It had been quite some time since Nami Nagataki had last felt the rush of pulse-pounding combat.
Even if she didn’t want to admit it, there was a longing inside her that demanded she fight something or someone.
Ever since that loss against Michael, the notion remained stuck in the back of her mind; a splinter that she couldn’t remove no matter how hard she picked and prodded at it.
Of course, Nami couldn’t tell what Deji was thinking as the two of them bounded forward.
It was all just a flurry of movement, as both of their minds appeared focused on disarming Omiko from her headphones as soon as possible.
Even Nami wasn’t so egotistical to crave a difficult fight. The faster they could get rid of her music source, the better.
Of course, it could never be so easy. Both Japanese teens had to skid to a halt about two meters away from Omiko, and for good reason.
Her music wrenched at the air like lightning, and the smell of burning ash became prevalent as her song effect came into being.
A hole burst forth from the ground, lighting up with fluorescent orange flame as something manifested itself into existence.
The contrast between a young female singer and violent, thrashing guitars served to frame this makeshift summoning circle.
Deji took a step back, his eyes focused on the mix of molten rock and fire that now spouted from this hole in the floor. Slowly but surely, it constructed itself into a new, monstrous form, as its Music Master looked on with satisfaction.
“Talk about deadly theatrics, huh?” Omiko quipped, standing strong behind her now summoned Sentonal.
It was a strange, eldritch-looking being, constructed purely of the rough plaster and rock that made up the room’s floor. Its body was a short humanoid torso without legs, held up by two large arms and terminating in a head that slobbered with feeler tentacles made of literal lava. All across its body, carved runes glowed bright orange, converging towards the top at an open wound that seemed to pulse with churning magma.
As he stood beside Nami, the danger of being horribly burned or scarred further cemented itself in Deji’s mind at the sight of this new opponent.
In the past, he just barely avoided losing his eye to Asakawa Clan associates; he wasn’t about to lose anything else.
Unfortunately for Deji, the presence of this new Sentonal presented a very real problem for him and his own song effect. As Nami paced nearby, all Deji could think of was how he could possibly get close to Omiko under the suddenly oppressive heat and the threat of being painfully melted away.
P-San would always protect him, that was her prime directive. Whether it involved killing or disarming his opponents, she did what she thought was best, and if she could possess someone, all the better.
Her ability was limited to touch range however, and with this creature borne from Distortion, it would be difficult for Deji’s Sentonal to get close without it being dispersed by the radiating heat.
Omiko seemed to see right through Deji, catching his apprehension as she directed her Sentonal at him.
There was no words spoken to relay her command, only mental acknowledgment that caused her biped creature to barrel forward and reach out its burning mouth tendrils with intent to fry him.
Deji ducked, and just barely, as the monstrosity barrelled over him completely. He flipped back up, turning to face it as P-San came into visibility just behind him. She stood with fists out and at the ready, a somewhat amusing sight considering she was really just a cute pink ghost girl wearing a scarf, striped shirt and a beret.
Not much of a fighter, to say the least. But that had never stopped Deji before.
“I’ll keep her Grateful Dead rip off busy over here. Nami, take out those headphones!” Deji called out, as Omiko’s Sentonal stepped forward on its two arms and stuck out its tentacles again.
This time though, they shot out like spikes, the lava solidifying into volcanic rock in mid-air. Deji twisted to dodge the first and the second, but he wasn’t fast enough as the third came rocketing towards his chest.
A sharp gust, and P-San’s body moved him just barely out of the way. She reformed a few seconds later, her gaseous form now showing the slightest burn on her exposed right shoulder.
Deji couldn’t command her even if he wanted to. As long as this Sentonal was focused on trying to kill him, P-San’s sole goal would be to protect him, and Nami was on her own.
He could only hope she would be able to take down Omiko before both he and his Sentonal met a fiery and quite painful end.
Nami’s eyes focused on the opponent before her.
It wasn’t Michael, but that didn’t make this fight any less important.
Behind her, Deji faced his own opponent; some sort of volcanic, legless freak formed from the gnashing guitars of her song effect. He and his Sentonal were caught in a dance of death, each missed step putting them closer and closer to being melted under deadly and oppresive heat.
Now, Nami had her own dance to complete. She’d yet to Harmonize, circling Omiko as she pointed out the obvious.
“You realize you’re pretty much defenseless, right? I mean, are you trying to make this super easy, or are you just that bad?” Nami said, smiling slyly as she did so.
Omiko beckoned her forth with one, black-nailed finger. “Oh, you’re quite right. I’m guess I wasn’t thinking, so here’s your chance. Come on… end this.”
Nami didn’t wait a second longer.
Exactly as Omiko expected.
The younger Nagataki dashed forward with impatience, moving quickly as her mind was focused on completely wrenching Omiko’s headphones from her ears.
But her wild-haired opponent just narrowed her eyes in satisfaction, waiting for Nami to get just close enough before she shouted out for her Sentonal.
The response was automatic; a pre-programmed command she’d used more than once in the past. Turning its alien head away from Deji and P-San for a moment, the creature spat out two more lava spikes, both of which homed in not on Nami, but on Omiko herself.
With peerless reflexes, the girl caught them both in mid-air, just as Nami was less than two meters away.
Within a split-second, those same volcanic spikes shifted into curved, vicious daggers seemingly made of hot orange metal.
Omiko slashed forward with them both, blades ready to cut into Nami’s flesh without second thought.
Nami backed down just fast enough, swaying out of the way of one slash and limboing just underneath another.
She righted herself back up, looking closely at Omiko’s new stance that showcased the deadly weapons now in each hand.
Behind Nami, she could hear faint blowing air and bubbling lava as Deji dueled for his very life, P-San as his only backup.
If Nami went to help him, then Omiko would have the perfect opportunity to kill him with his back turned.
And then Nami would be by herself, and she knew there was no way she could fight an armed Omiko and her Sentonal at the same time.
Their options were clearly wearing thin.
“Come now, princess.” Omiko taunted, brandishing her weapons as the glinted with fiery light. “My Sentonal can handle your boyfriend over there all day. I know God Symphony’s not going to like seeing you cut up. Make this easy on yourself and give up.”
“Save your breath.” Nami shot back. “I’ll die before I give up.”
That was true, all things considered. Giving up was worse than the act of losing itself, in Nami’s mind.
Omiko had expected such an answer, but she still couldn’t hold back her clear annoyance. “Oh, we can’t have that.”
She tensed herself in the next moment. “But don’t worry, I’ll still make this hurt!”
Omiko then leaped at Nami with sudden abandon, bring down her lava-knives and the promise of pain.
Nami dodged to one side, feeling the heat but thankfully not the burn. If there was one advantage she had here, it was her speed.
Unfortunately, her choice to not immediately activate a song effect was costing her. As long as Omiko kept up this continuous pressure, Nami wouldn’t ever get the chance to channel her power.
Deji only had so much time he could stall.
Nami continued to weave back and forth with all the grace of a ballerina and a boxer, dodging strike after strike as Omiko seemed to only become more and more impatient in her attacks.
In between it all, Nami and her exchanged glares for a brief moment, and there was a point in which Nami almost saw her own famous impatience underneath all of Omiko’s makeup and hair dye.
Another slash, and this time, Nami’s distraction cost her.
A long cut came down her bare shoulder, not deep but still drawing blood and causing her audible pain.
Nami reeled back, as Omiko stepped forward with further intent to maim.
“Oops. Slip of the wrist.” she said, clearly not at all apologetic. “Guess I’ll be losing a little for that. A happy little mistake.”
“That’ll be the only one you get.” Nami promised, as Omiko dashed forward again and let loose more volcanic fury.
Nami slipped past the blows, but even she could only avoid them for so long.
Each slash seemed to get closer and closer to hitting another part of Nami’s exposed skin. If the girl wasn’t so fast and adept at dodging, she was sure she’d have been cut to ribbons by now.
If only Nami had some way to get this crazed girl off of her, and give herself the one moment she needed to power up the song effect that could save her and Deji both.
Another slash came down, which Nami backed away from.
Then a thought sparked in her mind. It was her unlikely salvation; a memory of Afro-kun, and what he’d been able to do in their last fight that had ultimately sealed in her fate.
Another slash came, which Nami ducked under. Her hair was split just so slightly from dodging such a close strike.
She’d been practicing the motion in mind, but she would only have one opportunity. She’d have to make it count, for both her and Deji’s sakes.
Nami could hear the struggle still going on behind her. Not being able to see them without taking her attention away from Omiko, she could only assume Deji was still intact.
Another strike cut into the air. A gust of wind hit the front of her face as particles were split, and the volcanic blade came so close to cutting her nose.
Omiko raised both blades up in the air, intent on bring them down on Nami’s legs to stop her incessant dodging.
Finally, Nami saw her opportunity.
She dropped her body back and went prone, pushing her muscles to unfamiliar places as she transitioned into a move that been her bane for years.
It wasn’t as fast and as smooth as Michael’s windmill, but it was certainly the last thing that Omiko was expecting.
Nami’s Gogo boots slammed into the girl’s stomach, stealing the air in her lungs as she was sent flying back from impact.
The volcanic knifes clattered to the ground nearby, ignored for just a moment as Omiko worked to recompose herself and get back up.
Nami had the few seconds she needed, and she took the opportunity to glance back quickly.
Deji’s Sentonal was helping him dodge various strikes, but that was the most of it.
He was stuck in a tango that could lead to his death, unable to harm Omiko’s Sentonal as he simply delayed the inevitable and kept it moving.
Finger poised above the play button, Nami said her last human words as she addressed Deji loudly.
“Deji! I’m tagging you in! We’re getting nowhere this way!”
Deji nodded as he dodged a rock-claw swipe. Though P-San could assist him in avoiding blows, she was still incorporeal and unable to do any real damage.
And to make things more hopeless, with P-San up against another Sentonal, there was no human soul to be possessed.
Finally, Nami pressed play, her body becoming shrouded in silvery light as a loud chorus of female voices burst into the air.
In a manner similar to Michael’s YMCA, they seemed to prelude to something operatic and fantastical.
But instead of summoning yet another Sentonal, it was Nami herself that made a sparkling entrance.
Or rather, a sparkling transformation.
In front of Omiko’s eyes, Nami’s body twisted and shifted. Her skin turned the color of white plastic, joints forming between her arms and legs as her face became robotic and calm. Her hair became a more solid, beehive formation as the rest of her body metamorphosed to complete this new, artificial form.
When it was all over, Nami had become a twelve-foot tall android that shined with spotless, sterile white metal and piercing neon blue eyes. Strangely enough, her featureless robot body was still clothed in a silver dress that came down just past her knees. On either arm, sharp katana blades served to show just how combat ready this really form was.
Nami spoke in a forced, programmed tone.
“Multiple enemies sighted within four meters. Directive acknowledged.”
Her head turned one hundred and eighty degrees to note the presence of Omiko’s Sentonal.
“Destruction of Sentonal required for the safety of charge. Will enact immediately.”
As Nami stated her own actions, Omiko just ignored everything that was said, having thrown her knives straight at Nami’s new form in an attempt to slow her down.
But Android-Nami’s reaction speed was peerless. With one circular motion of her wrist blades, she shred the volcanic knives into sparks of orange, before elbowing Omiko hard in the face and sending the girl tumbling along the hard floor.
Nami pivoted, running on automatic legs as she leaped up and came down hard on Omiko’s Sentonal.
The weight of the two music-borne beings crashed them into the floor, as they violently struggled against each other with similarly superhuman strength.
Just a few meters away, Deji and P-San watched in slight awe as Nami’s android form wrestled with the monster that had just nearly killed him. Despite its tendrils constantly looking for a weak point, her metal skin seemed immune to the intense heat completely.
P-San pointed towards Omiko, who was just now getting up, hand over her forehead to try and quell the throbbing pain.
“She is the true enemy, Deji-Dono. Do we go?”
He nodded, getting to his feet as P-San followed.
Nami had given him this one chance to end the fight.
All that was left now was to take it.
Anger pulsed through Omiko’s mind, even as her head hurt like hell from being bashed by the weight of Nami’s large, mettalic elbow.
Plans were falling apart in front of her eyes, as she watched a now robotic Nami hack away at the rock form that made up her precious Sentonal. The threat of melting under lava was of no consequence, it seemed, as Nami’s sterile white surface only became ashy and marred despite the constant blows, pressure and heat put upon it.
And now, she was faced with the Asakawa Clan runaway, who kept his distance as his Sentonal hovered dutifully behind him.
She was unarmed, and still not completely sure what his Sentonal did.
But to Omiko, nothing mattered beyond getting Nami to God Symphony, and getting all the credit in the end.
It was what she needed to finally see her beloved Nicodemus Craven, and earn herself a true place within his Cypress.
It was a goal over four years in the making, ever since she had laid eyes on his exquisite face and began this quest in earnest.
Omiko barked her command from before, and her Sentonal responded in kind between the damaging blows to its rocky body.
Two more lava-knives came to her, and she caught them again with unnerving accuracy.
Across from her, she could see the uncertainty on Deji’s face.
She was certain of but one thing.
In the next five minutes, he would be dead, and taking down Nami, robot or not, would be a piece of cake.
As Deji kept himself at a safe distance, he wondered if switching opponents was really the best course of action in this situation.
Clearly, Nami was more used to fighting alongside a more able combatant. Deji had heard about her brother, and his calculating rollerblading combat style.
Unfortunately, he was far from Arashi’s equal.
P-San would protect him as long as she existed on this plane, but he had no control over her actions in any way.
He could only hope she made the right decisions in any given situation, but whether she decided to kill his opponent or just disarm them was out of his hands.
As Nami fought her mini-kaiju battle with Omiko’s Sentonal and thus kept its attention busy, Deji knew it was up to him to finish this.
He took a step forward, but Omiko just remained in place.
Her words were biting and poisonous. “I’m guessing you don’t have Princess’s reflexes, do you? I don’t have to hold back one bit with you. The Clan wants you in the ground.”
Deji just gave her a small smile in return. “Well, I’ve never been one to agree with the Clan.”
He pointed to the scar underneath his left eye. “And I already have a reminder of our last disagreement. I’m not looking for another.”
Omiko brandished her weapons on either side, taunting him to come forth. “And so what? Do you think you’ll talk me to death? Is that what your ghost hooker does?”
Deji shook his head. “No, she does a great many things. You should be hoping she does something in your favor. I can’t control her, after all. Your uncle’s men downstairs are proof of that.”
Omiko showed her teeth now, clearly tired of all this inaction.
“Let’s see what she does then, Deji. Let’s see if you can show me before I make mincemeat out of you.”
The sound of rock and sterile metal clashing continued behind Deji. Japanese disco and heavy metal clashed in the air as well, and Deji was unsure if Nami could truly win unless he did something.
A risky move formed in his mind. He eyed those volcanic blades, noting the heat pulsing from them and hoping that it was truly sufficient.
As Omiko waited for some distance attack, or some trick, she was surprised to see Deji just run straight at her.
He made no attempt to dodge or turn away from her, his Sentonal following him just as quickly.
Omiko was confused for only a moment, but she shook it away as she dashed straight back at him, both knives pointed right for his chest.
When they were a meter apart, Deji made his move.
He was able to knock the first knife away, but the second came undeterred, targeting his heart as it came bearing down him.
In between the seconds of impact, he was less than a meter away from Omiko, and thankfully, P-San reacted almost instantaneously.
As Omiko opened her mouth at the thought of Deji’s death, P-San surged inside, causing her to sputter and gargle in the same way as Kaiji had done before. Her knife didn’t stop though, only slightly changed direction mid-stab before plunging deep into Deji’s abdomen.
He groaned, holding back the urge to topple over from pain as he held onto Omiko.
Meanwhile, the girl shook and convulsed, as P-San took control and caused her fingers to unlatch from the knife.
With a simple motion, she forced Omiko to remove her own headphones, before making the girl toss them on the ground.
With music no longer in her ears, Distortion ceased. Nami was left struggling with nothing but air, and the knife that had been plunged into Deji’s abdomen vanished in an instant.
Then came one strong stomp of her boot through P-San’s influence, and Omiko’s headphones were shattered and done.
When P-San knew the threat was over, she used the only thing she had against Omiko.
The makeup-drowned girl’s fist came up to her face, as she punched herself five times in succession before finally going down.
On the floor, now gifted with a bloody nose, Omiko lay unconscious. Deji breathed heavily, satisfied as his Sentonal surged out of Omiko’s mouth to face him.
“It’s done, Deji-dono. Wait… you are hurt!” she said, staring with clear worry at the wound on his abdomen.
Deji laughed, trying to calm his own Sentonal down. “A blow I had to take so we could get close enough. It’s not as bad as it looks.”
The wound didn’t bleed, but it burned hot underneath his uniform. The pain was now becoming almost unbearable.
His legs began to waver, as Nami arrived behind him, catching him in her huge arms and giving him something to lean on.
“Injury detected. Failure in directive to ensure charge’s safety.”
Deji smiled, only to find himself leaning against the wall as Nami lowered him to the floor for comfort. He pulled down his headphones, and P-San disappeared in response.
“It’s done. We beat her. All things considered, at least she didn’t get me in the face.” he said, with a forced laugh.
The pain was horrible, but despite it all, it could be worse. In the very last possible moment, P-San had averted Omiko’s strike to hit a spot that might allow him to live.
An inch away, and his vulnerable heart would have been vaporized if not for P-San’s perfect timing.
As for the wound itself, the instant cauterization from the intense heat helped as well. Deji would have another scar, but he would probably live.
“Just give me five minutes.” Deji told Nami, who by now had turned off Nihon No Mikata as she looked at him with concern.
“I’ll be fine in just a few. It’s just quite painful.”
She could hear his labored breath, and though it didn’t appear he was bleeding out, Nami didn’t know if he was telling the truth.
“You didn’t have to do that, you idiot.” Nami scolded.
Deji just took another breath, talking in an effort to not think about the pain.
“I appreciate your concern. Just give me a tiny bit longer, and I promise we’ll find your brother. I just have to ride out the pain. The wound’s closed up, thankfully…”
Nami said nothing. She had no choice but to believe him.
All that was left was to wait.
If Arashi survived worse than this, then Deji would be fine, right?
Nami went over the the thought again and again, wanting to believe that.
She’d seen enough death as it is. She didn’t want to lose anyone else if she could help it.
Even idiots like him.
Perhaps he would even pass for better than average.
And if that was the case, Nami would be sure to give him her updated score, as soon they were up and out of here with Arashi in tow.