Ageha arrived at the park a little past nine in the morning. ‘Morikawa Park’ was the only thing written on the slip of paper. Kaika did not specify the time so he decided to go at the start of business hours, like he usually did for work. Kaika, sitting on a bench, was already there. Saya was seated on the stone rim of a water fountain a fairly large distance away. She wore the same uniform as yesterday and was pretending to read a newspaper.
His approach caught Kaika’s attention.
“You look surprised,” she said.
“About me being more punctual than you or about Saya’s reading spot?”
“I’m surprised you came earlier than I did, but that has nothing to do with punctuality since it’s still morning. The latter is downright shocking.”
Kaika was now within arm’s reach. He peeked at Saya. The newspaper visibly jerked.
“It’s a show of good faith.”
“I didn’t think you were this much of a risk taker.”
“It depends. Some risks are worth it, proven by how amicable you still are. Anyway, take a seat. We have a lot to talk about.”
She patted the spot to her right and pulled in the skirt of her plain white one piece to create space. On her head was a straw hat, which was a little too large for her tiny frame. Ageha decided to follow her suggestion but sat down a foot away from the spot she specified.
“Why did you kill my father?” She was not looking at him.
“Because he was threatening the owner into selling Sapore. He planned to demolish it and build a new building on the land.”
“…What?” Kaika slowly turned her head and looked at him in utter disbelief. “Are you stupid!?”
Ageha was silenced by her sudden outburst.
“You killed Karasuma Nikaido because of something so irrelevant!?” Her mask fell apart.
“I know you feel wronged-”
“Of course I do! He was mine!” shouted Kaika with hatred.
Ageha immediately understood that her hatred was two-pronged. It was directed at him, but the majority of it was pointed to, or rather rooted in, Karasuma. He dusted off his memories of that night and everything clicked into place. The guards approaching Karasuma, the girl’s rouge smile, and her current rampage all led to one conclusion.
Seeing what appears to be a spat between the two, Saya stood up. Kaika, without looking, raised her left hand and signaled Saya to stop. Saya slowly sat back down without removing her gaze from the pair.
The two on the bench kept silent for a short while.
“I’m sorry,” said Ageha.
“For what.” The question lacked the typical inquiring intonation. Her severe expression was swapped with a stoic one.
“For stealing your enemy and for not being able to offer reparation. I can’t give you my life, and I assure you that’s the only way you can take it.”
She seemed surprised at his reply, but quickly recovered her calm after a few breaths. She gave him a calculating look and said, “I don’t want it, and you are able.”
“Blackmail? It doesn’t suit you.”
“How rude. Call it a partnership.”
“I’m not interested.”
“Let me ask you something.” She calmly deflected his refusal. “Why did you kill my father?”
“I already told you.” He gave a puzzled yet resigned look.
“No, I mean why did you do it?”
The unmasked killer wrestled with her question for a moment.
“It was unfair. The people who work there do not deserve to get thrown to the curb.”
“Nothing as noble as that. I just fix things I don’t like when I see them.”
“Does your fixing always come with a splash of red?”
“I told you it was nothing noble.”
“Perfect. Our interests overlap.” She showed a satisfied smile. She took off her hat, as if alluding to the seriousness of what comes next.
“What do you mean?”
“I want to get rid of certain people who lack that fairness. …I can’t stand to let them keep doing what they want and hurting others in the process.” She aligned her beautiful, black irises with his. She firmly closed her lips and looked at him with sincerity.
Ageha, however, was not fooled. He detected the slight pause in her normally eloquent speech and the increase in eye contact. Both were hardly noticeable but still signs of lying.
“Lies aren’t helping your case.”
Kaika showed a look of surprise, sighed, then grinned. “I can’t believe you saw through that.”
Ageha received the praise with a grain of salt, but he still accepted it.
“Okay, I’ll level with you.” She shifted her body to face Ageha’s. “My life is in danger. There’s a battle for the inheritance of my father’s assets. The prize is very important not only monetarily, but also politically. This is because of his position as the majority shareholder and CEO of the Nikaidou Group of Companies, better known as NGC. I have two older brothers and a younger sister, but I was designated by my father as his successor due to my ability.”
“I can see why.” The line escaped from his lips before he caught it.
“Thank you.” Savoring the comment, she closed her eyes and beamed.
“It wasn’t praise but fact.” He sighed internally, realizing how much difficulty he was having trying to handle the capable little demon.
“I don’t want the inheritance. I hated my father and wanted him gone, but I don’t need any of his baggage. No one cares about that, though. My brothers want me dead or under their control to make sure that I’m out of the scene. I’m taking great risks coming out to see you.”
“You want me to be your bodyguard? I don’t do things like that.”
“I thought so, which is why I won’t ask that of you. I have Saya anyway.”
Ageha nodded at the last comment, remembering her whip-like roundhouse kick.
“I need you to eliminate certain obstacles so that Saya can be less tense. She has been on edge all the time recently. It’s affecting my mood.”
The butler sneezed.
“Why would I do that?”
“Because you get to help me!” She puffed her chopping board chest out and smiled proudly.
Ageha began standing up to leave. Kaika hurriedly tugged on his sleeve and said, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.”
He plopped back down. He denied the notion that her charming appeal made him do so.
“Think of this as a part time job. You can still continue to do what you want in your off hours. In exchange, you get resources.”
“Money, transportation, information, information control, and ARMS.”
Those were exactly what he wanted. The last one was especially attractive since it was offered by the de facto owner of NGC, which was known for its cybernetics. However, nothing was as suspicious as a good deal.
“…I only kill a certain kind. I don’t do it for profit.”
“I assure you that you’ll be provided comprehensive information on each target, and you’ll have a choice of whether to do it or not. How’s that?”
Ageha fell silent for a while. He then decided to ask about what bothered him the most. “Why me?”
“You foiled my plan, even if inadvertently. Technically, you exceeded it with only your stealth and combat skill. Chalk it up to my arrogance.”
It also took a lot of preparation, you know.
The temptation to accept the deal threatened to overwhelm him, but he resisted. He could not trust the girl’s words. He needed to have more reliable information before making a decision. He considered asking for time.
Before he could open his mouth, he saw Saya break into sprint towards them. He immediately readied himself to intercept her, but he noticed that her focus was not pointed at him but at something behind the bench. He ducked to avoid the flying kick which broke the jaw of the man standing behind them.
She sure likes that spot.
The man’s approach was soundless. Saya only caught it because of her position. Ageha surveyed the area and saw two more men running towards Kaika. One wore a grey beanie while the other boasted a pompadour and dark sunglasses.They looked like gang members or thugs. The one wearing the grey beanie came from the left of the bench and was closing in on her.
“Kaika, get down!” shouted Ageha.
“It’s Kai!” said the girl after diving under the bench.
Ageha jumped over her while raising his right knee. The thug crossed his arms and blocked the flying knee but was still blown over ten feet backward. Ageha realized that both of the man’s arms were cybernetic from the contact. He looked to the left and confirmed that Saya had already engaged the third assailant.
Convinced that Saya could handle a single man, he refocused on the thug with the beanie and ran towards him. Using the force from Ageha’s attack, the thug had rolled backward and managed to create a fair amount of distance between them. He had already recovered and taken a boxing stance. Ageha braked a few feet away from his target. The thug slowly closed in by bounce-stepping towards Ageha. Ageha abruptly took a large step forward, surprising the thug with both his randomness and speed. He then feinted a right straight, prompting the thug to raise his left arm to guard. This obscured the thug’s left side vision. Ageha took advantage of this and delivered a low kick that shattered the thug’s shin bone. Ageha finished his assault by grabbing the thug’s head with both hands and slamming it into his left knee.
Still holding the thug, Ageha turned his head to check on the others’ situations. Kaika had run towards the fountain to distance herself from the combat. Saya was about to deliver an axe kick to her kneeling opponent, but the man with the broken jaw was already upright and approaching her from behind.
These guys aren’t ordinary. Standing up after that taking that much damage…
Warning Saya would make little difference because she was already locked into her kick. Ageha quickly realized he had the perfect solution in hand.
Saya’s heel struck her opponent’s skull, robbing him of consciousness. Immediately after that, a man wearing a beanie came hurtling towards her direction, flying through the air like a pitched baseball. She could not react due to her incredulity and the speed of the phenomenon, but she was not hit. The human projectile passed just beside her and smashed into the thug about to ambush her.
Both Kaika’s and Saya’s eyes widened like saucers, but Saya quickly recovered her senses and jogged to her mistress to check on her condition.
After the commotion, Saya told Ageha that she would call the authorities and moved a few feet away while whipping out her terminal. Kaika approached Ageha and silently stared at him in wonder.
Ageha gave in first. “What is it?”
“I thought you weren’t a bodyguard?”
“I didn’t intend to be. My body just moved by itself because of the danger. I’m just glad they weren’t carrying any weapons.”
“They were probably kidnappers that my brothers sent to force me to relinquish my succession rights. And ARMS are considered weapons by law, you know.”
“Yes, but if they had guns, this wouldn’t have ended well.”
“Really? That flashy stunt you pulled suggests otherwise.”
“I didn’t mean to be flashy. I had no choice. It’s not like it was my first course of action.” He smiled wryly.
“You had a choice, a choice that probably only you had, and you took it.” Kaika returned his smile without the sarcasm. A shade of pink appeared on her cheeks. “Thank you for protecting Saya… and me.”
Ageha did not know how to react to such direct gratitude. He felt a strange mixture of embarrassment and pride. It was not a horrible feeling.
“You should probably get going. I’ll tell the police that Saya defeated all of them.”
“Thanks for that.”
“Please consider my offer carefully. Rest assured that it’s mutually beneficial.”
Ageha turned around to leave. “I will.”
“He’s a monster,” said Kaika. She made the same smile she had displayed when covered in her father’s blood.
“I have to agree.” The stoic butler closed her eyes as she recounted the events that occurred a short while ago.
He pitched a man. Both of them thought of the same seemingly absurd thing.
Kaika and Saya sat in the back seat of an armored limousine. The privacy window was up. They had left the scene after Saya’s subordinates arrived in several cars to pick up the men she and Ageha had incapacitated.
“How much of his body do you think is ARMS?” Kaika asked her butler.
Saya had extensive cybernetics installed, so she was a good source for an estimate.
“I would say both arms, both legs, and the muscles that support them.”
“Isn’t that practically everything that’s possible with NGC’s current technology?”
“Technically, it isn’t possible because the person, having so many ARMS installed, would go insane from the pain during the nerve connection and realignment process. Anesthesia is not an option because the person’s feedback is necessary to establish a successful connection.”
“An iron will… Resolve perhaps?” said Kaika under her breath.
“This was a dangerous and costly plan. We should have just hired actual thugs instead of using some of our best men.” Saya rubbed her temples as she contemplated the expenses this show incurred.
“That wouldn’t work.”
“I know you wanted to test his ability, but losing those three-”
“I didn’t want to test his ability, Saya. I already knew he was capable. Well, not this capable, but I digress.”
“Then what was the purpose of wasting our human assets?”
“This wasn’t a waste. It’s called promotion. We get a queen for the price of three pawns.”
“He was more of a knight than a queen, though. I guess your gamble paid off.”
“It wasn’t exactly a gamble. I wouldn’t have signaled with my hat if he could have been bought with money.”
“…I see. You having formidable enemies and me being unable to protect you by myself stimulated his sense of justice.” Saya nodded twice, realizing Kaika’s true intentions.
“His motivation is nothing like that. He’s merely killing for his own pleasure. I do like the fact that he knows it.” Kaika chuckled with an expression of someone tenderly stroking a pet cat. She gazed out the car window. “He’ll say yes. And I’ll make sure to use him like I use anything. Brightly until it burns out.”