Part Eighteen

    The day has come. I head down the hall alone, a chilling smirk curving my lips. Elsewhere, Crawford leads my teammates out of the buildings. Takatori’s gaping face lingers in my mind, stunned disbelief as we walked away from him. He didn’t have a reason to be so shocked, not when he was the one who told us to stay behind and just watch as he took Japan apart. I reach up, brushing my bangs out of my face. A deep satisfaction curls through my stomach as my fingers touch my cheek, running over the skin. The bruises have long since been gone but I let the memory of what it had felt like roll through my mind. In my eyes I see my reflection, the day I so painfully stumbled across the room to access the damage.

    Takatori’s fate is sealed; I trace his thoughts as he flees like the rat he is. Weiss is here, making chaos for everyone in their path. I want to reach out and rip Takatori’s mind to shreds, want to show him that I’m much more than what he thought I was. He was fooled into thinking that I was a nobody, just a simple bodyguard with an insolent smirk and a gaudy outfit. I want to tear into him and make him realize that I’m much more than that, that I’m much more than he ever could have dreamed to become.

    But I made a promise to a sleeping man a long time ago.

    I turn the corner and find myself studying Fujimiya Ran at last. He is working his way through a knot of guards, his sword whistling as it slices through the air and tears through the flesh of those in his way. It is an ugly death, to die by the blade. I watch him as he fights for a few moments, analyzing him. He can use his sword, but he is nowhere as skilled as Farfarello is. Farfarello played around with the redhead yesterday and I could tell from his thoughts that it was a pathetic little battle. Fujimiya only walked away alive because Crawford wanted him to.

    Ran thrusts his sword through the stomach of the last standing guard, giving it a brutal wrench. Blood sprays everywhere. Just a few feet in front of me, a fallen guard struggles to get to his feet. Our samurai doesn’t hear him over the gurgles of the dying man impaled on his sword. With another rough jerk and a well placed kick, the guard is sent flying to die in a corner. Ran surveys the damage with a cold eye, oblivious to the guard who is aiming his gun at him.

    I take a step forwards, wrapping my arms around the guard’s throat. The man has time for one startled gasp and then I twist, breaking his neck. Ran whirls around at the sound of the guard’s neck snapping, sword poised and ready to strike. He hesitates when he sees the guard go limp in my arms, watching the man’s hands fall to his side. The gun hits the floor with a loud clatter and in a moment I spread my arms to let the body follow after it. I tilt my head to one side to give Ran a considering look. His fingers tighten on the hilt of his sword as he prepares himself for battle. He’s not eager to be facing me. As much as he hates me from our few encounters before, he knows there is something very dangerous about me. Silence settles between us and then I give a small flick of my fingers, offering him a thin smirk.

    “Takatori’s helicopter is going to pick him up on the roof,” I tell him. His frown deepens at my words; at first he takes them to be a taunt that he has failed in his revenge. “But,” I say, giving a slight emphasis to the word, “they are not here yet.” He thinks on this for several moments in silence. I take a few steps back from him, moving slowly, and reach up to brush my bangs out of my face again. “Go kill him, little samurai. That is why you came here, after all.”

    “Why?” he asks at last, still wary of my intentions.

    I ignore the question, continuing backwards. “The south stairwell leads directly to the roof. The others stop on the top floor, and you can’t get there by elevator.”

    “Why?” he demands again.

    “Which why do you want?” I ask. “I know all of them.” Green eyes are cold as I study him. “Why am I letting you kill him? Why did it take you so long to get here, to this point where revenge is possible? Why did he fuck up your life in the first place?” His fingers tighten around his sword at that and I laugh at him. “He didn’t care a thing about you,” I tell him. “He had no bloody clue who you were. Back then he was still powerful, if a bit messy in the way he did things. He needed funds and he needed someone to take the fall when people noticed money was disappearing. He picked your father.” I offer a small shrug. “It was no personal grudge, it was nothing personal of any sort. He just drew a name from a hat,” I rub my fingers together at him, “and just like that everything you loved and held dear was completely destroyed.”

    His face is white with anger and I stop when I have reached the doorway, sprawling against the doorframe to offer him a wide, chilling smirk. “That is what we do,” I tell him, amusement lacing the quiet words. “That is what makes us so different. You destroy the strong to protect the weak because you believe in the innocence of the weak. We believe in survival of the fittest and will destroy the innocents to save power. We are giving you him today,” and he knows I mean Takatori, “because his death will do both. So don’t sit here and waste our time with whys when he is so close to slipping away from you. ‘The future is not meant to be seen,’” I say, tossing back at him the words he said to Crawford last night. He recognizes them and his eyes narrow. “‘The future is meant to be made.’ So go. Make it.” With a final smirk and wiggle of my fingers, I step back out of the doorway and head off down the hall. Ran hesitates for only a moment longer, then I hear his boots pounding as he races down the hall. I brush my hair over my shoulder as I find the elevators and study my reflection on the metal insides of the doors.

    “Let me know how good it feels,” I murmur, reaching out to run my fingers over the reflection of my face. I wonder when I will see him again, this blood haired samurai who helps us control the future. “Let me know how it feels to destroy your personal Hoffmann, because I want to believe that it is the most fantastic feeling in the world…”


    Following Takatori’s death, Schwarz moves back to its headquarters. We were with the man for less than two months but I am still quite content to see our one floor flat again. I am also glad that it puts about two hours of travel between Farfarello and Aine. She does not have the time to come see us anymore; she does not have that much time to waste. It was one thing to come the thirty-five minutes from the tower to Takatori’s place, but this is much too far to be making trips every day. I have the feeling that she would if she did not think the Council would disapprove of such a thing. Farfarello is not as happy about this, but there’s nothing that can be done about it. Nagi is content to be here same as me- he will never forgive Takatori for taking the golf club to me. Besides that, the hospital isn’t too far so he can still go see Tot.

    The Elders have accepted that Crawford was right about Takatori and have settled into declaring the man was much too greedy to remain useful for long. None of us dare remind them that they were fighting to keep him alive just two and a half weeks ago. We’re not interested in dying yet; we want to wait until we think we can take some of the Council down with us.

    We’re put under house arrest for a few weeks as the Council and Elders debate things and figure out where to go from here. Estet won’t say why Takatori was important or how much his death altered, and the Council doesn’t really care. Now that they’re trying to figure a way around things we might be able to get a guess at what work he still had left to do. It’s that unfinished work that was why Schwarz had to take him out. We couldn’t see how exactly his death would aid us but now that he is dead perhaps we’ll finally know what else he was good for besides giving Estet a stronghold in Japan.

    It is a rather boring eighteen days. Crawford’s visions turn up nothing of interest and the four of us try not to tread too heavily on each other’s toes as we wander around our flat. We spend a lot of time in the bond, just enjoying the sense of accomplishment and relief over what we have managed to do thus far. Even if Nagi and Farfarello didn’t always know what was happening, their subconscious minds knew exactly what was going on and the last few months were more stressful than we realized. Now that they’re over, the relief is almost painful. A lot of shit is still to come but we’ve managed this, and we thoroughly enjoy having made it so far.

    Therefore, I am less than happy to have the half month of house arrest end with Hoffmann’s arrival on our doorstep. He has never been to our flat before, and I don’t like having him here. Nagi is even less happy than I am. The way he views Hoffmann changes the moment the empath steps through the door. He fears and loathes the German for what he has done to Farfarello and myself, is extremely cautious of a man who can put even Crawford on guard. But his opinion of Hoffmann turns painfully personal when the Talent shows up at our place, and I know why. The last time an empath was here was when Adashi was on our team, and that man used his gift on Nagi when I was recovering from a trip to the Soul Shaker.

    “We are going to have a visitor,” Crawford says, and I am starting to think I don’t need telepathy to interpret that sentence. Even though I can feel that black hole of a mind coming towards us, it seems those words are Crawford’s special way of saying that it’s going to be someone none of us want to see. Nagi looks from Crawford to me, then towards Farfarello. Farfarello is looking at Crawford, but when he feels Nagi’s eyes on him he flicks his glance that way.

    Something flickers between them, mind to mind. Farfarello was there when Adashi hurt Nagi. I remember the Irishman’s smooth voice telling me that something happened, remember Nagi shoving the older teenager against the wall to make him shut up. It’s a wordless little brush across the bond, an unconscious little touch that I don’t think either notices.

    “We aren’t needed,” Farfarello says simply, without bothering to ask Crawford if that is true. He rises from his spot at the table, leaving his half finished dinner behind, and starts out of the room. Nagi looks to Crawford to see if the precognitive says otherwise. When the American says nothing, Nagi rises as well and follows behind Farfarello out of the room. I get up from my seat, soundlessly moving to the doorway, drawn there by curiosity about that unconscious little touch. Nagi is halfway down the hall when Farfarello stops, turning to lounge backwards against the doorway of his room and regard Nagi in silence. He is touching the doorframe with just his shoulder; the rest of him stands in the hall as a barricade of sorts. The telekinetic gazes up at him for a few moments, then looks to his side into Farfarello’s room. With another hesitant glance up towards the Irish assassin, he slips into the room.

    Farfarello looks up towards me then, yellow eye acknowledging my silent stare calmly, and then he follows Nagi into his room and shuts the door.

    I frown, considering that. I wouldn’t have thought Farfarello would really notice Nagi’s intense discomfort over the idea of having another empath here. No, that’s a lie. I know he would have noticed. Farfarello is good at noticing things like that. But I didn’t expect him to do anything about it. I wonder at it, wonder if he would have done the same thing a year ago. I can’t make myself say that he would have. Farfarello didn’t use to take any interest in whatever was bothering us. He would notice that it was there and continue on his own path. In the end I debate if I can chalk this small change up to his time with Aine.

    I turn that thought over in my head ruefully before pushing it away, not wanting to consider it. I turn back to survey Crawford, a wry smirk on my lip as I make my way back to the table. I debate whether or not it is safe to continue eating and in the end decide the Council shouldn’t have a reason to be angry with us. The Elders have taken our side so it’s not like they’ve figured anything out. “What have you done to my team?” I ask him, only half amused. “These aren’t the people I was forced to work with a year ago. They’re starting to act human and quite frankly, it scares the shit out of me.”

    Crawford flicks me a look of tolerant amusement at my words and we finish our meal. Nagi isn’t around to clear the table so I empty my teammates’ plates into the trash and set the dishes in the sink for him to clean up later. When I have finished, Hoffmann is here, and Crawford moves to meet him at the door. Hoffmann doesn’t bother knocking. He knows we have seen him coming and he expects the door to be open by the time he reaches it. He is not disappointed, and Crawford acknowledges his appearance with a small murmur. Hoffmann investigates our place with a critical eye, sliding past Crawford to come down the hall. I step into the doorway of the kitchen, offering my own greeting, and he doesn’t bother to respond as he looks past me to the kitchen. After a short glance he turns to study the den.

    “What a pitiful little place,” he says at last, looking towards Crawford.

    “It is more than sufficient for Schwarz,” the precognitive answers. “We do not require excessive luxury.”

    Hoffmann glances over his shoulder at me. I remain silent, keeping my eyes pointed at his elbow. He studies me for a few moments in silence before finally beckoning for us to follow and stepping into the den. He seats himself in Crawford’s chair and the two of us take the couch, a cushion between us. Hoffmann notices the space and I see a smirk pull at his mouth. For some reason it doesn’t bother me, probably because I know that this separation isn’t permanent, that with some work I could fix it.

    “Your telekinetic is quite amusing,” Hoffmann says at last, slouching backwards in the chair and folding his arms loosely over his chest. “His aura is very different from anything I’ve felt from him before.”

    “Adashi hurt him,” Crawford answers easily, voice smooth. There is no hint of disapproval in the words; he is merely stating facts.

    Hoffmann’s smirk widens, a slow stretching of his lips. “I know,” he says simply. “I felt it.” Neither of us have anything further to say to that. Hoffmann tilts his head to one side. “And your beautiful Irishman…” he murmurs. “I noticed that you kept him from me three and a half weeks ago. An honest reason for that?” He arches an eyebrow at Crawford.

    When he says honest, he means that Crawford can tell him the truth without editing any offense from his words. It is rare that he asks Crawford that, and I know he doesn’t extend the favor to anyone outside of his Five. “He grows unstable after his sessions with you, Mister Hoffmann,” Crawford says. I wonder how he might have worded it otherwise, a reason without insinuating that Hoffmann was troubling Schwarz. “He is harder to control.”

    “But Aine helped.” He sounds amused. His gaze shifts to me; I can feel that heavy stare. “You finally figured it out, Mastermind… I could feel it in you that day. That’s two of Schwarz now that are tangled up with my Five.”

    “I think I have been untangled, Herr Hoffmann,” is my smooth answer.

    He laughs at that, amused. “Indeed.” He considers us for a moment before finally getting to the point of this visit. “Back to your telekinetic…” he says, reaching up to push burgundy locks out of his face. “Enlighten me. I am quite curious to know what Schwarz’s interest in Schreient might be.”

    “Masafumi was salvaged with the Council’s order and permission. Schreient was saved in case they might still be useful. Chizuru is one of Rosenkreuz’s.”

    The smile Hoffmann turns on Crawford is cold. “And Tot?” he wants to know.

    “Nagi was chosen to be the go between for Schwarz and Schreient, monitoring their progress. Schuldich and I were occupied with Takatori and Nagi’s powers were not required. Apparently Tot interested him. I did not see any reason to restrict how many times he went to the hospital. I thought perhaps it would be profitable.” Crawford tilts his head to one side, seemingly unbothered by Hoffmann’s careful scrutiny. “She is ready now, isn’t she?”

    I wonder what he’s talking about, but don’t move my gaze from where I’m studying the doorway. It has to be a question based on a last minute vision or he would have cleared it with me. Hoffmann makes a quiet sound in his throat, reaching up to rest his laced fingers on top of his head. “Almost,” he drawls. “You never did figure out her mind, did you, Mastermind?”

    I had guessed he would know I rooted around in her; now I wonder if he’s going to react negatively. “No, Herr Hoffmann.”

    “The Takatoris were always important to Estet,” Hoffmann says, looking from one of us to the other. “Takatori had political ambitions and they thought that perhaps they could use him to gather power in Japan. He was the second one of the family to be considered, however.” He’s telling us things we have already figured out, but we listen in silence anyway. This has to do with Tot. Our questions over that blue haired girl might finally be about to be answered. I wonder why he is telling us. He would only share such information with us if we’re about to become useful again. Our little break is over…Soon we will be trying to pull the future out of whack again. “The most important was his second son, a genius. They used him to try and create a formula for immortality. They gave him the starting nudge and left him to figure out the rest on his own.”

    He lifts his shoulders in a shrug. “What he never realized was that the formula wasn’t really what he believed it was. You saw the results of it?”

    “It created monsters,” is Crawford’s easy answer.

    “It did. It was missing one key piece, one key ingredient that needed to make it complete. It was forever incomplete, which was why the test subjects kept mutating. The created monsters were not the end goal of the formula; rather, the formula was meant to open the doorway to a psychic demon. Masafumi did not know this, nor did he have what he needed to close the gap between what he had and what we wanted from him.” He considers this a moment, then lets a cold smirk pull at his mouth. “But he did have the piece all along.”

    “Tot,” I say, moving my eyes from the doorway to the arm of Hoffmann’s chair.

    “Such an ugly little girl,” Hoffmann says. “Such a twisted and broken spirit. Do you think I did that to her, Mastermind?” He cocks his head at me. “She was like that when we found her. I did what I did to her to salvage what was left. Crawford’s precognitive predecessor told Estet to keep an eye out for her, but when they finally found her she was not at all what they expected her to be. She was a broken doll, broken by a strange power too great for her to handle that rests in her soul. You ordered Prodigy to be the go between for Schwarz and Schreient. I am not sure what his presence has done to help, but somehow he is putting back together a soul that we needed fixed.”

    The news is unwelcome; the thought that Nagi and Tot’s strange interactions and courting is all for the Council’s benefit is not something I ever wanted to hear. I make a mental note to give Crawford a savage kick in the ass later. He saw that something would come out of it but not what, so he took a chance on it and sent Nagi to her. Now look!

    “She is the final ingredient. The blood and power that courses through her veins will make the formula complete. She is not there yet. Prodigy is to continue seeing her until she is completely back together.”

    “The ceremony will be soon, then?” Crawford inquires.

    Hoffmann gives a slight shake of his head, lifting his hand to point at me. “Estet will have the formula, then they will need the means: a mind that is broken enough in just the right places who can be a vessel for the power. It has to be someone specific. The Elders are going to send in people looking for the right girl, their own virgin sacrifice of sorts.” The words bring an amused sneer to his mouth. “When the formula is ready, they will start searching for her. But while the Elders have power and while Estet dreams of it, they cannot sense true potential as well as Schwarz can. That, Mastermind, is what you will be doing.”

    I don’t quite understand. “Herr Hoffmann?”

    “You will aid them in their search, finding minds that have the potential for power. Not Talents, but someone who can accept a rush of energy. Even the slightest chance is acceptable. The world is overpopulated as it is and the Elders don’t care how many people die to get what they want. You will help them with this; it is what they have requested of you.”

    I consider this for a long moment and nod to show him my acceptance.

    He rises to his feet and we stand as well, following him towards the door. His driver is still waiting in the car that brought him here and we stand at the doorway until he is gone. As soon as his car has faded into the distance, I cast Crawford a hard glance and thin-lipped, humorless smile.

    “I knew that damn fluff was going to cause us problems.”


    Tot doesn’t belong to Schreient. She is a separate entity from them, a possession of Schwarz’s now. Or rather, Nagi’s personal possession. He was not at all happy to hear that the girl he is so interested in is really such a key player for Estet and Rosenkreuz. We always knew she had to be important but we hadn’t figured on this. Despite his uneasiness, however, he cannot deny that he still wants to see her. It isn’t like he could avoid her now, anyway, not with Hoffmann ordering him there. Farfarello was less than pleased to hear it. He has always been against Tot, has wanted her death since the first time he saw her. It puts him and Nagi at odds. Whatever strange connection brought Nagi under Farfarello’s protection when Hoffmann visited ten days ago is gone. Farfarello has dark thoughts surrounding the blue haired bunny girl and despite the truth of her, Nagi can’t keep himself from defending her from Farfarello’s bloody promises.

    Schreient is up and about again, free to do what they wish for the time being. We have no work for them yet so they wander where they want, and where they want happens to be wherever Weiss is. They want revenge for their beloved Masafumi, and they scheme at how to get back at the four who supposedly took him from them. Hoffmann told Schreient they were to get their approval from us first, something none of them were happy to hear. Chizuru announced their intentions to kill Weiss with a stiff back and hatred in her eyes, and Crawford dismissed her with a careless wave of his hand. They have been following the white assassins, searching for an opportunity to strike as they dream up countless ways of revenge. I spare them just a little of my attention, not really caring what they do and not believing they’re enough to take out the white group. I wouldn’t bother with them at all except that Crawford doesn’t think we are done with the other men yet. I was surprised to hear that Weiss might still be useful to us; I had figured Fujimiya’s usefulness would stop with Takatori’s death.

    Besides the occasional check up on Schreient, I have been helping Estet’s three representatives as they scour Tokyo for an appropriate vessel. Whatever Nagi was supposed to accomplish with Tot seems to be done. There is very little remaining of the girl that we first met, and the girl Nagi has managed somehow to pull her in to is almost tolerable. There’s some intelligence there and I wonder what she would be like if the power had never shattered her in the first place.

    So the three draw her blood, with Schwarz standing silent witnesses in the background and Nagi standing as emotional support to Tot’s side, and finish the formula Masafumi dedicated so many years to. Every batch of girls they find is injected with some of the serum. They are given a day or so to adjust to having the power and chemicals twisting through their bloods before the three set them on fire. The four of Schwarz watched the first time, out of idle curiosity. None of the girls survived; they all burned to ash. Farfarello watched them burn with fingers tugging restlessly at the bandages on his arms, thinking of Aine and her second exit from his life. It isn’t like before, when she left Japan. He knows she is still here, knows that she is just a handful of hours away. It frustrates him, that she is so close and he can’t see her.

    I contemplate what his reaction will be when I tell him the unwelcome truth about Aine as I wander idly around Ikida’s office later that week. The doctor is working on finishing more serum samples. Estet’s three showed him how to mix the blood and formula and it has been Ikida’s job to keep at it. I am here to collect the samples. The third burning is tonight but there isn’t really point in going. The samples are for the next batch of girls that we find. And so it is that I’m there when Chizuru comes storming through the doors with a girl held limp in her arms and a triumphant, mad gleam in her eyes.

    “Ikida!” she barks out, and he looks up from his work to see what she wants. He is not fond of Schreient at all; he rather dislikes them. His total disgust for Tot has slowly melted into interest as he watched her soul put itself back together under Nagi’s attention, but the other three are useless and he does not like wasting his time with them.

    I look up from the files I had been rooting through and blink in surprise when I see who Chizuru is holding. I know that girl…

    In the background of my mind, I can see a dream, can hear a horrified boy’s screaming, can remember my own unheard whispered words to a tormented samurai.

    “Find a new toy to play with?” I ask Chizuru, arching an eyebrow at her.

    She flicks me the barest of glances. “Ikida, get her hooked up. Took her from another hospital and she’s having trouble staying alive on her own.” She gestures to the small mask she has pressed over the girl’s face. I’ve seen the image of the sleeping girl enough times that I know she is supposed to be hooked up to machinery. I think of Crawford when he was ill, the wires going everywhere like snakes, and wonder idly what it would have been like if he had been lying sleeping for years instead of a month, if I had not had telepathy to talk to him in that time.

    Ikida moves over to her, easing the girl out of her arms, and carries her back to the ICU. Chizuru and I follow, and the woman stands beside Fujimiya Aya’s bed with a sneer on her face. Ikida works quickly, asking a few questions about the girl’s condition. Chizuru doesn’t really know. She didn’t care to find out. I answer his questions telepathically with the flat warning not to share with Schreient’s haughty leader. He doesn’t question me but uses my responses to make sure the girl is stabilized. When he is done he straightens and fixes a level look on the woman on the opposite side of the bed.

    “I want an explanation,” he says simply.

    “I want you to baby sit her for a little while,” she says, reaching down to run her fingernails roughly over the girl’s cheek. “She is Fujimiya Ran’s brother, and the most precious thing in the world to him.” Satisfaction lights her gaze. Her words mean nothing to Ikida, who has no clue who Fujimiya Ran is or why he would be in any way important. “He will pay for what he has done to Masafumi, and this is how he will pay.”

    I reach out for Ran’s mind. He left Tokyo after Takatori’s death. Weiss was disbanded. I watched over them our first few days under house arrest, a silent witness as they gathered their things and went their separate ways. I find him now at his place by the sea, find him just as he finds out his sister is gone. I let his chaotic, agonized thoughts beat through me and turn thoughtful green eyes on the girl before me. How curious, that this girl is what brings him to us a second time… It was revenge for her the first time that made him useful for us. I wonder if there is any significance about her second entry into our lives.

    Ikida arches an eyebrow at Chizuru, unimpressed by her words. “I should not have to waste my time with your foolish quest for revenge,” he says. “You have to have a better reason for that if you want me to look after her.”

    Chizuru frowns at him, unable to understand why someone wouldn’t think revenge for Masafumi was important. Hoffmann twisted her good; she can’t see past it. She struggles to think of a reason and I step forward from the doorway at last, drawing both pairs of eyes to me as I approach the bed. I move up alongside Aya, reaching down to brush her bangs out of her face and run my fingers down the red marks on her cheek. Out of curiosity, I reach out and touch her mind.

    It feels like the ground is dropping out from underneath me. It is not like the black hole of Hoffmann’s mind; it is weaker than that. This girl’s mind is completely empty, shut down by her catatonic state.

    She is…exactly what Estet needs.

    I have been in and out of several hundred minds in the past week, searching for any potential to work as a power vessel of sorts. The girls I have found so far do not compare to the girl that is lying here. Whereas they had a sliver, this girl’s entire soul has paused, so that the only thing keeping her breathing are the machines. Somewhere inside she might still exist; somewhere she might not. There is the dimmest thrum of a mind against mine but there is nothing inside of it.

    This is Estet’s girl. I wonder what terrible star Fujimiya Ran was born under to be so completely fated to this confrontation with Estet and Rosenkreuz. We need him still; he is tied to us and our future. This is Estet’s girl and until we can find a way out of it, we must give her to them. Ran will die for this girl. He will throw away everything he has and everything he is for her. When we find our chance to turn against Estet and Rosenkreuz, he will be there. I suppose it is a very good thing I let him live last time.

    Ikida and Chizuru are watching me still, Chizuru with distrust and Ikida with a small frown on her face.

    I straighten and turn to Ikida, a lazy smirk on my face. “She’s cute,” I tell him. “Let’s keep her.”

    He raises an eyebrow at me but I don’t bother to explain myself further, instead sauntering out of the room. I find a magazine on his desk and pretend to read it. After a while Chizuru leaves, going to find the rest of Schreient and gloat, and Ikida returns to his work. He gives me a piercing look that I ignore before finishing up the serum. Now and then I turn the page, but my mind is circling around that dead soul just a few rooms back. Finally the doctor is done and he brings the case of liquids to me.

    “Keep them here,” I tell him, tossing the magazine carelessly aside. “We won’t be needing them.”

    “Is that so?” he searches my gaze. I let him see nothing but cold amusement, offering him a toothy smirk.

    ~Weiss is going to come for Estet’s representatives,~ Crawford tells me.

    /Let them die,/ I answer easily. /We have exactly what we need right here. I’m coming back now./

    “Keep the girl alive, Ikida,” I tell him, turning and starting away. He says nothing to me as I leave, but I listen to his thoughts spin in slow circles as he tries to figure out how that vegetable of a girl could be somehow important to Schwarz.

    One day, maybe I’ll tell him everything.

Part 19
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