He stood there, surrounded by a pile of bodies with tearstains on his cheeks, and there was just something terrible about his lavender-grey eyes. When they met mine, it was like an electric shock went through me – a grave purpose, and the heavy weight of compassion.
My companion, the man who had brought me here, cracked his neck while inspecting the young man who stood in front of us.
"Well, then," he said, following his cryptic statement to the boy, "it looks like there's a change of management around here. Kuroko," he said, addressing me, "meet the Composer – your new boss."
His eyes went to the man who'd brought me, and his face lit with puzzlement and recognition. "Mr. H," he said quietly. "I almost didn't recognize you. What are you doing…" He paused. "No," he continued, "no, I think I continued that one word too far. Mr. H, what are you?"
My companion smiled, and everything about his demeanor changed. Where he had appeared a harmless, wise but absentminded professor before, now there was a quality of danger to him. It wasn't evil; no, anything but. He began to blur, lose focus, but the boy took a step back, eyes widening in wonder, as though he could see perfectly clearly. Part of me wondered what he was seeing; as soon as I did, for a brief moment, I saw. White wings; a corona of energy; and then suddenly, the man beside me was simply a man again, though that air of power still lingered in his expression and posture.
"Call me the Producer," was his reply.
The boy, whose name I still didn't know, shook his head slightly, then turned to me. Our eyes met again, and again, I felt the knowledge of power, purpose, and compassion.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"Kuroko," I replied. "Kuroko Sashiro. I…" I shook my head, still standing back, quietly overshadowed by the man called 'Mr. H'.
He shook his head. "You're a Reaper, correct?"
"Sort of," I replied. "I… I don't really understand all of what's going on. He explained the basics, but…"
The boy – the Composer – gave the older man, Mr. H, a scathing look, one I wouldn't have dared give him after what I had seen. He shrugged.
"There wasn't time to explain much," he told the boy. "I gave her the basic information I gave you, the first time we met."
He relaxed slightly, but shook his head. Deliberately, he started towards me; I took a step back, clutching my coat around me. He stopped.
"I'm not going to hurt you," he said calmly, and I could tell he was telling the truth. "My name is Joshua."
"You run the Game," I said. "You make the rules."
He shook his head. "I didn't make these rules," he replied, gesturing at all the bodies that lay around him. I saw, to my surprise, that they were all breathing; he hadn't killed any of them, despite the glowing form of what looked like a sword in his hand. He must've realized that he'd been carrying it, because it dissipated, flowing back into the pin in his hand, which he dropped into a pocket. "I'm sorry," he said. "I… it's all somewhat of a shock to me, too."
"Listen, Joshua," said Mr. H, turning towards him with a serious expression. "The rules of Shibuya's Game are tangible things, linked to the Composer who created them. When a new Composer rises, the Rules are rewritten as Shibuya itself responds to his will and personality. To truly change the Game, however, you need to consciously write those rules you wish to create. The knowledge and ability you need to do so passed on with the Composer's power, but you need to act soon. The Composer's residence is in the Shibuya River." He sighed, rubbing a hand across the back of his neck. "I have to leave – I have other business to attend to – but if you need me, you know where to find me. Take care of Kuroko, Josh; she's got a lot of potential."
I looked back and forth between the two of them, but Josh shook his head.
"Wait," he said. "Just what is your role in all of this? You're my boss, correct?"
"Somewhat. Think of me as a supervisor, and advisor – a guardian Angel, if you prefer." He cocked his head, as if listening to something, before mumbling to himself, "Yes, yes, I'm coming!"He blurred again, then vanished in a spark of light.
There was a strange look on Joshua's face; I raised an eyebrow. "What is it?"
"I can do that," he murmured. "I… know how to do what he just did."
"Just by watching him?"
He shook his head, placing a hand over his heart. "It feels as if I've always known, somehow… part and parcel of being Composer, I suppose."
The way that Mr. H had explained it to me, the Composer had sounded like some form of god; his uncertain tone and somewhat disturbed expression couldn't be further from the image I'd formed. I stepped forward out of the shadows of the room and tentatively put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"If it helps," I said, "I didn't have any clue what I was getting into, either."
He looked up to meet my eyes, seeming shocked at the sudden contact. "What?"
I looked down at the ground. "They tried to take my sister away. They tried to take us both. Mr. H told us that we weren't safe; he told us we had abilities beyond the normal, that mine were the greatest. He told me that if I agreed to work for the Composer, maybe my sister could grow up normal."
"Abilities?" His question was quiet and understanding.
I closed my eyes. "That man – Mr. H – told me my father wasn't human."
His eyes widened, then narrowed again. "Your father was a Reaper. But… I thought they all hated humans and Players. Why else would they choose to be what they are?"
"Not all of them, evidently," I said, removing my coat to reveal a legacy I'd only recently discovered, and wasn't even close to understanding. A single wing, two-dimensional, but alive.
"Half of a Reaper's power," he murmured to himself, absentmindedly circling me. "Fascinating…"
I couldn't help but feel as if I were being studied, although…. It was pretty obvious that I was. Still, it didn't feel hostile. Just… calculating.
"I wonder how it works," he said quietly as he came back around. "Is it even possible for Reapers to have children? But it has to be. You're living proof."
I nodded. "I didn't even know," I told him. "But…. My dad left one day. He never came back. Ever since then, it feels like… there was something wrong, with me, with my sister… with life." I crossed my arms, hugged myself. "I never thought it would turn out to be a secret this big…"
"It's possible you sensed the passing of your father's power," he told me, still studying me, seemingly careful not to meet my eyes. "It's also possible that after a family member's death… any family feels like its falling apart."
I nodded. "Mr. H found me three days ago. He said that something was coming for us. I had it stronger than my sister did – if I agreed to serve the Composer, my sister could live out her life in peace. Both of us would forever be safe from whoever was hunting us."
"He said… there were people who thought we were dangerous. A foot in each world, not tied to either one."
He paused, studying me again. His gaze lingered on the single wing Mr. H's powers had brought forth, the single, missing piece of my life… my hidden life.
It was hard to believe that man; that my sister and I were something other than completely human wasn't anything I'd ever expected. But when he used whatever strange power belonged to him, returned that power to me that I'd been missing, told me I could save Kumiko… I had no choice at all but to follow his lead. A lead that had brought me here, to this person, this boy with his incredible determination and hidden power.
"Kuroko," he said to me, finally, "let's become partners. Together, we'll make a new Game. A fair Game. And the world will be a better place for it…"
His eyes met mine, and again, I felt the shock of his purpose. He smiled warmly, held out a hand, and I took it.
"That it will."
AN: Sorry this took so long to get up! I decided to add some more to this, because there's still more of Joshua's story I want to explore. Each new chapter will be narrated by a different character, as you can see here - Once I run out of characters, I'll probably recycle narrators, based on who's the important character in the story. This chapter introduced Kuroko, Josh's assistant... I wonder who the next narrator, and important character, will be? You'll just have to read more..
Also. Tonsa thanks to my beta reader, SilverWingedGentleman, for his pointers on this chapter. I hope this is up to spec!