MATURE: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

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Thread: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

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    Default A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

    Hi there, folks. This is one idea that has been stuck in my head for quite a while, namely writing a mystery story with the characters of an anime/book/etc taking on the roles of the grizzled detective, the femme fatale, the uncooperative police chief etc etc. After spending quite some time making a flowchart for the case that the main character has to crack, I recently got down to writing and now that I'm a few chaps ahead, I can finally post the story for you to read. Inspiration for this fic is, the sadly yet unfinished, The Red Dahlia by Hellion, who did a wonderful job of implementing Pokémon characters into a noir world and making it believable. I sincerely hope you enjoy this story, maybe try to solve the case before the detective and don't forget to read and review! This fic is dedicated to all of you Fate/Stay Night fans, Lancer fans and noir fans out there! Enjoy!


    Chapter I:

    Bloodstained Beauty



    It was a dark and stormy night.

    Only that it wasn’t. There was no convenient darkness to hide the blood splattered across the room. The summer heat only made things worse- already I was cursing Ma for giving me such a strong sense of smell as the putrid stench invaded my nostrils. Like a horde of flesh-devouring maggots, I could feel it crawling under my skin and even then I knew well enough that no amount of liquid- alcoholic or otherwise- would be able to wash it away. The whole god-forsaken place gave me the creeps. One too many corners in the room remained dark and I could almost swear I heard something slithering in the darkness, as if there was a bunch of flesh-eating worms just waiting for us to leave so they could have their bloody feast.

    The cigarette clutched in the corner of my mouth was long forgotten. Like some rookie copper at his first crime scene, I wanted to double over and puke my guts out- hell, one of the younger lads had even beaten me to it. I could feel the anger rising inside me. Anger at whoever had done this to the poor lass. Anger at myself for spending yet another night exploring how much whiskey exactly a washed-out Irishman can drink before passing out instead of actually doing my job and searching for her. Anger at the whole damn world for just continuing with its daily life as if nothing had happened when such a fine lass had literally been nailed to the fucking wall.

    The grotesque picture in front of me, the gruesome stench, and the maddening sound of worms crawling as if just outside the periphery of my vision- it was driving me insane. Like a rabid dog ready to finally break off its chain and go on a bloody rampage, the anger clawed at my chest. And, by God, I wanted to let it out so, so much. Just give in, take the backseat, and allow the rampaging beast to do its job until there were only wet chunks of meat left of the bastard who did this. Aye, the temptation was too great. My vision was already seeing much more red then there actually was in that stifling room. With a sound akin to a can of sardines getting squashed under someone’s foot, my cheap Zippo lighter met its untimely and unfortunate end in my shaking fist.

    Still, some part of my brain, a bit more human than the majority of canine instincts crammed in that thick skull of mine, managed to restrain the beast. Aye, I had no target, no clues, no nothing. I reigned in the spasms. There was no sense of going berserk. Not yet anyway.

    The damn sun only shined brighter and brighter. The light invading through the blood-stained windows gained a sickly red tint and washed over her naked body in a way that some fucked-up artistic brain would’ve called ‘divine’. But, aye, in a way, she was a goddess. Sparkling under the sun, her long purple-blue hair cascaded down her sides like a waterfall in spring. As if someone had nailed to a crucifix a Venus in human form. Her pale skin was like porcelain, her proportions were perfect. Legs that went on for hours, a rack that any other lass would have killed for, a coy smile that still lingered on for some reason. Her eyes stood out most of all. Like a pair of polished amethysts straight out of the jewelry, the purple orbs just tore right into you as if wanting to whisper something in your ear, to give you some secret message… and, in the end, they left you in the dark, only able to chew the cheap cigarette in your mouth and desperately try to figure out the mystery this Venus had wanted to share with you. Aye, this lass was the ultimate tease.

    Only the dreadful hole gaping next to her left breast ruined the picturesque beauty, like a sky having its sun ripped off and left to linger on without it. Colored the deepest crimson, like a blossoming rose, blood still trickled down from the place where the goddesses’ heart had used to be.

    I had no doubt that the lass had been the main star of many a man’s wet dreams in her short life. Biggest question was, who would do that to such a rare flower?

    “Hell of a way to steal a dame’s heart, eh?” finally said the Commissioner and took out the thick cigar from his mouth. “Crucified on her own bedroom wall, heart torn out… I guess we can rule out the scorned lover scenario, can’t we? Looks like we’ve a new whacko on the loose, people. How are we calling this one? The Heartstealer?”

    In his own way, dressed in that signature crimson trenchcoat over yet another immaculate suit worth more than I make a year, Waver Velvet was the only one that actually didn’t look out of place in the high class mansion. The once working-class hero looked and acted more and more like one of the rich folks every time I saw him. Like a caterpillar spending its whole life crawling to the top of the tree, he had finally sprouted those butterfly wings he had dreamed of his whole life, shooting all the way up to the top. Until, one day, all too sure of itself, the butterfly would wander in the dangled web of some vicious spider, ending its life like a glorified dinner. But that was neither here nor there. Lad had his heart in the right place from what I knew. And the newspapers gleefully reminded us at least once a week how police corruption had hit an all time low under his watchful care. Aye, the headlines were big enough to make even a blind lad’s eyes hurt. In memory of once working under him I chose to ignore the fact that he was screwing some reporter working in the same newspaper.

    “Your way of coping with the situation truly is awe-inspiring, mate. Or did you read that in the funnies?”

    That’s the only thing I’ve to say to a wonder-cop turned paper-pusher. For all I know his Ma was a nice enough lady that wouldn’t deserve the things I kept to myself.

    “Well, I’ve gotten used to it, I guess,” he replied with a shrug and once again clutched the cigar in his mouth. He could play tough all he wanted, his trembling hands still gave him away. Hah.

    “You ain’t no pup anymore, mate. But you ain’t top dog yet,” I said and gave him a good hard pat on the back. Folks like him need to be brought down from time to time- else they’d bump their precious little heads in the ceiling.

    “What are you doing here? This is an official police investigation.”

    I would’ve recognized the oh-so-bored voice grating my ears anywhere. My hopes that he would disappear if I pretend he wasn’t there were scattered like steam in the wind and not ten seconds later he stomped in front of me like some wounded alpha protecting his territory. Frankly, I ain’t got no idea how we actually ended up from partners to people trying to bite each other’s throats off every time we meet. My shrink said it was ‘cause I was a very violent man. I still think it was just ‘cause he’s such a jerk. Or vice versa. Such meaningless details ain’t important anyway. Fact was, Archer was standing in front of me in all his annoying glory, slicked back white hair and dark blue uniform as immaculate as ever.

    “I see you still have the talent of stating the obvious, Archer. Good to know that the more things change the more they stay the same,” I said and tried flashing him some pathetic excuse of a faked smile. Sadly, I probably ended up looking like some mangy street mutt snarling at the prim and proper lap dog. “If you’d like to know so much, I was hired to find that lass hanging over there. Just yesterday in fact. A man’s gotta make a living somehow, y’know.”

    “Well, you found her. Now why don’t you scram and pray your employer hired you only to find her and not to, y’know, actually keep her alive,” said Archer and crossed his arms, piercing me with those grey eyes of his that always made the guilty lads talk. Or the lasses swoon. Well, tough luck for him- I was neither.

    “You dames done arguing who’s the prettier?” cut us off the Commissioner and for a moment there he looked like a grumpy bear picking his teeth and just waiting for the prey to make the wrong move so he could put them to use. “Now, both of you clear out that ear wax and listen up! That dame hanging in all the glory of her birthday suit and more is Sakura Matou.”

    Matou.

    Suddenly Velvet’s shaking hand had a more reasonable explanation and, like a rockslide set off by some tiny pebble, the possible results of the lass’ death made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Dying out or not, losing ground or not, the name Matou still carried that sense of dread and sheer power every time it was mentioned. Heavens forbid, if anyone from or just remotely associated with the other two old families had went and offed the lass like this… it meant only one thing.

    War.

    And the streets of this whole god-forsaken city were going to run red with blood, like rivers coming down the mountains in spring, as the mafia and the smaller gangs tore each other apart like rats fighting over pieces of garbage.

    “Didn’t we find Kariya Matou’s body in a ditch a couple of weeks ago?” blurted out Archer, that perfect façade of his crumbling down like a clown whose unicycle had been taken from right beneath his feet. All in all, a sorry and most amusing picture- at least to me.

    “Precisely,” answered Velvet and nodded. Not even bothering to look back at the rest of his people, he clicked his fingers and pointed at the door. With the obedience of a pack of sheep, the bunch of uniformed dipsticks was gone in seconds. “That’s the main reason I came personally anyway. This investigation is gonna be a very delicate matter. We are on the verge of an all-out war between the mafia families here. And with the yakuza getting more manpower as of recently, this city is gonna turn into a war zone like nothing. And the Fujimuras are enough trouble as it is. Those blue bloods, the Einzberns, are without a head ever since Acht died years ago. The Matous’ patriarch is out of the game as well and that twin brother of his is just some lousy incompetent drunk. Only Tokiomi is still holding the front but even he can’t pull off the miracle of maintaining the status quo if the Matous declare vendetta on him.”

    “Y’know, I can’t help but wonder if there is something wrong when we’ve to relay on the mafia to keeps things peaceful. Ever had that feeling, mate?”

    I blurted it out before I could even realize it. I didn’t care for the glare Archer was piercing me with but Velvet’s cooperation could’ve been crucial to my investigation. Just when I had began cursing my quick mouth into oblivion, the Commissioner just shrugged and knitted his eyebrows.

    “I don’t like it any more than you do, Lancer. But reality’s reality and we’ve to work with that. Now, there’s always the chance of this really being the work of some psycho but… the truce between the three families is shaky enough as it is. But if the culprit turns out to be one of the Tiger’s people and our big bad mafia trio feels threatened by an outside force-“

    “No.”

    Frankly, it was a miracle I didn’t shout it out. The frothing dog inside me was suddenly yanking its chain once again and I wanted nothing more than to deck Waver Velvet in the face and finally take his suit out of that sterile, pristine condition. Archer looked just as shocked as me, if not even more- but of course Mr. ‘By-the- book’ chose to stay silent. Typical.

    “You don’t understand, Lancer. I’m not throwing the case. We are gonna investigate, we are gonna find the bastard who did this, understood? But we’ve to be very, very careful how and most importantly- who- we present to the press and to the mafiosi with the itchy trigger-fingers in the end.”

    “It’s your duty-“

    “It’s my duty to keep this city safe,” said the Commissioner through gritted teeth and grinded the butt of his cigar into the expensive carpet with his equally expensive shoe. I had the distinct feeling that he imagined my face getting crushed under his shoe. “And setting off a chain vendetta over one already dead girl isn’t going to help me. And, s’far as I remember, you didn’t object the last time I bent the rules to cover your sorry ass.”

    “I didn’t ask you to,” I answered, my words coming out more like a snarl than like human speech.

    Archer chose that particular moment to remind me of his unwanted presence. As if I need more people dancing over my already itching trigger-finger.

    “Look, pal, I understand that leaving a girl like this one… ‘unavenged’ isn’t to your liking. But think about it for a minute. There will be dozens of innocent casualties! Hell, little kids even! And do you think you’ll bring her back to life or something if you track down the bastard and show him to do whole wide world? Pfft. Once again you are ready to drown the whole city in your ideals instead of actually listening to reason.”

    Aye, that must’ve been it- the edge that drove us apart. People like Archer- like Velvet- they are like machines. Like a duo of robots with their hearts torn out and replaced with a bunch of cogs and springs. They make the smart decisions. If a limb endangers the body, they just chop it off. If some poor lass is better left unavenged to keep the status quo…

    Well, they’d keep the status quo.

    Me? I’m not like that. I don’t have their smarts, nor can I stand their rational decisions. I’m just an unwanted hound, a remnant of an era gone by that still keeps on holding to his stupid sense of ‘honor’. Heh, that’s what she had told me she liked in me the most. That’s where my dream of her being attracted to me because of my rugged good looks came crashing down actually.

    “Lancer, if you think this is like it was with Bazett, don’t,” said Archer, as if that damned white-haired pretty-boy had read my thoughts. “This is compl-“

    “Completely different?” I cut him off and let out a hoarse laugh. “Ain’t that right, mate? But, y’know, I don’t see her killer behind bars and somehow I’ve the feeling that this here lass’s gonna share her fate.”

    “I was thinking of letting you stay as a consultant, y’know,” said Velvet and threw one last look at the girl’s body before heading to the door. “But since you are too damn stubborn I can’t risk having you bursting into suspects’ houses, guns ablazin’. I don’t even want to catch a hint of you sniffing around, Lancer. And I sure as hell want you out of here before the vultures arrive, got it? So long.”

    With a casual wave of his hand the Commissioner left just like that, Archer following him out soon after. I was left alone with the dead Goddess of Beauty and the maggots hiding in the corners who waited for the grizzled dog to get the hell out so they could start with their morbid buffet.

    And the blood just kept on trickling down her naked body, colored deep crimson, like a blossoming rose.

    ***


    Come to think of it, it was very much the same evening when I got the case. The parting beams of the sun were shining through the half-open blinds, cutting apart the lingering smoke of the cigarettes like the headlights of a sports car speeding down the Heights in the thickest of fogs. As useless as ever, the ceiling fan just kept on spinning and spinning, like a stray dog chasing its tail in slow motion. And the pathetic excuse for a human, gulping down enough liquor to put out a forest fire- that would’ve been me. Frankly, it was in some twisted kind of sense, a perfect picture taken out of the movies.

    Of course, the whole set up came crashing down when my client entered. Going by the movies, it should’ve been a stunning beauty, legs up to her neck, a majestic bust, a figure screaming of both innocence and danger, hinting at how good she was at using her feminine advantages. Aye, it should’ve been that little goddess I had left in the morning, nailed to the wall with her heart torn straight out of her chest. But, no, it was a lad that gave me the case that night before.

    Looked like a nice enough kid, if a bit daft if you ask me. Kept on looking around the whole time, like some cornered pup. Introduced himself as Shirou Sajyou and claimed to be searching for his girlfriend. ‘Sakura’. He only told me her given name and without mentioning her family, how could I have known? And frankly, it was mighty stupid of me not to ask. But what the red-haired lad told me led me to believe it was as ordinary as it could get. He loved the lass, she loved him back, their folks wouldn’t have approved… the usual sappy Romeo and Juliet routine. Last time he saw her at some party she had a falling out with her brother and ran off. Shirou hadn’t heard of her ever since. And given how rarely I even had clients and with that small wad of cash now lying on my desk, who was I to trample over someone's dreams?

    I wish I could say that all that drinking had muddled my sorry excuse for a brain but, sadly, alcohol hasn’t had the needed effect on me ever since… Bazett. Funny how that works. I’ve never being a lightweight but some days I think that my organs would eventually stop just like that as I’m gulping down the thousandth shot of whiskey.

    I wondered if this ‘Shirou’ would show up on my doorstep on the next day, wanting his money back. And frankly, I would’ve given ‘em to him. My performance on the case so far hadn’t been exactly awe-inspiring. And with Archer and Velvet waving their banner ‘For The Greater Good’ left and right, in everyone’s faces, chances were the little goddess was going to end up unavenged, a mere victim of some psycho randomly chosen from some of the street gangs or the Tiger’s people. Nothing but yet another statistic in the big shots’ books.

    Just like Bazett…

    I double-checked if the old Magnum of mine was in my pocket. After putting on the dusty trench coat and that fedora Bazett had bought me for my birthday all those years ago, I locked down the place and headed out to the dirty streets of this city of sins as the Sun finally went away and gave in to the kingdom of darkness.

    The police were all just a pack of trained lap dogs, all bark and no bite unless their masters thought it was convenient. This particular case… aye, it needed a hound, a grizzled easily-angered hound that knew how to track the lead and wasn’t afraid to bite when he needed to. If that little goddess needed me to revert to the feral beast I was inside to avenge her… then so be it. I swore to do it for her. And for Bazett.

    That was my promise. My Geasa.


    A lone detective takes it upon himself to solve the murder of a young woman, willingly diving into the dangerous web of conspiracies weaved by the feuding mafia families. But after the truth is uncovered, will that city of sin be the same ever again?

  2. #2
    Guess Who's Watching... Aladar's Avatar
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    Default re: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

    Chapter II:

    The Viper and the Vixen




    Like two sides of the same coin, every city has two different faces. One, bright and happy, meant for the gullible tourists and the ads for the next election campaign. The kind of city you see on those TV shows where every house has just the perfect lawn at the front and just the perfect man married to the perfect wife raising their perfect little children inside. The particularly sappy ones add some perfect dog, too. Aye, that kind of wishful thinking is good and all but it makes people forget the other side of the coin.

    The true face of the city.

    No one tells the tourists about the kingdom of darkness that reigns supreme from dusk ‘till dawn. When all the decent folks hurry back home and lock the doors, those that rule the streets slither out of their hiding holes. One nightly predator after another, they spread out in search for prey, for money, for fame. The fumes rising from below the streets serve well to hide their approach and the never-ending rain that pours out seemingly each and every night covers their tracks. Those skyscrapers you’ve admired just a few hours before are suddenly cornering you from all directions, like a bunch of hungry giants made out of concrete and glass. The pale moon hangs in the night sky like a puppet dangled on a set of strings, peeking a scant few times through the thick grey clouds only to poke fun at the little people scurrying here at the bottom. Only the flickering lampposts shine a light of hope here and there, only to give up on you when you draw near, leaving you at the mercy of the prowlers waiting in the darkness.

    And, meanwhile, a whole new economical empire blossoms amidst all the filth and blood washed out by the heavy rain. All over the city, at not so hidden places, clubs and saloons open doors for their shady clientele and street vendors ready their wares, lying in wait for some gullible customer. No vice is left out. Guns, drugs, whores, alcohol, blood- the dark side of the city can offer you virtually everything. And more. Aye, it is as they say.

    Turn down the right alley in this city of sins and you can find anything.

    In short, it was the perfect setting for this hound to start sniffing and use his charms and skill to find out the killer and make him wish he had never been born.

    Since Velvet had oh-so-kindly kicked me out of the case before I could’ve even butted in in the first place, to say that my trail was cold would’ve been the understatement of the year. Hell, come to think of it, I had no trail at all.

    Shirou had mentioned the lass having some heated argument with her brother- but while I did have the general idea who that lad might be, he was probably in his mansion. Surrounded by the Commissioner’s people. Who no doubt had been ordered to welcome me fists-first, questions-later style. And while I was always up for a good old-fashioned brawl, I was sure some pansy was going to chicken out when I trashed them all and shoot me in the back. As you can probably guess, not the best way to start an investigation. So, until I gained some info on the places the lad frequented, that option was out.

    I sure as hell wasn’t going to contact Shirou until I had solved this case. And I didn’t know where that party he had seen her last at had been so my last option was to learn something from the body. Which was currently locked in some freezer deep under the station, guarded by the Commissioner’s people. And while Velvet had somehow turned into a recurring problem of mine, the one who had examined the body wasn’t. Yet. Hopefully. Frankly, one could’ve never been sure with a lass like her.

    Touko Aozaki had started work in the department just a year before I quit. To be frank, she was the best coroner we’d ever had- a bunch of cases were solved thanks to her knowing strangers’ bodies better than they had ever had. And a stunning beauty to boot- she made the hearts of quite a few lads at the station skip a few beats. None had gotten lucky s’far as I knew and back then I hadn’t even cared- I had Bazett. To me, Touko had been just the weird lass who had escaped from her old-money family so she could make her creepy human dolls and cut up corpses. Sure, a dog like me had never passed up the opportunity to tease her a bit. Nonetheless, it hadn’t taken us much to catch on on how she somehow mixed up the corpses with her dolls in her pretty little head. But then again, we all have our dysfunctions. Mine’s a berserker’s temper. Hers… well, I guess ‘overtly affectionate to unliving things’ was the nicest way to put it.

    But before visiting Lil’ Red, I had one other place to go.

    Information was power and as someone who likes power as much as the next guy, I needed it so I could see that case through to the end, bitter or not. I knew lots of folks on the street from way back when and I guessed that now was the best time to call in some favors for old times’ sake. Whether they liked it or not. And according to one very grumpy parole officer that I had woken up over the phone, that particular sleazy, obviously-illegal garage smack-dab in the Narrows was where my top informant was currently ‘employed’.

    “Nice evening, Ryuu. Anything interesting happening ‘round here lately?”

    The ‘thud’ that echoed inside the dimly-lit workshop when the ginger hit his head in the open hood of the cabrio was loud enough to wake up every straggler from the Narrows to the Heights. For a moment there I thought even the lone light bulb hanging from the ceiling was about to fall, probably straight on the already bleeding head of my informer. But I couldn’t be that unlucky, could I?

    Thankfully, my associate proved to have a head as hard as the glistening concrete currently drenched by the downpour outside. Comparing the terror-struck eyes that greeted me to a deer caught in headlights was not nearly enough. It was more like the look of a crippled skinny stray cornered in dead-end back alley by a whole pack of rabid hungry mutts. The uneven sound of nervous clattering filled the silence between us, pushing back the faraway shrieks of the sirens and gunfights in the background.

    “Lancer, my man, seriously, it wasn’t like you think!” blurted out the ginger, putting his shaky hands up and waving them much like a mime who had somehow gotten stuck in his own invisible bear trap. “That creep deserved it for real. He was gonna rape a friend’s sister! You would’ve done the same thing my place, dawg, I know ya! I only castrated him a little. And that rusty wrench was the only thing I had on hand. For realz, man!”

    “Can it, pup, I ain’t here to bring you in. I haven’t been on the force for years,” I mumbled as I clenched a cigarette between my dried lips. My internal organs, squirming like a bunch of intertwined slimy eels, reminded me that I was in dire need of a drink. Sadly, I could only afford the luxury of a smoke at that particular moment.

    “Please don’t squash my fingers aga-“ the almost teary pleas were abruptly cut off and, peeking behind the makeshift shield of his raised arms, the lad threw me a judging look. A little kid tilting his head and wondering if it was safe to touch daddy’s loaded gun was the closest thing that came to my mind when I looked at him. God, how much could one person change for barely a decade?

    “I- I knew that, man. O’course, it’s all water under the bridge, a’ight? Kinda scared me there, showing up like that,” said the ginger and clutched his heart, his heavy breaths finally slowing down to a normal pace. A good performance- almost believable even. “Good. Yep, good. ‘Cause I’ve finally gotten used to ‘em prosthetics Red gave me. I can even operate with little screws and stuff now.”

    As if to show off, Ryuu outstretched his hands under the lone ray of light cast down by the light bulb. The twitching combination of plastic and metal that now served as his fingers was frighteningly detailed. What scared me most of all was how advanced Touko seemed to have gotten with turning even living people into a mix-and-match bunch of puppet parts. How much until she had the idea of taking out someone’s heart and brain, shoving them into a plastic body and waiting for lightning to strike to see if it would come to life? I chose not to think about it too much. Frankly, Ryuu’s single worth for now was keeping my mind off such things. The lad’s mouth was running like a brand new engine under the hood of an award-winning sports car.

    “’Course, she had me endure the whole thing without even putting me to sleep, man. Not even a shot of vodka! Said I deserved to suffer for what I did to ‘em folks. And y’know what? The chick was right, like, totally! Thankfully, I didn’t need to pay any money ‘cause of that whole police brutality shtick that you pulled when you tore them off.”

    Not that I had much time to waste, but I chose to let the lad’s words sink in. Didn’t need to wait much, actually.

    “WHICH WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO! I was a really really bad person back then. But not anymore! Oh no, ever since you dragged that half-dead Bluebeard to the electric chair I’m a whole new totally good guy! I even visit the church every Sunday. Ask Father Kirei. Haven’t touched a Necronomicon ever since. And I help other folks now. The other day I helped some grandma cross the street. Totally! And I’m working here at Sherwood, fixing cars and stuff. Even my parole officer said it was better than the furniture factory ‘cause folks can’t be turned into cars. Not that I had thought about it!”

    “Info, pup, I need info!” I finally cut him off, adding a low growl for good measure. I’d lie if I said I didn’t enjoy his audible gulp when I walked closer to him.

    “Well… word is, there some new kind of drug on the streets- a superdrug, dawg! Hooks you up, like, just by sniffing it once. Folks say you start seeing angels and reapers and shit! Turns out one of our people got hooked, too. And that’s a big no-no ‘cause Robin hates drugs so we tried to, uhm, question the guy and he totally went apeshit on us and tried to claw out Robin’s neck! And that dude was a decent fella! Worked hard to make money for his sick mother or something, he even was in the church choir! Dude like an angel and then- BAM! Some stinky superdrug makes him whacko!”

    “I need more specific info, Uryuu,” I said as I ran a hand over the leather upholstery of the cabrio. It was a gorgeous car, colored deep crimson, like a blossoming rose.

    “Look, dawg, pal, buddy- uhm, I’d be thankful if you didn’t use that name around here,” said Ryuu even more jittery than before, if such a thing was even physically possible. “Some of my peepz won’t be very happy to hear that name. I might’ve… remodeled some friends or relatives of theirs or something way back when. I go by Plissken now. Sounds better, ain’t I right? Ryuu Plissken?”

    “Yeah,” I replied without even listening or looking back. My hands and mind were too busy exploring the steering wheel of that gem of a car and the ginger’s stammered speech had been proven useless already. “Listen, pup, I want you to dig up as much as info as you can on the Matous. Especially on the two youngest. The brother and the sister, got it?”

    “Consider it done, my man! Anythin’ for a pal o’ mine like you.”

    “Now that you’ve mentioned our long and eventful friendship, I can’t help but notice what a swell car you’ve got here, pup. What’s a beauty like this doing in a run-down garage in the Narrows?”

    I could practically see the cogs in the ginger’s head turning, ever too slow to actually think up of a good excuse. Even before having its fangs torn off, that particular viper had never had enough brain to do things right. Frankly, I ain’t got no idea how the pup had managed to cover up what he had been doing before hooking up with that bulgy-eyed freak friend of his.

    “We, erm… import them from… abroad? Yeah! From abroad!”

    The fact that he actually thought it was believable finally broke through my resolve like a brake-less train speeding down towards a flimsy wall of bricks left at the end of the tracks. My hoarse laughter, which for some reason sounded more like a howl than I cared to admit, echoed around the badly-lit workshop.

    “This car ain’t got no plate number, pup.”

    “I removed it to… clean it! On both sides! We here at Sherwood work for the common folks! We find them nice cars or money for food and medicine and stuff and we hand it over to ‘em. In their eyes we’re, like, heroes, dawg!”

    “Aye, your altruism just brings tears to my eyes. And wasn’t Sherwood the name of one of the bigger gangs that always pesters the mafia and the yakuza with their little hit-and-run tactics? I heard that green’s their color, y’know.”

    I nodded towards the greasy green scarf wrapped around his arm. Finally showing some distant hint of actually possessing something brain-like in that thick skull of his, the ginger stopped himself from immediately tearing it off halfway through.

    “Nah, man, we are very alt-alt-troumoristic but we ain’t no gang! We just look out for the common folks, is all.”

    “If you say so,” I said and shrugged. Frankly, I preferred the smaller gangs who actually looked out for their people than the backstabbing glamour of the mafia or the blood fury of the Yakuza. “Just remember, pup, the youngest Matous, all the info you can find. ASAP.”

    Leaving the temporary shelter of the Sherwood, I walked back into the streets. The ice-cold rain didn’t even give me time to shiver before devouring me whole.


    The trip to her place- a nice enough flat in a certainly not nice enough place- was uneventful. The other residents of the night could sense I was a tad higher on the food chain, so they mostly kept to themselves. Touko’s place was dangerously close to the Narrows. I pitied the fool who could’ve tried to actually break into her place. It took a lot to get Lil’ Red worked up but then again, it took a lot to make me scared of someone else getting angry, much less if said someone was a lass. The sound of her doorbell echoing in the empty darkness was like a cathedral’s bell declaring someone’s funeral.

    “Well, well, well,” dragged out the redhead who appeared on the doorway. Peaking from around the door, she sized me up like a fox evaluating her prey. “Look what the cat dragged in. Or was it a little puppy?”

    Once again reminding me of a certain sleek predator with fiery fur, Touko leaned closer and sniffed the air around me.

    “Or, apparently, a drunk stray mutt,” she teased.

    “It’s a disguise. To blend in more easily with the night crowd,” I deadpanned and shot straight to the point before she could cut me off with her childish comments once again. “Look, Aozaki, I need to ask you a few things about a body they should’ve dropped for examining today-“

    “Yeah, yeah, it’s about my precious princess, right?”

    She just waved off any of my future questions and went right back in, motioning for me to follow. Even before seeing the overflowing ashtrays that littered the whole place, I smelled the stench of probably hundreds of cigarettes. That lass was probably the only one in the whole city who could outsmoke me and Velvet combined. Hell, the rest of the city combined. Still there was another scent lingering in the background- the all-too-familiar one of various kinds of alcohol, mashed up together in one glorious combination. The day apparently had been tiring for Touko.

    “Of course, it is about my precious. She’s all the rage now, isn’t she? Besides, when they brought her he told me you had been lurking around the crime scene.”

    “Who told you exactly?” I asked, despite my better judgment. I had a pretty good idea about who was the smart-aleck in question. An idea that Touko confirmed a second later.

    “Archer, of course. Who else?” answered Touko as if I had asked the most ridiculous thing in the world. Putting back on her glasses, she reverted to her sterner persona and took the nearest armchair. Positioning myself on the sofa, I noticed that she had left the lights off. That was how I liked it anyway- sometimes I’m a tad too sensitive to the light.

    “He misses you, y’know. In his own strange and overly-sarcastic way. Hasn’t been the same since you left,” mumbled the sly fox in human disguise as she lit up yet another cigarette. The tiny flame ended up being reflected in her glasses, like a couple of fireflies lingering in the twilight of the room.

    “The body, Aozaki,” I reminded her as nicely as possible. That in my case being a low guttural growl.

    “My, my, impatient, aren’t we? And here I thought you were here to see little old me for old times’ sake.”

    “I’ve had enough reunions for today, lass.”

    With an annoyed sigh, Touko exhaled the smoke and crossed her legs. With eyes like mine, even in the semi-darkness that engulfed us, her business skirt sliding up more and more was inevitable to miss. Had she had such a nice pair of legs last time we met? That particular memory seemed to elude me.

    “She was a beauty, that one. I haven’t been given such a doll in ages. Perfect proportions, lovely glassy eyes, silky hair, and nice firm breasts that are just perfectly bigger than my palm. I’d rip apart the bastard who would ruin such a piece of art. The cause of death is total separation of the heart from the body. And not just literally tearing it off. Simultaneously with being pulled out the three main arteries leading to it had been cut off. The wounds from the nails at the wrist joints and the base of her neck are inflicted postmortem. Further examinations proved that she had been raped, too. All in all, the full serial killer psycho routine. Doesn’t look like the cause of a lovers’ spat to me.”

    The way she blurted out all the information, the whole disturbing mix of Touko’s admiration for her ‘precious princess’- who just happened to be a corpse- and the sterile way in which she stated the medical facts- it made me sick. It was then, with the deathly glint of her glasses in the darkness proving it even further, that I realized that Touko just might be a mechanical doll capable of loving only her own kind.

    Then why did she keep on grabbing my attention again and again? Like a dog in heat, all my eyes could do was roam up and down her curvaceous body. That naughty skirt of hers seemed to be sliding up more and more by the minute and I just kept on noticing how her ample breasts were nearly ready to spill out of her white shirt, the top buttons undone before I had even arrived there. I didn’t know whether to count the fact that Touko apparently preferred to go bra-less as me being one of the luckiest lads in the city or just the opposite.

    And I just knew she knew it as well and kept on teasing just because. She truly was a vixen that one- a dirty red indeed. Not that I was man enough to tell her that in the face. The last poor sod who had thought he had been now was widely known as that unlucky guy at the station who’s Ma would never hold a grandchild in her arms. I could feel the sweat trickling down my skin so I tried to keep the conversation on track as much as possible.

    “Do you know anything else? Any clues that might lead me in the right direction?”

    The old me, from before Bazett and… the rest, he would’ve laughed for how I somehow managed to sound like a love-stricken highschooler with Touko next to me. The fact that I was acting like that when not a single piece of cloth had actually left her body was frankly embarrassing.

    “Well, Archer did mention that the last place the girl had been seen was having a spat with her brother at the Babylon.”

    The Babylon.

    Like little cogs in a machine, the pieces of the puzzle started moving inside my brain. It was the tiniest of leads but it was enough to set me on the right path. The Babylon, if I’ve to speak in technicalities, is a club. But unlike any other club in the city, unlike any other casino or saloon, the Babylon signifies one thing and one thing only.

    Class.

    And all the money and power that come with it. Owned by the richest man in the city, the Babylon was the ultimate neutral ground. There were neither different sides nor conflicts once one entered through the gold-colored double doors. Only there could one see Fujimuras sharing a drink with Einzberns and a Tohsaka chatting with some Matou. In that tiny little island of power and fame, hidden in the tallest tower that overlooked the city, only one thing mattered. Money.

    And as long as you had lots of it and were willing to follow the set of rules that the host had carefully cultivated, you were welcome to stay. If not… well, plenty of time to think on your bad behavior when the grunts sent you the express way down from the top floor.

    “I’d need to rob a casino just to bribe the guard to let me in.”

    “Maybe,” Touko replied and took one last drag off her cigarette. “Maybe not.”

    Suddenly she lunged forward, like a vixen shooting for her helpless play. Somehow her face ended up so close to my own, the tips of our noses even slightly bumping into each other in a twisted parody of an Eskimo kiss. And while my brain was busy comprehending the feeling of her breasts pressed against me, I could feel her straddling me and trying to push me back. Just as unexpected as a lightning strike out of clear skies, I suddenly had the still-lit butt of the cigarette shoved into my neck.

    Still too busy processing the touch of Touko’s chest against my own, my brain somehow forgot to register the pain. Either that, or all that whiskey had finally made me pain-proof. The scent of a woman had overcome the stench of cigarettes long, long ago. I could feel her breath caress the burn, her voice seemingly skipping my ears and getting projected right into my overloaded brain.

    “Looks like a bad burn. I think I can make it all better again, tho.”

    A chuckle.

    “Seven o’clock, tomorrow. I want you in a clean suit, driving a nice car. You can keep that ridiculous ponytail of yours but please, darling, no stubble, alright? And I just might get you into the Babylon.”

    And just like that the vixen let off her pray and with the walk of a victor, hid herself in some back room that I just knew was the bedroom. The feel of her breasts and the picture of her swaying hips as she left competed in my brain for her top feature along with her scent and that lingering feeling of shame just wouldn’t go away.

    The hound had gotten cornered by the fox. And now he had been left to decide whether to turn tail and run or follow his instincts and the predator inside her den.



    A lone detective takes it upon himself to solve the murder of a young woman, willingly diving into the dangerous web of conspiracies weaved by the feuding mafia families. But after the truth is uncovered, will that city of sin be the same ever again?

  3. #3
    Child of the Atom Hellion's Avatar
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    Default re: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

    @Aladar Wow, just wow. This is so good and so well written. I don't know the fandom from which these characters are taken but the way you wrote the story is just flawless and captivating.

    The images are vibrants and the description are really good. You definitely got the grit and the darkness of the film noir genre in there. It's like I can not only see it, but feel the atmosphere surrounding me and the characters. I especially liked your description of the crime scene with the worms and you really conveyed the sickliness and gruesomeness of the murder well. Same for the inner workings of the city's crime scene, the rival gangs, the uneasy truce, it's really well thought out.

    As for the characters, they're really great. I particularily liked the coroner since that was probably the riskiest in terms of characterization, since she's almost too forward, too over the top to be in a noir inspired fic, but the way you wrote her really helped. That you have your hero see her as a foreign element to the genre weirdly helps make her fit in to the story. I don't know how to quite put it, but she worked. The other characters were more like the typical noir archetypes, but I liked the Hero's narration and take on the situation.

    Overall, a great piece! I'm hooked and I'll continue reading!

    I really should get back and finish the Red Dahlia

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    Guess Who's Watching... Aladar's Avatar
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    Default re: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

    @Hellion Well, I'm glad that at least one person here is glad to read this. All the better that is you, since, as I said, the Dahlia was my inspiration. The characters are from the Fate/Stay Night series- it's a visual novel and a surprisingly good one with an intricate story and plot. I was very skeptical about the genre at first actually. And I'm drawing inspirations from the Max Payne series and the Sin City comic and movie, too, so the coroner isn't much more forward than, say, Mona Sax or Nancy Callahan.

    Either way, thanks for the review. I'm probably going to update soon.


    A lone detective takes it upon himself to solve the murder of a young woman, willingly diving into the dangerous web of conspiracies weaved by the feuding mafia families. But after the truth is uncovered, will that city of sin be the same ever again?

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    Guess Who's Watching... Aladar's Avatar
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    Default re: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

    Chapter III:

    The Den of Kings


    “Oh, smile a little for Heaven’s sake! There’s no need to glare at the crowd like you are waiting for someone to jump at you with guns ablazing.”

    Touko’s half-teasing remark fell on deaf ears. I would’ve paid my weight in gold to whoever promised to get me out of there on the spot. The stench of Cuban cigars made my nostrils flare up and the persistent chatter of the surrounding crowd was too much to bear. Everywhere I turned- in each and every direction- pompous gits and their dolled-up arm-candies mingled around with vomit-inducing smiles plastered on their faces. The whole charade of masquerading predators was a joke. For all the filth, impregnable darkness and nonstop rain, at least people were honest down on the streets. You went down the wrong alley, you got knifed. Plain and simple.

    But not in that den of kings. Etiquette seemed to be the most important thing of all. Apparently you were supposed to smile and bow even when you looked someone in the eyes and inwardly wished for him to end up face down in some gutter by the time the sun rose in the morning. In that god-forsaken club where the crystal chandeliers never went off and top-class martini ran like a river, where even the Devil himself would be ashamed to enter, lurked the deadliest and most treacherous predators in the whole city.

    Touko had kept her promise alright. After I had shown up at the right time driving the right car (a certain crimson cabrio borrowed from a certain close ‘friend’), she had dragged me off to some art exhibit of hers. How exactly a bunch of puppets set up in rather… dubious positions could pass as art was something I still had to figure but it seemed that the rich folks thought it was all the rage. And that had been enough to earn her a posh reception at the Babylon of all places. Plus free entry for whoever was the lucky sod hanging off her arm that night.

    It wasn’t only her… art that had gathered such a crowd of wealthy gentlemen around her at the reception. A filthy liar was the lad who would say she was anything short of stunning. The glasses were all but gone and, finally out of that ponytail, her fiery hair went down in waves over her bare shoulders. And that red dress of hers with the longest of slits and only two silky pieces of cloth meant to cover up her… assets was the cherry on the top of the cake. Frankly, I was half-sure that she had agreed to let me come only to use me as an excuse to ward off the suitors that didn’t make the cut.

    I would’ve been fine if that had been my only role but apparently Touko felt obliged to introduce me to every Tom, Dick and Harry in shoes of snake leather that neared us. Not even in my wildest dreams had I imagined that there could be so many people in this world that could make me want to punch them as much as Archer but in the short span of several hours my old partner had acquired unbelievable competition. And speaking of that stick in the mud…

    An all too familiar glimpse of slicked-back white hair hidden among the crowd caught my attention as Touko was bugging me to at least pretend to smile and pushing yet another glass of champagne in my hand. I had half a mind of ‘excusing’ myself and going off after him but in that particular moment the crowd chose to go silent.

    The momentary pause reserved only for when the sleaziest among the sleaziest entered meant only one thing. One of the bigshots had chosen to be fashionably late and was just now arriving at the party. Parting like the Red sea before Moses, the whole crowd was divided in two before the small entourage that had just entered through the gold-colored double doors. Leading his people like a wolf leading his pack, Kiritsugu Emiya strolled in like he owned the whole place, clientele included. Which wasn’t that far from the truth. As owner of Heaven’s Feel Industries, Kiritsugu was certainly one of the richest men in the city and willing to deal with only those of similar status. It was widely known that important people went to him when they had problems and, like a magician in a cheap magic show, he solved them almost in an instant. How exactly Kiritsugu made those ‘problems’ disappear was still a mystery for the ages. From what the police knew he was as innocent as a new-born pup and, frankly, many lads at the station didn’t want to learn anything more than that.

    Apparently the Universe had decided that I had to be her bitch in that particular night because instead of heading to speak business with some of the other sleazy gits, the infamous Emiya chose to head in our direction. Him congratulating Touko for an exhibit well done meant her introducing me, so I somehow ended in a conversation with possibly the most dangerous man in the city. Over two glasses of champagne and a borrowed Cuban. But since wonders never seemed to cease around me those days, yet another well-known face chose to join our little gentlemanly chit-chat.

    “And what do we have here? The infamous old friend of mine Kiritsugu Emiya!” was the shout that was seemingly supposed to come off as a greeting. The speaker was none other than Commissioner Waver Velvet. And judging by the condition of his breath that I could pick up from a mile away, the pals at the bar had been busy up ‘till now.

    Thankfully for him, Velvet wasn’t alone. A young lass with short black hair was there to keep him from further embarrassing himself but from her looks she wanted to be anywhere but there. That was probably his reporter girlfriend. She was certainly a catch that one- dressed in a baby blue cocktail dress way more conservative than what Touko was currently wearing now. But by the way Waver’s lady was eyeing the girly-looking blond lad with the pony-tail who played bodyguard to Emiya, she wanted nothing more than to have an immaculate black suit like his on. Or just preferred the younger kid to Velvet, not like I particularly cared.

    “Commissioner Velvet! And pretty little Maya! What a pleasant surprise,” greeted Kiritsugu much more quietly and lifted his cup at Waver’s direction.

    “You two know each other?” blurted out Touko, the reddening of her cheeks showing that she wasn’t nearly as resistant to alcohol as she was to nicotine poisoning. “She interviewed me about the exhibit.”

    “In a business like mine, Miss Aozaki, it is a necessity to have… associates everywhere,” said Emiya and took a sip off his glass. The narrowing of his cold black eyes- like a cat toying with its prey- seemingly went unnoticed to anyone but me. Some part deep inside of me was currently glad that alcohol no longer affected me the way it had. A small part, tho, I assure you.

    “And good thing Maya was there for poor Velvet when the old Commissioner… passed away,” continued Kiritsugu with a smile. “I don’t think he could’ve survived such tragedy on his own. And to think how he managed to cut away all that corruption that was plaguing the police like cancer just shortly after that… as if you dedicated your efforts to old Kayneth, right?”

    For some reason Emiya’s words were enough to sober Velvet up, at least a bit. Narrowing his eyes and clutching his glass to the brink of shattering it, the Commissioner mumbled a curt ‘Indeed’ and dragged off his lass somewhere else.

    “So, Kiritsugu, how’s family? Those boys of yours- you readying them to inherit the business?” asked Touko and leaned a bit on me to keep her balance.

    “I’ve already given up on Archer. Police’s everything for the boy so I guess I’ll have to make do with his younger brother, reluctant as Shirou is.”

    To this day I wonder how I managed not to spit all over the suit of the most dangerous man in the whole city when I heard those two names. My mind felt like being split in half, unable to decide which statement had been more absurd. The fact that my old partner was apparently the firstborn son of Kiritsugu bloody Emiya or that said man’s pup had somehow managed to pull one over me and fool me with a fake name. One thing was certain- the investigation just kept getting more and more complicated…

    “Archer’s probably off loitering around with Tokiomi’s daughter again. But if I know my boy she would’ve told him to bug off already. He can’t keep his social life and job separate for the life of his so he is probably interrogating his favorite dame about little Sakura. And you know how those two girls were- like joined at the hip or something.”

    … And more and more and more…

    In the short span of around a minute I had been given so many clues that I felt the need to go out on the balcony and hope that the fresh air would be enough to get my excuse for a brain to sort them all out. The annoying chatter refused to be left behind but at least the evening wind was there to greet me. It was the wind of the city- with its entire stench and smells that assured a grizzled dog like me that even so high up in the realm of the rich, the streets would never let down one of their own. I could see the whole city from there- a parade of man-made giants of all shapes and sizes stretching as far as the eyes could see, like dominoes just waiting to be toppled over. The lights of the city glittered into the night like some cheap counterfeit knock-off of the stars hanging above.

    “Majestic isn’t it? The view.”

    To my great fortune or utmost lack of luck, the speaker turned out to be a gorgeous lass. The purple cocktail dress that didn’t shy to show off her naked back was hiding from view a certainly stunning body. The moonlight caressed her ivory skin like a jealous lover and by the way she coyly tucked back one of her twintails, the girl certainly knew her value.

    “Archer warned me that you would somehow get in here to question me. Apparently he thinks you are stubborn enough to find a way into the Babylon but he did seem more keen to bet on you charging in here guns ablazing,” said the newcomer and left her wine cup on the railing, turning to stare at me with a pair of dazzling eyes that seemed to cause roots to sprout from the ground and bind you on the spot.

    “He has a way of underestimating me,” I replied with a shrug and leaned back on the railing. “So what’s the reason you wouldn’t listen to our mutual friend, Miss Toshaka?”

    “Just Rin,” said the girl and her delicate crimson lips formed a smile so seemingly divine, that even I knew only a demon could pull it off. “I would never treat a friend of Archer like a stranger after all.”

    Her gaze clawed right at my soul and the way her lips stayed barely apart, as if waiting for a kiss, made my skin crawl and my heart skip a few beats. The cool evening air suddenly was as heavy as the one in Sahara during drought season and each and every fiber of my being screamed ‘Danger!’. The old dog was getting beaten by the kitty before a confrontation had even started. Rin seemed the same age as the little goddess- probably not even twenty and certainly barely legal for Archer to loiter round with her. The fact that I had to remind myself that the same rules applied to me made me ashamed of myself.

    “So… Rin,” I started slowly, trying out her name. “What was your connection to the late Miss Matou?”

    “Sakura and I were two of a kind. Both heiresses to old and important families, both the same age and bored dead of our lives. She was like the sister I never had,” admitted Rin with a sigh and ran her finger over the edge of her wine glass. I tried not to ask myself how the red lipstick staining it tasted.

    “We could be ourselves together, away from the never-ending masquerade that had surrounded us our whole lives. All those secrets that suffocated us- we could entrust to each other. It didn’t matter that there was a cold war between our ‘rival’ families. What mattered the most was that here in the Babylon, we could find a kindred soul.”

    Rin’s ruby lips let out yet another drawn-out sigh before finishing off the rest of the wine in a single gulp. The glass was now limply hanging between her lithe fingers.

    “So did she mention any… concerns about her well-being? Anyone who could’ve targeted her personally? Has she been distant or… has she seemed scared or spaced-out lately?”

    “Not a bit. Well, she was a tad concerned on how Shinji would react on her going out with Kiritsugu’s son now that their father wasn’t there to rein him in but anything else? No.”

    I continued my improvised interrogation.

    “Why would her brother be angry? Did he have a rivalry with Shirou or something?”

    “Not… precisely. He has been sort-of friends with him from what I know but the core of the problem was Sakura. She, well… let’s say that she and Shinji liked to keep it in the family and her big brother apparently wasn’t very happy upon learning that Shirou has been getting some of it as of late. He learned just the other night and after telling her all those horrible things, Shinji stormed out of the place and from what I know, no one has seen him ever since.”

    “Jealousy is a strong motive,” I said, dragging out my words to buy time for thinking. Rin had just shattered the pedestal upon which I had placed the little goddess into thousands of tiny bits, as if it wasn’t anything more than a cheap glass pane decorating the nearest convenience store. Why did it have to be incest of all things?

    “I know Shinji,” cut me off the raven-haired girl and continued fiddling with the glass in her hand. “He may be a royal pain in the ass, he may be outright cruel and violent sometimes but the… the way Archer told me you’ve found her isn’t his style. Shinji’s rash and cowardly and he’d sooner run away after doing it and not stay there and set up something like that.”

    “Do you have any idea who it might have been then?”

    “I don’t. But she had… another confidant,” Rin replied after a little hesitation and shot me another one of her judging looks that made you think she was looking straight into your soul. “Sakura certainly wasn’t the saint everyone made her out to be. She had a particular… hunger for earthly pleasures and she had somehow gained entry for a very special club that provided just what she was looking for. One of the girls there was her favorite… Rider or something. From what I gather Sakura told her those family secrets that a Tohsaka just couldn’t pass by without exploiting.”

    And once again, with just a few words of those ruby lips, my mental image of what the little goddess had been in her life was grinded into dust and spread to the four winds. Still, a clue was a clue and that one seemed as good as any other.

    “Right. Thank you, Rin. Now if you would excu-“

    Her gentle arm cut me off before I could even finish, holding me back and using it as an excuse for the black cat to draw a bit closer to her prey for the night.

    “Stay a bit. It so awfully boring now that Archer’s away,” drawled out the girl and oh-so-slowly twirled the tip of one of her twintails between her fingers.

    “I sincerely doubt an old dog like me can alleviate your boredom in any way, Miss,” I said while trying to keep the sweat from pouring out from beneath my skin.

    “Aww, there you go being so dreadfully formal again. I happen to like dogs,” almost purred the girl before leaning closer and whispering in my ear. “And older men.”

    “And I happen to know when to play and when to fold ‘em,” I somehow managed to cut her off, my senses fighting to keep the feeling of her scent out of my mind.

    “You’re no fun,” proclaimed the raven-haired beauty with a perfectly-faked pout before diving back into the crowd of predators inside. I was left behind with only her lingering scent and the mocking laugher of my old self to keep me company.

    “And what do we have here?”

    It was one of those moments that one reads about in the books or watches in the movies. The fateful moment when two men meet and from the moment they set eyes upon each other, they know that they want nothing more than to see the other one dead, maggots crawling from his eye sockets. Even before my brain had finished registering that grating drawled-out voice, even before I had caught a glimpse of the unruly golden hair and red eyes of that bastard, my canine instincts had gone and decided that I hated nothing more in this world than him.

    That night Archer was forever booted from the top spot in my ‘Guys I Want to Beat into a Bloody Pulp’ list.

    “You didn’t answer me, mutt,” repeated the newcomer with an almost casual grunt and leaned on the railing not that far away from me.

    “I’m investigating,” I said and kept on staring straight forward towards the crowd, preferring the sleazy gits compared to looking at him in his precious Armani.

    “And what, pray tell, would a mutt like you investigate in my club?”

    “Just the gruesome death of an innocent girl, Mr-“

    “Just Gil. If you are so stubborn as to insist on addressing someone like me in any way, at least I won’t let you stain my family name. Or maybe you would settle for ‘Your Highness’?”

    “Not a chance, punk,” I cut him off with a snarl. It was a miracle the glass in my hand still hadn’t shattered under the pressure. “And is there some chance that you would know something about all this?”

    “Such trivial matters are of no concern to me,” proclaimed the king of the city and waved off a girl’s death with a casual wave of his hand. “But I know Shirou well-enough. Unlike most people he is open-minded and willing to see the bigger picture. He would never stoop so low as to murder the one he loved, I assure you.”

    “And what may that bigger picture be, Gil, ole’ pal of mine?”

    Hearing him gritting his perfect pearly teeth from all the way there made me happier than I had been in ages.

    “To reality, of course! What bigger picture could there be? Just look at them- the mongrels supposedly reigning over today’s reality,” Gil spat out in anger and gestured towards the still-chatting crowd huddled in his lion’s den.

    “Lazy, corrupt, insignificant, betrayers all! All they know, all they can do is drag their fat carcasses around, scheming and backstabbing and just thinking what more they could possibly steal while not knowing that they are already dead! A living plague to society in the form of one big leech that just saps more and more of its life day after day after day! Young and old, they are all doomed. Doomed to be bloodsuckers to the very end, able only to play their little game of stealing and betrayals, passing the torch from one to the other and not even realizing how they have trapped themselves in an endless circle out of their own will. Shirou… Shirou was willing to acknowledge that and break the accursed circle. ‘A Hero of Justice’, he said. Well, I welcome any and all who are willing to sweep the filth off my city.”

    “And each and every night you welcome them in your own house despite all this,” I reminded him with a low chuckle.

    “And each and every night I restrain myself from poisoning all the drinks despite all this,” he echoed with a smirk of his own.

    “Y’know, you aren’t the best of informants, Gil.”

    “Get out before I have you thrown out. Off the railing.”

    ***


    The drizzle descending from the grey clouds was like a heaven-sent kick in the guts. It made the ground all muddy and all the people sour and jittery. The family had pulled one of their many sets of strings to get the body to be buried as early as possible but Mother Nature seemed hell-bent on ruining the service for everyone involved. Bitch was jealous of the little goddess’s beauty, if you ask me. As any normal person, I hated funerals, even more than I hated hospitals. The constant wailing of the women was making me grit my teeth and the speech of the priest went unnoticed by most, preferring to concentrate on staying dry than paying their respects to someone already not of this world.

    Back then was when I realized how the core of the Matous had really dwindled away when only a lone old coot bearing the name was the sole relative present to send her away on her last journey. The majority of the rest was actually members of rival families and that Shirou lad, flanked by the same goons who had guarded his father the night before. He didn’t seem to notice me and I didn’t bother looking for his attention. Both I and the lad knew that out of all those present, there was a big fat chance of someone being the one who had plucked that delicate flower in her bloom. And damn him or her for making me so sappy and sentimental but all I wanted back then was to twist the murderer’s neck and, in a form of poetic justice, dump the body into the freshly dug grave.

    A lone woman stood a bit away from the crowd, umbrella limp in her hand and her waist-length purple hair drenched from the rain.

    Only she and Shirou lingered on a bit after everyone had used the oh-so-convenient excuse of the rain to slither away in their hiding holes, proud that he or she was now in the morally right ground for coming to the funeral.

    A funeral fitting for a goddess?

    Not a bloody fucking bit.

    But what right did I have to rage at the others when I myself had failed to find her on time? Gritting my teeth even harder in a vain attempt to subdue my anger, I stared at the tombstone that even lacked an epitaph. Pathethic.

    “You will get a cold staying here in the rain.”

    Frankly, I am not surprised that the priest had managed to sneak up on me, even with an umbrella in hand. I was so absorbed in my thoughts that even a sixteen-wheeler slamming right into me wouldn’t have caught my attention, much less the rattle of the rain on the umbrella. And besides, the old snake had always been too sneaky for his own good.

    “It warms my heart to see that you care for me so much, Kirei.”

    “Bazett would never forgive me if something happened to you when I could have prevented it,” explained the priest with an even voice and just kept standing there, unwanted.

    “Stop talking like she’s still here,” I said and bit my lip as my nails drew blood from the clenched fists hidden in the pockets of my trench coat.

    “She loved you enough to forsake her old live, even leave her job with Emiya-“

    “Don’t remind me.”

    “- she deserves to have left behind more than a drunkard ex-cop who is unable to solve even a single case anymore.”

    I prayed to all the Gods that were willing to listen and to all those that refused- to shut him up before I ended up increasing the count of the graveyard’s residents by one. Be it because of some twist of fortune or the git had finally grown half a brain, Kotomine just kneeled before her tombstone, left a single figurine behind and once again vanished somewhere behind the veil of the rain.

    Yet again, I was the only one left at a shrine of the goddess, a shrine desecrated before it had even been built.

    And only the lone onyx figure of a hooded angel was there to keep me company in my vigil.


    A lone detective takes it upon himself to solve the murder of a young woman, willingly diving into the dangerous web of conspiracies weaved by the feuding mafia families. But after the truth is uncovered, will that city of sin be the same ever again?

  6. #6
    Guess Who's Watching... Aladar's Avatar
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    Default re: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

    Chapter IV:

    Following The Cherry Petal Trail


    The Narrows.

    The filthiest, nastiest most downtrodden and wretched part of a whole city built upon blood, lies and betrayals. It was the hive of the worst kinds of scumbags and lowlifes, where even some of the other gangs from the city feared to thread. While an outsider would have said that the Narrows, a maze of backstreets and run-down alleys that encircled the whole city, were like a pack of dirty hungry mutts that had trapped the prim and the proper, it was the other way around. The city of sin had the nasty habit of pushing out all its filth into the Narrows, both metaphorical and not. Like some kind of twisted urban version of the dark and gloomy forests from fairy-tales, the Narrows accepted those dregs of societies that even the other carrions from the city would despise. It was the Banished Land- where the gangs sent those of their members who got carried away just too much with slicing and dicing and the whole rape, pillage and burn shtick. It was the place for the kind of crooks who were into ‘playing’ with little children or too busy knifing their own mothers.

    Aye, one could easily say that when the toughest, nastiest, meanest bubs in the city had nightmares, they dreamt of being stuck in the Narrows.

    That was why it had been such a surprise when Sherwood had claimed the… neighbourhood as their base of operations. No self-respecting gang would even dare claim such a junkyard as their territory but I and many others had the sinking suspicion that the Greens had claimed it precisely because of what it was. After all, no matter how humiliated and frothing at the mouth with rage the mafia were, they would never even near a place so harsh on their prim and proper noses that were used only to the scent of different perfumes and most definitely not the stench of garbage.

    In a sense, by balancing on the rustiest of razor edges, the Merry Men wannabes had found the perfect hideout for when they needed to lay low after their umpteenth hit-and-run against some mafioso’s speakeasy.

    And while there was enough logic for me to believe why precisely they had chosen the place, there was not nearly enough of logic in the world for me to understand while one Shinji Matou would be sharing that particular hideout with the Sherwoods. I frankly didn’t know whether Ryuu had just been scared stiff enough to dig up some info so fast or he and his pals had just noticed them loitering around their territory beforehand. Either way, not even two days after I had… requested the toothless viper’s services, I found a very interesting letter in my mailbox. The handwriting was appalling and he had somehow deemed it necessary to omit the g-s at the end of most words and swap them with apostrophes even when he was writing the damn stuff, not saying it.

    Why precisely was a mystery I would probably never solve but what was important was that the… mockery of a letter, for the lack of better word, informed me that the Matou had been recently seen in the Narrows with five or so other lads his age.

    A rundown ruin of a bar, which maybe a hundred years ago had been a most respectful establishment, was pointed out as their usual hanging spot. The whole thing just raised my suspicions- for a blueblood mafia heir like Shinji to stoop so low as to prowl around the Narrows meant only two things.

    He was either very guilty or very scared.

    And that was how I found myself in front of the old smelly bar, with right hand buried in my pocket and clutching my trusty revolver tightly. Truth to be told I often forced myself to forget that it had been a present from Archer, the gunslinger that he was, for a birthday of mine years before.

    Always leave one empty when loading- for deception.

    That had been his suggestion as the best shot on the Force, both back then and now. But at that particular stifling night back in the Narrows, when even the grim clouds above were too damn stubborn to give us folks some cooling rain, I couldn’t help but ask myself why I hadn’t loaded all six bullets. I may have been a big predator, but even a hound like me wouldn’t have been much of a problem for the bigger packs of hyenas prowling around.

    Still, I had made a promise to the little goddess (and, in a sense, to Bazett) and there was no turning back.

    Not that I needed much of an encouragement really, considering the woman’s screams coming from within, loud enough to be picked up from three blocks away. It seemed that I wasn’t Shinji’s only guest that night but, most certainly, I was the only one crazy enough to be willingly there. The dilapidated double doors didn’t take much persuasion to open widely.

    One kick was enough.

    Fortunately, my grand entrance seemed to have gathered all the occupants’ attention. Along with the lad dressed in a somewhat dirtied purple suit, one probably expensive enough for an heir to a mafia family to wear, five other slimy gits were gathered around the pool table.

    Which, in and of itself, wasn’t a bad thing, if one was willing to leave the half-naked lass pinned down to said table out of the picture.

    And even without her pleading hazel eyes, bloodshot from all the tears, I still would’ve done what I was about to do. At least she didn’t seem to have let them get her easily. Most of the Matou’s goons sported swollen lips and bruised eyes. One’s mouth, noticeably missing several teeth, was still bleeding.

    “Now excuse me, lads,” I greeted and tipped my hat. “But I’ve to ask you to release that lass over there. And after you’ve scampered away from here to whatever shit-filled hiding hole you’ve crawled out from, I was hopping on having a little talk with Mr. Matou here.”

    For reasons unfathomable, they didn’t seem to be glad to see me. It was kind of a shock really.

    “Who the hell do ya think ya are, pops?” blurted out Bloody Mouth, finding some difficulty forming words with his bunch of missing teeth. Or maybe he was just daft like that. “You a copper or sumthin’? Well, too bad fer ya ‘cause the law ain’t got no place ‘ere in the Narrows.”

    “I’m a PI, folks, so I don’t see how that copper problem concern me,” I replied with a shrug. Inwardly I wondered who would be the first stupid enough to try something funny.

    The one who had been busy with ‘massaging’ the lass’s breasts up until then turned out to be the lucky one. With a loud and grating roar, he raised his fists and apparently thought he was tough enough to knock me out in one hit. It was a pathetic try, sloppy, uncoordinated attack. It was way too easy for me to grab hold of his wrist, break it and then use his own hand to pull him down. I didn’t even bother try to pass my expecting knee crashing into his face and probably breaking all of his teeth, plus the nose, as an accident.

    “I actually got kicked out of the Force, lads,” I said in deadpan and proceed to grind the bones inside the masseuse’s fingers into tiny little pieces with the sole of my shoe. No more massaging for him, I decided. “Some shit about police brutality, y’know how it happens. A lad gets frustrated easily when he sees a bunch of shits like you messing around with women, he gets angry, breaks a few dozen bones or so. And then the boss shows him the door. Now, that’s when I just get frustrated. If I get angry, angry for real-“

    I let them hear the crunch of his bones, snapping like twigs under my foot, to get my point across more easily.

    “-You better run, lads.”

    Shinji, probably thanks to all the private tutors his folks had most certainly paid a fortune to drill some sort of intelligence into his empty head, seemed to take my hint. The blue-haired lad put his hands up in the air and did the relatively smart thing of ordering his goons back. Looking at me as if I was nothing more than a dirty gum stuck to his snake-skin shoe, Shinji Matou plastered the greasiest of smiles on his face and tried negotiating.

    He would find later on that I was a big fan of negotiations. The aggressive kind, mostly.

    “Now, now, Mr. Detective, let us not be hasty. I and my boys here might have gotten a bit carried away with the dame but there’s no need for such brutal violence. You said you wanted to speak to me about something,” said the blue-haired lad and narrowed his beady little eyes at me. “What is it?”

    “It’s about the murder of your little sister, Mr. Matou. It seemed that she disappeared right after you two had a rather nasty argument the other night. And no one seems to have seen you ever since, too. Now, as a smart lad like you can tell, that’s rather incriminating. I’d be glad to hear what you’ve to say for yourself.”

    A cold laugh filled the dingy bar.

    “Oh, rest assured, Mr. Detective, I’m not some boorish… brute who’d kill his own blood,” said Shinji and sniggered. “I may have thought that… cheating whore I lesson on what happens when you betray the future patriarch of the family but to kill her? Never, Mr. Detective. I loved her, we’ve loved each other since childhood and then she’d go and cheat on me with my OWN FRIEND!”

    The Matou’s little speech was rapidly turning into a spoiled brat’s temper tantrum. He was nearly frothing at the mouth at the end.

    “Quite the interesting claims you have, Mr. Matou,” I said and lit up my cigarette. “But you have to admit that raping your own sister doesn’t particularly remove you as the top suspect. Go figure.”

    “You don’t seem to understand,” exclaimed Shinji and theatrically buried his face in his palm. “I could care less about who offed Sakura. What’s important is that whoever was the one that killed that backstabbing bitch, he was after the Matous. And I’m certain you would understand why I can’t let you leave this place, Mr. Detective, when there is someone out there targeting my family. My location is a rather… sensitive piece of information right now.”

    A beat passed.

    “Kill him.”

    The lad was apparently dead-set on giving me more and more reasons to bash his skull in, heir to the Matous or not. True, I may have gotten carried away for a moment, judging by how one of his goons had somehow managed to draw a gun before I could. Still, in a way that I couldn’t have predicated in a million years, things turned out fine.

    The knife that zipped past my ears gleefully embedded itself deep into the arm that was holding the pistol. A second blade followed soon after, catching the guy right between the eyes. Shinji excluded, three left.

    “The years catching up to you, Lancer, ole’ pal o’mine?”

    Tossing giddily into the air yet another knife, none other than Ryuunosuke Uryuu, or Plissken as he fancied himself as of recently, casually strolled into the rundown bar. There was not even a sign of the panicky lad that I had found fiddling with stolen cars no more than two days ago. It seemed that even without fangs, the viper could still bite.

    Not that I could complain, given the particular situation.

    “And what are you doing here, pup?” I asked while still keeping an eye on the rapidly-panicking goons who were still standing.

    “Well, we of Sherwood decided that we don’t want ‘em guys wandering ‘round our turf anymore. And I decided to volunteer, considering I knew that my man Lancer was going to be around sniffing as well.”

    “Don’t push your luck, pup,” I said and let out a hoarse, bark-like laugh. “And I thought you said you Sherwood folks were doing community services and stuff.”

    One of the goons decided to seize the unexisting opening and smash our heads open a billiard cue. A spectacularly idiotic move, considering that blood was gushing out of his throat before I could even squeeze the trigger. I may have never showed it, but deep down it almost scared me how light Ryuu was on his feet. The remaining two decided their sorry lives apparently were worth more money than Shinji could give them so they tried to scram out of the place as fast as they could.

    Courtesy of my gun, one received free ventilation for his head. Or whatever was left of it. The other got a shiny new switchblade between the shoulders.

    The Matou, seeing the tables turned around on him so fast, reverted to the sniveling worm that he was on the inside. However, crawling between the broken tables and trying to escape in the crossfire wasn’t the most ingenious of plans one could come up with. Soon enough, we were having a friendly chat over a barrel of rainwater. His head was mostly in the barrel, but still, I tried to be friendly. The majority of his teeth were mostly intact- I needed him to speak after all. I sent Ryuu back to escort the lass out of the Narrows and went out of my way to remind him how a gentleman should act.

    I could’ve taken him in for all the killing he did, but like one of Shinji’s mooks had said, the law had no place in the Narrows. So I like to think of it as poetic justice.

    “I told you I didn’t kill her!” almost shrieked out my reluctant ‘informant’ when I pulled him out for a breather. “I wouldn’t kill my own cousin, dammit! I loved her and we were blood, I told you!”

    “That water getting into your brain, lad? She was your little sister, remember?”

    “Like Hell! Uncle Kariya knocked up Tokiomi’s bitch way back when and took the baby in ‘cause the Tohsakas didn’t want her. And then he had to unofficially adopt me, or at least pretend to, ‘cause there was no way she’d succeed him as the head of the family. And that’s why Uncle and Tokiomi hated their guts that much, ‘cause of that Aoi bitch and Sakura!”

    For unfathomable reasons, my investigation was rapidly turning into a soap opera. I decided to let Shinji freshen up a bit more.

    “It must’ve been the Tohsakas that offed her, I’m telling you! They have all the motives! Not too long ago they tried hiring Emiya’s people to kill Uncle! We didn’t know why they decided to make their move so suddenly but we had paid a lot of money to Emiya beforehand to be on our side. So the Tohsakas didn’t know that they had just outright warned us by hiring his people. Emiya sent one of his elite goons to guard Uncle but he got the damn idea that they needed a decoy so he had that goon kill my own father and ditch him on the streets for the Tohsakas and the whole world to see! And then, after proclaiming that his ‘drunkard of a twin had finally done something useful’, the bastard went into hiding along with that new bodyguard of his!”

    It seemed that there was a whole bloody conspiracy behind all this, with me now playing the unnecessary intruder trying to sort out all the lies and secrets intertwined into one big messed-up web. Never let it be said that this hound’s life was easy. The fact that I would need to pay the Tohsaka household a visit later on filled me with rather… uncertain feelings considering a certain cat that prowled there.

    “Atta boy! Now, before I go, one last question…” I started before submerging the bastard’s head one last time.

    ***


    It was astounding how accurate information could a half-drowned man give you.

    His description of the place’s location was spot-on, down to the color of the old mailbox on the other side of the street. Which was quite useful, considering that despite the trade it dealt in, this particular establishment didn’t have a red light hanging above it to make recognition easier. And it was no wonder, considering the usual clientele that place must have handled. It may have been in Lowtown, the Cradle of Thieves and the territory of the majority of gangs in the city, but the interior was lavish enough to make even a senator be giddy to visit. And senators had probably most certainly visited that place, but they must had been giddy for other reasons, if my hunch was right.

    Good thing that Shinji had been gracious enough to lend me some money, too, because even with knowing the password (Ambrosia), it had taken one considerable greasing of palms for the guard to let someone like me in. The Madame, a stunning young woman with teal hair and somewhat pointy ears, was quite cheerful and welcoming at first. Alas, questioning my target apparently ranked as bad for her business for some reason. Again, thank the heavens for Shinji’s willingness to give away money. I ended up being forced to pay for a session so I could talk with this Rider woman.

    Even as I obediently followed the Madame down one of the side corridors, I was finding it increasingly hard to concentrate on the case. The piercing gaze of a blonde dressed up in a positively criminal schoolgirl outfit felt like peering right into my soul. The sway of the most stunning pair of hips, belonging to a dame in a Chinese quipao with a slit up almost to her breasts, were like hypnotizing. In a side room, a redhead and a raven-haired beauty, certainly too young to be in such a place- both of them dressed in little dresses seemingly from the last century yet showing enough skin to make you go mad- were intertwining their bodies in an endless dance of passion. And to a nose as trained as mine, the mixed aromas of perfumes and exotic aphrodisiacs filling the air were enough to push me on the verge of seeing in duplicate. The velvet voice of an unseen songstress performing a jazz version of some siren’s song seemed to come in from all directions. And from behind closed doors came moans of pleasure just loud enough to be heard over the music.

    The hound inside me howled in thanks to whatever god had led him to this heaven. The detective in me damned this hell, which had sent my reasoning spiraling down into oblivion.

    But no matter how strong a hold this world of lust had on me, it was all gone the second I set foot inside the room meant for me and my… companion for the night.

    Even to this day, maybe because I really had been half-drugged back then, I can’t accept nothing else than divinity as her origin.

    Her purple hair, almost the same color as the little goddess’s, was spread over the crimson sheets like silk over cheap satin. Every strand of it seemed to pick up the light pouring from the crystal chandelier above and sparkle like a little star each and every time she moved. A sound akin to that of snakes slithering through fallen leaves filled the room as she stood up from the bed oh-so-slowly. The velvet sheet couldn’t fall off her fast enough, instead hugging her curvaceous body tightly and sliding down bit by bit, as if jealous of revealing her body to anyone else. The way her chest- breasts of shape and size that could make even the little goddess green with envy- rose up with each of her wistful breaths drove me crazy. Despite the length of her lustrous hair, not even a strand dared hide the divine view from me. Her skin was like marble- as if someone had created a visage of Aphrodite herself in human form and then breathed life into it. And while she remained hidden from the waist down by those thrice-damned sheets, her eyes remained hidden as well. A silver blindfold hid them from view but to me it seemed even more maddening, as if it was left there to cover a part of her skin on purpose, while everything else was left for me to see.

    The ultimate of teases.

    Once again the sound of slithering snakes was heard- the sound of the chains shackling her to the bed being moved around.

    “And what does the good detective want with me, I wonder?” drawled out the beauty, her voice like velvet. The Madame had apparently warned her about me beforehand.

    I’m yet to determine how exactly I managed to snap out of my trance, but the detective inside me somehow managed to reply on time.

    “I heard that you were quite close to Sakura Matou. Sadly, as you probably know from the papers already, some freak decided to end her life prematurely. I was wondering if you could help me with the investigation.”

    A wistful look passed over the goddess’s features, even if only for a mere moment. Lying back on the bed, she turned to face me and answered.

    “It’s true that Sakura and I had a… special connection. She was like a collector, someone longing to savor the pleasures of flesh. Like me. Between the two of us, we could share ecstasy like none that any other man or woman could give us.”

    A lithe hand cupped her firm breast before sliding down beneath the sheets in search of a certain area between her thighs. Once again the sound of slithering snakes could be heard and the way she arched her back and moaned quietly, biting down on her lower lip, drove a deep wedge in my defense lines. By that time I was certain that not only the case, but my sanity, too, was hinging on my mental fortitude.

    “And during all your… sessions, did she mentioning something troubling her? Someone that could want to see her, let’s say, in bad health?” I asked.

    The ruby lips curved into a smile.

    “You aren’t just some ordinary sleuth to have come all the way here, are you, Detective?” asked the goddess as she slid out from beneath the sheets, drawing close to me like a snake nearing her helpless pray. The chains stopped her advance a mere meter before she could finally reach me and she was left standing there in all her naked glory.

    “Let’s say that I’d like nothing more than see this case solved and the murderer caught. A personal interest, lass, if you could call it that.”

    “Oh?”was her only answer. Deep in thought, the goddess of lust pondered something for a minute before deciding to give me a chance. “Aside from her no-good cousin, whom she knew was too scared of her father to hurt her seriously, there was one other not particularly fond of her affair with Shirou Emiya. Another girl, a cruel and vicious girl who didn’t shy from showing her hate to Sakura when they happened to be alone, was infatuated with the boy. And I can’t help but wonder, Detective, are you brave enough to walk into the Einzbern’s castle and demand to question their daughter, Illyasviel von Eizbern, about this case. Will you cave in before the might of one of the three families?”

    I had already shot down the advances of the Tohsaka’s scion and had half-drowned the future patriarch of the Matous. What was one more to get a full set?

    “Oh, rest assured. That’s a triviality to me,” I replied with a shrug. I knew what I was getting into from the moment I picked up that case.

    Or at least I thought I did.

    I was about to turn to leave when her velvet voice froze me on the spot.

    “I’ve been so dreadfully lonely ever since Sakura can’t visit me. And I think, Detective, that you can only gain a better understanding of my late lover if you taste the nectar of the gods she has tasted, if you life through all the heavens of pleasure she has experienced so many times.”

    An extended hand was waiting for me when I turned back to face her.

    “Quite poetic, eh, lass? Is there even a single person in this world who can keep such a promise?”

    “Oh, Detective,” she drawled. “Do not mistake my honesty with being boastful.”

    Her lips were parted oh-so-invitingly, colored a deep crimson, like a blossoming rose.

    And who was this hound to refuse a lady?


    A lone detective takes it upon himself to solve the murder of a young woman, willingly diving into the dangerous web of conspiracies weaved by the feuding mafia families. But after the truth is uncovered, will that city of sin be the same ever again?

  7. #7
    Guess Who's Watching... Aladar's Avatar
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    Default re: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

    Chapter V:

    A Winter Fairy’s Wonderland


    It felt like a dream.

    Like one of those twisted kind of dreams you got after mixing up every brand of alcohol there is in the bar and then adding something extra special to the mix to make things even better.

    True, my vision wasn’t flashing in a nonsensical array of all the rainbow’s colors and there was a noticeable lack of midget dragons so far. And yet the whole thing felt so surreal… like a world from across the looking glass. It was a grim and gritty castle from the outside, a proud relic of a forgotten past still stubbornly refusing to let go of this world and just dilapidate. The gargoyles perching atop the front gate had welcomed me with looks akin to those of birds of prey eyeing a teensy-tiny mouse. And the hound had been forced to pick up his pace, like a scared pup scurrying away from chasing predators. Dozens of more devilish beasts were lined up onto the castle’s walls.

    Forever watching. Ever vigilant.

    They were the silent guardians of the equally silent keep, as much a part of it as they were individuals. And their piercing glares warned me of what possible repercussions awaited me if I dared disturb the piece in their century-old home. Aye, the castle of the Einzberns was the finishing touch to this city of sins. Like in a set in a cheap crossover between villain franchises, the castle served as the proverbial Dracula’s hideout, neighboring a city of blood-thirsty Tommy gun-wielding gangsters. Somehow, it both managed to look so out of place next to the urban metropolis and seemed to be a vital part of it as much as any of the giants of glass and metal that made up the city itself.

    An unholy matrimony, if you could call it one.

    When I had knocked on the main entrance I felt like I had been calling the devil himself to greet me. Or, considering what kind of people lived in this city of sins, I thought probably someone even worse would show up on the doorstep. A pair of double-doors towered over me as if to warn me that the ancient building could eat me whole at any moment, perhaps leaving my old fedora behind as a memory to the old hound that had found his untimely death there. And, indeed, the doors opened up in a manner similar of a great beast yawning widely, seemingly getting ready to swallow his unsuspecting prey.

    The man who had greeted me I had taken for Frankenstein’s bastard child with some of the uglier hookers prowling around the city. The man’s proportions defied natural laws, and like an unholy mix between a bear and a man, he towered over me in a way a full-grown man would tower over a small child. The arms that had pushed open the heavy doors were as thick as tree trunks and his legs were like two concrete pillars cut short and stuck beneath a human-sized building. The wild unkempt hair falling down his shoulders and his dark skin made him look like one of those wildling people out of the latest Lost World movie. He truly was a fearsome sight.

    Or he would’ve been, if not for the immaculate suit that he was dressed in. Three grown men could’ve probably gotten into his clothes and there would still have been plenty of room for more. For a moment back then, all I could think of had been what kind of tailor could make a suit so gigantic. And then I had remembered my purpose of visiting that God-forsaken place at all.

    “Excuse me, I’m Private Investigator Set Lancer,” I had said and tipped my fedora at the hulking man in a vain attempt to appeal to him. “I called earlier and Miss Einzbern agreed to meet with me tonight.”

    What he had thought of me had been made abundantly clear back then. The way his beady eyes had glared at me and the low growl that had come out of the back of his throat had truly told me more than any words could have ever said. But despite obviously disliking his orders, the hulking man had allowed me to enter the lavish castle. I faintly remember having heard the roar of thunder outside when the double doors had ominously closed behind me, an omen of the most clichéd of kinds.

    And then the gigantic butler had directed me to a small hall on the first floor, the place where the strange dream actually began.

    While the outside of the castle was grimly stereotypical in its own way and the main hall was lavish and grandeur enough to have been taken out of some king or queen’s own home, the room I was now seemed to defy logic.

    The archaic room, sporting a far ceiling high enough to make a man feel like a little pup, housed both regal furniture and things that one could only find in a child’s room. Noble crimson overlapped with girly pink in a surreal way that made me think I was currently stuck in two worlds, not one. An imposing round table was positioned in the center of the room, surrounded both by little toy chairs and heavily-ornamented antique ones, towering over their smaller counterparts. On the table itself the picture was similar- expensive silverware and china cups shared space with tiny forks and knives out of a child’s playing set. Positioned on the chairs, both big and small, was an assortment of dolls and plush toys varying in shapes and sizes.

    The whole situation felt… wrong.

    In this reception hall obviously meant only for the rich and those of noble birth, dolls and plushies and toys littered the floor, some comically small, some big enough to make me think that maybe I had been the one that had shrunk upon entering.

    Aye, that world was a Wonderland.

    And in the most regal of the armchairs that were currently surrounding the table, stood the mistress of this realm. A tiny and pale, almost fragile thing dressed in a queenly outfit of purple and white. Her seemingly innocent red eyes were currently drilling a hole straight into my naked soul and the way her snow-white hair flickered under the artificial light made her seem like a snow fairy. Or rather, that girl was a snow fairy- and that strange hall was the throne room of her kingdom.

    “Please, Mr. Lancer,” she said with an innocent child-like voice. “Take a seat.”

    I complied, carefully moving away a teddy bear almost as big as me away so I could take the seat across of her. Plus, that was also the nearest normal chair in the room. The little pixie hadn’t boggled this old hound’s mind nearly enough for him to make him sit in a doll’s chair!

    “Earlier, when you phoned, you said you wanted to talk about the murder of Sakura Matou,” the white fairy said as she carefully sipped tea with her dainty hands.

    A wave of guilt suddenly washed over me, like the ocean usually overwhelmed those annoying surfers that always visited the city during the summer. Who was I to dirty this little pixie’s kingdom with the corruption of the real world outside?

    “Well, it’s okay if you don’t want to ta-“ I began, almost ready to just give up on that particular suspect right then and there.

    ‘A cruel and vicious girl’? What had the goddess of lust had been thinking when she told me that? The Snow Princess in front of me was but a chi-

    “Oh, I have no problem with talking about it, I assure you,” she cut me off and handed me over a china cup filled with hot tea. “I’m just glad that the little… witch got her just desserts.”

    Like that time back on the Babylon’s balcony, I felt like my world broke down around me and scattered in a rain of tiny shards of glass. I was almost willing to swear that I had heard her wrong but there was no mistaking that steel gaze and the harshness of that almost child-like voice. First the little goddess and now this winter pixie? Aye, there truly was no innocence left in this crapsack world.

    “Isn’t this a bit harsh?” I asked and raised an eyebrow. I was now frankly too scared to drink of the tea, in case it had been poisoned.

    And while many would have said that the paranoia was finally catching up to me after all these years, I’d like to inform you that even if the hulking butler had burst into the room right then in there, in naught but a loincloth, and challenged me to a wrestling match, I would have shrugged and considered it more realistic than the behavior of the white princess in front of me.

    “Not even a bit, Mr. Detective,” she countered and took a sip off her tea. “That vile woman tried stealing my only love from me. And Shirou changed after he started going out with her. Every time they met at the Babylon he would come home dizzy and with bloodshot eyes. And while he had always been somewhat… heroic, after he met her he started blurting those ridiculous ‘Hero of Justice’ theories more and more. I didn’t like this new Shirou,” muttered the girl and hid her crimson eyes behind her snow-white bangs. “It was like he was speaking more of vengeance than of justice. She changed him and took him from me!”

    So that tricky rascal had started getting more passionate about his ideals? True, that blond bastard at the Babylon had mentioned the boy being the idealistic type but it seemed that he his goals had turned somewhat more realistic if he had been considering revenge. But for what? And for who?

    There was the possibility that Shirou had uncovered something even shadier than usual and whoever wanted it kept under wraps had killed the lad’s girl as a warning. But wouldn’t that have served only to give him more reasons to fight? It made no sense and I could just feel how I was slowly, but surely, losing the thread I had to chase.

    “Miss Einzbern,” I said, more to earn time to think than anything else. “You do realize that talking in such a way can make you a suspect, right? After all, your family has much to earn from any disturbance in the Matou household.”

    “There was no need for my family to harm Sakura, no matter how much I wanted to,” replied the white-haired girl with a wistful sigh. “Kariya Matou already signed over all his lands and virtually anything that came with them over to us weeks ago.”

    “What?” was the only rational thing to say that I came up with.

    “Mr. Kariya was under the assumption that he was going to… how do you commoners say it? Ah, yes! Pull one over the Tohsakas by hiring Heaven’s Fell beforehand. But he didn’t know that Kiritsugu was actually working for us Einzberns all along. After scapegoating his own twin brother, Kariya was abducted by his own bodyguard and brought there. After some… persuasion he signed all the needed papers. Now it’s only a matter of time until we completely chase off the tattered remains of the Matous. And then attacking the Tohsakas from both sides would be easy.”

    So Kiritsugu had pretended to be working for the Matous while pretending to be working for the Tohsakas while actually being on the Einzbern’s side all along? Dear God, I was going to need a flowchart if this kept going any further.

    “Why would he do it, tho?” I asked and carefully studied my host for any suspicious reactions. “Heaven’s Feel earns so much money precisely because Kiritsugu gladly works for any side and can force them to pay more and more lest someone else hires him. Or at least that’s the word on the street.”

    “Oh, Daddy didn’t take any money from us,” cheerfully quipped the girl. The sound of shattered porcelain echoed in the spacious room when I dropped my cup of tea.

    “You see, Mr. Lancer, Kiritsugu Emiya was originally hired as a mercenary by my family several decades ago, during the last vicious war between the three families. He fell in love with my mother and they lived happily for quite some time together but, alas, he failed to protect her in the end. It was my father’s love for my late mother that drove him to create Heaven’s Fell and play all three sides for years, biding his time to avenge my mother and repay his debts to my family.”

    The dream… the dream was getting way to surreal for my tastes. How deeper could that proverbial rapid hole actually get?

    “It’s scary, isn’t it, Mr. Lancer,” cryptically said the girl, refusing to look me in the eyes. “How strong a power love has.”

    “Why now?” was all I could mutter.

    “Someone else stared all of this. Tokiomi Tohsaka originally hired one of Daddy’s men only as a bodyguard. But Mr. Kojiro failed in his duties and one morning around a month ago the patriarch of the Tohsaka’s was found in his own bedroom, nailed to the wall and with his heart noticeably missing. Thinking that the hit was ordered by the Matous, the heir of the Tohsaka’s hired another of Daddy’s people to kill Kariya. But instead, Lancelot brought him to us.”

    I felt like a gaping hole had suddenly opened up beneath my chair and had devoured me whole. So there had been another similar murder even before the little goddess? And since it apparently wasn’t neither of the three families then… the Yakuza? And while I understood that losing the head of the family was a big enough blunder for the Tohsakas to try and cover it up, why hadn’t the Einzberns exploited it when they explicitly knew? That question was quickly answered by the little pixie.

    “Oh, we tried. But no matter how outrageous bribes we paid, the police kept on insisting that there was nothing and refused to make a big, embarrassing for the Tohsakas investigation.”

    Why would someone at the station cover it up? Unless…

    Archer apparently wasn’t the by-the-book cop he wanted everyone to believe him to be. It seemed like when push came to shove, he had chosen his little girlfriend over the law.

    “Why are you telling me all this?” I asked and glared at the white pixie. “With this much clues it won’t be very hard to gather incriminating evidence against your father.”

    “Because I want him caught,” replied the white-haired girl and shrugged. “No matter how much I tell him Shirou and I aren’t blood related, he is adopted after all, Daddy just keeps on insisting that he won’t let his family turn into the incestuous wreck that were the Matous. But if he ends up out of the picture… well, no one to hold back Shirou and me now that Sakura is dead as well.”

    She was mad. She was stark raving mad and now I was sure that she was no ordinary winter fairy. She was of the fair folk that Ma had told me about, the ones who lived back in Ireland. Ephemeral and mysterious, they tricked people and led them to their deaths or enslaved them with binding contracts built upon sweet words and false reassurances. Tricksters that were so distant from humanity that they didn’t even know that what they were doing is wrong.

    Just like the little winter fairy in front of me.

    “It scares you, doesn’t it, Mr. Lancer?” she echoed her earlier words. “The things one would do for love. And yet I can’t help but wonder, is love driving your own actions as well? Are you taking on this whole world of darkness and sins only because of the love that stubbornly refuses to leave your wretched little heart?”

    My knuckles paled as I clenched my fists. I tried to ignore the girl’s words, to cast them away as the ramblings of a madwoman who just tried to find some flimsy excuse for her actions and yet… what were the reasons I had decided good enough to throw my life away just to solve that case?

    No… I had no life to throw away anymore. What life I had had was gone the minute Bazett left his world. But it was going to be a snow day in hell before I admitted to the little pixie how right she was.

    “And what about the one guarding Tokiomi? Did he see the killer?” I asked, trying to steer the conversation into safer waters.

    “Well, what I’m telling you I’ve heard from Shirou… as far as I know Mr. Kojiro is now investigating in the Yakuza’s territory because he thinks the culprit must be one of their people. He is a bit of an… overzealous workaholic and honor means everything to him, so Mr. Kojiro refused to let anyone stop him from investigating. He was very ashamed when the man in his care ended up dead.”

    Another name, another clue. And as I finally sat up and left behind the snow fairy’s Wonderland, I couldn’t help but ask myself if that spider web of lies was actually solvable at all.

    ***


    The taxi driver didn’t even wait for me to get out of the car completely before he stormed off to somewhere far away.

    And it wasn’t like I could blame the poor lad. Yakuza territory was a part of the city where only two kinds of people visited. Those with a death wish and those that had business with the Tigers. And since there was this sinking feeling inside me that they wouldn’t appreciate someone barging into their home and accusing them of murder, I clutched tightly the revolver in my coat’s pocket. Their base of operations was an old Japanese style mansion, positioned dead-center in their turf. Like a giant beehive from where those busy bees clad, in their signature black-and-yellow striped colors, flew off and struck fear into the hearts of the citizens. The trip to said mansion proved to be less than pleasant… or maybe I was just getting picky.

    The never-ending cascade of raindrops was like a barrage of Heaven-sent tiny bullets, courtesy of all the angels apparently deciding to mock me collectively. Whoever was in charge of the wind in this damned city seemed to also have some bone to pick with me, because the incoming onslaught of howling air currents was cold enough to make me shiver in my heavy trench coat. Not to mention that I was surrounded by just the most idyllic of sceneries. There was no soul left on the streets, be it alive, dead or in a state in-between. I could hear dozens upon dozens of doors being locked and windows being slammed tightly shut as I walked down the main street. Contrary to what some of you might think, it didn’t take a nuclear genius to figure out I wasn’t the most welcome of lad there. Makes you wonder why, with my sunny demeanor, right?

    Aye, in such flowery weather conditions and after such a heartwarming welcome, it must’ve been me just getting picky.

    And, as if to taunt me how my whole life seemed to have turned into a excerpt from some crappy detective novel as of late, the gods provided me with a gracious bolt of lightning that split the gloomy skies in two just as arrived at my destination.

    Where once had probably stood a tall gate, now lay only pieces of wood and metal, as if the whole door had been practically cheese-grated into oblivion. Almost literal rivers of blood mixed and mingled with the rainwater running down the dirty pavement, coloring it into the most distinct of hues to any man familiar with death.

    A deep crimson, like a blossoming rose.

    Despite my instincts screaming at me to turn tail and run, I pushed forward. A bold, yet stupid move. One that could have easily cost my life back then. Dozens upon dozens of bodies (or just scattered cleanly-cut off parts of them) littered the garden in the front courtyard. The gravel beneath my feet was decorated with enough cartridges to almost hide itself completely from view. It was like the whole bloody army had stormed the place, tanks included. Following the trail of wanton death and destruction, like a hound sniffing after a bigger predator in hope it had been already hurt, I moved into the inner courtyard.

    Two men stood there, facing off one another like two cowboys taken out of some cheesy spaghetti western. Not that they seemed fazed by their utter lack of originality.

    In fact, one of them looked too scared to even stand upright. He was literally shaking into his boots, wielding two revolvers which were closer in size to small cannons than handguns. The intricate tiger tattoo covering his shirtless torso was enough of a hint to his allegiance.

    The man opposing him was a different story entirely. He looked more concerned about the state of his expensive suit, one perfectly identical to those of Emiya’s people, than with the armed brute in front of him. A particularly long katana was held limply in the suit-wearing lad’s right hand. It actually took some time for me to identify him as a man- the lad didn’t have the manliest of features and the waist-long ponytail he had tied his blue hair into didn’t help matters either. Go figure why. From the tip of his blade, glistening under whatever moonlight managed to break through the clouds, dripped drop after drop of fresh blood.

    It seemed that I had stumbled upon Mr. Kojiro, if a tad too late, considering that he was apparently mid-way through his one-person war against the Fujimuras. Did that mean they were the culprits or was that lad actually daft enough to barge in like that just to question them?

    “Make no mistake, whelp,” calmly said Kojiro to his quivering opponent, despite the fact that the other man was twice as wide as him. “I usually don’t make a habit of staining my blade with the filthy blood of your kind, but this is a special case. As I told many of your brainless comrades, this can all end relatively peacefully if you just call out your leader. Understood?”

    It didn’t seem that his words had gotten through to the other guy. Or maybe shooting off both his guns at once was his opponent’s queer way of agreeing. And despite the fact that there were two bullets big enough to blow his head clean off currently speeding towards him, Kojiro didn’t seem to be phased in the least. The man just steadily leveled his sword with his shoulders in an instant and positioned his left hand along it, presumably to guide the next hit.

    What happened next, I still find almost impossible to believe to this day.

    The samurai thrust his sword forward- but instead of one, three different blades seemed to slice through the thick veil of the rain. Time slowed down to a crawl, even if but barely and for an instant- but enough for me to see the clear lines in the rain through which one could trace the path of his sword. And then time sped back up, just as quickly.

    The katana was plunged to its very hilt into the unfortunate Tiger’s chest, as if using him as a macabre sheath that was several sizes too small to fit. Four distinct echoes filled the air, chasing away the sound of splattering raindrops even if only for a mere moment. The cleanly sliced remains of the two bullets lay on the bloody ground, completely useless.

    And then, just as the samurai withdrew his sword from its human sheath, the door leading into the main house burst into splinters. A black-and-yellow blur erupted out of it, like a bullet out of a Magnum’s barrel, and landed with a crash right where Kojiro had been mere seconds ago.

    It was a woman, one unlike I had ever seen and. And, losing his touch or not, this hound had seen many a woman- dressed or otherwise- during his life. The one with the short auburn hair and the tiger-striped kimono was an exception. And it didn’t even surprise me when her otherwise effeminate voice came out sounding more like a certain feline predator’s roar.

    “WHO DARES TRESSPASS INTO THE TIGER’S DEN?!”

    And as I watched the small, almost disturbingly cutesy, tiger figurine hanging off the base of her wooden sword, I came to realize one very important fact. Before me was the Mother of All Tigers, Taiga Fujimura herself. The woman no man had laid eyes upon whilst armed and lived to tell the tale.

    Aye, if I didn’t die, I decided that I was surely going to hire some poor lad to write me a biography.


    A lone detective takes it upon himself to solve the murder of a young woman, willingly diving into the dangerous web of conspiracies weaved by the feuding mafia families. But after the truth is uncovered, will that city of sin be the same ever again?

  8. #8
    Guess Who's Watching... Aladar's Avatar
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    Default re: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

    Chapter VI:

    A Shinigami’s Requiem


    It was a clash between titans.

    Either that or all that drinking had finally gotten around to turning my brain into a rotten puddle of flesh. What I was seeing was unbelievable, utterly impossible and, in more than a few ways, as weird as all nine hells combined together. The clouds far above had moved out of the way as if on purpose, letting the moonlight shine upon the two duelists like some extra-large natural spotlight illuminating the boxing match of the century.

    The major differences being that not gloved fists but swords were the combatants’ weapons of choice and the total lack of an audience save for one wide-eyed hound who was currently wondering if that tea he had drunk at the Einzbern castle had really being spiked after all. Well, there was quite the assortment of bodies, dead or in the process of dying, that littered the courtyard but they had other stuff to do than watch the duel of epic proportions that was currently taking part.

    In a queer combination of gender-reversed roles, the man was the one whose movements were fluid and graceful. Kojiro’s katana cut long curved traces through the veil of the rain as he advanced towards his opponent like a human-sized buzzsaw of death. The sheer speed of his blade made a constant trail of droplets of rain and blood follow it wherever it went, creating an interweaving web of crimson around the sword’s wielder. His opponent however, the infamous Mistress of Tigers, employed a style more akin to a thug trying to smash someone’s head in with a steal pipe. And yet that demon of a woman was fast enough to avoid or counter each and every swipe that came at her, despite the clear disadvantage of fighting with nothing more than a training sword. Her strikes were like thunder- they split apart the air like a knife tearing through a curtain and every time her opponent managed to dodge, a spider-web of cracks was left on the ground when the wooden sword connected.

    It was like I didn’t even exist for them. All they could probably see in their mind’s eyes was each other, sword in hand and just waiting for an opening to sneak in the decisive blow.

    Kojiro apparently deemed the Tigress way too strong to fight with conventional means because he took a desperate leap backwards, his feet sliding on the wet ground before he skidded to a halt. He tried to hide it, but in such a tense atmosphere one could easily sense his haggard breathing. Deciding to go all-out, Kojiro tried leveling his sword with his shoulders and probably executing that utterly impossible move once again. But the Tigress easily saw through his movements, probably having expected something like this for a long time. She covered the significant distance between them before I could even blink. Kojiro found himself forced to drop his stance and defend himself, lest he wanted a ventilation shaft added to his head.

    For a moment there I thought that Lady Luck had decided to smile upon the man. The wooden sword finally reached its limits, snapping in half after it connected with the katana. But instead of panicking, the Tigress flashed a sharp-teethed smirk. She moved in her opponent’s blind spot in the blink of an eye, pushing her back to Kojiro’s.

    And then, even to a complete amateur like me who’s most intricate knowledge of sword fighting consisted of knowing that Japanese swords were called katanas, it was obvious that the victor would be the one to turn around first. Both of them swirled like a dervish, keeping their back pressed to each other and trying to be fast enough to get in an advantages position for their weapons to strike. But Kojiro had the disadvantage of wielding a katana taller than the average man while the Tigress’s weapon was now nothing but a wooden stake with a fancy handle.

    The outcome was painfully clear and everyone present knew it. Soon enough, with the signature sound of flesh getting pierced and bones being snapped or pushed out of the way, the wooden stake found itself embed deeply into Kojiro. The one thing saving the man being that it was his left hand getting pierced and not his heart. He was apparently skilled enough to have moved it into the stake’s path before it had been too late. His own sword was pressed against the Tigress’s slender throat, droplets of blood stemming out of the tiny cut and running down the glistening blade.

    “A draw,” declared Taiga with no small amount of surprise in her voice, echoing my own thoughts.

    “You had nothing but a bokkuto,” replied Kojiro with an even voice but one could tell how ashamed he was even while he still kept that stoic expression on his face. “But could I even hope for more against the Tigress herself?”

    “Good!” declared Taiga loud enough to have probably woken up some of her dead comrades. “And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve another guest to take care of. One who was polite enough not to cut my door into chopsticks and butcher my men when he entered.”

    Behind her Kojiro shrugged and muttered something sounding like ‘They wouldn’t let me talk with you’ but my main concern back then was the steely gaze that the Tigress had pierced me with.

    ***


    “And that’s how I reached the conclusion that the only possible culprit save for a random serial killer must be one of your people,” concluded Kojiro, finally finishing the rather lengthy tale of his own investigation.

    All I could do was stare and nod profusely. After all, it took some time getting used to sharing a table with the Tigress herself and another sword-wielding contract killer to boot. Only the rather slurping sound of a certain someone drinking tea could have been heard in the Japanese style room, as our hostess was currently drowning herself in the famous Easter refreshment with the gracefulness of a very polite gorilla. The two hulking men standing guard at the door didn’t take it very kindly to have us as guests. Or rather, they were more concerned about Kojiro, judging by their frightened glares and the way they were playing nervously with the handles of their own katanas.

    “So, after listening to both you dames’ fancy tales,” said Taiga and slammed down her cup on the table. “I can only conclude that the culprit must have been one of the Black Angels!”

    The above statement only cemented my opinion of the woman. A demon of a fighter she sure was, but there was probably nothing more than air and spider webs in that hard head of hers. Hell, forget about the spiders- there was surely nothing edible inside there for them to survive. And since we all knew there was no gang with such a weird name, there was only one other implication about that moniker. And I didn’t find it hard to dismiss any supernatural culprits. That just wasn’t how it was in the real world. Aside from the apparent existence of Frankenstein’s monster that is- the Einzbern’s butler was proof enough as it was.

    “Could you please… elaborate, Taiga-dono,” finally said Kojiro, obviously way too polite to tell his real opinion on the matter to his rather gracious host. She had welcomed him in her home and made a pretty Japanese girl tend to his wounded hand after all. If I was the hypothetical crime lord that had gotten his own home attacked and had so many of his people sliced and diced in more pieces than a nuclear physicist could count, I would’ve suspended him into a vat full of sharks or something. And the vat would’ve been full with acid. Don’t ask how the sharks could survive inside.

    “Well, the descriptions are quite similar, aren’t they?” replied our hostess and once again took a rather loud sip off her tea. “You said the culprit was dressed in a black cloak and wearing a skull-shaped mask, right? My men have reported several times of seeing strange shadows, darker than the night itself, prowling around our territory. And then someone always disappeared, only to be found all cut up some time later. And the few survivors who were still sane enough to talk could only scream of the skull with empty eyes that seemed to peer straight into their souls. Or something like that, they were rather crazy when they reported.”

    How someone so nonchalant could have a leadership position in an organization like the Yakuza is still a mystery to me to this very day.

    “Nonetheless,” countered Kojiro, a bit more harshly this time. “The one I fought was surely human. Insanely fast and strong, yes, but still human nonetheless. No Shinigami I’ve heard of could bleed. This one did and that certainly means it’s killable like any other man. Meaning, it is a man,” repeated the blue-haired lad rather redundantly, as if making sure our hostess could warp her mind around the concept.

    “A man with a robotic arm that can stretch to double its length and tear your heart out like it’s nothing,” echoed Taiga Kojiro’s earlier words and sent him a winning smirk. “But no one has said you can’t be right, Sasaki-kun. Until proof can be delivered, there is no one that can say which of the two is the right answer and so, both truths can be true at the same time. If, say, I was holding a marble in my hand and I tell you it’s red and you claim it’s white, the marble would currently exist in both colors until one of us is proven clearly wrong. In that hypothetical situation, proof would be me opening my hand. And if we can unmask one of the Black Angels…”

    Well, that was rather… elaborate.

    “And what do you think, Lancer-kun?” suddenly asked me Taiga and shifted her piercing gaze towards me. “You’ve been rather quiet as of late. Are our paranormal mysteries too convoluted for you to understand, hm?”

    My mind struggled the come up with some elaborate answer, the hound desperate to save face before the tiger. The cogs inside my head were moving as fast as possible but sadly, not ink but only copious amounts of alcohol had greased them as of late. So, my last solution was to try and steal from a colleague, hoping that his angry ghost wouldn’t haunt me from beyond the grave for plagiarism.

    "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

    “Knox’s second, Lancer-kun?” asked Taiga in reply, obviously seeing through my erudite façade.

    “Excuse me?” was all I could mutter.

    “All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course,” replied Kojiro but seemed all too keen of reminding Taiga that we were dealing with real life and not some fancy-shmancy badly-written detective story.

    But even after all those complicated discussions and abundant amount of wise quotes, the hound left the tiger’s den as close to revealing the mystery as he had been when he had entered…

    ***


    The rapidly melting remains of the ice cubes that floated in the glass full of whiskey were a rather apt metaphor for my current situation. Just like cubes, I had more than a couple of leads. Good, seemingly solid ones- that had the most annoying habit of melting into nothingness every time I tried to actually use them. The trail had gone colder than most of the graveyard’s residents- so this hound had been forced to retrace his steps to his dingy doghouse and try to make something of the whole clusterfuck of conspiracies that surrounded him.

    After several hours, even the whiskey wasn’t enough to fight off the impending headache. I had left the almost full cup, a temptress like no other, just standing on the desk. I promised to myself that I’ll drink it only when that light bulb of ideas finally decided to light up in my head. But all my head could actually feel was a constant throbbing that reminded me of one rather nasty bar fight when I had ended up taking several steel pipes to the head. It seemed that I was going to be relatively sober for quite a few nights to come, judging by the current situation.

    It was like a puzzle straight out of them cheesy TV shows. You answer one question, you get two more. It was like there was no answer at all and the little goddess had just decided to nail herself to the wall herself but not before taking out her own heart and probably burying it in the backyard. Or everyone in this damned city was working against me, all of them accomplices in the same crime. Which, frankly, I wouldn’t have put behind the residents of my beloved hometown. Aye, there was no place like home. Only here they could knife you in broad daylight and the onlookers will just try to salvage whatever you had on you after the killer goes off on his merry way.

    The Einzberns didn’t seem to have any reasons to have killed her now that they practically owned the Matous. Sakura’s idiotic jerk of a cousin was too much of a pussy to actually kill her and even if he had, there was no way in hell he could whip up something so elaborate. And if little innocent lady Einzbern was to be believed, the Tohsakas were out as well, given that they operated solely using Kiritsugu’s people. And had Emiya been behind it all along, just to spark a war between Tokiomi’s heir and the Matous, he would have never let someone as dangerous as Sasaki Kojiro to investigate the unknown assassin. And even if Kiritsugu had decided that his heir apparent falling in love with the enemy’s daughter wasn’t a good idea, he was too much of a mastermind to kill her in any way that can even remotely be traced back to him.

    All those conclusions had let both me and Kojiro to believe the Yakuza had been the culprits. But the samurai had admitted himself that even if he was to take Taiga’s words with a grain of salt, the real culprit was apparently strong enough to beat him in a straight fight. He would have never let him get away scot free with the butchering of so many fellow Yakuza. I found it hard to believe that anyone could actually measure up, much less surpass someone like Kojiro or the Tigress in a battle. But the samurai had claimed that the assassin had managed to deflect even his strongest realty-defying move, a feat Kojiro claimed to have been achieved only once before and the person in question was long death. The look he had shot at me had been a strange one indeed but I had just dismissed it as an unspoken question on whether I’ve heard of someone good enough to do that.

    The one lead I had left was flimsy at best and utter bullshit if I looked at it objectively. However you tried to word it, a supernatural bunch of wierdos with skull masks and black robes didn’t particularly sound convincing in court or anywhere else for that matter. And though the assassin may have used such a ridiculous disguise even his ‘robotic’ arm didn’t mean he was some fairy-tale villain. Prosthetics were more than advanced these days and I was fairly sure that Touko had probably tried making one that could be used as a weapon already- the lass was crazy as that.

    After making a mental note of paying her a visit the day after to ask her about who else could’ve built one advanced enough, I finally succumbed to temptation and emptied the waiting glass of whiskey. It was far too warm for my tastes, the ice having melted probably an hour ago. I decided to finally get back to my own apartment, having neglected that particular borough for several nights already. Sleeping had become somewhat of a luxury as of late and I had the feeling that maybe, just maybe, this whole clusterfuck would become a bit clearer after a good night’s sleep.

    Sleep didn’t come easy for me that night. The barrage of raindrops pouring down from the skies assaulted the window with the fervor of a conquering army. As if to spite the raging storm outside the air inside was stifling and as dry as a drunkard’s throat straight outta night shift. I wasn’t helping matters much either. The all-too familiar sense of paranoia from years before was back and I had chosen to sleep on the worn-out couch on purpose, to keep myself awake enough to notice if someone barged inside and tried to off me while I slept. Having a revolver as heavy as a small hand cannon hidden under my pillow didn’t make it any more comfortable either.

    All in all, I was stuck in that strange state between being half-asleep, half-awake, very tired and a hundred and ten percent drunk out of my mind. It was on nights like those that I thought that Ma must have given birth to a mutant. No ordinary human liver should’ve been able to dissolve that much whiskey. But on that particular night the super-human capacities of my internal organs weren’t exactly the main topic loitering around in my semi-working brain. Or whatever the hell I had in my head that hurt me so much.

    No, unconsciously, because of my signature canine instincts, my detective senses tingling, because of fate itself or just ‘cause I should’ve finally went to have a doc see me, I was waiting for someone. I was waiting and yet I didn’t know for whom. But whether it was the creep who would cut off a woman’s arm and poison her or the one who preferred to have the heart torn out- it didn’t matter to me. Not one bloody bit.

    Inwardly, I knew those were just my delusional ramblings or maybe just my desperate hopes to have a chance to assert myself as the alpha male once again, after failing to save both of them. But after all, things didn’t work that way in real life, right? That wasn’t just some crappy novel where the killer would pop up just when the nearly passed-out detective was expecting him, right?

    Well, the Universe either really liked to prove me wrong or that bitch just didn’t have a bloody ounce of originality.

    I didn’t even hear the door opening and for some reason the creaky floorboards had apparently decided to betray me that night. Or maybe I really was asleep enough to miss out any noise the bastard could’ve made. Aye, thinking back, it was nothing short of a miracle that I noticed him at all. It wasn’t like in the movies- the fine hairs on the back of your neck conveniently standing up at just the right moment and notifying you like Mother Nature’s bastard-radar. Nah, maybe the lad had just breathed too loudly when he drew near or maybe Lady Luck had finally decided to pay back some debts by waking me up moments before I was about to get operated on in domestic conditions.

    Either way, I woke up to find a devil straight out of hell looming over me. Or that’s how my brain, even more useless than ever, considering that even compared to my body it was a couple of paces behind in the process of waking up, thought of him at that moment. He really was like a hole in the darkness. His black robes seemed to flutter in the still air far more convincingly than the usual counterfeit ghost disguise. His white face was the color of bleached bones- which wasn’t that surprising when I took in mind that a bloody fucking skull was staring at me, as if it was the only material part of the intruder’s body. But before I could bark at him the rightful question of what the bloody hell was going on, I felt the pain.

    A pain like no other.

    I could feel his fingers drilling deep into my chest, clawing at the beating heart protected under my ribcage. But by the pace he was going I was having second thoughts of said pile of bones actually stopping him. I doubted any neighbor would call the police either, even after hearing the howls of a wounded hound that had been probably heard all the way up in the Heights. Someone screaming in pain while being killed wasn’t actually a new addition to this city of sins’s soundtrack and I doubted any copper would’ve shown up on time anyway. Thankfully, my instincts finally kicked in when the pain jolted my whole body awake and my right hand finally remembered that it was loosely clutching a revolver under the pillow.

    Alas, the bullet hit only the dirty ceiling of my apartment as the damn bastard was somehow quick enough to dodge even after I pointed the damn thing straight into his skull-like face. The shadow jumped back to the other end of the room and ended his semi-flight in a crouch. The moonlight coming through the window shone a ray of light upon him, clearly reflecting off the screw-like claws attached to each of his fingers. Droplets of blood dribbled off his right hand and onto that old carpet Bazett had bought so many years ago. I don’t know why, but even in that crazy situation I thought she would’ve scolded me for letting someone stain it.

    Stains colored the deepest crimson, like a blossoming rose.

    Another pair of glints that appeared in the assassin’s hands brought me back into reality. The bastard drew back his hand, ready to send the dagger flying straight between my eyes. It was a desperate shot and I frankly didn’t think I could get him without aiming, given that I was still lying on the couch and clutching the wound with my free hand. But I certainly didn’t expect him to outright dodge it once again and actually manage to nick my shoulder with the dagger. I shot again before he could throw the second one but the result was much the same. Darting to the other side of the room in a zigzag, the assassin fled away from the bullet’s path and managed to drive the thrown dagger right into my other shoulder.

    Frankly, I was scared by how light the git was on his feet. And I inwardly knew that the only reason both of his throws had missed partially was because I was keeping him distracted enough with my shooting. So, knowing full well that the only thing that had kept me alive so far had been my barrage of bullets, I shot once again. As expected, he dodged it perfectly, in the same zigzag pattern that projected his next move to every washed-out dick of a private detective out there who was worth his salt.

    The wannabe assassin ground to a halt when he suddenly found himself facing the barrel of my trusty gun up close once more. I squeezed the trigger with glee, much too high on adrenaline to even think about saving him for questioning. The bastard was going to pay for everything- for the little goddess, for assaulting me in the dead of the night, for starting the whole clusterfuck in the first place by offing Tokiomi.

    But the sound of gunfire didn’t echo off the room’s walls this time. Only the silence could have been heard, if that even made any sense to anyone even remotely sane. The shadow tilted his skull-like face, like a child wondering if Mommy was going to spank him if he tortured the neighbors’ cat. And then, realizing that I must had run out of bullets, he casually pulled out yet another knife out of his robes and strolled towards me with a pace he seemed to consider worthy to be called an ‘ominous walk’.

    The resounding boom of the gunshot filled the room loud and clear this time. The bullet got him dead-center in the chest and, as if my Magnum wanted to make up for the first four misses, sent the bastard flying back and crashing into the table.

    To be honest, I just remained where I was, half-lying on the bed and clutching my wound. The grizzled hound wouldn’t have been surprised even if the creep had jumped right back onto his legs and proceeded to rearrange said hound’s body into a rare thinly-sliced delicacy. But no, the wannabe assassin was still lying on the remains of my table and the only thing he did was add more blood stains to Bazett’s carpet as the life flowed out of him one drop after the other. Still, he was very much alive, that much I could tell from the way his trembling hands tried to stop the bleeding and from the faint gurgles coming from his direction.

    I imagined I walked up to him very much the same way a sleepwalker would. I practically fell on my knees next to his body, the adrenaline finally starting to wear off and the real pain from the wound rearing back its ugly head. I don’t know how I didn’t crush his skull right then and there, considering the force with which I grabbed his skull-shaped mask.

    You?!”

    Ryuunosuke Uryuu let out a low hoarse excuse for a laugh as he choked onto his own blood.

    “You almost sound disappointed, chief. What, were you expecting some bigger fish?”

    Even as I watched the light gradually leave his eyes and even tho I could hear his breathing getting slower and slower, I couldn’t answer him. The hound couldn’t answer that fangless viper for the life of his. It made no sense! Uryuu was a known serial killer, a fucked-up murderer like no other! But it made no sense! Or maybe I was really just disappointed, exactly like he had said. It would’ve been in his style, more or less. The victims had been murdered elaborately enough but the difference this time was that the re-emerging psycho had chosen to fuck around with everyone by setting a mob war with the choice of said victims. And here I was, getting angry just because my whole investigation had been rendered completely useless. Well, there was still the consolation that even Kojiro had been deluded as well-

    And then it hit me.

    “You are part of this alright. But you can’t be working alone,” I said and almost gouged out his eyes when I dangled his own limp hand in front of his face. “Your only prosthetics are your fingers- the original killer had one at least up to his elbow.”

    I didn’t even bother to tell him to speak. The man was dying either way and if he wanted to bury the secret alongside him in the grave, there was nothing I could do to him to make him talk. The unspoken question was just left hanging in the still air.

    “I told him you wouldn’t buy it if you survive,” muttered Ryuu and managed to curl his pale lips into a mocking smile. “But now that I think about it, maybe he just knew you would survive. Maybe he wanted a fall guy. He didn’t like me very much either- all of the others just hanged around ‘cause of that damn drug of his.”

    A series of bloody coughs erupted out of his mouth, the small rant apparently too much for his punctured lungs to bear.

    “Who is he, pup? Who’s the one behind all this?!”

    I doubted he could even see me by that point, judging by the way his glazed-over eyes hovered somewhere above my head and to the right. But still, he answered.

    “Lancer, my man, I told you about this superdrug, didn’t I? It really is… something else. You take it… you feel like in heaven. Faster, stronger, able to see clearer than ever… or at least that’s what those junkies said. But you take it too much, it makes you… not right in the head. You start seeing things and believing in them. Angels, devils, bloody fucking… Grim Reapers. And in the end, you die. You overdose and bang! You are clinically dead- or at least it seems so. It just makes it look like you’re dead, for some time. And then he just digs them out immediately after the funeral, gives them this stupid getup and fills their heads not only with his fancy-shmancy… medicine but with the total utter bullshit of being… an angel yourself. An Angel of Death. The Grim Reaper incarnate, sent to this sinful Earth to root out all the sinners and deal righteous justice!”

    Another hoarse laugh escaped his lips. I was too amazed to say anything, both from his story and by the sheer fact that he was still able to talk at all after losing so much blood.

    “Robin told me to investigate, see why so much of our boys went crazy just like that. And I found him, traced it all back to the bastard… but when he told me about his plan… Lancer, my man, dawg, you… y’know me, right? For the things I did, there’s a very special place in Hell prepared for when I show up. I thought, ‘hey, might as well drag down some bastards with me as well’. That was the only way I knew how to repent, man. By carving them up. Only this time, I’d carve up the bad guys. That was his plan. Start picking off the mafia and the Yakuza, try to turn them onto each other and if that didn’t work, kill ‘em all off. Make this whole city better by cutting the cancer growths off. Angels of Death, dealing righteous justice!”

    His voice was nothing but a whisper now and his lips were barely moving. Finally, moving almost agonizingly slowly, he buried his free hand beneath his robes and took out something. A small figurine which he put into my open palm. And with a few final words, much too ordinary for anyone to claim them to be important but worth more than all the gold in the world to me, Ryuunosuke Uryuu left behind the world of the living.

    “Some priest he was! Basta-”

    And only the lone onyx figure of a hooded angel, clutched into my shaking fist, was there to keep me company in my vigil over the body of an enemy I could’ve almost considered a friend.


    A lone detective takes it upon himself to solve the murder of a young woman, willingly diving into the dangerous web of conspiracies weaved by the feuding mafia families. But after the truth is uncovered, will that city of sin be the same ever again?

  9. #9
    Guess Who's Watching... Aladar's Avatar
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    Default re: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

    Chapter VII:

    A Heart for a Heart


    The throbbing wound on my chest seemed to have a heartbeat of its own.

    Like a cheap counterfeit knockoff of a real heart, it pulsated again and again sending one jolt of pain after another through my whole body. The hastily-made bandage that I had it covered with was nowhere near enough to stop the bleeding. So, accompanying the wound’s heartbeat like a clock’s hand always running several seconds late, scarlet droplets oozed through my shirt like tears. And with each thump of the nonexisitng heart of blood which was nesting on my chest, yet another second passed away. Like the endless flow of the sands of time, a thin stream of scarlet marked my trail.

    Fresh blood that ended up washed away by the rain mere seconds later, the epitome of an ephemeral existence that was there for just one brief spark of life before being drowned away forever. But still, it persisted. No matter how much time passed, no matter how far I went, there was always a trail.

    A trail colored the deepest crimson, like a blossoming rose.

    And my mind must’ve been quite hazy, too, considering my sudden career change from a detective to a poet. Still, not much difference there- one was usually as penniless as the other, right? But I didn’t have the luxury of that kind of thoughts that fateful night. Deep down I swore that when-if- I solved the case, I was gonna quit for good. A well-deserved retirement that I cursed seconds later. Rarely there is a detective who has survived announcing his retirement just before the final case. Aye, if I was so keen on waving a ‘kill me’ sign to the Universe I might’ve just whipped out a picture of Bazett and started lamenting about my lost love. But that was what blood loss did to you- a mind noticeably less sharper than usual. And it wasn’t like I was the sharpest knife in the cupboard under normal circumstances either.

    Kotomine’s ominous lair remained as far as ever, perching atop that darn hill like a bulky carrion bird that had just feasted on some rotten carcass. It taunted me, laughed at me and yet… it was the one thing that kept me going. It proved that the goal was in sight, however far it actually was. So, one slow step after another, I pushed forward.

    The storm, even harsher than usual, had forced most of the nightly occupants of the city to stay into their hiding holes. I didn’t honestly know if it was a convenience for me or not. It was starting to drive me crazy- the loneliness. I felt like I was the last one alive in the whole world, even if I was but a quickly-emptying husk of my former existence. Back then I finally realized that the hound had gotten too grizzled for his own good. Too battered, too bruised.

    Too old.

    And even tho my hair remained as blue as ever, with no white streaks in sight, I knew that I was past my prime. Old beyond my years, one could say. But I think that the hound had just endured one too many bites and beatings during his rather… eventful life. And even tho all I could do was limp forward like some crippled mutt, bleeding all over the dirty pavement, I refused to give up. But it wasn’t about honor, or stubbornness or doing the right thing.

    On that gloomy night, under the pelting barrage of the rain, I realized at last how true the winter fairy’s words were. This was for the little goddess. And for Bazett. It made no difference for me whether I was upholding the law or breaking it. Or rather, if it was for one of those two, I would’ve become a murderer myself.

    Aye, for those two I would’ve killed the world a thousand times over.

    I could almost see them, too. Just beyond my reach, half-hidden behind the veil of the constant rain. Two figures- so close, yet so distant- that called out to me with unmoving lips and unheard words. And the silhouette of the church, darker than the blackest night, drew nearer with each step I took.

    Aye, the hound was going to have on last hunt. A hunt for the ages. I only prayed that I could get there before Kotomine realized his little protégé had failed and proceeded to haul ass and get out of there.

    The church’s pitiful attempts at intimidating me failed to impress me. All the ugly mugs of the snarling gargoyles perching atop the walls got in response for their teeth-filled smiles was a sneer from the wounded hound. The heavy metal doors opened surprisingly easy.

    The church was empty- or at least it seemed so. But even tho there was no one at the altar and only shadows sat atop the twin rows of benches that filled the hall, I knew better. The hound could sniff the rotten stench of death- of those that hid in the shadows, just liked he had sniffed out the writhing maggots filling the dark corners of the Matou mansion. Now, I may have always been a bit too hot-blooded for anyone’s liking and a tad to hardheaded to accept even some simple facts, but even I knew that it was suicide to walk alone into that welcoming committee.

    And yet, I did. The Magnum was clutched tightly into my limp right hand.

    “KOTOMINE!”

    My shout reverberated inside the small cathedral, bouncing off the walls and returning back to me as if the angelic statues lining up the walls wanted to laugh at me. Half-hidden in the darkness, their faces looked more demonic to me than anything else. Aye, the devil in human form was my host that night. And it didn’t take long for him to walk out of the shadows, looking almost exactly as a shade himself in his pitch-black frock. His expression was no different than usual. An almost expressionless face, as if carved out of cold stone, which looked down on you even if you were taller. The kind of face you wanted to deck just five seconds after seeing it. His uncaring eyes met mine as he walked closer, stopping right under the ray of moonlight coming through the stained windows. A rather fitting stage light for the villain that had finally come out of hiding.

    “I would appreciate it if you refrained from causing such ruckus in the house of God, Lancer.”

    A hoarse, barking laugh filled the church as I couldn’t contain myself in the face of his arrogance. Despite feeling my revolver thrice heavier than usual, as if it was really a small cannon, I somehow managed to lift it up and take aim. I didn’t even bother to ask him anything. We knew each other for far too long to bother with trivialities. But then again, despite disliking him from the get-go, never have I even dreamed that Kirei Kotomine would turn into a killer. He was supposedly a friend of Bazett’s, seemingly a lifetime ago. A surgeon-turned-priest whom she had worked with in a foreign branch of one of Kiritsugu’s companies. I knew full-well how shady the Emiya’s business was but that was Bazett I was talking about- she was my sole and only angel, the symbol of incorruptible pure pureness in my eyes.

    “I see that the little invitation I sent with Mr. Uryuu is your reason to be here tonight,” calmly said Kotomine and lifted a bit the black angel figurine dangling from his neck. “But before we start our glorious final confrontation, Mr. Protagonist, I have a question for you, one crucial to determining our roles in this story.”

    “I’ve no time for one of your bloody speeches, Kotomine,” I barked and took a step forward, drawing closer to my prey. Or at least I liked to think of him as such, for psychological comfort.

    “What would you do for love?”

    The otherwise inaudible buzz of a fly’s wings could’ve easily been heard in the lightless church, had one actually being there in the first place.

    “You’ve finally gone stark raving mad, haven’t you?” I asked, now almost fully sure that I was dealing with someone who was a few cards short of a full deck.

    “In a sense. Love does have the habit of driving one mad,” agreed Kirei without even the slightest change in his expression or voice. “But riddle me this, Sherlock, what would you do for Bazett?”

    “Leave her out of this!”

    I barely restrained myself from squeezing the trigger.

    “Would you kill to save her life? Would you kill someone to have her all for yourself, to bring her back, to avenge her or just to satisfy her whims?” the false priest mercilessly continued with his barrage of questions. “We both know the answer to those questions, Lancer. For the one you love you would revert to the raging beast you truly are on the inside without even as much as thinking why. It’s not righteousness or want for justice or even your sense of honor that drives you forward. For love you would discard them in a second and because of love you have come so far. But can truly call just actions based only on such ephemeral and primal feelings?”

    Kotomine didn’t even flinch as the warning bullet zipped past his ear.

    “Do you know why I donned the black, Lancer?”

    “I’m here for your life, Kirei, not your life story. And I don’t have a whole night to wait.”

    “And yet I am still very much alive,” countered the false priest before resuming his annoying lecture. “Years ago, while I was still a… colleague of Bazett, I happened to have one close to my heart as well. Or at least I thought so. Rather… she was the one a normal person would dub ‘close to his heart’. She was probably the only one that was there to help me swallow the bitter pill that was being forced to work under Kiritsugu Emiya of all people. But fate is a fickle thing. She ended up discovering that my work wasn’t exactly limited to the field of medicine. The sad thing was that said discovery came with the help of one Tokiomi Tohsaka. The man I… respected ended up shattering my life on purpose- on a mere whim. When she confronted me about it I, of course, refused to quit. It was the only thing that I could actually do right after all. Or rather, it was the only thing that could give me any sense of fulfillment. She said I really wasn’t the soulless mass-murdering husk I ‘pretended’ to be. And to prove that I could still feel compassion, she killed herself.”

    I could only stare into those empty, lifeless eyes of his and try to keep the gun level at his chest.

    “But, you see, Lancer… I felt nothing. Even as I watched the lifeless body of my own wife dangle on the rope… nothing. For her love for me, the one who wonders how the cross he bears hasn’t burned him yet, she took her own life. I left her and my old life behind, went back to my father and become the priest he had always wanted me to be. And yet, there was an emptiness inside me. Greater than even the one that the suffering of others usually filled. It didn’t bring me pain or any actual discomfort. But it was there. Like a void that refused to close up no matter what I did. I needed a purpose… and several years ago, I finally decided on one. A meaning for her love for the evil that was me- that was the goal I decided on. The only reason she had lost her life in the first place was the game. The game between the mafia that has been played since this city of sins was born, the game that sucked me and countless of others into it. I decided to break the vicious circle.”

    “With more deaths? Truly, you are ingenious, Kotomine,” I laughed out loud forcedly, trying in vain to upset him. Needless to say, I failed.

    “The circle will break when there is none left alive to play the game. The Angel of Death had to descend from the Heavens and take the lives of those sinners, tainted since their very birth. It is only the Angel that matters- the collective image of the avengers I have gathered. Merely after a single death, the one of the traitor Tokiomi, have the wolves turned one against the other. Whether I live or die tonight, it matters not. The circle will be broken one way or another. The Angel of Death that I created has sown the seeds of discord and vengeance already. And in the newly-born dark messiah’s, the true spirit of Vengeance, own words ‘first I’ll punish the one of Lust, then the epitome of Greed shall follow and then each and every of the rest’!”

    “Cut the crap, Kotomine,” surprisingly, it was actually my relatively level voice that did the trick and shut him up for a bit. “You’re just a madman like any other. Sprout excuses all you want. At the end of the day, you’re just someone who likes seeing the suffering of others, no more, no less.”

    “That may be so, but can you truly judge me?” shot back Kirei, his resolute voice echoing off the church’s walls. “Are my actions any different than what you have done and would do for Bazett? Is it truly justice for you to pass judgment on me when you would’ve done the same thing, albeit in a different way, if you were in my shoes? Can there be a distinction between the hero and the villain when their actions mirror each other so closely, Mr. Protagonist? Had you known the identity of the one who assaulted Bazett, you would have done the same in the blink of an eye.”

    “I never said I was the hero,” I said and laughed, trying to hide that I was finally starting to get dizzy from the blood loss.

    “Indeed, you are not,” agreed Kirei and narrowed his eyes at me. “You are here alone and, unlike a proper hero, you have no allies to barge in here guns ablazing and save you. You don’t trust your old partner because he would want to silence you to protect his little lover, who would hire a killer to aveng her father. You don’t trust the Commissioner, who you know has some shady connection with Kiritsugu Emiya himself. Emiya wouldn’t want his schemes to be pulled into the light, same with all the others. And the Yakuza are just delighted to have someone killing the only one stopping them from controlling the city.”

    “Quite the spy network you must have,” I said and tried getting a bit closer to him again.

    “We just happen to have several more mutual friends than just the late Ryuunosuke Uryuu. Miss Aozaki has quite the opinion of you, you know. I met her just when she become coroner, actually, and helped her start her little pet prosthetics project at the local hospital. I had just acquired quite a few of its shares recently, it was very easy. And being the challenge-loving woman that she was, Miss Aozaki just couldn’t turn down even the peculiar anonymous request for our mutual friend’s, the killer, rather special prosthetic arm. She probably thought it was for some queer old rich guy. Of course, with a finished product it wasn’t that hard to connect the nerve endings to the artificial arm myself. Oh, and speaking of our friend…”

    The snap of his fingers was heard loud and clear in the seemingly empty cathedral. A mere second later, a piece of the shadows separated itself from the darkness and almost glided through the air and next to Kirei. The blank eyeholes of the white skull mask bore right into me, a grim warning of what was to come. The assassin’s cloak hid its side, keeping the dreaded heart-ripping arm away from view. Alas, the shade was not the only member of its cultist brethren present. Tens of other emerged from the shadows, surrounding me and perching atop the lowest statues and, in some cases, even the altar and the benches. The moonlight that entered through the windows ended up reflected off the daggers and knifes of various shapes and sizes clutched in their hands.

    “As an old-time acquaintance and as someone so close to Bazett, Lancer, I am willing to give you one chance and one chance only. Join me because of Bazett. Join me and I shall give you what your heart desires the most.”

    Like the false prophet he was, Kotomine threw his hands up in the air, in a mocking gesture of a welcoming hug directed towards me. He was like straight out of some biblical painting- the ones that probably depicted the devil in human guise himself.

    “Aye, that sounds like a fair trade, Kotomine,” I said, my lips stretching into a feral snarl. “And the one thing I desire the most right now would be you. Dead.”

    The bang of the gunshot was amplified a thousand times over by the grey walls of the church. The bullet struck the false priest dead-center into the chest and knocked him back several meters. The human wall of his now shocked black-clad goons hid his body from view. I shouted at the place where I thought that Kirei was currently bleeding to death.

    “Funny thing, Kotomine. Precisely because of love, one of the people you judged untrustworthy wants all this brought to light. And I just happened to have the time for one phone call before I headed here.”

    A sound akin to the roar of thunder filled the church as the double doors, probably locked by some unseen goon after I had entered, shook and wavered despite their size. Even the ones that had already dashed towards me with the intention to turn me into a human knife-scabbard stopped in their tracks. A second and third resounding booms followed as not only the doors, but the whole church seemed to shake from the force of the outside blows. And with the forth, the metal double doors finally gave in and flew open as an inhuman giant charged in.

    The Einzbern’s butler, berserker that he was, dashed straight through the benches, sending a rain of splinters and broken wood flying into the air. I didn’t know whether it was his horrifying appearance, the surprise attack, or just the fact that he was still clad in that oversized butler suit of his, but the first bunch of assassins just stood there as he cleaved clean through them with one swipe of the large axe in his hand. Needless to say, he was wielding a two-handler with a single hand. The scarier part was the he was carrying another in his other arm.

    What’s more, another streak of black darted into the church with blinding speed. Grinding to a halt right in front of me, Sasaki Kojiro effortlessly swiped away the trio of daggers that were flying in the relative direction of my face.

    “Mind if I join in the festivities?” he asked smugly and leveled his katana with his shoulders, in preparation for his signature technique.

    “Not that I’m against it or anything, but how the hell did you get here?”

    “Lady Einzbern was kind enough to inform me she had learned from you who is the one responsible for the death of my employer. I decided I just had to pay this church a visit. Good thing our hulking friend here told me that the second shot was going to be the signal, tho.”

    “He actually talks?” I asked and raised an eyebrow as I emptied my gun into the nearest trio of black-clad goons.

    “Not much,” replied Kojiro with a shrug of his shoulders and somehow managed to dispatch six assassins with the three slashes that he could somehow compress into a single hit. That man had to be some kind of a demon, just like the Tigress.

    What followed could’ve been only described as a slaughterhouse. A carnival of meaningless gory death and murder. But even as the massacre around me raged on and Lady Luck was probably the only thing keeping me alive, I fully realized it. I realized that despite being hidden under the expressionless bleach-white masks, those were people I was killing. Ones that have probably been as ordinary as any other person before being lost in the web of lies sewn by Kotomine and twisted to follow his whims. But even so, I accepted that darkness, that unforgivable sin. All had to be cleansed that night, no matter how much I regretted taking the lives of people who had lost control over their own actions. I was past the point of no return. Whatever was about to come next, be it hell or high water, I was going to face it head-on.

    I didn’t know what were my ‘allies’ thinking as they fought tooth and nail against the horde of shades. All I could do was watch their fights, like some twisted kind of neutral audience, and hope that they didn’t end up as sacrifices to whatever dark god Kotomine currently worshipped. Between each bullet shot, time seemed to slow down to a crawl, as if it wanted to show me in detail the carnage I was partially responsible for.

    The Einzbern’s butler was like an unholy combination between man and beast. He tore right into the thickest of crowds with blood-chilling roars, more akin to those of a charging bear than a human being. The twin axes in his trunk-like hands were already colored crimson and they seemed keen on feasting on more and more flesh and blood. The berserker swung around his two weapons with almost divine fury and cleaved in pieces every opponent that came into his sight. His butler costume was now nothing more than rags covering his oversized body, the white of his clothes already stained fully with blood. His dark skin was embedded with dozens of knifes and daggers, his numerous wounds oozing blood like crying eyes, but they didn’t seem to faze him in the least. Instead, every new cut drove him to move faster, every bruise gave him more strength and every drop of blood lost only increased his inhuman rage more and more. I felt like I had sent a frenzied bear after a bunch of flea-ridden rodents.

    Kojiro, on the other hand, was the epitome of grace and finesse. The assassin’s speed was unmatched. The black-clad shades seemed to be nothing but fakers to him, wannabes who only stained the honor of his already shady profession. The blue-haired man was surrounded by a circle of dead bodies that only grew larger and larger. The numerous thrown daggers and knifes sent in his direction were either dodged or swiped away mid-flight, leaving his attackers no choice but to charge head-on. But even if they tried to circle him, flank him or backstab him, the end result was the same. As long as the reach of his katana, a field of death surrounded the assassin. Whoever dared step into it ended up as the latest addition to the rapidly-growing pile of bodies. Just like that, with every audible swish of his long ponytail that always followed the soundless circular swipes of his sword, more and more fakers met their death. The difference in skill was more than clear- but just like with the raging berserker, the brainwashed cultists charged recklessly again and again, ready and willing to die for their twisted cause.

    Apparently realizing that there wouldn’t be a cult without cultists, the one Kirei had introduced as the lead assassin- the one responsible for the death of the little goddess- finally decided to join the fray. I reloaded the gun frantically, dodging left and right and generally running around like a headless fly as I tried to get in an advantageous position for a shot. But bullet after bullet ended up getting wasted while I tried to keep myself alive or just to dispose of the latest black-clad goon that tried to slash my throat. Out of all fighters, I was the one at a disadvantage. In this fray, where melee abilities were the one thing that mattered, I could barely keep up using only my gun. Sure, with proper motivation or even if I pushed myself enough I could’ve probably matched the raging berserker in fisticuffs- but that would mean overloading my body enough to spend a good amount of time in a hospital bed.

    The lead assassin obviously considered Kojiro the most dangerous of our little invading trio. But compared to the other goons, the ringleader was something different entirely. It was inhumanly fast- like a wraith that was able to jump from shadow to shadow. Its black cloak swished in the still air as it dashed straight into the samurai’s death field. With an ear-splitting clang the katana connected with the arm hidden beneath the black cloth. A rain of sparks erupted briefly in the twilight of the church, dying down just as fast as it had appeared. Kojiro wasn’t even able to pull back his sword from his attack yet when the wraith pulled out a knife. Drawing the blade flawlessly was turned into inertia for the attack. The onyx blade of the ritual knife was now adorned with the scarlet blood of the samurai. Kojiro, having jumped back at the last possible moment, ran a hand through the shallow cut across his throat. He gritted his teeth but didn’t even have time to cuss as the wraith was upon him a second later, the onyx knife already carving a path through the air.

    Once again the signature sound of metal clashing against metal filled the church. Again and again, showers of sparks erupted after each clash of the blades. The movements of both combatants were almost too fast for the human eyes to follow. But one thing was certain- it was a stalemate. Just like in his duel with the Tigress, Kojiro was stuck in a war of attrition. His enemy wasn’t fast enough to manage to cut him- but the wraith was way too close for his elongated katana to be able to strike properly as well. Finally, after what seemed like eternity of exchanging blows, the samurai seemed to falter. The onyx knife struck him in the shoulder joint, possibly making his left hand useless. But despite the cringe of pain evident on his face, Kojiro’s lips twisted into a wicked grin. The wraith found itself being hit in the throat by the butt of his katana’s handle. Pushed back and gasping for air, it couldn’t do a thing when the samurai flanked it and put his back to its own. It was a repeat of his previous duel’s ending. But I couldn’t even comprehend why he would force himself in such a position when once again his opponent’s weapon was way shorter than his own.

    But this time the katana in the samurai’s hand was switched to a reverse grip, effectively cutting off the wraith’s only way of escape, lest it wanted to wound itself on its own. In one swift motion Kojiro circled around his opponent, forcing the wraith in the direction he wanted. Finally coming face to face, the speed of his blade seemed to triple- and yet his opponent managed to jump back in the nick of time. Still, Kojiro had managed a shallow cut across his opponent’s chest. And what a chest it was! The horizontal slash on the black robes clearly showed a rather busty rack, now adorned with a crimson line running across both luscious breasts. Needless to say, I was speechless. Kojiro, for some reason, looked more concerned than anything.

    “A woman, huh?” he said but it sounded more like he was stating a fact he already knew than a question.

    The wraith didn’t seem fazed by the reveal. She just readied the onyx knife in her hand and leaned close to the ground, like a beast getting ready for the final attack against her prey. Finally having the needed distance, the samurai leveled his katana with his shoulders. It seemed that everything was going to come down to that final blow.

    The gunshots that echoed off the stone walls sounded ridiculously out of place in a situation like that.

    A roar akin to the one of a wounded beast was heard, as the raging berserker clutched his stomach. The hulking brute, despite the numerous wounds littering his body and the gunshot wound, looked more surprised than anything. And then Kirei Kotomine, standing in front of the altar without even a droplet of blood where his wound should’ve been, emptied his revolver into the Einzbern’s butler. The bullets pierced the man’s flesh like maggots digging deep into a corpse they were about to devour. And yet, he took a step forward. And another. And another. Despite having an amount of lead in his body that would’ve killed a normal human six times over, the berserker charged towards the false priest with a fierce roar. The thrown axe carved a bloody path through the air as it flew towards its rather shocked victim, only to end up embedded into the altar behind him, having missed literally by a hair’s breadth. The brute’s adrenaline was apparently not nearly enough to keep him alive. Like a puppet with its strings cut, the humanoid giant fell on his knees, finally crashing onto the cold floor seconds later. A flock of shades swarmed him immediately after, like killer ants assaulting a threat to their colony. The black robes completely hid the man from view- only the dozens of streams of blood that flowed on the floor indicated that there was something beneath the writhing swarm of black.

    Again and again they stabbed him, all too keen on taking revenge on someone already dead. The shout rising up my throat came out almost like a howl.


    “KOTOMINE!”

    He only deemed me worthy of a single glance and smirked as he tossed away the revolver. If only I had taken aim for his head! How could I have known that he was wearing a bulletproof vest under his frock?

    And, as if the Universe hadn’t had enough of torturing the grizzled hound, the sound of clashing metal once again echoed inside the small cathedral, this time accompanied by the squelching sound of flesh getting pierced. The katana fell off his lifeless hands with a clatter as Kojiro fell down on his knees. A small puddle of blood formed around him as it poured out of the wound on his chest, the onyx knife jammed to the handle into his heart. I tried to take aim at the now defenseless back of his killer, only for yet another goon to distract me. And yet, Kojiro seemed almost at peace. The signature smirk just refused to leave his face and, somehow, he found the strength to speak.

    “Again, you countered Tsubame Gaeshi… but it’s actually the third time your technique has beaten my own, isn’t it?”

    His trembling hand clutched the mask of the wraith and took it off in a motion far too akin to a child opening his present on Christmas morning. With a face that just screamed ‘I knew it’, Kojiro let out a hoarse laugh and tried to shout something in my direction.

    “Lancer, do-“

    But the samurai’s words never left his throat. Finally emerging from beneath the black cloak, the artificial devil’s hand jammed two of its claw-like fingers under the man’s jaw. To this day, I still don’t know how I managed to keep the contents of my stomach and not puke them all over Kirei’s floor. As if tearing apart paper, the wraith tore off Kojiro’s whole lower jaw in one swift motion. The dying gurgles of the man ended up mixing with the sound of bones and teeth falling onto the stone floor.

    My own scream of terror and anger ended up mirrored in an all too familiar roar. Tossing away the swarm of shades as if they were nothing but feathers, the Einzbern’s butler stood up and dashed towards Kirei with renewed vigor. The axe was held high above his head, ready to cleave the false priest in two. Sadly, the wraith was having none of it. With blinding speed she dashed to her master’s rescue, countering the swipe of the axe with her own demonic hand. A shower of sparks erupted and her arm seemed on the verge of breaking apart. But even as a spider web of cracks spread under her feet, she refused to falter. I was still unable to see her face, hidden under the black hood. Getting even angrier that his initial attack had failed, the berserker pulled back his weapon and prepared to strike again.

    His gravest mistake.

    The demonic arm immediately darted towards his exposed chest. The metal claws dug straight through the flesh and bones, reaching their hidden prize in the matter of seconds. With a vomit-inducing squish, the wraith tore out the butler’s heart and squashed it. Blood and pieces of red flesh dribbled down from the palm of her demonic arm. The hulking brute remained standing, as if willing to defy death once again. And yet, just like Kojiro, he fell on the ground and lay silent.

    I knew that was the only chance Fate was willing to give me.

    Biting my lip, I carefully took aim at her defenseless back and squeezed the trigger. All three remaining bullets I had hit the mark and, finally showing that she had a voice, the wraith screamed out in pain. Time seemed to slow down to a crawl as I watched her stagger and fall backwards down the steps of the altar. Her hood finally came off as she slumped into a lifeless heap at their base.

    And when I saw her face, I wanted to gouge my eyes out.

    Her chocolate brown eyes stared almost accusingly at me, as if they wanted to scold me because how dare I shoot her! Her neck-length wine red hair grew darker by the second as it absorbed blood from the pool forming around her battered and bruised body. The hair I had used to play with every night as she had accused me of snoring before I had even gone to sleep. Her pale face looked almost serene under the ray of moonlight that shone through the blood-stained windows, getting a scarlet tint due to the filtered light. Her features looked almost unchanged by the otherwise merciless flow of time. She looked exactly like the last time I had seen her- or maybe it just seemed to me that way back then.

    With the anguished scream of a man broken beyond any hope of repair, I ran to Bazett’s side. My vision was blurred from the hot tears welling in my eyes, a sensation that just got stronger when I felt how cold the lithe hand taken in my own trembling one was. Her glazed-over eyes looked into mine but it was like I wasn’t even there. The words refused to leave my dry throat. But what could I have told her anyway? What did one say after killing the one they loved with all the force their heart could muster?

    A sharp pain shot from my chest as she dug the tips of her metal claws into the old wound above my heart. Her lips barely moved and the voice that reached my ears was nothing but a whisper.

    “Punish… all… sinners… I’ve a duty… to keep. Could you please… die?”

    And I wanted to, I wanted to scream yes and have her tear my wretched, twisted black and rotten killer’s heart off. But as the spark of life finally left her gentle eyes, the artificial hand fell limp by her side.

    “I told you I could have given you that which you desired the most,” said Kirei and threw a lit lighter at the butler’s body. He obviously was scared of him miraculously coming back to life once more.

    The fire was small at first but the flames grew in strength and numbers quickly enough. The signature crackling of fire was heard as the flames engulfed the berserker’s corpse, his flesh starting to blister and boil soon after his clothes were burned off.

    All I could do was kneel next to Bazett and stare in her lifeless eyes.

    “You brought this upon yourself, Lancer,” coldly stated Kotomine and drew some kind of weapon from his robes- too long to be a knife but too short to be a sword. “I was willing to give you a chance. I gave you chance! But you failed.”

    The blade in the false priest’s hand was colored red by the flames dancing upon the berserker’s desecrated body. The church had fallen silent, the goons already dead or dying, with only Kirei’s steady footsteps and the crackling of the unholy fire giving off any sounds.

    “You see, when I started all this I knew I needed someone strong enough- someone experienced enough- to lead my troops into this new era. Bazett was perfect for the role. But she struggled so much when I drugged her that I had to cut off her hand. And then it downed on me! Miss Touko’s research into experimental prosthetics was going to be perfect for her. Of course, the drug did its job splendidly. No one suspected that she was merely in a state of a kind of ‘false’ death. And since she was buried on the grounds of my own church, all I had to do was just dig her up. I was quite disturbed at first, you know. All the time she had spend in autopsy might have led to waking up or staying dead permanently. But Lady Luck seemed to be on my side- you refused to let them cut her up any more, didn’t you?”

    I could barely understand his words anymore. It all felt so distant to me. I was trapped in a world of my own, a world where I was devoured again and again and again by the raging hound angry that I had taken the life of his mate. Aye, there was no denying it.

    I-

    - had killed her.

    Bazett.

    With my own hands.

    My heart was literally on the verge of bursting. Thump after thump after thump it struggled to survive that state of overdrive. The rapidly-pumped blood that flooded my system seemed to boil me from the inside. It burned everything it touched, veins and arteries bursting one after another due to the pressure.

    “But, sadly, it seemed Lady Luck didn’t favor you tonight, Lancer,” said Kotomine, finally finishing his speech.

    The glistening blade entered through my chest and exited cleanly through my back. Aye, one would say it had been a perfect strike.

    I could almost hear the bones creaking inside me as my tendons lengthened to the brink of snapping. My skin was getting torn or peeled off around my major muscles as they convulsed and twisted, like writhing eels. My vision was getting clouded in red- not only because of anger but because the internal pressure had finally reached my eyes, threatening to burst the small blood vessels inside them and blind me. My teeth cracked as I ground them together, more on reflex than anything- I was already in a state beyond pain. Bloody sweat poured from my body as the veins running under my skin got punctured one after another. The contorting muscles twisted and wreathed like snakes and the bones in my toes and fingers snapped one after another in unnatural angles, unable to resist the pressure. Looking back, it wasn’t that surprising that they were back. After all, Bazett had been the only one able to hold them back.

    The Warp Spasms.

    “Kotomine,” I said in a hoarse voice, blood pouring out of my mouth as the tissue in my throat was getting ruptured. “Have I ever told you that you talk too much?”

    The shocked expression on his face was priceless. Still, he dodged on time- if barely. My fist sent a spider web of cracks as it crashed into the stone floor. The bones in my hand snapped even further but I just snapped them back into a working position. Aye, as long as the Spasm was running, pain wasn’t an option. Nor was stopping.

    Kirei drew two more blades from somewhere beneath his frock. There was not a single unneeded movement in his actions, nor was there any flaw in his technique. He was lightning fast, like a black mamba striking at its prey. But he wasn’t up against something that would stop by just merely being killed anymore. Even as the twin ‘swords’ were jammed into my shoulder joints, I didn’t stop my onslaught. The false priest was forced to jump backwards but before he could even land I had shot towards him like a freight train. Once again, he barely dodged on time, leaving me to puncture a hole in the wall with my elbow as I crashed straight into it. Driving another blade through my back was his next action.

    And a fifth through my thigh, in a vain attempt to slow me down.

    And a sixth straight through my left palm, hoping to render me unable to hit.

    Useless.

    Finally out of blades, Kotomine held his hands upwards in a trained fighting stance. His eyes wandered away for a moment, in search of his discarded gun.

    A piece of trivia for you, folks. With Warp Spasm, I didn’t need no stinking prosthetic.

    His eyes widened in horror when my thrusting hand was rammed straight through his pitiful guard and into his chest. Flesh gave in in seconds and ribs snapped without even bothering to resist. To his credit, no shout left Kirei Kotomine’s mouth even as my hand exited through his back, his still-beating heart clutched into it.

    All I could see was red. Scarlet. Vermilion. The deepest crimson, like a blossoming rose.

    My own tired heart let out a weak lonely thump as my twisted and broken fingers crushed the false priest’s heart, putting its lifelong beating to a final, inescapable halt.

    And as the darkness chased away the crimson and engulfed me whole, I thought it was a fair trade.

    A heart for a heart.


    A lone detective takes it upon himself to solve the murder of a young woman, willingly diving into the dangerous web of conspiracies weaved by the feuding mafia families. But after the truth is uncovered, will that city of sin be the same ever again?

  10. #10
    Guess Who's Watching... Aladar's Avatar
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    Default re: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

    Chapter VIII:

    The Things We Do For Love…


    Aye, to be honest, she could be astoundingly annoying sometimes.

    The lads at the station had started to treat me as laughing stock for quite some time already. Missing out every second poker night was one thing, but when your wife started to barge into the local bar every night and drag your half-drunken ass somewhere away from all the whiskey, things tended to get a bit embarrassing. And while her, to be completely frank and blunt here, stonking great tits were more than enough to make a man give up gambling and drinking, however reluctantly, being forced to work every day in the darn flower garden was a blow to my pride no kind of divine body could satisfy.

    It was at times like those, when the scorching sun turned the back of my neck redder than my eyes and my trained nose recoiled from the stench of my sweat mixed with the positively unpleasant aroma of the fertilizer that I cursed myself three times over for telling her I had helped Ma at the flower shop as a child, in a vain attempt to present myself as more than a gruff and shaggy mutt to her. Still, at least I had somehow managed to make use of my extensive knowledge of botany that actually no real man would dare admit of having.

    She wasn’t much of a cook either. When someone willing to eat almost anything as long as it filled him up a bit got cold sweat just from entering the kitchen when you were cooking, you would probably get the hint that your dishes were a disaster comparable to whatever the hell wiped out ‘em dinosaurs. But she was stubborn as that- and the worst was when she thought I was having an affair while I actually stayed late after work every day so I could eat something edible.

    Aye, looking back, she wasn’t without flaws.

    And yet I could swear I wouldn’t survive even a day without her. She was like an angel- nah, she was an angel to me. My little precious guardian angel that gave meaning to my life and made out of me something more than a constantly drunk policeman with anger management issues. When I was with her, I wasn’t even afraid of the Spasms. All it took was one caress, one whispered word of hers into my ear- and the frothing beast just lied down and rolled over on his back in wait of getting scratched and tickled. Aye, that beauty had tamed the beast like no other.

    And every time I wake up next to her and see her sleeping face, I thank whatever god was listening for letting me meet her. Or maybe she really was a godsend gift to me. Her hazel eyes, always so bright and cheerful that I can swear they shame the sun itself, they melt me every time she looks at me. Her wine-red hair feels like silk between my fingers- it’s probably the only thing capable of reducing me into a little girl when I get lost into playing with her short locks. The taste of her ruby lips… it’s beyond divine, beyond mortal pleasure, beyond the taste of the gods’ ambrosia.

    Aye, I would sell my soul if I could make this moment last forever.

    She, sleeping next to me curled up like a little child, eyelashes fluttering slightly as she roams the land of dreams. I, lightly embraced by her slender hands that have a tighter hold on me than even a chain which could shackle gods. And, lostt in bliss not meant for any mortal man, I lean closer to her, unable to resist the allure of her slightly parted-lips any more…

    “Well, aren’t you the dead warmed over.”

    Just like that, only because of his once again untimely interference and grating voice, the spell was broken. I got yanked out of the land of dreams like a puppy dragged by his chain and was forced to open my tired eyes. Which was quite the feat in and of itself actually- my eyelids felt like lead. The first thing I saw was one magnificently painful clusterfuck of blurred images as the sun peering through the open window blinded me with glee.

    A grayish shadow floating just above me thankfully blocked out some of the sun. It took some time to recognize said blur of white and silver as Archer’s hair. Sadly, the one to whom the hair was usually attached was also present. Never let it be said that Lady Luck has ever smiled upon this hound.

    “That means that I’m still prettier than you, dipstick,” I somehow managed to say, despite the feeling of my throat getting shredded by an imaginary grater as I spoke. “What the hell are you doing here? I won’t accept anyone but a gorgeous lass waking me up-“

    Actually, I wouldn’t have accepted anyone but Bazett…

    “-or… wait. I’m in hell aren’t I?”

    “And this is the thanks I get for dragging you back to the land of the living?” drawled out Archer and crossed his hands in front of his chest. “Honestly, I’m still asking myself why I bothered myself with you when I could’ve gone looking for some pretty dame to save instead.”

    We glared at each other for some time- the kind of intense glare that happened only between two men that wouldn’t like to see nothing more than the other face down in a ditch and yet were unable to let go of the mutual rivalry. Afterwards, be it seconds, minutes or hours later- an irritated female voice put an end to our staring contest.

    “Settle down, girls, you both are pretty, okay?”

    With eyes shooting daggers at both of us, Touko Aozaki was huddled almost comically in one of the chairs at the base of my bed. It was kind of strange really- her eyes were suspiciously red, almost like she had cried. And yet I couldn’t even be sure of those details because her face constantly washed in and out of focus when I looked at her. Even without getting a clear view, I noticed how her expression turned grim. Was I squinting that obviously?

    “Rejoice, Lancer,” said Archer with a sneer, trying his darn best to imitate that bastard’s voice. And yet he almost sounded like he was trying to hide his concern behind the lame joke. “You finally have the chance of looking a bit closer to a person of average intelligence! The doctor said you are going to need glasses from now on. Hell, he said it was a miracle you could still see at all with the amount of blood vessels inside your eyes that got damaged,” he finished, reverting back to his own, no less annoying or grating voice.

    Aye, I remembered when Archer mentioned it. The Warp Spasm. Honestly, it was a miracle that I was still alive, much less being able to see. That one spasm was like none I had ever had before- the feeling had been close to my body eating itself from the inside. I gritted my teeth in an attempt to chase away the painful memory and tried propping myself up on my hands.

    Nothing happened.

    “Hey, Archer,” I started, my eyes now wandering somewhere to Touko’s left. Her fiery red hair glistened lightly under the light of the sun- almost like Bazett’s. Almost. “Why can’t I feel my hands?”

    The redhead’s response was hurriedly lighting up a cigarette. It took some time actually- her trembling hand struggled with the lighter. Apparently no one had bothered to remind her she couldn’t smoke in the hospital. Archer didn’t look keen on answering either, preferring to stare out of the window and pretend his hearing had suddenly left him. Finally, after what felt like an eternity to me, the silver-haired bastard obliged to look me in the eyes and answer.

    “A Warp Spasm of that magnitude… your body wasn’t even meant to survive it. The doctors said that if you hadn’t passed out of blood loss right then and there, if you had been conscious for even a bit more to keep the Spasm running, your heart would’ve burst and your nervous system would’ve gotten fried completely. Your sight isn’t much of a problem- a pair of glasses will remedy that. But your hands… when I found you they were beyond shattered. They were just lumps of meat attached to your body- the freaking bones were sticking out of them like spikes! You looked like you had ten fingers on each hand- the bones had been forced out of the flesh. Whatever nerves and muscles you’ve had from the elbows down… no surgeon can repair that.”

    “I’ll fix him!” almost shouted Touko and shot Archer a glare I had seen only once so far- after that one poor sod had called her a ‘dirty red’. “I’ll make even better prosthetic hands than… than that one! I’m sure I’ll be able to hook them up with the nerves and muscles higher in his hands. We’ll… we’ll just chop off the useless parts.”

    Aye, it made sense for her to be so jittery and nervous. After all, that demonic hand was her creation. And word of how things were, or at least some accurate guesses, had surely gotten out so far. Still, she shouldn’t have worried. I doubt there was anyone whom that old snake hadn’t played for a fool.

    “Oi, don’t worry about that!” I said with as much force as my sore throat could muster. She just continued to smoke her cigarette like some darn addict, eyes wandering somewhere far away.

    “Hey!”

    The only response was a cloud of smoke being exhaled through her ruby lips.

    “Hey, Dirty Red!” I shouted, angry enough to be willing to take a risk no sane mane had ever taken.

    It worked like a charm. Her long ponytail swished through the air as she turned around to face me, eyes boring a burning hole through my soul as she probably prepared herself to tear out whatever nerves I had left in my body with her bare hands. And then the sense of dread disappeared just as suddenly as it had arrived, her reaction apparently being only on instinct. Still, I had gotten her attention… somewhat.

    “Don’t beat yourself up, Aozaki. Kotomine was a bastard tricky enough to cheat the devil. It’s not your fault.”

    She only found the strength to nod and hid her eyes under her bangs. I could’ve sworn I had seen something glisten at the corner of her eye for a moment. Of course, Archer wouldn’t have been Archer without ruining the mood even further.

    “Lancer, about Baz-“

    “Don’t.”

    It wasn’t a human’s voice that barked the order. And despite being too weak to even shout properly, despite it being an order by a darn cripple, it shut him up. Whatever Archer had seen in the hound’s eyes at that moment, it had made him beat a retreat like no other.

    Frankly, I don’t know why I reacted that way. It wasn’t like it was his fault, he may have even wanted to say something to make me feel better in his own overly sarcastic way. But I didn’t want to talk about it. Deep down, even while I had dreamt that dream… I had decided. I was going to remember Bazett the way she had been before him, before that bastard had corrupted and twisted my little guardian angel. The one bearing the skull mask I was going to chase away from my memories forever. It was the coward’s way, aye, but I just couldn’t bear it. I would’ve gone insane if I let myself to remember her pale face and glazed over eyes.

    But who it was that killed her in the end… that sin I was never going to forgive or forget. That sin was mine and mine alone to bear… and when my time came, I was willing to accept my punishment in the deepest pits that Hell could offer. It was funny in a way that made me want to cry- I had spent so many sleepless nights chasing after her killer when it had been me the whole time… aye, that kind of twist was like right out some crappy detective novel.

    With his fangs bared, the hound let out a howling laugh- the hoarse laugh of a madman.

    And the hound was promptly silenced by the fist of the silver-haired bastard.

    Don’t,” he echoed, looking at me with those damn grey eyes of his that made you think he could read your mind.

    The time passed in silence as the sun slowly descended behind the western horizon. The hospital room’s sterile white tiles were colored red- the deepest crimson, like a blossoming rose- by the parting beams of the sun. The aroma of Touko’s cigarettes lingered into the air as she continued to light one after another, lost in fretful contemplation. Archer had taken the other chair and was currently sitting cross-legged, fingers rubbing his temples to fight off the impeding headache.

    “How long was I out?” I finally asked, unable to bear the silence anymore.

    “Around three days,” answered my former partner. He then continued speaking, as if he wanted nothing more than someone willing to listen to the tales of his investigation. “You’ve to thank your landlord actually. The old hag heard a commotion and went to see what was happening, probably to tell you not to snore so loud. Then she found the broken table, the holes from the bullets and the blood all over the place. And Uryuu’s dead body was probably the last straw ‘cause she immediately phoned the police. It was my night shift and since I knew you’ve got no common sense whatsoever, I got to your place as fast as I could to search for some clue where you’ve gone to. Thankfully, I found this next to the body,” he said and took out the figurine of the black hooded angel out of his pocket.

    “I remember seeing one like that around Kotomine’s neck when I questioned him so I headed to the church… but the party was over before I could get there.”

    “Why would you question him?” I said, more out of curiosity than anything else. Up until last night- or rather, three nights ago- Kirei wasn’t on my suspect list at all.

    “Well, I did some digging after I found out who hired you, tried to investigate my little brother’s activities to find out why and how he was connected to the Matou girl. Turns out Shirou visited Kotomine’s church several times the past few weeks. You can guess how useful that bastard was as an informer, tho.”

    Another minute passed in silence and then Archer finally stood up after checking the time on his wrist watch. The sun had already set behind him, leaving the city of sins to be engulfed by the twilight that always preceded the impregnable darkness.

    “Well, I gotta go. I’ve got an… ahem, appointment. Try not to die before you pay me back for saving you, old dog,” he said with a smirk and waved a casual goodbye.

    “Your little kitty cat waiting for you, Archer?”

    My words froze him on the spot. For a moment there I wondered if he was going to punch me again, or just go all out and strangle me while I couldn’t defend myself. But nothing of the sort happened and he just silently left, not even bothering to slam the door behind him. I actually wondered why he had saved me at all- he was probably guessing that I had uncovered enough to drag him and his precious little Rin down in the mud. And yet… there I was. Alive because of him.

    Aye, being indebted to him was almost as bad as losing both my arms.

    “What’s the Commissioner’s official cover-up?” I asked Touko, trying to get my mind off such gruesome thoughts.

    “He’s probably going to give you a medal or something,” said the redhead and let out a laugh- at least she seemed to be getting better. “He’d shout from the top of the clock tower if he could- how the crazy priest set up a cult to attack the families, but it’s no use anymore. Even without you revealing whatever you’ve unearthed, the mafias are headless now. The branch families of the Matou have split into small gangs, the Einzbern’s leader is a little girl who has been doing nothing but cry this last three days from what I hear and Kiritsugu is losing ground after his people failed so many assignments. Velvet will probably try to keep you quiet with medals and money but… I doubt you’ll bite, right? And the Yakuza are now practically marching into the old families’ territories now. And the heads of the Tohsaka branch families are arguing day in and day out who to be the leader now that it’s out that old Tokiomi is six feet under.”

    “At least Kotomine’s creepy cult is over.”

    “Well…” Touko started darkly, too darkly for my tastes. “I heard Velvet talking with Archer yesterday- they’ve unearthed the graves of people who had supposedly died from overdose form the past few months and it turns out that, compared to the number of bodies found in the church, around one-third of them are missing. There’re patrols prowling the city day and night now, trying to find out where they could be hiding.”

    It was a disturbing turn of events, that much was certain. And I had trouble wrapping my mind around how exactly a bunch of cultist junkies could hide their tracks so well. Without Kotomine they had no goal or purpose and whoever else was capable of taking the position of leader, I had killed with my own two hands. Could they have been possibly trying to fulfill their mission even without their dark messiah present?

    And then I sensed it- that gnawing irritating feeling at the back of your head you get when you’re just sure you are forgetting something and can’t remember what it is. Like chasing sun spots, I struggled to remember what could possibly make me so uneasy when everything was finally over. Metaphorically speaking, it was as if I had managed to connect all the pieces of the puzzle but some of them were upside-down or put in the wrong places. Something about this whole thing was off…

    “Lancer?” Touko asked worriedly. I didn’t bother to answer.

    “…And Shirou changed after he started going out with her. Every time they met at the Babylon he would come home dizzy and with bloodshot eyes. And while he had always been somewhat… heroic, after he met her he started blurting those ridiculous ‘Hero of Justice’ theories more and more. I didn’t like this new Shirou. It was like he was speaking more of vengeance than of justice. She changed him and took him from me!...”

    “..Well, what I’m telling you I’ve heard from Shirou…”

    “Should I call the doctor? Hey, are you hurting somewhere?” Touko was starting to panic. I was too enthralled in my own thoughts to say anything.

    ”…Turns out Shirou visited Kotomine’s church several times that past few weeks…”

    “Lanc-“ the redhead looked ready to dart out of the room and call a doctor so shook my head wildly to cut her off.

    “…Shirou… Shirou was willing to acknowledge that and break the accursed circle. ‘A Hero of Justice’, he said. Well, I welcome any and all who are willing to sweep the filth off my city…”

    “…The Angel of Death that I created has sown the seeds of discord and vengeance already. And in the newly-born dark messiah’s, the true spirit of Vengeance, own words ‘first I’ll punish the one of Lust, then the epitome of Greed shall follow and then each and every of the rest’!...”

    “First I’ll punish the one of Lust,” I echoed weakly and Touko looked at me like I had suddenly grown a second head. “Hey, Aozaki… the first victim was actually Tokiomi Tohsaka, right?”

    The redhead didn’t look like she understood my ramblings one bit but nodded weakly in response. She had apparently decided to play along with whatever madness had taken hold of me for now.

    “How was the heart removed from Sakura’s body?”

    “Uhm… it was cut out,” answered Touko, knitting her delicate eyebrows in her attempt to remember the details. “The three main arteries connecting to it had been cut out before it had been removed. It was… precise and perfect,” finished the coroner with no small amount of disgust.

    “That’s it, precise and perfect,” I repeated her words grimly. Twice I had seen that demon hand in action. Clean wounds were the last things it left behind. It tore the hearts out, it didn’t cut them out. And Kotomine would’ve only sent… Bazett or Ryuu, never a mere goon with no metallic claws to flaunt.

    …Then the epitome of Greed shall follow and then each and every of the rest…

    “Kotomine wasn’t the only killer!” I shouted and tried to stand up on reflex, only to fail rather pathetically. Still, the realization was much too great for me to bother with being dragged down by my lack of working upper appendages. “The modus operandi doesn’t match up! And back then Kotomine said some things-“

    I stopped for a second, reason finally catching up with my instincts. Could I trust someone like that false priest? He had manipulated and played everyone for fools but… he never actually lied. That was the greatest insult of all actually, how good he was at twisting the truth and making you believe a false reality without him pointing out the details for you. All that time when he had talked as if Bazett was alive he wasn’t actually lying…

    Nah, there was a second murderer and I was sure of it. Only his identity was what bothered me. But it was irrelevant anyway until he was caught. First the one of Lust- that was Sakura, with her ravenous tastes for earthly pleasures. Lust meant sex and that could only lead to the conclusion that Greed meant… money.

    “Call Velvet!” I ordered Touko a bit more forcedly than needed. The redhead just raised a delicate eyebrow and looked at me unamusedly. “The killer’s next target is Gil King!”

    “Look, Lancer, you’re just tired and you went through a lot-“ she started and my blood froze when I realized where she was getting at.

    “I’m not mad, Aozaki! I’m not paranoid, nor delusional, nor wrong and I sure as hell ain’t crazy,” I said, hastily cutting her off and struggling to get up using only my torso and legs. The pain that jolted through my body nearly made me bite my tongue off.

    The redheaded puppeteer threw me a rather judging look, as if she could tell whether the cogs turning inside my head were broken if she just looked at me really intensely. After only half a minute ,which felt like half an year to me, she answered half-heartedly.

    “No one at the station is going to believe you. And I know personally both the Commissioner and Mr. King- Velvet hates him, heavens know why, but he hates him with a passion. Even if he believes you he’d rather leave him be gutted before he’d show up, fashionably late. Just on time to catch the killer and just late enough for King to die.”

    I gritted my aching teeth against each other, trying to come up with a plan. Alas, the hound wasn’t a very tactical thinker- and so he came up with the only rational decision that didn’t rely on unreliable outside factors- but it was probably going to end in his death or, at least, in tons of pain.

    “Oi, Aozaki… help me get dressed, would ya? Please?” I added and tried flashing her an innocent smile. In my case that meant showing her two rows of rather pointy teeth bared in a feral grin.

    “No.”

    Well, that could’ve gone better.

    I started arguing with- or rather, pleading- her to allow me to pull off my positively insane scheme. It was a matter of life and death. Well, frankly, there was no love lost between me and Gil King but if saving the blond bastard’s life meant catching the psycho who had killed the little goddess, I considered it a fair trade. Aye, I had made a promise, a Geassa. Even if I had to crawl to the top floor of the Babylon like a worm, dressed in nothing but my hospital gown, I had to do it.

    “Come on, that’s the only way! We’re just going to warn him. He has enough guards to defend himself.”

    “Why don’t I just phone him?” she countered victoriously, confident that she had shattered my plan into a million of tiny pieces and then scattered them to the four winds.

    “You think he’ll believe you?”

    Her smirk disappeared with the speed of a factory worker who had just gotten his monthly pay racing towards the nearest bar.

    “We can’t get there on time, Lancer.”

    “You can drive or we’ll get a taxi. For the right amount of money he’ll get us there in no time.”

    “The guards won’t let us into the Babylon just like that, much less allow us to see him face to face.”

    “You’ve gotten us in before. And you just said yourself you’re personally acquainted with him, did you not?”

    All defenses crumbling, Touko pinched the bridge of her nose to fight off the impending headache.

    “Lancer, you’re so insane it’s not even funny.”

    Insane? Nah, arguing to save Gil King’s sorry excuse of a life meant I was so beyond insanity that I had broken the scales. But then again, I was desperate. Bite me.

    ***


    It was ridiculous.

    Outrageous.

    A sick joke that the Universe was playing on me. After all, who else but this hound was that bitch’s chew toy?

    After Touko had somehow managed to help me get dressed despite my current mobility and flexibility being on the level of a wooden plank, after I had nearly had to headbutt my doctor into unconsciousness to get him to let me go, after spending the full contents of my already nearly empty wallet to make the cab driver take us there on time...

    Gil King welcomed us with a mixture of a smirk and the look you gave to gum stuck to your shoe. The blond bastard didn’t even bother to stand up from the president chair behind his antique mahogany desk. He just stood there, a thick Cuban cigar clutched between his lips and looked at us as if he waited for us to put up a circus performance.

    There was no blood on him, no heart-shaped hole on his chest, no killer maniac rampaging in the room, no nothing.

    Aye, for such embarrassment, humanity doesn’t even have a word invented yet.

    “Touko,” he started, not even bothering to recognize my existence and looking only at the redhead. And even the glance he gave her was like that of a master speaking to his maid. “What, pray tell, is this mongrel of a mutt doing inside my home?”

    And I wanted to eat my own fedora in fury when I saw Aozaki actually blushing for the first time ever, her cheeks flushed in a color rather close to her bright red hair. I let out a tired sigh and answered instead of her, trying to at least not make her suffer any future embarrassments because of me.

    “Gil, ole’ pal of mine,” I said, immediate counterattack being the only way I could salvage whatever respect I had left. I didn’t even care that he could easily throw me out through the window if I spoke to him in such a way. It was do or die and I had already kinda died three days ago. “I just thought that you’re probably going to be the killer’s next target so I had Aozaki help me rush bravely here to save your scrawny rich ass. Sadly, it seems I’ve been mistaken and you’re probably going to live to see another day. But if the killer shows up after us, do give me a holler, a’ight?”

    Frankly, considering the look his crimson eyes gave me, it was a miracle he didn’t make me into a pincushion for those fancy antique weapons he kept mounted to the walls in his office.

    “Listen well, mutt,” he spat out the word, like I was a being so small and insignificant that even a bacteria would look like a giant next to me. “While I appreciat Miss Aozaki here being upset about any possible damage done to my well-toned rear assets, neither said assets nor my bank account have anything to do with a mongrel like you. I highly advise you to turn tail and run, mutt, before I fulfill my promise from last time and you find yourself on the express way down.”

    I knew I had to do as he said, I fully realized that getting on Gil King’s bad side any further meant practically digging myself a grave and then closing the lid of the coffin personally, but by the heavens! I wanted nothing more than to shove that ornate red spear that was hanged over the mantelpiece up that prideful bastard’s arse ‘till it the tip popped out through his nose.

    And then it hit me.

    Not the money were Gil King’s signature sin. Nah, above all else, the blond bastard’s main characteristic was being the very rare special kind of douchebag that was born once a century. But who was the target then? The Matous were out of the question already- there wasn’t anyone significant left to kill. After that hulking butler’s death Kiritsugu had probably placed tight enough security at the Einzbern’s castle that they could certainly push back a whole army. Emiya himself was surrounded by people like the late Kojiro all day long. The Tigress was strong enough to fend off any assailant herself, even if he was backed up by a small army. So that only left…

    “The Tohsaka mansion! That’s the killer’s destination tonight, that’s where he’s gonna hit!” I whispered hastily into Touko’s ear. Needless to say, she was less than enthusiastic to go along with me this time.

    “Lancer, think about it for a minute!” she nearly hissed at me and looked ready to drag me back to the hospital by the ear if she had to. “You were wrong once already, you can’t just keep guessing and barging into people… dangerous people’s houses. Who knows, maybe there isn’t another culprit! Maybe Kotomine had just ordered her heart to be carefully cut out on purpose to set us off track. That’s completely his style.”

    “A woman and a cripple,” sniggered the blond bastard. “Truly this hypothetical killer would be shaking in his boots now if he knew who was after him.”

    It took all my willpower not to bite off his neck right then and there, consequences be damned.

    Gritting my teeth, I let out one of ‘em special cusses which Pa used to save only for extraordinary situations and I hightailed it out of there before Touko could stop me. After all, I was already dressed and it wasn’t like she could help me get inside the mansion. I only prayed that the triple dose of morphine I threatened the doc to give me didn’t wear out before I got there.

    The cab ride through the rain-drenched streets of the dark city felt like eternity. And since I had spent all my money paying for the lightning-fast trip to the Babylon, I was forced to break out of the car by force when we reached our destination and pray that the cursing driver wasn’t crazy enough to chase me inside the Tohsaka’s territory just because of some measly cab fare. Thankfully, unlike me, the driver seemed to possess enough common sense to let it go and drive away with a few more fabulous curses and several quips about Ma that would’ve usually earned him a broken nose and a toothless mouth. But that night was different- I was in too much of a hurry to bother paying back. So all I could do was mutter a silent apology to Ma and direct some of Pa’s favorite curses at the wide-open gate .And although it made things easier for me, I doubted the Tohsakas had the habit of leaving the main entrance to their home wide open in the dead of the night.

    It was my first time visiting the mansion and normally, in a house so big I would’ve gotten lost rather quickly. But the commotion coming from somewhere within was loud enough to guide me through the lightless corridors and down and up several flights of stairs. What kind of a person needed such a big house anyway?

    As I neared my destination the tell-tale signs of a raging battle were easy to discern. Countless daggers, knifes and bullets littered the floors, the walls and in some odd cases, even the ceiling. When I got even nearer, the first of the trail of black-clad bodies, now busy painting the expensive carpet crimson with their innards, started showing up. The noise got a bit clearer and I could even discern the signature sound of guns being fired and the clatter of metal against metal. I got uneasy when suit-clad corpses, doubtlessly Rin’s guards, started appearing amidst the assassins’ bodies.

    “Persistent… cowardly… bastards!”

    There was no mistaking the voice that spat out the string of annoyance-dripping words one after another. He soon came into view, too. After turning around one final blood-drenched corner, I entered a spacious hall big enough to fit my whole apartment in it three times over.

    And sure enough, it was more than easy to spot the blur of silverfish-gray hair that jolted around amidst the waves of black-clad skull-faced assassins. I tried to ignore the fact that Archer was naked from the waist up, much less what it implied, so I instead tried to evaluate my former partner’s situation. Not that had any idea how a cripple could help him back then. I was kinda winging everything that night so planning that far up front wasn’t actually in my plans. Neither did it sound so redundant in my head…

    Still, it didn’t look like Archer needed my help either way. While he was bleeding for a dozen cuts and his whole upper body was littered with bruises, he was doing fairly well for someone faced with a bunch of knife-wielding cultist junkies who practically ran only on adrenaline and whatever else was in those drugs. Those twin black and white modern pistols of his were a blur in his hands. Every shot was a certain kill and there wasn’t a single bullet wasted. Which wasn’t that much of a surprise considering that the usual distance between the gun and the target was from zero to thirty centimeters. Why a gunslinger like him had a style revolving completely on getting close enough to the opponent to actually try to fence him with the pistol and punch him in the face with the barrel, was a mystery for the ages. Why he would be considered a gunslinger at all if he fought only up close was another.

    The clatter of blades clashing against guns filled the hall as Archer took them out one after the other. Blocks, punches, shooting over his shoulder, under it, pivoting and turning a complete three hundred and sixty degrees- there wasn’t a single useless move in Archer’s repertoire. The crowd of masked goons dwindled rather quickly. Still, to their credit, not even one of the black shades tried to escape. They fought to the last man and even after Archer had put half a magazine worth of bullets inside said last man’s torso, he had stubbornly kept on slashing away until a bullet shot from right under his chin had ended his career as a wannabe assassin.

    For a fleeting moment, for one millisecond that was even less than a heartbeat, I could almost admit that I was glad Archer hadn’t ended up a glorified pincushion in my absence. And then he gave me that condensing smug look of his that just begged me to punch him in the face. Or kick him, considering how useless both of my arms were at the moment. That was one of the most annoying things in Archer- he tended to forget that no amount of gun-ballet could hope to stand even a ghost of a chance against a Warp Spasm.

    “ARCHER!”

    The angry shout, as if torn right out from inside my brain, echoed in the spacious hall. It was a familiar voice, even if vaguely. And I even prayed that I was wrong and the speaker wasn’t who I thought he was. But there was no mistaking that disheveled mop of reddish hair.

    Shirou Emiya barged into the room as if he owned it, dragging along an unconscious Rin Tohsaka, dressed only in a mostly see-through red nightie. Which explained Archer’s lack of upper clothing, for better or for worse. Curiously, Shirou was naked from the waist up as well- but one could easily see the reason for his getup, or rather lack of such. A web of intricate symbols and sigils was freshly tattooed on the teen’s body, clearly visible under the artificial light stemming down from the chandelier. Even his face was covered in intertwining voodoo-shmoodo marks. And judging by the onyx knife currently pressed against Rin’s pale and slender throat, it wasn’t merely an ordinary teenage rebellion.

    “Give it up, Archer!” spat out the leader of the assassins and shot a glare towards me and his adopted brother. “There is no stopping it! Judgment shall be passed tonight and this sinner’s rotten blood shall paint this city red. Her greed is her undoing. She was ready to hide the death of her own father, leave him to rot away buried under some tree and hidden in the woods just because she doesn’t want to lose her family’s fortune. Her ambition is like poison that has filled even your veins, Archer, you who revoked your claims of the Emiya family’s inheritance just so you could pursue your flimsy definition justice.”

    Aye, the lad was mad alright. But it wasn’t only the tattoos or the lunacy talk that set him so much apart from that jittery boy that had barged into my office to ask me to search for his lass. There were bags under his sunken bloodshot eyes and one too many puncture marks around the veins on his arms.

    “But this,” bellowed out Shirou and bared his teeth in a madman’s grin. “This is true Justice! The justice of vengeance which this city of sins has waited for so many years. No more will the sinners rule us even in clear daylight. We won’t need to fear them no more! I will cut their wretched hearts out for all to see, show the public their secrets and most of all, show them that they are mortal and that none escapes the blade of Justice! None escapes the blade of Vengeance!”

    I tried to open my mouth and give him a piece of my mind but, as if knowing I was gonna speak up, Archer cut me off before I had even began.

    “Don’t interfere. This is a family matter.”

    Archer clearly was out of breath, judging by the heaving that accompanied every rise and fall of his chest. His silverfish hair was drenched and the sweat poured down into his eyes, probably blurring his vision. A small pool of blood was starting to form around his feet. With the adrenaline surge wearing off, the numerous cuts were starting to take their toll on him. Normally a rowdy loudmouthed teenager would’ve been a joke to deal with for either of us but in our current conditions, and with Rin as a hostage no less, things weren’t exactly pretty.

    “No, Archer,” Shirou countered and pointed accusingly at his brother with his knife. “This is far beyond mere family matters. This is about the very future of this city.”

    “Hah, a petty squabble with my little brother isn’t going to affect the city, Shirou,” said Archer as sarcastically as he could, desperate to bluff about his condition.

    “Shirou Emiya is no more!” countered the teen, eyes almost bulging out in rage. “He was a weakling, a nobody who wanted to let that slut off the hook just because of some twisted kind of love. This one loved her, too, y’know. But because of that love, I killed her so she could atone for her sins in this world and not suffer in the next. This one has transcended, baptized in Sakura Matou’s blood. This one is Avenger! And this one is willing to bear all the evil in this world for his loved one’s sake. After every last sinner is purged mine will be the last soul sacrificed, the last life taken that shall shatter the cursed circle of revenge which has trapped this whole city since forever.”

    It wasn’t physical pain that made my heart fall when I heard his delusional words. Rather, their similarity to those of others, even to my own silent vow that I had taken three nights ago, made me weak in the knees. To his credit, Archer didn’t seem fazed in the least.

    “So that’s why you killed Sakura, Shirou?” asked Archer, disgust dripping from his voice. “That’s why you killed the one you love? Because of some twisted sense of justice?”

    “It’s not twisted at all!” countered Shirou in much the same way a child would argue with his big brother in a normal situation. “I am a Hero of Justice now! I have steeled my heart because I made the greatest sacrifice of all for the cause! But you can do it, too, Archer! You can be a Hero of Justice as well! Just shoot her, kill this greedy skank and join me as I purge this city from its sins!”

    “Is that so, Shirou?” Archer asked almost rhetorically after a minute or so of contemplation and raised his gun to my great surprise. “Are those your ideals?”

    The tattooed teen nodded vigorously and even propped Rin’s head up by the chin so Archer could shoot her more easily.

    “Then drown in your ideals, little brother-“

    “Huh?” the teen couldn’t even express his surprise properly, his eyes widening accusingly at his big brother, as if he wanted to cry and rat him out to daddy for bullying him.

    “-And die.”

    The lone echo of the flying bullet lingered in the hall long after the dead body of Shirou Emiya, a bullet lodged between his eyes, hit the blood-splattered floor of the Tohsaka mansion.


    A lone detective takes it upon himself to solve the murder of a young woman, willingly diving into the dangerous web of conspiracies weaved by the feuding mafia families. But after the truth is uncovered, will that city of sin be the same ever again?

  11. #11
    Guess Who's Watching... Aladar's Avatar
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    Default re: A Stolen Heart (Non-Pokémon, Mystery) COMPLETE

    Epilogue:

    Of A Circle Yet Unbroken


    Around six months had passed since the ‘Heartbreak murders’- a name so imaginative that probably some monkey slapping away on a typing machine had come up with it in a fit of hungry rage, disturbed by the lack of fresh bananas in the winter. The media, proving themselves to be every bit the carcass-loving vultures we just knew they were, swarmed all over the story. No matter how much the Commissioner tried, even with his little reporter lass helping him, he couldn’t put out the wildfire of misinformation and overblown lies. Headlines like ‘Tokiomi Tohsaka Secretly Swaps Himself With The Killer’ and ‘Hearts Of Victims Replaced With Candy’ certainly proved that the journalists of today either had too much time on their hands or needed to go check their heads. Still, no matter how much I hated the media leeches, some of them even daring to barge into my house and ask questions, I somewhat understood their almost psychopathic zealously concerning the case. Well, almost. A bit.

    After all, even in this city of sins, these mysterious to the public murders rivaled the Asagami Academy’s killings of 1954 in sheer mindfuck and gruesomeness. Of course, with the victims and villains both being exposed to the public, the media wanted to have a hero, too. Velvet, bastard that he was, milked my role in the revealing of the culprits for all it was worth. Thankfully, after I sent the seventh intrepid nerd that knocked on my door back with his camera smashed into his head, the newspaper gave up. Of sending reporters to interview me that is- my presence on the pages of the newspapers themselves only increased tenfold, now even telling tales of my ‘overly violent and highly suspicious anger management problems’. Also, I was apparently in a heated secret relationship with a certain silver-haired former colleague of mine. The reporter’s car was found two days later, lacking the tires, somewhat roofless, with its engine on fire, what was left of the windows jammed into the driver’s seat along with a note that said ‘sit here, dipstick’ and with the steering wheel somehow fit inside the exhaust pipe.

    For reasons unknown my name had become somewhat of a rarity in newspapers ever since then.

    Needless to say, the Commissioner’s attempt at buying me off failed spectacularly. At least the amount of money had been a decent one, probably more than I could make in ten years. But deluding himself that I’d bend over because of a new shiny medal made me question Velvet’s grip on reality. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a logical reason he wouldn’t remember that I had outgrown my interest in badges of the shiny, official kind after I had jammed my police one halfway through his desk. And so had started my frequent, almost daily sometimes, visits of the court where I had learned to hate bureaucracy even more and found out that lawyers as a whole could easily take the top spot on my ‘Guys I Want To Give A Free Face Rearrangement’ list.

    Still, apparently even the corrupt ‘official’ leaders of this darn city had had enough of the mafia and Kiritsugu’s company running things in town. Probably skipping around like little schoolgirls behind closed doors, the city’s whole administration seemed more than ready to give up some bribe money in exchange of finally getting rid of the old families’ tight powergrip. Whether the average citizen was supposed to be glad about it or just lynch every person in a suit they came across was still up for debate.

    Of course, all shit had hit the proverbial fan when the pyramid of power which had ruled this city for decades had collapsed simultaneously from top to bottom and all the way back to the top. The Yakuza hadn’t even waited for the first warrant to be issued before they had stormed the mafia’s territories like it had been no one’s business. With the bigshots’ ranks now in shambles and the police, as usual, unable to do anything than shrug and pretend they were actually trying, the ordinary people had found themselves searching help from the small street gangs. The small fries had found themselves assaulted by the sharks and they did the only thing they could have done to survive. They had forgotten the old rivalries with lightning speed, quickly forming alliances with each other and working together to push off the invading Tigers. It had been only around a month after all the street anarchy had begun when Sherwood had triumphantly left their hideouts in the Narrows and had managed to secure around a third of Lowtown in merely a day’s time. Under their leader, the Robin Ryuu had once talked almost in awe, Sherwood had declared urban war on the Tigers, pushing back the Fujimuras’ people day after day. It helped that the city warriors bearing the green cloth of designation on their bodies never fought face to face. With misdirection, guerilla tactics and by overall being one big pain in the Yakuza’s collective arses, Sherwood had soon taken full control of Lowtown. Many gang alliances had asked for Robin’s men to join them- to which the answer was that they were all free to join Sherwood. At the beginning everyone had just thought of Robin as a pompous douche high on his initial success.

    And then had come the news that the little winter fairy, Lady Einzbern, had made Robin her right-hand man. With Sherwood now synonyms with the former might of the Einzberns and their branch families, all those gang unions had started groveling at Robin’s feet for a chance to get membership. It went without saying that he had accepted- but the real surprise was when half of the Matou’s former branch families had sworn allegiance to the winter fairy’s green knight and, by proxy, to Lady Einzbern herself.

    And speaking of the Einzberns, merely a week after unveiling what I had thought of as the last piece of the mystery, Archer had resigned from the police. Of course, it hadn’t been a surprise given that the Emiya name wasn’t particularly in good graces now that Kiritsugu was under the very real threat of spending some quality time in prison. Still, most people- me included- had thought that Archer was going to just assume his position as an Einzbern. He was the late Irisviel von Einzbern’s firstborn son, after all. But instead of becoming a Lord and eating from a silver spoon every evening, Archer had given up his claims for the family’s fortune.

    Only to announce his marriage to the Tohsaka’s heir two weeks later, on Rin’s eighteenth birthday. The branch families of the Tohsaka had suddenly found themselves quickly put back in line by the main family’s new patriarch. Many of the companies who had used to support Heaven’s Feel Incorporated had then latched onto Archer and the Tohsakas, desperate not to sink along with Kiritsugu. In a cry of defiance to the Einzberns, half of the former Matou-sworn families and gangs had also thrown their bid with Archer. So, somehow emerging from the calamity stronger than ever before, the Tohsakas had turned into the sole thing keeping the Tigers out of Hightown, singlehandedly.

    Frankly, I didn’t know if things were actually better from the time when the three families had used to reign, power shared under the threat of a full-blown mob war. As mentioned, the Tohsakas under Archer’s leadership were metaphorically blooming, an epitome of safe haven for every crooked or non-crooked businessman or ordinary resident of the better parts of the city. After lying in wait for a suspiciously long time, Robin had turned into an almost literal folk hero for the ordinary people. He had gained enough fame with his deeds for the average folk to somehow overlook the fact that as the proverbial sworn knight of Lady Einzbern, he now lived in a castle and had control of around a third of the city. Well, I guessed that turning a ragtag bunch of guerillas into a freaking army in the span of a month did tend to make people overlook one’s flaws. The Tigers hadn’t fared half-bad either. They had gained control of the majority of the Matou’s former territory and had also earned themselves solid footing into the central parts of the city. All in all, the whole place was now divided in three almost equal parts and, according to the whispered tales spread all over the city, each and every night the Tigress, Archer and Robin prowled the dark alleys in search of one another.

    Looking back, the whole thing really did hinge almost solely on the efforts of those three.

    It was as if the weak and unstable parts of the city’s prominent dark side had been swept away, only to be inherited by even stronger and deadlier beasts.

    I myself hadn’t fared half-bad during all those months. Touko had truly outdone herself with the pair of prosthetic hands she had put together for me. Still, getting used to them was a chore and as the winter drew near I had began waking up in the middle of the night, metallic hands getting frosty, with higher and higher frequency.

    That snowy day at the end of January was a relatively important one in my life. The court finally put an end to the case and all the conspirators, the ones who were still alive anyway, were put behind bars. I reassured myself over and over again that it meant no more pesky journalists for me to deal with, at least after a week more or so. After escaping the ambush the vultures had set up for me in front of the court house, I found myself wandering the streets of the city. As usual for the winter, sundown was ridiculously early. The tons of snow that had engulfed the whole city, like some thick white curtain trying to hide all the sins away, were colored red by the rays of the setting sun.

    The deepest crimson, like a blossoming rose.

    It was as if the scarlet snow now finally showed to the world what kind of city it truly was. Covered in proverbial and literal blood, from the darkest, dirtiest back alleys to the spire-tops of the tallest skyscrapers. And still, I couldn’t make myself leave it. It was the city I had grown up in. It was the city I had met Bazett in. I figured that if I had survived three solid decades in it I could survive a couple or more so.

    My wandering feet soon led me to the gloomy graveyard next to Kotomine’s, or rather formerly his, church. Bazett’s grave looked the same as always- the tombstone seemed like a guiding beacon to me despite being identical to those around it. The snow around the place was squashed under footprint after footprint shaped as the soles of my shoes and the flowers placed at the base hadn’t even died yet. The only difference from the grave that I had kept on visiting so many times for now nearly eight years was that Bazett’s body was truly resting beneath the snow and soil now.

    I stood there until the sun set fully and night descended. The winter darkness was different from the gloomy nights of the rest of the year. Through the ragtag veil of the clouds, the moon shined down brightly. The snow reflected it all, turning into a glowing blanket of dimmed light that covered the whole city. When my artificial hands had started threatening me that they’d get incased in solid ice once again, I stood up with a sigh and pushed back the pair of glasses that I was still unaccustomed to wearing. That darn thing felt like itchiness incarnate when I put it on.

    Halfway on my way out, I decided to visit yet another old acquaintance on a whim. Sasaki Kojiro’s unassuming grave didn’t stand out in the darkness at all. In stark contrast to the man it should have represented, it was painfully inconspicuous and looked almost like a clone to all the other graves flanking it. Back when they had buried the body, the sole person present aside from the priest who had conducted the hasty ceremony had been me. Still, even tho I hadn’t visited him for around a month, the snow around it was recently cleaned. I could almost pick out an exotic Eastern-ish scent lingering in the chilly winter air. Incense.

    A small smile remained hidden under the brim of my fedora when I noticed the tiny porcelain tiger left at the base of the tombstone.

    The signature sound of snow getting squashed under someone’s feet made me turn around in surprise. Several rows of tombstones away, none other than Gil King had stopped in his tracks and was currently glaring at me in annoyance. It was only for a brief moment, too quickly for anyone other than a trained hound like me to notice, but his crimson eyes darted to his side. The tombstone he had looked at was noticeably bigger than the rest, pure white marble glistening under the moonlight. I could only make out the name ‘Alexander’ from where I stood.

    “Truly, there are still wonders in this world,” I said, unwilling to pass by a chance of humiliating the blond bastard. “Could it be that you, Gil, ole’ pal of mine, are paying your respects to the dead after dark ‘cause you’re afraid of someone learning you actually have a heart?”

    The blond bastard just grinded his teeth and shrugged in his furry coat, probably skinned off the back of some endangered species.

    “And I see you’re still dead-set on not kicking the bucket, mutt.”

    “Honestly?” I countered and let out a hoarse laugh. “I expected better from you then a lame pun, Gil.”

    “I was in a hurry,” he said simply and shrugged his shoulders once again.

    “A friend of yours?” I asked, unable to bear the descending silence, and nodded towards the gravestone behind him.

    The blond looked behind with curiosity, almost as if expecting to see something different than a bunch of tombstones.

    “That guy?” he answered and burst into a fit of cold, heartless laughter. “Nah, I hated him. Still, that dead loaf remains the only one in this whole darn city that can understand a word of what I’m saying.”

    And still, that kind of grave could’ve only been made with quite a lot of money- and the space around it was suspiciously lacking in snow.

    Shaking his head and muttering something about my lack of brain cells, Gil King turned his back and prepared to leave me behind.

    “Hey, Gil!” I called out, more on instinct than anything.

    He just turned around partially and raised an eyebrow in my direction. Clearly I wasn’t even worth a single ‘what’ to him.

    “I was thinking, Gil, that hospital which Kotomine bought as a front to make the drugs… wasn’t it you who owned it before that? And he did say he had bought it quite cheaply.”

    Almost a minute passed before he answered, arrogant smile playing on his lips.

    “I own this whole city, mutt. But from Kiritsugu I had learned how good Kotomine was with the scalpel and, after that dreadful incident with his wife, I decided to give him the chance to recuperate and help this city at the same time. Of course, I left my best leading scientists under his direct control. But how could I have known he’d go crazy and make brainwashing drugs?”

    “Hey, Gil… if, say, there was some shadowed mastermind who had planned all this out beforehand, which piece do you think I was in his game?” I asked almost absentmindedly. The answer was quicker than lightning.

    “Not even a pawn.”

    “Right,” I drawled out and shot him an annoyed glare.

    “No, really,” he repeated, this time a tad more seriously. “Being a pawn would imply being of some use to one of the players and having the potential of changing the outcome of the game, either by being sacrificed or getting promoted. In this, purely hypothetical of course, mastermind’s proverbial game of chess, you were of no importance.”

    “How so?” I asked and knitted my eyebrows, unknowingly holding my breath in wait for his answer.

    “Regardless of how the detective had acted in this metaphorical game, regardless of whether he had died or quit midway through… or won, as this was the case, the ending outcome would’ve been the same. The strong survive and the weak filth is swept away. If Kotomine had continued playing cult leader, the weak would’ve been picked off one by one until someone capable, be it by strength or intelligence, had put him down. If Shirou had kept on killing ‘sinners’, the leader of the strongest branch family would have outwitted the rest and taken the lead with the heir of the main family now dead. If Kiritsugu had played his cards right, either the Einzberns under his leadership were going to fully take control of the mafia part of the city or someone competent enough from the rest of the big families would’ve picked up on his schemes and dethroned him on time by turning everybody whom he had used against him. And when the detective won-“

    “The remains of the Matous split in half and were forced to join one of their former rivals to survive. The gangs allied themselves with Sherwood to fend off the Yakuza. And the Tohsakas and Einzberns themselves adopted strong outsiders into the family to be able to go toe to toe against their opponents.”

    “Precisely,” replied Gil triumphantly. “Now you see, mutt, whether you lived or died, failed or succeeded, it made no difference. The outcome would’ve been the same either way, only the details would’ve been different. The strong survive, the weak die. Simple as that.”

    There was fire in his eyes, burning with zeal I had seen only in Kotomine’s eyes when he had told me about his plan.

    “Y’know, little Lady Einzbern told me that Shirou had been quite high on that superdrug when he had used to come back home from the Babylon,” I said. It wasn’t rhetoric as much as it was fact. Both of us knew it and what it implied.

    “Kotomine had managed to get his hands on some rich boys around Shirou’s age for his cult,” replied Gil almost innocently and shrugged. “They could’ve given him some to try, under the pretext of it being all the rage or something. Or they could’ve just slipped some in his drinks until he got addicted. A shame really. Only a complete bastard would twist his heroic vow to seek Justice in such a way.”

    “Truer words have never being said, Gil, ole’ pal of mine.”

    I wanted to strangle him right then and there and bury his lifeless body under some tree so the dogs could pee on him when they passed.

    With a victorious smirk, the blond bastard finally started walking away. His tall figure disappeared quickly into the darkness, even with the piles of luminescent snow lighting the alleyway between the graves. And yet, his voice- taken back to me by the chilly wind- was as clear as crystal.

    “Some games of chess, mutt, can only be won by the player being nowhere near the board when the game is played.”


    A lone detective takes it upon himself to solve the murder of a young woman, willingly diving into the dangerous web of conspiracies weaved by the feuding mafia families. But after the truth is uncovered, will that city of sin be the same ever again?

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