Death and Justice
The bustle of people on board the cruise liner was not the uncomfortable situation it could have been for Kiritsugu Emiya. Though a person of sufficient paranoia would otherwise be upset by the swarm-like movement of the crowd—and Kiritsugu was certainly aware of the dangers present—the people about gave him a marginally wider berth than they might the average person. It had little to do with appearances, since he dressed like any other young businessman might, and was more a product of the way he carried himself, somehow both a head taller than everybody else, yet slouched in and protective in a fashion that demanded crowds angle away when passing by.
In the two days since leaving harbor, Kiritsugu had carefully mapped each and every location on the boat he could, had broken into crew-only sections when nobody was about, had a simple tracking device put on a mouse-turned-temporary familiar to gain some insight on locations he could not reach. He made sure to copy the passenger manifest, had marked the targets, stalked out their rooms and upon seeing each one dedicated their most recent appearance to memory.
Now, he had to wait. With the third night approaching, the ship would be almost halfway between the Korean peninsula and their destination in Japan. If his targets were to do anything, Kiritsugu thought it would be soon, with the ship as far from help as possible besides the errant fishing vessel.
When dinner began that evening, Kiritsugu moved to the starboard side of the ship, away from the majority of people either in the main dining halls or at the stern of the ship watching the golden lights of sunset dip below the horizon line. He lit a cigarette and waited, staring up at the decks above, watching shadows pass beyond windows and listening to the footsteps of people as they wandered about his level. Though the ship was far from full capacity, it was enough of a crowd that he would have to be careful how he went about this.
He had to wait until he was down to the filter of his second before the chance came. Though the sky had not completely gone dark, he could detect no figures in the windows above and no other passengers wandered his side of the ship.
After dropping his cigarette overboard, he calmly knelt before the nearest exterior hull plate and pulled out the radio beacon he had in his pocket. Where the deck met the hull, he set the beacon in place, thumbed it on, then pulled out duct tape and covered the device.
Hopefully, none of the crew would find this particularly out of place if they stumbled across it. He had made sure to place it in the most unobtrusive spot, though, so he assumed it would be safe for the six or so hours it would be necessary. If he had better equipment, he would not have needed for it to leave his cabin, but the ship's older structure just caused too much interference for a handheld device.
When he was finished, he replaced the tape back into his jacket pocket and glanced around one final time. With nobody in sight, he pulled another cigarette out and lit it, took a drag, and waited.
"Sold, for 23,500 yen!"
The exclamation and tap from the auctioneer's gavel woke Kiri Nanaya. Yawning, the young man glanced around, caught sight of the clock across the dining hall. It was ten in the evening, a whole two hours since Kiri had finished his dinner and been lulled by the conversing people and faint sense of movement from the ship. Now, with dinner over, the night's entertainment seemed to have moved in—an auction of antiques for the various bourgeoisie on the trip, many of which seemed to have come for this exact purpose.
Kiri was simply passing through. His last target had ties to the mainland, so the Organization had sent him to deal with it. With ties to transportation by air, Kiri had decided to board a ship, travel at a leisurely pace, then return by the same means. Too, it was just something that went against every bone in his body, to travel on something that he had little control over if something—be it accident or sabotage—were to happen.
No point in killing all of the dangers on board an aircraft if it meant nobody was around to fly the thing, after all.
"Next up for auction, a Boxer Rebellion-era vase…"
It also meant that Kiri had to find things to keep his mind occupied in the meantime. The auction had a variety of antiques to bid on, and while Kiri had little interest in old, decorative things, he had happened upon a catalog for the event earlier in the day and thumbed through it briefly. One thing in particular had caught his eye—something he felt only someone who stood by death frequently truly could appreciate.
So he had staked out a place in the auction, waited around with nothing better to do. The first item was nothing of interest, some kind of painting, and Kiri only absently paid any mind now that he realized the show had begun. The item he was interested in was off to the side on a table amidst other antiques, and he assumed they were going to start with smaller or less valuable items and work their way upward. Even the others around him—mainly those of middle age or approaching it, all at least somewhat nicely dressed in casual suits or formal dining wear—seemed less impressed with the current items, the tone of the audience generally subdued and unexcited. Not what Kiri expected from an auction, though he had never been to one before.
Of course, the auctioneer, a man that resembled a frog more than a man, was not helping generate excitement. His neck wobbled like a deflated balloon as he spoke. "The bidding begins at 10,000 yen."
Kiri settled back into his seat, his attention focused on his prize. At least it gave him something to occupy his mind for a little while.
A burst of static on the second radio he kept in his pocket brought Kiritsugu's attention back into focus. He checked the time: 22:42 local. Right on schedule.
He moved to the stern of the ship, listening in on the footsteps of the other passengers as they passed by, glancing up at windows as he caught movement beyond, keeping half his attention on the various things that could go wrong at any moment.
From the rear of the lower exterior deck, a flight of stairs led to a small diving station where guests could explore the seas when the ship was not in motion. Though locked off, Kiritsugu merely vaulted the door's archway after making sure none witnessed his little jaunt. To the other side, the station had a small powered raft docked to the station, black in color and in the dim moonlight hard to distinguish from the rolling waves beyond.
"Any trouble?" Kiritsugu asked as he stepped over onto the smaller ship.
Maiya gave a terse shake of the head. The dark haired girl wore black as well, making her an invisible backdrop to the invisible ship she had come in on. "None. Our estimation of the ship's route and timing was very accurate."
He nodded. Before the ship had set out from port, he had reviewed the previous routes this ship and captain had taken before on the same leg of this trip. Like many private airliners, it was required for passenger vessels like this to present travel plans, a trait particularly important to the time-conscious Asian countries of the area. Though it was not exact moment-to-moment coordinates for the journey as a whole, it did give a set of predictable times by which to plan Maiya's appearance.
So the girl had taken a private ship, brought it out to within a kilometer of the intended path of the cruise liner, and had waited to transfer over under cover of darkness.
"How does it look inside?" Maiya asked, peering out over his shoulder to the ship. She regarded it with a suspicious eye, like she could not trust the serene exterior.
"Quiet, for the most part. A number of white-collars are taking the scenic route from the mainland." Kiritsugu decided the next break from work they had, he would take her on board such a ship in case this sort of situation arose again—they could then reverse positions if necessary. He motioned to the cases she had laid out. "Hand those here."
She handed him two of the three suitcases: the larger one with the PSG-1 rifle, the small one with his Contender. The larger case neatly dwarfed Maiya's teenage stature, though she gave no sign of struggle. "It is adjusted for 150 meters."
Kiritsugu nodded. The ship itself was not quite 200 meters, so zeroing in at a greater range would be detrimental, unless he had to start firing at lifeboats. "All eleven of this little organization are on board. When you are finished setting charges, you should return to the harbor and be ready to receive any stragglers that might escape." He handed her the files he had made, pictures he had taken. "These are the targets."
"Would it not be prudent to destroy the entire ship?"
He nodded. "What they are doing is specific and apparently location-sensitive. I want to know what they're up to first, so others don't just come along and finish what they've started."
"We will take a short intermission." The auctioneer motioned with his hands in a florid manner, as if the gavel was an orchestra conductor's wand. "A snack bar has been set up on the far wall if you wish to partake of some refreshments. You may also view the remaining items up for bid, though we ask that you do not touch them."
Of course they would not put the knife up to auction until near the end.
Kiri waited, halfway paying attention to the auction table, halfway considering the various actions he had taken on his last assignment. Both were mind-numbing, as he had done the latter many times since boarding the ship, while the drone of the people as they wandered tables, no matter how excited people may be, was mundane in utility. He ultimately had little else to do—in two days, he had covered all public locations of the ship and, when nobody was looking, had done a few practice leaps and runs along the interior, his mind playing out like a simulator the various situations that could present themselves in this location. It was something he did regularly whenever he found a new and interesting location, one of the things that made him so skilled at killing things: he always had new challenges, always had new things to teach himself, always had new ways of executing a target.
He knew many things about this ship, and many more things about using it as a weapon.
Sometimes, Kiri wished it were a more effective weapon at passing time.
Drinks were passed out at the tables as people moved about, some going for the table of refreshments—appetizers and small desserts from what Kiri could tell—while others went to use the restrooms. A handful moved among the auction items, bending down to appraise an old koto or carefully examining a jade carving. Kiri fiddled with his drink, running a finger along the rim and listening to the moaning noise it made amidst the general chatter in the room.
He then paused, brought his finger up to his nose.
It was not what you would call a sixth sense, not some kind of supernatural ability. Kiri simply had a wealth of experience well beyond the norm for his short life. He had studied poisons and venoms in that time, taught by a local practitioner of Eastern medicines in Misaki, and while he did not employ any, he knew the signs to look for on the vague notion of countering their effects if they were ever used against him. It came in handy every once in a while, against old-fashioned types that preferred ancient weapons of war and subterfuge to the modern convenience of a gun or explosive.
He simply knew to take all things with a grain of salt, to make the most casual of observations into tried and true weapons of knowledge and awareness.
Kiri sniffed the glass, then glanced about for the servers. This was not some ordinary beverage. He detected a hint of soporific additives along the salted rim of the glass.
Across the room to where the waiters and waitresses accessed the dining hall from the kitchens, Kiri spotted three men speaking with the last waitress as she took an empty serving tray back to her station. The men appeared as normal as anyone else, well dressed in casual suits, one of them with his shirttails hanging loosely as if he had become irritated by the stuffiness over the course of the night. They appeared to make small talk to the waitress, who was by all accounts attractive—
But as Kiri peered closer, the waves of their thoughts came into view, and he could see it.
The woman was average in every way. Her thoughts had nothing Kiri had not seen millions of times over, their presence pale and transparent. There was no outcome from her thoughts and existence that was outside of what could be called "through water rather than mist normal" to a human life.
But the men…
The thoughts wavering through his sight around these men had Kiri on his feet. They were different, stronger, more tangible, like running a hand through water rather than mist—
And the flow had color, a glimmer of golden light.
Dead Apostles. Blood-sucking demons from beyond the grave. Not the kind of demons he regularly engaged, the half-breeds and blood-suckers of Eastern origin, of mating with inhuman things. These were demons from beyond the borders of Japan, of the Eastern mainland, creatures that supposedly severed from the laws of the Western God.
What they were doing here Kiri could not tell. The fact that he only noticed them now also stood out; it meant that, amidst these masses of people, they had not ventured out regularly; Kiri might have detected them earlier. Unless he had the inclination to concentrate, his Jougan did not regularly perceive beyond regular sight, past walls and bulkheads. Now, suddenly, there were two inhuman beings before him—something that could not be just coincidence.
The drinks had something added to them—not to the liquid itself, but to the glasses. The waitress had no knowledge of it, but these demons, these inhuman things, they were watching. They were checking that things had been distributed.
They were up to something.
Though not a part of his mission, not ordered by the Organization, it would do him no good to simply ignore it. Not only could it mean trouble for him and those on the ship, but if those he worked for caught wind that he could have prevented some kind of atrocity, it might move the Nanaya into unfavorable territory.
Of course, they could also just blame him for acting out when he was not ordered to do anything as well. But it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
After the waitress had gone back into the kitchens, the men conversed among themselves. To any other observer, it might have looked like one had flirted with the waitress and been shot down, and now the three were planning on future actions. Or that one had flirted with the waitress and been accepted, and now the three were planning on future actions. Two of them nodded, then left the third to cross the room and head to the hallway that led to the rest of the ship. The third, the one with his clothing hanging out, stayed and watched.
With too many witnesses here—though he had the distinct feeling they would not be witnesses in the minutes and hours that followed—Kiri decided to pursue the two that were leaving.
When the Apostles were past the dining hall and heading further up the ship, Kiri excused himself from the table he lounged at and followed after them at an unhurried pace.
The men did not hurry about either, leisurely making their way up to the end of one deck, finding a stairwell down to another, talking amidst themselves the entire time. Without the presence of the Jougan, Kiri was certain they would not seem at all out-of-place to him, no other sense that they were anything other than normal people chatting about anything that came to mind—the weather, recent news, home life, sporting events, politics. One cracked a joke at the expense of his boss, the other followed up with an insult to his companion's parentage.
When they got off the stairs and turned a corner down into a passenger deck, Kiri paused midway down the stairs. He set his gaze at the corner they had not ventured down, down toward the rear of the ship, and he detected three more discolored presences waiting beyond, their thoughts and perceptions turned toward the stairwell he stood in—
Watching for a tail.
Now Kiri was certain something was up. Three beings—at this point, he thought they were Dead Apostles—loitering in the halls while two more moved about the ship, apparently to check the status of things within the dining area. Something was on the verge of starting if it had not already beyond his awareness, and Kiri knew that, inevitably, he would be drawn in.
Kiri believed in a kind of destiny, as it were. One that did not suffer coincidence.
Instead of responding and reacting, however, he decided he should dictate the pace by which things occurred.
He finished his descent of the stairs, turned the corner to where the three inhuman men waited, and purposefully strode up to meet them.
They had been waiting in a semi-lounging state, leaning against the walls, casually staggered along the hall. When they spotted him, all three moved to attention, like bouncers suddenly aware that their job was about to come to play, denying trespassers from entry. Three men, blood-sucking demons, the second one of the three the largest, the closest one watching with unnerving eyes. "This is the wro—" the first one started.
Kiri stepped up his pace. In the narrow corridor, he darted to one side, jumping into the air and rebounding off the wall. He leapt clear over the speaking man and came down onto the larger second with his elbow, striking just above the collarbone. As the big man toppled forward, Kiri brought his leg up, smashing his knee into an extended chin. The blow snapped the man's head back, his neck breaking.
The man he had bypassed spun and the third man moved on his heels, neither one stumbling, though neither reacted on the front foot to this sudden terror. Their thoughts, however, did turn violently dangerous in sense, and Kiri knew then, for certain, that these were vampires of the Dead Apostle kind.
Kiri felt the intention of the one he had bypassed, ducked under a right hook that would have been too fast for a mortal man caught unawares. The attack overstepped and Kiri planted himself between the man's wide feet, reached up over his shoulder, and grabbed the attacker's ears. With a violent pull, Kiri tumbled the man over his shoulders and into the falling body of the second while ripping the skin and cartilage like a torture technician. The man wailed and thrashed through the air, briefly filling the hallway with convulsing bodies.
That obscured Kiri from the third man's view, even as the man went for a flash of metal beneath his jacket.
Kiri pulled the emergency fire extinguisher from its hangar while simultaneously running for the wall opposite from the device. He took two steps on the deck, two more along the wall at an angle, then rebounded completely inverted from the ceiling above the heads of his targets. The momentary distraction of twitching bodies and bleeding heads distracted the third man long enough for Kiri to come down swinging, smashing the red canister into the back of the last man's skull.
As Kiri flipped forward and landed on his feet, the three bodies all simultaneously crashed into one another, tangling limbs and broken bodies. They fell into a heap, the third man on the bottom, his head caved in at the crown, the middle man with his neck at an unnatural angle. The first howled at the pain of his missing ears and the unnatural angle he had fallen at, but only momentarily before Kiri swung the extinguisher around by its small hose and smashed the end into the man's windpipe.
Kiri decided he was two seconds too slow, his mind not even into the hunt yet. Absently, he brought his foot down onto all three of the men's throats, one at a time, crushing their necks until their spines protruded from torn skin. With their slower reaction times, he assumed these were not the kind of blood-suckers that could regenerate his initial killing blows, but he felt in this situation it might be necessary. He did not know firsthand as much about Dead Apostles as he did the half-breeds within the borders of Japan and other Asian countries.
Momentarily, Kiri peered down the hall where the two he initially pursued had gone, though they were out of sight. He focused all of his attention in that direction, however, and could detect the faintest traces of their abnormal colors, the sign of their presences further down and with walls blocking the way.
A true hunt was on.
Turning his attention back to the bodies, Kiri considered his options. The third man had tried to pull a knife—a K-bar like some militaries used—that Kiri removed from his jacket and tucked into his belt at his back. He thought of returning to his quarters for his own weapons, but decided that the longer these dead Dead Apostles were missing, the greater time his newfound enemies would have to pull something.
In fact, he decided, the general disruption of the ship would probably come before then when someone came across three dead bodies. Momentarily considering his next plan of action, Kiri then went for the emergency alarm next to where he had pulled the fire extinguisher and pulled the lever.
Dig in deeper or make a move—time to see which Kiri's new prey would choose.
The fire alarm rang, and Kiritsugu cursed at the timing. He stepped back onto the diving station and up to the gate, peered up to the main decks of the ship. More lights were on in the windows above, shadows running past.
In place, Kiritsugu crouched down and opened the case containing his Contender. He set one of the Origin Bullets into position, pocketing a handful of others. "Change of plans. Set up at the bow of the ship and make it appear as if we've been hit by a mine or a torpedo." It was a possibility in the area, between leftover ordinance from World War II and North Korea occasionally taking an aggressive stance on other ships in the area. "Forget the engines and everything else. Then continue to the harbor as planned."
Maiya nodded, already removing the ropes securing her boat to the larger ship. "And you?"
Settling the Contender into his shoulder holster, Kiritsugu hefted the larger rifle case. "I'm going to go make sure they evacuate in an orderly fashion."
The Apostles all looked up as the alarm blared.
The room was full to capacity. They had arranged for a meeting room to be their exclusive location bereft of cleaning services or other guests. It seated eight comfortably with a long table at the center, three seats to either side lengthwise, one seat at the head and foot. Normally it would be used for business meetings or small presentations, and a double-sided blackboard resided in one corner. Though normally numbers or list and charts might be drawn on its surface, this time it was adorned with a single sign: an odd circular crest with thorny tendrils jutting out from each side. The image was divided along the length by lines, and each section was numbered from one to five.
Below that, four iron capsules sat on the floor, each the size of mid-sized travel luggage.
A fifth capsule rested atop the table amidst blood and bodies. Four bodies lay in various states, one sitting hunched over like he had put his head down and fallen asleep, one more laying on their side atop the table, a third dangling her limbs over the edge. The fourth lay halfway atop the capsule, her blood dripping from an open chest wound into an open hatch on the iron device, like a parody of a mother breastfeeding a child.
Four Apostles stood around the table, one of them standing over the dead woman massaging the body, as if milking her. They all glanced around at the sound of the alarm, then to each other.
"Think something went wrong?" the one standing atop the table asked.
His compatriots all gave various levels of agreement, the one standing behind the hunched-over man saying, "Nothing is coincidence when we've just started this." He grabbed the man beneath the armpits and hauled the body up onto the table along with the others, the man's eyes glazed over. "Finish up with this one while we take the other cases up to the dining room."
As the one atop the table shook the last remaining droplets from the woman's body into his capsule, the other three Apostles went to pick up the remaining iron containers, hefting them as if they were no heavier than pillows. They filed out of the room as the remaining man dropped the woman back out of his way, then picked up the last man. He bent the man's head back at an unnatural angle that brought a faint whimper from the victim, bit into his neck, then settled the body over the iron pod, neck over the opening, and more blood began to pour in.
Pulling up just ahead of the ship, Maiya braved the frothing waters as they were kicked up by the larger vessel. She pulled up as close as possible, just over an arm's length from the exterior hull, then threw the mine and adhesive onto the surface where it halted like a dead bug hitting a windshield. She repeated the process a meter or so back with another, then tossed a third mine equidistant between the two and some centimeters upward, forming a rough triangle.
Maiya then sped her boat away, back toward her primary ship, pulling out a detonation switch as she did so.