Saturday, July 29, 2017

Akuma No Imouto Chapter Seven

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<-----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.”


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