That was close.
Saya glanced at the leg thrust inches from her face. She then calmly ducked her head to avoid an incoming spinning hook kick. Taking advantage of the missed attack, Saya stepped into the enemy’s chest and slammed a left uppercut into her ribs. Her opponent took the blow without staggering. Saya hopped back and assessed the damage.
As tough as always.
Even though Saya’s arm and fist were flesh, they were still supported by her cybernetic lower body. She had held back, but her blow still had enough force to rob the breath of a normal person. Despite that, her enemy’s expression had not changed in the slightest.
How much pain did you endure to become like that?
She quickly shook away those thoughts. Arashi was not weak enough for her to entertain such trivial notions during combat.
Arashi dashed forward and then sidestepped to the right. Saya pivoted to keep the teenager in front of her. With explosive velocity, Arashi launched her right leg at Saya’s flank. Surprised by the burst of speed, Saya was forced to raise her left leg to block. The impact pushed her away, but Arashi closed the gap in an instant. While stepping back, Saya executed a perfectly timed eye jab, but the teen reflexively leaned her head back to avoid it.
As expected, she’s much faster with the new leg and hip enhancements.
But that’s not enough.
She glanced at Arashi’s left leg. Noticing Saya’s eye movement, Arashi raised both arms to protect her head.
Saya was expecting that reaction. In their previous spar, she had tricked Arashi by glancing at her legs but striking her throat.
Saya’s shin struck the teen’s left knee. Surprise and pain tainted Arashi’s poker face as her knee buckled. With her left hand, Saya grabbed Arashi’s left wrist, pulled her close, and threw a right hook. Unable to defend, Arashi instinctively closed her eyes, but Saya’s fist stopped a hair’s breadth from her jaw.
“It is good that you learned from our previous spar, but always remember that the enemy can change just like you did. You have to think ahead and outsmart your opponent.”
Still held by the wrist, Arashi nodded her head in response to the lesson. Saya released her and walked away.
She still has a lot to work on.
But she learns fast.
Arashi was not her equal in melee combat. On the other hand, Saya had to admit that she was no match for Arashi in a gunfight. The teen was specialized in that area, so much so that her close combat skills suffered. Arashi had an almost reflexive impulse to move away whenever an opponent closed in. It was useful in certain situations but a deadly mistake in others. That impulse delayed Arashi’s reaction to sudden close-up attacks, like Saya’s punches.
Kaika had ordered Saya to train Arashi in close combat and fix her bad habits. Whenever both Arashi and Saya had overlapping free time, they spent it sparring in the rear courtyard of the Nikaido estate.
After moving about a dozen feet away, Saya turned to Arashi and took a fighting stance. “Again.”
Arashi rushed towards her and threw a right uppercut at her flank. However, Saya read the attack.
You mimic me too much!
Exploiting her superior reach, she stepped back and unleashed a left straight punch. Arashi’s uppercut only grazed cloth, but Saya’s fist clipped Arashi’s chin, shaking her brain and nailing her in place. Saya quickly grabbed Arashi’s shoulders and slammed her knee into the teen’s gut. Arashi curled up and toppled to the ground.
Did I overdo it!?
Saya approached Arashi to check on her but quickly realized her error. That girl would not get knocked down from such a half-hearted blow. The butler noticed Arashi grabbing some dirt from the ground. Seeing through the teen’s plan, Saya protected her exposed eye with her left hand. Then her legs were swept from underneath her.
The dirt was a feint!?
With her hand obstructing her vision, Saya had failed to see the leg sweep. She fell down ungracefully, landing on her back. Arashi got back on her feet and tried to kick Saya’s abdomen. Saya protected herself by tucking her knees to her chest, blocking the attack with her crossed shins. The impact caused her to skid across the floor. Using the momentum, she rolled into a handstand, stretched her legs into a split, and spun around using her hands. The helicopter kick was relatively weak, but it caught the advancing Arashi unprepared and hit her left side. Pushing off the ground using her palms, Saya flipped right-side up and took a fighting stance.
Unlike Arashi, who only knew military combat techniques, Saya was well-versed in numerous martial arts styles. Due to her ARMS enhancements, she naturally gravitated to disciplines that focused on kicks. In addition to her favored Taekwondo, Capoeira was another art she had mastered.
The two of them traded kicks, their alloy legs clashing repeatedly. Their roundhouse kicks met and rebounded off each other, forcing them to plant both feet on the ground to steady themselves. Arashi used the brief pause to throw the dirt in her hand at Saya’s face. However, Saya had anticipated the attack and spun around. The dirt hit the back of her head as she stretched her leg for a hook kick.
With her rigorously trained reflexes, Arashi arched her spine backward and evaded Saya’s heel. But Saya never intended for the attack to hit. A kick to the head using her cybernetic leg, even when holding back, could severely injure or even kill a person.
Before her kicking foot touched the ground, Saya propelled herself towards Arashi. Off-balance, Arashi could do nothing against the abrupt takedown. Saya positioned herself on top of the teen and easily subjected her human arm to an armbar.
Looks like grappling techniques are next on the training menu.
Arashi struggled ferociously, but her right arm was pinned down by Saya’s legs, and her left hand was firmly held against Saya’s chest.
“What are you doing? Tap out,” said Saya.
Saya lifted her face and looked at Arashi. The teen was shaking her head. A blissful smile was on her face.
I did tell her not to hold back, but this is a little creepy.
Arashi tried to force her arm free with renewed vigor. Saya pulled harder to hold her in place. She could not just let her go. Arashi needed to learn to work around insurmountable obstacles, not blindly crash into them.
“Stop, you will injure yourself!” said Saya.
Two crisp claps echoed in the courtyard.
“That’s enough,” said their mistress with a satisfied smile.
Saya felt Arashi slacken and released her. She got up and held her hand out. The teen took it without hesitation. The hostility between them vanished without a trace.
Kaika looked at Saya with her arms akimbo. “Look at you. You’ve soiled yourself.”
“Please do not say things that can be easily misunderstood.”
“Do you deny it? There’s gunk all over your hair, too.”
Knowing that her mistress’s lewd phrasing was intentional, Saya sighed. “I will take that as a compliment. My task is to train Arashi, and this is proof of progress.” She patted her hair and uniform to remove the dirt on them.
“It’s actually training for both of you.” Kaika glanced at the teen. “I have to say I’m impressed with Arashi’s improvement. Few people can fight that well against Saya. In fact, I only know three, and one of them is dead.”
“I’m just stating fact. And it was praise.”
Saya knew that the man who almost killed her and died in combat against Ageha was Arashi’s father, Souichi Tanizaki. According to Kaika, Arashi had approached her for employment after his death. Spending time with Arashi had made it clear that money was not the only thing the teen needed. With severely limited social skills and knowledge, it was difficult for her to live alone. The deceptively docile girl did not even have a basic understanding of laws and morality. Saya recalled how Arashi casually admitted the number of people she had killed. The teen had given only a rough estimate, but even rounding down, her score rivaled Ageha’s.
Arashi began cleaning up the weapons and equipment they had used for training. Kaika and Saya watched the girl diligently working from a distance.
“Did you train her to do that too?” asked Kaika.
“No, her father did, in a rather forceful way. I tried to assist her once, but she was adamant about doing it herself.”
“Did she tell you about her father?”
“Just bits and pieces. She hardly speaks.” Saya turned to her mistress. “If I may.”
“I still have my reservations about her. There are times when… I can see a certain insanity in her eyes.”
“Who doesn’t have a bit of insanity in them?”
“If only it were a bit.”
“If she wanted to kill me, she’d have done it when we first met.”
Remembering her past failure, Saya tightly pressed her lips together. “Despite being in her company for a while, I still cannot understand her reason for coming here. We are indirectly responsible for her father’s death.”
“About that, it seems she killed her father.”
“That’s a pretty good Ageha impression.”
“Ojousama.” Saya’s eyebrows furrowed slightly.
“Ageha didn’t kill Souichi Tanizaki. Arashi killed her father to save Ageha.”
Does that mean Arashi also…
Kaika glanced at Saya’s face. “It’s probably what you’re thinking.”
Saya sighed. “I cannot believe that man.”
“It’s your fault, falling for such a playboy.”
“As if you did not have a hand in it.”
Kaika looked away and whistled as if denying responsibility. “Well, Arashi insists she wants revenge against him, but she’s probably just confused. This is her first taste of freedom, after all.”
”Revenge? Against Ageha-sama!?”
“Calm down. You should know by now that Arashi is like a blank slate. More importantly, she’s starving for affection. I can easily distract her from her original goal, maybe even replace it. With your help, that is.”
“Aren’t you an expert at spoiling children?” Kaika smiled innocently.
Saya’s shoulders dropped a little. “…As much as I would like to deny it, it would seem so.”
“It’s the perfect time to put those skills to use. Arashi’s abilities are necessary moving forward. Besides, she deserves a reward.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s just say she’s instrumental in getting rid of a certain obstacle to Ageha’s return.”
When Kaika spoke in such vague terms, it meant that she intended to keep the matter under wraps. Saya had no choice but to deduce what obstacle her mistress had been referring to. If it was related to Ageha, only one thing, one person, came to mind.
She was the main reason why Ageha left their side. If she were to disappear, his return would certainly be possible. However, if something happened to Rin, Kaika would be the prime suspect. The only other people with motive were Jin and…
According to Kaika, Arashi was an avenger. It was perfectly reasonable to hurt those important to her target. If Arashi killed Rin… No, if Kaika made Arashi kill Rin…
“What’s so funny?” asked Kaika.
“You were smiling.”
“Please close your eyes.”
Kaika obediently did as her butler instructed. Saya then gently poured a bucket of warm water over her head. The water washed away the shampoo on Kaika’s wet locks. The suds trickled down her flawless skin and traversed the cleft between her hips and thighs.
The young tycoon opened her eyes and looked to her right. “It’s your turn.”
Arashi nodded her head. She still felt uncomfortable in the incredibly large bathing area of the Nikaido mansion. The teen was a shower person, though not by choice. Her father had not allowed her to take baths. Free time meant training to Arashi, at least before she had come to this place.
Everything about her current lifestyle was new to her. She could eat whatever she wanted, sleep whenever she felt like, and even had people waiting on her. Of course, there were still missions she had to complete, but neither Kaika nor Saya would beat her even if she screwed up. Arashi should be having the time of her life, but the feeling that something was amiss lingered in her heart. She feared that if she took this paradise for granted, everything would disappear like a fleeting cloud.
Saya, her new trainer, walked up to her. While sitting on a wooden stool, Arashi reflexively straightened her back.
“…Is it my imagination, or is she afraid of me?” asked Saya.
“It’s not your fault,” said Kaika. “She’s always like that in the bath. Her body stiffens up whenever the maids wash her.”
“You mean she always gets in the bath with you, Ojousama?”
“Don’t get jealous.”
“I-I am not-”
“I have no choice. She doesn’t wash herself otherwise.”
“What do you mean?” Saya sat on a stool behind Arashi. She then squeezed some shampoo onto her palm and lathered it on the teen’s hair.
“Exactly that,” said Kaika. “She never uses the bathroom in her quarters. A while ago, I took a walk in the garden and thought a had rat died in the bushes. Only the bush was Arashi’s hair, and the dead rat was her head.”
Saya widened her eyes and laughed lightly.
Arashi felt her cheeks burn.
I-It’s not like I didn’t want to wash myself!
She simply could not figure out how to operate the fancy terminal in the lavish manor bathroom.
“Come now, Ojousama. It is not nice to say something like that about a girl. Look, you are embarrassing her.”
But you were the one laughing!
Arashi moved her head away from Saya’s hands.
“Oh, are you angry?” asked Saya. “I apologize for laughing. Let me make it up to you.” She placed a hand on Arashi’s bare collarbone and gently pulled her towards herself. Her fingers combed Arashi’s hair and firmly massaged her scalp.
W-What is this!?
Arashi had been bathed by the maids before but had never felt anything like this.
Kaika grinned proudly. “Amazing, isn’t it? That’s one of Saya’s specialties. I call her “God Finger.”
“When did you ever call me that!?”
“Whenever you aren’t around.”
“…I do not understand if you want to keep it a secret from me or not!”
Arashi heard a conversation happening in the background but was too busy drooling from pleasure to care.
“Anyway,” said Kaika.
“Please do not ignore me! Who knows about that nickname!?”
“Hmm, it would be faster to name the people who don’t know about it.”
“I can’t seem to think of anyone, though.”
“Everyone knows!? What exactly did you tell them?”
“Nothing much. Something like, ‘Saya’s so good with her fingers. I can’t believe how good it feels whenever she touches me. Electricity runs through my body with each caress, and I almost forget to breathe. Her touch is incredibly gentle yet firm and forceful at the same time. I go to heaven each time her fingers deeply penetrate my-’”
“Scalp! Your scalp!!!”
“Yes, my scalp. Why are you complaining? I was only telling the truth, right Arashi?”
“Yeshhh…” said Arashi, her eyelids struggling to stay open.
Kaika made a serious expression. “…I wonder if I looked like that the first time you had your way with me.”
“Stop making it sound so lewd!” Saya’s face was completely red.
“Putting something that inconsequential aside,” said the mistress.
“My reputation is inconsequential!?”
Kaika glanced at Arashi’s lower body. “How does your leg feel?”
Arashi awoke from her pleasure trip. She stretched her right leg out. Its athletic curves and supple appearance belied its true composition. “…Okay.”
“How about your nerve realignment procedure?”
“It… was alright.”
“Good. I was a bit worried because more than half your body is cybernetic now.”
Saya looked at her mistress and said, “NGC’s recent advances in nerve synchronization have significantly reduced the pain. It is now tolerable even with this level of enhancement.”
It was still bad.
The maintenance procedure was agony. If given a choice, Arashi would avoid undergoing such torture again. But she had none. In order to reach and slay her god, she had to become stronger. That man had been enduring an even more painful version of her maintenance given the degree of his cybernetic enhancement. She could not hesitate at this juncture.
Saya moved on to washing Arashi’s shoulders. Her long smooth fingers glided down Arashi’s back, thoroughly rubbing off the dirt accumulated during sparring. The shape of the teen’s delicately curved shoulder blades and trained muscles peeked through her youthful skin.
“Let me show you something,” said Kaika.
“Why do I have a bad feeling about this?” asked Saya.
“Because you have good intuition?”
“If you think so, then please stop!”
“Banzai!” shouted Kaika.
Arashi’s hands shot straight up.
Startled, Saya almost fell to the floor. “What was that!?”
“Amazing isn’t it? I figured you want to wash her underarms next.”
“Oh, yes I did. No, wait! What just happened!?”
“The maids were having a tough time washing her because she always sat as still as a rock, so I trained her to raise her arms like that whenever I give that command.”
“I used dolphin cookies. I didn’t want to part with them, but looking at the results, they were well spent.”
“Like a dog!?”
“How rude. I would never feed dolphin cookies to a mere dog.”
“Cookie shape aside, please fix the training method!”
It’s amazing how easily Saya talks to Kai.
Arashi spent a lot of time with her employer but found it difficult to speak with her.
I want to be able to do that too.
Arashi admired Saya’s eloquence and wanted to praise her. Unfortunately, the unschooled teen had a very limited vocabulary.
“…Saya, noisy,” said Arashi.
Saya dropped to her knees, her palms falling flat on the marble flooring.
“You shouldn’t say that, Arashi. Look, Saya’s sulking. You two should get along as fellow flat-chests.”
“Ojousama…” Saya’s rumbling voice echoed throughout the enormous bathroom.
With her arms still raised as if declaring victory, Arashi turned her head to Kaika and said, “I’m bigger… and still growing.”
Arashi felt an iron vise take hold of her hair. Alarm bells sounded in her head as she strained her neck and eyes to confirm the identity her attacker.
“Did you say something just now, Arashi?” asked Saya, her face completely devoid of expression.
Arashi gazed at her with a similarly blank look. She did not understand why the fingers that carefully massaged her scalp earlier were now trying to peel it off.
She thinks I’m lying to please her!
Arashi viewed her breasts as hindrances to combat. To her, Saya’s sleek form was ideal. In fact, a lot of Saya’s dodges during their sparring sessions had only been possible due to the butler’s lack of chest girth.
I have to explain!
“I have bigger breasts… than you. I’m sure. I felt… yours during the… armbar earlier. You’re… flatter than me! Like a pancake, honest!”
“Oh my god,” said Kaika in awe. “Arashi’s feet are off the ground…”
The two girls ran around naked in the luxurious Nikaido bathroom in an attempt to escape the butler’s wrath. They were trembling from the cold by the time Saya calmed down.
In contrast to her body’s temperature, Arashi felt enveloped by warmth. Saya’s hands reminded her of her mother’s touch, and Kaika’s guidance evoked memories of the kind voice she longed for. Her newfound home steadily thawed the tundra in Arashi’s heart.
“Sorry. Didn’t you get my message?” asked Ageha.
Rin crossed her arms and pouted. “I’d be much angrier if I didn’t.”
“I had no choice. My client went all the way to the middle of nowhere.”
“…I know. But I’m worried.”
Ageha passed Rin and headed to the living room. “There’s nothing to worry about.”
Rin grabbed his hand. “Your eye.”
“This? It’s just a scratch.”
“Just a scratch?”
“Like I said before, I’m really good at what I do-”
“And I believe you. You won’t make up a dumb lie like that. But that’s the problem.”
“Someone as good as you got hurt.” Rin released Ageha’s hand and pointed at his brow. “It must’ve been that dangerous.”
“No, there’s a different reason for this.”
“Another reason you won’t tell me?”
“It’s not something you need to hear.”
“…I see.” Rin closed her eyes and walked off.
“Wait, wait.” He embraced her waist from behind. “You know why I don’t want to tell you, right?”
Yes, she knew. It was for her sake. Stories about his other life would do nothing but scratch open her scabbed wounds. Her fingernails had already grown back, but her soul had yet to heal.
His touch always calmed her. And that was a problem. She had grown far too complacent because of it. Without knowing, Ageha was already much farther from her reach than she imagined.
Rin closed her eyes and relaxed her shoulders. “I know, but…”
“I want to keep you away from all that. But I don’t want to lie to you.”
Rin knew that Ageha had been lying to her. It was not because he was bad at it. On the contrary, he had become too skilled. Rin could no longer sift the lies from the truth. From her perspective, he was always completely honest.
There was no such thing as a completely honest person. Everyone lied. The only differences were the motives and degrees of deception. That meant Ageha could now completely deceive her, save for the fact that she knew she was being deceived.
“Please let me protect you,” said Ageha.
“Okay.” She turned around and kissed him on the corner of his lips. Pressing her cheek on his chest, she stifled a sigh.
Rin loved him too much to say what she truly felt. She did not dare push on the crack between them in fear of spreading the fissures.