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Hush

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OOC: Private RP between myself and Kyo.


 

 

HUSH

 

The bedroom was dark, no sunlight reached it's featureless walls or plain wooden flooring. A body stirred in the sheets, disturbed by the sound of the television at the other end of the room. The reporter was stood in front of a group of high-rise flats. In the background, police swarmed to cordon off the area and gain control of the crowd. Something had attracted their attention, dozens of the crowd had phones trained at something on the ground, obscured by the body of the reporter.

"The security minister, Nori Masahiko, spoke in office today to assure citizens that this is an isolated incident." She was smiling, but her eyes were serious. As she spoke, the camera cut to footage of the minister addressing press. Minister Nori seemed confident and decisive, but questions levelled at him seemed to frustrate. 

"We've dispatched a Handler to deal with this, it won't be long before we get results, I assure you." He banged his fist off the podium to punctuate his resolve.

"Minister!" Shouts began, at first an indistinguishable noise, but one voice managed to find a foot hold, "Minister! Do you deny that these killings seem to fit the pattern of the Butcher of Zone 06?!" As the man asked, a floating camera rushed towards the minister's face and it's lens focused.

The minister's face tensed and he shook his head, "Albeit the presentation of the crimes are similar--"
"--the bodies are torn apart and scattered across a large area?" One of the press clarified, making Minister Nori cringe. 
"--though similar..." He continued, "We do not believe that it's the same person." 
"But it's a Bakemono, surely?!" A woman yelled, holding her palm facing her, a small hologram of a pad hovering above it, taking notes automatically.
"The involvement of a Bakemono is all but confirmed," The minister nodded, "No human being is capable of this level of brutality."
"Off." A voice in the room growled. 

The television turned off with a click and as the room lit up, it seemed to shift. It was no longer grey and drab, as the lights shone down on the room, it had turned into a traditional Japanese home, complete with screen doors, tatami mat flooring and all the bells and whistles.
"Gooood morning, Nagai-sama!" A chirpy voice rang, as it's owner, a holographic woman with the body proportions of a chibi cartoon and dressed in a French maid's uniform floated across the room and patted the bed covers, "Wakey wakey! Breakfast is ready! It's a brand new day!"
"Get lost, would ya." Nagai growled, pulling the covers around him.

"It's time to get up, Nagai-sama! Your boss, Masao Ko, sent you a message," The little holographic woman paused, clearing her throat for effect, then when she spoke, it was his boss. A recorded message. "Nagai! Get up! You're back on duty, i've rescinded your suspension given recent events, and you have a new Handler. His name's Tanaka Tatsuma, he's an experienced Handler, so go ahead and try something, any excuse to activate your collar and throw away the chip." The message ended and the hologram's chirpy voice returned. "So wake up, Nagai-sama!!" 

Nagai grabbed his pillow and threw it across the room, it whipped through the air like a brick but passed harmlessly through the hologram and hit the far wall with a thump. "Fine!" He barked, and kicked his covers off and sat up in bed, yawning. Nagai was a man in his mid-to-late twenties. He was very thin, average height but he was quite striking. His skin was unblemished by sun, he had long black hair, tied into a ponytail at the back, loose down to his chin at the front, and shaved across most of the left side of his head. He had piercings along his ears, on his lip and left eyebrow. But most striking about him was his eyes. Apart from his iris which was a vivid red, his eyes were entirely black. Sclera, pupil and all. He was naked save for a thin band of black metal fit snugly around his neck, like a collar. Once he was up and about, showered and dressed in a pair of black jeans and a plain white tank top that showed his arms covered in tattoos from shoulder to finger tips, he sat down to his dining table and stared at the food on his plate.

 

It looked like a breakfast roll. Egg, bacon, sausage, onions. "Hey, uh..." He examined it, sniffing the contents thoughtfully. 
"Boss says you can have something else when you come upstairs, okay?" 
Nagai shook his head and sighed, then grabbed the breakfast roll and consumed it ravenously. Once he was done, he stood up, grabbed a short black leather jacket and pulled it on and then walked out the front door, "Later!" He called, and as the door hissed shut behind him, the room he had been in vanished back into grey as the hologram unit displaying the traditional Japanese home deactivated.

 

Nagai walked straight out onto the ground floor of the Special Enforcement and Tracking Services (Better known as the S.E.T.S.) building. The branch of the government that deals in the identification, assessment, holding and if need be, termination of Bakemono. As a broad definition, Bakemono are creatures that have a wide variety of races and classifications, but in essence it is a term that identifies anything as 'not human'. The news often says they live in an enlightened time. A time of unprecedented medical, scientific and technological advances. But there is one thing that humankind does not acknowledge, and that is it's second-class citizens. Discrimination is alive and well in this 'enlightened age', only for most, skin colour, gender, age, sexual orientation - these things are of little concern. Bakemono literally means 'monster', and that is what humans have always referred to as anything non-human. Most people would identify Nagai as a Bakemono by his eyes. He was a rarity, but his race was one of the most feared. Humans called them 'Ghouls'.

 

"Mornin', Ayumi!" Nagai called to the woman behind the reception desk. She was a beautiful young woman with a curvaceous figure and long dark hair. She saw Nagai and scowled at him, "What?!" He frowned and then grinned at her with wide, predatory eyes and she shook her head and went back to addressing the man in front of her. Nagai's grin widened and he stood on the escalator that brought him up to the second floor. The building was busy on most days, but today it seemed like utter chaos. The news story he'd half-heard while waking up seemed to have everyone in a mad rush. Was it really that serious? Seemed like any other killer to him. What was the big deal?

 

"It killed the Mayor's daughter!" Masao Ko yelled at him, "That's why!! Just tore her apart and left her there." 
"Huh..." Nagai frowned, scratching his chin. 
"Don't 'huh' me, Nagai, you piece o' shit, give me something more than 'huh' or--"
"--alright, alright!" Nagai waved his hand at his boss and walked to the far wall where holographic monitors displayed the images of the body, "Looks like a lot..." He muttered, licking his lips thoughtfully. Masao ground his teeth impatiently, "So, who's this Handler then?" 
"He's your senior, he's your superior, he's your Handler. That's all you need to know. What about the images?!"

"Looks like her body is intact, in a manner of speaking." Nagai looked back at Masao with a grin, "But, some of her organs are missing. Unless they're pulp, I don't see a heart, or lungs, or liver." He noted, pointing at certain areas of the images. "Which means, either they took the organs, or--"
"--they ate them."
Masao Ko and Nagai both turned at the sound of this new voice. Nagai saw a man in his late thirties, with short scruffy dark hair and a dishevelled appearance. He didn't look like a SETS agent, never mind a Handler. He looked the man up and down and then shrugged his shoulders and looked back at the screen, ignoring him. "They could have taken the organs for any reason, I don't see any signs of feeding in these pictures. Maybe we should see the body first hand, hm?" Nagai looked back at Masao with an expectant smile. His boss snarled but then looked to the Handler, which led Nagai's eyes back to him as well. "How 'bout it... partner?" Nagai said the last word mockingly and smiled.

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Tanaka Tatsuma was sitting alone in one of the booths of a small cafe called Orais. He was warming his hands over a cup of black coffee, wearing a dark grey shirt with a slate tie hanging loosely from his neck, a long coat of matching colour was lying in a heap on the tacky red faux-leather of the booth's seat. Orais was decorated with a holographic design of a Parisian cafe, no doubt a vibe to complement their excellent coffee. He lifted his hand and ran it through his unruly, dark hair, before reaching for his breast pocket and retrieving a single cigarette. He placed it at his mouth and inhaled, the end of it lighting up without need for a flame. It was, of course, an electronic device that had been made to look like a cigarette, but he knew what he was inhaling was the vapour produced from a synthesized blend of chemicals designed to mimic the feelig of smoking, but this method was much safer than real tobacco, a substance that had been illegal for quite some time now. 

 

He smirked briefly at the thought that this little device was much like himself, a mimic. For all intents and purposes it was the same as the real thing, but in reality it was simply a pretender. Tatsuma was a pretender to the human race. He had watched them his whole life, so much so that he had learned to make the motions expected of him in order to fit in with society. He had been watching the other patrons of Orais during his visit. A couple sat at a table nearby, talking quietly to themselves. What they were saying was of no importance to him, after all most people were liars so he found it poor practice to trust anything that came from their mouths. Instead he would simply make observations about them to uncover their story. 

 

The couple were young. The man was well dressed, a professional. His posture was relaxed. Considering Orais was not the cheapest of places, Tatsuma could assume that the couple were not struggling financially. The young man was also smiling, genuinely. A real smile has nothing to do with the lips, and has everything to do with the eyes. Most people can force their lips to smile, but most lack the skill to hide the real expression shown in their eyes. It only took a few moments for Tatsuma to see that this young man was content with his life, and as a result everything about him became like an open book. His posture was relaxed and welcoming, his smile was out for all to see with nothing to hide. The young woman, however, was a different story. 

 

She was also smiling, but her eyebrows were drawn up, showing ones in the know, like Tatsuma, that there was sadness lurking within her. Her posture was an attempt at being relaxed, but relaxation is difficult to mimic, because the very act of forcing yourself stops you from being relaxed. She fidgeted with the ring on her finger, and she was unconsciously leaning away from the man she was sat with. Throughout their conversation she never once looked her partner in the eye, and she was always touching her face, subconscious attempt to conceal it. This was an emotion Tatsuma understood very well, despite never experiencing it himself. Guilt. 

 

With this information it would be quite easy to speculate what was going on. The woman had betrayed the man somehow. Chances were high that she had been unfaithful. However she could have also been careless, and gotten them in to debt. Either way the woman was to blame, and she knew it. Had she planned to leave the man, or grown to dislike him, then she would have exhibited other traits such as disgust. To find out more he would have to probe, but that was where he would draw the line. It was not his place to actually do anything about this, he simply enjoyed observing people. It was how he liked to pass the time, and keep his mind in the game. He was a Handler for SETS, and soon he would be meeting his new Hound, a Bakemono named Nagai. 

 

Tatsuma had read his file. A human, once upon a time, now turned Ghoul. Responsible for the death of several members of his family, apparently through negligence rather than intent. It was nothing he hadn't read before. It seemed somewhat typical for Bakemono to lead tragic lives, and the ones who became Hounds were almost guaranteed of it. He pulled back the sleeve of his shirt to reveal a thin, silver band around his wrist. Almost immediately a sequence of tiny laser-like lights glittered from the bracelet and formed a holographic interface above his wrist. He pulled up a media file and allowed it to play, the audio set to be heard only by himself. 

 

Tatsuma watched carefully as images of a mutilated corpse flashed across the small screen. Next was the news footage of security minister Nori Masahiko. He didn't bother to listen to his words, he had watched the video before, and he found a scripted public statement to be all but useless when he was investigating. Instead he watched the man himself. As the questions continued the expressions of stress on Masahiko's face seemed to drastically worsen. Tatsuma noted the clenching of the jaw before answering, the way he glanced at the reporters screamed of contempt. A fairly common reaction to the press, in fairness. 

 

"The involvement of a Bakemono is all but confirmed," The minister nodded, "No human being is capable of this level of brutality."

"Lie." Tastuma said, shaking his head and turning off the video. Humans were capable of untold brutality, Tatsuma knew this from the bottom of his heart. However he could tell by the minister's expression that he had also known that, and he had simply lied. He didn't judge him though. It was a necessary lie when dealing with the public. It wasn't indicative of the truth to condemn all unspeakable acts to that of the Bakemono, but it was the simplest solution to keep the public from becoming more panicked. He drained the last of his coffee and grabbed his coat, standing up and throwing it over his shoulders as he went to leave. It was time to work. 

 

---

 

Masao Ko was speaking to someone as Tatsuma quietly entered the room. They were talking about the case. The young man with the tattoos he recognised from the file he had read. It was his new Hound, Nagai. He decided to wait and listen to what he had to say. 

"Looks like her body is intact, in a manner of speaking." Nagai looked back at Masao with a grin, "But, some of her organs are missing. Unless they're pulp, I don't see a heart, or lungs, or liver." He noted, pointing at certain areas of the images. "Which means, either they took the organs, or--"

"--they ate them." Tatsuma said, finishing the sentence. 
 
The two men looked at him, suddenly aware of his presence. Nagai looked away, somewhat disinterested, and then continued his train of thought. 
"They could have taken the organs for any reason, I don't see any signs of feeding in these pictures. Maybe we should see the body first hand, hm?" Nagai turned and looked at him expectantly, whilst Masao Ko gave a contemptuous snarl. "How 'bout it... partner?"
 
"Mm...so we're letting them play detective now, Ko?" Tatsuma said, ignoring Nagai. 
"I was just familiarizing him with the case." Masao Ko replied. "Besides, if the culprit is feeding then who would know him better than another Ghoul?"
"Him?" Tatsuma asked with a raise of his brow. "I didn't think we'd identified the gender of the killer. I'm fairly certain something like this is well within a woman's capabilities."
"Don't be a smartass." Masao Ko growled. 
 
Tatsuma didn't reply, and instead he reached for his wristband again, and with a few gestures the display projected on to the blank wall of the office. The display was something akin to a murder board. On it was a photograph of the victim, as well as evidence files including the news report from the minister. Over the section marked "Suspect" there was nothing. He cleared his throat and then gestured to the board. "What we're dealing with here is a show off. The extravagance of the scene, and the public status of the victim both point to someone who was looking to make a show of him or herself. This was no crime of passion, it is a deliberate attempt to provoke fear within the public. Forensics will be able to tell us if any organs are missing, and if that's the case then we can look in to the how's and why's."
 
Tatsuma turned to look at Nagai and paused to observe him, assessing him carefully. "We need to interview the witnesses, as well as the Mayor and his family. Before that, however, we need to take a walk through the crime scene." He turned for the door as the holographic display disappeared, and he stopped at the threshold of the office, waiting for Nagai to follow. 

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He looked Tatsuma over for a moment and yawned, "Fine, fine. Sounds like fun." As Nagai left the office he heard Masao call after him.

"12-hour pass, Tatsuma! Nagai has to be back here before then!!"

"Or what?" Tatsuma asked. "Make the leash any tighter and the dog might just bite you, you know?"

"I had a dog once. I loved it, fed it, cared for it, and I thought it loved me too. Then one day, it turned and attacked my young boy, he had to have re-constructive surgery and an eye transplant." Masao eyed Nagai, "Loving the thing won't stop it biting you. At least with a leash, it has a range."

"Hm," Nagai grinned and held his arm up to wave goodbye as he left, "Later," He chimed, and started down the steps. "So..." Nagai began, as he reached the ground floor and started across the foyer, "What are you?" He asked, pushing his hands into his pockets. 

"Just a man, nothing exciting." Tatsuma replied. "and you're a Ghoul, according to your file at least. I suppose that makes you an ideal Hound."

"I've read the file on Ghouls." Nagai grinned and shook his head, "Subject has increased sensory acuity, physical capability and possesses ability to manipulate body to unknown lengths." He paused as they reached the car park, "Increased aggression, ravenous, urgent need to consume human flesh, bite and blood are both infectious. Then it just goes downright rude." He laughed, "Something about rampant disregard for life. That's rich, coming from a human. Anyway, you're not human. Humans don't hold my gaze. You? You're just wearing a human, like a bad Halloween costume." Then he added without pause, "So which car's yours?"

 

"Black sedan." Tatsuma said as he nodded to the car a few yards from them. "Comes with the job. Get in." He added before unlocking the car and stepping in to the driver seat.
"One of the many benefits," Nagai replied sarcastically, pulling himself into the passenger seat before slamming the door shut behind him. "So, what made you want to become a Handler then, hm?" Nagai looked him up and down once more, "Don't look like one." He leant in close and sniffed, "Don't smell like one. Don't even act like one. Last Handler shocked me first time he met me just to show he could. But anyway, he was an asshole, so I ate him."

In response Tatsuma merely glanced at Nagai for a moment with an expression of mild amusement. Then he turned the ignition and the car started up. "People need jobs. And not everyone is cut out to be an astronaut, no matter how badly they might want it. At the end of the day, handling you is just a consequence of the job. I didn't exactly fight for the privilege."
Nagai made a quick, irritable sucking noise off the roof of his mouth, "You're no fun." 

 

The car pulled into the apartment complex's parking lot, most of the crowd had dispersed, but the stragglers who teetered precariously on the edge of the holographic tape warning them to remain on the other side, saw renewed curiosity in their arrival. Nagai got out of the car and immediately beelined for the corpse. As he crossed the hologram a warning sounded.
"SETS Tracker, 'Nagai'. Handler must be present."
"Blow it out your ass..." Nagai muttered, crouching over the top half of the girl's body, he heard a countdown but ignored it. He looked at the girl's eyes, there was fear and pain, but also shock, as though she couldn't believe what was happening. She probably knew her killer. Nagai took a deep lungful of air, tasting the metallic copper scent. He could feel his mouth watering. "Oi, Tats... Tats..." Nagai frowned, the man's name escaped him. "Look here, look at her face." Then he reached over, dipped his forefinger into her torso and pulled out a sticky, red finger and sucked on it thoughtfully. 

 

"Please don't tamper with evidence." Tatsuma said in a tone of mild annoyance as he joined Nagai. He examined the girl but didn't seem terribly impressed by anything. "Quite an honest display of emotion left. Fairly typical in such a scenario."

"But i'm hungry..." Nagai replied in a whiny tone, he smacked his lips and pulled out his cleaned finger and then stood up, "Well, my assessment is... She's dead. Deader than a can of spam." He grinned at Tatsuma then looked back at her body and smelled the air, "Perfume, blood, sweat, piss and something else..." Nagai curled his nose in confusion and bent back down. "I don't..." Then the mutilated girl's head jerked forwards and she stared directly at him, "Ah! AH!!" Nagai recoiled in terror, falling over himself to get away from her. The girl's mouth opened with a croaking sound and something black surged to get out. Nagai continued yelling as he tried pulling himself to his feet in an attempt to get away from the moving head, then the black mass in her mouth unfurled and a large black beak poked it's way out of her mouth and wriggled free. Nagai stared in dumbfounded awe as the bird - a raven - fell onto the pavement, bloody but otherwise unharmed. Flapping its wings, the raven hopped a few times and then took off into the air. 

 

"Hmm... Definitely a show off." Tatsuma said, apparently unfazed by the unfolding events. "We should sweep the area, try to reconstruct what happened." He then messed around with his wristband for a moment, before a small holographic video played back on his wrist that showed Nagai falling back in fright as the raven emerged. He gave Nagai short glance. "For evidence." He explained.

"My ass..." Nagai muttered, picking himself up, "Anyway, you missed the point. He's not showing off. Anyone can put a bird in a corpse. That wasn't just any bird. That was a raven. Ravens are symbols of death. They were linked to battlefields, picking from the corpses of fallen soldiers. I think it's a message." Then he shuddered, "A fucked up message." He shivered again, but his eyes were focused on her corpse, "Exactly how much of her is evidence and how much of her could just, y'know, could I just take a bit...?"

"No, you can't." Tatsuma said. "And yes, it may very well be a message, but my point still stands. This was a premeditated murder, and the killer wanted a scene. We can speculate a lot of things with that information, but we should gather all the evidence we can before we decide."

"You didn't even let me tell you the message..." Nagai muttered irritably, his gaze lingering on her remains. "What's the point in bringing me if you won't even listen to me. You're so unkind." He shrugged his shoulders, "And she's not even the mayor's daughter any more, she's just a girl-shaped chunk of meat. Why do people care so much..."

 

"Because as you just witnessed, there could be many more clues connected to this corpse, and losing them could cost the case." Tatsuma said. "Now if you have something to say about this message then just say it. I cant say I'm particularly worried about the threats and promises of lunatics at any rate."

"Killing someone doesn't make you a lunatic." Nagai corrected Tatsuma, "I think people just like to say that it does, because it makes them look like a moral person. He's not making threats or promises. He's exposing her. Ravens pick at the corpses of soldiers on the battlefield. Soldiers are killers. I think the killer is hunting others like himself, maybe out of a sense of justice, or revenge. Also, i'm hungry. I'm hungry Tatsuma!" Nagai said as though he was having a child's tantrum, then stood up and strode towards the crowd of onlookers. 

"Suck it up." Tatsuma said with a shrug, "My last Hound wasn't such a baby. You have a lot of growing up to do, and you need to stop jumping the gun. Killing someone doesn't make the killer a lunatic, but the fashion he or she has done so is... quite pointless, and will likely be the reason we make an arrest. No sane person goes to such great lengths, at such great personal risk."

"You're wrong!" Nagai yelled over his shoulder as he stopped in front of the crowd of people and looked them over. Most of them took one look at his eyes and quickly left, it happened so fast that only one person remained as the crowd dispersed. A young man in his teens, he stared at Nagai with a look of shock and surprise etched on his face as the two of them locked eyes.
"Yo!" Nagai grinned at the man, nodding. The man froze for just a second longer, and then he was off. Sprinting at a breakneck speed. "Oi, Tats! What d'ya think, innocent until proven guilty?!" He called to Tatsuma, and laughed. "That's fine. I like chasing things." Then Nagai reached up and grabbed his shock collar, and without resistance, it clicked open. Nagai removed it and let it hang loosely from his fingertips. "They shouldn't a' given me so much free time." His grin widened, then he dropped the collar, turned and started running. He was like a blur, and he'd cleared the parking lot before the collar had even hit the ground. 

 

As he ran, Nagai opened his mouth into an excited grin, but his teeth were no longer human in design, he now had the smile of a shark. Gone were the flat, grinding teeth of an omnivore, his mouth was now full of fangs, teeth designed for slicing through meat and shattering bone. He turned a corner, and could see the boy running at the far end of the path alongside the apartment buildings. The boy looked over his shoulder just long enough to see Nagai behind him, surging towards him like a bullet cutting through air. The boy let out a startled scream and redoubled his efforts, but Nagai wasn't panicked by the boy's youthful speed. He was faster, and he knew he wouldn't tire. Sweat did not bead his forehead, and his heartbeat remained steady despite his feet beating across the pavement.

 

A few more feet ahead was a short, hollow concrete block, filled with soil and a small shrub. Nagai veered towards it, leapt forwards and spring-boarded off the edge of it, soaring up into the air. His jacket ruffled behind him as he came down towards the boy, who looked over his shoulder as he reached the end of the path, and saw nobody behind him any longer. He let out a deep breath, but immediately drew it back in in sheer terror as Nagai landed within arm's reach. The boy instinctively threw a punch, and Nagai stopped himself mid-sprint, on a dime. Then jerked his head back, the punch missing him by an inch. Nagai frowned at the boy, then grinned. His grin spread to a laugh to the point at which the boy found himself stood before Nagai, frozen by fear and confusion. "Alright... I reckon you have about ten seconds before a Sedan pulls up and a humourless funpire - that's a fun vampire, they suck fun - gets out, and shoots me. But before that happens, if you don't tell me who you are, and why you ran, i'm going to eat you. Only a little, so you become a Ghoul, like me, and then you can work for the funpire."

"M-my name's Cho. I'm her classmate."
"Thanks!" Nagai grinned, then surged forwards, grabbed the boy and whirled around to face Tatsuma, using the boy like body armour. "Ooo, hey, Tats. Fancy seeing you here, me and Cho are just havin' a chat. Why don't you go back to the car, and i'll finish up." Nagai gave Tatsuma his best 'you can trust me' winning smile - albeit with a mouth full of fangs - and tightened his grip on the boy's throat. 

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Tatsuma was smoking his e-cigarette as he made the short walk to reach Nagai. He observed the scene with the same cold, detached expression, aside from a mild flaring of his nostrils which revealed his annoyance. "Let's not beat around the bush here." He said as he reached in to his jacket and retrieved a handgun from the holster strapped to his chest. The pistol was made of silver metal with a black metal grip, coated with a dark green anodised grip. The barrel thick and bulky, with a thin strip of green led light glowing across the side. It was a government issue EXT-19 Hand Cannon, the standard weapon of choice for people in his line of work. The pistol itself was loaded with highly destructive hollow point round designed to combat the more dangerous threat of a Bakemono. However it was also equipped with a electroshock pulse function, for a non lethal approach. However the key feature of the fun was the built in threat detection software designed by the Security Division of the government. 

 

"I'm sure you know how this works." Tatsuma said, and he held the gun as if presenting it, rather than pointing it right at Nagai. "The EXT-19, often called the Equalizer. Based on the current scenario, it is likely that the threat detection system will consider you an individual who deserves lethal force, whereas this bystander here would be considered non-hostile and the pistol would be unusable. Perhaps if you were very fortunate the Equalizer would only authorise non-lethal force. However the system in place is quite flawed, for example it is unable to understand the potential value of this bystander to our investigation. It is quite likely that the system would authorise for me to shoot through this bystander in order to put down a highly dangerous individual like yourself." He took another pull of his cigarette and exhaled, the vapour swirling around his head. "However if I point this weapon and the assessment is made, I am duty bound to follow through with the order. So tell me, am I going to have to do that?"

 

"Hey, you talk a lot when you hold a gun." Nagai sucked in air through his lips and looked at Cho for a few thoughtful moments, "That thing only every says 'kill' when it looks at me."

"That probably isn't far from the truth." Tatsuma said with a nod. "Listen to me carefully, Nagai." He made a point of looking directly in to Nagai's eyes. "You said earlier that no human would hold your gaze, and yet here I stand as evidence to the contrary. The reason for this is that I don't particularly care about your propensity to commit crimes. Unfortunately it is my job to ensure that you don't, and I do not compromise when it comes to by work ethic. You have keen senses, if you choose to utilise them properly you can be a great asset. However, if you would rather just be a dog on a leash, I can work with that just as well."

 

"Crime?!" Nagai spat, laughing. "You think humans don't look at me because I commit crimes? What's my crime?! I eat to survive." He shook his head in disbelief but took a deep breath and relaxed his grip. Cho quickly wriggled free and ran to Tatsuma, leaving Nagai facing him without a shield. Nagai patted his chest, "Well come on then, see if you can shoot faster than I can reach you. Then you can sleep at night knowing you did the right thing, huh? What are you waiting for?!"

"I think I was quite clear that I would rather not shoot you." Tatsuma said. "Point your grudge against the world at someone else. I have a job to do and I intend to do it. It would be a lot easier on everyone if you did the same. There are advantages to playing the game to a degree. At any rate there is nothing I can do to change your situation, other than offer you the easiest solution. I'm glad you decided to take it on this occasion." 

 

Tatsuma turned to Cho and grabbed him firmly by the arm. "I am going to be placing you under arrest now. You will be taken to the station for questioning and if you cooperate fully then, if you have done nothing wrong, you will be free to go. If you don't resist then I can leave the cuffs off. Do you understand?"

"Y-yes." Cho muttered, looking back at Nagai. "But I haven't done anything wrong?"
"Tch!" Nagai growled and shoved his hands into his jacket pockets, and walked back to the car, muttering, "The easiest solution would be eating you and migrating to somewhere with beaches and babes..." As he opened the passenger-side door he called over his shoulder, "Runners are always guilty!"
"Mm." Tatsuma agreed to himself, "Guilty of what, though?" He added as he followed Nagai to the car with Cho, and led the young man in to the back seat and closed the door. He then got in to the driving seat himself. 
 
As he started the car he turned to Nagai. "When we get back go get something to eat." He said. "SETS provides for you, right?"
Nagai stared out of his side window, "Mmh... no." He replied, "When you're done questioning the kid, I get to eat him."
"W-what?!" Cho squeeked. "I-I...!!" 
Looking over his shoulder, Nagai grinned wickedly at Cho and closed his eyes, pleased with himself, "Gotcha!" He chimed, and then settled back in his chair.
"So you've got jokes." Tatsuma said. "Good to see it's not all self absorbed whining and acting out."
"Oi, Tats?" Nagai shifted tone, he sounded serious. His eyes focused off on something distant outside, "I hope you never know what its like to feel a ghoul's hunger. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy..."
 
Tatsuma shook his head, but chose not to continue the conversation. He didn't respect excuses very much, and that was how he saw this, right or wrong. It was true that Nagai's need for human flesh went against the values of human society, for obvious reasons. However Tatsuma saw it differently. Nagai was an animal who was depriving himself of what he needs. The reasons for this could be many among Ghouls. Perhaps they feared the penalty for feeding on humans, others might have tried to hold on to their humanity as much as possible, and for those like Nagai who were under constant watch, it was challenging to truly keep your hunger in check. He understood that it was not easy, but then life rarely is. For Tatsuma, if a being is not willing to do anything for the sake of their own survival, then they deserve all the pain that they bear because of it. It was not a conversation that he wanted to have with Nagai, as it would be unlikely to reap any benefit for either of them. 
 
Regardless he was much more interested in the leads they had established on the case. The young boy, Cho, he held valuable information. He wasn't guilty, at least not in the way Nagai had implied. He was far too cowardly, too genuinely afraid and surprised by what had happened. He didn't fit the profile at all. This boy wanted nothing more than to fade in to the background. The killer was the opposite. He wanted them to see what he had done. He wanted people whispering and gossiping, and he wanted people to be afraid. If killing was an art, then this killer was an artist. 

 

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The car pulled into the SETS parking lot and Nagai, Tatsuma and Cho all got out. Nagai shoved his hands into his pockets and eyed the building with a vague disinterest before walking towards the large double doors, "Hey," He called back, "I'm hungry, i'll be seeing ya." He started up the steps.

"I'll take this one to booking." Tatsuma replied and went to lead Cho off, but stopped short and turned back to Nagai. "Oh, and I'll be reporting your malfunctioned collar. Be sure to get a new one." He added.

"Tch," Nagai scowled at Tatsuma, then entered the lobby and looked around. The lobby had quieted since the morning, a lot of the SETS agents were out on various cases. Nagai crossed to the elevator and pressed the button. He tapped his foot impatiently as he watched the hologram display show the elevator passing each floor.

"Yo, Nagai!" The voice was familiar, but he tried to ignore it. "Hey, wait for me!"

Nagai pressed the elevator button again, and again. But as it lowered to the ground floor, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Then another. Then another. He turned around to see a man, who wasn't really a man. He looked humanoid, but he was almost eight feet in height and had three unusually long arms on either side of his body. Arachnae. Despite the name, they really had nothing to do with spiders, but the name had been coined based on their limb count by a no-doubt unimaginative scientist. Unfortunately, most Arachnae are on record and live poor lives. They're not a predatory species, indeed they're quite docile and compliant. But they're not human, so they're a threat. Nagai hated them, they were so cooperative and cheery all the time, despite their lot in life. Who's like that? 
"Didn't you hear me?"
"Itsuki - hey." Nagai muttered in response, not really answering him. The elevator doors whooshed open and they both stepped inside. Itsuki had to bend down to get inside and crouched as Nagai pressed the button for the sub basement. A woman was running for the elevator and so Nagai held the door open for her. But she slowed to a stop when she saw Itsuki, and then, his own eyes. She politely shook her head and took a step back.

"Plenty of room, Miss! I'll budge up." Itsuki offered, pressing himself up against the wall of the elevator. 
"Save it." Nagai growled, pulling his hand back inside the elevator and pressing the button for the sub basement again. "Don't do them any favours." He shook his head as the doors closed and the elevator began to descend. It only took a few seconds before the elevator dinged and they both got out.

"You haven't eaten yet today?" Itsuki probed delicately. 
"Meant to, something came up." Nagai quickened his pace, Itsuki easily matched it. 

"Oh, y'know i'm on shift today, you don't have to run." Itsuki smiled at Nagai, brushing his short brown hair out of his face. Itsuki was a man in his thirties with chubby, pink cheeks. It made Nagai think of someone who was out of breath from running, but that couldn't be the case with Itsuki. Arachnae have arms long and powerful enough that they can walk on them, even to the point of covering great distances. They're one of the few that can outrun a ghoul, even at full sprint.

 

They walked down a long, dark corridor. Lights dotted the edges until the room opened out and a large cage lay before them. Behind it, were thousands of boxes and objects and all manner of things. Itsuki passed Nagai and pressed in a keycode to the door, stepped inside and locked it behind him. Nagai walked up to the window and sighed as Itsuki picked through dozens of forms.

"Hurry it up. I need to eat." Nagai tensed his jaw unconsciously.

"Ah here, just fill this out and--"
"NOW!!" Nagai snapped, his mouth was full of fangs when he barked at Itsuki and he grabbed hold of the wire mesh like a trapped criminal. Itsuki jumped back in surprise and disappeared into the warehouse and a moment later came back with a small brown package. He cautiously laid it down on the reception desk and slid it forwards. Nagai quickly grabbed it, tore it open and looked at the contents. It looked like a piece of steak and a kidney. Nagai grabbed the meat and tore through it, devouring it hungrily within seconds. Itsuki swallowed nervously upon the realisation that Nagai wasn't wearing his collar. All 'predator' class Bakemono had to wear them.

"What?" Nagai asked, looking up. The lower half of his face covered in thick, sticky blood. 
"U-uh..." Itsuki reached under the counter and placed a fresh collar on the desk. Nagai stared at it spitefully, then eyed Itsuki who recoiled. Eventually he leant over and grabbed the collar and fitted it, it snapped shut and a woman's voice came through in a recorded message, telling him it had armed.

"Any more?" Nagai threw the bloody wrapper back at Itsuki who took it apologetically.
"N-no. You aren't cleared for double rations any more. Not after..." 
"Yeah, yeah." Nagai sighed, and wiped the blood off his face with the back of his hand and sucked it from his skin. The lower half of his face was still slightly stained pink. "I'm gonna head back up, figure Tats is gonna be talkin' to that human kid by now..."
"Tats...?" Itsuki frowned, "Tatsuma? Oh... yeah. Probably. Hey, what's he like?" Itsuki asked curiously. 
"Pain in my ass." Nagai growled back at the Arachnae, then waved goodbye. As he walked away, he added, "He's more like us, than them."
"Uh...?" Itsuki mused.

 

 


 

 

"Examination Room 03...?" Nagai muttered, repeating the instructions the receptionist had given him. He looked in through the window and saw a group of agents watching everything through a one-sided mirror. Classic, he thought to himself, with a smile. Then took the other door and walked in, Tatsuma was sat at the table, Cho sat on the other side, nursing a cup of tea between his hands.

"Yo!" Nagai waved at them, then repeated the gesture at the large window. He couldn't see them behind the window, but his delicate senses picked up the minute sounds of shouting and arguing behind it. They were angry at him, and that made him happy. "Got far?" He asked, drinking from a cup of coffee.

 

"Just getting started." Tatsuma said as he sipped coffee from a paper cup. His focus was on Cho who was sitting across from him looking decidedly nervous. "Alright now that the formalities are out of the way let me explain the situation." Tatsuma activated his wristband and a holographic display projected itself over the table in between them. It showed a slightly dated photograph of Cho, along with various pieces of information about him sourced from various databases, including his full name, place of birth, age, address and the school he attended. "This is the file we have on you." Tatsuma explained. "At a glance it's clear that you have no priors, and there is very little to suggest your involvement in any criminal activity whatsoever. However, your reaction to my colleague here earlier was suspicious."
Tatsuma gave Nagai a quick glance. "Now I understand that he is a little intimidating, but he is a professional, and his reaction to you was not without reason... I'm sure." Tatsuma raised his eyebrow at Nagai, awaiting an explanation.

"I was going to eat him..." Nagai replied. He heard uproar in the next room, but the two humans didn't react to it, they couldn't have heard. He grinned to himself, "Alright, alright." He muttered, taking a sip of coffee, "Most animals can sense hostility, intent to kill." Nagai explained, sitting down. He leant back on his chair and put his feet up on the table, taking another sip of coffee, "So can ghouls. The moment I touched her you--" Nagai stopped and his grin widened, "See, there it is again." He looked up and saw Cho's strained face, his jaw clenched so hard it looked like his teeth were going to shatter.
"Don't talk about her like she's nothing!" Cho yelled, standing up angrily. 
 
"I see..." Tatsuma said with a nod. "A kind of instinctual profiling. Humans have developed entire processes to observe and identify such characteristics... and yet you do so as second nature. Impressive." Tatsuma seemed intrigued by the prospect, but quickly got back on topic. He addressed Cho again. "The micro expression you just displayed indicates anger, but a righteous anger I suppose. However I am also seeing possessive overtones. Did you think of the victim as your property, Cho?"
"I-- No!!" Cho replied in an indignant tone, "I... I really liked Makoto, but..." He paused, "She never noticed me."
"I see." Tatsuma nodded. "And do you think she should have noticed you?" He asked, leaning in and eyeing Cho carefully. "Makoto was the mayor's daughter. A privileged young girl who was most likely quite popular. A wealthy family like that would allow for her to have the best leg up in this world, no doubt she would be a polished gem of sorts. Why would she pay any attention to one such as yourself, hm?"
"This is so boring..." Nagai groaned, rubbing his temples, "Why do humans persist with all this smoke and..." He looked over his shoulder and rolled his eyes at the mirror, "So she didn't notice you. Who cares, you're a nobody. You're not special. You're just an animal. An inferior animal that the female of your species didn't deem good enough. Get over it." Nagai focused on the contents of his coffee cup.
"I... but it wasn't like that. We were friends. She never used to date anyone, she always focused on her studies and then one day she just stopped all that, she stopped studying with me and started dating all these guys. But, never me..." Cho drew his cup close to his chest and took a sip.
 
"And how did that make you feel?" Tatsuma asked, as he leaned back on his chair and caught Nagai's eye, and gave him a little nod in a hope to explain to him that there was a point to all of this, and to be patient. Nagai raised an eyebrow in confusion and shook his head, but decided silence was best for the moment, and so returned to drinking his coffee.
"Angry... confused..." Cho muttered, "But I would never hurt her!" Cho corrected them quickly, "I just... sometimes I followed her, because I wanted to know what they had that I didn't, or... I don't know. It just wasn't like her." 
"I see." Tatsuma nodded. "So you resorted to stalking, which is a crime in case you weren't aware, because you felt that you had the right to monitor the life of Makoto, who is supposed to be your friend." Tatsuma pressed his fingers against the desk and slowly pushed himself up to his feet, an intentional maneuver to make himself look taller and more imposing to the young boy. He glared at him, flaring his nostrils, mimicking the subtle facial expressions that displayed broiling anger. "I've seen this behaviour before. You think that because you invested time and attention to this young girl, that you deserve her attention, that you have the right to know what she is doing at any given time." He was raising his voice, slowly and with a slight tremble to it. "I bet seeing her with other boys made you quite jealous. I can see it on your face now, at the mere mention of them you struggle to fight back that contempt you're feeling right now."
 
"I was jealous but..." Cho shook his head, "What does my jealousy have to do with it? I would never hurt her." 
"Oi, Tats," Nagai chimed in, "This kid ain't a killer. I know."
Tatsuma lifted his right arm and bashed it on the table in a closed fist, the outburst completely out of character. "And what would you, a Bakemono, know of the human condition?" He spat, before he locked eyes with Cho again. "Not once have I accused you of murdering our victim, and yet you constantly protest to your innocence. Not to mention the obsessive behavior, constant excuse making to justify your clearly twisted and criminal behavior. You are a slave to those nagging, ugly desires of yours. You are a dull and insignificant individual, embittered by your circumstance you think you deserve more. When you see those you feel less worthy of the prizes you seek suddenly just reaching out and taking them, such a thing would drive someone like you to pushing it just a step to far." Tatsuma leant over the desk to his face was mere inches from the boy. "In that moment you thought to yourself, 'If I can't have her, then no one will."
"That's not true!" Cho spat, freaking out, "I've always been her friend, not like the other boys! They just wanted to..." He trailed off, "But she was never with them for very long, and..." He fell silent and drank the rest of his tea.
"She's a killer..." Nagai's grin spread, "Hey, old guys!" Nagai leant back and tapped on the mirror, "I said she was a killer already, okay?!" He pointed at Tatsuma, "Sherlock Holmes didn't agree!" He chuckled to himself and drained his coffee, then threw the flimsy plastic cup at Tatsuma's head.
 
Tatsuma took one look at Cho, and he didn't need to ask him to confirm it. It was written all over his face. Tatsuma sighed and sat back in his chair. He took the e-cigarette from his coat pocket and gave it a few puffs. Then, in his usual calm manner, he turned to Cho and said "You're free to go." Cho looked at Nagai and Tatsuma, flustered and ashamed, stood and walked out. As the door shut behind him Nagai whistled loud and clear.
"Well... humans never cease to surprise me." Nagai laughed.
"That must be nice." Tatsuma said. "They almost never surprise me..." He took another puff, leaning back in the chair and looking up at the cold, diffused lighting installed in the ceiling. "Bakemono, on the other hand, are always surprising me." He said, and a hint of a smile formed on his face. "I may not be like most humans, but sometimes that has it's share of problems. I don't particularly care about investigating the dead. Whatever they were is now gone, so it seems quite pointless." He sat up again and looked at Nagai. "Congratulations, you caught a serial killer. It's just a shame you weren't the first. Anyway, as pointless as that may seem, it points us towards the one that's presumably still alive. A vigilante, it would seem. Told you our killer was a show off."
Nagai's grin spread further, "I was talking about you," He sneered, and then simultaneously stood and kicked out his chair. "So, we have two things to find then. The bodies of her victims, and her killer. I like simple, and this is getting dangerously complicated." Nagai sighed as he stepped out of the examination room.
"Perhaps not that complicated." Tatsuma said as he followed Nagai out. "A spree of murders, all of the victims young boys. No doubt there is already a case underway for that one, so we probably already have the bodies." He explained. "As for the vigilante killer, that's going to take some more legwork. Looking at the profile we've constructed, it's unlikely that this killer had any personal connection to the victim. If he did, then it would have only been recently, in an attempt to get close to her. We'll interview the family, and see if something sticks out."
"Oi, old guys!" Nagai opened the door to the next room, the group of SETS agents turned on him and a cacophony of complaints and shouting began. Nagai had to whistle in order to silence them, "What's the protocol for a Bakemono meeting the Mayor?"

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