Chapter 32: Friends and Foes


Miharu felt time stop as she looked at Shin. He was standing by the door of her closet, one more step and he'd disappear from sight, one more step and he would escape her question and simply leave her without an answer. And as she stared at him, she could hear her heart beating wildly inside her chest. This scenario, this possibility- the possibility of Shin actually falling for her… She didn't think it would be possible. And yet, as she dared to ask an unspoken question, she hoped for an affirmative answer.

"You're not in love with me, are you?" She repeated.

Shin briefly looked down with a downcast expression on his face. And when he looked up to meet his eyes, a dark and grim expression was already in them. His mind shouted a resounding 'YES', and yet, he knew that Lt. Nakamura was watching them so he could not simply admit it. If Lt. Nakamura knew of his feelings, she would, no doubt, immediately recommend his ejection from the mission. And he couldn't just let that happen. He has gone far too deep in this to just pull out.

"I-I… We'll talk about this later." He briefly looked at a hidden camera and shifted his eyes back to Miharu before he finally forced his leg to take a step away from Miharu's questioning eyes.

As soon as Shin stepped into the other house and came face to face with Lt. Nakamura, an awry expression was already on his face. He knew that he made a mistake and he already guessed that Lt. Nakamura was going to lecture him about it. His superior was a walking mouth, a very nasty walking mouth… And he was going to hear from her again.

"I would assume that what I saw was caused by uncontrollable hormones. Even though you're an agent, you're still a young and healthy male. The thought of a healthy male being alone together with a completely healthy female inside a room doesn't really paint a different picture from what I saw. I could excuse this, Hara if I were to use that sort of reasoning." She looked sharply at Shin and pulled out a stick of cigarette. "But you're not just an ordinary healthy male. You're InDeCo's Hara Shinichi, a top agent, someone I personally know to possess absolute self-control. Explain to me what happened." It was not a question, it was an order.

"I made a mistake." Shin admitted guiltily. "It won't happen again." He added while looking down.

"I'm going to repeat her question. Are you in love with her, Hara? Tell me honestly." Lt. Nakamura pried.

"If I say yes, will you report me?" Shin finally raised his head up and looked at Lt. Nakamura straight into her eyes.

"That depends…" She said while puffing out smoke. "Did you like it?" A glimmer of dark mischief twinkled in her eyes.

Shin rolled his eyes and exasperatedly sighed. "Are you making fun of me?" He asked. It was one of those moments that Lt. Nakamura treats him as if he's her little brother whom she could play and tease for fun. And there he was, weighing the gravity of his current offense on his shoulders because of fear that she might report him and stain his records, or worse, he could be off Miharu's case.

"You and I both that what you just did… wasn't part of your job description. And it could get you fired, Mister, even if you were the best agent in the field, it could still cost you your career. Need I remind you that she's still the Prime Minister's daughter?" Lt. Nakamura seriously spoke. "But don't worry, as long as you're still doing your job properly. And as long as I see that you know where you stand in all of this, I won't squeal about anything." Lt. Nakamura finally smiled.

Shin was finally able to heave out a sigh of relief upon hearing Lt. Nakamura's words.

"But…" Lt. Nakamura paused. "I would have to take precautions." She added.

"What do you mean?" Shin asked.

"Nothing you need to be concerned of… Since everything has come to this, I have a few things that I need to do myself." She explained without revealing anything. Lt. Nakamura knew that Shin has been doing- no, sacrificing too much of himself for this mission. And that's even only at a small percentage of actually being finally able to nail down Azrael. She was beginning to think that maybe Shin has been doing more than his share of work in this mission mainly because of Miharu… And that in itself, can be a fatal liability for him.

Trying to clear his thoughts and think back on his lapse with Miharu just a few moments ago, Shin stood leaning on the wall in complete silence. It was amazing what one woman could do to his defenses and have him struggling for control over himself. He had practically given her everything he had; the life he led, his trust, his life, his heart… And just to protect her, Shin had to kill people as well.

Suddenly, Shin remembered the Kairan Academy students that he dealt with, the ones that his supposedly grandfather asked him to kill. He thought it was strange that no news of missing students or even murdered students of Kairan Academy had surfaced over the news. Surely, with give students being shot and murdered, something should have come up by then. If bodies were not recovered, then maybe a list of missing students should have been posted…. But what was strange was that… none whatsoever news appeared.

"Lieutenant…" Shin began. "Have there been reports of missing Kairan Academy students these past weeks? I mean, five missing students all at once or… or maybe news about Kairan students being murdered?" He suddenly asked.

"No… We've had news of theft, serious physical injuries and oral defamation but no missing persons or murder. Why?" Lt. Nakamura asked.

"Strange…" Shin thought aloud. "I shot five people wearing Kairan Academy uniforms a few nights ago… I-I thought I killed them…" He whispered in a barely inaudible voice as if he was ashamed of what he had done.

"You WHAT?!" Lt. Nakamura reacted quite violently. "Why didn't I hear any of these?!"

"I'm sorry… I was just… My mistake, ma'am." He admitted.

"You know that in our line of work, we need to make sure we have less casualties as possible, much less minors… You understand that, right?" Lt. Nakamura reminded.

"I do… But I'm already in too deep in the Crimson Gang. One wrong step and I'm out. I had to convince them somehow…" Shin reasoned. "Aside from that… It was really weird because there were no reports of deaths or even missing persons… I'm pretty sure I shot five people…"

"Do you know what happened after you shot them?" Lt. Nakamura asked.

"I didn't know what happened to them… I was asked to leave the vicinity immediately…"

"Alright. I'll try to find any police records of five people found murdered or something. If it happened around here, the local police and newspapers should have any record of it. I'll dig and find out. If I don't find anything… then, that's going to be a lot weirder." Lt. Nakamura replied with a stern expression on her face as she massaged her temple. This was the first time that Shin had been making one mistake after another that it was beginning to strain her. She didn't know what InDeCo would do to him if they found out about his mishaps.

Lt. Nakamura was still deeply absorbed in her trail of thoughts while staring blankly ahead into a computer screen with Shin standing a few meters away from her with a helpless expression on his face, when suddenly… everything turned dark. Lt. Nakamura's hand immediately darted towards her waist where her gun lay untouched inside its holster. It was like a black out, only, after a few seconds, the lights were back on again. Lt. Nakamura immediately heaved a sigh of relief and looked up at Shin.

By then, Shin was on his feet with a puzzled expression on his face as his eyes were transfixed on Lt. Nakamura's computer. The computer screen was no longer blank. It was showing static with black and white blur like a television without reception. What was even weirder was the fact that other computer screens were showing the same static reception. Even the connection with the security cameras have been cut off and only static was visible.

"What the hell…?" Lt. Nakamura whispered with a completely baffled expression on her face.

And as if things weren't getting any weirder, a seemingly robotic voice spoke behind the static.

"Domo. Pride desu." The voice identified itself.

"How did you…?" It was Lt. Nakamura who asked.

Suddenly, the static was replaced by images of Lt. Nakamura and Shin as seen through the different cameras within the room. It was like they were watching themselves through their own cameras. A slight chill went down Lt. Nakamura's spine. Clearly, Pride wasn't one to be belittled. She just didn't understand why he suddenly made contact when he has been avoiding close contact cooperation with them for the last two years.

"I have important news." Pride began. "It's about Azrael."

Upon the mention of Azrael's name, Shin's ears perked up and began attentively listening to what the infamous hacker had to say. Apart from protecting Miharu, Shin's number one goal was to nail Asia's deadliest assassin down and make him nothing but history. If Pride was willing to cooperate closely with them now, Shin was willing to take advantage of that.

"What is it?" Shin asked. "Why are you contacting us now? And… And a few days ago, you made contact with me… through my phone in an untraceable call. Why?" Shin couldn't help but ask. Pride, just like him, was a complete enigma, an amoral obscurity whose mere vagueness was enough to alarm people like him.

"Easy with the questions, Thanatos-kun… We'll get to that." The voice replied. "Listen and listen well." Pride instructed. "First of all, I would like to inform you that Azrael is already on the move. Second, I decided to contact you to impart valuable information."

"What information?" Lt. Nakamura asked.

"I propose a meeting." Pride spoke. "If Thanatos-kun would be willing, I would like to meet him in person. And that's when I'm going to give the information I have." He added.

"How can we be sure that this is not a trap?" Lt. Nakamura asked.

"You'll just have to trust me now." He said.

"Okay. I'll go." Shin finally decided.

"Don't. It could be a trap." Lt. Nakamura shushed him.

"This could be the only chance we have to take a step closer in knowing Azrael." Shin insisted with a resolute expression on his face. "We've been chasing this mad man for two years. If I can be sure that Azrael is eliminated, I can be sure that Miharu would be safe from him. In a case this big, I would risk anything for a chance to take a step closer, and if it's a trap, I'm going to be ready for it."

Shin turned towards the computer screen, then turned his head to look at one of the cameras. "When and where?" He asked.

"Oh, you don't need to be so hasty, Shin-kun. You don't come to me. I'll come to you." With those last words behind, the computer screen went blank for a few seconds, and as if nothing happened, everything went back to normal. The computer screens were in perfect normal condition again without any static and whatsoever trace of Pride.

"Great. Our computer security was easily breached by a hacker. For all we know, our identities have been compromised." Lt. Nakamura spoke breathlessly.

-oOo-

"We're supposed to be studying." Reiko reminded. "Final exams are next week." She and Ryou were hanging around D-Zone again, blending in with the crowd and surrounded by different people. They were both minors and yet, they were VIPs at an exclusive bar. How ironic.

They were both standing by the railing on the second floor of D-Zone, in the VIP lounge, looking over the crowd of bodies dancing to the provocative rhythm of the song that was being played by the DJ. Reiko's arm was around Ryou's waist and Ryou's arm was draped around her shoulders. At one look, one would have dismissed them as a couple but the two of them knew that they were nothing more than brother and sister.

"I don't need to study." Ryou smirked. "I'm on top of the class."

"Conceited jerk." Reiko whispered and playfully pinched Ryou's side. She swept her eyes through the crowed until she spotted a dearly familiar face looking at her straight into the eye. A smirk plastered itself on Reiko's lips as she tipped her head and tightened her arm on Ryou's waist to add fire to the already seething jealousy in Akimoto Asuka's eyes.

"What's wrong?" Ryou asked sensing Reiko's tightening grip on his waist.

"I've got an idea." She grinned.

"I don't like that smile." Ryou remarked with a hesitant expression on his face.

"Come on…" Reiko pouted. "I just need a little help." She pleaded with a deceiving smile on her face.

Ryou sighed. "Fine… What is it anyways?"

"I'm going to play a prank on a prankster." Reiko grinned and leaned her head on Ryou's shoulder. "You'll just have to play along with me. I'm going to catch the prankster in a prank." She declared quite redundantly and yet, to her, everything sounded perfect.

"What? I don't understand… What are you trying to do?"

"I need you to act cold towards me." Reiko instructed. "I'll hug you but you need to push me away and act as if you're upset with me. Ignore me. I'll hold your arm but you'll shake my hand off and then walk away from me…" She further instructed.

"Remind me why do we have to like that again?" Ryou asked.

"Come on, Nii-chan… I'll tell you when I'm done." She insisted. "A girl's got to have her secrets, remember?" Reiko grinned and hugged Ryou with both her arms.

Ryou merely sighed and rolled his eyes, and pushed Reiko away. "Fine…" He whispered. "Just don't get into too much trouble." He added and shook away Reiko's hand that was on his arm. After which, he walked away and left Reiko, just as she had instructed.

With Ryou away from her, Reiko began her charade and went down from the VIP lounge and went towards the bar. She saw a seat away from Akimoto Asuka and ordered one shot of tequila, acting like she was pissed off and upset. "He's at it again." Reiko said loudly and looked straight at Asuka who met her eyes. "Lately, he's always been like that. Being all grumpy, too serious and he doesn't even have time for me anymore." She complained. By then, she already caught Akimoto Asuka's ear.

"I wonder why…" Asuka replied, looking a bit as curious as she can get.

"Oh, I know why…" Reiko replied as she drank her tequila in one long gulp. "It's because she's back…"

"She's… back? Who?" Asuka asked, her full attention completely on Reiko.

"His first love. His first girlfriend. His one and only love… You know, the Prime Minister's daughter… Class 3-D's Kago Miharu." Reiko said and chuckled out loud. "Oh, wait… You didn't know, didn't you?"

With a hidden smirk on her face, Reiko stood up from the bar and left Asuka to ponder on her words. She knew that the only reason why Akimoto Asuka could not lay a hand on her was because she held one of key positions in Black Bandits and she was Ryou's right hand. If Asuka dared to touch her, she was toast and she knew that perfectly. However, for other girls, that's not the case. Reiko had been well aware of how Asuka reacted to the girls who admired Ryou. She never really reacted nicely to competition. And now that she knew about Miharu, Reiko was out to get her at her own game…

"Oh… The game is on, Asuka-chan… The game is definitely on." She whispered under her breath and began making calls.

-oOo-

"Kawaii~~~!!! Miharu-chan, daisuki~!"

"Ssshhh!!! She's sleeping! You'll wake her up!"

"Awww… She looks like an angel!"

"Shut up!"

Miharu woke up to the sound of several familiar voices. She thought she was dreaming so she continued to close her eyes until the noises became too unbearable. She yawned, stretched and opened one eye only to witness the scene of several heads looking at her.

"Aaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!" Miharu suddenly screamed.

Taiki, Akira and Kenta all scrambled backwards away from Miharu who looked as though she had seen a ghost first thing upon waking up in the morning.

"Miharu-chan, ohayo!" Taiki greeted with a radiant smile.

"What are you all doing here?!" She asked, shock and surprise registered on her face.

"Shin-kun, invited us for group study!" Taiki replied.

'Oh, boy…' Miharu thought. And just as she thought that waking up with a bunch of guys surrounding you was weird, her eyes darted towards the door of her room, where, apparently, her ex-boyfriend was standing with a smile on his face.

"Ohayo, Miharu-chan." Ryou greeted.

To Be Continued…

Date Written: June 18, 2010