"Dlake!" Kina's voice cut through the air, heavier on the accent than was usual. The man flinched as he looked her way, and the smiling Chinese woman only beamed more brightly. Drake stood in front of a bulletin board, hands grasping a note that described a mission with a skull at the top: a mission more dangerous than five stars. His yellow eyes looked Kina up and down before he finally spoke. "Can I help you, Kina?" He bit his tongue to keep from commenting on her exaggerated accent. "Mm!" She shoved her hands into her pockets and pushed her hips forward in a confident stance. "I heard you were back from your last mission. Not even an hour here, and going for your next? Did you even shower? Did you see Alsoome?" Bright brown eyes watched the male with a strange shine of predation. "I reported, showered, ate, and saw Alsoome, but not in that order. Do you want something from me, Kina? This mission looks very important to complete quickly, before the Unifiers can put up shielding." Kina tilted her head. "Well, we better hurry, then." There was her hand, displayed so pretty on delicate lips. Lips? Drake glanced at her lips, then back up to her eyes as he scolded himself internally. "Fine, but just remember that you are important to the survival of the Hunters and the Lady. If there must be a sacrifice, it will be me." He pushed his dark hair from his gaunt and angular face as he let out a long-suffering sigh, then reached into one of his pockets and withdrew a carabiner with loops of yarn and a string of beads hung from it. He set the beads into careful positions that matched the diagram on the mission sheet, then unclipped the carabiner and tossed the string toward the wall with a flick of the wrist that sent the loops flying open. It landed vertically against the wall and stuck in an elliptical shape, and on the other side, a deep, heavy forest. Kina strode through as Drake waited, and once he came through, he pushed his hand back inside and looped it around the edge of the yarn, then pulled it through after. The portal disappeared on both sides, and Drake returned the yarn loop and its beads to the carabiner. "I found the supplies!," Kina called, and Drake exhaled in a slow sigh before he followed her chattering voice. This would be a long mission. ~*~ Shockingly, the pair infiltrated the Unifiers' sanctum within only a few hours, but something felt off. It was hardly an infiltration at all, since they wore their jackets openly, silver knives at one hip, silver-shooting guns on the other. None of the teal-clad Unifiers looked at them. None of them breathed. they looked paused in time. Kina led the way, hips swaying carelessly. "Kina, what is this?" Drake scowled. Back when he was a paper-pushing admin, her files said nothing about stopping time. "A gift for you, grumpy vampire. A show of trust." Trust, huh? Drake's eyes narrowed at the back of the woman's red-wrapped head. "Drake, since you're planning on getting yourself killed anyway, perhaps you can be the person I tell about myself." The words caught his attention, and he stared still harder at the back of her head. She remained quiet for several moments, and the silence between them stretched. "I lied about my name, and about whether or not I knew about a history of magical beings in my family history. I also lied about my age, all this when I was taken. The creature in my family's history is a divine beast known for protecting." As she spoke, Drake felt his mind fill with confusion like fog, and it grew slowly until—"Shut up, Kina." He spat the words. "Nobody actually cares about that, because you're well-established as Kina." Curiosity ate at him, but the need for mental clarity came first. She was up to something, trying to do something to his mind. He had to shut her yammering mouth. Drake continued. "If you're that cocky about it, you should perhaps tell Lady Jade you've been lying to her every second you've known her, or perhaps tell your friends like Kyoko that none of them even know your real name." Unease. There was the scent he'd been trying to draw from the woman. If she felt uncertain, it would distract her from trying to affect him, he hoped. The pair came to a room labeled 'records', and Drake stepped forward to hold the door for Kina. ~*~ The next week was much of the same: walk in without being stopped, walk out with priceless information and stolen records, and then visit the nearest town for a drink and a meal so large it could have fed a family of seven, shared between the two of them, and leaving no leftovers. Drake even sucked the marrow from the bones, relishing the warmth it brought to his cheeks. Drake and his partner tended to ignore the locals. Their strange clothing and distance kept most of the people at bay, and the mission progressed, though security measures seemed to grow each time the pair stole physical copies of their findings. By the time they'd decided that the information was exhausted, they still had no idea the cause of a base in a low-tech world, and the lack of risen shields left Drake more and more nervous. His worries gnawed at him until his insides felt raw, but he kept his feelings to himself until, as they walked through the Unifier halls, surrounded by frozen soldiers and marching guards, Kina spoke. "The longer we stay, the more I want to run far away. This is a trap." Unlike her usual cheer, her voice held no emotion. The scent that came from her body wasn't fear, though. She was excited. Not only excited, she was... Drake closed his eyes in a silent sigh, then shook his head. "I agree. It probably is a trap. They probably hoped to lure Lady Jade in, herself. Still, we have a mission, and the Lady would not ask any Hunter to risk their lives cheaply." "True. She loves us." Kina glanced back, and Drake could see a smile tease the corner of her lip. "Let's find something good before we blow this place." She grinned and nodded, and Drake was surprised to feel relieved at her words. Was he growing attached? He had to put a stop to that. ~*~ "Everything in position?," Drake asked. "All ready and wired." Drake watched as Kina began to pull herself from beneath the console she'd just set to explode. "Alright," Drake nodded, then looked around the room thoughtfully. "In that case, get going and release your ability once you're out. I will activate them." Kina looked up and her eyelid visibly twitched as she pursed her lips, however, he was right: the countdown would malfunction if she paused her ability to initiate the the timer, and if she stayed, Drake wouldn't be able to get out anyway. Outsmarted by a pencil-pusher. For a moment, she glared at him. "Clever bastard." She clicked her tongue. "I will not go back until you walk from the wreckage." Drake grunted, and after tense, silent moments, Kina departed. ~*~ Drake laid within the rubble. Though he bled, he didn't die. Though bones were broken, he already felt them shifting back into place with his every coughing, unsteady breath. His eyes danced with magenta and teal each time he blinked, but he saw darkness and heard only buzzing as he tried to simply remain still, to keep himself from more pain. Damn Kina. She must have anticipated him and put less explosive into that packet. Reckless! His eyes began to slide shut, but the sun above threatened to burn his flesh. ~*~ She put too much into the package placed at the entrance. The explosion shot her upward and away, and she landed with a wet thunk on a jagged tree branch. Blood erupted from her mouth with a hoarse cough, and she looked back toward the burning rubble, deafened by the force of the explosion. A drop of blood slid from within her ear. "Ow." The utterance came out faint and wet as Kina tried to push herself from the high, broken branch. This was embarrassing!