I'm…really sorry…again. More than two months…that's really…something. *bows and apologizes endlessly* But…this story…I don't know, but maybe because this one's the closest to a climax, was the hardest to write. As a result, I'm not sure how well (if well at all) this chapter turned out (not reassured at all because my unofficial beta is in China and unable to see this, even if Alexandrite-san doesn't really edit any of my stuff before everyone else sees it…) and, well, I hope you like it as much as I hated writing it. (And I lost my papers with my notes and scribbles concerning this fic...Not fun. Not fun at all.)

Review Replies (Thank you, reviewers, for making my day every time I see one of those notice thingies in my email that tells me I have gotten your feedback):

WindGoddess Rune: Ah, yes, he has plenty of places to get rid of them. Thank you. :) Alright then. :D Yes, he would...Oh! Yes, I think so. ;)

Kasumi Kusanagi: Hi! Thanks for the input! :) (*laughter* Me too. Jiro's awesome.)

Alexandrite Celestea: My unofficial beta who is in China right now and won't see this until you come back! *huggles* Thank you~! I'm sorry it looks like I'm ignoring your suggestions, but I will fix them...in time...*nervous laughter* Thank you again~!

Yamadori: Senpai~! Hi~! Thank you and it's fine. ^^ Oh...Ack! A-are you feeling better now? Thank you...(You're one to talk, Jiro. Who kept on blushing when I read aloud what I was going to write in Mochi?)(Jiro: *trying not to blush* Oh, shut up.) Okay, that's two votes for "yes" and no votes for "no." (Jiro: Hey!)(Sorry...but if you had your way, I'd have to rewrite the whole story as to make it seem your counterpart doesn't havfe a crush on Zola.)(Jiro: But..but...still...we're almost the same person...well...okay, different circumstances and such, but...)(*pats* It's okay.) Oh, good question. Noi and Marumaro are younger (twelve) and everyone else is sixteen, like Shu. Hm...Let's ask. (Jiro: *blushing* No, let's not and say we did.)(*rolls eyes*) Keita...yeah, he's really starting to. No, you're right, he is. Wh-whoa...your prediction was correct. The connection is pretty much made clear in this chapter. It is...ah, he would. :) *laughs* He is a very witty person. ;) *laughs again* You're really good at guessing. Oh, that's made clear here, too. Thanks again~!

Notes: A lot of filler stuff. But the filler stuff is where Jiro gets most of his clues, so…And the connection between Jiro and Yamaki is made pretty clear. Alright, really clear. And about his father...

Dedication: Everyone who gave this fic a chance. Thanks~!

Drowning Lotus

It was while before he garnered enough will to trudge onwards toward the huge corporate building. Rogi was the manager for one of the best hotels, very near the bank itself and a movie theater. The three amazing architectural feats put together seemed to make a fort, a stronghold for Nene and Rogi and the rest of the Independent Troops. Rogi was rumored to have a young blond working as his chief assistant, while a "Cynthia" and a "Lemaire" ran the movie theater. He had decided upon seeing Rogi first – if Rogi met him and cooperated willingly, he'd find some leads. If Rogi refused, he'd track down some leads. The end result was the same, but the methods depended on a mysterious man everyone had heard of, but not many had seen…

Minutes seemed like hours as he neared the ornately designed hotel, strangely and yet aptly (in Jiro's case, anyway) named "The Battleship". Swallowing any apprehension, he pushed open a gold-embroidered door and entered, glancing around a bit warily. When the violet-haired woman at the front desk beckoned to him, he stepped forward, still somewhat nervous (Zola had been present every single time there was case before this). "I'd like to see the manager, please," Jiro spoke pleasantly enough, polite and precise, hoping no roundabout answers would be necessary. The woman arched an eyebrow inquiringly, "What for?"

He met her gaze evenly. "I'm investigating a case right now for a client. I'd like to ask Mr. Rogi about a couple things. He's not pressured to answer, of course, but it would be in his best interests to do so." Straight-to-the-point, as usual. The woman's dark blue eyes narrowed, but she picked up the phone anyway. "I'll tell him right now." He nodded his thanks before letting his eyes wander around the lobby. There were many paintings, of dragons and phoenixes and grand Egyptian-like warriors, saber-tooth tigers and hippopotamuses (he found that slightly odd, but said nothing) and killer bats (funny, he thought of Zola when he saw it), and…Minotaurs. It was strange, but he felt oddly drawn to the green, painted beast. Its red eyes seemed to pierce into his, and it was as if the picture was trying to say something…

"…see you now." And with that, the silent message that the Minotaur had been conveying, if it was conveying anything, was gone. He blinked, catching the end of her sentence, and nodded again before starting towards the elevators. Glancing towards the map in between the lobby's elevators, he saw that the office was on the fifth floor…

And just as he stepped into a half-full elevator, another person ran in, breathless. Keita looked around wildly before catching a glimpse of the forest green jacket Jiro had been wearing inside the closing elevator doors. Orange eyes widening, he ran for the next elevator up, hoping he would be able to catch the other. Don't let me be too late, please, please don't let me be too late…not again, not again … A flash of red and green and brown and closed eyes and Yamaki why why why why why why raced through his mind before he bolted into the next available elevator.

Meanwhile, Jiro remained unaware of Keita's turmoil as he raised his hand to the marble knocker on the office door. It was furnished nicely, expensive-looking – just like the rest of the hotel. A voice rumbled out "Come in" and he complied, pushing open the door to see a blond man bent over some paperwork.

"Mr. Rogi?" He stood, not making a motion to sit until a hand waved him towards one of the red, velvety chairs. The man himself then looked up, the motion making long blond hair swim over his shoulder and revealing a long scar over his eye. It took Jiro a slight while to realize the shocked gasp had come from him, not from the other man. It also took him a while to notice that he had knocked over the chair from standing up too quickly. "Y-you…You're…Th-that's why…Why…" Interview forgotten, Jiro stared at the other man, the person who had killed everyone back then, everyone, tried to kill me, made my father go missing, it's him I hate him I hate him I hate

But before Jiro could lunge at Rogi, the door flew open with a loud bang, making the vases and accessories near it shake. Keita strode in, police badge in hand. "Jiro, are you okay?" He asked worriedly, urgently when he saw the shaken and furious and utterly destroyed, despondent look in the other's eyes. Laying a calming, soothing hand on the other's slightly trembling shoulder (from fear or anger or some other emotion, he didn't know – perhaps a mixture of several different ones), he kept his gaze steady when Jiro jerked suddenly and turned to him, looking slightly startled at Keita's appearance. "K-Keita…?" The teal-eyed teen hated how his voice still hadn't resumed its normal tone, how he couldn't return to a sense of normalcy besides knowing that the police chief was next to him…Police chief. That's right. I-I have a job to do. For Zola. For Shu. For myself.

Forcing one last calming, shuddering breath to release all the tension and confusion and despair and hate, he righted the chair and sat down hard. Although Yamaki rarely was completely serious, there were those few times and Keita recognized, easily enough, that Jiro had switched to the business side his personality. They are so similar it hurts…the steeled voice, the hardened eyesThe apathy…

"Mr. Rogi, please forgive my…outburst. Now I'd like to ask you a few questions and for you to answer them to the best of your ability, without fabricating anything." It sounded good enough, he thought. Maybe he had learned a lot from watching Zola. Keita was watching him cautiously, but relaxed enough to lean on the desk, his head resting on his clasped hands, scrutinizing Rogi from any giveaway motions of lying.

For three hours, this continued. Jiro and Keita had obtained, by that time, some questionable information surrounding the truth about the Black Crush and the case involving Shu. Rogi told them that the video tape was in the custody of the police (this Keita confirmed), that he was never involved in anything covert and criminal (at this, Jiro had to keep his features carefully schooled into neutrality), that Delphinium knew a lot about Nene and probably knew about the case more, that Jiro resembled someone he saw a few times before…Keita jumped up, ignoring Jiro's small exclamation of surprise.

"How do you know Yamaki?"

Rogi regarded him coolly. "I saw him a few times with Mr. Nene. They didn't…seem to get along very well. But that doesn't matter much, does it, police chief Keita? He is dead, after all." Keita's hands clenched into shaking fists. "How dare you…!" A cold hand on his right forearm stopped him from vaulting over the desk at Rogi. Jiro stood up, directed an ice-cold stare over to Rogi, bowed perfunctorily, and half-dragged Keita out.

"J-Jiro?" The teen in question looked back at the older male. "Where are we going?" Keita asked, not really minding the hand pulling him too much, but still confused. "Do you know where Yamaki's stuff is?" Keita's breath hitched sharply in his throat, and he abruptly stopped, inadvertently pulling Jiro back towards him. "I-I…Yeah, m-most of it's in my office…" I couldn't bring myself to throw anything out. And I couldn't let them just tear everything away from me…at the very least, I wanted to have things to remember him by, even if it makes me just about cry every time I think of him…

"Alright." Jiro didn't comment on the slightly haunted look Keita had possessed for a few moments. He shouldn't pry into something that had nothing to do with him…right? As if on cue, his head started to pound and then…

"Daddy, who's that?" A very young boy himself gestured with a tiny hand toward a photo. Besides the baby held tenderly in a woman's arms, there was another very small boy clinging to a man's hand. He could recognize himself, his mother, and his father, but the other boy…who was it? A look of sadness replaced the warm countenance of the older man, and Takeshi looked to a dove soaring soundlessly into the sky, before placing a large, calloused hand on his son's head.

"Your brother, Jiro. Your brother."

Pain. Fogginess. A voice, wavering in and out of focus. And a warm, gravelly surface…Wait, what?

Jiro found himself staring at the sidewalk, face inches away from it, while the rest of his body rested heavily on the ground. The only thing keeping him from hitting the street face-first was Keita's arm, the latter having immediately dived towards him to prevent him from slamming his forehead against the pavement. Keita was murmuring softly, experienced in matters like this, knowing that loud noises would just aggravate any pain his younger friend was feeling. Jiro shot him a semi-grateful look before settling back onto his knees, leaning slightly against Keita to keep himself upright. Again? A brother? Who…?

"I think you've done enough for today, Jiro, " Keita worriedly admonished, helping the other stand. Jiro shook his head stubbornly (if there was one thing he and Shu were similar in, it was their amazing persistence) and lightly pushed Keita. "Lead the way, chief." With an irritated sigh, Keita started towards his office, trying not to cast concerned looks over to his side on the way there.

When the two reached the police headquarters, specifically Keita's office, Jiro watched impatiently as Keita unlocked the closet, where he kept Yamaki's belongings. They spent a while organizing it into categories such as "clothes, possible evidence, accessories, school, home" before settling down on the sofa in the office to look through the various things Yamaki had owned before his death. And before long…

Nothing turned up in the "possible evidence" section.

With a frustrated sigh, Jiro turned to the other piles. "Now if I was Yamaki, where would I put something regarding Nene…something top-secret…" Keita groaned, wincing a little at the first part of the question. Jiro ignored him (again) and rummaged through a few boxes in the "home and school" categories. Handing the police chief a school binder and a few notebooks, he ordered "look through these, something might turn up." When Keita looked up from what he had been assigned, he found Jiro staring at a green, leather-bound book. A…journal? Jiro stared at the cover. It felt like he was trespassing, like he was doing something wrong when he opened it, but this was to save someone…to condemn others. Keita yelped slightly.

"H-hey! L-let Yamaki have some privacy!" Jiro turned an annoyed stare to his companion. "This is for the good of the case. Don't worry, I'm not really interested in how Yamaki saw his life." Even though that was supposed to be true, he felt an innate sense of not telling the complete truth. Somehow, it felt as if he knew this "Yamaki" and internally, he thought he could sense some feelings of curiosity as to who this person was…And with that, he flipped the journal to the first page with writing on it. And promptly gasped. Written in neat black ink were the words if you are reading this, then I am dead.

It felt as if something was choking him. As if something eerie and suffocating had spread like a plague in the air to every corner of the room. Yamaki expected someone to find this. He expected someone to read this. He expected…he expected to d-die. Keita had hurried over and was gaping in undisguised horror and sorrow and the first nine words Yamaki had written in the little green book. Jiro closed his eyes for a long moment, forcing a lump of sudden apprehension down his throat. A morbid sense of foreboding rose up his spine and he forced his eyes open and started to read.

Dear Keita, or whoever may be reading this:

This is the first entry of many to detail my path to death. If no one reads this, then it won't be a path to death. But since I'll burn it if I live through this ordeal, then I don't really need to change anything. But then, you are reading this, so I am gone.

By the way, it wasn't an accident.

You see, when I was really little, my family was really, really poor. And that monster, Nene, was getting…unpleased with how little we could give him. So he made my father give me to him. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad he took me and not my little brother. By the way, I should probably tell you about my life before Nene. When I was three, my baby brother was born. Cute little thing with pretty teal eyes. If you know him, don't tell him I wrote that. He probably won't like it too much. I really liked taking care of him – Dad told me I was the best big brother he had ever seen. He was exaggerating, of course, but…I wish I could have found him throughout these years, granted he's still alive. He probably doesn't remember me. But I'd recognize him anywhere.

But enough about that. After I was taken by Nene, I was home-schooled and learned a bunch of junk under him. I never did care much for his 'lessons'. He taught me manipulation and stuff like that, and since I'm assuming I'm dead right now, that's probably why. I tried to use what he taught me against him. I tried to show the world who he really was. I was a threat to him, and he knew it. Else why did he take my dad in when my father had lost his memories? To keep me in line. To make sure I wouldn't cause trouble. And when I made friends with Keita (you? Are you reading this, Keita? If you are, flip to the third page, because I have a list of pages dedicated to you in here. Thanks for everything, by the way. You were the best friend a person could have.), well, he kept an even tighter leash on me. I met this guy named Rogi in January. Nene told me he's (he is Rogi's boss, Rogi is the boss of the Black Crush, which is the pre-Independent Corps, I guess that's what to call them) the leader of the Black Crush. I hate him. I hate him and Nene – they destroyed my village, Mafe, and killed my friends and family. My father doesn't remember anything (he does remember having two sons and a wife and apparently a daughter, and it kills me that I have to remind him constantly I'm the only one around anymore…well, not anymore, if you get what I mean), and my younger brother is either missing or dead. I…really hope he's just missing. But if he's dead…well, then, I'll meet him again either way.

I should probably write who are the main people in the Black Crush/Independent Troops/whatever they call themselves now. Nene's the leader of it all; Rogi is his right hand man. Rogi's main assistant, Schneider, is this blond teen that's just a bit younger than I am. Come to think of it, he's about two years older than my little bro. I talked to him a few times. He said a lot about how people don't deserve money or power and all that (but then look at Nene, does that guy deserve money?)because then they become corrupt (like Nene? Schneider…is a bit complicated.) and hurt others (Schneider, do you know you're your bosses are doing then?). When I asked him why he held those views, he told me that a kid he knew disappeared and probably died because his parents were greedy. The kid was his best friend who he saw as a little brother of sorts. The parents died. I wonder if he would change sides if I could find someone named "Andropov". A bit of a weird name…but I guess 'Yamaki' sounds weird to a lot of other people out there.

Cynthia and Lemaire, the people running the movie theater, make a lot of personal films if you pay them enough. They probably have those type of tapes everywhere – those personalized ones. They're really good at what they do, too. They make things look very real; heck, even when you know it's not possible, they make it seem more than just possible –they make it seem existent, real, an ordinary occurrence. Then there's that woman, Delphinium. She's the one at the front lobby of Rogi's hotel, with purple hair and dark blue eyes. She is really devoted to Nene (I don't really know why, maybe because he took her in after her family abandoned her?) and acts as the in-between person for Rogi and Nene. She knows a lot, probably more than Rogi does. It wouldn't faze me if she betrayed her immediate boss (Rogi) for Nene. After all, he is like a foster father to her. But I really don't understand how she can watch other families be torn apart, like mine. I should ask one of these days…if I don't die first.

That's long enough for a first entry, I suppose. Oh, and one more thing.

My little brother's name is Jiro.

And suddenly everything was terrifyingly clear and blurred at the same time. He wasn't sure when his tears started to fall, into a fisted, trembling hand while his mind tried to get past the fact that he had had an older brother who had loved him and that the said older brother was dead. Had expected to die. Had written a journal for someone, anyone, to find and use. And that…and that his father was alive. And apparently working for Nene. And then, suddenly, there was nothing but an abyss of darkness.

Light. Too bright, way too bright. Putting a hand over his eyes, he turned onto his side to avoid whatever was getting past his eyelids. There was a childish giggle, and he opened his eyes to see a child about five years old smiling cheerfully at him.

"It's about time you woke up, little brother! Mom's getting worried because we're spending so much time on this hill," as the child spoke, his hands busied themselves with making a flower crown, weaving stems together, gently, gently…

And then nothing. The light was gone, the child was gone, the grassy hill dotted with so many different flowers was gone. Nothing but himself, floating in dark solitude. He tried to call out, but nothing came out of his throat. Silence. He couldn't even move. And then suddenly, cruel, cruel laughter…

With a jolt, Jiro woke up to moonlight coming in from an open window. Looking around a bit dazedly and a bit wildly, he noted Keita snoring lightly, blanket covering his torso as he slept on the ground. He blinked and the noticed that he was on the sofa, another soft, green blanket half-off and half-on him. The journal was lying innocently on the ground, still open, the moonlight making the dark letters stand out more. With slightly shaky steps, he made his way to it and flipped to the other entries.

Some of them were about how home life was with Nene (horrible, terrible, boring), some of them about his friends (Jiro felt something inside of him twist while he read about the adventures and whatnot of the writer, Keita, Shu, and the other people), and yet others about very personal thoughts, such as his hopes and fears and dreams and the like. His own name would pop up several more times, usually accompanying anything about his…their father. And some parts were essential to proving Shu's innocence – it was as if Yamaki had also foreseen their predicament, and given a last parting gift.

Since he was going to stay the night anyways, Jiro settled himself in a better, more comfortable position before dozing off quietly, this time undisturbed by any dreams, nightmares or not.

When he woke up again, the sun was out and there was the smell of coffee wafting pleasantly in the air. Keita had gotten up before him and was pacing outside the door, apparently on the phone was someone. Jiro sipped lightly at the full cup of coffee before glancing at the green book again. They would need to keep it with one of them at all times…If Nene or Rogi or anyone helping them (this included his father, wherever he was, Jiro thought with a sudden sinking realization) were to find it…Keita chose that moment to reenter the room, blinking at Jiro before smiling wearily.

"Good morning." Jiro nodded to show he heard the other before finishing the rest of the coffee. He didn't really eat breakfast in the first place (although Zola did, and therefore he almost always ate some too), so it didn't matter that all they had for breakfast was a few apparently Swedish ginger cookies (that he found to be rather scrumptious, as this was the first time he had them).

"So what are we doing today?" Keita asked, a little too cheerfully. Jiro glanced up from a cookie and back down. "Does this mean you're letting me continue with the case?" The older male sighed. "What else can I do? You and Yamaki…and Shu…are all a little too stubborn for me to handle." This was said with a resigned, slightly forced smile and the younger of the two recoiled just slightly. He knew that what he was doing was dangerous and that he shouldn't just ignore Keita's feelings on the matter, but…

"We're…we're going to the movie theater today." Keita's eyes widened. "That one?" Jiro nodded, slightly hesitant but eager to get started. After all, yesterday had turned up so much…even if it had hurt…Keita sighed again but stood up. "Let's go to the hospital first. I think Shu's getting restless." Jiro snorted at that and followed the other to where a very impatient and worried Shu watched over a recovering Zola.

"Finally! Jeez, Keita, you said you'd chase him down, not invite him over to your place for coffee and dinner!" Shu complained quickly. It had annoyed him to no end in that Keita had been the one who went after Jiro, and not himself. He cared for Zola too, of course, but still…keeping vigil in the near-silent room was something he was too unaccustomed to. Sure there were times when one of the gang ended up in the hospital with a sprained ankle or a large cut or a broken bone, but none of them were in the wards for so long. Jiro muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like "Impatient idiot," before checking on Zola. Shu fumed slightly but held his breath instead of saying what he would have liked to say.

"So where are you going today?" Keita answered for the apprentice, "The movies." Shu gawked at him. "What?! How can you do that when there's something more important at hand!?" Jiro sighed, rubbing his right temple in an attempt to alleviate the pain of a worsening headache. So noisy…Keita shot a look at his friend and decided to answer again.

"We wouldn't go there to watch movies for fun. There was evidence from yesterday's leads that we'd find something there." Shu calmed down at that and shot a sheepish, apologetic look at Jiro, who was glaring daggers at him. Suddenly, a thought struck him and he perked up immediately. "Can I go this time?" Keita and Jiro exchanged looks with each other. This guy is an idiot. Shu wilted slightly at the silent exchange. "Why not?" Jiro sighed, irritated. "It's too obvious what we're doing if you come instead of Keita. If they're guilty, they'll recognize you right away and make it hard for us to investigate." Shu sighed at this. "But I want to help…I bet my friends would want to help, too…" Keita looked up sharply. "If they would come, the help would be good. But it won't be the safest thing to do…" Jiro nodded to the second part. He really didn't want any more people involved than was necessary.

"We'll help!" A new voice piped up. Kluke waved cheerfully from the door. The whole Shadows' Powers was there, crowding the doorway. Jiro and Keita blinked before the latter smiled and waved back. Jiro turned his gaze to Zola. I wish you could see how the case is turning out. I wish you were here. I really…do need your guidance, your support.

"Well then…" Keita clapped his hands together. "We'll split up roles. Some of you will come with us to investigate and some of us will stay here with Shu to provide Zola with some extra protection." Both Sahlia and Bouquet wanted to stay with Shu, but it was decided that Bouquet would go with the first group (Shu had gently told her that he knew she could help them more and with that…), which then consisted of Jiro, Keita, Bouquet, Kluke, and Andropov. The latter group consisted of Shu, Marumaro, Noi, and Sahlia. Once the first group reached Keita's car, he looked over their impromptu "squad" and smiled to himself before unlocking the doors. Jiro, who seemed to be deep in thought, took the passenger seat next to Keita, leaving the other three to jam into the back. Keita clucked his tongue, "Seatbelts on?" Receiving affirmations from the other four, he grinned and pulled the gear into the necessary functions (reverse/drive), shifting the car easily out of the parking space and towards the movie theater. Hopefully, their luck would be good again. Hopefully, something would turn up. Hopefully…hopefully, I can help do Yamaki justice and help Jiro save Shu. Hopefully.

Owari

More than four thousand words this time…And so hard to write…Like I wrote above, I lost all the notes I had concerning this fic so…I'm rewriting the whole ending, the whole climax and the rest of the rising action. Well, one thing's cleared up at least and so many leads…Anyways, review if you'd like to! (It'd help a lot; I'm drained and still nervous about how well this turned out. It was impromptu, almost…)