The Longing Of Shiina Ryo:Bonus Disc Red Orchestra Chapter 4 – Red Orchestra

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Part 1 – With you[edit]

I woke up.

The Sun was still lying on the horizon so its rays couldn’t penetrate shutters hung before the window in my room. Recalling the sour look on Shin-tsu’s face when he was here for the first time, it was a painfully normal bedroom. Obviously, such interior could hardly exceed any expectations not having anything special.

It was a misconception based on idealism and subjectivity but I wasn’t willing to protest. In most cases, such debates only diverted the attention without giving anything useful in exchange. However, this morning was an exception because through these repetitions of the day I drew needed information. It was barely enough to form my conclusions but I had no more need in meaningless mind games. The prelude was over; the time for culmination of preparation stage had come.

I sat up, and then stood up on the floor. The process of washing the face, preparing needed clothes and adding make-up to finish the work was a ritual for noble women in Middle Age and still remained the sacred ground for some people obsessed with wish to fool aging. I wasn’t interested in pointless attempts to make things better than they were, for my assumption that beauty was a solely subjective criterion.

The mask of make-up and the shell of clothes can’t hide what you are. What an irony, taking into account the fact that these instruments of fashion were used for that very purpose.

With minimum of my efforts I finished adding mascara to my eyelashes. I took some time to choose my clothes for this series of events. On a side note, I wore different sets of clothes in every other timeline for little analysis of his reactions. Apparently, yellow color doesn’t make any difference in his reactions aside from changing the amount of saliva produced in his mouth. What type of food did he recall from his quick glance on my bag? It escaped me so I left it to his imagination even though such a choice slightly troubled me.

Picking up a white handbag this time, I went out.

The route to café was already familiar. Not noticing anything different on the streets, I walked past windows of the building in which my destination was, executing my little prank. A light push of the doors, a quick glance inside and a click of my phone’s camera let me record a little spectacle with Shin-tsu as a main and only actor.

“I’M IN DESPAIR! …Wait, what?”

He was effectively stupefied. I stopped the recording and, after making my way to his table, took a seat.

“Good morning, Shin-tsu. You’re early.”

“…”

In ominous silence, Shin-tsu sat down.

“So, let me tell you the reason why I called you last night-“

“Don’t act like nothing happened just now!”

“Well, I don’t intend to upload that scene on any site, don’t worry.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“And I’m not going to watch that little spectacle online every day.”

“Doesn’t it make your other statement a lie…? That’s a creepy joke, Kouma. Especially, when I take into account your clothes.”

“What’s wrong with them?”

“It’s not like I’m an expert of any sort in Japanese culture, but even I can say that you’ve chosen White Wind Lolita fashion today!”

“Do you imply that I’m a stalker if I specifically choose such clothes for a breakfast in anime-style maid café?”

“If you put it that way… Hey, it’s still abnormal.”

I thinly smiled and decided to change the topic.

“You asked me last night to accept three conditions, right?”

“Yes.” Shin-tsu nodded with a business look, immediately catching my change in tone.

“One of them was to find three ‘triggers’.”

“Found them already?”

“Otherwise I won’t be mentioning it.”

“Care to let me judge if you guessed it right?”

“I didn’t guess, I deduced.”

“Don’t be so picky with words even though you’re so obsessed with doing analyses of everything and anything in your vicinity. Alright, so what are these triggers according to your deduction?”

“First of all, don’t jump to conclusions.”

“Correct. I guess I went all paranoid in some timeline?”

“Sad but true.”

“I like that band but don’t steal the title of its song. Fans will be angered.”

“Second, don’t ask about your parents. At least, don’t ask more than needed for normal conversation without intruding your private life.”

“Precisely. And the last one?”

“Don’t try to find contradictions.”

“You’re right.” Shin-tsu awkwardly smiled. His eyes were looking at anything but my eyes.

“What are you worried about?”

He finally stared at my eyes.

“How many attempts it took from you to grasp the timing and to trace routes of staff and other clients?”

I lightly smiled.

“Just one.”

“You’re a monster even if you’re flabbergasted.” Shin-tsu muttered and looked away. “So, where I stopped at?”

Part 2 – The Catalyst[edit]

When you live for too long in towns, your arrival to megalopolis always brings you a culture shock. Noise level in Tokyo compared to small Monreale is pretty high, and streets are tight-packed with by-standers and tourists. Tall skyscrapers leave you in awe, making you forget how to breathe, and colorful, bright billboards draw your curious gaze to them. You can’t help but look around in futile attempt to take in everything in your vicinity.

However, the magic of the moment didn’t manage to drown me in it for several reasons, none of which were pleasant, yet all of them were urgent and required my immediate attention. Deciding to solve problems in order dictated by rational way of thinking, I had got a taxi driver to drive me to Shibuya where I was at the moment trying to figure out in what direction my destination laid. It was incredibly easy to stray off the way in Tokyo.

“Where was that mark?” I muttered, fishing out my phone from pocket and activating GPS-navigator. Pulsating red point appeared on the map of Tokyo, and yellow lines showed the shortest way of reaching my destination. I could never express my fascination before science and its small miracles. A pity that even science had something it never would be able to explain.

That’s what science fiction’s for.

Unbelievably, you’re right.

Following the line, I slowly turned left from main street and found myself on the narrow road between rows of small buildings. A few dozens steps down the street led me to spacious brown building which could have blended with other houses with ease if not for big sign on its wall in both English and Japanese.

“SDA Tokyo Central Church, huh.” The difference between Monreale Cathedral and Tokyo Central Church was so big that I couldn’t believe my eyes. I never expected that architecture of modern city’s church would be so… modest, to say the least. No massive decorations, attracting public attention. No large and beautiful domes on its rooftop. No overwhelming atmosphere which was common when you stood in front of Churches in European cities. Was that the influence of Christian history in Japan?

With that question in mind, I walked to the door of church. I stretched out my hand towards it but I was forced to freeze on my spot as I felt a warm breath tickling my ear. A strong grip on my shoulder and the weight of the body leaned against my back cleared away all my doubts whether it was just a vivid hallucination. Damn these eccentric cops.

“Welcome to Tokyo, kid.” The voice came from behind me. I suppressed the urge to drive my elbow in the stomach of my interlocutor trying to regain my self-control. Keeping a pokerface never was my specialty or talent but I put all my efforts into hiding complicated succession of my emotions and feelings.

“I should have expected something like that from you.” I said jokingly, perfectly aware of the fact that detective must have felt my shiver due to extremely close contact of our bodies.

Good-natured laugh filled my ears, ringing and reverberating in my eardrums.

“I’m glad you hadn’t lost your sense of humor. And that sensitivity of yours.” I let out a sigh, trying to not roll my eyes instinctively. The detective who was standing so close to my back that people would likely misinterpret it said to me once that my facial muscles’ movements were too easy to predict. And so… There was no way that I’d fall for these psychological tricks once more! Or, maybe, I just did.

The result of my inner battle was so embarrassing that I couldn’t even mutter a usual, snarky retort. I just hung my head, cutting myself off from the world, and went forward without looking around. The detective followed me, keeping the distance between us as close as possible, but my goal was accomplished: not even that eccentric bastard would stick to my body in such a place.

With a soft sigh, I returned my thoughts back to the reason why I’d come here in the first place. The DD’s case was urgent enough to require my immediate attention but there was still some time left before he decides to attack according to Shiina’s analysis of the current situation. Granted, I wasn’t so optimistic in my predictions but I decided to trust her for now, keeping in mind that I needed to study game theory a bit more deeply than I did before: it sounded quite promising after Shiina’s detailed explanation of the game theory’s basic principles.

“Hey, lift your leg a bit higher, kid.” The detective’s voice snapped me out of my day-dreaming but it wasn’t able to stop my already started motion. I stumbled over the door step, and the detective’s hand gripped my collar and didn’t let me hit the floor. I tried to mutter an apologize but a quick glance at my surroundings made me forcefully swallow my words. The architect had a taste if they really planned such an effect close to culture shock.

Before me was a grand hall with neat rows of wooden, lacquered benches with soft, red seats for believers who come here to listen to priest. White-colored walls without any murals or mosaics and humble altar with red tapestry on it created an easy aura of tranquility and eupathy. There wasn’t any majestic atmosphere her, but just the sheer size of hall was especially striking me after inconspicuous front of the building. I had an impression that an architect was laughing at me, reminding me of the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. Just what was with me today, so easily admitting my shameful defeats?

“And here I thought that you’d seen a lot more than just this. If I had a camera, I’d have had a lovely picture. To think that you’d have your mouth agape and eyes all-wide…” The detective whispered in my ears ironically and put a hand on my shoulder. I begrudgingly sat down, wondering why the hall was devoid of people. An enticing voice crawled into my ears as if the detective read my thoughts. “You see, it’s Seventh Day Adventist Church as the sign on the outer wall implies.”

I raised my eyebrow in an attempt to figure out what the detective was driving at. With my vast knowledge of useless things, it was difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. I knew something about Ellen G. White, one of the SDA Church’s founders, whose works were used as theological basis aside from Bible, but it didn’t really help me. Then, that denomination belonged to Protestantism, therefore it was more strict then most of other Christian denominations, believing in Biblical infallibility, or, simply speaking, in the absolute of Holy Scriptures as His Words. As its foundation SDA Church uses Ten Commandments brought to the world by Moses used as a vessel for His Laws; investigative judgement which was essentially a belief that the divine judgement of professed Christians had begun in 1844; second coming of Christ that had given the name to Adventist Church; Great Controversy between the Son of God and Satan; wholistic human nature; Sabbath… Wait, I’m playing a detective yet again?

A sudden realization left me scratching the back of my head in self-deprecating laugh. The cold and cruel irony of the situation I found myself in was the right way to dent my self-confidence. My mind was just playing tricks with me while my imagination ran wild, and the detective simply let me realize it in a round-about way. What a softie I’ve got as my information source.

With that detail added to the image formed in my mind’s eye, I found the answer to my unspoken question. Well, I actually did it a bit earlier but it didn’t really matter.

“Sabbath, huh?” I asked, already expecting to see a sly smirk plastered on the detective’s face. A pity it was that I couldn’t see that face – human’s eyes simply weren’t able to roll inwards and see through the brain, cranium, and layers of flesh and skin.

“Precisely. Today isn’t Saturday, so we can use this hall to our heart’s extent.” The detective touched my cheek and slowly caressed it. It seemed that my only hope in this case was delighted by my inner conflict. The detective was one of few people who could play on my nerves, after all.

“What about information I asked you to gather?” I turned the conversation in more productive course, growing tired by endless walking in circles.

The detective chuckled and retrieved the hand.

“Good grief, I wanted to play a little longer.” The sly bastard exaggeratedly sighed. “Alright, listen closely; I won’t repeat myself.”

I just nodded my head, perking up my ears.

“I’ll skip the part about kidnappings, you already know about it.” The detective continued with monotonous voice, dropping the daring attitude. “I won’t tell you about my routine since it’s boring as… shoot, it almost slipped from my tongue!” But my moments of peace couldn’t be too long, it seemed. “Alright, excluding all official information, I know only one thing: that sick bastard… sorry, I hope that my words are forgiven for all my efforts in this case… he is working alone, but he has connections. A clear proof of it is the fact that his videos couldn’t be filmed without any special preparations, and they were quite expensive, if we are to believe in analyses of my specs. The quality of video and audio requires a mini-studio. For all I know, that bastard may be a crazy richie who wants to show off but it’s unlikely. And… nah, no offenses, but I grew tired of constantly apologizing to the invisible and intangible celestial being.”

I tilted my head, frowning at unneeded remarks. Obviously, I had some questions, but the detective didn’t like to be interrupted. I already tested that fellow’s patience; and as a sequence of my mistake, I was forced to chase after a certain bastard, having no clue what to do next and no time for working out any plans on the fly. It was quite a pain, believe me.

“Next, I need to speak about boring stuff, huh. Let’s see, DD was obviously using drugs to put his victims to a nice sleep with a ticket to one-way road or to immobilize them with the same pitiful end. Types were different, of course, but he preferred GHB.” The detective quickly muttered with disinterested voice. “Most likely, he also used different combinations of drugs to slow down their heart rate and blood circulation to pull off his damn tricks. By the way, he also used some surgical tools to mess with their vital organs.” The detective stopped to breath in. “Do you follow me?”

“Yeah. It seems that he has a nice studio and knows a bit about medicine, but he’s not a drug dealer. And, most likely, he’s cut off from his source because the police became interested in him and dealers don’t want to be involved.”

“That’s right, if I ignore the fact that you avoided an unpleasant topic about mutilated victims’ bodies. But then again, there was no reason to sell their organs since they all were terminally ill or had a weak constitution.” The detective heaved a sigh and poked a finger at my ribs causing me uncomfortably shift on my seat. “Alright, since you’re so sharp, let me derail from the topic for a bit with my cheap metaphors and parallels, as you had kindly said or thought last time we talked. Say, isn’t it a tad bit ironic that we are in the Church that believes in salvation through death and judgement that will be brought by second coming while DD is a crazy psycho who steals others’ lives through the rule of strong?”

“Not really. By the way, don’t intentionally leave out Ouroboros just to make me bring it up.” I stood up. So, everything was just a farce with some common knowledge, huh? As expected from the detective who was infamous for unpleasant pranks and unprofessional behavior.

“Why?” The detective inquired, disheartened by my quick and boring reply. “With your love to trailing off the topic, I thought you’d be interested in such an irony.”

I sharply turned around and looked at my interlocutor.

“I’ve got no interest in his motif. He’s not an enemy, he’s just an obstacle on my way.” I coldly answered and slipped my hand in the pocket to fish out my phone.

The detective’s hand covered mine.

“Really?” She tilted her head with a sly smirk. “Then why did you go out of your way just to save a fragile girl?”

I sighed and averted my gaze.

I had no answer for that question.

Part 3 – Figure.09[edit]

“What an absolutely meaningless chit-talk I had. I wonder if my head found something hard on my way without me noticing a thing. Oh, wait, it’s totally impossible unless I have some kind of instant amnesia which is impossible. Now, aren’t I coming to conclusion using the answer itself that I was supposed to find? All theoreticians of the world would kill me right on the spot if they caught the wind of my mistake.” I muttered under my breath, sitting on the uncomfortable seat in train. Well, relatively speaking since not even an hour had passed from the moment when I experienced the ride on famous bullet train which is often called Shinkansen. The difference between services was as distinct as between the sky and the land. In literal sense of that saying since the rich interior of the bullet train reminded me of the plane on which I came to Japan. Seats made out of leather, some plastic and other materials, soft lighting that didn’t hurt my eyes, unlike old lightbulbs in some flats where I had been before, and other nice stuff glued my attention to it, making me forget about my irritation for the time being.

Unfortunately, I was in a mood to grunt and rant about everything so the first thing that came to my mind when I walked out of the luxurious cabin was that silly conversation with that eccentric detective who took our strategy meeting as a game. What I couldn’t stand the most was my knowing the reason behind her strange and atypical behavior. Interpol sure was cautious of everything; I was being tailed starting somewhere between my arrival to airport and the end of my trip to the Church. And even here, leaning against the back of my seat, I could feel an intent gaze from the middle of an open coach.

For a moment I considered an option of taking that spy down but that idea was immediately murdered by my common sense. I never had the best reputation regarding laws in the first place, breaking them on regular basis, and there was absolutely no need to worsen it. Besides, having in my disposal a watchman who would inform higher-ups in case of emergency slightly raised my odds in this game of madmen.

Do me a favor. Find that drug dealer and make him spill out everything he knows. That’s the least you can do for the information you received.

I grinned, recalling the contents of small crumbled up note that was slipped into my breast pocket. The passenger who was sitting beside me slept soundly but I still made sure to turn to the window to conceal my amused smile. Once I’ve come to that town, the survival game will begin.

So, if someone’s watching me from above my head, send me a pleasant dream tonight.

Part 4 – Forgotten[edit]

Once a stone is thrown, simply wait for ripples to appear.

That was how the saying sounded like in one old man’s version but there was no reason for me to call it on considering that his small hole in the ground, full of worms, clearly wasn’t the best apartment in the world. Besides, that simple sentence often was abused by me as the beginning stage for my plans, or, rather, courses of actions. In this particular case, I didn’t even need to throw a stone, for it had been done long before my arrival in Japan. DD’s ruthless attack was enough for the local town’s councillors to raise an issue of imposing curfew. I was sure that it hadn’t been the only concern they had but I’d rather not go into politics. It was a completely different kitchen from the one I had been working in all these years.

Speaking of ripples, that was where the most important matter was lying. If I weren’t able to use the consequences of my opponent’s actions and extract from them as much information as I could, then my pitiful attempts on cooking up a decent plan would crumble up as if nothing was done beforehand. Most of my enemies made in my bizarre adventures would never believe in such cruel truth since it would greatly increase the shame from their defeats which were simply a stroke of luck in my hands. Or, maybe, they would count out my sincere words as yet another story coined by my cunning – as they’d prefer to think – mind of born trickster.

In any way, all that mattered now was nervously looking around, shaking in fear and trying to make out the figures of policemen patrolling the town in the darkness of night. The target of my observations cautiously moved along the nearest wall of recently built apartment complex, unaware of me tracking him down. By the way, an agent from Interpol was here too, hiding from my curious gaze in the back-alleys and keeping just the right distance between us to keep an eye on me and to avoid being found out, which was kind of redundant taking into account the fact that I was currently talking about him. Alas, he wasn’t able to read my mind so he just continued on with his mundane and thankless task.

Returning back to the small figure before me, he finally decided that there was no one in his vicinity so he started to walk a little faster as if in fear that his luck won’t last long enough for him to make it in time. Obviously, our strange parody on very long and funny caterpillar started to move too with me worming my way through the night streets behind corners of buildings which must be quite eye-catching under the direct rays of light instead of reflected ones. It came to complete halt, though, once the first tread of our caterpillar had stopped again, this time around because of the police car going past us on the moderate speed. Fortunately, tired policemen didn’t seem to catch the suspicious sight of three men crawling one after another in slightly dirty back-alleys of the town. I could hear some incoherent words they exchanged with each other and then the sound of engine disappeared in night.

And then, our night adventure started anew without significant changes until the moment when my target had finally reached his destination where he was met by grim gaze of skinny drug dealer. I squeezed my eyes, discerning the old, run-down building behind the drug dealer’s back. It seemed that the town still had the remnants of its history here and there. A pity it was that these remnants didn’t have anything to hide behind nearby so these meters separating me from my target were in plain view of the drug dealer who thoroughly scanned the street without moving from his spot. On the bright side, I could hear something, even though I needed to seriously strain my ears in order to pick up at least several words.

“…alone?” The drug dealer asked, without moving his body in the slightest.

“…” The client’s body language was a bit richer since he was shaking from fear and agitation. In return, his words weren’t that easy to catch.

“…money…? …give…free…”

“…dose.” It was unclear what the client was doing since all I could see was his back, but, judging by his rummaging through his pockets, he was trying to find money.

“…all? …kidding.” The dealer’s voice turned into roar in the end of the phrase.

“…money. …hold… anymore.”

“…away. …enough. …no… drugs. …rules.”

“Wait, wait! Hol-“ Poor man wasn’t able to say anything anymore, holding his stomach and opening and closing his mouth like dying fish thrown on the seashore. The drug dealer’s punch lacked anything but brute strength so, apparently, it was enough to make his client shut up. If I would have been in his shoes, I’d do the same since the man’s shout might attract unneeded attention to this place. Fortunately, there was no one in the drug dealer’s vicinity except for me, Interpol agent and unlucky client who didn’t have enough money for another dose of his drugs.

Seeing that everything was clear, the drug dealer kicked his client in the side, showing that there was no deal without cash given to him. Maybe, he intended to scare the client away but he didn’t expect a tiny man to lose consciousness just because of two hard, clean hits. For a moment the drug dealer simply stood on his spot, then he proceeded to give his client another kick to the side, testing the water. The body merely shook from impact and rolled on the hard asphalt but there was no other reaction.

I breathed in fresh, cool air, and started to think. Not that my brain wasn’t working before that but I needed a bit more brain’s capacity now.

Right now, the situation threatened to go out of my control. While it was true that I simply went with flow, grabbing the one-in-thousand chance by tailing a very bad student breaking curfew, I never wished to have another man killed in front of me, even if the possibility of his death was pretty low. And that was leaving me with the choice.

First option was to take a role of superhero and jump out of my hide just to be killed in case that the drug dealer had a handgun hidden in his clothes. It was an outlandish course of actions for me, so I lightly shook my head, seeing how the drug dealer was still hesitating.

The alternative was to simply ignore the situation at hand and turn my back to the scene before me leaving the agent to deal with the problem. Yet, I wasn’t sure if he wouldn’t follow me instead of blowing up his current cover. So, it too was out of option, sorry for the irony.

Feeling that both variants had practically the same outcome, I knew that I needed to act as usual.

“What a joke. You really don’t know what to do?”

And it meant that I was choosing the third option. I never was a hero to blindly jump into the problem, nor was I a villain to simply leave a damsel in distress behind, even if there wasn’t a damsel in distress now, so there was only one archetype I could use for myself. Anti-hero.

With such simple reasoning I went out of my hide, acting like nothing happened. It was a dangerous gamble but I was willing to go to the bitter end.

“The hell you’re doing here?” I should praise the drug dealer – he chose the right question. Not my name or my identity, but my reason for standing here. “And who the hell are you, bitch?”

Or maybe not.

“I’m here to send a message.” I took a light breathe, hiding it under the guise of darkness. Even if I wasn’t prepared, there was a need in controlling my body language and my voice which was a bit higher than usually. A slightest wavering wasn’t an option, regardless of my intentions.

The drug dealer scowled, taking in my figure which looked anything but imposing.

“A message? Don’t mess with me, brat. Go back to sucking breasts.” Despite his harsh words, I could hear that he was hesitating. And it meant there was an opening I might be able to explore.

KEN is in town. Run for your lives.” My lips widened in slight smile. “If you don’t understand that, small fry, then try asking your superiors. I hope they aren’t idiots.”

For a full minute, the drug dealer just stood in front of me, shocked by my arrogant words. Well, I was attempting to pull his leg so his reaction was expected. But I never knew that he would produce a gun and start to aim it at me.

He was right. What a lucky coincidence. Who knew that it was just a tiny girl? One shot, and I’m on the top. Just one shot, dammit.” The drug dealer muttered that, and his gun finally locked on my body. The issue was that I wasn’t there anymore. “The hell?”

I didn’t waste my time and simply dashed forward, leaning as close to the ground as I could. It wouldn’t be enough against a professional, but my little trick was enough to startle an amateur. Besides, I had no choice but run, since basic tactic here would be dash-and-hide if I had a gun myself, or close distance fast enough to leave the opponent without a firearm. It was a pity that I didn’t have anything to distract the drug dealer with…

Or so I thought, before my hand fished out a coin from my pocket and threw it at the opponent’s face. The gunshot rang out, due to the involuntary movement of the drug dealer’s hand, but thankfully the bullet’s trajectory never had intersections with my line of small run. Five meters were closed in just a second and I executed just a final step of one aikido technique, tenchinage.

I pulled his right hand to the ground and delivered a strike at his left shoulder, using my gained momentum to make up for using a defensive throw as offensive. Forgive me, aikidokas, but, at the very least, it wasn’t the worst use of martial arts in my experience.

Fortunately for me, my initial move was enough to shake him off the balance and throw him on the ground. Stray bullet grazed my cheek, and I quickly stomped on the drug dealer’s right hand in retaliation. With a shriek of pain, he grabbed his arm, letting his handgun fall on the cold asphalt. I could only pity him, because I might have overdid it: I could hear his bones cracking from impact.

Alas, I still had some business with him.

“Well then, let’s play good cop – bad cop. A pity it is, good cop is unconscious. I hope you can understand what it means.”

Part 5 – Papercut[edit]

It was a surprising development.

Agreed. I never thought that agent would reveal himself so early.

But I should remark that female clothing suits you…

D-don’t praise me like that, you idiot!

Is it the first time when you played along?

I just don’t have anything else to do until DD shows up on the scene.

Really? You had something to do, then.

Where?

That’s a secret. Look for him yourself.

Now, who is tsundere here?

Who knows?

Right…

Looking around, I heaved a sigh. After my impromptu interrogation of drug dealer, I was able to learn only meaningless details which didn’t really make sense without other information about DD. To be perfectly honest, there were no other expectations from my side than just that but who knew that Interpol agent would stroll out of his hide so readily? Moreover, he even offered me the most dangerous position in the official operation which was actually… the role of dummy.

Of course, I knew that they simply didn’t want to use their agents as a bait, and I appeared here as an ideal scapegoat at the best possible time for them. But I was in no position to turn down that offer when I had the chance to have the greatest back-up I could expect in Japan. And so, I was standing here, amidst all this crowd that gathered on the street to take a look at the strange police cordon surrounding a fancy house for a few hours already. Cross-dressed once again, with flawless make-up on my face, putting a mobile phone to my ear, faking a conversation.

Taking in the scene before me, I attempted to relax my tense body and failed spectacularly. My expression was as stiff as rock’s surface but it didn’t matter already. I belatedly realized the reason why I was on alert. I felt someone’s gaze on me. Without giving a reaction, I moved only my eyes. An old man in business suit, a lady in a good dress right from second-hand shop, a small child with a cap on his head… There was too many people to be able to have an eye contact with someone like in these spy movies.

I took a slight step back, carefully avoiding a collision with old granny who was helplessly struggling to regain her balance. I needed an open space to find out whose sharp eyes were following each and every my movement. Why didn’t I have that nice ability of martial artists to trace the killing intent? It would have made my life so easier!

With hard to swallow knowledge that my difficulty was always set on Hardcore, I finally squeezed between a young pair who were giving strangely light-hearted comments about the situation at hand. Now I wasn’t restrained by the crowd, and I had a bit more oxygen for my next manoeuvres.

“It doesn’t disappear. Where are you?” I mumbled under my breathe, my gaze darting from one man to another. Fear was trying to take over my mind, but it was too weak for such a task. No cigar, panic, time for brainstorming.

I had no clear proofs, but my instincts were screaming that the DD was near. The question was, where was he? According to my information, he was bald, and he had sharp features, but it could be hid by heavy make-up and wig. I needed something else. Something to grab at.

My wandering gaze scanned the crowd. I had a hunch that this time I’d be able to find a clue, once I set the conditions that needed to be met. Children could be counted out, so I didn’t even bother to lower my eyes. It mattered not what kind of make-up DD had, it was practically impossible for him to disguise as a woman. Old men would be too obvious for someone as flashy as that theatrical bastard. Any Japanese could be left out too…

Wait, why did I decide so? Why I noticed a big hole in my way of thinking only now? How could I make such a stupid mistake?

It was him all along.

“An agent? Don’t make me laugh, DD. You set up a great spectacle here, I should admit it.” I self-deprecatingly smiled and turned around.

He was too normal. As if making a light of me. As if knowing that a small lie would be enough to make me play at his tune.

“I should blame my habit of ignoring faces of people unless I’m interested in them.” I bit my lip, drawing the blood from it.

Strangely enough, I calmed down from that simple action.

“Let’s play another game, Daisuke Miyamoto-Chevalier. I’ll take the reigns from you, and send you to the abyss of laws.”

How cool.

Shut up.

Part 6 – No More Sorrow[edit]

“Oh? You’re pretty cautious for someone who has a back-up from Interpol and JSDF. Calling me from a phone booth~”

“I don’t remember having JSDF as my allies but whatever.”

“So, what’s the reason for your sudden call?”

“It’s you, DD.”

“Oh. Clever child. Alright, then let me ask you, are Shiina Ryo and KEN the same person?”

“Does it really worry you?”

“It does.”

“Liar.”

“I absolutely love to be called liar when it comes from the mouth of infamous KEN. But you’re right. Either way, KEN and Shiina Ryo will have their lives stolen by me.”

“That so? Then you don’t care about the order?”

“Order?”

“Order, in which we, or just I alone, will die.”

“You’ve got that right, I don’t really care about that. I may assume that you mean by your words something more than you just gave out, right?”

“I propose a duel. One-on-one, then you either go to jail or hunt down the remaining one girl. If there is one, of course.”

“Interesting. What makes you think that I-“

“Because you’re afraid of me.”

“…Excuse me?”

“Your reputation. Your freedom. Your goddamn life. Everything’s going to be jeopardized, courtesy of a bunch of children.”

“That’s absurd.”

“It’s not.”

“…”

“You already poisoned an Interpol agent. That’s enough to send you to a grey, small room with minimalistic décor for a while. Other stuff won’t make you wait for too long.”

“…”

“Back to me.”

“So modest.”

“It’s pleasant to know that someone else shares my opinion of myself.”

“…”

“As I said, I am what your fear the most.”

“…Shut up.”

“I am unknown variable or, maybe, I am one of constants that you didn’t include in your calculations?”

“Shut up.”

“You’ve got no information on me. You don’t know where I live nor do you know even my name.”

“Shut up!”

“You’ve got no idea if I am just a myth created by a Japanese schoolgirl. But, I’m sure in that, you know what outcome will be in case you underestimate me.”

“…Tch.”

“By the way, what do you know about game theory?”

“Huh?”

“I just thought that our positions are ideal for Matching Pennies since our goals are completely opposite. Fancy an explanation?”

“Go ahead, damn kid.”

“Then, let me begin…”

Part 7 – One Step Closer[edit]

Closed space always made me claustrophobic. I could be panicking because of imaginary lack of oxygen and food, feeling that ceiling would fall on me any moment even though it was practically impossible. The nuclear bunkers were made to be atemporal, and the materials were solid enough to withstand even the strong explosions. That was right, I was currently leaning against concrete wall, enduring its apparent coldness. Female clothing wasn’t that warm!

That being said, don’t forget that clothes only preserve heat. And why are you still cross-dressing?

…I don’t know, really.

Besides, my eyes were irritated by blinking lighting which was the weakest part in this bunker. It was depressing me, destroying my unstable mind. I was driven crazy by that feeble light, feeling like it was staring right inside of me. That was a silly parallel but my imagination was uncomfortably restricted by knowledge that I basically cornered myself here.

Thank goodness, there’s no sound of water drops falling on the floor.

I would have snapped if it was there.

And silence. That factor was just shy of being on the top of my list ‘things-that-I-hate-the-most’. It would be bearable if there was some repetitive sound where I could find some rhythm. To the man who loved music it was difficult to sit in quiet room, to say the least. Drums, heavy riffs of bass guitar or light accord of acoustic guitar, anything would appease my agonized soul.

You’ve got an annoying method to deal with your stress. …Oh, here he is. That DD is quite punctual, coming just on time.

That so? …Wait, how did you know it?

Thump.

Trade secret.

You have a job?

If you mean listening to noisy teenager who only knows to complain counts as a career, then yes.

Pitter-patter.


“You’ve come.” I slowly said, drawling and forgetting about mysterious voice. The tall figure of Death Drive, also known as Daisuke Miyamoto-Chevalier, appeared in the narrow passway. Just like last time, he had fake hair on his bald head but his make-up today was lighter. With a theatrical waving of his hand, he threw his wig on the floor, and folded up in mocking bow.

“I did, o’ my fear.” Death Drive reared himself up, staring right into my eyes. I returned the gaze, steeling my resolve to end this here and now. To my surprise, my fear was gradually subsiding as if my opponent wasn’t worth this show. “And I know that you’re desperate. No need to be a genius to realize that.”

“Oh, really?” I inquired, my right eye squinted. My body was all tensed up at his words, but he didn’t need to know it.

Death Drive simply laughed, shrugging off my remark.

“All I needed was to simply play along for a while. Oh my, you sounded so serious!” He tapped his bald head, and grinned. “Let’s reveal our cards, shall we?”

He stretched his hand, and I automatically raised my hand, acting on my instincts.

And pain shot through my wrist.

I was careless to lower my guard. My right hand was pierced by small dart, and I felt how it started to numb. Death Drive cautiously stepped forward, lowering his hand and hiding from me his tool. As a true illusionist, he knew that it was necessary to keep his secrets from others.

“It’s snake poison, I guess.” I frowned, trying to fight off eerie coldness which was robbing me of the control over my own my body. It was proven to be pointless since the effect of poison never weakened despite my struggles.

I fell on the cold floor, shivering.

“Well then, since you’re now busy dealing with my little precious poison, I can fill the silence with my monologue.” Excited, Death Drive waved his hands. “Let me be frank, I never thought that famous KEN would appear to be a girl. What a joke! I expected to see a grim man in his thirties, and then what I looked at was just a teenager! That night was a bit disappointing, I should tell you this. Of course, your movements were cool and all, but there was nothing more to comment on!”

Girl?

Ahahahahaha!<u>

Damn you, voice.

“…”

Death Drive calmly strolled across the room, with each step shortening the small distance between us. In his hand glistened a long knife with which he apparently intended to steal my life.

“At first, I was mortified. Truly, your voice brought me a fear which I hadn’t felt for so long. Your words left me breathless, shocking me with sharp truth they had. If you were a bit older, I would have fallen for you.”

“…”

<u>AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I… alright, no comments. He’s either dumb or blind. Maybe both.

“But good time is bound to end now. I really enjoyed talking with you, you know.” Death Drive bent his leg and reached his free hand to my face. To be more precise, he touched my hair because I was lying on my fours, biting my lip. “Let’s dot all i’s.”

“Hey, want to know one thing before I die?” I muttered. Death Drive put a knife to my throat, and tilted his ugly head.

“Go ahead.” His smug smile could have dealt massive damage to my psyche if I didn’t have something to erase it from his face.

“I’m a guy.” I winked at him, enjoying his reaction. Death Drive was clearly bewildered by my words, his hand dangerously shaking from shocking news. And it meant one thing for me.

He had an opening.

“Haah!”

My blood vessels were about to burst open.

My hand shot in his guts, robbing him of breathe. Death Drive coughed and tried to move his knife only to be stopped by my other hand. With one of my palm pressed against the floor and other on his wrist, I now had enough handholds to execute my next trick.

My body was screaming in agony.

My legs quickly kicked the floor, sending me in the mid-air, and slammed against Death Drive’s head once I spun above him. Judging by the impact, my hit landed in right spot. I couldn’t help but pity his head.

But I endured.

With a thud, Death Drive’s body hit the floor, and my fall was softened by it. Much to my satisfaction, he never had time to shower me by his questions, for he was already out cold.

I straightened my posture, swaying, and thinly smiled.

“Alright now. Tie up this guy before he wakes up, will you? I’m bad with knots.” I asked a man who showed up in passway. This time around it was an actual Interpol agent so I had nothing to worry about.

“Did you take your antidote?” The man asked me, cautiously walking to Death Drive.

I lightly smiled, flicking my forehead.

“You know, I forgot about it.” I fished out a small bottle from my pocket, opened the lid and emptied contents of the bottle. When I finished, I was greeted by sight of stupefied agent with his mouth agape.

Part 8 – Easier To Run[edit]

With night air filling my lungs, I was walking down the road.

“You don’t know how good it is to be on this side of ground.” I almost sang in the mobile phone which I was pressing against my ear. My legs still were wobbling a bit, thanks to snake poison from Death Drive’s collection.

“You’re pretty lucky to be still alive. I’m surprised that your plan worked with so many variables.” The detective remarked from the other side of the phone.

“So I am.” I replied.

“What was that part about poison?” The detective asked, not hiding her curiosity.

“I wouldn’t live for so long if I didn’t have some resistance against poisons.” I shrugged my shoulders, ignoring the fact that the detective wouldn’t be able to see my actions.

“That so? It’s to be expected from someone of your calibre, huh.” The detective sighed. “You know, I don’t have that much balance to talk to you about everything so make sure to send me a full report about this case.”

“Alright.” I dejectedly drooped my shoulders.

“Ok, with that being cleared let me ask you one question.” The detective’s voice became more playful. And I didn’t like it.

“I won’t say no even though I should do so.”

“Thank you very much!” The detective’s gratitude wasn’t worth much if it could be bought just for the chance to ask me. “What are you going to do next?”

I shook my head, chasing away dizzy spell.

“I’ll return back to Sicily.”

“Really? I thought you’d go to your girlfriend for a cup of tea~” The detective laughed. “Jokes aside, I was sure that you’d live in that town for a while.”

I closed my eyes with a bitter smile on my face.

“First of all, I still have an unfinished case in Sicily.”

“That’s, most likely, just an excuse for you but go on.”

“And, I don’t really think that I need to be here. It’ll be better for Shiina to live without me near her.”

“That’s totally an excuse.” The detective brushed off my words as if they were nothing. “You’re just afraid, right?”

I didn’t answer.

“You won’t gain much if you’d continue to ignore your need in people who can believe you completely.” The detective’s voice was cheerful as ever. “Even I am unable to believe in your stories.”

“We’ll see.” I gave her a brief reply and then I hung up, skipping formalities. The detective wouldn’t mind it any way, and I needed to isolate myself from everything to pull myself together.

I never knew that I’d return here.

Part 9 - Powerless[edit]

“Phew.” That was all that Shin-tsu could utter after talking for three hours, forty seven minutes and thirty eight seconds. The total time exceeded twelve hours, and I felt that it was a bit too much. However, it was Shin-tsu, so I didn’t complain since it was completely in his style.

Besides, it was enough for me to decide the results of my preparations.

“The end was anti-climatic.” I gave my honest opinion, hiding a smile in my eyes.

Shin-tsu only laughed bitterly.

“I thought so. Wait, what’s with your expression?”

“It’s nothing. I just don’t know if I should be relieved at the fact that you never plan beforehand or shocked that your plan worked.” I lightly sighed.

Shin-tsu scratched his head.

“Well, I was just lucky.”

“You were. Or you were crazy enough to cook up a plan based only on coincidences and know that it would suffice against such an opponent.”

Or maybe, both assumptions were right. There was nothing certain if things were about Shin-tsu.

And it was the most important detail in my analysis.

“I don’t know if I should take your words as a round-about way to make a compliment…” He muttered, heaving a sigh. “Let’s move to other two things I asked you to do last night, shall we?”

I smiled.

Because I found my answer to the question already.

“I believe that it’s just one thing already.”

“Right. I don’t know why I should have wasted that chance to ask you to hear me to the very end.” Shin-tsu’s expression never ceased to amuse me.

“And I think that we can start even without a call.”

Shin-tsu could only sigh in umpteenth time.

“I guess our little conspiracy was seen through?” A familiar, cheerful voice reached my ears, and I already knew who was standing behind me. I could figure out what was the expression on her face, but still…

I needed to see it.

Because copy couldn’t match original.

“Then, let’s proceed to our reconciliation meeting.”

And so, I turned around.

To see Ryo’s face.

A experiment could wait, couldn’t it?