Thank you for your kind reviews! Sorry if the last chapter was a little too detailed—I don't get squeamish about that kind of stuff, so I didn't realize how gruesome I made it. My entire family's in the medical field so we talk about medical procedures and stuff like that at the dinner table. It's like, "I saw someone's leg get amputated today." "Fascinating! Pass the potatoes, please." [Not those exact words, but you get the gist.]

Caution: This chapter contains violence. You have been warned.

Ever been in a hospital at night? Dark rooms offset by too-bright fluorescent lights in the hallways and above the nurses' station, the constant beeping of machines, the solitary, echoing footsteps of a night nurse making her rounds, the rattling wheezing of the patient in the neighboring bed.

Nighttime seems to be when most patients die, when some fall asleep and simply don't wake up the next day. I swore I could almost feel the souls brushing past me as they slipped out of cold bodies and into the night.

To put it bluntly, being in a hospital at night fucking sucks.

I was hovering on the edge of lucidity, close enough that I would be sober in several minutes. The pain slowly creeping up my arm alerted me to the fact that Aoi would come in soon and replace the morphine drip with a new bag.

I liked my drugs as much as the next person, but not tonight—I had unfinished business. Taking the needle out of my arm would be too conspicuous, so I tied a knot in the IV line and hid it underneath the blankets.

Right on cue, Aoi quietly entered the room with a new IV bag and smiled at me. "Did Shizuru go home, Natsuki?"

"Yep. Had to be dragged out kicking and screaming by Haruka and Yukino."

She chuckled. "I don't know her that well, but I doubt she's the type to kick and scream."

"It was a very elegant kicking and screaming," I assured her. "I needed my beauty sleep, and that would've never happened if she stayed the night." I punctuated my statement with a suggestive wiggle of my eyebrows.

"Well, I think you're recovering quite nicely if you're thinking of doing that," Aoi said in amusement. "But just in case, I'll give replace your morphine. That should allow you to sleep comfortably through the night."

Shouting and running footsteps sounded in the hallway, distracting us both. Aoi darted out of the room before quickly returning. "I have to go, there was a twelve-car pileup on the highway," she said hurriedly.

I nodded. "Is it bad?"

Aoi grimaced. "I'm not sure, but from the looks of it, it's very bad. If you need anything, just press the call button," she told me before rushing away.

I craned my neck to see doctors and nurses running by with some poor guy on a bloody gurney, headed straight to surgery. Death had arrived on our doorstep—Youko, I'm sure, was going to be very, very busy tonight.

I wasn't going to waste such a perfect opportunity. Ripping the needle out and allowing myself a wince, I got out of the bed with shaky legs. I waited for the next batch of frenetic doctors to whiz by with a patient before slipping out of the room.


Bare feet up on coffee table, right arm cradling the left. I reclined on the couch of her apartment in the darkness, perpendicular to the door, waiting for her to come home. Now I'm no expert, but I've learned over the years that someone's home could say a lot about that person. And the spartan decorations and near-OCD levels of neatness and order in Youko's apartment told me she was methodical, she was a loner, and she had nothing to lose.

I remained relaxed even as the scrape of a key being inserted into a lock sounded. There was a quiet click before the door was pushed open to admit the apartment's sole resident. A weak ray of light peeked in from the hallway before disappearing as quickly as it came, blocked off by a closed door. From the steady clicking of heels against the wooden flooring, I almost thought she didn't notice me until she turned around and pointed a gun at my head.

I didn't even blink. "Interesting reaction for a doctor."

"What can I say? The world's a dangerous place," Youko simply replied.

"Especially when you don't know who your allies are." I sat up and tossed the plastic bag holding a blood-encrusted scalpel onto the table.

The gun never wavered. I sighed. "Put down the gun, Doc, and pull up a chair. We should talk."

She eyed me but complied, bringing a chair to sit across from me. I didn't comment on the fact that the gun remained cradled on her lap.

"Shouldn't you be in the hospital?" She asked calmly.

"I should." I nodded.

She took in the too-big shirt and too-short jeans I was wearing and raised an eyebrow. "Where did you get the clothes?"

I shrugged. "Someone's laundry line. That'll teach them to hang up clothes in the middle of the night."

"You're bad."

"And you're a murderer."

"Ah. Straight to the crux of the matter." She smiled grimly. "I'm curious, what is your definition of murderer, Natsuki? Because I never laid a single hand on those people."

"No, you didn't," I agreed. "So tell me how you're a part of this, Doc, because things just don't add up. I wouldn't even have known you never gave in the scalpel until Mai mentioned it—I wouldn't have known I almost died because of you!" I growled, sucking in a breath when I accidentally jostled my arm.

"Are you in pain?" Youko asked, ever the perfect doctor.

"You have no idea," I hissed.

That seemed to strike a nerve. "I am more familiar with pain than you have ever been," she replied coldly.

"Does it have anything to do with her?" I help up a photograph of a younger Youko and a redheaded woman together, which I found in the very back of a drawer and the only possession that seemed to hold any sentiment for her.

I mentally patted my back when her eyes narrowed in anger, the first display of emotion I was able to draw from her. "You went through my stuff?" She asked through gritted teeth.

"Duh. Thought the scalpel would've tipped you off." I scrutinized it more closely. The pretty redhead was grinning broadly at the camera, her arm around Youko and flashing the victory sign with her fingers. Younger Youko's smile was just as broad, the complete antithesis of the Youko sitting before me now. "Who is she? Friend, cousin, girlfriend, fiancée—"

"Girlfriend. She was my girlfriend." Her voice was raw with pain and she noticed, clearing her throat before continuing. "Her name was Midori Sugiura."

Her use of past tense didn't escape my notice. "What happened?" I asked gently.

"She was raped and murdered right in front of me," Youko said blankly. Like she was reciting some fact that she knew as true, but didn't know how or why it was.

Ah, fuck. "I'm sorry," I told her as genuinely as I could, knowing those words wouldn't mean shit to her.

Something inside of Youko snapped. "You want to know how I'm a part of this, Natsuki? Very well." She smiled mockingly at me. "Picture this: seventeen years old, you're walking home with your girlfriend after a late-night movie when someone comes up behind you and hits you on the head. And when you regain consciousness, imagine you're tied up and lying on the ground, unable to look away while some fucking pig is on top of your girlfriend and raping her to death. Then you look up and see a boy, can't be much younger than you, staring with wide eyes from the mouth of the alley. You call out for help, thinking him to be your savior, thinking he'll call the police, when he drops everything he's holding and runs away. Nothing left to do as the rapist finishes with your girlfriend and turns to you. In the end, you live and she dies. The stage is set, so ends Act 1, Scene 1. The rest of the act is the month-long stay in the hospital, the trial, the acquittal. Oh, but I'm sure you're wondering who the actors in this play are?" Youko let out a bitter laugh, her words spitting out like bullets. "Fifteen years ago, Yuuichi Tate wasn't a CEO; he was the heir to a gym franchise and a self-entitled little prick with a nasty rape fetish. Miya Clochette wasn't a wealthy socialite; she was the pretty girlfriend who provided a false alibi for her rapist boyfriend. Nagi Dai Artai wasn't a politician; he was the litigator who convinced the jury to exonerate a serial rapist due to 'lack of evidence.' And finally, Kazuya Kurauchi wasn't District Attorney, he was a boy who ran away and the witness who never came forward."

"Jesus Christ," I muttered in disbelief. My mind flashed back to Kazuya's words at the night of the gala. He spoke about seeking atonement for something he failed to do—this was what he was talking about, his guilt over running away and leaving two girls to die, one in body and one in spirit.

"Don't interrupt, I'm not finished," Youko said glibly. "In Act Two comes true justice, swift and merciless. I was angry, I was bitter, but I didn't have the money or the means to carry out satisfactory revenge. So I locked away the desire for retribution and carried on with my life, empty as it was, letting it simmer inside of me. And then in medical school, I met Tomoe Marguerite." She scoffed. "The idiot had already been caught for trying to dissect a live patient. She was unpredictable, but I realized I could use her. She was from old money and fit right in with my enemies. She was the perfect puppet."

"So you used her? But how?" My unease grew with every word she said. This Youko was markedly different, and she was making me nervous.

"I was the perfect acquaintance," Youko said reminiscently. "A tolerable classmate who eventually became a tolerable colleague, becoming recognizable enough to Tomoe that I wouldn't be stepping out of place to mention I saw her girlfriend with several persons who were not her."

"And the girlfriend happened to be Shizuru," I said flatly.

She nodded thoughtfully. "I fanned the flames of her obsession with Shizuru Fujino until it became an inferno, flattering her into thinking she and Shizuru were passable as a couple—as if nobody could see the animal desperation and possessiveness she exuded around the girl. It took barely a whisper to point her at Yuuichi, and then at Miya, and finally Dai Artai."

"And Tomoe was supposed to try to kill Kurauchi, not me," I concluded. "But Anh Lu?"

Youko shrugged, apathy written in the motion. "Her death was unfortunate collateral damage."

"'Unfortunate collateral damage?'" I repeated in disbelief. "You killed an innocent woman!"

"Tomoe killed her—"

"Under your influence! It's as much your fault as it is hers!"

"Which is why I indulged you and let the police know it was a murder. I supposed I owed it to the woman for dying for my cause."

"But you never intended for Tomoe to get caught."

"Not until Kazuya was dead, no."

"Then why did you help me out in the first place? Why tell me about the sleeping pills being ground into Yuuichi Tate's food?" At her smirk, my stomach dropped. "They weren't sleeping pills, were they?"

"Oh no, they were—just laced with arsenic as added insurance and to make it as painful as possible." She chuckled. "It was an agonizing death for him; I'm sorry I missed it. Since I was in charge of the hospital autopsy report, I thought no one would find his death questionable. However, you came along and surprised me, and I wondered how close you could come to the truth." She cocked her head. "I'm curious, how did you know his death was suspicious in the first place?"

"Shizuru contacted me the second she found out about Tate's death."


"The man was the head of a gym chain—practically considered his body a temple. No way in hell would he have taken sleeping pills, even if he had insomnia. By the time Miya died, she knew something was up and called me. We agreed I should keep my distance so I could investigate from a broader standpoint—I was already on this case long before Reito hired me."

"Ah. So you and Shizuru are together? I had no idea, you hid it well."

I shivered at the unfamiliar gleam in Youko's eye. Over the course of her confession, it was as if a mask had fallen off her face, leaving behind someone—something—far more ugly and dangerous. "And what's Act Three?"

Youko spread out her arms. "Here we are." Her smirk was challenging, daring me to make my move. "You don't seem as confident as before, Natsuki," she noted.

"What kind of person does it take to successfully manipulate a serial killer?" I asked quietly.

"Tomoe was erratic and impulsive, prone to making mistakes and leaving clues everywhere. She couldn't compete with me, not when I have one advantage over her."

"What's that?"

"Psychopaths are born…sociopaths are made."

Sociopath. It made sense in hindsight. Besides from the mention of Midori, she'd remained relatively unemotional about everything I confronted her about. And oh, was she an amazing actress—appearing perfectly normal at the hospital, no one noticing that her smile was a little too wide or her sadness a little too rehearsed. The way she'd reacted when I asked her about Tate and Lu—the slight trepidation at working on a murder case, the wide-eyed eagerness to catch a killer—had blinded me completely. She'd played me like a fiddle—a veritable virtuoso.

"Is that what you are?" I asked carefully.

"I'm not interested in labels," Youko said in amusement. "It's certainly a possibility, however."

I came to her apartment thinking I had the upper hand, but the realization dawned on me that I made a terrible, potentially fatal mistake. "Are you going to kill me?"

"Why would you think that?" She asked mildly.

"I know the truth now."

"And do you think that makes me a bad person?"

I mulled it over. If it had been Shizuru and me, would I have ended up the same way Youko did? "I don't think I have the right to say."

"Who does?" She asked rhetorically. "I suppose you could have me arrested, but there would be no evidence to keep me behind bars. I heard from Officer Tokiha that Tomoe's attorney has decided to plead insanity on her behalf, so even if she could corroborate your story her testimony would be invalid in court. I wouldn't try it if I were you."

"Is that a threat?"

"No, merely a statement." She leaned forward. "I have no reason to kill you, Natsuki. I will, however, become very annoyed if anything delays me from killing Kazuya Kurauchi."

"You can't kill him," I automatically responded before wanting to smack myself. Never, under any circumstances, argue with a sociopath.

"But I can. I can make his death look like an accident in a myriad of ways—"

"No, I'm not saying you're incapable of killing him, I'm saying you shouldn't."

"Ah." Youko's tone was suddenly chilling. "He let Midori die—I'm just returning the favor."

"I don't know what it feels like to lose everything—"

"That can be easily remedied. I have Shizuru's entire schedule memorized," Youko taunted. "Flaunting her body around like a slut, she has no idea what sick fantasies her clients can dream of, fantasies I can make come true for them—"

"Don't you fucking dare touch her." The timbre of my voice was low and dangerous, barely even recognizable to myself.

"Then don't get in my way." Her voice was deceptively calm again, her mood switching from back and forth from manic to serene at a speed that made my head spin.

"Doc—Youko—he's so, so sorry for that night. You don't understand—"

"SORRY WON'T BRING HER BACK!" She lunged forward and gripped my damaged arm with one hand, purposely squeezing and twisting to maximize my pain. Stars exploded behind my eyes and I crumpled over in agony. Beyond the searing ache in my arm, I recognized the hard sensation of the barrel of the gun digging into my stomach.

"Neither will killing him," I gasped out. I was pushing my luck here, and I knew it. There was only one thing that seemed to spur an emotional response, a human reaction from her, but using it could also elicit an unstable backlash and sign my death warrant.

"I don't want to hurt you, Natsuki," she said soothingly, belying her words by digging her thumb further into my injury.

I felt lightheaded and oxygen-deprived, darkness beginning to dim the edges of my vision. If I passed out right now, in front of her, I might as well be dead. So I exploited her one vulnerability. "He can bring Midori back to life."

"What?" Youko reared back, looking genuinely stunned. "No, you're lying to me. You're lying! No one can come back from the dead." Her grip on my arm loosened enough that I could jerk it out of her grasp. Little dots of red were beginning to appear on the white gauze, but my arm seemed fine otherwise.

"Who is Midori Sugiura to anyone?" I pressed on. "No one remembers her name, no one cares if she's dead! But Kurauchi—he remembers, he regrets, he wants to atone for his sins. He wants to make Windbloom a better place in her name! He's demanding all these reforms that will make sure people like Tate and Tomoe go to jail for life, oust corrupt officials like Dai Artai from their positions, deny people like Clochette special privileges just because they're rich—protect the city from people like you. Can't you see he's making her a martyr?"

"He turned away from us! He could have saved her!" Youko raged. "No, whatever he's doing is to assuage his own guilt. What I'm doing is all for her!"

"And what exactly are you doing besides killing? You think that's how she would've wanted to be remembered—with more blood and pain? You haven't done anything for her except turn into a monster," I snapped.

A dense silence suddenly settled over the apartment. There was a ringing in my ears, my heart pounding as I stared at Youko with no fucking clue how she would react next.

She shifted in her seat, and my hand instinctively flinched toward the spot where I usually kept my gun. She chuckled. "Do I make you nervous, Natsuki?" She asked. She sounded vaguely rueful, her question tinged with melancholy. I narrowed my eyes—was it just another trick?


"You don't seem it."

"I've had practice…"

"Dealing with people like me?" She finished for me. At my nod, she sat back and simply looked me over. "When I look at you, I don't feel anything. I might have liked you, in the past, but now…hurt you, heal you, it would all be the same to me," she admitted. "But I loved Midori. I really, really loved her," she swore, voice cracking with grief.

I stared back, unsure if this Youko was even capable of loving or if all she had left were memories of once being in love. But I had nothing else to lose. "Kill Kurauchi, and Midori will be just another victim of this city. Let him live, and she'll be responsible for every single reform that follows. She'll live on forever, Youko."

She immediately shook her head. "No. I can't stand to see him live, not when he doesn't deserve to. Either he dies, or I do."

I swallowed a sigh and slowly stood up. There was nothing more to be said. "If I said I was done talking…would you let me walk out of here alive?"

"Perhaps. You'll have to find out for yourself."

I cautiously pocketed the scalpel and handed the photo to her. "She's beautiful. You both were."

"Yes." Her fingers traced over Midori's face, the look on her face almost wistful. "No matter how many years pass…she'll never be older than seventeen."

"I'm sorry things turned out this way." I backed away slowly, keeping my eyes trained on her, hoping to God that if she wanted me dead she would've shot me by now.

"If it means anything, I regret dragging you and your Shizuru into this," she spoke without looking, her eyes refusing to lift from the photograph.

"You don't mean that."

She didn't argue.

I turned around to open the door and flinched when there was a sudden gunshot. I hunched forward, expecting there to be a hole in my back, but the only pain I felt was the throbbing in my arm.

I looked back to Youko.


She did say either he dies, or she does.

I stumbled down the steps into the street and hailed a taxi, disheveled and bloody and in a sorry state. Sorry for Midori, and Youko, and Kazuya; for Shizuru and Yukino and Haruka and everyone else stuck in this shithole, past, present, and future. I spared a little sorry for myself and even some for Aoi, who must've been flipping a shit right now. I bet she's never lost a patient before.

I collapsed into the backseat of the taxi, almost too tired to shut the door after me. "Windbloom General," I told the driver.

He looked unimpressed by the blood seeping through the bandages on my arm. "Don't stain the upholstery. Blood is a bitch to get out."

I halfheartedly flipped him off in response and settled back for the ride. We were halfway across Windbloom Bridge when an idea struck. "Stop the car."

He obediently stepped on the brakes, both of us ignoring the loud honking that sounded from behind. I got out, muttering a hasty "be right back," and darted over to the railing. Plunging a hand into my pocket, I brought out the scalpel to study the brownish-red color staining the blade. Then I threw it as hard as I could, watching as it spun through the air, silver gleaming in the breaking dawn before disappearing into the murky water with a barely-noticeable splash.

One week later:

Into the building that smelled of mold, past peeling wallpaper in the hallways, small jump over the questionable stains in the carpet, trip over the garbage bag in the middle of the hall, end up before a faded green door. I raised my good hand and rapped on the door.

The door flew open and the barrel of a gun was in my face. "Kuga. Out of the hospital, I see." Haruka lowered the gun and stepped aside to let me in.

"Haruka. Paranoid as ever, I see. You should really invest in one of those door peepholes, that way you don't have to point a gun at every person who knocks on your door," I said to annoy her.

"Natsuki! I didn't expect you'd come!" Yukino called out from her office. "Did you read the news?"

"Nope. That's what you're for, isn't it?"

She bounded out of her office, practically quivering in excitement. "Windbloom's city council, pushed by Kazuya Kurauchi, passed a series of new laws this morning that will overhaul the legislative and court systems and kickstart whole new ones. It's going to take major effort, but I think it just may work."

"Exciting," I deadpanned. Yukino gave me a dirty look. "What? Politics were never my thing."

"And Tomoe Marguerite was sentenced to life in prison today under another new law, also pushed by Kurauchi—he's calling it the Midori Sugiura Act."

"Who's that?" Haruka asked bluntly.

"Some girl who was raped and murdered years ago by—get this—Yuuichi Tate," Yukino explained. "Miya Clochette was his girlfriend at the time, and Nagi Dai Artai was his lawyer. Tate got off, but new evidence is implicating him as a serial rapist. His family is suing for slander, of course," she added in disgust.

"So Tate killed this girl, while Clochette and Dai Artai made sure he stayed a free man? Then Marguerite killed them and is being locked up for the rest of her life under a law named after the girl?" Haruka mulled it over before looking pleased. "I like it. There's a kind of poetic justice to it."

I hummed noncommittally, careful not to let my expression change. So it seems Kazuya got the note I sent him. It wasn't complete atonement, but it was a start.

"Anyway, shouldn't you be resting? You've had quite the week," Yukino chastised me.

"So says the journalist who was just tapped for the Pulitzer Prize. Brilliant exposé on the rampant corruption in Windbloom City, by the way," I complimented.

She chuckled. "Thank you. Though, I couldn't have done it without the work of a certain private detective."

"Ah. She must be brilliant."

"Reckless to the point of suicidal, actually, but to each her own."

I smirked at her. "Whatever works."

Yukino rolled her eyes. "In all seriousness, how're you doing?"


"And your arm?" She looked pointedly at the sling supporting my left arm.

I shrugged. "Damaged nerves. Can't really feel anything."


"Maybe. Doctors say only time will tell. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks."

"For what?" She said mildly.

"Oh, you know. Just for helping with the investigation and everything. It's been fun."

She scrutinized me carefully. "You're leaving, aren't you?"

I chuckled ruefully. Sharp as a tack, our Yukino. "Things are getting too hot for me now."

"You think?" Yukino smiled half-heartedly. "Rumor has it that Mayor Marguerite's out for your blood."

"Former mayor," I corrected with a smirk. "And I expect with the heat our venerable District Attorney and new Police Commissioner are putting on her, I've got enough time to disappear."

Yukino grinned. "Two steps ahead like always."

I held out my hand for a handshake. "Give Commissioner Tokiha my regards. I'd go see her myself, but the WCPD still hates my guts."

"Will do." To my surprise, Yukino stepped forward and completely bypassed my outstretched hand to wrap me in a hug. "Take care of yourself."

I was never an affectionate person, but hell, it was probably the last time I was going to see Yukino. I squeezed back with my good arm. "You, too."

When we separated, Haruka raised an eyebrow at me. "I guess you won't be able to dual wield those guns of yours anymore, huh?"

"Guess not."

"Shame. You were pretty good."

My mouth twisted up. A compliment on my shooting skills was the nicest Haruka would ever get. Instead, I just gave her a nod and headed for the door. "You better watch out for Yukino, Haruka With-No-Last-Name."

"Actually, it's Kikukawa now," she grumbled.

I stopped in my tracks and stared at the blonde uncomprehendingly. Looking between her red cheeks and a smirking Yukino, the light bulb lit over my head. "You got married?" I said incredulously. "And I wasn't invited?"

Yukino laughed. "You were in the hospital. It wasn't a big deal."

"Are you kidding me? I would've killed to see Haruka in a white dress."

The blonde scowled at the smug look I sent her. "Get out of here, Kuga."

I saluted her and turned my back on a reformer and her mercenary for the last time. I was never the best at saying goodbye.

Outside, the sun was a pale yellow circle set in a blue-gray sky. Autumn was giving way to winter, its slow death heralded by a distinctive crisp scent in the air. Windbloom City was going to have its first snowfall of the year tonight; I was almost sorry I was going to miss it.

"Need a ride?"

I turned my head. Shizuru was leaning against her car with her arms crossed, biting her lip and tilting her head to the side as she waited for an answer. Her eyes sparkled when I laughed. "I bet that's the line you use to pick up all the ladies."

"No. Usually all I have to do is smile before they're swooning," she replied, opening the passenger door for me.

"Well, it'll take a lot more than a smile for me; I'm not that easy."

"That's not what I heard."

"Ouch, touché," I nodded wryly. "Did you talk to Pretty Boy?"

She winked at me slyly. "Maybe. Does that bother you?"

I considered it for a moment before shaking my head. "Funnily enough, no. He's a decent guy." I paused. "But he better have kept his hands to himself."

"Oh, he did."


"It's my hands that were wandering."

I scowled at her.

She shrugged coyly. "What? He's losing his star act for good—I felt obligated to give him a little something to remember me by."

"Well, see if I don't feel obligated to punch him in the face if I ever see him again—"



"It's a red light."

"Good, you know your colors," I said sarcastically.

She rolled her eyes. "Shut up and kiss me already."

I scoffed. "Bossy, bossy—"

She silenced me with her lips, drawing back only when obnoxious beeping behind us let us know the light was green again.

"Look what I found while packing." She held out the photograph that had been in her desk.

It was of a younger Shizuru and Natsuki, once upon a time. We were backstage at Garderobe—Shizuru had her arms around me from behind with her chin on my shoulder; I looked taken off guard, wide eyes making me look younger than I was. I'd forgotten who had taken the photo, but I remembered it was right after Shizuru kissed me for the first time—the first time my bitter, jaded, cynical teenage-self had felt happiness, the first—and only—time I fell in love.

It made me think of another photo, of two other women who'd instead been torn apart by Windbloom City, the city that ate its young, where we gasped and flailed and struggled to stay afloat from the moment of birth, wasting years trying to make a life, but mostly only existing and waiting for our turn to die. Maybe Windbloom was changing, maybe there was hope—but there was no room for me anymore. I had no place here, had nothing to offer except reminders of what it used to be. I once told myself I would leave Windbloom if I had something to leave it for—and that was a fresh start, a chance with Shizuru.

"Left or right?" Shizuru drummed the steering wheel with her hands.

I looked up. We'd come to the outskirts of town, the sign proudly proclaiming, "You are now leaving Windbloom City." Another sign pointed out where each road led to, but I ignored it, focused only on the literal fork in my path. "Right," I decided impulsively.

We made a right and continued down that road. "Where does it go?" Shizuru asked.

"Away," I answered.

She chuckled to herself. "Just drive until you run out of gas," she said softly, echoing the words she asked me once.

I surreptitiously glanced at her; underneath all the teasing and flirting, I knew she was still shaken up about Tomoe, couldn't comprehend why anyone would kill for her. I suppose her closure came in the form of knowing Tomoe was going to rot in jail for the rest of her life.

There were only two people in the world who knew the truth. One of them was already dead; the other planned on taking it to the grave. That was my closure.

My path and Youko's had deviated greatly, and both of ours deviated from the millions of others in Windbloom. Sinners, all of us, and absolution was hard to attain—but who wanted it, anyway, when there was always a dame to kill for?

1. From my extensive research (aka Wikipedia), sociopaths and psychopaths are generally synonymous except sociopaths are shaped more by social/environmental influence and can hold some affection for a few people close to them, whereas psychopaths are more (though not completely) influenced by genetics and hold no affection for anybody.

2. I have a short "after-credits" scene in mind, but this is essentially it. I FINALLY FINISHED A STORY, GUYS! High-fives all around! Thanks so much for sticking around, hope you weren't too confused! Let me know what you thought!