Nanami stood by the refreshments table, quietly sipping her punch and keeping an eye on the partygoers. They were beginning to steadily flow in, and the hall echoed with laughter, voices, and the hired orchestra. The exhibition hall had been cleared of cases, so there was plenty of room for the ball to occur. The next exhibit, concerning Ming Dynasty pottery, would begin installment on Monday. "Hirjoi-kun! Is that you?" gasped, as a costumed figure approached her and gave an elaborate bow. She stepped back in admiration. "If it wasn't for your height, I'd never have recognized you!" She herself was dressed as a traditional Japanese princess, kimono and all. A small, thin mask covered the upper part of her face, but she was easily recognizable.
Hiroji, on the other hand, was completely unrecognizable. Something like a hood, drawing up behind his head in two sharp points, completely obscured most of his face. Only his trademark fanged, mischevious grin could identify him. His costume had enormous puffed sleeves, with black and white stripes. He wore enormous gloves, one white, one black. Even his leggings had one leg black, one leg white. It was a baffling costume. A costume, a well-made costume, nonetheless-- but what was he trying to be...?
"I'm a joker, ha ha!" laughed Hiroji, producing a playing card from thin air and handing it to her. Sure enough, he matched the costume on the card exactly.
"Where'd you get this from?" she asked admiringly. "It looks like it took a lot of work!"
"I made it myself," said Hiroji, pretending to look put-out.
"You're kidding. You can sew?" asked Nanami dubiously.
Hiroji turned around slowly, to allow her to admire him from all angles. "It comes in handy, ne?"
"I have difficulty even with buttons," admitted Nanami. "I could never do something that looks this great!"
"You look cute in a kimono," smiled Hiroji, wrapping her in a warm hug. "You make a great princess. You can be my Hime?"
Nanami smiled up at him. "All right. I'll be your hime." She attempted to give him a kiss, but gave a little cry and jumped back, rubbing her nose. "Ow! Your hood! It poked me! How am I supposed to kiss you like that?"
"Try it from this angle," suggested Hiroji, turning his face slightly, and she planted a demure little kiss on his cheek.
"Better," she smiled. "Oh, look. There's Mori-san. I guess I'd better remember my job and what I'm here for... I'll catch up with you later!" She smiled and waved.
"Ganbatte!" he said encouragingly, watching as Nanami wove her way through a throng of costumed attendees. After she was out of sight, he slipped quietly through a nearby set of doors marked "Employees Only". He had been through the museum countless times, while meeting with Nanami, and knew the rabbit-warren of rooms and corridors flawlessly. Everyone was going to be at the party in the main exhibition hall. No one would be in the collections room, way at the back of the museum.
He punched in the access code to let himself into collections storage. The door unlocked itself, and he slipped in. Ah, there they were... a large row of carefully packed boxes lined one side of the room. They were awaiting shipment. Well, they wouldn't get shipped off... not just yet. Not before he had a chance to get what he had come for.
It was easy to tell which box the Taishaku Kaiten was in. Its size was difficult to disguise. From a pocket beneath a flap in his outfit, he pulled a penknife, and easily slit through the packing tape. He dug through the archival packing materials and found the Taishaku Kaiten's pole. It felt so good beneath his fingers... so natural... so familiar, and yet he had only felt it once before. And had it really been him who had felt it? Or was it someone else?
He lifted it and swung it around easily, careful not to bump any walls or shelves in the narrow space. Yes, this had been the object in his dream. Or was it a dream? He had been awake. Hiroji couldn't explain it, and didn't care to try. All that mattered was that the Taishaku Kaiten was in his hands at this moment. How he had waited for it! Anticipated! Yearned!
"What do you think you're doing." It was a statement, not a question. The voice was so low, so soft, so dangerous, Hiroji was surprised he could hear it through his hood. He jumped guiltily. There, in the doorway, stood Nanami, her arms folded and an unreadable look on her face.
"Put it back," she commanded softly, taking a step towards him.
This was no time for games.
Hiroji's amiacable expression disappeared and he pointed the trident end towards her. "Don't come any closer," he warned her, in a matching tone.
"What are you going to do? Hurt me?" Nanami laughed bitterly. The cheerful, loving, happy look on her face which he had last seen her with was nowhere to be found. "You've already done that. What do you think you're doing here?"
"This is mine," said Hiroji, brandishing the Taishaku Kaiten in her direction once more. "It's mine, and no one can stop me. I have it now."
"Put it down," said Nanami in her soft, dangerous voice. "You have no business being in this part of the museum. Put that back in its box and get out. Get out of the museum. And," she added, her voice rising in volume and wobbling a little, "And get out of my life." She was fighting back tears.
Hiroji shook his head. "No. You get out. You leave here. You forget you ever saw this, and it will be better for you that way."
"Don't make me have to drag security into this," Nanami said, folding her arms sternly, as though scolding a small child. "You and your silly little toy. That's all it is to you. A shiny object that you want. That's more important to you than my feelings. You never cared about me, did you?" The tears were welling up and she was choking on the words now. "All you did was use me. You used me so you could have your shiny toy. Well, I'm not going to let you."
She lunged forward at him, her angry hands clawing for him, and it took a good deal of maneuvering for Hiroji to prevent her from impaling herself on the pointy end of the trident as she did so. He turned it so she was caught in a fork, and with one easy movement, he scooped her up and sent her flying through the air. She hit a wall with a dull thud and slumped to the floor, motionless.
Hiroji stared at the weapon in his hands. He hadn't expected to do that. Obviously, the Taishaku Kaiten's powers hadn't diminished a bit in all these years. It had reacted, almost on its own accord, changing mass as it done so in Tawakeru's hands so long ago. It would take a bit of experimentation before he could adjust himself and get a good feel for the weapon, but ohhhh! The rush!
He wandered over to where Nanami was, gazing down indifferently upon her. How could such a brilliant woman be so easily fooled by a few well-picked flattering words? Ah, well. She was still breathing, so she wouldn't be up and about anytime soon. A nagging voice in his head told Hiroji that it would be dangerous to let her live. She was the only one who could identify him as the culprit. He stared solemnly at the weapon's base blade and stabbing point. Deadly at both ends...
Ah, but where would the fun in that be? She hadn't even a sporting chance against him in the first place. Killing her now would be like swatting a fly on a window, and just as meaningful. No, let Ryusaki Nanami continue to exist. It would be Odokemono Hiroji who would have to find himself a new identity. It would be more fun that way.
He snapped the lights off, shut the door behind himself, and exited through the back stairway, whistling cheerfully to himself.