The Darker Side
Mission 1 – Handicapped
Red hot pain.
Fuuko let the scream tear out of her throat as she clutched at her arm. Her knees buckled, and she fell face first into the dirt. The random stones jabbed her in the face and head, but they were only pricks of pain in comparison. Red spots clouded her vision, and she squeezed her eyes shut. Tears leaked out.
She knew she had to move. The second shot would land squarely in her head.
"I overestimated you, Operator Tempest." The voice was soft, yet there was a hard and commanding edge to it. it sounded familiar… somehow. Fuuko shuddered, out of pain and fear. So this was what it felt like to be awaiting death. She thought she had already known the taste of it.
Her eyes opened a crack, disregarding the blinding heat in her upper left arm.
The thought hit home with pure hatred. She struggled to get up, but her feet slid on the gravel, and she fell back, her face crashing into the ground once more. A whimper escaped in a strangled voice.
She felt a shoe under her chin, propping it up. Fuuko gasped, then ground on her teeth fiercely. The pain flared once again. She glared up into the shadowed face, seeing nothing more than faint lines. Her vision dotted over with red, and she squeezed her eyes shut again. Pain… pain… pain…
The shadow cocked a head. Fuuko felt herself scrutinized. The shoe left its position, and Fuuko's chin dropped onto the sharp stones. She grimaced despite herself.
"I never like to gloat, so I'll make this clean." A gun cocked, the sound crisp in the cold night air. "Any last words?"
For a moment, there was silence, broken time to time by Fuuko's ragged breathing. The air held still, the tension thick.
"Nothing?" the voice rasped. "Just as well."
Fuuko lifted her head, trying to glimpse the face, even if it was just a little, even if she could do nothing about it. "W… wait…" she whispered, voice hoarse. Her head fell back onto the ground; her strength was ebbing away, like the blood that now soaked her hand and pooled around her arm. "… You killed my mum…"
Her good hand reached out, almost touching the leather boot. It moved away carelessly. There was no reply.
"W… who was it…? Who asked you to do it…?" Fuuko raised her voice, but it was far from loud.
"So many questions…" there was amusement in the quiet voice. The boots moved, and the footsteps encircled Fuuko. She could care less that she was on display. She wanted to know, wanted to know so much, even if it was the last thing she could do.
"Who was it…?"
Fuuko's mind was relaxing, coherent thoughts fading out even as she vainly tried to keep them in her grasp. The conscious part of her fought with the physical agony, even as it was being crushed under two years of suppressed emotions and stress. She was tired… she wanted to give in and sleep…
"Too much time wasted." The footsteps finished its circle in front of her, in the original position. She caught a dull glint of metal moving through the slits in her eyes.
Who killed Mum? Who's going to avenge her if I die? Who's going to avenge me if I die? Who killed her? Who killed me…? A sudden rush of thoughts charged into her head, making sense even through the thick fog that seemed to have enshrouded everything in her vision and in her mind. Can't die… I don't want to die…
Above her, a finger went to the trigger. "We'll end this conversation now."
"You still have me to talk to," a voice sounded behind. It rang clear in the frozen atmosphere.
Fuuko's mind was jerked back into focus. She recognized the voice, more so the owner of the voice. It sparked off hopes that had been dying the previous second. Mikagami… Tokiya Mikagami. Her eyelids were heavy, and sleep seemed so tempting at that moment, to get sucked into nothingness, away from the pain of reality, physical, emotional, and mental. But never had she experienced the true meaning of hope, until that moment. Don't go away… Mi-chan… Mum… Mum…? I want to know…
She heard the person in front of her breathe out heavily. There was a pause, then the voice came out cold. "Over-estimated one and under-estimated the other…"
"I propose that we exchange. Your life for hers." A gun cocked.
"... Fair enough."
Fuuko saw that dull glint again, as the cold metal went down this time.
"I'm on the side of justice," was the cool mocking reply. So Mikagami.
Fuuko tried to get up, as footsteps faded away into the darkness, further and further away from her, but she could not even move her head. Wait… don't go… you haven't answered me ye…
The darkness finally ruled.
Mikagami dropped the semi-automatic into his jacket, after he was sure there was no one left that required bullets to subdue. In a few brisk steps, he was kneeling by his fallen teammate and accessing the injuries. Fuuko was lucky, to have gotten hit only on the arm. You mean she's lucky that guy only aimed at her arm…
He removed Fuuko's other hand, which covered the wound, then took off his own jacket and ripped off the sleeves. In a few swift motions, he crudely bandaged the offended area so that it did not bleed that badly. When he was finished, he let out an exasperated sigh and glared at the body beside his foot. "You just had to mess up my plans, didn't you, idiot?" he muttered.
There was no reply. Not that he was expecting any.
Mikagami closed his eyes and tried to settle his shifting state of mind. Who was he now? He frowned, then decided on Tokiya Mikagami. His eyes opened after a while, and he stood up, dusting himself down. Then he picked up Fuuko, sliding one hand beneath her knees and another supporting her back, and started clearing out of the place.
The night wind was less than merciful, Mikagami noted. He was rarely affected by chill ever since he had taken up Hyomon Ken, but Fuuko was another issue altogether. Her lips were already dry and in a moment, they were going to be chapped. Mikagami focused on his surroundings, ears on the alert for unusual sounds. His steps were firm on the ground, making no noise even with the randomly scattered pebbles and stones under his feet.
Fuuko did not even shift throughout the journey; Mikagami had to constantly make sure that she was actually alive. He made a mental note to himself that he would have to look into the problem of his split personality soon. It was not like what many people thought, where one could not control his alternate personality. No, for Mikagami's case, it was just a drastic change of perspective, and a drastic change of managing events, thoughts, and feelings. There had been a firm wall between the two just a few days ago… but now…
Mikagami cleared his head of the thoughts. They were too much trouble at the moment. He had sorted out his values and thoughts carefully when he took up the job, and he did not want them messed up.
More specifically, he did not want Fuuko to mess them up. She was a danger to his mind set.
It was nearly half an hour later when they saw the first signs of human life. Fuuko was still unconscious; she had not lost too much blood, so Mikagami assumed she was knocked out by pain. Some time during the journey he became aware of various mysterious wounds that Fuuko sported, especially the long and deep gash on her calf. Her head was also pretty beaten up, and that may be the primary contribution to her unconsciousness.
The hotel they accommodated in was in the center of the city, and Mikagami did his best to hide Fuuko's wounds, which was nearly impossible. In the end, he had to stop at a remote and rundown shop at the outskirts of the city, dumping Fuuko temporarily in an alley. He managed to get a gaudy pair of socks and a scarf, after a tiring session of trying to make the deaf shopkeeper understand his words.
The terribly-colored socks he put on Fuuko, one to crudely bandage her bleeding wound and one to cover up the bandage; the scarf was tied around her arm, also to conceal the shredded up jacket and the blood that was already seeping through. Then he carried her until there was traffic, until there were cabs. Once there he flagged down one of a bright yellow color, and slid into the backseat with Fuuko in his lap.
They cruised slowly into the lights, the cab badly reeking of cigarettes. Mikagami did his best to pretend he was half-sloshed as he cradled Fuuko to his chest, hiding the scarf with his hair, which shimmered with every color that shone on it.
He leaned back, seething inside, and totally exhausted.
The past few days seemed surreal now, the idea of Fuuko being an assassin, being the same as him, too difficult to accept. She was, in a twisted sense, an icon of justice when they fought their way through the Urabatousatsujin. Mikagami would have laughed at the ugly twist in events if it had been in the least amusing. It was really amazing what love could do, he told himself dryly. But if he killed to, in a way, avenge his sister, why couldn't Fuuko…?
Then his eyes darkened. They had to complete their work as soon as possible now that the schedule and plans were gravely interrupted, and a new predator had just entered the game. They had to get out of the foreign territory soon, injured or not injured.
"Having fun clubbing, ain't you, young lady?"
Mikagami moved his eyeballs in every semblance of drunkenness to gaze at the driver. He gave a small intoxicated smile then turned away. He had a talent for acting.
"Well, young ladies'd better not be wanderin' around at this time, if ya ask me." The cab turned at a junction.
Mikagami gave a convincing snort as his head rolled in the other direction with the car's turning. The driver eyed him through the rearview mirror. Mikagami closed his eyes. Then, in a small whisper, as if there were people to hear, the bald plump man asked, "How much ye askin' for one night?"
The nerves in Mikagami's neck twitched. His one eyelid flitted open in mock laziness, though the fire inside him was slowly building. As if the whole turn of events were not enough for one night. "Jus' shaddup, uncle," he tried, in as much of a feminine voice as he could muster. That too, had been perfected due to necessity over the years.
The driver grunted, and stepped on the accelerator violently.
The gun in the back of his pants suddenly made its presence felt. So tempting…
The cab pulled up. The cold metal was poking into his back. Mikagami reached behind him slowly… and tossed a few notes to the driver. He released the lock on the door on his side and kicked it open, nearly crashing if off its hinges. Then he braced Fuuko against his chest and stepped out, going in the direction of the hotel and leaving the door wide open behind him. Subdued yells and profane language trailed him up the steps.
He hid the fury and collected his keys at the receptionist, earning himself a measuring glance in the process. Otherwise, the rest of his journey to his rooms was safe.
Her whole body ached.
Fuuko's mind stirred at that realization. The darkness clung to her, sticky and reluctant to let go of their prey. Fuuko struggled internally, trying to get a grip on her body. Which was not responding at that moment. Slowly, very slowly, she managed to crack open an eyelid just a slit.
Fuuko let out a soft whimper as the nerves of her body started acting up as well. Her leg… there was something wrong with her leg…
She tried to move, but could not even lift her head. the successfully opened eye closed back, and Fuuko relaxed back into the pillow involuntarily, hoping the fire in her calf, and now in her left bicep, would burn out on its own. Neither did, but the drum set in her head finally showed up.
After ten eternities of slipping between unconsciousness and wakefulness, Fuuko opened both her eyes, face distorted with the effort. Her head pounded relentlessly…
"I was just wondering if you needed a kiss to wake up," an emotionless voice cut into her ears, and seemed to slice into her brain. Fuuko winced, snapping her eyes back shut.
The enzymes had made their ways into her head… She slowly became aware of the meaning in the words, then slowly, after fumbling with her language, perceived the sarcasm inside. Frowning a little, she wondered why the voice sounded so familiar.
She froze, then screamed.
The images assaulted her, the distant sweet past mingling with the pain of the last year and swirling together with the realization, hurt, and betrayal of yesterday. Pain, so much of it.
How long did her howling last she did not know. She was not aware of herself making the noise, until firm hands shook her roughly away from the muddled pictures that brought out so much buried emotions. Then she stopped, eyes looking at ice blue ones through moisture that felt all too much like tears.
The silence was pleasant.
And blinked again.
"You didn't kill my mother?" she whispered, her voice pitched high, almost breaking.
Mikagami would have been surprised by the abrupt question if under different circumstances. But as it was, he did his best to put on a reassuring expression, and said firmly, "No, Fuuko. It was not me."
"Recca didn't do it, did he? Koganei? Domon? None of them did it?" her eyes were wide, glazed over.
Mikagami's concern won over his frustrations at last, and he sat down beside Fuuko, hands still on her shoulders pinning her down. He leaned over her, blocking the intense light coming from the overhead florescent lamp. "No, Fuuko. Remember that person who pointed the gun at you? None of us did it. None of us killed your mother."
None of us betrayed you, he added to himself. His hands began kneading the muscles on Fuuko's shoulders, helping her relax. He applauded himself for the chivalrous act of patience.
Fuuko's wide empty eyes fixed on his, and the tremors started. "Did he say? did you ask him who it was? The- the-"
"No," Mikagami replied. "But we'll meet again. There's time."
The air left Fuuko's lungs all at once, and her tense muscles eased a little. She lay limp on the bed, her head turning away from Mikagami's piercing gaze. Mikagami noted the rationality that came back to her eyes, and let go of her. He did not budge from where he sat.
"Are you tired?" he asked, the toneless voice coming back.
"Are you?" came back the empty answer.
She sounded dead. Mikagami ignored her questioning reply. "You have slept for more than twelve hours."
"…I don't want to wake up," Fuuko whimpered, shifting as if trying to bury deeper into the blankets.
Mikagami let the stillness of the air hang for a few more moments while he studied his partner's face. It was near midnight. He had patched Fuuko up as best as he could with a first aid kit, and left her to sleep. While waiting for her revival, he could do nothing but while time away by puzzling over the reasons behind their latest failure. It was the first time a transaction with an information dealer had gone so drastically wrong for him. Now he was not sure whether he had another enemy to watch out for, nor did he know how vulnerable his position was. His mouth set in a grim line. He had a fine idea though. And he still had… her, to deal with.
"How long do you need before you can walk properly?" he asked.
"What's wrong with my leg?" came the flat reply. There did not seem to be the slightest concern.
"You tore the muscles. Badly."
A faint nod. "In that alley… I remember."
"Alley," Mikagami repeated.
"I think I was chasing after you."
"You're the one chasing after me then?" Mikagami frowned, recalling the ghastly difference in speed between the one pursuing him in the alley, and the one trying to shoot him in the construction site.
"I guess so," Fuuko murmured.
The silence fell. Slowly, the rain outside began to fall as well. Huge clouds that were invisible against the jet-black sky gathered, the drops that were dispensed from them bearing a lower pH than they should have. Soon there was a nice storm going on, and two assassins watched from inside a quiet hotel room.
Fuuko licked her dry lips. "What happened today?"
"I don't know."
She gave a silent laugh. "Mikagami doesn't know? This must be a first…"
The swords master gave her a sidelong look before turning his eyes back to the window. "Information buying usually don't turn this messy."
Fuuko's laugh trailed off into a chuckle. "It doesn't feel like anything I've seen in the movies. In the movies, it's always meeting a teenage boy in a warehouse or something."
"In the movies, the main characters almost always leave with an intact body," Mikagami replied dryly.
"So pessimistic…" Fuuko said. "Are we the main characters then?"
"To ourselves, yes."
"Then do the main characters fall in love?" She wondered in the back of her mind what made her say it. She was just tired.
"No, they don't."
"You don't like me?" Fuuko turned to look at her partner, a hand going up to rest on her chest. "Cupid in the heaven, save me from this lie, I am stung by the cold radiating from my love."
"You should have guessed long ago." Mikagami allowed a rare smile to pass his face, amused at the ridiculous show Fuuko managed even in the grim circumstances. I think she doesn't even realize it…
"Fuuko, we need to move out as soon as we can."
Fuuko's shoulders sagged, and she turned away back to the window. Minutes passed. Mikagami wondered whether Fuuko was crying. He turned on his rarely used sensitivity and waited for Fuuko to make a sound; she would when she was ready. On the other hand, he did not know what he himself made of the whole fiasco. Mikagami realized with surprise that he was taking the whole affair personally. Why? Because… because Fuuko was his friend… because he had gone through this before.
Finally, as the storm outside the safety of the four walls raged on, Fuuko tilted her head to study Mikagami's still features. She held out her arms and closed her eyes tiredly. "A hug, please?"
"You've never bothered to ask before." Mikagami looked down at the girl lying beside him on the bed.
Two arms snaked around his neck and pulled him close. Mikagami seriously considered what he was supposed to do for a few seconds, before coming to the conclusion that he should put his arms around Fuuko's waist. He did, sliding his arms underneath her to pull her up against him, and for the first time, realized that Fuuko had probably lost a lot of weight. The wind girl buried her face in his shoulders, containing the pain in her arm, and they held still for several minutes.
I'm becoming soft… Mikagami thought to himself dryly. But it had been so long since someone had hugged him like this.
The rain began to fall harder, and it was the only noise that reverberated in the room.
Moisture began to seep through the thin tanktop Mikagami was wearing.
"I'm so useless, Mikagami…" Fuuko whispered, her voice muffled. "I saw her die… I saw her on the tape. I saw her doing shopping, she said she was going shopping that day. I saw her from the murderer's point of view! I was behind the gun, I saw the hand that pulled the trigger. I felt so useless… the gun was only a foot away from my face, and I couldn't stop it…" Some time during the speech, the shaky voice had turned into a sobbing.
Mikagami sighed to himself. "You were further away than you can ever imagine, Fuuko. You're a year away from your mother, and a year away from the trigger." So that was it…
"I couldn't breathe, Mikagami. I wanted to cry but I couldn't, because I couldn't breathe…" Fuuko cried, pulling her friend closer, yearning the warmth. "And then I saw you walking away. I saw- I saw someone wearing this black jacket, and- and he had silver hair. Then all I wanted to do was to kill you… I- I don't know…"
"…Maybe I shouldn't be asking this now, but does it look like the scene has been filmed from a security camera?" Mikagami frowned lightly.
Fuuko took a deep breath, and released her hold slightly. "No. No it doesn't. It looks just like a film, with different angles of shooting." She paused, body stiffening.
Mikagami 's eyes narrowed. "Someone wanted you to see it. Right from the start."
"I realized that," Fuuko tensed again. Her voice was glacial cold.
Mikagami was silent, feeling a fist tightening on his shirt behind his back. He hesitated, then reached up Fuuko's back to rub behind her neck gently. He was sure Fuuko jumped.
"What are you doing?"
"If you think too much now, you're going to break down," Mikagami supplied. "Relax."
A slight sigh. "Mikagami…" she said quietly. "I've just pointed a gun in your face, you know. I really wanted to kill you."
There were no more sounds save their breathing. Mikagami shifted and put Fuuko back down into her lying position, shifting a little in his sitting position on the bed so that he was a decent distance away. The goddess of wind turned her head a little so that she could see him out of the corner of her eye. Mikagami was leaning against the wall a few steps away from her bed.
"When you thought it was me…" the nasal voice began softly. "You were confused. You didn't know what to do, because you feel like you have been torn apart, because you feel like you've been betrayed and used. You start hating every one you have ever known, because you're suspicious. Then when the confusion ebbs away, you find anger. Raw anger that makes you want to kill," he paused, casting Fuuko a look and caught her in the eye. "Then where it's all gone, you just feel tired."
"You understand it very well, don't you?" Fuuko laughed. "Words are not enough for feelings though."
"But what if you have killed me?" Mikagami continued, his eyes on the floor. "When you find out the truth, that you've murdered the wrong person, you'll discover the true meaning of betrayal. Because by then, I'm already dead, you're the one who had killed me, and the greatest punishment you can give yourself is to carry on living." He closed his eyes.
Fuuko swallowed. She had forgotten that it was Mikagami she was dealing with. With anyone else she could snarl and said they were spouting bullshit, but this was Mikagami.
Because by then, I'm already dead, you're the one who killed me, and the greatest punishment you can give yourself is to carry on living.
She had heard that Meguri died in Mikagami's arms.
All the while, Meguri had been trying to protect Mikagami, even to the final fight, even to his last breath. He died for his grandchild.
Meguri gave his everything. What did Mikagami return?
"Don't trouble yourself anymore," Mikagami said, one hand carelessly tucking his ear tails behind his ears. His eyes were detached once again, Fuuko recognized.
Fuuko nodded, lifting her good hand to rub her temples. She wisely decided not to bring up the topic of his late master. "You know, this is all too surreal. Everything I know is snapping in half and turning itself inside out."
Mikagami stared at his toes, then pushed himself off the wall. "If you need a listening ear, maybe I can help. Tomorrow, after you rest, and after we move to a safer place, I'll answer all the questions you have."
Fuuko gave him a strange look. "Since when… have you been… so… nice?"
Mikagami's hand paused on the doorknob. "I know what it's like." He hesitated a little. "'If you need a listening ear, then maybe I can help'…" baby blue eyes lowered, "That was what sensei said to me." He opened the door and disappeared.
Fuuko was left to herself and the storm that still raged on outside.
Cheesy, corny, tell me about it. I thought it was real sad when Mikagami killed Meguri… I'm sorry about the poor use of language and the terrible speed. I've been experiencing problems with my writing lately. Things don't flow so smoothly as they used to anymore. (Actually this was already complete in October, but… I can't bring myself to post this crap) Please do notify me if the language is unsmooth to the point of irritation, the two leads are going out of character, or the plot is not being well paced.
As a sidenote, I hate original characters. I hate
original characters that last for more than three chapters. Go figure
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NOTICE: This chapter is subjected to changes on wimp of the author at any point
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The Darker Side is an original piece of fan work copyrighted to saturn de wicked. No part of this work is to be reproduced or adapted in any way without the author's permission.