Part Four

    A sharp poke against Nagi's cheek brought him back out of the darkness of sleep and he found himself staring groggily up into a pale face. The close presence had his gift erupting out of him, but as soon as the telekinesis passed straight through the other, he woke up enough to remember what was going on. He started to lurch up from the mattress to put space between them, but the smallest flinch told him he hadn't been poked by a finger- instead, a knife point was digging into his cheek.

    Seemingly satisfied that Nagi was up, Farfarello drew the knife back and nibbled lightly on the edge, tasting the droplet of blood he'd drawn. "Shower," he said around it, and he pointed to a basket near the door. "Those are yours."

    "I don't think-"

    "Don't," Farfarello interrupted him neatly, and then he clarified: "Think. The Mastermind is awake and waiting to see if you rebel." He drew the edge of his blade across his palm and pressed the bloody skin to his lips. "He is hoping you resist. He is bored."

    Nagi didn't know who "Mastermind" was, but the words were enough of a reminder that Crawford had promised him to Schuldich's nonexistent mercy if he tried to fight them this morning. His stomach felt like he'd swallowed a hot coal and he carefully slid off the bed. Farfarello wasn't waiting for a response but had started for the door, and Nagi wondered if that meant he was supposed to follow him. Lead feet took him to the doorway and he paused there to look in at the basket. He expected guns and knives and other such things considering what they wanted from him, but all he saw was a neatly folded towel and some toiletries.

    Farfarello was already gone, so Nagi picked up the basket by its handle and moved cautiously into the hall. The wraith was further down the hall, staring into another room, and Schuldich came into the doorway to show off his latest attempt at getting dressed. The red jacket and yellow pants were bright enough to ensure that Nagi's day started off with a migraine and he flinched back further into the room before Schuldich could spot him. The telepath seemed distracted by Farfarello, however, who simply lifted a foot and pushed him back into his room with it.

    "Try again," the pale man intoned. Schuldich's response was muffled but the aggravated tone was clear enough, and Nagi braved another step back into the hall. Farfarello didn't look his way but pointed, and Nagi sneaked towards the door he thought Farfarello was indicating.

    He felt an overblown sense of relief when he realized the door led to the bathroom and he shut the door quickly behind him. Slightly unsteady fingers turned the lock into place and he leaned against the door to look around. It looked… normal. Bigger than the one at his place, surely, but still too normal to belong to such horrifying people. It was almost annoyingly clean, to the point that it looked more like it was a picture from an interior decorating magazine instead of a place people actually used, but the hint of dampness in the air told him someone had already been through here this morning.

    He double-checked the lock before setting his basket down on the stool for washing. His clothes were peeled off and set carefully to one side to be worn again and he eyed the lock a third time before stepping into the tub. The shower head was already up on the higher notch, the perfect height for him but likely still too short for the others' heights, and he reached into the nearby sink to start the water. He could hear noises through the wall where the bathroom and Schuldich's bedroom were connected and he kept his eyes on the bathroom door as he showered.

    He dried off and dressed in the bathroom, trying to ignore the still-wet feeling that lingered when dressing in the humid air, and put his basket back together. He listened for voices in the hallway before undoing the lock, but the door only made it a few inches open before he realized there was someone waiting for him.

    A shoe kept him from slamming the door in the German's face and Schuldich offered him a smile that was all teeth. Nagi's gift didn't work on the telepath but it should work on the door, except white fingers appeared on the wood before he could cut Schuldich's foot off with it and the door wouldn't budge under Nagi's gift.

    Without his gift to back him up, it was too easy for Schuldich to shove the door open, and Nagi was sent stumbling back. Farfarello and Schuldich gazed in at him and Nagi looked from one to the other. At last Schuldich's mouth quirked into a scornful little smirk.

    "He still smells like a street rat," he commented, and he vanished further down the hall.

    "Change," Farfarello told him, and he followed after.

    "Change?" Nagi echoed, trailing behind him into the hall. "Into what?"

    His question was ignored and he sent a mean look down the hall after the two. The rumble of a voice told him Crawford was up and in the kitchen and Nagi's fingers twisted along the handle of his basket. Schuldich vanished into the kitchen but Farfarello stopped in the doorway to listen to what Crawford said, and then he looked back at Nagi.

    "We're leaving in three minutes. Be ready."

    He didn't say 'or else'. He didn't have to. Nagi darted back into the bedroom and came to a jerky halt when he realized there were clothes on his bed. He set his basket down and draped the blanket over the baseboard of his bed to try. A push of his gift shut the bedroom door and he changed as quickly as he could. His hands were shaking as he slipped the last button into place and the door shuddered as someone kicked it in a warning.

    "I want to wake up," he whispered.

    -Coward,- Schuldich's voice mocked him.

    "Fuck you," he flung at the door. It swung open to reveal Farfarello, who didn't look overly impressed. Nagi flinched so hard he popped two of his buttons out of place and he jerked his stare away from Farfarello to fix them. Light glinted off Farfarello's blade in his peripheral vision and it was all he could do to stand his ground as Farfarello started towards him. Breath hissed through his teeth as the older man caught his wrist around his already-forming bruises from yesterday and he hurried to keep up with Farfarello so he wouldn't be dragged to the door.

    Schuldich and Crawford were waiting at the entrance and the telepath's smile was pure disgusted mockery. "Oops," he offered Nagi.

    "We're leaving," Crawford told them, and he turned and stepped out into the hall. Schuldich followed and Farfarello shoved Nagi after him as soon as the telekinetic had his shoes on. The taller man was just a second behind in following him, stopping long enough to turn off the light and tug the door shut behind them. A flight of stairs led to a partially underground parking garage and Nagi was relegated to sharing the backseat with Farfarello.

    He froze outside the car, staring at the other two as Schuldich slipped into the driver's seat. "He's driving?" he asked. "He's blind."

    "Partially blind," Farfarello answered. "Get in."

    "You're insane."

    Schuldich offered Crawford a sharp smile. "Two minutes," he said. "That's all I need."

    "You're not finished draining," Crawford answered, climbing into the passenger seat.

    Schuldich's face twisted at that retort; Nagi watched anger dance across his features before it was forcibly squashed. He glanced towards Farfarello as if looking for support, but the wraith just flicked his fingers in dismissal and got in the car. Schuldich bared his teeth at the car before looking towards Nagi.

    -Get in the car,- his voice came, a flat order, and Nagi tensed in reaction to it. -We're leaving. Get in the car now.-

    Nagi could just stare at his hand as it reached for the doorknob. "What are you-"

    -Get in the car and shut up. The file for today's job is on the seat. Read it. Get in.'

    He didn't have much of a choice. His body was listening to Schuldich's annoying voice despite his attempts to recoil away from it and he had just tucked his leg in when Schuldich kicked the door shut. It hit his elbow and he swore at the pain, glaring forward at the driver's seat as Schuldich got in at last.

    "What was that?" he demanded, shaken but focusing on the pain to hold onto his anger and courage.

    "Telepathy," was Farfarello's bored answer, and he pointed at a folder on the seat between them.

    A heavy gaze distracted Nagi from the file temporarily and he looked up to see Crawford gazing back at him from the passenger seat. Nagi's mind refused to believe the so-called precognitive was blind; that stare set every hair on his body on end and it was enough to make him forget about Schuldich for a few seconds.

    "I trust you will behave today," Crawford said simply.

    Nagi couldn't answer. Crawford gave him just a few moments to come up with something and then looked away. Nagi could breathe again and he pressed a hand to his stomach to try and stop it from shaking so hard.

    "I'm going to be sick," he noted.

    "You won't," Crawford said simply.

    There wasn't really a way to argue with something like that. The key turned in the ignition and Nagi choked back on the panic and fury that twisted in his throat. He couldn't see a way out of this yet, but that didn't mean he wouldn't find an opening. As long as his gift was broken by Farfarello, the only thing he could do was play along. But playing along meant…

    His mind flickered over the memory of his parents' bodies, shredded by thick claws. He could still hear blood dripping from the countertop to the floor.

    "Today's job is not assassin work," Crawford spoke up, and Nagi was startled out of his thoughts to stare at the back of the other man's head.

    "It's not," he echoed.

    "Oh, we'll kill him in time," Schuldich purred as he eased the car into the street. "If you'd read the damn file like I told you to instead of wallowing in self-pity back there, you'd know." Nagi was feeling recovered enough to kick the back of Schuldich's chair. "Real fucking cute," Schuldich told Crawford. "When we get back-"

    "Focus on the job," Crawford told him. "You need to finish draining."

    "Like it'll make a difference," the telepath sent back with a scowl, but he fell quiet and focused on the road.

    It took a few moments before Nagi could look away from the front two to consider the folder. The announcement that there wouldn't be any murdering today made it easier to reach out and pick it up, and he flipped it open to find a stack of papers. The first sheet was a profile, with a picture of their client and what was noted as "public information". He appeared to be a district manager for Moritsume Industries, a small film company. The numbers were boring and Nagi barely skimmed them; he didn't care how many employees it had or how many shares were on the market.

    The second page was a file on his family, briefly profiling his deceased wife and estranged daughter. The third was a list of his colleagues within the industry, most of them marked with notes like "See Corresponding File". The fourth listed his colleagues and allies in society in general and most were marked similarly. A brief note by each in slanted Japanese gave an idea of what sort of relationship the manager had with each man or woman, noting alliances, hostilities, and shadowed dealings.

    The fifth page was what caught Nagi's attention- a picture printed on the page was of a bloody child corpse tied against a bed, limbs splayed every which way.

    "What-" he asked, startled into speaking.

    "Kurogawa has hobbies," was Schuldich's amused drawl.

    "Every file you will be dealing with as one of Schwarz is divided into two sections," Crawford said. "The first half is what the public knows and accepts. The second half explains why he is of any interest to us."

    "This interests you?" He choked on the words, trying not to get sick around them, and turned the page over quickly. The next one was a dated report in that same handwriting but he couldn't focus on the words enough to read them.

    "District managers of film companies don't have a need for Schwarz's talents," Crawford answered, as if it should be obvious.

    "Kurogawa made a mistake," Schuldich chipped in, still sounding far too amused for Nagi's stomach to handle. "That girl happens to be the step-cousin to one of the drug lords in Fukui, here visiting friends. Apparently Kanazawa doesn't think his cousin looks good in red." Schuldich was distracted as Crawford lit a cigarette in the passenger seat and he made a pinching motion at Crawford. Crawford ignored him until the telepath said "Mine." Crawford glanced his way and held the cigarette up, and Schuldich reached over to take it from him. Crawford lit another one for himself and a press of a button rolled down the front windows enough for the smoke to escape. "Now we're keeping Kurogawa alive."

    "Why?" Nagi demanded.

    "Don't ask stupid questions."

    "Why would you protect someone like this?" Nagi looked over at Farfarello, but the foreigner was ignoring his outrage in favor of toying with the five knives he'd set in his lap. Nagi remembered the moment in the hall last night where Farfarello had almost traded him to Schuldich for a knife and he dragged his eyes back to the file. His mind couldn't grasp the way theirs worked and he was sickly relieved to realize that. "Why?"

    "He has paid us a substantial amount for our services," Crawford answered.

    "You disgust me," Nagi whispered.

    "Says the whore," Schuldich returned easily.

    "You accepted the offer," Nagi snapped, driving his foot into the back of the driver's seat again. "I didn't mean to go through with it but you did. You followed me into that alley to get what you could and leave again, and that makes you a fucking pedophile."

    "You're not a child," Farfarello reminded him again.

    Schuldich's smile was wicked in the rearview mirror. "Kurogawa will like him just the same."

    "You are not to absorb Kurogawa," Crawford warned Schuldich. "I want you where I can see you at all times."

    "And the noose tightens," Schuldich drawled.


    "I heard you," the telepath sent back carelessly. "It's a fucking chorus on repeat in here. Drain this, absorb this, don't absorb that… I know the routine by now. But I warn you, Crawford, if I start absorbing that mouthy jackass, we're going to have a problem." He gestured over his shoulder towards Nagi and Nagi glanced towards Farfarello, wondering if the madman had any idea what was going on.

    Farfarello's smile was small and a tad bit malicious. "Too late," he murmured.

    Schuldich twisted in his chair, forgetting completely about the road, to turn a livid look on his shorter teammate. He needed no words; that look said it all. Nagi flinched back under the pure acid in the other's eyes but Farfarello didn't seem to notice. He just offered his teammate another look at his smile and turned his attention out the window.

    "The road," Crawford reminded Schuldich, and at length, the telepath twisted around again.

    The rest of the ride was silent.

Part 5
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