Part 6: Cadenza

Aya followed Yako into the mansion, taking in the essence of the place as she stood in the foyer. The home of the former Eshiya Touga felt like a place only just now coming to life, after existing as a cold and barren husk for a long, long time. Aya tilted her head, considering; Eshiya's earlier works had somewhat matched her tastes, reverberating as they did with the man's loneliness. However, she could never quite appreciate the bitter longing for human connection that many of his critics and admirers alike saw only as the man's effort to cut himself off from a world he considered hateful. After finding some measure of that longed-for human contact from his wife and daughter, Eshiya became a lost cause as an artist, so far as Aya was concerned.

A pity, really. But did not Yako have something to do with…?

"…Aya-san? Would you like some tea?"

Aya smiled cheerfully at the girl, who was looking at her with a worried (or was it nervous?) expression. "Tea would be wonderful."

A few minutes later, sitting in the gleaming, rarely-used kitchen with respective steaming cups of sen-cha and a plate of mochi between them, Aya and Yako regarded each other across a narrow table Aya suspected was intended to be used as extra counter-space rather than a dining surface.

"This is going to sound like a really strange request, Aya-san…" Yako finally said, after the silence had stretched uncomfortably. She stared into her teacup, weary and empty-eyed. It was the same expression she had greeted Aya with in the classroom, until surprise had overtaken her. In the taxi ride over to the mansion, after Yako's exclamations of disbelief over Aya's "jailbreak" and the singer's cheerful explanation how she had merely "sung my way out," the girl had laid out the bare details of her break with her assistant.

That Yako and Neuro had had a falling out came as no revelation to Aya. She was not at all surprised by the timing, either: she followed Yako's progress in the newspapers, and knew that several people the girl seemed close to, like that laconic policeman, had been killed. Yako was a sensitive, empathetic person, and to have people close to her die had exactly the opposite effect on her as it would on Aya.

The singer had suspected Neuro was something "other," inhuman even, since their first meeting. It would only follow he had no idea how to reach out to the girl when she was most vulnerable, that he would inevitably cross the line that would drive her away.

"I did break out of jail to help you, Miss Detective," Aya reminded her as Yako hesitated and toyed with her teacup, "And I've had my share of strange requests."

Yako bit her lip and looked at the singer, still torn. "I want you to sing for me… to help me remember something!"

Aya raised her eyebrows. "Is that all?" she asked, surprised only by the simple nature of Yako's request.

Yako's flushed and gulped her tea. "It's… um… you see, a couple months ago, I was kidnapped by Kaitou-Sai and…"

"Oh? The newspapers said nothing about that!"

"Erm, yeah… Neuro… Neuro… rescued… me before anyone really noticed I was gone, but anyway… Sai used me to try and get to him. The way she did it was by using a modified Electronic Drug that not only made me her puppet but also made me fight like one of those people in the action movies. I want you to help me remember the Drug so I can use it again to fight Sai and the person who's controlling her." Yako peered at Aya. "Did that make any sense?"

Aya smiled. "Yes, it did, Miss Detective. You intend to fight some very dangerous people on your own, and you want my help to recreate the Drug. But I don't know if I can do that, the Electronic Drug depends just as much on computers as it does on the human brain!"

"Don't worry about the computer part," Yako assured her, a strange, almost manic, expression ghosting over her face, "I have that end pretty much covered. Although… maybe when he comes back tonight, you can sing for him, too. He needs to remember way more than I do."

"Oh?" Aya chuckled; Yako did not disappoint, she was even more interesting without a wall of glass between them! "It sounds as though you are contemplating something very serious, Miss Detective. I'll sing for you, and your friend, before I go back to jail."

"Go back?" Yako echoed, blinking owlishly, "But…"

"Prison has been good for me, Ms. Detective, and it is only a few more years," Aya admonished, shaking her finger and smirking, "It would also be terribly inconvenient to be chased around for being a fugitive."

"Oh, yeah… I guess you're right," Yako admitted awkwardly. "Still… I guess I can tell you how it all turns out when I visit you next?"

"Yes, I would like that." 'It's a shame that I will really be alone when you are gone.'

The conversation drifted to other topics, and Aya wondered if she ought to tell Yako that her assistant had only just yesterday made a similar, albeit impossible request: a song to help him understand humans…

Variation 6

"… What the fu- AUGH!" Godai's question was interrupted as Neuro nearly twisted his left arm out of its socket, casing him to drop his satchel, papers spilling over the floor. He fell to his knees, trying not to cry.

"Slave Number One, not only are you tardy in bringing the requested information, but you failed to procure a replacement slave for me, causing me to personally seek one out," Neuro informed him with a cold sneer. As he was currently grinding Godai's face into the floor with his heel, the otherwise unfortunate man missed the dangerous gleam in the daemon's eyes that has been known to cause near-instantaneous nervous collapse in even the most determined criminal.

"Um, N-N-Neuro-san… do I have to wear this?"

Neuro whirled from his current victim, and, in the same continuous movement, seized Godai's satchel and threw it with a pro-league pitcher's strength and accuracy into the face of the impudent questioner. Said questioner's short blonde wig went flying on impact, while the rest of the unfortunate victim's vector was interrupted by the very sturdy bulk of Troy.

"The louse will wear that without question unless the louse wants to get crushed again," Neuro answered cheerfully, apparently under the belief that "hitting with a piece of luggage" did not fall under the category of "crushing." "Now, put that wig back on."

The "louse" groaned in a despairing tone of unquestioning surrender and moved painfully to reclaim the wig. Godai, who had watched this tableaux play out from his vantage point on the floor, almost felt sorry for the monster's new plaything. 'Making a guy dress up in a schoolgirl's uniform – HER uniform. That's a whole new level of twisted.' He eyed the skinny, nearly androgynous newcomer. 'Not that he even really looks like a guy to begin with. His fault for being a pretty-boy and catching the monster's eye… waaaaaaaiiiitamin-'

Godai was spared any further mind-scarring speculation about Neuro's sexual orientation (Godai's brain could be a scary place sometimes, and he did not always have control over whatever dark and dangerous alleys it might wander) by Neuro "helpfully" dragging him upright by the top of his skull.

"You're still here, Slave Number One?" he asked, playfully inquisitive, "Perhaps you'd like to…"

"No way!" Godai shouted, tearing himself out of Neuro's grip (leaving a few inconsequential patches of hair behind in the process) and sprinting out of the office so quickly, the door slammed shut by the time he reached the bottom of the stairwell.

Once he achieved the (relative) safety of three Tokyo city blocks between himself and the monster, Godai slowed down, gasping for air, loudly declaiming the Universe in terms most foul (to the consternation of passers-by) over the injustice of still holding the title "Slave Number One."

The person who called himself Tsushima Shūji (heretofore known as "louse" or "pretty-boy") gaped at the rapidity of Godai's departure until he noticed Neuro staring at him with a gleeful smile. "Uh, w-w-wha…?"

Neuro added shark teeth to the grin. "We're going to find Sicks now, louse. Get to work."

"O-of course. Happy to help!"

Neuro watched his new acquisition flail about in a manner predicated to appear terrified and feckless. He had not let his guard down once, not even during Godai's interruption; the ex-yakuza had had no idea how closely he had come to dying, if it had not been for Neuro's timely intervention.

'Keep up the charade for however much longer you intend, XI,' he thought, watching his enemy play at being human to fool him, 'You know, and I know, that you'll have to bring me to Sicks eventually.'

XI, fully aware of Neuro's thoughts, registered something akin to Sai's old manic glee. 'When Papa calls for me, we'll go…'

A/N: Apologies for the lack of update - I have been occupied with my primary project for the last couple of weeks (among other things), not to mention I wanted to see how much more of the canon storyline I could incorporate into this fic. The answer is: not much, but given events in the latest chapter, I need to get a move-on, or my denouement will seem plagiarized. I hope to update again before too long.

Thanks for reading!