Author's Note: ....I know. I know! I've got to stop starting new stories while I have so many to work on, but I get bored easily and this actually helps me update more often. I promise I will update at least five of my other stories before the new year comes. And in my defense, this one has been sitting over at the Plumber's Playground board for about a month or so. If you've never seen/read Buso Renkin, it may be hard to follow. For both story intents and because I think he'll be back to normal soon, Kevin is not mutated in this story.
Kevin was reluctant to get out of his car to meet the dealer, but he'd honked four times now and the mysterious figure had simply refused to move from the shadows, instead reaching an arm out every time, gesturing for Kevin to come to him. Sighing, he finally complied, the grimace on his face a less than subtle hint of his annoyance. "This better be good..." he muttered.
He took a step back involuntarily as the shape took a step forward, the street light finally making him visible. Kevin wasn't sure whether to laugh or to be horrified. Here was a young Japanese man wearing a leotard-like bodysuit in the middle of the night, with pink butterflies stitched into the poofed out shoulders of the arms. His chest was partially visible where the leotard split off, and to take the cake was a rather gaudy butterfly mask on his face. Escaping Kevin's notice was the most oddly placed butterfly of all - stitched on the crotch of the leotard.
"Uh...Mr. Butterfly or something?" Kevin guessed.
"No. I am related to a Dr. Butterfly...or at least," his smile turned sinister, "I was."
"Riiiight," Kevin suddenly felt uncomfortable (hadn't he seen that old manic look in his own eyes in reflections back when he was eleven?), but pressed on. He was no chicken. "Look, what kind of tech is it you wanted to show me?"
In reply, the butterfly man threw something towards Kevin. Kevin grabbed it. "What is this, a polished rock?" He complained. The 'rock' was hexagonal, white, and smoothly polished. In the middle it bore the roman numerals for twenty-one.
"Hardly. That is a kakugane. A failed attempt at the philosopher's stone, but even as a failure it is quite powerful. Where do you think these came from?" The stranger stepped forward a bit more, and gestured towards his back. He was indicating a pair of butterfly wings made out of a floating black substance there, somehow both attached and not.
"Big fan of butterflies, eh?" If not for his curiousity about the tech he was currently holding, Kevin would have been tempted to tease the other guy, but he chose to hold off, favoring information. "What's it supposed to do?"
"It reflects the weilder....whoever has it, I mean...their fighting spirit."
"And yours comes out as butterflies? Lame!"
"And your abilities, Mr...Levin?"
"How do you know who I am?"
"Research is always a good thing," The man crossed his arm. "But I suppose just in order to be on equal footing, I should introduce myself."
"I really don't care who you are."
The man ignored him. "I ...Am Papillon."
"Uh...Papillon?" Kevin repeated, bewildered.
"No no," Papillon shook his head, "You must say it with love! Pa-Pi-On!" He pronounced it slowly, with an extreme flourish. "Anyways, that kakugane is yours. Free of charge."
"I don't trust dealers who give anything free. What's your angle?"
"No...angle, Kevin. I just want a tiny favor from you."
"And that is?"
"Not now. Later."
"Oh, trust me, you'll be the first to know," Papillon said, extending his hand. "Do we have a deal?"
Figuring he could run out on it if worst came to worst, but being overwhelmingly curious about the tech in his hands, Kevin nodded and shook. That would be his first mistake. "Take care, Kevin," Papillon added as Kevin climbed back into his car, throwing the kakugane into the seat beside him.
He watched as Kevin drove off. "I will be seeing you....within the next three days. Probably less than twenty-four hours, if you're as simple minded as they say..."
"Is it just me, or has it been really quiet since our last adventure?" Kazuki asked, stretching his arms out and almost collapsing into the lap of his girlfriend, Tokiko.
"You and Victor were returned to normal, and you beat Papillon in a fair fight. I suppose we've earned the break. But I have to admit, this is a very restless way of doing things..." Tokiko conceded.
"It must be worse for you," Kazuki said thoughtfully, scratching his chin. "I mean, you've been fighting non stop since you were so young...I only joined pretty recently..."
"It's been...nice. Strange, but nice."
"EXTRA BRAVO TECHNIQUE! SNEAK ATTACK!" An unseen force had suddenly glomped onto both teenagers, sending them rolling a few feet.
"Warrior Chief, let go of us!" Tokiko demanded, releasing herself from Captain Bravo's strangle hold. "And for that matter, yelling out 'sneak attack' makes a sneak attack impossible."
"Serious as always, Tokiko," Bravo said with a laugh, rustling Kazuki's hair before releasing him as well.
"Hey, Bravo! You've been gone for months...what are you doing back here?"
"Your old friend Chouno's been spotted in America."
"Oh, is that all?" Kazuki relaxed and started to lay back down.
"What do you mean is that all?! The Warrior Chief would not have stopped in on us if this weren't a big deal, Kazuki!"
"But Chouno and I already fought it out. We're good now. Heck, most of Japan thinks he's a superhero. He's been a toy in a kid's meal. Why would anyone give all that up?"
Tokiko sighed. "Because he's Papillon. He's still a humunculus."
"Not technically. I mean...he doesn't eat people. Not since he first changed."
"You're too kind for your own good," Takiko argued.
"Hate to interrupt the lovers' spat," Bravon said, "But just to be on the safe side, we want to look into what he's up to. A kakugane went missing before he left, and there's reason to believe that Papillon was the one who took it. And Kazuki, you're still the only one he has any respect for."
"Which is why it could be a trap for him," Tokiko pre-emptively cut Kazuki off. "I should just go on my own and check things out."
"Negative. You can go too, Tokiko...I know you want to keep him safe....but we're also sending Gouta with you two. And of course, one of our best agents."
"One of the best?" Kazuki asked. "Who?"
"Why...ME, of course! Who better to help you than I, Captain Bravo?"
Tokiko sighed and put a hand to her head. "All right...when do we leave?"
"What is that thing?" Ben asked, poking at the kakugane.
"Still not sure," Kevin admitted. He had a welding iron in his hands. He fired it up and started attacking the kakugane with it, but it did nothing to the smooth surface. "The guy I got it from called it a 'kakugane'" Kevin explained after he gave up and turned the torch off. "Gwen, you wanna see if you can do anything?"
"I'll try..." Gwen said with a shrug, her pink manna forming into a hammer, which she brought down with all of her strength on the object. Nothing. "Sorry..."
"I just want to know what this thing does before I try it," Kevin explained, looking it over. "I mean, how does it even work? There aren't any seams, so I'm sure it's not electronic...it seems to just be some sort of rock, so at first I thought it came from another planet, but I tested it for radiation and only got Earth-level amounts....I'm sure it's man-created, but I don't get what it's supposed to do, or how to activate it."
"Just promise us you'll be careful and not try it while we still don't know what it does," Gwen insisted. Kevin nodded.
"Yeah, yeah, of course. When have you known me to be reckless?" Gwen raised her eyebrows. "...Don't answer that."
"Who'd you get that from, anyways?" Ben asked.
"Some freak in a tutu with butterflies on it."
"It was a girl?"
Ben looked surprised for a moment, then shrugged. "Well, at least his fashion sense is better than yours."
"Ha, freaking ha, Tennyson. He had a butterfly mask on. Papiyawn or something. Weird guy...even compared to you."
"All right, that's enough teasing each other for today," Gwen insisted. "I have homework. I'm going to walk home. Ben, you coming?"
"Sure," Ben agreed. "I need your help with an English assignment, anyways."
The cousins gathered their things. As they were walking out the door, Gwen frowned at Kevin. "Remember, no using that thing until we know what it is, okay?"
"Of course! I promise, scout's honor and all that." Kevin held up his hand as though pledging. Ben waited until Gwen was in the yard.
He whispered to Kevin "Were you ever a scout?" Kevin shook his head. "Are your fingers crossed?" Kevin removed the hand that was hidden behind his back to reveal that, yes, in fact, they had been crossed. Ben chuckled and gave him a thumbs up sign before following his cousin onto the street.
"Eh, what's the worst that could happen?" Kevin said, tossing the kakugane in the air and catching it again