Disclaimer: I do not own Yu Yu Hakusho. You think somebody would have recognized that by now...

Before the two Toguro brothers fought in the Dark Tournament's final round, Sakyo shared his rather sordid history with us. One of the anecdotes that particularly struck me was his recounting of a job he held in high school, working at a pet shop.

Sakyo liked to 'play' with the animals. "I'd play a game with myself...to see how long I could keep something alive after I'd removed its heart."

This is dedicated to my good friend Javer.

For your enjoyment...and remember...never trust appearances.

"This haunted face holds no horror for me now…It's in your soul that the true distortion lies…" –Christine Däae, Act 2, Scene 9, Phantom of the Opera

The new boy was quiet.

Akiko glanced at him over her shoulder as she finished stocking the shelf with cat food. He stood near the corner of the small pet shop, silently but earnestly mopping the floor.

It was the first thing she'd noticed about him. She had been running the cash register the day he'd slipped into the shop to ask for an application. He had reminded her of a shadow: dark and unobtrusive, and so quiet that one could almost forget he was there. But Matsumoto-san had decided to hire him, and simply could not stop raving about his newest employee.

Sakyo was not a troublemaker. He did not smoke on his lunch breaks. He did not flirt with any of the young, good-looking female customers. He was hard-working and efficient, and stayed late hours, cleaning up and looking after the various animals the small shop sold.

The other employees loved him, too. Of course, Saori would, the boy-crazy bubblehead. She and the other shop girls moaned about his sleek black hair and icy blue eyes, and his dashing good looks. They would flirt with him at every given chance. They couldn't lift the heavy twenty-pound bags of dog food; would he lift it for them? A gerbil had gotten loose, and they were afraid to chase after it; would he track it down for them? They brushed against his arms, blushed and giggled when they thought he was looking, and brought him homemade lunches.

Sakyo simply bore it all with his usual reserve.

"He's such a babe," some moaned. "Tall, dark, and handsome," other giggled. "Sakyo-kun is so wonderful!" they claimed.

He was so smart, strong, and cunning, they claimed. Such a hard worker, and so good with animals, too!

And he was good with the animals. He unfailingly fed, groomed, and cleaned up after them regularly, without complaint. But to Akiko, his movements seemed robotic, unfeeling.

Of course, she wouldn't be able to voice her thoughts to Saori, or any of the other girls. They thought she was odd enough for not swooning over Sakyo's many perfections.

She would never be able to tell them of the icy feeling in the pit of her stomach when she saw him. How he made her cringe when he looked directly at her. Maybe it was nothing more than nervousness around one so quiet and intense, but she was definitely getting bad vibes from Sakyo.

Shaking her head, she carried the now-empty box to the trash bin. Perhaps the nervous feeling had nothing to do with Sakyo; maybe it was coming from the rash of…unusual events lately.

Animals had been slowly disappearing from the store. First it was a rabbit. Then a cat. The smaller animals of the shop had begun to slowly disappear; eight had vanished in two months. And just last week, one of the cocker spaniels that Saori had cooed over for the longest time disappeared overnight.

Matsumoto-san was unsure of what to make of this—his first reaction had been to thoroughly question the employees, to ensure that they weren't smuggling home some of the choicer specimens. No, no, none of them had done it. None of the shop girls! Nor had Sakyo done it, either. Such a good young man! So hardworking! Impossible!


But the animals disappear after we close for the day, Akiko wanted to point out. They're gone when we check after opening in the morning. They must be disappearing during the night shift.

Sakyo works the night shift.


She couldn't say it. She just couldn't. Was it fear of Matsumoto-san's disbelief? The angry glares of Saori, Michiko, and the others? Or was it a pair of beautiful, piercing, frozen ice-blue eyes?

It was desire for certainty that prompted her to offer to help close shop that evening. "I know that your wife's sick, Matsumoto-san. I'll stay in your place tonight. Go home to her, sir. I'll make sure everything's closed up tight."

She had to count the money in the register four times, because her hands shook so bad when Sakyo mopped the floor near her.

He disappeared into the back, stating quietly that he'd finish cleaning, and run some of the garbage to the alley for pickup tomorrow. She nodded, pretending to be absorbed in putting new coins in the register for the next day's sales.

Akiko could see his every move in the reflective mirror mounted on the wall over the register. She could see the gray, fuzzy lump he was carefully carrying into the back room.

It was right now that her fingers trembled around the camera she'd stowed in the shelves beneath the register. Did she dare snatch her weapon and follow, like an intrepid investigative reporter?

Did she want to know? Or was she afraid? …What would Sakyo do to her?

…What could Sakyo do to her?

Her hand closed convulsively around the camera as she pushed herself from the stool, legs trembling faintly. Akiko swallowed, attempting to banish the cotton filling her mouth, as her sweaty, clammy hand shivered around the camera.

Were her footsteps soft enough? Could he hear her?

Her hand upon the door…she paused.

What would he do? What could he do?

She slipped the door open a crack and peeked in to watch him. One lamp pierced the gloom, framing him as he stood, back to the door. It was like a hulking creature from a nightmare…the black, twisted shape covered with a beautiful border, a brilliant façade of light…

Sakyo bent over his work, a steady and raw mewling emitting from his latest project.

As he set the bloody lump to the side in a Styrofoam meat container, Akiko's legs buckled. Nausea washed over her as she whirled away, the camera dropping to the floor.

Sakyo missed the smashing of plastic and metal against concrete as he examined a stopwatch. His eyes flickered down to the still mass laying on a plastic cutting board.

"Damn. Two seconds short. I would've beaten my record."