Yoshikage Kira was, as almost anyone who had ever met him would agree, a man who treasured tranquility and despised stress. He woke up at the same time every morning and took the same scenic route to the same office job, week in and week out. Every day after work finished he would go straight home and work out for an hour, which left him incredibly fit and healthy for a salaryman. Even his relationship status was subject to a routine; many women who worked with him were attracted to his good looks, and often asked him out on dates around the sleepy town. However, every single one was politely turned down like clockwork. After a while they began to suspect that he swung the other way, though those rumours were soon dashed when a male co-worker was met with similar results (or lack thereof).
Overtime was a foreign concept to Yoshikage, since working long hours would result in him having no time to conduct his elaborate personal health ritual consisting of a nutritious meal, a mineral bath, moisturisers, warm milk and stretching. This meant that every assignment given to him was completed both on time and within regular hours without fail. As a result he became something of a legend throughout the company's Morioh branch, though he always went to great efforts to decline any sort of recognition for his workplace excellence.
His weekends were spent in an equally predictable manner. Saturday usually involved trips to the local stores to pick up any goods that he might be low on, while Sunday was reserved for leisure activities such as reading, gardening and even some sculpting, which Kira had recently taken an unexpected liking to. He had become quite good at the fingers, but properly shaping the palm still evaded him.
In short, Kira was the very definition of an average man, living alone and attending his office job every working day. He didn't have any big aspirations, though. Peaceful and orderly, that was how he liked it. This was the self-proclaimed "quiet life" of Yoshikage Kira, an existence meticulously crafted to be at risk of no such things as illness, poverty, fame or anything else that could cause him to lose sleep at night. It was a life befitting a man who wanted to live his life peacefully, much like a plant, which he definitely was. He was quite proud of his unbroken routine, which he was convinced was the most stress-free life possible, and intended to follow it to the letter and live peacefully until the end of his days.
Which didn't quite add up, considering that he was currently in a ghost alley being dragged into an unknowable hole in reality by innumerable disembodied arms.
"W-Where are they going to take me?!" Kira's eyes were wide, both him and his Stand shattered into pieces by the grasping limbs behind him. The question was directed at a teenage girl in front of him, who merely stood there, absolutely still. She faced the opposite direction, meaning that Kira could see nothing of her face, only the gaping knife wound he had left fifteen years prior.
She wore a pink dress down to her knees and had hair of a slightly darker pink, which she wore at chin length with an Alice band. Her skin was like fine porcelain, unblemished save for the mortal injury on her back, and her rose-coloured eyes were glued straight in front of her; she knew that if she turned around to face her murderer, she would suffer the same terrible fate.
"Who knows?" Reimi's voice was completely devoid of any emotion, as were her eyes. Despite having been trapped in that hidden alley by Kira for a decade and a half, her voice was controlled enough to sound rehearsed. "But… I'm sure it's somewhere you won't be able to rest in peace."
As soon as she said that, the force of the hands on his body seemed to increase tenfold, almost as if the hands were responding to her hatred. Indeed, they were, for this was the power of her Stand which awakened in the very last instant of her life, wanting to help its user but unable to reach her quickly enough.
The Stand was the embodiment of the usually-pleasant Reimi's wrath, full of hatred as she was at the world that let her die at the moment of its awakening. Over time the Stand stewed in its loathing and became the dreaded spirit of ghost alley, lashing out at any visitor who turned around and only responding to its user when she herself was in a wrathful state. Now that Kira was finally backed into a corner, Reimi finally allowed 15 years of simmering rage to surface in the form of a single subconscious command: punish Yoshikage Kira.
And her Stand obeyed.
Unable to even move in his current state, Kira was restricted to screaming in terror while he was dragged into the churning abyss behind him. First the pieces of his legs were swallowed, then his waist, and so on until his head was completely engulfed. With a final echo of Kira's voice from within, the hole in the fabric of space closed up once again. Thus ended the tale of the Morioh Murderer, Yoshikage Kira.
At least, that is what many people think. In actuality, Yoshikage Kira's story doesn't end there. As it turns out, Jotaro Kujo did indeed prevent time from reversing. Unfortunately, he was too late to stop the murderer's ability from activating altogether. When Kira was pierced by the Stand Arrow a second time, he had gained an ability that protected him as best as it could. What he didn't know, however, was that it had the ability to change its effect depending on what it was that Kira needed at the time. Under regular circumstances, Bites The Dust took the form of a bomb that protected Kira by turning back time should its target reveal his identity. However, when Kira activated it the second time, its effect was delayed by Star Platinum's barrage. Only once he had reached the ghost alley was this new form of Bites The Dust able to activate. It was finally ready to supply what its master needed, and right now he needed a way out.
There was a sudden flash, and the unmistakable sound of an explosion rang out through the void as Killer Queen's shattered body reformed in a show of magenta light, as did Kira's. It raised its right hand and plunged it into the darkness, which warped and stretched until the tertiary bomb's newfound strength pierced its walls and detonated them. The ghostly hands were blown back by the force of the bomb's explosion, leaving both the murderer and his stand completely unbound.
Kira, unable to believe this turn of fate, could only gape at his Stand's sudden retaliation. What happened? His stand had acted on its own without any input from Kira, not even a reflex. Then it hit him. This was it! Whenever he got backed into a corner with no escape, fate would always offer him an opportunity to succeed! Killer Queen's new ability to tear not through time but dimensions was fate's intervention, and the source of his demise, Jotaro Kujo, was the cause! He could escape the torment of these hands! Luck had once again sided with Yoshikage Kira!
Unwilling to let this final chance escape him, Kira had the pink Stand grab onto the hole in reality and drag the two of them out before the grasping limbs could recapture him. A powerful force almost like gravity nearly dragged them back inside, but Killer Queen's overwhelming strength proved enough to save them both. His plain black shoes struck solid ground and real air filled his lungs, which were very much alive again. Risking a look back, he saw that the hands were struggling to breach this new reality. It seemed that all their power had been used up in the initial attack, and they didn't have nearly enough energy for a second try. One hand managed to force itself through the hole and lunge at Kira, but Killer Queen simply grabbed its wrist and crushed it, making it crumble into nothing.
To say the least, Kira was elated that his captors had lost so much strength that Killer Queen could easily defeat them now, even in its damaged state. What's more, it didn't look like they could even reach him through the strong gravity of the dimensional wall, each individual hand lacking the raw physical might of his own Stand. Unable to hold out any longer, the ghostly limbs finally receded as the hole in reality repaired itself. It was as if the hole was never there to begin with.
Content that he was in no danger of being dragged back into that perpetual torment, Kira stopped to take in his surroundings. From what he could tell by the narrow walls, stagnant puddles and near-overflowing dumpsters, he was currently stood in an alleyway. It seemed to be nighttime in a town rather similar to Morioh. However, he was certain that he was somewhere else due to the absence of the characteristic ocean breeze of Morioh Bay. What struck him as even more peculiar was the contents of billboards around him. Advertisements for brands that he was fairly certain didn't exist decorated various buildings, either standing tall on their roofs or hung up on the sides. He appeared to be in a sort of commercial district judging by the clothing stores, restaurants and other establishments he could see. Behind the windows of a rather dingy-looking electronics store stood multiple television sets showing a news channel; the perfect place to gather at least some basic information on wherever he was.
He stepped out onto the pavement, the soles of his work shoes clacking against the rough concrete. Now that he was out of the alley he could see that his initial assumption was more or less correct. A distinct lack of a city's skyscrapers combined with businesses that would still require a fair amount of customers to stay in what seemed to be relatively expensive business were telltale signs of a substantially large yet quiet town, just like his beloved Morioh. But that didn't matter right now; what mattered was the news channel. Upon reaching the window, Kira realised the thick glass made it impossible to hear any words. It was fortunate, then, that the owner had the foresight to enable subtitles.
As of today, it has been a month since the election of our President-
Kira stopped reading there. President? What was the damnable box on about? Japan had a prime minister, not a president. And what's more, he was fairly certain that Keizō Obuchi was a man. Yet the television in front of him denied this fact as well, instead showing a middle-aged woman with ginger hair - probably dyed - wearing a plastic smile and shaking hands with a few faceless suits. He was in Japan, right? The signs were all in plain Japanese, as were the subtitles. But that was impossible. Unless…
Suddenly possessed of a new theory, he strolled down the street and looked into the windows of various establishments. The names of the products on display and many of the shops themselves were strangely warped versions of the ones he knew, most notably a fast food restaurant by the name of "WcDonalds" which advertised a certain "joyous meal". Quickly snatching a newspaper from a stand (while ignoring the protests of the hapless proprietor) and flicking through it, he found that his hypothesis was confirmed. Nearly every product, politician and celebrity had a different name to what he remembered. Even some of the less significant countries had slightly different titles, by the looks of it. The year was still 1999, though, which left no time whatsoever for such drastic changes in the world. Such a thing could only be possible if he were in a… different… universe…
A victorious smirk began to spread across Yoshikage's face. He had ended up in what he was now convinced was a different dimension. Nobody knew him, which meant that nobody could catch him! Not those alley spirits, not Koichi Hirose, not Jotaro Kujo and not Josuke Higashikata! He was free to go! His smirk turned into a wide grin, and he began to chuckle under his breath until that too evolved into unrestrained - and slightly unhinged - laughter at the top of his lungs.
"They're gone! They're all gone! I'm finally free!" Kira couldn't restrain his joy. This was a brand new world where he could start again with a clean slate! He would take this second chance with pleasure and reconstruct his quiet life, just like it was before that damned Josuke and his little Stand user circus tore it apart before his very eyes.
"You alright there, buddy?" came a rough voice from behind him. Kira wheeled around and was met with a group of three dirty-looking vagrants. One was an elderly man with a worn-looking cane and another was an equally old woman. The last one was wearing a balaclava that made it impossible to determine their sex or age. All three of them seemed to be around 170 centimetres tall, and wore multiple layers of ratty clothing with stains of varying shades in multiple places.
"Someone with a suit as nice as that in a back alley like this? You must be either very lost or very drunk." The old man wheezed as he approached Yoshikage, apparently the victim of breathing difficulties. "Whichever one it is, somebody as well-dressed as you must have some nice trinkets on you, am I right?"
With that, the elderly bum dropped his facade and whipped a rather sharp switchblade from his left coat pocket, holding it up to Kira's neck and letting the cane clatter against the concrete. His companions also produced their own weapons, the old woman holding a large kitchen knife and the masked individual brandishing a rusty crowbar. In all, it was a display that would have been thoroughly menacing if Kira didn't possess a Stand that could transform anything into a bomb. As it was, the whole thing just elicited more chuckling from him, still high on the sensation of total victory as he was.
"You playing with me, you fucker?! I'll kill you, goddammit!" The foul-mouthed beggar drove a glove-covered fist into Kira's stomach, apparently unused to his victims regarding him in such a casual manner. It didn't particularly hurt, of course, as well past his prime as the mugger was, but Kira decided to fake pain and folded to the ground anyway. All according to plan. "Come on, you son of a bitch! I know you have something in there! Cough it up!" The mugger yelled, shaking Kira's collar violently. The motion dislodged his wallet from his inner pocket, letting at fall to the ground with a soft thud. His assailant's mood instantly improved, his eyes lighting up.
"Ah, there you go. That wasn't so difficult, was it?" The half-wit took the bait and picked up the wallet, opening it wide and then sharply inhaling. "You two, take a look at this! This dumb fucker's carrying his life savings around in his wallet! In cash, no less!"
His friends huddled around him, simultaneously gasping at their good fortune. "Look at those bills! There's got to be a hundred thousand yen in here!" The old woman crowed with glee. Just as Kira predicted, the man soon succumbed to his greed and reached out to grab the huge wad of paper. Fortunately for the serial killer, this wasn't his first time being robbed.
The instant the man's hand made contact with the money, he was wiped from the face of the Earth by Killer Queen's primary bomb. Before his accomplices could even register their leader's demise, the catlike Stand shot out its right index ringer at supersonic speeds and put a penny-sized hole through the crone's skull, following it up with an explosion identical to the first. Two dead, one to go.
When Kira turned his eyes on the remaining mugger, he noticed that their clothing seemed to have unusual bulges beneath them, almost as if they were storing extra body parts beneath the layers of coats. Even the balaclava seemed to have small protrusions at the sides. A deformity, perhaps?
Taking advantage of Kira's momentary lapse in concentration, the surviving vagrant took off sprinting in a bid to escape. The first thing that he noticed was that whoever they were, they were faster than any normal human had the right to be. There was no way that he was going to catch up. Could he have encountered another Stand user, so soon? Not about to let a potential enemy escape, Kira took a page out of his enemy's book and had Killer Queen pick up a jagged stone and put it between its thumb and index finger, akin to the way one would flip a coin. Taking careful aim, his Stand propelled the rock through the air with incredible force. His makeshift bullet hit home and embedded itself in its target's lower leg, making her cry out with pain and drop her crowbar. The Stand user grinned to himself, quite satisfied with the results. He may have hated that Higashikata bastard with every fibre of his being, but he had to give credit for thinking up such an ingenious way of overcoming a close-combat stand's short range.
Strolling up to his third victim of the night, Yoshikage had his Stand clamp its hand over where the mouth would be behind the balaclava, then ripped it from his target's head. No amount of Stands, ghosts or arrowheads could have prepared him for what lied underneath.
The person underneath the mask turned out to be to be a woman in her mid to late twenties. She was quite good-looking for a vagrant, with high cheekbones, mousy brown (though messy) hair and surprisingly little grime covering her face. None of that mattered to Kira, though. What had drawn all of his attention was her ears. Rather than the rounded ears that one would expect of a human, this woman had pointed ears covered with glimmering orange scales that shone in the moonlight like so many gold pieces. The trail of scales continued down her neck and beyond the three collars of the coats she wore. Now that he looked properly, her muddy brown eyes also possessed reptilian slits for pupils. Just what was this woman? Certainly not human.
She appeared to notice his dumbstruck expression. "What? Never seen a dragonewt before? I thought all you business types were all over the Cultural Exchange," she choked out from behind his Stand's palm, obviously in a great deal of pain.
The last member of the Kira family couldn't force himself to say anything, instead staring at her with a dumbstruck expression on his face. Of course, he had encountered non-humans before, but all of them were either Stands belonging to humans or were humans originally. This was the first time he had actually found himself face to face with an entirely different species altogether.
"I'll take that as a no, then. Where have you been livin' for the past few years, dipshit, under a rock?" She said with a shaky voice, grinning up at him spitefully. Despite the agony in her calf screaming at her, she wouldn't let this purple bastard take her lightly. Now it was Kira's turn to frown. Lizard-creature or not, he wouldn't be talked down to by someone he intended to kill.
While Killer Queen held her down, he took his thumb and drove it into the bloody crater his attack had left in her leg. The defiant gleam in her eye vanished as her whole body tightened like a coiled wire. She tried to scream, which proved to be a futile effort with his Stand's hand covering her mouth and nose, preventing her from attracting any attention. He grabbed a handful of her hair and forced her brown eyes to stare into his own blue ones.
"I'm going to be completely honest with you. There's a strong possibility that you're going to die here. You've seen my face and my ability, which means you're likely to tell others about what happened here. Not only that, but you've gone out of your way to insult me. Extortion and assault are quite illegal, you know? You saw what happened to the last two people to try that stunt." she made a noise that was probably a promise that she wouldn't tell a soul, but she was muffled by Killer Queen. Kira ignored her pleas and continued. "In short, you are now a danger to my peace of mind. I could end you at any moment, understand? And try not to pay attention to the fact that you can't see what is is that's restraining you, it doesn't matter to somebody like you anyway." though her eyes shone with tears and her entire form shook uncontrollably, she managed to nod once.
"I'm glad you understand. Now, you may not have a choice in whether you get to keep walking anymore, but you can still decide whether you live or die. I can either release you, or I can make sure you die just like the other two. It all depends on how well you answer the following questions." he emphasised his point by raising his thumb, still wet with her blood. She got the message and nodded again, more vigorously this time. He wouldn't let her live, of course, but he figured he'd get more information this way.
"Good. First of all, explain to me what you are. I'm talking about your species. You're not human, so what are you? And by the way, if you try to scream then I'll make that hole in your leg twice as wide."
Horror briefly flashed over her face before she reined it in and nodded slowly. It seemed that she had accepted her position, and was now ready to talk. Good. He willed Killer Queen's hand away from her mouth, though it still held her down to prevent escape.
"I-I'm what's known as a dragonewt. We're a cold-blooded d-draconian species. We're descended from dragons, w-which means we have wings, claws and t-t-tails-" she sucked in a sharp breath and clenched her fists as her pierced calf spasmed involuntarily, gouging scars in the ground with the aforementioned talons. A tail and wings? Those must be the bulges beneath her coat. So she was hiding her true nature, then. Interesting. Kira allowed her to recover before continuing. "W-we're closely related to the lamia and wyvern species and can use 'em for stuff like blood transfusions, but-"
The hand-stealing serial killer motioned for her to stop. This was a fair bit of information to take in. "I don't need a complete essay on your biology. Basically, what you're saying is that multiple species from mythologies across the globe are, in fact, real?" Yoshikage asked. she nodded.
"Would it be safe to assume, then, that other non-reptilian species exist? Centaurs and harpies, for example?" another nod.
"I see. Earlier, you mentioned a "Cultural Exchange". What exactly is that?"
Her reptilian eyes blinked in uncertainty. "You don't know? I thou-" she didn't get to finish that inquiry as Killer Queen's hand shot to her throat, clenching hard enough that her windpipe threatened to give way.
"I didn't ask you about what I do and don't know, did I?! I asked you what this Cultural Exchange is! Won't you people ever learn not to answer questions with questions?!" he snarled. His face was inches from hers, murderous intent radiating from him. The dragonewt shook her head as best she could, beads of cold sweat running down her face. The Stand's iron grip eventually released, finally allowing her to suck in a huge mouthful of air. Kira sighed inwardly. How was he supposed to extract more than basic details from someone as clueless as this? Any more and he might be tempted to blow her up on the spot and seek information elsewhere.
After allowing the disheveled woman a moment to recover from a brief coughing fit, Kira waved his hand lazily for her to speak. "O-okay, so, the Cultural Exchange is the big government branch for takin' liminals - that's their fancy word for us - into countries to show 'em what human society's like. It's got rules stoppin' anyone from attackin' other species or touchin' 'em inappropriately and whatnot. That's how most of us get here. They stick somebody with some random family and cross their fingers, hoping it goes well for 'em." Some semblance of fire returned to her eyes, and she spat on the ground. "Lazy fuckin' pigs is what they are. It's their fault I'm out here on the streets! If they put more effort into that damn system o' theirs, then I never would'a had to run away!" It seemed like she was going to continue her tirade, but a quick squeeze just above the gaping wound stopped her in her tracks.
"A world filled with mythical creatures that exist side by side with humans. This is quite the development. Thank you, you've been extremely helpful." Hope began to show on her scaled face, obviously believing she would be allowed to walk away. Kira kneeled on the floor, lowering himself down to her level. "However, there's one thing I need to ask. My name is Yoshikage Kira. Would it be possible for you to tell me yours?"
Obviously confused by the change in pace but unwilling to deny him an answer, she swallowed and tentatively spoke. "M-Most people call me Annie, but my real name's Amat. So if that was the last question, then can I go? Y-you'll let me go, right?"
He didn't give that question an answer, instead deciding to turn away and look into the distance, faintly smiling. "Amat, hmm? What a beautiful name you have, definitely fitting for someone of your race." Yoshikage hummed in delight, as if savouring the name like wine. "In fact, just saying it makes me feel positively pleasant."
He turned his head towards her. "As it turns out, Amat, this is a rather exciting time for me. I've just recently escaped a terrible fate, so I'm in quite an excellent mood. And now, you've given me yet another reason to be happy."
She looked at him, confused. Before she could inquire as to what he meant, Kira took her hand, gazed into her eyes and gave her a terrifying smile. His mouth curled up sincerely at each corner, contrasting with eyes that were as cold and unfeeling as a corpse's. It was the kind of smile that only an accomplished murderer could give.
"You see, I've never had a non-human girlfriend before."
No response came from her. Indeed, no response could come from a woman without a body. The smoke cleared and revealed that the only remnant of the dragonewt girl was her clawed right hand. The back was covered in orange scales and it was somewhat dirty from the homeless lifestyle, but that wasn't much of a problem for Yoshikage. He'd settled for worse in the past.
"Ah, that was satisfying." said the serial killer, looking down at his prize. "Come on now, Amat. I still need to find some temporary housing." With that, Kira tucked the disembodied hand into his inner pocket and set off down the street, a soft yellow glow from the lamps illuminating his path. Maybe he could find a half-decent hotel nearby.
-To be continued in chapter 2: Another Place, Same Mind-