Dedicated to stitcher2ficcer for being someone like me.
"We've found them, Demura-sama!"
The white-haired, elderly woman looked down at the man kneeling in front of her. By the excitement in his voice she could guess to whom he was referring, but asked her great-grand son anyway:
"Who is it you have found, Shigeru?"
"The twins of light and darkness."
"No!" Ginji tried to catch the last piece of pizza from Ban's hand. It didn't work because Ban quickly turned around and held him off with his other hand. "Ban-chan! That was my piece!"
Ban couldn't answer right away because he had just stuffed the quite big pizza-slice in his mouth and was now chewing fervently.
"You're right," he finally answered as he swallowed the last piece, "it was yours. But it became mine."
He smirked at Ginji at the same time as he took a step aside on the pavement to avoid the sparkles that emerged from his friend's body.
"Idiot, control yourself, you can't do that out here. You'll draw too much attention to us."
The sparkles slowly faded away. "You're so mean, Ban-chan, I'm still hungry." Ginji threw the empty pizza-box in a trashbin and looked sulkily at his partner.
"Tsk, you owed me that pizza-slice." Ban gave Ginji an annoying grin.
"Yeah? How do you figure that?"
"Because you dragged me away from that girl, when she was going to buy me a cup of coffee."
"She wasn't going to you buy you anything, she was going to slap you!"
The bickering kept on, until they reached the door to the Honky Tonk. They stepped into the small café and at the sight of the customers both of them stopped their arguing.
Ban stared angrily at them. Hevn was sitting in the nearest booth together with a rich-looking woman and the Monkey Trainer. Shido cast them a quick glance as they made their entrance and a smirked briefly. Ban clenched his fists, and would have gone straight to the Monkey Boy to punch him hard hadn't he been held by a firm grip around his arm by Ginji. Ban knew all too well what this scene meant.
The rich woman didn't even notice the GetBackers as they entered the café; she was on her way to say goodbye.
"Thank you, Fuyuki-san, I trust you'll return my knife." She rose, bowed to Shido and Hevn, and left the café with not as much as a glance at the two young men standing near the door.
Ginji let go of Ban's arm and Ban went straight to Hevn.
"Am I wrong, or did you just give another job to that Monkey Trainer!?" He pointed at Shido.
"Yes, I did," Hevn answered calmly.
"That was the third job in a row you gave to him, instead of us!" Ban was furious. "Why!"
Hevn gave him a cold look. "Because he's here when he's supposed to be here, and you're not."
"Come on, we're only half an hour late." Ban looked important enough to make any self-centred business man proud.
Hevn wasn't impressed, though. "You were two hours late, the two previous times. It was pure luck that I could get Shido to come here before the clients got tired of waiting. This time I thought it was best to call him in from the start, just to be on the safe side. The clients are more willing to give the task to those who are reliable enough to show up in time, you know."
"But Hevn-san," Ginji said, a little whining. "Who would have got the job if we had been here on time?"
Hevn gave Ginji a look that was just a little softer than the one she gave Ban. "I did call you first. Had you been here, you would have gotten the job."
She rose. "But if you're not here before me the next time I call you, I probably won't give you any more jobs." With that she was gone.
Shido smirked at Ban. "Maybe you should find another line of work, snake bastard. You could always start with working off your tab here."
"Maybe you should go mate with a monkey, Monkey Trainer."
Shido only smirked again, then smiled at Ginji. "See you around, Ginji."
Demura was pleased beyond telling, but of course she didn't let that be seen. One, the most important, of their three searches was over. Now they only needed to find the Seikon and the Sacrificer, and then they could finally carry out the sacred ritual and let their people live on for another one hundred years.
It was a pity two of their sacred artifacts had been stolen by their rivals a couple of years ago, and they hadn't been able to take them back. They hadn't tried very hard, though; their numbers weren't large and it would be stupid to risk valuable people before the time had come when they could use it.
The Seikon and the Sacrificer were both essential; they had to find them. Besides, she and her tribe had a pretty good idea of where the thieves kept those two items. There was no need to hurry since the enemy tribe could neither use nor destroy either of the artifacts. They had only taken them to stop Demura's tribe from using them.
Shigeru was still on his knees. She could see he had something more on his mind.
"Who are the twins this time, Shigeru?"
"This time we can use them for more than the ritual," he said. Then he started to tell his leader all he knew about the 'twins'.
Swearing, Ban was pacing inside the Honky Tonk. Every time he passed the bar counter he slammed his fist into it, making Paul look more and more annoyed. Ginji followed him with his eyes, trying to say something that could calm his friend, but it wasn't easy since Ginji too felt a little hurt by not getting any jobs from Hevn.
"Sit down and keep quiet, or get out of here!" Paul couldn't stand Ban's pacing and slamming anymore.
A quick glare at Paul told Ban that the café's owner meant what he said, so Ban tried to calm himself some and went to sit opposite Ginji in a booth.
"How much money do we have left, Ban-chan?"
"None, and you already knew that, stupid."
Ginji sighed heavily. How long would it take before they could eat again? He was still hungry. That pizza was the first thing they had eaten since yesterday, and his share hadn't filled him up. Especially not since Ban stole the last piece. Stupid Ban-chan. If he hadn't insisted on talking to that girl they wouldn't have been late.
Paul came up to them. He crossed his arms and said seriously: "Shido is right. You should get another job, and your tab here is quite high, so..." He grinned down at them. "Now, while Natsumi is visiting her grandparents and Rena has got a cold, I could use some help here."
Ban looked alarmed. "Hell, no! We're professional retrievers, not waiters or dish-washers."
Ginji was more deliberated. "Ban-chan, maybe we should. Just for a while, until we get another retrieval job."
Ban glared at Ginji. "Idiot! We are the GetBackers, have you forgotten that?"
Ginji tried to appeal to Ban. "No, of course not, but at least we wouldn't go hungry."
Paul went back to his work behind the counter. "Do as you wish, but you're not going to eat anything more here until you have paid at least some of what you owe me."
At that moment the door opened again and a man in his middle thirties came in. In his hand he held one of the flyers Ban and Ginji had been out distributing this morning. He looked around and approached them hesitantly.
"I'm looking for the GetBackers." He showed them the flyer in his hand. "Are you them?"
Ban was suddenly all smiles. "Yes, that's us. I'm Midou Ban."
"Amano Ginji." Ginji smiled too.
"Nice to meet you. My name is Demura Shigeru and I would like to hire you to get back a thing that has been stolen from my family."
"Sit down and tell us." Ban gestured at the seat beside Ginji at the opposite side of the table. He always wanted the clients to sit opposite him. That way he could study them and try and figure out what kind of people they were.
"This is going to sound a little crazy," Demura said. "But we have a tradition in our family. With a few years interval, all of our family get together and carry out a small ritual. We sing and eat and such things." He looked a little embaressed. "It's my great grandmother who wants this. She says it's making our family bond strong, never to break. It's been a tradition in my family for many centuries now."
"Uhuh." Ban took up a cigarette and lit it. "What is it you want us to retrieve?"
"One of the artifacts we use in this ritual is a ball about this size." He couped his hands in the air as if he was holding a ball a little more than one decimeter in diameter. "It's made of dark wood and is carved with ancient symbols and signs. We call it the Seikon."
"The Seikon," Ginji repeated. "What do you use it for?"
Demura's smile didn't reach his eyes. "Nothing much, we're rolling it a bit, doesn't make much sense if you're not part of the family."
"Oh, sorry. None of my business." Ginji blushed a little, and Ban glared at his partner.
"That's alright. Anyway, the Seikon got stolen a couple of years ago, and this year it's time for our tradition to take place again. That's why we like to hire you to get it back."
"It got stolen a couple of years ago and you haven't tried to get it back before?" Ban said without letting any expression be seen at his face.
"Well... we thought we could do it by ourselves, but since we couldn't we decided to get help. From you."
"Have any idea who took it?" Ban asked as he blew out some smoke.
"Yes. This is going to sound even more crazy, like it's a romantic novel or something, but our family do have an enemy. A rivaling family, by the name of Motohashi." He looked almost ashamed. "It is the truth. And it was they who took the Seikon. Please, believe me."
"Hmph." Ban snorted. "We believe you. That story isn't half as unbelievable as some other things we have had to deal with."
"That's for sure." Ginji gave Demura an encouraging smile. He turned to Ban. "What do you say, Ban-chan?"
Ban ignored his partner's question. "We're not cheap," he told Demura.
"Would 500 000 yen be sufficient?" their client asked.
Ban looked at Ginji, seeing in his eyes what he already knew would be there. A plea to accept this mission.
"600 000," Ban said. "Then the GetBackers will accept."
"It's a deal."
The conversation lasted another quarter of an hour, while Demura Shigeru gave them more details about the thieves. Before he left, Ban convinced him to give them ten percent in advance payment, which was a necessity since they didn't have enough money to fill the Ladybug's tank.
When Demura had left, Ban leant back.
"I wonder what he was lying about," Ban said.
"Lying? Was he lying, Ban-chan?"
"You didn't notice?" Ban gave his friend a fondly smile. He hadn't really expected Ginji to notice. Ginji always thought the best of everybody.
"No. Why would he lie to us?"
"How should I know, stupid." He frowned while he gave it some thought. "Maybe not exactly lying, but he definitely didn't tell us everything. There is something more to this than he told us. "
"Why did you agree to accept the request then, Ban-chan?"
"We need the money, and if we must trust all our clients we wouldn't have many jobs. All we have to do is to be a little extra cautious."
According to Demura Shigeru, the Motohashi family lived outside a small town about three hours drive from Shinjuku, and the Seikon was kept in the home of the head of the family. Late in the evening they left for the town, and when they reached it they drove through it to a small road leading to the mansion.
The small road was well lit and Ban, who didn't want to announce their presence, drove his car into the forest and managed to find a fairly hidden spot were they could park the Ladybug.
It was way past midnight, but not dawn yet, and when the lights from the car had been turned off they wouldn't have been able to see anything if it weren't for the fact that the moon was close to full and the night was cloudless.
They stepped out of the car. It was a nice night, the temperature was pleasant and the little town was too far away to disturb the night with whatever noise there would be at this hour. Ginji stood listening to the sounds of the night forest.
"Ban-chan. Can you hear the owl?"
Ban listened. Standing quietly here in the forest he could hear not only the owl, but a rich symphony of sounds that belonged to the night. Since he got together with Ginji his ability to appreciate such things had been much enhanced.
"Yeah, I hear it." Appreciate it or not, they could not stand here all night. "Come on, Ginji, we've got a job to do."
Ginji started to get back to the road.
"Hey, where're you going, moron? Are you going to knock on their door too, and ask if we could please get back the Seikon?"
"Sorry, Ban-chan, I wasn't thinking."
"Apparently not. The way through the forest is safer, and it's light enough for us to make it without any trouble. And it's shorter, you should know that too, if you had looked at the map."
Ginji was embarrassed. Ban had handed him the map and obviously meant for Ginji to look and learn, but Ginji had left it all to Ban. It was so easy, letting Ban to take care of all the practical stuff. It wasn't fair, Ginji knew, Ban shouldn't have to do everything, but most of the time Ban didn't seem to mind, on the contrary, he wanted to do it. Still, Ginji should at least be able to help Ban if he wanted it.
They started to walk through the forest. It wasn't as easy as Ban had made it sound like, but beside from a little stumbling they actually didn't have any problems. Even so it took them about 25 minutes to reach the house. In spite of the late hour they could see lights from some of the windows, and from one open window on the first floor, they heard agitated voices.
"What are they saying? Can you hear, Ban-chan?" Ginji whispered to Ban.
"No, but if we move a little closer and you shut up, maybe I can."
Ginji fell silent and they carefully but quickly sneaked their way to the house. Croaching beneath the window from where the voices were heard, they listened attentively.
"How can you stay so calm?" an anxious, quite young, male voice said.
"Believe me, I'm taking this as seriously as you do. I just don't think pacing and yelling is going to help," an older man answered.
"No, of course you're right." The first voice clearly made an effort to calm himself. "But we must make sure the thief can't get the Seikon too. After all, it's only two kilometers to your son's house, and I'll bet the burglar is on his way here now."
"Yes, he most probably is. It wouldn't do Demura much good if she got her hands on the Sacrificer but not the Seikon."
"I can't understand how he did it. The thief, I mean. They actually saw the man as he jumped out of a window and ran away, but the watch-dogs didn't seem to notice him, or didn't care. Strange. And when they tried to follow he had all but vanished." He sounded confused. "It's a pity we don't have watch-dogs."
"Why? You just told me it didn't help my son, didn't you?"
"Oh." They could hear the embarrassement in the single word.
"Don't worry. We'll guard the Seikon ourselves. I've put guards in my office upstairs and at all the stairways downstairs. If the thief wants the Seikon he must both get past my guards and crack the safe before he can leave the house with it. And there is always Toriyoshi-sama," he added. "I say it'll be impossible for the thief now that we know he's coming."
The voice faded away as the GetBackers heard footsteps walking out of the room, and a door was shut.
Ban cautiously peaked over the windowsill. There was no one in the room.
"Impossible, heh?" He snorted. "Leaving a window open to an empty room."
"What if it's a trap, Ban-chan?" Ginji asked, looking concerned.
Ban lowered himself to sit beside his friend again and considered for a moment. "No, I don't think so. In that case they must have known we're here and then made an hell of an act. It's more likely they have no idea who they're up against. Namely the GetBackers."
"But Ban-chan, if that conversation was real, that must mean another guy is coming here too, to get the Seikon."
"Yeah, you're right about that. Someone who has already got the Sacrificer, whatever that is." He smirked. "But he'll leave this place emptyhanded, 'cause we'll already have taken it by then."
Ban rose to climb into the mansion, but stopped. Something disturbed him, and even Ginji looked thoughtful. A guy that the watch-dogs didn't care about.
"The Monkey Trainer!" Ban burst out at the same time as Ginji gasped: "Shido!"
"That bastard was going to get a knife for that woman." Ban searched his memory for more details of the deal between the other retrieval specialist and his client, but since he hadn't heard much, he couldn't find anything. "Can that knife be this Sacrificer?"
"If it is, it sure is a scary name for a knife," Ginji said seriously. "But anyway, if it is Shido who has got the Sacrificer, he's not coming here, Ban-chan. He wasn't suppose to get a ball, too."
"At least it wasn't mentioned in the part of the conversation we overheard." Which was a very small part, Ban thought.
"If it's the same family that stole both the Sacrificer and the Seikon, do you think we and Shido have the same client, Ban-chan?"
"Could be. But why didn't they hire us to take back both items in that case?"
Ban felt uneasy. His senses told him there was something really strange going on. He shrugged it off.
"Let's just do our job; the Monkey Trainer can take care of himself. Here's the plan. We get into the house, you sneak out of the room and up the stairs and find the room with the safe. Before you get to that room knock down all guards if they try to stop you, but when you reach it you'll just pretend to fight and then let yourself be caught. Just make sure every guard must be needed to capture you."
"What! Why, Ban-chan?" Ginji didn't like the idea; it was hard to just pretend to fight. He often overdid it when he was fighting for fun.
"You'll be the decoy, Ginji. They'll think they have caught the thief and then I'll come, get their attention and fool them all with Jagan." Ban looked very proud of himself; he thought it was a brilliant plan. "Understand, Ginji?"
"Sure, Ban-chan." Ginji thought it was a good plan too.
They silently climbed into the room through the window. The house trigged something inside Ban. A strange feeling, like the house contained something evil. It was as if a bad aura was waiting, pulsating somewhere close enough to make Ban's senses tingle. He wondered if he should tell Ginji, but decided not to. It was probably only his imagination and he didn't want Ginji to think he was a scared rabbit.
"Be careful, Ginji," he restrained himself to say. "I don't think there's any immediate danger, but you'll never know. And don't let yourself get caught until you reach Motohashi's office."
Ginji smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry, Ban-chan, I'll be careful."
Ban waited as Ginji opened the door and entered the hallway. He left the door a little ajar, and Ban stood by it, listening to hear what happened outside.
Ginji sneaked quietly to the entrance hall. He looked around a corner and saw the stairway and the guard in front of it. The young man standing guard looked bored and didn't pay much attention to what happened around him. He was probably not hired as a guard, only assigned the task without really understanding the importance of it.
It was amazingly easy, Ginji thought, to come close to him, and it wasn't until Ginji laid a hand on his shoulder that he realized someone was there. He opened his mouth to cry out a warning, but before he could make a sound he fell to the floor, made unconscious by Ginji's electric jolt.
Ginji looked around and saw a little cupboard under the stairs and dragged the guard inside it. That way he wouldn't be discovered immediately if anyone entered the hall. He proceeded up the stairway and as he reached the second floor he found himself standing in an empty passageway.
Slowly he went from door to door and opened each of them cautiously. The third door he opened was clearly Motohashi's office. In the middle of the room was a large desk and from the door he could also see a big safe standing beside the window. He stepped inside, and thought he acted very convincingly as he pretended to be surprised when the guard in the room jumped him and tried to hold him, while screaming for help. Obviously this man wasn't a skilled guard either, and definitely not a good fighter, but Ginji tried to look scared as he fought the man. He was supposed to be captured, but not until all the guards had gathered in this room. Ginji tried to keep the fight on a level that made his fighting abilities look just a little more skillful than the poor guard's, to be sure the man must yell for help. But Ginji mustn't be too good, he mustn't defeat this man.
Running steps were heard from the passageway and the room was soon filled with men. Together they managed to overpower Ginji, or so they thought, since Ginji most willingly let himself get caught. He was very pleased with himself. All the men in the house were probably here with him, congratulating themselves on their catch.
But where was Ban?