Emiko fumed about the injustices of her department while storming down the quiet and empty halls. She wanted to take her boss and shake him. In the privacy of her own mind she rehearsed their future dialogue silently, imagining all the things she wanted to say, instead of the things that would actually end up coming out of her mouth.
She had arrived early in her cramped office the day after working yet another long shift. To her, getting to work earlier than everyone else was like finding the eye in the storm. Her position at the CCG Bureau's Psychotherapy Unity started just a few months ago, and her boss had been working her like a dog ever since - more so than the other therapists, she might add.
The night before, Emiko had triumphantly completed the most enormous stack of paperwork that she had ever seen in her whole life - the stack that was of course dumped on her by her superiors. As she swung open the door to her crowded-yet-organized office space in the morning however, she was disheartened to find her completed stacks of work files missing, and replaced by a pile of fresh new ones.
Working overtime, working through lunch breaks, and jumping through hoops to try and impress her boss and senior co-workers was apparently not enough for everyone at the department. Angrily, Emiko stormed off to her boss' office. She would be there when he waltzed into work that day, coffee in hand and belly protruding from his tight suit coat. He would have a piece of her mind. She realized she was a newbie, but she didn't deserve this.
Still fuming, she rounded the corner of the hallway – when she almost bumped into a face she hadn't seen in a while.
"Shinohara-san?" she asked.
The huge CCG investigator turned to face her, flashing her a wide smile. He was wearing his usual black suit, and his hands were in his pockets. His stance looked relaxed and casual, however she could tell by his slightly disheveled hair and the dark bags under his eyes that something was amiss.
A quick glance at her wristwatch told her it was 6:34 am. She had at least 11 minutes to spare before her boss would turn up.
"It's so good to see you! Its been too long," she said. "What brings you here this early?" As far as Emiko knew, Shinohara was stationed somewhere on the opposite side of Tokyo as her, and she wondered what sort of business he was visiting on.
"Good to see you too Emi-chan," he replied fondly, just as he always had since she was in the Academy. "I'm sorry but, I've actually come see you. I have a special favor to ask."
Emiko sighed. A favor? She loved Shinohara like an older brother or a mentor, but she could hardly spread herself so thin at a time like this.
"What's wrong?" she asked. Nonetheless, the Ghoul Investigator had put forth the effort to actually take a trip out to her department. Since Shinohara was hardly in the habit of stopping by to ask for favors from her, she figured it must have been really important.
"It's about a kid my squad found on a raid a few months ago," he explained. He kept glancing around the tight hallway space as if not wanting to divulge more information before they had some privacy. "Will you take a walk with me?" he asked.
Stepping on her tiptoes to look over Shinohara's broad shoulders, she peaked anxiously into her boss' office, as though her pot-bellied superior could have snuck past them in the hallway and made his way into his office undetected. With a sigh of defeat Emiko nodded and agreed, following her old instructor back to her own office.
"It looks like they're working you to the bone over here," Shinohara said as soon as they entered the room. The place was absolutley covered from top to bottom with papers, files, work boxes and other miscalaneous office supplies.
Emiko only flashed him a quick, tired smile.
"So this kid," he continued, cutting to the chase for her sake. "He desperately needs some counseling. And I know you're the only one who can do it."
Emiko had to stop herself from raising her eyebrows. "Me?" she asked.
"You're the only one I can trust with this. After attacking the two other therapists at the Acadamy, noone else will give him a chance. And if he keeps going on like this without improvment, I don't know what the CCG will do..."
Emiko stood speachless, wondering if Shinohara was actually asking her to meet with a violent wild-child. In her line of work, she would routinely meet with people who's lives have been destroyed by ghouls, although generally her clients were adults, or children accompanied by parents – the Junior Acadamy therapists were usually the ones who dealt with orphaned children.
She didn't know how to respond. On the one hand, she instantly felt for the boy – as she could feel for all of her clients. But on the other hand…
Now don't get Emiko wrong, it wasn't the kid's supposed violent behavior that made her uneasy – she had dealt with violent and dangerous clients before, so she had no qualms about working with those types – but for Shinohara of all people to come out of his way and personally ask her – this kid already seemed like he would be a real handful.
"You... really believe in this kid, hu?" she asked tentatively. As Emiko watched Shinohara's head go up and down, Emiko cursed herself silently for what she was about to say next. "I'll see what I can do about it, ok?"
Although the CCG acknowledged Emiko's strong empathy as good and righteous, she often felt it was a curse. For one thing, it made it nearly impossible for her to say no to anybody, even when she already had a load and a half of shit to do from all the other people she just couldn't say no to.
Somehow – or by the grace of God – despite her crazy-busy schedule, Emiko managed to complete everything she needed to get done by the end of that week. Or at least most of it. Regardless, on Saturday morning she got up early to make it to the train station, making it all the way to the investigation department of that ward.
It would be odd conducting a session in an Investigator's Bureau instead of her office, but she would have to make due – after all, Shinohara himself insisted.
With the special case file in hand, she exited the train and walked the rest of the way to the department. After a friendly receptionist guided her to the correct floor, she sat in the waiting room, wondering who the mysterious child might be that she was about to meet.
Although the – unnamed – boy had only arrived into CCG custody going on six weeks now, he had quite the file. Harming three investigators, one academy instructor, a handful of police officers, along with those two therapists Shinohara had mentioned. On the bottom of all the police reports, a long list that went on for pages and pages described multiple and repeated accounts of self-harm, aggression, and other violent behaviors.
But it all came together when she read the hospital reports alongside Shinohara's report.
"Jeez, raised by ghouls," she mumbled to herself, alone in the rather cold waiting room. "I'd be surprised if the kid wasn't a basket case."
"That's what I thought," replied Shinohara suddenly from the doorway. "I can't help but feel sorry for the boy, you know?"
"Pity isn't what the boy needs," interrupted some other person from behind Shinohara. From the way he was dressed, he appeared to be an investigator as well. "Sometimes, there's only one thing you can do to help people like that," said the man, with greying hair and wrinkled skin, as he glided a slim finger across his own neck.
"Emi-chan, meet Special Class Investigator Igarashi. He'll be observing Suzuya with us today as well."
Emiko nodded and respectfully bowed, trying her hardest not to allow her face to respond to the old man's crude gesture.
As they all walked together into the interrogation room, the young therapist saw an unusual sight. To be completely honest, she didn't quite know what to expect from the child she was reading about in her case files, but the small boy sitting in the center of the dark room was definitely not it.
The child had lifeless, white hair and red, sunken eyes. The boy's clothes were too big for him, and he sat in the fetal position with his legs up on the chair and back curled up. Emiko wondered if this malnourished-looking kid, with arms and legs that looked like twigs, really was capable of all the things she read about in his case files.
They boy seemed to be staring at something far off in the distance and did not bother to look up at the three strange CCG employees as they entered the room. The poor boy didn't even flinch when Igarashi slammed his hands down hard on the metal interrogation desk, attempting to snap the boy out of it.
"Excuse me, Special Investigator-san," Emiko said. "But I won't be tolerating this behavior. I'm a therapist, not an interrogator. I'll be taking things over from here on out."
At this, the boy looked up at her and gave her a blank, piercing stare. It was odd, but non-threatening, so Emiko continued.
"Hello, I'm Third Class Bureau Investigator Emiko Kouen," she said, looking at the frail boy up and down, who had diverted eye contact again. "I've come here to help you, although I'm sorry it has to be in a room like this," she said eyeing the room, trying to prompt him to say something.
While she waited, she took a seat, smoothing out her black pencil skirt, and spread her file book out along the table as Investigators Shinohara and Igarashi took seats by the door, silently waiting.
"I'm sorry, but I don't seem to have a name on your file. Could you tell me what your name is?"
Emiko shuffled her papers around some more, giving the boy some time and space to make him feel comfortable around her.
"He calls himself Rei Suzuya," mumbled Igarashi from the other end of the room when it had become apparent the boy wasn't going to speak up any time soon.
Emiko squinted her eyes over by where the investigators were sitting. "I was asking the boy. Not you." Waving her hand dismissively, she added, "You both can step out into the hallway if you can't keep quiet."
Shinohara gave her a look that said "what did I do", but he refrained from speaking and kept his mouth shut.
"Rei, is it?" Emiko asked, turning back to the boy and giving him a warm smile.
"The ghouls gave me that name," the boy said quietly after a few seconds. He wasn't looking at her, but instead at Igarashi, with a devilish expression on his face that Emiko couldn't quite decipher. It looked to be somewhere between joy and rage.
All she knew was, it was quite off-putting. Shinohara however, looked astonished. After all, it had taken him several days to get Suzuya to have any sort of rational conversation.
"I see," Emiko said, jotting down a note in her journal. "It's not very fitting anyway, is it?" Emiko reflected on an old woman she once had as a neighbor whose name was Rei, who always used to feed the cats in the alleyways, and the seagulls in the parks.
The boy, however, continued to stare in silence at Igarashi who was returning the stare with full force, although his seemed more human-like.
"I want to tell you now, Suzuya, that you don't live with the ghouls anymore. You are safe here."
"You can pick a new name, if you'd like," she suggested. "One that you give yourself, instead. One that we can use together whenever we meet up to talk."
"A new name?" the boy asked, somewhat disconnected. He was still staring down the investigator like a jackal staring down its prey.
"I'll let you think about it. A new name is a big decision. Maybe it's something you can discuss with Shinohara-san? Do you two get along?"
For some reason at those words she uttered, Suzuya snapped his head back towards her so fast, she was afraid his neck might break.
"Shinohara?" he asked. His voice sounded oddly high-pitched as he tilted his head to the side. "Yes, yes!"
Suddenly the boy jumped out of his seat, landing with cat-like grace on the investigation table in front of Emiko, startling everybody in the room. Even Igarashi spilled his coffee a little on his white-collared shirt.
Suzuya then leaned in dangerously close until his face was just inches from her own and she could smell his heavy breath as it intensified and came faster and faster. "Yes, you smell like him."
"Rei! Get down!" yelled Igarashi as the two investigators also jumped up from their seats by the doorway and rushed to the therapist's aid. Unfortunately, Igarashi was faster.
Reaching out, he grabbed Suzuya by the collar of the boy's over-sized shirt and attempted to throw him towards the ground. The move looked like it worked – like it should have worked – but Suzuya miraculously landed on his feet and turned his body around, disregarding the twisted up fabric around his neck. Without skipping a beat, the boy lunged at Igarashi.
"Stop! Stop!" yelled Emiko, standing up from her spot at the desk now as well, furious that the two investigators had stepped in.
Luckily Shinohara was able to step in between the two at that very moment, blocking Igarashi's next attack, and taking Suzuya's blow right into his lower back. Standing in between the two, he was at least able to force them to freeze. Mostly because Suzuya kinda liked Shinohara, and didn't want to keep on hitting him. At least for today.
"Gah! I can't believe it!" said Emiko. She immediately began furiously packing up her things and shoving them angrily back inside of her briefcase. "I can't believe it! Ghoul Investigators!"
"Wait, Emi-chan!" called Shinohara, but she was now headed for the door.
"No!" she yelled back at him. "You asked me to come here to speak with the boy, and you two can't even control yourselves! What? Did you think the boy was gonna hurt me? I have a blackbelt in Judo you know," she said, fed up with everybody. If there was one thing she disliked more than having to do everyone else's work, it was Ghoul Investigators like Igarashi who liked to use violence to solve all their problems.
"You're right Emi-chan," said Shinohara quietly, still holding the Senior Investigator back, although Suzuya had already lost interest. The boy was currently up next to Emiko. He had circled around her a few times, poking her bag and untying her shoelaces as she talked. She didn't mind it.
"But the boy needs someone," Shinohara continued. "And I think he's actually taken a liking to you. You see, he usually doesn't talk with people when he first meets them. I'm astounded by how much he's opened up so far! Please, you're the only chance he's got before he gets removed from my custody." He blinked a few times, signaling to Igarashi, implying that people like him might be in charge of the boy's future.
As she looked down at the boy who was still fiddling with her shoelaces, her heart fell again and she realized she could not say no. But could she ever?
"Alright, fine. But the next visit... It's gonna be on my terms."