O GALILEO LET ME GO
@Meister: I'll write up some short bits for firemoth and send them to you first to proofread and approve before we go ahead. That OK? It'll prolly be a short story.
And the next bit o <Ren>'s story is continuing,...
Ice cream. She was eating ice cream! Haruko's brain was filled with a dozen miniature versions of herself forming a lynch mob. That same lynch mob was burning effigies of <Ren> en masse. How dare she have ice cream for herself and rub it in! Ice cream! ICE CREAM!
"Ice cream-I mean yes?" Haruko straightened herself out at the last minute. Van Maark had a perplexed look on his face.
"I've completed my research."
"Oh." Haruko blinked, then realised not a few seconds later. "Oh! That's good! I mean, we're done here, so we can progress to dinner, right?"
"Actually, I was wondering what opinion you have on using the IS' Passive Interial Canceller (PIC)
system to withstand deep-sea pressures."
Haruko's face was one of the doomed.
"I was kidding." Van Maark smiled. "It's too early for dinner, but you're right. We need a break. I apologize for having to drag you along on my travels."
"Oh no, not at all," Haruko halfheartedly responded, then stopped. "Actually, yes. I'm a bit hungry."
"You're more like a girl than your partner is."
"<Ren> is a bit different." Kokuto answered, but guardedly. Van Maark had been surprised when they'd first spoke. The only reason he did not appear shocked to meet a teenager like <Ren> was because he had been informed beforehand. Even then, Haruko could not explain everything to the man. "There's a reason she's that skilled."
Van Maark's expression was unreadable at that point. "I gathered as much."
"It should turn out alright. <Ren> is a pain to work with, but she's also quite capable." Haruko wore a warm smile to hide her concern for both Van Maark and her partner. "Shall we?"
"I think we have company." Van Maark then noticed a handsome young japanese man looking at them both. He was clothed in black, a sharp business suit and shirt that stood out in the crowd. While there was no show of emotion on his face, he intent in his eyes was harsh and clear.
Haruko noted it as well, the way the man was eyeing them. Worriedly, she finally switched on her phone communicator.
"Get Van Maark outside." <Ren>'s voice beat her to the punch. "I've got this."
"U-understood." Haruko looked at Van Maark, and promptly took the older man's arm in her. "Doctor, it's a nice day. Let's take a walk."
"I agree." Van Maark replied, oddly calm. "The air will do me good, I think."
The pair walked past the seething young man, and it was then they noticed a familiar girl's form standing right behind him. Van Maark wanted to remark, bu Haruko's tight grip silenced him.
They both exited the building quickly.
Once certain Van Maark and Haruko were out of sight, <Ren>'s eyes focused on the knife she held at young man's back. She nudged him slightly to walk toward the opposite exit.
With a silent, cruel smile she greeted him.
"I am not your brother," the young man replied, voice venomous. "I never accepted you as a sword-sibling."
"I could smell your cologne. Were you trying to get my attention?" <Ren> kept the knife held firm. "You and your vanity. If you wanted to kidnap or kill Van Maark, you've been rather sloppy."
"Yes, I was being obvious." The man's laugh was small, bitter. "I don't want to involve innocents in the crossfire."
"How much of that fake honor can you stomach, Hanekawa Jo?" They were outside now, away from casual and spying eyes. "It's just you and me now."
The library's atrium had just trees and flowering plants, out of sight from the students and faculty that came to the place only to study. Stepping back, <Ren> hid the knife. It was no longer practical in the open air, and she needed range.
The man named Hanekawa turned to face her.
"I am not obliged to tell you why I'm after Van Maark."
"More false honor." <Ren> kept her hands free, tensed and ready for an attack. "That's not the reason you're talking to me."
"The clan chose you." Jo replied, carefully walking the slow circle that his female opponent was making. His eyes fell on <Ren>'s right arm, the red mark of the I Ching. A mirror image of the tattoo Hanekawa himself had on his own right arm. "I've never forgiven you for that."
"Still stuck on that, after all these years?" <Ren>'s tone was mocking, evil. "Get over it."
"You don't deserve the mark." Hanekawa's fists tightened, but made no other move. "You have no regard for the honor and respect it stands for."
"And you're a mercenary."
The two were measuring each others intents and capabilities, one a man in his early twenties, the other a girl in her middle teens. The two could not be more dissimilar. And yet by the red tattoo they both bore, they could not be more alike.
This was not a battle either would rush into half-prepared.
The doors then opened, and a trio of young students walked in, casually chatting amongst themselves.
"We'll finish this later." Jo turned to leave, hurriedly striding out fo the building.
<Ren> gave the fleeing figure her coldest glare.
"I'll be waiting."