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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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Turned out Reiko wasn't the most patient girl in the world either. She curtly informed Kimberly that she was off to investigate the noise. Bullshit. She was off to find and eliminate whoever had had the misfortune to slip up and make a sound. She was on the hunt again. Everything else was just rationalization. It was interesting, in its own way. Kimberly had never entirely understood the mentality of the players. She'd not been able to correlate Reiko's generally decent personality with the list of names under her belt. Now, though, it all made sense. Kimberly wouldn't have been surprised if Reiko had spent the entire game going off to check out noises, then finding people who were dangerous or who became dangerous when faced with someone with a player's reputation. From there, it was all self defense.

That was a good bit of information to have. Kimberly knew it would likely not be particularly long until Reiko decided that Kimberly was a threat too. That little self defense insight could be something to spin, to use to cause doubts. Attempting that could also be a huge mistake, had she misread the situation. It could get her head blown off.

That was all assuming they ever ended up in conflict.

At the moment, Kimberly found herself faced with a bit of an ethical dilemma related to that potentiality. Reiko had wandered off, presumably with murder on her mind. She had not invited Kimberly along. Kimberly had no intention of assisting in random killings. She was not Reiko's ally. She sure as fuck wasn't Reiko's partner. There were three people out there gunning for Reiko, though. More than that, there was a good chance Reiko was about to stumble straight into a trap, given how crafty the others must have been to make it this far. Kimberly suspected that she was better prepared to figure that out, to assess the situation and make a good call. Reiko was a killer, but Kimberly was a survivor. She'd come through plenty of awful situations relatively unscathed. She had a knack for knowing when to cut and run. She could probably do a great deal of good for Reiko's chances.

On the other hand, by staying back, she could increase the chances that Reiko would get killed, ideally doing some damage to the others, and thus making her own survival more likely. She could weaponize Reiko and discard her when she was no longer useful.

And then there was Sarah, Sarah who was Reiko's girlfriend, Sarah who had saved Kimberly's life, Sarah who Kimberly didn't quite know if she hated anymore, Sarah who was almost certainly still alive somewhere. The key factor was the first day. Without Sarah, Kimberly knew she'd have died in the sand, screaming and crying and trying to stop the bleeding, cursing Kris with her last bitter breath and wondering how it had all gone so wrong. Even had that not happened, without Sarah's care Kimberly's wound would surely have become infected and killed her. Hadn't some boy died from that a few days in? Kimberly was, in the end, only here because of Sarah's kindness. Yeah, sure, Kimberly had said all debts were paid when she held Dutchy as he bled out. She'd covered up for Sarah's fuck up. That didn't really make them even. Not even close. It had just been a convenient way to wiggle off the hook, a way to die without regretting failing to pay her debts. Circumstances had changed since then. Kimberly owed Sarah her life, and now she actually had a chance to repay that debt. She couldn't do it at the cost of her own morals, though, not without throwing her own interests away entirely.

In the end, she settled for a compromise. Peering out of the alley, she saw Reiko vanishing into the darkness. She couldn't follow her, couldn't assist her directly, not without being an accessory to whatever the other girl was planning to do. What she could do, though, was stay here, stay here with her fake gun and stand sentinel. Unless the others were working together on whatever had caused the sound, they could be anywhere. Kimberly could keep an eye out for them, could get a warning out somehow, could give Reiko time to prepare herself without actually fighting her battles for her. That seemed fair enough. It seemed a noble enough pursuit, a decent middle ground.

She hoped like fuck she wasn't rationalizing, wasn't twisting her own thoughts to justify what she knew was wrong. Once, the world had been simple and morality had meant nothing. It would have been easy, oh so easy, to just go back to that time. It would have been wrong, would have made her worse than Kris.

This was too complicated. Kimberly gripped her gun, drew back into the shadows once more, and focused on listening and watching. The tension was stretched too thin. It wouldn't be long now before something broke.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
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