bandages in her hands. Her head was still bleeding.

Rinko walked over to her. She knelt down and carefully cleaned off the blood. She tossed the ruined bandages out. She carefully wrapped up the wound again after making sure it was clean.

"Thank you." Tsugumi said.

Rinko didn't reply. She felt awkward. What if Tsugumi tried to start a conversation with her if she replied? She didn't know how long she could handle that.

"What's your name? I'm Tsugumi." Tsugumi asked, curiously studying Rinko.

"R-Rinko..." Rinko mumbled.

They fell into an awkward silence. It was obvious to Tsugumi that Rinko didn't want to talk. She was doing her best to respect that, but now it all felt extremely awkward.

Rinko was debating leaving the room. Unfortunately for her, it didn't seem like that was going to be an option. They heard a groan. It seemed like Ran was finally waking up.

Tsugumi moved over until she was beside her. Rinko hung back. She didn't want to have to talk to her if she didn't have to.

"Hey, Ran." Tsugumi said as Ran opened her eyes, "How are you feeling?"

"Where are we?" Ran asked as she looked around the room.

"In Roselia's base." Tsugumi replied, "Do you feel okay?"

"I'll be fine." Ran responded as she tried to sit up.

"Take it easy!" Tsugumi yelped as she made Ran lay down again, "You're still injured."

"I'll be fine." Ran insisted.

"You shouldn't sit up." Tsugumi stated.

"Nothing bad will happen if I do." Ran defended.

"If you sit up too fast you'll get really lightheaded." Rinko warned.

"Who are you?" Ran asked. Rinko had never been around when Ran had been over.

"That's Rinko. She stayed behind while everyone else went to fight. You should probably listen to her." Tsugumi said.

"They went to fight the group?"

"Yep." Tsugumi nodded.

"How's Himari?" Ran questioned as she slowly sat up. She didn't want to remain laying.

"Still unconscious." Tsugumi said.

Ran looked over at where Himari was laying. She frowned.

"Does anything hurt?" Rinko asked. She had to take care of her. That was her job while the others were away.

"Nothing extreme. I'm fine." Ran said.

"Would you like something to drink?" Rinko asked.

"That'd be nice."

Rinko got up and went to the kitchen. She got her a glass of water and brought it back. Ran thanked her and carefully sipped away at it. Rinko reached up and felt one of the bandages.

They felt soggy. That meant they'd soon overflow. Rinko had to change them.

"I'd like to change your bandages, if you don't mind." Rinko whispered.

"Okay." Ran shrugged.

Rinko carefully removed the bandages. She made sure the wounds were still clean. They really couldn't risk anything getting infected right now. Once she was certain that was good, she got a wet rag and wiped down some of the excess blood. Then, she dried the skin and replaced the bandages.

Moments later, the others came back. Rinko wanted to retreat, but they'd probably want to ask her about everything. And, maybe she'd be needed.

They were all battered in some form. Sayo set Yukina down on the couch. Everyone found a place to sit. Everyone was exhausted.

"How'd it go?" Tsugumi asked.

"They're all dead." Tomoe replied, "Ran, you're awake."

"Yeah..."

"You okay?" Moca asked.

"I think I should be asking you that." Ran replied.

"I'll get some more supplies." Rinko offered and quickly left.

While she was collecting the supplies, she tried to calm herself. Her heart was racing. She didn't like how many people were around. She hated that that was how she reacted, but she couldn't help it.

Rinko returned soon. She set down the box of supplies. She warily glanced around at everyone. She felt a little less scared knowing most were too exhausted to do much.

Lisa moved over to where Rinko was at. Rinko looked her over. She had a lot of bruises on her. There were a lot of scratches too. Luckily they weren't too deep. Rinko got a bucket and some rags. She knew she had to help.

Rinko cleaned up Lisa's wounds first. If Lisa was going to help the others, she needed her wounds covered so no blood contamination happened. Lisa gave her grateful smile. Rinko flushed red slightly as she continued to work.

Soon, Lisa's wounds were cleaned and bandaged. Lisa glanced over at Ako. Ako wasn't going to be helping her this time from the look of it. She was resting against Tomoe. She was asleep.

"Yukina, what did you hurt?" Lisa asked as she walked over to her.

Yukina stared at the ground, "My side..."

Lisa lifted up the shirt Yukina was currently wearing and examined the wound. There was no blood. It was just very bruised.

"All I can do is put ice on it." Lisa said.

While Lisa dealt with Yukina, Rinko had hesitantly moved over to Ako. She cautiously moved her onto her lap. Rinko took care of her wounds, trying her best not to wake Ako up in the process.

"So there are five of you, huh?" Tomoe asked.

"Yes. Rinko doesn't go and fight. Not yet, at least. She's recovering from something still." Yukina replied vaguely.

"I see. Umm, can you still fly? Your wings look pretty bad." Tomoe hesitantly asked.

"I haven't tried." Rinko replied.

"Oh..." Tomoe looked away.

Lisa returned to the room with a bag of ice. She gave it to Yukina to put on her wound. Lisa moved on to Sayo as she was closest. Sayo was in pain from carrying Yukina. It hadn't been the wisest choice after falling and landing on her back.

Lisa couldn't do much about that part. She just cleaned up the cuts Sayo had. It sucked that they really couldn't do much about the bruises everyone received.

"Um... are we staying here for a while or are we supposed to go back to our base?" Tsugumi questioned.

"You can remain for a while. Until you all recover enough to return." Yukina decided.

"Okay."

Rinko soon finished with Ako. She carefully rested her against the couch and then moved on to Tomoe. Rinko was a lot more nervous around her. She did her best to keep her hands steady as they worked away at treating the wounds.

Once Lisa finished with Sayo, she went and did Moca's wounds. It wasn't long before everyone had their wounds treated.

"I think we should all rest." Lisa stated.

"They don't have anywhere to rest." Sayo pointed out.

"Rinko, can you get some blankets and pillows?" Lisa asked.

Rinko nodded and did so. She was glad to be away from them for a bit. Soon she could be back in her room with no worries. She just had to get them some stuff to sleep on.

Rinko soon brought the stuff back. Lisa set them out. They also placed Himari on a blanket so she would be more comfortable. Once they were taken care of, everyone went to their rooms.

Tomoe wanted to stay with Ako. After a bit of arguing, they agreed to let them stay together. They really didn't want to have to deal with bickering right now. Everyone just wanted to sleep.

They could deal with everything else when they woke up.

Chapter Text

Everyone was still asleep. It was quiet. The only sound you could hear was the soft sound of breathing.

Then, a small groan cut through the air. No one stirred at the sound. It had been too quiet to rouse anyone.

A few more groans of pain followed. Himari was twitching in her makeshift bed. She wore an expression of pain clearly on her face. It looked like she was starting to wake up.

After a few more minutes, Himari weakly opened her eyes. She was dazed and confused. She couldn't remember what had happened. Everything was a blur in her mind.

Himari could feel her wounds. They hurt a lot. She cautiously lifted up an arm and felt her body. She ran her fingers around every place that hurt. She was relieved to feel bandages covering them.

Himari carefully pulled herself into a sitting position. She knew it was risky, but she needed to see where she was. She glanced around the room. Himari was relieved to see all of Afterglow were nearby.

Still, she hadn't the slightest idea where she was. Himari sighed as she examined her body. She was covered in bandages. Himari winced at the sight.

The next thing she needed to do was remember what had happened. Himari thought back and tried to recall what all had taken place. She remembered waking up in the night to go patrol. She saw something concerning, so she went to fetch the others.

Then what happened? Himari couldn't recall much. She could see something attacking her, but her mind wouldn't focus on what the thing was. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't remember anything more.

Himari looked around at everyone. She paused when she saw Tomoe and Ako snuggling together. Himari could only assume that meant they were in Roselia's base. Why else would Ako be here?

Himari looked to her side. Tsugumi was sleeping close by. She was close enough that Himari could reach over and touch her. That's exactly what she did. Tsugumi stirred and sat up. She yawned and rubbed her eyes.

Tsugumi froze once she saw that it had been Himari who had woken her up, "Hi- Himari?"

"Hey... um..." Himari really didn't know what to say.

"How are you feeling?" Tsugumi asked as she moved closer.

"I don't know..." Himari sighed. She couldn't put into words the way she was feeling.

"I'm glad you're awake... we were all really worried about you." Tsugumi cautiously pulled her into a hug.

"How long has it been? What happened?" Himari questioned.

"It's only the night since the attack happened." Tsugumi replied.

"What attack?"

"Don't you remember?" That question concerned Tsugumi a lot.

Himari shook her head, "I just remember we went to investigate something and then everything's all a blur."

"We got attacked by a rogue group of demons. They nearly killed you and Ran. I... I was sent to get help and um... ended up running into Roselia. We, well, not me and Ran, went and attacked the group. They're all dead now." Tsugumi explained.

"Is Ran okay?" Himari looked for where Ran was at.

"She'll be fine. She woke up a while ago." Tsugumi said, "Do you need anything?"

"I'm fine." Himari shook her head.

They quieted as they heard footsteps coming closer. They looked at the hall where they heard the noise. Rinko was there. She nervously approached them.

She had offered to check on everyone during the night and change any bandages. Lisa had offered, but Rinko had pointed out that she was injured as well and should just rest. Rinko won the arguement and was sent to do this. She had already finished with the three demons upstairs. All that was left were the ones down in the living room.

"Ah, Rinko. What's up?" Tsugumi asked.

"Someone needed to make sure no one needed anymore medical attention and I offered to do it." Rinko mumbled as she knelt down beside them, "How are you feeling?"

"I'm good. It doesn't even hurt now." Tsugumi said.

"I feel like I'm in so much pain that I'm numb." Himari did her best to describe how she felt.

"I'm going to change the dressings on your wounds." Rinko said as she grabbed the box of supplies.

"Okay..." Himari agreed.

Rinko worked quietly. She didn't say anything as she replaced the bandages. Himari would wince in pain at times. Tsugumi held her hands to try and help.

Rinko paused as she came to a major wound. She knew this one was going to really hurt. Rinko cautiously felt the edges of the bandages, seeing how loose they were. Himari kept flinching every time she did so.

"I don't have much to numb the pain." Rinko said, "The best I can do is just give you a sleeping pill."

Himari debated it. Could she handle the pain? Or... would it be best to just accept the pill? She didn't know. She wanted to try and be strong about it, but she also knew this could be painful.

"I... I guess we can try that..." Himari eventually decided.

Rinko nodded and searched through the supplies for the bottle of pills. It took a while, but she found it. Rinko read the label and then pulled out two pills. She handed them to Himari and then went to fetch some water for her.

"It hurts that bad?" Tsugumi asked.

Himari nodded, "Just her touching anywhere near my wounds causes me a lot of pain."

"They really beat you up..." Tsugumi frowned.

Himari ruffled her hair, "Hey, it's alright. I'm gonna be fine. It'll just take a bit, that's all."

"I just can't stop wondering if we could've done more..." Tsugumi mumbled.

"Well, if Ran couldn't do much, I doubt much can be changed." Himari said.

"I guess so." Tsugumi sighed.

That was a fair point. Ran was probably their most vicious fighter. She was quite an opponent when someone she cared about was in danger. So, for her to have been defeated despite the circumstances, that just showed how strong the enemy had been.

Rinko soon returned with a glass of water. She handed it to Himari. Himari nervously took the pills. Rinko took the glass from her and brought it back to the kitchen. It would take a few minutes for the pills to set in.

Rinko came back into the room and sat beside them. Himari had leaned up against Tsugumi. She was playing with the hem of the skirt Tsugumi was wearing. Tsugumi just watched silently.

After another minute or so, Himari fell still. Rinko carefully moved her back onto the floor. She slowly started to remove the bandages around Himari's stomach.

"Do you need any help?" Tsugumi asked. She was up, so she might as well see if she could be of use.

"I'm fine. You can go back to bed if you want." Rinko shook her head.

Tsugumi didn't want to go back to bed. Not yet. Not until Himari was treated. Then she could rest.

Rinko was now cleaning the wound. It was very important to make sure it didn't get infected. A wound that size could be very fatal if it did. Rinko didn't like having to touch it. It was gross, to put it simply. She did not appreciate it at all, but someone had to do it.

Tsugumi was watching her work. It made Rinko a little bit nervous. She tried to ignore it and continue.

Tsugumi didn't like the silence that had fallen between them. She wanted to talk, but wasn't sure what she would even say. And, would Rinko even appreciate the conversation? Tsugumi didn't think so, so she kept quiet.

Rinko soon finished up with the wound. She excused herself to go wash her hands. When she came back, Tsugumi had finally settled down. She was curled up beside Himari.

Rinko quietly walked past them and went to check on the others. She just glanced over them to see if anything was visibly wrong. She didn't see anything.

Rinko only really needed to wake up Ran. With how severe some of her wounds had been, she needed to actually ask her about them. Rinko shook Ran awake.

Ran groaned in annoyance as she opened her eyes. She sat up and rubbed her eyes.

"I came to check on your wounds. Is there anything I should know?" Rinko asked.

"My arm feels kinda numb, I guess." Ran mumbled as she rubbed her right arm, as if trying to wake it up.

Rinko examined her arm. She carefully took off the bandages on it. She studied the wound, looking to see if anything could have caused that feeling.

"Ah. Your nerves have been damaged. Until they heal, you will feel a little funny in your arm." Rinko said.

"Okay..." Ran sighed.

"Anything else?" Rinko asked.

Ran shook her head. Rinko replaced the bandages with fresh ones and then did a quick check on the other wounds.

"Is Himari okay?" Ran asked.

"Yeah. She woke up. I had to give her a sleeping pill to help ease the pain of me changing her bandages." Rinko nodded.

"That's good... at least she's awake."

"Well, you seem good. You can go back to bed now." Rinko pulled away.

"Thanks..." Ran yawned as she laid back down.

Rinko crept out of the room and back upstairs to her room. She crawled into her bed and closed her eyes. That was hard work.

...

When night fell, everyone was awake. They were gathered in the living room. Lisa and Sayo were cooking food. Everyone else was talking. Surprisingly, that included Rinko. She still was a distance away from everyone, but was still in the room.

"So, are you going to ask for something in return for what you've done?" Himari questioned.

It was a valid question. Did Yukina want something in exchange for the help they gave? If so, what could it be?

"I wish to form an alliance of sorts with you." Yukina stated.

"An... alliance?" Himari repeated.

Yukina nodded, "Yes. I believe it could be beneficial if we have an agreement."

"What exactly is this agreement you have in mind?" Himari asked as she eyed Yukina suspiciously.

"We work together to bring down the organization." Yukina replied.

"We aren't like you. Sure, some stuff we've gotten in to has been illegal, but we don't want to get that caught up in this fight of yours." Himari stated firmly.

"If they catch on to you, what will you do?"

Himari didn't have an answer to give. She hadn't considered exactly what they'd do if someone found out. She didn't want to think about that. Himari sighed. She really didn't have an answer. Nothing even came to mind now.

"I don't know." Himari admitted.

"So, don't you think it would be wise to have allies?" Yukina questioned.

"I... I don't want to be allies with you."

"I think we should." Ran said.

"Why?" Himari questioned.

"Well, what she said is true. If they find out, how are we going to stay safe? You know we're at a disadvantage." Ran explained.

"But-"

"I agree." Tomoe cut in, "I think we should join forces."

"But... they're an illegal group..." Himari protested.

"So? We aren't too much better." Tomoe shrugged.

Himari sighed. She stared at the ground for a while. She didn't know what to do. She didn't think they should be getting involved that deeply in the plot to destroy the organization. It was a scary thought to think of what could happen to them.

But, they already were working together. This would just be an official agreement between them. Himari was conflicted. She wanted to keep her friends safe. But, which way was safer? Being alone and risking being caught or having a group to turn to if things went wrong? But also there was the possibility of having to help Roselia in their plans.

"What exactly are you expecting from us in this alliance?" Himari questioned.

"I wish to share information and work together to figure out how the bring them down. You are not needed to raid anything. We can do all of that." Yukina replied.

"This sounds like it's more for the benefit of you guys than us." Himari grumbled.

"It may seem that way, but... don't you think the dismantlement of the organization will be beneficial to all?"

Himari sighed, "Fine. We'll have an alliance. But, don't think I won't hesitate to break it."

"Very well." Yukina agreed.

"Food's done." Lisa entered the room.

Everyone became a little less tense as they ate. They didn't talk much. There wasn't too much to talk about.

"So, how long until you'll let us leave?" Himari questioned.

"Whenever you would like. Since you all are not in critical condition, we have no reason to deny you the ability to leave." Yukina said.

"So... we can leave?"

"Yes. But, you are welcome to stay for a while longer to heal. I don't know how tough the journey may be on some wounds."

That statement was more directed at Himari than anything. She couldn't even stand yet. Everyone else was recovering well. Even Ran was making good progress in healing. It was just Himari they were waiting for.

"We'll leave tomorrow then."

Chapter Text

A girl with yellow hair was running through the streets. Four demons were chasing after her. The girl was keeping a good distance from them. They couldn't gain on her no matter how much they tried. And, unfortunately for them, they only had dull batons on them for weapons. They couldn't use them unless they were closer. Throwing them wouldn't help them at all.

Why were they chasing her? She was breaking the rules. Preaching a... religion? She didn't think it was a religion, but that was what her ideas were labeled as. All she was doing was trying to convince demons violence wasn't right and they should live in harmony and be happy.

The organization labeled her a deranged maniac. That was why she was being hunted down. She had been yelling those beliefs at a crowd when guards found her. That was when the chase happened.

The girl made a wrong turn and ended up in a dead end. She was trapped. The demons had her cornered.

"What should we do with her?" One asked.

"I think we should just kill her. Why bother taking her to prison? Let's hang her." Another said.

"Ooh. That sounds fun."

The girl was pressed against the wall. They were slowly growing closer.

"Why is it so bad? Am I really that big of a threat?" The girl questioned, "What will my ideas do to oppose the organization?"

"I dunno. We just take orders from the boss. We don't always learn the details, but I'm sure there's a very good reason." One of them stated.

"No one has joined me. I don't see the problem."

"Well, they do."

Two of the demons attacked her. They beat her mercilessly with their batons. It took only a few blows before the girl crumpled to the ground. Another few and she was unconscious. The demons continued to beat her up.

Suddenly, two figures jumped down from the wall. They held knives.

"Look who it is." One demon mocked, "Why do you care about this girl?"

"Our reasons are none of your concern. Now, back away or we'll attack." One of the hooded figures growled.

"Why you-"

As one demon prepared to charge, the one beside them grabbed them. They shook their head and whispered something to them. After a little exchange, the four demons retreated.

"Good riddance!"

The two hooded figures removed their hoods. They were the same two Ako had met when she first ran away.

"Y'know, I still don't get why you wanted her. This lunatic isn't gonna be that useful if you ask me."

"Come on, Misaki. I know what I'm doing. She'll be very useful to us."

"I better see that happen then." Misaki growled, "The demons you choose to rescue don't tend to actually be useful, Kaoru. If she isn't, you are never choosing again."

"I promise this time it'll be different." Kaoru said as she smiled.

Misaki sighed, "Fine. You carry her."

Kaoru nodded and picked up the unconscious girl. The two of them then flew back on top of the wall.

"Why she didn't do that is beyond me." Misaki commented.

"No one has ever seen her fly." Kaoru replied, "Perhaps she can't?"

"Her wings seem fine to me, but if what you say is true, maybe she really can't fly." Misaki shrugged, "Anyway, let's go before anyone spots us."

They jumped down and started walking. Misaki kept glancing around, making sure they weren't being followed.

"Misaki? Do you ever feel like sometimes they leave without putting up a fight when they should?" Kaoru asked, "I mean, if she's that much of a threat, wouldn't they have tried to get her from us?"

"Maybe they didn't give a damn. Just had to cause it was ordered. They can lie and say she got away." Misaki replied, "I don't think all the guards they have stationed enjoy their jobs."

"I guess you have a point." Kaoru said.

They soon made it to their base. Kaoru took the girl and laid her on the couch. Her wounds needed to be treated. Misaki went and grabbed the supplies they would need.

They worked together to wrap up the wounds that had started to bleed. Once done, the girl was moved to a spare room. They locked the door for safety measures. They didn't want her to wander around.

It took two hours before the girl woke up. Misaki heard her moving around. She opened the door and walked in. The girl smiled at her.

"Hello. I'm Kokoro. I'm guessing you saved me from them?" The girl asked.

"Yes." Misaki replied.

"What's your name?" Kokoro asked.

Misaki sighed, "I'm not sure I can trust you yet."

"What can I do with just your name?" Kokoro questioned in confusion.

"Oh. She's awake." Kaoru entered the room.

"Hi! I'm Kokoro!"

"You wanted to save her, so you can do the talking." Misaki stepped back.

Kaoru rolled her eyes at Misaki and walked over to Kokoro. Kokoro didn't seem suspicious at all. She seemed to already trust the two of them.

"So... can I know your names?" Kokoro asked again.

"Answer some questions and we'll consider it." Kaoru said. Until they knew more about Kokoro and her ideas, they couldn't fully trust her.

"Okay." Kokoro agreed.

Kaoru glanced back at Misaki for a second, "What exactly are you trying to do?"

"Well... I just wanna make demons happier. Is that wrong? I think everyone should be happy!" Kokoro smiled.

Kaoru and Misaki exchanged glances, "That's all?"

Kokoro tilted her head and gave them a confused look, "What more is there to it?"

"Aren't you like asking them join a group or anything?" Misaki questioned.

Kokoro shook her head, "No. I have my two friends helping me. That's all. We don't need anyone else in our group. Well, unless you'd like to join."

Kaoru and Misaki stared at each other, their expressions one of confusion. They had just been invited to join a group. A group that neither understood at all.

"Why are you asking us to join?" Misaki questioned.

"You seem nice."

"Is that all?" Misaki raised an eyebrow at her.

Kokoro nodded, "I'd like to be your friend."

"You know nothing about us. How do you know we aren't still an enemy?" Misaki asked as she eyed Kokoro warily.

She couldn't help but wonder if the organization did know something more about her than they were sharing. Maybe Kokoro was dangerous? They'd have to proceed with a lot of caution until they could figure that out.

"You would've killed me or turned me in if you were." Kokoro replied.

"What exactly does your group do?" Kaoru asked.

"Well... we try and help demons. We wanna make them happy." Kokoro said.

"Let us think about this offer. Do you want something to eat or drink?" Misaki said.

"Sure." Kokoro smiled.

Misaki and Kaoru left the room. They locked the door just to be safe.

"So... what do you think about her?" Kaoru asked.

"She's not what I was expecting. I've never seen a demon so... happy before." Misaki replied, "I'm honestly wondering if there's something we don't know that the organization might."

"Well, should we accept her offer or should we deny it?" Kaoru asked, "I won't lie and say I'm not curious about her group."

"I think we should accept and scout it out. I doubt they'll be able to stop us if we leave at any point." Misaki said, "Now, what should we make?"

"I couldn't gather much, but I did manage to get some carrots and apples." Kaoru replied.

Misaki sighed, "Sometimes I regret our decisions... it would be nice if we could shop instead of this."

"Yeah. But, nothing we can do about that." Kaoru shrugged, "I'll go wash and cut them up."

"Okay. I guess I'll go boil some water then." Misaki replied.

...

Soon enough, it was all done. They returned to Kokoro and gave her a plate and some water. They decided to eat with her. They still didn't trust her completely.

"So... have you decided yet? Will you tell me your names?" Kokoro asked almost immediately.

Kaoru and Misaki exchanged glances again. Did they trust her enough?

"I guess we can." Misaki eventually said, "I'm Misaki and this is Kaoru."

"It's nice to meet you." Kokoro smiled, "So, will you join me and my friends?"

"I guess we can try. No guarantee we'll stay permanently, though." Misaki said.

"Awesome!" Kokoro was beaming with excitement, "I can't wait for you to meet my friends!"

"Hey, um... I have a question." Kaoru said, "There's been rumors that you can't fly. Is there any truth to that?"

Kokoro went silent, which greatly surprised and shocked the two demons. They assumed this was sensitive topic.

"Well... I'm not a demon." Kokoro said after minutes of silence, "I'm... human."

"Human? But... but I thought they were all exterminated by the organization years ago." Misaki said.

"They were. It's just me. The two friends I told you about... they're the reason I wasn't killed." Kokoro explained, "They found me alone and took me in. They even found a family willing to raise me. These wings are fake as are my horns."

"Don't you wish to become a demon? Your friends should be able to change you." Kaoru asked.

"Kaoru, the organization doesn't accept halfs anymore. Don't you remember?" Misaki said, "It wouldn't change anything. Actually, changing her would make it easier for them to target her."

"Oh... I forgot. It's so rare to find half demons that it wasn't on my mind." Kaoru said.

"I was told there was a way I could become fully demon, but... they didn't know what it was." Kokoro said.

Misaki sighed, "That method involves killing you and then forcing demonic energy through your body and hoping it possesses you enough to force you back to life. It's not even a guaranteed change. You may not get taken over by the energy and just be dead."

"I see... so, it's safest I just remain human." Kokoro sighed.

"It would seem so. Though, your scent is demonic. How did you manage that?" Kaoru questioned.

"My adoptive family found a formula that can do that." Kokoro explained, "I just have to rub it over me every few days to keep my scent."

"That's impressive. Though, I do have a question." Misaki said, "Why do you risk imprisonment? If they capture you, no doubt they'll find out you're human in minutes. It's extremely risky, so why do you do it?"

"I want to spread happiness. I don't care. I'll risk it." Kokoro replied.

"You're either really brave or really stupid."

"So, when am I allowed to leave?"

...

The next night, they left to go find this group Kokoro talked about. Kokoro was leading the way. Misaki kept questioning if she was sure she knew where she was going. If she wasn't a demon, she didn't have the ability to smell out demons from her group.

Kokoro kept insisting she was fine. She was adamant that she knew where she was going. Neither Misaki nor Kaoru really believed her. They had brought her to an unfamiliar area. How could she find her way?

"Almost there. Just past that mountain is our hideout." Kokoro stated as she pointed to a mountain in the distance.

"How did you manage to get here? I'm impressed you found it." Kaoru asked.

"The sun and moon guide me. I know where to go by their location." Kokoro explained.

"Never thought a mortal could adapt to a demon realm." Misaki mumbled.

Kokoro smiled. She continued to lead them toward the mountain. It was still a good while away. They had to walk even more. Since Kokoro couldn't fly, they had no choice. It was frustrating.

Eventually, they arrived. Kokoro entered a hut. Misaki and Kaoru hesitantly followed her inside. There were two demons inside. It appeared they were playing a game of sorts on the floor.

"Kokoro! Jeez, you worried us when you didn't come back. What gives?" One of the demons demanded in a worried tone.

"Well..." Kokoro didn't want to talk about it.

"She nearly got killed by some guards. We saved her." Misaki stated.

"You seem familiar."

"Dangerous Duo? I guess that would be why we are familiar." Kaoru said.

"Wait. You guys..." The two demons stared at them in shock, and a little bit of fear too.

"It's okay. They were really nice to me." Kokoro stated.

"Why did you bring them here, Kokoro?"

"They're gonna join our group!" Kokoro beamed.

"Join..."

"It's not permanent. We may leave." Misaki stated, "But, we won't hurt you unless you do wrong."

"May we have your names? I'm Kaoru and this is Misaki." Kaoru said.

"I-I'm Hagumi and this is Kanon." One of the demons stammered.

"Well... nice to meet you?" Misaki offered.

"This is really awkward..." Kanon whispered.

"I know! Let me show you where you guys can stay!" Kokoro said.

"Very well."

Chapter Text

"Hey, guys! So, I have something we should do." Kokoro announced one day.

Hagumi and Kanon listened closely. Misaki and Kaoru just tuned in. They weren't too into this group. It wasn't what they had expected at all. This group wasn't really that much of a group. It was more of a family. Neither really cared for that type of stuff.

"We should help some demons out of jail."

"Kokoro, that is going to get you killed." Misaki stated in a matter-of-fact way.

"We'll be careful." Kokoro replied, "It can't be that hard."

"They're very heavily guarded. You'll be spotted." Misaki said.

"We've gotten demons out of detainment before." Kokoro replied.

Misako sighed, "Detainment and jail are different. Detainment means you aren't really that threatening. You'll be released before a month has passed. Jail is normally permanent. Not many get released. Very different guard situations too."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. I know these things. You shouldn't risk it." Misaki nodded.

"How about a small jail?" Kokoro didn't appear to be ready to give up her idea yet.

"If I remember correctly, the nearest small jail is one town over. But, I've heard rumors it's even worse than the organization's main jail in terms of treatment." Kaoru said, "I don't think that's a better idea at all."

"I... I have to agree." Kanon said, "Raiding a jail isn't an easy task. Especially for you."

"We can do it!" Kokoro smiled.

"Kokoro... they've done a lot with attacking the organization... they know what's dangerous." Hagumi added.

"Please? We'll be extra sneaky." Kokoro begged.

"No. That's a deathwish." Misaki stated firmly.

"Fine... so... how about we... um..." Kokoro had no other ideas on what to do.

"We don't need to do something every day. We can wait a while." Kanon offered.

"I guess..." Kokoro wasn't very pleased with having nothing to do.

She always wanted to be out. Kokoro wanted to do as much as she could. She didn't have as much time to do things like everyone else. Being human meant her lifespan was drastically shorter. Demons lived for centuries before they were unable to continue. She wouldn't ever last that long.

"What even would breaking them out do?" Kaoru asked, "I don't think they'll really care to listen to you about being nice. There's most likely going to be some horrible demons in the jail."

"If they were saved, wouldn't they at least try to change?" Kokoro asked in reply.

"They'll be hunted down until they're dead or caught again. They won't see a point in changing." Misaki butted in.

"Kokoro... you never seem to really understand that we don't work the way your society did." Kanon whispered.

"Fine... we can just hang out today, then." Kokoro finally agreed.

So, that was what they did. Kokoro had managed to create some games that they could play to pass time. After a lot of begging, Kokoro got Misaki and Kaoru to play as well. Neither really had any interest in the game, but gave in to appease Kokoro.

The sun was starting to rise when they stopped. Everyone was going to bed. They were tired. They had stayed up quite late into the morning yesterday. Kokoro had decided to drag them into a giant mess in town. Until they fixed everything and got out alive, it was already almost midday.

About an hour passed. Kokoro was still awake. She still struggled to adapt to demon time. She was still used to sleeping at night and being active in the morning.

Kokoro climbed out of her bed. She went to go wake up Kanon and Hagumi. Kokoro was still wanting to go and rescue demons. She wasn't going to be talked out of it that easily.

"Kanon... Hagumi... wake up..." Kokoro gently shook them.

There were three bedrooms in the house. Kokoro got her own. Normally Kanon and Hagumi did too, but since Misaki and Kaoru had joined the group, they had to room together. Neither minded it at all.

"Kokoro...?" Kanon mumbled as she rubbed her eyes, "What are you doing?"

"Let's go." Kokoro smiled.

"Go where?" Hagumi questioned.

"To the jail." Kokoro replied, "I at least want to see it. To see if it really is that guarded."

"Fine. We can go check it out."

Kokoro had lied to them. She had no intent on just looking at it from the outside. They were breaking in unless something major was in their way. She was not giving up this idea.

Kokoro smiled as they got up. They quietly left the house. Kokoro knew if Misaki or Kaoru woke up, they'd stop them. Or worse, they'd come with them.

Kokoro just couldn't get through to them. They never even tried to understand her point of view. They had their beliefs. Nothing would change that. So, Kokoro couldn't include them in most of her plans. Like earlier, they tended to say it was too dangerous and refuse.

"Kokoro, are you sure we should do this?" Hagumi whispered as they walked.

Kokoro wasn't that surprised that they figured out her true intentions. They often did pretty fast.

"Yes. We can do it." Kokoro nodded with a smile on her face.

"But... what if they are right? What if it is a dangerous thing to do?" Kanon questioned, her voice filled with worry.

"We'll be fine." Kokoro stated, "If it seems too dangerous, we'll leave."

"I don't know about this, Kokoro..." Kanon wasn't convinced.

"Please? I promise it'll be fine." Kokoro pouted.

"Fine..." Kanon gave in.

They continue the walk. It was annoying not being able to fly. But, there was nothing they could do about that. It wasn't like they could just magically give Kokoro wings. It also wasn't a good idea to try and carry her. There was no way they could carry her the entire way and still have enough energy to continue on.

"We're here." Kokoro smiled, "It doesn't seem guarded at all."

"Let's scout it out more first." Hagumi said, "Just to make sure. And, we'll know the layout better if we need to run."

"Good idea." Kokoro nodded.

They snuck around the perimeter of the jail. It was oddly quiet. Too quiet. Hagumi and Kanon were on edge. They didn't like how this was turning out at all. Kokoro, on the other hand, didn't seem to care or notice.

"It seems too suspicious. They should have guards out." Kanon stated, "Something is up and I don't like it at all."

"We can get closer then." Kokoro said.

"I don't know that that's a good idea." Hagumi whispered, "It is really suspicious."

"Come on. It's fine." Kokoro didn't care and started approaching the jail.

Hagumi and Kanon exchanged glances, before they followed her. They couldn't just leave her and it didn't seem like they could talk her out of this. They had no choice but to simply go along and hope nothing bad happened to them.

...

Misaki woke up. She could just feel that something wasn't right. She sat up and got out of the bed. Misaki glanced at Kaoru, before leaving the room.

She peaked into the other rooms. When she saw that none of them were in the rooms, she sighed. Misaki went back to her room and shook Kaoru awake.

"Get up. The idiot went anyway." Misaki grumbled.

"Just her or?" Kaoru yawned as she sat up.

"They went too. We should go get them before they get caught." Misaki said.

Kaoru nodded. They left the house and started flying to the jail.

"I hope we aren't too late." Kaoru said.

"Yeah. Hopefully."

While neither exactly cared for the other three, they still felt like they had to help. They were part of their group now, after all.

They landed and looked around. They couldn't see them anywhere.

Misaki groaned, "Please don't tell me they went inside..."

An alarm rang moments after she finished.

"Unfortunately I can't say that." Kaoru replied.

Misaki groaned again, "Let's go before they get killed."

The two of them ran down. They couldn't figure out where the others were. There was no telling how close they were. They had to just hope they could find them.

"The commotion is from that way." Kaoru nodded down a hallway, "I think that may be where they're at."

"Let's go then." Misaki stated.

They ran down the hallway. The noise was slowly getting louder. They didn't realize it was such a long hallway.

"Well, look who it is."

Misaki and Kaoru stopped as they came to a corner. They didn't know who was there, but they didn't want to be caught.

"U-um... hi?"

They had found the others. However, they weren't fast enough. They had gotten surrounded already.

"What do we do?" Kaoru whispered.

"Think we can take them? I sense four." Misaki whispered back.

"I think so."

A cry of pain sounded from Kokoro, followed by Hagumi and Kanon calling her name. Misaki and Kaoru winced. Whatever had happened wasn't good.

"A human, huh? Who would've thought."

Misaki nodded to Kaoru. Kaoru nodded back, understanding the message. They jumped out and started attacking. Hagumi joined in to help, while Kanon grabbed Kokoro and pulled her to safety.

Kokoro had been hit hard on the side of her head. Blood was trickling down her face. She was still conscious. Kanon held her close as they watched the others fight.

Misaki was taking on two. She was fighting with ease. Her style was very similar to the guards' styles. However, she was stronger than they were. It wasn't long before they were on the ground and unconscious.

Kaoru was toying with the demon that she had attacked. She was darting away just before they could hit her. The demon was growing angrier by the second. Kaoru was just laughing as she mocked them. After a bit of toying with them, Kaoru struck hard and killed them.

Hagumi was struggling a bit. She wasn't as strong or as nimble as the demon she was facing. She was barely dodging most of the attacks. Misaki jumped in to help. With her help, they beat the demon and killed them.

"Let's go before more come." Misaki ordered.

Kanon picked up Kokoro and they all fled the jail. They managed to avoid running into any other guards.

"Go back. I'll make sure no one followed us." Misaki stated.

"Do you want me to help?" Kaoru asked.

Misaki shook her head, "I can handle this. Go with them to make sure they don't run into anything else."

Kaoru nodded, "Alright. Stay safe."

The four of them flew up and started making their way back to the base. Kaoru kept glancing behind her, watching Misaki. She stopped once Misaki vanished from her sight. She didn't like leaving her alone, but she didn't have a choice.

Kaoru knew she needed to watch these three. Kanon couldn't fight while holding Kokoro. Hagumi obviously lacked the strength needed to take on an organization trained demon. Kaoru was needed a lot.

"Are you mad at us?" Hagumi asked quietly.

"A bit. You were warned and yet you still tried. What if we hadn't noticed? You all would be dead by now." Kaoru stated in a harsh tone.

"I'm sorry." Kokoro sighed, "I... I guess I didn't believe you..."

"Look. I'm from a town that was right next to an organization base camp. I know how they train them. As for Misaki. I don't know where she's from, but she knows a lot of information about the organization as well. I assume she was living similar to how I was before we met." Kaoru said.

They soon arrived home. Kanon laid Kokoro on a couch and went to fetch some bandages. Hagumi was cleaning her wound. Kaoru stood silently and watched.

"Kaoru? How come you left your group?" Hagumi asked.

"It just wasn't for me. Never really fit in. I wanted to be free." Kaoru replied, "When I learned that I couldn't do much because of the organization, I started hating them."

"How did you meet Misaki?" Kokoro asked.

Kanon returned with the bandages and started working away. Hagumi sat down and looked at Kaoru, waiting for her response.

"I had stolen something and was trapped. She showed up and helped me escape. We just kinda decided to stick together after that." Kaoru shrugged, "Not really an exciting story."

"So... you guys like each other?" Kanon asked, though she refused to look at Kaoru.

Kaoru nodded, "Yeah. We started dating a while ago."

They heard a thud outside. Misaki entered the house moments later. She stood beside Kaoru and crossed her arms.

"Anything happen?" Kaoru questioned.

Misaki shook her head, "No. But, I think they're even more pissed at her now that two demons ended up dead."

"You didn't kill the two you fought?" Kanon asked.

Misaki shook her head, "No. Killing them in the heart of the organization is a bad idea. Out in a town, go for it. But, when it's in an area like that, it makes them even more pissed off. Those demons are considered extremely important."

"Oh... that's not good..."

"Unfortunately, you can't always spare them." Kaoru said.

"Unfortunately indeed." Misaki agreed.

She didn't blame Kaoru and Hagumi for killing those demons. She knew that sometimes you had no choice. When you're under that much assault, it can be hard to focus on not severely harming the enemy.

"So, Kokoro, have you learned your lesson?" Misaki sent her a glare.

Kokoro nodded, "Yeah... I promise I'll listen next time..."

"Good."

Chapter Text

"Can you believe how many new groups have started forming?"

"I know. It's crazy. I wonder why they are doing this now?"

"Who knows. Most fail after a month, though."

"True."

Kasumi had heard similar conversations for a while now. She knew that groups were forming, but she didn't realize there were that many. It was starting to inspired her to create on herself.

Her group wasn't really that. They didn't have an official name or a territory. They migrated all over. So, Kasumi felt like she had a good chance at making a group herself.

But, who would she recruit to join it? She knew normally new groups started off with only a few members until they got settled. She only should choose a few.

That still didn't really help much. She had no idea how to decide. Was there a certain criteria that the members should meet? Or, should she just let anyone join?

Kasumi was really stumped. She spent the entire walk home thinking about it. What could she do? Was there perhaps someone she could ask? Maybe there was.

Kasumi immediately started searching for her friend once she arrived back at the group's camp. She had no idea where they might be. That was making the search a lot harder than she would've liked for it to be.

It took quite some time, but she eventually did manage to track down her friend.

"Arisa! Hey!"

"Kasumi? What do you want now?" Arisa sent her a slight glare.

"I want to create a demon group." Kasumi stated with a smile on her face.

"W-what!?" Arisa yelled in shock.

"What? I wanna make a group. Is that a bad thing?" Kasumi cocked her head to the side in confusion.

"Kasumi... I swear..." Arisa grumbled, "You aren't going to be able to just simply create a group just like that."

"Why not?" Kasumi asked.

"Do you really think it's that easy? Where do you plan to live? How do you plan to protect yourself against other groups attacking? What about resources?" Arisa questioned.

"Eh..." Kasumi blanked on those answerd.

Arisa sighed, "See? You can't even answer the basic questions."

"We can work with it as we go?" Kasumi offered.

Arisa flicked her head, "No. That doesn't work."

"Fine... I'll come up with answers then." Kasumi stated.

"Good luck with that." Arisa grumbled.

"Well... it's getting light out. I better get home." Kasumi waved goodbye.

She made her way to her house and then promptly went to bed. She was exhausted. Her dreams were filled with her creating a demon group.

...

Kasumi jolted awake. A loud boom had just occurred. She smelled smoke. Kasumi shot out of her bed and ran outside. There was dust and smoke everywhere. She could hear the cackling of fire all around her.

Kasumi dashed toward Arisa's house. She needed to find her now. Kasumi made it in no time. The dust was thick. She couldn't see far.

"Arisa!?" Kasumi called with urgency.

There was no reply. Kasumi kept calling her name as she searched around. She gulped when she noticed the house was destroyed. That wasn't a good sign at all.

"Arisa!? Where are you!?" Kasumi called again.

There was still no reply. Kasumi was growing worried. Arisa would've come to her first if she could have. Something happened to her then.

Kasumi soon found out what had happened. She found Arisa. Her lower body was crushed by a tree. She didn't appear to be conscious.

"Arisa!" Kasumi ran over to her.

She frantically felt for a pulse. Thankfully, she was still breathing. Kasumi tried to push the tree off of her, but to no avail. She wasn't strong enough.

Kasumi fell to her knees as her legs gave out from exhaustion. She was crying. This was bad. Arisa needed help and she couldn't do anything.

"Push when I say so." An unknown voice spoke.

"O-okay." Kasumi quickly got back to her feet and readied herself.

"Now."

They pushed the tree off of her. Kasumi was relieved. She tried to get a better look at the demon who had helped her. She couldn't make much of them out from the dust.

"Grab your friend and follow me. We need to hide before they come back to finish off everyone else." The demon stated.

Kasumi nodded and quickly scooped Arisa up. They ran off into the woods. Kasumi soon could see the demon. It was a girl. She had long beige hair.

"W-where are we going?" Kasumi asked.

"To a cave. Your community wasn't the only one attacked by the organization. Ours was too. Me and two others managed to escape." The demon said.

"What's your name? I'm Kasumi and this is Arisa." Kasumi asked.

"Saaya."

"Thank you for helping me."

"You're about my age. We need to work together. Right?" Saaya said.

"Oh... alright. I guess we should." Kasumi agreed.

They stopped running. They had reached a cave. Saaya led Kasumi inside. Two other girls were sitting in the cave.

"You found others?"

"Yeah. Get the med kit. She's injured. Got crushed by a tree." Saaya ordered.

"Right on it!"

Kasumi set Arisa down on the ground. She shakily sat down. She was exhausted. That had drained her a lot. The smoke and dust also seemed to be affecting her. She coughed a bit.

"Here. Drink." One of the demons pushed a water bottle to her lips.

Kasumi gratefully accepted it. She felt better now.

"I'm Tae. That's Rimi. I assume Saaya already introduced herself." The demon said.

Kasumi nodded, "I'm Kasumi and that Arisa... will... will she be okay?"

"Can't guarentee her legs will work again, but she won't die." Saaya replied.

"That's... good..." Kasumi's vision started fading and before long she had passed out.

...

Kasumi woke up later. It was just starting to become dark outside. She opened her eyes and looked around. She was laying down now, a blanket over her. Kasumi sat up.

"Hey. How are you feeling?" Rimi was beside her seconds later.

"Okay." Kasumi looked to her side. Arisa was still out. She had a lot of bandages on her body.

"She should wake up soon. I have to go fetch some water. I'll be back. Tae and Saaya went to scavenge some food. They should return soon." Rimi said.

"Okay..." Kasumi nodded.

Rimi left the cave. Now it was just her and Arisa. Kasumi looked her over closely. Her left leg looked horrible. It was bent at an awkward angle. Her right leg looked relatively normally.

Kasumi sighed as she brushed some hair from Arisa's face. She hated this. Why did she have to get hurt? Why did the organization even attack them? It didn't make sense at all.

Arisa groaned. Kasumi watched her in worry. Was she waking up? It seemed like it. Arisa was groaning as she squirmed. Kasumi noted that her legs did not move at all.

Arisa weakly opened her eyes, "Kas...umi...?"

"Hey." Kasumi placed a hand over one of hers, "I'm right here."

"What... happened?" Arisa's voice was weak.

"The organization blew up our town for some reason." Kasumi explained.

"I can't feel my legs..."

"I know... you got crushed by a tree. Um... you may not ever get feeling in them again." Kasumi frowned, the reality of those words sinking in.

"Hurts..."

"I... I can't do much... I'm sorry." Kasumi's frown got bigger.

Arisa's eyes fell shut. Kasumi assumed she fell unconscious again. That wasn't good. Just how much pain was she in?

"Hey. We're back." Saaya and Tae returned.

"Rimi went to get water." Kasumi said.

"Tae, can you start the fire?" Saaya asked.

"Sure." Tae nodded and started gathering wood.

Saaya set down the stuff she had been carrying and then walked over to Kasumi. She knelt down and studied her.

"Does anything hurt?" Saaya asked.

Kasumi shook her head, "No. I'm fine. But... Arisa woke up and... she said she's in pain..."

Saaya carefully checked Arisa out. She removed the bandages and replaced them with new ones. That allowed Kasumi to see the true damage that had been done to her.

Arisa's left leg was... bad. The bone was completely broken. It was jutting out of the skin slightly. Saaya tried to push it back into place, but it only moved a little bit. Arisa's right leg was better, but not much. The skin was completely gone, torn off by them removing the tree. You could clearly make out almost all of her bone. It wasn't a pleasant sight at all.

"Do you think there's any chance she could move either of them again?" Kasumi asked with worry.

"Potentially her right leg may work again. Her left leg... we'll be gathering the supplies to amputate it as soon as possible, lest it get infected and kill her." Saaya said.

"It's that far gone..." Kasumi stared in shock.

"Unfortunately, the bone has cracked too much to repair. Too much of it is missing to just bind it and let it heal. It has to go or else she will get an infection." Saaya sighed. She didn't like it either.

"Why... why did this happen...?" Kasumi felt tears streaming down her face. When did that happen?

"We can't say for certain, but we believe the organization finds us a threat. As we move a lot, they can't keep very good tabs on us." Tae explained, "Perhaps they think we could be planning something bad? Especially now that Roselia is starting to take them down."

"I... I guess it does make sense..." Kasumi sighed, "They don't seem to like anyone who doesn't do exactly as they want."

"Indeed. It sucks."

Rimi returned to the cave. She set down the bucket of water and then helped Tae cook. They had managed to find some animals around. It wasn't much but it would have to do for now.

"Rimi. After we eat, you'll come with me to gather supplies so we may amputate her leg." Saaya stated, "We need to work fast."

"Understood." Rimi nodded.

Kasumi hated all of this. She felt awful. Why did this have to happen to them? Why Arisa? Why did she have to get hurt?

Kasumi laid down and huddled close to Arisa. She gently caressed her cheek.

The food was soon done. Kasumi sat up so she could eat it. Once done, Saaya and Rimi headed out. Tae remained behind.

"Are you guys a group?" Kasumi asked.

"Not officially." Tae replied.

"We should make a group together." Kasumi stated, "Find somewhere safe and get some territory."

"I don't know how wise that is with... what's going on..." Tae said.

"We don't have to make it official with the organization." Kasumi replied, "We could just be there in secret."

"I guess that's true. I suppose we should ask the others when they return." Tae agreed.

"Is Saaya like the leader here?" Kasumi questioned.

Tae shrugged, "I don't know. She just took charge while we were in shock."

"Okay."

A few minutes passed. Arisa woke up again. Kasumi was immediately right there for her.

"Hey... do you think you could manage some food or water?" Kasumi asked her.

Arisa shook her head, "It... hurts too much..."

"Here. Take this. It should help." Tae held out a small vial of liquid.

Kasumi lifted Arisa up slightly as Tae helped her drink it. Once she had swallowed, Kasumi set her back down again.

"Where are we?" Arisa asked.

"In a cave." Kasumi said, "There's three girls from another group here with us. That was Tae. Saaya and Rimi went to get supplies. Um... they have to amputate your left leg. It's... unsalvageable."

Arisa didn't say anything. She just stared at Kasumi with wide eyes full of despair. They also held fear in them. Kasumi didn't blame her for that at all. It was scary.

"Hopefully you're right leg will heal and you can soon use it again." Tae said.

"Can I sit up? It's hard to breathe on the floor." Arisa requested.

Kasumi nodded and very cautiously shifted her so she was now leaning on her body. Arisa relaxed against her with a sighed. Kasumi kept a firm grip on her, lest she accidentally slip out.

"So, think you can stomach something now?" Tae asked.

"I can try." Arisa replied.

Tae grabbed a cup of the water that had been boiled already. She carefully helped Arisa drink it. Arisa's hands were too shaky to be of any help. She couldn't care for herself right now. It was embarrassing but she was in too much pain and shock to care.

"Alright. You don't have to eat this all. I'd be happy with at least a quarter of it." Tae said as she held a plate of some animal they had cooked.

Arisa nodded. Tae slowly fed her small pieces. Kasumi was making sure she didn't fall while doing so. Arisa was holding her hands.

"Do you want more or is that enough?" Tae asked once they reached the quarter.

"I think that's enough..." Arisa mumbled.

"Alright. That's good enough for me." Tae set the plate aside, "Drink a bit more water, please."

Arisa nodded and took a few more sips of water. Just that had drained her of all her energy. She was finding it hard to keep her eyes open. She rested as comfortably as she could against Kasumi and drifted off.

"Well, at least she's managing to eat." Kasumi was relieved by that.

"Yeah. I honestly didn't think she'd manage a quarter of it, but she did." Tae nodded.

"Um... how exactly will they amputate her leg?" Kasumi had been bugged by that thought for a while now.

"We'll knock her out with this medicine, " Tae held up a small vial, "And then do it."

"Alright." Kasumi sighed, "It's just... hard..."

"I know. You hate that she's suffering but you know you can't change it."

Kasumi nodded. That was exactly what this all was. She hated seeing Arisa in so much pain, but she couldn't do anything to help her. She couldn't even make her completely better. Her leg was going to be gone. There was nothing she could do. It was hard to come to terms with it all.

"We got everything." Rimi announced as they entered the cave.

"Alright. I got her to eat and drink a bit." Tae said, "Gave her some painkillers too."

"Good. She'll definitely need them. And it's good to know she's able to eat." Saaya nodded, "Well, wake her up so we can start this."

Kasumi gulped as she gently woke Arisa back up. Arisa groggily opened her eyes. She was exhausted still.

"They want to do it now." Kasumi told her, "You'll be given medicine to put you to sleep. When you wake up, it'll be all over."

Tae handed Kasumi the vial. Kasumi took it. Looks like she was being trusted with giving it to Arisa.

"Open up, please." Kasumi opened the vial and pressed it to Arisa's lips.

Arisa weakly opened her mouth. She was too exhausted and in pain to function much. Kasumi gently pried open her mouth with her thumb and poured the medicine in. She held Arisa's mouth closed and set the vial down. She gently massaged Arisa's throat to try and coax her to swallow.

How did she know how to do that? One time she had gotten really sick and Arisa had done that to help her take some medicine when she couldn't move. It did the trick here and Kasumi felt her swallow. A few moments later, Arisa had gone limp against her again.

"Give it a minute. She might've just passed out herself." Tae stated.

Kasumi gently laid her down on the ground. Saaya started to unwrap her leg. Rimi was preparing everything.

"Kasumi, come with me. Let's see if we can find more food." Tae tugged Kasumi to her feet.

Kasumi nodded and followed her out of the cave. She knew why. She really didn't want to watch them anyway. It was a good distraction.

"Where should we look?" Kasumi asked.

"There's a pond close by. Maybe we could get lucky and find some fish." Tae suggested.

"Lead the way." Kasumi said.

Tae started walking. Kasumi glanced back at the cave briefly, before following behind her. She trusted them to do a good job with Arisa.

They didn't speak as they walked. They soon came to the pond.

"Do you know how to fish?" Tae asked.

Kasumi shook her head, "Not really. I've only ever hunted forest creatures."

"Let me demonstrate then." Tae said as she scanned the water for fish.

Kasumi watched her closely. Tae suddenly plunged a hand into the water. She brought it out with a fish stuck on her claws. Kasumi was in awe. She made it look so easy.

"Think you can do that?" Tae asked as she removed the fish and set it aside.

"I can try." Kasumi said.

They silently started fishing. Kasumi wasn't doing too well. She kept failing to catch the fish. Tae was an expert on it to her. She was really good at it.

"Tae... I'm worried about... everything..." Kasumi said quietly.

"I know. It's going to be tough." Tae said, "But, all we can do it move on and deal with what each day brings."

"I'm worried about Arisa. I don't know how she'll handle all of this." Kasumi frowned.

"She'll have to find a way. Unfortunately we can't make a prosthetic for her." Tae sighed, "That would make everything so much easier..."

"Yeah... it really would..." Kasumi agreed.

"Wanna head back? They should be done by now?"

"Sure." Kasumi nodded.

They split the pile of fish evenly between them to carry. They took a slow walk back to the cave. When they entered, they were indeed finished. Arisa's leg was gone.

"We buried it a bit away." Rimi said, "Hopefully it won't attract anything."

"Yeah. We got fish." Tae said as she set the fish down.

Kasumi set her pile down as well, "I... caught one of these fish... the rest were Tae's."

"You'll learn." Tae placed a hand on her shoulder, "It's a skill that takes time to perfect."

"Well, how about you watch over Arisa in case she wakes up. I'm gonna get more water for us to boil." Rimi said.

"Okay." Kasumi nodded and plopped down beside where Arisa was lying.

Saaya and Tae started preparing the fish to be cooked. That was going to be their food for the time being.

"Kasumi had an idea. We could form a group but not be official. Might be wise to find a place and have some territory of our own." Tae said.

"That does sound like a good idea." Saaya nodded, "We'll have to start searching. We shouldn't leave this cave unless we have a secure spot or until Arisa is healed enough."

"True." Tae nodded.

"Is her right leg healing at all?" Kasumi questioned.

"Slowly. All we can do is hope it heals properly." Saaya replied.

"Yeah..."

"What would we call our group?"

"Hmm... good question."

"I don't know why, but the name Poppin' Party came to mind when I was thinking of making a group of my own." Kasumi offered.

"Well, we can use that unless we think of another name we like more." Saaya said.

"Who would the leader be?" Kasumi asked.

"You came up with it. You should be it." Tae stated.

"Me?"

"Just because you're the leader doesn't mean you always have to lead. It just makes you in control of the group." Saaya said.

"Alright... if that's what you think is best." Kasumi felt intimidated by the thought of being the leader of this group.

"I'm sure you'll be fine."

"I hope so..."

Chapter Text

A few days had gone by. Things were still complicated. Arisa was slowly recovering, but it was very slowly. There wasn't much improvement at all. It was worrying, to say the least. Who knew what to do if things went wrong for her? They couldn't just go into a town and take her to a doctor. They had no money.

It also didn't help that the organization was still nearby. They hadn't left the destroyed camps yet. Despite how much they spied on them, no one was able to learn more about their motives. It was frustrating.

Arisa was the setback. With her being so injured, they couldn't risk going out and relocating. Not if the organization was that close by. If they got spotted, there was no way they'd manage to escape. Arisa would hinder whoever was carrying her from being able to sneak through narrow places.

They had found a suitable new home. It was just a matter of getting to it. They hadn’t made their group official yet. They wanted to wait until they were at the new home before doing that. Just in case somehow the organization was able to find them easier. They really weren't sure what happened when they made a group.

"Hey, I caught wind that the organization might start searching the area for survivors. They have all of our names. They know who isn't accounted for. We have to move out soon." Rimi announced one day after she came back from patrolling the area.

"Great..." Saaya sighed, "We better get ready then. We'll head out in the day. Hopefully they won't be as active."

"How far away is this new base?" Kasumi questioned.

"It's quite a distance. It has nothing around for miles."

"Is it safe to travel there now? Or, should we just get out of the search range for now?" Tae questioned.

As much as all of them would love to just go to the new base, they still had to take into consideration Arisa's condition. It may be too far for her right now. Especially when the organization could be almost upon them at any point.

"We will travel for as long as we can. Where that may take us, I don’t know." Saaya decided.

"I guess we should get ready. It isn't too long until sunrise as is. We should rest." Rimi stated.

"Good idea, Rimi. Let's try and get some rest."

"Shouldn't we have a guard? Just to be safe?" Kasumi questioned.

The organization couldn't be trusted. Not even with this. Who was to say they wouldn't have anyone patrolling around during the early hours of the morning? They would assume no one would be up to see them.

"That might be a good idea, but we all need to be well rested." Tae pointed out.

"I can do it." Arisa offered, "It's not like I'll be walking."

"Alright." Everyone seemed to be in agreement with that offer.

With that out of the way, everyone settled down onto their makeshift beds. They weren’t comfortable at all and would always leave them all feeling extremely sore when they woke up. But, it was the best they had at the moment. Once they got to the new base, things would be easier and they could hopefully make better beds.

Kasumi sat down beside Arisa, "Mind if I stay here?"

"I don't care." Arisa huffed.

"Alright. Um... if you need anything just wake me up, okay?" Kasumi smiled at her.

Arisa quickly looked away from her, "Y-yeah..."

Kasumi was satisfied with that and laid down. Arisa stared at her for a few seconds, before turning her attention to the entrance of the cave. She had to be alert and ready to yell at a moments notice. This was going to be interesting.

Everyone else was fast asleep. Arisa was finding the task a lot more boring then anticipated. There was nothing. Not even the rustling of leaves. It was silent. It made her feel uneasy, honestly.

She let out a sigh. This was going to be a long watch, wasn’t it? She had nothing to entertain her. There was nothing to watch. It was silent.

Arisa would constantly glance over at Kasumi. She didn't know why, she just couldn't stop herself. Was there a reason? She wasn't sure. But, there may be a reason.

Arisa was surprised by the hospitality of the other three demons. She never expected to be cared for. Why should they? She was just holding them all back.

They could easily just toss her to the side and leave. So, why didn't they? Her fate was unknown. Would her other leg heal? Would she be able to use it again? What if she couldn't?

This world had no care or sympathy for those who are maimed. It has always been every demon for themselves, even in groups. If you couldn't contribute anymore, you were considered useless and tossed away like trash.

Arisa couldn't say she was surprised Kasumi was still be her side. They were pretty close, as much as she denied it. And, Kasumi didn't like the way the society worked. She always complained about the unfair treatment of certain demons.

But, perhaps there was a part of Arisa that believed Kasumi would abandon her. Maybe that was why she was constantly wanting to know where she was. Because of the fear that she may be abandoned by everyone.

Arisa sighed again. These thoughts were distracting her. She needed to stay focused. There would be a better time to think about those things. She had a job to do.

...

Dawn soon came. Nothing had happened. That was good. They didn't want to run into any trouble if possible.

"I guess we should get going." Saaya stated as she stood up.

Everyone packed the few things they had up and then they headed out. Kasumi was carrying Arisa. It was safer to hold her than to let her cling to her back.

"Alright. Tae, you lead the way. We'll try to head to the new base if we can." Saaya said.

Tae nodded and took the lead. She was the one who had scouted out the new base for them. She was the only one who knew where it was at exactly. They all could probably find it if they tried, but that could be very time consuming.

"How do you feel today?" Kasumi asked Arisa.

"It didn't hurt when you touched my leg this time." Arisa mumbled.

"I hope that means it healing and not that you're losing all feeling in it."

Arisa sighed as she rested her head against one of Kasumi's shoulder, "Yeah..."

"Is something on your mind?" Kasumi asked.

Arisa was hesitant to tell her about it. Especially in earshot of the others. She wasn't one to show her emotions like that. She didn't want them all to know her fears.

"I'm just... worried that I'll never be able to use my leg again... and what all that would mean for me..." Arisa twisted the phrasing so it didn't come off the way she truly felt. She couldn't mention she was afraid of being abandoned.

"I'm sure even without either leg, you would be able to do something." Kasumi was optimistic as always.

"What if I'll just be a burden...?"

"You won't ever be that." Kasumi protested, "No matter what happens, we're in this together. Okay?"

Arisa didn't say anything in reply for a long time. She couldn’t understand how Kasumi could be so positive about all of this. Even she should've been effected enough to lose that optimism, right? So why did she still believe everything was going to be fine?

"How can you be so positive after everything that's happened to us?" Arisa asked.

"We're still alive, aren't we?" Kasumi replied, "We can't stay in the past. You know that. If we survived that, in positive we can survive anything thrown at us."

"This is only the beginning, Kasumi." Saaya stated, "We're fugitives now. Anything can happen."

"I'm positive we can do this!" Kasumi said, "Besides, I doubt they'll pay much attention to us. There is that rebel group they should be focusing on."

"Even if Roselia is threatening their plans, I'm sure they can find time to kill us too." Rimi said.

"Yeah. There's enough workers for them to focus on probably every group." Tae agreed.

Kasumi pouted, "Aren't you trying to be positive anymore?"

"You're pretty sheltered, aren't you?" Saaya stated, "This world is cruel. There's no reason to be positive. Nothing is ever going to go right as long as the organization is in power."

"Then let's do all we can to help Roselia take them down." Kasumi said.

"Do you know anything about them?" Saaya raised an eyebrow as she stared Kasumi down.

"Eh... I know they're a rebel group." Kasumi offered.

Saaya just sighed, "You have a lot to learn about this society..."

...

After hours of grueling travel, they came to a stop by a riverbed. They sat down to rest, making sure they stayed hidden incase anyone came through this area. Who knew what all was out here?

They couldn't start a fire. It was too risky. They did pack some food and water, but it wasn't going to last very long. This was definitely going to be very tough for them.

At some point during their journey, Arisa had fallen asleep. That wasn't unexpected as she had stayed up to guard the cave. Kasumi kept her in her arms even while they were resting. There was no saying they wouldn't have to run.

"Is it too much further?" Rimi asked Tae.

Tae thought about it for quite some time, "I think we could reach it by night fall."

"I wish we could fly there..." Kasumi sighed, "We could've been there by now..."

"Yeah. It sucks having to sneak around like this." The others all agreed.

Due to them being in a forest, they couldn't risk flying. They needed to stay below the trees, but the trees would make noise from the wind their wings produced. They had to walk. It was just too risky to fly.

If all of them were able to do that, it wouldn't be so bad, but there was no way Arisa was going to be able to fly. It would take a lot of practice before she could. Not having your legs to balance you was very difficult to overcome.

They couldn't rest here for too long. It was safest to be moving constantly. That way it was harder to track them down if they did find a hint to their location. But, they needed to rest for a bit. It was exhausting. The journey was very long.

"We'll rest for a little bit. We can't stay long, though." Saaya stated, "We have no clue what is around here."

...

They rested for half an hour. They would've liked to rest longer, but they knew they needed to move out now. It was too risky staying in this place.

So, they all got up and started walking again. Arisa was still asleep. There was no need to wake her. She could rest for as long as she needed to as far as everyone was concerned. Rest was the best for her.

"We still have quite some way to go..." Tae sighed, "The terrain should get a bit smoother soon, but not by much."

The ground was riddled with tree roots. It was hard to not trip. Everyone hated it. It was so much easier flying. They didn't need to worry then. But, they had no choice.

They pressed onward, keeping an eye and ear out for anything abnormal. They needed to be on alert at all times. Not only was the organization a threat, they didn't know if there were any other demon groups nearby. Or worse, if any rogues called this area their home.

So far, nothing had happened to them. They were very thankful. If they could get through this without running into trouble, that would be amazing.

But, just because nothing has happened so far doesn't mean they can let their guard down yet. They couldn’t until they were safely secured in the new base. And that could take a while to happen.

...

Just as darkness started spreading around the land, they made it to the new base. It wasn't much. It was a run-down house. Thankfully, it wasn’t too bad. It was still mostly together.

"Let's get inside. We can rest for a bit and then talk about claiming our territory." Saaya said.

They entered the house and found a suitable room to rest in for the time being. There was some furniture left, but it looked old and not very sturdy. They weren’t going to even try with anything. They'd just have to replace it all at some point.

"I'll stand guard for now." Tae offered, "Just to be safe."

"Alright."

Everyone else sat down on the ground. They were all exhausted. It had been a tough journey. They weren't in the clear yet. They had to get their territory settled and all. And, they had to learn what was around this area.

But, that could wait for a little. What good would it do them if they were exhausted. They would need to be on their feet when they went out to mark their territory. There could be demons out there that didn't like their presence here.

Everyone found it hard to sleep. They were in an unfamiliar place now. They couldn't help but feel nervous and uneasy.

They didn't rest for long. No one felt safe enough to. All of them were awake now. Tae had come back in.

"I guess we should start by giving everyone a group marking. Any ideas on what the marking should be?" Saaya asked.

They needed to establish themselves as a group as soon as possible. It gave them a little bit more protection. They just had to decide on their marking symbol and then how much territory did they want to claim.

"Hmm... how about a star?" Kasumi suggested.

"A star?"

"Yeah. It's a simple design."

"Very well."

"Am I still being the leader?" Kasumi questioned. She still wasn't too sure about it.

"Like we said before, just becuase you're the leader, it doesn't mean you have to be in charge of everything." Saaya stated.

Kasumi started fiddling with her hands, "Okay..."

"Where should the markings go?" Rimi asked.

"Somewhere easy to see." Saaya shrugged.

"How about we all get them on one of our hands? It's pretty noticeable there." Arisa suggested.

"That sounds fine to me."

Kasumi winced as she felt the marking take form. She stared at it in awe for a little bit. This was actually happening. She was the leader of a group now.

"You can start with me." Arisa promoted as she held out her hand.

Kasumi took a nervous gulp before marking the place. She was a lot more nervous than she had thought she'd be. This wasn't the group she had been expecting to create. Everything was wrong. They were on the run. They weren’t just a normal demon group.

Kasumi pushed those thoughts away. She could focus on them later. She had to finishing marking the others. She turned to Tae as she was closest. Tae nodded to her and held out her hand. Kasumi hesitated for a moment, before she did the marking.

Next was Rimi. Then Saaya went. And then they were all marked. They were a group now. A group on the run from the organization. This was not how anyone expected this to go for them. But, what could you do? You can't change the past. They would just have to move forward and deal with whatever came their way next.

Speaking of that. It was time for them to mark their territory. Rimi offered to stay behind to stay with Arisa. They couldn't leave her alone in this unfamiliar land, after all. No one had any objections, so that was what they did.

The other three left the house and started planning what territory they wanted. Kasumi would have liked to not go and instead be the one staying with Arisa, but she had to be the one to set the initial markers. That was something only the leader of the group could do. Once they were set, any member of the group could change their locations or remark them as they saw fit.

While they did that, Rimi tried to start up a conversation with Arisa. It was too quiet in the house.

"So... have you known Kasumi for a long time?" Rimi asked as she took a seat beside her.

"Yeah. We've been friends for as long as I can remember." Arisa nodded.

"She's an interesting one, that's for sure."

"Always has been. I've just learned to tolerate it at this point." Arisa said.

Rimi giggled, "Well, she's a good girl. It's kind of nice to have someone so optimistic around. It lightens the mood."

"She always tries to see the brighter side of everything. And will do anything to make it happen." Arisa sighed.

"Sounds like she's a handful for you, huh?" Rimi teased.

"You could say that..."

They fell into silence again. There wasn't a whole lot to talk about. And neither wanted to discuss the details about anything the organization had put them through with the attacks. That was one topic they all tried their hardest to avoid discussing unless it was necessary.

They had no idea how long it would take the others to claim the territory. They hoped it wouldn't be too long, but you never knew. What if something came up? What if there was a demon that didn't like them? Would they be okay?

It was nervewracking to wait for them, to say the least. So many things could go wrong while they were out there. It was hard not to worry about something happening to them.

But, they bother failed to consider that so.ething bad could happen to them as well. Just because they were in the house didn't mean they were safe from the dangers of the land either.

And what were the dangers of the land? For one, a hostile demong group who just so happened to have seen them moving in. And they  did not like it at all.

Rimi and Arisa both jumped as they heard something crash into the door. That wasn’t good. If it had been their friends, they would have just called for them if the door was stuck. That meant whoever was out there was trying to break in. That was bad.

Rimi quickly tugged Arisa into a hiding spot. Hopefully they could just act like no one was home and the threat would go away. They could regroup and think about it later when there were more of them that could fight. Rimi knew she wasn't going to be able to handle whoever was outside by herself.

The door was broken down. Both of them held their breath and watched in fear as three demons entered the house. They couldn’t see much from their hiding spot, but they could see the demons were not friendly in the slightest.

"Search the house. They'll be here somewhere."

Rimi moved slightly so she was covering Arisa. If they were found out, hopefully they would only see her. That was hopefully just a caution and not going to actually happen.

They could hear the sound of things being broken. The demons were ransacking the entire house. It wasn't likely their hiding spot would go untouched. They were in big trouble.

Rimi could see another opening in the spot. She quietly shoved Arisa into it. She was more hidden that way. That was her main priority. Arisa needed to be kept safe since she couldn't fight for herself.

Rimi silently watched out of the crack in their hiding spot to see what was going on. The noises were drawing closer, meaning soon this room would too be destroyed in their search.

Arisa felt horrible. She didn't like having to hide. She would have liked to be beside Rimi, ready to fight if need be. But instead, she had to hide away like a coward because she couldn't fight.

"I haven't seen any signs of them yet."

"They have to be here somewhere. Search harder!"

The door to tge hiding spot was broken down. Rimi pressed herself into the shadows, but it was no use. They had already seen her.

"Found one." One of the demons grabbed her and pulled her into the open.

"Aww, how cute. A little girl all by herself here. You made a mistake coming here."

Rimi growled as she started clawing at the demon holding her. The demon retaliated harshly and sent her flying across the room. Rimi fell to the ground with a thud. She couldn't move fast enough now. They were on her again and beat her up.

"Don't kill her. She's going to be our prisoner." The demon who they could only assume was in charge yelled.

"Fine." The demon stopped their onslaught and gave one last kick to knock her out.

Rimi was roughly slung over their shoulders. Arisa could only watch in fear as they left the house. She couldn't do anything to help. She'd just get herself taken too.

Arisa tried to calm down once they left, but she couldn't really manage. Knowing Rimi was in danger and she could do nothing about it was hard.

"Rimi!? Arisa!?"

The others returned soon. They were sent into panic at the sight of the house. They immediately feared the worst.

Arisa barely managed to drag herself out of the hiding spot. Kasumi was immediately beside her, hugging her tightly.

"Are you okay? What happened? Where's Rimi?" Kasumi started questioning her.

"I-I'm fine... t-there's a group of demons around here... I don't think they like us being here. They came in and did all of this... They found Rimi and... took her as a prisoner." Arisa tried her best to explain.

"Did you see any marking on them?" Saaya asked.

Arisa shook her head, "I couldn't make one out."

"We have to get her back as soon as possible. Who knows what they may be planning to do to her." Saaya stated.

"But what can we do?" Tae questioned, "Three of us against an entire group? And then what about Arisa? It isn't safe to leave her here alone and it isn't safe for her to come with us either."

That was a problem. What could they do about that? It was true. Arisa would hinder their ability to save Rimi if she came along. But... they also can't leave her here alone incase something were to happen to her. But, they couldn't leave someone with her either. They needed all three of them to do this.

"Well, I guess now is the time to see if you can learn how to fly again." Saaya said.

Arisa was not ready for that. She had barely recovered from her injuries, but she knew she had to try. They didn't have the luxury of waiting around any longer.

"I guess we can try." Arisa agreed.

Chapter Text

Trying to relearn how to fly was not an easy task. Arisa couldn't count the amount of new brushes and cuts on her from her fails. She was constantly crashing to the ground, or sometimes ramming into trees. She could not find a way to balance herself at all.

Having an uneven amount of weight on both sides was causing a lot more problems than anyone had thought. Arisa still couldn't move her leg, so that was also causing her problems. Having a deadweight to carry was hard. Especially when she couldn't hold it.

"I'm sorry..." Arisa sighed as she messed up again.

She felt bad. She was delaying them from starting to rescue Rimi. She could be the reason why Rimi died. She hoped that wouldn't happen, but they knew nothing about the demons who captured her.

"It's fine. We are asking a lot for your current condition." Saaya reassured her.

"What will me learning this do anyway?" Arisa asked.

"It would give us some comfort knowing you could escape if something bad happened while we were gone." Tae answered.

"This is hard..."

"I have an idea!" Kasumi suddenly announced.

"An idea about what?" Everyone eyed her with suspicious gazes.

"How to get Rimi back!"

"And that would be?"

"Someone causes a distraction and then someone else could grab her and run."

"Good luck with that plan."

Kasumi huffed, "It could work."

"Well, until we can get Arisa to fly enough, we can't begin to do that." Saaya stated.

"Two should be enough with my plan." Kasumi defended.

"We are not doing that."

"Why not?" Kasumi whined. She thought it was a good idea.

"It's too risky." Tae said, "We'd need a backup."

"Fine..."

...

Eventually, Arisa was managing to fly. She couldn't do it for too long, but it would be enough. Now, they had to discuss how to approach getting Rimi back. That was going to be a hard thing to figure out.

"We might just need to charge in and run." Saaya said, "If all else fails, we'd just need to run and hide until they stop looking."

"But they'd search here."

"True."

"Does that mean Arisa is coming with us?" Kasumi asked.

"I appears we may have to do that." Saaya sighed.

That wasn't an ideal situation. Arisa was better off staying out of the way for now. But, if all else failed, she would need to hide somewhere else. And how would she know that? She had to come with.

"Couldn't we just find a spot to hide out first?" Arisa asked, "Just leave me there and you go?"

"Too risky even then." Saaya shook her head, "We don't know who all lives out here. You could be in a lot of danger there too."

"Like I'm not when I'm here?"

"We'll figure something out."

That something ended up being that someone would try to be beside her at all times in case they needed to run. It was the best they could do given the uncertainty of the situation. Hopefully, they would be able to just sneak in, grab Rimi, and sneak out.

But, then they realized something. Either way, the group might come back to this house. They may be moving immediately. This place was just too dangerous for them to remain here.

So, as the sun was rising, they set out. Arisa was piggybacking on Kasumi. There was no other way for her to get around yet. Until she became stronger with her flying, she would need to carried around.

They followed a marking from who they believed was the group that stole Rimi. Hopefully they were on the right trail. If not, that was a very bad thing. They were heading right into the heart of an enemy group's territory.

"I hope she's alright..."

They soon found out. They arrived at the small camp the demon group had. They spotted Rimi. She was tied up against a tree. There was a demon guarding her. That was not a good thing at all.

They couldn't just simply sneak it and take her. They had to deal with this obstacle. If they raised any alarm, it was over for them. They'd all be dead.

"What do we do?" Tae asked.

"We need some way to distract them." Saaya stated.

"Would throwing a rock work?" Kasumi suggested.

"Then you'd have to let him chase you." Saaya said, "They'd probably all know not to investigate much if they don't see anyone."

"There's no way to do it without losing someone?"

"I don't think so. Someone will be split off."

"Let me." Tae offered.

"Okay. Be careful." Saaya said.

"I'll do my best." Tae said, before she picked up a rock.

She walked over to just by the guard. She took a deep breath and then threw the rock at him. The demon growled and came over to investigate. Tae grabbed another rock. When he entered the forest, she threw it at him and then booked it.

The demon gave chase. The others were free to sneak in now. Tae would have to find a way to group up with them later on. Granted she managed to escape this demon. There was a chance she wouldn't come back alive, unfortunately.

"Let's go." Saaya said.

Kasumi hung right by the area Saaya went through. She had to stay back since she had Arisa still. They watched as Saaya quickly untied Rimi and picked her up. She darted back out of the camp. It appeared that Rimi was unconscious. That most likely meant that she had jusy recently been beaten.

"Let's try and find somewhere to hide out." Saaya stated.

"Okay." Kasumi nodded.

They quietly left the territory of that group and started searching for a hiding spot. They had to wait for Tae and then they would relocate somewhere new. Now, where was a good place to hide? They didn't really know. They hadn't gotten the chance to truly explore the land here.

"How is she going to find us?" Arisa questioned.

"I'll leave a marking only she would recognize nearby where we hide." Saaya explained.

"Oh. Alright."

They soon found a small cave. It looked pretty unused, so they hoped nothing else was in there with them. That would just complicate things further. They could handle a simple fight, but it could easily draw attention to their location. They couldn't risk that happening. There could be other aggressive groups around here as well.

Saaya carefully set Rimi down. She started to examine her to see what all had happened. There were a lot of scratches and bruises on her. She did take quite a beating. Thankfully, there was nothing bleeding. Considering they had no medical supplies left, that was a good thing.

"How is she?" Kasumi asked as she let Arisa slide off of her and onto the ground.

"Seems to be alright. Nothing looks major." Saaya replied, "I'll go leave the marking."

"Stay safe."

Saaya left the cave. Arisa couldn't tear her gaze away from Rimi. She couldn't help but feel this was her fault. If she hadn't gotten injured, they could've just ran away. But, instead they had to hide and Rimi got really hurt because of that.

"Arisa? What's wrong?" Kasumi seemed to notice something was amiss with her.

Arisa sighed, "I... feel partially responsible for her injuries..."

"It's not your fault. You can't help that you got crippled." Kasumi protested.

Arisa winced.

"Oh... I guess you don't like being called that..." Kasumi realized her mistake, "Sorry..."

"It's fine..." Arisa mumbled.

"But, it really isn't your fault. She didn't technically have to protect you." Kasumi continued to argue, "She could've left you to get captured instead, but she didn't. Because she cares about you."

Arisa still found it hard to think that the others cared about her. She was just a burden to them, wasn't she? They just kept her around because they wanted Kasumi, right? Why would they care about her when she was useless to the group.

"You don't believe me... do you?" Kasumi asked.

Arisa shook her head. She couldn’t believe her. There wasn't enough to support that claim, in her opinion. They were just being nice out of obligation. Maybe they even were waiting for her to heal and make her do something to repay them for taking care of her?

"Arisa, this entire time they've been nothing but caring. Not once has anyone done anything bad to either of us. Doesn't that mean anything to you?" Kasumi asked.

"I just don’t fully trust them... It just seems weird..." Arisa mumbled.

"Well, we're a group now. We have to stick together."

"I know... I can tolerate it."

Saaya came back, "Alright. The marking has been made. Let's hope she can find it soon and get to us. I'd like to get moving as soon as possible."

"How long will we wait for her?" Arisa asked, "What if she... doesn't come back?"

"Midday. If she's not back by then, we'll quick check their camp to see if they caught her. If so, we'll rescue her, if not... we'll assume the worst and move on." Saaya replied.

"Let's hope she makes it." Kasumi gulped.

"She's pretty crafty. It think she'll be fine."

...

It was almost midday and still not sign of Tae. Everyone was starting to worry. Rimi had woken up a little while ago. She was glad to be safe again.

As the time ticked by, everyone grew more worried. Where was she? Did she get captured? Did she just not find the marking? Is she... dead? Everyone hoped it wasn't the last thought.

Just as they were planning to leave, someone approached the cave. It was Tae. She was covered in blood.

"Are you okay!?" Saaya was immediately on her.

"I'm fine... it's mostly not mine." Tae replied.

"Did you have to kill him?" Rimi asked.

"I didn't. A masked demon killed them. I don't know who they were. They left after he was dead. I didn't get a chance to say anything to them." Tae explained.

"Could it be that duo a lot of demons have been talking about?" Arisa suggested, "They are always said to be wearing clothes covering their faces."

"Maybe it was them."

"We need to leave. We can discuss this later." Saaya cut in.

They set out again. They had to find a new home now. They had no clue where to start. No one knew what was nearby. Were there even any towns nearby?

This could be a long search. The may be walking for days for all they knew. They had no choice, though. They couldn't remain here where they would be under a constant threat. They needed to go someplace that was safer to live at.

...

After days of traveling, they finally found a new home. It was just outside a town. This area seemed friendlier to them. No one seemed to glare or have any intent to harm them. To be honest, no one even glanced their way when they arrived. They just went about their normal business. That was a relief to them all.

Being near the town, they were able to find jobs so they could get money. They would definitely need it. While the house was free, the other stuff they needed wouldn't be.

They needed food. There was nowhere to plant anything. They'd have to rely on the shops for that stuff.

They also went shopping for new clothes once they could. It felt good to be in clean clothes again. They hadn't had the opportunity to wash up in ages. It was refreshing.

There was one problem. The organization had members stationed in towns. What if they were on a hit list? It was dangerous to go out. They resorted to having to wear items covering some of their face so they were less recognizable.

"So, we seem to have finally gotten settled."

"Yeah. It's kind of weird..."

"I hope things are calm for us now."

Chapter Text

Roselia was becoming more infamous every day. They were constantly attacking small bases of the organization's members. They were never caught. No one could seem to track them down either.

But, things were becoming too easy. They needed to step things up. Attacking th smallest of bases wasn't going to put any dent in the forces. They'd need to go to a higher scale.

That was how Lisa and Sayo found themselves scouting out a potential base to raid. It was a lot bigger than the others they had attacked. This one was going to require a bit more thought and planning.

"Alright. So, see the entrance anywhere?" Lisa questioned.

Sayo shook her head, "I don't see any way in or out. And, strangely I don't see any guards around either."

"That is strange. We better be on high alert then." Lisa said.

For a base like this, having no guards around was not a good sign. It was just too good to be true. There was something amiss. They just needed to find out what that was.

They searched around the base from a distance, but unlitmately came up with nothing. There was no demon in sight. Not a single one. They had found an entrance, but that was it. They had no luck finding any life.

"Should we... go closer?" Lisa questioned.

"I don't know. I'd like to but... it just seems really suspicious." Sayo replied.

"I think we can at least get a little closer without worrying that we'll be spotted." Lisa said, "Maybe we can see inside while still being hidden by the forest?"

"I guess it's worth a shot. Yukina probably would want us to do as much as we can here."

They cautiously moved closer. They got as close as they felt comfortable doing. They were still a little distance away, but they could see things a lot clearer now.

As they inspected the building, they noticed signs of struggle and distress. Like something had already attacked. That was not a good sign. What if whatever did that was still around? They could be in danger. But, curiosity was getting the best of them. They wanted to know more if they could.

"I think it's been abandoned." Sayo decided, "Seems like they got attacked by something and fled."

"Do you think it's safe to go closer?" Lisa asked as she scanned the area for signs of movement.

"I don't sense anything. There's no strong smells either. I think whatever it was is long gone. We should be safe." Sayo replied.

"Then let's see about getting inside. Maybe they left stuff behind that we could use?" Lisa suggested.

"I suppose we can try."

They walked up to the entrance. It was completely torn to shreds. It sent shivers down both of their spines. Just what creature had done this? What type of things was even that powerful?

"Could... could the organization be experimenting on something?" Lisa questioned as she ran her hand over the claw marks on the wall, "It seems like this was broken open from the inside."

Sayo examined the area by the entrance, "It does seem that way. Hopefully they have some documents to tell us. And hopefully they haven't also been torn to shreds."

"Let's see what's in here then."

"I don't want to be in here for too long. I don't like how it feels."

"I get what you mean."

They started searching around. There wasn't much other than distruction. Everything was destroyed. They didn't have much hope in finding anything to tell them what might have been going on in this place.

Sayo held out her arm to stop Lisa from walking forward, "Do you smell that?"

"It smells like... blood." Lisa gulped, "And a lot of it."

"It seems to be coming from behind this door." Sayo pointed to a door just a few steps farther.

"Should we... investigate?" Lisa wasn't sure they wanted to.

"We need to. It may hold the answers were looking for." Sayo said, "Believe me, I don't want to open it either."

"You can open the door..." Lisa didn't want to be the one to touch it.

Sayo took a deep breath and pulled the door open. Inside the room was... bad. There were dead bodies everywhere. Most were dismembered in some form. It was not a pleasant sight to behold.

"I think I'm gonna be sick." Lisa gagged.

"You can wait outside. I just want to quickly see if there is anything here." Sayo said.

Lisa nodded and stepped back. She couldn't handle the sight of all the bodies. Sayo barely could herself. She could feel her stomach churning as she stepped through the pools of blood. The sound it made was not pleasant at all.

Sayo found a broken glass case. It had once contained something, most likely. Perhaps that was the source of the creature that did this. It had come from here.

Sayo found a desk. She looked through it, hoping the find anything salvageable. There wasn't much in the desk. She could see a lot of papers on the ground. They were covered in blood. None were eligible anymore. There was no point in even trying to get them.

Sayo made her way out of the room. She paused at a cabinet. She didn't want to touch it, but there might be something useful inside. Sayo braced herself and opened the doors.

There were just random pieces of clothing it it. And a few broken boxes of... something. Sayo wasn't willing to investigate them farther. She wanted to get out now. The stench of the decaying bodies was starting to give her a migraine.

Sayo exited the room. Lisa came over to her, eying her up. Sayo knew her shoes were probably soaked in blood now. Her hands were covered in it too from touching the desk and cabinet.

"Are you alright?" Lisa asked.

"Yeah... the smell is giving me a headache, though."

"Let's get out of here. I doubt there's anything of use." Lisa stated.

They started heading back out of the building. Sayo hated the feeling of walking. The blood had seeped through her shoes and was now on her feet. It was not pleasant at all.

"You don't look so good, Sayo. Are you sure you're alright?" Lisa asked in worry, "It's okay if the room got to you. I'm not gonna judge."

"It's... the blood on my shoes..."

"We'll find a place to wash you off as soon as we can then."

They continued to walk. Soon enough, they made it outside. The fresh air was good for both of them. But, it wasn't going to be much help for Sayo.

"I think there was a pond close by..." Lisa tried to recall the surrounding area.

"Lisa... I... I feel like we're being watched."

Lisa paused, "What?"

"I just... I can't shake off this feeling ever since we got outside." Sayo said.

"We should get moving then."

"Let's."

They started making their way back into the forest. The sense of unease followed them. It definitely felt like they were being followed. They couldn't hear anything or see anything, but the feeling remained.

They soon found a pond. Lisa kept glancing around nervously. Sayo was very slow at cleaning herself off. She didn't like touching her shoes. Eventually she did get them off.

Sayo washed them off as best as she could. Next were her feet. That was easier to do. Then finally, her hands. Sayo had to go barefoot for now. Her shoes were soaked with water. That would just make a lot of noise if she walked in them.

"Ready?" Lisa asked.

Sayo nodded. They continued their walk back to the base. Sayo had to go slow. There was a lot of sticks and rocks on the forest floor. They were not pleasant the step on. She also did not want to cut her feet open by accident.

"Just a bit farther until we should be safe to fly." Lisa stated. She could tell Sayo was growing frustrated by the events of today.

"Good..." Sayo sighed in relief.

Soon enough, they could take to the sky again. That made their travel a lot easier. It also was good because the sense of being followed vanished as they took to the sky.

It wasn't long before they arrived back at their base. Upon entering, Yukina was there to greet them. She eyed Sayo up in confusion.

"It's a long story." Sayo grumbled as she plopped her shoes to the side.

"Did you find anything?" Yukina asked as they sat down in the living room.

"The base was destroyed by something." Lisa explained, "Seems like an experiment gone wrong."

"So, it's abandoned?" Yukins questioned.

"They either left or were killed." Sayo said.

"There were corpses?"

Sayo nodded, "An entire room of them."

"She investigated it so we had to wash off the blood on her shoes afterwards." Lisa explained.

"Ah. So, I'm guessing you didn't learn anything of use from the base?"

"Unfortunately if there was anything it had been destroyed by either the blood or the... thing." Sayo said.

"Any idea what this thing could be?" Yukina asked.

"You guys are back!" Ako and Rinko entered the room.

"Yes. We're back."

"Can we please finish the questioning before you ask them anything?" Yukina asked.

"Okay!" Ako took a seat. Rinko joined her.

"So... all we could gather was that this thing was very strong. It had managed to rip apart steel." Sayo said, "It most likely came from a glass case I saw in... the bad room."

"The organization has started doing experiments now... this is not good." Yukina sighed.

"I... I may know something. I don't remember where but I did... hear something about... an experiment." Rinko stated.

"What have you heard?" Yukina asked.

Rinko nervously fiddled with her hands, "I... I remember hearing... they had taken... a demon or two and... tried to insert different prototype genes... to try and create a... a very dangerous tool."

"Looks like they didn't account for the demons turning against them." Ako commented.

"Are you telling us there might've been two demons that broke out of there?" Sayo questioned.

Rinko nodded, "Yes... they... took two incase the first one... failed to survive..."

"So we now could have two extremely dangerous demons on the loose who very well could kill us in seconds..."

"Did you see them at all?" Yukina asked.

Lisa shook her head, "No. The place was destroyed at least a week ago. But, we did feel like we were being watched at some point."

"Keep an eye out. We need to be on high alert if this is true." Yukina stated.

"Understood."

"So..." Ako said, "Are there gonna be any other bases we try to attack?"

"As of now, none are in close enough range. It would mean being gone for a day." Yukina responded, "There was a small outpost they were putting up. I'm unsure if we will do anything to it or not as of now."

"Okay."

"Well, I'll start cooking some dinner for us." Lisa got up.

"Can I help?" Ako ran over to her.

"Sure." Lisa smiled and nodded.

The two of them went into the kitchen.

"I'm going to change. I can still smell the blood on my dress." Sayo got up and went to her room.

Yukina and Rinko were left. Neither made a move to leave. Rinko was staring at her hands. Yukina was staring at her.

"Rinko? You've never told us where you came from."

Rinko froze up. That was the one thing she couldn't tell them. Well, she could tell them a half-truth.

"I... I've suppressed the memories... it was very traumatizing... in my past..."

"I see. Your group was attacked?"

Rinko nodded, "Yes... and I... I lost my family in it..."

"I'm sorry. It must be tough." Yukina said, "I won't ask too much about it. But, why did you leave the group?"

"I was kicked out." Rinko didn't need to lie about that, "They saw me as... useless."

"You're anything but that." Yukina replied, "You've grown a lot since you came here. I can see you have a lot of potential."

"I don't like... fighting..."

"I would assume not. I won't ask that of you yet. But, do you think you might be ready to try a mission?"

Rinko looked at her in surprise, "A mission?"

Yukina nodded, "Yes. Similar to what Lisa and Sayo had gone on. Would you be willing to try a scouting mission?"

Rinko thought about it, "I... I don't know..."

"Could I go on a scouting mission?" Ako popped her head into the room.

"No. You're too irresponsible to do that." Yukina shook her head.

Ako pouted, "I could do it!"

"No. If we do wish to scout out the new outpost, you are not the one going." Yukina gave her a firm look.

Ako frowned, "Please, Yukina? I could do it! And it's a really easy one. Wouldn't you at least trust me with that?"

"Ako, the last time we sent you out on your own to just simply remark our borders, Sayo ended up having to rescue you from a ditch that you got stuck in." Lisa reminded her.

"I... fine..." Ako knew she didn't have a good case.

"I promise one day you'll get to do that. Just... you need to prove yourself capable of just getting around our territory first." Yukina said.

"Okay..." Ako returned to helping Lisa cook.

"Yukina? Um... I think I'd like to test my capabilities before doing a mission." Rinko said, "I... don't know how I'll handle the forest."

"Of course. We can arrange a time to practice navigation and the likes. Are you going to test your wings at all?" Yukina asked.

"They don't hurt when I move them... so I think I'll try to fly." Rinko nodded.

"Alright. How about tomorrow we start that?"

"It... sounds good to me..." Rinko agreed.

It was time to see if she was able to handle the changes. Learning to get around with only one eye was hard. Having 50% of your vision wasn't easy to adjust to. Hopefully she could adapt quickly. She wanted to try and help out Roselia.

Chapter Text

The next night came fast. Yukina, Sayo, and Rinko were in a small clearing. Rinko was finally trying to test her capabilities again. Lisa and Ako were off shopping for supplies.

"Alright. First let's start with your wings. Try them out." Yukina said.

Rinko nodded and slowly unfolded her wings. She stretched them out and took a deep breath. This was the first time in ages that she's flown. Hopefully she could still do it. They did not hurt at all when she moved them. But, that didn't mean they wouldn't hurt once she took to the air.

Rinko slowly got herself up into the air. She couldn't get too far up. She also didn't last long. One wing bucked slightly and she fell. They didn't seem able to hold her weight that well.

"Are you okay?" Yukina asked.

Rinko nodded, "I-I'm fine..."

"Well, it seems that you'll have to strengthen your wings." Sayo stated, "If you train them a bit every day I'm sure they'll get strong enough for you to fly with again."

"I see..."

"What else do you wish to try out?" Yukina questioned.

Rinko thought about it. She needed to test a few things. What should she try out next?

"I'd like to try navigation." Rinko said.

"Alright. How should we do this...?" Yukina appeared to be lost in thought.

"Why not do something simple? Maybe try and just have her follow someone around the forest?" Sayo suggested.

"Is that fine with you?"

Rinko nodded. That seemed simple enough. At least she wouldn't get lost. That was the thing mainly holding her back. She didn't know this terrain at all. It made her nervous to even think of being out alone.

"Sayo, you can do that." Yukina nodded to her.

Sayo nodded. She walked up to Rinko.

"I'll go slow. Just let me know if it's still too fast." Sayo said.

"Okay." Rinko agreed.

Sayo glanced over at Yukina for a second. She looked back at Rinko and then made her way into the forest. Rinko followed behind her.

Sayo made sure to keep herself listening to Rinko's movements. The last thing she needed was her getting hurt or lost. So, Sayo knew she'd have to go at this quite cautiously.

"How confident do you feel just walking through here?" Sayo asked as she stopped and turned around.

"I'm a little... nervous..." Rinko whispered, her eye looking at the ground, "I'm still not used to... having less vision..."

"Is it hard to focus because of how much you're trying to take in?"

Rinko nodded, "I want to know my surroundings, but I get a little lost trying to do that."

"There isn't much I can really suggest. I guess you'll just need to learn to use your other senses to figure out your surroundings as well." Sayo said.

Rinko didn't reply. She was constantly glancing around the area.

"Are you still... wary of me?" Sayo asked.

It was no surprise that Rinko hadn't ever been very comfortable around her. Things seemed like they had changed a bit. Rinko did improve in how she faced Sayo, but maybe she was still cautious around her.

"Yes... a little bit..." Rinko nodded.

"I... understand why. I promise I won't do something to you again. But, I guess I can't make you believe that easily."

They fell back into an awkward silence again. It was tough. Sayo wasn't sure if there was anything she could do to show Rinko that she wasn't going to hurt her. Considering how long it's been since she had attacked her, Sayo didn't have much hope. She would just have to keep doing what she was doing and hope eventually Rinko would come around.

"Shall we continue then?" Sayo said.

Rinko nodded. Sayo went slightly faster this time. She added a few turns in but only on the right. She wasn't quite ready to try and make a turn on Rinko's blindside.

Eventually she had to. Sayo stopped after that. Rinko had to pause and look around to locate her.

"Perhaps if you focus on sound you may get better as identifying which direction things go in." Sayo suggested.

"Okay..."

"We'll head back now. I think this is enough."

They soon made it back into the clearing. Sayo quickly explained to Yukina how it had gone.

"Alright. Anything else?" Yukina asked.

"Um... testing my strength..." Rinko mumbled.

That was the one she was the most wary about. She was going to have to fight someone to see how she did. She wasn't confident with it.

"We can have a brief sparing match." Yukina agreed, "Who would you want to fight?"

Rinko didn't really want to fight either of them. She decided on Yukina. That wasn't that much of a surprise.

"You can start it. I'll just be blocking. I won't relatiate." Yukina said.

Rinko nodded and took a deep breath. She hadn't really fought since... back then. She didn't want to think about it.

Rinko tried to land some blows on Yukina, but all were easily deflected. Rinko found that her stamina was not very good. She was already starting to get out of breath. She tried one last time to get a hit, but Yukina caught her fist.

"I... I'm done..." Rinko panted.

"Alright. Is that all then?"

Rinko nodded. That was all she needed to try out.

"We can head back then."

The three of them made their way back to the base. Ako and Lisa were back already.

"So, how'd it go?" Lisa asked.

"Better than expected but, she still needs some time."

"Alright. Well, should we go and mark the borders?"

"Yeah. Ako, Rinko, you two are staying here. We'll be back later."

Sayo, Yukina, and Lisa left the house. There had been a few unknown tracks showing up by the border and they wanted to just be sure nothing was there. It wouldn't do well if someone was near them. Especially since they learned about the potential experiments that could be loose nearby.

"Are you okay?" Ako asked Rinko, "You seem a bit pale."

"I'm fine. Just... tired." Rinko replied, "I'm going to lay down."

"Okay!"

Rinko went to her room and laid on her bed. She felt strange. Her body ached a lot. It... reminded her of her past. The training she went through. She didn't like remembering it at all.

Rinko ended up dozing off. When she woke up, it was to a still silent house. That meant the three of them were not back yet.

Rinko got up and checked to see where Ako was at. She didn’t see her in her room. Rinko went to the living room. Ako wasn't there either. That was... bad.

Rinko searched around the house, but Ako was nowhere to be found. That was extremely worrying. Ako was not supposed to be out by herself.

"Did she... go to the..." Rinko didn't like that idea.

Ako might have gone to the outpost. She had been told not to, but she was stubborn. It was likely that was exactly where she went.

Rinko gulped. She... she had to go after her. She couldn't just sit around and do nothing. But, she was horrible as navigation. She could easilg get lost.

Rinko eventually went out. She had to try. Ako could be in danger.

Rinko knew the direction of the outpost. The started running that way. She was struggling to get through the woods. She was constantly getting hit by branches she failed to see and tripping over roots.

Rinko heard a cry of pain. That wasn't a good thing. She tried to pick up her pace. It wasn't long before she came to a cleaning. The outpost was there. And, there was Ako.

Two demons stood over her. Ako was on the ground. There was blood splattered on the grass. Rinko froze as she recognized the demons. They were from the group she had left.

Rinko didn't want to go out and face them. She hoped they would just leave so she could grab Ako and go. Unfortunately, that didn't seem very likely.

The demons started kicking Ako. One clawed at her. Ako was crying out, pleading for them to stop. She couldn't fight back. She was just a punching bag in her current position.

Rinko had no choice but to go out and fight. She was scared to, but if she didn't try Ako was going to be killed.

"Get away from her." Rinko tried to sound firm, but her voice was anything but that.

The two demons paused and looked at her. They recognized her almost immediately.

"Well, look who it is. The little weakling." One taunted her.

"Of course you would hang out with someone like this." The other demon kicked Ako hard.

"Leave her alone." Rinko repeated.

"Make us." The demons challenged.

Both ran at her. Rinko barely had time to react. Somehow she managed to dodge them and get some distance between them. She had to fight them. But, could she do it?

"Not bad, but dodging is all a coward like you is good at!"

Rinko managed to dodge the next few attacks. It was tough. But, slowly she found herself getting into a rhythm. A very familiar rhythm.

Rinko still had the muscle memory of her training. It was coming in handy here. She was able to start landing her own attacks. And, by some miracle, beating them back.

Rinko sent one of them down with a hard kick. They didn't get up. The other was becoming unnerved by the sudden change in Rinko. Rinko had never shown that she could fight to anyone in that group. They were oblivious to her training.

That was useful. Rinko got the upper hand on the demon and ended up breaking their neck. She stumbled back as the reality of what she just did came to her. She had killed them. She... killed...

"Rinko?"

Rinko snapped out of her thoughts. She knelt down beside Ako and helped her into a sitting position. Ako looked pretty rough. There were a lot of bruises and a few scratches. The most notable being on her back. It looked nasty and was bleeding.

"You can fight really well. I... don't get it. You've never seemed like you knew that stuff."

Ako was very confused by what she had witnessed. Rinko very much seemed like she never learned how to fight before.

"It's... a long story."

"Please?"

"You... you can't tell anyone else about it." Rinko said.

"I promise I won't." Ako replied.

"Alright... So, I... I grew up in a town close to the organization's main base. They massacred the town to... extend their base. Some demons were... spared if they pledged loyalty. I... I did."

"You..." Ako was staring at her with wide eyes.

"They trained me to be a soldier, but... something happened that... traumatized me. I couldn't do it, so they sent me away. I ended up in a camp meant for lower workers of the organization. I... I was useful because of my training, but I refused to fight. And, they got fed up... so they kicked me out..." Rinko mumbled, "That's how I ended up all alone."

"Can I ask what happened?" Ako questioned.

"I... I was asked to murder a... a group of orphans..." Rinko whispered, her eye downcast, "I was forced to with another worker. It... really messed with me... having to... kill them..."

"That's horrible! I can't believe they'd make anyone do that." Ako was horrified by that.

"They were... orphans because their parents were murdered by the organization. They were too young to pledge and no one wanted to... raise them..." Rinko said.

"Rinko... I'm sorry you had to go through that." Ako hugged her, "But, now we get the chance to change that."

"Yeah... I hope we can succeed." Rinko nodded.

"So, you don't want anyone else to know about your past because, they might think you're a traitor?" Ako questioned.

"Not necessarily. I just... don't want them to... be wary of me. If they find out, they may not trust me at all."

"Oh... I'll keep it a secret, I promise." Ako said.

"We should... go back. They'll be worried... about us..." Rinko stated.

Ako gulped, "U-um... will... will they be... mad?"

"Yes. You weren't allowed to do this. Yukina will be very mad." Rinko nodded.

Ako started crying, startling Rinko.

"A-Ako?"

"I just... wanna show them I can be brave! I... I'm sorry... I didn't mean to... have this happen..." Ako sobbed as she clung to Rinko, "Yukina's gonna punish me! I don't wanna be punished again!"

Rinko wasn't sure how to comfort her. She knew Ako was afraid of Yukina in this regard. The last time Ako snuck out... Yukina had punished her as well. She had first ended up screaming at her and then did hit her. After that, Ako was locked in her room and not allowed out. The door was opened for food. She wasn't even allowed to talk to anyone. That lasted a week.

Rinko could understand her fear of that. Ako was messed up for a bit when it ended. Every small mishap made her jump in fear of another scolding. Lisa had actually had to intervene and make Yukina apologize for how she had handled the situation. It was unclear if Yukina felt bad about how she had punished Ako.

The rest of them had agreed it was pretty severe and the thing Ako had done did not warrant that much of a punishment. This was a lot worse than that first time. Yukina might definitely try and be even harsher now. Ako had ever right to be afraid.

"If... she does anything... outrageous again, I'll... talk to her about it, okay?" Rinko offered.

She was scared to do that, though. Yukina could be... intimidating. Rinko wasn't exactly comfortable around her yet. But, she needed to somehow reassure Ako things would be okay.

"I... I don't wanna go back..."

"I know... but we have to."

Ako shook her head and tightened her grip on Rinko's dress. She was terrified of going back. Rinko wondered now if she should ask Lisa to talk to Yukina about her harsh attitude. To have Ako be that fearful of her was not good.

"So, we were right. This is where you went."

Both of them froze. Looks like they weren’t going to get the chance to head back before they had to talk about this.

Ako buried her face into Rinko's dress so she couldn't see them. She was really scared now.

"These two the only ones here?" Sayo kicked the bodies to confirm they were indeed dead.

"As far as I know, yes..." Rinko nodded.

"So, care to explain why both of you are out here?" Yukina was glaring at both of them.

"I... I'm sorry..." Ako whispered.

"Ako, you were told not to come here." Yukina's tone was harsh, "I’ve about had it with this disobedience."

"Y-Yukina, let's calm down." Lisa tried to mediate, "Ako is still young."

"I don't care. She should know better by now." Yukina shot back.

Rinko took a deep breath. She could only think of one way that might stop Yukina from being so mad at Ako. But, it was something she was scared to say.

"I... I'm at fault... not, Ako..." Rinko said.

"Huh?"

It was obvious that was confusing everyone. Rinko knew it wasn't going to be a very believable thing, so she better get talking.

"I... wanted to... try and do this... to prove I wasn't useless..." Rinko said, "I... asked her to come with me."

It was met with silence. Ako didn't dare say a word. She didn't want to mess this up and have them find out how big of a lie that was.

"Who killed them?" Yukina pointed to the two demons.

"I did..." Rinko said.

"Yukina, we should head back." Lisa intervened again, "Ako is injured."

Yukina didn't seem like she was ready to go yet.

"Yukina. There's nothing more here. Let's head back before any demons have a chance to find us." Sayo stated. She also wished to head back.

"Fine. Let's go then." Yukina walked away without another word.

Lisa chased after her, trying to talk to her. Ako looked up at Rinko, her eyes wide.

"Can you walk?" Rinko asked.

Ako shrugged. She didn't know that she could. Rinko stood up and helped her up. Ako seemed steady enough on her feet for now.

"Do you really think she believes you?" Sayo questioned, "It's obvious what you said was a lie. You wouldn't just do something like this."

Rinko gulped, "I..."

"It's cause Yukina is too mean!" Ako protested, "She was probably gonna kick me out!"

"I will admit... her punishments for you may be... too much..." Sayo couldn't argue with her on that, "But, what will you do if she does question you more? Can you keep up the act?"

"I... just want Yukina to... not punish Ako like... before..."

"Well, if she does I'm sure Lisa will definitely protest it."

"Would you?" Ako asked.

Sayo sighed, "Possibly. Now, let's get back."

They walked back in silence. Ako had her head down and was clinging to Rinko's side. She was still scared of what was going to happen to her once they got back.

Yukina and Lisa were waiting in the living room for them. They all took a seat.

"Rinko, I don’t truly believe you would do that." Yukina stated.

"I... You don't know me that well." Rinko replied. It wasn't a lie. No one but Ako knew her well at all.

"I suppose that is true. But, you were struggling earlier and now somehow managed to get to the outpost and kill two demons." Yukina said.

"All these... scratches are from me... going through the forest..." Rinko mumbled, "And... I just... found myself remembering how to... fight in the moment..."

"Fine. Both of you are being punished for this, though." Yukina stated, "Neither of you are leaving this house for a week."

"Is that all?" Ako asked with hesitance.

Before Yukina could speak, Lisa cut in, "How about they have to do all the maintenance in the house?"

Yukina raised an eyebrow at Lisa, "Well... I suppose that can work."

Ako sighed in relief. That wasn't bad at all compared to last time. She could handle that. She was silently grateful for Lisa. Yukina definitely wasn't thinking about something like that.

"Lisa, why don't you take Ako and patch up her wounds?" Yukina suggested.

"Alright. Come on, Ako." Lisa stood up.

Ako followed her out of the room. Rinko was a little nervous. Yukina had asked them to leave for a reason, right? She was pretty certain about that part.

"Rinko, you're lying to me." Yukina stated, "I refuse to believe you told the truth."

Rinko stared at the ground. She didn't know what to say. She wasn't coming up with any good excuses. She was screwed now. She would have to come clean, wouldn't she?

"Rinko was just worried about how you'd treat Ako because of this." Sayo stated.

"So, what is the truth then, Rinko?" Yukina asked.

"I... I only lied about being the one to go... I... I went after her because... I was worried." Rinko mumbled.

"Fine. If I find out you're still lying to me, expect consequences."

"Yukina, I don’t want to sound rude, but I believe you're being too controlling." Sayo stated.

"Is that so?"

"Yes. It doesn't feel like we're all a team. It feels like you're the only one with a say in things." Sayo nodded.

Yukina sighed, "We aren't making as much progress as I'd like. I'm getting impatient waiting."

"I'm sure soon we'll be able to do what you want. But, until we can get Ako to be... less incompetent and for Rinko to get her strength back, we are at a standstill." Sayo said.

"Why haven't you asked Afterglow to... assist you?" Rinko questioned.

"They are not that keen on being this illegal quite yet. But, they are slowly getting to that point." Yukina replied.

"I think we should stop for now. Rinko, shouldn't you get your scratches looked at too?" Sayo prompted.

"I guess that would be a good thing to do. You can go now, Rinko." Yukina agreed.

Rinko nodded and went to go find Lisa and Ako. They were in Ako's room. Lisa smiled and greeted her.

"Can you... check my cuts?" Rinko asked.

"Of course. Come sit." Lisa nodded.

Rinko sat down on the bed. Ako stared at her.

"Everything is alright, Ako." Rinko reassured her.

"Good. I was worried Yukina was gonna start yelling at you." Ako said.

"I'm sure she wouldn't do that, Ako. Not with Sayo right there." Lisa said, "She knows we haven't exactly liked how she treated you before."

"Well, I was still really worried." Ako huffed.

"She's still mad at us..."

"I'm sure it'll change soon. I know it may not seem like it, but Yukina does care about you guys." Lisa said.

Ako pouted, "She hardly acts like it."

"She just wants to get things going. It's tough when things are holding you back." Lisa explained.

"Does she think... she could have raided the organization already?" Rinko questioned.

Lisa shook her head, "No. But, she thinks we should be doing large scale attacks by now."

"Oh..."

"Don't worry about it too much. She can wait. As long as the organization doesn't suddenly step up severity with anything she won't care too much if it takes a bit longer to do things." Lisa reassured.

"I'm sorry I keep holding us back..." Ako mumbled.

"It's not your fault." Rinko said, "I'm the one who... is holding us back... because I'm not at my full strength yet..."

"But you were able to kill this demons so well." Ako protested.

"It was... because I was panicking..." Rinko said, "I can't do that normally. Only if I'm under a lot of pressure."

"Oh... sorry..."

"Well, you both are patched up. It's getting to dawn. Get some rest." Lisa smiled at them and then left the room.

"Rinko...? Um... will you... stay with me...?" Ako mumbled.

"S-sure." Rinko was not ready for that request, but she didn't see any reason not to agree to it.

Ako laid down on the bed, "Well, sleep well. And... thank you for saving me... both from those demons and from Yukina..."

"I... it's nothing..." Rinko mumbled, feeling embarrassed from the thanks.

"Well, I'm tired so, night..." Ako yawned as she closed her eyes.

"Sleep well, Ako."

Chapter Text

A few days had passed since the whole incident with Ako. Things had fallen back into routine again. Nothing changed. They were still doing what they had always done.

Yukina was still aggravated by the little progress they were making. She wanted to increase everything, but that was just not possible yet. Ako just wasn't trusted enough yet. Rinko had proven she was ready to move out on missions if she needed to, but Ako had not proven she could follow the rules well enough yet.

Today she was given a chance to change that. She was being allowed to do a territory check by herself. It wasn't a hard task. She just needed to make sure nothing seemed off in their territory. As nothing had for a while, Yukina deemed it okay to have them do it solo for now.

Ako was doing her best to be responsible and mature about it. She made sure to be taking note of anything that could mean trouble. That honestly wasn't a lot. The few tracks she would find always lead to animals. Nothing showed signs of being a demon.

Ako was quite relieved by that. Having a demon this close to their base was not something any of them wanted. Even she knew it wasn't wise to think of that as an exciting thing. That could be disastrous to them, after all.

Ako was just reaching the end of the area she was meant to check. She paused as she heard movement. She cautiously snuck over to the area she was hearing the sounds from. She peared around a tree to see a demon caught in vines.

That was off Roselia's territory, so it was not cleaned up at all. It seemed the demon must've fallen out of the tree and gotten caught by the vines. They weren't having any luck getting out. Their arms were tangled up too much to use their claws.

Ako studied the demon. It was a girl. She looked to be around the same age as Ako was. Ako didn’t feel intimidated by her at all. She seemed distressed and panicked. Ako really didn't think she would hurt her. Not like she could in her current situation any way.

"Um... would you like some help?" Ako stepped into the demon's view.

"A-ah!" The demon panicked at the sight of Ako and struggled more, which only succeeded in making her further tangled in the vines.

"H-hey, it's okay!" Ako tried to calm her before she ended up hurting herself, "I won't hurt you."

The demon eventually calmed down. She warily eyed Ako up. She looked scared. Ako didn't know why at first. But, then it clicked. She might've recognized her scent from the marking. That could explain her fear.

"Um... I'm Ako. Can I... help you out?" Ako asked again, staying still until she received an answer. The last thing she needed was to make the girl panic again.

"Please..."

Ako slowly walked over to her and examined the mess. She didn’t want to accidently cut her while removing the vines. She needed to be very careful of her movement.

"What's your name?" Ako asked as she cautiously cut the first vine.

"R-Rokka..."

"How'd you end up like this?" Ako wanted to keep her talking to try and distract her from what she was doing.

"I was exploring this area and I didn't realize the marking was there until I was about to move... I ended up falling and... ended up like this." Rokka explained in a embarrassed manner.

"Hey, don't worry about it. I uh... fell in a hole once cause I wasn't paying attention to where I was walking. A friend had to get me out cause there wasn't enough room to fly up, but it was deep enough that I couldn't just climb out of it." Ako tried to lighten the mood.

"Are you... with the group in that area?"

Ako nodded, "Yep."

"I... got separated from my group during an ambush." Rokka mumbled, "The organization had some demons hunting for something and... they found us..."

"Are you guys an illegal group?" Ako asked.

"It's... complicated... I'm on the run because the organization bombed the village I lived in and wanted everyone dead. Two of our members actually are... from a high ranking branch of the organization. They ran away to try and overthrow them and stop them."

"What? You mean to tell me... you have people from the organization?" Ako's eyes widened.

Rokka nodded, "Yes... they are from the defense branch."

"Wow... so, are there any more of you guys in the group? Or is it just you three?" Ako continued as she was slowly making progress on the vines.

"Two more. They... they're experiments..."

Ako paused, "Experiments...?"

That made her worried. She guessed they had to be the two demons Rinko mentioned. Ako didn't know how she should feel about that. They were working for a group against the organization and all, but was that enough to trust them?

"Yeah... I know that probably sounds bad, but they're actually really nice." Rokka nodded, "Well, except to people who work for the organization, obviously."

Ako finished cutting the vines away. Rokka was dropped to the ground. She caught herself enough to not land face-first into the ground.

"Sorry!"

"I'm okay... it's fine..." Rokka pushed herself to her feet.

"Okay... so, are you gonna look for your group?" Ako asked.

Rokka sighed, "I don't know where to start."

"I guess you could maybe come back with me. Just for a bit." Ako offered hesitantly. She didn't know if Yukina would approve of this decision she was making.

"Are you sure...? I don't want to cause any problems." Rokka was hesitant to accept.

Ako nodded, "I'm sure. They may be wary of you but they won't hurt you."

Ako hoped this would turn out okay for her. If Rokka knew the two demons who had been experimented on, that could be useful. Well, granted she was willing to share information about them, that was. It also could help if she was willing to discuss what she knows from the two who were from the organization.

As it stands, Rinko can't give much information away. She's not willing to let the others know her past. Ako can't blame her for it. She was a little afraid to bring Rokka back for that reason. What if Yukina saw it differently? What if she thought it was all a guise?

"If you're sure... then I guess I'll come with you." Rokka eventually agreed.

"Alright. Follow me. Um... you aren't hurt, right?" Ako realized that was probably something she should've asked a while ago.

Rokka shook her head, "No. I'm alright."

"Okay then." Ako nodded and started leading the way.

They walked in silence for a while. Ako didn't know what to talk about. Rokka still didn't seem entirely comfortable around her yet either. This was an awkward walk.

"So... I guess I should warn you... um, our leader may not like you... at least at first. She's not very keen on outsiders." Ako said. That was probably an important thing to inform Rokka of. No one could ever really predict how Yukina would act.

"Oh... I see..." Rokka seemed to grow more nervous with that statement.

"She's just a little too centered on her goal. She won't attack you without reason, but she may be pretty cold to you for a while." Ako hoped that might ease her fear a bit.

Rokka didn't reply. Ako sighed quietly. This might not be a good idea after all. Maybe she should've just left? But that didn't really feel right. Leaving Rokka alone somewhere it was obvious she wasn't familiar with sounded really cruel. Hopefully they could quickly reunite her with her group.

Ako hesitated entering the house. This was it. This could go very wrong if she wasn't careful. Ako glanced at Rokka. She seemed even more fearful and nervous than before.

Ako took a deep breath and opened the door. She stepped inside. Yukina came out from the kitchen. Rokka did not enter the house. She remained frozen outside.

"Um... so, I found someone who got lost and... I brought her back with me." Ako smiled nervously at Yukina.

"Where is she from?" Yukina questioned.

Ako glanced back at Rokka. Rokka gulped and nervously stepped inside. She trembled as she looked at Yukina. She didn't like this situation at all. Being at the heart of a demon group's base, especially one you didn't know, was not easy to deal with.

"I... I'm from a group of demons who traveled a lot... The organization bombed the camp to try and eliminate us all. Only a few of us are left and are being hunted." Rokka explained, her voice shaky and uneven.

"Are you alone?" Yukina questioned her.

"No... I found a group that took me in... but we got ambushed by some demons and I got separated from them." Rokka mumbled as she kept her eyes on the ground.

Yukina sighed, "Do you know the location you were ambushed at?"

Rokka shook her head, "No... it was just the woods. I don't remember any landmarks."

"What's going on out here?" Lisa popped her head out of the kitchen.

"Ako brought someone back. Apparently she got lost from her group after an ambush." Yukina stated.

"Oh, that's not good." Lisa walked over to them, "Are you hurt at all?"

Rokka shook her head, "N-no... I'm fine..."

"Do you know who the demons were that attacked you?" Yukina asked.

"Organization members..."

"How many?"

Rokka shrugged, "I don't know... I saw three, but it seemed like more were coming out to join them."

"So... you have no idea where you were, and now there's organziation members prowling around. Great." Yukina grumbled.

"W-what are we gonna do?" Ako was nervous to ask that.

"For now there isn't much we can do. It's best to lie low for a day or two until they give up." Yukina said, "I guess you may stay for a little."

"Thank you..." Rokka said quietly.

"Um... where will she stay for now?" Ako asked.

"I don't care. As long as she's in sight I really don't care." Yukina replied, before she walked away.

"Heh... sorry about Yukina. She's not very social." Lisa nervously chuckled, "So, what's your name?"

"Rokka..." Rokka mumbled.

"Are you tired?" Ako asked, "You can stay in my room if you want."

Rokka nodded. Ako grabbed her by her hand and tugged her to her room. Lisa watched them, before returning to the kitchen to finish cleaning.

Ako was almost at her room when she was stopped. Sayo was heading toward them. Ako nervously smiled.

"You've brought someone back..." Sayo eyed up Rokka.

"Yeah. She got lost from her group." Ako stated.

"And how are we going to help her find them again?" Sayo questioned.

Ako nervously gulped, "U-um..."

"I'll leave... once it's safe... there's organziation members around... so it's not good to be out alone..." Rokka whispered.

"Fine." Sayo walked away.

Ako opened her door and pulled Rokka inside. Rokka looked around the room. It still was pretty bare. There was a bed and a small pile of clothes, but that was really it.

"Well, I'm guessing Yukina wants someone with you at all times so, I'll be staying with you." Ako said.

"Does she... does she hate me?"

"No. She's just like Lisa said. She's not very social and really only cares about her goal. Unless you're useful to her she won't give you much of anything." Ako quickly denied that point.

"What is your goal?" Rokka questioned as she hesitantly sat down on the bed.

Ako wasn't sure if she was allowed to tell her that. She thought it would be fine. After all, Rokka had said her group was doing that same as theirs. Maybe that would be useful to Yukina? If they had more demons on their side willing to fight, they could do a lot more.

"We're Roselia. I'm sure you've heard of us by now." Ako said.

"Roselia... so, you guys are the one's that started the whole rebel movement?" Rokka was surprised.

After Roselia had gained quite a lot of traction, more demons spoke against the organization. More were willing to protest treatment and demand better from them. It was causing a lot of bloodshed.

Some demons created other groups to try and raid organization buildings, but they were mostly illprepared and would fail. Only a few attacks had been successful. No one knew who those demons were, however.

"Yeah. You said you're group is also kinda doing what we are, right? Do you think we could work together?" Ako asked.

Rokka shrugged, "I don't know... Chu2... um, she doesn't seem to like your group very much."

"Who's that?"

"She's the leader of our group. One of the ones from the organization." Rokka explained.

"Oh. So, she doesn't like us? But why? We have the same goal in the end." Ako didn't understand.

"She wants to be the one to do it. She... doesn't want anyone else getting credit for it, so she already hates what you guys have accomplished." Rokka said.

"Someone seems stuck-up..." Ako grumbled.

"She is like that a lot." Rokka confirmed.

"Well, if you'd like to rest, I'll just be... somewhere in here." Ako didn't know what she could do.

"Okay... um, thank you for helping me." Rokka said.

"It's nothing. It didn't feel right to just leave you there." Ako replied.

Rokka laid down on the bed. She tried to rest, but it was hard. Being in an unfamiliar place with strangers made her on edge. She didn't fully believe that Yukina wouldn't try to harm her.

...

Rokka was woken up later by noise coming from below her. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. She looked around the room. Ako was gone. That surprised her. No one was in the room with her.

Rokka cautiously got up and went to see what the noise was from. She quietly crept downstairs. As she got closer. She realized who the voices now belonged to. It seemed her group had tracked down her location. Or perhaps they were caught on the territory and brought back.

Rokka could hear them arguing over something. She entered into the main room. That was where everyone was. Well, except for Rinko. She was not going to join in with all the yelling going on.

The arguing stopped as everyone turned to her. Rokka stood still and glanced around the room. She wasn't sure what to say or do.

"Lock, get over here."

Rokka nervously made her way over to her group. Chu2 was upon her, examining her for any injuries. Rokka guessed she assumed Roselia had taken her captive and wasn't listening to their explanation at all.

"Did they hurt you?" Chu2 asked.

Rokka shook her head, "No."

"Why were you here?"

"I... got caught in some vines and one of them helped me out. It was safest to just come here for now." Rokka explained as best she could.

Chu2 glared at the members of Roselia, "I want nothing to do with your group. Never interfere with us again."

"B-but-" Ako tried to protest, but Sayo cut her off with a glare.

"Let her speak." Chu2 stated.

"Well... you really would rather her have stayed stuck and unable to get out instead of being here?" Ako mumbled.

"Was I not clear enough? I want NOTHING to do with you." Chu2 growled.

Ako winced and stepped back. Rokka watched her with a worried glance. She would've liked to agree with her, but knew now was not the time to mention it.

"Why is it so important that you must insist we stay separate?" Yukina questioned.

"You're in our way!" Chu2 declared, "WE will be the ones taking down the organization. You are interfering with our goal."

"If our goal is the same, why do you not just join forces?" Sayo questioned, "Would it not be more beneficial to combine our strengths?"

"Hmmpf. We don't want you. We can easily win this fight with you guys never having existed." Chu2 crossed her arms with a huff.

"Sure." Sayo rolled her eyes.

"So, let me make it very clear. Roselia, we declare you an enemy and threat. If you dare interfere we will attack." Chu2 stated, "Now, we'll be taking our member and leaving."

Chu2 huffed again and then walked out the door. Everyone followed behind her. Rokka held back for a moment. Once Chu2 was out of hearing distance, she turned to Roselia.

"I'm sorry about her. Thank you for helping me." Rokka said quietly, before she rushed to catch up with the others.

Yukina sighed once they were gone, "Things just had to get more complicated, didn't they?"

"Yukina, I... I know something you probably should hear." Ako said.

"What is it?" Yukina eyed her warily. She didn't exactly trust this information.

"Well, Rokka told me that Chu2 is um... from a high ranking defense branch of the organization. She left to try and overthrow them to stop the corruption." Ako explained, "I don't know who the second one is. She said there was another who also was from that branch."

"So, they have inside knowledge and training. This will be interesting." Yukina said.

"Well, Chu2 and that one girl with the crazy hair colors seem young compared to the other members. Maybe she is the other one?" Lisa assumed.

"That makes sense. But, who are the other two then?" Yukina questioned.

"They're the experiments that escaped the lab Sayo and Lisa investigated." Ako said, "Well, I assume that... she just said they had two experiments on their team."

"What?" Everyone was in stunned silence.

"Yeah... we might be up against some... interesting demons..." Ako mumbled.

"The only thing we can do is keep doing what we are. We'll just have to avoid them for now. Until we can learn more about them." Yukina decided.

"Alright. Um, should I go tell Rinko all of this?" Ako asked.

"If you want to."

Ako left to go track down Rinko. She assumed that she was just in her room. Ako knocked on the door and asked if she could come in. Rinko allowed her inside.

"So... they're gone now." Ako said.

"Who were they?" Rinko asked.

"Another rebel group." Ako replied.

"Oh... are they allies?"

"No. Their leader is adamant we are enemies." Ako said.

"Enemies...?"

"Um, Rinko... would the name Chu2 sound familiar? She's from the defense branch of the organization." Ako hesitantly asked.

Rinko shook her head, "I don't recognize the name."

"Oh... okay."

"Are we in danger with them around?"

"No. Unless we get in their way they will leave us alone. We'll just be watching out for them until we can learn more." Ako said.

"Alright... this sounds... eventful."

"Yeah... I hope it doesn't get much crazier."

Chapter Text

Chu2 was fuming as she stomped through the woods. No one knew what to say to her. She didn't seem very approachable at the moment.

"Lock, did they hurt you?" Pareo asked, "I wouldn't really want to admit that in front of them if it was the case."

Rokka shook her head, "No. They didn't do anything to me."

"What are the red marks on your skin from then?" Chu2 demanded, her voice cutting through the air sharply.

"I... got stuck in vines... I climbed up a tree and then fell trying to jump and... I got really stuck." Rokka explained, "Ako helped me out."

"Which one was that?" Pareo asked.

"The purple-haired girl." Rokka responded, "She was really nice to me."

"How did the others treat you?" Chu2 questioned.

She didn't believe that Roselia hadn't hurt Rokka at all. She had it stuck in her head that something had to happened and she wasn't going to be easily convinced otherwise.

"Yukina was... cold. She didn't seem to really trust me much, but was fine as long as I was in sight. Um... Lisa was also nice to me." Rokka said, "Um... the blue-haired girl was also pretty cold..."

"Where did they put you?" Chu2 asked next.

"Chu2, I don’t think they hurt her." Masuki cut in, "Nothing has given off that suspicion at all. Why do you continue?"

"You know why." Rei replied, "She wants a reason to declare war on Roselia."

"Which we have all agreed besides you is a horrible plan." Masuki stated, sending Chu2 a glare that she couldn't see.

"It'll get them out of our way." Chu2 huffed.

"Wouldn't it be better to work together?'" Rokka asked, "The more demons that can fight against the organization, the better. Right?"

"We don't need anyone else to help. Us five will take them down ourselves." Chu2 grumbled.

"What are we going to do after that?" Pareo asked.

Chu2 sighed, "I... haven't exactly figured that out."

"I think that should be your first priority." Masuki grumbled, "Figure out what the plan it before you start fights."

"I want to take control." Chu2 stated, "A new leader will be needed. I just don't know if that will work for us as easily as I'd like."

"I don't think any demon will want someone from the organization still taking over." Rei stated.

Chu2 simple huffed and refused to reply. Pareo moved up so she was walking directly beside Chu2. She was not acknowledged at all.

...

After a few hours of walking, they stopped at an empty hut. They had previously taken shelter in it for a while. They entered back into the hut. Everything was exactly as it had been left.

"Alright. We're going to show Roselia just who we are. There's a camp not too far from here, as long as they haven't moved. We can raid it." Chu2 said.

"Do we have any idea how many demons are there?" Pareo asked.

"There's quite a few, but I don't see it being a problem to us." Chu2 replied confidently.

"When do you want to attack?"

"Tomorrow morning. They'll be caught off guard." Chu2 said.

"What's your strategy for the attack?" Rei questioned.

"Charge in. No use sneaking around. Let's just take them by surprise and force." Chu2 replied.

"What are we doing till then?"

"We'll rest. Someone will need to be on watch for a bit." Chu2 said.

"I'll do it." Pareo volunteered.

"No." Chu2 shook her head, "I want to discuss more with you first. Rei, you take first shift."

"Alright." Rei shrugged and exited the hut.

Chu2 pulled Pareo into a separate room. They were whispering. If you stood near you could easily make out what they were saying.

Rokka quietly moved away and sat down against a wall. She heard a little bit of their conversation and decided she didn't want to continue listening to it.

Masuki walked over to her and sat down as well, "Do those marks hurt?"

Rokka shook her head, "No. They only hurt for a few minutes, thankfully."

"So, what do you think of Roselia after meeting them?"

Rokka thought about her answer. She certainly saw them in a different way now. Everyone was convinced they only cared about their group and that they wouldn't help outsiders. They were talked about as being extremely tough and cold.

"Well... they're nicer than the rumors state." Rokka said.

"How much nicer?" Masuki questioned.

"Well, I wasn't kicked out. Some may have always been glaring at me, but they never were mean."

"Do you think they'd team up with us if they were given the option to? Or, do you think they want to go solo like we are?" Masuki asked.

Rokka shrugged, "I can't tell... but I think they'd be open to it. At least, Ako seemed that way."

They fell into silence. They only sound they could hear was the talking.

"Um... do you believe we can do this alone?" Rokka hesitantly asked.

Masuki sighed at the question, "I don't really know."

"I'm scared... if I'm honest... I don't like how small our group is." Rokka whispered.

"We're the same size as Roselia."

"I don't really trust them either because of that."

"Yeah... knowing how the organization is, I do sometimes worry if we will be enough." Masuki said, "But, unless Chu2 will change her mind, we can't do much about it right now."

"Do you think she'll ever change her mind?" Rokka questioned with doubt.

"I don't know. She's stubborn. I feel something has to happen to show her more help is needed before she'll ever give in."

They silenced at Chu2 and Pareo exited the room. Chu2 walked over and stood in front of them. She didn't seem too happy.

"Masking, I haven't pressed much, but it's time to talk about your past. After discussing things, I feel we need to know more about what exactly they were up to." Chu2 stated, "I'll be asking Layer the same questions after you."

"How far in the past are we talking?" Masuki asked.

"A basic description of your life before they took you and then detailed information about everything they did to you, if you could please." Chu2 replied.

"Alright. I guess." Masuko shrugged, "I lived in a no allied town. We were outsiders with no groups who just lived together peacefully. Rei is from the same place. There wasn't much ever happening there, honestly. It was quite boring."

"You never belonged to a group?" Pareo asked in some shock, "I feel you'd be a prime member, same with Layer."

"I agree. Also, how many times have I told you to use our code names? We need our identity to stay secret." Chu2 sent a glare to both Masuki and Rokka.

"We're alone, Chu2." Rokka defended.

"I don't want to risk it." Chu2 grumbled, "Anyway, back on topic. How did they get you?"

"They held a selection. It was advertised as you were joining the organization. Think they said it was to help with researching something, but they wouldn't answer any questions in detail about it. It was suspicious as hell. Rei- Layer and I were selected along with a third. They ran and got promptly shot dead." Masuki continued. When sge corrected the name, she did it in a sinister tone, mocking Chu2 for it.

"So, they made you aware it was research, but not that you would be the one getting researched on. Not surprised they'd play a dirty trick like that, as unfortunate as that is." Chu2 sighed, "So, when did you find out the truth about the role?"

"We arrived at the lab. They acted like we were staff now, but then they let us go first always into rooms. One room, they shut the door behind and locked it. That was when we were told the truth about our roles." Masuki said, a slight growl in her voice.

"That's really mean..." Rokka commented, "Though... I have a question..."

"What is the question?"

"Why would they not take a prisoner to experiment on? Why a regular demon? It seems like a lot of extra steps..." Rokka explained.

"It does sound like a lot of extra effort, but I think I know why." Chu2 replied, "The prisoners often aren't in the best shape. They may not have had anyone healthy enough to use."

"Oh... that makes some sense." Rokka mumbled.

"So, what else can you tell us about their experiments?" Chu2 continued the questioning.

"Well, they kept us locked in that room for a few days. At some point, we had to rest. They put us in these weird containers once we did. They had different needles attached to us. They used them to insert any drugs they needed."

"Were you conscious throughout that?"

"Yes."

"Do you know what they planned to do?"

"Basically wanted to find a way to genetically modify demons to be way stronger than they should be. I don't know that I heard them discuss how to make sure the demons would be on their side, though."

"I see. I'm going to talk to Layer now." Chu2 exited the hut.

"So, are you stronger?" Pareo asked.

"I'd say yes, but there's setbacks. The extra strength is limited. It doesn't take much to tire out."

"They didn't find a way to fix that before you escaped?"

"No."

Masuki and Rei already had told them all about how they escaped from the lab. Rei had a crack in her tank and managed to use that to bust it open. With the new strength from the experiments, she was able to easily beat the demons and kill them. She opened Masuki's tank and they ran for it.

They were found by Chu2 in the forest outside the lab. She found them an hour after Lisa and Sayo's investigation. Until that point, Rei and Masuki had been just hanging around the lab, unsure what to really do.

...

When the morning came for the attack, they headed out. Chu2 lead them confidently through the forest. She had no doubt in her mind that they could easily win this fight. She had a lot of faith in them.

It wasn't too far of a journey before they found the group of demons. There were two guards at the entrance to the camp. Everyone else seemed to be resting in their makeshift homes. That was a good sign. They had hopefully more time to work with before they woke up.

"Alright. We charge on my count." Chu2 said.

They got into position. Chu2 counted down from five. When one was reached, they ran forward. The two guards were easily overwhelmed by them, but they had alerted the rest of the camp about the presence of the intruders.

Demons started coming out of their tents and launching themselves into the fight. There were a lot of them. A lot more than anticipated. This fight was not looking good. They were started to get overwhelmed.

Rokka skidded across the ground after a demon had attacked her. She wasn't able to get a grip and slammed into a tree. She struggled back to her feet. Thankfully, it seemed the demon had turned their attention to someone else.

Rokka took a moment to get her bearings. They were being swarmed by demons. There was no way they could win. They needed to retreat. So, why wasn't Chu2 calling for it?

Rokka found the answer quickly. She had been taken down. Pareo was trying to defend her, but there were too many for her to hold off alone. Rokka rushed toward them.

"Not so fast." She was cut off and knocked down.

There was a demon over her. Rokka gulped as she stared at them. They were blocking her from standing back up. She was scared. She was afraid this was going to be her end.

The demon struck. Rokka screamed in pain as claws sank deep into her flesh. She coughed up blood. This wasn't good. She needed to get out. If she couldn't get away she was done for. But, she could barely move.

Rokka felt them lining up another strike. This one was for her head. She couldn't move. She was laying in a pathetic heap just waiting for her death. Tears were falling down her face as she resigned to her fate. This was it. This was her end.

But, the strike didn't come. She heard something attack the demon. Rokka managed to push herself up again. She looked. An arrow had found it's way to the demon's head. Rokka looked around toward the direction the arrow should have come from.

There was a cloaked figure in a tree. They had a bow and arrow. The figure nodded to her and then took off. Rokka didn't have the time to think about that. She needed to see where everyone else was.

She looked at where Pareo and Chu2 had been. They were still there. Pareo was still holding her ground. Rokka couldn't run. She could only stumble her way toward them.

"Lock!" Pareo yelped as she saw her.

Rokka saw a demon charging for her. She froze in place. She gathered at much of her strength as she could and struck them. The blow sent them reeling back.

Rokka tried to run toward them again. This time, she made it. She was not in a good condition to fight, but she had to help.

"Lock... this is bad..." Pareo was crying.

"We need to retreat." Rokka replied.

"Don't think that's happening." A demon sneered as they struck.

Pareo blocked the blow, "Lock, take Chu2 and run."

"What about you?" Rokka didn't want to abandon her.

"Please. Go."

Rokka darted down and scooped Chu2 up into her arms. The extra weight sent waves of pain through her body. She ran as fast as she could out of the camp. It didn't seem like any demons followed them.

Rokka tried to navigate back to the hut, but it was hard. She was in pain. She could barely get her legs to move.

She stopped to catch her breath and set Chu2 down on a flat area of ground. Rokka was panting hard. Her wound was still bleeding. She was starting to feel lightheaded. There was no way she was getting back to the hut.

Rokka let out a choked sob. This was horrible. This was the last thing she ever wanted to happen. She was probably going to die. They had no medical supplies. She couldn't treat her wound herself. It was hopeless.

Rokka guessed the others either fled too or... met an unfortunate end. But, there was small part of her that hoped they'd be taken captive and not killed. At least then they had some chance of getting out alive.

Rokka suddenly had her vision blank out on her for a second. Her head started pounding. She collapsed to the ground. The last thing she heard was the sound of something coming toward them. She didn't know if that was a good or bad thing.

Chapter Text

"Nngh..."

Rokka gained consciousness to find she definitely was not on the forest floor. She was on something soft. She opened her eyes. She was in a house.

Rokka took a few deep breaths as she tried to assess the damage done to her. Was she able to move or would that cause a lot of pain? It didn't feel that painful. She figured she should be able to move as long as she took it easy.

Rokka cautiously sat up. She took in her surroundings more. Chu2 was beside her. They were on blankets on a floor. They were in a room of a house.

Rokka looked around more. She didn't see anyone. Who had saved them?

She found out the answer soon enough. She heard voices coming from a different room. She recognized some of them. Roselia was here. She didn't know who some of the other voices belonged to, though.

Someone entered the room. It was Lisa. She smiled when she saw Rokka was up.

"Hey. How are you feeling?" Lisa asked as she walked over to her.

"Okay... um... what happened? How'd you find us?" Rokka wanted to know that now.

"Sayo and Yukina were out patrolling when this hooded figure threw some rocks at them. They gave chase and found you guys. It seems that demon wanted to lead them to you." Lisa explained.

"A hooded figure? A black hood with blood on it?" Rokka asked.

Lisa nodded, "That's what they described. I guess you met them."

"They saved me... they shot a demon who would've killed me otherwise..." Rokka mumbled.

"I see. Well, I guess whoever they are they're on our side. So, how did you end up like that?" Lisa started checking Rokka's wounds.

"We tried to attack a camp... but we underestimated the number of demons living there..." Rokka whispered, "I... I don't know if the others got out..."

"I'll see if Yukina would consider looking for them."

Rokka fell silent for a while. She was worried. What if the others were dead? Was she a coward for running away? But... Pareo had told her too. Should she have resisted? Should she have stayed?

"Will she be okay?" Rokka glanced at Chu2.

"She'll be fine." Lisa reassured her.

"I see you've woken up." Yukina entered the room.

"She said the other three may not have gotten out from the attack. Should we go look for them now?" Lisa said.

"You tried to attack that camp?" Yukina questioned Rokka.

Rokka nodded, "Y-yeah..."

"I'll see about looking for them." Yukina said and then she left the room again.

Rokka stared at where she had just left. She didn't know if that behavior was usual of her or not. She was starting to assume it was.

"That was a pretty stupid idea to do." Lisa commented.

"..." Rokka didn't have anything to comment.

She knew it was a very stupid idea. But, they didn't know it was back then. Chu2 said there weren't that many demons. Even she knew better than to put them in too much risk. They just did a bad job assessing the scene before attacking.

"Just rest up for now. I'll come check on you later." Lisa said.

"Okay..."

Rokka didn't know if she would be able to rest. She was still to worried about everyone else to do that. But, who knew how long it might be before they found out what had happened to the others.

The only good thing was that two of them were safe. That meant they didn't need to spread as thin if a rescue mission was needed. It also was good that they could tell others what had happened.

Rokka didn't want to think of what might've happened to them if they all were caught.  They might not ever have had any hope of being saved. They might've never had the chance to escape.

Rokka looked over all the bandages covering her body. If she had this much done to her from just one demon, what happened to the others? Chu2 was in considerably worse shape than her. That just worsened her worrying.

She laid back down and tried to rest. She wanted to help them. If they needed to rescue the others she wanted to be there to do it too. But, would she be able to? She wasn't going to just magically heal. These wounds would take time to heal. She didn't have much time.

"Hey..."

Rokka looked over at the door. Ako was there. She smiled and waved, before coming to sit beside Rokka.

"How are you feeling?" Ako asked.

"I'm alright... just... worried."

"Yukina already sent some scouts out. We'll find them soon." Ako said.

"What if there's nothing to find?" As much as Rokka didn't want to think about it, there was reason to believe they could all be dead.

"I don't think they're dead." Ako stated, "After what you told me, I think it would be in their interest to take them back to the main base alive."

"I guess..."

Ako pouted, "Come on. I'm sure they'll be okay."

"Do you see what they did to us? How can you be so sure?" Rokka challenged quietly.

"How come you guys got away?" Ako asked, "Isn't it likely they could've too?"

"Pareo told me to run... she didn't... and I don't know where Rei or Masuki were at." Rokka said.

"Try to believe in them." Ako pleaded, "I'm sure they found a way to stay alive."

...

Yukina had requested three of them go look for the missing demons. Afterglow was with them for the time being as they were discussing things. The scouting party was Sayo, Tomoe, and Moca.

"So, this camp is apparently full of demons from the organization." Sayo stated, "Be careful. Who knows if they're doing patrols."

"Why did they even try to attack them?" Moca questioned, "Doesn't seem very wise."

"Maybe they thought there weren't as many demons?" Tomoe suggested.

"Whatever the case may be, they got in deep trouble with them."

They walked on in silence. The camp was not very far away now. They needed to be on high alert. They had to make sure nothing caught them off guard.

"I think I see the camp through there." Tomoe whispered and pointed to a small opening between some trees.

They walked over to it and looked. The camp was slightly visible from there. They really didn't want to go any closer if they didn't have to. Even being this close was extremely risky. One wrong move and the camp would all know they were here.

"Do you see them anywhere?" Sayo asked.

They scanned the camp for signs of the three demons. They weren't seeing anything at first. It was hard to get a good view.

"Imma try and climb this tree." Moca stated, "Don't worry. I'll be careful."

"I don't know if you should..." Sayo wasn't too on-board with that idea.

"It's our best bet at getting a closer look." Moca defended, "We can't get much closer than this."

"Alright. Just be careful. We don't know how far they can see." Sayo sighed.

"Okay." Moca nodded and then slowly started making her way up the tree.

She made sure to be extra careful of her footing. She didn't want to shake the tree too much. If they could see it from the camp, it would doom them. It needed to look as natural as possible.

Moca eventually made it to a good area of the tree. She was able to see the camp well from her position. She just hoped they couldn't see her as well as she could them.

Moca looked around the camp for signs of any indication as to where the demons were at. She noticed a ragged looking tent. On clsoer inspection she could see blood leading into the tent. While she couldn't see inside, she could guess that was where any prisoners were being held.

The organization had no medics. If you got hurt, oh well. They had no sympathy for those who were hurt. Well, unless you were really important. Then you got treated. But no regular worker did.

Moca carefully climbed back down the tree. Tomoe and Sayo were waiting impatiently for her to come down. They didn't like being here.

"What did you see?" Tomoe asked.

"There's prisoners. I can't tell who it is, but they have someone. There's a tent with fresh blood leading to it." Moca explained.

"Let's get back and tell everyone." Sayo ordered.

...

Once everyone had been informed of what they had found, it was time to plan what to do next. They didn't have confirmation the prisoners were who they were looking for. They couldn't know if this was the right move, but they had to hope it was.

The plan was quite simple. They would raid the camp head on. They had enough demons to do it and have a good chance of winning. If all of them went, besides Rokka and Chu2, they would almost match the number of demons reported at that camp.

Rokka and Chu2 were not joining. Rokka was not able to even stand. Trying to caused sharp pain in her wounds. Chu2 was still unconscious. Because of that, someone needed to stay with them. Tsugumi offered to remain.

They decided they would head out in the morning. It would give them a little time to rest up before the attack. They would definitely need their strength if they were to do this. Some might end up having to carry them away if they were unconscious. That would be taxing.

Rokka was upset that she couldn't go. She really wanted to be there. But, she knew it was imposible. She was too hurt to go. She would just hold them back.

...

When morning came, they headed out. They split into two groups. Roselia was one and Afterglow was another. They would attack from opposite ends of the xamp to try and catch them off guard. They hoped it would work enough to give them an advantage.

Roselia would go first and once Afterglow saw them, they would charge in. They just hoped they wouldn't be spotted before they could go. The camp might've increased security since the attack.

Yukina was at the front. They were just in front of the camp now. She was waiting to see when the best opening would appear for them. The three guards at the front needed to be distracted just enough that they could kill them before they could raise alarm.

After a few minutes, a strong breeze came through. The leaves falling off the trees caught the attention of the guards. Yukina signaled to charge immediately. The leaves wouldn't provide a very long distraction. They needed to act now or else they might not get another opportunity of surprise.

Yukina went to the middle guard. She quickly slit his throat. Sayo took the farthest left and broke his neck. She hadn't meant to do that. The plan was to slit their throats. She just came at him with a lot of force. Lisa took the right demon and messily slit his throat. She had misjudged the position and missed the artery. She had to strike two times to kill him swiftly.

Yukina motioned for them to enter the camp. Ako and Rinko brought up the rear of the group. When they all entered the camp, the four Afterglow members charged in from the rear. Thankfully no one was guarding that area.

Demons started coming out of their tents. The battle started. Moat were fairing well by themselves. Rinko stayed at Ako's side to help her. Tomoe would've liked to do that, but she was on the opposite end of the camp.

Yukina was still at the front of their group. She was facing the incoming demons head on. It was tough, but she was managing. As long as Sayo and Lisa were taking out the demons as quickly as they tried to swarm her, it was okay.

Rinko and Ako stayed behind them to pick off any demons that were trying to do sneak attacks. It was working well for the five of them. They were keeping up with the demons that were coming out.

Afterglow was struggling a little. With them not having Tsugumi, they were a bit more outnumbered. Himari and Moca were fighting as a tag team. One would start the fight and the other would finish it. It allowed them to not expend all their energy as quickly. Tomoe was fighting by herself. She was barely keeping up with the demons coming at her.

Ran was about the same as her. She was fighting on her own as well. She was slightly better off than Tomoe. That was purely just luck. Less demons were coming for her. They were going at Moca and Himari more.

Rinko, Ako, and Lisa diverged from Sayo and Yukina once the demons were at a smaller number. They went into the tent to see what was going on in there.

Two demons stood guard. They were easily taken down. Inside the tent were the three demons this rescue mission had been for. Thankfully, they were all conscious.

"Look for a key. They're chains." Lisa said.

"Found it!" Ako easily spotted the key and grabbed it.

She tossed it to Lisa. Lisa quickly unlocked the chains. Rinko stood guard to make sure no demon tried to take them by surprise. Ako went over and helped Lisa.

"Can you stand?" Lisa asked them.

"I think so."

With some help, the three of them got to their feet. After making sure they all could stand and move, Lisa took the lead. They snuck out of the camp. Ako and Rinko brought up the rear. No one seemed to notice them as they left the camp. That was ideal. They were the group that most didn't want anyone following them.

"Fall back!"

Once Yukina saw they were out, she called for them to leave. They would be better off running with them. Yukina joined Lisa at the front.

Sayo went off on her own to make sure no one was following them back. Ran and Tomoe went together. Himari and Moca went together too. The four of them met up a little bit out of the camp and they continued the retreat together.

However, they weren't out of the clear yet. The organization had been alerted of this attack and had sent Pastel*Palettes after them all. This was going to be ugly.

Chapter Text

"There's been an attack at a camp close by. They want us to go try and get the demons responsible." Aya stated.

Pastel*Palettes was in the area still as they were told not to return until they did something to Roselia.

"Let's go then."

The five of them headed out. Aya and Chisato lead the way. Hina hung back to the end. She was worried about this. She could feel that this would be a hard job. She didn't know what was going to make it hard, though.

Eve hung back with her, "You okay, Hina?"

"I just... have a bad feeling about this..." Hina whispered.

"Do you think she'll be there?" Eve questioned.

Hina nodded. She was worried Sayo would be there. And if she was, what if she had to watch her get killed? They were told to do that, after all.

"Hey, Aya. Do you know if we should kill or capture the raiders?" Eve asked.

"I believe they want them all alive if possible." Aya replied.

That eased Hina's worries a little. At least she didn’t need to fear Sayo dying as much. It still could happen, though. But, it was a lot less likely to happen.

"We're close. Split up." Chisato ordered, "Aya, Hina, you two together. Eve, alone. Maya, you're with me."

"Hai!"

Everyone split up. Hina dreaded this. Why couldn't Eve had been her partner? At least then she had someone on her side. But, if they met Sayo, Aya would attack. Hina would have to hurt her. She didn't want to.

Eve was the first to find anyone. She ran into Afterglow. They all froze in place as she came out of the woods. Eve eyed them up. She had no clue who they were. Afterglow was not on the list of rebel groups at the moment.

"One against four. I think we can take her."

Eve grabbed her tazor. She was definitely going to need it. She didn't want to shoot them if she didn't have to. She looked them all over. They were all pretty battered. It wouldn't be too hard to attack them.

They all attacked at the same time. Eve blindly struck out with the tazer. It hit Moca. She cried out in pain and stumbled to the ground. Eve took the distraction as an opportunity to strike.

She took down Himari with ease. Eve held out her gun and kept moving it between Ran and Tomoe. They didn't know what to do.

"Leave and I won't shoot." Eve stated.

They both glanced at Moca and Himari. Eve knew they were debating trying to grab them. She growled. That was enough to tell them it was foolish to try. She was so close there was no way she could miss a shot.

Ran and Tomoe retreated. They cursed themselves for not being able to do anything. Unfortunately not much could win against a gun. They had no choice but to regroup with the others and plan on another rescue mission.

Eve grabbed Himari and Moca and drug them to the meeting spot. She kept watch over them to make sure nothing happened.

Chisato and Maya stumbled upon the main group. They didn't show themselves right away. They hung back and tried to determine the best course of action.

"If we jump from behind, we could grab one and quick dart off." Maya suggested.

"But then that'll leave quite a few free." Chisato protested.

"I think they'll come for her." Maya replied, "We can get the rest then."

Chisato sighed, "Very well. You want to grab or me?"

"I'll do it. You'll intimidate them more." Maya said.

"Alright. Whenever you're ready."

Maya waited until she sensed a good time. She dove out and grabbed the closest person she could. It happened to be Ako. Ako screamed. Maya wasn't able to quiet her fast enough.

Chisato stood beside her and held her gun to the others. Maya quickly ran, Ako in her grip. Chisato blocked any attempts at following them.

"Why are you here?" Yukina growled.

She moved to stand by Rinko. They couldn't be sure more of them weren't waiting to strike. Lisa stayed at the front and glanced around, looking for movement.

"You raided a base. What did you think would happen?" Chisato growled, "I suggest you turn yourselves in. We will end you all soon enough."

Before anyone could retaliate against her, Chisato ran off. She met up with Maya and Eve at the meeting spot. Ako was tied up and struggling on the ground. She was trying to get free, but the ropes were very tight.

"So, Roselia did have a part in this." Eve commented.

She didn't let it show, but she was deeply worried. That meant Sayo was definitely here. She feared Hina would have her worst fears come true today.

"Yeah. Too bad we only got one so far." Chisato replied.

"Who did you have?" Eve questioned.

"Yukina and Lisa were there. I saw a runaway from the organization there too. I believe Reona is the name." Chisato said.

"I see... So, Chiyu may be around here too?"

"Possibly. Their parents want them dead, but let's just leave them be. Why waste our time unless they cause problems." Chisato stated.

"I feel bad for them." Maya said, "I know the rumors about their parents have always been negative, so I can't imagine how they felt with them."

"I can't say I'm any different." Chisato agreed.

"Yeah..."

Eve wasn't really paying attention. She was super worried about Hina. If she didn't run into Sayo, and neither did Chisato or Maya, that meant there was a very high chance that Hina and Aya definitely would. That was a disaster waiting to happen. Aya would not show Sayo mercy.

Well... Eve wasn't too sure. Maybe Aya would. It wasn't hard to tell Sayo and Hina were related. Maybe Aya would ask questions before attacking? Maybe things would work out for Hina. Eve could only hope.

"Eve? Is everything okay?" Chisato's voice brought her out of her wandering thoughts.

"Huh? Yeah. Just thinking about stuff." Eve replied. She hoped Chisato couldn't tell it was a lie.

"You seem worried about something?" Maya commented.

"I just feel off about this. That's all." Eve lied, "I'm sure it's just nerves."

"Alright. Let's hope Hina and Aya come back with someone too."

Hina and Aya were not finding anyone as quickly as the others had. Hina was glad. She hoped the didn't find anyone. That was the best situation for her.

"How far should we go before we turn back?" Hina asked.

"Just a bit more. There will be rough terrain soon. We shouldn't bother going through it, so we'll turn there if we don't find anything." Aya replied.

"Okay." Hina nodded.

They paused as they heard crackling leaves. Aya lead the way toward the sound. The sound stopped. They heard heavy breathing. Someone had come to a stop to rest.

They came upon a small clearing. Hina felt her stomach drop as she saw who was in the clearing. Out of everyone it could have been, of course she would run into Sayo. And, Aya was here. She couldn't just ignore her and leave.

"Don't move or I'll shoot." Aya came out and held her gun at Sayo.

Sayo stood still and eyed her up. She clenched her hands into fists. Aya kept her aim steady.

Hina hesitantly came out of the woods as well. She had her gun drawn as well, as she knew she had no choice. If Aya saw her showing mercy, who knew what might happen to her.

Hina was barely keeping a straight face. Her expression held a lot of hurt and regret in it. She hated that she had to do this.

"Surrender now or I'll shoot." Aya ordered.

Sayo glared at her, "You think I'll give in so easily?"

"I'm armed. What can you do against me?" Aya shot back, "Now get on your knees."

"No. Make me." Sayo ran at Aya.

Aya panicked and missed the shot. She was quickly knocked back and her gun tossed aside. Sayo was holding her against a tree. Aya was struggling to move anything.

She looked at Hina. Hina had to make a choice. Who did she help? Did she let Sayo kill Aya? Or... did she capture Sayo? Was there a compromise? She wasn't sure.

"Let her go." Hina stated.

"She deserves to die."

Hina knew now compromise wasn't an option. Sayo wouldn't let Aya live. And, Hina couldn't just start begging her. Aya would probably turn her in. This was a disaster.

Hina gulped. She had no choice. She had to capture Sayo. Both would live then. And, there was a chance Sayo could escape again and be free. It was the best she had to work with right now.

Hina grabbed a thick stick off the ground. She hesitantly approached Sayo from behind. Sayo wasn't paying attention to her. She assumed Hina was on her side.

Aya was starting to lose consciousness. She was barely keeping herself up. It was mainly Sayo holding her up now. If Sayo let go, she would fall. Aya could see Hina. She silently pleaded for her to hurry up.

Hina stood behind Sayo. She hesitated. This was the last thing she wanted to do. She had hurt Sayo once and now she had to again. But, if she didn't, Aya was going to die.

"I'm sorry..." Hina whispered, hoping only Sayo could hear.

She hit Sayo as hard as she felt was acceptable with the stick. She hit a tree beside her and then fell to the ground. She didn't move, but Hina could see she was still breathing.

She dropped the stick and checked on Aya. Aya was sitting on the ground, gasping for breath.

"Aya, are you okay?"

"Y-yeah... I just need to... catch my breath..." Aya replied.

Hina looked over at Sayo. She felt awful about what she had done, but she had no choice. And she hated it.

"Hina... you seem to care about her." Aya said.

Hina gulped, "I... I can't tell you."

"Please?"

"No. Let's go back. They'll be waiting for us." Hina couldn't tell Aya the truth.

Aya sighed and stood up. Hina carefully picked up Sayo. Aya eyed her up. She didn't like how secretive Hina was being.

"You look similar." Aya commented.

Hina froze up. It clicked in Aya's head. She understood it now.

"You guys... are sisters. Aren't you?"

Hina nervously nodded, "Y-yeah..."

"I... I'm sorry... You should've told me. I would've let her go."

Hina's eyes widened, "What?"

Aya nervosuly played with her hands, "She's your sister. It must be awful knowing you hurt her. And it must hurt knowing we may be bringing her to her death. I hate that you're going through that."

"Can we... leave her?" Hina asked.

Aya sighed and shook her head, "Too risky. Someone might find her with the intent to kill her before anyone else can find her. It's honestly safer to take her."

"Oh..."

"Hina, we have to tell them. Maybe we could figure out how to keep her alive?" Aya pleaded.

"Eve knows..." Hina mumbled.

"Does anyone else in Roselia know about you?" Aya questioned.

"Yukina does." Hina replied, "Unless they told the others, no one else will know."

"Alright."

It only took a few minutes to meet up with everyone. Eve gave Hina a worried look. Hina returned the look.

"Alright, we go back to our base and there will be demons with a jail carriage to transport them." Chisato said.

Everyone started heading there. Hina kept Sayo with her, unwilling to let her go. Maya dealt with Ako, who had been shown that if she sturggled she was going to be tazed. Ako resigned to her fate and was not aggressive at all. Eve carried Moca and Chisato took Himari.

"Guys, we need to have a talk. Before we go back." Aya stated.

"About what?" Chisato questioned.

"Hina." Aya looked at her and nodded.

Hina gulped, "Um... Sayo... is my sister..."

"I... I can see the resemblance now..." Chisato sighed, "Let me guess, you're on her side and not ours."

"Maybe..."

"Chisato, we should help her." Aya begged, "It's not fair for Hina to suffer like this."

"What the hell are we supposed to do?" Chisato shot back.

"Maybe we can rebel?" Eve offered, "If Hina has any connection to Roselia, she could convince them we're with them and not the organization."

"I think that might work." Maya agreed, "It might give us just the chance we were looking for."

"Fine. We'll try. Hina, this on all on you. You get caught, you better not rat us all out." Chisato glared at her.

"You can tell them I helped." Eve said, "To make it more believable."

"Eve?" Chisato gave her a confused look.

"I did break the rules... back when we first started this mission. I spared her and I hid her from Aya. Hina told me about this right at the beginning. I'll take the fall too." Eve stated firmly.

"If you're sure about it, I can't stop you." Chisato replied.

"You guys... are on my side?" Hina was surprised. She didn't think they would ever turn like that.

"You're our friend, Hina. We help each other." Aya said with a smile.

"Yeah. This is going to cause a divide if we don't agree. It's best to work together on this. And, family is important to some demons. We can't tell you to forget your family." Chisato said.

"I've been waiting for a moment like this. I'll do anything to get revenge on them." Maya stated.

"I can't bear to see you suffer, Hina. I want you to be happy." Eve said.

Hina smiled, "I'm really happy."

"Alright, get your feelings under control before we get to the base. We can't let them know. If we need to wait a bit, so be it." Chisato stated.

Hina nodded and tried to calm herself. She needed to be straight-faced. The last thing they needed was the organization catching on to them.

Chapter Text

The four captured demons were locked up in a jail close to the main base of the organization. Pastel*Palettes had been ordered to be their guards. They were grateful for that. It made this easier for them if they were planning to help them escape.

Hina didn't show up to any shift she was supposed to have. She locked herself in the room she had been given. No one could get her to come out. The only time the door opened was when someone dropped off food for her.

"Hina, you up?" Aya was at her door now.

"Go away." Hina yelled.

"She's awake."

The door opened shockingly quick. Aya took a step back.

"You want to see her?" Aya guessed.

Hina nodded.

"Alright. We're supposed to be on guard duty. I'll leave you alone for it." Aya said.

"Thank you..."

Hina quickly made her way to the cell. Eve was currently the one guarding them. She smiled at Hina. It was a relief seeing her finally out of her room.

"I'm guessing you don't know where Maya could be, do you?" Eve asked.

"Sorry."

"I guess I'll go searching then."

Eve left. Hina gulped and walked over to the cell. She grabbed the key and unlocked the door. She practically ran to Sayo and hugged her.

Sayo hesitantly hugged her back. They all had already been told the plan. She understood what was going on.

"Onee-chan..." Hina whimpered, "I'm sorry..."

"It's alright. I... shouldn't have tried to kill her right away..."

Hina didn't let go of her for a long time. She was desperate to keep her close. Sayo didn't really mind it that much.

"Um... Sayo, why didn't you ever tell us about her?" Ako nervously asked.

"I didn't see a reason to." Sayo replied.

"But this is a big deal. Why would you hide it?" Ako pouted.

"We all have our secrets."

"I guess that's true..." Ako couldn't argue considering she was in that situation too.

"Yukina knows. She met Hina." Sayo said, "I don't know that she fully ever has trusted her."

"Does that mean Hina could give them information to help rescue us?" Himari questioned.

"Possibly."

"I'll go and try to talk to them soon. I just... didn't want to leave until I got to talk to you first." Hina said.

"Alright."

"Is it safe? Are you positive Yukina won't try and kill her?" Moca asked.

"I think she'll wait to act. Especially with this happening." Sayo said.

"What if someone else meets her first?" Moca questioned.

"I'm sure if she announces why she's there and who she is it'll be fine." Sayo shrugged off the concern.

"I'm gonna leave in the morning." Hina stated, "We don't know what is going to happen to you guys yet. I guess we better act before we find out."

"Yeah."

...

When morning came, Hina quietly snuck out. She had informed the others what she was going to do earlier. They knew to cover for her if anyone asked.

Hina had a long journey ahead of herself. Well, possibly. Maybe they were on the way here. Maybe she could meet them in the middle of the land. That would be ideal.

She had to be careful. She didn't want anyone to see her. She was still in uniform as she didn't have casual clothes. If someone spotted her and reported her she was doomed.

Hina had a relatively easy journey. There were a few moments where she nearly got spotted, but she managed to get out of them without incident. She was ready to find them and get it over with.

Unfortunately, she made it all the way back to where Roselia's base was said to be around. That meant they hadn't started a rescue mission yet.

Hina quietly walked down the path she knew from her previous encounter. Hopefully Yukina would find her. That was the best scenario.

Tree branches crackled nearby. Hina stood in place. Who was it? She looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of the figure. They stepped into her sight. It was not Yukina.

It was Lisa and Ran. They would probably not hesitate to attack her. She needed to act fast.

"Come back to take more of us?" Ran challenged.

"N-no! I'm on your side! I came to talk about options for rescuing them." Hina quickly denied the accusation.

"Doubt that. What do you think, Lisa?" Ran wasn't convinced.

"I don't know that we can trust someone who is in the organization." Lisa replied.

Hina gulped, "I... I'm telling the truth!"

"Nice try." Ran charged at her with Lisa not far behind.

"Sayo is my sister!"

That caused them to stop. Both looked her up and down. It seemed like she could be telling the truth.

"Yukina knows about me." Hina stated, hoping this was starting to actually go in her favor.

"I'm going to get her then." Lisa said, "Can you handle her alone if something happens?"

Ran nodded, "I'll be fine. Go get her."

Lisa quickly made her way back to the house. Ran eyed Hina up warily. She didn't trust her at all.

"How are they?" Ran was too curious not to ask. If Hina was telling the truth then she should get an answer.

"Everyone is doing okay. We haven't been told what to do to them yet so I came here as quickly as I could." Hina replied.

"They'll want us dead, won't they?"

"Most likely. I guess they haven't decided how to carry that out yet." Hina nodded with a sad look on her face.

"We're back!" Lisa came back this time Yukina was with her.

Yukina looked at Hina, "Is it just you?"

"Yeah. It's just me." Hina nodded.

"So she's telling the truth?" Lisa questioned.

Yukina nodded, "Yes. She's an ally."

"Well, you came to discuss rescue options, correct? What do you have in mind?"

"We have a few ideas." Hina replied.

"I think it's safe to let you come to our base." Yukina stated.

"You sure? What if there's something tracking her location?" Ran eyed Hina warily.

"If that was the case I'm sure I'd be dead somewhere instead of here. I'm not supposed to be out here. I should be at the jail with the others." Hina responded.

"Come. We can discuss this with everyone."

They went to the house. Yukina entered first and announced she had brought someone who worked for the organization with her. She was very clear that if anyone hurt Hina there would be extreme consequences.

Hina nervously entered. Lisa was by her side. Ran was behind her.

"Sit. Let's discuss what we can do." Yukina nodded to the couches.

Hina was made to sit beside Yukina. Lisa was on her other side. Everyone else was gathered in the room.

"What do you think would work?" Yukina questioned.

"Well... we thought about bringing another one or two back for more inside strength. We are the only ones in charge of their cell. We plan to release them once ready. They just all have to get out. We'll pretend like we've been beat by them so no one will suspect us." Hina explained, "Is that too much to ask? I know bringing more might make you wary."

"I believe it could work. The rest of us would be outside ready to help them run." Yukina nodded, "Any complaints with the plan?"

"Who should go back with her?" Tomoe asked.

"Anyone you are looking for in particular?" Yukina asked Hina.

Hina thought about it, "Just someone with a lot of strength that can withstand a lot. The demons in this jail are really strong."

"Any volunteers then?"

"I want to go." Tomoe stated.

"No." Yukina denied her, "Your emotions may get in the way. It's best you remain on the outside."

"But-"

"Tomoe, I think she's right." Ran cut her off, "We have to act. I don't know if you'll be able to keep up an act like that."

"Fine..."

"I'll go then, if that's okay." Ran offered.

"I don't see why you can't." Yukina agreed to that.

"Anyone else?" Lisa questioned.

"I'll go." Rei offered.

"Are you sure?"

"I'll be fine."

"If there's no objections then you two will return with Hina. How long should we wait before coming there ourselves?" Yukina asked.

"Give us a week after they arrive. We'll be ready on the new moon. Darkest night will be the best for us. No one can see well, after all." Hina replied.

"Alright. You should head out then."

Hina nodded and stood up. Ran and Rei walked over to her. Hina hesitantly lead them back toward the jail.

"Do you want to fly?" Rei questioned, "It might be faster."

"I... I don't know."

"I'll carry you."

"O-okay." Hina agreed.

Rei carefully picked her up. She wasn't sure how to do this. Normally there were wings. Hina not having wings made her cautious about her placement.

"Is this okay?"

"Yeah. I'm fine."

"You'll have to guide us."

"Okay."

...

They made it in half the time it had taken Hina to reach them. They were near the jail. It was time to put their plan into action.

"Okay. Imma take you through the back so there's less demons. Um... but first I'll go let them know I'm back. We need you to act like you aren't conscious. That's the only way any prisoner can come in." Hina said.

"Alright. We'll wait here."

Hina quickly snuck into the building. She looked for someone from Pastel*Palettes. It didn't matter who it was that helped her. She found Eve first.

Eve walked over to her, "How did it go?"

"Good. We have two outside waiting for us." Hina replied.

"Lead the way." Eve nodded.

Hina lead her back outside. Rei and Ran were still where they had been left at. Ran eyed Eve with distrust.

"Um... hi?" Eve awkwardly said.

"You guys are gonna take us inside to be with the others?" Ran questioned.

"Yes. I promise what happened in the past is in the past. I'm ready to help you guys." Eve smiled.

"Fine."

"I'll take Ran and you can take... um... what's your name?" Hina nervously laughed.

Rei didn't reply right away. She was unsure what name to give them. Regular demons she'd be fine telling her real name, but these were organization demons. It might not be very wise to tell them her real name.

"My name is Rei but please call me Layer around anyone you can't trust." Rei eventually decided on.

"You're one of the escapees from that lab." Eve recognized the name immediately.

Rei nodded, "Yes. You can see why I can't exactly trust you with my name."

"Of course. We'll call you Layer for now." Hina confirmed.

"How exactly are we getting in?" Ran questioned.

"Well, we can either drag you or carry you." Eve replied.

"I unfortunately think drag may have to be the option we go with, though." Hina stated, "We'll have to say association so we can't be seen treating you too nicely. Especially if the story is we caught you guys just outside our jail."

"Fair enough."

So they awkwardly arranged themselves and brought them to the back entrance. There was only one demon there. He didn't even question them and let them fill out everything themselves.

It wasn't long before they were in the main part of the jail. After looking around, they determined it was safe for them to walk.

"That was not fun at all." Ran grumbled as she stood up.

"Do we need to get anything for wounds?" Eve asked.

"No. I think it's just bruises." Ran sighed.

"Yeah. I don't think anything is bleeding." Rei agreed.

"Good. Follow us. Try to play it low incase we do run into any other demons." Hina said.

They quietly made their way to the cell. Thankfully, there were no issues getting there. Chisato and Aya were on duty at the moment. They nodded to them and unlocked the door. Chisato left to go get Maya so they could all discuss together.

"What exactly is this plan? Why'd you bring more here?" Moca questioned.

"For more strength inside." Aya explained, "We can't aid you in escaping beyond unlocking the door. They're here to help you guys get out."

"I guess that makes sense."

"Hope you don't mind if we chain you guys up?" Hina held out two pairs of chains.

"I don't think we have a choice, do we?"

"Probably not. If anyone else comes here they'll question why you aren't restrained." Hina said.

"Get it over with then."

Hina carefully chained them up against the wall. She kept the chains loose so they could move very easily in them. It probably wouldn't take much to break them if someone really tried. That was honestly the ideal situation for them.

"When will they come for us?" Sayo asked.

"We told them a week after we arrived."

"Is there anything we can do to prepare for this escape?"

"Just conserve your strength for now. We're working on a map so you can have a detailed look at what way would be the best way out." Aya stated.

Chisato and Maya returned. The conversation continued.

"So, what exactly will you guys be doing during the escape?" Himari asked.

"We're going to sit back and act like you took us down." Chisato stated.

"Very well. Let's hope this works."

...

"So, what all should we prepare for for the attack?"

"We'll need to practice our stealth and our ability to quickly alter course."

"How should we do it?"

"Pair up. It'll be easiest that way."

The remaining demons left at Roselia's base were planning their mode of attack. Everyone was pairing up to practice different agility moves as they needed very much to be agile during the break out.

Rinko was the one everyone was most worried about for this. She was adamant about going and helping. No one could talk her into staying.

As Rinko was a bit weaker still, she was put with Pareo and Chu2. She was very obviously nervous around them. Neither were really up to ask her about it.

"You guys are from the organization?" Rinko asked.

"Yes. Why?" Chu2 asked in response.

"You're Chiyu and Reona."

Both of them froze at the mention of their true names. Neither knew what to say. Why did Rinko know this information? How did she know it?

"I... I'm like you. Except I was kicked out." Rinko felt she could trust them, "No one else knows, so please don't tell them about me."

"Where are you from?" Chu2 asked.

"The west base."

"I see... I'm surprised, if I'm honest. I don't ever recall hearing of a member being kicked out and not murdered." Chu2 said.

"They assumed I would be picked off. I... hate fighting."

"Then why are you going on this mission?" Pareo questioned.

"I want to... show them I can fight. I'm holding them back... because they don't think I can handle battles yet."

"But you said-"

"Even if I hate it, I know I have to fight. I still remember my training. They need me." Rinko stated.

"Can I ask what happened to your eye?" Pareo nervously asked.

"I was attacked... and I couldn't handle them at the time."

"So, we all have the same training... why don't we put that to use in these practices?" Chu2 suggested.

"Sure!"

"That sound good."

"Also, Rinko, please only refer to us as Chu2 and Pareo. We can't risk word spreading of our location to someone who wants us dead."

"I understand. I won't let anyone know."

"Thank you."

Chapter Text

It was not long before they had to go and start the rescue mission. Everyone was coming with them. Rokka had recovered well and was able to fight again. Chu2 was still suffering a little bit from her wounds. As such, she was to be at the camp they'd set up for when they did rescue everyone.

The prisoners were ready to finally get free. They had been given as much information as they possibly could be. They knew the layout of the prison. They knew the guards' routes. They knew different paths to take depending on where demons were at. They were prepared.

It was just a matter of waiting now. Someone from Pastel*Palettes would patrol outside every day at some point to see when they arrived. They'd discuss times to attack and then inform everyone.

There was one big problem that they were now facing, however. Sayo had been found out and they knew her identity. They were planning to separate her and not execute her with the others. They needed to work fast. It would not be long before Sayo was taken away and there would be little hope of rescuing her at that point.

As such, Chisato was sent to find where the rescue party was at. She had to inform them of the change and get them to hurry up.

It was tough. Without her wings, she had to run through the woods. She had countless cuts on her body. She was exhausted, but she had to push on. They were very quickly running out of time.

Thankfully, they weren't too too far away. She reached them after a few hours of running. They were resting at the moment.

Everyone tensed up at her presence. Yukina assured them she was on their side. They relaxed a bit after that, but most still didn't exactly trust her. They didn't like having to rely on anyone who worked for the organization. They could easily be stabbed in the back.

"Why are you here?" Yukina asked.

"You have to hurry up. We've been given a date. Two days. And Sayo is going to be taken to the main base tomorrow. We don't have much time left." Chisato said.

"Why is she being taken there?" Lisa asked.

"Because they know her and Hina are sisters now. They want to force her into work." Chisato said.

"Oh..."

"We'll have to raid today then." Yukina said.

"Where should we set up our camp?" Tsugumi asked.

"There's a swamp area nearby. It's pretty good for hiding." Chisato suggested.

"Take us there then."

Chisato nodded and lead the way. They were going to leave Chu2 and Pareo there while everyone else went to help the others get away.

Once they had successfully set up the camp, Chisato lead them to the jail. They flew this time. Lisa took Chisato. It was a lot quicker than walking. That was for sure.

Chisato went back inside and informed everyone they were ready. Aya left to go shut down the power to give them an advantage. Hina and Eve unlocked the cell and everyone's chains. Maya stood by incase anyone came around. They'd have to eliminate any threats to their plan whether or not they liked it.

Once they were free, they waited for Aya. Once the lights went out, they ran. Pastel*Palettes hung back. They hoped no one would be able to tell they hadn't tried to stop them.

As the group made it close to the exit, demons were alerted. Tomoe and Tsugumi were by the exit. They jumped in and fought off some of the demons coming toward them. Thanks to that, they got outside without much problem.

But, there were demons outside. They saw them and were coming. There were a lot of them. This looked like it was going to be a tough battle.

"Split up. It'll thin them out." Tomoe stated.

So, the group split in two. Rokka and Ako were waiting and jumped in as well. With that much support. The demons were easier to beat back. It was still a sloght struggle at times, but they were managing it a lot better than if all the demons had swarmed them together.

Yukina, Lisa, and Rinko were their own little group. They were stopping demons at the heart. There was a housing unit where most demons lived. They were picking them off from there to limit how many reached the groups.

"Lisa!"

Lisa was hit hard and knocked to the ground, unconscious. Rinko was closest so she jumped in front of her and fended the demons off. But, they noticed who she was. And she noticed who one of them was.

"Well, look who it is. Who would've thought you'd turn traitor on us." One sneered.

He was from the very group Rinko had been kicked out of. He knew her very well. The other only knew her from the files. Both knew her past, though. They could ruin everything for her if they said the right things.

Rinko didn't reply to him. She glared at them. They didn't seem to care and advanced on her. Rinko tried to hold her ground, but found herself stepping back. She was scared of them. Not because they could do physical harm to her, but because of the harm they could do by telling Yukina about her past.

"How did such a crybaby end up in a group like this? Even with us you were pathetic." The demon spat at her.

Rinko really didn't want to reply. Maybe she could get out of this without Yukina questioning her. But, that seemed hopeless.

"What are you talking about?" Yukina stepped in to keep them from pushing any closer to Lisa.

"Wouldn't you love to know." One sneered at her, "Rinko here is from the organization too. Bet you never would have thought that."

"I heard she's done some of the biggest dirty work for us too." The other added, "Weren't you the one-"

Rinko knew exactly what he was going to say and lashed out. She slit his throat and killed him almost instantly. Her eyes went wide in panic. That was probably not going to help her case here at all.

Yukina followed her actions and killed the other demon. Rinko tried to run, but Yukina grabbed her arm and kept her in place. Rinko couldn't bear to look at her. She didn't want to hear what she had to say to her. She'd rather never know and just leave this life behind.

"Rinko, what's the truth?"

"I... was forced to pledge loyalty after they massacred my town." Rinko had no way out of this conversation, "I... I worked at the main base for a while... before I... was tramatized and was sent to the west base."

"What was he going to say?"

"I killed orphans..."

"Against your will?"

Rinko nodded, "That was... my breaking point..."

"I see." Yukina took a deep breath, "Rinko, I don't doubt your loyalty to us. You don't need to run."

Rinko didn't know what to say. She had fully convinced herself that she would be either kicked out or killed if the others learned her identity. She had not even considered them accepting her.

"Let's meet up with everyone. They should almost all be out by now." Yukina continued after Rinko didn't reply.

"I... I don't know... that I can stay..."

"If you want to leave, I won't stop you, but you are welcome here. You're family now."

Rinko made no effort to move. Yukina released her grip on Rinko's arm and went to check on Lisa. Rinko watched her. She was worried about Lisa as well.

Lisa seemed relatively unharmed. That was good. At least nothing was serious. Yukina picked her up. She looked at Rinko. What was her decision?

"I'm not going back."

"Very well. If you change your mind, you are more than welcome to return to us." Yukina accepted her response and left.

Rinko took a deep breath. She didn't know what to do. It felt wrong to stay. She betrayed their trust by hiding this secret. Who would want a lier?

...

Yukina and Lisa were the last ones to make it to the base camp. Lisa had woken up already and was walking. She just had to lean on Yukina for some support.

"Where's Rinko?"

Yukina knew that question was coming, "She's fine. She just won't be coming back with us."

Ako looked absolutely crushed by that news. She had grown to really like Rinko and very much looked up to her. And now she was gone. She didn't even say goodbye.

"Are you going to give us the reason why she is not coming back with us?" Sayo asked.

"She is... from the organization. She doesn't want to face us now that we know her past." Yukina replied.

"She's... one of them?"

"Was. She left. She's not on their side."

"We better be quiet and rest. We need to be out of here soon."

...

Ako couldn't rest. She needed to see Rinko. Even if it was just one last time. So, she quietly snuck out of the camp and went to where she was told they had been attacking from.

Ako faintly could pick up Rinko's scent. She followed it for as long as she could, but it faded before she found her. Ako kept going forward and hoped she was on the right track.

A figure dashed out of the bushes and attacked her. It was another demon from the organization. Ako was struggling to get free from their grip. She managed to call out before he silenced her by shoving her face-first into the ground.

Ako was starting to suffocate, unable to breath in enough air. Her movements were slow and choppy. She was losing consciousness fast. This was not good.

The pressure on her suddenly vanished. Ako quickly sat up and gasped for breath. She looked at her savior. It was Rinko. She beat back the demon and made them retreat.

"Rinko..." Ako felt tears forming in her eyes.

"Are you okay?" Rinko asked as she knelt down beside her, "Why are you out here alone?"

"I... I came to find you!" Ako said, "Y-you just left me without even saying goodbye!"

Rinko sighed, "I'm sorry... but I can't stay..."

"But why? We know you're on our side. You're still one of us." Ako protested.

"I... I don't feel welcome... I lied to everyone..."

"Please? You can really help us. You could give them a lot of information!" Ako defended.

"Do they really trust me?"

"I'm sure they do." Ako stated with confidence, "No one thinks you'll turn on us."

"I can't go back. I don't deserve it. I've done horrible things that can't be forgiven."

"Then I'm staying with you." Ako declared.

Rinko sighed, "Go back."

"No. I'm not going back without you!" Ako crossed her arms.

She was not leaving Rinko. Rinko would either come back or they'd go off together. There was no compromise Ako would accept. It was only those two options.

"I... I'll return... for now." Rinko didn't want to stay with them.

She was planning to leave once they returned back home. She'd just warn the others Ako would try and follow her. It was the best she could do for now.

Ako smiled. They walked back to the camp. Everyone else was still asleep. Ako invited Rinko to stay beside her. Rinko agreed. It was best to at least let Ako be happy for a bit. Before she'd be hurt.

Rinko felt bad that she would be doing that to her. The last thing she wanted was to hurt any of them. But, she truly didn't know if she could stay with them all. Even if Yukina said she was family, she didn't know if that would last. They had every right to be suspicious of her now.

She would just have to wait and see what happened. Maybe in the end she would decide to stay? Rinko didn't know yet. There was the chance they could show her they meant it and she would stay. She just didn't know if that would happen at all.

Chapter Text

"What do you mean they got away!?"

"They defeated us."

"You are our best fighters! You have the most training! How did they beat you!?"

"I'm sorry, sir. We'll make sure it won't happen again when we recover them."

"Make sure it doesn't or I may take your lives as compensation."

"Yes, sir. Should we go now?"

"No. Let them think they're safe for now. I have things I wish to plan before we send you back."

...

Yukina was the first of the group to wake up. She did a quick sweep of the camp to make sure everyone was still accounted for and nothing looked disturbed. She paused when she saw Rinko was back.

It didn't take much to understand what had occurred. She pieced it together that Ako had something to do with her return. Yukina didn't know if she was more impressed or mad. Ako had gone off on her own in a very dangerous area. And judging by her looks, met an enemy along the way.

Yukina sighed. She'd let it slide this time. They had more important matters at hand than dealing with her and her impulsive decisions. So, Yukina got up and started making sure everyone else was getting up too. They really shouldn't stay here for too long.

There was obviously some confusion when the others saw Rinko, but no one said anything. It was probably best they didn't ask. At least, not right now.

"We should head back as quickly as we can. They may still be out looking for us." Yukina stated.

Everyone got up and prepared for the journey back to Roselia's base. That would be their main hideout for now. Until things died down with this rescue, they had to lay low and stay together.

"Let's go then."

...

"Guys... I have some um... bad news." Maya entered the sleeping quarters.

"What is it?"

"Yeah, what's wrong?"

"I heard rumors that the higher-ups think we are traitors." Maya stated.

"That's bad. What can we do?" Eve questioned.

"We just need to act loyal and like we're ready to go kill them for escaping." Chisato offered.

Aya looked at Hina, "They're probably going to be most suspicious of you."

"I... guess they would be." Hina hated that was most likely the truth.

"I hope we can prove to them otherwise." Chisato sighed, "So, Hina, you have to act like you hate Sayo for now."

"I'll do my best." Hina replied.

This was going to be tough. They knew this very well could happen. It was suspicious for them to have been defeated. So, they really needed to lie well.

...

"So, what do we do now?"

They had all returned to Roselia's base. Everyone was gathered in the living room and talking.

"We should lay low until they stop searching as heavily for us." Yukina replied.

"That could take a while..."

"Unfortunately it could."

"Speaking of that..." Lisa said, "Are you guys going to stay with us for now?"

It was directed toward RAS. They weren't allies yet. So, would they stay or would they leave again.

Most eyes fell on Chu2. She technically had the final call.

"We will discuss it alone." Chu2 replied, "Later."

"Alright."

"Anything else we should talk about?" Yukina questioned.

"What do we do if they get too close for comfort?" Tsugumi asked, "It's not impossible that they'll come here."

"Depends on how many they send. If it's not too many I think we could just take them down. If we can't, we'll just hide farther in the woods for a bit." Yukina replied after some thought.

"Do you think they'll come this far?"

"They often station demons in the town nearby. It wouldn't be that big of a stretch." Sayo answered.

"It's scary... knowing how many demons will try to kill us on sight now..." Himari gulped.

"It definitely makes things more chaotic now." Tomoe agreed, "We can't really trust anyone. Who knows if they'll turn us in."

"What reward do you think they'll offer for our capture?" Rokka questioned.

"Seeing as they want us now, I imagine it'll be a very high price of money." Rei offered.

"Maybe even a place working for them. You know some demons actually desire to join them." Lisa added.

"It's scary to think there are regular demons who want to help them remain in control." Pareo whispered.

"You're from the organization yourself. Do you know why demons believe them?" Yukina questioned.

Chu2 sighed, "Because they are also power hungry. They want others to suffer and obey them."

"Did you used to believe in them?" Ako asked, "I would guess they'd have tactics to convince demons they're doing what's best."

"As a kid you believe what your parents tell you. Once we got older, we saw the truth about them and stopped trusting them." Chu2 nodded.

"This is going to be tough now... Who knows how many demons will be on their side now?"

"Everyone should rest for now. We can discuss further when we are in better conditions." Yukina stated, "There are two rooms you guys can use."

Everyone got settled into where they would be resting. RAS stayed in the main living room. Afterglow was in a room next to that one. It was still empty as there had been no need to add anything to it yet.

Roselia went to their rooms. Except for Yukina and Rinko. They were standing by the stairs leading up.

"Are you remaining?" Yukina questioned.

"Ako doesn't want me to leave..."

"She looks up to you a lot. It will be hard for her if you leave. I won't deny it." Yukina agreed.

"I'll stay for now. It's risky to leave..." Rinko eventually said.

"Very well. Just let someone know if you do decide to leave." Yukina said, "Goodnight."

"Goodnight."

...

"So, what are we going to do? Are we going to stay here?"

RAS was discussing what to do. They needed to make their decision soon.

"You know I don't like working with others." Chu2 stated.

"Yeah, but they've really helped us. And they haven't asked for anything in return." Rokka offered.

"I think it's more beneficial if we stay and help them." Masuki said.

"With the way everything is going, it might be wise to have more help." Pareo said.

Chu2 sighed, "You trust them? What if they'll use us because of who we are?"

"Considering they have another, I think they'd have already done that if they wanted to." Rei stated.

"Yeah, I doubt Rinko would be here if they wanted to use her." Rokka nodded.

"Very well." Chu2 said, "We shall remain here and form an alliance. Don't make me regret it."

"What is there to regret?" Masuki questioned.

"I think she thinks they'll still turn on us." Rei offered.

"We barely know them. How can you trust them completely?" Chu2 shot back.

"Give them the benefit of the doubt. They've done nothing to rouse suspicion." Masuki stated.

"Pareo, you don't trust them, right?" Chu2 looked at her.

"Um... I mean... I trust them a little bit. Probably more than you do." Pareo nervously offered.

Chu2 sighed. She was outnumbered. She had no choice but to give in to them for now. She couldn't lose them. If she didn't have a group, she'd never achieve her goal. Her and Pareo alone would never be able to do it.

"Like I said, don't make me regret this alliance."

...

The next morning, Chu2 was questioned about her decision. She had to unwillingly agree to it. She was not happy.

"We'll remain and join you. Don't think I won't hesitate to leave if you cause problems for us." Chu2 stated.

"So, we have three groups of five. That's quite good." Lisa said, "Do you want to recruit more or would you rather not have anyone else?"

"If the opportunity arises, I won't say no to more help. I will not actively seek it out, however." Yukina replied.

"Do you know of any other groups like us?" Ako asked with curious eyes.

"Not that I've heard of." Yukina shook her head.

"There is... one possible group." Rinko said, "Though, I believe the end goal is different."

"And who might they be?"

"I don't know if the have a name, but it's this group of demons who are... well, trying to spread happiness. They are against the organization because they bring despair." Rinko replied.

"That's not what I was expecting." Yukina had no clue how to react to that, "How many do you know of that are in the group?"

"The last I heard was three of them... once I left... I no longer could get information. They... may have more. I just know they're still going." Rinko said.

"How do you know that?" Moca questioned, "What makes you so certain they aren't dead?"

"Easy." Chu2 but in, "A group like that would be publicly executed. We would know. And if they died of other causes, they would've announced it to everyone."

"Yes... that is my reasoning." Rinko nodded.

"Do you think they'd be of use? With that goal I'm uncertain about wanting to deal with them." Ran stated.

"I think they could be of use." Yukina said, "Even if our end goals aren't the same, the way to them is. A compromise would be easy."

"I'm going to assume we should ask them about joining if we ever do run into them?" Tsugumi questioned.

Sayo gave Yukina an uncertain look, "They may hinder everything, though. Who's to say they won't try and force us to adhere completely to their plan?"

"They are outnumbered severely. If they insist, we can easily abandon them." Yukina shrugged off her concern, "Trust me. I think they could be very useful."

"If you say so..." Sayo was still unconvinced.

"On that note, yes, do ask them if you run into them."

...

"Don't you think they're being secretive?"

"They aren't sending us out on anything. That's rare."

"What if we're in trouble?"

"We just have to keep an ear out, okay?"

Pastel*Palettes was growing more concerned each day. The leaders weren't giving them anything. They never had this happen before. They were scared.

"Do you think they know?"

"Possibly. I... wouldn't put it passed them..."

"Hina? You okay?"

Hina had been quiet recently. She rarely spoke and always seemed on edge.

"What's bothering you?"

Hina didn't want to say. She'd rather they stay in the dark. It would be easier.

"I'm just... worried about them..." Hina lied.

"Why? They're all safe."

"There's a bounty on them all. Didn't you know?" Hina was concerned they weren't aware of that much.

"There is?!"

Hina nodded, "Three days ago they put it out."

Eve frowned, "You think they might get captured again?"

"They only want Yukina alive. That's what the order said."

Everyone gulped. That changed things drastically. They couldn't even attempt another breakout if they never arrived to begin with.

"They probably know about it. They may be hiding." Chisato offered.

"I hope so." Hina whispered.

Maya rested a hand on her shoulder, "They all seem quite strong. I think they'll be just fine."

"Girls. I have a job for you."

"What is it, sir?" Aya asked.

"You four go and investigate a recent fire in the jail. Hina, I have something else for you to do."

Everyone nervously looked at Hina. Hina just blankly stated at the demon.

"Fine." Hina replied without emotion.

The other four unwillingly left to do their job. They were all concerned. Why was he after Hina alone? What did they find out?

"Restrain her."

Two demons came out of the shadows and tied Hina's hands behind her back. She just sat there quietly. She didn't resist. Because she knew this was coming. She had already accepted her fate.

"No need to give me a long speech. Just say my charges." Hina stated before he could speak again.

"Very well." The demon cleared his throat, "Hina, you are accused of being a traitor and aiding in the escape of the prisoners. As well as manipulating the others in your group to do your bidding. Do you deny any of this?"

"I don't."

"Then in three days you shall be executed. Take her to the cell."

Hina was roughly dragged away.

Chapter Text

"Where's Hina?"

"Did he send her on a solo mission?"

"There's a note here. It says to meet him in his office."

"I have a bad feeling about this."

The four remaining members of Pastel*Palettes went to his office. They were all very concerned.  No one really knew what to think of the turn of events.

"Hello, girls. I see you've returned." He greeted them blandly.

"Where's Hina?" Chisato questioned.

"In the jail. You see, we figured it out quite easily. She was in charge of their escape. So we will be killing her." He stated.

"Then why are we free?"

"Because she's the reason you stood back. With her out of the way, I see no reason why you won't continue to do as asked."

No one knew what to say. They were at least lucky that it wasn't assumed they also fully supported the escape. But, there was barely anything they could do for Hina. There was no way anyone could save her. No one ever got out of that jail alive.

The organization had a ton of security in the jail that housed traitors from inside the organization itself. They couldn't let them leave alive with how much information they had. No one ever succeeded in getting out. And many had indeed tried. All had been killed.

"Is that all, sir?" Aya asked, a hint of nervousness in her voice.

He nodded, "Yes. You may return to your room now."

The four of them left feeling uneasy. Would they be safe? What if he changed his mind about them? They could be in a lot of danger soon.

...

Hina's execution was announced everywhere. They wanted to make an example of her. With that happening, it was no surprise it made its way to Roselia.

"Sayo, it's suicide. You'll be killed in seconds if you go there."

Sayo was planning to try and save her. The others were trying to talk her out of it. Everyone knew how secure that place was. It was common knowledge. But that didn't matter to Sayo. She couldn't just sit back when Hina was supposed to be killed.

"After everything she's done you're fine just letting her die?" Sayo shot back.

"No. But there is no way we can break her out. We have nothing we can do." Yukina stated.

"I can't just not do anything."

"You will die, Sayo. No one's ever made it out of there alive."

"I think there may be one way to save her." Rinko hesitantly said, "But... it's still very risky."

"What is it?"

"In the past... they've taken an hour to let anyone who wants to see the one going to be executed. To mock them. They let them do anything as long as you don't kill them. So... if they do that for her, it might give enough of a chance to break her out." Rinko explained.

"Won't it be heavily guarded still?" Lisa questioned.

"Oh. I see what you're getting at." Chu2 stated.

Everyone was involved in this conversation. The rest had just stayed silent.

"Then what are you getting at?" Yukina asked.

"They allow only a certain amount of demons in the room at a time. If enough of us can go and not be recognized, we'd have the entire room with allies. And they only have five guards last I checked." Chu2 stated.

"That may work. But how can we blend in when they know what most of us look like?" Yukina asked everyone.

"Hats? And a change of clothing style?" Lisa suggested.

"Will we have enough time to get all of that ready?"

"I... don't know..."

They did not have a lot of time to work with. It would take them a good part of the day just to reach the site. They had to get there early to even stand a chance of getting into the place. That really gave them about a day to work with.

"Do we know how many we need to bring?" Tomoe asked.

"It varies. There isn't a single number they go by." Chu2 stated, "Just depends on what they feel like handling."

"The highest was ten. At least that I've heard of. Least is five." Rinko added.

"That's a lot of disguises to make in that short amount of time."

"There's no other way?"

"Nothing anyone has tried has ever worked. This is our best shot."

"This should be interesting."

...

Hina was pretty much resigned to her fate. She was willing to die. There was no point in fighting it at this point. And maybe it was better than living? She would be free from this place. She wouldn't have to suffer under them any longer.

Someone entered the jail. It was Aya. She was frowning.

"Hina..."

"It's alright, Aya. I've accepted this is my fate." Hina replied, "Worry more about yourselves. He may still come after you. You have a chance to escape. I don't."

"There has to be a way."

"We can't discuss that here. They could easily hear us and get you as well." Hina stated.

"What about Sayo? Don't you think she'll come for you?" Aya questioned.

Hina shook her head, "With how dangerous it is, she probably won't. She just has to accept I'm going to die."

"You don't have any faith that someone will rescue you?"

"Aya... how can anyone save me? This place is too secure."

"Maybe... it'll be right before they kill you." Aya offered.

"Aya, just let it go. Don't come here again. It'll make it harder. Just let me die."

"But you can't die!"

"We don't get a choice anymore."

"But... but... Eve... she needs you..."

"I'm sure she'll be fine." Hina replied.

"You don't get it! She loves you, idiot!"

Hina didn't have a response to that. Eve... loved her? Was there ever a sign of that? Hina thought about it. Was the fact that Eve was the first one to always be looking out for her a sign she liked her?

"Eve likes me?"

"Yes. She's completely destroyed by this now. She always tried to keep you safe because she didn't want to lose you and now... now she can't save you."

"I'm sorry... I wish things could be different. But, at least it's only me right now. You guys have to continue where I stopped. Take them down. Help Roselia." Hina said.

"But-"

"If you see them again, tell Sayo I love her. And that I'm sorry about everything."

"Hey. Boss said you can't be down here!"

One of the demons sent to guard Hina arrived. Aya gulped.

"I was... confronting her about what she did. About how she used us." Aya quickly lied, "I just needed to get it out of me and yell at her. I'll go now."

"See that you do. Your anger isn't unwarranted but please get permission next time."

"I will."

...

"Okay, I got four done..." 

"That's not enough. We're so screwed."

"I'm going alone." Sayo declared, "I'll save her myself. No one is stopping me."

"At least have one other go with you." Yukina said, "In case something goes wrong."

Sayo sighed, "Fine. Who wants to go with me?"

"I'll go. I... think I can help." Rinko stated.

"Very well."

"You... you will come back, right?" Ako asked, already starting to get upset.

"I'll return, Ako. I promise." Rinko nodded.

It wasn't that strange for her to question that. It would be a good time to leave. But, she would come back. She had a reason to remain. A reason no one could know about.

"We shall go now. If that's fine with you." Sayo said.

"Let's go." Rinko nodded.

They headed out. It would be a long journey for them, but they had to. Sayo wasn't going to rest until Hina was safe again.

They flew into the air. It was the fastest way to travel.

"So, what's your reason for coming with me?" Sayo asked.

"I have an idea." Rinko replied, "I just need to see the place to confirm if it would work."

"May I know what it is?"

"Smokescreen."

"Oh. That actually is a good idea. But, how?"

"It depends on the location. If there's water I can do it."

"Do you think this is wise? I know this is very dangerous."

"It's not. But, I can understand." Rinko replied, "I don't blame you for wanting to try."

"Do you think we can do it?"

"I don't know."

...

Hina had been transported to the execution place. The others had no way to see her now. They couldn't go to the place. It would be too hard for them. They could only hope someone would save her.

Hina was still emotionless. She didn't care. Well, she did a little bit. Now that she knew about Eve, it did hurt a little. She was leaving her without anything. Should she have told Aya to give her an answer? Would that have just made it harder for Eve?

Hina was locked up in a very small cell. Three guards were with her. She watched them with dull eyes.

"How long until it's time?" Hina questioned. She wanted to know. It was pretty important for her.

"When the sun sets we will begin." One replied, "About four hours."

"Okay."

Four hours was a long time to be waiting. Especially now that she was in this place. It was way more boring than the old cell. There was nothing entertaining to look at.

...

Sayo and Rinko arrived an hour later. They surveyed the area. As of now, it was only workers for the organization. No regular demons were there yet. That would be a while still.

"Well?" Sayo asked.

"It isn't going to work here." Rinko sighed.

"What else could we do?"

They both studied the area more. What exactly was here that might be able to benefit them? There wasn't a whole lot.

"Those towers will have demons with guns." Rinko stated, "They'll shoot the moment we attack."

"Let's find the place she's being held in. Maybe there's something there that we can work with?" Sayo suggested.

"Sure. I think it's over this way."

It didn't take much to find the cell. It was heavily guarded. There were the three inside and then about five demons outside. There was no way they could get any closer.

"What do we do? This isn't looking good for us." Sayo was starting to panic. There was no opportunity to strike as far as they could tell.

Rinko pondered the question for a while. She wasn't coming up with anything. Both of them were at a loss.

"Perhaps I can help." A voice spoke from above.

They looked up to see a hooded demon in the tree. They jumped down and stood before them.

"Who are you?" Sayo questioned, "You're the one who led us to the injured demons."

"You can call me Misaki." The demon took down their hood.

"What could you do to help?" Rinko asked.

"Well, they'd want you dead too, correct? What if we turned you in, but snuck a weapon with you?" Misaki suggested.

"There's way too many guards."

"There's a way out from inside."

"There is?"

Misaki nodded, "Yes. The bars on the back door are very loose. One good kick can take them down. And they don't guard the back."

"I still don't see it working." Sayo stated.

"The shift change is in twenty minutes. You'll have five minutes to escape before they get back."

"And what if we fail to get out in time?"

"No matter what way you try, there's that risk."

"I don't know."

"You don't have much time. You have to know soon."

Sayo was conflicted. This was probably their best chance at saving Hina. But if it went wrong they'd both be executed.

"Fine. We'll try it." Sayo agreed.

Misaki held out a knife, "Here. You'll definitely want this."

"But they have chains." Rinko said.

"For Hina, yes. They'll use rope for her. The knife can pick the lock on the chains too." Misaki replied.

"Alright..."

"Ready?"

Sayo hid the knife as best she could and nodded. Misaki pulled her hood back up and grabbed Sayo. She pretended to roughly drag her up to the guards.

"Hey, look who I got." Misaki stated.

"Ah, the sister is here now. Throw her in. They'll handle the rest."

Misaki nodded and drug Sayo into the cell. Hina's eyes widened in fear as she saw them.

"Looks like someone was trying to get her out." One guard taunted.

Misaki handed her over to them. They tied her arms behind her back. One guard glanced at Misaki. Misaki subtly nodded to him. Only Hina caught it. She was confused, but knew better than to say anything.

Sayo was tossed into the cell. Misaki watched her for a moment, before exiting the building.

"Onee-chan..." Hina whispered.

"It's okay, Hina... it's okay."

They sat in silence for a while. Sayo slowly worked away at her ropes. She hoped they wouldn't notice.

Soon enough, they left to change shifts. Sayo quickly finished cutting off her ropes. She started frantically picking at the lock on Hina's chains.

"Onee-chan?"

"She's on our side. This was the plan all along." Sayo whispered.

The chains fell off. Sayo pulled Hina up and then started attacking the back door. It easily crumbled, but was very loud. Sayo grabbed Hina's hand and quickly started running away. The demons would've easily heard the noise.

Rinko was waiting for them and motioned them toward her. Once they met up, they fled into a small tunnel. It was probably once home to a bear before they went extinct.

"You guys alright?" Rinko asked.

"I'm fine. Are you okay, Hina?" Sayo worriedly checked her wrists to see if they were bruised.

"I'm alright... just... shaken."

"Should we go now or wait for a bit?" Sayo questioned.

"Misaki said she'd distract them. If you aren't hurt let's go now." Rinko replied.

So the three of them took off. They ran until they felt it was safe to fly again. Sayo carried Hina.

They kept going until they made it home. Everyone was anxiously waiting for them. They were surprised they were back so soon.

"That seems like it was way easier than we thought." Yukina commented.

"We had some help." Sayo replied, "That hooded demon found us and had a good plan."

"I wonder why they help us but don't join us."

"She seems to like being alone."

"Anyway, come sit and rest. That still must've been hard for you guys."

"Do you need anything?" Lisa asked.

Sayo looked at Hina. She definitely didn't look very healthy right now.

"I'll get you some food and a drink." Lisa seemed to see that as well.

Hina rested against Sayo and curled against her. Sayo pulled her close. She was relieved to have Hina back. She wasn't sure if she'd be able to go on if Hina was dead.

"Hina, do you know what is going on with the others is your group?" Yukina asked.

Hina shook her head, "No. They're not being labeled as traitors yet but that may change. They accused me on manipulating them into helping me. They may change that now that I'm free."

"I see."

"Will you... help them? If that does happen?"

"We will try to." Yukina promised, "You've all helped us. It's only fair we try and repay that."

Lisa returned and handed Hina a bowl and a glass of water. Hina thanked her and slowly nibbled away at her food.

She was safe now. She just hoped the others would remain safe as well.

Chapter Text

"Guys! Guys!" Chisato frantically ran into the bedroom, "We have a big problem on our hands!"

"What's wrong, Chisato?" Aya questioned.

"They... they said Hina got broken out..." Chisato was gasping for breath, "They're pissed..."

"What's gonna happen to us?" Eve questioned, "We were accounted for. I don't get your panic."

"I heard the boss talking about... making us disappear..." Chisato stated.

"He... he's going to kill us!?"

Everyone was distraught. What did they do? They would be dead before long if they didn't act fast. But, what was there they could do.

"We have to run. It's our only option." Aya stated, "If we can find Roselia again, I'm sure they'd take us in."

"How do you plan to run, Aya?" Maya asked, "We can't leave without permission."

"We'll sneak out." Aya replied, "I'm not about to sit here and wait for death. I'd rather die trying to escape."

Everyone felt the same way, but they knew that might not be their luxury. It was quite likely they'd be taken down just enough to stop them from running but not enough to kill them. No one wanted that. To have to live longer through torture? That was very much not a fun thing to even think about.

"Is... everyone in agreement? Are we going to try?" Aya asked.

Everyone looked at each other. This was very risky. If things went wrong, it was over for them.

"Well... what do we have to lose?" Chisato said, "Either way we have the chance of dying. Why not take the small chance of survival while we have it?"

"I... I want to leave."

"We have the chance, let's take it."

...


A few days later, they had their escape planned out. They had not been approached by anyone yet about their accusations. They weren't sure if that would last for much longer. The longer they stayed here, the more likely they'd be killed. They had to get out soon.

The plan was relatively simple. Well, as simple as it could get escaping from the organization. They'd go out an unguarded area and run. They would most likely be spotted, so they had to be fast. There was also the chance the door they would need to leave from had an alarm on it. They might not be able to disable it at all.

It was already agreed if someone went down, you left them. If you helped them, you would be done for. So, if you got shot, you got left behind. Everyone was willing to accept that fact.

It wasn't easy to accept by any means. Everyone would rather not have to do that, but it was an unfortunate reality they may have to face. There was a very high chance that not all of them would make it out alive.

They knew of past attempts demons had made on doing exactly what they planned to do. There was never one that ended without casualty. most of the time all of them died. There were a few times some did escape, but were found later and promptly executed on the spot.

So, even for those that got away, they were still going to be hunted down. The organization would not allow anyone with this type of inside information to just roam free. Especially not those who were very capable.

"Ready?"

It was time. They were gathered at the door. Once they opened it, they had to run as fast as they could. Any form of hesitation would end in their demise. No one could stop running under any circumstances.

"Remember, spread out. Keep moving in unpredictable ways. Make yourself the hardest moving target possible." Chisato stated.

They all got ready. The only time they'd be together until getting far enough away was right here. Once out that door they would all go different directions. Make it harder for the snipers to hit them all.

Aya led the way. She opened the door and then booked it. An alarm rang as that door was never meant to be opened. Chisato went second. Maya third. Eve last. They all split up and ran.

Shots were being fired at them. Everyone kept running, moving erratically and swiftly. Occasionally they'd look for each other to see.

A scream cut through the air. Someone had been hit. There was no time to look. The rest just kept running. It was hard. Worry overtook them all, not knowing who was down.

Lots of bullets whizzed past everyone. Due to their movement patterns it was hard for the snipers to hit them. Of course, if anyone fell into too much of a pattern even with a lot of movement, they would easily be hit. These snipers were very skilled. Only the nest got to guard the main base, after all.

"Watch out!" Eve was roughly shoved aside.

An arrow of all things came at them, hitting her savior dead in the center of her chest. It missed its mark of her heart. Was that a good thing or a bad thing?

"Chi...sato?" Eve was frozen in terror.

Chisato was bleeding from the mouth and she covered Eve from the back, "Go... Hina needs you... more than me..."

Eve didn't move at first, until a second arrow made its way through Chisato, this time on her shoulder. That got Eve running. The woods were right there. She was covered.

"Thank you... Chisato..." Eve hoped she heard before she dashed into the forest.

She stopped at the spot they agreed on. Maya was there. That meant Aya had been the one taken down quite early on. It wasn't a surprise, unfortunately. She was their leader. Of course they'd go for her first.

"Aya and Chisato are down. It's just us now..." Eve stated, "Are you hurt? I'm not."

"Just a nick on my shoulder. I think. Is it just that?" Maya turned her right shoulder to Eve.

"Yeah. No blood. You're good."

"Eve? We need to change clothes. We'll be too recognizable in these." Maya stated.

"You're saying we should go in our undergarments?" Eve gulped.

"No. Chisato and I planned this. We left changes of clothes not too far from here. Let's go get them." Maya said, "It should be in a hollow burnt tree."

"Okay." Eve replied, "Let's go."

The tree wasn't hard to find. They found the clothes meant for them and changed. It was sad seeing the other two pairs still in the tree.

"Should we leave them here or take them with us?"

"I doubt they survived... there's no point."

Disheartened, they set off to find Roselia. However, neither had any clue where they were going. They just had to hope they could find the place. They knew where to look. That was at least something.

Unfortunately they would need to find shelter. It started pouring down rain notlong after.

"Really? Why could this not have happened during our escape? This would have helped us so much." Maya grumbled.

"We better find shelter." Eve replied, "It's dangerous to keep going when we don't know the terrain."

"You're both our eyes. Lead the way."

Eve found a small outcrop. They huddled together under it. Their clothes were soaked. This was not fun at all.

"Eve? We only heard one scream. What happened to whoever wasn't the one that yelled?" Maya asked.

Eve sighed, "Aya was the one that was taken down early. Chisato... she saved me from getting an arrow to my heart."

"Arrow? Since... since when did they have those?" Maya was very confused and concerned by that.

"I don't know... but I guess they have them too..." Eve frowned, "Chisato said she did it because Hina needed me..."

"Aya told her. About your feelings. That's why." Maya replied, "She didn't want Hina to die never knowing, so she told her."

"Why... why didn't she tell me then?"

"I can't say. I thought she had told you."

"I... I don't know what to do..."

"Eve... it'll be okay. Even if it's just us two, we'll survive. We'll live on and get revenge for them." Maya stated.

"Promise?"

"I promise."

They curled up closer together. They were trying to desperately warm up. it wasn't going too well. Both of them were frozen. Hopefully they'd survive.

The adrenaline had worn off and both of them were starting to nod off. It was hard to stay awake. Maya seemed a bit off. Eve wasn't sure what to make of it, so she kept quiet.

"Do you think it's safe to take a small nap here?" Maya asked, her speech seeming a little slurred.

"Yeah. It's pretty dead." Eve nodded.

They both dozed off into an uneasy sleep. They didn't wake up at figures started approaching them.

"Who's there?!"

They were cornered by three figures. It was three off the demons from Afterglow. This was their territory. It was Ran, Tomoe, and Tsugumi.

"That's Eve and Maya. They don't look very good."

"I hope that blood isn't hers."

"Let's take them back. We do owe them for saving us back then."

"Good idea."

And so they were taken to Afterglow's base. Neither stirred during the journey. Eve was too exhausted and Maya... something was wrong with her. That much was clear.

"Moca, get the med kit!"

The three girls laid them down on a spare bed. Now in the light, they could see them clearer. It became apparent Eve was not bleeding. The blood on her was not hers then. Who's was it? They had no clue what happened to them.

"Guys, um... this scratch is... is filled with poison."

Maya's scratch was not what it had seemed. The bullet that struck her had been laced with poison. It was fast acting. They didn't have much time to work with if they wanted to save her.

"I'll go see what antidotes we have. Check what type of poison it is now." Himari ordered as she quickly ran off.

Tsugumi was the most knowledgeable about poisons. She carefully took a sample and examined it.

"We have the antidote thankfully. It's one of those fast acting killers." Tsugumi explained.

Himari came back with different vials. Tsugumi selected the one she needed and forced it down Maya's throat. Maya stirred slightly. She was twitching a lot. In her current state, she couldn't really determine what all was going on.

The antidote was painful, which resulted in her falling unconscious again as she couldn't handle the pain. Her arm twitched as it worked to take out the poison. After a few agonizing minutes, it stopped.

"Alright. Let's leave them to rest. Maybe we should clean Eve up a bit?" Moca suggested.

"Both of them are soaked. We should change their clothes and get them near some heat." Ran stated.

So that was their next move. Tomoe and Himari worked at giving Eve a bath to clean off the blood. Ran and Tsugumi dried Maya off a bit and changed her clothes. Tsugumi covered her scratch with a bandage just to be safe. Moca started a small fire in a fireplace they had built. They laid Maya down next to it and one Eve was done they did the same to her.

Now it was just a matter of waiting for them to wake up and explain what had happened to them. They tried to puzzle it together themselves, but there was a lot they couldn't come up with a good answer for.

"Should we inform Hina about them?" Ran questioned.

"Not yet. We don't want to cause her any worry if we don't have to. At least wait until they tell us what happened and where the other two are." Himari replied.

"Fair enough. Anything else we should do for them right now?" Ran asked next.

"If someone could go get some more food that would be good. We don't have that much to feed them and us five too." Himari said.

"Tomoe, you wanna come with me?" Ran asked.

Tomoe shrugged, "Sure. Let's go see what we can find."

Chapter Text

Two days passed before either of them woke up. Maya was understandable with the fact she had been poisoned. Eve was concerning. It wasn't that hard to explain it, though. Neither of them were in the best condition.

Ever since Hina had been outed as a traitor, the other girls had noticed a change in how they were treated. They weren't given as much food. Their clothes were not taken care of as much. They were sent on simple missions instead of their normal ones. Everything had changed for them.

It was just turning to morning when Eve woke up. She groaned in pain. Everything was sore and her head hurt a lot.

She opened her eyes and quickly shot up. She was definitely not in the cave. She relaxed a little when she saw Maya beside her and that both of their wounds had been treated.

Eve didn't see anyone around. She tried calling out, but found her voice was gone. She ended up having a bit of a coughing fit instead. That got someone's attention, so she did what she needed to do.

Moca had been in the kitchen putting things away. Everyone else was in bed already. She came to investigate with a glass of water. Once Eve calmed in her coughing, Moca gave it to her and helped her drink it.

Eve was unsteady and her vision was swimming a bit. She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself.

"How are you feeling?" Moca asked.

"I'm alright. Just dizzy." Eve replied and opened her eyes again.

"Will you explain what happened to you guys?" Moca questioned. She very much wanted to know that as soon as possible.

Eve hesitated. Sure, Moca had been nice to her for now, but would that last? After everything they've had put them through, would any of those demons truly trust them? What if she talked herself into a trap and that made her hated?

"We... we ran away..." Eve wasn't sure about going into detail, "Chisato and Aya are most likely dead."

Moca's eyes widened at the news, "What? What happened to them?"

"They were... shot..."

"It's okay. I'm not going to hurt you. I can see you're scared of me. You've paid for what you did by helping us escape." Moca said.

"Will the others feel the same way?" Eve was worried the answer would be no.

The way Moca hesitated answering made Eve worry. Did that mean she couldn't confirm if they would or wouldn't do it? If she knew she would say so, right? Even if the outcome was negative.

"Well..." Moca said, "I don't know how much everyone else has forgiven you guys."

"Please... we have nowhere else to go..." Eve begged, "Please say we'll be able to stay here. At least for a bit."

"I don't know. If Himari doesn't like you, we can't stop her from kicking you out."

Eve tried not to let on how scared thar made her. If they were kicked out the moment Maya woke up, they were doomed. Neither of them were able to function as well as needed in this world. They'd be easy targets for demons who wanted to fight.

"I'm sure she won't be as cruel as to kick you guys out while you're hurt." Moca tried to reassure her.

Truth was, she didn't know if that was the case. They had discussed how they felt about the group after the rescue. Himari still seemed quite distrusting. Tsugumi was the only one who seemed to actually think they had changed for the better. Moca herself was conflicted.

"H-Hina. I-is she with Roselia?" Eve asked next.

"Yes. We were still there when they rescued her." Moca nodded, "She's doing well. We haven't told her about you guys being here."

"There hasn't been any news about our escape, has there?"

"Not that we've heard." Moca shook her head.

Eve let out a sigh, "It's hard... knowing that Chisato and Aya are... dead..."

"Are you positive?"

"Huh?"

"Did you see them die?" Moca questioned.

Eve shook her head, "No. But... Chisato was shot in the chest and arm by arrows..."

"And they could've been poisoned. That's what happened to... Maya here. The nick on her shoulder was full of poison."

Eve's eyes went wide as she quickly looked over at Maya. That was an alarming discovery.

"We had the antidote for that particular poison, so she'll be just fine." Moca said, "But that is worrying to know..."

"Yeah..."

"Moca? Are you coming to bed?"

Tsugumi came into the room. She smiled at Eve.

"Good to see you finally woke up."

She came and sat down next to Moca. Eve didn't feel worried about Tsugumi. She seemed nice.

"How long has it been?" Eve asked.

"We found you guys two days ago." Moca replied.

"Two... days?" Eve was shocked.

"Yeah. You both look pretty rough, so it wasn't that surprising." Tsugumi commented, "Do you want something to eat?"

Eve hesitantly nodded. Tsugumi moved to get back up, but Moca held her down.

"Why don't you check their wounds? I'll get her some food." Moca said.

"O-okay." Tsugumi agreed.

Moca left the room. Tsugumi didn't have much to look over for Eve. Eve really didn't have any injuries.

"Does anything hurt?" Tsugumi asked, "You didn't sprain anything running, did you?"

"No. I'm pretty good." Eve replied.

"Then I'll just focus on Maya."

"Um... she will be okay, right? The poison didn't do anything?" Eve questioned in worry.

"She should recover fully." Tsugumi replied, "I don't see why she wouldn't."

Eve let out a sigh of relief, "Good."

"Where are the other two of your group?"

"Most likely dead..."

"I'm so sorry. That must be hard."

"It should've been me..."

Tsugumi didn't know how to reply to that statement. Did she want to ask?

"You should be glad you're alive." Tsugumi stated, "Isn't it better?"

"Two of my closest friends are dead. Why should I keep living on?" Eve replied in a blank voice.

"But... but what about Hina and Maya? Aren't they worth living for?" Tsugumi questioned.

Tsugumi obviously wasn't aware of the feelings the two girls had for each other. Hina had confided in Sayo about it, but that was all. No one else knew yet.

Even if Tsugumi didn't know, hearing Hina's name struck Eve in the heart. Hina would be crushed if she died. That was... that was why she was alive. Because Chisato knew Hina needed her.

"Maybe..."

"Eve? I don't know what you're going through, but I'm here if you want to talk." Tsugumi stated.

Moca returned with a bowl. Soup was the easiest thing to eat right now for Eve. However, she wasn't steady enough to feed herself. Her hands shook with every movement.

"You've done enough for tonight, Moca. You can head to bed. I'll handle the rest." Tsugumi said.

"Okay." Moca kissed her on the cheek, "Just yell if you need any of us."

"I will." Tsugumi returned the kiss.

Moca left the room. Eve was staring at Tsugumi. Her eyes were wide from what she had just witnessed.

"Oh... yeah. Moca and I kinda started dating. I don't know if you really care, but there you go." Tsugumi seemed happy to talk about it.

"I... I love Hina... and she knows. I... don't know her answer, though." Eve mumbled.

"I'm sure she loves you back." Tsugumi replied, "Have faith."

Eve didn't seem very reassured by that. Tsugumi wasn't sure what else to say to help.

"Well, let me help you eat. You need to gain strength." Tsugumi decided it was probably best to just drop the topic for now.

"Okay." Eve was a little embarrassed to have to get help to eat. It wasn't like she could do anything about it, though.

...

That night, Maya stirred. Eve was cuddling against her. She had taken up that position out of the feeling of needing to protect Maya. They were vulnerable and at the mercy of Afterglow right now. She had to keep them both safe.

"Eve...?" Maya's voice was rough.

"M-Maya?" Eve jumped awake at the noise.

She was filled with relief to see Maya awake. That meant she hadn't been lied to. Maya was going to be okay.

"Where are we?" Maya questioned.

"In Afterglow's base. They found us and took us in." Eve explained, "Though... I'm not sure if we're very welcomed here yet."

"How are you doing?" Maya asked as she sat up.

"I'm okay. How are you? Apparently that bullet that grazed you was filled with poison. Thankfully they had an antidote to stop it."

"So that's why I was feeling weird..." Maya sighed, "I should've known they'd play dirty like that."

"We know they're dirty cheaters. But even we didn't assume they'd play like that." Eve replied.

"Eve, you don't get it. I know how they work. Because... that was supposed to be my job. They were training me to become one of those snipers. But... after I... lost my eyes... that obviously failed." Maya said, "I never brought up my past jobs because I didn't see a need to."

"It's okay. I mean, my job was going to be a medic for the higher-ups. Don't really know why they sent me to this group instead, though." Eve said.

"So that's how you know so much. I just thought that interested you."

"Well, it does. That's why they chose me." Eve replied.

They fell silent as they heart footsteps coming toward their location. Who was it going to be this time?

"So you're both awake now." It was Ran this time.

"Yes. Um..." Eve wasn't sure what else to say.

"Himari wanted to talk to you both once you woke up. I'll be going to get her."

Eve gulped. From what Moca had said, it didn't sound like Himari was all that fond of them. What if this was it? What if they were going to be kicked out? Or worse... what if she ordered them to be killed?

"Eve? You seem scared." Maya said.

Eve let out a shakey breath, "Himari doesn't seem to like us."

"Oh... you think she'll kick us out now?"

"I don't know. I'm scared she will, though." Eve replied.

Himari didn't take long to arrive. Ran was beside her. Himari was staring down Eve and Maya with a cold gaze. She didn't seem happy to have them here.

"H-hi?" Eve nervously said.

"Moca told me you said you escaped the organization." Himari said, "Do you truly denounce them?"

"Yes." Eve stated, "We've known they're corrupt since day one. But, failure to comply meant death. We just... we're always too afraid to speak out against them until now."

"Yeah. They tried to kill Hina. We couldn't work for them as easily. Not after knowing they'd dispose of us without a second thought." Maya added.

"And she said the other two may be dead." Himari said.

Eve sighed and nodded, "Yes... Aya was shot. We didn't see her so we don't know where or how severe it was. Chisato was struck by two arrows. One right below her heart and one in her arm. Seeing as Maya's bullet was poisoned, it may be likely theirs were too."

Himari sighed, "I still don't know how much I trust you, but seeing the shape you're in, it would be cruel to throw you out on your own. You will be allowed to stay. But, if you so much as make me think you're suspicious I will not hesitate to kick you out."

"Thank you. We'll be on our best behavior." Eve promised.

"Um... do you know anything about our escape? Have they said anything?" Maya asked.

"Yes. That all four of you were executed privately." Ran stated, "Seeing as you two are alive, I am having my doubts that the other two were killed."

"You think?" Eve asked, her eyes wide.

"Yes. Knowing what we do, they wouldn't disposs of your friends while you two can still be alive. They'd want to make sure you're dead too. But, it confuses me why they'd say those two are dead." Ran said.

"Maybe so the general public doesn't panic?" Himari suggested, "Maybe they will send someone to try and kidnap you guys? Or somehow get a message saying if you don't return they will kill your friends."

"I... I hope they're alive."

"Shall we tell Hina of you guys? Roselia must've heard the news by now. We should try to ease Hina's worry." Ran suggested.

"Yes. Tell her. And we'd like to meet with her if you wouldn't mind. We... need to discuss things now that we're runaways." Maya said.

"Who do you want to go?" Ran asked Himari.

Himari thought it over, "I'll go myself."

"Okay."

"Why don't you go help Tomoe cook? I bet Maya is starving." Himari prompted.

"Of course." Ran nodded and left the room.

Himari looked over Eve. Eve felt intimidated.

"Is there anything I should tell Roselia or RAS?" Himari asked.

"RAS are still with Roselia?" Maya questioned.

"Yes. They don't have an actual base, so Roselia allowed them to remain." Himari nodded.

"Um... just tell them all we're alive. And, that they should be wary. They'll know we would've gone to find Roselia. They are most likely being actively hunted more than ever before now." Eve said.

"Alright. I shall do that. Rest up. You'll need to recover as fast as you can. I doubt we'll get the luxury of peace. Not if they're coming for you."

"I'm sorry we dragged you all into this." Eve apologized.

"No need. We chose to help you. We could've left you out there. And I could've ordered them to toss you out when they brought you here. We're willing to take the risk as long as you prove you are fully on the rebellion's side." Himari replied.

"Thank you. We'll do what we can to help as repayment."

"I'll head out now. If they are actively being hunted down, we must warn them as soon as possible."

"Stay safe. Who knows how fast they move." Maya called as Himari started to leave.

"Thank you. I'll make sure to stay in the shadows." Himari promised.

Chapter Text

Himari was very swift in her journey to Roselia's base. Thankfully she did not see any organization demons around. Looks like they still had a bit of time before they came here. That gave them a small chance to get ready. They needed all the time they could get to prepare for the inevitable demons coming around.

"Himari? What brings you here?" She encountered Rei and Lisa patrolling their territory.

"I have urgent news for you all." Himari replied.

"Come on, then. Everyone should be at the base still." Lisa said.

They quickly made their way to the house. Everyone else was still there. They gathered to hear what exactly Himari had to tell them. Everyone was a bit on edge. After everything that had been going down, they had a right to be.

"So, as you probably know, the rest of Pastel*Palettes has betrayed the organization. However, the news is a lie. Maya and Eve are with us. Unfortunately they did say the other two were shot. We don't know if those two do live." Himari started off with that.

Hina burst into tears. She was relieved to know at least two of them were still alive. But Eve and Maya were the only ones accounted for. Chisato and Aya were probably dead. That hurt a lot.

"Shh... let it out." Sayo pulled her into a tight hug, "I'm sorry, Hina..."

"We have belief they aren't dead, but we can't confirm it, unfortunately. But, since Eve and Maya are escapees, they will be hunted. And, you guys are who they'll search for. They know about your connection, so they'll be hunting you down." Himari continued.

"Very well. We will be ready." Yukina stated.

"Hina, they would like you to come visit them." Himari said, "They are too weak to go out, so you would have to come to them."

"I'm coming with her." Sayo stated.

"Of course. That's fine." Himari didn't argue with that.

"Can we go now?" Hina asked, "I need to see them again."

"If that's all you have to say, then let's go." Sayo said.

"Alright. We can go."

They didn't speak during the trip back. It felt a little awkward. Himari wasn't even sure what she would say to them. This really wasn't the time to try and make small talk.

Thankfully it wasn't a long walk back. Himari brought them to the room where the two runaways were at. Hina started crying again as she fell to her knees in front of them and pulled them into a hug.

"Hina-" Eve gasped, "Too tight."

Hina loosened her grip a bit, but didn't let either of them go. Maya returned the hug. Eve did too once she saw Maya do it. At least the three of them were together again. If only the other two were with them...

Hina doubted they were alive. Why would they be? They had done one of the worst things you could do. Death was the only punishment for those who tried to escape. She was a very rare case.

"How are you doing, Hina?" Maya questioned.

"I'm okay..."

"It's okay, Hina. We're all suffering knowing Chisato and Aya may be dead." Eve whispered.

"Are you staying?" Himari asked Sayo.

"For now. Just until we figure out what we'll be doing about those two." Sayo replied.

"Alright. Should we let them have time alone?"

"I guess."

"Come with me. We can discuss what we should do about the threats."

"Alright."

Sayo and Himari left the room. The three girls didn't notice or care.

"Eve?" Hina looked at her, "Um... I um... don't know what to... say..."

She wanted to tell her she loved her too, but it was awkward now. Was this really the right time to do this?

"Aya told you about my feelings... I know." Eve looked away, "I'm sorry... I was always told feelings got in the way so I... I never told you..."

"I... I love you too." Hina stated.

Eve looked at her in shock. Did she hear that right? Hina actually loved her back? This was a dream come true.

"Hina..." Eve felt tears forming in her eyes.

"Um... I don't know of this is the right time to confess... but I needed you to know." Hina offered with a shakey smile.

"I'm happy. I love you so much." Eve tightened her grip on Hina.

"Hey! You're making me a third-wheel here!" Maya stated.

"Oops. Sorry, Maya." Both of them backed off a bit.

"Anyway... Aya and Chisato are... dead?" Hina asked.

"We don't know." Maya replied, "They were both shot. And we suspect the bullets were laced with poison."

"You don't think the report is true?"

"Hina, they said all of us were dead. Why would we believe it?" Eve asked.

"I just... don't know why they'd still have them alive..." Hina mumbled.

"Simple. To get us back." Maya stated, "They know we'll do anything to save them. And we will. But we'll be prepared for their traps when we do."

"So... you think they are alive and... will be used as blackmail?"

"Yep."

...

The three of them stayed close, seeking comfort in each other. Even though they had confessed, neither of them were very happy. The atmosphere was still dull knowing their friends were in very big danger.

"I... kinda hoped they did just kill them. Instead of making them suffer." Hina admitted.

"I understand that feeling. I think we all wished that when we ran." Eve replied, "But, I think they'd want to stay alive so they could be with us again."

"Yeah. I know if I survived the shots, I'd definitely fight to live." Maya agreed.

Hina didn't reply. Both of them knew why. It was no secret that Hina had truly been ready to die when she had been taken as prisoner. Hearing how everyone else would have tried to live on was hard.

"Hina, it's okay. You know... if you had been killed, I may not have had the will to run. I don't want to imagine life without you." Eve said, trying to help her out a bit.

Hina looked at Eve, "I'm that important to you?"

Eve nodded, "Yes. I'd do anything to be by your side. If that was impossible, I don't know that I'd want to live any longer."

"Hey. Hate to interrupt you guys, but I need to speak to Hina." Sayo entered the room.

"What's up, onee-chan?" Hina asked.

"I would like to return back to Roselia. You are free to remain here. But, would you mind if I left?" Sayo asked.

"I... I guess..." Hina mumbled.

"If you want me to stay, I will. Himari said it's okay that I remain with you."

"I don't want to take you away from them..."

"Hina," Sayo got level with her, "You are more important to me than them. I want what's best for you."

"How much more important is she?" Maya asked in curiosity.

Sayo looked at her, "Enough that I'd betray them if it meant keeping Hina safe."

"Oh wow. That's a lot." Maya commented.

"That is the power of family." Eve replied.

"Indeed. I can guarantee Tomoe would also do the same if Ako was in danger."

"It must be nice... having your siblings with you..."

"Maya?" Eve asked in worry, "Are you... oh... right..."

"Huh?" Sayo asked.

"Maya um... had siblings, but they were murdered in front of her when she was little." Hina explained quietly, making sure Maya couldn't hear her.

"Oh..." Sayo frowned, "Maya, I am sorry if discussion of family made you uncomfortable. I will try to avoid that from now on."

"Really? No one else cares..."

"Maya, you know those stupid demons wanted to make you upset. Sayo is nice. She won't want that." Eve said.

"I just can't believe it after how long it's been..."

"The organization has really traumatized you all, hasn't it?" Sayo asked.

Eve nodded, "You could say that."

"The stuff you witness there never goes away." Maya added, "Even now that I can't see, the sounds stay embedded in my mind."

"Seeing how bad Rinko got from it... I can assume that it how everyone is."

"Huh? What do you mean?" Eve asked.

"Right... you were not aware. Rinko worked for the organization herself, but was kicked out for being weak." Sayo said.

"Really? I would have never guessed that."

"Not many people would."

"So... you'll stay here then, onee-chan?" Hina returned them to the original topic.

Sayo nodded, "If that is what you need, then yes."

"I'd like if you would stay here."

"Then I will."

...

A few days had passed. Things had slowly gotten better. The organization was nearby now, obviously searching for the girls. Roselia was doing well to keep them off track from finding them at all. That could cause a lot of problems if they were found.

However, something important came from this. Tomoe was the one to deliver the news to them all.

"Aya and Chisato are alive. They will be killed in two weeks if you guys don't willingly turn yourselves in."

"T-they're alive?!"

That was good news to everyone. But it would be tough to break them out. They would need to work fast. Unfortunately that was tough to do. They had to make sure everything was foolproof or else all could be lost during this mission.

They couldn't just surrender and break out then. They knew that was a stupid idea. They probably wouldn't even make it back. The organization very well may have ordered they be killed the moment they are captured.

"Alright. This mission has to be small. We can't take many demons. We need to be fast."

"I think only us three should go. We got them into this mess one way or another. We have to get them out of it too."

"And plus, we know the base the best. We can be quick. We can hide in places others might miss."

No one was on board with that idea. Considering all three of them were recovering from their injuries, that sounded like a death wish. But, the three girls were very adamant that this was something they had to do alone. No one could talk them out of it.

Even offers of having some extras come just to the outside of the base were shot down. No one was coming with them any distance if the way. Sayo was the one who disliked that the most.

She had just gotten Hina back. She didn't want to risk losing her again. Especially when she wouldn't get to see her again. If they died there, no one would ever see their bodies. They wouldn't get any honorable burial. They'd be tossed out like trash.

And yet, nothing could deter them from going alone. They had made up their minds. This was something they had to do. And so that was what they were going to do.

They didn't have any time to lose, they immediately set out as soon as they could. They journey would be long, seeing as none of them had wings to fly with. But they refused even transportation there.

It was truly just them.

Chapter Text

"Ow."

"What?"

"I stepped on a sharp rock."

"Let me see."

The journey was not going very well. The clothes they had were not the best. The terrain was really getting to them.

Should they have asked for help. Probably. But, they were too proud to ask for it. This was their problem. They couldn't drag anyone else into it. That wouldn't be fair to them.

"So... this is going well..." Maya sighed as Eve checked out her foot.

"Hey, it could be worse." Eve responded, "We could be getting chased down."

"Don't jinx us, Eve." Hina whined.

"Sorry." Eve apologized, "I'm just trying to find ways to be positive about this."

"I don't know that we can make this positive at all." Maya grumbled, wincing as Eve touched the cut.

"They're alive. That's a positive." Eve stated.

But was it really? They had no idea how bad the two girls were. They could already be on their deathbed as it was and they wouldn't know until they got there. Even if they rescued them, that didn't mean they'd live. It was bad not knowing that.

"Can you walk?" Eve asked.

Maya tried, "Ow! No... it hurts..."

"Alright. I'll carry you then." Eve picked her up.

"Stupid terrain..." Maya grumbled, "I hate not being able to see..."

"I bet." Hina replied, "There's only so much you can do to try and determine your surroundings without it."

"At least we have a doctor in our group."

"I'm not really that good..." Eve mumbled.

"Eh? You are, though. You seem to know how to handle any injury we get!" Hina protested, "How are you not good?"

Eve blushed at the compliment, "Well... I just always feel like I can't do enough to help..."

"That's not true. You do more than enough." Hina insisted.

"I... I'm glad you think so."

...

"Have you found the other three?"

"No, but they should have gotten our message. They'll be on their way here as we speak."

"Good."

Aya and Chisato didn't like the sound of that. They had no idea what they were talking about. They were being left in the dark.

"Do you... do you think they told them something to make them come rescue us?" Aya asked quietly.

"I fear that may be the case." Chisato replied.

"What do we do?" Aya asked next, her voice cracking in fear.

"Stay alive. Try to stay out of anymore harm." Chisato said, "If they are coming, we must be as good as we can. We can't slow them down too much or else we will all die."

"I see..."

"It'll be alright, Aya. I promise we will get out alive."

...

"Okay. I see the base. Let's rest here and think up a plan." Hina stated.

"Okay. I'm gonna put you down, Maya."

"Kay."

The three of them sat down. Eve took another look at Maya's foot.

"So, how do we get in?"

"I don't know. We never really went into this place."

"We have to scout it out then."

"But that's really risky!"

They were at odds about what to do. They needed to get a better look at the building, but it would be littered with guards. They could easily get caught with one wrong move. But they didn't know the layout at all.

"There has to be something else we can do..." Eve sighed.

Unfortunately no one had any other ideas. Without any knowledge of the base, there was little else they could do. They could possibly just go for it, but that would probably end in disaster.

"Is there really no other way?"

"It doesn't seem like it..."

"How do they do their rounds? Maybe we can sneak in during a shift change when they'll be occupied?" Maya suggested.

"But we don't know the layout and that won't be enough time." Hina protested.

This was a disaster. No matter what they brought up, it just didn't work. They needed to know the layout of the building. But that seemed impossible to learn now.

...

"Chisato?"

"Shh..."

"I got a chain undone."

"What?"

"I almost have the other one. I think we can get out."

"Be very careful. If they find out, we'll be dead before we know it."

"I will."

...

The three girls still had no clue what to do. As of now, they were hiding. They couldn't be spotted until they came up with a good plan. And that seemed impossible at the moment.

"Who even knows about this place?" Hina sighed.

"Only the top demons evwn have a chance of working here. No one we know would have the info we need." Maya replied.

"We have to think of something. We can't just let them die." Hina stated.

"Hina... I'm really sorry, but if we can't think of a way to do this, we will have to retreat." Maya said, "It's way too risky to go in without a plan."

"We can't abandon them!" Hina protested, "They need us."

"Hina, please calm down." Eve said, "I know it's hard... this isn't what we want either. But, risking our lives foolishly won't solve anything."

"I'm not leaving until they're out."

"You're going to be very stubborn about this, aren't you?"

"Yes. I'm not giving up."

"Hina, there's really nothing we can do. If we can't navigate, we can't get in and out easily. We don't even know where they're being held at." Maya stated.

"We can chance it. I know we can."

"We aren't, Hina. It's too risky." Eve said, "It's better we live than all of us die. We should just go."

"No. I'm not going unless we get them out or we know they're dead." Hina huffed.

Hina really wasn't going to budge until she had to. They were her friends. She couldn't just leave them to die without trying to save them. But... what could she do?

...

"Alright. Do you remember the way they brought us in?"

"Yeah. Are we gonna run that way?"

"Yes."

Aya and Chisato had managed to get out of the restraints. They were now planning their escape. It was going to be tough since they were both injured. But, it was either this or they'd die. At least now they had a chance at getting free.

"Ready?" Chisato asked.

Aya nodded, "Ready."

They had unlocked the door as well. Thankfully, it didn't make a sound as they opened it. They both peered around the corner to look for any guards. At the moment, the coast was clear. That was good for them.

"Three... two... one."

At the end of the countdown, they booked it the way they had been brought in. They didn't run into an guards until they got to the entrance.

"Aya! Here!" Chisato pulled Aya to an open window and they jumped out.

Gunshots whizzed past them as they both ran for their lives. Both of them were in considerable pain from their wounds. Running was definitely not helping them at all. But the pain was temporary. It would go away. Being desd wasn't. They had to keep going.

An alarm started blaring, alerting everyone to the escape. Now even more guard were on their tail. This was hard. How did they lose them? They weren't in any condition to take down that many guards. They'd be easily overwhelmed if they tried.

Thankfully, the other three weren't far away. The moment they heard the alarm, they went running to see what was happening. They spotted the two girls running for their lives.

"Five demons are chasing them. I think we can take them. Just be wary. They're armed with guns and who knows what else." Eve stated.

"Go!"

The three of them joined the battle and stopped the demons from continuing their pursuit. Aya and Chisato didn't stop running. They kept going until they were safely hidden. It was best to hide out until they handled the rest.

The three girls were struggling a bit to take down the demons. They were all pretty tough opponents. But, they were slowly pushing back and getting them down. It just took a considerable amount of time.

Thankfully, no other demons came to join the fight. They were far enough away no one spotted them. That was a big relief. They weren't sure how many of these demons they coukd handle before getting to tired to fight anymore.

"Let's go find them and get out of here. This peace will be short lived." Maya stated.

"They should be hiding. It would be the safest thing to do." Eve replied, "Let's just go into the woods and see if they'll come out."

Eve led the way. It didn't take long to find them. While they were hidden, they were also panting a lot. It kind of gave them away.

"Guys, we're here." Eve said.

"Are we safe?" Aya asked.

"For now." Maya replied, "They won't give up the search that easily."

"Yeah." Hina added, "So we should really get out of here fast. Can you guys walk?"

"I think so." The two of them finally came out of the hiding place.

"We can take it slow once we're a bit farther out of range. We can't stay anywhere near here."

They couldn't go as fast as they would have liked to, but it was still considerably fast for the two injured demons. They were both struggling to keep up.

"This isn't working." Hina stated, "I think you two should go first so we don't accidentally get too far ahead."

"Okay..."

The two of them moved up to the front. They all continued onward. They were still too close to the base to relax at all. They were easily in range to be spotted during a patrol.

"Where are we going to head to?" Aya asked.

"It depends on the route we end up taking." Maya replied, "It will either be to Afterglow's base or Roselia's. It just depends on which path we end up going."

"Alright." Aya was satisfied with that, "Can we stop soon?"

"Not yet. They have a lot of demons. This distance will be nothing for them to cover quickly." Eve shook her head.

And so they continued onward again. Eventually, they found a small cave that they took shelter in. Hopefully it would protect them enough for now.

"How are you guys doing?" Eve asked, "We didn't bring anything with us, so I can't really help much if you're in pain."

"It's nothing too bad. We'll be fine." Chisato stated.

"We can rest for a bit and then continue."

...

As night fell, they made it to Roselia's base. Unfortunately, there had been some organization members around and they had to dodge them. They didn't like having to stay with them as it was very crowded in the house.

"Ah! You guys are back!" Ako was the first to spot them as they approached.

"Do you need any medical attention?" Lisa asked.

"It would be best to look your wounds over." Eve said.

They entered the house. Lisa got to work examining Aya and Chisato's wounds. Eve helped as well.

Their wounds were not too bad. They just had to redo the bandages already on their wounds. It seemed the organization didn't want them to die from those wounds.

"So, what do we do with them, Yukina?" Sayo questioned, "I don't think there's enough space for everyone to stay here."

"We can rearrange some things. I'm sure we will find space." Yukina replied.

"So... now they're going to be looking for us even more than before." Chu2 stated, "They'll assume they came here."

"There's not much we can do about that." Pareo said, "They're our allies."

"I know. But, things are going to get more chaotic."

"At least their group is no more. They don't have their personal assassins now." Masuki added, "We have that going for us."

"Unless they make another group." Rei deflected that point.

"Do you think they will?" Lisa asked the girls.

"It is not... impossible." Chisato stated, "There are many demons like us there. They can choose whoever they want and make another group."

"But how can they make sure they won't disobey like you guys did?" Rokka questioned.

"They have many tricks up their sleeves. They'll find a way." Maya said, "Never underestimate them. They'll play as dirty as can be if it means winning."

"Guess we'll just have to wait and see." Yukina stated, "Only time will tell what happens."

"Should someone go tell Afterglow they're okay?" Ako asked.

"That is a good idea." Sayo agreed, "We should make sure they aren't worrying about them any more than they have to be."

"Who will go?"

"Ako, why don't you take Rinko and go do that?" Yukina said.

"Okay!" Ako nodded and went to go fetch Rinko from her room.

"Masuki, Rei, could you help make some room for them to rest? They're going to need a place to sleep." Chu2 said, "Just depends where you want them to go, Yukina."

"Seeing as Ako doesn't use her room anymore, I think if we move her stuff to Rinko's room, we can use that as their place." Yukina decided.

"Alright. Let's go do that then."

All was calm for now. But, how long would that last for?

Chapter Text

"Welcome. You all are aware why you are here. You will be replacing our old group. Now, let me make this very clear. If you disobey, you will die. We implanted bombs into you. They will explode at the press of a button. Do not try us. Now, state your names and your old roles. So you may know each other."

"Mashiro Kurata. Spy."

"Rui Nashio. Weapon maker."

"Touko Kirigaya. Worker."

"Nanami Hiromachi. Guard."

"Tsukushi Futaba. I... I just joined yesterday."

"Good. Now, get ready. I want you after them as soon as possible."

The five girls left the room. They were using the space Pastel*Palettes used before they ran away.

"So, we were chosen..." Nanami started the conversation, "I... I don't like this."

"I don't think any of us do." Rui replied, "But, you heard what the boss said. We disobey, we go boom."

"That's scary! I don't like it!" Mashiro said.

"They always play cruel games with everyone." Nanami stated, "It's just how it is."

"U-um... I'm lost... what do you mean?" Tsukushi questioned.

"They don't care what happens to you. You can be replaced at a whim. Don't get cocky with the higher ups if you value your life." Rui stated.

"Oh..." Tsukushi gulped. That didn't sound good at all.

"So, we're a group... we need a name." Touko stated.

"Hmm..." Everyone thought over a name.

They would have to come up with one sooner or later anyway. They might as well get a bit of a head start on it now.

Unfortunately, no one was coming up with anything right away. They would have to give it more thought for now.

"So, what should we do?"

"I guess we can get to know each other."

"Who wants to go first?"

"Well, Tsukushi, correct? You just joined. Why?"

Tsukushi gulped, "Well... it was either this or death..."

"I see."

"I'll go next. I'm Nanami." Nanami stated, "I worked at a smaller base as a guard. They decided I was tougher than what they needed down there and moved me up here. I've been in the organization since birth."

"My name's Touko. I've also been here since birth. This is the biggest job I've had. I've only done lowly tasks." Touko went next.

"Rui. I specialize in creating new weapons to aid them in conquering those who disobey."

"I'm Mashiro. I'm from a family of spies who've worked for the organization for decades."

"Now that we know each other a bit better, we should plan our attack."

"We're going after Pastel*Palettes, right?" Mashiro asked.

"Yes. They think they're with Roselia. Currently they have demons searching for leads to confirm their location for us." Nanami nodded.

"Are we taking them alive or dead?" Tsukushi questioned.

"They haven't decided yet. Most likely dead, though."

"I've never killed before..." Tsukushi gulped.

"Has anyone here done that?" Nanami questioned, "I haven't."

"No." Touko shook her head.

"I make weapons to kill, but I've never used one myself." Rui stated.

"I have." Mashiro said, "Twice. They were assassination missions of rebels."

"So you have the most grasp on what we're doing."

"Yes... but I don't want to do it. Those rebels were different. They... they were just trying to rule a town... not the whole world..."

"Oh... so you don't know much about a rebellion of this scale?"

"No... and... maybe I want them to win." Mashiro knew that was a very risky thing to admit.

Everyone seemed to be in agreement with her words. While they couldn't openly support them, they did all wish the rebellion would win. They hated the organization and how corrupt it had become.

"What do you think... the rebels would do if they took control?" Nanami nervously glanced at some guards walking around near them.

"I can't imagine good things would come from it." Rui replied.

"Yeah. They might kill anyone who doesn't follow them immediately if they win." Touko said.

They had to play along with how the organization viewed the rebels, lest they be killed for treachery. Thankfully, it seemed the guards were not concerned by their conversation and left.

"Okay... we need to only discuss that stuff in private." Nanami let out a sigh of relief.

"What would happen if they heard us talk good about the rebels?" Tsukushi questioned.

"We'd be accused of transpiring against the organization. Most likely that would end with us dying somehow." Rui replied.

Tsukushi didn't like that, "I really don't like being here..."

"None of us really do." Touko said, "We're all forced to work for them or risk death as well."

"Anyway, let's just... relax. Until we get our mission."

...

The organization was keeping their new group a heavily guarded secret. No one outside the main base was aware this group existed now. It was going to remain that way until they attacked.

They couldn't risk any of the rebels knowing about the group and planning ahead. They needed to keep it as a very big surprise.

It was working. None of the groups knew of the new members the organization had. They were all still on guard, though. They were wary of them doing so soon.

"Alright. Patrol is done!"

"Nothing strange?"

"Nope. Just some animals passing through."

"Good."

Lisa and Sayo were currently patrolling their territory. They had stepped up patrols a lot recently since they couldn't trust the organization at all. They would definitely play dirty, so they had to be on alert at all times.

"You know... I don't really feel relieved. They're being too quiet." Sayo stated.

"Yeah... you have a point." Lisa agreed, "It's strange we haven't had any issues yet."

"I wonder what exactly they're planning."

"Who knows. We should head back."

"Alright."

They took a slow walk back to the house. It was still unsettling to be out. With no updates on the organization, they didn't feel safe.

"You're back." Yukina greeted them as they returned.

"Yep. Nothing out of the ordinary." Lisa replied.

"Still?"

"Yes. It's still completely silent." Sayo nodded.

"It's starting to worry me. They should not be this quiet after everything that's just happened."

"I know. All we can do is stay on alert."

"Did they leave already?" Lisa was looking around the house.

"Yes. The five of them have gone to stay with Afterglow. They left just before you returned." Yukina replied.

It was far too crowded for three groups to stay at Roselia's base. Afterglow offered to house Patel*Palettes as they had more space to offer them. There were no complaints, so that had finally happened.

"Well, come sit. We were discussing plans for more attacks."

"Okay."

...

"Do you have a group name yet?"

"No. We can't decide on one."

"Then I'll choose. I'll name your group... Morfonica. I will not explain the name."

"Okay, sir."

"Anyway, we have found a location of part of the rebels. I want you to go and... burn it. Take them hostage or kill them. I do not care. They are not who I want alive."

"Okay, sir. When should we go?"

"Go to the weapons, get the weapons I have chosen for you, and meet me in my office. I will give you the location then."

"Yes, sir!"

Things were about to get very complicated once again. The five girls had their first mission.

They went to go get their weapons. Everyone was anxious.

"I'm really scared. These rebels have all proven to be very tough... I don't want to die." Tsukushi said.

"Yeah... I doubt we'll be spared... they probably wouldn't trust us at all like they seemed to have done with Pastel*Palettes." Touko agreed.

"And we can't be nice or else we'll go boom." Mashiro sighed.

"The bombs in us are scary." Rui stated, "They..
Could use us as bombs instead of demons. For all we know they'll just kill us and hope it takes out someone along with us."

"Now that you say that... I'm worried too."

"I hope they don't do that."

"Unfortunately we can't put it past them. They don't care about us."

"Do you think there might be a way to remove the bombs inside us?"

"We could ask. Act like we want to know in case someone were to try it against our will."

"Let's do that then."

They got their weapons. They were supplied with a gun and a knife each. There were slight distinctions of each weapon so they could tell whose was whose.

Now it was time to get their mission. They filed into the room. The boss was waiting for them.

"Any last questions before I send you out?" He asked.

"Um... one. So... these bombs in us. If we were to get captured by chance and they discovered it... what would happen if they tried to remove it from our body?" Mashiro questioned.

"Well, I suppose it depends. If they don't disconnect it before cutting it out, it'll go off. Disconnecting it is very difficult to do without the main control panel I have here."

"I see."

"Anything else?"

"No."

"Then allow me to show you where this base is at."

Chapter Text

"Are you sure this is the right way?"

"Yeah. They said head straight from the camp exit back there."

"The forest seems untouched. I'm questioning if they were right."

"I don't believe we are on their territory yet."

"Still..."

The five new organization assasins were currently attempting to locate the base they had been given the direction to. However, they didn't think they were on the right track.

"They said it's on a mountain."

"Do you see any fucking mountains?"

"Language."

"Sorry... I'm just getting stressed out."

"I think we all are."

"Maybe if we climb a tree we could possibly see it from here?"

"I guess it's worth a shot."

"So... who wants to climb?"

That question was met with silence. Not having wings made balancing a bit harder for them all. It was always risky climbing things. But, someone probably needed to take that risk so they could confirm if they were going the right direction.

"I'll do it. I've had a lot of training on how to be nimble without wings." Mashiro eventually spoke up. With her training as a spy, she knew how to work without her wings better than the others.

"Be careful."

"I will." Mashiro carefully started making her way up a tree.

She had done this a few times before. She sort of knew what she was doing at this point. It still made her terrified, though. Every time a branch she grabbed bent a little too much, her heart pounded.

Thankfully, she made it to the top. She balanced herself on the trunk and looked around. She spotted the mountains that they had been told about. That meant they were going the right way.

Now, the harder part, getting back down. Her feet would apply way more pressure to the branches than her hands did. This was even more nervewracking. But, she made it back down without falling.

"I saw the mountains. We're on the right track. We should get there within a day I think." Mashiro reported her findings.

"Then let's keep moving. We don't want them to think we're taking too long."

They still didn't know too many details about the bombs in them. Did they come with a tracker? How far was the range?

It kept them on their toes. If they were too slow, they feared the organization might take it as betrayal and make them go off. They were terrified of the consequences of not being fast enough at their jobs now.

So, they quickly continued onward. They couldn't risk anything as it was.

"Do you think... they could help us?" Nanami asked, "I mean... yeah, the bombs are hard to extract, but... maybe they could do it?"

"I don't know that they'd take the risk." Tsukushi commented.

"You don't think they'd want us?"

"They have Pastel*Palettes already. Why would they need us?"

"True..."

...

The next day they came up to the house. They nervously scanned the area.

"That girl is the leader. Well, they think."

"That girl? Red streak?"

"Yeah. They said she seems most likely to be the leader."

"I don't know... she doesn't seem to be taking charge here."

"Well, it was only a guess on their part."

"Guys... they're here."

Pastel*Palettes was with Afterglow permanently. As such, they were now helping out around the place.

"This is gonna be tough."

"Alright. The order was to burn the place. We can kill or take hostages. Probably we can let them go too since they aren't the main group."

"Who should do what?"

"Mashiro, you have the most experience with this."

"Let me see..." Mashiro looked around and took in the house, "Weak point would be entrances. Burn as many as you can to leave few escapes."

"There's only the front door and one window."

"Two people do it. The rest will attack those running out."

"Alright."

None of them really wanted to do this. They didn't want to hurt them. Ruin the one chance they had at possibly being free. But, they had no choice. They would die if they didn't.

And so, Rui and Touko went and lit the fire. Mashiro, Nanami, and Tsukushi stood back and waited for them to run out. And that they did. But the five girl pounced on them and started fighting them.

"Who are you?!" Chisato demanded as she met head-on with Touko.

"The new group. We're called Morfonica. And we're here to eliminate you." Touko stated.

"They made a new group already, huh?" Chisato growled, "Then bring it on."

...

"Guys! There's smoke coming from the direction of Afterglow's base!"

"Smoke? We should investigate."

Roselia and RAS were concerned as they saw the smoke rising into the sky. They quickly gathered themselves and went to see what was going on.

They were very shocked by what they saw. They battle was fierce and bloody. The fire raging beside them was not comforting at all.

"Attack."

They joined in the fight. That made the girls unnerved. This was too many. Too many for their first mission.

"Let this be a warning. We know where you are. We will be back with reinforcements." Rui threatened.

They retreated, however, Mashiro got stopped by Rei. She gulped as she was quickly surrounded.

"U-um..." Mashiro didn't know how to talk her way out of this, "I..."

"We'll take her prisoner. I guess we're all regrouping at our base again."

"N-no! T-that's a bad idea! I assure you you would rather let me go than take me hostage!" Mashiro pleaded. She didn't know if they could control the bomb from here. They would find out soon enough she was taken. What if they blew her up? What then?

"Yeah, like we'll listen to that."

Mashiro gulped as she was drug back to Roselia's base. She was tied up and locked away in a room. She was scared.

...

"Guys... wait."

The other four stopped running.

"Mashiro didn't follow. I... think they have her."

"We have to go back for her!"

"Are you stupid? They'll kill us if we do! We... we have to think this through."

"But... what if they kill her?"

"Unfortunately it's a risk we just have to accept."

"B-but..."

...

"So, you're going to tell me what I want to know."

Yukina had come in to start questioning her.

"I... I need to tell you something!" Mashiro said frantically, "I... I have a bomb implanted in me! If they find out I'm here, they may set it off. Please... please just let me go... I don't want to die..."

Mashiro had started crying. She feared for her life.

"A... bomb?" Yukina knelt beside her, "Where?"

"I don't know... he wouldn't say where it was..."

"I'll be right back." Yukina left the room.

She returned moments later with Chu2 and Maya.

"You said she had a bomb in her?"

"That's what she told me."

"They've done it before." Chu2 stated, "It was how my parents got workers to behave. One too many writeups and you got a bomb in you."

"Any idea where it is? She doesn't know."

"The right collarbone is normally the place they go."

"Can we check it somehow without having to cut her open?"

"Shouldn't there be a scar?"

"True. Is there no scar?"

Mashiro shrugged, "I haven't noticed one."

Chu2 approached and pulled down her shirt to look. She felt the area.

"I feel an unusual lump. I think it's here."

"B-but... if you mess up disarming it it'll go off. Please... I don't want to take that risk." Mashiro returned to begging.

"Maya knows how to disarm it. You'll be fine." Yukina stated.

Maya came over to her, "I know I can't see, but I've worked with these bombs even after losing my eyes. I know what to do. Do you trust me?"

Mashiro nodded.

"Then I'm going to do that. Obviously it'll hurt a lot, so I'm going to have to knock you out for it."

"How?"

"This pill." Chu2 held out her hand.

Mashiro took a deep breath, "Okay."

She was untied and given the pill. As soon as she was asleep, Chu2 started opening her up. Once she had done that, she guided Maya's hands to the bomb and stepped back. Maya did the rest, disarming it and removing it from her body.

Chu2 sealed her up again.

"Her scar will be very noticeable." Chu2 stated.

"How did they hide it so well?" Yukina questioned.

"They have access to the best doctors and medicine. They probably have something that can do that." Maya paused, "Maybe Eve knows? She was training as a doctor for a while."

"Let's ask her. Chu2, I ask that you watch her. You know more about this stuff."

"I will." Chu2 agreed.

A few minutes later, Eve came in with a messy bowl of something. She sat down next to Mashiro.

"This is the mixture that should remove the scar." Eve explained to Chu2.

"Go ahead. Let's see if it works."

Eve carefully applied it onto the wound. In minutes, it looked as if nothing had happened.

"Wow... that worked really fast."

"Yeah. I didn't think it would be that fast."

"So, what now? Are we sending her back or are we keeping her?" Chu2 asked, "Have we decided yet?"

"I think we're keeping her for now. The bomb's signal was cut when we disarmed it. That means they'll think it went off and she's dead."

"Right. Guess we have another member now."

"From what I heard, I think she'll cooperate. She was just terrified for her life early." Eve said.

"I hope she will. I'd hate for us to have to abandon her alone. Because if she gets spotted now, something tells me she'll be executed on the spot."

"Why? Wouldn't it be good she is still alive?"

"How can they know if she betrayed them?"

"Oh... right..."

"What about her friends? Do you think we should try to contact them and let them know she's safe?" Eve asked.

"I don't know. It depends on how loyal they are."

"Do you think they're loyal?"

Chu2 shrugged, "I can't say."

"I guess for now all we can do is wait."

...

The four girls made it back to the camp they were told to go to. They were scared. What would they think if they knew Mashiro was captured?

The demons there seemed to be waiting for them.

"Kurata is dead?" One of them questioned, "Her signal from the tracking is gone."

That confirmed to everyone that the bombs had trackers in them. That made everything even more terrifying. They would know exactly where they were at all times. The range seemed very good.

"She was captured as we fled. We were overwhelmed and did not have a proper plan to continue that fight. We don't know what they did to her." Tsukushi answered.

"Did you hear an explosion at any point?"

"Yes. We can't confirm it was her, but we did hear one." Rui stated.

They hadn't heard anything. But, that might mean Mashiro was alive. And that she was safe. That the bomb was gone. They couldn't compromise her safety.

Even if they had all pretty much just met, they were all already close. They had to protect each other.

"Then we will confirm her death to the boss. Are you in need if treatment? We were told to patch you up if you were hurt."

"We all just have some cuts and bruises. Nothing severe."

"Then rest. You can return to the base later."

"Okay."

Chapter Text

Mashiro stirred in the morning. She winced in pain as the wounds from the fight starting pulsing. She opened her eyes and looked around. It seemed she was alone. She felt her chest. There was no indication of the surgery. But, the lump was gone.

Mashiro sat up. She was still in the same room, this time having a makeshift bed to use. She stood up and tested her strength. She was in good shape. There hadn't been too many bad hits on her.

She could hear talking coming from somewhere nearby. She wasn't sure if she should investigate or not? What did she have to lose?

Mashiro went to the door and tried it. It was unlocked. She opened it and stepped out into the hall. She followed the sound of the voices. They were in the living room. It was Yukina, Rinko, Aya, and Chu2.

Mashiro nervously walked into their sight. They all paused and looked at her.

"H-hi?" Mashiro was nervous. What if they hurt her for leaving the room? But, they had been nice to her. But she was the enemy.

"You're awake." Yukina said, "How are you feeling?"

"Alright... just sore from the fight." Mashiro mumbled.

"You can sit with us. You could be useful in this discussion." Yukina motioned to the empty seat next to Aya.

Mashiro nodded and took the seat. Aya looked her over. Mashiro felt unnerved by the searching.

"So, tell us about yourself." Yukina prompted, "What did you do at the organization before this job?"

"I... my name is Mashiro... I... I was a spy before this..."

"A spy. What did you do?"

"I... took care of traitors."

"You seem young. I'm surprised they'd let someone your age do that."

"The moment you can work, they'll make you do whatever." Aya commented.

"So, they made a replacement group for Pastel*Palettes."

Mashiro nodded, "Yes. We were given the name Morfonica."

"Who is in charge?"

"No one. We only just formed. We haven't decided who will be the leader yet."

"Tell us about the other girls in your group." Yukina requested.

Mashiro hesitated.

"We want to help you. If you all cooperate with us, you will be spared when we strike."

"I... I'm sorry... I can't tell you..."

"Very well." Yukina didn't like that answer.

"Yukina, she only got here. She's probably scared still. Give her some time." Rinko said.

"I suppose that's true." Yukina agreed reluctantly, "Mashiro, we want you to remain with us. It is dangerous for you to be alone now."

"I... I can't! My... my friends they..."

"They'll be ordered to kill you if you are alive. They can't risk a traitor in their ranks." Chu2 stated.

Mashiro froze, her eyes wide, "K-kill me?!"

"Yes. Anyone from the organization that sees you will have to kill you on the spot." Chu2 nodded.

Mashiro gulped. That was scary. She was wanted now. She never thought it would be her.

"It'll be okay. As long as you're with us, you'll be safe from them."

"I... I can't stay with you. Y-you're who they're after."

"But we haven't gotten caught yet." Yukina stated, "They have failed to locate us and aprehend us all. The times some of us were captured were... mishaps."

"They did find Afterglow, though. It may not be long before they do finally locate your base." Aya replied.

"Do you know how they located that base?" Yukina questioned.

Mashiro shook her head, "Not really. Just that they sent scouts out and located it."

"Hmm... well, I can't exactly force you to stay with us. But, I do believe it is in your best interest that you do."

"I... I'll think about it..." Mashiro still wasn't too sure about remaining with Roselia.

"Take your time. Feel free to voice any concerns you have."

"O-okay."

...

"So, you already lost one member. And to think it was arguably the most skilled one for the job."

When the remaining girls of Morfonica came back, they were greeted by the boss. He didn't seem very pleased.

"Sorry, sir. We... were not prepared for that many demons. Pastel*Palettes was with them and Roselia came to their aid. There were some others too. I'm not sure what group they may be in." Touko said.

"That is a lot to handle for your first mission, I suppose." He said, "I will be increasing your training. You will be prepared next time."

"Yes, sir."

"One last thing. If by chance Kurata lives, kill her on sight. We can not trust that she has not turned her back on us."

"Kill her? O-okay. If that's the order, then we'll do it."

"Good. Go get ready for practice. We start now."

...

A few days had passed. Mashiro had made up her mind. She wasn't staying. She couldn't. She was too scared to remain.

"Yukina, um... I've decided what I want to do."

"What is it?"

"I...  I'm sorry, but... I can't stay."

"Very well. You are welcome to return to us if you change your mind." Yukina knew she couldn't talk her out of it. She would like it if Mashiro would stay, though.

"T-thank you."

Mashiro soon left the base and made her way deeper into the forest. She had no idea where to start. She just couldn't stay with them. She was probably at more risk remaining with them, wasn't she?

Mashiro sighed as she walked around. She should try and find a place to make camp. But, she didn't know much about living alone. This was going to be tough.

She started a fire and quietly sat down. She was on high alert. Who knew what might be out here with her? She couldn't take any chances.

...

"So, what do you think our next mission will be?"

"Probably attacking again."

"That means they're still searching for Roselia's base."

"Yep. I suppose that is where Mashiro would be at."

"I hope they're treating her well."

...

"Yukina? Where's Mashiro?"

"She left."

"Left?"

"She didn't wish to remain with us."

"Oh..."

"I wish I could have talked her into it." Yukina frowned.

"You tried your best." Lisa replied, "She seemed a bit overwhelmed by all of us."

"I hope she's doing alright."

"Yeah... it is a cruel world out there."

...

Mashiro was starting to regret leaving. She was scared, tired, hungry, cold. Everything. She didn't know where to go. She was lost.

She winced as more rain started coming down. Of course she'd get caught in the rain. It was horrible. She was disoriented, unsure if she was walking in circles anymore.

She paused as she heard talking. She quietly crept closer. It was some demons from the organization. She almost ran out to see them, but then remember what she had been told. They would kill her if they saw her.

Mashiro gulped and quietly backed away. Of course something had to go wrong, though. She slipped and fell on the wet leaves. That caught their attention.

Two demons stood before her now. The moment they realized who she was, their weapons were drawn. Two knives. They were inches away from her face.

Mashiro quickly backed away and jumped up. She was shaking. Where did she go? She hesitated too much and one of them came at her, hitting her on the face and slices down. She screamed in pain and covered her wound.

Mashiro took off running. She needed to lose them. But, how? She was already lost as she was. She was starting to get even more confused now. The wound on her face wasn't helping. It stung like hell.

She could hear them behind her, trying to catch up. She was losing ground fast. She had to find a way to dupe them.

Mashiro yelped as she stumbled down an incline. She groaned in pain as she landed face first into the ground. She pushed herself back to her feet and took off again. She had to keep moving. They were still behind her.

She vaguely started smelling the markers of Roselia's territory. That was good. They could help her. But, would she find them?

Mashiro made it onto their land, but not very far. One of the demons managed to catch up to her and tackled her to the ground. She was fighting again them as best she could, but it was not working.

She gasped as they wrapped their hands around her neck. She was thrashing around violently, trying anything to get free.

"Get away from her!"

Someone came out of the forest and knocked the demon off of her. Mashiro didn't remain conscious long enough to see who it was. Everything was quickly fading to black.

"Hey, are you alright? Can you hear me?"

Mashiro didn't have the strength to respond. She felt someone flip her over, and everything faded away.

...

"What happened?!"

The moment the two girls returned with Mashiro, there was panic. Seeing her beaten up like that was not a good sign.

"She ran into some organization members. They of course tried to kill her."

The two girls who had saved her had been Yukina and Rinko. They had been taking a walk, as Rinko had wished to talk to Yukina alone. They had heard the noise and went to investigate.

"She needs medical attention fast. Someone get the kit." Rinko ordered as she placed Mashiro onto a blanket, which Ako had already provided for them.

Lisa got the medical kit and helped Rinko start cleaning off the blood. Most of them gave them space to work. Only the rest of Roselia remained in the room for now.

"So... she got spotted." Sayo stated, "She couldn't have been too far away if she made it back to our territory."

"Yeah. That's true." Lisa nodded, "But, those demons are dead now. They can't tell anyone."

"Yukina? You seem troubled by something?" Sayo looked at her.

Yukina sighed, "I feel responsible for her injuries... I should have tried harder to get her to stay."

"It's not your fault. You did what you could." Lisa frowned.

"I didn't do enough." Yukina replied harshly, "Look at her. She could have been spared that if I had convinced her to stay."

"It's... in the past now. You can't change it." Rinko said, "Let's just... focus on helping her recover."

"How is she?" Ako questioned, "Will there be any permanent damage?"

"The cut here will scar. We can't fix it completely. She shouldn't lose function of anything, though." Lisa replied.

"That's at least good."

...

"Alright. I believe you should be trained enough to return. We know their bases must be close. You will search until you find it."

"Yes, sir!"

"I only want Minato alive. Everyone else is fair game to kill."

"Understood."

"Then go. Don't take too long."

And now they were back out. Sent to try and finish what they started.

"So... what's the plan?" Tsukushi questioned.

"Hmm... well, if Mashiro is with them, that means they disarmed the bomb. Maybe they'll take us in as well?" Touko offered.

"I don't know... it's risky." Nanami mumbled, "What if they're only keeping her alive for info?"

"Do you think that could be the case?"

"We can't tell. Let's just hope they're friendly to us."

Chapter Text

The remaining members of Morfonica were on their way to find Roselia again. They had the relative area down. No one had succeeded in finding the actual location of their base yet.

The main reason that hadn't happened was because no scout ever returned. It was assumed that Roselia killed them so they couldn't return and expose their location. They seemed to be very cautious. It did them well from the look of it.

But that made it harder for them to find Roselia. They needed to find them and see if they would help.

"Shh... I hear someone walking." Touko said quietly.

Everyone fell silent and listened. They could hear the sound of footsteps nearby. It didn't sound like whoever it was was approaching them, though. That was good.

Though, maybe they did want to talk to them? Was it a member of Roselia? Should they go after them? What if that made they be seen as a threat still? They didn't want that.

"Should we try and see who it is?" Rui asked.

Everyone glanced at each other. No one had an answer. It was risky to do, but I might be necessary. But was the risk worth it? Or would it be too much? Should they just continue searching on their own? Would that be enough?

"I'm going to take a quick peak. I won't get caught, I promise." Touko said.

"Be careful."

Touko nodded and crept toward where she heard the footsteps coming from. She was careful about where she was putting her feet. She didn't want to make any noise that could alert them of her presence. She had to stay hidden.

Touko caught a glimpse of them. It wasn't a member of Roselia. It was a demon from the organization. That wasn't what she wanted.

"Hey, I found their base. What should we do?" He spoke to another demon.

Touko gulped. Were they talking about Roselia? If they were, what did she do? She could still see the others. They saw her too. She motioned them closer and to be very quiet.

"You found Roselia? We need to report it immediately."

Everyone was panicking now. They found Roselia. That was bad. If the organization got their hands on this information then disaster was imminent.

"Let's go."

Nanami walked out of the bushes, "Oh, hello. I didn't realize there were others around. I heard you found Roselia. We are going to attack them. Can we have their location?"

The others stayed hidden as she did the talking. It wasn't long before they had the location of the base.

"Thank you. Now, you must be eager to tell the boss about your find. However, we can't let you do that." Namami attacked the first demon.

The others got the message and came out to help. It was easy to overwhelm the two demons and kill them. The secret of Roselia's location remained. It must stay that way.

"Let's go. Keep your ears out for more demons."

They couldn't guarantee that there weren't more demons around scouting for Roselia too. If they found more, they would have to kill them too. It was up to them to keep this location a secret it seemed.

They didn't get too far into their walk before hearing the sounds of a fight. They ran toward the sound.

"Looks like they found some scouts too."

Yukina and Sayo were fighting some more demons from the organization. They were winning the fight.

"Are there more of you?" Yukina demanded.

"Like I'll talk." The demon spat at her, "You'll kill me before I'll ever open my mouth."

"Same for me. Torture doesn't work on us." The other demon added.

Yukina growled. She held the demon by his neck. Sayo had the other pinned to a tree.

"Guys, more are coming." Tsukushi whispered, "Look."

They saw two more demons approaching. They were sneaking up from behind.

"They have guns. They're gonna shoot them." Rui said in a panic, "We have to stop them."

"Wait. Orders are to keep Minato alive. Surely they know that too." Nanami said.

"Is it a real gun or a stun gun?" Touko questioned.

Rui crept a little closer to look, "One of each. Looks like their plan is to kill the other one and just take Minato back."

"We still have to stop them." Nanami stated, "We can't let them kill anyone."

"Hold on. They're getting closer. I think they're trying to threaten them instead."

The two demon came out of hiding, "Let go or we shoot."

Yukina and Sayo exchanged glances, unsure what to do. That was when the demon Sayo had pinned down struck. He got out of her grip and held her captive instead.

"Sayo!"

Sayo was struggling to break free. He was holding her tightly. One arm was around her neck, slowly suffocating her. She was gasping for air, unable to breathe.

"Yu...kina..." Sayo gasped, reaching out toward her in desperation.

"Release him and we won't kill her." One of the armed demons stated.

Yukina let go of the demon, her eyes focused only on Sayo. He scrambled to his feet and backed away.

"Let her go."

"You really thought we'd do that? How pathetic." The one demon shot at her.

Yukina cried out as the bullet embedded into her shoulder. She fell to the ground.

"Don't worry. It's non-lethal. It'll just make sure you can't resist us." The demon sneered.

"What do I do with this one?" The demon holding Sayo asked.

"Kill her. Boss said only this one needs to be brought back alive."

Yukina was unable to move much. She could only watch helplessly as Sayo was dying. She was already unconscious as it was. She didn't even know what was happening to her right now. Yukina reached out a hand toward her, as if it would help.

"Now!"

The four Morfonica members jumped out and took on the demons. They had spread out so one would fight each demon. The demons were unnerved by the sudden ambush. Even moreso when they saw who was doing it.

"Traitors!" One demon yelled.

"What a surprise." Touko shot back sarcastically.

They managed to kill the demons. Rui and Touko approached Yukina. Touko took a look at her shoulder. It was torn up bad.

"Looks like they developed a new weapon. No stun guns have ever done damage that severe. The normally barely break skin." Rui commented.

"I guess they're stepping up their game to try and win over the revolution." Touko replied.

"Sayo..." Yukina whispered.

The two girls glanced over at where she was. Nanami and Tsukushi were at her side.

"How is she?" Touko asked them.

"She's okay. Still breathing." Nanami replied.

"Good." Touko nodded to them, "Looks like she'll be just fine, Yukina."

"Can we take you back to your base? You need medical attention." Rui asked.

Yukina looked hesitant to give away their location.

"We know where you guys live. These weren't the only scouts out. We killed the two we found after getting the location from them." Touko explained, "You have Mashiro, right? We were hoping you could help us too."

"Fine... you've proven yourselves..." Yukina sighed.

"Then let's go."

Touko took Yukina and Rui took Sayo. The six of them slowly made their way to Roselia's base. This was going to be a bit of an awkward moment. What did they say to them?

"There's the house." Nanami stated.

"One issue. Um... both of them are out cold. This may not look very good to them." Touko said.

Yukina had blacked out at some point during the walk. Not that anyone was surprised. That wound was nasty and it was obvious she was in a lot of pain.

"I don't think the stun gun was the same that I'm familiar with. Something tells me they make bullets that won't explode inside and just take out main nerves to keep someone from moving." Rui said.

"It does seem that way."

"Who's there?!"

They had been heard. Someone was quickly approaching them.

"Morfonica." Nanami stated, "We have your friends here. They've been injured."

Ran and Ako came into view. They eyed the four girls with distrust.

"A-ah! Y-Yukina? Sayo?" Ako yelped.

"What happened to them?" Ran demanded, holding out a knife to them.

"Some scouts found your location. They were killing them when more arrived and overwhelmed them." Rui explained, "We can explain later. At least Yukina needs medical attention. Her shoulder's been torn up bad."

"Fine. Come on then." Ran lowered her weapon and walked toward the house. Ako quickly followed her.

The four girls followed as well. They entered the house. Ako had gone to fetch Lisa and Rinko to help. Ran was watching them closely as they entered. Chisato and Rokka were with her now, also keeping an eye on them.

"Put them on the carpet." Ran instructed.

Touko and Rui did just that. They backed away then and returned to the other two.

"What happened?" Lisa and Rinko entered the room.

Lisa gasped and quickly knelt down beside Yukina, examining her shoulder with worry. Rinko joined her and started cleaning up the wound.

"Explain in detail what you saw." Ran ordered with a glare.

"They were fighting two demons and winning. Then two more with guns came out and threatened them. During the distraction, Sayo got grabbed by the demon she had been fighting and they started choking her. Yukina was shot with a supposed "stun bullet" and that happened. We killed the four demons. They're not a threat anymore."

"I'm going to get Hina. She'll want to know about Sayo." Chisato left the room.

"Is... Mashiro here?" Nanami asked.

"Yes. Rokka, you want to get her for them?" Ran asked.

Rokka nodded, "I will."

"You can sit here." Ran nodded to the couches by where Yukina and Sayo were being treated.

"Okay." The four of them sat down.

"Onee-chan!" Hina and Chisato returned to the room. Hina immediately ran to Sayo's side and looked her over.

"She seems alright." Lisa stated, "Just needs time to recover."

Moments later, Rokka returned with Mashiro in tow. She was holding onto Rokka's arm. Half of her face was bandaged from the attack and as such she couldn't see well.

"Mashiro?"

"H-hey..." Mashiro mumbled.

"What happened to you?" Touko approached her first.

"I... ran into some demons who tried to kill me..." Mashiro whispered.

"I hate to interrupt, but you all have bombs in you, don't you?" Chisato stated.

"Yes. They also have trackers in them..."

"Someone get them to Maya and Chu2. We need to get those disarmed quickly."

"Follow me." Ran said.

They were lead to a different room. Mashiro followed them. She wanted to stay with them if she could. Ran left the room. A few minutes passed and then Maya and Chu2 entered the room. Chu2 looked the four girls over for a while.

"So the rest of you are here now. Let's get those bombs out of you fast." Maya said.

Everyone nodded. And so the work began. At least they were being given refuge here. They had been very worried that wouldn't be the case at all. It seemed that Roselia found them useful. Or maybe it was to repay them for saving Yukina and Sayo.

Whatever the reason, they were just glad to be free from the organization. They were more than willing to help with the revolution.

Chapter Text

It had been a few days since Morfonica had made their way to Roselia. They had been welcomed and allowed to stay. But, the organization knew they were alive despite their bombs being removed. Because they had not all gone off at the same time, the organization got very suspicious of them.

They had found this out through eavesdropping on a conversation. The demons employed by the organization were now looking for them as well. And their orders were to kill them at all costs. They weren't allowed to live.

So, they were on the run now. Just like everyone else. But, they at least had a lot of demons with them that could fight. They had protection.

"Hey, remember that one rebel group? They got captured." Ako mentioned as her and Tomoe came back from a patrol.

"Hmm? The weird one?" Lisa questioned.

Ako nodded, "Yep. The one trying to spread happiness. They got captured and are set to be killed soon."

"Why do you bring this up?" Yukina asked, "They aren't useful to our goal. We discussed this a little while ago."

"Well, two of their members are said to have a lot of knowledge on the organization. I just thought maybe you'd want them?" Ako replied.

Yukina pondered it. It was true that demons like that were useful. But, they had a lot of demons already like that. But, they might have new information no one else came across yet. She was conflicted on what she should do.

"Let's take a vote. Who wants them to be rescued and who doesn't." Yukina decided on how to determine their response.

Most everyone was for saving them. No one was against it. Some were just uncertain on what to say. They didn't want the demons to be killed, but it was risky to save them as well.

"Oh, one more thing. One of their demons is still in the jail while the rest are already at the place for execution." Tomoe added, "It's a bit strange."

"Maybe it's like what happened with Sayo?" Lisa said, "She has ties to the organization already so they want her alive to force her into work."

"Oh... that makes sense."

"So, we're going to save them. Let's get planning."

...

Two days later, they set out. They had a plan now. Hopefully it would go well. They didn't have much time left. Tonight was their execution. If they didn't hurry, it would be too late for four of them.

The plan was quite simple. Roselia and RAS were going to rescue the four at their execution. Pastel*Palettes and Morfonica were going into the jail to get the other one. Afterglow was being split up. Ran and Himari were going with the first group while Tomoe, Moca, and Tsugumi were with the second.

It was going to be tough. They all knew that very well. One slip up could cost them everything in this plan. Being this close to a lot of organization demons was always dangerous. Especially these ones. The ones who dealt with traitors were often some of the toughest demons the organization had to offer.

"Alright. Go to your locations and wait for your respective signals." Yukina stated as they reached the area.

Everyone nodded and went to their spots. For the first group, that meant spreading out in a circle around the holding cell. The other group was going through two entrances to the jail. They split in half and went to each door.

The plan was to wait for the first group to attack. Hopefully that would draw enough attention that the second group could sneak in easily. Hopefully.

Yukina waited a few minutes and observed the area. There weren't too many demons around outside. Hopefully that meant there weren't too many here at the moment.

After a few more minutes, she raised her hand. The moment she put it down, everyone went forward. They easily took down most of the demons outside due to them being too surprised to react fast enough. The ones that came from inside were a bit tougher.

Thankfully, they had more demons and were able to tag-team the demons. Soon enough, no more demons came at them. A few of them went into the holding cell. Lisa, Ran, and Masuki went in.

"You guys are... saving us?"

"Yes. Come on." Masuki broke the lock off quite easily. It was old and rusty as was.

"But..."

"We have others going to save your other member." Lisa reassured them.

"Let's go."

They got the four demons out and met up at a spot a bit aways from the base. Yukina nodded to them all as they entered.

"Hello. What are your names?" She asked.

"I'm Kokoro!"

"Hagumi."

"...K-Kanon..."

"Kaoru."

"Have the others returned yet." Ran questioned.

Yukina shook her head, "Not yet."

"I hope Misaki is okay..." Kokoro whispered.

"Yeah..."

A few minutes later, they returned with Misaki in tow. Kokoro immediately engulfed her into a tight hug. Once she let go, Kaoru hugged her as well.

"We're all okay!" Kokoro smiled happily.

"Yeah..." Misaki mumbled, "I... wasn't expecting this."

"You guys have... somewhat the same goal we do." Yukina stated, "It would be useful for us to join forces."

"Really?" Kokoro looked at her with wide eyes.

Yukina nodded.

"Um... one thing." Kanon whispered, "Kokoro is um... a human."

"What?" No one knew how to process that information.

"Yeah... it's a very long story."

"Let's get out of here. In case anyone comes looking around and find this scene."

"Okay!"

They all headed back to Roselia's base. Everyone was struggling to process the fact that Kokoro was apparently a human and not a demon. No one knew how that was possible.

It was not something anyone was sure about asking either. Did they really want to know?

"So, how did you guys get captured?" Lisa decided to start a conversation with them while they walked.

"They found our base and swarmed us." Kokoro replied.

"That's bad... they seem to be getting better at locating everyone's bases."

"Has yours been compromised?"

"No. Almost, but not quite."

"I see..."

...

No one knew what to do with the new group. Did they keep them or let them go out on their own? Yukina was supposed to make the final call. She had no idea what to do.

"Yukina? You seem stressed." Rinko found her outside alone.

"I don't know what to do with the new group..." Yukina sighed, "Having a human was not part of the plan."

"It's quite impressive that she's managed to survive their annihilation." Rinko commented.

Yukina nodded, "Yeah. I wonder how she's stayed hidden so well."

"Why don't you ask?"

"I can tell they don't fully trust us. I don't want to cause any upsets if I can avoid it right now."

"I see..."

"But, hopefully we can earn their trust. Even if their group is a bit bizarre, I feel they can benefit us quite well."

"So, you're going to invite them to join us?" Rinko asked.

Yukina nodded, "Yes. I want them to join our alliance."

"Good luck. That one girl, Misaki, seems very distrustful of us."

"I know. Hopefully we can work that out."

"Yeah... hopefully."

Chapter Text

A few days had gone by since the last group had joined them. Kokoro had immediately accepted the offer to work with them. Now they had another group. They should be ready to start actually attacking the main base.

"I believe we have enough members to be able to launch part one of our plan. We will attack the base here. It is one of the most important ones, after all." Yukina said during a meeting.

"What do we do to start that?" Lisa questioned.

"We begin by scouting out the base. I think five would be enough. Who wants to go do that?" Yukina asked everyone in the room.

After a few minutes of discussion between everyone, they had their answer. The team would be Sayo, Tomoe, Ran, Rei, and Chisato. Everyone else would remain here and start the other prep work needed.

"Alright. I think another important thing to do would be to take out the small defense fort by that base. Three people need to scout that out too. We will take that down first." Yukina continued.

It was soon decided on that Ako, Rokka, and Eve would do that scouting mission. That fort had very few demons in it. It should be easy to spy on it without getting caught. And even if they did, they should be able to win against them.

"Finally, weapons. I want to try and get some." Yukina said, "While we mainly do fight with our claws, having weapons to attack main bases is a must."

"I can make weapons." Rui stated, "I can help with that."

"I'm good at bombs." Maya added, "We might want some of those too."

"Alright. You two will handle that. Feel free to ask anyone who is free to get materials you need." Yukina concluded, "Scouts, tomorrow you shall head out."

With the meeting over, everyone went to do their own things for now. Tomorrow everything would start. It was scary to think about. It was finally time to start their rebellion. This was it. Either they won this or they would all die trying.

Yukina went to take a walk. She sat down by a stream and stared into the water. She let out a long sigh.

"Are you alright?"

Yukina did not have to look to see who it was, "I'm fine, Sayo."

Sayo took a seat beside her, "You're worried, aren't you?"

Yukina sighed again, "I guess I am. I mean... I'm the leader. If something goes wrong, it's my fault. I'm putting everyone at risk. All of your lives are in my hands now."

"And we wouldn't want it any other way. You've proven yourself." Sayo stated, "If we didn't believe in you, why would we still be here?"

"I guess that's true. It's not like I'm keeping you here."

"And, considering you have so many organization members here, I think you're doing well. They trust you to fix the corruption."

"I hope I can." Yukina said.

They sat in silence for a while. The atmosphere was heavy. Yukina was struggling to handle all of this now.

"Yukina? Rinko seems to hang out with you a lot? Is there a reason?" Sayo asked.

Yukina stared at her for a while, before shaking her head, "No. She just decides to talk to me."

"I think she likes you."

"What?" Yukina was confused by that statement.

"The way she acts around you just makes me feel that way. Lisa actually asked me if I thought you two were dating at one point. It's not just me who sees it." Sayo explained.

"You think... she likes me?" Yukina still could not comprehend what she was being told. This was the first time those thoughts had been put in her head.

"Yeah." Sayo nodded, "I think she does."

Yukina looked back at the water, "Feelings will get in the way."

"You won't even give it a chance?"

"Sayo... this isn't the time for love. Some of us... probably won't make it. We will lose people in the fight. That'll just cause more heartbreak."

"But, won't it give you an even stronger want to survive? So that you can live to see them again?" Sayo asked.

"And if that fails to work, you're still dead."

Sayo sighed, "Alright. I won't say anything else."

Yukina stood up, "Is there someone you like?"

Sayo did not speak for quite a while. Yukina took that to mean that she did like someone. Now, would Sayo tell her who it was? Was there anyone she felt might be the answer?

"Maybe..." Sayo eventually mumbled.

"Do they know?"

"No."

"Who is it?"

Sayo took a deep breath, "I... don't want to tell you."

"Very well. I'm heading back. Are you going to come too?"

"Sure."

The two of them walked back to the house in silence. Yukina kept thinking back on their conversation. If Rinko truly did like her, what did she do about it? Should she ask her? Or would it be better to ignore it unless it came up? Yukina did not know. She had never had to deal with something like this before.

...

The next day, the two scout parties took off to their destinations. Yukina was very anxious to see what they would learn. She was also worried they might be spotted and attacked. It would be her fault if that happened. She sent them there.

The wait was long. That was very worrying. How long did they wait before assuming the worst? And then did they try to recover their bodies or leave them where they were? There were so many thoughts swirling around in Yukina's head. If only she had someone who could share some of this burden with her. Unfortunately the only one she could ask would be Chu2 and she did not want to do that.

"They're back!"

The first group returned from the fort. They reported everything they found to Yukina. Everything had gone well for them. No one spotted them at all during that time. That was good. It gave her more faith in the other group.

Unfortunately, that faith was shattered when they returned. They were all covered in blood. Thankfully, they all had returned. But, that meant they had been spotted.

Yukina went to them immediately, calling for Lisa and Rinko to get the medical kits. She worriedly looked them over, searching for any potentially lethal wounds.

"What happened?" She asked.

"They ambushed us. Seems like they knew we were gonna be there." Chisato replied, "Think we have a traitor amongst us."

"A... traitor..." As the words sunk in, Yukina felt her heart stop.

There was a traitor... someone here was still loyal to the organization. This was bad. This was really bad. They were going to end them. She had to find out who it was fast. But... how? There were so many here. Any one of them could potentially be the traitor. No one was safe from suspicion.

Yukina had a tough job ahead of her. She had to be fast before they managed to ruin everything. But... how? How did she do it?

Chapter Text

Yukina had no idea what to do. There was a traitor. Someone here wasn't loyal to their cause. Someone here could end them all so easily. She was in charge of finding them. Everyone was looking to her for help.

She was hiding in her room currently. She was unable to face anyone. She didn't know what she would say to them. Especially since she couldn't give much away. Not when she had no idea if the traitor was listening.

"Yukina?"

"Lisa..."

"You alright?"

Yukina shook her head. She was anything but alright. There was so much she had to do. So much responsibility.

"It's okay, Yukina. We'll find them." Lisa placed a hand on her shoulder, "We won't let them win."

"It's all my fault..."

"No it isn't." Lisa stated, "You couldn't have known. None of us saw this coming either. Please, don't beat yourself up over it."

Yukina sighed. She still blamed herself. There had to have been a sign she missed. Something that would have prevented this from happening to begin with.

"I don't know who I can even trust anymore..." Yukina mumbled, "Everyone is suspicious. It could be anyone here..."

"Unfortunately it could be." Lisa agreed, "Though, I'd focus on the new group. Things started once they joined, after all. It seems most likely to be one of them who is the traitor."

"How do we even start this? Questioning them won't go well if they're innocent. It will break the trust."

"Yeah... that's true..." Lisa sighed, "Maybe Chu2 knows more about them? She seems to know a lot of organization members. Maybe she's picked up on something?"

"I guess that's a start."

"Yukina!"

Ako barged into the room. Her eyes were wide in fear.

"Ako? What's wrong?" Yukina asked, standing up quickly.

"They... they found who it is..." Ako was gasping for breath, "It... it's Misaki... she... she's fled and kidnapped Tsugumi in the process."

"Misaki..." Yukina repeated, "We need to question her group. Now."

"Um... it was me and Pareo who found her. Tsugumi was with us too. Misaki... attacked us and fled with her. Pareo is... badly hurt. She... she defended me." Ako said.

Yukina sighed, "Is she being treated?"

Ako nodded, "Rinko already patched her up."

"Good. Let's go gather everyone."

Soon enough, all the groups were gathered to talk. Yukina was staring down the other four of Misaki's group with a distrustful gaze. They all seemed just as shocked about her betrayal, but Yukina couldn't be positive it wasn't just an act.

"You four swear you had no idea Misaki was working for them?" Yukina questioned.

"Yes. We had no idea." Kokoro nodded.

"She and I are dating and even I didn't know." Kaoru added, "I... don't understand..."

Yukina sighed, "Did she ever act suspicious?"

"I guess looking back, some things were weird with her. Whenever we got surrounded or attacked, they would back off once seeing her. Except for that last time." Kaoru said.

"That explains her being held in the jail instead." Lisa commented, "Because she was on their side the entire time."

"What do we do now? She stole Tsugumi." Himari questioned in worry, "We have to get her back."

Yukina nodded to her, "I know. Unfortunately that will be tough. I can only assume she's fled to the main base. Rescuing her from there will be tough. Especially now. They've probably heightened security since our last attack."

"Right..." Himari frowned.

"Our location will be compromised now." Chu2 added on, "We are not safe here any longer."

"We will have to live with it for now." Yukina responded, "We can't leave here yet."

"Um..." Sayo spoke up, "Does anyone here actually know who Misaki is?"

"She referred to herself as Michelle to the demon she was talking to." Ako stated.

Rinko and Chu2's eyes both went wide. They knew that name very well. And that wasn't a good thing at all.

"She... is considered the highest ranking spy for them." Rinko said, "She's done a lot to keep them in power."

"She's a spy? Great..." Yukina sighed, "That's the last profession we want to deal with."

"She's a lost cause, I suppose." Ran said, "She won't ever help us."

"Looks like she won't. But, we need to get Tsugumi back from her. Who knows what she may do to her." Tomoe said.

"Any ideas on how to do that?" Yukina asked.

"Hmm..." Chu2 thought it over, "I think this may be a solo or double mission. One or two go and sneak her out."

"I'm going myself." Kaoru stated, "I need to talk to Misaki... Michelle, I guess. I need answers to so much."

"Kaoru..." Kanon whispered, "Going alone isn't wise. Especially considering who you are. They probably know a lot about you since you've been with her for so long."

"I know it isn't wise. But, maybe she'll listen to me more? I... hope our relationship wasn't fake. That she actually loves me."

"If you wish to do so, I won't stop you." Yukina said, "What do you want to take with you? Any weapons?"

"Give me a knife and I'll be fine. I'll steal someone's gun along the way." Kaoru replied.

Yukina nodded, "Very well. I wish you the best."

"Thank you. I'll bring Tsugumi back, at least. Maybe I'll get Misaki too."

"Good luck."

Soon enough, Kaoru set out of the house. Now, they all just had to wait and see what would happen. Would she convince Misaki to return? Or, was it all a lost cause? Only time would tell.

...

"Yukina?"

"Hmm? Can I help you, Rinko?"

Later that day, Rinko approached Yukina in her room. Yukina was drawing up battle plans at the moment. They would have to rush their attack now that this had all happened.

"Can we talk?"

"Sure. Come sit." Yukina gave Rinko her attention.

Rinko sat on the bed, "Um... I... I figured maybe I should... tell you why I chose to stay after everything..."

Yukina titled her head to the side, "Was it not because of Ako?"

Rinko shook her head, "Not entirely. At first, yes, but I wasn't planning to stay long after bringing her back here. But then... I realized something else."

Yukina had a suspicion as to where this conversation was going. She had never considered that a reason for Rinko remaining here.

"What did you realize?" Yukina asked.

Rinko took a deep breath, "That I... love you."

"You... love me?" Yukina repeated, trying to act surprised.

Rinko nodded, "Yes... I... I like you."

"Well... this was not what I was expecting to hear..." Yukina mumbled, "Rinko, I'm sorry, but... I don't believe these feelings are good to act upon right now. Not with everyone going on. It'll just get in the way."

"But... but the others haven't had any issues." Rinko protested.

Yukina didn't respond. It was true. No one else in a relationship had any issues because of it. Maybe that reason wasn't valid. Maybe she was just trying to hide something else?

"I... don't know about this." Yukina said, "Being in a relationship would be different. I'm just... worried it will affect things for me."

"Please, Yukina?"

"I... fine. I guess maybe a relationship wouldn't be too bad." Yukina gave in.

She did like Rinko. So, maybe this wouldn't turn into the disaster she thought it would. She was still worried about the final fight and the strain it might put on some of them. Hopefully they would all survive, as unlikely as it sounded.

Chapter Text

Kaoru was a mess. She didn't know what to think of everything that had happened. Misaki was a traitor. This entire time she had never been on the same side as everyone else. It hurt so much. Why did she do this to her? To all of them? All of their group was hurt by the betrayal.

And now she was putting so many lives in danger. For what? Did she really believe in the organization? Did she think what they were doing was right? All those demons killed... she believed it was just...

Kaoru was quickly approaching the base. She was desperate for answers and had rushed as fast as she could to confront Misaki. Not only that, Tsugumi's life was in danger as long as she was here.

Now, how was she going to manage this? This base was very highly guarded. How did she get in and find Misaki? Especially without being spotted by anyone else. That was going to be a very challenging time.

Kaoru took a deep breath and snuck to the edge of the building. She was looking around for any entrances that weren't guarded. That was very difficult to do. There were so many guards everywhere. She was lucky no one had spotted her yet.

She really needed to hurry and get inside. Otherwise she was as good as dead.

Kaoru kept searching. She eventually found an open window and jumped in. She landed in a room. The room was dark. She sighed and carefully made her way to the door. Thankfully demons had night vision. This made everything so much easier.

She crept to the door and peaked out as best she could through the crack. She didn't want to open it if she didn't have to in order to see. She didn't see anyone out there. The coast was clear. But... where was she supposed to go? How did she find Misaki? She didn't know anything about this place's layout.

She would just have to hope she could find them without getting herself caught. Kaoru took a deep breath and opened the door. Time to move. She shouldn't stay in one place for too long. It wasn't safe with so many guards around.

Kaoru started quietly walking around, trying to figure out where she was in the building. She assumed Misaki would have taken Tsugumi to the jail here. Now to just find where that was...

There was a sign leading to it. That made things a lot easier. Now to just make it there without getting spotted. There would probably be a lot of demons around the jail. She would have to be super careful about what she did now. One wrong move and it would all be over.

She was a little concerned by the fact she didn't see any demons around as she walked down the hallway. Where were they all? Shouldn't they be guarding their prisoners heavily? Why wouldn't anyone be here? Kaoru didn't like this at all. Something was off.

"I see you decided to come."

Kaoru froze as a voice came from behind her. She whipped around to see Misaki standing there. Kaoru went on the defensive. She couldn't trust her anymore. She was against them. She would kill her if she had the chance to.

"You lied to me..." Kaoru stated, "You betrayed us... you're a filthy traitor."

Misaki didn't react with any emotion, "So what if I am? That group won't win no matter what they think they can do. We will destroy all who oppose us."

"Then why did you spare us? Why didn't you let anyone kill us before?"

"So I could learn more info on what exactly was happening in this rebellion."

"Where is Tsugumi? I'm not leaving without her." Kaoru held a knife out at Misaki, "Even if that means killing you."

"Killing your partner? A bit cruel, don't you think?" Misaki still was emotionless with her responses. Kaoru was unnerved by it. Where did the Misaki she know go?

"You never loved me! It was all just a lie! You just used me!" Kaoru yelled, running at her.

Misaki dodged, "I didn't lie. I do love you, Kaoru. So... why not join me? They'll give you another chance if you join us."

Kaoru stared at her with wide eyes, "No! I'll never join you!"

Kaoru attacked again. Misaki dodged every attempt she made. This was getting nowhere. She needed to just grab Tsugumi and go at this point. But... she wanted more information from Misaki first.

"Misaki... or Michelle... whoever you are. Tell me honestly. What was the point of everything you did?"

"To make him proud of me." Misaki replied, "If I can prove my worth, he'll give me a better standing."

"And was it really fucking worth it? You lost all of us. Don't you care at all?!"

Misaki briefly looked sad, before she put on this facade again, "I wish things didn't have to be this way, Kaoru. I really do. But, this is my job."

"Run away. You can leave, Misaki. We can start over. You don't have to do this!" Kaoru was desperate to get her back on their side.

"I haven't told them where you are at." Misaki turned away and started walking, "Not even reported you breaking in. Leave now and I'll leave you be."

"Misaki!" Kaoru grabbed her and didn't let go, "You aren't leaving. Not until you tell me where Tsugumi is. I'm not leaving her here with you all."

"The jail is right there. Have fun. Ten minutes before I set off the alarm." Misaki got away and left.

Kaoru stared at her retreating figure in shock. What was she playing at here? Letting her leave? Was she... on her side? Perhaps she wasn't completely loyal to the organization.

Either way, she had ten minutes to get out. She better hurry. So, Kaoru quickly went to the jail and searched for Tsugumi. She found her hiding away from the others in a cell way in the back.

"Tsugumi." Kaoru found the keys and unlocked the door, "Are you okay? Can you walk?"

"You're... Kaoru, right? Why are you here?" Tsugumi questioned as Kaoru undid her chains.

"To talk to Misaki. Can you perhaps help me with something?"

"Sure."

"We're kidnapping her and bringing her back."

"What?"

"I can't leave her here. I will get her back on our side. Please, Tsugumi." Kaoru begged. She needed to get Misaki out of here.

Tsugumi gulped and nodded, "Okay... I'll do my best to help you."

"Thank you. We need to hurry. She'll sound the alarm in ten minutes if I'm not gone."

"Okay!"