By: Wildfire Sky

If I do this right, this will actually be the first of a final three other words, the story is about to come to an end. And guess what? If you hate my cut off chapter endings, just you wait until I finish this thing...then you'll really hate me! Enjoy!


Chapter Twenty Four

Francoise regarded the pacing Diablo warily, her mind and body already worn out from this brief, yet emotional, encounter with a killer she'd never knew existed, despite the fact that she should have know better than for Black Ghost to give up so easily on them. It was given that the monster would harbor ill will against their team, even to the level of pure hatred, but she'd believed, after defeating both him and his forces again and again, that Black Ghost would actually take a hint and leave them the hell alone. But, it seemed, Black Ghost was persistent in both the business and personal worlds he occupied.

At the sound of a low cough, Francoise turned her head slightly, staring at the other men occupying the abandoned warehouse. Min took another drag from his cigarette, hands folded behind his head as he lay on the ground, staring up at the high ceiling. His hand pulled the cigarette from his mouth and a light stream of smoke billowed from his nostrils as he tightly shut him eyes, a grimace coming over his expression. For a moment, Francoise felt sorry for him and for his loss. To see your brother murdered in cold blood...well, she'd nearly shattered when she'd realized her own brother was dead, and she never witnessed it. What Min had to be going through was beyond comparison in her mind. Nothing that Black Ghost had done to her, or to Joe, was a dirty as forcing someone to watch their family die.

"What are you staring at?" Came a low growl, snapping Francoise from her thoughts. She realized that she'd been staring at Min and quickly averted her gaze from his piercing glare. Min huffed triumphantly, and took another pull. "I'd worry about yourself, missy...I don't think the day's going to start off too bright for you."

Boots shuffled towards them and Min sat up, propping his body with his elbows. She vaguely heard the 'oh, great' that Min mumbled, her eyes filling with terror at the sight of Diablo towering over her slender frame. Red eyes locked with her own and a savage grin spread across his lips. "It's a few hours before dawn, dearest," Diablo said in an almost gentle voice, "Time for you to do your thing."

Francoise stiffened, her eyes narrowing, "What makes you think I won't just call for help? We can communicate telepathically to each other, you fact, I've been doing it the entire time you've kept me here. My friends know where I am and they're on their way."

Min blinked at this, staring up at Diablo. "Is she serious? Fucking hell, man! Now all of her little friends are pissed at us, what the hell are we going to do now?"

"Shut-up." Kinto snapped from his place on few feet from Francoise.

"Yes, please do." Diablo agreed, his eyes never leaving Francoise's face. "Besides, she's bluffing...the only one she can telepathically communicate with is that damn 001. And, if what Black Ghost says is true, the little brat is out for a thirty day nap, is he not?"

Min let out a small laugh, "Thirty days, huh?" He bore a sad smile, staring at Francoise, "Tai's sleeping for a lot longer than that."

Kinto rolled his eyes and moved from leaning against the metal wall, striding over stand next to Francoise. "What are you going to do with her afterwards, Diablo?"

"What would you like me to do?" he questioned, staring at the fisherman directly.

Kinto shrugged one shoulder absently, but Francoise saw the predatory look glaze over his features. "You could always leave her with me. You said that you only wanted the boy, right? Well, once you have him, you leave us the girl and we call everything even."

Diablo's eyes narrowed. "I don't enjoy harming's a degrading act that only lowers a man's stature."

"And yet here you have her captive, wrists bound together like some prisoner." Kinto's eyes sparkled with hidden mirth. "Yes, you seem quite hospitable when it comes to females."

The Cuban visibly bristled, the corner of his lip curling back into a snarl, flames literally sprouting from his eyes. Kinto's smug look faltered for a moment at the sight of Diablo's flaming eyes and he hesitantly took a half step back. Min, on the other hand, instantly leapt to his feet, backing away several paces, muttering and crossing himself.

"Don't you dare presume to demoralize me!" Diablo growled, the flames becoming brighter for a moment, "I'm getting tired of your snide remarks, Kinto, and if you wish to live long enough to enjoy the company of a woman, hold your tongue!"

Kinto lifted his chin slightly, glaring at Diablo. "Apologies. I didn't realize you were so sensitive..."

For a brief moment, Diablo's entire form erupted into flame, the force of the heat knocking both Min and Kinto back a full step. Francoise had to turn away from the heat, her eyes closed as the heat washed over her. And as soon as it started, the heat came to a swift end, leaving behind a smell of o-zone. When she opened her eyes again to look at Diablo, the cyborg's entire frame was shaking, his fists clenched tightly. Suddenly, she began to fear for all of their lives. Never before had she felt such wild power come from one person, not even Black Ghost, and it seemed she wasn't the only one. Kinto also looked shocked from the fearsome display of raw power, his eyes slightly wider than even he probably realized. To make matters worse, Francoise could both detect, and see from the victorious look in Diablo's eyes, that this power was only the tip of a very large iceberg.

Diablo turned his gaze on Francoise. "Get up and get ready." Turning back to Min and Kinto, he gave them a toothy smile. "I trust there won't be anymore arguments or commentary from you two?"

They both nodded in shocked unison.

"Good..." he kneeled down in front of Francoise, giving her a slight nod. "Don't worry, senorita, your fate has yet to be determined. Now then," he gripped the chain dangling between her hands and with a slight flex of his wrist, the cuffs opened and fell to the floor. He stood, holding out a hand towards her, "Shall we? Destiny doesn't wait for just anyone."

Mumei sat on the hard, wood flooring of the fishing boat, the same vessel that he'd come to know in the past week or so. He couldn't count the number of times he'd felt out of place here, unsure of why he'd event taken refuge with these strangers or why they'd even opted to share their beds with a boy without a name...

Mumei shook his head. No...he did have a name...Joe...that's what Francoise kept calling him, so it must be his name. And yet, for a name it seemed to have such a bad taste in his mouth. There was something associated with this name...something he just couldn't place, and it frightened him. It was like being named after a killer that everyone knew about, except for you. Whenever you told someone, they'd cringe and give you a wary stare before recovering and quickly mumbling that it was a nice name. Eventually, someone would tell you the truth behind it, but Mumei had yet to discover them.

Fingering the coffee cup in his hand, Mumei frowned. It was going to be hard, getting used to his new, if not unwanted, name. He had to if he wanted to stay in favor with Francoise. Although she seemed like the type of woman who'd accept you for who you were, she seemed so sad when he'd demanded that his name was Mumei and not Joe. She looked worse than hurt...she looked devastated. That look was like a punch in the gut.

So he ran. Ran away like the coward he was...away from Francoise, away from his insecurities, and away from his unknown past.

He didn't want to know why she looked so sad. He did even want to know why the others seemed so...cautious around him. Yes, they'd greeted him with open arms like they were all distant brothers at a reunion, but at the same time he could feel the tension in the room increase whenever he walked in. Conversations hesitated for a moment should his presence be noted. And that Jet character...the one who always stared at him in contempt. Mumei could almost feel the hate radiating from him. He was another thorn in his side...his words finally driving him over the edge and off the ship, his hateful words...

Sighing, Mumei pressed his head back against the wall, taking a sip of the lukewarm sludge he'd found in the kitchen pot. It almost seemed like a miracle when Joe found the kitchen untouched and absent of blood. Everywhere else seemed to be covered in it. The galley doors were closed, cutting off the sight of the blood splattered room right next door, the same room where blood still dripped from the ceiling into tiny pools of crimson. A room he never wanted to step into again. Closing his eyes, Mumei willed his tired brain to shutdown and sleep.


Mumei's eyes snapped open, his frayed nerves instantly on high alert as his body tensed. It couldn't could she have found him already? Goddamn it all!

"Joe, are you here?"

She sounded frightened, anxious about something.

"Joe, please answer me!"

Inwardly preparing himself, Mumei climbed to his feet, slowly approaching the door. He had a choice right now. He could either, remain silent and let her go on by, or he could finally confront her and set things straight. Apologize to her and beg for her forgiveness. The footsteps paused just beyond the door where the second floor ended. She would be in front of the stairs leading down to the storage room where they kept the fish. It, like everything else, would be in a shroud of darkness until she found the light switch at the bottom. Gently pushing open the door, he winced at the light creak that seemed to magnify in the silence.

Francoise whirled around, her gold locks flying out behind her. Putting a hand on the wall to steady herself, she flashed him a winning smile. "There you are, Mumei, you had me worried."

Mumei cocked an eyebrow. "Worried? You're the one I'm worried about, what are you doing out here in the middle of a storm, you should be back at your ship."

The young French woman averted her gaze, staring down at a point between her shoes. "I was...I came to find you, Mumei. Your captain told me you'd run off and I came looking for you." She looked up, staring right into his cinnamon eyes.

"Is that so?"

Francoise blushed under his heated gaze. "Well...actually I saw you run away and came after you." She smiled softly. "Don't let Jet get to you, Mumei...he just has a hot temper, he really does mean well."

Mumei shrugged one shoulder, leaning against the doorframe. "I figured as much. A woman like yourself wouldn't allow any heartless man near them." At Francoise's nod he moved from the door, slowly approaching her. "And thankfully, I'm not a mean person either..."

Francoise took a small step back, surprised at this sudden aggression. "Mumei?"

At the fear laced tone, Mumei halted, staring at her slender form with an apologetic grin. "Sorry...I didn't mean to scare you." He reached out, gently taking her hand in his. "I just wanted to get the point across that even though the others might not think it, I'm not such a bad guy."

Reaching up to brush the stray locks from his face, Francoise nodded. "Yes...yes, I know that..." Suddenly, a dark look cast down over her features, her eyes darting to the dark staircase behind him. "Mumei...I want to apologize in advance for this. I didn't mean for any of it to happen, especially not this way."

Frowning slightly, Mumei sensed the anxiety once again. "What's wrong Francoise?"

"I..." She began dropping her gaze. "I...I want to show you something, Mumei...something important. You might not like it, but it's for the best...I think..."

Mumei was on full alert at the warning in Francoise's eyes as she lead him up on deck and into the rain. The first whisper of dawn was just peeking over the horizon as they stood together, watching the churning sea. Confusion now settled deep within him, Mumei opened his mouth to question Francoise when she suddenly threw her body against his, wrapping her arms round his waist in an iron grip. He didn't know if it was rain or tears that were soaking the front of his shirt, but he knew that Francoise was crying by the shaking of her shoulders.

"I love you so much, Joe!" she sobbed. "I wish it had never come to this! I'm so sorry, please forgive me!"

Blinking, Mumei hesitantly held her, trying his best to calm the weeping girl. "It's...alright, Francoise, just calm down and tell me what you're talking about? Why are you apologizing to me?"

It all happened too fast. In the next moment, cold steel began to grind itself against his temple, the click of a safety sounding off in his ears almost in unison with Francoise's scream as she was ripped from his arms and thrown to the ground. A dark shadow descended on her, pressing her face to the deck boards and cutting off her screams up a vicious punch to her face.

"Francoise!" Mumei yelled, moving forward, not caring about the gun that was pressed to his head. Hell-bent on rescuing his love, he never saw the shadow move, only felling the searing pain that raced through his skull as something very heavy was cracked against it. With a low groan of pain, he collapsed to the deck, his vision already beginning to darken at the edges.

The last thing his mind registered was staring into Francoise's fear filled eyes.

Takeshi led the group of ten black garbed men through the wide alleys between the forest of warehouses and storage buildings that littered the Tokyo Bay Harbor, heading towards the ship he'd seen Diablo make a break for only a couple of hours ago. His discussion with Nakotou had left him both confused and interested in this organization of theirs, and, with minimal hesitation on his part, he volunteered to meet up with another of their agents, the captain, and capture Diablo. However, things had suddenly become hectic when the captain never checked in like he was supposed to.

And suddenly Takeshi found himself leading a task force of the very criminals he'd dedicated his life to putting behind bars. It was...uncomfortable, and being at the front of the pack he almost feel their heated glares and imagined the single bullet between his blades that he'd have no knowledge of until he found himself dead. He heard the suspicious and angry grumbles when Nakotou had assigned him team leader, and they made sure he caught every glare they sent his way. The threat to his life was obvious, yet the knowledge that Nakotou had forbidden his murder by any of them was assuring, albeit a little.

As they approached the last of the warehouses before the docks, Takeshi held up a fisted hand, calling for a halt to the procession. The group stopped and Takeshi studied the area around them. Directly in front was the target ship and from this vantage point, Takeshi could easily see the lights below deck through the porthole. However, he didn't see the tell tale signs of life on the boat. One of the men crawled up next to him, whispering low in his ear.

"I don't see anything, officer. Are you sure this is the place? Because if you are, now's the time to move in and take care of things."

Takeshi frowned, glancing at the man from the corner of his eye before turning his attention back to the seemingly uninhabited boat. "I know what I'm doing. I do stake outs for a living."

At this, there was a small increase in angry grumbles, but it quickly died with a look from the man. He turned back to Takeshi, placing a firm hand on his shoulder. "Nakotou-sama sent me along to keep these boys under control and to keep you safe from them. However, I would watch comments like that...your 'stake outs' have landed many of them in prison."

"I'll remember that." Takeshi said half heartedly, not really caring about the feelings of the men. Even though he'd recently found himself keeping company with dangerous and deadly people of all kinds, it didn't mean he still didn't have the duties bestowed upon him by the Tokyo Police Department. He'd recognized some of them as escaped convicts and criminal immigrants from foreign countries, criminals that needed to be returned to complete their sentencing.

The man's hand lingered a bit longer before it moved from his shoulder. "I say we go now, if you're so sure that this is the boat we're seeking. No point in wasting more time, besides the sun is coming up."

"That's true..." Takeshi said, glowering, "I wouldn't want to keep your friendly group away from the dark, would I?" He turned to face the man dead on, "After all, your boss is mine at the moment and I don't want to piss him off."

The man, Ki-ken jabbed a finger in Takeshi's face. "Watch your mouth, my friend," he threatened, his voice a low growl, "Remember what I told you. I can't protect you from everything...accidents do happen..."

Taking the warning for what it was, Takeshi merely nodded, crouching lower. "If you want to, go right ahead, but it would be wise to wait."

"Oh really? And why is that?"

Takeshi sank lower into the shadows, his eyes scanning. "Because we're hunting a very dangerous predator."

There was a low click, and Takeshi turned, watching Ki-ken shove another round into his shotgun and loading it, a smile gracing his features. "When you're dealing with me, any predator becomes my prey."

Takeshi shook his head and turned back to the boat. "For your sake, I hope you live up to that boost."

Ignoring the comment, Ki-Ken turned to one of the convicts. "You, take someone and go scout the boat and area. See if the bastard is hiding somewhere." Almost as an after thought, he added: "And keep out of sight...none of us should die on a mission like this."

Two men stood up and nodded, hefting their semi-automatic guns to their shoulders and moving into the shadows. Takeshi watched them and then watched the boat. He could barely see the outlines of their bodies as the morning dawn kissed the sky on the horizon. At the sight, Ki-Ken fidgeted, moving closer to the shadows.

"Don't worry," Takeshi whispered, "After a storm like that there won't be any shipping for at least a day. The waters are too dangerous and filled with debris to risk entering the docks, so you can relax."

Ki-Ken snorted. "I am not worried about boats. But the sun is a dangerous thing to represents something that as criminals, we've learned to do without. The darkness is our friend, and we work in and with it."

"What are you saying?"

"Where some are afraid of the dark, we are afraid of the light." Cold, grey eyes slid over Takeshi's face. "There will be problems should dawn grace us with its presence. Do you understand? We need to finish the job quickly so we might return."

At that moment, the two scouts reappeared next to them. They held a whispered conversation with Ki-Ken, occasionally glancing in Takeshi's direction, their eyes narrowed. With a nod and a wave of his hand, Ki-Ken dismissed the two, frowning at the ship.

"What is it?" Takeshi questioned, staring at Ki-Ken's tense face, "What seems to be the problem?"

Ki-Ken shrugged one shoulder. "No problem...if you exclude the fact that it seems your target has escaped."

Takeshi blinked in surprise. "Escaped? What the hell are you talking about? We couldn't have missed him!"

Ki-Ken snorted, lowered his shotgun to the ground, staring at he boat. "There were signs of movement around the boat. They went on board and found blood."

Takeshi clutched his own rifle, squeezing it tightly. He'd wanted to get that Diablo! And now he'd slipped right through his fingers to a location that God only knew. Despite the fact that he knew almost nothing about them, and despite the fact that Nakotou was apart of it, Takeshi felt a bond with this secret organization of 'justice-seekers' that incorporated killers to succeed. And now, on his first mission with them, he'd screwed up. Big time. And he had to face the fact that he had.

Gritting his teeth, Takeshi stood. "Fine then...we'll return to the warehouse and figure out what to do from there."

Instantly Ki-Ken was on his feet, watching the sun warily. "It all sounds good to me, and better yet, we'll make it there before the sun even comes up. However, if you plan on doing anything right away, you'll have to find someone else to help you, got it?"

Takeshi nodded absently, angrily glaring at the abandoned boat. "Yea, I got it...the sun and all."

Shrugging, Ki-Ken turned away, "I was just reminding you. Don't want to get your hopes up, right?" He turned to the others nodding slightly. "Let's go. Everyone back to the warehouse."

Takeshi opened his mouth to comment, but another beat him to it.

"Hold on! What's the rush?"

The group turned in uniform towards the owner of the voice, staring at him in surprise and confusion. After the long silence, Takeshi finally spoke up. "Who the hell are you?"

The silver eyed man smirked, rising what looked like a metallic hand in greeting. "The name's 004, and I think, if I heard right, you could use some help." He cocked his head, "And coincidently, I have help to offer."

Finished...thank God...not too bad either. Updated two stories in a week! I think that might be a record. Impressive, huh? I thought so too. Ahh...getting suspended is a beautiful thing!