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The Mind Control Assassins

Trigger Locked: The Mind Control Assassins

By Sekina Mayu

Copyright 2016 Sekina Mayu

Cover illustration by Color-LES

Shakespir Edition

 

Discover other titles by Sekina Mayu:

The Diary of Modern Cinderella

Twisted Destiny

 

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

Thank you for downloading this e-book. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized retailer. Thank you for your support.

 

Table of Contents

Trigger Locked: A Triggered Past

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Epilogue

Author’s Note

Special Gift Just For You

About Sekina Mayu

 

Trigger Locked: A Triggered Past

A Triggered Past is the prequel to the Trigger Locked series. This is where everything begins for Touka and Yuuto. And what’s the best part? You can get this book for FREE. Yes, you read that right. I’m giving the prequel to the Trigger Locked series for free. Unfortunately, you can’t get this book elsewhere. So, this is the only way for you to get this book.

So, how you can get this book for FREE? The only thing you need to do is to join my mailing list to receive the book. Besides A Triggered Past, you will also receive my other book, Twisted Destiny: The Past for free too. If you’re interested to know what happened to them in the past, you can sign up here to receive the book when it will be released:

 

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Prologue

There are only a few minutes left before our virtual mock battle begins. Both me and my twin brother, Yuuto are already done with our preparation. This virtual mock battle is important to us. If we don’t win, we won’t be qualified to become Public Security Intelligence Agency agents. It’s known as PSIA for short. We’ve been training for two years for this day to come. I was trained to become a martial art expert while Yuuto was trained to become a sniper.

In this virtual mock battle, we’re going to face Chiaki Squad and Masayoshi Squad. They’re the second and the third rank squad in PSIA Special Activities Division. If we’re able to beat them, it means that we’re worthy enough to become an agent for the top rank squad, Kimizuki Squad. Dad is the leader of this squad. Besides him, dad’s colleague and also his friend, Mr. Azuma Sakakibara is in the same squad as well. He has been helping us when dad wasn’t around.

I have never known that dad and Mr. Sakakibara are operations officers from PSIA. We only knew about it when we were 13. At that time, a group of people was trying to capture us for the government’s top-secret project. It’s known as Transhuman Development Project. Not only that, but we were also surprised to find out that mom was one of the key researchers in this top secret project. Mom resigned from this project because she refused to let us become the test subject for this project.

Whenever I hear about this project, I can’t help but feel anxious about it. Mom died because the people who pursued us killed her. And they also almost killed dad. Even though dad managed to escape death, it was still a terrifying experience for both of us. We didn’t know much about the project other than the project was using gifted children as a test subject. And in our case, they considered us to be the outlier among the children.

Based on what Mr. Sakakibara had told us, these children would have a microchip implant in their body. The microchip implant would be able to increase their intelligence, awareness, strength, and durability. As a result, it would create a transhuman that will help to extend the life of the aging population. Surgery wasn’t necessary as they only needed to inject the microchip implant on their neck. And it would travel all the way to the brain stem.

We were lucky at that time that dad taught us the spy techniques. Not only we were able to shake off the pursuers, but we were able to kill them as well. I admit that it was a nerve wrecking when we killed people for the first time. But we were aware of the consequences of our action. We already expected that the police would convict us, but they couldn’t. It was because this incident was under PSIA’s jurisdiction.

With our ability to kill the pursuers who were a skilled assassin, dad wanted us to work with him. Even though he’s the head of Special Activities Division in PSIA, he still needs to seek approval from PSIA director, Yashiro Kagami. We’re lucky that he already knew about our ability. And he also thinks that we have the potential to become a PSIA agent even though we’re just a middle schooler.

But then again, PSIA never hires agents who are underage. And even with dad endorsing our abilities, it’s still not enough to convince him. Because of this, he thinks that letting us participating in the virtual mock battle is the best way to test us. Both Yuuto and I agree to take part in the virtual mock battle if it helps to convince him.

The rule of the game is simple. The only thing we need to do is to be the only people left in the virtual mock battle. But Yuuto and I are the only one who will be taking part in this battle. Dad and Mr. Sakakibara are not allowed to take part. And they can’t even tell us what to do. The only person who will help us is Ms. Chiyo Shibasaki. She’s the operator for dad’s squad.

The virtual mock battle begins when all agents transported to a random place in the virtual world. As the transportation process for all agents is complete, I start to take a look at my surrounding. I realize that I’m at the rooftop of one of the buildings in Shibuya. The virtual mock battle takes place in Shibuya during the night time. Even in the virtual world, the area is still bustling with people.

I wish I can stand here and admire the night time scenery in Shibuya. But it’s not okay for me to stand here for a long time. The rooftop is an open area, which makes me an easy target for a sniper. I’d better go inside and come up with a plan to defeat the other squads. I also need to know where Yuuto is right now.

“Touka, Yuuto has already made his move. He already eliminated two people from Masayoshi squad. So, the only one left is the leader, Yamato Masayoshi,” Ms. Chiyo says to me through my earpiece. I already expect that Yuuto will be the first person to make a move. After all, it only takes less than 3 seconds for him to shoot his target. “If that’s the case, please send me Yuuto’s current whereabouts. I’ll be heading there,” I say to her.

After our conversation is over, Ms. Chiyo then sends me Yuuto’s current location. Based on his current location, it looks like Yuuto isn’t that far from where I am. I think that he must have noticed me because of my initial location. As I’m about to leave the building, I begin to have a look at the data about them.

Mr. Masayoshi, Tsunayoshi Chiaki and Midori Akiyama. They’re also a martial art expert like me. But I bet that Mr. Masayoshi and Mr. Chiaki are superior since both of them are the squad leader. That means a close combat is a possible way to get rid of them. But I also need to pay attention to Akira Moritaka, the sniper from Chiaki squad. He may attack me when there’s an opening.

Once I reach the exit, Ms. Chiyo contacts me. “Midori isn’t that far from your location. She must be after you. What’s your plan, Touka?” To be honest, I don’t like anyone who comes after me. It somehow reminds me of the same situation I’ve experienced in the past, but there’s nothing much I can do. At the same time, it saves my time from trying to look for them. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to have someone pursuing me. Though, I don’t enjoy that experience much.

“Is there any place that isn’t far from here, within Yuuto’s shooting range and isolated? I think it’s better for me to engage a fight with Ms. Akiyama in an isolated place. With a crowd this big, it won’t be a problem for me to shoot her. I already equip my gun with a silencer. I think that should do it,” I tell Ms. Chiyo. I begin to check my bullet while waiting for Ms. Chiyo to reply back.

Ms. Chiyo replies back to me a few minutes later. “Well, there’s a back alley not far from where you are. The place itself is isolated. So, no one will realize something is happening there.” After I cut my communication with Ms. Chiyo, I then contact Yuuto. “Yuuto, Ms. Akiyama is currently tailing me. I’d like you to switch your location to somewhere near the back alley. I’m pretty sure that Mr. Moritaka is also looking for an opportunity to shoot me there as well.”

Yuuto replies to me after that. “Sis, I’ve already switched my location. You can head to the back alley at any time you want. I don’t see Mr. Moritaka anywhere. But I’m pretty sure that he’s also somewhere nearby where he can shoot you.” After our conversation is over, I leave the building and begin to lure Ms. Akiyama to the back alley.

Even if I know that Ms. Akiyama is nearby, it’s hard to identify where she is. I don’t think she’ll be approaching me without disguising herself. It’s true that we don’t need to disguise ourselves if we want to pursue someone. But then again, it will be much easier if we disguise ourselves and blend in with the crowd. I’m pretty sure this is what she will do in this kind of situation. Dad even told me before that she was good with disguising herself.

Without wasting time, I just keep walking, heading towards the back alley. It’s not that hard to identify which one is Ms. Akiyama. Among the crowd, there’s only one person who is trying to match my pace. And that person is most likely Ms. Akiyama. In a typical situation, no one will ever try to match their pace with our pace. That is unless they’re following someone. This is what Ms. Akiyama is doing right now.

I finally reach the back alley a few minutes later. The back alley is a lot narrower than I thought. Not only that, it’s dark too. Although no one is using the back alley as a shortcut, there is someone else who is coming here besides me. I stop walking and turn around to face her. “I know that you’ve been following me all along, Ms. Akiyama. And that’s the reason why I’m bringing you here. It’s much easier to fight if no one sees us,” I say to her.

She only chuckles when I face her. “As expected from Minoru’s daughter. It seems that you do understand the fundamental about being a spy. And you’re also brave enough to face me all by yourself. But too bad, you’ve made a huge mistake for bringing me here.” She then takes off her cap and starts to pull off the mask, revealing a guy’s face. It’s not Ms. Akiyama who has been following me all along, but it’s Mr. Masayoshi instead.

He laughs when he sees my reaction. “I bet that you don’t expect me to be here. I thought that Chiyo would debunk my real identity. But it seems like she’s also making this grave mistake as well. You may have a high intelligence, but it won’t help you if you don’t know much about the people you’re going to fight. If Minoru is taking part, I’m pretty sure that he’ll tell you in advance that I’m not Midori.”

I feel frustrated when I find out that Mr. Masayoshi has been toying with me all along. “Touka, I’m sorry. It’s my fault that I fail to realize that Yamato is disguising himself as Midori,” Ms. Chiyo says to me. I understand that Mr. Masayoshi can disguise himself as Ms. Akiyama. I just don’t get how come Ms. Chiyo is confident enough that Ms. Akiyama is nearby. Is there a way for Mr. Masayoshi to layer his identity with Ms. Akiyama’s identity?

“It’s alright. You don’t have to blame yourself. It’s my fault too for not checking things through,” I say to her. Mr. Masayoshi chuckles when he sees how calm I am. To be honest, I don’t like if things don’t go according to my plan. But I have to be realistic that things will rarely follow according to what I envision. So there’s no reason for me to be angry about that because I still have to fight him eventually.

“Wow, you’re so calm when you’re responding to something that is beyond your control. I thought that you would yell at Chiyo for her mistake. I guess you’re not just smart, but you also have a high emotional intelligence. Maybe this is another thing that classifies you as an outlier,” he says to me. I’m not sure if I should be proud of the fact that both Yuuto and I are an outlier. But, I’m just going to take this as a compliment.

“Is it possible for you to fake your identity in the virtual world?” I ask him. It’s better for me to divert the conversation elsewhere. Besides, I don’t feel like listening to his blabbering about us being an outlier. “To be honest, it’s impossible,” he says, “But I can do this with the help of our operator, Misaki. We just want to see how good you are with our disguise. It looks like our effort is paying off.”

“What happened to Ms. Akiyama?” I ask him again. “I already get rid of her. By the time your twin brother eliminated my comrades, I was fighting her. I should have prioritized my comrades over my fight with her. But there’s nothing I can do for now other than to win this match,” he says to me.

Just like him, I don’t feel like being critical over my mistake. What I need to do now is to prepare myself for a fight with Mr. Masayoshi. Mr. Masayoshi smiles at me when he sees that I don’t even back away. “That’s great to know that you wish to fight back. Now I understand why Director Kagami has a high expectation on both of you. You may only be 15, but you do have some similarities with us as a PSIA officer. I feel honored to fight someone like you.”

Our fight begins after that. Just like dad, he’s also skillful in close combat. In fact, his strength and speed are at the same par as dad. While dad has been training me all this time, he’s not the only one who trains me in the close combat. Besides dad, Mr. Sakakibara and Hayato also help me with my training. But for the most part, I spend most of my time training with Hayato.

Just like Yuuto and I, Hayato is also one of the test subjects for Transhuman Development Project. He’s also an outlier like us. But his stats are way above than us, making him an ideal benchmark for the project. Hayato stayed with us ever since the day he escaped from the research facility unscathed. He almost got me killed as well when we met for the first time. But somehow, I was fast enough to put the past behind me.

Yuuto and I are hoping that Hayato will become a PSIA agent too. But he declined our invitation politely. It’s understandable that someone like him will never let anyone knows about his existence. Despite the refusal, he’s willing to help us behind the scene. This is to show his gratitude for looking after him and treating him like he’s a part of our family. It’s unfortunate for us, but we respect his decision.

As a result of training with Hayato all along, I become so used to his strength. Now, fighting Mr. Masayoshi feels like a tip of the iceberg to me. After our intense fight, he moves back a little. He’s still smiling, and he doesn’t even look exhausted at all. “I love it when I’m in a fight where I have a zero chance to win. I wonder what the outcome will be if I’m fighting someone like Hayato. I bet that it’s going to be different,” he says to me.

Mr. Masayoshi grins at me. From the look of it, he doesn’t even look threatened at all when he’s fighting me. I guess that he’s just like a typical martial art expert. He enjoys fighting someone who is stronger than him. As much as I enjoy the fight with him as well, I don’t think I can prolong the battle much longer. I have to end this fight as soon as possible because we still need to get rid of Mr. Chiaki and Mr. Moritaka.

When I’m about to move ahead to finish off Mr. Masayoshi, I realize that there’s a bullet coming at my direction. As I turn around, I notice that Mr. Moritaka is the one who shoots me. I’m pretty sure that he’s been waiting for this opportunity all this time. But this will expose his exact location and gives us a chance to get rid of him. “Yuuto, shoot him now,” I yell at him. In a split second, Yuuto shoots Mr. Moritaka. With this, Mr. Moritaka is gone, and Yuuto is the only sniper left.

Mr. Masayoshi looks impressed after witnessing everything. “Wow, your reaction is as fast as Minoru. Besides that, I love seeing how cooperative you are with your brother. Now I understand why Minoru wants you to be in his squad so badly. With this kind of teamwork, you’ll be just fine in his squad.”

I smile when I hear his compliment. Nothing makes me feel happier than having someone like him to acknowledge us. “Thanks for the compliment. But then again, I’m sorry, Mr. Masayoshi. I wish I can prolong the fight, but Mr. Chiaki is waiting for me,” I say to him as I begin my counterattack.

Thanks to the narrow back alley, I manage to make a quick jump and attack him from behind. The fight ends with me drawing a gun and shoots him after that. Mr. Masayoshi doesn’t look surprised when he loses the fight. In fact, he looks satisfied instead. “You’re maybe young, but you’re as good as an experienced PSIA officer. I’m looking forward to working together with you someday,” he says to me. He then transported out of the virtual environment.

After the fight is over, I suddenly feel a murderous intent coming near me. Without hesitating, I quickly draw my gun and realize that Mr. Chiaki is here, pointing his gun at me. “I thought that I’m going to shoot you when you’re off-guard. But it looks like you’re still aware enough of your surroundings. I’m impressed with how fast your reaction is,” he says to me.

None of us are pulling the trigger at that moment. The atmosphere feels intense right now as none of us are making a move at all. As I’m about to pull the trigger, Mr. Chiaki is quick enough to kick my hand, making my gun falls off from my hand. He then kicks me, making me to lose my balance. “Not bad,” he says to me, “So, the fact that you’re the outlier among the gifted children is true after all. I bet that your brother is the same as you.”

I only smile at him as I regain my balance. While I’m happy to be labeled as an outlier, I’m not going to let the word sink deeper into my thought. The last thing I want is to be overconfident only because I’m an outlier. Without hesitating, I begin to launch my counterattack and hit him nonstop.

He’s still able to evade my attack even with my quick attack, but my attacks hit him most of the time. As he begins to distant himself from me, Yuuto then takes this opportunity to shoot him. Yuuto’s shot becomes even more accurate in a pinch situation like this, so his shot hits Mr. Chiaki. I can tell that Mr. Chiaki looks frustrated as he’s about to leave the virtual mock battle after he lost to me.

I barely stand after the fight between Mr. Chiaki and me is over. I feel exhausted because of the intense fight. I’m glad that the battle is over. I’ve never imagined that the fight can be this exhausting even if it’s only a virtual battle. I do hope that the real life battle isn’t as intense as this. Both Yuuto and I are back into the real world after the virtual mock battle is over.

As we exit the virtual battle room, Director Kagami is already here, waiting for us. “Congratulations on your winning, kids. You have proved to me with what you’re capable of. We never had someone as young as you to join us, but we’re glad to have you onboard. From now onward, you’re officially a PSIA agent,” Director Kagami says to us.

Both Yuuto and I smile as we give each other a high five. Director Kagami clears his throat when he sees that we’re ignoring him. It looks like he’s not done yet with us. “There’s something important I need to tell you,” he says to us. Both of us remain silent as he begins to talk to us. I have a feeling that there must be conditions attached to our official enlistment with PSIA.

“I admit that the mission that you guys are in is dangerous. This is why the officers in the special activities division usually carry a gun with them. But we can’t permit any agent to carry a gun. After I’ve seen it for myself how you guys handled the gun, I guess it’s alright to let you guys carry a gun as a self-protection. But then again, you can only use it during your mission. Other than that, you’re prohibited from using the gun,” he says to us.

What Director Kagami tells us isn’t surprising to us. We already expect that we won’t be allowed to use the gun other than during the mission. Even though our recruitment as a PSIA agent comes with a caveat, we agree with his conditions. What matters the most is he acknowledges our potentials. With our official recruitment, this will make things easier for us to work together with dad.

 

Chapter 1

We were only 13 when the government halted Transhuman Development Project. It was because the microchip implant in the body caused side effects to the test subjects. As a result, many of them had developed some behavioral side effects. The known side effects were apathy, hallucinations, and cognitive dysfunction. Not only that, some of them died due to the brain death.

The lead researcher, Dr. Nobuhiko Hayama, insisted that the side effects were only temporary. But somehow, the side effects lasted longer than what they’ve expected. And they didn’t expect death would occur to the test subjects. They believed that death was unlikely in this situation. Because of that, Dr. Hayama and the other researchers involved were pleaded guilty. Instead of being convicted, they were put under the surveillance.

There’s no telling if the government decides to abandon the project for good. After all, this project is one of the best ways to solve the aging and declining population. This project will become another breakthrough for the aging population besides the medical advancements.

Well, that seems like a noble idea. But there are still some people who reject the thought of using a microchip implant on their body. Maybe this is about to change if they see the positive outcome from this project. But with the project’s failure, I doubt that people are still okay with this idea.

The parents whose children were the test subject became furious with the government’s action. They believe that the government still wants to continue this dangerous project. Despite their anger, there’s nothing much they can do about this. At least, the government is willing to compensate for the damage incurred.

Of course, the compensation does come with a caveat, though. The government is willing to pay for the damage if the parents keep this incident as a secret. If they’ve decided to come clean, they will receive a death threat instead. No one will think that the government will go that far just to bury the secret. It’s not surprising they’re willing to do it as long as it won’t cause a public outcry.

Luckily, the children who survived are now able to lead a normal life. It all thanks to the therapists who the government hired to reverse the side effect. It’s not easy, but their effort pays off. But then again, the therapists still need to keep an eye on them. There is a possibility for any of the abnormalities to occur at any time. But for the time being, nothing strange happened to them so far.

While it’s true that Dr. Hayama is the lead researcher on this project, he’s more or less a puppet who runs the show. In reality, the key people who drive the research are Satoru Yuuya and Dr. Frederick Choo. Both of them are researchers from UC Berkeley. Dr. Hayama is only there to camouflage their involvement in this project. It was unfortunate that Dr. Frederick Choo died in a car accident later that year.

There’s not much information about Satoru Yuuya. We only know that he used to be a biomedical engineer and neuroscientist in UC Berkeley. He was charged with a murder of his former colleagues while he was still working there. The cause of their death and the motive behind the murder was unknown. But FBI and CIA assumed that he must have used a microchip implant to kill them. Their death remains a mystery even until now.

Even until to this day, they’re still pursuing him in the hope that they will find the truth. They only list him as a suspect, but they have no proof which indicates he committed the murder in the first place. They’re only making an assumption based on his final research. At that time, he was doing research about using a microchip implant as a mind control device. They drop the assumption later because the research itself is incomplete. So, he’s less likely to use such method to kill everyone in the research lab.

A diet member, Saburo Matsuda didn’t know that Satoru Yuuya had a criminal record. At that time, he was the Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare, who was overseeing the top-secret project. He ended up resigning from the position as a way for him to take the responsibility. Even after he takes the responsibility, CIA insists on capturing Satoru Yuuya. It’s because he’s a Japanese national who committed murder in the United States.

But somehow, the government doesn’t give them permission to do anything they please on our soil. Director Kagami insists that it’s PSIA’s responsibility to capture him, not theirs. The CIA representative doesn’t look so pleased with the government policy. But still, there’s nothing much they can do at this point. After all, Satoru Yuuya is nowhere to be found ever since the day the government halted the project.

The government wants to handle this issue in a confidential manner. So, the Cabinet assigns this covert mission to PSIA Special Activities Division. Public Security Bureau will also be working together with us as well. Director Kagami assigns this mission to dad. So now, we’re currently investigating Satoru Yuuya’s current whereabouts.

The investigation was already on the way before both Yuuto and I joined PSIA. We join the investigation once we’re in the first year in the high school. As a part of our covert mission, dad opens a coffee shop in Ichigaya, Shinjuku. He will conduct intelligence activity and data gathering from there.

Besides him, Mr. Sakakibara will also open a bar which is next to our coffee shop to do similar activities. As for Ms. Chiyo, she’ll be staying upstairs above Mr. Sakakibara’s bar. She’ll be processing the information we gather.

Just like their other covert missions, the rest of them are operating under a fake name. Dad’s name will become Akira Kimizuki, and Mr. Sakakibara is now known as Azuma Uehara. Even the kanji name for Azuma is different than the one used in his real name. Ms. Chiyo doesn’t need to have a fake name since she’s not going to make any contact with the outsiders. As for Yuuto and me, we can still use our real name since we’re just a PSIA agent.

As for Hayato, he will help dad with managing the coffee shop. But he will do a specific data gathering and intelligence activities for us. Hayato is more or less work as an undercover. It’s easier for him to do it since he doesn’t have a record in the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare database. Well, it’s not that his record doesn’t exist. Ms. Chiyo is the one who camouflages his record so then no one knows about his existence.

Even though the coffee shop works as a disguise for our mission, both Yuuto and I love helping them there. Maybe it’s because it reminds us of the old days. Back then, we used to help dad on the organic farm while we were still living in Tochigi prefecture. So, helping dad and Hayato in the coffee shop brings us the same feeling. But then again, dad keeps on reminding us that what we do is a part of the mission. Though, he doesn’t mind with us enjoying the task.

Life as operations officer isn’t as glamorous as what we’ve seen in the Hollywood movies. Our life can be as plain as vanilla when there’s nothing much going around. Despite that, we still need to continue with our investigation.

But then again, something strange happened recently involving the former researchers. Despite the heavy surveillance, 4 out of 5 key researchers have died for an unknown reason. Their death remains a mystery. There are no prominent signs that they have committed suicide. There’s also no sign that they’ve been murdered either. So, some people begin to speculate that they died because of the work of supernatural power.

The officers from Public Security Bureau think it must be the work of parents who want to seek revenge. But all parents denied the accusation. They admit that they’re angry with the researchers. But they know that seeking revenge on them won’t even bring their dead children back to life. At the end of the day, they’ve decided to drop the investigation. They don’t have enough clues and evidence to investigate the case further.

Regardless of what people say, the fact remains that these researchers have died mysteriously. Now, the only remaining researcher left is Dr. Hayama. They also suspect that he must be the one who killed his former colleagues, but he denies the accusation. He thinks that the accusation is absurd because he has no reason to kill them in the first place. And he’s not going to gain anything if he does that.

The surveillance record has shown that he had never contacted any of them since then. So, he has concrete proof that he’s not the one who killed them. Public Security Bureau drops him as a suspect later on. But we still think that Dr. Hayama must have known what triggered their death in the first place. It’s just that, he won’t be so open to talking about it.

Now, our current mission is to make sure that Dr. Hayama is safe. We know that they also have a microchip implant within their body besides the test subjects. But theirs was only for accessing the research facility back then. So, we suspect that the microchip implant they had is the cause of their death. But he denied about having a microchip implant when the officers asked him about this. Maybe what he says is true, though. It’s because the autopsy report doesn’t state anything that these researchers have a microchip implant.

But then again, we can’t just brush it off. We still think that the microchip implant is the cause of their death. It works as a mind control device that triggers them to commit suicide. Maybe Satoru Yuuya’s research about the mind control device is complete by now. If this is true, then the death of these researchers is just the beginning. It’s possible that the same thing will happen to Dr. Hayama as well.

Despite Dr. Hayama’s denial, we still check on him from time to time. We just want to see if there’s anything strange about his behavior. So far, he hasn’t done anything that we deem strange. According to Ms. Chiyo, he always does the same routine almost every day. So, there’s nothing unusual about his behavior for the time being.

Day by day, nothing happens to Dr. Hayama. He just goes about his life as usual. That is until one day, Ms. Chiyo notices that Dr. Hayama is no longer in his house. According to the rules, he’s not even allowed to leave the place no matter what. It’s because he’s under the surveillance. He can’t make any contact with anyone, not even to his family. In a nutshell, his life isn’t that different from living in a prison. He’s always under the surveillance all the time.

We head to Dr. Hayama’s house in Setagaya ward as soon as we receive a report. Something must have happened to him since he left the house in the middle of the night. “Chiyo, are you sure that Dr. Hayama is not even in his house? Maybe he’s hiding somewhere, looking for a chance to run,” dad says to her. Ms. Chiyo replies after that through our earpiece. “Yes, the surveillance footage indicates that he did leave the house. But he looks terrified when he leaves. I think something must have happened to him there.”

Dad looks anxious when he finds out about this news. We do hope that nothing happens to Dr. Hayama until we arrive there. He’s the only one left who knows about Satoru Yuuya and the microchip implant. If he also dies, then it will be more difficult for us to investigate about Satoru Yuuya. “Can you find out what’s happening there, Chiyo?” Dad asks her.

“I can’t say for sure,” she says to us, “But I do detect a lot of unidentified signals in that area. Based on the signals identified, the signals are like the one emitted from a microchip. I thought that it must be drones or something. But that’s not the case when I check the surveillance footage. From the footage, there are a group of people in that area. And they’re all chasing after Dr. Hayama.”

We find it weird that a group of people is chasing Dr. Hayama right now. Don’t they realize that he’s under the heavy surveillance? “Do you think that these people may have a microchip implant inside their body?” Yuuto says to us, “There are no drones in the area, anyway, other than a group of people who are chasing him. Maybe they do have a microchip implant within them.”

Dad nods at Yuuto’s hypothesis. “Well, I also think the same too. If it’s true, then they must have something to do with Satoru Yuuya. Or maybe, they’re chasing Dr. Hayama for other reasons.” I also share the same opinion as dad. But somehow, I feel that something is not right. I wonder why Satoru Yuuya is not using the same way to kill Dr. Hayama. I have a feeling that he’s only drawing us to witness something. But I’m not sure what it is.

Dad then asks Ms. Chiyo if she has more information about the people who are chasing Dr. Hayama. “I’ve already identified the people who are chasing him,” she replies, “But I find it hard to believe that these people are from Awatori Group. It’s according to the database I’ve retrieved from Public Security Bureau. Their profiles that I retrieve from the surveillance footage match with the database. So, it’s confirmed that they are from Awatori Group.”

Things become even more complicated when Ms. Chiyo tells us that these people are from Awatori Group. Awatori Group is a yakuza group who gets involved in human trafficking activities. And they’re also one of the groups who are in the Public Security Bureau’s watch list. Somehow, we can’t relate why these people are chasing him. But we will only know once we reach there.

As soon as we reach Setagaya Ward, dad begins to brief us about our mission. At the same time, Ms. Chiyo also sends us the list of people who are chasing Dr. Hayama through our smart watch. “We have no idea what sort of enemies we’re going to face here since we don’t have much information about them. But, we still need to save Dr. Hayama from these people. His safety is our utmost priority right now. Get rid of them if you encounter one.”

The rest of us split up after that. Yuuto is the first person to encounter them after we leave. “I’ve spotted one of them. But Dr. Hayama is not here, though. He must be hiding somewhere,” he informs us through his earpiece. I haven’t encountered any of them yet. But for now, my priority is to locate Dr. Hayama and protects him from these people.

“Touka, I’ve just spotted Dr. Hayama in your area. There are already five of them who are chasing after him. I manage to place a tracker on him. So, you can locate him with that tracker,” Ms. Chiyo informs me. She then sends me Dr. Hayama’s current location to my smartwatch, along with the tracker she uses to track him. I begin to head into his direction by just following the tracker.

As I’m heading towards Dr. Hayama’s location, Yuuto contacts me. “I’ve already killed two of them. I also spot Hayato in your area as well. He probably will kill one of them. That should be easy for you to save Dr. Hayama.” I’m so glad to know that Yuuto eliminates two of them on my behalf. Even if I have to fight one of them, it won’t be too much for me to handle.

“Azuma and I have eliminated the remaining Yakuza guys in this area,” dad informs us, “I hate to say this. But their movements aren’t your typical yakuza move. I certainly haven’t seen any yakuza guys who move like a skilled assassin. I’ll be toast if Azuma is not here to back me up.” It doesn’t sound good to me. If they can move like a skilled assassin, then it’s going to be difficult for me to escape with Dr. Hayama. I’m sure that they won’t let me pass just like that.

As I’m getting nearer to Dr. Hayama’s location, I hear a loud scream that comes from the back alley. It doesn’t look like the scream comes from Dr. Hayama itself. Based on the tracker, Dr. Hayama is no longer in the back alley. He seems to be moving away from that area. But it doesn’t seem like he’s moving anywhere further than that.

But still, I’m just curious about what happened in the back alley. I know that I should be heading to where Dr. Hayama is now, but I can’t help it. I just want to know what’s going on. After feeling contemplated, I’ve decided to take a peek at the back alley. Besides, it won’t take that long if I’m just taking a sneak peek.

When I peek into the back alley, that’s when I realize that Hayato is there. He’s only standing still, with blood splashes on his face. I don’t think that the blood on his face is his blood because he doesn’t even have any signs of injury. But what terrifies me the most is the scene itself. These people look like they’re brutally murdered. The blood is still dripping from their bodies, staining the wall. Hayato just looks at them with a cold expression. Is he the one who does this?

“I’m sorry, Touka. The other person just got away and chased Dr. Hayama. I manage to injure him a little bit, but he can still be powerful enough to kill him,” Hayato says to me. “What about Dr. Hayama? Is he alright?” I ask him. Hayato nods at me. I’m glad that Dr. Hayama is still okay. But then again, we’re far from over. There’s still one person left who is after him.

I exit the back alley after that. Even after leaving that place, the scene of what’s happening at the back alley is still fresh in my mind. I don’t know why it feels so disturbing to me, but maybe because I’ve never seen Hayato kill anyone before. I know that he’s strong, but I never thought that he can be this strong. As expected from someone who can escape from the research facility unscathed.

I’m lucky that Dr. Hayama isn’t going that far from where I am. As I reach Dr. Hayama’s current location, the yakuza guy is about to kill him. “Don’t kill me! I promise that I won’t tell anyone about the microchip implant. I also won’t tell anyone about Satoru Yuuya!” Dr. Hayama is pleading to the guy for not killing him. The yakuza guy just ignores his plea and begins to kill him.

Luckily, I’m fast enough to prevent the yakuza guy from killing Dr. Hayama. Dr. Hayama still looks terrified even after I’ve arrived and save him from the yakuza guy. “Who are you?” He asks me. “I’m from PSIA. That’s all you need to know,” I tell Dr. Hayama. Telling him that I’m from the special activities division will make him scared of me. So, it’s better for me not to tell him anything about it.

Dr. Hayama shrieks at my response. He looks like he’s scared of me more than the yakuza guy itself. Do I look that scary to him? I think what scares him the most is the fact that I’m from PSIA. Maybe he doesn’t expect that PSIA is here to save him. Or maybe he thinks that we’re going to interrogate him once I finish dealing with this yakuza guy.

The yakuza guy laughs at me when he finds out that I’m from PSIA. “I can’t believe it that PSIA is sending a kid like you to kill me. They must be out of their mind.” I don’t respond anything to his remark at all. It’s because I know that he’s here to provoke me. He must be thinking that provoking me will leave a lot of opening for him to launch his attack on me.

“Say whatever you want. Once I kill you and retrieve Dr. Hayama, I’m out of here,” I say to him with confidence. He smirks at me. “That’s fine by me. But I doubt that you can leave this place alive, along with that scaredy-cat old man,” says the yakuza guy. Dr. Hayama looks terrified when he finds out that the guy won’t spare him as well. With this man threatening him, I bet that Dr. Hayama is going to run whenever he has the chance.

Even though I only take a brief look at the profile that Ms. Chiyo sends me, I know that this man is Ryu Mikado. He looks strong, but maybe because he has a large built that makes me think that he’s strong. I’m pretty sure that he’s a lot stronger than before thanks to the microchip implant. “Your name is Ryu Mikado, right? I receive information that you have a microchip implant. Where do you get it? Is Satoru Yuuya the one who gives you that?” I ask him.

It’s better for me to ask him before we begin the fight. Even if we interrogate him, I don’t think that he’s going to reveal who gives him the microchip implant. I have a feeling that the outcome will be the same. The microchip implant may trigger a command that forces him to commit suicide. I’m not even sure myself, but it doesn’t hurt for me to be cautious about it.

He sighs before he answers me. “You have so many questions, kid,” he says to me, “But I’m happy to know that you get my name right. Since you’re going to die anyway, I guess that it doesn’t hurt for me to tell you.” He doesn’t hesitate at all to tell me what he knows. Well, maybe he’s going to tell me blatant lies. So, he’s not scared to reveal everything to me. These are fake information, anyway. It won’t jeopardize him in any way.

“You’re not scared something will happen to you when you reveal everything to me?” I ask him. Yakuza is also known to be tight lip about their dirty little secrets. I’m sure that this guy knows the consequences if he tries to reveal everything. Mr. Mikado only laughs when I ask him that question. “Well, why I should be worried about that? There’s nothing confidential about it.” Maybe he’s right about that, but I still need to be cautious.

I guess that I should just see if our hypothesis is correct or not. But I won’t be able to test the hypothesis if he’s giving me false information. “Well, you’re right about us having a microchip implant in our body. In fact, everyone in the group also has it. We do get the microchip implant through the illegal mean, but not through the guy you mention. We have no idea who he is. We’ve never heard of him,” he says to me.

So, Satoru Yuuya has nothing to do with them? “But, why you’re after Dr. Hayama?” I ask him. “Sorry, I can’t tell you that. Since you already know a lot, both you and that old man have to die,” he says to me. Mr. Mikado starts to run rampage towards me when he begins to attack me. I manage to evade his attack, but it’s just plain luck that I’m fast enough to dodge him. I doubt that I can stand if his attack hits me. His attack is fast despite his large built.

“Does your high strength and durability is because of the microchip implant as well?” I ask him again. He laughs at me, thinking that I ask him such a funny question. “Of course, it is. Do you think that a human is born with this kind of superhuman strength? You have no idea how much I yearn for this sort of power. It’s superficial, but I don’t care about it as long as I can crush anyone like pulp.”

His attack may not hit me directly, but I can estimate how strong he is. His first attack leaves a slight mark on the ground. For a normal person, Mr. Mikado’s strength is already considered strong. But for me, it’s still not strong enough. I’m not being cocky or anything, but I know that he’s not as strong as I thought. Even I can create a similar mark on the ground. “Is this what you call strong? I can do better than that,” I say to him as I begin to attack him back.

During the commotion, Dr. Hayama takes this opportunity to run away. This is his chance since none of us are paying attention to him. Before he can run anywhere further, I draw my gun and shoot at his direction. The bullet doesn’t hit him, but I’m missing the shot on purpose. I just shoot in his direction so then he won’t try to escape from this place and do anything reckless.

“Your reaction is good. The way you move is the same as us. Don’t tell me you also have a microchip implant as well?” I cringe when Mr. Mikado is comparing me to him. “Don’t lump me in the same category as you, scumbag!” Mr. Mikado only laughs when he sees my reaction. “Okay, I’m sorry. You must be a lot superior to us. But still, I like the way you look now. Your eyes are telling me that it’s filled with murderous intent. Come and attack me with what you have.”

Murderous intent, you say? Maybe he’s right. I haven’t killed anyone else other than the pursuer who tried to capture both of us in the past. “Are you sure about that? If I do that, you’ll be the one who’ll never see another day in your life,” I say to him. He laughs at me, as if I’m saying something funny to him. “You think that you can beat me with that matchstick arm of yours? You sure know how to entertain me right now.”

I chuckle when he’s looking down at me. “I may only have matchstick arms. But I do have similar strength like you. And I can do what you can do even without the help of microchip implant.” I then look at Dr. Hayama. “I’m pretty sure that the names Touka Kimizuki and Sayuri Kimizuki must have ring a bell to you.” Dr. Hayama is in disbelief when he hears the name. I bet that he must have never expected to meet me here.

Without wasting my time, I begin my counterattack on Mr. Mikado and attack him nonstop. I just do it in the hope that I can end this fight faster. I don’t have a lot of time to play around with a fool like Mr. Mikado. The fight ends when I draw my gun and shoot him in his chest. He falls down on the ground after the shot. He’s breathing hard, but I know that he’s about to die soon. I just leave him lying on the ground. My task in eliminating him is over.

“What do you want from me? Do you want to avenge your mom’s death?” Dr. Hayama asks me when I come near him. I’m happy to know that he still remembers my mom who was his ex-colleague. But it still pisses me off. I only stare at him, making him feel so intimidated. “If my goal is avenging my mom, I would have killed you just now. I’m here because we need to ask you a few things. I’m pretty sure that you know what we want from you,” I say to him.

“So, you’re here because you want to know about the microchip implant we have?” He asks me. I nod at him. He looks hesitate at first, but he finally agreed to tell me after that. “I can’t say for sure if the microchip implant we had in our arm is the cause of their death. But I’m not surprised if it is. We were the foolish one here who thinks that Satoru Yuuya isn’t capable of something like that. He’s on another level than us.”

He then begins to tell me everything he knows about the microchip implant he has and about Satoru Yuuya. “The microchip implant was for us to access the research facility. After seeing my colleagues died one by one, I begin to suspect that the microchip implant we have. It seems like the microchip implant we have is more than just access to the research facility. It’s also an experiment for him to turn this microchip implant into a mind control device. Your mother was right after all. If only we’d listened to her.”

Just like what we expect, the cause of their death has a lot to do with the microchip implant in their arm. But then again, the autopsy report doesn’t mention anything about the microchip implant. Sure, they must have missed it because of the microchip’s small size. But I’m pretty sure that they will be able to notice if there’s a foreign object in their body no matter how small it is. I can tell that Dr. Hayama feels guilty for not taking mom’s warning seriously.

“This is not the only reason why I think this way,” he continues, “I’ve seen this myself in the test subjects. Those test subjects died not because of the complication. Satoru Yuuya was the one who killed them. He only whispered something to them and they began to die one by one. That was the time I realized that he already created a mind control device with a microchip implant.”

Before Dr. Hayama is able to tell me, his hands suddenly move on its own and begins to choke his neck. “Help me!” He screams at me, asking me for help. “I think I must have mentioned something that triggered my body to move on its own,” he says to me.

He tries to fight back, but it seems like the grip is so strong that it’s impossible for him to let go off his neck. I try to help him by pulling his hands away from his neck, but the grip is way too strong for me to handle. Dr. Hayama is gasping for air as I try to release the grip from his neck. But I still fail to stop his hands from choking himself no matter how hard I try.

“Touka, what’s going on over there?” Dad’s voice echoes through my earpiece. “Something he said must have triggered him to commit suicide. I try to stop him, but I can’t stop it no matter how hard I try.” If I can’t stop him from choking himself, then we won’t have any lead in tracking down Satoru Yuuya. Dr. Hayama is the only researchers left that can give us a clue about him.

“I can’t believe that we’re just his pawns in the end.” This is Dr. Hayama’s last word before he dies. I feel terrified when I see how Dr. Hayama died right in front of me. I don’t know what part of our conversation that triggered his death. But I think this is what Satoru Yuuya wants us to witness. He wants to show us that his research is already complete. And the best way to do it is to kill Dr. Hayama right in front of us.

 

Chapter 2

A few days have passed since our last mission to save and protect Dr. Hayama. It doesn’t take that long for us to receive the autopsy report about him. But I feel frustrated when I read it. The report still doesn’t mention anything about the microchip implant he had. I begin to doubt about Dr. Hayama’s statement. But he didn’t look like he was lying to me about this. Maybe the coroners have made a mistake, but that seems unlikely to me.

Another thing that bothers me is Ryu Mikado denying about knowing Satoru Yuuya. He didn’t say who gave them the microchip implant. He only stated that he got it through the illegal mean. We can assume that they may get it from Saburo Matsuda. But based on our investigation, there’s no link between him and the Awatori Group.

“Sis, are you still thinking about our last mission?” Yuuto seems to know what I have in mind. “I can’t stop thinking about it. This mission isn’t as simple as I expected. Even if we’ve already found the answer we seek, it will also lead us to another mystery,” I answer. Yuuto remains silent. He begins to speak up after that. “I agree with that,” he says, “But I also come up with another conclusion. It sounds crazy, so do you want to listen?”

I nod at him. I wonder what kind of conclusions he has. Maybe his findings are a lot different than everyone else in the squad. “Maybe those guys from Awatori Group did meet him. It’s just that, he didn’t introduce himself as Satoru Yuuya. He must have introduced himself using a fake name instead. I won’t be so surprised if it’s true,” Yuuto says to me.

Well, Yuuto’s conclusion makes sense as well. Maybe it’s true that Satoru Yuuya introduced himself using a fake name. So, no one in the group knows who he is. “I think it’s possible. But what about the autopsy report not mentioning anything about the microchip implant? I’d like to think there must be an error from the coroner, but I don’t believe they will do such thing. On top of that, there’s no reason for them to hide it,” I say to him.

Yuuto only sighs when I ask him that. I guess he’s also clueless why the autopsy report doesn’t mention anything about it. “I’d like to think that the microchip implant disappeared, but it sounds too good to be true. I know that it’s possible for the microchip implant to disappear after a certain period of time. But disappeared in a split second? That’s unheard of. Even Dr. Hayama would think it’s impossible if he were still alive.”

Both of us become quiet after that when we notice that our classmates are nearby. It’s better for us not to discuss something like this since none of the incidents have made it to the public. This is a covert mission, anyway. So no one should know about this. Both Yuuto and I need to be careful not to let something confidential slips from our mouth.

“Morning, Touka, Yuuto,” Shiori greets us. Shiori is a friend of mine since we were in the middle school. She’s not just my classmate, but she’s also my best friend. She always comes to our coffee shop whenever she has the time. She’s an idol, so she’s always busy with the rehearsal at the live house after the school is over. Sometimes, she will also bring her friends from the idol group, Machina Twist, to our coffee shop.

She has been with Machina Twist since she passed the audition when we were in the middle school. But now, she finally gets the major debut she’s been waiting for. With her major debut confirmed, it means that she will be graduating from Machina Twist soon. I’m happy to know that her wish has come true. She’s been working so hard to land her first major debut as a talent.

“Are you guys free this weekend? I’ll be performing on the stage with my senior idol, Momoko Sugita. I hope that you can come and see me this weekend.” Shiori looks happy when she invites us to see her performance. “I thought that you don’t have to perform in the live house anymore? What gives?” I ask her.

Yuuto and I are unable to attend her live performance most of the time. It’s because we have to help dad and Hayato in the coffee shop. The coffee shop can be so full of people, especially during the weekend. Sometimes, we’re also involved with other covert missions. That makes it even more impossible for us to attend the live. Of course, she doesn’t even know that we’re PSIA agents. And no one knows about that, not even the school.

“It’s true that I don’t have to perform in the live house anymore,” she says, “But this is my last performance with them. This live is my graduation ceremony to commemorate my departure from Machina Twist. I won’t be performing in the live house anymore after this. Besides, I want to see my fans one last time at the live house. I feel so much closer to them in the live house than in the large venues.”

Yuuto and I look at each other. We understand that this live means a lot to Shiori, but we can’t be so sure if we can attend the live or not. Missions can come at any given moment. And I don’t think we can let it pass only because we want to attend her live. “We’re not sure if we can attend the live,” I say to her, “But we will try to convince dad about this. I’m pretty sure that he’ll be okay with this. After all, you’re also our frequent customer.”

Shiori smiles after I tell her about this. I can tell that she feels disappointed with my answer. Her forced smile is the clue to her disappointment. “It’s okay. I understand that. But I hope that you can come on that day. I don’t know when we’ll see each other again,” she says to us. I’m a bit puzzled with what she says just now, but she only denies it. I have a feeling that she has something important to say to me, but she just feels reluctant to say it.

Seeing this tense atmosphere, Yuuto then begins to lighten her up. This is not Yuuto’s true nature, but I guess that he’s the right person to do it. “Did you say that you’re going to perform together with Momoko Sugita? You mean, THAT Momoko Sugita?” Yuuto asks her. “Yes, it’s THAT Momoko Sugita. I’m so happy to know that I’ll be performing alongside her. It’s always my dream to be able to perform together with her,” Shiori answers.

“Wow, that’s amazing. I hope that we can come and see your performance this weekend. I don’t want to miss this chance to see Momoko Sugita in the flesh,” Yuuto says to her. “I don’t even know that you like her,” I say to him. Yuuto only laughs and doesn’t say anything about it. I’m not sure if Yuuto is just acting up or if he’s just being honest about being Momoko Sugita’s fan. But I’m grateful for what Yuuto does. At least it helps with cheering Shiori.

Even during school, she’s still talking about how excited she is to perform with Momoko Sugita. I know that she has been a fan of Momoko Sugita since we were in the middle school. And that is also the reason why she wants to become an idol so she can perform with her someday. It seems like her dream has come true. And we’re only a few days away until Shiori’s first duet performance with Momoko Sugita.

Seeing how happy Shiori is, I can’t help but just listen to what Shiori is saying. This is the least I can do for supporting her. I feel guilty for not attending her live performance as much as I can before her major debut. This isn’t unusual for someone in her age to get a major debut, especially the idols under Muse Agency. Pretty much everyone who aspires to be an idol will love to be recruited by this talent agency.

After all, idols under Muse Agency receive more opportunities than idols from the other agencies. These idols have a chance to receive the brand endorsement and debuting as an actress and as a recording artist. Of course, most idols will start off with making an appearance in the variety shows. But they can get far in their career if they’re under Muse Agency.

That’s the reason why Muse Agency is one of the well-known talent agencies in Japan. And many superstars who start off as idols usually come from Muse Agency. Momoko Sugita is just one of them. We can say that they will have a better future in their career if they’re under Muse Agency. A lot of people will love to join this talent agency. But as usual, they can’t take that many. Only a few of them made it. And Shiori is one of them.

Despite Muse Agency’s glowing review, I also have heard about nasty rumors about them. It doesn’t have anything to do much with the agency as a whole. Rather, the rumors are mostly related to Muse Agency founding father, Shinya Fukuyama. I have no idea if it’s true or not, but most of them are rather disturbing.

One of the nasty rumors that I have come across is he always sexually harass the idols. And there is also another nasty rumor where Sayaka Minami’s fans accused him of the cause of her death. I don’t know much about her other than she’s one of the popular idols. She also had a major debut when she was only 16 and became more popular after that. Throughout her career, she received many opportunities including famous brand endorsement.

With such a bright future ahead of her, nobody would ever imagine that she would commit suicide. I remember about the news coverage about her death in the mainstream media. This is when the news about her having a depression made into the headline. And they seemed to think that this may have been the cause of her death. She died when she was hit by a truck.

At that time, the staff was about to send her home after she was done with her treatment. She looked fine when the staff came to fetch her. As she was already inside the car, she suddenly left the car for an unknown reason and rushed off to cross the street. She didn’t even realize that the truck was heading her way, and she got hit by it when she tried to cross the street.

When Shiori told me that she’ll be having a major debut, I can’t help but think about Sayaka Minami. I’m not hoping the same thing will happen to her, but I can’t brush off that something dangerous is coming her way. “Will you be alright once you’ve had your major debut?” I ask her. Shiori looks puzzled because that question seems like it’s out of nowhere.

“Why are you asking me that?” She asks me. Before I can say anything, she’s quick to guess. “Are you thinking that something like what happened to Sayaka Minami will also happen to me?” Okay, I’ve caught myself red-handed, but I have a valid reason to think that way. I won’t be this worried if she’s under a different talent agency. But this is Muse Agency we’re talking about. Anything bad can happen when you’re in a shady agency like Muse Agency.

Shiori seems mad that I believe in the rumors spread all over the Internet. “I can’t believe it that you would believe all those rumors! Didn’t I tell you that those rumors are not true? Why you still believe that?” I don’t know how to say this to her other than it’s just my gut feeling. Even if I say that, she will insist that I shouldn’t listen to it. I’ve been in a couple of missions already, and it’s always my instinct that saved me from the disaster.

Shiori then begins to search for something in her smart watch. “Take a look at this,” she says to me while showing me a picture collection. I look at the picture collection and notice a picture of her with the rest of the members in Machina Twist. Besides the members of the group, there is also a man who is standing next to her. The man looks like someone in his 60s, smiling at the camera while putting his arm on Shiori’s shoulder.

I’m pretty sure that the man is not Shiori’s dad because Shiori is an orphan. I don’t remember she says anything about being adopted. “Who is this guy?” I ask her. “That’s Shinya Fukuyama. You probably know him as the founder of Muse Agency. He’s also one of the influential figures in the idol industry,” she answers me.

This is the first time I’ve seen him. Despite being an influential figure, he has never made any appearance in the public and the media. People only know about him, but not so much about how he physically looks like. “Do you think someone like him will do such thing?” She asks me just to clarify. I’d like to warn her not to judge him by his appearance, but I don’t think she will ever listen to me if I say it to her.

“Okay, I’m sorry for judging him,” I apologize to her. It’s not my nature to apologize for something that I didn’t do, but I don’t feel like arguing with her. Arguing with her will only make me feel so miserable. So, I’d rather not do anything like that. “When the agency had announced the news about my major debut, he came to visit us at the live house. It was the first time we met him, so we were surprised that he was nice to everyone,” she says to me.

I only nod without saying anything. Shiori then keeps talking about Shinya Fukuyama and how amazing and humble he is to them. I’m pretty sure that Shiori is doing this to convince me that Shinya Fukuyama is a good guy. And the nasty rumors that I’ve heard on the Internet are not true at all. I just nod in agreement because it’s futile to tell her to look from another angle at this point.

After the school is over, I tell Yuuto about the conversation I had with Shiori. He only laughs when he finds out how naïve Shiori is about him. “I find it hard to believe that there is someone out there who doesn’t doubt anything about this old man. Do idols from Muse Agency are like this?” He keeps on laughing about it because it seems funny to him.

“Well, I’m just expressing my concern. I wish that the rumors that I’ve read about Muse Agency in Tako Forum are not true. But how can it be NOT true if their post also includes evidence? Sure, they can disguise those as evidence. But it doesn’t look like something that you can fake and call it evidence,” I say to Yuuto. I begin to open up the forum on my smart watch and show the rumor thread to him.

Yuuto then scrolls through the thread to read the post. There are a lot of posts in the thread. So, Yuuto transfers the link to the thread to his smartwatch instead. He continues to scroll through the thread on his smart watch. It doesn’t even take the whole thread to convince him that they’re not making this up. “You know, those rumors are nasty. But I’m not surprised at all if they’re true. I still find it hard to believe that Shiori can be delusional about this,” Yuuto says to me.

I nod, agreeing with what he says. “I feel like I need to ask dad if he can help me with convincing Shiori about leaving the agency. Sure, my concern seems baseless only because of the rumor. But I just don’t want anything bad happened to her. Those rumors don’t even sound like a joke to me. I have a feeling that something bad will happen to her if she doesn’t leave the agency.”

We’re lucky that our house isn’t that far from the school. Well, it’s not really a house, considering that we live above the coffee shop. We’ve been living there since we’ve moved back to Tokyo. Hayato is staying with us while Ms. Chiyo and Mr. Sakakibara are staying at another shophouse. Well, the shophouse doesn’t have a lot of rooms anyway. So, Ms. Chiyo has to stay with Mr. Sakakibara. On top of that, his shop house is spacious too since there’s just two of them.

As soon as we reach home, we begin to help dad and Hayato in the coffee shop. The coffee shop isn’t that busy today, but there are still many customers coming in. We still have customers even until we’re near the closing time. We begin to clean up and get ready to close the coffee shop once our last customer leaves this place.

Just as we thought that no one is coming in, a man comes into the coffee shop. Since the man itself is a foreigner, we think that he may not know that we’re about to close. “I’m sorry, sir. But we’re about to close the coffee shop,” I say to him in English. Even with the intensive English class, my pronunciation is still far from perfect. I do hope that he understands what I say.

Instead of leaving this place, the man sneers at me. “Is this how you treat an important guest like me? Do you have any idea who I am?” I jolt a bit when he scoffs at me. I thought that I’m already polite enough to him. I’m only asking him to leave since we’re already closing the coffee shop. We won’t be able to take any orders since we have cleaned up everything.

“Don’t worry about it, Touka. He’s our guest. I told him to come here when we’re about to close. Sorry, I should have told you,” dad says to me. The man then takes a seat at the counter. Once he already takes a seat, dad begins to serve him a freshly brewed coffee. “Okay, let me introduce him,” dad says to us, “This is Alex Johansson. He’s from CIA, and he’s here to find out about our progress with tracking Satoru Yuuya.”

Dad seems to notice that we don’t know anything about Mr. Johansson. “Sorry, Alex, they’re my children, and they’ve just got involved in this mission. I haven’t told them anything about you yet.” Dad becomes formal to him despite he casually addresses Mr. Johansson like his old friend. I’ve never seen him being formal with anyone, not even to Director Kagami. Hayato then serves him a cup of coffee. He still looks angry at us.

“Oh, so they’re also involved in this mission? I thought that they’re only your employees,” he says to dad as he takes a sip. Mr. Johansson sounds cocky when he talks to dad. Who in the world he thinks he is? His cocky attitude annoys me, but I try not to make a ruckus. After all, this bastard is from CIA. We’d better not mess around with him.

Mr. Johansson smirks at us. He looks more like he’s making fun of us. “I never thought that the PSIA Special Activities Division can be this pathetic. Do you really lack talents that much until up to the point that you need to have high school kids in your squad? You sure are good for nothing,” he says to us. Dad doesn’t even say anything back, but I can tell that dad feels frustrated with his remark.

Without hesitating, both Yuuto and I draw our gun and point at his head. “You’d better watch your mouth, mister,” I say to him in anger. “We won’t hesitate to pull the trigger to shoot you,” Yuuto says to him, “We don’t care about you coming from CIA. But you’d better not mess with us in our own turf.”

Dad only chuckles when he sees our reaction. “They’re right about that, Alex. You’d better not provoking them. I hope that you realize that we have no reason to follow your orders. This is our turf anyway, so you’d better not mess with us. Besides, we know that you can’t fight back because you’re unarmed.” Mr. Johansson cringes, knowing that he’s in the disadvantage position.

“I already told you to watch your mouth, Alex. This is what you get when you’re so full of yourself,” a woman says to him. A woman comes in after witnessing what’s happening inside the coffee shop. Mr. Sakakibara is following her from behind. “Dude, you sure like to mess around with everybody here,” Mr. Sakakibara says to him. They seem to know that Mr. Johansson likes to mess around with everyone in the law enforcement.

Mr. Johansson pushes our guns aside and begins to walk to the entrance. “Heh, fine, you win today, you lousy Japanese. You’d better do what you’re ordered to do.” He leaves the coffee shop after that. That woman sighs after Mr. Johansson leaves the coffee shop. “This guy never seems to learn. Does he have to be cocky with everyone here just because he’s from CIA? He’s getting on my nerve!”

The woman then looks at our direction. “Who are you?” Yuuto asks her while pointing the gun at her. The woman smiles as she answers Yuuto’s question. “I’m your father’s new girlfriend. Don’t tell me that he never tells you anything about me?” I cringe when I listen to her answer. “Stop fooling around. Dad will never be with someone like you,” I say to her in anger while pointing the gun at her.

“Minoru, you sure train them well. They don’t even hesitate to shoot me at all. I can tell right away from the way they gaze at me. Their gaze doesn’t even falter at all. Their hands aren’t even shaking when they’re pointing the gun at me. I can’t believe it that someone this young can be this good,” the woman says to dad.

Mr. Sakakibara sighs when he sees that dad doesn’t even do anything to stop us. “Stop that, Shoko. Otherwise, they’re going to shoot you for real.” He then looks at us. “Put the gun down. She’s not a jerk like Alex.” That woman pouts when Mr. Sakakibara compares her with Mr. Johansson. “How dare you compare me with that jerk? I’m far better than him, you know.” Dad only laughs at us, without saying anything.

Dad then signals Hayato to prepare more coffee. He also signals us to sit down and serves a cup of coffee to us. “Good job, kids. I would have never been able to get rid of Alex if it’s not because of you.” We’re surprised to find out that dad actually praises us. We thought that he’s going to scold us for mistreating Mr. Johansson. “Minoru, you should ask them to apologize to me too,” the woman says to dad while slamming her hand on the counter.

“You deserve to be shot by them. You’re saying something that you shouldn’t say,” Mr. Sakakibara says to her. She seems pissed with Mr. Sakakibara’s remark despite him teasing her. “Now, let me introduce her. Her name is Shoko Mayuzumi. She’s mom’s old friend. And she’s one of the inspectors from Public Security Bureau. Her squad is collaborating with us in this mission.”

We then begin our meeting once Hayato serves coffee to everyone. Ms. Shoko starts talking after she takes a sip. “I’ve already analyzed the recorded footage about Dr. Hayama’s death. To be honest, I won’t deny the possibility it was the microchip implant in his arm that caused him to die. But you won’t believe what I discover.” She pauses for a while and takes another sip.

“According to the autopsy report, there’s no mention of microchip whatsoever, right? To be frank, it’s not that we don’t believe a microchip isn’t capable of killing people. It’s just that, there wasn’t even a sign that they had a microchip implant within their body. That was the reason why the report doesn’t mention anything about the microchip implant. And that was also the reason why we didn’t know what caused them to die in the first place.”

Everyone remains silent until Mr. Sakakibara starts talking. “Do these researchers remove it by force?” Mr. Sakakibara asks her. Ms. Shoko shakes her head. “No, they wouldn’t be able to do that. It won’t be that easy to remove something that is already attached to our flesh. Besides, the microchip implant is way too small for them to remove it by themselves. That would be dangerous to remove it just like that.”

“So, what makes the microchip implant disappeared in the first place?” Dad asks her. “Well, I can’t say for sure since we have no proof. But I can only think that Satoru Yuuya must have included a string of codes. When executed, the microchip implant will self-destruct once it has fulfilled its role. In this case, it disappeared the moment these researchers died,” Ms. Shoko explains.

I clench my fist when I realize where this is going to lead us to. “Does that mean we can’t convict him no matter what?” I ask Ms. Shoko. She nods at me. “I’m afraid, no. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the rest of the murders will follow the same pattern. Dr. Hayama’s death is nothing but to show us how his mind control device works. He was only using Dr. Hayama as a scapegoat.”

Ms. Shoko then continues with her explanation. “We also have done the autopsy on the guys from Awatori Group. Their microchip implants are most likely the same one used in Transhuman Development Project. As expected, there wasn’t a single trace of microchip implant in their bodies as well. At this point, it’s hard to know whether they were telling the truth or not. It doesn’t matter whether they have it or not, it’s a fact that the yakuza groups are already aware of this.”

After listening to what Ms. Shoko’s explanation, I have a feeling that what we’ve seen so far is only a tip of the iceberg. I can’t guess what Satoru Yuuya is planning to do next. But I’m pretty sure that there will be more people who will become his victims. It doesn’t matter what he plans to do. But what we can do for now is to be ready for any unforeseen circumstances.

 

Chapter 3

After our last meeting with Ms. Shoko, I begin to wonder if mom also had a microchip implant as well. None of them had mentioned anything about her, so I didn’t feel like bringing this up. Mom was also one of the key researchers in Transhuman Development Project. It didn’t matter whether she wanted it or not, she still needed to have a microchip implant. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be able to access the research facility.

I can’t seem to recall any of mom’s behaviors that felt odd to me. I don’t think that will help me with anything. After all, anyone with a microchip implant will behave like they normally would. Dr. Hayama is living proof that the microchip implant doesn’t hinder any of his normal behavior. So, I can only assume that mom did have a microchip implant. But it was already gone at some point. It’s just that, I don’t know when.

If she still had one, why didn’t Satoru Yuuya killed her just like the other researchers? Why did he send skilled assassins just to kill her? I know that he did it just to capture us. He already expected that we wouldn’t listen to him. So, sending skilled assassins to kill mom and dad was meant to be a warning sign for us to follow with his demand.

I can only conclude that mom no longer had the microchip implant at that time. Otherwise, he wouldn’t need to send skilled assassins just to kill her. I still have the diary that mom left for us. We had finished reading the diary, but I feel like rereading the diary again. Maybe I can find the answers I’ve been searching for and other clues on what Satoru Yuuya is planning to do next.

“You’re reading it again?” Yuuto asks me. He notices that I’m holding the diary as he enters my room. I nod at him. “I was just curious if mom still had a microchip implant with her when she wrote the diary. From the look of it, she didn’t seem to have one. But who knows?” Yuuto sits on the floor before he begins to talk to me. “I think mom no longer had a microchip implant within her. If she did, they didn’t have to come all the way to Tochigi just to kill her.”

It looks like Yuuto and I are on the same page about this. We firmly believe that mom didn’t have the microchip implant within her. But the question is, how did she manage to remove it from her arm? Ms. Shoko did say that it was impossible to remove the microchip implant by force. It may become even worse than triggering the suicide mode.

“Did you ask dad about this?” Yuuto asks me. I sigh when I recall dad’s answer when I was asking him about this. “For some reason, dad seems reluctant to tell me anything about mom. He only said that mom was just like the other researchers. But that was just about it. He even told me to go and ask Ms. Shoko about this.” Yuuto doesn’t even look surprised at all with dad’s answer. He may have known this that dad won’t tell us anything.

“I guess that we need to see Ms. Shoko. But I do hope that Ms. Shoko is willing to tell us. I’m just worried that she doesn’t want to tell us anything,” Yuuto says to me. “Well, you don’t have to worry about that,” I say to him, “I’ve already told Ms. Shoko that we want to see her. And she’s okay with that.” Yuuto looks surprised that Ms. Shoko agreed to see us. “Did you tell her why we want to see her?” He asks me again.

“No, but I think she knows why we want to see her. I think dad must have told her that we will come to see her and ask her about mom,” I say to him. Dad can be a jerk sometimes. I wish that he can be honest with us about issues like this. But he’d rather pass it to someone else. It’s heartbreaking for us that dad doesn’t want to tell us personally. But since he already knows that we’re going to see Ms. Shoko, he seems to be okay with us asking her about this.

The next day, we’ve decided to meet with Ms. Shoko after school. We also have told dad that we’ll be late to come home because we’ll be seeing her today. Dad doesn’t seem to oppose us seeing her, so I guess dad is okay with it, as long as we tell him where we’re going. Even though we can always protect ourselves, dad can still be a worry-wart sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with his reaction, anyway. He’s doing what a father will do.

We’ve decided to meet Ms. Shoko in a café which is not far from the school. The café is also not far from Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. Besides, she also loves to frequent this café too, which is why she wants us to see her there. She also comes to our coffee shop once in a while, but only when she has a free time, though. As an inspector, having a free time is a blessing to her.

As we enter the café, Ms. Shoko is already there. She takes a sip from her coffee while waiting for us. “We’re sorry that we’re late,” I say to her as both of us are taking a seat. Ms. Shoko smiles when she sees us. “That’s okay. I’ve just gotten here anyway.” She then starts to look at us. Even though this is the second time we meet, I’ve never imagined that she has a keen interest in us, especially me.

“You look exactly like your mom. Even your expression is the same as her. I still remember the day when your mom came to see me. That was the day she asked me to do something that sounded crazy to me. I thought that she was fooling around because she looked so frazzled. It was hard for me to take her seriously when she looked so…unkempt,” she says to us.

She then sighs before she continues talking to us. “Minoru already expected that you guys would want to see me and asks me about your mom. I just don’t understand why he doesn’t want to be the person to tell you this. He had involved in dozens of dirty jobs which were even worse than this. And yet, he doesn’t want to tell you about a crucial thing like this. I really don’t get why Sayuri loves someone like him.”

We feel awkward when she openly criticizing dad in front of us. But then again, we can tell that she must be close with mom just by noticing how much she cares about her. I don’t think she can be this blunt if she doesn’t know much about mom. “How long you’ve known mom? You look like you’ve known her for a long time,” I ask her.

She smiles when I ask her this question. “Well, she’s my childhood friend. We even went to the same university. Thank goodness that we didn’t fall in love with the same guy. Otherwise, I have no idea what’s going to happen to our friendship.” Yuuto chuckles when he hears her answer. “But you don’t look like you approve their relationship. You seem to hate dad so much.” Wow, Yuuto. You can be a bastard sometimes.

Ms. Shoko only laughs out loud in response to Yuuto’s answer. “Yeah, it sounds like I do oppose their relationship. It’s because I’m worried that she’ll be lonely if something bad happened to him.” She sighs after that. “In the end, it’s the opposite. Now, it’s Minoru who feels lonely. Come to think of it, I think I know the reason why he wants me to tell you about your mom instead. He can’t bear the sadness of losing your mom.”

We understand the feeling of losing mom. But we know that there’s nothing much we can do other than moving forward. We thought that dad is already moving forward, but it doesn’t look that way when Ms. Shoko tells us. That just shows how much mom means to him. Now, we look like we’re being insensitive. We never consider how he feels when we ask him about mom. We’re sorry for what we’ve done to you, dad.

“To be honest,” Ms. Shoko says to us, “I know that the microchip implant was a bad idea, no matter how small it was. Minoru and I were against it. Both of us even against with her taking part in this project. It didn’t matter how noble it sounded. It’s against the human nature. I’m fine with using technology to treat incurable diseases or curing physical disabilities. But making a human with a god-like feature? That’s just no.”

Ms. Shoko resents the idea of transforming human into something that no longer defines us as a human. Well, both Yuuto and I agree with her. Sure, we’re fortunate that we’re born with high IQ and with no physical disabilities. Even if we’re born with the average IQ, we only need to count our blessing. What makes us human is we can still go beyond our limit even if our physique constraints us. It’s our mind that makes us achieve what seems like an impossible feat.

So, do we need to have something like this to enhance our physical abilities and intelligence? Well, some people think they need it. It’s just like having plastic surgery to look as pretty as a celebrity. But for most people, they don’t need to have that. They’re fine with what they have. They don’t even need it in the first place. I’m pretty sure that Hayato feels the same way.

“No matter what we said, we couldn’t stop her. Minoru knew that she wouldn’t budge no matter what. So, he could only promise her that he would do what he could to save her if she was in a pinch. I could tell that Minoru didn’t want that day to come. But it was too bad that the day when he had to save her had come. That day was like a test between the two of them,” Ms. Shoko continues with her story.

Ms. Shoko takes another sip before she continues. “That was the day when your mom found out that both of you would become the test subject for the project. She didn’t want to turn you kids into a test subject, but she couldn’t run away just like that. That was when she realized that the microchip implant in her arm was a hindrance to her. Satoru Yuuya would be able to capture you kids no matter where she was. And she could get herself killed at any time because of that.”

“So, this is when she decided to discard the microchip implant?” I ask her. Ms. Shoko nods. “Yup, but she knew that she couldn’t remove the microchip implant just like that. At that time, she already suspected that something was not right with the project. So, she already knew the circumstances if she went against them. That was the time she called me to discuss her method to remove the microchip implant. Minoru was there as well.”

My heart races after listening to Ms. Shoko’s story. I have never thought that something severe had already happened to us at that time. Yuuto looks calm when he hears the story, but I can sense that his emotion is in turmoil as well. Seeing how I’m about to have a panic attack, Yuuto holds my hand tightly. At least I feel much better when he does that.

“What she wanted to do?” Yuuto asks her. Ms. Shoko seems reluctant to tell us, but she knows that she has to. “She had to fake her death. We’re not talking about using a body double here. She needed to commit suicide just to fool the program. If the suicide attempt were successful, the microchip implant would no longer be usable. At that time, she didn’t know that it would disappear when she committed suicide.”

Yuuto holds my hand even tighter than before when he notices my reaction. I can’t even look straight at Ms. Shoko right now. It feels too much for me to handle. I feel grateful that Yuuto is here with me. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me if it’s not because of him. Whatever it is, our support to each other means a lot in this situation.

“So, I presume that the plan succeeded at that time, right?” Yuuto asks Ms. Shoko. She nods as she takes another sip. “It was, but at that time, we weren’t even sure. It was such a risky approach. Even Minoru was against it. Despite that, Minoru was there to witness everything. It wasn’t easy to fake her death for 1 second just to fool the microchip. Any longer than that, she would die for good.”

She breathes a sign of relief after that. “We were glad that the attempt was a success. After double-checking everything, we’ve confirmed that the microchip was no longer inside her body. And I guess you know the drill after that. The rest of you immediately left Tokyo and disappeared off the grid.”

None of us are saying anything after the conversation is over. Without realizing, two hours have passed since then. I have never imagined that the conversation takes a lot of time. I’m pretty sure that she has a lot of things to do in her office. “Just let me know if you need anything. I’ll do my best to help you out,” Ms. Shoko says to us before we leave.

We part our way after that. “I’ve never thought that mom was bold enough to do something so risky. I doubt that I’ll do the same if I were her,” I say to Yuuto. I feel like wanting to break this awkward silence. “I’m glad to know that you’re alright. You looked like you were about to have a panic attack just now,” Yuuto says to me. I smile at him. “Yes, I was anxious for an unknown reason. I guess that it must have something to do with mom faking her death.”

I know that Yuuto looks surprised about that as well. But at least, he doesn’t feel as anxious as I am. “I guess that we should go home and have a cup of coffee. You barely drank any when we were there.” I nod at him, agreeing with his suggestion. Maybe we should go home and have a cup of coffee instead if it will make us feel better.

“Welcome home,” dad greets us when we reach home. He’s already done with cleaning up the coffee shop by the time we come back. “We’re home.” Dad begins to serve us a cup of coffee while Hayato continues with cleaning the coffee shop. “I’m sorry that you have to see Shoko just to know about your mom. I can’t bring myself to tell you about your mom no matter how hard I try. It was too painful for me, even though it was already in the distant past,” dad says to us.

Both of us look down. We feel guilty for being insensitive. We should have known how painful it is for dad to talk about mom. He even felt guilty that he couldn’t attend mom’s cremation at that time. But at least, he was able to say goodbye to mom before we moved back to Tokyo. “It’s okay. We’re sorry for not considering how you feel. We’re grateful that you don’t try to hide the facts from us,” I say to dad.

Dad feels relieved when he hears that we’re not blaming him. We don’t feel like blaming him because we’re also at fault as well. So, there’s no reason for us to blame him. He doesn’t do anything wrong to us. None of us are saying anything after that. So, I begin to ask him about letting us go to Shiori’s live performance. “Dad, I know this seems like out of nowhere, but can we go and see Shiori’s live performance this weekend? This is her last performance at the live house. So, we want to see her one last time.”

Dad chuckles when I ask him about this. “Well, why not? It’s true that we have a lot of customers during weekend. But I think that we can do just fine with Hayato and me.” Hayato also nods when he’s done with the cleaning. “Yup, don’t worry about us. You should go and see her while you still have the chance,” Hayato says to us. I can’t help but feel happy that dad allows us to see Shiori this weekend. “Thanks, dad,” I say to him.

On Saturday, we head to Ebisu where Machina Twist will have their live performance. As we reach the area, there are so many people who are already waiting in front of the live house. I can tell that these people are here to watch the live performance by judging the way they dress. It’s easy to tell, though, with some of them are wearing a headband on their forehead. The headband clearly says ‘I love Momoko’ or ‘I love Shiori’. They must be the idol otaku.

Most people who are attending the live are men, with majority of them are the idol otaku. As expected for a live performance like this. But there are also women who are attending the live performance too. I can hear them whispering that today is Shiori’s last performance with Machina Twist. From now onward, Shiori is no longer performing with them. She’s officially become a talent, just like Momoko Sugita.

By being a talent, she can now pursue another career path such as acting, singing and even modeling. She will also begin to appear on the variety TV show because this is where the talents will appear most of the time. Seeing that there are so many people who are cheering for her, I can’t help but feel like supporting her as much as I can. I’m proud of what she has accomplished while she was still with Machina Twist.

Once the door has opened, everyone is rushing in so then they can get the best place to see their favorite idols. Speaking about the idol otaku, they seem to be divided into many factions. After all, while they love the idol group as a whole, they usually root for a specific person in the group. Just like most idols, Shiori has a huge number of following. So, it makes sense why her talent agency has decided to make a major debut for her.

The live house is packed than usual because of Momoko Sugita’s performance with Shiori. Well, it’s not that I’ve seen her live performance that frequently. This is what people who are here have been saying. I’m glad that the person next to me is nice enough to tell me. She’s also a fan of Shiori because of her bubbly personality.

I have to admit that she’s right about Shiori’s personality. But at the same time, she can be an airhead sometimes. And she can be so naïve too. This is the part that I don’t dare to tell her fans, though. Perhaps, I’m the only one who thinks that she’s an airhead because of my high intelligence.

Everybody shouts in unison, chanting their favorite member’s name when they appear on stage. The cheer is getting louder when Shiori appears on the stage. Shiori looks happy when she sees that there are so many people who are here to cheer for her. She feels even happier when she sees us. She waves at us when she notices us, but a group of guys thinks that she’s waving at them. They even argue about that. This is the first time I’ve seen grown-up men quarreling for something silly like this.

“How are you today, everyone?” Shiori shouts at the crowd. The crowd riles up even with a simple greeting from Shiori. Everyone shouts in unison when answering Shiori’s question. I’ve known Shiori since the middle school. But I’ve never seen her being so energetic on stage. It’s because she always feels shy whenever she’s with strangers. I guess that she needs to become a different persona when she’s on stage. No one will ever believe that the shy Shiori is now an idol who has a lot of raving fans.

The performance itself is fantastic. That maybe has something to do with me who rarely seeing a live performance. I admit that I am enjoying myself throughout the live. But I still can’t stop complaining about a bunch of guys who are in front of me. I’m not sure how old they are, but they seem like they’re in the mid-20s. It grosses me out when I see how obsessive they are with the idols.

If I were an idol, I’m happy to have fans who have been supporting me throughout my journey. But I still find it creepy to have people like them to worship their favorite idols like a temple. Thank goodness that I’m not a part of the idol scene. Otherwise, I would have quit the next day only because I have a bunch of creepy old men worshipping me. I guess the world of assassination fits me better than the idol world.

After Machina Twist’s performance, Momoko Sugita performs next. The scream is even louder when Momoko Sugita appears on the stage. Well, she used to be a member of Machina Twist before. So, it feels nostalgic when they see her on the stage where she used to perform as a Machina Twist member back then.

Yuuto seems to be mesmerized by her. He looks like he can’t keep his eyes away from her. Momoko Sugita sure knows how to charm her fans, even to the first-timer like Yuuto. Maybe Yuuto is not lying about him being a fan of Momoko Sugita. Or maybe he just pretends to be her fan. I don’t see him putting Momoko Sugita’s poster in his room. So, I bet that he’s doing it out of fitting in with the crowd. Only Yuuto is able to pull off an act like this.

The live continues with Shiori’s solo performance. After that, it’s her duet performance with Momoko Sugita. Shiori looks happy when she’s performing alongside her. Even her fans are tearing up when they see how splendid their performance together. The live performance ends with Shiori expresses her gratitude to her fans. She’s hoping that they will support her from now onward as a talent.

After the live is over, someone is calling for us. “You’re Touka and Yuuto, right?” He whispers to us. Both of us nod at him. He feels relieved that he gets the right person. “We have so many people who are attending the live more than usual. I’m just worried that I’ll get the wrong person. Thank goodness that I get it right,” he says to us.

Both of us follow him to the backstage while avoiding the crowd. “How do you know about us?” Yuuto asks him. “Shiori has been telling me about you guys. She also showed me your photos so then it’ll be easier for me to recognize you. She’s been showing your pics to me countless time. At this point, I don’t think that I can ever forget how you look like that easily,” he replies.

“I’m sorry for being rude,” I say to him, “But, who are you? Why do you know so many things about us?” He only smiles at me. “Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Keiji Ayatsuji. I’m Shiori’s manager from now onward.” We’re glad to know that Mr. Ayatsuji doesn’t look like a bad person. I always assume that an idol manager can be a pain to deal with. But it doesn’t look that way with Mr. Ayatsuji.

Once we’re at the backstage, Shiori jumps and start to hug me. “Touka, I’m so happy that you’re here. I’m glad that you’ve made it this time,” Shiori says to me in tears. I can’t help but tear up too. “Congratulations, Shiori. Your performance just now was splendid. I enjoyed it so much,” I praise her. Mr. Ayatsuji leaves after that. He smiles when he sees how close we are with Shiori.

She then looks at Yuuto. “Yuuto, you’re popular among my group members. Initially, they thought that you’re Touka’s boyfriend. But when I told them that you’re her twin brother, they felt like they may have a chance to hit on you,” Shiori says to him. Yuuto looks so proud and boastful when he knows that he’s also popular among the idols.

“Stop praising him. He can be annoying when things like this get into his head,” I say to Shiori in anger. Yuuto only laughs, saying that I’m just jealous that he’s popular among the girls. It’s not that I care about it, anyway. While we’re busy talking, Momoko Sugita walks passing us. Rather than welcoming us, she stares at us instead. She looks unhappy when she sees us. In her eyes, we look more like a nuisance to her.

“Who are they?” She asks Shiori. Shiori seems to take aback when she sees Momoko Sugita’s expression. “We’re her friends from the high school,” I say to Momoko Sugita. Before Shiori is able to introduce us properly, Momoko Sugita suddenly snaps at her. “Who do you think you are? Just because you’re an idol, that doesn’t mean you can simply just bring anyone here. Bring your friends elsewhere. Otherwise, just leave this place.”

Momoko Sugita leaves after she scolds her. Shiori then starts to cry. She has never been this terrified. “Why she suddenly scolds me? Wasn’t she the one who said that it was okay for me to bring my friends to the backstage? I can’t believe with what she did to me.” Shiori just runs off to her dressing room, leaving us dumbfounded. The situation in the backstage becomes so awkward that Mr. Ayatsuji is asking us to leave.

On our way out, we ask him if we did something wrong that makes Momoko Sugita angry at us. Even he also seems confused with Momoko Sugita’s odd behavior. “She is a nice person. But she suddenly acts strange after the live is over. Not only that, her voice sounds a lot different than usual. It feels like it’s not even Momoko at all,” Mr. Ayatsuji says to us.

“Maybe she has a sore throat. That’s why she sounds different,” Yuuto says to him jokingly. “No, that’s not it. I’ve been working together with Momoko since she was still a member of Machina Twist. And I know her personality well enough. She would never act like that even if she were under the pressure. Even if she couldn’t take it, she would never blow up just like that,” he says to us.

Once we’re already outside of the live house, Mr. Ayatsuji apologizes to us on her behalf. Maybe Momoko Sugita does have a bad day. But he still thinks that she’s not the person he used to know. His gut feeling is saying that she’s not even the real Momoko Sugita. There must be some kind of other personality that has taken over her.

To be honest, we don’t know much about her since none of us are interested in the idol stuff. Even if we don’t know her much, we still find that her behavior is rather strange. Does the idol always act like this all the time? Maybe there IS something wrong with her. And I’m pretty sure that it’s far more complicated than we thought.

 

Chapter 4

I’m the kind of person who takes everything with a pinch of salt, even if there are individuals who are being rude to me. Well, why should I even care about the strangers who are being rude to me? I’m pretty sure that I won’t bump into them anymore. While I can brush things off just like that, it doesn’t seem that way when it involves someone who is a public figure. What Momoko Sugita did to us the other day left a bitter taste in our mouth.

When I arrive at school, I bump into Shiori at the school entrance. She avoids me like a plug whenever our eyes meet. Even Yuuto finds it odd because Shiori had never behaved like this before. Have we done something that offended her? I’m pretty sure that I don’t. I suspect that Yuuto must have done something to her, but he denies it.

I sigh because I have no idea what’s going on with Shiori. The only thing I can do right now is to confront her. As I enter the class, Shiori still avoids looking at me. This will be difficult for me if things keep on going like this. This will leave me no choice but to confront her before the class starts. I’m okay with confronting people during the covert mission. But I don’t feel comfortable facing Shiori like this. It will only make her feel intimidated if I do it this way.

Shiori still avoids me even when I’m standing right in front of her desk. “What’s going on with you? You’ve been avoiding me since we’ve arrived. Just tell me if I’ve done something that offended you,” I say to her as I’m slamming my hands on her desk. The loud slam on her desk somehow attracts the whole class to stare at us. Seeing the whole class stares at us, Shiori blushes and leave the class.

Darn, I’ve made a terrible mistake. I don’t mean to slam on her desk, though. I just did it because I was angry. I chase after Shiori right away after she leaves the class. Before she can go anywhere further, I grab her arm. She still doesn’t even look at me even when I grab her arm tightly. “Touka, let me go! It hurts,” she cries. “Not until you tell me what’s going on with you,” I say to her.

“I’m sorry,” she cries, “I still feel guilty for what have happened last weekend. I couldn’t believe it myself that the person that I always looked up to treated you and Yuuto badly. I feel so embarrassed about it that I don’t even dare to look at you.” This is what she’s been bugging about? I thought that Yuuto and I must have done something to her. It turns out to be that it’s none of those.

“So, that’s it? I thought that it was something major,” I say to her, sighing. Shiori nods. “I know that you won’t have a hard feeling about that. But I do! I’m scared that you will say that she’s a bad person only because of that. She was only having a bad day. That’s all.” I’m amazed that she’s still defending Momoko Sugita even though she had treated us poorly. If Shiori has a boyfriend, she will protect him even though he has made a grave mistake.

“Okay, I know that she had a bad day. I never even thought that she was a bad person only because of that. I know that she’s a nice person. Otherwise, you’ll never look up to her all this time,” I say to Shiori. To be honest, she was rude to us. But I don’t feel like saying anything bad because I don’t know anything about her. Maybe she did have a bad day. Still, I have to lie to Shiori so she doesn’t have to worry too much about it.

Shiori smiles at me. She feels relieved that I don’t think anything bad about Momoko Sugita. “I’m glad to hear that you don’t think her as a bad person. I shouldn’t have assumed that,” Shiori says to me. After that, she heads back to class as if nothing happens between us. For some reason, I feel like Shiori must have been obsessed with Momoko Sugita. Despite her nasty attitude toward us, she still defended her. She looks more like she’s in denial to me.

During the break, Shiori behaves like her usual, cheerful self. I’m glad that Momoko Sugita’s issue is no longer bugging her. But now, I’m worried about her huge obsession with Momoko Sugita and her denial in certain issues. I hate listening to people talking non-stop about their obsession with female idols. But I have to give this time an exception. I need to find out more about Momoko Sugita. For me, her sudden change in her behavior is not normal to me.

I understand that young women like Momoko Sugita can be prone to a mood swing. But it doesn’t even look like a mood swing at all to me. Even if she does, her voice and her behavior don’t need to change to reflect that. Even Mr. Ayatsuji also said that it wasn’t the usual Momoko he always knew. What’s going on here?

“Shiori, can you tell me everything you know about Momoko Sugita?” I ask her during the break. Shiori looks excited when I’m asking her about Momoko Sugita. She knows that I’m not into this idol stuffs. So for her, that seems like good news. “Wow, what makes you have a keen interest in her? Whatever it is, I’m happy that you’ve started to like her. She’s amazing, isn’t she?” I should have guessed her response. Now I feel regret for asking her that.

“Yeah, her last performance was…splendid. I felt like I’ve become her fan ever since then,” I say to Shiori. Damn, I have to lie to her just to confirm my hunch. I bet that she must be thinking that she’s finally converting me into Momoko Sugita’s fan. Thinking about it annoys the hell out of me. “Aww, there are so many things I can talk about her. Where should I begin?” Shiori asks me. She looks like she’s on the cloud nine when she starts talking about her.

“I guess you can start off with talking about her personality, her likes and dislikes,” I answer. Shiori’s eyes sparkle when I give her suggestions on what she should be talking about. “Oh, that’s easy!” She begins to talk about everything she knows about Momoko Sugita. I’ve also recorded our conversation without her knowledge for future reference.

According to Shiori, she was nice to everyone, not just to her group members, but also to the staffs. While being nice to the staffs is important, she was also nice to the staffs that were also not related to her career. I guess that was why Mr. Ayatsuji claimed he knew what kind of person Momoko Sugita was. With such personality, I bet that the rest of the staffs were just brushing it off that she might have a bad day.

“Do you know anything about her before she became an idol? Maybe it’s about her family or her upbringing?” I ask Shiori again. Shiori pauses for a while, trying to recall if she knows anything about Momoko Sugita’s past. “Well, she did talk about her past in a magazine interview before. She only said that her parents had passed away, and she had been living with her relatives. Rather than sticking to one family, she was passed from one family to another,” Shiori says.

Based on what Shiori tells me, I begin to see her strange behavior must have a lot to do with her upbringing. Maybe it does, it’s just that I don’t know how deep it’s affecting her. Even if she had an awful upbringing, people around her are nice to her. It still doesn’t make sense why she has to be rude to us, even though she knows that we’re Shiori’s friends. And we don’t do anything rowdy like their fans.

“Touka, are you listening?” Shiori interrupts me. I don’t realize that I’m in a deep thought until Shiori knocks my senses. “Sorry about that, I really am listening to you. It’s just that…I’m trying to understand her personality more,” I reply. I don’t feel like telling her that her upbringing must be the reason why she was rude to us. Even if that’s the reason, I’m pretty sure that Shiori will deny me flat on.

“That’s alright. It must be hard for you to believe it, right?” Shiori says to me. I just smile awkwardly because it’s nothing unusual about that. Something like that usually happens, even to people who are close to us. “That’s why I’ve always looked up to her. After all, our past are similar. Just like her, I had to stay with my relatives. That was until someone had reported about me being abused while living with them.”

I know it all along that Shiori is currently living in the orphanage. But this is the first time I hear about her being abused by her foster family. “I’m not sure whether she was abused or not. But I understand the feeling of not being wanted. We were put aside because we didn’t even belong to the family. We were more like the excess baggage to them. We were more like a burden to them instead of a gift from the universe.”

I’m not sure what to say to her at this moment. I’m surprised that she’s open to me about her past. I guess that she must have trusted me enough to be open about this. “But you know, I’m glad that my awful past shapes me to become a better person I am today,” Shiori says to me. She smiles when she looks at me. I just nod my head and smile at her. “You’re right. At the end of the day, something good will eventually come your way.”

She then looks away from me. Don’t tell me I’ve said something that upsets her again? “Am I saying something wrong?” I ask her. She shakes her head while smiling at me. “No, it’s just that, I feel guilty about this. I should have told you about this before my performance last weekend. But I keep putting it off. I don’t have the courage to say this to you.”

I wonder what she’s been wanted to tell me until up to the point where she needs the courage to spill it to me. She begins to tell me after she takes a deep breath. This must be such a big deal to her. “I’ll be transferring to another school starting this week,” she blurts out. It’s unexpected to hear this, but I should have expected this long time ago. This school isn’t flexible enough for an idol like her because there will be a time where she can’t attend a class.

I smile at her. “I won’t deny that I feel sad because I won’t be seeing you again. But you don’t have to worry about that. Besides, we can always see each other again whenever you’re free. So, don’t feel bad about it.” Shiori begins to cry when I say this to her. “Thank you, Touka. You’re always there for me all this time. That’s why I don’t have the guts to tell you about this. Even until now, you’re still thinking about me.”

After wiping her tears, she then takes a notebook from her bag and starts writing something. “This is my new home address. I’ve already moving out of the orphanage, so this is where I’m currently living.” I look at the address. Her new house is in Yotsuya, which is still in Shinjuku area. It’s not that far from where we live, so I think we can always come and visit her whenever she’s around. I begin to add her address to my smartwatch so then I won’t lose it.

I always assume that Shiori will attend the same school as I am until we graduate. But I do know that’s going to be impossible because of the nature of her job. We don’t have any idols in this school other than Shiori. So, there’s no way the school is going to accommodate for someone like her. I also tell this news to Yuuto. Just like me, he doesn’t expect it. But he knows that day where Shiori has to transfer to another school will eventually come.

As we reach home, we notice that Mr. Sakakibara is filling in for Hayato. “Where’s Hayato?” I ask dad. Dad signals Mr. Sakakibara to go upstairs so then he can tell us what task that dad has assigned Hayato to do. We follow Mr. Sakakibara to upstairs. I’m pretty sure that Hayato is involved in a special task. I don’t think it’s necessary for him to bring us upstairs if Hayato is going out for an errand.

“We received information that there is someone who looks like Dr. Frederick Choo. So, we’ve sent Hayato to investigate if that person is really him.” Both of us are surprised to find out that Dr. Frederick Choo is still alive. “I thought that he was already dead back then when Transhuman Development Project began?” Yuuto asks him with a puzzled look.

“Well, that’s true based on our information. So, we just want to confirm if it’s him or not. According to CIA, he might also involve in the murder of their ex-colleagues in UC Berkeley. It’s because he disappeared at the same time as Satoru Yuuya. It’s just that the CIA dropped his name because he was already dead.” He goes down to help dad after he explains the whole situation to us.

“This guy isn’t just an ordinary researcher. For someone like him who knows how to fake his death, this guy sure is something,” Yuuto says to me. I agree with what he says. We admit that Satoru Yuuya isn’t an ordinary researcher. But we’ve never thought that Dr. Frederick Choo is the same. We don’t know much about him other than him who is a specialist when it comes to physical enhancing drugs.

We help dad in the coffee shop as usual. After the customers are no longer around, we begin to close the coffee shop. As we’re about to close, Ms. Shoko comes in. She must have something urgent to tell us if she’s coming here now. I doubt that she’s here for coffee. Well, it doesn’t hurt for her to discuss something confidential while sipping a cup of coffee.

Dad serves her a cup of coffee as she takes her seat. “Oh, that cute waiter is not here. Do you send him for a top secret mission, Minoru?” She asks dad. Dad only chuckles when he hears how Ms. Shoko is calling Hayato a cutie. “Well, yup. He’s tracking Dr. Frederick Choo. But it’s not confirmed if it’s him, though. Maybe it’s someone who looks like him,” dad replies.

“There’s something I want you to do,” she says to us after she takes a sip. She then transfers the file to dad. “Saburo Matsuda? What in the world you’re thinking, Shoko?” Dad asks her as he begins to read the file. “Do you mean that Saburo Matsuda? The former minister for Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare?” Yuuto asks Ms. Shoko. She smiles while taking another sip.

“Yup, it’s that guy,” she replies. Dad sighs when he reads the report that Ms. Shoko has sent to him. “According to your report, he was the only minister who had a microchip implant. And it wasn’t even confirmed yet. Why in the world you guys from Public Security Bureau reacted to a rumor like this? Not only that, but he was also rumored to have a relationship with the late Sayaka Minami. Why it sounds like something you read in a gossip magazine?”

Everyone bursts into laughter when dad says that. “Hey, I didn’t write the report that way! It was you who misinterpret my report,” Ms. Shoko scolds dad. Dad then transfers the file to the rest of us. Everyone becomes silent as we begin to read the report that Ms. Shoko has given us. I can’t help but clench my fist when I read the report. It seems that the statement ‘the truth hurts’ is right after all. It’s hard for me to finish reading the report when I’m filled with anger.

The person who told Ms. Shoko is one of her squad members who infiltrate the agency as Muse Agency staff. According to him, Saburo Matsuda already knew about Satoru Yuuya’s background. He was willing to shield Satoru Yuuya from the government threat. That was as long as he would get the final version of the microchip implant that was free from the side effects. He wouldn’t mind if there were a few test subjects who died along the process as long as the project was completed.

What surprises me the most is Saburo Matsuda’s relationship with Shinya Fukuyama. We all know that he’s the Muse Agency founder. And Saburo Matsuda happened to be one of the few high-ranking officials who are invited to his private party. This private party isn’t an ordinary party, though. It’s actually a sex party where the idols are forced to have sex with these guests. And these idols are popular and have a huge fan base.

The private party was held in Shinya Fukuyama’s private mansion in Karuizawa. The party will be held a few times a year. And only those who have attended the previous private party will be notified for the next one. If they want to take part in the party, then they need a referral from those who have attended the party before. And it doesn’t matter if they only attended the party just once. Saburo Matsuda has been attending the private party a few times already.

The idol industry is about preserving their virginity and their naive thought about men. But it doesn’t seem that way for the idols in Muse Agency. If they refused to have sex with these guests, the agency will end their contract. The agency will also use their influence to create a bad reputation for the said idol. This will mean that none of the idol agencies will want to take them because of their tainted reputation.

As an idol, I doubt that they’re willing to risk this for their future’s sake. The report feels like what I usually read in Tako forum, but I don’t find anything surprising about this. Shinya Fukuyama is one of the influential people in the idol industry. So, if he says that this said idol is a bad apple in his agency, the other idol agencies will follow suit. It can be tough to survive in the showbiz if you’re a woman with a tainted reputation.

Now, it’s true that Shinya Fukuyama is using his idol agency for sex trafficking conduct. What’s even worst, none of the newbies know about this. Only idols who have gotten their major debut know about this. None of them lodge a police report. It’s because they don’t want people to know about the shameful things they have to go through. This is the last thing they want to do if they want to protect their own reputation.

Dad sighs after he has finished reading the report. “I don’t think that you’re here just to hand us this report. I’m pretty sure that you’re here with a request,” dad says to her. Ms. Shoko takes another sip before she starts talking. “You’re sharp as usual, Minoru. It’s no wonder that you’re the head of the special activities division. You seem to know what I have in mind.”

Dad looks annoyed when Ms. Shoko is saying something like that to him. It looks more like Ms. Shoko is making fun of him instead of complimenting him. “You’re right. I do have a request,” she replies. Everyone listens to her attentively as she begins to tell us about her request. “Saburo Matsuda wants to meet the idol from Muse Agency in Le Gardenia Hotel tonight. This is what my squad member told me.”

Mr. Sakakibara only chuckles when he hears that. “Wow, I’m pretty sure that he wants to get hot and steamy with that idol. He must have paid a lot to Shinya Fukuyama to quench his desire for sex with a popular idol.” Ms. Shoko nods, agreeing with what Mr. Sakakibara is saying. “You’re right. What he’s doing right now is no different than hiring a prostitute. On top of that, no one knows about his meeting with a Muse Agency idol.”

“Who is he going to see tonight?” I ask her. Ms. Shoko pauses for a while. I do hope that she’s not telling me that Saburo Matsuda wants to see Shiori tonight. Shiori is an idol who has just gotten her major debut recently. I know that the chances for Saburo Matsuda to choose her are slim. But I still hope that she’s not the one who Saburo Matsuda wants. “It’s Momoko Sugita,” Ms. Shoko replies.

Both Yuuto and I become surprised when we find out that Saburo Matsuda wants to see her tonight. “So, you want us to save her? Why do you want to go all the way just to save her?” Yuuto asks her. “It’s simple. Public Security Bureau has been keeping an eye on Shinya Fukuyama for so long. Since they have no proof to convict him, saving Momoko Sugita allows them to have a proof for arresting him. As for us, we can interrogate Saburo Matsuda. Maybe he knows about Satoru Yuuya’s current whereabouts,” dad answers.

Ms. Shoko looks at us. “In other words, we both benefit in this mission. You guys get to arrest Saburo Matsuda and ask him about Satoru Yuuya. As for us, we can use Momoko Sugita to prove Shinya Fukuyama’s crime. Isn’t that great?” She says to us with enthusiasm. We only smile sheepishly at her. Somehow, we feel like she’s using us instead. She can always order her squad to save Momoko Sugita and arrest Saburo Matsuda for us. But she doesn’t.

We begin our meeting for the next mission once Ms. Shoko leaves. “In this mission, I’ll be assigning you guys to save Momoko Sugita and capture Saburo Matsuda. I know that it won’t be good for us to interrogate someone like him. But be sure to do this without letting anyone knows about our involvement,” dad says to us.

“Will he be a huge threat to us since he also possesses a microchip implant?” I ask dad. Dad laughs when I ask him that. “Do you think the microchip implant will help someone like him? If he desires to have such things, then he should turn himself into a cyborg.” Everyone laughs when he tells us that. “Don’t worry about it. I doubt that he’ll be a threat to us,” dad convinces us.

After the meeting is over, Yuuto and I are getting ready for our mission. Saburo Matsuda will meet Momoko Sugita in his suite by 9. So, we have plenty of time to get ready. Once our preparation is complete, we begin to head to Le Gardenia Hotel. Yuuto and I are heading to the hotel on a separate way. Even though it’s a simple plan, I can’t brush the feeling something bad is bound to happen.

As I reach the hotel compound, I take a deep breath, trying to calm myself down. This isn’t the first time I’m getting involved in a mission like this. But my heart is beating so fast, and my instinct keeps on telling me that something bad is about to happen to me. I hate it when the feeling is so strong that I can’t shake it off no matter how hard I try.

Both Yuuto and I arrive at the designated area at 8.55 p.m. There’s still 5 minutes left before we can begin our operation. As I’m waiting for the signal to get started, Yuuto starts to talk to me through my earpiece. “Sis, this is bad,” he says to me. Yuuto seems alarmed when he tells me that. “What’s wrong?” I ask him. “Saburo Matsuda’s bodyguards are there, and they’re a few meters away from his suite. But they’re all dead.”

What? How can that be possible? “Did you see anyone nearby?” I ask him again. “I don’t see anyone. I can’t even spot Momoko Sugita either. Are we that late to arrive here?” No, I don’t think we’re late. If Yuuto can’t see Momoko Sugita anywhere, then there are only two possibilities. It’s either Momoko Sugita is late, or she’s already inside. “Yuuto, I’m heading straight to the suite. So, please back me up. Even if the bodyguards are already dead, maybe someone else will come after me,” I say to him.

After I cut off my communication with Yuuto, I make a quick dash to the suite. “Touka, I’ve already turned off the security camera on every floor. But somehow, the security camera on the top floor has been turned off before I even intercept. I’m currently accessing the footage in the security camera. Whatever it is, be careful,” Ms. Chiyo says to me.

My instinct becomes even stronger as I’m getting near to the top floor. What in the world is going on here? Don’t tell me that someone is here to assassinate Saburo Matsuda instead? Once I reach the top floor, I don’t see any of his bodyguards who are still alive. The scene looks and feels like I’m in a warzone, with dead bodies are all over the place. These people are brutally murdered. It seems like a serial killer who did this.

The smell of the blood is so strong, which means that they were killed a while ago. As I’m reaching Saburo Matsuda’s suite, I smell something pungent. Wait, this is the smell of the blood. Don’t tell me that Saburo Matsuda has been murdered as well. Without wasting time, I barge into the room. That’s when I see Momoko Sugita, with her holding a knife which is tainted with blood in her hand. It’s hard to believe that she’s cutting Saburo Matsuda’s neck.

“We meet again, girl,” she says to me as our eyes meet. I grit my teeth as I look at her. Is she really Momoko Sugita? I don’t know if I should feel amazed or not. But she doesn’t even look terrified at all when she’s cutting Saburo Matsuda’s neck. She looks more like she has been doing this for a long time. For some reason, I feel like she’s not the Momoko Sugita that we know. The Momoko Sugita that we know won’t do something like this.

“I can tell from your reaction. You find it hard to believe that the popular idol, Momoko Sugita is a murderer here. Well, fret not. The real Momoko Sugita will never do such thing. She can’t even kill a fly, let alone kill a human being,” she says to me. She’s sharp for an idol. She seems to know what I’m thinking. My eyes widen when I realize that it’s the same voice who was scolding us when we were in the backstage. What’s going on here?

“If you’re not Momoko Sugita, then who are you? How come you look like Momoko Sugita?” I ask her. I’m glad that I still sound calm even though I’m trembling in fear right now. She smirks at me when I ask her that. Is she already expecting me to ask her this? “I guess that it doesn’t hurt for me to let you know who I am. In fact, Master Yuuya doesn’t tell me anything not to reveal my identity to anyone,” she replies.

Master Yuuya? Don’t tell me she comes here under Satoru Yuuya’s order? She throws away Saburo Matsuda’s body to the floor when she begins to introduce herself. “My name is Mika. Momoko Sugita and I are the same people. It’s just that Mika is her alter ego. The real Momoko Sugita doesn’t even know that she has committed murder here. And she’s not even aware of my existence. I will only resurface when Master Yuuya wants me to assassinate someone.”

So, she really is here under Satoru Yuuya’s order. “What’s your relationship with Satoru Yuuya? And why do you have to kill someone like Saburo Matsuda? You don’t have any reason to kill him anyway. Does it have anything to do with him having a microchip implant?” I ask her again.

She smiles at me, as if she finds my questions rather amusing. “You seem to know a lot, little girl,” she says to me, “It’s true. Satoru Yuuya is the one who orders me to assassinate Saburo Matsuda. He hates greedy people like him, so my master thinks that someone like him deserves to die. So, I’m here to execute his order. That’s what I’m here for.”

The atmosphere around me becomes intense. She maybe an idol, but I can sense that her killing intent is so strong that I’ll be dead meat if I’m not prepared. It looks like I have to face her even though I don’t want to. At a first glance, I know that she’s not an ordinary person. I don’t think an average person can kill Saburo Matsuda’s bodyguards without getting injured. I don’t see any injuries at all. It means that she kills them with just a single strike.

Before I can do anything, she launches a quick attack on me. Unlike my previous fight, Mika is on the different level. As soon as she lands a hit on me, I can feel that my rib cage is about to explode. It is so painful until up to the point that I barely stand up. Not only that, I end up coughing blood because of the internal bleeding. Her strength is the same as Hayato. I doubt that I can win against her even if I use my full strength.

“I’ll let you into another secret,” she says to me, “I did tell you that Momoko Sugita doesn’t realize about my existence, didn’t I? Well, it’s possible now because of the microchip implant inside her body. This is the thing that makes it easier for me to resurface when I need to. And yes, my extraordinary strength is also because of the microchip as well. The microchip implant makes it easier for Master Yuuya to manipulate her in any way he wants.”

So, this is another level for the microchip implant? This kind of mind control device is a lot different than the one Dr. Hayama has. “Do the other idols have microchip implant too?” I ask her. She doesn’t look hesitate at all to answer my questions. Does Satoru Yuuya give her this much freedom? “Well, they do. Even the new talent has one. But the microchip implant is exclusive to the Muse Agency idols, though. Among us, I’m the only one who has the ability to become an assassin.”

I’m glad to know that the other idols won’t turn into an assassin. But it’s still not good news that all idols have a microchip implant within them. “Why does Shinya Fukuyama have to play alongside Satoru Yuuya? I thought that he has everything he needs?” I ask her again. She shakes her head when I ask her that. “Little girl, you know nothing about the man’s desire. All he ever wants is to have sex with each of us with no strings attached.”

It’s hard to believe that an old man like Shinya Fukuyama is willing to sacrifice his own idols for his own desire. This is sickening, but I have to stop him no matter what. Otherwise, Shiori will be his next victim. Mika then launches her counterattack after the conversation is over. With me who barely stands up, I can’t dodge her attack quickly enough. She already hits my vital point, so it won’t be easy for me to evade her attack this time. This is the end of me.

Because of her counterattack, I’m too weak to fight her back and just lands on the floor. I can always grab my gun and shoot her. But I’m way too weak to do such thing. She smirks at me when she sees me lying on the floor, unable to fight back. “You know, I wish I can kill you right now because you already know a lot about me. But my master won’t allow me to do that. He says that he has something waiting for you. I don’t know what it is, but you should look forward to it.”

She leaves me just like that, knowing that I barely survive. I’m lucky that she decides not to kill me because Satoru Yuuya doesn’t allow her to do that. But I’m not sure if I’ll be able to win the fight against her. I doubt that I’ll be lucky the next time I see her again.

 

Chapter 5

“Touka, I’m sorry, but this is going to be the last time we will see each other again,” Shiori says to me. I don’t get it. Why is she saying that we won’t be seeing each other again? “What do you mean by that?” I ask her. She pauses for a while and averts her gaze away from me. What’s got into her? “I’m not sure myself, but I have a feeling that we won’t see each other ever again.”

Before I can say anything to her, she disappears. I keep on pleading to her not to leave me behind, but she doesn’t even look back. Does she mean what she says? Shiori, what happened to you? Why you suddenly say something like that? What’s going on here? There are so many questions running through my mind. Shiori just leaves me in the dark without further explanation. I feel confused with her action.

When I wake up, that’s when I realize that everything I’ve experienced is just a dream. My head is still buzzing because of my sudden reaction to the dream. As I begin to get up slowly, I realize that my body is fully bandaged. With bandage all over my body, my injury must be terrible. It feels painful when I’m moving around. I realize that I’m in my room. At least I can recognize where I am.

My mind still feels fuzzy as I’m trying to recall what happened to me last time. I can’t recall what happened after that, but I do remember that I fought Momoko Sugita last time. Wait, it’s not even Momoko Sugita to begin with. I was fighting against her alter ego, Mika. It feels surreal that an idol can be programmed to become an assassin. Not only that, her strength is way beyond the normal human being. Even someone like me has no chance against her.

“Sis, you’re awake. I’m glad that you’re okay,” Yuuto says to me. He looks happy to see me. “My head hurts. How long have I been asleep?” I ask him. “Three days,” he replies. It’s three days, huh? That seems long to me. The last time I was unconscious was only for two days. I’m amazed that the injury doesn’t tamper my memory. But it’s still going to take a while for me to recover.

“What happened after I lost my consciousness?” I ask Yuuto. “Hayato and I came to get you. We were surprised to find out when we went there. The scene itself looked like a war zone. Saburo Matsuda’s bodyguards were brutally murdered. It felt like I was seeing a massacre as we headed to his suite. That was when we found you, lying unconscious, with Saburo Matsuda, who was already dead. We couldn’t find Momoko Sugita anywhere, though,” Yuuto answers me.

I clench my fist whenever I hear about Momoko Sugita. It feels like the name itself evokes the horrible experience that I wish to forget. “I doubt that you will find her. Even if you do, she’s not the same Momoko Sugita that we know,” I tell Yuuto. Yuuto seems puzzled with what I say. “What do you mean by that? Was someone else there besides you and Momoko Sugita? Who killed Saburo Matsuda? I doubt that you were the one who killed him,” Yuuto says to me.

I don’t know how to say this because I still find it hard to believe, even until now. “The one who killed Saburo Matsuda was none other than Momoko Sugita herself. She was also the one who killed the bodyguards as well.” Yuuto’s eyes widen. He finds it hard to believe that Momoko Sugita was the one who did those.

“How can that be possible? How come an idol like her is capable of something like that?” Yuuto asks me with a confused look. “You may not believe this, but she also has a microchip implant. And that microchip implant was the one that turned her into an assassin. Unlike the microchip implant in Dr. Hayama’s body, hers is a complete mind control device. Not only that, her strength was the same as Hayato. I had no chance against her,” I tell him.

Yuuto seems lost for words. “So, Satoru Yuuya is behind this?” He asks me. I nod at Yuuto. “She said it herself. What’s even more terrifying,” I say to him, “It was her alter ego who scolded us in the backstage back then. And it was also the same alter ego who did the killing. The real Momoko Sugita didn’t even realize that she had murdered people. She didn’t even realize that her alter ego existed and has taken over her.”

None of us are saying anything after that. Both of us remain silent until dad barges into my room. “Sorry that I was eavesdropping,” dad says to me. He looks like he doesn’t sleep much. He must have been worried about me. “I’m sorry. I’ve never thought that something like this would happen. It was my fault that you ended up like this,” dad says to me when he hugs me. “Dad, don’t worry about it. What matters the most is that I’m alright,” I say to him.

Dad then looks at me. “For the time being, I want you to stay rested. Your recovery is our utmost priority right now. At least we have a lead on Satoru Yuuya’s whereabouts and his intention,” dad says to me. “Don’t worry about school as well. We’ll take care of everything,” Yuuto assures me. I smile when I see how much they’re willing to do for me. “Touka, you’re not just my squad member. You’re my daughter as well. This will always come first no matter what.”

Dad leaves after telling me that. “I should get going too,” Yuuto says to me, “You should rest now. Just like what dad says, don’t think too much about it. Put the recovery as your top priority for the time being. We’ll talk about it even more once you’re fully recovered.” Seeing how much they focus on my recovery, I don’t think I have any choice other than to listen to their orders. Besides, I shouldn’t make them worry so much about me.

It takes about a week for me to recover from the injury. I don’t do anything much other than lazing around and do something that I don’t get the chance to do. Reading happens to be one of them. Dad doesn’t allow anyone to see me during the recovery process. But he does allow my classmates to call me if they want to check on me. The one that calls me pretty much every day is Shiori. I didn’t tell Shiori what I’m going through because I don’t want her to worry about me.

Shiori is happy with her new school because she gets to know the idols from another agency. She also begins to make a lot of friends besides the idols too. When I hear her talking about her new school and her new life as a talent, I feel relieved that the dream is not true at all. She even tells me that we should go and see each other once in a while. For the time being, her schedule doesn’t permit her to see me. But she’ll let me know when she has a free time.

Throughout the whole week, I don’t even see Hayato at all. I feel weird when he’s not around, though. “Dad, did Hayato even come back home while I was still unconscious?” I ask him. “The only time he came back was when he sent you home. After that, he left and continued with his mission. He felt guilty for not notifying us earlier about Momoko Sugita. He could sense that her power was overwhelming, and it was dangerous for you to fight her.”

I don’t even know that Hayato already knew about Momoko Sugita. “So, what’s the progress then? Is that really Dr. Frederick Choo?” I ask dad while he’s busy with drying up the plates in the coffee shop. Dad nods his head. “Yup. It seems that Dr. Frederick Choo is still alive. So, I already ordered Hayato to find out what he intends to do. We have to be cautious since he can be as dangerous as Satoru Yuuya.”

Well, I agree that we have to be cautious about them. “Dad, I’ve been wondering how someone like Dr. Frederick Choo was able to escape death. Based on our past report, he got into a fatal car accident. From the look of it, it didn’t look like something that you could escape, even with a stroke of luck. It’s a different story if he’s a PSIA officer or a police officer,” I say to dad.

Dad chuckles when I ask him that question. “Well, it’s true that people like us would be able to escape from something like that. But it still depends on our luck. So, it doesn’t matter whether Dr. Frederick Choo is a PSIA officer or not. He was just lucky to be able to escape from a fatal car accident.”

I just nod in agreement with dad. I guess I shouldn’t assume that only PSIA officers are able to pull off something like that. I shouldn’t get this into my head. Otherwise, I’ll be toast if a similar situation happens to me. “But, who could possibly want to kill him? I doubt that the researchers had a grudge on him. I understand if it happened when he was still in the United States. But the accident occurred when he was already in Japan.”

Dad pauses for a while, thinking about the possible answer to my question. “This is just my hypothesis,” dad answers, “But I think Satoru Yuuya was the one who caused the accident. Based on the research assistants who used to work with them, Satoru Yuuya wasn’t even close to him. In fact, he hated him. So, they felt that it was bizarre for someone like Satoru Yuuya to work together with Dr. Frederick Choo.”

“So, he threatened Satoru Yuuya because he knew that he was the one who killed their colleagues?” I ask dad again. “Well, maybe he did threaten him. But I don’t think it’s because he knew Satoru Yuuya was the one who did that. I’m pretty sure that he knew something that none of the CIA or FBI knew about. If that’s the reason, then it’s obvious that Satoru Yuuya wants him dead no matter what,” dad answers.

When I think about it, it makes sense now. He was able to escape death is because he knew all along that Satoru Yuuya would attempt to kill him. It’s just that he wasn’t sure when Satoru Yuuya would try to kill him. He must have known this when he got involved in the car accident. The car accident wasn’t a coincidence. It was Satoru Yuuya’s orchestrated plan to kill him.

We can’t say for sure if it’s true or not. We can only find out about it once Hayato comes back or we can ask Satoru Yuuya himself for the clarification. I don’t think he’ll be honest with us even if we have concrete evidence that he did intend to kill Dr. Frederick Choo. We still have to listen to what Dr. Frederick Choo has to say about this. Maybe it was someone else who tried to kill him.

A week after my recovery, Ms. Shoko comes to visit me. She bows at me while apologizing to me. “I’m sorry, Touka. I’ve never thought that it turned out to be like this. It was our fault that we failed to realize that Satoru Yuuya was behind this,” Ms. Shoko says to me. Dad convinces her that it isn’t exactly her fault. “Well, I was at fault too. I shouldn’t have dispatched only two of them to save Momoko Sugita. I should have let Azuma come with them.”

I’m happy that they admit their mistakes. But it still doesn’t make me feel any better if they keep on blaming themselves. “Guys, it’s alright. There’s nothing much can’t be done at this point. I’m happy that you admit your mistake, but it’s not going to change anything anyway. What matters the most right now is that I’m alright.” After that, I tell them everything that happened to me on that day.

Ms. Shoko seems disbelief when I tell her about Momoko Sugita. “Can we trust what she said? It’s hard for me to believe that she was willing to tell Touka everything. Maybe she lied just to lead us elsewhere,” she says to us. Dad frowns as he tries to think for a possible answer. “I don’t think she lied to us,” dad says after a while, “Satoru Yuuya was always honest with his intention. So, I don’t think she lied to us just to confuse us.”

“Ms. Shoko, there’s something I’d like to ask you. It’s been bugging me since my last encounter with her,” I tell her, “The one that I’ve met was Momoko Sugita. But she denied that it wasn’t her. Rather, she introduced herself as her alter ego. She called herself Mika. She admitted that she did the killing. But Momoko Sugita didn’t even realize that she had murdered people. Can someone with a microchip implant alone is capable of such thing?”

Dad is also wondering about the same thing too. “I know that Satoru Yuuya is capable of creating a microchip implant which works as a mind control device. But based on what Touka told us, that seems like a perfect mind control device. The end result is just like your normal voodoo-style mind control,” dad says to her.

Ms. Shoko pauses for a while to think for the answer to my question. “Was she in a complete mind control effect?” She asks me. I nod at her. “I knew it,” she sighs after that. “For the mind control to work, the person itself should be able to dissociate from the reality. But it only happens to those who experience extreme abuse and torture.”

Ms. Shoko continues with her explanation. “Gender-wise, women are more likely to do this. It’s because they’re not strong enough to withstand any physical abuse or tortures. They’re doing it as a way to endure the pain and torture they have to go through. As a result, they create another person within themselves as a way to escape from the abuse and torture. This is what we refer to as an alter ego. When the alter ego takes over, the person’s primary personality will be locked away.”

“Does anyone who has gone through abuse and any form of torture can dissociate from the reality?” I ask her. Ms. Shoko nods. “Yes, and this situation will cause them to develop dissociative identity disorder. This is what leads to the creation of an alter ego within themselves. And they can have as many different personalities as they want,” Ms. Shoko answers.

“Wait, does that mean you can begin programming the person’s mind when it’s empty? I mean, when you dissociate, your mind is blank, right? So, when it’s empty, you can input whatever you want,” dad asks her. “You’re right about that, Minoru,” Ms. Shoko answers, “But it’s not that simple. Our brain has many different wavelengths. And when you tap into any of these brain wavelengths, you can mold the person’s behavior in any way you want.”

“So, different wavelengths create a different personality. Is that what you mean, Ms. Shoko?” I ask her. “You’re right,” Ms. Shoko answers, “This is the essence of mind control. They will tap into different brainwave to control your thoughts and behavior. In this case, the microchip implant must have triggered delta brainwave. It’s also known as killer programming. It’s the same brain wave used to train special agents and elite forces for the covert operation.”

I think I know how the microchip implant works as a mind control device. The microchip implant begins by tapping into the delta brainwave in her subconscious mind. This will bring her alter ego and shuts her main personality by force. This process can only be achieved because of her dissociative ability due to her abuse. I don’t think the full-blown mind control will work if she had never been abused. Since the real Momoko Sugita is unaware of her alter ego, I doubt that she’s the one who triggered the process.

So, the only person who can trigger the process is none other than Satoru Yuuya himself. I’m pretty sure that he must have programmed the microchip implant to respond to his command only. If the program is the same as the one that Dr. Hayama had, then the trigger must be based on a certain word. No one knows what words will trigger the switch unless we crack the program. The only option left is to capture Momoko Sugita alive. I just hope that Satoru Yuuya doesn’t equip her with suicide program. Otherwise, we’re back to square one.

“So, she was there to assassinate Saburo Matsuda from the beginning? That pig must be thinking she was there to get hot and steamy with him. That should serve him right!” Dad hates bureaucrats. It’s because we have to do dirty things on their behalf just to protect their flawed policies. But so far, we haven’t protected any policies that seem flawed.

“You say that prolonged abuse and torture is the cause of dissociative identity disorder. But, there must be at a certain degree it will begin to develop such disorder, right? What makes the mind control in Momoko Sugita work so flawlessly? I don’t think the mind control will create a similar result like hers if a mild abuse and torture will do,” I say to her.

Ms. Shoko pauses for a while. “You’re right about that. In order for the mind control to work so well, a certain characteristic is needed. A mild abuse won’t cause the person to develop that disorder. It’s always the extreme form of abuse and torture that causes the disorder to develop in the first place. I’ve done a background check on all idols in the Muse Agency. Each of them had experienced some sort of abuse, but only two of them are considered extreme.”

My heart is beating so fast when I hear that there are two of them who they consider extreme. I bet that the first one must be Momoko Sugita. But who’s the other one? I hope it’s not Shiori because she did say that she was abused when she was small. “This is Momoko Sugita’s personal record. This is a confidential document, so I hope you destroy it once you’ve finished reading it,” she says to us. She looks reluctant to transfer the documents to us, but she eventually does that.

Ms. Shoko then shares the file with us. The file is about Momoko Sugita. It consists of information about her family and the orphanage that she was sent to. “Let me warn you about this report,” she says to us, “The report is extremely graphic. So, you may feel uncomfortable when you read it. But I still want you to have access to it. Use this information to relate the relationship between the mind control and her past.”

After the file transfer is complete, we begin to read the report. According to the report, Momoko Sugita was found in a darkened room in her foster family’s house. The foster family was one of her relatives who took the custody once her parents passed away. During the time they found her, she was barely moving, with visible signs of abuse on her body. There were many dark bruises, and she was most likely frequently abused for a long time.

Not only that, she was also malnourished when they found her. She would certainly have died in the darkened room if this situation continued. “There’s something else I want you to see,” she says to us once we’ve done reading. “These records are the proof that she had already developed the dissociative identity disorder. But it’s never mentioned in the record. I assume that her agency is keeping this as a secret.”

She then transfers another confidential document. The file happens to be her medical record. We begin to take a look at it. “Her current medical record is…blank?!” Dad says as he opens the file. He seems to think that Momoko Sugita’s medical record is dubious. “I know, you may be thinking that she’s always healthy and never falls sick. But that’s not even the case,” Ms. Shoko replies.

After looking through at the first file, we then take a look at another medical record. And then we start to compare it with the previous one. “This is her medical record before she became an idol,” Ms. Shoko tells us. This is when we realize that her medical record before she became an idol isn’t even blank at all. “What’s going on here?” I ask her.

Ms. Shoko then takes the medical record and put it side by side. “Her medical record was blank when she was 18. It still remains blank even until now. She was seeing the doctor as usual whenever she was sick. It was only when she turned 18 that she no longer seeing a doctor.” Dad takes a closer look at her medical record. “She’s the kind of person who gets sick so frequently, even before her major debut. There was no way she didn’t get sick at all until now.”

Ms. Shoko nods, agreeing with what dad says. “Minoru, you’re right about that. She’s the kind of person who gets sick easily. So, it doesn’t make sense that she didn’t even fall sick at all during this time. Besides, her works becomes more demanding as soon as she gains popularity. It’s impossible for her not to get sick at all.”

“Maybe she takes a natural supplement to build up her immune system? You know that when you eat healthy food, you won’t get sick that frequent,” I tell her. “I’d like to think that possibility too, but it’s impossible. Her food intake was being controlled by the staffs. So, there’s no way she can have access to something like natural supplements. They don’t just control her schedule, they also control her diet too,” Ms. Shoko says to us.

I’m not going to deny that being an idol isn’t as glittery as it seems. It’s great that they’ve passed the audition. But what awaits them next is the gruesome, military style training. And this military style training isn’t the kind of training that anyone can endure. Even I can’t endure something intense like this. It’s true that we’re trained like a secret agent since we were kids. But our training wasn’t even that intense to begin with. Dad knows what’s best for us.

I’m amazed that Shiori is able to withstand this gruesome training. After all, she has to work long hours while waiting for her major debut. Throughout the long working hour, she has to do intense singing and dancing practice. She also has to spend her time in the gym so then she remains at her ideal weight, and she should never gain weight. Even her diet is so strict, with only lean meat and salad as the only food she can eat.

I do notice a significant difference when Shiori joined Machina Twist. She looks more like she’s going to fall apart. I’m pretty sure that Momoko Sugita isn’t that different than Shiori. In fact, they’re going to be even stricter on her since she begins to gain popularity recently. The last thing they want is Momoko Sugita to lose her popularity because of a weight gain.

“That’s not all,” Ms. Shoko says, “She was fine with prescribing medication back then. It was the same even until when she was 18. When she was 19, she suddenly became hysteric whenever her manager brought her to see the doctor. She even threw the prescription at the nurse because she refused to take it. It was puzzling, not just to the doctor, but also to people around her.”

Somehow, I have to agree that it’s rather unusual to see Momoko Sugita behaving like that. But then again, she looks more like she’s afraid to see a doctor. In her eyes, the doctor looks more like a threat. “Did she have some kind of a trauma-induced symptom? Maybe she had a bad experience with a doctor that made her so traumatized,” I ask her.

“I don’t think so,” Ms. Shoko answers, “Her alter ego thinks that the doctor is trying to harm her. She may only be her second personality, but she still shares the same body with Momoko Sugita. Even by seeing a different doctor, she’s still afraid that the doctor will harm her in any way.”

“That’s not all,” Ms. Shoko continues, “What her alter ego worries the most is the drugs prescribed to Momoko Sugita. Prescription drugs also evoked trauma within her. So, there’s no way that something like this will enter her body. Her alter ego is only behaving like that to protect herself. I think Satoru Yuuya had programmed her to behave like that. He did this to prevent anyone knows about the microchip implant.”

My heart is beating even faster, that I find it difficult to breathe. I can’t brush it off that another person who shares the same characteristic as her is Shiori. I don’t know what I’m going to do if it’s true, but I need to gather my courage to ask Ms. Shoko who is the other person. I just want to stop myself from feeling anxious.

“Ms. Shoko, can you tell us about the other person who has a similar case like Momoko Sugita?” I ask her. I gulp while waiting for Ms. Shoko to tell me the answer. “I don’t know much about the idol industry, but from what I know, she’s a new idol. Her major debut is only recently, though,” she answers. Before Ms. Shoko can even tell me the name, I blurt out Shiori’s name. “It’s Shiori, right?” Ms. Shoko nods. I can tell that she’s reluctant to tell me the truth.

Without wasting time, dad orders me to go and call Shiori. “Touka, you should call Shiori now. Maybe Satoru Yuuya already got her. When was the last time she contacted you?” I can’t recall the last time Shiori had contacted me. I’m too anxious to recall anything. “I think it was like two days ago. My memory seems vague. But I think she did mention that she had to go somewhere and already informed her school about that,” I tell dad.

“It doesn’t matter, Touka. Just call her right now. At least we’ll be able to know if she’s safe or not,” dad insists me. I pick up my smart watch and begin to call her. She doesn’t answer my call. I keep on calling her again, but the result is still the same. I have a feeling that something bad must have happened to her. And I’m pretty sure that it has nothing to do with her idol work.

 

Chapter 6

Since I can’t contact Shiori, I don’t have any choice other than to go to her house. I have a feeling that something bad must have happened to her. “I understand that you’re worried about her, but you can’t go. You’ve just recovered. There’s no way you should go in a condition like this,” Ms. Shoko says to me. She’s against the idea of me heading to Shiori’s house right now.

I clench my fist when Ms. Shoko tries to stop me. I feel frustrated that Ms. Shoko doesn’t allow me to go there. “What do you want me to do then? Do you expect me to wait here and do nothing? I can’t just stay here when I already know something bad must have happened to her!” I yell at her.

Dad doesn’t say anything despite Ms. Shoko’s opposition. “Shoko, you’re right about that,” dad says, “But we still need to check on her.” Dad then looks at me. “Since Yuuto is in school right now, Azuma will replace him as a sniper. I’ll be there as well. I won’t let the same thing happened to you again.”

Ms. Shoko seems surprised with dad’s sudden reaction. “Minoru, I thought that you won’t take action when things are uncertain?” She asks dad. Dad sighs as he answers Ms. Shoko’s question. “I usually don’t, but I do think that there is a possibility that Satoru Yuuya is with her. Even I also agree with Touka that we can’t just sit here and wish for the best. That won’t work.”

Ms. Shoko gets up after that. “If that’s the case, we’ll send you the reinforcement to help you. This is a rescue mission anyway. We need as much support as we can.” Ms. Shoko leaves so then she can begin making a request to help us. “Touka, I think you’re better off running to her house instead of going there with a car. Yotsuya isn’t that far from here, so it’s faster that way. Leave once you’re ready,” dad says to me.

I nod and go inside my room to make preparation. Dad is right about that. It’s much faster for me to just run off to Yotsuya instead of going there with a car. Besides that, it’s better for us to go on a separate way. Dad probably has other things to do before he heads to her house. So, it’s better for me to go ahead first just to observe the situation.

I leave the house as soon as the preparation is complete. On my way to Shiori’s house, I receive a connection from Ms. Chiyo through my earpiece. “Guys, I’ve found a lot of surveillance devices in her house,” she says to us, “I have hijacked one of them. According to the backlog, Shiori had left her house with her manager since yesterday.”

With Shiori not coming home since yesterday, it makes sense that she hasn’t called me. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with her. She’s unable to call me because she’s busy with her work. “But that’s not all,” Ms. Chiyo continues, “It seems that they only monitored the call she made to Touka. I’ve yet to find out why, so I’ll let you know when I find anything else.”

They only monitored my calls with Shiori? Why in the world they want to do that? It’s not like we’re talking anything confidential or anything that threaten them. “Ms. Chiyo, do you know who place the surveillance devices in her house? It feels creepy that Muse Agency will go that far just to keep track of their idols,” I say to her.

Ms. Chiyo replies to me a couple of minutes later. “Well, they’re the same as the one we’ve used to keep an eye on those researchers. So, I don’t think the agency is the one who placed them. One possibility can be Satoru Yuuya. If Shiori has been his target all along, it’s not surprising that he’s monitoring her. He can use Shiori to threaten us because he already knows your relationship with her.”

Damn! So, what we do now is according to Satoru Yuuya’s plan? I can’t say for sure yet, but I still need to hurry. Shiori can be in danger if we’re too late. “Touka, I’m already at a place not far from her house,” Mr. Sakakibara says to me, “I don’t see anyone in her house. I will inform you if someone comes in.”

I finally reach Shiori’s house a few minutes later. It seems like I reach here faster than I’ve estimated. “I already reach the target location. This posh apartment building has a concierge, so I’m going to ask them about Shiori. I’m going to cut my communication temporary. I don’t want them to feel suspicious about me.”

I go inside after letting everyone knows that I’ve arrived. Once I’m inside, I walk straight to the concierge. “Um, I’m here to go to Shiori Ono’s house. She wanted to see me,” I say to the concierge. If Shiori didn’t tell them anything, then I have a chance to ask them about Shiori’s whereabouts. The concierge then begins to look at the database. He’s currently checking if Shiori had ever informed them about anyone coming to see her.

“Well, Ms. Ono did say that someone will come here to see her. Do you happen to be Ms. Touka Kimizuki?” The concierge asks me. “Yes, I am,” I answer him. It seems strange that Shiori lets them know that I’ll be coming. She had never said anything about asking me to meet her. Not only that, the concierge doesn’t even suspect anything that no one is inside her house. If she does, Mr. Sakakibara would have notified me.

He then begins the procedure by asking my ID just to confirm my identity. I hand over my ID despite feeling that something is not right. I wish I can ask Ms. Chiyo to hack into their database. But I can’t make a request for the time being. He returns my ID after the identification process is complete.

“Ms. Kimizuki, you may take the elevator over there and head to the fifth floor. Ms. Ono’s house is the fourth one,” says the concierge. I bow and thank him for his patronage. My instinct is getting stronger, telling me that there’s danger ahead. But still, it’s my responsibility to save Shiori if something is bound to happen. I resume my communication once I’m inside the elevator.

Suddenly, I can hear a mild sound of an explosion. Don’t tell me that they’re going to blow me along with the elevator? “Ms. Chiyo, what’s going on here? I’ve heard an explosion here,” I ask her. Ms. Chiyo replies to me after a while. “Satoru Yuuya has blown off the security camera on the fifth floor,” she replies. After that, dad begins talking to me. I think he must be here by now.

“Touka, do you notice anything suspicious?” Dad asks me. I begin to explain to dad everything about what I’ve encountered. He sighs after I’m done with my explanation. “Touka, listen carefully to what I’m going to say,” he says to me, “I bet that we’ve already fallen into his trap. Once you’ve reached there, leave this place at once.” I follow dad’s order despite feeling reluctant. I know that Shiori is in danger, but it’s too dangerous for me to go there.

Once I reach the fifth floor, I’ve decided to go down by taking a staircase instead. When I try to open the fire-resistant door, I realize that the door is locked. I guess he insists me to use the elevator to go down. As I press the button, the elevator suddenly explodes. It looks like he wants me to go to Shiori’s house no matter what. I don’t think I have any ways to escape other than to head to her house.

As I reach Shiori’s house, I notice something strange. Her house’s door isn’t shut properly. I thought that someone must have broken into her house, but there’s no sign that the door is being tampered. If no one is inside, why the door is left open? All I can think right now is he wants to lure me to go inside. If I see that the door is open, I will immediately go inside and begins my investigation.

“Dad, the fire-resistant door that leads to the emergency staircase is locked. And the elevator has been blown off too. It looks to me that he wants to trap me here. I already look everywhere for a possible exit route. But it seems like Shiori’s house is the only exit route left for me. I guess I have no choice but to enter her house if I want to escape from this place,” I inform dad about my decision.

Dad replies to me after that. “Touka, I don’t think he just wants to trap you on the fifth floor. It looks to me that Satoru Yuuya is trying to cut me off from you too. The access to the emergency staircase in the lobby is blocked too. The elevator is unusable because of the explosion. I can choose to climb all the way to the fifth floor, but that will attract unwanted attention to me. It looks like you have to proceed on your own.”

I reply to dad after that. “Alright, I will handle things here on my own.” After I cut off my communication with dad, I begin to reach out for the door knob and yank the door as wide as I can. Once the door is wide open, I go inside the house without closing it. One of the reasons is because that’s my only escape route if anything happens. Another reason is it will help me to be aware if someone is coming inside.

As I enter the house, I begin to examine if there’s a sign someone broke into her house. Well, it’s less likely to occur. But I’m just keeping this as a possibility that someone did break into her house. But then again, everything in her house looks so neat. It looks exactly the same, just like when Shiori left the house. Even the things in her bedroom are in the proper place. There’s not even a single sign that somebody already broke into her house and stole something.

Now, I begin to wonder why the door was open with no sign of being tampered. Well, I doubt that anyone can tamper with this kind of door easily. It’s because this door requires an authentication from the owner. With the door was open and there wasn’t a single sign that it has been tampered, I can only think of one possibility. Somebody must have already cracked the authentication code. There’s no doubt that Satoru Yuuya is behind this.

As I begin to report my findings, I realize that I can’t connect with dad. Not only that, I can’t connect with everyone. I try to contact dad again, but the only thing I get is the buzzing sound that comes from my earpiece. It seems like Shiori’s house has become an isolated place. So, it means that any kind of communication can’t get through. I’m pretty sure that they can’t even establish any connection with me unless I leave this place.

Before I can do anything, I suddenly hear the door closed. As I turn around, I notice that there are three men standing at the entrance. I don’t know any of them, but I do recognize one person. And that person is Dr. Frederick Choo. It’s the guy Hayato is keeping track of. What is he doing here? What’s important, when do they come in? And why I don’t even realize that they’re already here?

“Hi there, you must be Ms. Ono’s friend, Touka Kimizuki,” he says to me. He only smiles at me when he greets me. “Just to let you know that I was the one who blocked your escape route. So, the locked fire resistant door and the elevator explosion are all my doing. My purpose here is not to let you escape from this place no matter what. Not only that, but we also have a surprise for you. I’m pretty sure you’ll love it.”

I clench my fist when I hear his words. So, this guy must have been targeting me all along. As I retreat to the living room, the TV suddenly turns on, showing me footage of a guy with a beaten-up girl. The girl is wearing a virtual reality headset. That’s when I realize that the beaten-up girl is actually Shiori. And the guy next to her is Satoru Yuuya. Now, I begin to think that I’m already too late to save her. “What did you do to her?” I yell at him.

“Calm down, Ms. Touka Kimizuki,” Satoru Yuuya says to me, “You insist on seeing this girl. And now, she’s right here in front of you. Shouldn’t you smile when you see her? You’ll scare her away with your angry look.” I feel frustrated when I see what he has done to Shiori. I’m pretty sure that he’s doing this just to make her dissociate from the reality. Before the microchip implant can work, this is a crucial step for him.

“What are you trying to do to her?” I yell at him. He only smiles at me, though. “Well, it’s nothing much. I just want her to experience something in a long distant,” he replies. He then pushes his glasses back and continues talking to me. “I guess I don’t need to tell you what I after all this time. With her current condition right now, it’ll be easier for me to achieve my goal. I’m pretty sure you’ve already known what I’m going to do next.”

It saddens me to see Shiori’s condition with my own eyes. I can hear that Shiori is calling my name with her weak voice. She must be brutally abused that she’s too weak even to lift her finger. “So, you intend to use me to inflict trauma on her? I can tell with the virtual reality headset strapped to her head. This is the best method since you don’t want me to know your current whereabouts,” I say to him.

He chuckles when he hears my explanation. “You’re right. As expected from my former test subject. You and your twin brother indeed are the outlier. Since you’re here, Dr. Frederick Choo and I are going to witness something interesting. I’m pretty sure that your friend here will feel the same too.” I cringe when I see him looking so amused. I bet that he’s planning to use the other two men to kill me. As a result, my death will inflict trauma on Shiori.

“Touka, I’m scared. Please…help me,” Shiori begs to me. Even by just listening to her voice, I can tell that she must be suffering a lot. Dr. Frederick Choo only smiles when he sees my reaction. I bet that he can’t wait just to see how I fare against these men. I’m pretty sure that these men don’t just have a microchip implant. But they also receive a physical enhancing drug at a high dosage. Everything about them looks so superficial to me.

“Mr. Yuuya, please don’t hurt my friend. I’m willing to do anything as long as you don’t hurt her,” Shiori says to him. Despite her weak condition, she still has the energy to beg for him. “I’m sorry, miss,” he whispers to her, “It’s fine if that’s what you want. But you have to endure the pain on her behalf instead. Either one of you has to suffer. I’m not going to let you off the hook just like that.”

His whisper is loud enough for me to hear. It frustrates me even more when he smirks at me, mocking me that I can’t do anything to save Shiori. He then slaps her countless time until her cheeks bleed. Shiori doesn’t even scream or yell at him. I can tell that she’s enduring the pain. Satoru Yuuya stops slapping her after a while. “You’re a lot stronger than I thought,” he says to her, “Then I should use your bestie to inflict the trauma on you.”

I can’t bear this any longer when I see how Shiori is enduring the pain only for my sake. “Shiori, can you hear me?” I ask her. She nods despite feeling weak after being beaten by Satoru Yuuya. “Listen,” I tell her, “Don’t worry about me. I promise that I won’t let these bastards kill me. And I will come and save you. Until then, please hang on.”

Shiori smiles faintly when I tell her that. Dr. Frederick Choo claps his hands. He looks amused with what he witnesses. “Wow, you sound like a superhero,” he says to me in a mocking tone, “But sorry, I won’t let you win this easily. My trusted men will take care of you so you won’t leave this place alive.” Now, I don’t care what he says. The only thing I know is I trust myself that I can defeat these guys. And Shiori trusts me that I can do this too.

“Oh, I forgot to mention that these guys are not an ordinary person. Their abilities are already enhanced with the microchip implant and the physical enhancing drugs. Surprisingly, this combination works well together. I can’t wait to see the final outcome,” he says to me. Just as I’ve predicted, these men do have a microchip implant. Added with physical enhancing drugs, these drugs will give them the upper hand.

Their physique somehow is the same as the physique of a pro-wrestler. I guess they’re a lot tougher than fighting Momoko Sugita. Their large built gives them a huge advantage over a small physique like me. Before I can land an attack on any of them, the first man begins his attack on me. His attack sends me off to the bookshelves which are not far from the living room. Their movements are fast too. I’ll be toast if I don’t move fast enough to evade their attacks.

Unlike my previous fight with Ryu Mikado, they’re a lot tougher to deal with. In their case, their strength, awareness and their durability are on the different level. It all thanks to Dr. Frederick Choo’s drugs at a high dosage. Maybe this is another way for him to make the effect of the drugs to last longer.

Despite my high durability, I’m not going to lie that my back hurts. I can’t even stand properly because of the high impact on my back. If this fight continues, I bet that I will break apart before I can kill them off. “You’re strong even for a girl. I know that you’re an outlier just like your twin brother. But I don’t expect that you’ll be this strong,” Dr. Frederick Choo praises me.

I’m happy with the compliment. But it doesn’t mean anything if I no longer have the strength to kill them. Physical enhancing drugs and a microchip implant is the worst combo that I have to deal with. I guess they’re the perfect illustration of a transhuman. It’s just that they no longer look like a human to me. They’re no different than a monster. They’re not under the mind control, but they can’t seem to think and behave for themselves.

“Wow, it looks like it takes more than that to kill you in an instant. I should have gone and increased their dosage. I thought that this will be good enough to kill you,” he says to me. I hope that he’s kidding about the dosage. I can’t even beat these guys with their current dosage. I don’t want to imagine what’s going to happen to me if he gives them drugs with the highest dosage. There’s no doubt that I’ll be dead meat by now.

The fight continues with me attacking one of them. I’m able to knock one of them. But I don’t realize that the other man attacks me from behind, sending me flying off to the wall. Now, my back hurts because of the double momentum. I can’t even stand straight. It feels like I’m in the wrestling ring, with these men are taking their turn to pounce at me.

Both men are now surrounding me and begin to pound me to the ground. This fight now turns into a brutal fight. I no longer have the chance to evade their attack, let alone attacking them back. Shiori screams when she sees that they keep on pounding me as I have no strength to counterattack them.

Dr. Frederick Choo smiles when he thinks that the victory is his. Satoru Yuuya seems pleased with the result too when he notices Shiori’s reaction to what they do to me. I guess Shiori’s dissociation process is almost close to completion. I hate to see that Satoru Yuuya finally gets what he wants, but I just don’t have the strength to turn the tide. I guess that I’m going to die for real this time. This fight is a lot worse than my fight with Momoko Sugita.

“I guess this is your goodbye, Ms. Kimizuki,” Dr. Frederick Choo says to me. I hate to admit defeat, but I guess what he says is right. I have no chance against them, even from the beginning. Their strength exceeds mine, so I have no chance to win against them. Even being an outlier doesn’t help me to win this fight. I’m sorry, everyone. Not only I fail to rescue Shiori, but I also fail to leave this place alive.

Now, I barely move. When both men are about to attack me again, Dr. Frederick Choo snickers at Satoru Yuuya. “The circus performance ends here, Satoru Yuuya,” he says to him. He then takes off his mask. It turns out to be that it’s Hayato who disguises himself as Dr. Frederick Choo. Satoru Yuuya looks surprised when Hayato reveals his identity to him. He only smiles, as if it’s nothing surprising to him.

“I should have known from the beginning that it was you all along. So, I’d like to express my gratitude for eliminating Dr. Frederick Choo on my behalf. Now I have one less thing to do on my to-do list,” he says to Hayato. Dad is right about this. Satoru Yuuya did have the intention to get rid of Dr. Frederick Choo. It doesn’t seem like their cooperation is as glittery as it looks on the surface.

“Why do you have to kill him? Is it because he already knew you were the one who killed your colleagues in UC Berkeley back then?” I ask him as I’m about to stand up. He only smiles when he looks at me. “You seem to know a lot about me, Ms. Kimizuki. About that, I won’t deny that I’m the one who killed them. But that’s not the reason why I want Dr. Frederick Choo to die. I won’t bother to kill him for such a petty reason,” he answers.

A petty reason, he says? So, it’s true that he has another underlying reason to kill him. “Since I’m in a good mood today, I guess I don’t mind to tell you why I kill him,” he says to us, “He’s just like Saburo Matsuda. He’s another greedy bastard that I need to get rid of. He always thinks that his research is flawless, but it doesn’t look that way to me. Just take a look at these men here. They don’t even look human at all. Those drugs will never fit my ideal vision of a transhuman.”

I have to agree with him on this part, though. The physical enhancing drugs are already working even at a small dosage. But with a high dosage, the drugs end up turning these men into monsters. It doesn’t even represent what a transhuman is all about. “So you think his research doesn’t mean anything to you?” I ask him. He smirks at me when I ask him that question. “Well, yes. His research is never on the same par as mine. He must be an idiot to think it does,” he answers.

He then looks at Hayato. “I never thought that you’ve sided with these guys from PSIA. I always assume that you will never trust anyone in your life because of what Tsubaki has done to you,” he says to him. Tsubaki? Who in the world is that? Hayato doesn’t even react at all when Satoru Yuuya mentions the name Tsubaki. Does Hayato even know who this person is?

“It’s true that I felt hurt when I found out that Tsubaki betrayed me. But it didn’t matter to me anymore. I don’t regret my action to kill her,” Hayato answers. He then looks at me. “But these guys are different. Minoru even allowed me to live together with them. Sure, those two are the outliers just like me, but mine is just way above them. I’m more like a monster, but they still treat me just like I’m a part of their family. So, I have thousands of reasons to side with them.”

Satoru Yuuya laughs when he hears Hayato’s answer. He must be thinking that Hayato’s answer is way too amusing for him. “What can I say, huh? A ninja will always be a ninja, even in the modern society. You still pledge loyalty to one family even after the Kusanagi clan was long gone.” Hayato doesn’t even react at all to Satoru Yuuya’s taunt. I guess the Kusanagi clan may not mean much to him anymore after all these years.

Hayato then looks at Shiori. Shiori smiles faintly when she sees him. “Mr. Hayato, please help Touka. She’s badly injured, and I don’t think she can fight them on her own with her current condition,” she says to him. Hayato nods at her. “You don’t have to worry about that. This is what I’m here for,” he says to her.

Shiori only smiles. Even though it’s only a faint smile, I can tell from her expression that she trusts that Hayato will be able to save me. Somehow, I can’t shake the feeling that her faint smile is telling me that this is going to be my last time seeing her. Maybe I’m just being sensitive, but I do hope that this won’t be the last time I’ll be seeing her.

After the conversation is over, Hayato then snaps his finger, making the TV explodes. He’s doing this because he doesn’t want Shiori to witness him killing these two men. It’s going to be a brutal fight anyway. So, he doesn’t want to inflict any unnecessary trauma on her even though these men have nothing to do with her.

He then takes a tactical pen from his jacket and slams it on one of the men’s neck. The blood splashes, making one of them die with just a single strike. He also does the same to the other man. It doesn’t take that long for him to kill both of them. This just shows how strong Hayato is. He can kill them in an instant with just using a tactical pen. Sure, a tactical pen isn’t that different than a regular pen. But it can also become a deadly weapon at the same time.

After he kills the men, Satoru Yuuya starts talking to us through a speaker instead. The speaker seems hidden from our sight, so we don’t know where the sound is coming from. “Congratulations for killing these men. But too bad, I won’t let you leave this place alive. I’ve already activated the bomb. So now, you only have 40 seconds left to leave this place. Whether you’re able to kill them or not, I’m still going to blow you together with this house,” he says.

Hayato cringes when he finds out that there’s a bomb in this place. Without wasting time, he begins to piggyback me and breaks the sliding door. At this point, I barely have the energy to argue with him about jumping from the fifth floor. While the fifth floor isn’t that high, it will still cause him to have a few broken bones if he’s not careful. It’s even more dangerous since he’s piggybacking me.

Without hesitating, he jumps off from the balcony. By the time he jumps off, the whole house explodes, without leaving any traces behind. We’re glad to see that it only blows up Shiori’s house and not affecting the other houses nearby. The house which is close to Shiori’s house suffers a slight damage. But nobody dies other than those two men that Hayato killed.

Hayato lands safely on the ground without inflicting any damage. “Please hang on. I’m sure that Minoru will come here at any moment,” he says to me. By the time he brings me out of the apartment compound, dad is already here with a car. “I’m glad to know that both of you are safe,” dad says to us. Hayato doesn’t say anything much and goes inside the car. We head home after that.

I’m glad that I’ve made it alive. But I still feel frustrated that Satoru Yuuya is holding Shiori captive. And now, I can only hope that his effort has failed thanks to our attempt. I know that Shiori is strong, but I don’t know how long she can last. The only thing I can do for now is to pray for her safety. I will certainly come back for her when the time comes.

 

Chapter 7

My head still hurts when I wake up. It’s not just my head, but my whole body hurts too. It’s aching all over. My mind still feels fuzzy. Maybe it’s because I’ve been asleep for too long. I can’t recall what happened after that because I may have collapsed on our way home. I’m glad that both Hayato and I are safe from the explosion. But it terrifies me whenever I think about what Satoru Yuuya did to Shiori. It was unforgivable.

With these injuries, I doubt that I can go to school as planned. It’s funny that I’m still thinking about school even in this kind of situation. I try to move as slowly as I can, but it still hurts even if I’m only moving an inch. I guess my injury must be so bad that it’s painful enough for me to move. What can I say; my injury must be so severe that it’s a miracle that I’m still alive even after this intense fight.

As I’m examining my wounds, Ms. Chiyo comes into my room. “Touka, I’m so glad that you’re doing fine.” She carries a few rolls of bandage and begins to change it. “How long have I been unconscious?” I ask her. “It’s been two days already. You were unconscious when your dad brought you home. Your injury was a lot more severe than the last time. We thought that you had no chance to survive. But then again, we’re grateful that you’re okay.”

Well, I’m amazed at myself as well. Whenever I look at my wounded body, I can’t help but think about Shiori. She looked so beaten up when we found her. Even in this kind of condition, she still worried about me. She had to endure a lot of things too. I guess my injury is nothing compared to her.

“Ms. Chiyo, I had a lot of injuries in such a short span. I know that it’s too late for me to say this, but I begin to worry the impact it will have on my body. I bet that it will put my physical body at risk too. Am I going to be alright?” I ask her. “I’m glad that you’re aware of your physique. Frankly speaking, you won’t be putting yourself at risk. That is as long as you don’t get such injuries that frequent. You just need to be careful,” she answers.

She seems worried when she advises me about this. “You’re just like Minoru. You can be so reckless that you put yourself in danger. But then again, we don’t just fight any kind of opponent this time. We’re fighting against people who are much stronger than the average person. So, it’s not surprising that any of you will get injured. Whatever it is, I want you to remember that you won’t be so lucky all the time.”

I admit that dad and I can be so reckless when it comes to attacking people. And I know that I won’t be so lucky next time. Our medical advancement isn’t sophisticated enough to resurrect someone from the dead. But it’s still sophisticated enough to treat my injuries in such a short period of time, though. “Putting that aside,” I say to her, “How come my injuries heal faster than before? My body still hurts, but the injuries aren’t so visible anymore.”

She smiles as I begin to examine my injuries. “You should thank Dr. Narusawa for that. He’s a doctor who works with Self Defense Force. And he’s also an expert in a technique called platelet-rich plasma therapy. It’s known as PRP for short. In a simple explanation, it’s a method to use your blood to heal your body.” Now, that explains everything why my injuries heal much faster than before. It feels great that I’m able to experience a treatment like this.

“On top of that,” she says to me, “Your recovery process is much faster because you’re still young. That is also one of the reasons why you have such a quick recovery. With this speedy healing process, I think you’ll be able to go to school in a matter of days. As usual, we will continue with our operation once you’re fully recovered. Minoru wants the rest of us to lay low for the time being.”

Yuuto and Hayato come into my room once Ms. Chiyo is already done with changing my bandage. Both of them look guilty when they come to my room, though. “I’m glad to know that you’re alright, sis, “Yuuto says, “But I’m sorry to hear what happened to Shiori. It’s hard to believe that Satoru Yuuya already got her. I felt frustrated that everything took place when I was in school. I couldn’t even help you at all.”

I pat on Yuuto’s shoulder. It hurts a bit, but I try to suppress the pain. “It’s alright, Yuuto. We always work together ever since we’ve become a PSIA agent. And we will always work together in the future missions. I admit that it feels different when Mr. Sakakibara is the one who help me during our last mission. But at the end of the day, we failed our mission. I couldn’t stop thinking what will happen to Shiori from now onward.”

I then turn to Hayato. “Touka,” he says, “It was my fault that you had a severe injury. But I had to pretend that I was Dr. Frederick Choo just to fool him. Otherwise, I would have gone and saved you from the beginning. I’m sorry that I have to pretend that I was Satoru Yuuya’s accomplice. The last thing I want to do is to hurt you.”

To be honest, I hate it when people come and express their regrets to me. But I can’t say this straight to them. It’s because I know that it’s not their fault. “Guys, I don’t think regret can bring us anywhere. The only thing we need to do now is to compensate the regret with our actions. Besides, I’m still alive even after all the crazy things that happen to us. So for once, please don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Both of them feel relieved because of my words. “There’s something I need to tell you guys,” Hayato says to us, “I’ve meant to tell you guys about this. But I just don’t have the chance to do so. Minoru even told me that I should take things slowly. To be honest, I’m not ready. But I guess this is the best time for me to tell you guys everything about me.”

I smile when I see how much courage it takes for someone like Hayato to open up. It’s not easy for someone like him to open up, especially when he has a dark past that he wishes to bury. “Does it have anything to do with Tsubaki?” I ask him. Yuuto looks confused because he has no idea who is Tsubaki. Hayato only nods when he answers me. “Yes. Sorry that I’ve been keeping this from you guys for so long.”

Both Yuuto and I smile at him. “It’s okay,” I tell him, “We’re happy that you finally willing to tell us about your past.” We begin to listen to Hayato attentively. “There are many ninja clans in Japan. But in this modern society, many of them have decided to embrace the modern living. They even discard the ninja skills, saying that it’s no longer relevant today. Well, I don’t blame them because ninjas are already a thing of the past.”

Hayato then continues talking about his past. “But it’s different for Kusanagi clan. We embrace the modern living. But we still inherit the ninja skills to the next generation. The reason for that is because we don’t want the tradition to die and will be forgotten. It doesn’t matter what other clans think about our approach. We will do what we deem is right for our clan. And that includes our belief in a prophecy which is only unique to Kusanagi clan.”

I admit that there are still some people who will never get rid of any superstitions no matter what era we are in. This is why so many people assume that a supernatural force is the reason why these researchers died. I can also use this possibility that they died because of a supernatural force. But I will only use it as a last resort if we can’t find anything concrete about their cause of death.

It’s no different than what these people in Kusanagi clan are thinking. They still believe in the prophecy even today. “What kind of prophecy is that?” Yuuto asks him. “According to our ancestors,” he answers, “There will only be one person who will be born in this clan. And he possesses the power which is close to God. But this person will only be born once in a thousand years. And this person will be a perfect candidate who will lead the clan.”

When I hear about it, I can’t help but think that I’m listening to the folklore stories. What can I say? It’s hard for me to swallow something like this since I live in the modern society. Hayato then continues with his story about his clan’s prophecy. “According to the prophecy, the person who possesses such power will have silver hair. Based on our clan record, we did have such person in the past.”

Yuuto and I look at each other when Hayato tells us about the person’s characteristic. We realize that Hayato happens to inherit such physical traits in this generation. It’s not that he possesses such characteristic by a stroke of luck. He happens to have these features because of the genetic factor.

“Do you know about this all along?” I ask him. Hayato shakes his head. “I wasn’t aware of this. That was until I entered the kindergarten. I already knew all along that I was different than my peers. But I never thought that I was way above them. Not only I did so well in the lessons compared to my other peers, but I was also way too strong for a 5-year old kid. The power that I thought was a blessing became a curse instead.”

I understand what Hayato was experiencing back then. It’s because we also experienced the same thing as him. We did realize from the beginning that we didn’t behave like a normal kid around our age. I’m lucky because I have Yuuto as my twin brother. So, I don’t have to go through the same thing all by myself because Yuuto also experiences the same thing as I do. I remember that Yuuto did say that he was also different strength-wise, but it didn’t bother him much.

“Why do you think that way?” Yuuto asks him. “I hurt my friend by accident when I was in the kindergarten,” he answers, “I figured it wasn’t that bad. But that kid’s condition became so severe until up to the point that he almost died. Ever since that day, everyone in the kindergarten called me a monster. I didn’t even have a single friend because of that.”

I do notice that Hayato didn’t seem to be comfortable with us when we met for the first time. For one, he almost killed me when we met. So, I do understand that it may not be easy for both of us to get to know each other. But I don’t realize that the underlying problem goes all the way back to his childhood experience. He sure does have a bitter childhood memory.

Hayato then continues with his story. “Because of that incident, my dad has decided not to let me attend the kindergarten anymore. He also didn’t even allow me to attend the elementary school, middle school and even high school. Throughout my life, I was homeschooled. At that time, I was thinking that he did this because he wanted to prevent me from causing any more troubles. When I think about it now, he did this just to hide the fact that the prophecy has comes true.”

He doesn’t seem to be angry with what his dad did to him back then. He realizes that it’s the best option for him. “He allowed me to learn pretty much everything under the blue sky. But he never wanted me to inherit the ninja skills. Of course, I was angry that he refused to let me learned the ninja techniques. I didn’t care about taking the leadership position. I just want to learn because I thought it might be useful someday. I don’t care that the society shunned me because of my demonic strength. I still want to contribute as much as I can to the society.”

I’m glad to know that Hayato doesn’t give up on the humanity only because of his awful past. I guess I don’t have to worry about him for seeking revenge because of what our society did to him. “You say that you were homeschooled, right? Does that mean you’ve never left the house?” Yuuto asks him. Yuuto, that question seems out of nowhere. Can’t you just stop making a weird assumption about his life in the past?

I glare at Yuuto for asking him such question. But Hayato doesn’t seem to mind at all about Yuuto’s weird question. “Well, you were right about that. Ever since that day, dad didn’t even allow me to leave the house compound. So, all this time, I had never left the house. I did take a stroll in the garden since we had a large garden in our house,” he says to us.

He smiles as he’s reminiscing his past. “To some people, my life wasn’t that different than living in a prison. But for me, it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. It was because of Tsubaki that I didn’t feel like I was isolated from the society.” When I hear Hayato mentions about Tsubaki, I begin to realize that she does play a significant role in his life. It’s just that, Hayato had never mentioned anything about her until now.

“Satoru Yuuya did mention about Tsubaki before. Who is she and why Satoru Yuuya knew her?” I ask him. I thought that Hayato will refuse to tell me about Tsubaki. But he doesn’t hesitate to tell us everything about her. “She was only a maid who worked in our household. Her family had been serving us for many generations. She might only be a servant, but she also possessed ninja skills which she inherited from her parents.”

“So, she was the one who taught you the ninja skills?” I ask him again. He nods. “Not only that, but she also taught me everything I need to know about the world out there. It’s true that I can learn everything about the world through the internet. But nothing beats real life experience. Tsubaki was the one who taught me that. She even taught me that life could be cruel even to the fortunate people like me.”

Hayato sighs as he continues with his story. “Initially, I didn’t understand what she meant by that. It was until the day she betrayed me that I began to understand what she was trying to tell me. When I think about it, I feel like she must have been waiting for the day to tell me that she would betray me someday. And that day happened when I was 16. Not only she betrayed me, but she also killed everyone in Kusanagi clan. She even handed me to Satoru Yuuya as if I was a bounty reward.”

To be honest, I never thought that Tsubaki would go that far to annihilate everyone in Kusanagi clan. I can tell that Hayato feels hurt not because of her betrayal to him, but more on the betrayal to the clan itself. “Why she did that?” Yuuto asks him. “She was doing this for the sake of our clan. That was what she thought, but I knew that she was only Satoru Yuuya’s pawn,” Hayato says to us.

“You said before that you killed her. Did you kill her at that time?” I ask him. Hayato just shakes his head. “No, I killed her when I was inside the research facility. To be honest, I was hesitating to kill her. But when she said that she was going to make everyone to have a similar trait like me, I felt that it was best for me to kill her. Making other people to have similar traits like me wouldn’t make me feel better, anyway. That was just plain stupid.”

Everyone becomes silent after Hayato finishes his story. “So, you met dad when you escaped from the research facility? Why you’ve decided to follow him? You don’t look like the kind of person who will simply follow just anyone,” I ask him. “It’s because what Minoru said to me back then,” he answers, “He was willing to make my existence a secret. That was as long as I was willing to help him. I thought that he was only using me, but he didn’t. Instead, he treated me like one of his family. I guess that must be the reason why I will go all the way just for you guys.”

Judging from his expression, he thinks that killing Tsubaki was the right thing to do. He didn’t even regret it. It’s true that Tsubaki did impact his life one way or another, but it can be hard to kill someone who used to be close to us. Again, I’m glad that Hayato won’t let the betrayal hinder him from trusting people. I think this must have something to do with what we did to him. But whatever it is, I’m glad that we’re able to bring positive changes to him.

For the past couple of days, none of us are discussing anything about Shiori. We will only talk about it until I’m already fully recovered. It doesn’t take that long for me to recover thanks to Dr. Narusawa’s treatment. With this treatment, I can go to school again in a couple of days.

I feel weird when I can finally go to school. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been to school for so long. My classmates seem relieved when they find out that I’m doing alright. They sure are worried about me since dad doesn’t allow anyone to visit me. I don’t know what dad says to them, but at least it helps with hiding my identity as a PSIA agent.

With my life becoming back to normal, I still feel empty on the inside with Shiori gone. We always talk on the phone after school, so it feels weird that I no longer receive any calls from her. In fact, I’ve been checking my phone, hoping that she will call me. It seems silly for me to behave like this despite knowing that Shiori will never be able to call me. I guess it’s true that my meeting with her at that time was indeed the last one for both of us.

 

Chapter 8

Every day is like a typical day to Yuuto and me. As always, we will help dad in the coffee shop after we come back from school. As we’re about to close and starts cleaning the coffee shop, Ms. Shoko comes to see us. Besides her, Mr. Sakakibara is also coming with her. Dad then orders Hayato to make coffee since it’s going to be a long conversation.

“I hate to say this, but Satoru Yuuya has tricked us,” Ms. Shoko says, “He knew that we would come to save Shiori. But then again, he didn’t expect that Hayato would disguise as Dr. Frederick Choo. So, everything is a setup from the beginning. He has been aiming for Touka all this time.”

Ms. Shoko then shares the file with us. The file is about their finding related to our last mission. I can’t recall much about what happened to the surrounding area. I only remember that Shiori’s house was blown to smithereens. According to the report, there was nothing left in the scene other than the two dead bodies. The bodies were burned to crisp which makes it complicated for the coroner to identify them.

Just like the last time, there were no traces of microchip implant in their body. But they did find out traces of drugs in both of them. The drugs happen to be the same drugs used in Transhuman Development Project. But the dosage exceeded the recommended dosage. As for the identity of these men, they happened to be the members of Awatori Group. They were missing for a couple of years and were only found recently.

Apart from the dead bodies, they also found traces of surveillance devices. There were a lot of damages reported in the apartment building. Luckily, none of the residents were injured. Only a few houses in the same row as Shiori’s house had minor damages.

“Touka, I need you to clarify something,” Ms. Shoko says to me. She then transfers a picture to my smart watch. The picture which she sends me is the concierge who was present when I went there. “Was he the one you met at that time?” She asks me. I nod my head, confirming that he was the concierge I met at that time. “What happened to him?” I ask her.

Ms. Shoko takes a sip before she answers my question. “He was blown to smithereens. We weren’t so sure when that happened, but I think maybe during the time when Shiori’s house exploded.” Everyone looks terrified when Ms. Shoko says that the concierge died due to the explosion. “Oh, don’t worry,” she gestures, “That concierge was a humanoid. We happened to find traces of his parts outside of the apartment compound. There was also no sign of damage in the lobby.”

We feel relieved that the concierge was actually a humanoid. In today’s world, it’s hard to recognize human and humanoid. It’s because humanoid also possesses similar traits as human. “Sorry, I don’t mean to hide the fact. I just want to see your reaction when I told you that.” She laughs at us. “Well, I also can’t differentiate between a real human being and a humanoid too. You’ll never know that I’m also a humanoid. You can’t tell the difference anyway.”

Mr. Sakakibara then grabs Ms. Shoko’s wrist. “Hey, what are you trying to do? You’re not planning to harass me, are you?” Ms. Shoko shouts at him. Mr. Sakakibara sighs when he sees Ms. Shoko’s reaction. “Don’t worry about it, guys. She’s a human. I don’t think our technology is advanced enough to imitate a real human pulse,” Mr. Sakakibara says to us.

Ms. Shoko pouts after Mr. Sakakibara lets go of her wrist. “Shoko, what else do you find about the humanoid? I don’t think Satoru Yuuya would just blow off the humanoid for no reason, right?” Dad asks her. “We did bring the pieces back for the analysis. Even with just a tiny part, we noticed that he did hack the humanoid system. Not only that, but he also hacked the apartment’s concierge system too,” Ms. Shoko answers.

Ms. Shoko is still examining her wrist. It must be hurt for her that she keeps on examining her wrist just to see if there is any swelling. Mr. Sakakibara must have grabbed her wrist way too hard. “So, that explains why the concierge was able to know who I was and convinced me to go to Shiori’s house. Does the leasing company or the real estate developer know about this?” I ask her.

“Of course, they do,” she replies, “In fact, they felt horrified when they found out about it. They didn’t seem to care about one of the properties being damaged because of the explosion. I was wondering why they were making a fuss about this humanoid. It turns out to be that there’s a fascinating story behind this. And you’ll find it hard to believe.”

She takes another sip again before she continues. “Before that,” she says, “Do you know how the manufacturers come up with the look for the humanoid?” Everyone remains silent for a moment to think about the answer. “Is it based on what we deem perfect? Maybe something like beauty standard?” I answer. Ms. Shoko nods at me. “You’re right. They can use something like beauty standard to come up with the physical traits for humanoid.”

“But in this humanoid’s case,” she explains, “It was based on one of their employees. According to his record, he already passed away for more than 20 years. In fact, they made the humanoid looked exactly like him.” I don’t know whether I should be impressed or creepy when I hear this from Ms. Shoko. It feels like the humanoid technology goes the wrong way. “What makes them so infatuated with this guy? What’s so great about him?” Dad asks her.

“From what I know, this guy was so devoted to the residents who lived there. When they found out that he passed away, they insisted the management to find someone as good as him. So, they’ve decided to create a humanoid instead. They couldn’t find anyone who was just like him. They even created a humanoid which resembled him to make them feel better,” Ms. Shoko answers.

“They didn’t feel terrified at all? I mean, that guy was already dead. That sounds more like they were in denial to me,” Yuuto says to her. Ms. Shoko sighs. “Maybe they were. But that happened a long time ago. And now, most of them are new tenants. They don’t know anything about the concierge’s backstory. So, no one there will grieve over the humanoid. The apartment leasing company is the only one who grieves about it. After all, they’ve invested a lot of money to develop a humanoid which looks like him.”

After that incident, things are progressing like normal. We don’t have any leads in pursuing Satoru Yuuya. And we don’t even know what happened to Shiori after that. None of her fans are suspecting anything bad happened to her. This is all thanks to her consistent social media update status. Her updates are just like your typical idols, though. She only talks about her recording for the new single. She also feels excited about her first live performance after the major debut.

I know that it’s not her who updates the social media account. Someone must have done that. It can be her manager or someone else within the talent agency itself who updates the status on her behalf. Anyone can impersonate her, especially if they know what kind of person she is. And it’s not that difficult for them to do that considering they have gained access to her phone.

“So, the current location of her phone is in Muse Agency office?” I ask Ms. Chiyo. She nods as she begins to show me the tracking information. “Based on the GPS coordinate from her phone,” she explains, “It remains static since that day. I assume that the agency must have confiscated her phone. I don’t see any change in her GPS coordinate. I’m pretty sure they’re doing this just to be cautious about us.”

Our investigation becomes stagnant after that. It feels like we’re reaching a dead end. Does that mean we will never be able to arrest Satoru Yuuya and puts this case to end? Even if we’re reaching a dead end, I’m not going to give up just yet. I can tell that dad also doesn’t want to let go of this investigation just like that. Pretty much everyone feels the same way about this.

As much as I adore a day like this where we can have a normal life as a high schooler, it still doesn’t feel good. We don’t want our life to be so stagnant. But then again, there’s nothing much we can do other than to sit back and wait for the clues to come in. I guess that these clues will eventually come to us. Even Ms. Shoko can’t provide us with any leads anymore. Their investigation about Shinya Fukuyama is also facing a roadblock.

Every day feels like a typical day to both of us. The only time when we feel that it’s different than usual is when Mr. Sakakibara comes to our coffee shop. Even though he operates a bar which is only next to our coffee shop, it feels weird to see him around this time. “Why you kids look at me like you’ve never seen me? It’s not that I’ve never been here,” he says to us. He looks annoyed when he notices our surprise look.

“No, it’s just that…we rarely see you around this time. That’s all,” I say to him. He chuckles as he lights up a cigarette. “Well, I love having a peaceful day like this where I can do my usual routine and have a cup of coffee here. I bet that Minoru is getting used to this kind of life too,” he says to us as he looks at dad. Dad only smiles sheepishly because of Mr. Sakakibara’s comment. “You’re right. Sometimes, it’s not so bad when we have days like this,” dad says to us.

I guess we’re probably asking too much about this. As evening approaches, we have fewer customers in the coffee shop. The customers are getting fewer as the closing time is getting nearer. So, dad instructs us to get ready for closing. When we’re cleaning the place, a man who is in his mid-30s comes inside the coffee shop. He’s wearing a beret and sunglasses. It doesn’t look so out of place with his casual attire. He’s bringing a bag with a tablet inside.

“I’m sorry, but are you guys about to close?” He asks us. I look at dad, signaling him what I need to say to him. I can’t tell him that we’re about to close because it’s rude for me to say it to him. In fact, I don’t want the same thing to happen again. “Well, we’re about to close,” dad says to him, “But since you’re here, you can say that we’re still open.”

The man smiles when we tell him that we’re still open. He then walks and takes a seat which is far from the public view. The place itself is isolated, but some people love this spot if they need personal space. Some will prefer to sit near the counter because they want to have a chat with dad. I do know that some women are trying to speak to Hayato, but he never talks to them other than smiling at them.

The man looks around as he takes his seat. I realize that he’s looking at the guys who are outside of the coffee shop. Those guys cringe when they see that he’s entering here. These guys can choose to come and cause a ruckus here, but they don’t. I wonder if those men are pursuing him. “Please give me this set,” he says to me as I begin to take his order. “Sir, I don’t mean to be nosy,” I ask him, “But are these guys out there following you around?”

He looks surprised when I broach this subject to him. I assume that he will refuse to answer my question, but he doesn’t hesitate at all to tell me. “Yes, they are. They’ve been following me around for the past few days. The only place they never step inside is this coffee shop and the bar next door,” the man says to me.

From the look of it, they must be people who are stalking him. But what prompts them to stalk someone like him? Who is he? “Are you Mr. Nishikawa?” Mr. Sakakibara asks him. The man then turns to him. He smiles when he sees Mr. Sakakibara. “Oh, I’ve never thought that I will see you here, Mr. Uehara. Now I feel relieved when you’re around,” the man says. It feels weird to hear the man addressing Mr. Sakakibara with a fake name. But we’ll get used to it.

“So, you know each other?” Dad asks him. Mr. Sakakibara nods at dad. “Yup, he’s one of the people who frequent my bar. He’s the only one who always drinks until he’s so drunk that he can’t even get up. I have to call a taxi just to send him home,” Mr. Sakakibara replies. The man only smiles sheepishly. He feels embarrassed with what Mr. Sakakibara says about him. Mr. Sakakibara then introduces us to him. His name is Koutarou Nishikawa.

“Why they’re following you?” I ask Mr. Nishikawa as I serve his order. He doesn’t say anything to me. I assume that he’s avoiding the question. “Look, sir,” Yuuto interrupts, “It will be your fault if these buffoons come and make a ruckus in this place. If you don’t tell us, we can only tell the police that you did this. It’s clear that these people are after you. So, you’d better tell us before anything happens.”

Mr. Nishikawa snickers when Yuuto threatens him. Before Yuuto gets into the fight with him, Hayato pats his shoulder. “Let me handle him,” he says to Yuuto. Hayato isn’t the kind of person who gets involved in a petty fight like this. I guess maybe he can handle this situation far better than Yuuto.

Hayato carries a metal fork as he stands right in front of Mr. Nishikawa’s table. “What now? Are you going to threaten me just like that brat?” He’s mocking Hayato. Hayato remains silent without arguing back. As Mr. Nishikawa feels like he’s winning, Hayato begins to bend the metal fork right in front of him. He throws the fork at him, making Mr. Nishikawa looking terrified.

“We mean what we say, sir,” Hayato says to him, “We can always hand you over to them. Whatever happens to you after that is none of our business. I’m pretty sure that those guys out there can bend a metal fork just like me.” Mr. Nishikawa looks horrified when he sees Hayato’s expression. I think Hayato looks a lot more terrifying than those guys out there.

“Okay! Okay! I tell you guys,” he screams at us. He finally gives up and begins to tell us why these guys are after him. “Well, I don’t know why the guys from Awatori Group are after me. But I think it must have something to do with my blog.” So, those guys are after him because of his blog? Hey, he can’t be serious about that, right?

He looks annoyed when we don’t believe in what he says. “Just take a look at my blog. You’ll know why once you just take a look at my latest blog post,” he says to us as he gives us the link to his blog. We begin to have a look at his blog once he provides us with the link. We thought that he must be writing something that threatens the Awatori Group. But that’s not even the case.

His blog is about the idol industry. It’s not a gossip blog featuring the idols. Instead, he writes about the shady business of the idol industry. Most of the posts are about Muse Agency. It’s hard to know whether the posts about Muse Agency on Tako Forum are rumors or not. So, his blog is more like confirming whether the rumors are true or not. He also includes the evidence to support his arguments.

I don’t remember much about the rumors I’ve read on Tako Forum. But it seems like the rumors posted there are true. This is according to what Mr. Nishikawa had discovered. “How do you know about this?” I ask him. I wish he only makes things up, but it doesn’t look that way no matter how hard I try to deny it. Maybe he can fake the evidence, but I doubt that he’ll go that far just to make his posts credible.

“Well, I got this information from an insider from Muse Agency. Sorry, I can’t tell you much about this guy. This is the only thing I can tell you,” he replies. Judging by the way he responds to my question and also his body language, I don’t see any doubt in his answers. “Wow, it’s great to know that you have someone who can supply information to you. He must be convenient to have around,” I say to him.

Mr. Nishikawa snickers at me. “Kid, you don’t understand people,” he says to us, “Do you think he will tell me everything without any compensation? That’s not going to happen! I can only get the information in exchange for something else. It can be another information or money. Those sorts of people will never care about you if you don’t have anything valuable to give to them.”

Well, what he says is true, though. I don’t think he can get the information he wants that easily without any exchange involved. “Who are you then? You don’t look like an average blogger to us. I don’t think an ordinary blogger will go that far just for a blog update. It’s understandable that the blogosphere itself is competitive. But I don’t believe that it’s worth the trouble to do something so drastic,” Yuuto says to him.

Mr. Nishikawa sighs when Yuuto asks him. “Well, you’re right about that. If I’m just an ordinary blogger, I don’t think I will go that far just to increase my blog readership. Back in the old days, I used to work as a writer in Peppermint Magazine. Finding scoops for the magazine is what we do all the time. So, I have no problem with finding scoops for my blog,” he answers.

I remember that Shiori used to say that Peppermint Magazine covers a lot of idol groups. They even talk about the smallest one. But they’re mostly focusing on the rising idols. Shiori gave me an issue with her on the cover before, so I know a bit about the magazine. The magazine is more like an introduction to the idol world, so it’s perfect for the beginner idol otaku.

“I quit writing for Peppermint Magazine. They always shunned me for writing something negative about Shinya Fukuyama. If I attempt to do that, not only I will bring trouble to the publication, but I will also put them out of business. He’s not the kind of person that you want to mess with, considering how influential he is in the idol industry. You can say that every media will suck up to him because of that,” he says to us.

“So, this is why you start a blog instead? That sounds like you’re declaring a direct fight against Shinya Fukuyama. What makes you think you have a better chance to win against him? Even the police don’t feel like messing up with him. He’s not that different from the guys from Awatori Group,” dad says to him. Dad is being harsh on him, but what he says is true. Sometimes, the best way to win is to stay out of it.

Mr. Nishikawa sighs. He clenches his fist when dad asks him about it. “I know that I have no chance of winning against him. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit down and do nothing. This is my job as a journalist to tell the truth about him and the Muse Agency. On top of that, I don’t want the same thing happened to Sayaka Minami will also happen to another idol. If what I write will make the press and the police take action, then my job is done.”

Mr. Sakakibara sighs when he hears Mr. Nishikawa’s answer. “Do you think writing a blog post about this will make the police take action? It’s not so simple.” Somehow, what Mr. Sakakibara is saying seems to ruffle Mr. Nishikawa’s feathers. “Of course, I know that,” he says while slamming his hand on the table. He almost spills the coffee when he does that.

“I’m currently supplying information to someone in Public Security Bureau. I heard that they’re trying to convict Shinya Fukuyama for sex trafficking. But they lack evidence. This is what I’m doing right now. Of course, the reward is a lot too, but I’m not doing this because of the reward alone,” he says to us.

He looks rather emotional when Mr. Sakakibara is criticizing his action. But we’re glad to know that he’s working together side-by-side with Public Security Bureau. I think this is where Ms. Shoko gets their information from. She already has someone else to infiltrate the agency as one of their staffs. But it doesn’t hurt for them to receive information from another source. What matters is it helps with making their investigation moving forward.

“Is that alright for you to say it out loud about it? Those guys out there won’t let you off the hook if they overhear your confession,” dad says to him. He only looks at dad. “I’m okay with that. Besides, I feel much safer when I’m here. I don’t know why, but you guys give me the same aura like the guys I’ve met in Public Security Bureau.”

We’re somewhat surprised with his remark, but none of us are giving any clues that we’re from PSIA. So, I guess we’re safe for now. “You say that you’re not doing this for reward. So, why you’re willing to help Public Security Bureau? Do you realize what sort of trouble you’re getting into?” Yuuto asks him. I bet that he’s trying to avert Mr. Nishikawa’s attention from suspecting us any longer.

Mr. Nishikawa smiles when he asks him that. He begins to tell us the reason why he does it as he sits down. “Well, I’m doing this for Sayaka Minami, the late popular idol. I felt that I needed to do this when I found out that she didn’t die because of suicide. She died because of someone else’s fault. He was the one who caused her to die in the first place. Not only that, but even Shinya Fukuyama also wanted her to die.”

I can tell how frustrated Mr. Nishikawa is when he’s telling us about Sayaka Minami. “I’m sorry for not knowing much about her,” I say to him, “But how did she die? And how did you know that this person was the one who caused her to die?” Mr. Nishikawa takes a deep breath before he begins to tell us everything.

“This was based on my own investigation. I was still working for Peppermint Magazine back then,” he says, “She died because a truck hit her. She was crossing the street at that time. She didn’t realize that the traffic light for the pedestrian has already turned red. So, she just crossed the road without noticing that there was a truck speeding ahead. The police concluded that she was just careless. But that wasn’t the case at all.”

Judging by Mr. Nishikawa’s story, there’s nothing bizarre about her death. It sounds like an excuse to hide the fact that she attempted to commit suicide. There are so many cases where the person committed suicide using the same method. They’re trying to do this just to make it look like they died because of an accident. Only people who want to claim their life insurance will do such thing.

Mr. Nishikawa continues with his story about Sayaka Minami’s death. “Her fans knew all along that she was suffering from depression. We were happy to know that she was getting better through her blog. The ironic part was she updated her blog just a few hours before she died. If she did want to commit suicide, she would have never bothered to update her blog. Even before that, she never said anything about wanting to end her life.”

I agree with what Mr. Nishikawa says about this. Her death seems like an orchestrated death to me. For the time being, I can only say that Shinya Fukuyama must be behind this. Everyone then keeps listening to Mr. Nishikawa’s story. “I began to investigate about this because I felt suspicious about her death. Throughout the investigation, I found out that she suddenly acted weird and started to run off on her own. It was unthinkable to people around her at that time.”

For some reason, I can feel where the story will lead us to. From the way Sayaka Minami was behaving at that time, it sounds more like she has a microchip implant. And the microchip implant triggered her to commit suicide. So, that explained why she was acting weird before she died. I can only think of this as a possibility. But we have yet to find out if Satoru Yuuya is involved with Shinya Fukuyama and the Muse Agency.

“Later that year, I came across this topic on Tako Forum. It was about using a microchip implant as a mind control device,” he continues, “I didn’t believe it. It sounded silly to me. Despite not believing it, I felt like investigating about this. After doing my own investigation, I found out that the microchip implant was real. And it was possible to use it as a mind control. Even the finding from Public Security Bureau confirmed my investigation.”

“So, you think Sayaka Minami already had a microchip implant at that time? And you suspected that the microchip implant was the actual cause of her death?” I ask him. Mr. Nishikawa nods. “Yes. At that time, I only thought of it as a possibility. I began to be sure about it when I found out about a guy named Satoru Yuuya. He was the one who gave her a microchip implant. I didn’t know much about him other than him being a close aide to Shinya Fukuyama.”

I feel frustrated when I hear the name again. Now, everything about his involvement with Shiori makes sense. Mr. Nishikawa then continues with his story. “I thought that this Satoru Yuuya guy was related to Awatori Group. But he didn’t seem to have any connection with anyone there. But I know that Shinya Fukuyama did have a connection with them. It’s nothing surprising because it’s normal for the talent agency to have a link with a yakuza group.”

After listening to Mr. Nishikawa’s story, everything seems clear to me now. Satoru Yuuya is indeed working side-by-side with Shinya Fukuyama. We’re happy that we finally have a lead about his current whereabouts. But we don’t get why he wants to work together with someone like Shinya Fukuyama. Somehow, I feel that his cooperation with Shinya Fukuyama is nothing but a catastrophe.

 

Chapter 9

Thanks to our encounter with Mr. Nishikawa, now we have a new lead about Satoru Yuuya. Besides that, we’ve also found out about Shinya Fukuyama’s relationship with Awatori Group. It’s just that no one knows about his connection with the yakuza group. Based on the comments on Mr. Nishikawa’s blog, his readers are already aware of this.

We still don’t know how those guys who pursued Dr. Hayama back then received a microchip implant. But we believe that they were trying to hide the fact that they received a microchip implant from Satoru Yuuya. I guess they’re trying to make it clear that Satoru Yuuya is not one of them. There must be a reason why they hide Satoru Yuuya’s connection with the yakuza group. I wish I know the reason why.

Mr. Nishikawa is about to leave once he has finished his meal. Before he leaves, he then stops by at the counter and looks at Hayato. “Will you be my bodyguard?” He asks Hayato. Hayato looks puzzled because it sounds like Mr. Nishikawa’s request seems out of the blue to him. But he ignores Mr. Nishikawa, though. He continues with his work, pretending not to hear anything about his request. He must be thinking that Mr. Nishikawa’s request is rather absurd.

“Hey, I’m serious, you know! I’ll give you double the amount of money they pay you here.” He keeps on pleading to Hayato. But he’s still ignoring him despite knowing that Mr. Nishikawa is serious about it. Dad looks annoyed when he sees Mr. Nishikawa keeps on pestering Hayato to be his bodyguard. “I’m sorry, mister. I guess you should just give up about this. Hayato isn’t the kind person who will accept any offer, even if it seems lucrative to him,” dad says to him.

Mr. Nishikawa seems disappointed when Hayato is rejecting his request. “Hayato, please say something to him. At least he won’t bug you again if you tell him directly that you don’t want to be his bodyguard,” I whisper. He then turns to face Mr. Nishikawa. “Sorry, I don’t work for anyone else. I only work for this family. So, I have no reason to work with you. You’d better go and find someone else to be your bodyguard.”

Somehow, Hayato’s words hurt him even more than before. I never hear him rejecting people, so this is the first time I see him doing it. Dad seems amused with what he sees, though. I bet that he’s scheming something just to take advantage of Mr. Nishikawa’s generosity.

“I’m sorry to hear that Hayato rejects you right off the bat,” dad says, “But what about you hire Azuma instead? He may not be as strong as Hayato, but he’s one of the strongest friends I have. I wish I can be your bodyguard, but I have too many things on the plate right now. I don’t want to abandon my children only because I need to keep our cash flow afloat.” Mr. Sakakibara shrugs when dad suggests him to Mr. Nishikawa.

“Hey, what’s the big idea, Akira? Do you realize that this guy is nothing but trouble? When he came to my bar for the first time, I had to throw away those lanky for him. They were almost about to cause a ruckus in my place,” Mr. Sakakibara says to dad. He looks so pissed when he recalls the incident, though.

“Well, isn’t that better? Those guys already know how strong you are. So, they won’t mess around with you anymore. Besides, you get an extra income besides your bar business. Shouldn’t you be happy with that?” Dad says to him. I can tell that dad is being sneaky, persuading Mr. Sakakibara to accept the job. “Okay, fine! But you’d better compensate me nicely. I’m a busy person, you know,” Mr. Sakakibara scowls at Mr. Nishikawa.

Mr. Nishikawa doesn’t look happy at first. But since he already knows how strong Mr. Sakakibara is, he doesn’t have any objection about that. “Before that,” dad says, “Azuma will be your bodyguard starting tomorrow. But for today, my son, Yuuto will escort you home. He may be young, but he’s also as strong as Azuma.” Yuuto then escorts Mr. Nishikawa out of the coffee shop.

Both Mr. Nishikawa and Yuuto leave the coffee shop after that. “I never thought that someone who is so timid like him is willing to cooperate with Public Security Bureau. I thought that he’s the kind of person who hides behind the computer screen. And hoping that somebody else will take action instead. It looks like I underestimate him all this time,” Mr. Sakakibara says to us.

Dad chuckles when he hears Mr. Sakakibara’s comment. “I also thought the same. This must be the reason why those guys from Awatori Group are after him. I don’t think someone like Shinya Fukuyama will give a damn about his puny blog. Sure, he has a vast readership. But it’s still not enough to hurt Shinya Fukuyama’s reputation.”

“But I doubt that Shinya Fukuyama will sit down and do nothing. He must be planning to take an extreme measure just to get rid of him. Threatening him with the Yakuza guys may only be the beginning. In fact, he only wants to put us off-guard,” Mr. Sakakibara says to us. “So, you’re saying that Shinya Fukuyama will send Momoko Sugita to kill him?” I ask Mr. Sakakibara.

“Well, it’s possible,” dad answers on behalf of Mr. Sakakibara. Mr. Sakakibara agrees with dad. “That’s true. Shoko may have enough proof to convict Shinya Fukuyama with sex trafficking conduct. But they still need Mr. Nishikawa to gather as much concrete evidence as they can about him. It will be a huge loss for them if Momoko Sugita kills him. She’s like a skilled assassin anyway, so she won’t leave a clue that she was the one who assassinated him.”

“Or maybe, they send Shiori instead. If they want to take advantage of you, then sending Shiori will do just fine,” dad says to us. Dad then looks at me. He seems worried that I may not be able to do anything if Shiori is the one who will try to assassinate Mr. Nishikawa. “Don’t worry about this,” I say to dad, “I know that Mr. Nishikawa’s safety is our top priority. I will stop her no matter what.”

Dad smiles when he listens to my answer. “Well, that’s good to hear. I’m glad to know that you still realize our priority for this mission.” He then turns to Hayato. “Even if Azuma is the one who will be his bodyguard, I want you to help him as well. Do help Touka too if either Momoko Sugita or Shiori comes to assassinate Mr. Nishikawa,” dad says to him. Hayato nods, knowing what he needs to do for this mission.

Mr. Sakakibara begins his role as Mr. Nishikawa’s bodyguard the next day. Ever since then, Mr. Nishikawa always frequents our coffee shop. Now, we have him as our regular customer. “You always come here pretty much every day,” I say to him as I serve his order. He smiles sheepishly when I tell him that. “I love the ambiance of this coffee shop. It makes me feel calm. So, I feel much better when I do my work here. I don’t feel the same in my house,” he says to me.

I know that some customers say the same thing about our coffee shop makes them feel calm. But for some reason, I feel like asking him why he prefers to do his work here instead of doing it at home. I always assume that a journalist will write better in an isolated place. “That’s great to know. But aren’t people like you preferred to write in an isolated place? Why you prefer to write in a place that can make you feel distracted?” I ask him.

He sighs when I ask him that. “I don’t know why, but I feel weird whenever I’m at home. I feel like someone is watching me. It feels like I’m under the heavy surveillance or something.” After the conversation with him is over, I then excuse myself and head to the counter. “I’m going to see Ms. Chiyo for a while. I’ll be back after this,” I whisper to dad. Dad nods at me, allowing me to see Ms. Chiyo for a moment.

Once I’m in Ms. Chiyo’s room, I tell her everything about our conversation. Ms. Chiyo begins to have a look at his house after that. “Well, he’s right about that,” Ms. Chiyo says, “There are a lot of surveillance devices in his house. So, it makes sense why he feels like he’s under the heavy surveillance. I think it must be Shinya Fukuyama who did this. They were the same surveillance devices found in Shiori’s house.”

After knowing about this, we’ve decided to take advantage of them instead. It can be hard for us to ensure his safety all the time. So, having surveillance devices will make things easier for us to keep an eye on him. To be honest, we don’t want to do this to a civilian, but it’s the best option for us. Besides, he rarely stays at home most of the time. He only comes back for sleeping. So, we don’t consider this as invading his privacy.

We’re lucky that Mr. Nishikawa only lives a few blocks away from the coffee shop. So, we can still be able to rush to his place if anything happens to him. Even though we have to keep track on him all the time, dad will only let us do this during the weekend. He doesn’t want us to stay up late during weekdays because he doesn’t want us to look so tired during school. This will affect our study if we don’t have enough rest.

A week has passed since then. And there’s not even a single sign that anyone is here to assassinate Mr. Nishikawa. So, we’ve decided to have a meeting to predict when they’re most likely to murder him. “For the whole week, he has been coming here every day. It’s nothing unusual for him to do that. And that also means that I have to send him home every day. He’s way too drunk to go back on his own,” Mr. Sakakibara reports to us.

“Is he really the kind of person who gets drunk easily or he has another reason to get wasted?” Dad asks Mr. Sakakibara. Mr. Sakakibara pauses for a moment. “Now I remember that he did mutter something when he was drunk. He was saying that he wanted to get rid of the feeling being put under the heavy surveillance. Other than that, it was just a treat for himself,” Mr. Sakakibara replies.

“If this is what he’s been doing every day, then the best time to assassinate him is at night. This will be much easier to do since he’s way too intoxicated to run for his life,” Yuuto says to us. Dad agrees with Yuuto’s analysis. “I also think the same. If I were going to assassinate him, I would also choose to do this when he’s so drunk that he won’t be fast enough to escape. It’s just a matter of who is going to come and assassinate him. And also the day they will do that.”

Everyone remains silent for a while. We’re thinking about their possibility for assassinating Mr. Nishikawa. “I believe that it’s possible for Momoko Sugita to come and kill him this time. I doubt that they will send Shiori for this. I don’t know how long it takes for them to make the mind control device to be successful. But they have a better chance of successful assassination if they send Momoko Sugita to do the job,” I say to them.

Yuuto seems to agree with me too. “I also think like that. I don’t think they will send Shiori to do this because it’s too risky for a newbie to handle a task like this. She’ll be in trouble if she screws up,” says Yuuto. Mr. Sakakibara seems to agree with us after he listens to Yuuto’s reasoning. “I also think the same. Maybe we should come up with a plan based on that assumption.”

After considering everyone’s opinion, dad finally draws his conclusion. “Okay, let’s make a plan based on that assumption.” Dad then instructs Ms. Chiyo to analyze Saburo Matsuda’s assassination.

Ms. Chiyo is done with her analysis a few minutes later. “Based on the time indicated in the surveillance footage, Momoko Sugita came at 8.30 p.m. It was half an hour earlier than scheduled. With her strength, it didn’t take that long for her to kill Saburo Matsuda’s bodyguards. She could choose to come at the appointed time and began her mission, but she couldn’t do that. On that day, she had a recording session at 10.30 p.m.”

Well, she did mention that she was pressing for time. It was because the real Momoko Sugita had a recording session on that day. “Can you take a look at her call log? I’m pretty sure that her manager will call her when she arrives at her house. Maybe we can find something by analyzing her call log on that day,” I say to Ms. Chiyo. Ms. Chiyo nods and begins to access Momoko Sugita’s call log.

She then displays the whole call log on the computer screen. Judging by her call log, she only receives a call from her manager most of the time. After analyzing her call log, I also ask Ms. Chiyo to bring up Momoko Sugita’s recording schedule. I think her manager didn’t know about her secret meeting with Saburo Matsuda. I bet that Momoko Sugita will receive an order from Satoru Yuuya through a phone call.

But so far, I haven’t noticed anything odd when I compare her call log with her recording schedule. “Her recording schedule alone is not enough,” dad says to me, “We should look at her schedule for that day.” He then instructs Ms. Chiyo to access her schedule for that day. After a couple of minutes, she retrieves Momoko Sugita’s schedule. And she displays it on the screen.

“I found the mismatch,” Yuuto shouts after Ms. Chiyo shows the schedule on the screen. He then explains to us about the mismatch he’s talking about. “Take a look at her schedule and her call log. You’ll notice that her manager will call her before her next appointment. She also received a call at 8.00 p.m. But when you compare the call log with her schedule, she didn’t have anything scheduled at that time. So, it’s most likely that she received a call from Satoru Yuuya at 8.00 p.m.”

Everyone examines the schedule and the call log based on Yuuto’s explanation. “Your explanation makes sense,” I say to him, “But the call at 8.00 p.m. came from her manager. It didn’t look like Satoru Yuuya was making a call to her.” Dad chuckles when he hears my comment. “Touka, think carefully,” he says to me, “Would she answer a call from an unknown number? She wouldn’t do that. She didn’t want to risk herself answering such calls.”

Dad’s words somehow hit me. I fail to realize that someone like Satoru Yuuya will never make a call using his real name. He must have disguised himself as Momoko Sugita’s manager just to be sure that she will answer the call. Once I get the answer correct, dad instructs Ms. Chiyo to check if the call at 8.00 p.m. was really a call from Satoru Yuuya. Ms. Chiyo comes up with her analysis after a while.

“Well, it doesn’t look like the call came from him. But it was on purpose,” Ms. Chiyo says, “He masked his number with her manager’s phone number. In other words, he impersonated her manager just to make her answer the phone call.” Dad cringes after he hears her analysis. “And this is how Satoru Yuuya activated the mind control within her. It was this phone call that changed everything.”

I never thought that this is how he activates the mind control within Momoko Sugita. I bet that she never realized that the call never came from her manager. It’s the simplest method to activate the mind control device in Momoko Sugita’s body. Now we’re more convinced that she will be here to assassinate Mr. Nishikawa. “When is her next recording session?” Dad asks Ms. Chiyo. “She will have another recording session this Saturday at 11.00 p.m. This is the only thing she has scheduled on that day,” Ms. Chiyo replies.

“Then, she’s most likely to receive a call from Satoru Yuuya by 8.30 p.m. It’s based on the two and a half hour period from her previous assignment,” Mr. Sakakibara says to us. After listening to Mr. Sakakibara’s analysis, dad then instructs Ms. Chiyo to keep an eye on her call. She has to inform us when Satoru Yuuya is making a call to Momoko Sugita. Ms. Chiyo nods after receiving an order from dad.

“What time does Mr. Nishikawa comes to the bar?” Dad asks Mr. Sakakibara. “He usually comes at 7.00 p.m. But it doesn’t take that long for him to get drunk, though,” Mr. Sakakibara replies. Dad pauses for a while before coming up with instructions for us. “Azuma, I want you to send him home by 9.00 p.m. Momoko Sugita should already be there by the time you bring him home. Don’t leave the place until she shows up,” dad says to Mr. Sakakibara.

He then looks at both of us. “I want you guys to be in the nearby area by 8.30 p.m. You need to inform Azuma when you spot Momoko Sugita in the area. Stop her when she’s about to assassinate Mr. Nishikawa.” Both of us nod at dad, fully understand what we need to do in this mission.

On that day, everyone is doing according to the plan. As for Hayato, dad assigns him with a special mission. But it still relates to this mission. Mr. Nishikawa comes to Mr. Sakakibara’s bar at the same time just like he usually does. Just like the last time, he gets drunk so easily. So, Mr. Sakakibara has to send him home by 9.00 p.m.

Meanwhile, Yuuto and I are already in the nearby building. He’s on the rooftop in a nearby building. As for me, I’m hiding in a place which is not far from Mr. Nishikawa’s apartment complex. Ms. Chiyo confirms to us that Momoko Sugita did receive a call from Satoru Yuuya at 8.30 p.m. But she can’t hear their conversation. There must be a certain mechanism which prevents her from eavesdropping the call. Satoru Yuuya must have known that she’s trying to interfere with their communication.

By 8.50 p.m., we notice that Momoko Sugita is already here and is about to enter the apartment complex. I think she’ll be hiding somewhere first before she begins the assassination. “Mr. Sakakibara, Momoko Sugita is already here. She’s currently hiding somewhere in the apartment complex. She’s most likely hiding in a blind spot area since we can’t detect her after that,” I inform him.

“Okay, got it. Mr. Nishikawa is fast asleep here after he becomes drunk. So, I’ll be heading there now. I guess I’m going to close my bar earlier today,” Mr. Sakakibara says to me. Dad starts talking to me after my conversation with Mr. Sakakibara is over. “Touka, I want you to stay hidden until Azuma brings Mr. Nishikawa inside. You can come out of the hideout when Momoko Sugita appears.”

After cutting off my communication with dad, I wait patiently until Mr. Sakakibara arrives. Mr. Sakakibara arrives at the apartment complex a few minutes later. As Mr. Sakakibara is bringing Mr. Nishikawa to his house, I notice that Mr. Nishikawa’s face looks so red. He must be way too drunk for him to go back on his own. Well, at least he doesn’t throw up since he drinks too much. If he does throw up at Mr. Sakakibara, I’m pretty sure that he won’t forgive him for the rest of his life.

Mr. Sakakibara leaves his apartment after he sends him home. Just as he’s about to leave, we hear a loud scream coming from Mr. Nishikawa’s apartment. Mr. Sakakibara and I quickly head over to Mr. Nishikawa’s house. Yuuto is also getting ready to shoot Momoko Sugita when he hears the loud scream. As we’re about to go to his house, Mr. Nishikawa is running out of the apartment complex instead.

He looks pale when he sees us. “Please help me! Momoko Sugita is trying to kill me!” He begs at us. He finds it hard to believe when he finds out that Momoko Sugita is here to kill him. “I don’t care whether you believe it or not, but I AM telling you the truth. It REALLY is Momoko Sugita. And she’s trying to kill me! I swear!” He shouts at us.

At the same time, Momoko Sugita, who is now known as Mika, is already leaving the apartment complex. She doesn’t look frustrated at all despite failing to kill Mr. Nishikawa. “I never expect to see you again, little girl. I’m only here to meet him, but he just runs off like that,” she says to us. “Meet him? You’re just here to kill him,” I say to her. She only laughs at me when I debunk her true intention.

“You got me there, little girl,” she says to me, “I will kill him. But that is after I already know about the spy from Public Security Bureau. He’s disguising himself as Muse Agency staff.” Mr. Nishikawa cringes at her. Despite his look, he doesn’t look scared at all even though Mika is threatening to kill him. “I’m not going to tell you anything about him. You can kill me all you want, but I’m not going to tell you no matter what,” he yells at her.

Mika laughs at him again, as if his words sound like a joke to her. “I’m amazed to see that a coward like you dares to defy me. Is it because these two are here? Let’s see if you’ll change your mind when I kill them right in front you,” she says to him. Mika doesn’t look hesitate at all when she says that. She does mean what she says.

Mr. Sakakibara then signals me to take Mr. Nishikawa back to his house. Without wasting time, I drag Mr. Nishikawa away so then he won’t interfere with the fight between them. Mr. Nishikawa doesn’t say anything as I bring him back to his house. As we reach his house, he then starts to apologize to me. “I’m sorry. I should have told you that I knew about the spy from Public Security Bureau.”

He looks guilty only because he didn’t tell us about this. “It’s alright,” I tell him, “I admit that it’s too late. But it’s better than not letting us know at all. At least now we have another person that we can exchange information with.” He seems relieved when I tell him that. “You guys don’t even look surprised at all when Momoko Sugita is here. Who are you guys, anyway?” I sigh when he asks me about our real identity.

“We work for Public Security Bureau as well. It’s just that, we work on a different mission. Our mission happens to overlap with things related to Muse Agency. So, we also rely on the same information given by another squad,” I reply. I think that answer should be convincing enough. It camouflages the fact that dad and Mr. Sakakibara are PSIA officers and Yuuto and I are PSIA agents.

Once we reach his house, I instruct him not to leave the house no matter what. That should keep him safe from becoming Mika’s target. After I send him home, I then contact Yuuto. I instruct him to keep an eye on anyone who’s coming to Mr. Nishikawa’s house. Once I’m already making sure that no one else is here, I quickly head back to where Mr. Sakakibara is. I do hope that he’s still alive by the time I go back there.

Once I’m outside, I’m glad to find out that Mr. Sakakibara is still standing when he’s fighting with Mika. “I thought that you’re going to let this old man fight me all by himself. I should praise you for your own bravery. You’re not worried that you may lose your life again this time?” She asks me. I can’t help but sigh at her question. “It’s different this time,” I reply, “It’s because I’m not fighting you all by myself.”

She only smirks at me when I tell her that. After our conversation is over, she then begins to attack me. Before her attack reaches me, Mr. Sakakibara is quick enough to cut off her attack. Mika smiles when she sees that Mr. Sakakibara is protecting me. “Not bad,” she says to us, “Maybe I should just let both of you attack me at the same time. Besides, I’m pressing for time. This should take care of you once and for all.”

Mika sounds cocky when she insists on fighting both of us at the same time. But that can also mean she’s confident that she can defeat both of us. It doesn’t matter if we listen to her request or not, everything will be over if we can’t defeat her. Without wasting time, she starts to attack both of us. She doesn’t seem like she’s missing a beat when she fights us. Her attacks are so quick that I have to be fast enough to dodge them without getting a hit.

Mika is doing well in attacking us and evading our attacks despite having to fight both of us at the same time. She doesn’t have any loophole at all in her counterattack. Now I begin to feel that having the upper hand doesn’t mean anything in this battle. I feel frustrated that I can’t even land a single hit on her, but Mr. Sakakibara doesn’t look frustrated at all. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to the instant gratification. I’m not patient enough to wait for the opportunity.

Both Mr. Sakakibara and I feel exhausted after the intense fight with Mika. If this fight is going to continue, I don’t think we have a chance to win against her. “What’s wrong with you? You feel tired already? I thought you guys can do better than this,” she says to us. I hate to see this when her expression is telling me that she’s looking down at us. I feel annoyed, but she’s not wrong either. I feel like my stamina depletes even though I’m only on defense.

Mr. Sakakibara doesn’t say anything back to her. “I heard that you’re strong. So I expect a lot more from you than that little girl. Don’t get me wrong, though. She’s strong, but I’m much stronger than her. I don’t mean to be cocky, but that’s the truth. I thought that my fight with you will be exciting, but that’s not even the case either. I feel disappointed because this is how far you can go. You don’t liven up to my expectation,” Mika says to him.

Mr. Sakakibara doesn’t seem to care about Mika mocking him. He takes a deep breath before he begins saying something to Mika. “I’m sorry that I don’t liven up to your expectation,” he says to Mika, “I don’t know how strong Mr. Sakakibara is. So, I can’t gauge my strength to match his. It’s because I’m so strong that I don’t even know the strength of an average human being. Mr. Sakakibara is above the average, but it’s still difficult for me to impersonate him.”

Both Mika and I look surprised when we find out that it’s Hayato when he pulls off the mask. It seems that Hayato is disguising himself as Mr. Sakakibara just to throw Mika off-guard. Mika seems happy when she finds out that it’s Hayato all along. She doesn’t look fearful at all. It doesn’t even look like she’s pretending not to feel intimidated by Hayato’s presence. She must be confident enough to face someone like Hayato.

“I heard about you from Master Yuuya. I’m lucky that I’m able to fight the last remaining of Kusanagi clan. You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to fighting you after Master Yuuya told me about you,” she says to him. Hayato doesn’t say anything after that. Mika’s expression is telling me that this fight is going to be an enjoyable one. She sure does love to fight, especially when fighting someone who is stronger than her.

Hayato doesn’t hesitate at all when he begins fighting against Mika. He doesn’t look like he’s going to lay low just because Mika is a woman. For him, the person who is right in front of him is no longer Momoko Sugita. The person who is right in front of him now isn’t that different from a monster who loves to fight.

Because of Hayato’s countless and speedy attack, Mika is struggling just to stand straight. With her condition like this, I doubt that she can launch any counterattack. In the end, she barely moves after the fight is over. She’s still laughing even though she lost the fight. “Of many fights that I’ve experienced, fighting you is the best one I’ve ever had. I wish I can fight you in another time someday, but I don’t think I’ll have the same opportunity again,” she says to us.

“What do you mean by that?” I ask her. I have a bad feeling that something awful is bound to happen to her. “This is my fate,” she says to us, “The suicide program will execute when I fail the mission. Once the program starts, you can’t stop the program no matter what. At this point, it’s futile to save me anymore. Everyone with a microchip implant has it regardless of what they’re programmed for.”

I clench my fist, feeling powerless for not being able to save her. Now, it feels like seeing the same thing all over again. And it frustrates me even more that I can’t do anything for the second time. “Little girl, I know that you’ve been looking everywhere for your friend. So, I’m going to let you know before I die,” she says to me.

Before she can even tell us about Shiori, she suddenly experiences a breathing difficulty. Judging from her condition, she looks like she’s suffering from a cardiac arrest. Despite her suffering, she still insists on telling me about Shiori. “She’s in Yokohama. She’ll be back here soon.” She dies after telling us about Shiori’s current whereabouts.

Momoko Sugita and her alter ego, Mika, died due to cardiac arrest. Her cruel death indicates that she’s no longer needed by Satoru Yuuya when she fails her mission. That seems harsh, but just like she said, it’s her fate. And there’s nothing much I can do to help her with changing her fate. I just hope that Shiori doesn’t end up this way too.

 

Chapter 10

Everyone, especially Momoko Sugita’s loyal fans, finds it hard to believe the news about her death. They’re grieving over her death because it feels so sudden to them. Well, Momoko Sugita doesn’t even show any sign of health problems even back then. So, her death feels so unreal to them.

They even find it hard to believe that Momoko Sugita died because of the sudden cardiac arrest. According to her fans, they know how much she cares about her diet. She usually steers clear from something that can be harmful to her health. Even her manager also confirmed about it too. She even gives a snapshot of what Momoko Sugita always have for her meals as a way to remain accountable for her diet.

The autopsy report indicates that she did die because of the sudden cardiac arrest. But there’s no sign that she has symptoms that can trigger the sudden cardiac arrest in the first place. Well, people will only die because of the sudden cardiac arrest if they have a heart disease. In Momoko Sugita’s case, she never has one. Even her doctor also says that her heart was always healthy. He finds it hard to believe that she died because of the sudden cardiac arrest.

Of course, we know well enough what’s causing her death. She died because of the suicide program which was triggered by the microchip implant. So, the police don’t disclose the actual cause of her death to the public. Just like the last time, the microchip implant disappeared the moment she died. So, they can’t find any traces of microchip implant in her body.

Since we didn’t want the police to interrogate Mr. Nishikawa, we’ve decided to camouflage her death instead. We make it look like she was found dead outside of her apartment. We’re lucky that Hayato was fast enough to bring her dead body to her house so then the time of her death was still accurate. After her autopsy is complete, the agency held a private wake for her. The public wake for her will be organized a few days after the private wake.

Only people from the talent agency and her close friends are allowed to attend the private wake. Hayato disguises himself as one of the guests just to clarify if Shiori is also attending the wake. As expected, she’s not attending the private wake. We don’t think that Satoru Yuuya will allow her to attend the wake. Maybe her mind control effect is not working properly yet. Everyone in Muse Agency, including Shinya Fukuyama, is also present at that time.

Once the private wake is over, the public wake for Momoko Sugita’s fans is held a few days later. During the public wake, there are a lot of people who place a bouquet of flower on the street. They’re doing it to commemorate her death. They also express their condolence and grieve on social media and on their blog. Even Mr. Nishikawa also writes about her death in his blog despite him not a fan of Momoko Sugita.

As for Mr. Nishikawa, he still feels traumatized with what Momoko Sugita intended to do to him. We’re worried that he will tell everyone about the actual cause of her death. But he assures us that he will not write about it on his blog. It will only jeopardize his task with Public Security Bureau if he tells the truth about her death.

Besides, writing about her death will only put him as a suspect. He doesn’t look like he’s going to break his promise. So, we believe that he will keep his word for not exposing the truth about her death. Even after the incident, Mr. Sakakibara still needs to be his bodyguard. We think that their assassination attempt is not yet over. It becomes even more crucial after we’ve found out that he knows the spy from Public Security Bureau.

A few weeks after Momoko Sugita’s death, Ms. Shoko comes to see us as we’re about to close the coffee shop. Mr. Nishikawa is also here too. For today, he comes to our coffee shop earlier than usual. He stays here until we’re about to close the coffee shop. I guess this place makes him even feel safer after he finds out that we’re also from Public Security Bureau. Well, that’s a lie, of course. But let’s just leave it at that.

“You’re here too, Nishikawa,” Ms. Shoko says to him when she notices him inside the coffee shop. “What brings you here, Ms. Mayuzumi?” He asks her. “I have an important thing to discuss with them,” she replies, “And I also need to ask you a few things. I’m glad that you’re making friends with them. That should make things easier on my side too.”

Both Yuuto and I find it weird that Ms. Shoko doesn’t mind to have Mr. Nishikawa around. Maybe what she plans to discuss has something to do with him as well. It doesn’t matter to us, as long as she doesn’t expose our real identity. Well, I assume that she’s professional enough to do that.

Mr. Sakakibara comes to the coffee shop after that. Ms. Shoko begins the discussion once everyone is here. “I receive a distress call from my colleague who is infiltrating Muse Agency as one of their staffs. His name is Kei Ninomiya. It seems that Shinya Fukuyama now knows that he’s from Public Security Bureau. The guys from Awatori Group are pursuing him right now.”

Mr. Nishikawa looks panic when he hears that the person he is in contact with is on the run. “Ms. Mayuzumi, it’s not me who told them about Kei. I won’t do such thing even if they point a gun at me. I will never do something that will put him in jeopardy,” he says to her. Ms. Shoko just stares at him. She’s trying to decode whether Mr. Nishikawa is lying or not. Now, Mr. Nishikawa feels terrified when he sees that Ms. Shoko doesn’t say anything but stare at him.

Ms. Shoko sighs after that. “I already know that you’re not the one who told them. Ninomiya himself admitted that he fell into their trap. Since they already know that he’s the intruder, I guess their focus will be on him from now onward.” Mr. Nishikawa looks relieved after Ms. Shoko tells him that. “Does that mean they’re already letting Mr. Nishikawa off the hook now?” Mr. Sakakibara asks her.

Ms. Shoko pauses for a moment. “Well, I can’t say that they’re no longer targeting him. But there is a possibility that they will still be after him. Maybe they’re using him to threaten Ninomiya just to force him to show himself. Whatever it is, I already assign my squad to ensure his safety. He had done a lot of things for us despite the danger. So, this is the least we can do for him.”

Ms. Shoko then calls her colleague to escort Mr. Nishikawa home. I guess the top secret discussion will begin as soon as Mr. Nishikawa leaves. Mr. Nishikawa leaves after her colleague is here to pick him up. Ms. Shoko seems relieved after seeing Mr. Nishikawa leaving the coffee shop safely. “What is his relationship with Kei Ninomiya? It looks to me that they knew each other for so long,” I ask Ms. Shoko.

“He’s Ninomiya’s friend from the high school. Initially, Ninomiya only asked him to tell him more about Shinya Fukuyama. But when he found out that Ninomiya would infiltrate Muse Agency, he was willing to help him. Of course, he was willing to do it in exchange for the information about Sayaka Minami’s death. We’re okay with this because he volunteered to do it. And Ninomiya trusted him too,” Ms. Shoko answers.

I’m in awe when I find out how much Mr. Ninomiya trusts him. Somehow, their deep trust in each other reminds me about how Shiori and I trust each other. Ms. Shoko then transfers the file containing information related to Kei Ninomiya. Everyone remains silent as we begin to have a look at the file.

Yuuto and I realize that Mr. Ninomiya is actually Mr. Ayatsuji, Shiori’s manager. I’ve never thought that he’s the one who is an undercover for Public Security Bureau. Dad only laughs when he sees the file instead. “I never thought that our junior is the spy from Public Security Bureau. He’s doing a good job even after transferring there.”

Yuuto and I are surprised to find out that dad knows Mr. Ninomiya. “So, you already know who he is?” I ask dad. He nods at me. “Well, he used to work in PSIA Special Activities Division before. At that time, I wasn’t yet the head of special activities division. Even before this, he used to be Public Security Bureau detailee. But now, he works directly with them.”

Dad then turns to Ms. Shoko. “So, are we going to help him or what?” Dad asks her. “No, we’re going to save his girlfriend instead,” Ms. Shoko answers. Everyone is in disbelief when Ms. Shoko tells us to save his girlfriend instead. We thought that Ms. Shoko is joking about this, but she seems serious when she tells us that. “Okay, I know that seems absurd. But there’s a reason why he wants us to save his girlfriend,” Ms. Shoko says to us. She then transfers the file about Mr. Ninomiya’s girlfriend to us.

After the transfer is complete, we take a look at the file. “So, his girlfriend is an idol from Muse Agency, and her name is Nanase Mikitani. He must be bold to have someone like her as his girlfriend,” Mr. Sakakibara says to her. Ms. Shoko nods at him. “Yup, and it seems like she has something in common with Sayuri too. It’s just that, it happens to her with a stroke of luck.”

I find it hard to believe when Ms. Shoko says that Ms. Mikitani has something in common with mom. “What do you mean she has something in common? Do you mean she’s able to get rid of the microchip implant by pretending to commit suicide?” Dad asks her. Ms. Shoko nods. “True. But in her case, it still disappeared despite her failed attempt to commit suicide. Maybe she is lucky. She’s currently being treated in a hospital in Shinanomachi.”

Mr. Sakakibara seems skeptical about this. “How can you be so sure that she no longer had the microchip implant? Maybe the traces are still there,” he asks Ms. Shoko. “About that, you don’t have to worry,” Ms. Shoko replies, “Nishikawa was the one who found out about that. He was sneaking inside the hospital just to confirm about Ms. Mikitani’s condition.”

Well, that seems credible considering that the information comes from Mr. Nishikawa. On top of that, it’s easier for him to find out more about Ms. Mikitani because of the nature of his job. I then begin to take a look at the file Ms. Shoko gave to us just now. Based on the report, it seems like they’re successful with programming Ms. Mikitani as a perfect sex slave. Besides her, they also did the same thing to the late Sayaka Minami.

The process is the same as how Satoru Yuuya programmed Momoko Sugita to become a skilled assassin. But in their case, the microchip implant will trigger beta brainwave instead. This brainwave is known for sexual programming. Once activated, the program will get rid of their moral conviction. And at the same time, it will increase their sexual desire.

As for the rest of the idols, they’re still in the process of programming them as a sex slave. I remember that Momoko Sugita did say that every idol in Muse Agency possessed a microchip implant. It’s just that she didn’t say that the others were programmed to be a sex slave. I guess threatening them to have sex with the guests in the private party may not be enough. In the end, they have to resort to the microchip implant to turn them into a sex slave.

“If that’s the case, we have to save her before they inject the new microchip onto her again. When they’re planning to do that?” Yuuto asks her. “They plan to do it tomorrow,” Ms. Shoko replies. “Then, we have to save her by tonight,” dad says to her. Ms. Shoko nods at him. “You’re right. But the problem is, we don’t know which room she’s in. According to Nishikawa, they keep on changing her room. So, none of us know about her current location.”

Dad chuckles when he hears this. “Don’t worry about that, Shoko,” he says to her, “We know what to do. Locating her room isn’t as hard as it seems.” Ms. Shoko smiles at dad. She seems relieved that she can rely on dad to find Ms. Mikitani’s room. “I guess locating her room should be easy for you then. I bet that your past missions are far more challenging than this,” she says to him. Ms. Shoko leaves the coffee shop after the meeting is over.

Once Ms. Shoko leaves, dad begins to brief us about the rescue operation. “Touka, you’ll be entering the hospital as a visitor. Since they tend to change her room, then it’s useless for us to ask the receptionist. Besides, they’re not going to tell you anything because Ms. Mikitani is a popular idol. They may think that you’re here to stalk her. Use whatever method to locate her room and rescue her. Yuuto will be outside to back you up.”

He then continues with the briefing. “Once you’ve secured her, leave the hospital through the back door and head to the car park. Azuma will be there, waiting for you. He will bring Ms. Mikitani here. There will always be people who try to get into our way. Just get rid of them and regroup with Yuuto and Hayato after that. You can go home once everything is over.”

After the briefing ends, Yuuto and I leave the house. The hospital isn’t that far from where we live, but I still need to take a train to go there. I’m glad that the train isn’t that crowded at night. Maybe it’s because some of them may not take a train ride right now to go home. They probably stay a bit late in the office. Or maybe they’re going somewhere with their colleagues and will go back after that. Whatever the reason is, I’m grateful that the train is not crowded.

Once I reach Shinanomachi Station, I only need to walk a little bit to reach the hospital. I’m glad to know that the hospital is just a walking distance from the train station. It only takes a few minutes for me to walk there. As I reach the hospital compound, Yuuto contacts me. “Sis, I’m already in the nearby area which is not far from the hospital. I notice that there are a few people who are waiting at the back door. They’re most likely the guys from Awatori Group.”

For some reason, I feel sick when I hear the name Awatori Group being said repeatedly over and over again. That name is driving me crazy. “Thanks for letting me know. I’m going to enter the hospital now,” I say to Yuuto. After I’m cutting off my communication with him, I then contact Ms. Chiyo. I need to clarify with her if these guys also have a microchip implant like the last time. She confirms to me a few minutes later, saying that none of them have a microchip implant.

After my communication with Ms. Chiyo is over, I then head inside. Once I’m inside, I notice that there are a lot of people who are still here in the hospital. I think they must be here to visit someone because it’s currently a visiting hour for the nighttime. I feel awkward since I don’t bring anything to visit Ms. Mikitani in the hospital. I guess it’s not necessary, considering that I’m going to toss it away once I’ve found Ms. Mikitani.

Since we don’t know Ms. Mikitani’s room location, I begin to have a look at the room list at the receptionist desk. As I’m going through the list, I realize that there’s only one room that doesn’t have any name. And that room is in the regular ward. Maybe it’s true that the room is empty. But it can also be that someone whose identity will not be disclosed to the general public is staying there. Perhaps Ms. Mikitani is in that room.

“Miss, is there anything I can do to help you?” One of the nurses in the receptionist desk asks me. I can always ask her about Ms. Mikitani’s room, but I’m pretty sure that she will deny that she’s staying here. “Oh, I was wondering where Mr. Toma is staying. But now I know where his room is. Thanks for the offer, but I already found his room.”

I have no idea who is Mr. Toma, though. It’s better for me to pretend that I want to visit him. Besides, Mr. Toma’s room isn’t that far from Ms. Mikitani’s room. I always assume that they have to put her farther than everyone else just to isolate her. But I guess I’m wrong about that. Anyway, I should be there soon. I’m pretty sure that the empty room on the list is where they keep Ms. Mikitani.

The nurse smiles at me as I take my leave. She seems glad that I’ve already found the room. She even gives me a direction to Mr. Toma’s room. I thank her for providing me with the direction to Mr. Toma’s room. Just use the direction to Mr. Toma’s room and I should reach Ms. Mikitani’s room anytime soon.

As soon as I’m on the second floor, I begin to search for the empty room. The hallway which leads to Ms. Mikitani’s room is dim, unlike the area where Mr. Toma is staying. The area is bustling with nurses going in and out of the area. But as for Ms. Mikitani’s room, no one is even entering the room. It’s either no one knows that she’s here. Or maybe only authorized personnel are allowed to enter her room.

After making sure that no one is around, I quickly enter the room. The room is dark, with only a dim light from the outside as the only source of light in this room. It must be tough for her to be forced to stay in a room this dark. Ms. Mikitani is asleep when I enter the room. I’m glad that my assumption is paying off. Ms. Mikitani is indeed in this empty room.

Ms. Mikitani wakes up when she notices that I’m here. She looks terrified when she sees me, though. “What are you doing here? Are you going to kill me now, just like what you did to Sayaka?” She stutters as she speaks. Does the effect of suicide makes her stuttered as she speaks? I can tell how scared she is when she sees a stranger in this room. I believe that there are so many strangers who must have come here and do horrible things to her.

Her appearance right now is nothing close to how I see her in the profile photo. She looks so unkempt. I’m pretty sure that no one will ever recognize her with such an unkempt look. “No, I’m not here to kill you. I’m here because of Mr. Ayatsuji’s request. My name is Touka Kimizuki,” I say to her. I have to use the name Ayatsuji because she may not know Mr. Ninomiya’s real identity.

She doesn’t look convinced at all even when I tell her that I’m here because of Mr. Ninomiya’s request. It looks like it’s going to take a while to convince her to come with me. “No, I don’t believe you!” She yells at me while tucking the blanket tightly to her side. Her voice sounds coarse as she replies back to me. She’s trembling in fear as she looks at me.

I then try to convince her again that I really am here to save her. “I’m sorry if this is sudden to you. But I promise I won’t do anything bad to you. I mean it when I say that I want to save you.” She purses her lips, trying to let my words sink into her mind. I guess she’s trying to convince herself to trust me. “Where do you want to take me?” She’s still tucking the blanket tightly to herself as she asks me.

“There’s a small coffee shop in Ichigaya. My dad owns a coffee shop there. Well, he’s not really a coffee shop owner. Rather, he’s a police doing an undercover job there. Mr. Ayatsuji knows him, so he requested him to save you.” She looks rather convinced when I tell her that dad is a police officer. I don’t think mentioning about dad being a PSIA officer will be enough to convince her.

“But why you’re here instead? You certainly don’t look like someone from the police force,” she says to me. Well, she does have a valid point there. Telling her that I’m a PSIA agent will only makes her to back away from me. “The police want me to do this. I’ve been helping police with many cases like this. So, I come here under the police’s order. It’s easier for someone like me to come instead of the police.”

She seems reluctant to come with me, even after I tell her everything. I admit that everything I say is a lie, but I can’t just tell her that PSIA is the one who is in charge of this mission. And it’s a top secret mission. Even if I can tell her that, it may sound like something you’ve seen in a CIA movie. It’s true that PSIA is one of the pillars which support the defense. But it can be hard to convince someone about this if it sounds non-existent to them.

“I think you have a point here. It’s easier for someone like you to sneak inside and save me. Besides, no one will suspect that a high schooler like you will agree to do something like this,” she says to me. I feel relieved that she trusts what I say. “Can you stand up?” I ask her. She nods, signaling me that she’s fine. She quickly gets up and starts changing. It’s great that they don’t confiscate her clothes.

After she’s done, we quickly leave the room once I’m already making sure that no one notices us. As we head to the staircase, we pass the doctors’ room. It’s weird to see that the room is wide open. Do the doctors leave the room wide open when they have an emergency? I signal Ms. Mikitani to stay there for a moment while I examine the room. I hope that no one is in the doctors’ room right now.

As I take a peek at the room, I notice that there are two people inside. But they’re already dead. Ms. Mikitani, who follows behind me, looks surprised when she sees what’s happening in the room. She seems like she’s about to scream, but I manage to cover her mouth and tells her to keep quiet. “Do you know them?” I whisper to her. She’s in tears when she nods her head. “They’re the doctors who want to inject a microchip within me,” she whispers.

Judging by the way they were killed, it must be Hayato who killed them. I think dad’s order for him is to kill the doctors who are in charge of treating Ms. Mikitani. I guess Hayato is the only person who can kill people in a brutal way with just a tactical pen. Ms. Mikitani seems terrified with the scene she’s witnessing right now. So, I instruct her to close her eyes. It’s better for her not to look at it long enough. I don’t want this scene to give her a nightmare.

Ms. Mikitani and I then take the staircase to escape from the hospital. As we’re heading down, Ms. Mikitani stops for a moment. She’s placing her hand on the chest. Maybe her chest feels painful. “Are you alright?” I ask her. She smiles at me as she replies back to me. “No, I’m fine. My chest hurts a bit if it involves physical activities.” I can tell that she’s trying to suppress her pain. But she knows that she won’t be able to escape if she takes a break right now.

I hope that the pain doesn’t hinder her from escaping this place. If this continues, she will never make it outside of the building alive. “Do you want me to carry you? I admit that what we’re doing right now is intense to you. I’m worried that your body won’t hold much longer,” I say to her. She just shakes her head, insisting me to carry on. She is drenched in sweat as she’s trying to endure the pain.

It must be difficult for her to keep up with a physical activity like this. Maybe her condition is still weak. At this moment, I wish that she can remain alive until we leave this place. We’re this close to save her. “Don’t worry about me. No matter how hard it is, I must leave this place alive. I won’t let your effort go to waste. Besides, I want to see Kei once again,” she says to me.

I’m glad that she’s willing to continue even though her physical condition seems to limit her movement. She sure is strong for an idol. And I admire her for her spirit. “Ms. Mikitani, we’re almost there. Please hang on,” I say to her. A smile carves on her face. She seems relieved that we’re finally reaching the ground floor.

As soon as we open the door, the guys from Awatori Group are already waiting for us at the back entrance. Ms. Mikitani becomes terrified as soon as she sees them. “I assume that you must be the one who killed the doctors,” the man says to us. This guy reminds me of Ryu Mikado. I guess everyone in Awatori Group looks more or less the same as him. “Do you think you can leave just like that while bringing that woman with you?” Another man says to us.

I signal Ms. Mikitani to stand back so then I can fight these guys. “Are you sure you can fight them?” I only nod my head. “Yup, but please don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.” The way I say to her sounds like what a superhero will say, but I don’t have any choice other than to say those words. I don’t feel like fighting them, but I don’t think I can escape if I don’t defeat them.

The man who talks to me first begins to attack me. But I manage to dodge his attack. As soon as I manage to avoid his attack, another man comes to me from behind. Just as I’m about to avoid his attack, a bullet passes through me and hit the man. Yuuto is here to back me up. “Damn, we have a sniper here,” says the first man. “You’d better not look elsewhere, mister,” I say to him as I draw my gun and shoot his head.

Ms. Mikitani looks surprised when she sees that I have a gun. “Who in the world are you?” She asks me. “Don’t worry so much about who I am. What matters the most is we have to keep you safe.” I don’t elaborate much to her about my real identity. Damn, now I sound like a superhero. There are only three men left. Before any of them can attack me, Yuuto shoots the rest when they’re off-guard. I have to thank Yuuto for his quick shot.

The fight ends up faster than usual thanks to Yuuto. Ms. Mikitani runs behind me as we’re heading to Mr. Sakakibara’s location. As we’re about to run to his location, a car suddenly pulls over not far from where we are. That’s when Mr. Sakakibara comes out from the car. “Good job, Touka,” he praises me. I look at Ms. Mikitani. “Please follow him. He will bring you to the place I’ve told you just now. I’ll be right back.”

I leave after I tell her that. My final goal is to regroup with Yuuto and Hayato, so then we can head home together. Mr. Sakakibara then escorts Ms. Mikitani into the car. They leave the place immediately after Ms. Mikitani is inside the car. I feel happy that we have accomplished our mission without much problem.

Both Yuuto and Hayato regroup with me after the mission is over. We head straight home after that. For the first time ever, we manage to save one of the victims before anything happens to them. And that is the biggest accomplishment we have since the beginning of this mission.

 

Chapter 11

Mr. Sakakibara calls me once we’re in his house. I’ve just got back from the hospital along with Yuuto and Hayato. The rest of us are taking a rest after we have accomplished our mission to rescue Ms. Mikitani. “What’s wrong, Mr. Sakakibara?” I ask him. Mr. Sakakibara begins to talk to me as I come to him. “Ms. Mikitani wants to see you. It seems like she doesn’t want to speak to anyone other than you.”

I understand why she’s behaving like that. She doesn’t know anyone here besides me. So, she feels a lot more comfortable to talk to me since she had seen how much I have risked my life just to save her. I guess I should build rapport with her so then other people can talk to her just fine. It could be problematic if I were the only person she prefers to talk to.

As I enter the room, Ms. Mikitani is sitting on the bed, gazing at the window. The outside must have looked different than the scene she always sees all the time. Ms. Mikitani notices me as I enter the room. “I’m so glad to see you’re okay, Touka. I’m so worried that I won’t be able to see you again,” she says to me. Despite only knowing each other for a short while, I’m happy to know that she cares about my safety. She really is a nice person after all.

“Thanks for your concern. And I’m glad that you reach here safely,” I say to her. She smiles at me and then turning away from me. She looks hesitant to tell me what’s on her mind right now. “Ms. Mikitani, are you alright? Or is it because you don’t feel comfortable staying in this room?” She smiles at me and convinces me that she’s alright. But she still feels reluctant to tell me.

“I need to ask you a favor,” she says to me, “Please save my boyfriend. I’m pretty sure that he’s in danger right now because of me. I can only ask you to save him on my behalf.” She cries after she begs me to save her boyfriend. Well, saving Mr. Ninomiya is also our mission. But I don’t know if I should tell her about Mr. Ninomiya’s real identity. I feel that she deserves to know the truth.

Before I can say anything, Ms. Mikitani stops me for a moment. “Just call me Nanase. You don’t have to be so formal to me. You also don’t have to add the prefix too,” she says to me. I smile at her when she wants me to call her by her name. “Okay, I’ll call you Nanase from now onward.”

I begin to grab a chair as I’m about to give her my answer. “Nanase, we will indeed save your boyfriend. We don’t know his current location yet, so we’ll go there once we already identify his exact location. But he’s alright for the time being. We’ll let you know if we receive any news about him. So, please be patient and hope for the best,” I say to her.

Nanase smiles when I tell her that we do have a plan to save her boyfriend. “Nanase, I know that you may not want to talk about this, but why do you want to commit suicide? Does it have anything to do with Mr. Ayatsuji? You don’t look like someone who will do such thing.” Nanase’s expression changes when I ask her that. Maybe I shouldn’t ask her about this. “It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me about this if it makes you feel uncomfortable,” I say to her.

She shakes her head. “It’s okay. You deserve to know why since you came all the way just to save me. On top of that, you also agree to save my boyfriend too.” She then begins to tell me why she wants to commit suicide. “To be honest, I don’t even know why I was doing it. I only knew about it when I realized that I was in the hospital. My manager told me that she found me in the bathroom, with my wrist bleeding in a hot tub.”

When I hear this story, I find it weird that she has no recollection of why she wanted to commit suicide. It’s like there’s some kind of force, telling her to do so. Don’t tell me it has something to do with the microchip implant? It’s nothing surprising if that’s the reason why she committed suicide. But there must be an incident which triggers her to have a suicidal thought. And I think the trigger may have something to do with Mr. Ninomiya.

“Do you have any idea what happened to you before that?” I ask her. She pauses for a moment, trying to recall what happened to her before that. “As far as I remember, there were a bunch of guys who came to my house. They were threatening me that they already knew about my relationship with Kei. I have no idea who they were, but I assumed that they must be the guys from Awatori Group. It must be Shinya Fukuyama who instructed them to come,” she says.

I wonder how many idols are aware of Shinya Fukuyama’s connection with Awatori Group. But it seems to me that Nanase already knows about this. “How do you know about Shinya Fukuyama’s relationship with Awatori Group?” I ask her. “Kei was the one who told me,” she answers. Judging by her answer, I guess none of the idols are aware of this.

“So, they were threatening you because of your boyfriend?” I ask her again. She remains silent for a while and starts to speak again after that. “That was what I thought at first. But it seemed like they threatened me for another reason. They were saying that I already knew that he was an undercover from Public Security Bureau. To be honest, that was news to me. I kept on telling them that I didn’t know anything about that, but they refused to believe me.”

Nanase continues with her story. “That was when they told me that they would kill him if they found him. At that given moment, I suddenly had thought to commit suicide. I knew that he was still alive. But somehow, the thought that he was still alive never seemed to cross my mind. Without realizing, I ended up in a hospital. It was my manager who saved me and brought me to the hospital. I would be dead by now if it’s not because of her.”

Nanase seems upset because she has no idea what caused her to behave like that. She doesn’t want Mr. Ninomiya to feel sad if he finds out about her reckless behavior. “I’m sorry if this makes you feel uncomfortable. But do you think what you’re going through is more or less the same as what happened to Sayaka Minami? From what I know, her behavior was rather unusual on the day she died,” I ask her.

Nanase doesn’t look hesitate at all to answer my question. “Now that you’ve mentioned it, I do realize that there is a slight similarity. I have no idea what caused her to feel depressed. But I know that she wasn’t the kind of person who would suffer from depression. And it was far from it that she would do something like committing suicide. I felt that something was not right when I found out about the news.”

She seems terrified when she realizes something. “Now I remember why something like this was happening to me. In fact, I kind of know why they wanted Sayaka to die in the first place,” she says to me, biting her thumb. She feels reluctant to say it at first, but she begins to tell me after that. “In my case, Shinya Fukuyama wants to kill me because he wants Kei to show himself. And he will kill him when they have the chance.”

Before Nanase can talk about the reason, she suddenly cups her head and starts to breathe hard. As I’m about to come near her, she suddenly pushes my hand away. After a while, she realizes what she did and looks calm again. “It’s okay. I’m alright,” she says to me.

Seeing her in a condition like this, I’m a bit worried that the microchip implant may still have an effect on her. She may no longer have a microchip implant within her. But we’ll never know if the suicidal program will still be etched into her brain. It seems less likely, but we have to be ready for any kind of consequences.

She then continues talking to me. “I remember a while back, Sayaka decided to run away from the agency. She said that she couldn’t take it anymore. She even persuaded me to do the same. At that time, both of us were the most preferred among the guests in the private party. We had no idea how we were able to have sex with them, but it was still too much for us to bear. Sayaka had enough with a condition like this, so she was willing to go against them even though it was risky.”

I think it must be the microchip implant that triggers the beta brainwave. This will allow them to dissociate themselves by force when they were having sex with these guests. It works even better if they have experienced sexual abuse in the past. Mr. Ninomiya and Ms. Shoko never mentioned anything about them. But I think both of them must have suffered an extreme case of sexual abuse in the past. Otherwise, the agency won’t label them as a perfect sex slave. Theirs is the same as what Momoko Sugita and Shiori experienced in the past.

“Did you go along with her suggestion?” I ask her. Nanase shakes her head. “No, I was too scared to do something like that. It didn’t matter where we run; they would still be able to detect us because we have a microchip implant within us. I told Sayaka to leave here without me, but she refused to do that. She said it was meaningless for her to do this without me. In the end, she discarded the thought later on.”

It looks to me that they’re already aware that they have a microchip implant within them. It’s just that they don’t realize that it causes them to turn into a perfect sex slave. “So, what happened to her after that?” I ask her again. She looks sad when she answers my question. “I never met her again ever since then. A few months later, I found out that she had a depression and died when she left the hospital,” she replies.

Since this seems too much for her, I’ve decided just to let her rest. It’s getting late anyway, and I have to go home. As I’m about to leave, she grabs my arm. She looks like she has something to ask me. “I’m sorry if I look like a nuisance, but can you tell me the truth about Kei? I know that he’s doing this just to keep me safe. But I still want to know,” she says to me.

To be honest, I feel reluctant to tell her anything about Mr. Ninomiya. There must be a reason why he’s hiding his true identity. Since she’s pleading me to tell her, I guess I have no choice but to tell her about Mr. Ninomiya’s real identity. “Well, what those guys from Awatori Group told you was right. He is working for Public Security Bureau. He did this because he wanted to find proof to convict Shinya Fukuyama. In fact, his real name is Kei Ninomiya.”

Nanase seems in disbelief when I tell her about Mr. Ninomiya’s true identity. She cries when she finds out about the truth. “I know that I have no right to say this, but please understand that he did this because he didn’t want you to be in danger. You mean a lot to him, so he doesn’t want anything bad happened to you. I hope you don’t blame him for this,” I say to her.

She shakes her head, telling me that she’s not blaming Mr. Ninomiya for what he does. “That’s alright, Touka. Thank you for telling me. To be honest, I know that he’s different than any other Muse Agency staffs. But I’ve never thought that he’s one of the officers from Public Security Bureau. It doesn’t matter who he is, I still love him. All I ever wish right now is for him to be safe.”

I leave the room so then Ms. Mikitani can rest. Dad and Mr. Sakakibara are waiting outside when I leave the room. “How is she?” Dad asks me. I shake my head. “It’s your typical mind control effect. She had no idea why she wanted to commit suicide. She was aware of the microchip implant in her body. But she didn’t know that it was the cause of her suicidal thought. She may not even realize that it can transform her into a perfect sex slave,” I answer.

“Speaking of Mr. Ninomiya,” Yuuto asks dad, “Does that mean he’ll be alright for the time being? I’m saying this because he used to be a PSIA officer before.” Dad nods. “Well, he knows how to handle things in a situation like this. But that doesn’t mean we can delay our rescue operation. I doubt that he can hang on much longer if he encounters someone like Momoko Sugita.”

Ms. Chiyo comes out of her room while we’re busy discussing about Kei Ninomiya. She looks frazzled when she comes out while holding a coffee mug. “Ms. Chiyo, are you alright? You seem like you’ve been burning the midnight oil,” I ask her. Ms. Chiyo smiles faintly when I ask her. “Well, I’ve been hacking through Muse Agency database the whole day. I’m trying to retrieve Kei Ninomiya’s profile information from their database,” she answers.

“So, did you find it?” Dad asks her. She nods while being busy with making coffee in the kitchen. “Yup, I did. Now, I’m trying to locate his current whereabouts. I can still detect his location even with just a phone number. I doubt that he’s using his actual phone number when he joined Muse Agency. This is why I’m digging their database just to retrieve his phone number. So far, I haven’t received any signal from him yet.”

Ms. Chiyo goes back into her room once she’s already done with making coffee. A few minutes after she enters her room, she busts out of her room. “Guys, I have good news. I already pick a signal which is most likely belongs to Kei,” she says to us. She looks joyful when she identifies that the signal does come from Mr. Ninomiya.

The rest of us go into her room to see where the signal is coming from. “According to the signal,” she explains, “It comes from the area somewhere in Odaiba. The signal only appears for a couple of moments only, so I presume that he’s still in the same area. I think we can catch up with him if we go to Odaiba now.” We examine the signals as Ms. Chiyo pulls out the information related to the signal she detects. She then transfers the location into our smart watch.

“I was wondering, why we’re only able to detect his signal now? Shouldn’t we be able to detect his whereabouts a few hours back?” I ask Ms. Chiyo. “Maybe he doesn’t want any of them to detect him. He doesn’t know how many people are pursuing him right now, so even a short burst of signal is enough to notify us. He knows that we’re paying attention to his signal all the time. And we’re the only one who can pick up the signal no matter how faint it is,” dad says to me.

Dad begins to brief us about our next mission after he’s done with analyzing the data that Ms. Chiyo provides. “Chiyo, I’d like to pinpoint Kei’s rough location so then we can go there and save him. Azuma, Touka, Yuuto and I will be heading to Odaiba based on the location Chiyo provides to us. And before we go, I want one of us to bring Ms. Mikitani to where Hayato is. At least Hayato can keep an eye on her.”

“I will bring her to where Hayato is,” I say, “But I need to put her in disguise. So then no one will know that she’s in our coffee shop. That should make Hayato’s job easier.” Dad approves my suggestion, and I go to Nanase’s room to tell her to get ready. Nanase is in bed, wrapping herself like a cocoon.

She turns her head when she realizes that I’m in her room. “I’m sorry, I don’t realize that you’re here,” she says to me. I just smile at her. “That’s okay. I’m sorry for just barging into the room.” I begin to tell her that we’re going to Odaiba to rescue Mr. Ninomiya. She looks happy when she knows that Mr. Ninomiya is still safe. She listens to every single thing I say. She even promises me that she won’t cause any problem to Hayato while waiting for him to return here.

It amazes me when she begins to disguise herself. She looks totally different than the looks I always see in the magazine. “Kei was the one who taught me on how to disguise myself. That’s the reason why I can slip under the paparazzi’s radar without a problem. When I think about it now, I don’t feel surprised anymore that he’s from Public Security Bureau.” I bring her to our house after her disguise is complete.

“Hayato, please take care of her while we’re away,” I say to him. “Don’t worry,” he says, “I will take care of her. Be sure to bring Mr. Ninomiya back. I’m pretty sure that he wants to see Ms. Mikitani too.” I leave the house after leaving her to Hayato. We head to Odaiba after our preparation for this mission is complete. We still have to go to Odaiba even though it’s almost midnight. For them, killing him will be much easier when it’s approaching midnight.

As we get into the car, Mr. Sakakibara begins to speed up. He’s driving so fast that it makes me feels like the car is about to fly. It seems like he’s switching the car mode into a manual driving. “Is that okay for you to drive this fast, Mr. Sakakibara?” I ask him. “Don’t worry about it. Despite the speed, I’m a good driver.” I don’t have anything to say other than hoping that we reach our destination in one piece.

It doesn’t take that long for us to reach the area where Mr. Ninomiya is located. There’s no sign of bloodbath in this area, so I assume that he’s still fine for now. I just hope that they don’t kill him and dump his body in the ocean. That’s going to be even more problematic if we have to retrieve his body from there. “We need to split ourselves. Please report back if you notice anything.” We head into the different direction after dad issues his order to us.

I run as fast as I can while looking for Mr. Ninomiya. It’s hard to look for him when everything seems fine to me. There’s no trace of someone who had a fight. And there’s no sign of blood splashing in any of the area around his supposed location. Well, it’s not that I’m hoping that he’s already dead by the time we’ve found him. It’s just that, there’s no clue that points out his current condition. Even a little clue is fine with me.

So far, there’s no report from any of us, which means that none of us have found him yet. Mr. Ninomiya, where in the world are you? Even Ms. Chiyo hasn’t found any new signal coming from him. Now, it’s up to us to find him by ourselves without relying on his signal. I don’t like to do a manual searching. But I don’t think I have much choice here if I’m looking for someone who is trying to disappear without a trace.

As I’m busy searching for the clue, I suddenly hear someone else’s breathing. It may only be a faint sound, but the sound seems like it’s coming from under the bridge. I don’t know whose breathing is that, but I’m hoping that it belongs to Mr. Ninomiya. I draw my gun just in case if I happen to come across an enemy while following the breathing trail.

The sound of the breathing becomes clearer as I’m getting closer. As I’m about to get closer, I notice there’s a trace of blood not far from where I hear the breathing sound. Once I’m under the bridge, I notice that Mr. Ninomiya is there. He’s already collapsed as soon as I’ve found him. “Mr. Ninomiya, are you alright?” I ask him as I approach him.

I’m glad that Mr. Ninomiya is still alive by the time I’ve found him, even though he’s slightly wounded. With this kind of injury, it can be hard for him to move around. But I guess his strong will to survive must have brought him here. Mr. Ninomiya opens up his eyes slowly when he notices me. “You are…” I stop him midway since this isn’t the time for me to introduce myself. “What happened to you?” I ask him.

He seems reluctant to tell me who did this. He looks more like he’s protecting the killer. “Just tell me who did this to you. There’s no point for you to hide it from me. The killer may come back here to kill you anytime,” I insist. He sighs before he begins to tell me the person who did this to him. “It was Shiori. I was hesitating to tell you because you’re Shiori’s best friend. I don’t want you to be mad for the thing she had done to me.”

I’m surprised to find out that Shiori is the one who tries to kill him. But, it shouldn’t be something surprising to me either. I should have known already that sooner or later, Shiori will be programmed to kill people. It’s hard for me to accept it, but there’s nothing I can do to change it.

“This is Touka. I’ve already found Mr. Ninomiya. He’s still alive, but he’s slightly wounded on his left waist. I need help here.” Mr. Sakakibara replies to me after a while. “Touka, please tell me your current location and we’ll pick you there.” I give him my current location and after a few minutes, everyone is here to treat Mr. Ninomiya’s injury.

Mr. Ninomiya seems surprised that I look calm even after knowing what Shiori did to him. But he doesn’t know how much it hurts me when I know that the mind control on Shiori is complete. I hate to say this, but maybe it’s my destiny to meet her again, not as a friend, but as her sworn enemy.

 

Chapter 12

“Where are we going?” Mr. Ninomiya asks one of us. Despite the injury, he’s still concerned about where we’re planning to bring him. “We’re going to my place. Your girlfriend is there too. Besides, we need to get you treated as soon as possible. Otherwise, your girlfriend will be angry at us,” Mr. Sakakibara answers him. He blushes whenever Mr. Sakakibara is making fun of his relationship with Nanase.

I’m sitting at the back with Mr. Ninomiya. “It amazes me that you guys are PSIA agents,” he says to me, “I know that you’re Senior Kimizuki’s children. But I’ve never met you guys in person until you came to see Shiori. It’s just that, I never thought that you would be involved in something this dangerous. You sure are something if you can join PSIA at such a young age.”

“No, there’s nothing spectacular about us. We just happen to be good enough to become PSIA agents. Besides, dad has been training us since we were kids. By the time we were 15, we were already good enough to become a PSIA agent,” I reply. He doesn’t have to know about our horrific involvement with the Transhuman Development Project. It’s because it’s going to be a lengthy explanation. And I don’t feel like doing it.

We arrive home after an hour drive from Odaiba. Ms. Shoko is already on standby when we arrive. “Good job, guys. I’m glad that we’ve made it this time as well,” she says to us when she sees us. It looks like Ms. Shoko is here, waiting for the news about Mr. Ninomiya’s safety. “I’m sorry, Ms. Mayuzumi,” Mr. Ninomiya apologizes to her. “That’s alright,” she says, “What’s important is that you’re safe now. That’s all matters to me.”

Once we’re upstairs, Ms. Chiyo then brings Mr. Ninomiya in another room to treat his injury. It’s better for Ms. Chiyo to double check his injury once again just to see if he has other injuries. We may have missed something since we were in a hurry during that time. In the meantime, the rest of us gather in the living room while waiting for Ms. Chiyo to treat Mr. Ninomiya.

“Did Ninomiya tell you anything about the person who injured him, Touka?” Ms. Shoko asks me. I feel contemplated to say that it was Shiori who tried to kill him. But even if I don’t tell them, they will find out about it eventually. It hurts me to say this that Shiori’s mind control is complete. “He stated that it was Shiori,” I answer her. Everyone doesn’t look surprised. It looks more to me that they already expect it all along.

“So, we’re too late to save her?” Yuuto asks me. I can only nod because I don’t think we have any option anymore to save her. Yuuto looks frustrated. He also feels that there’s nothing much he can do right now to reverse the situation. Ms. Shoko pats my shoulder, trying to comfort me. “I’m sorry to know about this, but you should be aware by now what you need to do. Whether you like it or not, you have to kill her,” she says to me.

Ms. Shoko’s words somehow petrify me. Despite knowing that I need to kill her, I begin to succumb to the fear that I may not be able to shoot her. I know that she will come and kill me if I don’t kill her, but I’m not sure if I can do this. Now, I feel powerless. Everything is just exactly what Satoru Yuuya wants from the beginning. He can’t stop me physically, but he can stop me mentally and emotionally.

Ms. Chiyo comes out of the room thirty minutes later. “How is he?” Ms. Shoko asks her. She looks anxious when she asks Ms. Chiyo about him. “Well, he was bleeding a lot. But luckily, we were quick enough to find him and treat him fast. Otherwise, I doubt that he’ll survive,” she replies. Suddenly, we hear a loud noise coming from downstairs. Nanase is the one who is running upstairs. She looks exhausted as she comes in.

“Where’s Kei? Please, let me see him,” she begs. Before Ms. Shoko says anything to her, I stop her track, signaling her to let me handle Nanase. “He’s in the room next door. He was injured, but luckily we were quick enough to treat him. Since his injury was quite severe, please allow him to rest. You can see him after that.” She cries, feeling relieved that Mr. Ninomiya is safe.

It takes a while for Mr. Ninomiya to be fully recovered. Throughout the time, Nanase insists on taking care of him until he’s awake. Even though she feels tired, she’s still pushing herself to look after him. Mr. Ninomiya must be really exhausted that it takes a long time for him to wake up. From the way Nanase is looking after him, I can tell how much she loves him. Mr. Ninomiya sure does mean a lot to her.

Mr. Ninomiya wakes up a few days later. His head hurts, but his injury is already healed completely. As I begin to bring him food, Nanase runs toward him and hugs him. I don’t think anyone tells her about him. Maybe it’s her instinct that tells her about it. “I’m so glad that you’re okay,” Nanase says to him, crying. “I’m happy to see you. You have no idea how much I miss you,” he says to her.

Seeing their happy reunion, there’s nothing I can do but stand still while holding the food tray. I don’t feel like disturbing them, so I just put down the tray on the bedside and leave. As I’m about to put the tray, dad suddenly barges into the room. He seems amused when he sees Nanase is hugging Mr. Ninomiya so tight. “Touka, what are you doing there? You shouldn’t meddle between the lovebirds. That’s not good, you know,” dad says to me.

Mr. Ninomiya blushes because dad is making fun of them. “Nanase, everyone is looking at us,” he whispers to her, trying to push her a bit. But Nanase doesn’t look like she’s going to budge at all. “No! I don’t care if anyone sees us like this. They’re not paparazzi anyway, so I’m fine with that.”

Dad only laughs at Mr. Ninomiya, making him even more embarrassed. “That’s okay, Mr. Ninomiya. I think you should be with her. I’m pretty sure that you guys have a lot of things to talk about. Even Ms. Shoko wants you to take your time. We can always speak to you later,” I say to him as I put the tray on the bedside. I leave the room after that.

Ms. Shoko comes after dad and I leave the room. “How is he?” She asks us. Before we can answer her, she enters the room only to find out that Mr. Ninomiya is cupping Nanase’s face. This makes Mr. Ninomiya even more embarrassed when he sees that Ms. Shoko is witnessing what they do. “It looks to me that you’re doing okay. I thought that you’re on the verge of death or something,” Ms. Shoko says to him.

Mr. Sakakibara and Yuuto who enter later are also witnessing the same thing. I think that Mr. Ninomiya feels even more embarrassed when the rest of us are seeing what they do. “I’m sorry to interrupt you, Ms. Mikitani,” Ms. Shoko says, “But we have urgent things to discuss with him. I hope you don’t mind to leave this room for a moment. This is confidential, so we can’t let you stay here.”

Mr. Ninomiya signals Nanase to leave the room. She seems reluctant at first. But she leaves the room after Mr. Ninomiya is whispering something to her. Once Nanase leaves the room, Ms. Shoko then starts asking Mr. Ninomiya something embarrassing. “Do you actually love her?” Ms. Shoko asks him. He looks beet red because of Ms. Shoko’s question.

Ms. Shoko sighs when she sees how Mr. Ninomiya feels guilty to answer her question. He looks like he’s trying to avoid answering the embarrassing question. “Look, I’m not against your relationship,” Ms. Shoko says, “I just don’t want you to pretend to love her. And you’re using her to convict Shinya Fukuyama. She seems serious about this, so I hope you’re not just pretending to love her.”

Mr. Ninomiya looks away from Ms. Shoko. “Of course, I do. When I say I love her, I mean what I say. I will still love her even if she’s not an idol. I love her for the way she is, even though Shinya Fukuyama programmed her to be a sex slave,” Mr. Ninomiya answers. He clenches his fist when he answers Ms. Shoko’s question. He seems furious whenever he thinks of Shinya Fukuyama.

Ms. Shoko seems relieved when Mr. Ninomiya is being honest about him loving Nanase. The atmosphere becomes awkward after that. So, I begin to ask Mr. Ninomiya first just to get ourselves out of the awkward situation. “Mr. Ninomiya,” I say to him, “When you say that Shiori came and attacked you, was she like Momoko Sugita? What I’m referring to is her behavior was absolutely not what you expected from her. Just tell us anything you notice.”

Mr. Ninomiya looks down when I ask him. “Yes, she was. I never met Momoko Sugita when she was in the assassin mode. But I could tell that Shiori’s movement wasn’t that different from her. In fact, I never told her anything about my real identity. Her movement was just like an experienced PSIA officer. There was no doubt about it,” he replies.

“What happened to her after that?” Ms. Shoko asks him. Mr. Ninomiya pauses for a while before he answers her question. “She left me after that. I thought that she would just kill me since I didn’t have a gun with me. But, she left without doing anything. At first, I thought that she still had a conscience within her. But when I think about it again, it doesn’t make sense. She didn’t want to kill me because she wanted me to tell you guys about her.”

Well, what Mr. Ninomiya says makes sense. If Shiori killed him, then no one will know about her. “I was wondering,” Yuuto says to him, “Was Shinya Fukuyama the one who instructed her to come after you? If that’s the case, I doubt that she would spare you. I’m pretty sure that she would never go against his order. We’ve never encountered anyone who was under the mind control opposed their master’s order.”

Everyone nods, agreeing with what Yuuto says. Even someone like Dr. Hayama couldn’t even oppose the program. At that time, he was still conscious about his thoughts and behavior. I doubt that they can go against their order when their alter ego is taking over their thoughts and behavior. That’s not going to happen for someone who has a mind control effect in a full swing.

“I’m sure that Shinya Fukuyama wants Ninomiya to die. There’s no doubt about it,” dad says to us, “But the absolute order will always come from Satoru Yuuya. I’m not sure about the other idols. But I think Satoru Yuuya has complete control over Momoko Sugita and Shiori. I don’t know what kind of agreement they have behind the back door. But Shinya Fukuyama may not bother so much with what Satoru Yuuya intends to do to both of them.”

“In other words, it was Satoru Yuuya who instructed Shiori to spare Mr. Ninomiya?” I ask dad. Dad nods at me. “Not only he wants Ninomiya to come here and tell us, but he also wants to lure you out. I hate to say this, but he’s still aiming for you even until now. Luring you to Shiori’s apartment was just the beginning. It’s possible that he also wants to lure Hayato out too,” dad answers.

Mr. Ninomiya agrees with what dad says. So, it seems like what dad says is true, after all. I should have known this all along that Satoru Yuuya will never let us off the hook no matter what. He will pursue us for the rest of our life. I don’t know why he wants me, but it’s unforgivable when he drags Shiori into this mess. He’s only using Shiori just to trap me. It was my fault all along that Shiori got herself into this mess. I’m sorry, Shiori, for what I did to you.

Yuuto pats my shoulder, trying to calm me down. “It’s alright, sis. Even though it’s already too late, we’ll do what we can to save her. We won’t know unless we try,” Yuuto says to me. I smile when Yuuto convinces me that there’s a possibility to save Shiori even though we’re not sure how. I guess I’ll figure that out later.

Mr. Ninomiya looks at me. He seems guilty for not being able to save Shiori. “I’m sorry, Touka. I wasn’t fast enough to save her. I even fell into their trap. I could have saved her if it wasn’t because of my mistake,” he says to me. Ms. Shoko sighs when she hears Mr. Ninomiya’s words. “There’s no point for you to grieve about it,” she says to him, “For now, just tell us what you know. We can use your information for better preparation to save Shiori.”

Mr. Ninomiya nods at her. “Alright, I’ll do my best to tell you everything based on my investigation. And also from what I got from Koutarou. I think I should begin with talking about Shinya Fukuyama’s relationship with Satoru Yuuya first.” He then begins to tell us about his finding while he was disguising himself as one of the Muse Agency staffs.

“It was Saburo Matsuda who introduced Satoru Yuuya to him. As you guys already know, Saburo Matsuda was one of the guests who attended his private party. He knew that Satoru Yuuya’s mind control research would benefit someone like him. Maybe he thought that the idols would be receptive to him if they had a mind control device.”

When I hear about this, it’s hard to believe that someone like Saburo Matsuda can be smart sometimes. But just like any other deals, he certainly wants something out of Shinya Fukuyama from this deal. I don’t think that he was doing this because he was honestly wanted to help Shinya Fukuyama. He was willing to help Shinya Fukuyama in exchange for a personal time with the idols. And he wanted it more than what he got in the private party.

“So, before Satoru Yuuya’s involvement, none of the idols have a microchip implant?” Mr. Sakakibara asks him. Mr. Ninomiya nods at him. “Yup, at that time, these idols were being treated like a sex slave in exchange for their fame and fortune. Only a few of them were willing to do this. But for the majority of them, they were doing this because they had no choice. They had to do this because their career was on the line.”

It must be awful to them for not being able to escape from a tyranny like this. And it’s even worse when their career is depending on it. “What makes Satoru Yuuya agreed to do this for him? Does that mean his research about mind control device was already complete at that time?” Dad asks him. “I guess at that time, his research was most likely in the testing phase. He won’t consider the one that the researchers had as a mind control device. Though, we can classify it that way,” Ms. Shoko answers.

“Satoru Yuuya came to the office himself. He was asking for their personal profiles and their medical record. At that time, I was only doing a clerical job. I wasn’t yet a manager,” Mr. Ninomiya replies, “Once he took a look at it, he then agreed to use them in his experiment. In exchange for his research, he only wanted Momoko Sugita to serve for him.”

I can guess that he only wanted Momoko Sugita to serve him because of her extreme abuse in the past. That’s also the same with Shiori. Both of them have more or less the same condition. And this will make them a perfect candidate to program them into a skilled assassin. Maybe later on, he asks Shinya Fukuyama if he can take Shiori with him. I don’t think Shinya Fukuyama would refuse his request since it’s not too much from him. It’s different for Saburo Matsuda, though.

Mr. Ninomiya continues to tell us about his finding. “They only began to do the microchip implant on the idols phase by phase, though. They didn’t do it at once. And the procedure was done with the help of underground doctors. But the first few people who received a microchip implant was Sayaka Minami and Nanase. All idols experienced some sort of abuse in the past. But only Sayaka Minami and Nanase were having an extreme case of sexual abuse.”

“Sayaka Minami and Ms. Mikitani were one of the sex slaves in the private party. So, what about Momoko Sugita? Was she included as well?” Yuuto asks him. “No, she wasn’t on the list as one of the sex slaves for the private party. There were quite a few guests who requested her. But he couldn’t use her as a sex slave. He already gave her to Satoru Yuuya. You can say that she already belongs to him. And there’s nothing he can do about it,” Mr. Ninomiya answers.

For some weird reason, Ms. Shoko smirks at Mr. Ninomiya. “You seem to know a lot about what’s happening at the private party. Did you go to the private party? I’m sure you were able to see a lot of interesting things while you were there.” Mr. Ninomiya looks pissed when Ms. Shoko is making fun of him. “You were the one who told me to sneak into the private party! What sort of question is that?” He yells at Ms. Shoko, but she only laughs seeing his reaction.

“So, that’s how Nanase met you?” I ask him. “Yup, when I think about it, I was meeting her when she was in such a sad and embarrassing condition,” he replies. “So, you met her when she was naked?” Dad teases him when he asks him. Mr. Ninomiya blushes because of dad’s question. I guess maybe it’s true that he found her when she was naked. He doesn’t have to tell us if he doesn’t want to.

“Not only she was naked at that time. But her body had many dark bruises everywhere too,” he answers, “I had no idea who was having sex with her at that time. But he must have abused her while they were having sex. On top of that, the door was wide open when I found her. So, no one was in the room other than her.”

I can’t imagine how someone like Nanase can go through a nasty experience like this. On top of that, it must be embarrassing for her to be found by Mr. Ninomiya in such situation. “How did you know the location of his private party? I thought that the private party was by invitation and referral only?” Mr. Sakakibara asks him. “The private party is always held in Shinya Fukuyama’s private mansion in Karuizawa. It’s only the date and the time which is unknown,” he answers.

Mr. Ninomiya then continues with his findings. “I went there with Nanase’s former manager. None of the managers were aware of the private party being a sex party for the guests. They thought that the party was held as a way to celebrate their achievement. After all, they weren’t allowed to attend the party. Everyone knew that Shinya Fukuyama never made any public appearance. So, that was their chance to see him in the flesh. That was what everyone thought at first.”

“Before that,” I ask him, “What happened to the manager?” Mr. Ninomiya looks sad when he recalls about Nanase’s former manager. “Ever since she found out the truth about the private party, she left the agency. She felt guilty for what she did to Nanase even though it wasn’t even her fault. It was thanks to her that I knew about the private party. She felt uneasy about it, so she wanted me to come with her to Karuizawa. We brought Nanase to the hospital after that.”

I’m happy to know that there are still some people who are concerned about the idols. I’m not sure about the other managers, but Nanase is lucky to have someone like her as a manager. But then again, Nanase is also nice to her manager as well. Otherwise, her manager would never bother to go all the way to Karuizawa just to save her.

“Did she know what happened to her before and after that?” Ms. Shoko asks him. Mr. Ninomiya shakes his head. “Unfortunately, she couldn’t recall what happened to her before that. Her last memory was she was in one of the rooms in Shinya Fukuyama’s private mansion. And the person she was with seemed like a high ranking officer from the government agency. She even had no recollection that the man abused her and made her unconscious during sex.”

Nanase’s case is just like a typical mind control effect. This is the same scenario she experienced when she committed suicide. She had no recollection of why she did that. She only found out about this when her manager told her about it. “So this is how you and Ms. Mikitani got close?” Ms. Shoko asks him with a smirk. Mr. Ninomiya nods, still blushing. “Long story short,” he says to us, “I had to be her temporary manager after that. That was when we became close.”

After hearing this, I’m glad to know that there is a positive outcome coming from this mission. Though, it seems unexpected for us. I bet that Mr. Ninomiya is feeling the same about this too. “That’s a wonderful story, but you still haven’t told me how in the world they blew up your cover. Everything seems fine until that day. So, how did that happened?” Ms. Shoko asks him.

She seems angry when she asks him. Mr. Ninomiya seems guilty because of it. Before Mr. Ninomiya says anything, dad signals him to stop for a moment. He pats Ms. Shoko’s shoulder to calm her down. “Listen, Shoko,” he says to her, “It’s not his fault that they already knew who he was. Sooner or later, they will eventually find out that he’s a spy from Public Security Bureau. This is beyond his control, no matter how cautious he is.”

He then looks at Mr. Ninomiya. “You did a good job, Ninomiya,” he praises him, “It was unfortunate that they’ve found out about you. But you should expect this from the beginning that they will blow out your cover sooner or later. At least, we’re glad to know that you’re alright.” Mr. Ninomiya looks down. He seems relieved that dad doesn’t think that he has disappointed his seniors. “I’m sorry for being harsh to you. But I do think you did a good job,” Ms. Shoko says to him.

I can tell that Mr. Ninomiya feels guilty for not being able to save Shiori. “I don’t blame you, Mr. Ninomiya,” I say to him, “I’ve already expected this. We know that we may not be able to save her the moment Satoru Yuuya took her away. At this point, I’m pretty sure that her mind control will be complete. It’s not surprising that she’ll be pointing a gun at you.”

Dad sighs when he sees that Mr. Ninomiya is still feeling guilty for what happened to Shiori. “You’d better not underestimate her, Ninomiya,” dad says to him, “It may already be too late to save her. But she’s not going to give up. I know that my daughter can handle this, even if it’s painful for her. In fact, she’s much stronger than me when it comes to emotion stability. Even I can’t win against her when it comes to this.”

I’m not sure whether what dad says is only to cheer him up. But I’m still thankful that dad believes that I’m doing just fine. Mr. Ninomiya seems to lighten up a bit. I guess he must have blamed himself for what happened to Shiori. Well, it’s understandable he feels guilty because he knows that Shiori is my best friend. And he had a high chance of saving her before Satoru Yuuya captured her.

Yuuto and I head home after the conversation is over. Dad and Mr. Sakakibara are going to have a drink with Mr. Ninomiya, so I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be there. As we reach home, I notice that there is a note. And the note is left for me. I thought that it must be Hayato who had left the note for us.

As I open to read it, I realize that Hayato isn’t the one who sends me the note. It happens to be a note from someone I don’t expect to get. ‘Please see me at the rooftop in Muse Agency at 10 p.m. You can access the rooftop from the outside without going inside the agency building. I want you to be there all by yourself. Regards, Shiori.’

It’s hard to believe that Shiori is the one who sent me the note. From the look of it, it looks more like the note is coming from Shiori’s alter ego. I can’t tell whether if it’s a trap or if it’s the real Shiori who wants to see me secretly. But the only thing I can do right now is to be cautious with this. Maybe this is another trap for me.

Before anyone notices the note, I quickly discard the note. I don’t want anyone to know that I’m going to meet Shiori tonight. It’s dangerous for me to do this on my own. But I don’t know what’s going to happen if Shiori notices that the rest of them are backing me up in disguise. Anything can happen in an unexpected way. This is true when there’s a microchip implant that controls every single of her moves.

 

Chapter 13

“Touka, where are you going?” Hayato asks me as I’m about to leave the house. I wish I can tell him about the note that Shiori left for me. I don’t know what Shiori’s alter ego will do if she notices that there is someone else besides me. “Does it have anything to do with the note that you got just now?” Hayato asks me again. I guess I can never hide anything from him. He’s no different than dad. He will always pester me until I tell him everything.

“Yes, it’s a note from Shiori. To be exact, it’s a note from her alter ego,” I answer him. Hayato doesn’t say anything after that. As I’m about to leave, Hayato starts speaking to me. “You’ll go first. Yuuto and I will follow suit. Let’s pretend that we’re following you and you don’t even realize it. I know that will only make you look careless, but we’ll do our best to fool her.”

I feel relieved that I don’t have to say anything about helping me behind the scene. He sure knows what to do when dad is not around. “I have a feeling that Shiori wants to settle things with me fast. I guess this is going to be our final showdown.” Yes, that’s what my gut feeling is telling me. I feel like she was letting Mr. Ninomiya alive just to tell me that she will come after me later on. She’s been aiming for me all this time.

“You don’t think about saving her this time?” Hayato’s question has caught me off guard. At this point, I’m not even sure whether I can save her or not. I wish I don’t have to do anything that will put me in a position to kill her. But I don’t think I can do that. Whenever I have to fight anyone who is under the mind control, it will always have one outcome. It’s either the other person or me will die. It’s never a happy ending in that situation.

“I don’t know. I can only tell when I see her. But if there is a chance, I will save her. Even if it means that the probability is almost close to zero.” Hayato only smiles when he hears my reply. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll do what we can to help you. We also want a happy ending for this. If we can save another one person, that’s already good enough for the rest of us.”

Hayato’s word makes me feel assured about the good outcome. Without wasting time, I head to Shibuya. This is where Muse Agency is located. Since the agency is somewhat far from where we live, I have to take a train to go there. Throughout the time I’m inside the train, I wish I can confront Shiori without resorting me to shoot her. I hope it’s going to be a peaceful confrontation, but it seems like a rare possibility to me.

It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for me to reach Shibuya Station. And that doesn’t include the time for me to walk to Muse Agency since the building is a bit far from the train station. Once I reach the rooftop through the staircase, Shiori is there waiting for me. It is a cold night, with the dim moonlight shines on the rooftop. Her gun is placed right on her right waist. From the look of it, it doesn’t look like she’s going to fight me the moment I’m here.

She notices as I’m already at the rooftop. “Just like what I expect from someone like you. I guess PSIA agents are pretty confident to come here and face an assassin on their own,” Shiori says to me. Just like Momoko Sugita, her voice sounds different than Shiori. Even at a first glance, I know that the person right in front of me is not even her. She only uses Shiori as a physical mean to come in contact with me.

“You’re not Shiori, aren’t you?” I ask her. She chuckles as I debunk her true identity. “Well, you’re right about that. I’m not Shiori. My name is Natsu. This is the name that Shiori gives me as her alter ego. You already know that Shiori and I are a different person. So, I prefer you to address me as Natsu from now onward.” I cringe when I hear her introducing herself as Natsu. How dare she use Shiori’s body to play around with me!

Natsu looks amused when she sees how annoying I am with her self-introduction. “I understand that you don’t like me. But then again, you have to face the fact that Shiori you know is no longer exist. Shiori’s real personality is already gone. Only her physical body remains the same.” Her words irritate me even more. “So, you’re free to do anything you want?” I ask her in anger.

She only laughs at me when she sees my reaction. She looks like she’s enjoying herself toying around with me. “Well, yes. That is as long as Shiori’s real personality doesn’t resurface. She can be a pain to deal with whenever it has anything to do with you. But still, the possibility for her real personality to resurface is zero. In this condition, her real personality will never resurface until my master says so.”

I have no idea what she intends to do other than making a fool out of myself. But I have to agree with her about this. I can guess that if something like this will occur, it will only cause a chaos within her. Satoru Yuuya is already programming the microchip implant to act this way. The real personality will only resurface until he says so.

“You don’t look like you’re putting any hope that she will resurface in the middle of the fight. I should applaud you for that,” she says to me. Her voice is more than enough to irritate me. Without thinking too much, I quickly draw my gun. There’s no reason for me to stay with her any longer. Natsu only smirks when she sees me pointing a gun at her.

“Wow, you don’t even hesitate to shoot your best friend. It seems like you don’t even care about her and your friendship after all,” she says to me in a mocking tone. “Shut up! You’re not even Shiori anyway. Why should I even care about that?” I yell at her. I hate to say this, but my behavior right now is according to her plan. I’m literally dancing on the palm of her hand, following the tune that she creates.

“Hold on, girl. If you shoot her, you’re not just dragging me to the death door, but her as well. You’d better think twice before you pull the trigger,” she says to me. I smirk at her. Now, it’s her turn to play alongside with my tune. Before she can do anything, I already come near her and kick her. As a result, she falls down farther than where I’m standing. She seems surprised with my surprise attack.

“I’m amazed that you just struck her without worrying about her. You sure are not afraid of anything,” she says to me as she stands up to regain her composure. “It’s easy for me to do it. Shiori’s personality will never resurface until Satoru Yuuya tells her to do so. In the meantime, I can beat the crap out of you. Even if Shiori notices the bruises all over her body, I know how to coerce her to believe what I say,” I say to Natsu.

Natsu chuckles at my words. “It looks like Master Yuuya is right about you. It’s not easy to make a fool out of yourself. I guess I have no choice but to kill you then. Otherwise, you’re going to cause a threat to us in the future.” Master Yuuya? Calling him with such an honor shouldn’t be something surprising to me. But it feels weird for me to hear Shiori is addressing him this way.

Natsu begins her counterattack after I’ve landed an attack on her. Her counterattack is fast, but it’s not as deadly as Momoko Sugita’s counterattack. Momoko Sugita’s counterattack feels more like she has a similar strength to Hayato. But in Natsu’s case, hers is more or less the same as me. Her attacks may not be that strong. But that doesn’t mean I won’t get myself injured if she lands a successful attack on me. I still need to be careful.

After a few attacks, Natsu looks so exhausted. I understand that the fast counterattack may have zapped her stamina. But it’s unusual to see someone who possesses such strength to be this exhausted. In fact, it’s not even her body to begin with. As she continues her attack, she’s no longer as fast as before. In fact, her attack seems to lose its strength. This makes my attack even deadlier than her.

My attack somehow hits her vital organ, causing her to have an internal bleeding. She starts to cough out blood as she’s about to stand up. Despite her injury, she begins to grab the gun on her waist. In general, it won’t take that long for someone like her to draw a gun and starts shooting me. It’s unfortunate for her that I’m fast enough to kick her hand before she’s able to pull the trigger. As a result, the gun flies off from her hand.

She cringes when she sees her gun slips from her grip and flies far from her location. I thought that she’s going to grab the gun and draw it when the time is right. But it seems like she heads straight to me and continues to attack me non-stop. There’s no doubt that despite the injury, she still moves like a martial art expert. But then again, I can tell that her body is about to reach its limit. And she will begin to fall apart any time soon.

Natsu continues to attack me. She doesn’t seem to care about her body reaching its limit. With her attack isn’t as speedy as the last time, it’s easy for me to evade her and launch my counterattack. Her attack no longer becomes a threat to me even if it hits my vital point. She looks more exhausted than the last time. Because of this, it gives me a chance to attack her, making her to fall down. She’s no longer able to get up because of my attack.

She looks frustrated as I begin to point the gun at her, getting ready to pull the trigger. As I’m about to pull the trigger, a flash of thoughts comes into my mind. My memories with Shiori suddenly come to me. It’s only for a few moments, but the memories I have with her plays continuously in a fluid motion. As the memories begin to take over my mind, I feel like my finger paralyzed out of sudden. Now, I can’t pull the trigger to shoot Natsu.

“What’s wrong with you? Aren’t you the one who want to kill me so badly? Why are you freezing here?” She smirks at me when she says this. It looks like she notices that I can’t pull the trigger no matter how much I want to kill her. “Ah, I get it. You can’t pull the trigger because if you do that, you end up killing your best friend. You hesitate because you don’t want to feel guilty for what you do. Heh, you’re not as strong as I thought,” she says to me.

I hate to admit it, but she’s right. I know that the person who is right in front of me is not even Shiori to begin with. I want to kill her alter ego, but killing her will also mean that I will kill Shiori in the process. The burden of carrying the guilt throughout my life feels much stronger than ever. I guess this is the feeling that scares me the most.

As I’ve become lost in my own terror, I fail to realize that there’s someone else approaching me from behind. “Good job, Natsu. You’re able to stop her track even without relying on strength. You don’t have to kill her physically if you want to win this fight. You already win the moment your enemy is about to fall apart mentally and emotionally.” That voice seems familiar to me. Don’t tell me that Satoru Yuuya is here and he’s right behind me?

When I turn around, I realize that Satoru Yuuya is already behind me. When does he come here? I don’t even realize his presence at all. With Satoru Yuuya is here, then that means they’re going to kill me again. “Don’t worry. He’s not here to kill you. He only wants to see you in person,” Natsu says to me. I don’t trust what Natsu says to me, but I do admit that I can’t feel any murderous intent coming from him.

“We meet again, Touka Kimizuki,” Satoru Yuuya greets me. My hand is shaking as I’m not sure who I should point my gun to. “Why are you standing still? Don’t you think this is your opportunity to shoot Natsu? She can’t do anything to evade your shot. She can’t even shoot you in this distance because she doesn’t have a gun with her. If you don’t, the situation will be reversed. And you end up in hot water instead.”

Satoru Yuuya’s words hurt me more than I thought. He’s trying to lure me to shoot Natsu. Satoru Yuuya is getting closer to me. And yet, I look confused, not knowing the course of action I should take. Natsu smirks at me when she sees how indecisive I am. It looks to me that luck isn’t on my side, even at this given moment.

Before Satoru Yuuya is getting any closer, someone comes from behind, stopping his track. “Sorry, you can’t go any further than this.” Hayato is fast enough to stop him before he gets any closer to me. His arm is curling around Satoru Yuuya while pointing his tactical pen at his neck. “Listen, Touka. Whether you like it or not, you have no choice but to shoot her now,” Hayato says to me.

Hayato’s word gives me the courage to shoot Natsu despite not even sure whether it’s the right thing to do or not. Before Natsu can say anything, I shoot her without hesitating. Instead of shooting straight to her chest, I shoot at her leg instead. “I can’t kill you, but I can stop your track by shooting your leg. In the worst case scenario, someone else will shoot you on my behalf if you try to do anything funny.”

Since Hayato is here, I bet that Yuuto is here too. He’s currently waiting for the opportunity to shoot any of them at the given moment. Satoru Yuuya seems surprised with my action, but he only smiles when he witnesses what I’ve done. “I’m amazed that you would take such action. I don’t expect you to shoot her leg. But it’s interesting to see that you’ll do something beyond my expectation,” he says to me.

Satoru Yuuya only smiles despite the fact that Hayato is gripping tightly on his neck. “You don’t expect me to be able to free myself from your grip, do you?” Before Hayato can do anything, he elbows Hayato’s chest. His attack will allow him to free himself from Hayato’s grip. I find it hard to believe that he’s able to land an attack on Hayato and making him to fall back.

I guess this is the first time I see someone who is able to make Hayato falls back like that. The attack must be strong enough for him to make him fall on the ground. I know that it’s not easy for any normal human being to knock down someone like Hayato. If Satoru Yuuya is able to knock him down in a split second, it means that he must have the same strength as Hayato.

As I’m about to attack him, Satoru Yuuya warns me not to get any closer to him. “You’d better not do anything reckless, Ms. Kimizuki. Otherwise, you’ll be in a worst condition than him. You should know by now that you have no chance to win against me. Maybe you do have a chance if both of you come and fight me, though,” he says to me.

I cringe when he says those things to me. It never crosses my mind that Satoru Yuuya can be this strong. I admit that he’s a pure genius, but I never thought that his strength is the same as Hayato. With his strength like this, I don’t think it’ll be an easy feat to capture him. It looks like we can only rely on Hayato to capture him since we’ll be dead meat even by just getting near him.

He smiles when he looks at my direction. “What are you going to do next? Are you going to fight me on your own?” I sigh when he asks me that. “I like to settle things by exchanging fists with you, but I don’t think it will lead me to the answers to my questions. But he’s going to fight on my behalf instead,” I say to him as I point my finger at Hayato. Hayato regains his composure after Satoru Yuuya knocks him down.

As he walks towards Hayato, I notice a bullet is heading to his direction. It must be Yuuto who shoots him. Despite his accurate shot, Satoru Yuuya is still able to dodge his shot. It’s rare for someone like Yuuto to miss his shot. But I guess that Satoru Yuuya must have known all along that Yuuto will shoot him. It’s even much easier if he can guess Yuuto’s current location. The only thing for him to do is to avoid the shot when he needs to.

After Yuuto’s failed attempt to shoot Satoru Yuuya, he walks to Hayato as if nothing happens to him. “It’s good to see you again, Kusanagi,” he greets Hayato, “I just don’t expect you to fight with them. I guess the phrase birds of feather flock together seem accurate for you guys.” Both of them remain silent and stand still for a moment, waiting for a chance to start their attack.

After a while, the fight between them begins. Since both of them are equal in strength, it’s hard to know who has the upper hand since the fight is so intense. All I can say is the fight is more like a fight between two monsters in a human form. Even after the intense fight, none of them seems to back away. They’re not going to end the fight just yet. Before Hayato is about to launch another attack, Satoru Yuuya signals him to stop. He seems like he wants to surrender.

“I admit that I enjoy this fight. In fact, I haven’t had a fight this intense for so long. I wish I can fight you a bit longer, but it’s a shame that I need to leave now.” Hayato looks frustrated when Satoru Yuuya stops the fight. “Wait,” I yell at him, “If you intend to leave now, at least tell us why you’re doing this. Why you killed your colleagues in UC Berkeley? Why you agreed to take part in Transhuman Development Project? And why you’ve decided to use the mind control device on these idols?”

He chuckles when I ask him that. “Ms. Kimizuki,” he answers, “I thought that you guys understand this better. We have a lot of things in common. One of the things we have in common is curiosity. And another one is we killed someone before in the past. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the name of self-protection. Or maybe you’re just curious how it feels like when you kill someone with your own hand.”

I admit that we do have something in common, but I don’t kill people because I’m curious. I only do it because I have no choice. I wish I don’t have to, but if I don’t, they will kill me instead. That was the situation both Yuuto and I was in when these people were pursuing us at that time. Satoru Yuuya only chuckles when he sees how much I frown upon his answers.

“Ms. Kimizuki, don’t get me wrong,” he says to me, “I know that you guys kill people because you have no choice. But it’s different in my case. I killed people because I was curious about the feeling of killing people with my own hand. Besides, I was also wondering about my own strength and intelligence too. Don’t you think that the best way to test it out is by killing them? At least they were able to see the power of transhuman for themselves.”

So, that’s the reason why he killed them all? I try to identify if he hides his real reason behind killing them, but I don’t sense anything. I guess maybe it’s true that he’s doing this because he’s curious. “What about Transhuman Development Project and also implementing mind control devices on these idols? Were you doing it because of curiosity as well?” I ask him.

He nods when I ask him those questions. “That’s right. I’m only doing it because I’m curious, even at the expense of someone else’s life. My research about using a microchip implant as a mind control device was only my pet project back then. I never thought that it would be completed during Transhuman Development Project. It amazed me even more that these researchers ended up being my guinea pig without knowing it.”

He smiles as he continues to tell me more about his reason. “I never thought that it will allow me to witness something interesting along the way. This is true especially when I have Momoko Sugita and your friend at my disposal. Sure, Transhuman Development Project is already history. But that doesn’t mean I can’t observe you. You, your brother and Kusanagi are my interesting test subjects. You guys never fail to amuse me. ”

I become even more frustrated after hearing his reasons. After our brief conversation, he then picks up Natsu’s gun and heads towards her. I don’t know why, but I have a bad feeling that something is about to happen. For some reason, my whole body feels paralyzed out of sudden. I know that I should run towards him and stops him. But somehow, my legs are not moving at all. It feels like there’s some sort of unknown force which prevents me from moving.

Once he’s near Natsu, he begins to whisper something to her. “Good job, Natsu. But too bad, this is the end.” As soon as he whispers the phrase to her, Natsu snatches the gun from his hand and starts to place it on her head. Satoru Yuuya only smiles when he sees how desperate I am to move as fast as I can just to stop her from shooting herself.

“I’m sorry, Touka. You should know already that I can’t defy the program. And it won’t help at all even if you try to butt in. It’s not going to work. It was short, but I’m glad to know you. Thanks for being nice to Shiori.” She smiles and closes her eyes when she’s about to shoot herself in the head. A loud bang fills the silence as she pulls the trigger. The blood starts to flow from her head after the shot. Even in this situation, she still smiles at me even until the end of her life.

I stop midway because I find it hard to believe that Shiori dies right in front of me. And I’m too powerless to stop her. As I’m grieving over Shiori’s death, Hayato is quick enough to chase after Satoru Yuuya. He’s at the edge of the building after he whispers something to Shiori. He looks like he’s about to jump from the rooftop. He smiles when he looks at me. “What a shame that you can no longer save your friend anymore,” he says to me.

He begins to jump off from the rooftop after he says that to me. Even Hayato fails to react fast enough to grab him before he falls off. After witnessing the tragic scene, I don’t even move an inch. I still find it hard to grasp what’s happening right now. I only come to my own realization when Yuuto contacts me.

“Sis, I hate to say this, but I can’t identify the person who is lying on the ground. But the dead body is now attracting the crowds who happen to be in the nearby area. And they seem to suspect that the body comes from the rooftop. So, it’s better for you and Hayato to leave as soon as possible before they go there. It’ll be dangerous for you to stay there. I already informed dad about this, so he and Ms. Shoko will head there soon,” Yuuto says to me.

I find it hard to believe that the person who died is not Satoru Yuuya. But who in the world is that? Despite Yuuto’s warning, I still can’t move despite knowing that I have to. My body doesn’t feel like wanting to leave Shiori behind. “Touka, we should go down as soon as possible. It’s better for us to leave this place before we get ourselves caught up. Keep in mind that we’re the only people here. They may suspect us if we don’t leave this place fast,” Hayato says to me.

Hayato helps me to stand up and drags me to leave this place. Once we reach the ground, we can hear people whispering about the person who falls down from the rooftop. Judging from their conversation, they don’t seem to know anything about the person. I think that Satoru Yuuya must have killed someone and use this person as his scapegoat.

While I can leave this matter to the police, I feel like asking people around. I don’t know why, but I have a bad feeling about this. “Excuse me, what’s going on here?” I ask one of the people there. It’s better for me to ask any of them just to avoid suspicion on me. “Someone fell from Muse Agency rooftop. I have no idea who he is, but I think he must be working here. Otherwise, he won’t choose to jump off from this building,” one of the people says to me.

Both Hayato and I have decided to have a look at the scene for ourselves after that. As we get nearer to the scene, I realize that the person who died is actually Shinya Fukuyama. How in the world Shinya Fukuyama ends up dead instead? After witnessing the scene, both Hayato and I leave the crowd. “The person who died just now is indeed Shinya Fukuyama,” I whisper to him.

Hayato looks surprised when I tell him that. “How do you know it’s him?” He asks me. I pause for a while before I answer him. “I saw him in a picture. Shiori had shown me a picture of her with him before. So, I knew it was him at a first glance.” Hayato and I leave the place after that. It’s hard to believe that Satoru Yuuya also killed Shinya Fukuyama. We don’t know why he killed him, but I’m not surprised that he’s doing it out of pure fun.

I should have known that a person like Satoru Yuuya will never commit suicide. A few days after the incident, the police had confirmed the identity of the person who fell from the rooftop. That person is indeed Shinya Fukuyama. Not only that, but we also can’t find Satoru Yuuya anywhere. It looks like he disappears without a trace once again. For some reason, I feel that we will cross the path with him someday. It’s just that, I don’t even know when it will happen. It sure is tragic, but I’m glad that it’s over.

 

Epilogue

“Thank you,” Shiori says to me. I look at her with a puzzled look. “For what?” She shrugs when I ask her that. “Everything you do for me. And that includes setting me free.” Setting her free? I still look confused when Shiori tells me that. “What I mean by that,” she says, “It’s for setting me free from those tortures. I can only do this with your help. So, please don’t blame yourself. I just want you to live a happy life.” Shiori parts her way after she says that.

Shiori appears in my dream once again a few weeks after her death. I cry as I wake up from the dream. I don’t even know that she always wishes that she will be free from the misery. We took charge of her funeral since she didn’t have a family. She always told me that she wished to have a family like mine, so we’ve decided to take charge of the funeral for her. Even dad was okay with this because he also treated Shiori like his own daughter. This was the least we could do for her. It wasn’t much, but I hope that she was okay with this.

I just move along with my usual life. I may look okay on the outside, but my heart is trembling in sorrow. It’s hard for me to go on with my life. It feels like Shiori’s death is only yesterday. Even a few weeks after her funeral, I still go to the graveyard to visit her grave. “You’re going there again?” Yuuto asks me. I nod my head without saying anything to him. He also doesn’t say anything back to me. And he goes home without me after that.

As I reach Shiori’s grave, I begin to offer a silent prayer for her. During her funeral, only close friends and family were attending her funeral. We didn’t disclose her funeral and even her grave to her fans. We don’t want strangers to come and visit her. We don’t know what they’re planning to do if they come here. Maybe they throw rubbish at her grave. Or maybe they scribble nasty words on her grave. Sure, they don’t necessary have any ill intention. But we’re just being cautious here.

There are so many things running through my mind as I stand right in front of her grave. I still remember vividly how she died right in front of me. Just like Shinya Fukuyama’s death, her death was also related to Satoru Yuuya. So, the police declared their death as a suicide just to hide their actual cause of death. People who knew Shiori found it hard to believe that someone like her would commit suicide. It felt surreal to them.

I understand their feeling. But we couldn’t disclose her real cause of death for confidential reason. Even if we could, it was still obvious that she died because she shot herself in the head. Besides her death, everyone was also surprised with Shinya Fukuyama’s death. They felt weird that both of them died at the same time. Even worse, their cause of death was similar.

Because of this, there was a rumor going on in Tako Forum. According to the rumor, Shiori was Shinya Fukuyama’s secret lover. Maybe there was a tension in their relationship which prompted him to kill her. They were saying that the tension occurred because she wanted their relationship to be public. But Shinya Fukuyama refused. In the end, he killed her and disguised her death as a suicide. After he killed her, he committed suicide.

Of course, many of her fans backlashed the rumor. They felt that the rumor was rather absurd. They knew that Shiori had never dated anyone. And Shinya Fukuyama had only paid attention to her when she got a major debut. Other than that, there was no evidence that pointed out their secret relationship. Even Mr. Nishikawa debunked that the rumor was not true at all. I was grateful to Mr. Nishikawa for clearing Shiori’s name from this rumor.

As for Shinya Fukuyama, he was already dead before he fell down from the agency building. We suspected that Satoru Yuuya was the one who killed him. Based on the autopsy report, there was a choking mark on his neck. So, we assumed that Satoru Yuuya must be the one who choked him. It was possible for him to do it because of his superhuman strength.

After we held a private wake, Ms. Shoko allowed us to organize a public wake for her. Her public wake was the same like the public wake for Momoko Sugita. There were many people who were attending her public wake and offered a silent prayer to her. With so many people attending the public wake, they also noticed something suspicious. They noticed that the police kept on going in and out of the Muse Agency building.

This was when they found out that Public Security Bureau was closing down the talent agency by force. They had enough evidence to convict Shinya Fukuyama for sex trafficking conduct. This drastic action by them came as a surprise to the idol industry. They found it hard to believe that Shinya Fukuyama would do such thing. Even the general public was surprised that something like this did happen in Japan. And they didn’t expect it would occur in the idol industry.

Of course, active users in Tako Forum and Mr. Nishikawa’s blog readers already knew this. They didn’t find anything surprising about this news. On top of that, they were also making fun of the people who were denying what Mr. Nishikawa has been saying all this time. Some of the comments left on his blog and even on Tako Forum were harsh, though. So, I didn’t feel like reading what they’ve posted word-by-word.

After the forced close down, idols who had yet to go major debut were still not giving up on their dream. They even joined another agency so then they would get a major debut someday. Despite their willingness, it was still difficult to get accepted by the other talent agencies. In the end, only a few of them were lucky enough to be able to continue as an idol. As for the other idols, they’ve decided to quit. They didn’t want the same thing happened to them again.

Ms. Shoko encouraged them to undergo the therapy to overcome their trauma. At the same time, she also has arranged the operation to remove the microchip implant from their body. They seemed scared of the procedure at first. But after a few consultation sessions with the surgeon, they agreed to do it.

Mr. Johansson came to see us again when Public Security Bureau was raiding Muse Agency. He was only here to insult us for being incompetent. He also blamed us for Satoru Yuuya’s disappearance. Dad seemed enraged with his remark, but he didn’t feel like messing around with someone like him. Despite feeling angry with his comment, he only ignored him. The last thing he wanted to do was to choke him to death. He was sick of listening to Mr. Johansson’s sarcastic remark about us.

Before Mr. Johansson continued any further, Hayato was already behind him. He was pointing the sharp tip of the tactical pen close to his neck. “I guess you’ve never learned your lesson, huh?” He said to him, “If you were so competent, you wouldn’t even need us to capture Satoru Yuuya. It showed that even someone like CIA wasn’t capable enough to capture someone like him.” Mr. Johansson never said anything after Hayato threatened him. He left the coffee shop after that.

Even to this day, the news is still talking about Shinya Fukuyama’s death. For them, they find it hard to believe that someone like him will commit suicide. Despite his crime, people will always remember him. After all, he’s one of the influential figures in the idol industry. This fact will never change no matter what.

“Touka, I’m so glad to find you here,” Nanase says to me. I look at her when she calls my name. “Why you’re coming here with this getup? Didn’t Mr. Ninomiya tell you not to leave the coffee shop no matter what?” I say to her. Nanase is disguising herself so then no one can recognize her. She’s currently working in the coffee shop for the time being.

“I come straight from the coffee shop,” she answers, “But, don’t worry. Your dad says that my disguise is good enough. It’s true that some people did say that they seem to recognize me. But Kei already taught me what to say when they ask me that. So, I don’t have to worry going out looking like this.”

I just look at her direction. “Did dad tell me to go home now?” I ask her. She shakes her head. “No, he even says to take your time. He seems to know what you’re doing even though you never tell him anything. He’s just like Kei.” I sigh after hearing what she says. “So, what are you doing here then?” I ask her again. She only smiles when I ask her that. “I have something to tell you. But I will tell you after offering a silent prayer to Shiori,” she answers.

She then starts to offer a silent prayer after our conversation is over. She starts talking to me after that. “Touka, do you miss her?” She asks me. I nod without saying anything. Nanase only smiles when she sees my response. “I was also doing the same thing as you do when Sayaka died. I would always go to her grave almost every day. I knew that she was already dead. I couldn’t help but miss her. Even Kei was so worried when he saw my behavior.”

Nanase continues talking to me. “I don’t know much about Shiori,” she says to me, “But I do understand the feeling of losing a best friend. I also felt the same when Sayaka died. I still miss her even until now, but I’m glad that I’m able to get through this with Kei by my side. I don’t think I can be this strong if it’s not because of him.”

She then looks at me as she continues. “Touka, you’re lucky because you have your family who will always be there for you. No matter what happen to you, you will always have somebody that you can go to. I know that it’s not easy to cope with the death of someone you love, but please talk to your family. I’m pretty sure that they will listen to you.”

I smile at Nanase. “Thanks for telling me this. I feel relieved that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I admit that I still feel guilty for not being able to save her. But she did thank me for setting her free in my dream. She even told me to stop blaming myself and live a happy life. Maybe I should stop doing that. Sure, Shiori may no longer be here, but she will always be in my heart. I guess you also feel the same about Ms. Minami too, right?” Nanase nods while smiling at me. After our brief conversation, we leave the graveyard.

A few months after Shiori’s funeral, both Nanase and Mr. Ninomiya are getting married. We’re now throwing a party at our coffee shop to celebrate this fantastic occasion. “What’s your plan after this?” I ask her. “Well, I already quit being an idol. So, I have no plan to become one again. I know that other agency won’t do nasty things to me, but I just don’t want to. Besides, I already had enough with the idol world. All I want is to have a wonderful life with Kei,” she says to us.

“I’m okay if she wants to continue,” Mr. Ninomiya says, “But she already decides that she wants to quit. So, I guess I have to respect her decision. But on the flip side, I don’t have to worry about her having a scandal with someone else. There were so many tabloids about her scandals in the past. I know that none of them were true. But I will still feel stressed out if people bombard her with so many scandals.”

The rest of us laugh at Mr. Ninomiya’s comment. “So, are you planning to move out of Tokyo?” Dad asks him. Mr. Ninomiya sighs. He looks like he hasn’t decided yet where they want to go. “What about you head over to Tochigi? Director Yokoyama has an organic farm there. He’s been pestering me to find someone else to look after the farm,” dad suggests him.

Nanase seems excited when dad suggests them to move there. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright? I’m worried that you’re not used to living in a rural area,” Mr. Ninomiya says to her. Nanase places her hand on Mr. Ninomiya’s lap and looks straight into his eyes. “It doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m with you. Besides, I think it’s the best place to raise our child too,” she replies. Both Yuuto and I nod at her, agreeing with what she says.

“Ms. Nanase,” Mr. Sakakibara says to her, “You’re talking about raising a child. Does that mean you’re already pregnant?” Nanase seems embarrassed at first, but she nods her head after that. “I didn’t expect that I would become a mother so soon. I may only be two months pregnant, but it’s still better for us to get married as soon as possible. Otherwise, we can only marry after the baby is born.”

Everyone just looks at Mr. Ninomiya, with Ms. Shoko clears her throat when she looks at him. “It’s great to hear that you seem fine without a therapy session for sexual abuse, Ms. Nanase. Ninomiya must be the best therapist for you. He can cure you in an instant,” Ms. Shoko says to her. Nanase only laughs at Ms. Shoko’s word. “Well, I still experience anxiety whenever Kei gets close to me. But somehow, Kei makes me feel so safe that the anxiety disappears like magic.”

Dad and Mr. Sakakibara can’t help but laugh at Mr. Ninomiya. “He must be so good in bed until up to the point that she can recover without therapy. Man, you’re the best,” dad says to him while slapping Mr. Ninomiya’s back. Mr. Ninomiya doesn’t say anything because he’s too embarrassed to argue with dad.

“This is why I just can’t wait to start a new life. I’m willing to give up my life as an idol just to raise a child. I want this child to experience a life that I never have. So, moving to Tochigi seems like a good idea to me. Besides, the idea of managing a farm sounds fun too,” Nanase says to us. Mr. Ninomiya sighs when he hears Nanase’s answer. “Then, it’s decided already. We’ll be moving to Tochigi then,” he says.

Mr. Ninomiya and Nanase are heading to Tochigi a few days later. He quits working for Public Security Bureau. He doesn’t want Nanase to worry about him anymore. Just like Nanase, he only wants to live a peaceful life. So, he shouldn’t get involved in anything dangerous. He doesn’t want Nanase and his child to lose him if anything bad happens to him.

“I’m glad that everything turns out for better,” dad says to us, “But, that doesn’t mean we can slack off. Remember, Satoru Yuuya is on the loose. We can’t let him do whatever he pleases. So, never ever forget our mission.” Everyone nods when he says that to us. I won’t deny that our mission isn’t over. In fact, this is only just the beginning. I’m pretty sure that we will be able to arrest Satoru Yuuya someday.

 

Author’s Note

Thanks for reading my book until the end. I hope you enjoy it. As usual, this book is a work of fiction. But there are some parts of the book which are based on the real thing.

When it comes to the foundation of mind control, the analysis is based on the actual research related to the monarch programming. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a mind control research derived from CIA’s top secret project, Project MKULTRA. The actual monarch programming still relies on the satanic ritual and abuse to make it work.

But in Trigger Locked, I omit this part. I just want the mind control device to rely on the technology alone to make it work. In the end, it becomes a mind control device in the form of microchip implant. But the basis of monarch programming is still there, though. At least, now we know how mind control works regardless of what form it takes.

Another thing that I like to talk about is Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA). I’m not sure if there’s any anime and manga mentioning anything about PSIA. But as far as I know, I have never come across any anime and manga talking about them. It’s common for anime and manga to talk about Self Defense Force (SDF) because it’s widely known to the public.

But for PSIA, I don’t think I’ve come across any anime and manga talking specifically about them. Are they non-existent? Well, it doesn’t look that way to me when I take a look at Wikipedia. By the way, Wikipedia is the place I discover about PSIA. I’m pretty sure that most countries will have their own intelligence agency. It’s just that we’re only familiar with the famous intelligence agencies such as CIA, Mossad and MI5.

Even if PSIA page exists on Wikipedia, it’s still hard for me to portray the PSIA officers as accurate as possible. Since there’s not much info about PSIA, I basically have to rely on the articles and books related to CIA. Of course, random Google search about certain things that I don’t know about CIA helps too. I admit that everything that I write here is mostly speculation. But I did try my best to portray the operations officers as accurate as possible.

This is also same goes to Special Activities Division (SAD). I only know that CIA has this unit. But I’m not sure if PSIA has it too. So, I just create this unit for the sake of this story. As usual, the SAD portrayed in this book is still based on CIA Special Activities Division (SAD). So, I did my best to portray it as accurate as possible. And of course, the context is slightly different just to fit the story, geographic and the culture.

Since there are so many things I want to talk about this book, feel free to visit my blog. I’ll be explaining more about this book in-depth. I also plan to reveal how the other characters look like on my blog as well. So, please look forward to it.

Also, I did my best to make sure that the book turns out to be my best work. I admit that I probably made a lot of mistakes that I didn’t realize. So, I’ll be more than happy if you can point out what mistakes I’ve made in terms of spelling or any expression that you find it awkward before you leave negative feedback about my book.

If you feel like giving me a feedback, just simply send me an email. I will get back to you whenever I have the time. Just don’t expect a fast reply from me, though. But I do appreciate that you take your time to leave comments and feedback for me. Here’s the place where you can send me a feedback directly to me:

Send me feedback and comment on Trigger Locked: The Mind Control Assassins

 

If you think that everything seems okay to you, it’ll be great if you can take a moment to leave me a review at your favorite retailer. Thanks in advance if you have already done that ^^.

 

Special Gift Just For You

First of all, I’d like to say thank you for taking your precious time to read this book. It means a lot to me that you’ve decided to download my book and reading it until the end. As a token of gratitude for finishing reading my book, I’d like to give you an instant access to the prequel to the Trigger Locked series called Trigger Locked: A Triggered Past.

It’s a novella in PDF version (with Yuuto on the front cover) and this novella won’t be available anywhere else. Not even on my own Wattpad page! Besides A Triggered Past, you will also receive my other novella called Twisted Destiny: The Past.

Interested to read the prequel and also receive my future releases for FREE? You can visit this page to get started:

 

Get Trigger Locked: A Triggered Past here

 

About Sekina Mayu

 

I’m proudly calling myself Young Adult (YA) indie author. My writings are always inspired by the anime I’ve watched, the manga I’ve read and the video games I’ve played. In other words, I love anime, manga and video games. That’s the reason why my work has anime, manga and video games influence.

 

Discover other titles by Sekina Mayu

The Diary of Modern Cinderella

Twisted Destiny

 

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The Mind Control Assassins

Set in the urban area of Tokyo in the near future, the story revolves around Touka Kimizuki and her twin brother, Yuuto. Both of them are just like a typical 16-year old high schooler. But they're actually recruited by Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA) to become a secret agent due to their ability to kill skilled assassins while they were still in the middle school. Together with their father who is the Head of Special Activities Division in PSIA and his squad, they receive a mission to ensure the safety of the last remaining researcher for Transhuman Development Project, Dr. Nobuhiko Hayama. He's their only hope to unfold the mystery behind the other researchers' deaths. Little they know that their first encounter with Dr. Hayama leads to something they least expect. And this is just the beginning.

  • ISBN: 9781370518975
  • Author: Suhaili Shazreena
  • Published: 2016-09-15 13:05:10
  • Words: 67954
The Mind Control Assassins The Mind Control Assassins