Not Justice (Chapter 6)

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Warnings: PTSD (panic attack, derealization, some unsanitary stuff), child kidnapping, Namie’s ego.

Not Justice
Chapter 6

Izaya refused to go back to Tokyo as long as Namie herself wasn’t already there to wait for him. Namie had expected it, had her brain rushing ahead and her fingers on the keyboard of her laptop by the time he hung up on her, trying to buy the quickest plane ticket to Narita that she could find.

It didn’t matter how expensive it was. She still had access to one of Izaya’s bank accounts, and what was left on it largely paid for the fee.

She left the same evening with not even a note behind herself. The woman at the entrance of the hotel she was staying at looked at her with wide eyes when she handed over her keys—for good—and all Namie felt at the sight was a burning sort of satisfaction. “You’d look better with short hair,” she told her, breaking another of the rules she had set for herself by the time she reached fifteen years old.

She didn’t compliment people who weren’t Seiji. Especially not women.

The text she sent to Kishitani Shingen from the airport was to the point. I quit, it said. Shingen tried to call her almost immediately, but Namie shuffled deeper inside the armchair of the first class resting lounge and turned off her phone entirely. The champagne she downed from the offered buffet was the best she had ever tasted.

She didn’t retain much from the flight. She wasn’t sick, and her ears didn’t hurt like Seiji’s had when they had traveled to America together almost two years ago. She grabbed a few fitful hours of sleep, her back aching despite the comfort of her seat and her dreams plagued by Izaya’s voice and flashes of the city she was going to. The city she was returning to.

She didn’t know if it felt like going home. She had never had a place to call home in the first place.

It took until her plane landed in Japan for her to realize that the weightlessness of her heart came from the fact that, for the first time in years, no one was after her. She wasn’t in danger. Seiji was thousands of miles away, unaware of her departure, and the only thing waiting for her here was what she herself had brought. She had nothing to expect here but maybe answers to the void inside her—and already this gap was being bridged, already she could breathe like she hadn’t in months. She was clean, and she was fed, and she had two suitcases with her full of belongings that she didn’t have to hand over to anyone.

Her inbox was full when she turned on her phone once more. She deleted the Kishitanis’ inquiries without reading them, opened Izaya’s email to check what time his train would arrive in Narita—ten thirty—and finally, her thumb hovered over the single text she had received from Harima Mika.

There was a sense of finality in her when she opened it.

Good luck, it read. And, like an afterthought, Thank you.

Namie’s jaw was tense, her throat dry and hot. She felt no anger, though, and no regret.

Namie took a seat at a café inside the station and resolved to spend the next two hours waiting in silence, hands resolutely not shaking around the porcelain cup that a waiter brought her, stomach too knotted to eat the breakfast she had ordered with it. Her toast cooled down within a few minutes, the grease from the butter growing less appealing as it did. She ate half of an apple and the tiny piece of chocolate that went with the coffee. She felt tired but restless, and the caffeine helped with that, making it almost impossible for her to close her eyes or quiet her own heartbeat.

She told Izaya where exactly she was waiting thirty minutes before his train was scheduled to arrive. She couldn’t see the tracks from inside the station, but she was right outside of where he should come up once the time came. Seeing posters written in her own language and hearing it spoken around her in the café hadn’t been surprising at first; now, though, she found herself lending an ear to the other customers’ murmurs and glancing at the ads plastered over the walls of the station.

She thought she must simply be too tense at first. The closer she got to the time of Izaya’s arrival and the harder her heart beat against her ribcage, the more she felt her own clothes tighten around her as if to suffocate her—her bra was digging into her sides, making it hard to breathe. She was considering sneaking a hand under her shirt to unclasp it when her eyes glanced over one more movie poster.

Hanejima Yuuhei, she thought. He was on it, looking no different than she remembered. Pretty but plain. Namie rubbed her forehead with tired fingers, a useless attempt at pushing away the headache she could feel coming; her eyes lowered to read the title of the movie, and her heart jumped in her chest before she could understand why.

There was a man standing next to the poster. He was too far away for her to see his features, and he was looking to his side anyway.

He had blond hair.

Her leg jerked under the table, making her empty cup and untouched plate rattle loudly. Namie barely remembered to drop a few bills onto it before she jumped out of her chair, dragging her suitcases behind her, walking toward the man with fury flowering inside her, tasting fire on her tongue.

There must be tens of thousands of men with blond hair in Tokyo and its vicinity. She knew that. And even as she got closer she couldn’t see this one’s face, and he was wearing very plain clothes too. But the build fit, and the atmosphere did too, and Izaya’s train would be here in less than five minutes.

Heiwajima Shizuo barely managed to avoid the suitcase she threw at his legs. He turned his head in her direction right as she was reaching back, feet slipping on the floor as she tried to gain traction on it, and his side-step was done with a loud swear.

Namie’s suitcase crashed into the wall, right under the Hanejima poster.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Heiwajima barked, veins turning dark in his face and hands flexing by his sides.

Namie was too tired to be afraid. “You are not going to ruin this for me,” she hissed. “Get out.”

“You just tried to break my leg—”

Nami stepped forward and grabbed him by the collar before he could finish, and he looked bewildered, an expression she had never seen on his face in the few glimpses she had had of him in person before. “Get out!” she yelled, her spit probably flying into his face, she was so close. “I don’t care if you beat me up later, just get out, now.”

“Who the fuck are you?” Heiwajima took hold of her hands and ripped them off of him—lifted her and pushed her away as if she weighed nothing at all. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t punch your face in!”

Namie’s body was too tense on anger, red-hot and slimy inside her veins. She couldn’t feel any more fear because she was already bursting with it. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. From the corner of her eyes, she saw a man in uniform approach them slowly. “Fuck. Heiwajima, you need to get out of here.”

“Why should I?” he answered loudly. “Who are you?”

“Shit,” Namie whispered, biting into her own lips. She had the taste of metal on her tongue when she ordered, “Tell that guy that everything’s fine.”

“You—”

Please.” She wasn’t above begging. Not for this.

Ten-twenty-eight, the clock on the wall said.

Heiwajima looked at her—too long, too slow—and she thought she saw him physically reign in the violence visible in the line of his shoulders. He exhaled as though trying to expel it from his own lungs, he closed his eyes, and he rubbed a hand over his face. When he nodded to the man she could feel walking in their direction, he looked older than she had ever seen him.

“Explain yourself,” he told her between his teeth.

But she couldn’t. Not now. “There’s no time,” she replied—and her voice was shaking, she noticed, horrified—”Just do as I say. I’ll give you my number, you can contact me later if you want, but I need you out of this station right now.“

Heiwajima stared at her without moving. She knew that she must look frightful, deranged, out of her mind; she knew that her face was hot and her luggage spread around her on the floor and her hands twisting together; she knew how much her face was marked with the insomnia of the past year and how little she cared about masking this with makeup. “I’ll contact you later,” she said again. She tried to push him toward the exit, but he didn’t bulge, not even one bit.

“Who are you?” he asked for the third time. She was staring at his chest—at the deceptively normal white shirt he wore, not unlike her own—both of her hands shaking against him. Trying to move him felt like trying to move a brick wall. “You obviously know who I am,” he continued, getting rid of her grip on him once more.

So easily. As if he were batting away an annoying fly.

Ten-twenty-nine. Namie thought she could hear the train stop from where she was, its doors opening, its passengers getting out, Izaya among them.

“If you stay here,” she said, throat tight, “you’re going to provoke a fight.”

Heiwajima’s eyebrows twitched in irritation. “I haven’t punched you, have I?”

She almost wanted to laugh. “You won’t be able to help it.”

In the second that followed she saw Heiwajima’s face change; the hostility seemed to bleed out of him and leave nothing behind but closed doors. “Ah,” he said. His hand released her wrists. People crawled up the escalator that led out from the platform under their feet, and they both turned to look at them spilling out into the station, carrying luggage and holding children’s hands.

“You’re here for him too.” Heiwajima’s voice was heavy.

She couldn’t look at him anymore.

They stood frozen in front of his brother’s movie poster, Namie’s suitcases still lying on the floor, gathering dirt. She felt tied up. Strangled. The hard plastic of her bra dug into her chest with every breath she took, painful and relentless; the lighting was too harsh now, making her blink away tears and leaving gray spots in her vision.

The doors to the elevator opened again. Namie and Heiwajima turned their heads to look at them with the same breath lodged in their throats, and, she thought, with the same apprehension.

Izaya wheeled himself out of the elevator’s cage and right out in the open, his black hair shining blue under the electric lights, his face turned away to look at the old man standing beside him.

“Don’t,” she breathed.

Heiwajima kicked her suitcase out of his way and started walking.


Sozoro was hovering.

He looked like a bird of prey. Today wasn’t the first time Izaya had had this thought, and it wouldn’t be the last; Sozoro had eyes like an eagle’s and talons to go with them too—knives hidden on his person, just like Izaya did.

Izaya hadn’t had much use for his knives lately.

Sorozo, though, seemed to be having the time of his life. The closer their train got to Tokyo and the sharper the glee was on his face, and Izaya was too bored, or too tense, not to ask questions.

“It’ll be interesting to see how you fare there,” Sozoro answered him. “Somewhere you know, among people you know. People who know you.”

“I don’t intend to make my presence known.”

Sozoro’s eyes were glinting. “Plans don’t always come to fruition,” was all he said.

The train ride wasn’t uncomfortable. Izaya had traveled light—most of his luggage would be transported at a later date if necessary. Because of Namie’s insistence that he go to Tokyo within twenty-four hours of her call, he hadn’t had much time to prepare. He had to get a prescription filled and book train tickets and pack. Even with Sozoro’s help, this took time.

Now he was sitting between two wagons, in a space left free for the disabled, back against the soft train seat and legs extended onto his own wheelchair in front. His laptop was on his knees, but he wasn’t doing anything with it other than watching the video Namie had sent him of the creature they called Snake Hands. Over and over. Hoping for his eyes to catch a new detail.

Izaya didn’t know anything or anyone who could outrun the Black Rider. It made sense to suspect that someone—or something—he didn’t know might have taken Kururi.

“You’re hesitant,” Sozoro commented.

Izaya tensed. He lifted his right thigh with his hands, so he could cross his legs at the knee in front of him. “I’m just tired.”

“Your sister has been missing for more than thirty hours now,” Sozoro continued evenly. “You know the chances of finding her alive are thin.”

Izaya knew. He was no stranger to abductions.

He couldn’t call anyone yet, though. Not as long as he was out of the city—and, his mind whispered, not as long as Namie wasn’t there.

She texted him right then, telling him where she was waiting. Izaya put his phone back into his pocket without answering.

He would be with her soon enough.

The last few minutes of travel were spent in silence for the both of them. Sozoro hadn’t sat down at all through the trip; he was holding a wall loosely so as not to lose his balance in case the train slowed suddenly. Every seat except for the one Izaya had taken was free, but he ignored them all.

Izaya had to resist uncrossing his legs and crossing them again. His spine was burning harder than usual as it was. He couldn’t even tell if that was his imagination—most of the pain was his imagination in the first place.

In the balance of all the painful days he’d had since waking up in the hospital, paralyzed from the waist down and both arms in casts, this one weighed toward the bad.

Izaya packed his laptop into his bag ten minutes before the train was scheduled to stop. He tugged his legs out of the wheelchair’s seat and brought it closer to him. Then, after locking the breaks in place, he pushed himself onto it.

“You should’ve eaten before we left,” Sozoro said, eyeing the way Izaya’s arms shook under his weight.

“Too early to eat,” Izaya replied between clenched teeth.

He let out a harsh breath once he was securely seated. His legs ached, but the worst of the pain was always at his lower back; as though someone had taken hold of his spine there and twisted their fist sideways. With a wave of his hand, Izaya ordered Sozoro to pick up his suitcase and push his backpack under the seat of the chair.

He ignored the doors opening around him. Other passengers were walking out of their assigned seats to wait near the door where he was; some of them marked a pause at the sight of him, one or two flicked their tongue in annoyance. Izaya leaned back in his seat and turned his head to look at them, lips stretching on amusement despite himself, despite everything.

“My apologies for blocking the way,” he told them. “I’m in quite a bit of pain, so I’d like to hurry out.”

The couple behind him seemed to deflate; soon enough, everyone in the vicinity was looking at them with animosity. Izaya entertained himself with the whispers for the last two minutes of the drive.

He barely felt the train slow and stop. The doors opened in front of him silently, the platform almost empty but for a few people come to wait directly on it; Namie would be upstairs, though, he knew.

Sozoro pushed down on the handles of the wheelchair so that its front would lift and allow to cross the small step separating Izaya from the edge of the quay.

Nothing around was especially different or stressful. Narita was a big station and a bigger airport; the chance of accidentally crossing paths with anyone he knew was small. Still Izaya felt his lungs fill with ice as he breathed, felt a tell-tale pain in his chest that he knew would soon enough be lodged in his forehead and his throat. Sozoro handed him the small pill pouch from his bag wordlessly as they waited by the elevator.

For once, Izaya didn’t rue Sozoro’s foresight. He didn’t pretend that everything was fine. He popped an anti-emetic tablet into his mouth and swallowed it dry.

“There’s nothing for you to throw up,” Sozoro murmured.

“I’d rather not be nauseous at all. It’s a pain to get rid of.”

Sozoro didn’t mention the chest pain. Izaya had pills for that, too; but Izaya would die before he admitted to needing those.

The line for the elevator was almost empty now. People kept throwing curious glances at Izaya, offering to let him go first, and Izaya smiled and waved them off. He wanted to avoid as much as the crowd as he could before meeting Namie. Finally, it was only him, Sozoro, and his luggage. The train that had driven them here had already left the platform. Izaya pushed himself into the elevator manually despite the strain on his back and let out a sigh once the doors closed.

“You’re going to have a grand old time here,” he told Sozoro, looking at the ceiling.

“Indeed.”

Izaya chuckled. “I could introduce you to quite a few skilled fighters. One of them a former classmate of mine. She’d be delighted to take on a specialist, her usual sparring partners are mostly comprised of children.”

“I’ll make sure not to hit too hard,” Sozoro drawled, and Izaya laughed brightly.

“Oh, I wouldn’t underestimate her if I were you.” The elevator stopped. A bell rang, softly, and as Izaya turned his head to look over his shoulder and into Sozoro’s dark eyes, the doors started opening. “As I said, though, I don’t plan on making myself—”

He choked. His mouth stayed open for a timeless second, voice gone from him; the pain in his chest disappeared entirely under the cold air that filled his lungs, thick, heavy, till they were so full of ice that he couldn’t breathe at all.

He barely heard Sozoro ask, Izaya-dono? with something akin to surprise on his voice. Izaya whipped his head around to look at the crowd walking through the station, and as he did, it parted in front of him neatly, people pressing backwards to make way for the man walking in his direction.

Shizuo’s eyes met his in less than a second, hooked them in and made it impossible for Izaya to look away. And it didn’t matter that his eyesight blurred almost instantly or that he could feel blood rush to his head painfully, begging him to breathe again—Shizuo’s face fit itself into the hole in Izaya’s mind as neatly as if it had only been a day since he has last smelled murder off of the other’s body and felt all the bones in his arms snap.

Shizuo stopped in front of Izaya, both of his feet hitting the ground like earthquakes; he never paid any mind to the way Sozoro moved, wrapping a hand around his wrist and no doubt pressing a blade against the blue veins there. “Izaya,” he said, and the word shook through Izaya like that metal beam had twenty months prior. Painting his entire back blue and purple from the shock; twisting his spine, halting his steps.

Izaya rasped in a breath when Sozoro’s blade started pushing into Shizuo’s skin. He didn’t check to see if the man had managed to draw blood. He couldn’t look away from Shizuo’s face.

“It’s no use,” he tried—he clenched his teeth so the shaking would stop. “Sozoro-san,” he continued, louder. “You won’t be able to stop him.”

He could feel the incredulous glance Sozoro gave him. But the man obeyed, bound by contract and no doubt encouraged by his own dislike of Izaya—and Shizuo took another step forward, raising the hand—ah, the hand that Sozoro had grabbed, and indeed it was bleeding from a tiny cut at the wrist, already staining Shizuo’s shirt sleeve crimson.

When he grabbed Izaya by the collar, the stain spread over it.

“Izaya,” Shizuo growled again.

Izaya smiled, and tasted bile on his tongue as he did. “Shizuo. Long time no see.”

There was no pain anymore. His entire body felt electric instead. In the pit of his stomach, heat spread, familiar and forgotten at once—but this time there was something blocking it, something that made Izaya want to scream instead of laugh and trapped all of his voice in at the same time.

It was fear. Worse than he felt even waking up from nightmares, swimming in his own sweat, thighs wet with his own piss.

Shizuo’s face hadn’t changed. Through the white haze Izaya saw the same nose and eyes and mouth, saw the dark roots of Shizuo’s sloppily-dyed hair, saw the white teeth in his mouth as he opened it to speak again.

Except—something happened. There was a shock, enough to make even Shizuo falter slightly. Izaya’s now blood-stained collar slipped out of his grip, and Shizuo broke away from his eyes to look behind himself. Izaya did the same with a scream stuck in his throat.

A suitcase fell to the floor, probably after hitting Shizuo’s back. When Izaya looked up from it he saw Namie, almost comical in her fury; her arm was still extended forward after throwing it, and her face was a vibrant red.

Izaya let out the ugliest laugh, shoulders shaking and making the fabric of his clothes drag against the slick sweat at his back. “And Namie-san,” he declared shakily. “My, what a reunion.”

“Will you fucking leave me alone,” Shizuo snapped in her direction, but all Namie did was attempt to kick him in the thigh.

“Fuck off, Heiwajima. Just—fuck you, fuck everything about you.”

They glared at each other, violence gleaming at Namie’s throat and straining the lines of Shizuo’s back—and Sozoro stepped forward again.

“If I may—”

Shut up,” they told him, at the exact same time.

Izaya couldn’t help it; he laughed again, belly aching on it, chest shaking, heart bruising his throat; it was loud enough to attract the attention of two people wearing the station’s uniform and make them walk toward him in hurry.

Izaya shook a tranquil hand in their direction. The laughter had made the cold dissipate and the pain come back tenfold. “Let’s take this elsewhere,” he declared, leaning back into the chair.

Namie tried to walk in his direction, but Shizuo grabbed her by the shoulder to stop her. “No,” he told Izaya—Izaya’s stomach tightened at the sound. “I’m not fucking following you anywhere. You sit there and listen to me.”

“I can’t exactly run away, Shizuo.”

There wasn’t a hint of pity on Shizuo’s face when he looked at the armchair. “Do you want me to kill you?”

And Izaya should have expected that, really; but he found that the smile left his lips as violently as it had appeared, leaving his entire face numb in its wake.

Something changed on Shizuo’s face as well. Both of his hands turned to fists by his sides as he breathed—Izaya’s eyes zeroed in on them, helplessly—but all he did was put them into the pockets of his jeans.

“Are you here for Kururi?” he asked lowly.

Izaya licked his bottom lip. “Did Namie tell you I’d be here?”

“I did not,” Namie exclaimed, still red with rage—but it was Shizuo whom Izaya was looking at. The hatred in his eyes was not as vibrant as it was in his memories. He said, plain and honest: “I knew you were coming back. The city stank.” After a breath, he added: “Been hanging around here since yesterday, just in case.”

Izaya raised a trembling hand to his lips and wiped the sweat off from under his nose. “Mmh.”

“Mairu is losing her shit. She asked me to help—but I don’t have any fucking clue where Kururi is. Do you?”

Izaya said nothing. The white around him was worse than it had been a minute ago; he was having trouble focusing on anything, but despite even this, his entire body tensed as Shizuo approached.

Do you?” he repeated, hunched forward so that Izaya was only a couple inches under him. “Do you have anything to do with those fucking kidnappings, Izaya?”

“No,” Sozoro answered for him. He stepped in front of Shizuo; Izaya usually disliked this sort of behavior from anyone, but this time, he felt grateful. “Izaya-dono came back at his sister’s request. I’m sure he’ll do his utmost to find her.” Sozoro’s voice was dripping with sarcasm.

Shizuo didn’t seem to catch it, but it didn’t matter, because he knew Izaya better than any of the people here anyway. “Are you here for her?” he asked again.

“You already got your answer,” Izaya muttered. He had to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand again—his face was clammy. He felt cold all over. Breathing caused the same ache in his chest that drowning would.

Shizuo pushed Sozoro away with only the strength of his wrist—if he had been in any state to, Izaya would’ve laughed again at the face Sozoro made. “I didn’t get any answers.” He put both of his hands on the armrests of Izaya’s chairs, and Izaya pulled his own arms back in his lap, whip-fast.

“Why are you here, Izaya?” Shizuo asked, this time right into his face.

And Izaya had prepared lies for this; he had been still in bed all night, stomach twisting, waking up from hazy nightmares of fire-lit rooftops and a headless woman descending from heavens on stairs made of shadows; he had told himself, over and over, that coming back meant nothing to him.

He found himself telling the truth. “I’m here for the same reason I do anything,” he said. “Because I’m interested, Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo didn’t react to the nickname. Izaya stared into the eye of the storm, the rest of the station completely gone from his mind. Voices and footsteps erased, walls painted white by his mind struggling against unconsciousness.

He realized that he was hyperventilating.

Shizuo seemed to drag all the air with him when he drew back. His steps were the only thing Izaya heard and his body the only thing he saw.

He looked like a creature from a book. Like a giant at the foot of a bridge.

“Fine,” Shizuo said. Izaya blinked, and didn’t see anything anymore. “Fine. I don’t give a shit. Just find Kururi.”

Izaya breathed a half-laugh, half-sob out. “There’s no certainty that I can do that.”

“Then you’re even more rotten than I thought.” As Izaya blinked in his general direction, Shizuo added, “Find her and get out of here for good, or this time I’ll kill you for real.”

“That’s the plan,” Izaya grit out. He heard Shizuo’s footstep distance themselves from him, almost breaking out of the liminal space that fate or trauma or both had opened for them; before he could, Izaya asked, “Did you think you’d killed me?”

Shizuo stopped.

The silence was absolute, now. White and endless. Izaya thought he wouldn’t have been able to notice someone touching him.

“Yeah,” Shizuo said from far away. “Yeah, I thought I did.”

Izaya smiled. “There I guess there’s reason for you to celebrate after all. You didn’t kill me.” He leaned back into the shapeless space where his chair should be. “You didn’t give me what I wanted.”

The space broke, allowing in the white lights of the station and Namie’s still-pink face in front of him. Izaya couldn’t see Shizuo anywhere.

“I think I’ll be passing out now,” he informed Sozoro. “Namie will help you with directions.”

He barely felt Namie’s hand on his arm and the vicious words she threw at him in answer. The fog covered his brain and drew his eyelids shut, and with the last of his awareness he brought a hand to his collar and touched the wet, warm stain.

It was fitting, in a way. Stepping back into Ikebukuro with Shizuo’s blood at his throat.


Kururi opened her eyes to a hospital-like room.

She had never had to go to a hospital herself. Neither had Mairu. Her mom had always said that she and her sister were healthier than anyone she knew—never got worse than cut knees or bruised eyes, even with Mairu’s training at the dojo. She used to compare them to Izaya, because Izaya got sick often, according to her. Flu after flu, cold after cold. Perpetually underweight. Always an insomniac.

Kururi couldn’t ever remember seeing her brother sick. Or at least not in the physical way. It might have been before, though; before the time she started to look at Izaya, before she realized that there was a fifth member to their family that she ought to get to know.

The ceiling was bare and grey. Dirty. Not a hospital, she thought faintly. Hospitals must look better on TV than they did in real life, she knew, but she didn’t think one would look quite this bad.

Not a legal one, at least.

Kururi let her head fall sideways on the pillow. She was lying on a low bed, almost to floor-level. Other beds were in the room, with other people in them. There was a plastic pole next to her holding a transparent bag of… something. A tube went out of it, dropping down to her level, up to the crook of her elbow where a needle was stuck into her skin.

She tried to move, but found that she couldn’t.

Mairu, she thought.

She felt as though she had slept for a very long time. The memories of being grabbed by the middle and lifted off the Black Rider’s bike came to her sluggishly. Like trying to remember a dream.

Had Mairu been taken too?

She couldn’t hear any voices. The people she could see next to her all seemed to be asleep or at least drugged, like she had been.

Her heart almost jumped out of her chest when something touched her face, but she couldn’t move away from it. A hand grabbed her by the chin gently and made her turn her head back.

“There’s only so long we can make a child sleep,” the woman above her said.

She had a red coat on. At first, that was her most distinguishable trait. Kururi blinked forcefully, until she could see enough to make out the woman’s features. She was pretty. Light-colored hair held up above her nape, warm skin and soft fingers against Kururi’s cheek, wide eyes. Kururi couldn’t guess her age. She smelled of flowers and smoke.

Her eyes were yellow.

The woman patted Kururi’s hair briefly. “Don’t panic,” she said. “Though, I guess that’s a little useless. You seem pretty calm already.”

Kururi opened her mouth, forced her voice to come out. “M-Mairu…”

“Your sister’s safe. I only need one of you, after all.” She had a melodious voice, every word singing itself out of her. It might have been because of the drugs, but when she carded her hand through Kururi’s hair once more, Kururi relaxed into it. “You really are family,” the woman murmured. “He wasn’t anxious in the least when I caught him either.”

What do you mean? Kururi wanted to ask. But the woman fiddled with something on the pole, and already the room was blurring into black around her. Already all that Kururi could make out was the deep red of the woman’s coat—and the bright glow of her inhuman eyes.

“Shh,” the woman said. “Your brother is full of lies. Even back then, he made sure to protect you from me.” Kururi opened her mouth silently; the woman patted her shoulder and stood up, her face disappearing into the dark.

“He’ll come,” she said. “Even if he doesn’t care about his family.”

Her eyes flashed, burning bright spots into Kururi’s sight every time she closed her eyes; and Kururi saw the woman raise one of her soft hands and examine the sharp, gleaming claws protruding out her fingertips.

“He’ll be too curious not to.”

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