Part Four: Planning

   Yohji and Ken looked up when someone banged on Ken's apartment door. Yohji paused the movie they'd been watching and Ken climbed to his feet, padding towards the door. The banging came again. "Coming!" Ken called, unlocking the door and opening it to reveal a very pissed looking Aya.

    "Aya?" he asked hesitantly. There was murder in those violet eyes although the rest of the man's face was cold and expressionless. "What's wrong?"

    "She's gone."

    Yohji moved up behind Ken. "Say what?"

    "Aya-chan," Aya bit out, "is gone." He threw a handful of shredded bedsheets at them.

    He looked like a ticking bomb, ready to go off. Ken touched his elbow lightly, leading Aya in. Yohji closed the door behind them as they made their way across the room towards the couch. "What? When did this happen? Who took her?"

    "Was it Taketori?" Yohji asked.

    "No, I killed-" Aya froze, a spark of realization lighting up his eyes. The man slowly sank onto the couch, burying his face in his hands. "Damn it," he snarled. "When we attacked the Group, I chained him up to come back to later. I never went back and killed him."

    Yohji glanced at Ken, meeting his eyes, and mouthed, 'Call Omi'. Ken nodded, leaving the room quickly. He grabbed the phone and checked the small post-it note that had the boy's new number, dialling it in. Omi answered on the first ring.

    "Moshi moshi!"

    "Omi, we need you to come over to my apartment right now."

    "Ken-kun? What's wrong?"

    "Aya just came back from the hospital." Ken rubbed his forehead. "Apparently Aya-chan has been kidnapped again." There was a sharp gasp on Omi's end. "Would you mind coming over here to help us?"

    "I'll be right there!" Omi hung up.

    Ken left the kitchen. Yohji was sitting beside Aya on the couch. Their leader was silent, his face still in his hands. He seemed to be radiating anger. Ken quietly took a seat on the arm of the couch, watching the two. This had to be like a nightmare come true for Aya, having this happen. Aya hated Taketori so much, and now to think that Taketori had his hands on his sister...Ken felt a surge of sympathy towards the older man. "Don't worry, Aya," Yohji finally said. "We'll get her back."

    "I'm going to kill him," Aya said. His voice was quiet, but the pure hate lashing in those simply spoken words was enough to send a shiver down Ken's spine. "I am going to cut him into so many pieces that no one will ever be able to put him back together again."

    "We have to find him first," Yohji reminded Aya gently. "I'll call Manx and see if she can find us anything, all right?" Aya didn't give a reply, and Yohji didn't wait for one. The oldest Weiß vanished into the kitchen. Ken gazed at Aya, feeling uncomfortable. Aya had finally lowered his hands from his face and they were clasped together in his lap, his knuckles white. Ken fished around mentally for something intelligent to say, something to help, and came up blank.

    There was a knock at the door, and Ken sprang away from the couch to answer it. Omi's worried face greeted his. The boy moved past him to where Aya sat, crouching on the floor beside the redhead. Yohji returned from the kitchen. "Kritiker will begin looking for everything they can get," he told the three. "We'll have to wait."

    "I don't want to wait," Aya answered flatly. "He has no right to take what isn't his, no right to touch what doesn't belong to him. I should have killed him, back when I had the chance..." He began rubbing at one of his wrists. Ken recognized the gesture. Aya had done it often in the past few days, though none of them knew why.

    "Aya-kun," Omi breathed, reaching up to rest his hand on Aya's knee. "Don't worry. We'll get her back safely."

    Aya bared his teeth in a humorless smile. "The doctors said that too, back when Taketori hit her."


    Aya didn't work the next day. He sat in the kitchen where Yohji had forcefully put him at the table, glowering in the direction of the flower shop. He'd almost bitten one girl's head off when she hadn't stopped annoying him. He knew he shouldn't have done it, but he needed something to vent on and she had been a perfect target. She'd fled, crying, and Yohji had hauled Aya in here. Aya's glare switched to the phone. What was taking Kritiker so long? His sister's life was at stake...

    He closed his eyes tightly, inhaling slowly. ~No. Don't think like that.~

    ~Why couldn't I have remembered that Taketori was still alive? Of course he was going to go after her. Fuck.~ Aya rubbed his temples, feeling his headache start. He darted a hand out to grab the nearby bottle of aspirin and he dumped two pills in his hands. How many had he had so far this morning? He couldn't remember. Maybe ten. Now twelve. He swallowed the pills dry. He couldn't think straight. He wanted to just grab his sword and run outside, hacking up whoever was near.

    He wanted his sister back.


    He'd almost lost her two times already. He didn't need to go through this again. He didn't know if he was strong enough to go through this a third time. Aya-chan was out there somewhere, with Taketori. God only knew what the man was going to do to her. ~I can't...I can't do this.~

    The phone rang, screamingly loud. His chair clattered to the ground as he snatched it off the receiver. "Who is it?" he demanded tightly.

    "Is this the Koneko Flower Shop? I'd like to place an order."

    Aya hung up without another word, pacing around the kitchen, his arms tucked tightly up against him. ~Where are you, Aya-chan? Where did that god-damned bastard take you? You'd better be untouched when I get you back, or Taketori won't even see me coming.~

    His head hurt so much, and his heart ached.

    Omi entered the kitchen. He had taken the day off school in case Kritiker called. He paused, looking at the open aspirin bottle. It was a brand new bottle that Aya had opened that morning. The boy picked it up, eyeing the contents. "Aya-kun...You ate half a bottle of aspirin."

    "You'd better be able to get a refund on that," Aya grit out in reply. "It doesn't work."

    "Aya-kun..." Omi murmured softly.

    Aya ignored him. He didn't want to look back and see the boy's pity in his wide, expressive blue eyes. Aya didn't need anyone's pity. He needed directions to Taketori's latest rathole and a freshly sharpened katana. Taketori was going to die. Die die die die die die die.

    The phone rang again. Aya got there before Omi did. "Who is it?" he demanded.

    "Oh...Wrong number again, I guess." It was the same idiot from earlier. Aya held the phone out to Omi irritably.

    "Moshi moshi!" Omi greeted cheerfully, a smile on his lips although sad eyes followed Aya as the redhead stalked across the room to the fridge, yanking it open and and almost off its hinges. He needed something to do to take his mind off all of this mess. He grabbed a can of half-frozen juice and plugged in the blender, opening the can and dumping it in. The blender had been washed very carefully after Farfarello had played with it. Who knew what the psycho had stirred up in there.

    Aya clapped the lid on and flicked the switch to "On", turning to get a cup. When he turned back he paused, watching as the blades so easily hacked up the cylinder of half-iced strawberry juice. There was something calming about the way it gave him images of hacking up Taketori. He continued to gaze at the mess as it was liquefied. He calmly reached over and flicked up the speed. The poor remaining chunks had no chance against the whirring blades, and with a good deal of satisfaction Aya watched as they were torn apart.

    ~I look like Farfarello.~

    Aya blinked as that thought set in, raising his eyes to watch Omi. Omi was watching him, smile gone and eyes slightly wider than usual, phone call forgotten. Aya turned off the blender, pouring his juice. He sipped at it, turning away. Fuck. That had been creepy.

    At least it had taken his mind off Taketori for a few minutes, enough time for him to calm down and organize his thoughts somewhat. He brought his juice out to the shop. Omi followed a few moments later, an order written on a scrap of paper. Yohji eyed Aya as if asking whether or not the redhead was in a homicidal mood still. Aya calmly bumped Yohji out from behind the register. He needed to work. If he just sat around doing nothing he'd get depressed and violent, and might resort to shoving fruit in the blender while cackling and yelling "Taketori Shi-ne!"

    ~I scare myself sometimes,~ Aya thought to himself. The cash drawer was already messy from Yohji's handling. He set about tidying it up, stacking the coins neatly and putting them in rolls when he realized too many were free. He tied off the rolls securely, pausing only to take care of the last customer- a girl who was running late to school. The girl paused as she reached the door, turning a curious look on Omi.

    "Aren't you coming along to school?" she asked. "You don't usually work in the morning."

    "I am not feeling well today," Omi answered. "I am about to go back to bed."

    "Oh dear," the girl fretted. "I hope you feel better, Omi-chan."

    Omi smiled back at her. "Thank you for your concern, Yui-san. I am sure I'll feel much better after a long nap." He waved as the girl left. As soon as she was gone Omi turned to the others. "I'm going to go search the computer system and find out everything that happened that morning we defeated the Group. If Taketori was indeed left in there and changed, _someone_ had to have let him go."

    Aya nodded and Omi ducked downstairs.


    Within minutes Omi was connected to the server. He pulled his chair closer to the screen, fingers nimbly racing over the keyboard. He'd start with police reports. A search brought up three records- one man's scribbled observations, the report filed with his boss, and the formal record put on file. The first two were off-limits, but it was easy for Omi to get around the security. As he skimmed over the first report his hand rummaged through a desk drawer, coming up with a box of Pocky. He poked the end of a stick between his lips, nibbling absently on the tip.

    The man's hastily written report didn't cover much, just said that there were thirty-two dead bodies scattered throughout the premises, killed by gun and sword. The machinery was more advanced than the policeman could understand, and he made a note of this. His guess was that the building was a hiding hole for terrorists or a military branch.

    The second file would be written with the aid of photographs and lab tests, and would be more detailed. He hadn't expected the first note to be much help, but one thing bothered him- it hadn't mentioned finding Taketori alive. He ran a hand through his bangs, clicking on the second report and devouring a second stick of Pocky. As the second one loaded Omi pulled up another desktop, activating the internet. He might need it later. He then returned to the first screen and carefully read the file. This one had a good deal more information and was several pages long, going so far as to give the locations of each body and identifying the type of guns used. It still didn't mention Taketori.

    Omi frowned, moving to the third paper. He paused on his third piece of Pocky. This record just labelled what happened at the building as a gang riot, dropping everything out except the number of casualties and changing the details to match the story. It seemed like the commanding officer who filed the report had some ties with the Group. He thought this over for a few minutes. It was obvious that some members of the Group had escaped. There was no way Weiß and Schwarz could have gotten them all in the rush of the morning. Kritiker had been hunting them down through the past two days and picking them off.

    If the Group had collapsed, why had they still been covered for? Omi pulled a notebook close to him and began scribling down notes. Two possible reasons were that either the Group and the police had had some shameful collaberation that could not be revealed, or the Group had a dictator that was still powerful and hidden. Personally Omi opted for the first choice. The way the Group's agents had acted was the way an independent faction would have, where the four had been the ones to come up with all orders. That didn't mean he'd cross off the second option, though.

    His computer binged. Omi blinked, switching to the other desktop. A small chat box had popped up on the screen. /Lost_child: Aren't you supposed to be at school?/

    A wide, delighted crin spread on Omi's face. Lost_child was Nagi's screen name. He pressed in even closer to the computer, his fingers racing to put out a reply. /Tsu_kitten: I'm staying home today. What computer are you using?/

    /Lost_child: Schuldig and I got this yesterday evening. We spent most of the night doing a thorough search of our old building. The security's tight there but we managed to get a good look around to see if anything valuable had been spared from the explosion./

    /Tsu_kitten: Find any of your computer files?/

    /Lost_child: More than we thought we would. I guess the room was more sheltered from the blast than we originally thought. It's a great relief. So why are you staying home? Won't this mess up your attendance record?/

    Omi's smile faded. /Tsu_kitten: Aya's having trouble./ He paused. Should he tell Nagi? Technically they were once again oppoents, the truce dissolved. His heart warred with his mind. /Tsu_kitten: Someone kidnapped his sister from the hospital last night./

    /Lost_child: What? But who would have done that?/

    Omi hesitated again. He shouldn't tell Nagi this, but still...As long as Schuldig didn't find out, it didn't matter, and Omi doubted Nagi would broadcast it to the group if it would be to Omi's disadvantage. /Tsu_kitten: We think it's Taketori, but we haven't been able to find anything yet. I'm worried about Aya. He is really out of it./

    This time Nagi paused. /Lost_child: Do you think...If we can help find her, will Aya agree to disband?/

    Omi sucked in a deep breath. Why not? His heart leapt at the idea. If Schwarz were to help return what Aya valued most, not even _he_ could hold a grudge, right? /Tsu_kitten: That might work! ^_^ I'm not going to ask him, though. He'd kill me if I said I told you. But if you can help...please do. I'm not sure how much longer he'll be able to hold himself together before he explodes./

    /Lost_child: I'll do what I can, and contact you if I find anything. Ja./

    /Tsu_kitten: Ja ne, Nagi-chan./


    Omi went back to the first desktop to finish his searching, but his mind stayed on Nagi's offer. He crossed his fingers, closing his eyes. ~Please, please let us find her.~ Then he inhaled deeply, opened his eyes, and went back to work.

    Three hours and two boxes of Pocky later, Kritiker still had not called and Omi had only come up with a page of notes. It was hard to work without any clues from Persia. There were hundreds of places Taketori could be, and the path Omi thought they should follow had to be checked with Manx- just to make sure he was on the right track. He yawned, stretching the soreness from his muscles.

    "Any luck, Omi?" Two hands descended on his shoulders.

    "Not much, Yohji-kun." Omi sighed. He rubbed at his eyes. "I didn't realize just how hard it was to find people without Kritiker's help. How is Aya-kun doing?"

    "He's sick from eating too much aspirin and not sleeping at all last night, and fell asleep on the couch in the den. I'm not planning on waking him up for at least four hours. The rest will do him good, and I'm not sure he'd be in a good mood if I were to drag him out of dreamland." Yohji gave a slight shrug. "I wonder what's taking Kritiker so long, though."

    "I'm sure they're just busy," Omi reassured him brightly. He slid from his chair, padding over to the fridge to select a juice. He drank a gulp and let out a breath of relief. His throat had been so dry. He lightly screwed the lid back on, moving towards the desk again and depositing the drink by his keyboard. "I don't think I can get much more off of this," he told Yohji, tapping the monitor, "but I can keep trying if you want. I have some faint ideas of what to do, but I need to wait for word from Kritiker to move any further."

    "What did you get so far?" Yohji propped himself against the wall.v
    Omi glanced at his notes. "The reports filed that day on the occurence don't mention finding anyone alive, just thirty-two dead. The first two, a man's observation and the report given to his officer, are the same in what is found. The record put on file as the official report, however, changes to say that it was a gang shoot out." Omi took another sip of his drink. "I can't get enough of either man's profile to form a guess as to what's going on between them, that one of them would want to cover for the Group and or Taketori."

    "Hm..." Yohji digested this.

    "I want to find out what the commanding officer has to do with the Group, but I don't have a name for either of the men that had to do with the reports."

    "So basically you want to run a check on the man and see if he is somehow connected to Taketori."

    "Right." Omi nodded. "If he is tied to Taketori in any way, I can believe that the first man _did_ report finding an alive man to take hostage, but the officer freed him and altered the first two reports as much as he could in a little space of time. The officer could be our key to Taketori's whereabouts."

    "It makes sense. Nice use of reasoning there." Yohji grinned.

    Omi grinned back. "That's all I could come up with after two boxes of Pocky."

    "Take a break, kiddo." Yohji beckoned for him to come back upstairs, heading towards the stairs himself.

    "All right. Just let me close this down." Omi turned back towards the computer as Yohji disappeared upstairs. He closed out of all his programs and grabbed his juice, heading across the room. As he moved he noticed there was an old juice stain on the floor. He paused, eyeing it. Someone had been into his juice, and made a mess. He sighed. He didn't feel like cleaning it up right now, and he doubted he would be able to get much out. Who knew how old it was, after all.

    Ken was tossing a soccer ball up and down in the air, sitting on the counter and swinging his legs carelessly. He smiled at Omi. "Find anything?"

    "Not much. I have a theory, but I need Manx to confirm it." Omi shrugged slightly as the bell rang to signal another customer. "How did the hospital react to finding her room empty?" Ken gave a shrug as Omi turned towards the customer. "Iras- Manx!"

    "The police were swarming all over the place earlier," Manx answered Omi's question. Two of our own agents had to step in and calm things down. Where's Aya?"

    "Sleeping in the den. He ate a dozen and a half aspirins within five hours." Ken rolled his eyes. "He's not doing so well this morning."

    "I didn't expect him to." Manx drifted along the row of flowers, eyeing the pretty blooms, before moving towards the den. The three kittens followed behind. "Kritiker has been working since your call last night to get any idea of what's going on. What we've managed to boil it down to so far is this: Someone within the police department has ties with one of Taketori's prostitution agencies and is a major supporter of it. In order to keep his own skin saved and his job intact, he let Taketori go scot-free and altered the reports." She paused beside Aya's sleeping form, pulling a small packet out of her purse. "Too many of our agents are tied up with hunting out the rest of the Group's members. This extermination process must be dealt with quickly, or they'll scatter like dust in a windstorm. That's why it took so long to get you your information, and there are still holes you'll have to fill in."

    Omi accepted the package, peeling it open and pulling out the contents. There were two personnel files and photographs, along with the public records he'd found earlier. Manx tapped one. "This is the man who filed the observation report I've included. The other man is the one with the ties."

    Omi flipped to that man. There were a few sheets of paper clipped to his file that had names of prostitution hangouts, amounts of money that had exchanged hands, and days and bank accounts. "This man will probably know where Taketori is. He most likely is the one that hid him somewhere safe. Find him, find Taketori, find Aya-chan. This time make sure Taketori is killed."

    "All right." Omi nodded.

    "Now come along, Omi. I need you to put together a small bouquet of flowers for me. Birman's office is looking bare these days." Omi obediently handed the information over to his partners and followed the woman back to the shop. She gestured to some pansies. "The dark blues and violets will do." As he worked, she eyed him. "Has everyone found a place to stay?" she asked.

    "I believe so, but I'm not positive about Aya. I know he went looking last night, but he hasn't spoken of it and spent last night with Yohji."

    "Have you heard from Schwarz anytime?" Omi wrapped the delicate blooms together, hesitating to answer. She continued on in just a moment. "The help of Schwarz in collecting the remaining information would speed this all along. Since they used to be his bodyguards, they would be able to get you places and names quicker than any work or investigating would. I also believe Schuldig would be more than delighted to help get Taketori, after what the man did to him."

    "I spoke with Nagi earlier," Omi finally admitted. "He's keeping his eye out for anything."

    Manx smiled gently at him, ruffling his hair. "Persia does not whole-heartedly agree with me or Birman on trusting Schwarz, but I believe they can do no more harm. Probably the best thing that could happen for any of us was Taketori's abuse of Schuldig. Schwarz's urge to fight dropped dramatically after that."

    "Will Aya give in?" Omi asked her quietly.

    She fished through her purse and handed him the correct change for the bouquet, taking it and inhaling the fragrance thoughtfully. "Not even a dam can last forever with the waves pressing against it," she replied, then winked and headed out of the shop.

    Yohji and Ken wandered back into the shop. Ken waved the papers. "So do you think we should wake Aya up yet?"

    "Let him sleep a bit longer, or he'll be too tired to work. Sleepy assassins make mistakes," Yohji told Ken.

    Omi held out a hand for the paperwork, and Ken turned it over. Omi rubbed a finger across the surface of the papers, thinking. "Now that I know an actual destination and name, I'll pull up everything I can get on these men. By this evening we'll be able to get in there and get what we need from him."

    "Sounds good to me." Ken rubbed his hands together.

    "One more thing..." Omi paused, looking from one to the other. "I wish to bring Schwarz into this." They eyed each other. "Manx says they'll be a great asset to us. Kritiker has given us all they can, but it's still just information. Schwarz worked with Taketori for a long time. They can get us where we need to go, and with clearance. I doubt Taketori broadcasted what he did to Schuldig to his men, so they won't be expecting anything."

    "Aya's not going to be happy..." Ken started.

    "Aya's never happy. Recruit away, chibi." Yohji gave him a thumbs-up.

    Omi smiled, relieved, starting towards the basement. "Then I've got plenty of work to do."

Part 5