Job Well Done
It was a long time before Saiou finally got out of bed. He was generally not an early riser these days, no matter what the situation, but the unusual exertions of the previous night were telling on him. He wouldn't have been surprised if Edo had bounded out of bed in the morning as energetically as he always did, but he was a natural athlete - you could roll him down a rocky hill in a barrel and he would probably still shrug off his bruises and go on without a pause, but Saiou was of a more delicate constitution, and he was glad to be able to stay in bed.
I think I have time to stay in town for a while, he thought as he began to stir. A glance at the clock told him that he still had a bit of time before he was expected to check out. Even if he took his time about getting groomed for the day ahead, there would still be leisure to do a bit of wandering around the city before he was ready to go home.
Eventually, he was able to persuade himself to get up. A hot shower refreshed him enough that he decided he would walk down to the nearest coffee shop to get a pastry for breakfast rather than trying to subsist on what the hotel breakfast was offering. He had gathered that what they called a "continental breakfast" consisted mainly of a coffee machine and a box of doughnuts. He had decided that next time he would stay in a better hotel. In the meantime, he picked up his cards and shuffled them a few times.
"Now, what do you think I should do today?" he asked them.
He plucked a card at random and studied it. A design of golden coins was spread across its front.
"Pentacles," he said. "Shopping it is, then."
He walked to the coffee shop, picking up a large cup of hot tea and an iced lemon pastry (much better than the stale doughnuts at the hotel) and wandered aimlessly down the street as he enjoyed his snack. It was a pleasantly cool morning, good for walking, so he was happy enough to roam freely. He entertained himself by looking through the shop windows, and occasionally eavesdropping on passers-by, until he was done with his food and drink. Then he decided that the most entertaining thing to do would be to go to his favorite bookstore and perhaps add a few things to his collection before he went home.
He was pleased to find that the store was not crowded that morning, so he could browse at his leisure without anyone getting in his way. He wandered through the aisles, picking up whatever he could find that looked interesting, until he had collected a tidy pile. Even when he had all he was prepared to buy that day, he still felt reluctant to leave, so he wandered idly through the shelves, looking at the titles of books on subjects he normally didn't look at, just to see if any of them looked interesting. There was a whole shelf just on books of dueling, and it occurred to him to look and see if Edo's book was there. He recalled that it had sold fairly well, so there were probably a few copies available now. Even if he already had a copy of his own - signed, of course - it always gave him a glow of pride to see them there.
There were copies left. Someone was reading one.
Saiou began to turn around, thinking to leave the man to his reading, but then he stopped as something caught his attention. It wasn't something that would have registered to anyone else, because there was nothing about the young man that really stood out. He looked like any other college student - jeans and a grubby t-shirt, his hair falling in his eyes in a way that suggested he hadn't seen the inside of a barbershop in a while. He could have been anyone from anywhere, but Saiou knew better.
Most people he met had auras that hummed quietly, a gentle vibration that reminded him of the buzzing of bees. Only a few ever stood out against the crowd. Edo was one - his presence blared out like a silver trumpet. Juudai was another, like a volley of fireworks. But this person was something else, like the slow creaking grind of a glacier, cold and full of hate. Even as realization began to dawn on Saiou, the young man looked up from his book, and their eyes met.
"It's you!" Saiou exclaimed.
There was a flash of recognition in the other man's face, one that held equal measures of panic and victory. Saiou had a sudden nasty feeling. While he was still deciding what to do about it, the man tossed the book he was holding aside and ran out of the store. Saiou chased after him, but only as far as the front of the building, because by that time the other man was already out of sight. Saiou stopped and considered his options.
"Sir?" asked a cashier. "Were you going to buy those books?"
"Hm?" said Saiou, looking down to realize he was still carrying them. He'd forgotten all about them. He handed them back to the cashier.
"No," he said. "I just remembered I have somewhere I need to be."
Then he hurried off, but not to follow the strange man. As much as he would have liked to hunt him down and pick his mind for answers, but there was no time for that now. Edo was in grave danger, and Saiou intended to warn him before it was too late.
Edo had arrived at work looking, if not completely well-rested, then at least unusually relaxed. One of his co-workers noticed and leered at him.
"You look happy," he said. "Have a fun time last night?"
Edo gave the question his serious consideration before deciding on the most honest and accurate answer: "Mind-blowing."
"Lucky," said the other man enviously. "I guess that's what comes with being famous. I bet you get all the hot chicks. Was she blonde?"
Edo just laughed. "That's an unfair bias. Someone doesn't have to look like a supermodel for me to like them."
"So, what are you saying - you're in love with her mind?"
"Not exactly, but that's close enough!"
"You're a weird guy," said his co-worker, shaking his head. He went back to tinkering with a Duel Disk that was lying on the break room table. "Damn it, this stupid thing just isn't working for me. The boss is going to kill me if I don't have a working disk when I clock in."
"There's a spare in my locker," Edo volunteered. "I don't think it's locked. I never keep anything in there worth stealing, anyway."
"Thanks, man. I owe you one."
He wandered over to the other side of the room to where the staff lockers stood. They were there for the convenience of anyone who wanted to leave personal things there, but Edo rarely used his. After the incident with the Bloo-D, he had a paranoia of having things stolen, and preferred to keep all his valuables on his person at all times. The locker was only ever used as a convenient place for stashing things like spare battery packs for his duel disk and a jacket he had stashed there and forgotten about. It had been weeks since he'd bothered with it. He gave his co- worker a glance over his shoulder before wandering over to the coffee machine to see if there was anything drinkable in it.
The room shook. Edo whipped around in time to see smoke trailing out of his locker and a flurry of debris settling to the floor. His co-worker was lying on the ground with a dazed look in his face, and blood from a large gash on his forehead was trickling blood onto the tiles. Edo swore and rushed over to try to stanch the bleeding.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"What the hell were you keeping in there?" his comrade muttered.
Various others came rushing into the room to see what the cause of all the noise was. Chief Barnes pushed his way forwards.
"What just happened?" he demanded.
"Someone put an explosive in my locker," said Edo tersely, pressing his handkerchief to the bloody gash. "Could someone give this guy a ride to the hospital? I'm pretty sure this is going to need stitches."
"I'm on it," said one of the onlookers. "Come on, Dave, let me help you up..."
Edo backed away so Dave and his friend could shuffle out of the room. Meanwhile, Chief Barnes was inspecting the damage.
"How did this happen?" he demanded.
"How should I know?" Edo retorted. "I haven't used that locker in days."
"Well, someone sure has," Chief Barnes replied. "Nobody touch anything! I'm calling forensics."
Edo obediently backed away, still feeling slightly dazed. Now that the dust was settling, it had begun to sink in that the explosive had been meant for him. His primary reaction was annoyance. Couldn't he even have one day to relax?
There was a noise somewhere outside the room, and someone came and put his head through the door.
"Hey, there's a guy out here making a scene," he said. "What do you want me to do about him?"
"What kind of guy?" Chief Barnes shouted back.
"Tall, really long blue hair, nice suit... I think he's wearing purple contacts or something."
"No, those are real," said Edo. "He's looking for me - I'll go calm him down."
It was a relief to leave the ruined break room and retreat to the relative calmness of the front office. At least, it probably would have been calm if Saiou hadn't been causing a scene there, demanding to be taken to Edo.
"I'm okay, I'm okay!" Edo
Saiou relaxed immediately and gave a sigh of relief.
"I was afraid I was going to be too late," he said. He put his arms around Edo briefly, and Edo let him do it, because if nearly being caught in an explosion wasn't a good reason to let someone hug him, then there probably wasn't such a thing.
"It's okay," he said. "I'm not even scratched. Nothing to worry about."
"Hey, how did this guy know there was an accident?" asked the man who was watching the front desk. Sarcastically, he added, "What is he, psychic or something?"
"Yes," said Edo and Saiou together.
The man at the desk gave them both a puzzled look and went back to work. Edo shook his head at his foolishness.
"Was anyone hurt?" Saiou asked.
"One guy got cut up pretty badly," said Edo. "I was on the other side of the room, so I barely even got my clothes dirty."
"If I'd been here earlier, I could have warned you," said Saiou, "but I got here as soon as I realized something was wrong."
"Then you did the best you could," Edo assured him. He smiled a little. "What happened - were you just late checking the cards this morning?"
As usual, Saiou missed the joke. "I went book shopping, and I met the one who planted the bomb. As soon as I realized what he was thinking..."
"Wait, you met him?"
"Just for a moment. He ran away as soon as he realized I was looking at him. I think he knew who I was."
"Great," Edo muttered.
The chief reappeared looking grim.
"I've got some guys coming up to look at this mess," he said, "but they say they can't promise much. Oh, hey, your friend's here."
"You know this guy?" asked the man at the desk.
"Hell, yeah, I know him," Chief Barnes replied, shooting the receptionist a look. "He's the one who blew the lid off that inside job we wrapped up last week. We never would have caught those counterfeiters if it weren't for him. You weren't giving him a hard time, were you?"
"No sir," said the receptionist, and became very busy with some paperwork.
"Good," said Chief Barnes. He looked back to Edo. "So what's he doing here? Did you invite him again?"
"Saiou got wind of the explosion and came to make sure I was still in one piece," Edo explained.
"Gotcha," the chief replied. "Anyway, Edo... I'm thinking you had better take a couple of days off."
"What?" Edo exclaimed.
"Just until this mess gets sorted out," the chief replied. "Look, that bomb was pretty obviously meant for you. I'm not having any more of my men hurt just because someone out there has a grudge against you."
"Now, wait a minute!" Edo protested. "How do you know it was meant for me? Maybe I was just the only one who left my locker unlocked!"
"Actually, it was definitely meant for you," said Saiou.
"Not helping!" Edo snapped.
"My decision is final," said the chief. "As of now, you're on vacation."
"Great. Just great," Edo muttered.
"Look, we're going to do all we can to catch the guy who did this, but until we at least get some leads..."
"Right, I understand," said Edo glumly. "Come on, Saiou. I can tell when I'm not wanted."
Edo shuffled out of the building, dragging Saiou with him. He knew he was acting like a sulky child, and he didn't care. If there was one thing that he couldn't stand, it was being shunted off to the side when there was danger to be dealt with - he wanted to be able to deal with it head- on. Saiou seemed to sense his mood and followed him in grim silence.
"This has gone far enough," Edo muttered. "I'm not letting this happen again. Saiou, you met the guy - can't you find him again?"
"I would know him if I were anywhere near him," said Saiou. "Other than that, the best I could do would be to give you his general location."
"Never mind, then," said Edo. "We know he's close by. He'd have to be, to know who you are..."
He trailed off, thinking hard. He almost had it.
"Hang on," he said. "I know who he is. It's that guy who keeps pestering about his missing cards," said Edo. "He was here last night. He could have planted the explosive after I went home."
"Not that I doubt you," said Saiou, "but what makes you so sure it was him?"
"Because," Edo replied, "before I left, I said I was going home to check on a friend who wasn't feeling well, and he said something about the guy I live with. Now, how did he know that? It's not like we've been shouting it from the rooftops. It hasn't even made the tabloids yet, and they know everything. So how did he know who I was living with if he wasn't watching me?"
Now Saiou was looking serious. "Show him to me."
Edo obediently turned to Saiou and met his eyes, concentrating on summoning up as accurate a recollection of the young man as possible. Saiou stared levelly a moment, then nodded.
"It's the same one," he agreed.
"Good," said Edo. "At least I know who he is, and he doesn't know that I know."
"I doubt he will show himself again," said Saiou. "Not after he's gone this far. It would be too risky."
"Then we'll find him some other way," Edo replied.
Saiou nodded thoughtfully. "We have items belonging to him - the gun and the threat letter."
"And a list of cards," Edo put in. "He gave it to me the first time he came into the station, and I just shoved it into a drawer and forgot about it."
"We can start by looking at those and see if there is some clue."
"That isn't much to go on," said Edo doubtfully, "but I guess if anyone could find anything there, it would be you."
Despite his confidence in Saiou's powers, Edo didn't feel that the experiment was likely to come to very much. He was in a glum mood as he followed Saiou back to the hotel to gather up his things. They made their trip home in a thoughtful silence. Edo noticed that Saiou kept giving him concerned looks, but Edo wasn't sure he could trust himself to be properly reassuring when he was still simmering with annoyance and frustration. He knew he'd probably end up snapping and snarling, and that would hardly help the situation, so he stayed silent.
When at last they returned home, Edo went to his room to fetch the list. It took him some time to locate it; he hadn't been particularly concerned with keeping it, and it had only survived in his room this long because he wasn't enough of a housekeeper to have bothered throwing it away yet. He finally found the much-abused slip of paper at the bottom of his desk drawer beneath an old dueling magazine and some old receipts from things he couldn't remember buying. He made a mental note to clean up sometime that year, and promptly forgot about it as he turned his attention to the matter at hand. He met Saiou in his study and looked at the articles spread out in front of them.
"It isn't much to go on," Saiou admitted.
Edo was forced to agree. Neither the gun nor the scraps of paper laid out neatly next to it seemed to hold much promise. Nevertheless, Edo dutifully began to study the items laid out in front of him.
"Well, the handwriting matches," he observed, as he glanced at the address on the envelope his threat letter had come in. "He didn't even bother to try to hide it."
Saiou was giving his own critical examination of the gun, no doubt applying his particular talents to the matter. "I would attest that all three of these objects originally belonged to the same person... but I have no way of proving that in a court."
"Doesn't matter," said Edo grimly. "I'll handle it myself if I have to. It wouldn't be the first time."
"Unfortunately, I can't tell much else just from this," Saiou replied. "Other than to confirm what we already knew..."
"Well, I wasn't expecting much," said Edo. He toyed with the paper the threat had been written on, and then glanced down at it. "Hold up a minute..."
Saiou gave him a surprised look. "You found something?"
"Oh, yeah," said Edo. "I think I know where our boy is hiding."
He held up the paper so that Saiou could see the back. There was nothing at all written on it. There was, however, a letterhead stamped across the top.
"Well," said Saiou softly, "that doesn't prove anything, but it might just be a place to start."
"I'm going to make a couple of phone calls," said Edo. "It's been too long since I've said hello to Asuka, don't you think?"
He set the paper down on the desk, facedown, so that the letterhead was facing up. It bore the logo and telephone number of Duel Univiersity.
But first he had to talk to someone at the station.
It took him some doing to convince the people there that he really did need some images made from the old security tapes from a few weeks back, and even more to figure out which ones they actually were. He probably couldn't have done it if he hadn't been able to muster all of his star power and a certain amount of personal persuasion. Even so, it was still a good two hours before he finally emerged bearing three computer printouts showing the best images they'd been able to capture of the suspect. Once he had safely secured those, he stepped out of the station and took out his cell phone to start looking for Asuka's phone number.
It took long enough for her to answer that he was beginning to wonder if perhaps she had gotten a new number, when the phone was answered by an unfamiliar female voice.
"Hello?" she said.
"Yes, I'm looking for Asuka Tenjoin... Do I have the wrong number?"
"No, she's here. I'll get her." Edo heard the girl's voice, slightly muffled, shouting, "Asuka, phone for you! It's a guy!"
A moment later, Asuka's familiar voice spoke a wary, "Yes?"
"Hi, Asuka - it's me, Edo."
"Oh! Sorry," she said. "I thought you might be Manjoume again."
"Sorry to disappoint you," answered Edo dryly. "Anyway, do you think we could meet up later? I've got some questions I want to ask."
"What kind of questions?"
"Strictly business. There's a crime I'm investigating, and I think the perpetrator might be a guy who goes to your school."
"Oh dear," said Asuka, sounding only mildly perturbed. Edo couldn't blame her; after all, it wouldn't really be the first time she'd gone to school with a criminal. "Well, I'll certainly help if I can."
"I just want to show you his picture and see if you recognize him," said Edo. "If you do, good. If you don't, I'll ask elsewhere, but I thought I'd draw less attention if I talked to you first. I've got pretty good evidence that the guy's been watching me at least some of the time, and the last thing I need is him guessing I'm on to him. A casual visit to an old friend won't stir up suspicions nearly as much as if I turned up on the college president's doorstep and started asking pointed questions."
"How can you be sure you're not being watched now?" Asuka asked him.
"I'm not, but I've got to chance something, don't I?" Edo replied. "Better than sitting around waiting for the guy to pick me off. He's already sent a hitman for me and planted a bomb in my locker."
There was a silence on the other end of the phone, and Edo could imagine Asuka thoughtfully digesting that information.
"I have a class tonight at four," she said. "Can you wait until it lets out?"
"Just name the time. I have a free night," Edo replied, grinning a little. He liked that about Asuka: any other girl would have been panicking, but she took it as calmly as though this kind of thing happened every week and could be repaired by filling out the proper paperwork.
"Seven-thirty? That will give me enough time to get home," she said. "Do you know where I live? I'll give you directions to the dorm."
Edo jotted down the directions. He had been to the university a few times - never as a student, but he'd been invited to give demonstrations and speeches a few times. The dorms remained a mystery to him, however, and he was more than happy to have Asuka tell him what direction to take. He agreed to meet her in the front lobby of the freshman dorm, and from there they could find a private-seeming place where they could talk.
"I won't be late," Edo assured her. "By the way, one more thing - do you mind if Saiou comes with me?"
There was another pause at that question, not a pleasant one, and Edo had to stifle the urge to sigh. In his mind, Saiou and the Light of Ruin were two such different entities that he could easily imagine one without the other, but the distinction wasn't so clear in the minds of some of those who had been drawn into the Society of Light. He wasn't sure they would ever be as comfortable in Saiou's company as he was. Of all the old crowd, only Juudai seemed to be able to tolerate Saiou's company and treat him like an old friend.
"I suppose it would be all right," she said at length. "Just as long as he behaves."
"Saiou," said Edo, with a hint of a reprimand, "always behaves."
Asuka laughed. "All right, all right. I'm sorry. Of course Saiou can come. I'll see you soon, all right?"
"See you," Edo agreed.
True to his word, at approaching seven-thirty that evening, Edo and Saiou walked slowly through the gates of the stately Duel University. The compound was an oasis in the midst of the gray city: a sprawling and elegantly landscaped collection of handsome buildings and tree-lined paths. At the places where the paths intersected stood statues of notables in dueling history - Yugi, of course, and also Kaiba and Pegasus. Edo wondered briefly if someday any of his friends would end up being represented here. Juudai would be a prime candidate if someone could get him to stand still long enough to pose for one.
"Excuse me," he said to a young woman passing by with an armload of books, "could you direct us to the women's dorm?"
"That way," she said, pointing down one of the paths. "Turn left when you get to the fountain and look for the building with a Petit Angel statue in front."
"Thanks," said Edo. He flashed the girl a winning smile before setting off in the direction she had indicated.
"I could have found out for you," said Saiou as they walked away.
"I know," said Edo, "but it's better to give people the option of telling. Besides, it probably made her day to have a famous duelist ask her for directions."
Saiou smiled a little at that. "Well, that's so."
They found the building exactly where the girl said it was. It was a pleasant-looking place, with lots of ivy-covered red brick and handsome white columns in front. A front porch, deserted at the moment, had a row of rocking chairs where students might sit to enjoy the fresh air. Edo walked up to the front door and tried the handle, but for all the building's old-fashioned appearance, it had a thoroughly modern lock on the door, and it refused to let him in without a passcard.
"Looks like we're in for a wait," said Edo. "It's probably not worth trying to hack our way through a computerized lock when Asuka's bound to come along sooner or later."
"It would make an interesting headline if you were caught," Saiou commented. "'Ex- Pro League Duelist Breaks into Girls' Dorm.'"
Edo raised an eyebrow. "I can never tell if you're joking or not."
Within a few minutes, Asuka came hurrying up the walk, clutching a notebook and looking slightly flustered.
"Sorry I'm late," she said. "The professor's talk ran long."
"That's fine," said Edo. "We didn't have a long wait."
"Anyway, won't you come in?" she said politely, moving to unlock the door. Edo noticed that she wasn't quite looking at Saiou, but he let it slide.
They stepped inside the building. Edo looked around curiously - he had never been inside either of the dorms. He privately hoped that the boys' dorm looked better than this one, because otherwise he was very glad he hadn't decided to continue with his dueling education. Not that the place was bad, but it was hardly to his taste. There was a lot of chintzy furniture in the lobby, and shelves with doilies and displays of dried flowers. The whole thing was far to folksy for his taste.
"It's not really my taste," said Asuka apologetically. "The suites are better."
"I would hope so," Edo agreed.
She led the way upstairs to a hallway lined with doors, all of which had been decorated with nearly everything that could be conceivably put on a door. Most of them had construction- paper nametags taped to them, probably by a well-meaning resident assistant at the beginning of the year, now faded and bent and half covered with other decorations. The one Asuka led them to had a whiteboard scribbled with notes ("That guy called again" "Who borrowed my green notebook?" "Gone out - don't wait up!") and magazine clippings of current Pro League champions. Edo noticed that Ryou, Shou, and Manjoume were featured prominently and couldn't help grinning a little. Asuka unlocked the door and ushered them into a kind of sitting room. Two other girls were sitting at a coffee table and taking notes on a recording they were watching. Both of them glanced up as they heard the door open.
"Hi, Asuka," one of them chirped. "More guys? You have so many admirers!"
"Hey, isn't that Edo Phoenix?" said the other.
"That's right," said Asuka mildly. "This is Edo Phoenix and Takuma Saioh. They went to school with me for a while. They're here for a visit."
"And official police business," said Edo, flashing his badge, just so no one could even begin to get the idea that he might want to date Asuka. He admired her as a duelist and respected her as a person, but as far as romance went, he was perfectly content with what he had. "I'm working on a case, and I wanted to ask her a few questions."
The girls' eyes widened.
"She isn't being investigated for something, is she?" asked one of them.
The other girl slapped her shoulder. "No way! Asuka would never do anything like that!"
"She's not in any trouble," Edo assured them. "I'm just collecting information, that's all. All the same, I'd be happier if you didn't listen in."
"Oh, all right," said one girl. "Come on, Mina. Let's go to the arena, huh? Maybe there'll be someone looking for a pickup duel."
"Maybe," said Mina doubtfully. She gave Edo a searching look. "You're sure you're not just trying to be alone with Asuka?"
Edo gave her a long slow glare. "If that's what I wanted, why do you think I brought him? To guard the door?"
"Oh come on, Mina," said the girl's friend, and forcibly dragged her out of the room. Edo sighed.
"How do you deal with them?" he asked.
"They're not all bad," she replied. "Actually they remind me of Momoe and Junko sometimes. My old school friends," she added, at Edo's blank look. "So, anyway, you wanted to ask me something?"
"Yes, I was hoping you could take a look at these pictures and tell me if this guy looks familiar to you," said Edo, proffering her the printouts.
Asuka took the papers and looked them over one by one, her brows contracted slightly in concentration.
"Yes, I know him," she said. "At least, I've met him. He was in a couple of my history and theory classes, but we didn't really talk to each other. He even asked me out a couple of times, but I always turned him down. His name was, um... Andrew? Adrian? Aaron, that's it. Aaron Sandsmark... But he can't be trying to hurt you. He's a big fan of yours! He watched all your duels on TV. He even took an internship on a stadium crew so he could be at your last duel."
Saiou and Edo exchanged glances.
"You mean," said Edo, "the duel where the electrical system mysteriously malfunctioned in such a way as to nearly burn me to a crisp?"
Asuka flushed. "Well, maybe so."
Edo nodded and made a note in a small notepad he'd produced from his pocket. "Anything else you can tell us about him?"
"Not very much. He was always very... reserved. Standoffish, like there was someplace he would rather be. He never seemed to have any friends, probably because he didn't duel very much. He seemed more interested in the historical side of the game."
"And no one thought this was suspicious?" said Saiou, raising an eyebrow.
Asuka shrugged. "We all just thought he was a loner, I guess. It's not as though he ever caused any trouble, and he really wasn't the only one who came here to study theory instead of practical dueling. There are a lot of people here who think they're going to be the next Pegasus Crawford and discover some ancient relic that will change the face of dueling."
Saiou and Edo exchanged glances.
"He was interested in the occult?" Saiou prompted.
"Well, I'm not sure. Maybe a little," said Asuka. She looked thoughtful for a moment, seemingly trying to spur her memory. "He did a project about some of the really legendary cards for one of our classes - cards like the Blue-Eyes White Dragon and the Black Magician. I remember him complaining later on because he got a low grade on it. He was really angry. There was something about a theory he had that some cards like that are really dangerous and shouldn't be allowed to be played. I'd never seen him so worked up - that's why I remembered."
Edo's eyes narrowed slightly as he listened to this excitement.
"That's got to be it," he said.
Saiou nodded. "It has to be."
"What?" Asuka asked. "What did I say?"
"Legendary cards," said Edo. "The Bloo-D. I don't know what exactly it is yet, but there's got to be a connection there somewhere. It was even in that letter he sent me - a sheet of paper with 'BLOOD' written across it."
"But why chase you?" asked Asuka sensibly. "You're hardly the only person in the world with a legendary card. Why not send threats to Kaiba Seto or Mutou Yugi? Or any other famous duelist, for that matter, who has a rare and powerful card in their deck."
"Maybe he did," said Edo, "and we never heard about it. A famous guy like Kaiba is bound to have to deal with a lot of crackpots, so what's one more? And Yugi... well, even if you wanted to send him a threat, where would you send it? Nobody ever seems to know where he is for three days straight. But I'm retired from dueling - pretty famously retired, thanks to all the press - and I pretty much stay in one place. I haven't got a bunch of receptionists and managers and things to manage my mail for me and insulate me from the nutcases out there. All I've got is Saiou, and while he does a good job keeping an eye on me, I still must look like an easy target to an outsider."
Saiou listened to this monologue without comment, but he looked unconvinced.
"That can't be all of it," he said. "For one thing, the first attack came while you were still technically in the Pro Leagues. Anyone who is brazen enough to start an electrical fire during a professional duel isn't the type who would choose his victims on the basis of who is easy to reach and who isn't. Besides," he added, "this has the feel of something personal."
"What would the guy have against me? I'd never met him before, until he showed up talking about his cards being stolen," said Edo.
There was a moment of silence. Then Saiou said. "Maybe it's not what he has against you."
"Huh? But if he hasn't got anything against me, then why..." Edo began, and then stopped. His eyes widened suddenly. "Of course! Why didn't I see it before!"
"Could someone explain it to me?" asked Asuka politely. "I seem to have missed one or two little details."
"Oh, right," said Edo. In the excitement of puzzling everything out, he had all but forgotten she was there. "Saiou's been working on trying to find out where the threat is coming from in his own way, and what he came up with was that DD was involved somehow." He decided not to drag in the details of how they'd learned that; thinking about talking to DD's ghost still gave him the chills. "Try this on for size: the last time I saw DD alive, he boasted that he'd been using the Bloo-D card in secret duels. It's pretty obvious that whoever he dueled came to a bad end. So suppose someone he harmed had a son or a brother who witnessed one of these duels. Maybe he was too scared to tell anyone what he saw; maybe nobody believed him. Suppose he decides that when he's grown up, he's going to find the person with that Bloo-D card and punish him. But by the time he's old enough to really do anything, DD's disappeared off the face of the earth, and the card belongs to some other guy..."
"So you think he's trying to kill you to get revenge for something DD did?" asked Asuka. "That's crazy."
"It has been my experience," said Saiou, "that persons willing to commit murder are generally not the sanest."
"Well, that could be true," Asuka allowed. "But it's still a big jump to get to a conclusion like that."
"And that's why we need to find this guy and get some information out of him," said Edo. "I don't suppose you would be willing to give us a hand, would you?"
"That depends," said Asuka, "on what it would entail."
"Well, you did say he asked you out once or twice, right?" said Edo. "Tell him you've got some free time one night and convince him to come to some prearranged place where I'll be waiting to nab him."
"That sounds risky," she said. "What if he fights back? Someone could get hurt."
"Nobody's going to get hurt," said Edo. "If the guy knew how to fight in the first place, he wouldn't be bothering with all this hiding in the shadows and leaving booby-traps for me. Besides, I'm a professional; I do this kind of thing all the time. And Saiou will be there. He can stop somebody cold with a look if he has to."
"I suppose so," said Asuka, giving Saiou an evaluating look. "So all I'd have to do is ask him to come to my room or something, and you'd take care of the rest?"
"Absolutely," Edo declared. "It'll be a sting just like a million others that I've done."
"All right. As long as you're sure it's safe," said Asuka. "When should we do it?"
"The sooner the better," said Edo.
"How about Friday? That would be the best time to arrange a date," she said, "and my roommates are going to be out so we'll have the room to ourselves and no one will be suspicious."
"Perfect," said Edo. "What time?"
"That depends. How long do you think it will take?"
"Not long. A half-hour at the outside. You get him in the door, I grab him and cuff him and read him his rights, and I hustle him down to the police station. The trick is just to catch him unawares so he can't sneak off."
"If that's the case," said Asuka, staring up at the ceiling as she made mental calculations. "Six o'clock should be good enough. Any sooner than that and my suitemates might still be here. Just don't show up late, either."
"I won't," Edo promised. "I wouldn't leave anyone alone in a room with a killer - even an incompetent one."
"No, it's not that," said Asuka. "It's just that I have a date that night. It is Friday, after all."
Edo laughed. "All right, then. I can understand that. I'll try to be here on time, then."
Having reached a satisfactory arrangement, the three of them said their goodbyes, and Edo set off with a light heart. It felt very good to have a name to put to his own personal lurking menace, to know where he was and to have an idea of why he was doing what he was doing. Edo did not like mysteries; that was one of the reasons why he liked Saiou's company. Saiou's ways of doing things may not have been scientifically explainable, but they did at least give him a way of finding out things that would have ordinarily baffled him. As far as Edo was concerned, everything was back on track again. A glance at his companion, however, told him that Saiou might not feel the same way.
"Something wrong?" he asked.
"I'm not sure," said Saiou. "Something doesn't quite feel right."
That gave Edo pause. If Saiou said something didn't feel right, it meant that something probably wasn't right. "What kind of something?"
"I don't know," Saiou admitted. "It just feels as though we're moving this too quickly. And I don't like getting Asuka involved. This isn't her fight."
"She agreed to it," said Edo, but without much conviction. Using other people in his plan didn't sit very comfortably with him, either, but he knew perfectly well that Asuka was a strong- minded woman who could handle herself in a crisis. If she didn't feel able to deal with the situation, she wouldn't have had anything to do with it.
"I just can't help thinking that you're being reckless," said Saiou. "I don't like it when you're being reckless."
"I'm just doing my job," said Edo. "It involves taking risks sometimes. Now, let's hurry and get home. We've got a few days to prepare, and we've got to make sure our evidence is airtight so nobody will get on my case when I drag the guy in and book him."
Saiou nodded, still not looking entirely convinced.
"Look," said Edo, "I'll tell you what. Check your cards and see how it'll all turn out. If it says I'm making a mistake, I'll call Asuka and call the whole thing off."
"Very well," said Saiou.
He paused in walking long enough to take his deck out of his pocket. Somewhat to Edo's bemusement, he walked over to a nearby bench and began spreading out cards.
"I meant for you to do it when we got home," he said.
"Why not now?" asked Saiou, sounding somewhat distracted. "This won't take long."
He finished laying everything out and studied it seriously. Edo fidgeted, pacing back and forth while Saiou contemplated the lines of Fate. Finally, he couldn't stand it anymore.
"What do they say?" he asked.
"Hm?" said Saiou distractedly. "I'm not certain. I'm getting conflicting signals... There's something here about making a mistake, something being overlooked somehow... but it says it's all going to come out right in the end."
"Then that's all right," said Edo. "If your cards say it's going to come out right, I believe them."
"I suppose I must believe them as well," said Saiou reluctantly. "Maybe I'm just being overprotective. I liked it better when you had a squad of people to fall back on in case something went wrong."
"I'll have you," said Edo. "I'd rather have you on my side than a whole platoon of policemen."
"Don't think me more than I am," said Saiou, but he was pleased by the compliment anyway. "But you know more about this kind of thing than I do, so I will trust your judgement."
"Naturally," said Edo. "Leave it all to me."
The next several days were nervous ones for Edo. He invested most of his energies into trying to find more information on his suspect, hoping to make a better case when it came time to bring in his capture. Saiou helped him from time to time, but for the most part, Edo was content to work on his own and let his partner take care of his own work. All the same, he suspected that Saiou was as glad as he was when the hour finally arrived.
Asuka was waiting for them on the doorstep, looking anxious.
"Hurry, hurry," she told them. "I want to get this over with, and I'm worried he might get here early."
"You want to get this over with?" said Edo, but he followed her in anyway.
"He seemed really eager," Asuka told him. "It's a little creepy, really. I think he should be locked up just for that."
"I'll add it to his rap sheet," said Edo.
She let them into her room and all but pushed them inside. Edo glanced around, evaluating the place not from a visitor's point of view, now, but with an eye towards how defensible it would be. The room that the front door led to was a large sitting area with a selection of comfortable furnishings and a good-quality entertainment system. Not a lot of hiding places, Edo noted, unless he wanted to rearrange the furniture. Would that create suspicion?
"Where do these doors go?" he asked, indicating a door on either end of the room.
"There are more rooms through there," Asuka explained. "There's a little hallway on each side that leads to two bedrooms and a bathroom on either side."
"Perfect. Then I'll use this door and Saiou can have that one," said Edo. "Asuka, when he gets here, see if you can coax him away from the door and make sure it's closed behind him. I don't want to make it easy for him to slip away."
She nodded. "I suggested that since he knew a lot about history, he ought to help me with the paper I'm doing." She indicated an enormously thick book that was lying open on the coffee table, along with a scattering of papers and writing utensils.
"Perfect," said Edo. "We'll just let him get involved in that so he's not paying attention to what's going on around him..."
"As long as you know what you're doing," said Asuka. She settled down at her coffee table, presumably so that she would look convincingly busy when Aaron showed up. Or perhaps she just wanted to make wise use of her time - Edo wouldn't have put that past her. He and Saiou went to their hiding places and settled down for a wait.
As it happened, there was no reason for Asuka to have hurried them. It was a good ten minutes before Aaron himself finally arrived. Edo tensed as he heard the knock on the front door, and resisted the temptation to open his own door a crack to see who was coming. He told himself sternly that he must do nothing that would attract attention.
"Come in!" Asuka called.
Edo heard the sound of an opening door, and then footsteps falling quietly across the carpeted floor.
"Thanks for inviting me over, Asuka." That, at least, was the voice Edo remembered. He smiled a little, pleased to have his guess confirmed.
"Thanks for coming," Asuka replied. "I appreciate the help. I'm just a little writer's- blocked on this paper. I could really use someone to bounce ideas off of."
"What have you got so far?"
"Well, the paper is on reflections of the roots of the Duel Monsters game in other cultures - working with the theory that other societies played a variation of the game. I've got the European angle covered, I think, but I'm having trouble finding research on Asian societies..."
Edo tuned out the rest of the talk, concentrating instead on the sounds of the two of them getting settled in. How long was long enough? Five minutes? He decided to make it ten. Asuka would probably be annoyed, but it was better than jumping the gun. He counted off the seconds, gauging the right moment to strike.
Saiou, meanwhile, was feeling anxious. He felt out of place in a situation like this - direct confrontations were not his forte, and the dark aura radiating from the newcomer was making him nervous. It didn't matter that this Aaron person was talking about nothing more threatening than a few dry facts about dueling history. The mind that Saiou felt was as dark as it had been when Saiou had encountered it in the bookstore, perhaps even more so, since it was obvious that the plan he had been hatching last time had failed. There was no knowing what he would plan next...
For most people, anyway. For Saiou, it was a little more difficult to see through a closed door, but he could manage.
A moment, later, he sent out an inquisitive thought: Edo?
He knows we're here.
There was a brief flurry of emotion on the other end of the connection, before Edo got himself under control again. How could he know? We didn't tell anyone but Asuka, and she wouldn't tell anyone...
No, but apparently the girl you stopped and spoke to told all her friends that she gave directions to a famous duelist...
Oh, great. Now what are we going to do?
You're the expert.
Saiou felt more than heard Edo's sigh. We can't just leave Asuka like this. She can't keep acting forever. Besides, her date is going to show up any minute now. We don't have time to fool around. Whether he knows we're here or not, we still can't get out of this dorm without getting past him. We're just going to have to go ahead with it. Can you keep him under control if he gets violent?
Maybe, Saiou said doubtfully. I can plant suggestions in people's minds, but I can't force anyone to do anything that is completely outside their nature.
Then convince him he'd rather taunt me a bit before he kills me. Delay him.
Good, Edo replied. I'm going in.
I'm not sure I like the way this is going... Saiou began, but Edo wasn't paying attention to him anymore. Saiou sighed, hoped for the best, and opened the door.
He was just in time to see Edo burst in from the other side, holding his taser in his most threatening fashion.
"All right," he said calmly. "Fun's over. You're under arrest. I'll read you your rights while we're waiting for the police to come pick you up. Are you going to come quietly, or are am I going to have to drag you kicking and screaming?"
There was a moment of silence - calculating silence, Saiou decided, as the other young man sized up whether or not Edo was serious about physically dragging him out. Even with Edo standing and Aaron seated on the floor, it wasn't hard to tell that the other man was several inches taller and several pounds heavier than Edo. All the same, Aaron was a gawky looking thing, more bone than muscle, and Saiou would have placed bets on Edo's ability to fold the other man up and pack him into a suitcase.
All the same, Aaron did not look as intimidated as he might have.
He certainly didn't look pleased at having been discovered, but it was the look of a teenager confronted by his parents after he has come home twenty minutes after curfew - somewhat dismayed at being caught but still convinced that he can fast-talk his way out of it somehow.
"I'm not going anywhere with you," he said, spitting out the word like a curse.
"Yeah, well, sucks to be you," said Edo. "If you aren't coming voluntarily, we'll do it the hard way."
He started to take a step forward, but Aaron made a clumsy move and took something from beneath the front of his jacket. It was gray-black and boxy and looked a lot more threatening than Edo's stunner. Asuka gasped and jerked away from it, and Edo took a cautious step backwards.
"That's right," said Aaron. He was trying to sound like the tough guy from a movie, but his voice cracked with nervousness. "I knew you were going to be here, so I'm ready! I came here to kill you!"
"Forget it," said Edo. "It's not going to fix anything."
"Yes, it will! It'll stop you from using that card!"
"What card? The Bloo-D!"
"Yes! That thing is evil!" said Aaron, wild-eyed. "I saw it kill my brother!"
"I know," said Edo. "The guy who used it to kill your brother was the same bastard who used it to kill my father. I know better than anyone what it can do. But I'm the only one who can keep it under control, so I have to keep it."
"I don't believe you!" Aaron snapped. "No one in their right mind would keep something like that around. You're just some kind of freak. You pretend to be such a good guy in public, but you're not fooling me!"
"You're being an idiot," said Saiou crisply. He sincerely doubted that Aaron was going to listen to reason - or anything else, really - at this point, but Saiou wanted the attention turned away from Edo if at all possible. "Edo is a better man than you'll ever be."
"You shut up too," said Aaron. "You're a bigger freak than he is."
Saiou could feel his eyes flashing. There were few ways more certain to make him angry than to start calling him a freak. For a moment, he was overcome with the urge to seize this person's mind and twist it into knots no psychologist in the world could unravel. He even reached out to try it, but the wall of darkness his questing thoughts met was enough to make him recoil again. Great as his powers were, there was very little he could do with a mind that was so thoroughly steeped in pain and anger. All he could see in the man's surface thoughts were a heady sense of finally having the person he had been hunting in his grasp, coupled with the knowledge that he had the tool in his hand that could kill him. All that was holding him back was the tenuous sense that to pull that trigger would mean murdering another human being - to bring himself, in a way he couldn't quite articulate, to the level of his imagined enemy.
"The sooner I get you out of the world, the better off we'll all be," said Aaron, his attention back to Edo again.
You don't want to kill him yet. Saiou sent the thought as persuasively as he could. You're not ready. This isn't the right way to do this. Back down, rethink this, find some other way. This isn't really what you want to do...
"But I don't want to kill you yet," said Aaron.
Saiou felt a wave of relief wash over him. He hadn't really believed that he could sway someone so determined...
"That would be too easy," Aaron continued. "I'm going to make you watch your friends die the way I had to see my brother die."
Saiou had just enough time to register Edo's eyes widening, and guess that he was about to say something, before a blast of sound drowned out everything else. Saiou staggered backwards as something struck him in his shoulder.
I should have been expecting that, he thought numbly. Then the initial shock wore off, and he began to realize that he hurt, and it was hard to think about anything else.
"You bastard! I'll kill you for that!" Edo shouted. "I'll tear you apart with my bare hands!"
He made a lunge at Aaron, who jerked the still-stunned Asuka in front of him and pointed the gun at her head.
"One more move like that and she gets it, too!" Aaron shouted back, his voice rising to something like hysteria.
Edo backed away. "Leave her alone. She's got nothing to do with this. I barely even know her!"
"She's a witness, now. She can't tell anyone what she's seen."
"I won't tell!" Asuka protested.
"I have to make sure," said Aaron. He began backing away from Edo, drawing Asuka along with him. "Her first, then you."
Edo kept his eyes fixed on the wild-eyed gunman... or, perhaps, on something just beyond him. Some of his panic seemed to have ebbed, replaced by a look of desperate hope.
"Okay, I get it," he said. "Just one thing you need to think about first."
"Huh?" said Aaron.
A voice behind him said, "What were you planning to do about me?"
Aaron started to turn around, and in that moment of distraction, Edo lunged and wrenched the gun out of Aaron's hand, while the man who had just walked in through the door struck Aaron very hard over the head with the heavy book Asuka had been studying earlier. Aaron fell to the floor in an ungainly heap, out cold. Asuka surveyed her erstwhile captor for a moment before looking up at her savior.
"You," she declared, "are late."
Manjoume gave her a pained look. "Don't I get bonus points for saving your life?"
"Maybe a few," she allowed.
Edo wasn't paying attention. He was attending to Saiou, who was trying to sit up. He was clutching at his injured shoulder. Blood seeped between his fingers and stained his dark shirt black.
"I'm all right," he insisted. "It just hurts, that's all."
"You need a doctor anyway," Edo said, as he fumbled a handkerchief out of his pocket and began tying it around Saiou's wounded shoulder with shaking hands. Saiou, still half in shock, reflected that he'd never seen Edo with his hands shaking before. "Dammit... Saiou, I'm sorry."
"I told you this was a bad idea."
"I know you did. I should have listened to you... I was just so sure..."
"That you knew what you were doing, yes."
Edo gave Saiou a glare. "Have I told you lately that mind-reading is seriously annoying?"
"I don't read your mind. That part was just obvious," said Saiou. "But you will listen next time, won't you?"
"Yeah. I'll listen. I promise."
"Ahem," said Manjoume. "Are you two going to sit there and talk about your feelings all night? Because I thought I heard something in there about needing a doctor, so you might want to do that. Also, could someone tell me just what the hell is going on?"
"I'll explain it later," said Asuka.
"I'll call a cab," said Edo.
"Call an ambulance," Manjoume suggested. "But first, what do you want to do with this guy? I could hit him with the book some more, if you want." He looked hopefully at Aaron's still figure, obviously not convinced that just one strike was enough for threatening Asuka.
"You can do whatever the hell you want to him," said Edo, as he began digging out his cell phone. "Throw him out the window, for all I care. I've got a call to make."
"Wait," said Saiou. "I have a better idea..."
His eyes met Edo's. Edo seemed to consider for a moment, then smiled slowly.
"You're right. That's exactly what I should do," he said. He turned and offered the phone to Manjoume. "Here. Change of plans. You call the ambulance. I want to have a talk with our friend here."
"Hey, I already saved your bacon once tonight. The way I see it, all debts are paid. Make your own damned phone call."
"I'll do it," said Asuka, taking the phone. As she dialed, she said to Manjoume, "Why don't you take care of Saiou while I take care of this?"
"...You know what? I'd rather make the phone call."
"I'm fine," Saiou insisted weakly, though the grayish tinge to his skin belied his words.
Manjoume sighed. "You're bleeding on the rug. Sit still and lemme see if I can..."
He began trying to staunch Saiou's wound, and Saiou flinched away.
"Duh, it's a bullet wound. Of course it hurts. Hold still!"
Saiou meekly held still and let Manjoume work. Satisfied that Saiou was in safe hands and that help would be there for him soon, Edo walked over to the still unconscious Aaron. He prodded him with a foot.
"Hey, you, wake up," he ordered.
Aaron moaned and twitched a little.
"I said, wake up," Edo ordered. "We've got some talking to do."
Aaron's eyes blinked open. What he found upon awakening was Edo kneeling over him, pointing his gun at his forehead. He yelped and began trying to scramble away.
"Not so fast," said Edo. "You're not going anywhere."
"What are you going to do to me?" asked Aaron, eyes wide.
"I'm not going to do anything to you," said Edo. "Not one single thing. The way I see it... right now you're completely in my power. I could do anything I wanted with you. I could beat the crap out of your I could blow your brains out or I could shove you out the window and let you become a smudge on the pavement, and no one in this room would say a word against me if I did. I've got enough proof to show that you've been trying to kill me - no one would find it hard to believe I was just defending myself. But I'm not going to do any of that. I don't have to."
"Why?" It was plain that Aaron was trying to sound defiant, but his voice shook. "Are you going to get one of your creepy friends to do it instead?"
"No. Nobody's going to do anything to you," Edo said. "We are going to sit here and wait for the authorities to arrive, and you will be delivered to the proper authorities and given due trial. I won't lay a hand on you. Neither will anyone here."
"Why?" asked Aaron suspiciously.
"Because," said Edo, "at the end of the day, that's not how I operate. My job is to bring the badguys to justice, not to use them as my personal punching bags. I don't see any reason why I should break my code of honor for someone like you. I'm not going to stoop to your level. You, however, just shot an innocent man who has never done you any harm, whose only crime was to be my friend, just because you wanted to get revenge on me for something that somebody else did. That's why I'm not going to hurt you. The way I see it, anything I could do to you would hurt a lot less than for you to be left in peace to think about what you've turned into."
And with that, he got up and stalked away, leaving Aaron stammering incoherent protests.
"I don't think he believes you," said Manjoume.
"No, but it might give him something to think about," Edo replied. "Move. I'll take over from here."
"Great," said Manjoume. "I had plans for tonight anyway. If the mood is totally ruined, I'm going to blame you."
"Yeah, that's probably fair," Edo admitted. "Thanks, Manjoume. I owe you one."
Manjoume looked uncomfortable. "Eh, well... you earned it for getting those brothers of mine thrown in jail. Just next time..."
Edo found that he could smile. "Next time, don't pull something like this on a night you've got a date."
Asuka shut the phone with a click.
"An ambulance is on the way," she announced. "Also the police. I thought this was something they should know about." She gave Manjoume a significant look. "They're probably going to want to question us."
"But... what about...?"
"We'll just have to go a bit later than we planned," she said sensibly.
"It probably won't take long. It usually doesn't," said Edo.
"I had reservations," Manjoume grumbled, but his heart wasn't in it.
Edo just shook his head and declined to comment, choosing instead to investigate Saiou's makeshift bandages to see if the bleeding was slowing any. Somewhere in the distance, he could hear the reassuring sound of sirens drawing nearer.
"You sure you're going to be okay?" Edo asked him gently.
"I'll be fine," said Saiou drowsily. His strength was running low. "I'm just glad you're all right..."
Edo swiped irritably at his suddenly blurry eyes. "I'd be happier if you were okay, too... Saiou?"
"I'm never taking you on one of these missions again."
Saiou laughed softly. "I'll object to that once I'm feeling better. I'd hate to miss out on everything."
"Object all you want - I'm not letting you do it!"
"If I hadn't been here, you would have been killed..."
"If you hadn't been here, I wouldn't have assumed you'd protect me from everything. I would have been more careful."
Asuka cast a look at the both of them from where she was in the process of helping Manjoume tie Aaron's wrists and ankles with a couple of belts borrowed from Asuka's wardrobe.
"I think we should bring him outside so we can meet the police," she said to Manjoume.
"Wouldn't it be easier to just leave him here?"
"No," she said, tilting her head towards Edo and Saiou. "I really think we're all better off going outside."
"Huh?" said Manjoume, and then, "Oh!"
"I told you they were both freaks," Aaron muttered sullenly.
"Can I please hit him with the book again?" asked Manjoume.
"No," said Asuka. "Let's just gag him."
There was a small scuffle as the two of them did what they could to make their captive shut up. Edo didn't pay any attention to the noise. All of his attention was caught up in talking to Saiou, trying to keep him awake and responsive, as the shadows danced around the room from the flashing lights outside...
Needless to say, Mizuchi had been seriously displeased at discovering her brother was in the hospital. Edo was suitably meek as he listened to her chastise him for his general recklessness, and agreed with everything she said, but it still took her the better part of an hour to finish haranguing him. Saiou, whose health had never been the best, remained in the hospital for several days until the doctors were convinced that he was healing properly. Once Edo had been sufficiently chastised that Mizuchi trusted him to be in the same room with her brother, he divided most of his time between keeping Saiou company at the hospital and wrapping up the case of Aaron Sandsmark. It went surprisingly smoothly: between the evidence of the two guns and various documents with Aaron's handwriting on them, plus the testimony of Manjoume, Asuka, and Saiou, the case leveled against him was tight enough that his lawyer had persuaded him to confess. His hate-filled and rambling diatrabes were duly noted down to be used as court evidence.
Edo supposed he should be happy about that. He considered that idea as he lay awake in Saiou's bed, eyes closed, listening to the world coming alive outside his window. It was hard to work up a lot of enthusiasm over putting someone like Aaron in jail.
Okay, so I got rid of the guy who wants to kill me. Great. But still...
Edo quietly arose from the bed, careful not to disturb Saiou, who was still deeply asleep next to him, and walked over to the window to push the curtains aside. Far down in the valley, he could dimly see the shimmer of the city. Somewhere down there were thousands of people going quietly about their daily lives... and, he thought, a handful of troublemakers looking to spoil it for the rest of them. So he'd taken one of them - one of the most incompetent of the lot - off the streets. What about the ones who were left? They still needed taking care of.
Edo smiled. It was nice to feel he was still needed.
I didn't do a very big thing. It wasn't to protect myself that I got into this business - it was to protect everyone else.
He walked back over to the bed and sat down next to Saiou, gently running his fingers through his lover's hair.
"Come on, wake up," he said. "We've still got lots of work to do."