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Silence fell over the first-class compartment, with only the sound of the train running along the tracks to break the tension. They might have sat there forever in silence if the train hadn't suddenly shaken. Did you want to die? Renee remained as unperturbed as ever. Dying hurts and everything. Renee rubbed her jaw and thought for a moment, then answered slowly. Although, it isn't my scientific opinion, and as an alchemist, it's even heretical.
Umm, well I'm not talking about the soul or anything like that The sum of my memories is all still me, isn't it? You could that say I am, or that I'm not. Maybe the me who wanted to eat cake yesterday and the me who wants salad today are different people. If you think about how your cells are changing every second, then really the only thing that stays the same is the information you've built up in your memory until that point.
Even if my memories mixed with yours, Archangelo, it would be a new experience, that's all. So, you would be you, and you would become me at the same time, kinda I'm not really sure how to put it into words While I am relieved, now I have new doubts.
Whatever you do, oversights and setbacks are rarely far behind. Thus, I can 32 understand how matters may take a turn for the worse. But I never expected you would surround yourself with evil of your own accord. Renee tilted her head to the other side, a little confused. I guess so. If what I'm doing is so wrong, the police and some other people might get in the way, won't they. Oh my, thank you for coming all this way to warn me, Archangelo!
If I hadn't realized it He looked out the window at the passing scenery and muttered half to himself. She just listened. If there is anything else, I shall be happy to listen. Now, then. As he was about to leave, he looked again at the scenery rushing past on the other side of the window, and said something else while he had the opportunity.
I haven't heard from him in so long! How is he? On the other hand, Renee blinked once, then smiled a little. Like right now, I'm looking forward to seeing how my two daughters are doing. He still stood in front of the door and slowly looked at Renee's face.
I heard that Huey Laforet gouged out your right eye. The way he said Huey's name was filled with undisguised loathing, but of course Renee didn't notice at all. But he didn't have to be so mean about it! Why would you do that? I merely believe that any student who turns on his teacher should be severely punished, Professor Renee. But Renee rebuked him herself. Huey is your student, and Dalton's, too, isn't he?
No matter what happens, we should look out for him," Renee said, as if she were scolding a young child. Archangelo's expression softened. He nodded once—slowly, respectfully—then opened the door and left. One of the students he had taught at the Third Library, at the top of his class.
An alchemist who had become immortal, same as him. And the man who had laid his hands on the woman Archangelo had sworn to himself to protect, and done so without a hint of love. The man who only saw her as an experiment, of course without any affection towards her. Let me probe a little deeper. Let me find out who among those skulking immortals is harmful to Renee. I pray that Huey will be included among those I must eliminate. Archangelo had decided he would protect Renee, no matter what it took.
For that very reason, he had put distance between the two of them. Therefore, the truth that Renee had borne children was a shock. He knew that to her, it was just an experiment, but he couldn't accept it so easily. If I had left my hand on her head a little longer, I might have given in to my desires. I might have mistaken the desire to have her has mine and mine alone forever as a desire to devour her.
How dare you His drive to protect Renee had not dulled in the slightest. But his personal envy of Huey did not diminish, and his complicated emotions swirled through him as he walked through the train. Along with his deep regret that he wasn't able to step forward himself. From inside the cloth appeared a small bottle. Inside the glass bottle was a transparent liquid and a human eye, wriggling like a jellyfish in water, pressing itself against the front wall of the bottle.
The alchemist didn't discriminate between feelings of duty for work or personal desires. She smiled a little and stared at the eyeball as she hummed. Without even realizing herself that her smile was meaningless. At the end of , the conductor aboard a transcontinental express called the Flying Pussyfoot had been brutally murdered by terrorists, along with his fellow conductor.
The faces of both corpses had been completely ground off, although how this was accomplished was never determined. That part of the police reports was true, at least. But in reality, the corpse in the conductor's compartment was a different person altogether, and Claire had inherited a new name from a female assassin he had happened to meet.
Now, he was living as "Felix Walken. The name had been handed down from person to person for dozens of years now. But, to the new Felix, none of that mattered. As the man who was once the infamous assassin Vino, he just thought of it as a stroke of fortune, a new place to settle and turn over a new leaf.
But that didn't mean he thought it necessary to spread the name around pointlessly, either. Those who knew that Claire was Vino were extremely limited, so even now he could continue to work as the mysterious assassin. Felix-that is, Claire stopped and turned around, his face touched with displeasure. He had told those he knew like Firo over and over again to stop calling him Claire, but of course he wouldn't yell out his own name to someone he didn't know.
Only a few years had passed since he changed his name, and he had done very little to draw attention to himself in those years. He wasn't famous enough to be recognized on the street, so anyone calling out to him was likely going to start some sort of trouble. Claire looked at the owner of voice without a hint of fear, only annoyance.
Just as he thought, he had never met the man standing there. To be more precise, he had never met any of the group of men standing there. They were dressed in dark suits, and a glance was enough to tell him they were tough. It didn't take much observation to see how brawny they were, either, from the way the fabric stretched to cover their muscles. Their appearance seemed calculated to intimidate.
See ya. To Claire, it was just a warning. He figured if this guy actually knew much about him, he would know that trying to force Claire to do anything was an exercise in futility at best. If the men changed their tune and showed him a little respect, he would at least listen to what they had to say. That was Claire's thoughts on the matter, but the men chose a simpler route. Where are you thinking of going? It looked like they were planning to force him in.
It wasn't a terribly powerful kick, and it was too light to trip him up by itself, but then Claire's left hand delivered a powerful push that sent the man off-balance into a forward flip due to the combination of forces. The next moment, Claire's leg caught the man's head in midair and kicked down. Claire didn't even spare a glance at the man as he spasmed and passed out.
He just turned his gaze toward the others. It looks like you didn't get it the first time, so I'll say it again. Brute force and cheap threats don't work on me, you understand? But I'd strongly suggest you run along home before you get hurt. They'd heard this was a man who could do anything, even kill them, but he had just swept a man's legs out from under him and used the same leg to drive him into the ground before he even landed.
That was not something an normal person could do. They all held their breath and instinctively turned their attention to their own jackets, wondering whether they should pull out their guns or not. That moment, their target, Felix, opened his mouth in anticipation of their next move. I mean, I could if push comes to shove, but I don't feel like it right now. As they began to sweat in fear, the freelancer shrugged lightly and looked toward the cars.
He noticed a number of figures through the window glass. He extended a hand towards them and flicked his index finger towards himself, like calling children. You don't want your precious underlings to die in a place like this, do ya? A few seconds later, there was movement inside the one of the cars in the formation.
One of the rear doors opened, and a man appeared. Most of his hair was tinged with white, but his face didn't look that aged, and he was wearing aviator goggles. He called off the men with a single motion of his hand. The men frantically fell back to the curb, and Claire realized something unsettling. There's nobody here. They were fairly distant from the center of Manhattan, on a road with only a few passers-by, but right now there was no sign of life anywhere.
In fact, in the moments before he was addressed, there should have been a number of regular people walking on the road. In actuality, there had been no trace of anyone. A normal person would sense that something was wrong and try to get out of there, but Claire was unperturbed. I see. Looks like they're the type who can clear people out, even here in public. If they could pull off something like that, maybe they worked with the government or one of the big Mafia families. Imagining a number of possibilities, Claire turned to the white-haired man before him.
I'm just a mid-level manager, Mr. Felix Walken. I've never met you, so how do you know my name? I can accept that. Sorry for lying to you, I actually am Felix Walken. I didn't like their attitude with me, to I knocked one of 'em out. Even the white- haired man was temporarily at a loss for how to answer. He coughed once and finally spoke. It's difficult to understand whether you're an honest man or a liar. Regardless, it's an honor to be able to meet you, Felix.
After a few moments of awkward silence, the white-haired man answered hesitantly. I'm not Bartolo I was getting frustrated trying to guess your name, so I wanted to be respectful. Well, since there's no need to be polite anymore, would you mind telling me just who the hell you are? The white-haired man was caught off guard for just a moment. You look kinda old, so maybe I should be more polite?
Respecting my elders and all. I don't plan on paying you any respect, either. No matter how I look at you, you look like a completely normal human. Did you really defeat Christopher Shouldered? He thought for a moment. The next moment, he clapped his hands together in recognition.
That guy! Yeah, the one with the red eyes and crazy teeth! I heard you defeated him at the Mist Wall when he was fighting at full strength. Well, what about him? I cannot believe that he was defeated out of hand. If you don't you end up like him. That was because he had already figured out the answer for himself. He could sense the presence of an increasing number of others surrounding him. As for how, he didn't have superpowers that could allow him to see around corners. He had judged based on the slight sound of footsteps.
Although a normal person would probably put the ability to hear such a small sound from five meters away in the "superpowered" category anyway. He slowly turned and looked around. Sure enough, there were now eight people standing on the once-abandoned road. Compared to those personality-less guys from earlier, you seem They weren't monstrous, but the atmosphere surrounding them felt even less trustworthy than the men in black from earlier.
There was another with a mask covering their entire skull, so their gender was unclear. Claire didn't look nervous at all, nor did he jeer at the unusual appearance of the strange men and women surrounding him. He just remembered something from long ago. Yeah, they're just like those guys at the circus. Although, this feels more like a freak show than a normal circus. I wonder how everyone's doing.
As Claire immersed himself in his past, Salome spread both arms wide and opened his mouth. I believe they have particular feelings towards someone like you, who forced their companion Christopher to his knees. It certainly looks like it. Claire knew himself that they were not just oddly dressed. They were probably the top of their field, whatever that might be. That was another reminder of his old friends at the circus.
That was why there was a little affection in Claire's voice as he smiled. I did beat him black and blue, didn't I? He actually looks pretty normal. He was wrapped in a mysterious aura, in part thanks to his sterile white clothing and bandages wrapped around one eye. The man-Huey Laforet, stood next to a man with a bandana covering his head.
I'm sorry? However, as he is officially deceased according to public record, it may be best to simply call him Felix. Tim thought unhappily, but he merely sighed instead of outwardly protesting. He looked down at the Lamia. There are a few down there I don't recognize. At some point I will introduce them to you as your new subordinates. If you dislike them for any reason, they will be fired immediately, 44 although it pains me to think of dismissing them in the midst of this Depression.
Well, maybe I should take this as an improvement. Except for the whole threatening to fire them bit. Tim decided it was pointless to hold this against Huey and slowly let his anger fade. He is not one of my subordinates, so it is presumptuous to think of 'doing' anything to him. I may hire him, but as for what happens next I suppose one could say that is true of most things," Huey said with his cold, faint smile.
If they were all destroyed, you would be in a bind, would you not, Tim? Tim furrowed his eyebrows again at his heartless boss, and said something most wouldn't dare. Huey didn't seem put off at all at the disrespectful language of his subordinate and answered just as directly. All kinds of things. Regardless, the principle guiding my actions is nothing more than a desire for knowledge," Huey said, still smiling. Tim shook his head a little. There's something beyond that.
That's what it feels like, anyway. A secret, if you will. He sounded like a young boy hiding the existence of a secret lover. Normally the man's expression was completely devoid of any emotion whatsoever, but for that moment Tim noticed a flicker of warmth in his smile. That was when he knew it was pointless to enquire further and returned his gaze to the scene unfolding below.
And with perfect timing, things began to move. I'm surprised. I never thought you would throw such cheap insults around at a time like this," Salome said, shoulders slumping. The dumbfounded group of misfits--the Lamia began to show clear anger on their faces. Claire looked around at them, and tilted his head to the side, a little mystified.
Then what are you saying, Felix? What was the point of picking a fight with me? What was in it for him if he won? He unapologetically continued to tell them about their past agreement. Since he told me that, it's only natural to expect you to praise me when I brag, right?
I mean, that's the payoff. And I don't want you to get mad when I brag, I'm not into that kinda thing. Is this man an idiot? Many of them looked at him with that question in their eyes. As their representative, Salome frankly shared his thoughts on the matter.
Is that the reason you fought to the death? Oh, well, he was trying to kill me, but I didn't really need to kill him, so calling it a fight to the death is a little off. Ah, sorry, I'm nitpicking. Anyway, to be perfectly blunt, that's the reason I beat him in the first place, so having everyone get mad at me like this is kind of upsetting.
Are you serious? I love it when people praise me! Even when it's flattery, or lies! I even accept backhanded compliments! You should at least pretend to praise me. You're Christopher's friends, so you don't wanna make him out to be a liar, right? Then, as if he had suddenly remembered something, he pointed straight up into the air and added to his speech. I didn't get my strength from anything like 'talent.
You see what I mean, right? The Lamia fell into confusion, wondering what the heck he was. Salome sighed deeply, then spoke to the Lamia. Claire's words were already drawing them into marching to his peculiar tempo. Let's begin the experiment. However, you must not kill him.
The order we have received is to bring him in, no matter what it takes,"Salome spoke as if there was no room for argument. You wouldn't get hurt that way. Plus, depending on the circumstances, we may end up working for the same man. It wouldn't hurt to determine which of us is of higher caliber. Apparently, the bewildered Lamia had remembered their mission, and once again acknowledged Claire as an enemy. It must be a pain for you all to work for someone like him. I sympathize," Claire said. You okay with this?
This is a little unusual for me, but I'm gonna give you a chance to live-join with me. How's that? Never expecting to receive such a proposal, a few of them showed expressions of bemusement, but the rest of them just showed clear hatred. The tattooed girl spoke up. I was like that before I thrashed Christopher, too, you know.
Looks like you really don't think much of us. Did it not occur to you there might be someone among us who's stronger than you? I am extremely strong, that's for sure, and I'm confident I won't lose to anyone. Most importantly, I have to become stronger than anyone for the sake of my love Chane Why aren't they doing anything? He had expected all hell to break loose, but nobody was moving, and his already dour expression grew even more severe.
He might even be desperately pleading for his life. I don't mind. Tim raised an eyebrow and opened his mouth to protest, but realizing it would be useless, just returned his gaze to the ground instead. Can we kill this guy? We can kill him, can't we?
I have another reason I don't want to fight you 8-on-l. Simply put, you're gonna get trampled, and if you just lose to me by myself, you all won't be able to save face. But the freelancer just continued. If we include the old guy 49 with the goggles over there, we can fight five-on-five!
That way it's fair, no matter who wins Then you can say you fought fair and square! He was being completely heartfelt. It was as if he were stating the fate that must happen after this point, just to make the situation more fun for himself. He wasn't speaking as the ruler of the world. He was speaking as a man with the arrogance to believe he was able to decide his own fate, purely and absolutely.
And even though his words could only be taken as the ramblings of a lunatic, if there were some substance behind them, the implications changed completely. At the very least, he wasn't using cheap shock tactics. They thought it would have been better if he was really just a stupid daydreamer, but the previous information that he had defeated Christopher eliminated any possibility of that entirely. The freelancer wasn't thinking too little of them.
They were thinking too little of themselves. Until this moment, they had thought Christopher's loss was some sort of coincidence, or that maybe he even allowed himself to lose on a whim. They themselves had never considered the possibility that this man was a truly powerful enemy. If they were trained soldiers, perhaps they wouldn't have been so unprepared.
But, the Lamia-especially the ones here-had never fought an opponent who outstripped them in combat skills or physical ability. At least, if they had others like Chi and Sickle who had experienced defeat, maybe the story would be different- "Unfortunately, they aren't here.
Chi might just say 'that's all' and end it there. Now they knew for sure. The man in front of them was an enemy unlike any they had ever faced before. He smiled, differently from before, and addressed the Lamia. You're on my team.
He chose the man in the tailcoat, the one in the skill mask, the girl in the knit cap, and the most hostile of them all, the tattooed girl in the dress. But the Lamia were no longer confused by his words. They just waited for their orders. Salome lifted his hand expressionlessly. He had likely observed that it was already too late to keep them from trying to kill him. His emotions had evaporated without a trace, and he resolved himself to serve as an observer to whatever would unfold before him.
He made his announcement. Before he could even finish a number of the Lamia had already sprung from the ground-- And the abandoned street broke out into a frenzy. Claire spread his arms in response to their passionate hatred raging towards him. He opened his mouth not with murderous intent, but affection. Welcome to the show, extras.
It's not like I know them, at any rate. Please, take this as an opportunity to get to know them. And then he noticed it. He realized it the moment he judged the scene to be a "fray" in the first place. What is it? The eight of them, excluding Salome, should have been going after Felix alone, but the situation was somehow more complicated.
No, that's not it The freelancer was fighting the Lamia, but for some reason he was only fighting four of them. His birds-eye view from the roof allowed him to understand what was so strange. The eight Lamia were definitely all attacking Felix, but Felix simply dodged or parried their powerful attacks and only actually tried to attack a particular four of them.
Tim ignored Huey, who was watching the street intently with a hint of amusement, 52 and realized again that the freelancer was an uncanny one. The furrows between his eyebrows deepened. Claire had chosen four of the Lamia to be on his side. Of course, those four attacked Claire as well, but he skillfully dodged them and only counterattacked the four he had chosen as his enemies. And of course, the Lamia's moves were not limited to mere punches and kicks. Some of them fought with foreign hand-to-hand techniques that were almost unknown to America at the time.
One man wielded his unusually long legs like another set of arms, and one with unusually sharp vision read Claire's movements and threw several kunai into his path. But Claire outstripped all of them-his movements and judgment were off the charts of normal understanding.
Claire dodged the blades that came flying, as if he could read the very air in front of him. He would even catch one every so often and throw it at one of his enemies. On top of that, once he had dodged the attack himself, if the kunai were headed towards one of the allies he had chosen, he would knock that member of the Lamia to the ground to protect them. He wasn't just avoiding attacking the one he had chosen as allies; he was conscientiously protecting them as real comrades.
The freelancer's actions were completely destroying the Lamia's pride, but they didn't even have time to worry about that. Am I really only fighting one person? The tattooed girl's back was stained with cold sweat. The mental pressure was more of a shock to her will to fight than her physical exhaustion. She was even taken by the delusion that what was in front of them was a predator in human form.
If Sickle were here Ashamed at unwittingly thinking of one of her absent companions, the tattooed girl twisted her upper body. Her unusually flexible muscles and tendons gave her a wide range of motion that allowed her to twist more than degrees. She reversed her grip on the blade in her hand and used the momentum of the revolution to whip around and drive it into Felix's back. But the freelancer disappeared completely, before she had time to wonder if he had barely managed to dodge.
Where is he?! The tattooed girl was the first, but the Lamia all looked around wildly for their enemy. They found him behind the girl in the knit hat he had chosen as an ally, with his hand on her shoulder. They thought maybe he had grabbed a muscle or a pressure point. Her arm was frozen in the air, trembling slightly, even though he was only he was lightly touching her shoulder. The freelancer smiled gently. And it wasn't just her.
The other Lamia who knew her specialty were equally surprised. Her forte was spreading the poisons hidden underneath her coat. Huey Laforet may have known as well, if the information had been passed on to him, but there was no way the freelancer could know, to say nothing of how she hadn't even made any definite moves yet. Well, for one thing I could tell from your body type you don't fight hand-to- hand or use guns, so I thought maybe you used bombs or poison.
And, the whole time you looked like you were trying to stand upwind of me, so I thought maybe that was it! It had been less than a minute, but in the midst of the turmoil he had managed to focus on such a detail, and he had blocked her movements the moment she had chosen to use the poison. Salome was now sure that the human subject before his eyes was completely different than any of the unusual beings he'd ever met.
A perfect human. The words sounded cheap even to him as they floated across the researcher's mind, but he couldn't dismiss it out of hand as an erroneous delusion, either. But, he couldn't help but verify what exactly it was about him that separated him from a normal human. Christopher is my masterpiece. The ones here are also inferior in terms of basic physical strength and reflexes. Impossible-he destroys the very definition of "humanity"!
Once the girl in the knit cap was immobilized, the Lamia surrounding Felix had stopped moving as well. They hadn't been raised as ruthless assassins, so they had never learned to abandon a friend to bring down the target. Rather, as test subjects, the Lamia had a stronger sense of camaraderie than regular humans, so it would be meaningless to teach them such a way of fighting to begin with.
Salome pushed down all of the thoughts floating through his chest and calmly offered a cynical accolade. You must be the most troublesome test subject I've had until now. Like a 56 vampire come to life. He only wore a sparkly hat and suit. Even Salome smiled slightly. Well then I was on the team fighting against you, wasn't I? It seems I should reset the experiment for the moment. Wait, what the hell, Salome! Is that crazy researcher planning on using that!?
Why does that moron think we cleared everyone out of here! As if he understood what Salome planned to do, Tim began to get angry at the result his actions would bring. Do you plan on destroying the Lamia, too, you bastard? And what are you going to do if that handyman is the only one who gets out unscathed? Even though in his head he was shouting, Tim figured saying it would mean nothing to Salome at this point. He quickly turned to face Huey, deciding to advise his superior to get out of here as quickly as possible.
If Salome does what I think he's going to, the police are going to get 57 wind of But there was nobody there, only the dreary scene of rooftop upon rooftop. Tim's face twitched as he glanced around wildly up, down, left, right, and a moment later realized his guess was incorrect. He spotted a figure out of the corner of his eye, and his gaze followed it until he realized it was a person, falling between this building and the one next to it.
In fact, his descent was so light he wasn't so much falling as "drifting," like a feather. He kicked off of windows and uneven bricks jutting from the walls to slow his momentum with perfect skill as he descended. Tim realized he wasn't falling, but going down to the street in the fastest way possible for himself and looked up at the heavens.
Wasn't he just going to watch what happens!? Thoroughly exasperated, Tim grit his teeth and opened his mouth. Claire was still holding the shoulder of the girl in the knit cap, and he could feel her entire body begin to shake in fear. The tattooed girl shouted, ignoring Claire. What are you trying to do! So don't worry! Of course, the thought that he would die here never crossed within a mile of Claire's mind. He had only determined that it would be difficult to protect the four members of the Lamia he had chosen to be on his team.
Whether they were originally enemies or not, he would be ashamed to follow any rules other than the ones he himself had decided. That was just how Claire thought. Thus, he found of a way to rescue his four teammates. And he decided in only a second. I should take him down before he can do anything. His movement was extremely quick. He removed his hand from the girl's shoulder and gently took her arm, then curled his fingers around the small bottle of poison she had been about to use earlier.
Claire apologized for that unfortunate possibility, and the girl, still frozen in fear, couldn't argue as he deftly plucked the bottle from her hand. It was filled with powder, perhaps to be scattered in the air. Claire moved to throw the bottle directly at Salome's face with ungodly speed, but-- His unparalleled vision and reflexes stopped him in his tracks the instant before he could do so.
He had realized that Salome wasn't moving, instead looking above Claire's 59 shoulder. Specifically, he was staring at in shock something behind Claire and a little above. Claire wasn't exactly sure what the best course of action was, but he was certain that something was happening behind him.
He spun around, still holding the bottle. And his eyes landed on a delicate-looking man who had suddenly appeared on the street, a mechanical smile fixed on his face. The man looked gently at each of the Lamia in turn, then spoke to the man farthest away from him.
I apo I deeply apologize, sir! Claire realized from the man's attitude that this newcomer was some kind of mastermind behind the whole incident, but before he pursued that matter he asked a more immediate question. A long time ago, I used to wear a mask and make believe to be an acrobat, so I am accustomed to this sort of thing. Please forgive our rudeness. His voice was clear and fluid as always.
But, anyone who knew the terrorist Huey Laforet, enemy of the state, could feel nothing but uneasiness, that behind that smile was a hollow, endless void. The more Huey spoke in his calm, gentle voice, the more they sweated in cold terror, like being subdued with the chill of a cool autumn breeze. He could probably see right through Huey instantly.
The tattooed girl was positive. This freelancer, this Felix, was an anomaly. The man believed from the bottom of his heart that the world belonged to him. Threats wouldn't work here. She even thought for a second that he could find a way to kill the indestructible Huey once and for all, as the man defining the pinnacle of humanity.
The autocrat and the immortal. No matter who won, it wouldn't end so simply. It was about to begin, the gamble between them to win everything from the other. No matter the outcome, it would be burned into their memories forever. The human and the inhuman. Perhaps the conflict that would begin here would lead them to find the key--how they should live as incomplete immortals.
The Lamia swallowed and took a step back away from Felix, deciding to watch the outcome. An uncomfortable breeze blew between the buildings through the street. And-- As if he had been waiting for the wind to die down, Felix finally spoke. Salome and the others watching were completely confused. Chane's brother, would you? Chane was Huey's daughter. Huey's subordinates were completely bewildered, but Huey just calmly pointed out Claire's error.
I look quite young, but I apologize. He snapped into an upright position and offered his right hand diplomatically, like greeting a foreign dignitary. It's an honor to meet you, sir. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for bringing Chane into my world! The handshake was stiff, but the words of gratitude were warm and cordial. Actually, I'm thinking of marrying her. She is inexperienced, so please take care of her," Huey answered with a smile, and, emotionless as always, moved on to the next topic.
Shall we discuss it now? Huey looked around and informed the others. You are my daughter's first suitor. Please, allow me to treat you to dinner. Salome, can your car hold two more people? He coughed once, completely changed his attitude, and turned to the car with clean, neat steps. He opened the back door, and, with a courteous expression, prepared to welcome them into the car.
Poison is dangerous, so be careful how you use it, okay? Um, I will After Huey and Felix had gotten in the car, Salome had taken the passenger's seat and disappeared without another word. All they could do was stand in silence, abandoned at the scene. Completely unable to parse out what had just happened, they couldn't even move for a few moments.
A voice sounded from next to them. I'm Tim. Nice to meet you all. That's all. Even before the unprecedented Great Depression, the rotting underside of society carried its influence far and wide. The government continued fighting the slump with proposals like the New Deal, but the state economy wouldn't recover for a while yet.
It had been a few years since the Depression began. There were riots all over by those trying to find food, but it was better that they could still make a disturbance at all. In some states, those who had lost their jobs continued to go hungry, unable to even make a demonstration, or so it was reported. More and more were unable to pay for electricity, and in some city blocks there was not a light to be seen during the night.
The rich lived surrounded by dazzling light, keeping the cold at bay in their warm rooms. But though the poor looked and looked for jobs, they could not find something that didn't exist. They had no way to escape the cycle. A number of almshouses went under in the midst of the sorrow and gloom, and the streets of the cities swarmed with vagrants. As many of the people's lives were at a standstill because of the Depression, the government expanded the establishment of welfare-based housing as part of its arsenal against the Depression.
Here on the outskirts of New York City, there was a makeshift lodging facility built not thanks to the government, but the contributions of a certain doctor. This facility was surrounded by a completely different air from Millionaire Row where the wealthy lived. This was where those who had lost their homes and their families came to live, huddled together.
A doctor named Fred had bought a hotel that had gone out of business and used it just as it was. Apparently he had originally intended to repurpose it as a hospital, but instead he was using it as a housing facility until the end of the Depression for the jobless masses to ward off the cold.
The tenants paid the lowest rent possible, but it was far less than the cost of upkeep. The place would never make a profit, only breaking even or staying in the red. But, even in the Depression, they could come and go here without fear of starving to 65 death, and until a few days ago, they had been working for hourly wages.
On the shore near Manhattan Island, they had constructed the narrow, pointed skyscraper nicknamed "Ra's Lance. Although, while the unveiling ceremony for the multipurpose office building was already happening, the underground floors were still under construction. Many people had come from this housing facility to work at the construction site, too. Now, many of them had left with the money they had earned for the construction to find a better home, and some of the rooms began to open up, depending on the day.
And today, a man slipped into a room that happened to be available. The room was little more than a literal "room," with only the cheapest bed and furniture. There were spiderwebs in the corner and places where mice had chewed the wall, and he could hear angry shouts, sobs and sometimes screaming from every direction.
Well, it's better than the last one. People ended up using candles for light, resulting in fires. Even though people often died from these, nobody did anything about it. Compared to a place like that, this was downright pleasant. The man sat down on the bed, exhausted. Those angry shouts and shrieks means they still have energy to make a fuss.
I'm the one without enough strength to shout and cry, even though I want to. Well, there's a ton of guys sleeping without a roof over their heads. Wonder if they're actually happier than me Now, maybe they won't come after me The man--Neider Schasschule, looked back on where he stood.
He had been virtually kidnapped by Ladd Russo and dragged here to New York. When he thought about it, maybe that was how his feet had been swept up by this inauspicious current. What would I be doing right now? And then Neider remembered that he hadn't even wanted to be released from prison in the first place. The investigators had persuaded him to leave. He had thought that the remainder of the Lemures would have no reason to come after him, being remnants of a failed organization, but now Neider was forced to realize what a naive assumption that was.
Who was tailing me right after I got out? First, his mysterious pursuers, then the trouble at the casino, and then-- Even that girl, a regular old waitress, was one of that organization's He had met the girl by chance outside the casino. He had watched her still-girlish face become dyed with murderous hatred just from looking at him.
Even though half a day had passed since then, the image wouldn't leave his head. After he fled from her, mind blank, he had slipped into a group of hobos returning from work, and finally came to rest here. When he asked a worker in charge of food distribution, the man had said that a room had just opened up, and they were accepting new tenants. Despite the tattoo covering half his face, he is actually extremely shy. Nice Holystone Jacuzzi's companion and girlfriend.
Absolutely crazy about anything that explodes. Wears glasses and an eye patch. Always polite to everyone but Jacuzzi. John and Fang Jacuzzi's companions. An Irish bartender and a Chinese cook, respectively. Donny Jacuzzi's companion. A monstrously strong Mexican man. Chane Laforet Jacuzzi's companion. A master with her knife. Originally a terrorist.
Huey Laforet A nationally infamous terrorist. Currently in prison. Tim Leader of an organization under Huey's command, the Larvae. Adelle Member of the Larvae. A shy, reclusive young woman. Deadly with a pronged spear. Vino A killer who's made his home in Manhattan. Nicknamed "Rail Tracer. Also Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Days. In charge of the English version. Elean An information broker.
A severely bipolar black man. Wears Chinese style clothing for some reason. Henry An information broker. Trash number two. Rachel An information broker. An errand girl who travels all over the country gathering information. The Director The information brokers' boss, who spends his days behind a mountain of documents. It's said that nobody but the vice-director has ever seen his face. Christopher Shouldered A member of the Lamia, a subdivision of the Larvae.
Possessor of an unforgettable face; lover of nature; wielder of a pistol sword. Christopher's brusque friend. Uses a pair of steel claws. Liza A member of the Lamia. A chilling being who exists only as a languid woman's voice. Sham and Hilton Mysterious beings thought to be part of the Lamia.
Called 'the Twins' by Christopher's group. Manfred Beriam A senator who'd do anything for money. Mary Beriam The senator's daughter. A gentle and innocent young girl, unlike her greedy father. A company is like Well, in a word, it's like an organism. Our company is no exception. Maintaining your body solely through use of your brain—through conscious thought—is nearly impossible.
Everything in your body is hard at work whether you're aware of it or not; your cells and organs slave away to keep your body in working order. It's not clear whether the cells know that they're working for the good of the body and not for their individual gain, but there you have it.
It's the same for a company. Every employee works for the good of the company—to advance their own interests—even if the higher-ups aren't actively supervising them. But just as the whims of one's mind, that infinitesimal portion of the brain, can bring about the end of one's life so simply, so can the fleeting impulse of a corporate executive decide the fate of any number of normal employees.
They know, after all, that the cells cannot complain. There are probably many reasons why people commit suicide, but the reason that companies turn the knife in on themselves is, by and large, in order to survive. People long for eternal life, and, from time to time, companies wish for the same. Eternal growth. That is the corporate philosophy of our company.
We reach for endless heights, just as the heathen people of Babel did so long ago. Of course, the Tower of Babel was destroyed. In the end, it was nothing but a simple building. But we We are not a base aggregate of rocks and bricks. It is our objective to grow forever as a single organism, and we believe that that goal has far more meaning than simple immortality.
Haha, look at me. Assuming for a moment, of course, that there are indeed people out there who have achieved eternal life. As you already know, we have dabbled in many different enterprises since our establishment, and absorbed many others—enough to be able to form an approximation of a self-sufficient economy within the bounds of our company. If one were to think of society as a living thing, then surely our corporation also fits that definition as well.
Instead of blood we shed assets, and instead of oxygen we breathe in the laughter of our satisfied customers. Such is the true form of Nebula. You wanted to us to loan you our money. Our blood. Do you know what that means? It's simple, Mr. You will become part of our body as well. But take care. Many of our executives are quite fickle.
Don't forget that useless cells—overly long hair, flakes of dead skin—are immediately cast away like so much worthless trash. Now, about the matter of the loan Oh, dear You needn't be so tense. What happened to the temper you displayed when you threatened to sue us? If you're not feeling well, would you like to have a sip of the elixir of immortality? I must warn you, though. It is a tad expensive No, not just amusing—I must say that things have become truly interesting.
The dull roar of rain from outside filled the room, the damp seeping in as well and spreading slowly but surely through the great pile of documents. Even the ever-present shrill ring of telephones was, for once, absent. A leisurely voice floated out from a corner of this rain and paper ruled area.
I'd like to avoid a ruckus like what happened last year if at all possible. Can you say in all honesty that you aren't enjoying this, not even a little? If you could answer yes to that question, you wouldn't be standing here in the first place, would you? In here, you are Nicholas Wayne, an independent individual and also a fine information broker in your own right. Inside the document-filled room, which practically symbolized the spirit of the company itself, there stood a handful of men, their expressions as varied as their looks.
Somehow, they managed to find places to stand amidst the hopeless clutter and turned to face the giant pile of paper. From the core of that pile, hidden away from all and sundry, the director of the Daily Days began to assess the situation, the levity in his voice making it clear he was relishing the ongoing peek into "someone else's business. Let's slice everything into simple, easily digestible slices, like an apple pie. That train transported Jacuzzi Splot and his gang here to New York, where they promptly set up shop.
I suppose if that work had been even remotely legal, we wouldn't be here right now. No way, my friend! You're telling me that that many mafia wannabe brats could find honest work? In this depression? No way, no how! God in his wisdom is equal in all things, and this time's no exception! Unfortunately for those hoodlums, there's no such thing in his dictionary as a special rule that lets kids and thugs get work while the rest of us go hungry.
Anyway, what happened was, the Gandors and the Martillos sent people to scold those little rascals. Right, Henry? The thing is, the kids were already entertaining some guests. Members of the Larvae, one of the many terrorist cells created by the infamous terrorist Huey Laforet, were there attempting to form an agreement with Jacuzzi Splot's gang Acting on information I sold them, of course.
They were looking for a group of thugs who weren't affiliated with any criminal organization while still possessing a non-negligible modicum of strength, after all. After that Well, from the reports we received, something like a cloud of smoke spread out from the mansion and the people inside used that as an opportunity to scatter.
Things are clear enough until here. You called us here yourself, so I'm guessing that there's got to be something else that you want to tell us, right? It seems that a single couple visited the mansion even before the Larvae came for young Jacuzzi Then why'd you-" "Huey Laforet," the director said, quiet but firm, the name itself sufficient answer to Elean's question. I thought that it would be good to use this incident as an opportunity to give you a brief summary of the situation, at least.
But he was arrested a while ago, wasn't he? Why, do you think, have we heard next to nothing about him after his arrest? It's almost as the world wants us to forget about him. Huey Laforet was a terrorist who had, some time ago, caused a moderate amount of commotion. He'd been arrested on charges of purchasing vast quantities of weapons to use in an attempt to overthrow the U.
There were rumors, of course, that he'd been sent to the military prison on Alcatraz Island, but as for concrete information Neither Nicholas nor Henry had been able to find any clues. What's more, Huey Laforet does not care about being captured. It's possible, in fact, that even his arrest at the hands of the police was part of his plan.
That goes for the decimation of his organization, the Lemures, as well. Why would he do something like that? This is, of course, mere speculation, but as far as I am aware Huey Laforet is the sort of man who would not bat an eye at such sacrifices. But enough of that for the moment. In other matters I must wonder if the members of the Larvae know that the daughter of their master, Chane Laforet, is a member of Jacuzzi Splot's group.
Or, on the other hand, it may come to a very abrupt end. And what tidbit of information leads you to say this? Vino is on the move. The temperature inside the room plummeted at the simple mention of the name. The Rail Tracer Formerly Claire Stanfield Currently Felix Walken Henry, his spirits bolstered by their reaction, continued. The tale of the assassin and the terrorist's reunion is far too grand, and far too long, to tell at a meeting like this.
Considering that this would be nothing more than a minor commotion if one were to ignore the involvement of Huey Laforet, it feels to me as though it has the potential to grow into something quite entertaining. The door opened wide, and through the open doorway stepped a young woman.
Nicholas looked a bit confused once he caught sight of Rachel's face. I took the evening train," Rachel muttered, a cloud passing briefly over her face as she stepped over to a spot on the floor that wasn't overrun by stray papers. Something wrong? I saw some unwelcome faces on the train. Only the man hidden behind the papers spoke up gleefully. Christopher and his Lamia, here in New York? But how did you recognize them? This was actually my first time seeing any of them.
At first I thought they were some sort of circus troupe, but then I remembered the rumors I'd heard during my travels. I guess with looks like that, it'd be hard not to recognize him. I see, I see. So Christopher was there, then? But if the information I gathered is to be believed, there'll probably be a few more with them, though I can't say who. Yes, the Lamia are quite few in number, and one of them is already here in New York.
Hold on a second. Are you two just going to keep on leaving us out of the loop? We have not only the infamous Vino, but also the 'vampire', Christopher Shouldered, entering the fray I suppose this matter will revolve around a battle between those two—no, I suppose we should include the Martillo's Ronnie Schiatto as well, which makes it a three-way melee. My fellows, it appears that this will become a great deal more captivating than we had first supposed.
Don't you agree? Christopher Shouldered Can't say I've ever heard of him before. Should the name mean anything? Only Rachel has heard of young Christopher besides the vice-director and I, since she regularly travels all over the country. He—no, they—are a sort of roving urban legend, you see But it's the Lamia's first time visiting New York, so I suppose it's not too out of the ordinary that you don't know of them.
Very well. First, I suppose I should tell you about the man known as Christopher Shouldered The Daily Days treated information as property, and the man at the head of the agency managed each piece of information like a movie director would oversee his actors. Observing that all of his actors were in place, the director jovially began to speak. The staccato beat of rain hitting the window accompanied his words. Christopher Shouldered. I'll start by introducing him, as a sort of prologue to the events that will soon begin The Russo Family had fallen on hard times, surrounded and pressured on all sides by powerful mafia organizations.
Their last desperate attempt at clawing their way out of the hole they'd found themselves in involved selling drugs to an Asian based crime family based in a different area. And the biggest of their sales was scheduled to take place that very night Isn't this flower beautiful There were small patches of dirt amidst the concrete that served as the floor around the row, and in one such patch there had blossomed a single flower.
Just one. The sole sign of nature in a sea of slate grey. A young man squatted in front of the tiny flower, talking quietly to himself. What a lovely shape. Just the fact of its existence, of life not only triumphing in the face of such adversity but even mustering the strength to shoot forth a blossom Simply breathtaking.
But if there was just one thing that seemed out of place in this peaceful scene I thought we told ya to beat it, asshole. It might the group of dangerous looking men encircling the youth and his flower. There were about a dozen of them, all glaring murderously at the foreign element in their midst.
But the young man seemed unaware of the dire straits he was in, still gazing wistfully at the flower. He wore strangely antiquated clothes that made him look like a medieval nobleman. Perhaps the only redeeming quality about his archaic getup was the fact that his outfit was colored in dark tones of black and crimson, fitting perfectly with the muted colors of the night. He didn't resist as the mobster forced him upright, instead looking back at his assailant with a smile as soft as before.
It managed to grow just fine despite the strong wind blowing in from the lake. You'll make great fertilizer for it once I'm done with ya, kid," the mobster growled, grabbing the young man by the shoulders in preparation to deliver a dizzying headbutt, followed by a crushing knee to the stomach.
The shout came from nowhere, making the man hesitate for just an instant before attacking. But that hesitation became a full stop as the younger man continued, and his hands suddenly grew slack with shock. Every single tooth in the young man's mouth was a razor sharp fang, bringing to mind the jagged grin of a vampire.
Then their eyes met. The sclera of the young man's eyes were stained deep crimson, and his irises were colored shocking white. In the middle of each bizarrely colored eye was a black pupil, so solid and deep it seemed as though it would devour all its gaze fell upon. He looked like something from an old wives' tale, or something sprung straight from the horror stories that children would whisper to one another around the safety of a campfire.
It was an innocuous sound. The silver blade sunk deep into the man's throat like a hot knife through butter. He opened and closed his mouth silently several times, but the keen point severed his spinal cord in an instant, and scant moments later everything went black. What's wrong? To them, it looked like he was still standing with his hands on the stranger's collar. They merely thought it strange, perhaps a little worrying that their friend had frozen so suddenly.
As though replying to their confusion in the dead man's stead, the young man began to speak in a friendly voice. Ah, you all are so very beautifully worthless, pathetic beings. Only then did the mafia realize that something was wrong. Dark thoughts began to fill their heads regarding the fate of their frozen comrade, each one more fearsome than the last, and their features tensed with apprehension as they inched closer.
You know, while we're talking, I might as well inform you that the people you were expecting to deal with tonight couldn't make it! They'd thought him someone completely unrelated to their business, but now he mentioned their purpose here out of the blue. Heedless of the way he'd trodden on the unspoken barriers erected by the mafia, the young man kept talking, the gentle smile still fixed on his face.
Your partners have not only refused to accompany you in your journey to the next world, but indeed, they won't even deign to leave flowers on your graves! Why, the thought of how absurd you are would even move me to pity But alas. Before the beauty of this flower, you are all Sharp, impossibly dry cracks rang in the air.
The sound of gunshots split the night sky, and simultaneously the dead mobster's neck exploded, spewing forth a barrage of bullets. But the young man didn't move an inch from where he stood, using the dead man's corpse as a shield as he continued to pull the trigger of the blade that he held in his hand.
Bark after bark echoed out over the lake, but each and every single one came from the young man's weapon. His bullets found their mark in those men who were closest to drawing their guns, and when about half their number had fallen, he drew his knife from his human shield's neck. A small fountain of blood spurted sluggishly from the gaping wound. The mobsters' eyes were drawn to the weapon flashing in the moonlight even as their hands darted to their pistols.
A gun Well, it was shaped like a gun; there was no mistaking that. What surprised the mafiosos so much was the fact that the barrel was much longer than the norm for a gun that size. Then the moonlight shone on the shadowy thing they'd thought a barrel, revealing a wicked edge. He quickly shook off his surprise, drawing his own gun and pointing it at the young man.
Incredibly, the mysterious young man chose to lower his weapon instead of firing, letting his strange gun hang limply at his side. Clearly, his fate was sealed, as the gangster's finger tightened on the trigger. But something lurking in the shadows would not allow that to happen.
A sharp clang reverberated through the night, a split second after the gunshot. There was a silhouette standing in front of the youth, one that hadn't been there a moment ago. The metallic impact had come from the figure's arms, which it held crossed in front of its face.
A brief cascade of blue-white sparks flew from them as the deflected bullet rocketed away into the darkness. The mobsters froze for an instant, digesting the sight before their eyes. Where'd you come from?! You know I'm always serious. And I wasn't testing you just now! I trusted you—there's a difference. Why, you might even say I loved you! Oh, let me make it clear, though. I don't have a thing for men, just so you know. Wouldn't want you to get disappointed.
They snapped back to reality, firing wildly at the advancing figure, but the bullets merely pinged off into the darkness, blue sparks on cold metal. Chi hunched low, his gauntlets forming a circle in front of him as he ran forward. He ducked so close to the ground his chest almost skimmed the floor, allowing his arms to shield his entire body. Holy shi- The mobster closest to Chi couldn't even finish his last thought. The circle made by Chi's arms suddenly expanded into a sphere, just brushing by the gangster.
Then Chi's limbs flashed and the sphere grew to encompass the his target's entire body in an instant. What had until then seemed like nothing more than steel gauntlets abruptly split open near Chi's wrists, four wickedly curved blades springing into place over his fingers. The gloves transformed into a pair of claws and passed through his target's head.
Four red lines welled up over his neck and face. More than deep enough to be fatal. Chi didn't even have to look; the feeling told him all he needed to know as he bolted forward, past the already dead man. The shadow didn't slow down as it slid through the ranks of the mafia like a bolt of dark lightning. Half the remaining men fell over, slain. Those lucky men who had been outside the range of Chi's claws turned quickly, pointing their guns at the retreating shadow's back.
But just as their fingers tightened on the triggers, they heard someone speak behind them. You all are so very weak, aren't you? For a moment, the men hesitated, deliberating on whether to look behind them or just shoot. Some of them instinctively pulled their triggers, but their shots went wide of even Chi's upraised arms. The woman's voice behind them chuckled at the sight. I seem to recall hearing that several of your number were killed by some of the local children last year What the hell are these people?
I thought the Russo Family was supposed to be one of Chicago's most influential organizations. But if you consider that a few dozen children managed to bring down a handful of you Well, then. I'd say that's quite humiliating. Wouldn't you agree? That meant she was an enemy. In that case, the course of action was simple. All they had to do was whip around and fill her with hot lead. But what if she had a gun? Doesn't matter. The time for careful deliberation had come and gone.
One of the men turned, his finger already tightening on the trigger. If the woman was armed, he'd shoot her right between the eyes. If she wasn't, he'd take her hostage. It was a good plan, and simple too. He whipped around, confident that he'd succeed.
The rest of the survivors, perhaps following his lead, also pivoted to look back There was nothing there. They'd heard something there—they knew it, but only the rusty red of the warehouse wall greeted their eyes. Their confusion gradually shifted to fear, and they looked wildly about for the owner of the mysterious voice. Wher e-grrk" Cold, sharp steel flew from the darkness. Lodged in their skulls, the blades quickly grew warm from their coating of blood, but the mobsters were no longer in any condition to notice.
He chanced a look back and saw his allies slumped on the ground, black rings protruding from their heads. The rings were sunk deep into the bone, actually disappearing into the men's skulls, making it clear even from a casual glance that they were already dead. Then, a voice. It rang in a way that made it seem like she was talking directly into their minds. You understand, don't you? I'm so very sorry. The chaotic whirlwind of emotions that ran through each man's mind finally came to rest on one shared feeling: terror.
But just as they opened their mouths to give voice to that primitive instinct I hate loud people. Chi passed among them like a breath of wind, and the screams died in their slashed throats with soft sighs. Just one among them, bleeding heavily from a wound elsewhere, not from a cut throat, found the strength to curse his killers with his dying breath.
If only Y-you fuckers'd be so The scene of carnage was enough to drive any normal human being mad, but Chi's face as he stood in the center of the massacre was utterly flat and impassive. His steel claws had already folded back into the shape of gauntlets, the blades lying flat against his arms to shield them. The mysterious woman was still nowhere to be seen, and only the sound of the wind blowing in off the lake filled the silence around them.
Oh god He had been among those who had stood surrounding Christopher just moments before, but he stood unharmed, having somehow avoided both Chi's claws and the curious bladed rings. What was more, he hadn't even attempted to draw his gun, or even shown the slightest sign of hostility toward the killers. Well, he hadn't up till just that moment, to be exact. Anger clouded his expression as he opened his mouth, readying a tirade against Christopher.
What the hell just happened. Quite pretty, if you ask me. I hired ya to make a commotion and kill this guy and only this guy, not fuckin' everybody! It was the first one Christopher had murdered. But you did! You fucking did! Now everything's so fucked up I don't even know! Don't blame this all on us. You did well to infiltrate the Russo Family, but our sources say that you've been doped to the gills on the drugs they deal for the past few months.
You went in as a hunter, but now you're nothing but trash. You knew that if the Russo Family went belly up, headquarters would learn of your little You'd be a criminal yourself. You knew that when you hired us, didn't you? You wanted us to take care of the only man who knew you were an addict, the man who sold you his wares.
You wanted us to make it look as though he'd been killed in a disagreement with another organization. Well, congratulations for findin' that out. But then why the hell'd you do this?! Think how bad it'll look if I'm the only fuckin' one left alive in this whole fuckin-" Please don't shout. Christopher's face loomed suddenly in the man's field of vision. His smile revealed two rows of sharp fangs that gleamed dully in the light. A song about flowers!
A song about nature! We don't need lyrics for a song that celebrates the world, do we? Anything will do. Now, follow my lead Naturally, he wasn't in the state of mind to just relax and listen. Why'd you do it?! The leader of the impromptu choir only sighed and shook his head. That's all. Who the hell kills people 'cause they think a fuckin' flower is pretty?!
It's all a matter of perspective. It's common fuckin' sense! The detective was panting for breath, shaking with emotion, and Christopher's grin grew wider and wider, his head shaking back and forth, as though his own emotions were rising up in unison with the other man's. That is where you're wrong, friend. Since, as you can see, quite a few people have been killed, common sense obviously had no place in what happened here.
That's what's important. What does the damn flower being pretty have to do with killing people?! It's got to do with my own subjective views, you see. I just wanted to see a flower blooming amid a bunch of corpses. Life in the midst of death, if you will. You people're supposed to be fucking hired killers! You think you can pull shit like this and still find work?! Despite the fact that he'd been the one to hire them, he quailed before Christopher like a mouse faced with a hungry cat.
The mouse bared its teeth; backed into a corner, it had no choice but to go down fighting. But Christopher merely smiled, paying the threat no mind. His childlike grin and the razor teeth inside it formed a chilling dissonance that only made him more terrifying. Why, you ask? It's two times the fun. Sort of like a rifle with a bayonet, except I suppose this is a bit small to be called a bayonet, or a rifle, for that matter," Christopher murmured, willfully ignoring the weapon's original purpose.
Gently, his finger rose to stroke the trigger. The detective could sense that there was no hesitation in his movements, and the terror in him rose to an unbearable crescendo. His mouth opened in a scream, but no sound came out. Christopher moved his gaze to look up at the moon.
Mmm, that's right. How could I ever be concerned about things like our contract or our reputation or justice or evil or the people I've killed in the presence of such a sublime moon, of such a perfect flower? Doesn't everything just fade to insignificance in the face of that? Chase that fright away with a song! Come on now, give voice to the relief you feel at still being alive!
Tralala, lalalala! Let it flow out of you! Christopher sighed and prompted him again. Lululu, lolala Come on, sing. I'm getting lonely," he said, the expression on his face open and friendly La, la? The man's mind, already weakened by weeks of drug abuse, began to shut down under the looming threat of impending death. From Sham and Hilton. I'm alive? The only thought that passed through the client's mind was no longer that of complaint toward his unruly hired hands, but pure instinctive relief.
I'm really alive? I did lie to you, actually. Answer the question. The quiet air of deadly calm that surrounded them battered the detective's mind like a fierce wind. Not Christopher, nor Chi. Not even the unseen feeling of being watched by the mysterious woman called Liza.
Everything was gone, like morning fog evaporating in the sunlight. Understanding dawned in the detective's drug-addled mind. A different emotion replaced the fear that had gripped his heart just a moment before. Utter despair. They wouldn't believe him if he explained what had happened. No, even if they did believe him—about the killers, and that they'd decided to leave him alive — he'd have to explain why they'd chosen to do so.
He'd have to tell them that he'd been the one to hire them. It would be no different from forfeiting his life. He had to explain it in a way that made it seem as though he'd survived by chance. There was no way he could let them know about the hired killers.
In other words, Christopher hadn't risked his reputation at all. He'd secured its safety just as surely as if he'd killed the detective outright. He couldn't do anything. He was trapped. Faced with the despair that was reality, the undercover detective fell to his knees in the sea of blood, mumbling numbly to himself.
A single flower, blooming at the feet of a man falling deep into despair There's no doubt, this will be one for the ages! A grand epic, a story loved by all! Beside him, Chi looked into his own telescope and said nothing. Will that flower make it through the ages, too? They call that impermanence in Buddhism, don't they?
Not that I care, but you do realize that if we keep on doing this, we are going to have to worry about our reputation. What does it matter? It's just a lark we do on the side, anyway. We only need care about the opinion of one person. That's our real job, isn't it? We're not as infamous as Vino or Walken, but try to keep it in mind that we do have a certain presence among hired killers, okay? What worth is there in such voices, though they be raised in adoration?
Oh, that was quite marvelous, what I said just now, wasn't it? Write it down for future generations, will you? If we're to become the 'biggest names' in the business, we've got to take care of Vino, right? Working our way up through the ranks would be ever so boring. Uncharacteristically serious for a second, he said, "So what's the word from Sham and Hilton? Wait, we're on a boat and you didn't Where are you?!
You startled me. He wants you to take the train tomorrow to New York and help Tim out. I daresay it's been years—no, decades —since we got called for a real job! I haven't seen her in ages! She's got to be frustrated, you know, working under Tim and all. That fellow insists on no casualties , can you believe it?
Poor, poor girl. The moon is smiling down on us, so it's obviously smooth sailing from here on! That's right, my friends. Everywhere we go, we're followed by the sun's blessing And any blood rain that did fall would get washed away in no time," Chi muttered derisively, his bandaged arms crossed over his chest as he stood at the entrance, glaring out at the stormy streets of New York. That's what I love about her," Christopher said with a sheepish smile, brandishing his umbrella with one hand.
Something optimistic, something that would cheer me up even if I was soaked to the bone. Chi, be a dear and think up some good lyrics, will you? They had arrived, amidst a downpour so fierce it felt like it would slash everything in two. They had arrived, fully intent on staining the rain a hot and sticky shade of scarlet Yeah," Maria replied, huddled in one corner of the dusty, dirty room.
The usual levity in her voice was nowhere to be found, leaving her sounding dull and grim. One clash of blades had sent her plummeting into the abyss. The blade of a katana, slashing through anything and everything. That was all she'd ever believed in. No, it was all she was. Her belief in her sword was her raison d'etre. To believe in the keen blade of her katana, to believe that her sword was the best of them all, and to prove that faith with her own two hands and the keen blades they wielded That was Maria Barcelito's life.
But a crack now ran down the length of that belief. The spearwoman's words came back to life in Maria's mind, as clear as when she'd heard them for the first time. You're beginning to doubt, aren't you? Again and again she denied it, but the ghost in her head refused to leave, the spear her enemy held screaming toward her neck You believe that a sword For once, the smile vanished from Tick's face as he rushed to her side.
The torture specialist looked worriedly into her face as she trembled violently, clutching her head. Are you hurt? She took a shuddering breath, trying to gather her wits about herself. Sorry about that, amigo.
Maria forced a smile and said, "Of course I am, amigo! Just had a little nightmare Ahaha, there's no need to console me. But think about it. Ronnie butted in and messed up the fight. That means there's no winner or loser The name meant nothing to her, but at the same time she knew exactly who Tick was talking about. It had to be the mysterious man who'd butted in just before her fight with Adelle came to its grisly end, taking away both their weapons in an instant.
How had he managed it, when both of them had been so alert, their reflexes dancing on the razor's edge? It did bother her Maria had other things on her mind. No, Tick. I already lost It wasn't about strength. I doubted my Murasamia, even if it was just for a moment. I lost I lost! You don't understand anything about how I feel. It occurred to her that only the fighters themselves had the right to decide a battle's outcome, and Tick's words came across as supremely thoughtless.
Her pent-up emotions exploded outward in frustration, the downcast girl from a moment before disappearing like a dream. You didn't even fight, what do you know about winning or losing? You've never won a fight at all!
All you do is cut apart people who can't even resist! You spend your whole life hiding! What could you possibly know about me. How could you, could you, understand She was a loser, she was pathetic, she was the lowest of the low. And then she'd gone and lashed out with all her sadness and rage at the one person who was trying to help her.
All he'd done once they took shelter in the abandoned building was try to bolster her flagging spirits. In fact, part of the anxiety she felt came from her disappointment at herself, at not being able to rise to his expectations. Then she'd turned around and unleashed those negative emotions on none other than Tick himself. But still she hesitated, unsure of what to say. Tick took advantage of that moment to speak, the trite tone in his calm voice like that of a boy who'd broken a friend's toy.
No , that's not it. Maria tried to deny it, but the casual acceptance in Tick's words had shaken her greatly, giving her no chance to disagree. I can't really understand what you call belief, Maria, because I can't see it with my own eyes. That's why I can't believe in it.
If I was a bit smarter, I know I'd be able to understand you. I wouldn't have made you so sad I'm sorry. I can't understand what you feel when you say you've lost, Maria. Every time he apologized, Maria's heart clenched with guilt.
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