"Gate Open!" Satoke cried, the red streak in her black hair falling into her eyes. She plunged her hand into the shining disk of crimson light and drew out a sword, the massive weapon shining. Satoke charged
forward, ignoring the Invader's attacks as she lashed out ruthlessly.
"Should we...?" Miu Manazaru asked nervously, the brown haired girl looking worriedly towards their comrade.
"No," Ayane Isuzu shook her head, glasses catching the light, "there's more coming."
The first Invader appeared suddenly, erupting from the human shell that he wore to stand revealed before them, then dozens more materialized right beside him. The pitch black clothing, badly scarred gray skin and black sunglasses were all exactly the same, the ranks of them looking like perfect copies of one another.
"Just lower level entities again," Ayane Isuzu murmured, the black haired girl pushing her round glasses up, "but I guess we'll just have to manage."
The brown haired girl beside her had a warm smile on her face, nearly standing a foot taller than Ayane. "Hai, Isuzu-san," Miu Manazuru agreed.
"Let's do it like we planned," Ayane flashed Miu a confident smile that was just a bit warmer than what was normal for her.
The Invaders' bodies shifted, long black coats opening up to reveal conduits and cables that reshaped into large guns that were pointed right at the two schoolgirls standing before them. Ayane's coat
fluttered out and open, revealing the cellphones that lined it and she swiftly pulled two out, her fingers already tapping in the right codes.
"Gate open!" Miu cried, a swirling disc of rings appearing beneath her before she was thrown up into the air by her Gate of Flight.
Ayane tossed her cellphones confidently, flinging them down right in front of the Invaders path even as Miu dropped her own two just behind the large force. She flipped her laptop open, Ayane's finger lingering
over the 'enter' key before pressing it.
"Gate open," Ayane murmured.
The four phones exploded to life, opening up Gates of Fire at every side of the Invader force. They were all gone in a few moments, scoured clean in the wash of purifying flame, leaving only the shining crystals
scattered on the ground. It was suddenly eerily silent around the street, almost as if the world had been shocked silent by the sudden conclusion to the battle. Only Ayane and Miu remained amoungst the shadows, taking stock of the battle.
"Guess we'd better start collecting the crystals," Ayane murmured as she walked forward, "looks like a good haul."
"Look out!" Miu cried out in alarm.
The surviving Invader emerged from the shadows, reaching out for Ayane with half of it's body destroyed by the flames. Suddenly Miu dropped down out of the sky right on it, hammering her two feet on top of it's
head as her gate flared to life.
"Are you all right?" Ayane rushed to Miu's side where the girl had fallen on her butt, the Invader's crystal gleaming beside her.
"Yes," Miu smiled up at her from the ground as she cheerfully explained, "I reversed the thrust of my gate to push me right down on him."
"Thanks," Ayane's lips twitched up in another smile as she offered the girl her hand. Miu took it, Ayane tugging her back to her feet before she lost her balance.
"Eeep," Miu squeaked, stumbled and fell forward, she and Ayane both thumping down to the street together in a tangle of limbs.
The taller girl lay sprawled above Ayane, looking into each other's eyes as their sweetly scented breath lightly blew across each other's faces. 'She's got the most lovely eyes,' Ayane found herself thinking dazedly.
"Sorry," Miu blushed fiercely, scrambling to her feet.
"It's all right," Ayane got up, the blushing girl pushing her round glasses up on her face.
"You two done?" Satoke walked up to ask, her girl's uniform a bit torn but otherwise unscathed by her berzerker attack.
Ayane bit back a sarcastic remark, "We're fine." She puffed a breath out, "We'd better get going or we'll never get to all our jobs tonight."
"Yes, Isuzu-san," Miu beamed as she fell into place beside her.
"You can call me Ayane, you know," she reminded Miu as they walked down the silent street together, the smaller girl clearly in control once again..
"But Isuzu-san..." Miu protested and Ayane sighed softly.
"You know, when I said I was looking for something more interesting to do," an amused looking Ayane commented as she looked out the window at
the city far below them, "I wasn't really expecting something like this."
"I supose that's true," the older man walked over to the coffee table and set out the two cups of tea, a slightly amused smile on his face.
Reiji Kagayame moved around smoothly despite all of his implants and cybernetics, the dreadful cost that he had paid for using his own gatekeeper ability. The black suit and gloves that he usually wore almost made him look like an Invader as well, but his flashes of warmth and honest humor quickly dispelled that impression.
"What's the Invader situation right now?" Ayane asked, gazing out at the busy city below them. Cars honked, trains ran, the sort of noise and clatter that had once annoyed her so greatly, but now... it seemed
simply the pulse of the living city, a oddly sweet sound.
"Constant or even a bit in decline," Reiji answered simply, "and don't change the subject." He smiled, "We were talking about you."
"So what do I do now?" Ayane asked with a sigh as she left the view behind and walked over to join him, sitting down on the couch across from his own seat.
"I'm not exactly the best person to ask for romantic advice," Reiji had to admit, his almost gray hair falling down in front of his gleaming sunglasses. "Have you thought about talking to either Satoke or Yukino?"
he offered hopefully.
"I like Yukino," Ayane admitted as she thought of the ghostly gatekeeper of ice, "but advice in the form of obscure poetry isn't too helpful."
"And Satoke?" Reiji asked, referring to the gatekeeper of blades. The black haired girl was quite bold with her red streaked hair and attitude, looking like someone out of some school gang picture, but she was a powerful friend and ally.
"I think she's still a little too focused on being my rival for the best Invader hunter," Ayane said with a wry smile. There was a warmth in her face and gentleness in her eyes as she spoke about her fellow
gatekeepers, one that offset any possible criticism.
'She certainly has changed a great deal,' Reiji thought with a fatherly smile. When he had first met Ayane she had been a quietly intense girl with no friends and apparently no need for them. When they first
recruited Miu she had resented the other girl, but with the Ghost Girl incident and after she had opened up a great deal.
"And I can't really go to Miu about it," Ayane said uncomfortably.
"Because she's the one you care for," Reiji noted.
Ayane sat up straight, nearly spitting out her mouthful of tea. "Yes," she said, recovering her poise pretty quickly, "but how did you know?"
Reiji flashed her a smile, "Credit me with some perception, please."
"It's not just that I care for her," Ayane admitted, the younger woman's cheeks going red, "I think I'm in love with Miu."
With someone else he might have suggested that she might be exaggerating, but Reiji knew Ayane far too well. If she said something like that, she probably meant it. "Have you told her about how you feel?" he asked.
Ayane gave him a scornful look. "Are you kidding?" she asked him with a sigh. She drank more tea, the light catching the beads on her hair tie, "I'm too afraid."
"It's clear that she cares for you a great deal," Reiji said. He hesitated for a moment, unsure if he should mention it then quietly said, "When you were in a coma she was in here visiting you every day, no matter what."
"I knew," Ayane said quietly, swirling the last of her tea around in the cup, "I was aware of it, even if I couldn't respond."
"It's fair to say that she has feelings for you," Reiji said, "it only remains for you to try and discover the depth of those feelings."
Ayane nodded thoughtfully, "I think you're right." She got up, the little bell hanging from her backpack jingling as she picked it up, "Do you need Miu and I to go on patrol tonight?"
"Satoke can handle things," Reiji said firmly, "and Yukino and I are available if something should go badly wrong."
"Thanks," Ayane smiled.
"Good luck," Reiji called out, "and don't be out too late."
"Don't start sounding like my father," Ayane waved back to him casually as she left the suite, "or I'll never forgive you."