Chapter 058: Kickoff

Cacira leaned to the side, dodging James's pistol shot. He immediately followed by somersaulting towards James, but Rink halted his approach with a sound wave. Without any pause, he followed with a dash towards Rink, preparing a punch. She deflected his arm with her arm guard, and quickly backed away to avoid any immediate followup. James fired another shot, but Cacira dropped to the ground to avoid it and launched into a handspring towards him. He thrust his palm into James's chest, sending him reeling backwards. But before Cacira could land another, more serious blow on James, Rink cut between them with a scream. Cacira challenged it, throwing a flurry of attacks towards Rink, but only managed some glancing blows before James fired another shot. Cacira dodged it with a spin that turned into a roundhouse kick, again directed at Rink. She met it with her arm guard, but the force of the kick caused her to tumble backwards and fall. This time it was James who cut between them, running to Rink while firing another easily dodged shot towards Cacira, who backed away with some hops.

"Are you okay?" James asked and held out his hand towards Rink, with the gun still pointing at Cacira.
"Yeeeah, this guy might be an issue," Rink said as she took James's hand and stood back up.
"So what's the plan?"
"The plan is we beat him and get out of here," Rink replied. "Which would be easier if he would just stand still..."
"So what's the specific plan?"
"I'm still working on the details, okay?"
"That's not very reassuring!"
"You think of something better, then!"
"I'm not the one with the magical mouth!"
"Is this really the group that managed to defeat both my younger siblings?" Cacira commented, clearly having heard their conversation.
"Don't look at me, I wasn't even there."
"I don't think he cares about that distinction," Rink replied. "And technically, Allen and Muse did the big things."
"Anyone associated with you, Roland, or Flint is a criminal and will be brought in all the same!"
"You can try."
"Oh, I'll do more than that!" Cacira exclaimed and lunged towards them. Rink blocked a punch with her arm guard, and James went in for a stab towards Cacira's leg. With a swift move, he blocked the dagger with his shoe, then sent it flying out of James's hand. James immediately followed by directing a kick of his own at Cacira's shin, actually managing to connect. Cacira responded by shoving Rink away and kicking James in the stomach, sending the two of them stumbling backwards. Rink managed to catch her balance, but James fell on his back.
"Well, I guess that's not gonna work," Rink said and helped James back up.
"Maybe... attack him from different sides?" James suggested.
"Not a bad idea, but that would mean one of us managing to get to the other side of him..."
"...I'll cut him off," James said and looked at Cacira. "You get past him."
"I don't know if-" was all Rink managed to say before James dashed towards Cacira, and deciding to see if there was any chance to capitalize on the somewhat poorly planned move, she started moving after him.
"Hey!" James exclaimed, running at their opponent with his pistol at the ready. Cacira wasted no time in meeting James, dropping down and kicking the pistol out of his hands before punching him in the gut, sending him reeling backwards towards Rink, who caught him before he fell. "...thanks."
"Any other bright ideas?"
"At least he was nice enough to send your gun back this way, but I get the feeling he's playing with us more than fighting..."
"Yeah, actually... I would have expected him to attack us more."
"With the way we've been acting, he hasn't seen the need. He's waiting for us to slip up, and after that last one... I guess he likes to think he's the brain of the family," Rink said, just loud enough for Cacira to hear the last part.
"You're not going to rile me up with facts!" he replied. "I've got time. You don't."
"You think so?"
"Well, once my siblings are done with the rest of your gang, taking you in will be a simple matter."
"Oh, is that your strategy? Just stall until you can get backup because you can't deal with us on your own?" Rink said with a smirk.
"I know that you're just trying to get a rise out of me, but-"
"Yeah, yeah, let me guess... 'I'm not as easily provoked as my siblings'."
"You can mock me, but that doesn't make it false."
"Aren't you trying hard to be mister rational."
"If you don't realize that you have to be as captain, your crew doesn't stand a chance!"
"Ah, not really my thing. But that's what I have this guy for," Rink replied and nodded towards James.
"...thanks?" James said. "...was that a compliment?"
"More or less."
"So if he just needs to keep us here, and we can't gain any ground..." James said before starting to whisper. "You wouldn't happen to have some hidden ace up your sleeve, would you?"
"Not on me," Rink whispered back. "We gotta get an opening. Also, you might want to move out of the way."
"Of wh-" was all James had the time to say before Rink shoved him away and took a large step in the other direction herself. Suddenly, something came flying through the air, landing where they had been standing with a metallic clang.
"That." Rink quickly picked it up, finding it to be a short metal rod with a button near an opening on one end. Pushing it, a jet of fire shot out of it, and a flame stayed lit. "Huh..."
"That's... my sister's torch!" Cacira exclaimed. "How did it..."
"Looks like your dear siblings might not be doing as well as you thought," Rink said as she pointed the torch towards Cacira. "What was that about us not having time? How do you think this is gonna go for you once we get backup instead?"
"We still have the Marine force here. And give that back. It's not yours."
"As if," Rink replied. "So why are you fighting here alone then? Want to impress someone?"
"They know to not get in our way when we fight seriously," Cacira replied.
"You've got an excuse for everything, don't you?" Rink chuckled. "But speaking of getting in the way, this would just get in the way of my stuff, so you try to make yourself useful with it," she continued and handed the torch over to James.
"Oh, uh, alright," James said and tried out their new tool, shooting a jet of flame towards their opponent, but with the distance between them the fire posed no threat.
"I've trained together with Cabiru my whole life, using her weapon against me isn't going to give you any advantage!"
"...I hate to admit it, but he has a point."
"But this will help with keeping him at a distance, and as long as he has to approach us... we've got the upper hand, right?"
"Is that what you think?" Cacira asked.
"I mean, if our crew is on their way, and yours aren't..."
"Then allow me to demonstrate my specialty!" Cacira said and performed a fast kick in the direction of Rink and James. While his leg was far away from them, something seemed to pass between the two, hitting the wall behind them and leaving a mark, like something had cut into the wall.
"What the- what the hell was that?" James exclaimed.
"...wind pressure?" Rink said, looking back towards Cacira after inspecting the mark on the wall. "With a kick?"
"The Tempest Kick," Cacira replied with a smirk. "A rather advanced technique that few have managed to master, and even fewer have been able to counter..."
"So why didn't you use that before?"
"There was no need to show you everything I can do. But, the situation might indeed have changed..."
"We're not scared of something like-" James started, but was interrupted by Rink holding out her arm in front of him.
"...James, this is out of your league now," she said. "Stand back and leave this to me."
"That's a captain's order, and you know very well what I said about disagreeing with my orders."
"...yes, I definitely do," James said and started backing away towards an alley.
"You're not going anywhere!" Cacira shouted and sent two quick Tempest Kicks towards James. Rink jumped in front of them, letting out a loud bellow, redirecting the two cutting winds to the side and letting James disappear between the buildings.
"It's just you and me now," she said with a mischievous smirk.
"Is screaming at people and things until they do your bidding all you do?"
"That is generally my game plan, and it's worked pretty well so far," she replied. "But wind is just air that's moving, and sound is vibrations in the air... it only makes sense that I can affect stuff like your kicks."
"Hmph. Maybe I will have to take you seriously... and did I hear you say captain's order?"
"That would be correct," Rink said. "I am Rink Kazai, captain of the New Harmony Pirates!"
"You're not gonna last long in that position. And sending your underling away like that... do you really think fighting alone improves your chances any?"
"Well, you have to keep your crew in line. Make sure they know who's in charge."
"So you're that kind of captain."
"Plus, he'd just be getting in my way if I'm gonna go all out," Rink replied and pulled out three tuning forks. "And I wouldn't want to accidentally direct one of your kicks onto him."
"I'll just have to find and deal with him once I've put you down, then. My siblings will have dealt with the rest of your friends... or your crew, I suppose."
"Oh, I wouldn't be so sure," Rink said with a grin. "They're a motley bunch, but they're not going to go down easily. Especially not Mirise, with you causing trouble in her home... and I'm quite fond of this place too!"
"If we had known it was a breeding ground for criminals like you, we would have taken action on it sooner!"
"You know, I'm not gonna deny that I am one now... but I most certainly was not while I lived here. Why would I have been? I was a celebrity! I was living the good life, with the good things! Good food, good drink, good girls!"
"And yet, within two weeks of your departure, you got yourself involved with a murderer and broke into a Marine facility to help an even worse criminal escape..."
"I'll be the first to admit that things may have gotten a bit out of hand... but I don't regret doing any of it. If you really need to know, I left Avasine because I was getting bored, not to go on a crime spree!"
"But I suppose you have no intention to make things right..."
"Like you'd even let me! At this point, you'd just send all of us to the gallows the moment you catch us!"
"You are rather a new name yourself, with a comparatively low price... and you do have two higher-value targets with you. They could help you... make a case for yourself, if you understand."
"Oh, I understand just fine," Rink said with a scowl. "And if there ever was any chance of me going easy on you before, suggesting I betray my friends to save my own skin made it vanish entirely!"
"Ah, it was worth a try. But you go easy on me? I think you've got that the wrong way around!" Cacira jumped backwards and sent two quick Tempest Kicks towards Rink. She met them with a yell, making one pass by her harmlessly, but the other nicked her right shoulder, taking some hair with it in the process.
"Ah!" Rink exclaimed and put a hand on her shoulder. The cut was shallow, but had managed to draw blood.
"Looks like that's not as reliable as you thought it was!"
"Guess I'll just have to be more convincing, then."
"Sounds to me like you're just trying to convince yourself you can still win this!" Cacira shouted and fired off a large slash with a horizontal kick, which Rink tried to divert and dodge. She managed to disrupt it to a degree, but again was hit by a number of small cuts.

Sensing the opportunity, Cacira increased the intensity of his attacks. He threw kick after kick towards Rink, keeping her at a distance, cutting her off whenever she tried to move into a more favourable position. Rink did what she could to prevent a fatal hit and sent some sound bullets his way when she found any windows in his attacks to do so, some finding their target, but not giving her enough of a chance to follow up. It was clear that she was the one losing ground in this duel, soon finding herself up against a wall, bleeding from multiple cuts—luckily mostly shallow, but it wasn't a good sign regardless. She stared at him in anger, but couldn't hide that she had taken significant damage.

"Time to finish this!" Cacira exclaimed and sent one large slash of wind towards Rink. She let out a piercing scream, louder than any she had used previously against him. It almost entirely dissolved his attack, leaving only some harmless gusts passing her.
"Not... not finished yet..." Rink said with as much confidence she could muster, but that last scream had clearly taken most of her remaining energy, dropping to one knee and breathing heavily.
"Oh, you still had that in you... but just look at yourself! You've been cut up and bleeding, and you've barely been able to touch me! There's no winning this for you."
"I... you're right. I'm not going to be able to beat you like this."
"So, you've finally come to your senses."
"Not alone."
"You're the one who sent away your-"

Before Cacira could finish his sentence, he was interrupted by his pants catching fire. A jet of flame had shot out from an alley beside him, and James soon emerged from the same, rushing Cacira with his dagger and the torch. Rink also wasted no time, starting to pelt her foe with as many sound bullets she could muster while approaching. Cacira tried kicking, but the fire had distracted him enough that James was already on top of him, stabbing his shoulder and giving him an elbow to the face. As Cacira was reeling back, trying to regain his balance, James followed up by striking his kneecap with the torch and clotheslining him, sending him flat on his back. James drove the sharpened end of the torch through Cacira's right leg, with enough force that it embedded itself into the ground underneath, and then proceeded to lock down the other leg much in the same way with his dagger. Cacira tried sitting up, but Rink had reached him and smacked him in the face with her arm guard, sending him back down and hitting his head on the ground, dazing him. She grinned and looked at James.

"And this is why you're my number two."
"I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who could have pulled that off."
"Maybe not, but even so... I know I made the right choice. I couldn't have won without you."
"Is it... really a win for you if it's at the cost of learning you can't trust your crew?" Cacira asked from the ground. "I seem to remember you giving him a direct order to stay out..."
"He did exactly what he was supposed to. Because I'm not that kind of captain. I trust my crew with my life, otherwise they wouldn't be my crew... and I trust them to know when my orders are wrong."
"Should have known you wouldn't play fair... but don't be surprised when that kind of lax discipline comes back to bite you."
"Oh, you just shut up," Rink said and put her foot over Cacira's mouth before looking at James. "Alright, disarm him."
"I mean, take his gloves and shoes, not cut off his hands and feet!"
"Right, right..." James said and knelt down next to Cacira to do as Rink as instructed. He pulled off the glove from Cacira's right hand, looked at it, and put it on his own. He closed and opened his fist with it on, before looking up at Rink. "Hey, it fits me!"
"Stop playing around."
"Fine, fine..." James continued removing Cacira's accessories, with Rink making sure the Marine stayed down. "And now?"
"We need to get back to Aniara, but we're not gonna get far in that direction, I don't think... let's head back to the market square and regroup with the others," she said and looked down at Cacira. "And you can take a rest," she continued and struck his head with her arm guard, leaving him dazed and barely conscious.
"That was a tough one," James said and retrieved the dagger and torch from Cacira's legs, now that they were no longer needed to keep him still.
"Yeah... and it's not gonna get any easier from here on out," Rink replied as the two of them started heading back, Rink leaning on James for support after the damage she had taken. "Us chasing those demon pirates, the Marines chasing us... we've got a lot more challenges ahead of us, so we better make sure we can face them."
"So what you're saying is I need to get stronger."
"Not just you," Rink replied. "I've been leaning on my devil powers, but... that wasn't enough today. Especially as captain, I have to make sure I have more than one strategy. We were just throwing ourselves at him, and only won thanks to luck and trickery... we need to start thinking about how we fight together. How we can play off each other's abilities. Markus and Muse have been working together for years, they probably have some pointers..."
"But starting to figure that out presumes that we all get out of here first, so we should probably hurry up!"

With Rink guiding James through the back streets to move quickly but unseen, they reached the market square only moments after Muse. She was the first to spot the two of them, and ran over with Mirise and Allen following.

"Hey... you all good?" Rink asked.
"Yeah, somehow," Allen replied.
"Your hair looks terrible."
"Thank you, Muse, I know. I'll deal with it later. So... where's your knights?"
"Set him on fire and electrocuted his arms."
"Gave her several concussions and a broken jaw," Allen said and nodded towards the still unconscious Cagizo.
"Trapped her under the city."
"Got some souvenirs, too!" Allen said and held up Cagizo's armour and Cagizo's torches.
"Yeah, we've picked up another one of those," Rink said as James held up his torch. "It really helped us, too!"
"Oh, so that's where it ended up," Allen chuckled.
"Anyway, we left our guy unconscious with holes in his legs."
"And barefeet."
"So, uh, all your guys still alive, then?"
"Yes," Mirise replied.
"Yep," Allen continued.
"Mostly," Muse added.
"Well, he's still alive, but his arms are never going to be the same."
"Knowing that egomaniac, he probably finds that worse than if you had just killed him," Allen chuckled.
"I could have. He told me to, but..."
"Probably a good thing. I know I never really told you to avoid killing, but it would have rather undermined the point I tried to make to that acrobat back there if any of you had offed any of them. And a Marine officer getting killed by a pirate inside the city, even in a situation like this, wouldn't have done Avasine any favours..."
"They would use it as the reason to completely take over... stuff like that has happened before," Allen commented. "The last thing we wanna do is give them a martyr."
"Though, even with that..."
"...yeah, to be honest, we probably made things worse regardless."
"Still, the mayor did say he's siding with us over the Marines, even if he won't say so publicly..." Rink said and glanced at Mirise. "And more than that, he gave me—us—a task, and I'm gonna make sure we do it."
"We're doing what now?" Allen asked.
"Protect Mirise. Even if Avasine falls into their hands... it's our job to make sure Mirise doesn't. Not that we wouldn't have protected one of our own either way, but..."
"...but first, we need to get out of here... somehow."
"What's the situation around us?" Muse asked.
"I don't know if they're all Marines, but I'm hearing large groups of people coming from all directions..."
"That doesn't sound promising."
"Mirise, I don't suppose you know any way for us to reach the docks without going on the main roads?"
"Not unless we swim underneath, or get up on the roofs, but..."
"Yeah, that's not happening."
"So we've got more fighting ahead of us, then," James confirmed.
"Seems like it..."
"I've only got one arrow left."
"I took quite a bit of damage in that fight, too... to get out of here, we're gonna need need a lot of-"
"Free samples!"