Tall, slender body…Peach skin without a single blemish…Long brown hair that's clearly taken care of…radiant blue eyes…A personality that would make any boy swoon over her…
I fucking hate that bitch.
I aimlessly surf the Internet, completely ignoring the pile of books and papers next to me. An advertisement positioned atop the site I'm viewing catches my eye. It says "Does someone make your life Hell? Click here" on a black screen. Curious, I click on it. A new window with a peculiar title opens.
"…The Residual Organization?" I mutter. The website is as plain as the advertisement. Apparently, there's a price for their services but I don't see one anywhere. …What do they even do? Pull pranks or something? I skim through the page.
Please type the target's full name and what he/she did to you. Include your name in the description. Do not worry; your identification will not be revealed to the target.
…Is that all? That's a bit vague…Maybe it's a local company.
I decide to make use of the clearly-suspicious site instead of starting my homework.
"Kairi…Hoshiko…" I say as I type the bitch's name. I highly doubt this'll work, but it would make my year if it did…Oh, maybe they'll humiliate her at school! That would be amazing…
"She's bullied me since elementary school…About time I have my revenge…" I conclude, trying to block the doubt dwelling in my mind. Once I finish my…admittedly exaggerated description of the girl, I move my mouse until the pointer lands on the 'Send' button. I stop myself. What if…What if it's something more than a harmless prank? I don't know anything about this nameless company… What if it's dangerous?
…Nah…It's not like I said where she lives or anything…
So…I click on the "Send" button.
Thank you! Results will occur in ten hours or less.
All I can do it wait, I guess. I'm so excited about what's to come that I can barely sleep.
I'm surrounded by white. Is this a dream? I walk through the world of nothingness until I spot a curvaceous silhouette. As I approach the figure, it slowly turns to face me. It doesn't take me long to discover who I'm face-to-face with.
"Oh…Kairi, it's you…" I say, trying unsuccessfully to sound happy to see her. As soon as I say her name, she giggles like the attention-grabbing bimbo she is. I grimace. Why the hell is she invading my subconscious?
"Roxas…" she calls me by my dreadful birth name. "Don't tell me you're still mad at me…You need to learn to let things go, sweetie…"
Is she fucking serious? A series of homicides race through my mind as Kairi smile innocently at me. Strangling her…Drowning her…Pushing her off a cliff…No…No, calm down…She'll get what's coming to her soon enough.
Kairi suddenly glances at her hand. There are a few embers on her fingers. She fervently attempts to shake them off but they begin to spread.
"Ow…" I hear her murmur as she tries to smother the growing flame with her opposite hand. Still no luck. The fire quickly spreads onto her arm and her torso shortly after. She desperately pats her body as her anxiety becomes evident. She looks at me frightfully as her body is gradually being burned. I can't help but smile darkly. This is a pretty epic dream…
…Why can I feel the heat from the fire?
"Oh my God…"
Is this real? Does this have to do with that website? I begin to worry as I inch my way toward Kairi. I reach for her, having no idea how to help her. Before I make contact, the flames expand. I inadvertently back away and guard myself with my arms. Kairi, who's completely engulfed in the inferno, is screaming. Whether it's because of fear of death or the pain, it's hard to tell at this point. I can hardly see her tears, which quickly evaporate.
"HELP ME!" she shouts maniacally before screaming again. She falls onto her knees, still frantically slapping her body. Her perfect brown hair disintegrates and falls onto the white ground as ashes. Her blue eyes are red from dehydration. Her tall, skinny body begins to slump. Her screaming ceases as she weakly lifts her head to face me again. Her expression is a mixture of melancholy and fright.
"Help me…Roxas…" she sniffles. "It hurts…Why are you doing this to me…?"
I feel a lump in my throat. Do I…actually feel sorry for her? But…it's just a dream, right? Please let it be a dream…
"M-Me? But I…I'm not…" I pause. 'I'm not doing this!' is what I wanted to say, but I have difficulty believing myself. I can't stop thinking about that damn website…
Soon, Kairi's weeping comes to an end. She's still on her knees with her head down and arms dangling on her sides. The fire continues to eat away at her, peeling her peach skin and tearing her clothes.
Is she calling me? But…how?
Something with a familiar voice calls me as it violently shakes my shoulder. My eyes snap open before I nearly punch my brother in the face.
"Whoa, down boy!" he holds up his hands defensively. I freeze once I realize whose nose I was about to break.
"Oh…My bad…" I smile apologetically before rubbing my eyes.
"Aww, did my widdle brudder have a nightmare?" Sora says teasingly, knowing that's he's older than me by a mere three minutes. I glare at him before averting my eyes. I did have one, but saying that would only encourage him to baby me.
"Hey, I'm the one who should be mad!" Sora pouts. "Because of you, we're gonna be late for school again!"
What? I glance at my alarm clock. Sure enough, we only have about ten minutes until school starts.
"Why didn't you wake me up sooner?" I shout before nearly falling head-first out of my bed. I grab some clothes from the floor and smell them. My face twists. Whew…Definitely not wearing the hoodie today…
"I tried, but your lazy ass wouldn't budge!" my brown-haired twin assures. "You kept saying Kairi's name too…"
When the girl is mentioned, I drop the jeans I was holding.
"Uh…Yeah…I had one of those dreams again…" I mutter before picking up the clothing.
"Yeah? Dude, you've been thinking about her a lot lately…You sure your so-called 'hatred' for her isn't just a crush?"
"Trust me, it's not." I groan, finally finding something that smells somewhat decent. "But that dream…It seemed so real this time…"
"You're probably just nervous about your first day at…what's the name of that place again?"
"For the hundredth time, it's called The Renovation Corp."
"Oh yeah…Since when did you know anything about architecture?"
"I don't, but I need the money. I'll just be someone's secretary anyway, so hopefully I won't have to work on any buildings," I shrug. Once I finish dressing myself, I stuff my blank worksheets and textbooks into my book bag. My lack of finished work is a bitter reminder of the website. I shake the uneasy feeling away before letting my twin know I was ready.
Sora and I rush to school, praying that the teacher is either absent or tardy as well. My brother has trouble keeping up with me, so I grab his wrist and drag him along.
"Jeez, I'm the lazy one?" I say, chuckling. "Those hours of video games are kicking your ass..."
Sora's out-of-breath retort only makes me laugh harder.
"Bite me…I'm…not…an athlete…" he pants. "Hey…what's…going on…over there?"
Not sure what he means, I slow down and follow his line of sight. There's a group of people on the road beside us. Some are chatting with one another while others are either in tears or heaving. Sora and I stare at each other worriedly before making our way to the crowd and pushing through it.
"Alright, back it up, people! This is a crime scene!" a police officer growls before he and his men push the people away. I manage to catch a glimpse of the situation.
It's a dead body. It was decapitated, but the head is nowhere in sight. I cover my mouth, resisting the urge to vomit. I'm unable to look away as the body becomes disturbingly familiar.
"…R…Roxas…I-I think that's Kairi…" I hear my brother put my suspicions into words. There's no mistaking it…She's wearing the same outfit I saw her in yesterday and half of the BFF necklace her blond clone gave her. There is blood splattered on her body and the area where her head should be. I'm completely frozen from shock.
D…Did I cause this…? My mind goes blank as my stomach begins to empty itself.
"Roxas!" I can barely hear Sora calling me. He grabs me, knowing I was about to pass out.
I don't remember much after that.
When I awaken, I find myself in my school's clinic. My head falls onto my hand as I question which parts of today were a dream. The school nurse places her bony hand on my shoulder and asks if I'm alright. I lie in order to leave the room. Within seconds, I'm bombarded by the overwhelmingly-depressing atmosphere. It wasn't a dream; Kairi's really gone, and…I might be the reason…
My first period class isn't safe from the sullen mood. It's deathly quiet. No one even instinctively looks toward the door as I enter the room. I sit next to my brother, and my eyes wander until I spot Kairi's clone, Namine. She is silently weeping while being comforted by other female students. It would be far too awkward to interact with the icy-blonde, so I ignore the commotion and daydream. The remainder of class seems to fly by as the school bell snaps me out of my trance.
"Oh, um…Namine, I'm sorry about…you know…what happened…" I watch Sora attempt to be sympathetic. The blond girl stares at him blankly before shaking her head.
"…It's…It's just weird…knowing that's she's gone now…" she mumbles with a forced smile.
She's on the verge of tears as she speaks, so she quickly walks away. After watching her leave, my head falls onto the desk in front of me. After a moment or two of scolding myself, I lift my head slightly to see Sora kneeling in front of me.
"Roxas…" he states in a low voice. "Remember when you told me that your death dream about Kairi felt real?"
"Sora…! I-I didn't-…I mean…I had nothing to do with what happened!" my defensive tone is more forced than expected.
"I believe you," he assures. "At least…I want to…"
"What? You want to? B-But I never le…!"
My outburst causes a few nosy stares. Getting excited would only raise suspicion, I tell myself.
"…I never left the house last night," I hiss. "Besides…her head was cut off! It must've been a Reaper."
"A Reaper…You mean those guys wearing black coats that we keep seeing on the news?" Sora reminisces about what's been on the news the past few weeks. "But…why would they target her?"
"Iunno…" I say truthfully.
I highly doubt Kairi's demise is my fault… The Reapers are criminals. There's no way they would do anything that would jeopardize their freedom, especially create anything as retraceable as a website. Even if they did, I didn't reveal any personal information about Kairi. Yeah…That's right…If anything, the website was just some twisted way to make scorned individuals get their hopes up for about ten hours. I didn't do anything wrong.
…Then why do I still feel uneasy?
From now on, I have to rush home, prepare for work, and run to The Renovation Corp's office. As I stand in front of the door of my workplace, I straighten my uncomfortable-as-hell necktie and take a deep breath. Okay, Roxas, this is your first job…Don't screw things up, don't screw things up, don't-
My mental chanting is interrupted when I'm bumped into by a woman with blond antennae. She nearly drops the tall box of supplies that is blocking her vision.
"Hey!" she shouts, stretching her neck high enough to make eye contact with me. "Watch where the fuck you're going, moron!"
…But you ran into me!, I wanted to say, but the woman's hostile stare is enough to keep me quiet.
"Wait…Aren't you the guy Axel hired?" she wonders, raising an eyebrow. I timidly nod before smiling. She rolls her eyes before continuing her errand.
"Great. Another idiot." I hear her grumble before bumping shoulders with me. …Well then... I make my way into the office, which is filled with busy employees; some are partially enveloped by their cubicles while others are chatting over what appear to be blueprints. Having no idea where to go, I wander through the hallways while searching for someone who isn't occupied. When I finally find an employee on break, his intimidating appearance makes me have second thoughts about talking to him. Long dark hair with streaks, battle scars, and an eye patch...A pirate? Before I could slip away, the man sees me and grins maliciously.
"You must be the new kid." the pirate says. I nod, trying my damnedest to avoid gazing at his bad/missing eye.
"I guess you're gonna show me the ropes, huh?" I chuckle. I hope I'm wrong.
"Hmph, fat chance," the man snarls. "You noobs are more trouble than you're worth."
That was uncalled for…
"You're Roxas, right? Name's Xigbar Ni," he smiles proudly. "I'm in charge of planning our projects. Ya know, blueprints and stuff. Stay out of my way and we won't have any trouble."
Damn, two people already hate me. Way to go, Roxas…
"Um...Do you know where Mr. Hachi's office is?"
"Yeah, he's down that hall, fourth door on the right."
I thank the pirate before speed-walking down the hall. It becomes increasingly quiet as I move closer to my destination. Damn, this is a long hallway…I count the doors on my right until I approach one with the Roman numeral VIII attached to it. After taking yet another deep breath, I knock. It takes about several seconds for someone to answer. My jaw nearly falls off when I see my boss. Spiky red hair; wild emerald green eyes with purple teardrop tattoos under them (oh shit, did he kill someone?); and…holy crap, he's freakin' tall…He reeks of cigarette smoke but I try to ignore that.
"Oh, hello." the man smiles. I quickly return the gesture in order to cover up my shocked countenance.
"You must be Roxas. My name is Axel Hachi. It's nice to finally meet you."
…Now that I think about it, I was never interviewed...
"Likewise, Mr. Hachi. I'm happy to be of service."
He lets me into his fair-sized office. The first thing I see is a lighter sitting next to an ashtray with a lot of put-out cigarettes. One of them still has smoke emitting from it.
"I apologize for failing to give you the directions to my office. I assume you spoke with some of my partners?"
My heart sinks. He works with those horrible people? That means I have no choice but to interact with them…
As if he's reading my mind, Mr. Hachi smiles sympathetically at me.
"Don't worry…They don't hate you, particularly…They're just wary of strangers," he explains. "We've worked together for decades, after all…"
Decades? How long have they known each other?
"Oh…Okay, good," I sigh in relief. "I thought I did something wrong…"
"No, you're alright…Just don't look them in the eye," he sounds serious… "So! Let's talk business. As my secretary, all you have to do is organize files and run a few simple errands. For starters, I need you to give everyone in this hallway six copies of this week's sched…"
He suddenly grimaces. His head falls onto his hand as he tries to shake the pain away.
A peculiar sound results from shaking his head. If I didn't know any better, I'd say I heard a voice…But…'s lips aren't moving…
"Shut up, Eight, shut up…" the red-haired man growls. Eight? He names his headaches?
There it goes again…
"Eight…It's not nighttime yet. Behave!" hisses. The noise subsides after a short while and Axel sighs heavily. He smiles at me apologetically…The guy's nice, but I'm questioning his sanity.
"Um, why six schedules, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Each of us has five underlings, for lack of a better word. They're competing for the opportunity to work with us instead of for us. Two of my own were already promoted."
"…And I'm their replacement?"
"Unfortunately. The fifth will arrive in a few days."
"Huh…Then, I'll have to do my best, won't I? Be back in a sec!"
In the office next to Axel's, I meet a man with green eyes and a dirty-blond strange-looking mullet. He's tinkering with an blue sitar while leaning back in his office chair and using his desk to rest his feet. He pauses once he sees me. Either he finished tuning his instrument or is waiting for me to say something.
"I'm here to give you the new schedule…" I say unenthusiastically, taking Mr. Hachi's advice and avoiding eye-contact.
"…Yeah? Put 'em on my desk."
His voice is rather soothing and relaxed. I obey with newfound hope. As I take six sheets of paper out of my pile, I see the man start to play from my peripheral vision. He's skillfully strumming a beautiful, familiar song so I can't help but stay in his room a little longer. I want to ask him what the song is called but I don't want to risk breaking his concentration. My foot instinctively taps to its upbeat rhythm and, for the first time today, I genuinely smile.
"Tough bein' the new kid, huh?" he asks, scaring me.
How did he…I didn't show any signs of anxiety, did I?
"Y…Yeah, a little," I agree, "but I can handle it. I'm no weakling."
"Hey, never said you were," he doesn't miss a beat as he talks. "Just sayin'…I know what it's like since I was the newbie before you."
"Really? How did you get promoted?"
"I got connections…" he grins. "Big Boss knows my dad."
"Now, the question is…why are you here? We don't just let anyone join."
"I dunno…It's not like I know anyone on the inside. I just applied for the job and I was accepted a few days later."
"Hm…Even if just one superior wishes to hire someone, it'll happen. Someone in the company must know something we don't," the guitarist assumes. A little hurt by the unintentional insult, I try to cut the conversation short.
"Well…I gotta go give these to the other bosses, so…"
"It's called Blackbird by the Beatles."
"You wanted to know the name of the song, right?"
…I never asked for his name…
"Demyx Kyuu. Nice to meet ya, kiddo."
"…I'm Roxas Juusan," I tell him, a little freaked out by his telepathic abilities.
Alright, that makes Freaky Boss Number Four…
The man who resides in the next room has short platinum-blond hair and several piercings on his ears. His blue eyes are skimming through the cards on his desk. He's playing blackjack with who I assume is one of his "underlings". Not wanting to bother him, I quietly drop off his set of schedules and walk away.
"A cardinal regulation of the workforce: Do not unpretentiously abscond from your superior's office without informing him of your appellation. It's ill-mannered."
I freeze. What did he say?
"…Your name, young man. What is your name?" he sighs.
"Luxord Juu. I apologize, but this activity is of utmost significance and mustn't be hindered a second longer."
Judging by the smile on his face, he must be winning…I quickly leave before he challenges me.
In the next office, I see a girl with her back turned. She's tall with long pink hair. Her room is filled with cherry blossoms and other flowers. She seems to be tending to one of them. I put six sheets on her desk before considering Mr. Juu's advice.
She stops what she's doing and begins to face me.
"Hello, my name is Ro…"
Oh crap, she's a guy!
"…Ahem…I-I'm Roxas Juusan."
"…Marluxia Juuichi." his monotonous voice matches his emotionless expression. Without saying another word, he continues watering his flowers. Gradually getting used to the peculiar behavior, I exit the room.
When I finally finish my errand, I sprint back to Mr. Hachi's room. I inadvertently slam the door shut, scaring my red-haired boss. I can tell he was massaging he temples before I came in. Another headache? Poor guy…
"Wow, you're still alive," he states, impressed. "Thank you, Roxas."
"Are you okay? You look like you're in pain."
"Haha, yeah, I'm fine. I'm used to it," he swiftly changes the subject. "I know they're difficult, but don't worry. You won't have to deal with them on a regular basis."
"Oh, thank God…" I sigh heavily. Axel laughs again.
"You may turn out to be my favorite underling…" he smiles.
I guess you're the only one I can call a friend here, I silently conclude.