Saturday, July 29, 2017

Akuma No Imouto Chapter Eight

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<-----First Chapter

Your name is Ryoji Masaomi, and you hold in your hands an axe which is the physical embodiment of Sayaka Yamaguchi’s darkest secret.  However, you immediately throw it aside when you see the state that your twin brother is in.  You’ve only just discovered that, although it’s not supposed to be that way, Nagi can remember the details of what happens within a patron’s mind when collecting the secret, something which you can only do if you’re close friends with the person whose secret you’re collecting.  Otherwise, all you remember is problems which can be remedied for next time by learning a new skill.

Nagi’s lying on the ground, curled up in fetal position, trembling, whimpering.  Vicente looks over from behind the bar, then jumps into action as he realizes that in that state, any demon would lose control over their disguise, and scoops Nagi up to put him in the kitchen with Koren again before returning to work.  By the time he’s finished this, you’ve got your thoughts together, and you turn on Sayaka, grabbing the front of her shirt with a harsh scowl on your face, “How do you know Kiyoteru Tanaka!?”

“W-What!?” Sayaka questions, “I thought you didn’t remember the secrets!”

“I don’t,” You hiss, staring into her eyes, overtaken by anger, “But I know my brother, and I know that the only thing he could ever see in someone’s mind that would put him into that condition is Kiyoteru Tanaka.  This is the worst condition he’s ever been in after secret collecting, and it has to have been a result of that man being involved.  So tell me.  How do you know him?”

“I killed him,” Sayaka answers, pushing against your shoulders, “I killed him fourteen years ago.”

“Nonsense,” You growl back, but you do let go of her, taking a step backwards, “I killed him five years ago.  When Nagi and I first arrived in the human world.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.  I really made sure that he was dead,” Sayaka mutters, holding her hands to her chest with a worried frown, “Maybe you killed somebody else with the same name?”

“I really don’t think that’s likely,”  You groan, then grab Sayaka’s wrist, stop by the bar to grab another serving of the potion, then drag her back to the kitchen, “And I’ll prove it.  Neptune remembered, Nagi remembers, so I’m betting you’ll remember too.  I’m going to show you Nagi’s secret, and then you’ll understand,” Your grip on her wrist gets even tighter, “You’ll understand why I had to kill him, and why there’s no way I got the wrong guy.”

“I really don’t think that’s necessary-” She starts to protest, but you throw her to the ground next to Nagi as you crouch down and pour the potion into his mouth, locking eyes with Sayaka as you do so.  She seems terrified, and you don’t care.  You want her to be afraid.  Maybe it is unnecessary, but when she’s intent on confusing you on your revenge, you’re bound to be a little bit petty.


“Wow.  I’m surprised that worked,” A man’s voice broke through the darkness of the room, filling it with a sound which the secret onlookers found familiar and unsettling, but this was the first time that the target of his words was hearing it, “Perfect.  Give me my options, Nagito-kun.”

Nagi looked up, finding himself somewhere entirely different than he expected.  Last he knew he was walking to school, but next thing, he was here.  The room had barely any lighting to it, and he could tell what was happening as soon as he took a look at the floor and discovered that he was sitting in the middle of a pentacle.  He’d… been summoned?  Well, that was okay.  He did go to school, he knew what to do in this situation.  He slowly stood up, then turned to face the one who’d summoned him.

“Your options…” Nagi mumbled, flexing his fingers.  This was strange; by being summoned, he’d been forced into a human shape.  That didn’t usually happen… Well, he blinked a few times, “Uh, I need to know what you want, first.”

“I did write what I wanted in the circle,” The man frowned as he said this, checking it, “But I suppose that’s just to send a certain type of demon, and is useless if summoning someone by their name?  Or maybe eleven is just too young for you to be able to figure that out yourself,” He rubbed his fingers together, “What I’m looking for is sex.  With you, not with some succubus.  You know what that is, right, Nagito-kun?”

“Uh…” Nagi frowned, crossing his arms over his chest, “Y-You summoned me specifically?  How did you know who I was?”

“That’s not important, but if you must know, I saw you when I stumbled into Ura town and asked somebody for your name.  It’s unlucky for you that the first demon I asked knew it and was willing to give it up to me,” He put a hand out toward him, “I thought you were cute.  Now can you please give me my contracting options?”

Nagi brought his hands up to cover his face, confused and afraid.  He’d heard that being summoned was something which was easy to deal with, that the contracts would usually be dealt with by other people.  He couldn’t do anything but offer the contracts, of course.  Maybe he could make them so ridiculous that they’d all be refused; then he’d fall into ‘summoned by an idiot’ territory and be trapped in the human world for a while, but at least he wouldn’t have to give in to this man’s wishes.  He brought three contracts up in front of him.

  1. One night in exchange for the summoner’s soul upon death
  2. One hour in exchange for blood donations from the summoner until death
  3. One night in exchange for indentured work to the demon populace from the summoner until death.

“Huh.  I guess you’re giving me the absolute worst offers that you’re allowed to give.  Hoping I’ll give up?” He questioned, then lifted a pen and signed ‘Kiyoteru Tanaka’ on the first contract, smirking as he watched Nagi’s surprise, “That’ll just make this more fun.”


“What… What year was this?” Sayaka turns away from the scene, which seems in this case to be playinhg out on a television screen and asks you when this happened.  It’s a strange question, but you’ll answer it nonetheless.

“What year?  Uh, 2005,” You answer, glad for an excuse to look away from the scene anyway, crossing your arms in response to Sayaka, “Why, though?”

“Ughh…” She closes her eyes and turns to lean her back against the screen, covering her mouth with both hands as she shakes her head, her reaction seeming more dramatic than you would have expected, “So that’s what he meant, Oh my God…”

“Eh?” You question, taking up a similar position to her as the sounds on the other side of the screen grow more and more unsettling, and you don’t want to see that, “What are you talking about, Yamaguchi-san?”

“When he kidnapped me in 2006,” She explains, curling in on herself, “He said that he’s once ‘broken an eleven year old boy in just one day’.  If the chance has happened that I ended up meeting that boy he was referring to, then doesn’t that mean that he has to have hurt a whole lot of people?  It can’t be pure coincidence.  Statistically speaking,” She takes a deep breath and straightens up again, looking up at the ceiling with her voice unsteady, still shaking her head slightly, “And if he didn’t actually die when I killed him, how many people has he hurt since then?”

“I don’t know,” You shake your head, and the screen seems to be able to tell that you’re willfully looking away, and instead cuts to a moment that you remember full well, just as you can hear it.  When Nagi got back.  He didn’t want to leave the house for about a month, and you’d talk to him through the door of his room, and he’d want to hear your complaints every time you had a bad day, even though you were ten and he was eleven and his problems were so much bigger than yours.  He still stuck it out for you.  Maybe it was to avoid telling you what happened.

He only told you when you asked, years later.  Maybe he felt that he’d be pretty awful too, if he told his little sister about all of that before you’d be able to handle it.  He did end up telling you, though, and you never forgot, and that’s what left you with the decision, upon arriving in the human world, to track down Kiyoteru Tanaka and kill him yourself.  And you did.  You destroyed his whole home, and that was when you met Arthur.

Arthur had been providing magic for him in exchange for two things; being left alone, and collecting the secrets of Kiyoteru’s victims.  He was very glad to make a deal with you instead, to stop being an accessory to that man; though he could never explain to you why he wasn’t just able to use his magic to get out of there.  You do have to wonder about that, but Arthur’s proven time and time again that you can trust him.

“Sorry…” Sayaka speaks up again, breaking you from your thought after a while of listening through Nagi’s teenagerhood stretching out from that singular incident, “Look, it’s obvious that’s the same Kiyoteru Tanaka, the same person.  I just don’t understand how we could have both killed him…”

“I don’t get it either,” You sigh, biting your lip, “I mean, there’s always one possibility, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” You think about it a little more, then just shake your head, “Nevermind.  Let’s try and find the item for Nagi’s secret, and get back to the real world.  Sorry I overreacted.  I just… After what he did to my brother, I was pretty brutal towards him.  It was really unsettling to hear you say you killed him.  But… Now that I’m thinking straight, you’d have no reason to lie about what you thought you did.”

“Yeah, I want to go home,” Sayaka nods, pushing off from the wall to stand up straight and look around, “This was definitely a weird day.  I wouldn’t say it’s been a bad one… But I want to get some sleep.  I am just a human, you know.  All of this is pretty bizarre, pretty beyond me.”

“You’re handling it quite well, for a human,” You note, looking for an item as well, your back still to the screen.  The room you and Sayaka ended up in to ‘watch’ the secret through is really quite small, so it doesn’t take long for you to notice the ballpoint pen sitting on the floor.  You crouch down and pick it up, then Sayaka walks over and leans down as well, looking over your shoulder at the mysterious office supply.

“That pen… Isn’t that what he used to sign that contract with Nagi-kun?” Sayaka questions as she squints at it, then stands up again.  You stand up as well and take a closer look at the pen, and while you’re examining it, you find yourself back in the real world again.  Time resumes, and Koren slithers over to investigate the problem.

“What’s going on?” She questions, then freezes as she sees the pen in your hand, taking a long look at it before she snatches it and holds it up above her own head with a scrutinous squint, “Where did you get this??”

“That?” You ask, stepping closer to her, “That’s the embodiment of Nagi’s secret.”

“Oh my,” Koren returns the pen, frowning, “Well, you really should hand that over to Arthur as soon as you can, dear.  Somebody might get the wrong idea if you carry around a pen like that.”

“Why?” You question, looking it over, “It seems like an ordinary pen to me.”

“Well, I suppose it does, if you don’t know what it means.  A ballpoint pen with three aqua stripes and one yellow stripe at the bottom, though, is supposed to be a subtle way for members of the Order of the Felinus to reveal themselves to their comrades,” Koren explains, then turns to Sayaka, “Say, you’re the one who was asking if I had anything gamier than beef, right?”

“I am,” Sayaka nods as Koren returns the pen to you, “I knew… the person who hurt Nagi-kun was in The Order, but how did you know about the pen?”

“I’m smart, and I get around,” Koren answers, holding finger to her chin, “So a friend of mine warned me about it.”

“I see,” You nod, then pull your phone out and call Arthur, asking him to come by immediately to pick up the three secrets you’ve collected today.  You have to hope that Nagi doesn’t mind too much, that you went ahead and collected his… If he even finds out, that is.  You’ll only tell him if he asks.  That seems to be a consistent theme between the two of you; you don’t keep secrets, but you aren’t upfront either.  That’s just how it is.

While you wait for Arthur to arrive, you return to the bar and send Vicente back to handle the tables.  Koren continues cooking while she keeps an eye on Nagi, and you give Sayaka and the rest of her group your blessing to leave as soon as they’re ready.  Sayaka doesn’t need to keep being involved just because you dragged her into it, and she’s earned Akuma Spirits the title of yakuza hangout… if she still wants it.  You can imagine that she might have changed her mind after a day like today.  When Vicente’s got his tables sorted out, he comes to have a chat with you, leaning on the counter, “So, you gonna explain to me what this’s all been about?”

“No,” You answer immediately, cleaning out a glass.  The place is technically already closed at this point, so everyone’s finishing up.  It’s been a busy evening, “You don’t need to know.  Everyone who I’ve explained it to has suffered for it, so you’re much better off in blissful ignorance, capiche?”

“Eh, I’m fine with that,” He shrugs, and doesn’t press the matter anymore, “But you know, I can’t help but worry about that kid.  He’s your little brother, right?”

“Older brother, actually,” You correct him, “I don’t have any other siblings,” You notice the surprise on his face, and chuckle, “Look, he’s only older by a year, so it’s not like there’s some automatic guarantee that he’ll have his shit together more than I do.  Don’t they also say that boys mature at a slower rate than girls?  I guess that kind of doesn’t mean anything when it comes to trans folks, though,” Your laugh fades into a wistful sigh as you look back towards the kitchen, “I don’t know if he’ll ever be okay.”

“He’ll have to be eventually,” Vicente assures you, running a hand through his hair, “I used to think I’d never be okay, but here I am now, way more than okay.  It’s just a matter of time, and you know, demons have all the time in the world.  I think you really are doing what’s best for him.  I mean, I could be wrong, but I recovered thanks to normalcy.  Supportive friends, a regular routine, more good days than bad days.”

“I’d love to know what you recovered from,” You note as you set a glass down in front of him.  Red wine, any sort from a mid-cost-branch.  You’ve got his order memorized, “But I won’t be asking, especially not today.  Enough’s happened today.  I don’t need to hear the sob story of an incubus on top of that.”

“Rude,” Vicente raises an eyebrow as he takes the drink from you, “But good too, because I have no intention of telling my incubus sob story.  Not today, anyway.  All I can say is that maybe it’ll take a decade, maybe it’ll even take a century, but your brother’s gonna be fine eventually.  Humans have that disadvantage.  No matter what they do, they might die before they ever feel okay again.  Demons can just keep on keeping on until eventually, someday, everything awful fades away.  Maybe that’s why humans are so much worse.  Demons know that any negative impact they cause will wear off.  Sadistic humans, though… They can see the end of a life before the end of their influence.”

“I guess that’s a good point,” You nod, watching as the last patron files out of the bar, suppressing a yawn as you speak again, “I don’t really know… what to make of the universe, but I guess that’s because I’m still just twenty-five.  I may be an adult, but by demon lifespan standards, I’m still just bound to be clueless.  Maybe I shouldn’t be the one carrying this burden…” You’re not really talking to Vicente anymore, but to yourself.  Should you be looking at people’s deepest secrets when you’re still learning about the world?  You don’t have much more time to think on it, though, because that’s when Arthur arrives.

“So,” Arthur starts as he walks in, but you hold up a hand to stop him from continuing and turn to Vicente again.

“You really don’t want to be involved in all of this, Vicente,” You raise your eyebrows, “So you can head on out.”

“Hm?  Oh, well, okay,” He stands up, giving Arthur a wink as he goes past.  Once he’s gone, you walk towards Arthur, bringing the three secrets along with you.

“Thanks for coming, Arthur.  I know it’s weird to do something like this, but apparently this pen is something which I shouldn’t hold onto for too long,” You hold it and the buckle out in one hand, and you’re holding onto the axe with the other, “All three of these should be pretty strong, too.”

“You’re lucky I was available to travel here normally,” He mutters as he inspects the items, “If I’d been busy, then I would have had to get Jela to port me here, and you know if two of us go somewhere, it’s really all four of us,” He’s referring to his three roommates.  You don’t know much about them except that apparently they don’t like going anywhere together if it’s not all together.  You’ve not yet had the pleasure, or as Arthur seems to think you’d find it, displeasure of meeting them.

“Yeah, I guess so.  Anyway, are these things as strong as I’m expecting?  I’ve been ending up with a lot of good ones lately, you know,” You shake your hand, trying to get his attention back to the items that you’re holding in it.

“Huh?” He questions, then actually takes a closer look at the secrets, “Oh yeah, wow.  All three of these are seriously strong… You know, I’m running out of spells to cast at this point,” He chuckles, straightening out his back, “Well, I’ll use one of these to give you some more space in the building of course!  I’d say this is about the ceiling of how strong a secret can get, so using one of these for a bigger on the inside spell will be just about the biggest bigger on the inside I can accomplish… Better than the small charm I was intending, if you’d want that,” He blinks slowly, “I’m just trying to think… what other big spells can be useful to you,” He mumbles.

“Why not just hold on to the magic for a while?” You offer, raising a finger in the air, “You were saying that you can’t figure out how to use anything more than charms, so why don’t you just hold onto the power for a while until you can learn to use it on something even more interesting?”

“I’d love to do that, but…” He sighs, scratching the back of his neck, “The reason I can’t figure out how to use anything more powerful is that there’s no resources for me to use.  There’s nobody who can teach me, and it’s dumb luck that I even found the one book of charms that I did.  Secrets magic really predates the internet, and I can’t exactly go looking through demon libraries right now…”

“I’m not saying there’s any rush,” You insist, “I’m saying that you don’t need to worry about paying it back to me quickly, just keep the magic until you find something interesting worth using it on.  Doesn’t even have to be relevant to Akuma Spirits, honestly.  We’ve been doing pretty great from a business standpoint, even if we’re dealing with some weird things around here emotionally lately.”

“You have?” Arthur questions as he takes the secret-items from you, maintaining eye contact.

“Well, today especially.  That buckle was from a creature which isn’t a demon, it used to be a human but… isn’t,” You explain, “The axe is from a girl in the yakuza named Sayaka, she was also involved with Tanaka, and apparently Nagi remembers what happens in the process of secret collection even if he isn’t close to the person whose secret it is…”

“Huh?” Arthur pauses, blinking at you, “You’ve been sending him in?”

“Sending?  No, bringing,” You shake your head, “Anyway, he had a breakdown because Tanaka was in that secret, so I got his secret too.  That pen.  I was kind of petty I guess, I made Sayaka-chan come with me because she said that she killed him in 2006.  That’s nonsense, though.  I killed him just a few years ago.”

“Well, that would explain why he remembers, the potion’s only made to wipe one infiltrator’s memory,” Arthur notes, then freezes when he realizes your entire sentence, “This pen is… Nagi-san’s secret?”

“Yeah, it is,” You nod, “I figured I’d collect it eventually, anyway, but I ended up with it today because I was overreacting.  Anyway, you spent some time with Tanaka, right?  Do you have any idea how she could believe that she killed him a good decade before I did?”

“Of course I know how,” He answers, slipping the pen into his pocket and the other items into his bag.  You’re getting worried; his voice is flat, but with how upset his expression is, you can tell that’s just an attempt to mask his emotion, “Kiyoteru Tanaka isn’t human, after all.  He can’t be killed that easily.  In fact, as far as I know, he can’t be killed at all.”

“You mean…” You take a step backwards at this new information, “He regenerated…?  He’s seriously not human?  But what demon would be so horrible?”

“It’s naive to think that just because there’s so many bad humans per each bad demon… you won’t encounter a bad demon.  You know as well as I that demons in the human world for non-summoned reasons can summon demons themselves, and it’s much easier to get away with crime in the human world, so of course he’d be here,” Arthur continues, staring at you as his voice cracks with this speech, “Tanaka… I don’t know what other names he’s gone by, but I do know his title.  The Gentleman Devil.  Like the fallen angels, he’s a permanent being.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?” You question, grabbing for his shoulders, but he steps out of the way and you fall onto the floor.  For the first time, he actually looks intimidating when you look up at him.

“I didn’t remember this information.  I’m telling you now because I can.  Tanaka brainwashed me into helping him.  I’d only remember after I got Nagito Masaomi’s secret.  I have no choice but to bring this back to him, but at least I can inform you of the situation.  I really am sincerely sorry for this.  I can imagine… you won’t want to see me again,” He pushes his hair back behind his ear, then turns and leaves.  You’re not sure what the significance of the situation is, but you do know that Kiyoteru Tanaka is alive after all.  You get to your feet, shakily, and run into the kitchen.  Koren’s holding onto Nagi, and he seems to have fallen asleep as a defense mechanism, to stop panicking.

“Koren,” You start, getting her to look up, and she frowns to see how distressed you are, “I’m scared.”


You are Nagito Masaomi, a Gashadokuro who arrived in the human world at age 21, in December of the year 2015.  You’ve been living in the mortal world ever since.  This wasn’t the first time you’d ever been in the human world, but you don’t want to think about that.  That was only twelve hours.  Twelve hours which ruined your life.

When you arrived in the mortal world, you and your sister agreed to split up, to try and find your own way, because you were old enough that you would have been doing that soon in the demon world anyway.  She bought a bar in Tokyo and carved herself a piece in the world, you got a job at a gas station along the highway which led towards Kobe.  Shin Orihara, your manager, was not the only man you’d been with since arriving in the human world, but he was the one you dated longest.  It was also the relationship which ended the worst, since he fired you, and the noise complaint your argument prompted was enough to get you evicted.

You were better off with your sister than forging on alone.  She did so well for herself, and you did so badly, and you were so lucky that she took you in; so lucky, and it felt like it couldn’t be real.  It was too good to be true; it really was, because it’s ended.  It’s over.  You aren’t there anymore.  Last thing you knew, you were collecting Sayaka Yamaguchi’s secret, and the man who hurt her… Was the same one who’d hurt you, fifteen years ago.  You haven’t gotten over it.  You haven’t moved on.

And where are you now?  You’re in a dark room, you can’t see in front of yourself at all.  There aren’t windows, and it seems the walls have moulding on the top and bottom.  You aren’t bound, you can move around the room, as much as is possible with the claustrophobic scale, and your arms are free to feel around.  There’s tape over the cracks of the door.  You won’t bother removing it, not yet.  That could alert whoever put you here to the fact that you’re awake.  Whoever put you here… You put your back against the door and listen, and you recognize the voices immediately.

“Wait, did it actually work that quickly?” Arthur questions, his voice shaking and seemingly horrified, “It’s that powerful?”

“All I did was bring him here,” Kiyoteru laughs, “I could do plenty more with a tool like this.  Funny, though, that his secret was the pen I used to sign that contract which became his secret… I lost this when Sayaka-hime killed me.  I suppose I should thank you for bringing it back to me, Arthur.  I knew I could count on you.”

“I never would have helped you if you didn’t make me,” Arthur protests, and though you can’t see him, you’re inclined to believe that he’s telling the truth, “If you have power like that, why use it like this?  Why not just use it directly to entertain yourself?”

“It’s no fun to make someone do something with demon powers.  I didn’t control you for fun, though.  I just needed to get him here.  I’d never brainwash somebody I actually intend to do harm upon,” Kiyoteru laughs, and you cover your mouth, taking deep breaths to quell your panic, “Speaking of, I really should reward you for your compliance, yes?” You can hear that he’s standing up, “Take this.  A secrets spellbook.  It’s what you were looking for, right?”

“I…” Arthur hesitates, “I was looking for something exactly like this, but it’s like blood money.  I don’t want it if the price I paid was...”

“Go on and take it.  It isn’t like you’ll be seeing her again anyhow.  You may as well run with… What was it that she said to you at that moment?  Save the magic and learn to do something better than a charm?  That book is your ticket to doing exactly what she wants you to do,” His voice isn’t particularly smooth or silky, but it’s convincing nonetheless.  Arthur doesn’t protest again.

You want to figure out why you’re here; how you ended up in Kiyoteru’s home, when the last thing you remember is being at Ryo’s bar.  It’s not like your whole life since you were eleven was a bad dream; you’re definitely an adult right now, and there’s no way so many memories could be the result of a dream like that.  You know it was real.  All of it was real.  Everything mediocre, and awful, and finally great right up until the moment that you woke up here.  You woke up with Kiyoteru Tanaka.

You know that he’ll want to see if you’ve picked up the pieces by now.  He reveled in breaking you down the first time you met, and his influence on you was so great that you’re still reeling today, still in just as much pain regarding him as you were the day you returned to the demon world back then.  You’ve felt for a long time as if you ought to be over it by now.  You aren’t, though, and he’s bound to taunt you for that fact.  Maybe part of why you wanted to get over it was so he wouldn’t have this ammunition.  Maybe part of why you couldn’t get over it was because you always had that dark feeling that you’d meet him again someday.

If you had recovered, though, you suppose he would have just taken joy in breaking you again.  He told you that night, and you believe it too; you understand him.  You understand his twisted pleasure and the way that he loves to be friendly, be polite, and destroy his targets.  You understand that a ‘strike zone’ he refers to means nothing, because it isn’t like he’ll leave you alone now that you’re an adult.  What you don’t understand is how you got here.

All you can imagine…

Is that you did something to piss off Ryo, just like Neptune did, and she sold you out.

She is your demonic little sister, after all.

Akuma No Imouto Chapter Seven

<-Previous Chapter
<-----First Chapter

Your name is Nagito Masaomi, and you’ve just collected the secret of a being which considers itself so broken that it can no longer be considered alive.

“So, now that we’re done with that little interlude,” Sayaka speaks as soon as time resumes, noting the item that Ryo now holds, “You wanna grab mine too?  Or is that worth nothing to you since you won’t be remembering it?”

“I’ll remember it,” You speak, your voice strained as you finally admit it, “I’ll remember what I see.  I always do.  It never disappears, I remember everything…  That’s not supposed to happen, I know, but I do remember.  That’s why I had a breakdown the first time you took me along, Ryo, it wasn’t because I was exhausted.  It was because of what Gwyn’s secret was… Because I wasn’t prepared to see what I did…”

“Howl is worried for Nagi-san’s well-bei-” Ryouma starts to translate from Howl, but stops when she notices the shock on Ryo’s face.

“...Nagi-nii,” Ryo mumbles, turning to look at you, wide-eyed, “You mean to tell me… I’ve been letting you see these things, and you haven’t just forgotten them immediately?  I’ve been exposing you to things which are hurting you?”

“Yeah, pretty much,” You shrug, and she scowls as she grabs you by the collar of your shirt.

“And you continued agreeing to come with me!?  You were literally just hurting yourself for no reason!  Just because I like having someone with me doesn’t mean I need it!” She shouts in your face, and you just ragdoll as she shakes you.  You’re feeling pretty guilty right now; she only ever gets this hostile when it’s about the well-being of somebody she cares about.  You never meant to worry her.

“It’s fine!  Let’s call it exposure therapy!  I only really freaked out that first time, right?” You protest, and as soon as you’ve deflected, a look of realization comes over her face and she drops you, stumbling away and staring at her own hands.

“If… If you’re remembering, then does that mean…” She bites down on her lip, “Then it’s no wonder that Neptune…”

“Hey,” Sayaka speaks up again, arms crossed in front of herself, “If that’s the case, then come on already.  Enter my mind, find out if you can trust me, whatever you gotta do.  If one of you’s gonna be able to remember it, then you’ve got a way to actually know the secrets, not just harvest them.  So…” She rolls her eyes, then picks up the drink Howl had just been given and finishes off what’s left in it herself.  Time freezes in place once more as she falls to the ground, and Ryo moves her hands away from her face and looks over at Sayaka.

“Y-You don’t have to come, you know-” Ryo starts, but you put a hand on her shoulder and give a reassuring smile.

“I do,” You nod, and she just stays still while you continue, “Yamaguchi-san wants us to remember her secret, so I will.  It doesn’t matter how anything in those worlds impacts me, because nobody else will remember it.  I can be pathetic, and scared, and as long as I know what I might see, I can recover.  It was just that first one, with Gwyn.  I thought I knew the worst I could see, and it was worse than that.  I’ll be okay this time.”

“Neptune…” Ryo mumbles, looking down at the floor, “She probably thought the same thing, before the one secret that sent her into another breakdown.  The first one, I did think was just exhaustion, like with you.  I couldn’t fathom why she would compromise the operation like that… She destroyed the secret we’d just collected, you know,” She sighs, holding her hands in close to herself, “If only I’d been able to see what was going on inside her head, it would have been better.  I could have told her to stay behind… I knew that she’d had some trouble, since the spell allows for memory of ‘what went wrong’ for the purpose of solving the problem without recalling the actual events, but I just assumed those were her usual clumsy mistakes.”

“That’s in the past now, Ryo,” You tell her, voice soft, “You really don’t have to worry about me.  I am a mess, I know it, I’m a walking disaster.  I’m not improving, I’m not getting better anytime soon.  However… I am coping.  And I’ve learned to deal with the things I see here.  If you don’t want me to come along anymore in the future, well, I won’t.  We have to get this done, though.  So pull yourself together.  Be selfish for once, and stop caring about me.”

“...Okay,” She nods, taking a deep breath before stepping towards Sayaka with new resolve, “Let’s go, then.”


Your name is Sayaka Yamaguchi.

No, that’s not right, you aren’t Sayaka.  You’re Nagi.  You’re Nagito Masaomi.  However, you’re seeing through Sayaka’s eyes, and the strangest thing about it is that you can see color, but when you’re watching her past from her perspective, you can’t.  The view is close to the ground, and she’s short, but not that short.  So this is another secret from childhood.  There are so many of those, it seems.  You wonder if it may have something to do with maturity.  Reaching out to others for help, or at least venting about problems, it’s commonplace once you start growing up.  To children, they’re the only one who has ever experienced such a thing, and nobody would even know what they were talking about if they told.

You can’t do anything, can’t control any movements, but you can feel it all.  It’s honestly as if you were just transplanted in on top of Sayaka’s own memory of what happened.  This is another different variety of secret collecting than usual, and you’re not sure if you like it.  You’ve gotten used to seeing people’s deepest thoughts laid bare, but that was from a third person perspective.  You’ve never been put in a position where you’ve been expected to experience something that somebody has kept hidden for so long.

You can only hope for the best, but you’re pretty sure at this point that you’re in for a rough time.

In her hand is a piece of paper, a letter.  The parchment is a bright white, and it’s sealed with red wax.  She knows exactly where she’s going, and she’s confident.  You can even tell every nuance of how she’s feeling, you’re truly inside her head.  She’s on her way to a store, to deliver this piece of paper as a warning.  Of course, the mafia sends children to do things like that because they’re harder to find and less likely to be violently attacked over whatever unfortunate news they’re bringing.

In this case, the store hasn’t been paying its protection money, but this is the first lapse in payment in the past decade.  Perhaps it’s under new management who weren’t made aware of the fact that the yakuza received a small stipend in exchange for being on call should any other criminal forces threaten the place, for example.  There’s no reason to go busting skulls just yet.  That’s really just rude when it comes down to it.

She reaches the building in no time at all, and holds out the letter when the owner happens to be the one who opens the door.  She can tell by the nametag, it’s convenient that this store uses them.  She holds eye contact with him, staring with those gray eyes, and he visibly squirms under her gaze as he takes the letter.  He reads it, and a heavy frown sits on his face before he sighs and returns the paper to Sayaka’s hands, but not without scrawling a response on the back.  She checks it.  It’s short, but it’s an apology and a promise that their money will be in the mail by next week.  She’s satisfied with this for now, and turns around, tucking the letter into her pocket.

As she walks, she plays with her fingers and watches her surrroundings.  She’s on guard when a man suddenly steps out towards her, his face obscured with a hat.  She looks up at him though, legs ready to run, arms ready to fight if she feels she can take him, a fact which she’s yet unsure of.  He holds his hands up as if he’s surrendering, and speaks, still hiding his face, “Hey, kid.  You’re going back to the old lady Yamaguchi’s, right?  You’re going the wrong way back from here, and it’s going to rain soon.”

“I’m going the way I came,” She responds, but he has planted a few doubts in her mind as she takes another look around.  Did she see that store while on her way here?  Was she actually in a different place than she thought?  She puts the idea out of her head and refutes his other statement, “What does it matter that it will rain soon?”

“It matters that it will rain soon,” The man answers, finally lifting his head and showing his face.  You disconnect from Sayaka for a moment when she sees his face, when you see his face.  It’s familiar.  It’s a face that’s in your memory, and it jars you, but with Sayaka’s emotions and thoughts still fighting to keep control over you, you can’t actually place it, and you find yourself returning to Sayaka’s perspective from the minor blip, “Because if you keep travelling in the wrong direction, you could catch cold.”

“That’s a myth,” Sayaka tilts her head to the side, “You don’t catch a cold by being cold.  It’s just that being cold and wet can make you feel bad and mess up your immune system a little bit.”

“You’re a smart kid, for somebody who got so lost,” The man chuckles, shaking his head as he leans toward her, “Well, I should have expected that from a Yamaguchi, right?  Still, I can’t just leave you to wander aimlessly in poor weather.  I’ve got a car, though, so how about I give you a ride back?”

“Well,” Sayaka tilts her head to the side, thinking over the offer, then looks up to see just how cloudy the sky really is.  That might be more than rain; could be a thunderstorm.  She’s not really keen on getting soaked, and besides… This guy knows her connections.  It can’t be that dangerous, if that’s the case.  He won’t risk bringing the wrath of the yakuza down by bringing harm to their only imouto.  That’s what she thinks, anyway.

You’re not sure why, exactly, but you feel like going along with this man is the absolute worst thing that Sayaka could decide to do.  However, this is just a memory, so there’s nothing to be done when she sighs, then nods and steps towards him, “Fine, but if you’re lying to me, you know that you’re going to suffer for it, right?”

“Why would I lie?” He questions, holding out a hand to her.  She ignores his hand and crosses her arms, at which he sighs and returns his hands to his pockets, “Well, come on then.  My car’s just around the corner here.  I don’t know what those Yamaguchis have taught you, child, but being so reluctant to trust someone with good intentions can end just as badly as blindly trusting someone with bad intentions.”

“Look…” Sayaka mumbles, digging her toes into the road as she follows him, “Just because everything points towards you telling the truth, doesn’t mean that I know your intentions,” She does know how to tell if somebody’s lying, though, and this man doesn’t seem to be, “What’s your name, Ojisan?”

“Geeze, am I really so old to be called Ojisan?” He questions with a heavy groan.

“I would never call a stranger Oniisan.  My only brothers are those in the Yamaguchi-gumi,” She answers, narrowing her eyes, “You are old enough to be called Ojisan anyway, though.”

Kiyoteru Tanaka
“Well, okay,” He sighs, then gives his name, “The name’s Kiyoteru Tanaka,” He reaches his car, then puts a hand on the roof of it, “You old enough to ride in the front seat yet?”

“I don’t know,” Sayaka shakes her head, “Someone else always calls shotgun.  I’ve never been in a vehicle with only one other person before.”

“Well, let’s assume that you can, as long as you wear a seatbelt,” Kiyoteru chuckles, then goes to open the passenger-side door for Sayaka.  She stares at him for a minute, still trying to discover ill intent, then shrugs and gets into the car, putting the seatbelt on as Kiyoteru closes the door and goes around the other side, getting into the driver’s seat.  He starts up a friendly conversation as he begins to drive, “So, what were you delivering just now?  Mob business?”

“Yeah,” Sayaka answers, pulling the note from her pocket, “New owner, didn’t know.  Says he’ll get us the money next week.  You live in the area?”

“Mhm,” He nods, “I’m a business owner too.  I always get my protection money in right on time, but that’s part of why I wanted to talk to you when I realized you were that Yamaguchi kid, before I thought it’d be better to get you out of the rain first.  I’m planning to go out of town soon, but I don’t trust any of my employees to get you the money while I’m away.  Should I give you next month’s ahead of time?”

“I don’t know too much about that,” Sayaka shrugs, “I’m still learning, so it isn’t like I know all about every unique situation.  I learn by example.  You’ll have to talk to somebody else about that, and then I’ll be able to answer if anyone else asks the same question.”

“I see… That’s funny.  I heard that the little girl the Yamauguchis took in was said to be a red woman,” He taps the steering wheel, “You have to know the legend.”

“I do,” Sayaka answers, kicking her feet, “And I am a red woman, but I’m not a Tomura.  There is a difference, you know.  I lack the ability to feel a true version of guilt, and I’m compelled to cause harm.  I don’t need to kill, though, breaking bones is enough.  That’s why I’m going to be an enforcer.  A Tomura would be able to learn new skills at a fraction of the time it takes normal people on top of that.  Tomuras are born killers; they can learn enough skills to kill efficiently, especially as soldiers.  Other red women are born assassins.  We have the mental and emotional fortitude to do it, but we have to learn the skills, so it’s better for us to learn to kill one person at a time.”

“Huh, I never heard that part of the story.  Cool,” Kiyoteru smirks, giving her a warm look, “So that means that you haven’t learned those skills yet?”

“I’m working on it,” Sayaka shrugs, leaning back in the seat, “But it’ll be another year, probably, till I’m actually strong enough to be involved in enforcement on a regular basis.  I’m learning to handle a sword, self defense, stealth, all at once.  I’ll probably hit a point where I really get my momentum up and do well, but until then, I’m better than you’d expect a kid to be, but not… amazing.  That’s why they taught me how to find out if people are lying before any of that.”

“I see, I see,” Kiyoteru nods again as he keeps driving, and goes right past the Yamaguchi house, “But you know, when they taught you how to tell if someone’s lying, didn’t they also tell you how to conceal a lie?”

“You passed my house, turn around,” Sayaka mumbles, curling her fingers against the seat of the car, “Nobody can conceal a lie, not completely.  There’s a lot of ways to try to hide it, but there’s always some sort of tell.”

“That’s not true.  Very skilled humans can manage it, that Obayun of yours must be able to tell a good lie when he puts his mind to it,” Kiyoteru clicks his tongue, continuing in the wrong direction, “But I suppose to do it without too much effort would take something like a demon.  It’s easy to assume that a normal person doesn’t know how to sneak a lie past someone who knows what to look for…” He grins, “Easy, but not necessarily correct.”

You don’t know why, but when Sayaka’s panic washes over you, you’re hit by another wave of your own.  Have you encountered this man before?  Kiyoteru Tanaka… Your own memories are so hard to pick out, when your mind is fully made of Sayaka’s memory.  You may need to wait until you return to the real world to figure it out.  She lifts her hands from the seat and goes to undo her seatbelt, only to find the buckle’s stuck.  She can’t reach Kiyoteru either, to try and throw off his driving, so she just looks up at him, wide-eyed, silent in her shock.

“Sorry, Sayaka-hime,” Kiyoteru laughs over the steering wheel, “But you provided much too big a challenge for me not to give it a shot.  I really thought it’d be tougher to get you in here, but I guess you are still just a six year old, even with the mob on your side,” He looks over at her, still appearing to be calm and just… amused by the situation, “Six is quite a bit below my strike range usually, but see, I just joined this new group online, and they wanted to give me some kidnapped kid to raise up as a ‘pet’.  I said, y’know, that’s no fun.  Let me get some kid who’s already got some conviction and see if I can get rid of it.”

“How dumb can you be?  I give it a month at most before they find you and kill you,” Sayaka hisses, leaning towards him, her shock turning to anger, “Wow.  I can only hope all lolicons are as idiotic as you are!”

“I’m not too worried about getting killed,” Kiyoteru shakes his head, a smirk breaking across his face again, “You can say that, but you know, you’re the one who was dumb enough to get caught by an idiot lolicon, right?  Besides.  A month is more than enough time.  I once broke an eleven year old boy in just one day.”

“You’re bragging about that!?” She questions, wrinkling her nose and recoiling back into the seat, “Ugh.  I can’t believe I managed to end up with somebody like you… You’re right, I mean, I was an idiot to get caught by a lolicon.  A self-serving narcissistic lolicon and shotacon who’s proud to cause misery…”

“Hey, I’m the best kind of pedo around,” He laughs again, turning to look straight ahead down the road, “I’ll teach you everything you gotta know in a world like this, yeah?  And it’s not like I’m pretending or anything.  I won’t say I’m doing this cause I love you, or that it’s normal for guys my age to like little kids.  I’m totally open about how I’m in the wrong, so just take what you can outta the experience, okay?”

“Not okay.  I won’t gain anything from this,” Sayaka crosses her arms and pointedly looks away from him, pouting.

“Eh, suit yourself,” Kiyoteru shrugs as he turns onto the highway, “If you want to talk again, it’s on you.  You should be able to reach far enough from your seat to get the radio running, too, if you’d rather that.”

Sayaka stews in silence for a while longer, but does end up turning the radio to a generic pop station eventually.  She doesn’t bother with a news station, because she knows that her ‘family’ won’t contact the news about her disappearance.  Taking the burden of finding her on themselves would give them more options to both get the information and enact punishment.  She expects to face repercussions herself, for going along with him, and is ready for whatever those might be.  For all she knows, given how much this is bound to inconvenience the others, this could even be an offense worth losing a fingertip for.

She’s seen it happen plenty of times before, and honestly, everyone seems to settle on a final result that it really isn’t that bad.  It hurts quite a bit for a moment, but then it settles out to a dull ache, which is better than the tattooing process anyway, and the artist has said that with the little bit she’s gotten done so far on her wrist, she’s one of the calmest children yet when it comes to that.  The real purpose of losing a fingertip isn’t to cause pain, but to serve as a reminder that just being in the mob isn’t enough.  She’s useless alone, and needs the group; and she will even more without a fingertip, as it will slightly inhibit her ability to accurately weild a sword.

Kaiba, the only other woman working on the street side of things rather than the backside of the operation, has lost the fingertips on her entire left hand and can’t even wield a sword with any precision anymore, causing her to opt for an oversized zanbatou instead which didn’t require accuracy.  The drive to Kiyoteru’s home is a long one, and the roads change towards the end from highways to bumpy, dirt passages which have barely been tamped down, never even considered for paving.  His car doesn’t seem as if it can handle this road, but seeing as it’s driving on them, that’s evidently not the case, even if just barely.

The house seems fairly run down, but does have a garage; a manual garage.  Kiyoteru gets out of the car, opens the door, drives the car in, then closes it and puts a padlock on it before opening the passenger side door, unfolding a pocket knife, and cutting Sayaka’s seatbelt away.  She makes a grab for the knife, but Kiyoteru’s reflexes and prediction of her likelihood to do such a thing allow him to move it away from her and fold it back up, setting it on a shelf which is far too tall for her to reach.  He gestures for her to follow him.  She doesn’t move, but when he reaches out to pull her by her arm, she swats his hand away and stands on her own.  In swatting him away she is able to note that though she has no idea what his strength may be in active use, she is able to have an impact on him when he’s passive.

He leads her into his home, which is nicer on the inside than it seemed on the outside.  He has a kitchen with only a kotatsu for an eating surface, which must be a bit unpleasant in the summertime.  Maybe he just stands and eats at the counter when it’s too warm, or maybe it’s generally chillier out here in the middle of nowhere.  He gestures towards a few doors, “That’s my room, and that one’s yours, and there’s the bathroom.  See, I’m even giving you your own room.”

“I take it you won’t be letting me use it much,” Sayaka mumbles, staring straight ahead with a dead, cold look in her eyes.

“Quite the contrary, my room’s a bit of a disaster area, so you won’t be allowed in.  I’m interesting in bath play with you anyhow.  Likewise you won’t be able to kill me in my sleep,” He explains, walking over to the kitchen, “Speaking of, I’ve taken care to make sure you can’t get any of my knives.  Childproof locks on all the cabinets.  Take a look in the fridge and let me know what you’d like for dinner.  I’ll gladly accomodate your preferences.”

“My preference is to not be here,” She answers, but does walk over to the fridge, take a look through the ingredients, then turn to stare up at Kiyoteru, “Tanaka-ojisan, make me hamburg steak.”

“Heh.  It didn’t take you long to see I had the stuff to make that,” He nods and starts pulling ingredients out, “Do you like red meat, Sayaka-hime?”

“Yeah,” She nods, “Kaiba-neesan is going to teach me how to hunt when I’m older.  I’m very excited for that.”

“You really are convinced that this is just a blip on the radar…” Kiyoteru mumbles, closing the fridge as he begins cooking, “It’s as if you don’t understand the weight of the situation.  Yes, they’ll come find you.  Yes, they’ll kill me.  That’s all true, but do you really think that when I’m done with you, you’ll be just as capable as ever?  For all you know, you’ll be so useless they won’t even want you anymore.”

“I’m made of tougher stuff than that,” She sits down at the kotatsu, crossing her arms, “There’s people still in the obayun’s good graces who are more useless than I could ever be.”

“You can be confident, but you are the one who was dumb enough to get caught by me,” He gives a nonchalant shrug while he cooks, “So if I were you, I wouldn’t be so sure that you’re tough enough.  How could you ever know how you can handle something if you haven’t yet endured it?”

“I…” Sayaka tries to come up with a response, but just drops her arms to her sides, unsure what to say to that.

“So you’ve figured it out?” Kiyoteru smirks, “You can’t possibly brace yourself for something you’ve never had any experience with before.  At your age, this is an entirely different world, that you’ve never even seen into at all.  That cluelessness…” He sighs, “Isn’t something I’m very keen on, to be honest.  There’s a reason my strike range is older, but as much as it seems like a chore, I’m sure I will enjoy teaching you.”

“Why don’t you just send me back and get somebody you’d prefer?” She questions, leaning on the table and setting her chin in her hands.

“Because I’m curious, and I know it’ll be temporary anyhow,” He shrugs once more, “After all.  That family of yours will most certainly kill me and retrieve you… Right?”

“Yes,” She nods, “I don’t understand, though.  Why are you so unbothered by the fact that you’re gonna die?”

“It means nothing to me,” He chuckles, then finishes up cooking and sets a plate in front of her, then sits down across the table with his own, “Dying isn’t something which frightens me at all.”

“How can you know how you’ll handle something you’ve never had any experience with before?” She mirrors his words from earlier, staring straight through him.

“Who says I haven’t?”


Two weeks.

Two weeks pass, and through Sayaka’s eyes, you see it all, you feel it all, and it doesn’t feel like he’s doing these things to her, it feels like it’s happening to you, and you’re dissociating.  You’re trying, anyway.  You don’t want to be experiencing these things which she experienced so long ago, but there’s no escape, not until you get ahold of the item which represents this secret.  He puts a hand on her shoulder, and she doesn’t respond.

“Sayaka-hime,” He starts, his voice soft, “I wonder how well I’ve done with you.  If I gave you the opportunity to kill me now… Would you?”

She doesn’t respond.

“Well, what if I gave you the chance to run away?” He ponders, leaning towards her, “I guess I could have two more weeks with you, if you’re right about when they’re coming to find you, but I… would rather know the answer to this question, I believe,” He reaches into his pocket and hands her a key, “This is the key to the back door.  There’s an axe on the back porch.  Could you go… Chop some firewood?”

She takes the key, unlocks the back door, and steps outside.  She retrieves the axe and turns it over in her hands, then wanders off in the direction of the wood pile, grabbing a log and setting it on a stump to split.  It’s obvious Kiyoteru’s done this plenty of times before from the scoring on the stump and the proximity of his woodpile to it.  She’s not chopping wood as a show of faith in him, though.  She isn’t as broken as he thinks.  She’s just trying to get a feel for how the tool swings.  She could run, she could just run without doing anything else, but she doesn’t want to.  It’s been far too long since she last caused someone any harm.

When she’s confident in her ability to move the axe, she holds it at her side.  It drags on the ground because she’s so short, and she makes her way back to the door.  She opens it, and brings the axe inside.  Kiyoteru’s pulled a chair over to face the door, and he’s staring at her as soon as she steps into the house.  She walks up to him, and he doesn’t move as she lifts the axe and brings it down on him.

As soon as she’s sure that he’s dead, she wipes her forehead, and a grin splits her face, “Were you expecting that, Tanaka-ojisan…? I don’t care if you were.  I’m really grateful you gave me this chance,” She laughs, then swings the axe up to carry it across her shoulders and turns around, back outside.  She walks down the roads until she reaches a paved one, then just keeps walking until a van pulls up beside her.  She looks up as the window rolls down and a familiar face looks out at her, “Kaiba-nee?”

“Sayaka-chan!” She gasps in relief, leaning out of the window, then screws up her face in confusion, “What’s with the axe?”

“I’ll explain on the drive back,” She shrugs, climbing into the passenger seat since Kaiba was looking for her alone, “So, you’re back in the area for summer?”

“Yeah, sure would have been nice to get back and not need to go searching for you immediately, but that’s how things are,” Kaiba groans, peeling away at a pace a van should not be able to go, “When you disappeared, we questioned the owner of the store you went to, who said you got into a black Nissan, so we then had to figure out who owned it, then where his other property is.  So then they sent me to get you.  Now tell me about the bloody axe.”

Sayaka’s holding it in her lap, staring, “Well, I killed Kiyoteru Tanaka.”

“Good for you, kid,” Kaiba nods, “Good for you.”