Chapter 01 - A King Makes His Move

It was chillingly cold in the streets of Ikebukuro during the winter. Sitting with her back pressed against the cold brick siding of an apartment building, a young girl seemed to be suffering through the frigid temperatures by rubbing her hands together and using the warmth of her breath to provide some amount of heat.

A nearby door opened to one of the apartments and the man who exited gave her an odd look as he shoved his hands in his pockets and stalked off. She glanced back at him and watched him leave with mild curiosity.

She peered down at the imaginary watch on her wrist, rolling up the sleeve of her jacket in order to do so. Night was beginning to crawl across the sky of Ikebukuro as light faded into the distance. It had to be pretty late, though she couldn't be sure just how late. She slouched forward, arms wrapped around her knees. Ebony black tendrils fell across her face as she closed her eyes tiredly.

Every time she exhaled she could see it visibly in the air. It only served to remind her of how cold she was. Her legs were already shivering. Any passerby might wonder why she was sitting on the second floor of a dilapidated apartment building, just outside room number 403, waiting. Just waiting... and for what? For Yomi it was something extremely important. She had patiently waited for many hours already and wasn't about to give up.

As she sat with her face pressed against her knees, she inhaled the scent of the jacket she was wearing. It smelled just like him. She loved wearing his clothes, which always reminded her of him. Even though he was dead.


She lifted her head to see that the door she was sitting beside had opened. Two narrowed, particularly angry looking beady brown eyes were glaring at her from behind blue shaded sunglasses. "Go home already. I'm not interested in talking." And you've been sitting there for the past five hours, but he didn't add that part in. His words were straightforward and honest.

Yomi promptly smiled at him as she exhaled, her breath visibly rising through the air in thin wisps that resembled smoke. "Sorry, but it's really important," she told him in a sing-song voice, "I hope you change your mind soon. I really don't want to have to sit outside here all night, you know~"

His eyebrow twitched, perhaps in annoyance. Either way the door slammed shut again. He was being just as stubborn as she was. Maybe she had miscalculated her approach toward him. After she had complimented his strength and fighting ability, seeing him hurl a vending machine across the street, he hadn't been too open to talking to her. Even though she insisted she wanted to talk to him, he had so hastily refused her. Did he mistake her for a reporter? A sigh passed between her lips as she leaned her forehead back against her knees. Shizuo Heiwajima. That was the name the crowds of people in the area had so frantically screamed as they scrambled over each other to try to run for safety and out of his line of fire.

Inside of the apartment, which was both warm and toasty, the blonde-haired man wearing a bartender suit was peering out the shades of his front window. In the bottom corner he could see the top of her head, a mess of disheveled black hair. Even though he had told her to go home she was still sitting there. Still waiting. What did she want so badly that she had to be so persistent?

He grunted to himself as he shuffled into the kitchen and snatched up his phone. His fingers clumsily keyed in a set of numbers as he pressed the receiver to his ear. A moment later he could hear the sound of a young man on the other end. "Shizuo, is that you?" It was Shinra Kishitani.

The man's lips twitched, "Yeah. There's a creepy girl sitting outside of my apartment."

"You have a stalker?" he asked, followed by a throaty chuckle.

Shizuo's hand clenched the phone tighter in annoyance. "She's been there for five hours. Said she wants to talk because I'm the strongest in Ikebukuro." Which was a redundant statement he'd heard all too often, and one he didn't particularly take pleasure in hearing.

"Who is she?"

Leaning against a nearby wall, Shizuo shrugged his shoulders, even though the man on the other line couldn't even see the gesture. "Don't know."

Flabbergasted, Shinra proceeded to ask, "Well, how did you meet her?"

"Earlier today while I was working someone mentioned him." Shizuo didn't even need to elaborate on who him was - Shinra already knew. Speaking the name only served to piss the blonde-haired man off more. "I mighta thrown something at the person... Or something. I guess she saw. Been pestering me ever since." The way he fragmented the sentences and described it so vaguely demonstrated Shizuo's unwillingness to recall the event. That 'something' he threw was probably a vending machine.

An audible sigh was heard on the other end. "Did you ask her what it is exactly that she wants, then?"

There was silence as Shizuo traipsed reluctantly toward the door. The cord of the phone wrapped around the corner of the room, fortunately long enough to extend through the kitchen and past the dining room, all the way to the entrance of his apartment. (Which was surprisingly not a terribly far distance; his apartment was small and humble to say the least.) He cracked it open and poked his head out. The blue-eyed girl was still sitting there, and she looked up at him with that gleaming smile of hers as though so delighted that he had decided to check on her again.

"Hey, you," he addressed her informally (and rudely), "What do you want?"

She blinked at him slowly as if processing the question. "I just want to talk to you!"

After hearing the answer he slipped his head back into the house, slammed the door, and turned his mouth back to the receiver. "She just wants to talk to me."

Shinra was simply speechless but eventually he managed to find his words. "If you can open the door to ask her that much then you should be able to figure out the problem on your own."

Skeptical, Shizuo furrowed his brows, "How?"

Unsurprised at his friend's obliviousness, Shinra responded, "You want her to leave, right? But she said she wants to talk to you. So just talk to her until she leaves." His reasoning was so simple that it made perfect sense. (Which is why it was a mystery as to why Shizuo couldn't figure it out on his own, though he didn't often have girls following him home. In fact that never happened. Ever.) Without exchanging another word, Shizuo hung the phone back up in the kitchen before shuffling back to the door.

It was the third time within the last fifteen minutes that he had opened it, only to find those blue eyes of hers gazing up at him expectantly. Despite her black hair, her eyes and pasty skin gave him the impression that she was a foreigner, even though her Japanese was impeccable.

"What is it you want to talk to me about?"

She grinned at him and responded vaguely with only one word, "Things."

He was definitely going to need a cigarette to get through this. The anger was already starting to flare. This personality reminded him too much of... "Hurry up and talk." Yes, the faster the better.

"Your name is Shizuo Heiwajima, right?"

The blonde-haired man gave a slight inclination of a nod. It wasn't surprising that she knew his name. Most people in Ikebukuro had heard of him before. His reputation always seemed to precede him.

Slowly she stood up, brushing the dirt off of her bottom. She stiffly stretched her arms and neck. "Well, then, Shi-chan, what do you do for work?"

It seemed the conversation between them would be a long one. He wasn't sure why she was so curious about his work but it didn't really matter. Shizuo slipped out from his apartment and securely shut the door behind him before leaning back against it. He patted his pant pockets searching for a pack of cigarettes. There was one somewhere - he was sure there was...

"How long have you lived in Ikebukuro?"

There it was. He pulled the box out of his pocket and flipped it open. It was disappointingly empty. His eyes lingered there for a while, as though staring long enough would somehow magically summon his cigarettes. Frankly, Shizuo couldn't even remember when he had smoked the last one. A vein bulged on his forehead as he crushed the empty box in his fist.

"Are you involved in anything suspicious?" The blue-eyed girl peered up into his face with a smile spread across her lips. She was so sickeningly happy it made him want to...

"Eh?" he grunted out. This was seeming less and less like a conversation and more like an interrogation. Perhaps she was a reporter after all. He really, really needed his cigarettes. Shizuo glanced at the crushed box in his hand ruefully.

Despite the fact that he was being unresponsive to her questions, Yomi shuffled around the blonde-haired man and eyed him curiously. "You're not a bartender... So why do you dress like one, Shi-chan?"

The empty cigarette pack which Shizuo crumpled in his hand fell to the ground. He crushed it with his foot, grinding it into the concrete.

"So you smoke, huh? I thought you smelled like smoke." It didn't even seem to bother her that he wasn't answering her. She continued to rattle off in that cheerful voice of hers. Annoyingly cheerful to the point that even Shizuo couldn't restrain the violent urges coursing through his veins and filling his head.

He inhaled sharply as he traipsed over to the railing. His hands slammed down against the steel, probably harder than he had intended. It bent beneath his strength. "One question," he said. Shizuo turned his head over his shoulder to glower at her.

The girl seemed to be pouting, considering the way she frowned back at him. "That's not very fair, only one?" She tapped her chin thoughtfully with her index finger. Her eyeballs rolled back slightly as she gazed up at the ceiling. Yomi seemed to hum to herself as she pondered it very carefully. "Ah!" she exclaimed at last with a look of excitement and realization on her face. "Who do you work for and what kind of businesses are you involved in?"

That was definitely not one question. "That was two." His grip on the railing tightened, nearly crushing the metal beam which creaked in resistance against the strength of his hands.

"Think of it as a compound question," she offered with a sheepish grin. "Like a 'buy one get one free' at the supermarket!"

The way she said it so shamelessly, like she didn't even notice he was losing his patience, just pissed him off more. Before Shizuo even realized what he was doing, he had ripped out the entire fifteen foot steel railing from off the side of the building.

From behind him, Yomi's lips had formed an o-shape as she gave an approving nod toward him. "That's really impressive, Shi-chan! Although I don't think you were supposed to do that," she told him in a sing-song soprano voice. "You might get in trouble and have to pay for it later, you know~"

It was an ice cold reminder, and although the anger burned in his face and set ablaze the blood in his veins, Shizuo felt a calming rush from her words. He didn't need any more warnings about property destruction. Even in the rush of anger he could remember the manager's words the last time... "One more complaint and I'm kicking you out!" Yes, it had been something along those lines.

But logic and reasoning alone were not usually enough to soothe the "beast within," as some would call it. Perhaps it was exhaustion or because it was a girl... Then again, maybe it all came down to sheer willpower. Either way it didn't matter as the bubbling in the pit of his stomach simmered down and at last he gradually lowered the railing back down. It creaked and waned unsteadily even as Shizuo released it and stepped back. It didn't look stable at all, though he silently hoped no one would notice... Least of all the apartment manager.

"You seem a little on edge, Shi-chan," Yomi observed thoughtfully. "Maybe you should get a smoke and cool off a bit!"

His eye twitched. Yes, he definitely needed to smoke. He also needed her to disappear. "Go home," Shizuo muttered in exasperation. It was obviously a big mistake to even step out of his apartment in the first place. The soles of his shoes smacked against the concrete as he trudged back to his apartment, reached for the knob, and wrenched the door open. It screeched in resistance as it was nearly ripped from its hinges by the force Shizuo used.

Not particularly disturbed by the deafening sound, Yomi blinked slowly as she followed him with her gaze. "I really can't do that, Shi-chan. Actually, I need your help... To save Ikebukuro."

Despite the voices in his head goading him to pick up something and throw it at her, Shizuo resiliently stepped into his apartment without heeding temptation. He reiterated what he had already told her, "Go home," and slammed the door in her face. Moments later there was an audible clicking sound as he locked it behind him.

Once again inside his apartment, Shizuo became vaguely aware of how numb his fingers felt. Not from smashing up the railing but perhaps from the cold. He hadn't noticed earlier just how chilly it was. The temperature was well below the freezing point and yet that eccentric woman had sat out there waiting for him for hours...? Well, it didn't really matter. She would go home soon enough and he would be free of her. Though he had to admit she was certainly more persistent than the previous reporters that had camped outside his apartment waiting for an interview. None had been quite so obtrusive and fearless.

He breathed a quick sigh before shuffling off toward his bathroom. It was late and he needed to go to sleep quickly. He would have to get up earlier than usual to pick up cigarettes before he went to work.

Meanwhile, still sitting outside of his apartment in the position she'd occupied before beside his door, Yomi peered up at the sky. It had grown dark, and through the smog of the city she couldn't even make out the stars. Perhaps beneath the veil of pollution they still shined as brightly as she remembered when she was a child, but she couldn't see them now. Her blue eyes lowered to the crooked railing, dangling precariously on the edge of the concrete walkway. She smiled wistfully to herself.

That blithely beaming face was not what he wanted to see in the early hours of the morning after he stepped out of his apartment. "Good morning," her cheery voice chimed as she gazed up at him from where she was sitting beside his door. It was the same spot she had been in the night before, when he specifically remembered telling her to go home...

He had told her to go home, right? Even though his memory was particularly fuzzy, he distinctly recalled making it clear to her that he wasn't interested in talking... At all. Why, then, had she sat outside of his apartment all night waiting for him? Shizuo blinked slowly. His thin lips formed into a tight frown line.

"Are you going off to work today?" she asked earnestly, her voice tinged with noticeable excitement. The dark-haired girl dusted herself off and shoved her hands into the pockets of her oversized blue jacket.

Shizuo tilted his head back momentarily before turning on his heel. He ambled down the sidewalk and stuffed his hands in his pockets. The sun was barely peeking out at the town. It was an unusual time for him to be awake and he certainly didn't want to be. For cigarettes, however, he was willing to sacrifice some sleep.

For whatever reason, the blue-eyed girl skipped along behind him and matched his pace. That sickeningly sweet smile was still plastered on her face. "Not feeling talkative in the morning, Shi-chan?"

Did she ever shut up? He glared at her with eyes that could kill. "Go home." The way he growled it out so threateningly would send any ordinary person heading for the hills. Perhaps this girl simply didn't understand what he was capable of because she just continued to smile innocently back at him as though she hadn't heard what he had said at all. At the very least his words had served to quiet her. They managed to walk in a silence accompanied only by the clicking of their own shoes against the pavement.

Even in the early morning the streets of Ikebukuro were bustling with people. Their faces were a blur to Shizuo who focused only on the path ahead of him. He tuned out the sound of honking horns, screeching tires and chattering people. All he could think about was how much he wanted a cigarette... And perhaps some milk.

Ding, ding... The sliding glass doors parted to make way for Shizuo as he entered the gas station, a faint chiming in the background as if to announce his entrance. From behind he could hear the audible humming of the girl that had persistently followed him, despite the various attempts he'd made to lose her along the way. Shizuo had to admit that she was certainly dedicated to her job... No one had slept on his porch before and then followed him onto the crosswalk when the light was red, only to subsequently dodge oncoming cars. Impressive perhaps or otherwise foolhardy.

Like a duckling Yomi tailed the tall blonde-haired man as he navigated through aisles and eventually paused in the refrigerated section to pluck a bottle of milk off of one of the shelves. It was at that moment that he paused to glance back at her, his brows furrowed. Though she wasn't sure what he was thinking, she tilted her head and offered him a large grin.

His fingers tightened across the bottle as he released the glass door which shut itself softly. Shizuo turned his back toward her and shuffled toward the front counter. On his heels just as she had been the entire time, Yomi continued to hum to herself as they waited at the desk for the attendant. Behind the shaded sunglasses, Shizuo occasionally sneaked a glance at the girl whose luminous blue eyes seemed to be glued to him. It was annoying.

"Jeez, so early in the damn morning and already customers..." The man who emerged from the back had frazzled hair, disheveled and sticking out in all directions, with a face that looked unkempt. Shizuo could visible make out, from a distance, the stubble above the man's lip that was also speckled across his chin and the sides of his face. His uniform was similarly wrinkled and dirty.

The moment Yomi saw him she pinched her nose and said, "Maybe you would have more customers if you'd bathe."

While true, it was certainly tactless. The man, who looked like a delinquent, glared over from the other side of the counter with his beady eyes. "Huh? What'd you say?" he growled menacingly at her.

Although more than happy to keep himself out of trouble and the situation altogether, Shizuo was growing impatient. He slammed the glass bottle down against the counter. Though fortunately not hard enough to shatter it, the sound did seem to break through the tense air that had settled between Yomi and the attendant.

At first the man seemed to have an angry look on his face but the moment he noticed Shizuo's death glare from behind those blue shades, he visibly stiffened. Even though he seemed to be in a bad mood he still had the sense to feel fear. He nervously averted his eyes down toward the counter where the cold bottle sat. "W-will that be all for you, sir?" With the man's rough tone the polite speech seemed unnatural.

"Pack of cigarettes."

"What brand?"

Growing dangerously impatient, Shizuo tilted his head back. "Eh?" It sounded less like a question and more like the growling of a predator.

"R-right," the attendant stuttered nervously as he turned around and jerkily glanced at the cigarettes on the shelf behind him. He hesitated in choosing between them but finally snatched a box and then turned back toward the counter. Wordlessly he rang up the two items and then read Shizuo the total.

Yomi continued to stand there with a disgusted look on her face, her eyes darting between the moody attendant and the angry man she'd been following. She watched the attendant hastily place the items into a sack after taking Shizuo's money. The lean blonde-haired man quickly marched out of the station with Yomi following close behind, though she glanced back at the attendant as they left and poked her tongue out at him. It was in that moment when she wasn't watching where she was going that she bumped into Shizuo after they exited through the sliding glass doors. It was similar to running into a statue and she let out a small, "Oomph," as she stumbled backward.

Unfazed by the collision, Shizuo quickly popped open the lid to the milk bottle and downed the contents. The cool liquid which glided down his throat was refreshing. It was his own personal replacement for coffee. Drinking milk in the morning made him feel more awake. All that was left was to smoke. He desperately needed to smoke.

"So you like milk a lot, Shi-chan?" The nosy girl was poking her face into his again, standing on her tiptoes just to be able to reach his chin. She certainly was short.

He tossed the empty milk bottle into a nearby trash can and reached for the pack of cigarettes in his sack. It took a moment to open it and the entire time he couldn't help feeling a little antsy. As soon as he opened it he could almost smell the nicotine, like a tantalizing scent that screamed, "Smoke me." Shizuo was inclined to oblige. He pulled out a single cigarette and placed it between his lips before hastily stuffing the box away. Then he fumbled with the lighter, fishing it out of the pocket on his vest. Once the end of the cigarette was lit, an overwhelming calm settled over him.

Shizuo savored the feeling... It was like the throbbing ache in his head had finally subsided. The itching in his ears was gone. Everything simply felt blissful. There was no anger, no irritation, just a sense that everything was peaceful and quiet.

Well, it was for a minute anyways. "So are you going to go to work now?"

Did she only know how to ask questions? Shizuo's teeth sank into the butt of his cigarette as he shoved his hands into his pocket and stalked off down the street. Even though he silently hoped she would leave him alone since he'd so intently ignored her, she skipped after him and resumed that annoying humming of hers. It didn't even seem to bother her that she was being ignored.

As the odd pair made their way down the sidewalk and through various stoplights, turning down seemingly random street corners, Shizuo didn't even particularly notice that people purposefully stayed away from him. He was so used to the probing stares and curious glances that he didn't pay them any mind.

Yomi seemed to be relatively oblivious to the glaring passersby as well. She merely skipped as gleefully as a school girl all the while humming the most annoying tune that Shizuo had ever heard. With every bounce of her step the layer of jackets and the mismatched green scarf around her neck rustled. It sounded like there were keys in her pocket which jingled along to the melody of their footsteps, her humming, and the background noises of Ikebukuro.

If a blonde-haired man with blue shades in a bartender suit didn't attract enough attention by himself, looking like a delinquent, then the girl behind him certainly did with the clashing, uncoordinated colors of her attire. Without even talking to her one could tell she was eccentric.

Special was more like it, Shizuo thought sourly as they rounded another corner. Up ahead he could see a man standing idly in front of a building. He was wearing a particularly snazzy suit and had long mousy brown hair set into what appeared to be dread locks. The man seemed to almost sense Shizuo and turned toward him, his brown eyes staring at the two people approaching him from behind golden-rimmed glasses.

"Tom-san," Shizuo greeted as he stopped just short of the brown-haired man.

The small black-haired girl that had been following Shizuo skidded to a halt beside him and beamed at the other man. "Good morning!" she greeted cheerfully.

Tom blinked slowly and glanced between the two. "Girlfriend?" he asked, pointing his index finger in Yomi's direction.

Shizuo's eye twitched, his fists clenching at his side. "No... Definitely not," he growled out, glaring resentfully at the girl that had been stalking him. He had been hoping to shake her off before meeting up with Tom. So much for that.

"Shi-chan's right," the girl agreed with a nod. "That would be impossible since his smoking makes me nauseous." It was strange how she added a smile to the end of her sentence, as though it made up for the rude remark.

Grinding his teeth into the butt of his now nearly burnt out cigarette, Shizuo clenched his fists tightly as the vein on his forehead bulged. "Go home," he growled at her, somehow in a voice that seemed so quiet it was dangerous. Subconsciously he found himself glancing around for the nearest object to pick up and throw.

"Aw, don't get your feelings hurt, Shi-chan. I just want to follow you around and watch you work. That's no big deal, right?"

That was it. Just hearing her annoying chipper voice made him snap. The milk hadn't been enough to calm his nerves, nor had smoking the cigarette. He couldn't control his anger anymore. In the blink of an eye Shizuo had ripped a nearby parking meter from the ground and was brandishing it threateningly over his head. His aim was perfect as he tossed it before even Tom could try to calm him down.

Yomi barely managed to duck out of the way in time – narrowly dodging the flying metal object that may have otherwise smashed her into the form of a pancake. Unfortunately the passerby behind her was not so lucky, as the parking meter slammed right against the side of the man and sent him flying. There was an audible cracking noise, as though upon impact it had shattered a few of the man's bones. Yomi winced at the sound.

Even Shizuo had been momentarily shocked out of his rage. Guilt flooded him as Tom grasped his shoulder tightly to help soothe the anger. It was already done, though. The moment the parking meter had left his hands he felt relieved. The fire that seemed to be coursing through his veins had already subsided.

There were screams in the surrounding area and people were yelling at each other to call for an ambulance. A few other citizens had stopped to check on the now unconscious man, his body splayed out across the pavement. He didn't seem to be moving at all.

Having also realized the seriousness of the situation, Yomi began to edge away from the scene. Before leaving entirely she called back to Shizuo, "I better get going for now, Shi-chan! I'll definitely see you later!" She waved her hand emphatically before turning and skipping down the street.

Shizuo was left frozen like a stone statue in the middle of the sidewalk beside a busy intersection. People were rushing around him and it was all a blur. How many times had this happened before? Tom had left his side to go and check on the condition of the man that had been hit. He seemed to have regained consciousness – if he had ever lost it to begin with.

It took nearly half an hour for Tom to deal with the paramedics who came to take the man away. The man had been hysterically yelling at Tom the entire time, complaining about how much his arm hurt. Apparently it was broken. Meanwhile the shattered parking meter lay in pieces on the concrete. There was a smear of blood across it that stood in stark contrast to the metal it was painted on. Shizuo's eyes lingered on that spot as he waited. Would he be taken away by police again? Somehow this situation seemed so eerily familiar. It made him think of that guy.

"It's taken care of."

Tom's words came as a huge relief. Shizuo breathed a quiet sigh as he pulled out the cigarettes in his vest pocket. He definitely needed a smoke now. "Thanks," he muttered quietly as he reached for his lighter.

"You'll have to pay the hospital bills, but at least he agreed not to press any charges. Law enforcement isn't going to get involved." From behind his spectacles, Tom noticed the remorseful look on his employee's face. "He only broke a few bones." Which at least meant that, to some degree, Shizuo had held back from throwing the parking meter with full strength. The shadow of a smile appeared on Tom's lips as he gently set his hand on Shizuo's shoulder. "You should learn to treat women more delicately."

That was certainly true. Any normal person would've been smashed beneath the parking meter and sent to the hospital with serious injuries. It was miraculous (and yet somehow unlucky for Shizuo) that the blue-eyed girl managed to dodge just in time.

Delicately, Shizuo thought to himself. He scratched at his chin as he followed behind Tom as they began their route for the morning. Delicate wasn't a word that Shizuo had ever really had in his vocabulary. Since he didn't have any experience with girls, he had no idea how he was supposed to treat one. Grudgingly he traipsed behind his employer with an even more pissed off expression than usual. The more he mulled over the subject the angrier he became, until the butt of the cigarette clenched between his teeth was so bent that he couldn't inhale the nicotine anymore.

The rest of his day was uneventful compared to what had happened that morning. Every time Shizuo had to threaten someone who didn't want to pay up as they were supposed to, he started to think about the odd girl that had been following him around. That only pissed him off more, which was extremely unfortunate for those who incurred his wrath. Everything seemed to be going wrong; both Shizuo and Tom had to work later than usual. It wasn't until the sun was setting that Shizuo finally, completely exhausted, started to trudge back toward his apartment.

The pack of cigarettes he'd bought was almost gone. When he opened the box he saw only two left, and he didn't even feel like smoking anymore. Something in Ikebukuro felt a little off, though Shizuo wasn't sure why. He stuffed the box back into his pocket and clambered up the metal steps leading to the second story of his apartment building. When he came to the top of the stairway and gazed down the hall to the very end where number 403 was, he was mildly surprised (and perturbed) to see a familiar silhouette standing beside his door.

"Welcome home, Shi-chan!" The girl smiled and gave him a happy wave. She was wearing the same clothes she had worn that morning.

Although he was annoyed by her persistence, he had felt guilty earlier for blowing up at her. It was a bit of a relief to see that she seemed to hold no grudge toward him for it. Still, he was exasperated. The day had been unusually long and tiring. He wasn't in the mood to deal with her antics. "Go home." The keys in his pocket jingled as he pulled them out and unlocked his door.

"I still have some questions for you," she announced melodically.

Shizuo yanked the door opened and marched inside. "Not interested," he growled back at her before slamming the door shut and locking it behind him.

The gust of wind as it flew closed made her squint, and when she opened her eyes fully again, Yomi was disappointed to find herself locked outside his apartment. Nonetheless, she smiled to herself and leaned against the wall, sinking down to the floor. With her finger she idly drew invisible drawings across the concrete beside her while she waited. Eventually he would have to leave his apartment again, whether it was later that night or the next day.

Time passed quickly as it darkened outside. The film of pollution across the night's sky kept the moon's light dim as it shined down upon Ikebukuro. Inside of Shizuo's apartment, he sat idly on his couch, hunched over with a cigarette protruding from his mouth. It was his last cigarette, and he ruefully wished he had bought more as he glanced down at the empty box. It reminded him of the night before when he had also been out of cigarettes. The last one of the pack was always the best. Perhaps because he knew it was the last and that was why he savored it so.

The box crumpled in the strength of his fist. When he released his fingers it clattered to the floor and Shizuo breathed a sigh. The smoke drifted through the air as he leaned back against the poorly cushioned sofa. His eyes followed the smoke as it dispersed and eventually dissipated completely.

Was that girl still waiting outside his apartment? It seemed likely. Even someone like Shizuo had to feel a little guilty for blowing up at a person and then leaving them out in the cold all night. Although she didn't seem to be bothered by it. Maybe she wasn't human. He had never sympathized with reporters or journalists before. Why begin now? Perhaps it was because his conscience wouldn't let him rest.

Regardless Shizuo, resolved to send the girl away once and for all, sluggishly lifted himself off the couch and trudged down the hallway toward his front door. Reluctantly he cracked it open and peeked out. He was surprised to find the spot, where she had been sitting beside his door, vacant. She wasn't there. He almost felt like smiling - genuinely smiling! She was finally gone and-

"Looking for me, Shi-chan?"

On second thought he was just being too optimistic. "Go home already." He was getting tired of saying it. She was probably tired of hearing it too.

The ebony locks which were perched on her shoulder fell toward the ground as she tilted her head. She seemed to keep her hair unnaturally long, which fit her peculiar appearance and eccentric personality. Even her smile was a little creepy. "You're pretty stubborn, huh, Shi-chan? You keep saying that."

"You keep ignoring me," he retorted, removing the burned out cigarette from in between his lips. Shizuo crushed it against the brick siding to finish putting it out and then flicked it over the railing behind his stalker.

"Are you going to let me in and answer my questions now?"

"If it will get you to stop following me," he conceded. Such a compromise seemed uncharacteristic for Shizuo, but perhaps it matched what Tom had mentioned earlier. Rather than scaring this journalist (or reporter, or whatever she was) by throwing things, blowing up at her, or chasing her down with large, miscellaneous steel objects that could cause serious injuries... Maybe talking was best. But he also realized something: he was definitely not good at talking.

Nonetheless she had already managed to squeeze between him and the half-closed door the moment he'd breathed those words of consent. It was too late for second thoughts. "It's surprisingly tidy," she observed, her eyes scanning the empty walls and clean floors as she walked toward his kitchen. The girl seemed to invite herself inside without even asking.

His eye twitched as he slowly closed the door and then followed after her. "Why do you want to talk to me?" It was a question that had weighed on his mind since she'd started following him, and yet he hadn't found much opportunity to ask her. At least not in between ignoring her and then trying to chuck a parking meter at her.

As she whipped around her hair came flying and nearly slapped him right in the face. Shizuo was barely able to lean back out of the way. "I told you already. I think it was something along the lines of saving Ikebukuro. That's right, isn't it...?" She tapped her bottom lip in thought as she mumbled incomprehensibly to herself.

"I don't know what you're talking about. Make it quick, I don't like interviews." To be more correct, Shizuo Heiwajima hated interviews. Such hate stemmed not only from a contempt toward violence but also a particular incidence where a certain flea had set him up against a horde of reporters. It was an unpleasant experience that landed him in trouble with law enforcement. (Again.) He was starting to get angry just thinking about it.

"Interview?" she mouthed the word to herself with a confused look, "What interview?"

Why was she pretending to be oblivious? "For your paper or whatever."

The girl grinned at him. "Silly Shi-chan, you thought I was a journalist or something? There's no way. I'm unemployed."

This news came as a shock. At the same time Shizuo realized that, while she had been following him the whole time, he'd never actually asked her the exact purpose or intent behind her questioning. He simply assumed she had to be like the rest. It made sense that she wasn't; the moment he ripped something like a parking meter out of the ground with most people, they went running and never looked back. But what didn't make sense is why, then, she had followed him so intently.

"If you're not a journalist or a reporter, then who are you?"

Her eyes seemed to light up at the question. "So you're finally asking me for my name?"

Obviously she was misinterpreting the intent behind his question. Shizuo more or less was asking what it was that she so desperately sought that she had camped outside if his apartment for over twenty-four hours, but... He wasn't going to contest it if that's what she wanted to think.

"You can call me Yomi." The way she said her name so proudly was as though it was something to brag about.

Though in comparison with her personality, it was actually a fairly normal name. Shizuo had been expecting a foreign name. Either way he regarded her name as unimportant. "What do you want?"

Yomi seemed to be ignoring him as she sniffed the air and suddenly pinched her nose, making an unpleasant and disgusted expression.

"What's that for?" He sniffed the air, and maybe it was because his sense of smell was dulled from smoking all the time, but he couldn't smell anything.

"Oh, don't mind me," she said cheerily. "It's just that you stink bad enough yourself but your house actually smells like rotting carcasses." For added effect she offered a smile to the end of the sentence, as if it somehow lightened the weight of her insult.


Everything seemed to blur before his eyes and it took several moments afterward for Shizuo to realize what had happened. In the split second that the anger had rushed to his head and his instincts had kicked in, he had slammed both of his fists into his table. The wood easily cracked in two beneath the strength of the blow.

"You sure are destructive, huh, Shi-chan?"

He gritted his teeth. Was that supposed to be an insult? Shizuo lifted the table by its legs, despite being split in half, and held it over his head. He was about to throw it at her when suddenly she came rushing toward him. Caught unprepared and unsure of what to do, he froze the moment he felt her small arms wrap around his back. Was she hugging him? He looked down at her in horror.

"It's okay, Shi-chan. I still like you." She grinned up at him, showing off her pearly whites. "I'll come back and chat with you some other time now that we're good friends. See you later!" The blue-eyed girl released him and skipped out of the room after giving him a slight wave.

For a good five minutes afterward Shizuo just stood there dumbfounded, his jaw set slightly agape. No thoughts could properly register in his head. He had forgotten his rage while scrambling to understand the situation. He had been hugged. Someone had hugged him. A really creepy, freakish girl had hugged him. He wasn't entirely sure whether to be disgusted or angry.