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  • Writer's pictureHina Siddiqui

Aibō da kara: Because He is My (I am His) Partner - Part 2


This is a continuation from Part 1 of the story. I would have posted it all together for a really loving, long read, but apparently, this website ain't up to that yet. So, for a quick recap:

There is a blast

Division 1 is missing. Except for Kanshikan Yamako Uta who was conveniently in Yokohama at the time. But now she is stuck with the task of finding her team.

After discovering a trail of clues left for her by her team, and several disparaging monologues made in her head - which would essentially make them soliloquies, but that always makes me think of Hamlet and we do not have time to go down that rabbit hole, so we are sticking with monologue, okay - now where was I? Ah, yes, after clues and several non-sequitur flashbacks thrown in for aesthetic and whump value, Uta makes it to Musashino.

In the wilderness, she meets Kagari, has a heart to heart at gunpoint and is then led to an old house hidden in the middle of nowhere - because that's kinda charming. And creepy.

She goes in, has some very disturbing thoughts and lo and behold...


Oh, and before you go:


Trigger Warnings: violence, mentions and descriptions of sexual assault, torture, death and suicidal ideation, homophobia, violence, explosions, guns, blood, gore, burning, more blood, injury, serious injury, nakedness and did I mention violence?


The above has clearly been copy-pasted from the last post, so just roll with it, huh?



Chapter 4


02:16 PM, Masaoka Tomomi’s Safehouse


A single source of light shone through the translucent sheets. Slowly, like it was a secret she was spilling, Uta reached for the door. It slid away from her with a slight push. Making a soft scraping noise. The room beyond was empty of furniture. Just a single chair in the centre.


Tied up to that chair was Ginoza Nobuchika.


Hands and feet secured by what appeared to be the remains of his own shirt and a few other greying cloth pieces besides. The binding was by no means immaculate. But he was making no attempt to escape it.


His hair lay flat against his face. Glasses gone. He stared unseeing into a dark corner. His lips were moving. He was mumbling something Uta could not decipher. She could see bandages wrapped around his torso through his undershirt. More cloth. His knees were parted by the restraints. He was barefoot. Legs also bandaged. Forearms wrapped in gauze. Cloth, all of it cloth. A Neanderthal first aid attempt. Had they even sterilized the material before winding him up in it like one of those Egyptian things at the Tokyo Museum?


Uta spoke without meaning to.


“Nobuchika?”



Three months ago…


Hours later, when they are just about to leave another alert comes in for Division 1. The screen flashes:


Assault in Akasaka, Minato-ku


Masa-san, who’d rather be doing anything but paperwork, jumps on the information pouring in over comms.


“Gender undetermined. Attacked a female couple walking through the streets,” he says gruffly.


“Bludgeoned one and dragged the other away,” Kougami adds, “When they found the first victim, she said that the attacker said something about correcting them, one at a time.”


“They attacked because the women were… together?” Masa-san asks. He’s looking at Yayoi now, who is most definitely not looking back.


“There’s been an uptick in non-traditional relationships being approved by Sybil,” Kougami replies with a frown, “It stands to reason that there would be corresponding retaliation. After all, there will always be people who believe such things are unnatural” This time everyone resolutely refuses to look at Yayoi.


“And right when we were about to clock out too,” Kagari complains, to no one in particular. “It’s technically a missing person, let Division 3 handle it.”


“Division 3 is already out on call. Come on, time to earn our paychecks.” Kougami says as he stands and pulls his jacket on. Kagari sighs but stands as well. Everyone is getting ready for action.


Uta knows without looking that her partner is the only one who hasn’t moved.


Another alert comes in.


“Looks like the drones found the second woman,” Masa-san announces, stopping by the office entrance, “She was a few metres away from her partner. And dammit if Kou-kun wasn’t right… The perp sexually assaulted her, she was found with her skirt rucked up and underwear-


“I’ll take this one,” Uta says. Loudly. Then controlling her volume adds, “You guys clock out, I got this.”


“Ojou-san?” Masaoka says, with a slight smile, “You don’t usually volunteer for overtime.”


Uta opens her mouth not knowing what response she’s going to give. Ginoza still hasn’t moved. Yayoi is looking straight at her. Kougami is turning towards Ginoza. Uta makes an indeterminate sound. It’s not like she wants to volunteer. But she can’t let her partner take this one. Not after what Yayoi told her happened this morning. Perhaps not for a while to come. But it’s not like she can tell them her reasons either.


Another alert comes in.


“Let her take it,” Kougami says, cracking his neck as he steps to her side. The two of them standing next to each other block Ginoza from the view of the rest of their team. “The drones just cornered the perpetrator. Now they are simply holding them for an inspector to come perform the enforcement.”


“Ooh Yamako Kanshikan! What if it’s a lethal elimination?” Kagari asks, clapping his hands together once, “You’ve never done one of those, have you?”


“It will be a lethal enforcement only if the perp actually believes they have done something wrong,” Kougami says, his face just as impassive as if he were discussing dinner, “In cases of sexual assault of this sort the perpetrators are often under the impression that what they are doing is not only warranted but justified. If they don’t feel guilty, their hue might register clear.”


“Don’t worry,” Uta announces, “I’ll get them to confess. We have the crime on record, it’ll be enough to arrest them if not enforce.”


“You seem eager to take this one,” Masa-san says, “Is it because it’s personal?”


“Yeah, it’s personal” Uta stretches callously as she steps away, keeping Masaoka’s attention on her, “Appraisals are coming up and I am short of my enforcement quota. Yayoi-chan,” she calls the enforcer with a wink and a smirk, “You’re with me. The rest of you get out of here and leave this to us.”


Uta points finger guns at Masaoka and strides forward. Yayoi follows. Just as she is about to walk out, Ginoza calls out to her.


“Yamako,” he says, “Be careful.”


“Always am.”


“Let me-”


“Hai, hai,” Uta cuts him off, even though she knows he hates it when she does that, “I will inform Ginoza-san when I am done. O makasete. Now go home.”


It takes Uta and Yayoi a couple of hours to get this done.


Damn Kougami and his instincts. The perp did indeed have a clear hue. Drugs or willpower, Uta doesn’t know. And doesn’t care. All she knows is that she has a job to do. And tonight the job comes with perks such as pulling Yayoi to her and sticking her tongue down the other woman’s throat. Making the homophobic perpetrator bear witness to their “unnatural” love while ensconced within a circle of security drones. It takes some doing, enthusiastic doing, but as expected, it’s not long before the would-be serial rapist is frothing at the mouth - registering a crime coefficient of 183. Uta lets Yayoi take the shot. Her enforcer hits the spine point blank. Uta allows herself to enjoy the moment and then lets it go. Or else her hue would cloud too. It’s better to accept feelings of this sort than to resist and let them drown you, she has learned.


Another hour to drop the paralysed criminal and Yayoi back to HQ before heading back home. She is tired when she gets to her floor. She wants to crash. But she is also very hungry. She hopes that her processor isn’t running too low on ingredients to make her a solid bowl of ramen. That reminds her of her offer to take Ginoza out for kung pao. Ah well, they’ll have to make up for it some other time. She hopes he got home okay. She had messaged him when they took the criminal in, he had responded immediately. But that was an hour ago. She hopes he is asleep by now.


Ginoza is asleep. He is also sitting outside her door. Knees pulled up to his chest. Head resting on his arm. Eyes closed. Glasses askew. Breathing even.


There is a takeaway bag next to him.


The idiot. Was it really that hard for him to cancel impromptu dinner plans!


Too tired to think straight, Uta bends down and roughly shakes his shoulder. Ginoza’s reaction is wild and instantaneous. He jerks awake. Scrambles away from her. His back hits the railing.


But what breaks Uta’s heart is the terror in his eyes.


She really should have been more careful.


“Nobuchika?” she says softly, “It’s me. I didn’t mean to startle you. Are you alright?”


The terror doesn’t recede. He’s breathing hard now. Seeing something that’s definitely not her.


“Nobuchika,” she persists, speaking in a slow, gentle voice, “You got dinner for us, didn’t you? Have you been waiting here long?”


“N-not long,” Ginoza answers. He still seems confused but he is listening to her words now. “Your neighbour left some matcha cakes for you.”


Uta notices a small bamboo box next to the takeaway.


“Ah, that must be Tanaka-san,” she says with a smile, “She has trouble sleeping, so she often bakes in the middle of the night.”


“Shit,” Ginoza says, coming to himself all at once, “It’s late, isn’t it? I shouldn’t be bothering you.”


He stands. Suddenly in a rush. Breathing hard still.


“Did you get the kung pao?” Uta places her hand on the scanner. The door slides open.


“Yes.”


“Did you remember to ask for the shichimi this time?”


“Yes”


“And you got me the yaki-gyoza, didn’t you?”


“Yes, otherwise you’d send me back to the noodle shop for them. Like last time.”





“Damn right I would!” Uta says with a broad smile. Ginoza’s breathing is back to normal by now. “What are you waiting for then? I am starving!”


Ginoza wears the ghost of a smile as he gathers the food and walks past her into her little apartment.


Uta rushes into her room as Ginoza busies himself in the kitchen. Her heart is racing and she needs it to calm the fuck down before she can go back out there. That terror in his eyes. It shook her. So bad.


She never wants to see her partner that terrified ever again.



02:16 PM, Masaoka Tomomi’s Safehouse


Nobuchika was wearing that same look of terror. His entire body quaked with it as he stared at her.


Enough was enough. She had not spent this entire day searching for him only to have him look at her like she was the bad guy.


Uta surged forward.


And pulled his head towards her chest.


“Nobuchika. It’s me. It’s okay,” she said. Repeated. Held on.


Hohou!” Kagari commented from somewhere behind her. She hadn’t even realized that he had followed her in. “One hug from you got him to quiet down! Maybe he’ll shut up completely if you kiss him!”


With that Nobuchika’s body went slack. Uta moved away from him.


“Sorry I grabbed you,” she said awkwardly. “Are you-”


Ginoza started mumbling again. Kagari groaned. Uta turned to him annoyed.


“I am going back to my post, Yamako Kanshikan,” Kagari announced, “You handle him now.”


“What do you mean, handle him?”


“Feed him aglio olio? Make sure he doesn’t kill himself? Shiranai. Akane-chan and Kougami-san weren’t too clear about this part.”


“So what? You’re taking orders from Tsunemori and an enforcer now?”


E, mochiron, since they were the only ones around.”


With that, he left.


Kagari had sounded indifferent, but Uta felt like he was mocking her. Seriously! What was she supposed to do, she wasn’t even in Tokyo when they decided to chase down the not-drug smugglers!


Uta turned her attention back to Nobuchika, who was still speaking.


Except he wasn’t exactly speaking. Like, sure, those were words coming out of his mouth… But…


Uta leaned in closer to try and catch the words.


“Satarō Fukiage, raped and killed at least seven girls; assimilated 2058. LEAVE. NOT SUPP- Takeshige Hamada, killed three people in Fukuoka for life insurance policies with help from his wife and two accomplices; assimilated 2059. They promised. SENT YOU TO YOKOHA-HA-HA-HA-”


Nobuchika continued to shout that last syllable, body fighting the restraints. Eyes wild.


“Calm down, hey calm down!”


As if her words were a command, Nobuchika’s eyes went glassy again. And he resumed his list of… what exactly? Crimes? Criminals?


Uta honed in on the words again.


“Katsutaro Baba, strangled and mutilated five women and one infant, assimilated 2059. Maeue Hiroshi; lured people from suicide clubs promising - DON’T LISTEN, DON’T LISTEN - to kill himself with his victims; assimilated 2059. FIND OUT. THEY WILL HURT... Eto Sachiko, cult leader whose followers killed nearly a hundred unnamed people in the demolition zones, assimilated 2060. LEAVE. LEAVE. GO BACK. NOT TOO LATE. GO! GO…”


If Uta hadn’t become immune to Nobuchika’s shouting a while back, she would be scrambling right now. But it wasn’t fair. He had that fear in his eyes again, as he looked straight at her and spoke words that made no sense with an urgency that had her hair rising all over her body.


“RUN… CAN’T DIE… NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE. NO-”


“Stop it!” she yelled.


And he did. His mouth was still moving but there was no sound. No words at least. Because now the bastard was wheezing like he couldn’t breathe.


Well, shit.


“Slow down. Go-go back to saying that list of names! Go back to the list!”


Once more Nobuchika’s body went slack, his eyes phased out and he slumped in the chair.


“Yoshitomo Hori, killed 7 couples in a 6-month spree, assimilated 2061. Imai Hayato, paramedic who pushed 27 Eustress Deficiency nursing home patients to their deaths, assimilated 20…”


Uta fell on her behind with a thump, hands clutching her head. What now? She was supposed to deal with the ravings of a madman, while the pint-sized newbie and ex-inspector did all the real work? Bullshit. Whether in Tokyo or out here in the wild, Yamako Uta was an inspector. And Yamako Uta Kanshikan would solve this mystery - whatever the fuck it was!


Alright, time to box up her feelings and become a serene calm body of water. Again. Expect this time for real.


“If you can’t develop a sense of detachment, you’re never going to see what is there. Just what you expect to be there.”


It was the first piece of advice Nobu- no - the first piece of advice Kanshikan Ginoza had given her when she arrived at the scene of their first case together - a violent home invasion. She had scoffed at his patronizing tone. Behind his back of course. Until she saw the body of the seven-year-old. The image still featured in her nightmares. Less often since she had learned to box away her emotions when entering a crime scene.


Focus, Kanshikan Yamako! This was no time to dwell in the past. Alright then, if this was any other crime scene, what would she be cataloguing now?


1. There was something wrong with Ginoza.

Uta didn’t need to be Kougami to figure that shit out. Jaw slack and syllables slurring. Intermittent words forced out. Those seemed directed at her. Disconnected from the list of names and crimes. Like something he had learned by rote. Uta was familiar with none of them. Sure, she didn’t possess her partner’s impeccable memory for redundant detail. Like, seriously, why would you need to remember anything when all information was one voice command away? Regardless, the son of a bitch remembered everything and he wasn’t afraid to use it against you. Well, sometimes he’d also use it for you. But that little factoid was neither here nor there.


The point was, did someone know Ginoza’s penchant for details? And how did they plan to use it?


2. This morning Division 1 was running a secret operation. Secret from her. Possibly secret even from Chief Kasei. But in fact, someone had anticipated their moves and managed to spring the trap on them instead.

From what Kagari described, their quarry was an organization called Bifrost. Possibly headed by a smiling older woman/person. But Kagari didn’t find that out till things had already gone south. To her, Bifrost sounded like a run-of-the-mill anti-Sybil anarchist outfit. Except that they had access to this Panopticon tech and unidentified synthchemicals. And their leader - Smiler - as Kagari had described them - wanted a Dominator.


A Dominator only worked for those who were approved to use it by the System. So what could they want with one? What was so bloody significant about it that Ginoza would rather destroy it, risking the lives of everyone in the vicinity, rather than let it fall in their hands?


3. Ginoza had been drugged.

Again a no-brainer. Synthchemicals. Obvious symptoms. The effects were specific enough to make her think that synthchemical used had probably been specifically designed for his biology. Which is why only he was taken. And that eye-insertion. A synthchemical time-release? That had been placed right in his cranium. Like they were trying to hack into his brain. Except where did they access his bio-data? From her basic reading, she knew it took 20-30 days to prepare bio-specific synthchemicals. Where did they manage to get his bodily fluids? From the anarchist who blew up Ginoza’s car a month ago.


Just how long had Division 1 been fucking around behind her back?


4. Ginoza had been set up as bait.

Kougami and Tsunemori clearly knew about that. Tsunemori had possibly come up with the plan. Kougami, being Kougami, has figured it out. And Ginoza had been complicit. So they also knew he was valuable in some way. But why? Uta and Ginoza were both inspectors with Division 1. Technically the same rank. Sharing the exact same responsibilities and tasks. Doing the exact same things (with differing levels of sincerity, sure). Then why was Ginoza the target and not her? There was nothing that he did different from her…


Uta’s eyes widened in realization.


Except those meetings with Chief Kasei.


Did the Chief put him up to this?


Uta tuned back into Ginoza’s rambling.


“...Ishikawa Miyuki, post-natal caregiver who murdered an estimated 103 children, assimilated 2089…”


Uta felt certain she would have heard of a criminal who had murdered 103 children. Even if she had been like 3 in 2089. Ginoza must have been, what, 5? They had never had reason to access case files from that far back. So where did he get this data from? If she didn’t know her partner had no imagination to come up with these gruesomely specific details, she would have put this down to a drug-induced delirium.


Also, why did he keep saying assimilated like that? Assimilated into what? By what?


“Tougane Misako, a former researcher and Head of the Tougane Foundation, medically tortured and killed 31 individuals…


What? The Tougane Foundation was the biggest name in biomedical engineering and medical research. Uta’s mother had been a researcher with them. Working alongside Tougane Misako, who had been well-known and well-loved when she died in…


“...assimilated 2091…”

Blowing out a breath, Uta stood up. She went back out into the kitchen and returned with a dusty wicker chair. She placed it in front of Ginoza and sat down.


“Ginoza? Nobuchika?”


Ginoza gave no indication of having heard her. It made her angry. Just her presence should have been enough to get him to give up the game, right? Fine, she’d just do this the hard way, which was usually the only way whenever Ginoza was concerned.


Uta mustered the coldest voice she could.


“Do you know who I am? Do you know my name?”


“...Gen Sekine, lured victims through a kennel club… Yamako Uta Kanshikan with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Public Safety Bureau. Division 1. ID 00475-AEAK-39876-1. Conceived and birthed in Kawashima Clinic in Chiyoda-ku in August-”


It was creepy how Ginoza’s voice didn’t change one bit when he went from describing criminals to when he went on to describe her.


“Did you memorize my whole bloody profile?”


“Yes. Yoo Young-chul, began his killing spree… Didn’t-didn’t choose you. Forced. Forced. The System needed me to have a partner. There was nothing to be done. If you ruined it… ruined… can’t… began his killing spree by breaking into homes and bludgeoning wealthy senior citizens”


“What did you say?”


“Yoo Young-chul, began his killing spree by breaking into homes and bludgeoning wealthy senior citizens with a home-made hammer…”


“What happened this morning?”


“...assimilated 2075… I woke up at 5 am. I walked into my bathroom and pulled down my-”


“Go back to the list.”


As Ginoza lapsed back into his inventory of unknown serial killers, Uta pondered how she should approach this. Bifrost wanted information. So they had drugged Ginoza. Making it impossible for him to keep from spewing it. Except that they had underestimated the sheer levels of stubbornness this man possessed.


What questions would they be asking? It took some tries to get it right. But Uta smelled blood and chased it down.


“What is your relationship with Kasei Joshuu?”



Three years ago… NONA TOWERS INFIRMARY


Sasayama is dead.


And Kougami lies in front of him looking paler than death.


Ginoza knows he has things to do. A team to debrief. A difficult conversation with Kougami’s mother. A meeting with … But he can’t get himself to move, can’t get himself to even think.


“This is all my fault.”


Ginoza doesn’t realize that he said those words out loud till he hears the harsh response from behind him.


“Guilt is terrible for your Psycho-pass. We recommend finding a better coping mechanism unless you want to end up like your father.”


Ginoza’s eyes widen upon hearing that voice and then once again when he sees Kasei Joshuu standing inside the room.


“Kougami Shinya’s actions tonight damaged his Psycho-pass.”


Ginoza moves himself firmly between Kasei and Kougami’s prone form on the hospital bed behind him. Kasei observes him for the space of 3 beeps from the heart monitor at the other end of the room.


“What happened tonight would cloud anyone’s hue,” he says, dares to say.


“It didn’t cloud yours.”


“If you had allowed me to inform him of the true circumstances behind these deaths-”


“Chances for recovery are less than 3%.”


“He could still-”


“He will not.”


The finality of those words makes his heart drop into his stomach.


“What do you mean?”


“Kougami Shinya is a passionate man. We estimated that he would last a few years longer in the CID if he kept his mind on his job. Then you managed to convince us that he was the perfect choice to enact Sybil’s will. Given your high compatibility with him, we allowed this experiment. But he let Shikkokan Sasayama distract him and draw him away from our purpose. As such this experiment has failed. We are no longer in favour of revealing the true nature of Sybil System to a fallen man like Kougami Shinya.”


Ginoza swallowed. He could feel sweat beading on his forehead. He strove to control his instinctive fear of the thing standing before him. He knew from experience that showing his weaknesses to Kasei Joshuu was a bad idea.


“So what are you going to do with him?”


“Do? We do not understand what you mean Kanshikan Ginoza. Arrangements are already in place to take care of latent criminals in this society.”


Kasei casts an emotionless eye over Kougami, eyes soundlessly focussing on his vulnerability. For a second Ginoza wonders how he would defend Kougami if Kasei decided to take action right then and there. He wonders whether Kasei picks up the change in his hue for even daring to think such a thing. But then his heartbeat calms and he realizes what is really going on.


To the System, Kougami is just another wasted resource. To Ginoza, Kougami is his colleague, his best friend, his partner. The System doesn’t understand his emotions. But he understands perfectly the System’s cruelty. Which means he still has one card left to play.


“I would like to call him back as an enforcer.”


“Interesting suggestion. You two will have to go through the application process just like everyone else, of course. But I have no objection to Kougami Shinya returning as a hound.”


Ginoza almost latches on to the small victory. Before the alarms blaring at the back of his mind remind him that nothing Kasei offers comes without another string to tie him tighter to the core of Sybil System.


“Kouzaburou Touma has agreed to the assimilation. The Specimen Case is now officially closed. I trust you will find a way to keep Shikkokan Kougami off our trail.”


Ginoza’s knees almost give away as Kasei turns around and leaves the infirmary.


Ginoza is already on thin ice with Kougami. Ever since his partner figured out that Ginoza’s keeping things for him. Banking key evidence in the Specimen Case. Now Kougami would never forgive him. Kasei pretty much made sure of that.


Ginoza would never be able to tell Kougami the truth. Kougami would never be able to trust Ginoza.


And another person who Ginoza had learned to trust would be taken away from him.


All to keep Sybil System’s secrets.



02:50 PM, Masaoka Tomomi’s Safehouse


Uta ran back out into the living space of the pre-Collapse house. She went through the drawers and shelves - finally finding what she was looking for. A hazardous collection of paper stapled together. Otherwise called a notebook. And a pencil? Crazy how it was made out of wood. But no time to ponder the vagaries of the ancients. Memories and secrets were pouring out of Ginoza’s mouth like one of those holo fountains in Wadakura. And since there was nothing here to record data with, she’d have to go - blech! - analogue.


Ginoza’s speech was mostly devoid of inflection. So she couldn’t really surmise what was important and what was not from tone. There was constant repetition, no clear pattern, hardly any pauses for breath, let alone sense - just an incessant flow of words, words and words. Even in a state where he couldn’t refuse answers, Ginoza had figured out the most convoluted way to provide them. It was just like him, she thought grimly. Wondering whether she should celebrate his tenuous hold on cognition or whack him on the back of the head for making this even more difficult for her.


Uta’s approach to this deranged overflow of information was to take notes now and process later. Otherwise she might not survive this episode with her sanity intact.


She rushed back into the empty room. Ginoza was as she had left him, saying things he would never have revealed otherwise.


“... spiked the punch… There was another… reminded me of Kou… novelist who facilitated the smuggling of assault weapons into Japan and then turned his vast family lands into hunting grounds stocked with undocumented persons… reminded me of Kou… Kou wasn’t there… he was visiting his mother… okāsan



Eighteen years ago, Masaoka Tomomi’s Residence


Nobuchika is hungry.


He hasn’t eaten anything since he woke up. And it’s nearly dinner time now. His stomach grumbles angrily and he feels like crying. That’s how hungry he is.


He stands on his tip-toes at the edge of his parents’ room. He knows he shouldn’t disturb Okāsan. She hasn’t been feeling too well. He doesn’t want to disturb her. But he tried. He really did. But everytime he attempted to operate the new food processor, it just angrily beeped at him and asked him to fetch an adult. Funny how he can hunt for mushrooms and fry them on an open fire on his own when he’s out camping with Otōsan, but is not allowed to operate the processor at home.


The only adult in the house is Okāsan. Otōsan was, is… he doesn’t know for sure. But Otōsan didn’t return home after his last mission. Okāsan had gotten a call. It made her very sad. When he asked her what was wrong, she only told him not to worry and that everything would be alright soon. When he asked her when Otōsan would be coming home, she pulled him in for a hug. Okāsan’s hugs were always the best. Nobuchika does not like being touched by people as a rule. But he would do anything for Okāsan’s hugs.


Okāsan hasn’t hugged him since.


She hasn’t even looked at him. She hasn’t come out of her room since last night.


Nobuchika had some milk for dinner last night. This morning he ate the last of the wagashi Obāchan had given him for his birthday. The refrigeration unit is empty. There are no snacks at home. No one has ordered groceries.


And now his tummy gurgles and he is trembling at the doorway because he can’t think because he is so hungry because he is scared because he wants someone to come hug him and feed him and…


The room beyond is dark, he can’t see anything at all. The sensors in the room have probably been disabled. Or maybe they are broken. Maybe he can fix them? That would be a useful thing to do, right? Okāsan would like it if he was useful, right?


“Okāsan?”


He can’t see her from where he is standing. He steps into the room. Bare feet carry him noiselessly to the edge of the bed. He reaches out. Finds her hand. It’s cold.


He manages to activate the lights. Okāsan is lying in bed. Eyes dull. Vacant. Chest moving minutely. Nothing he says gets her to look at him. She looks like she is made of paper. Like those lanterns in those classic Japanese movies Otōsan loves so much. Except there is no light inside. He wants to protect her. But he doesn’t know how. He wants to call her back. But he doesn’t know how. He wants her to wake up and take him to the park to play with the dogs. But he doesn’t… He wants…


Nobuchika tucks himself by her side. At some point, he falls asleep.


It’s only when he misses school three days later that they call his Obāchan - Ginoza Akiho. Akiho rushes over to their house in Chiyoda-ku. She finds Nobuchika in Sae’s bedroom. Combing his Okāsan’s hair.


The room smells.


When Akiho tries to take him away, Nobuchika clings to his Okāsan. It’s not until he passes out from fatigue and hunger that she is able to carry him out of that room.



03:15 PM, Masaoka Tomomi’s Safehouse


...turned his vast family lands into hunting grounds stocked with undocumented persons. Kill count unknown.… he took me to a dark room… said he wanted to just spend some time with me, just me… I think it was dark so he never realized I was crying… Assimilated, 2064”


As before, Uta considered her words carefully before asking him the next question.


“What does Bifrost want from you?”


“... murdered 17 elderly people, taking over their property and pension… Information… Reveal Sybil… Information… D-d-dominator is a backdoor entry… assimilated 2085…”


“What information do you have?”


Ginoza started glitching severely, his speech growing more convoluted and his breathing more erratic. Uta realized her mistake immediately - there were no follow-up questions in this interview. She had to ask a question that he could provide an exact answer to. Uta reframed the question.


“What information does Bifrost want from you?”


“... no known crimes… each new member… cause of death uncertain… the true nature of Sybil System… hack into, reveal… everyone… killed four pre-school-age girls and served them as the main course at a neighbourhood barbeque… nothing good… so many, so many, being a detective is the worst job in the world…”


“Ginoza, come on! Stop making this so hard…”


Frustrated, she flipped through her notes, searching for something she could use. On one sheet, she had listed out the words or phrases he repeated often.


assimilated

Kougami

tried to stop

hurt you

ruined

the true nature of the Sybil System


Uta read the words out loud without meaning to. And Ginoza was suddenly unravelling at an even faster pace. Uta realized that the son of a bitch was making yet another attempt to distract or distort - his strongest one yet - because she had landed on something pertinent.


Not on her watch.


“Ginoza!” She shouted in his face, “Look at me! No. Look. At. ME!” she held his chin in a vice-like grip, moving his head till he had no choice but to look at her, “What is the true nature-”


There was an old theory… that if a criminal looked into the eyes of the victim during the commission of a crime, they were less likely to use excessive force against said victim. There were records of pre-Sybil confessions that spoke about how the look in a victim’s eyes caused a change of heart, miraculously reversing the murderous intent of a criminal. Uta called bullshit on this. But it was what Masaoka kept coming back to when he was trying to make a case about how most criminals were just hard-up or desperate instead of just plain evil. And how the Dominator could never judge the circumstances around a crime that led to its commission in the first place.


Uta took Masaoka’s words with a pinch of paternalistic salt at the best of times. But now that she was looking into Ginoza’s eye, she would acknowledge that there was at least a grain of truth to what the old man said. Uta’s words froze in her mouth when she looked into Ginoza’s eyes.


Fear. Desperation. Pain.

A plea.

Hot tears.

Wheezing.

Words that won't stop. Can’t stop.

A man trying his hardest.


Uta felt her own eyes prickle.


Ginoza was extremely uncomfortable. He was desperate to keep his secrets. He was helpless. And he was asking her for help in the only way he knew how. And Uta was… coercing him into telling her what she wanted to know. Using force and mental pressure to get him to crack. She…


She was… torturing him.


Because she wanted to what? Solve a case she hadn’t even been aware of this morning? Uta had shown aptitude for a few different careers. Not enough to qualify as a prodigy. But not so few that she didn’t have a few good options to choose from. When Uta had signed up for the CID training programme 5 years ago, it wasn’t because of some innate sense of justice, like Kougami or even a desire to hold the wicked accountable like Ginoza. It simply seemed more interesting than business or public relations. And it paid more.


So what really was driving her to play the role of a detective right now?


Uta looked back at Ginoza… no, she looked back at Nobuchika.


Nothing. Nothing was driving her to do this to her partner.


Uta tossed the notebook and pencil (seriously, why wood?) aside. Nobuchika of course was not party to her stream of consciousness, so he was still babbling desperately. She kneeled down in front of him, reached out and placed a hand on his cheek.


Something about that gesture did the trick. Because Nobuchika’s words immediately slowed down. He stopped fighting the restraints. But Uta knew this was only temporary. He’d start fighting the minute the drug loosened his tongue some more. There was no help for it. She’d have to keep questioning him.


Uta smiled.


Ne Nobuchika, why does Kagari call you Gino-sensei?”


As Nobuchika eased into the story about Division 1’s dead enforcer and his penchant for elaborate pranks, Uta undid his bonds. Without the make-shift ropes to hold him in place, Nobuchika slid out of the chair. Uta supported him and helped him settle down on some old sheets discarded in a corner. Then sat down cross-legged by his side as he explained what happened on White Day so long ago.



Chapter 5



05:36 PM, Musahino Wilderness


Kagari was not worried.


Kagari didn’t worry. It was simply not in his nature. Sure, the setting sun that was quickly turning the woods around him darker than a latent criminal’s arse was a mild concern. That his rifle would be little more than a noise-making machine revealing his location with every shot once true dark arrived. That every falling leaf sounded like a bear - they still had bears, right? - tramping through the undergrowth. That there was no real place to fall back to in case the worst-case scenario did play out. That they had no food, no heat, no means of communication.


Dochimichi ii zo.


His last orders from Akane-chan had been to protect the ass. Well, Akane-chan used the word asset, but in Kagari’s opinion, ass was a much more suitable codename for Gino-sensei. All he had to do was stay here. And shoot whatever tried to attack them first. No one had mentioned how long he would have to wait. It was gone ten hours now. No one had discussed the plan in case the rest of Division 1 didn’t make it back. If they… Well, Kagari certainly wasn’t worried about any of them dying. Kougami was essentially - and Kagari meant this in the most respectful manner - a cockroach, he’d survive anything. Masa-san would live to tell Kagari and Akane-chan’s grandchildren stories about the days before Sybil. And Yayoi-chan, she would stare at the Death till it looked down in embarrassment to check if its fly was open or something and then she would decapitate the poor bugger.


And Akane-chan was simply too cute to die.


They would survive. They always did. Sasayama was the exception. The only exception. Because he always had to be special. So all Kagari really had to do was stay in one piece till they returned. Or till Yamoka-san snapped and took charge or until Gino-sensei decided to vacate Crazytown and yelled all the bad things into submission.


So Kagari was - definitively, emphatically, holistically - NOT worried.


He just wanted his team to return, for this to be over, for something to happen just so the tension in his spine would ease. So he could go back to his rooms at HQ and sleep for two days. Preferably with his head in Akane-chan’s lap. After eating a solid meal or fifteen, that is.



Fifteen years ago, 2nd Higashi Tokyo Secondary School


Nobuchika stands to the side, staring down at his shoes.


The shoes used to be white. They are covered in gunk from the bottom of the school pond now. He itches to clean them. But he had been asked to stand to the side and wait. So he does. In front of him, Arimura-senpai’s mother continues to berate his homeroom teacher. Arimura-senpai himself stands behind his mother. He occasionally turns to smirk at Nobuchika when the adults are not paying attention.


He has a large piece of medimech dressing across his neck. Nobuchika knows that if he were to place his hand on it, the medimech bandage would announce the injury fully healed. After all, Nobuchika barely scratched him.


“He is the son of a latent criminal!” Arimura-san yells for the fourth time, “Don’t give me this rubbish!”


“Arimura-san please, there is no evidence to suggest that children inherit latent criminal tendencies from their parents,” Minato-sensei tries to explain.


“And yet this rascal attacked my son!”


Nobuchika did not attack Arimura-senpai. He had simply been carrying out supplies to the gardening club when Arimura-senpai jumped him by the school pond. Nobuchika had grabbed his neck to push the bigger boy away, like his Otōsan had taught him all those years ago. The moment Arimura-senpai had fallen backwards in the pond was the moment another teacher had witnessed.


Nobuchika wants to explain what really happened.


But he keeps staring at his ruined shoes. Nobuchika’s seifuku is torn. His nose is swollen because he was not allowed to be in the dispensary while Arimura-senpai was being treated. His clothes are wet and smell of pond scum. If they wanted to know what had really happened, the evidence was right in front of them. But they can’t or won’t see it.


The Arimuras’ used to be good friends with his parents. Arimura-san would be over often when he was younger. She used to ruffle his hair without his permission and then laugh when he made a fuss about it. She would say that his Otousan was the only one keeping the dregs of society from taking over their beautiful neighbourhood. She would constantly compare her son's grades to his.


“Have you checked his Psycho-pass? What’s his crime coefficient?”


“Arimura-san, you know only the CID officers can check for crime-coefficients. We did a hue check on both boys. They are both in the normal range for pubescent minors. So unless you want to disagree with Sybil System’s judgement…”


Clever Minato-sensei. No one wants to disagree with Sybil System’s judgement.


“His hue is clear today. But I’d keep a close watch on him if I were you.” Arimura-san continues, “You can see it in his eyes, his eyes are just like his father’s and we all know what happened to that man.”


After a few more formalities, Arimura-san leaves with her son and the assurance that he would get the rest of the week off for mental stress-care. And would receive honorary grades for the tests set during that week as well.


When it’s all over, Nobuchika asks, “Minato-sensei, may I go back to class now?”


“I think it’s best for you to go home, I’ve already called your Obaasan. She’s waiting for you downstairs.”


Later, when they are driving back, Nobuchika turns to his grandmother.


“Obāchan, do my eyes look like Otōsan’s?”


“Mm,” Akiho replies without looking at him, “Your features are just like Sae-chan’s, but your eyes, you have your Otōsan’s eyes.”


That weekend, Nobuchika uses his allowance to buy himself his first pair of glasses.


7:37 PM, Masaoka Tomomi’s Safehouse


As far as safehouses go, this place was pretty well-equipped.


So far Uta had found

  1. 17 tins of nattō

  2. 5 bags of rice grain (at least that’s what the label said)

  3. Several gas lamps, two of which she had managed to light up without setting herself on fire

  4. A small revolver - the kind they used in those prehistoric spy movies from the 1980’s that Kougami loved - that she had tucked into the back of her trousers

  5. A running water system, the workings of which Uta had no clue about

  6. A refrigeration unit that worked on some kind of solar generator


Currently, Uta was in the kitchen area, trying to cook some beans and rice on one of the glass lamps. The gas lamp cast the whole place in shadow, making it seem cavernous. From the room behind her, Nobuchika’s constant whispering echoed across the empty space. Uta shook off a chill running down her spine.


“What the hell is that smell?”


Uta did not scream. She merely exclaimed, loudly.


There really should have been a unit during PSB training that covered dealing with rapscallions like Kagari.


“Aren’t you supposed to be on watch or something?” Uta said through gritted teeth after replacing her heart within her ribcage.


“Too bloody dark to watch anything.” Kagari came closer. Behind him, his shadow grew enormous. “What are you doing?” he asked. In the low light of the gas lamp his face looked positively beastly.


“I am cooking,” Uta snapped.


“You’ve mixed uncooked rice and nattō and placed it on a gas lamp.”


“Exactly, cooking.”


“In a ceramic bowl!”


“Your point being?”


“Get away from there,” Kagari hissed. He dropped his rifle on the kitchen counter and came round to her side. Uta immediately went round the other side, hoping to put some distance between them. Kagari looked at her and smiled. “I don’t bite,” he said, all teeth.


“You do,” Uta said, “if the enforcer from Division 2 is to be believed.”


“Kaede-chan likes to exaggerate,” Kagari smirked before putting her carefully curated rice bowl to the side and pulling out some pots from the shelf behind.


Uta let him do his thing - his reputation for cooking was something of a legend in Division 1 - and went to the refrigeration unit. The water she had put into the freezer had turned to ice. She came back to the kitchen counter and wrestled it out of the glass and onto a clean cloth. Then she covered it and started hammering at it with the metal mallet she had discovered in one of the drawers.


“What are you doing now?” Kagari shouted over the hammering.


“Are you stupid or something? What does it look like? I am crushing ice!”


“Why?”


“It’s for Nobu- I mean it’s for Ginoza.”


“We know, you know,” Kagari said, his voice sounding less like he was taking the mickey out of her, “That you two are on a first-name basis. We know it started after that day when Gino-sensei was… assaulted.”


“Do you expect a prize or something? For figuring it out?”


Betsuni,” Kagari said quietly, as he cracked open a can, “I never apologized to him. For that day… If I hadn’t gone a little crazy and run away then…”


“What is it with you people?” Uta asked as she transferred the crushed ice to a clean bowl, “Taking responsibility for things that are none of your doing? Your running away had nothing to do with the criminal deciding to hurt Nobuchika. But yeah, don’t fucking let it happen again.”


Ryokai desu.”


Uta dropped a spoon into the bowl and grabbed a napkin from the drawer. Then she took the items and the spare gas lamp and walked back to the room.


Nobuchika was huddled in the corner she had left him in. She sat by his side and set the items on the ground. She pulled the large basin filled with water she had left there earlier towards her. There was a towel floating in the water. She wrung it out. Then jerked it open. She pushed Nobuchika’s hair back from his sweaty forehead and wiped his brow with the wet cloth. Nobuchika didn’t register her actions. He was delirious. Sweating from a fever that his healthcare plan should definitely have prevented. His voice had grown hoarse. His lips cracked. Yet he continued to repeat the list of assimilations for the nth time. Uta wiped his face and his neck. His shoulders. She saw no sign if the effort comforted him, but she went through the motions nonetheless.


She was afraid that his wounds that had been dressed so haphazardly, they had begun to get infected. She was afraid of what the synthchemical compromising his brain, the stress of revealing so many secrets, the lack of nutrition and sleep were doing to his Psycho-pass. She was afraid that everything was reaching a limit. Beyond which, she would have to take a call. A very difficult call.


Uta put the cloth back in the basin and picked up the bowl. Using the spoon, she scooped some of the slush and brought it to Nobuchika’s mouth. She tipped in a little between words. He wasn’t capable of eating or drinking. At least this way she hoped to get some hydration into him. Most of the ice and water dribbled out as Nobuchika kept speaking. She wiped his chin with the napkin between each attempt.


“... Matsunaga Futoshi and Ogata Junko; tortured and killed 12 people, including Ogata's family… Uta…” Uta nearly dropped the spoon in surprise. Nobuchika kept going in the same guttural whisper, “Scared… assimilated 2099… Tougane… specially for me. Bifrost has an antidote… Kurita Genzo: killed six women… don’t believe… survive… and two children and two children… can’t stop talking… will die… scared… die… engaged in rape… not like this… nec-necrophilia… don’t let them… me… you must… let me… onegai desu… assimilated 2059…”


Before Uta could even decipher what he meant, Nobuchika made a small choking noise. The next second blood began to pour from his nose. His eyes rolled back. And his body started convulsing. Reverting to the instinct that had been trained into her, Uta put everything aside and grabbed hold of his body. She pulled him towards her, yelling for Kagari, who came running in. In a calm, collected voice, she instructed Kagari to help her get Nobuchika away from the wall. She supported his head and neck as they did so. As Kagari straightened his flailing legs, Uta grabbed the spoon, forced open his jaws and stuck it in his mouth, using the concave surface to hold his tongue out of the way of his gnashing teeth and to keep it from choking him.


The next 30 seconds were the longest of her life.


Kusou! Kusou! Kusou!” Kagari cursed as soon as Nobuchika had stilled.


Ochitsuke Kagari,” Uta said calmly, as she wiped Nobuchika’s mouth once more, inside and out, thoroughly.


“He’ll die this way!”


“Our job is to prevent that from happening.”


Uta bundled up the old bedsheets and used them to elevate Nobuchika’s head. Only then did she remove the spoon from his mouth. As soon as she did, the rambling started again. Nobuchika’s voice was barely audible, but what she could hear was raspy and painful-sounding. His vocal cords must have started to bruise.


“How are you not freaking out right now?”


“Because my partner is counting on me.”


“What are we going to do?”


“We’re going to stay here and keep him alive tonight. At first light, we are going to make for the city. Whether the rest of the Division returns or not.”


“What if it gets worse?”


“We’ll handle it.”


“What if-”


“I said, we’ll handle it. Now go and get some of that food you’ve cooked so carefully. We’ll need to keep up our strength. You eat first while I watch him. Then we switch. Same for sleep. Understood?”


Hai Kanshikan, wakarimashita.”



Chapter 6


13 months ago, Enforcer Quarters


Masaoka Tomomi is manspreading in his underwear, nursing a whiskey, watching a sappy romance when his son storms into his quarters.


“You disobeyed a direct order!”


“Nobuchika, why don’t you come in? Make yourself at home?”


“Don’t play with me old man! I ordered you to maintain your hold on the criminal. Instead you let him go!”


“To save your sorry ass, Kanshikan.”


“Don’t make excuses-”


“What do you want me to say Nobuchika? There was no way I was going to hold on to that fucker and let my son die like a dog!”


“Saving my life was not as important as catching the killer.”


Masaoka scoffs. Nobuchika glares. Though the effect is rather ruined by the black eye and arm sling he is sporting.


“It’s thinking like that,” Masaoka says, taking a sip of his whiskey, “that got me in this place to begin with.” Nobuchika stares. “If I had spent more time thinking about my kid than about criminals, maybe… maybe things would have turned out a lot different.”


It’s the closest to an apology that Masaoka has ever come. He enjoys how it seems to knock all that hot air right out of Nobuchika.


“Your new partner is coming in tomorrow,” Masaoka says, giving his son an out from this unprecedented moment of bonding. “About time too.”


“Yeah well, they were going to stick me with someone sooner or later.”


“From what I have heard, she’s solid in the field, slow in deduction, but decisive when it matters.”


“You spoke to Yamako’s enforcers in Division 3?”


Masaoka shrugs and takes another sip.


“Whatever,” Nobuchika says, pushing his glasses up his nose, “it’s not like I have a choice.”


“Nobuchika, try and get along with her, won’t you?”


“Don’t get ahead of yourself, old man.”


Nobuchika walks away, slower than he had entered, but still too fast for comfort.


“Nobuchika,” Masaoka says when he knows his son is right at the exit, “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”


“What do you mean? The doors have sensors. It’s impossible for them-”


Masaoka snorts and raises the volume on the romance. It’s a sex scene. And as he expects, the noises drive Nobuchika out of his space faster than anything else ever could have.



01:54 AM, Masaoka Tomomi’s Safehouse

Uta startled awake.


For a moment, the unfamiliarity of the location got to her. Then her brain kicked in.


She was supposed to be watching Nobuchika while Kagari slept. But had nodded off. She shook her head vigorously to banish sleep and leaned forward to check on her partner. The dim light of the gaslamp reflected off of the hollowness in his eyes. His lips continued to move, forcing sound out. She felt his forehead. It was still too warm. She wrung out the cloth, folded it and placed it on his head. She ran her fingers through his hair, separating strands greasy from sweat and dirt.


That’s when she heard it.


Sounds of movement through the forest.


Instantly, Kagari was by her side, rifle raised. He made eye contact and silently signalled his intent to go check out the source of the disturbance. Uta emphatically shook her head.


It’s not our people, she signalled.


You’re right, Kagari signalled back, they wouldn’t be so noisy.


Kagari cocked his head at the rifle. Uta shook her head again. Kagari leaned in close to her ears and whispered.


“Kanshikan, the only choice we have is for me to distract them and give you a chance to get away.”


“Negative,” Uta whispered back, “I won’t leave without Nobuchika.”


“Then take him with you.”


Uta glared. Kagari looked down at Nobuchika.


Kusuo.”


“Exactly.”


The sounds seemed to have gotten closer, though it was hard to judge distance in this environment.


Kagari slowly got up and made his way out of the room. Uta followed him, staying two steps back. Through the blackened windows, they could just about make out beams of torchlight waving about. Swallowing hard, Uta pulled out the revolver from the back. It made a loud clicking sound when she cocked it. Kagari turned back in alarm.


“Kanshikan,” he whispered urgently, “If you even think about firing that at a person-”


“I know,” Uta growled back.


They focussed back at the front of the house, at the door. Which would be the likely point of entry, since the windows were barred from the outside. They could hear voices now. A shrill laugh. Just outside. Kagari raised the rifle, aiming at the doorway. Whoever entered through there was going to get a faceful of metal. No warning.


Every inch of Uta was tense. She looked at the door. Not sure what she was going to do when it was breached. She held her breath.


There was a very loud thud from behind. The loudest thing she had heard all day.


Uta nearly dropped her gun. But she didn’t care. Because her feet were already scampering back to the room. To Nobuchika.


The gaslamp had been knocked over. The collection of old bedsheets was already on fire. Illuminating the room. On the far side, crumpled by the wall, Ginoza was groaning, spewing nonsense louder. He tried to stand up. Most likely to run head-first into the wall again.


Uta ran and grabbed him around the middle. He screamed in pain. Blood was pouring down his head. He fought against her grip. Screaming his litany like a man possessed. Uta held on. Desperate. Screaming at him to stop.


That’s when the front of the house exploded.


Kagari was flung through the paper doorway. He got up faster than he should have. And scampered to stand before his inspectors. Uta was fighting tooth and nail with a man intent on ramming into a solid wall as many times as it took to end it all. On the other side of the room, the fire continued to spread.


Someone stepped in through the destroyed doorway.


Her mother had been a biomedical researcher. Uta had accompanied her to the funeral. And for most of her childhood, her mother had kept a photo of her and her boss on their mantle. So Uta had no doubt about who was standing there, smiling beatifically in the middle of the chaos.


“Ginoza-kun,” Tougane Misako said, “It’s rude not to greet your guests.”


Kagari fired.


The bullet hit Tougane Misako right in the chest.


Tougane looked down at the bullet hole. Then back up at Kagari. And kept smiling.


Kanshikan-chan, let me have Ginoza-kun and maybe I’ll let you and your dog live.”


Uta was too overwhelmed by Nobuchika’s struggles and all that was unfolding to respond. Behind the woman who had died in 2091, she saw at least six others, in ten-foot tall mecha-suits.


Kagari fired once more. This time aiming for the head. The shot blew off the left side of Tougane’s face. Revealing the bionic skeleton beneath.


“I’ll count to five,” the cyborg said, voice distorting, “One.”


“What do you want from us?” Uta managed to yell.


“I believe I have made my demands amply clear. Two.”


“We don’t have a Dominator!”


“Three.”


“What do you want with Ginoza?”


“Yamako-kanshikan, you should run,” Kagari said. He fired another shot, blowing off another chunk of the cyborg’s face.


“Four.”


“Yamako-san, onegai!”


“Fi-”


There was a flash of familiar blue. And one of the mecha-suits behind Tougane was blasted to smithereens. Tougane turned, yelling. “No. No. No!” she screeched, “Get them! Go get them!” The mecha-suits whirred back out the destroyed house. One more was blown up by the time they got moving. “Aargh!” Tougane screamed. “Kill them! Kill them all!”


Then the undead woman was distracted again. By a whirring sound coming from above her. Uta looked up too. Just as Nobuchika’s shoulder slammed into her jaw. Walloped, Uta fell backwards, landing on her back, as Nobuchika reached the wall. Kagari dropped the rifle and ran to grab Nobuchika. His movement covered the exact moment when the flying drone released the Dominator into Uta’s lap.


Uta grabbed the gun, sitting up and aiming it at cyborg Tougane’s back. Her eyes glowed blue. The directional voice played like music in her ears.


Keitai-gata Shinri Shindan Chin'atsu Shikkō Shisutemu - Dominētā jidou shimashita

Yūzā mishou Kanshikan Yamako Uta, Kouan kyoku, Keiji ga Shizoku

Shiyou kyodaku kakuni tekisei yūzā desu


Tougane turned back to them. The cyborg’s freakishly human eyes widening at the weapon in Uta’s hand.


Shikko-modo Destroy Decomposer. Taishou wo kanzen haijo shimasu. Chūi shite kudasai.


Uta pulled the trigger. The cyborg’s lips spread out in a smile. The blue vortex erupted from her gun. Annihilating Tougane Misako once and for all.


But Uta had no time to relax. The mecha-suits were still out there. Fighting her team. And Nobuchika was still…


Uta sat up at the sound of footsteps running towards her. Her Dominator was up and aiming as the person jumped through the still floating ashes of Tougane Misako, to drop and roll to a stop right in front of her. Uta’s eyes widened in shock as Yayoi ignored her and rushed straight to where Kagari was pushing against Nobuchika, who was easily twice his size, with all his might. Without stopping for a breath, Yayoi rammed a syringe right into Nobuchika’s neck. His body immediately froze.


And then he collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut off.


It took a few seconds of eerie silence for Uta to realize Nobuchika was no longer speaking.


“Kanshikan Yamako,” Yayoi said, turning to Uta as calmly as ever.


“Shikkokan Yayoi.”


“This place is on fire.”


“I noticed.”


“We should get out of here.”


“Yes, that would be wise.”


Ano ne,” came Kagari’s muffled voice, “Is anyone going to take Gino-sensei off of me?”



A Note on Names:

So, in case there is any confusion, first let me clarify, our main characters are Uta (first name) Yamako (second name) and Nobuchika (first name) Ginoza (second name). I have used their surnames first everywhere as per Japanese convention when using their full names. To anyone even vaguely familiar with Japanese naming conventions, circles of familiarity and how they apply to language - you will know that using someone's first name is actually not very common practice. I have lost count of the number of yaoi/yuri/moe anime where the taking of the first name is such a significant moment in the building of the relationship.


While the in-plot explanation for why Uta and Nobuchika are on first-name basis is explored in the next (last) part of the story, here's a quick rundown of my thoughting on the process.

  1. Uta doesn't really care about workplace formality. Especially gendered workplace formality where women, especially, will always stick to formally addressing their male colleagues, even when they use informal suffixes for them

  2. In the present moments of the story, she refers to Ginoza as Nobuchika when she is thinking of him as her friend and as Ginoza when she starts interrogating him as an inspector to distance herself from him

  3. I had a version of sensitivity reading done for this by Auriond-san, who is not Japanese but closer to the culture than I am. I actually do not know any Japanese people. So if someone wants to make friends...

Hope this helps. Or confuses you further. Either way, I am satisfied.


Glossary

Japanese Words:

Ojou-san: The word Ojou literally means princess, so if someone were to say this about a little girl, it would be a cute but respectful way to refer to them. In the series, Masaoka addresses Tsunemori as Ojou-san. The series translates this as Little Missy. I believe it is simply Masaoka letting his paternalistic side show.

Hai, hai: Yes, yes, said with a little bit of an eye-roll in this situation

O makasete: You can trust me (with this situation)

Shichimi: A Japanese spice mix featuring the Togarashi hot pepper. Here's more information and a recipe to make it by Niki Nakayama-san, a two Michelin star chef.

Yaki-gyoza: Basically, fried dumplings. Here is a picture of them, because if I drool while writing this, it's only fair that others drool while reading it.

Shiranai: I don't know with an I don't care, implied

E, mochiron: Yes, of course

Okāsan: Mother (formal)

Otōsan: Father (formal)

Obaachan: Grandma (formal-ish)

It's actually more common nowadays for Japanese children to call their parents Mama and Papa. But I just wanted to use these terms and maybe vaguely imply that Nobuchika had a somewhat formal upbringing, mostly thanks to his mother Sae.

Wagashi: Traditional Japanese Sweets. I mean, look how adorable they are!

Dochimichi ii zo: Whatever, it'll be fine

Senpai: Senior, basically that the other kid is older than Nobuchika, in a higher class

Seifuku: Uniform

Nattō: Fermented soybeans. A breakfast thing I can't wait to try when I get to Japan.

Betsuni: Whatever, never mind

Ryokai desu: Roger that

Onegai desu: I am begging you, a formal plea

Ochitsuke: Calm (the fuck) down

Wakarimashita: Understood

-kun: Suffix used for a younger male colleague or friend

Ano ne: Hey, listen...



Keitai-gata Shinri Shindan Chin'atsu Shikkō Shisutemu - Dominētā jidou shimashita

Yūzā mishou Kanshikan Yamako Uta, Kouan kyoku, Keiji ga Shizoku

Shiyou kyodaku kakuni tekisei yūzā desu

Shikko-modo Destroy Decomposer. Taishou wo kanzen haijo shimasu. Chūi shite kudasai.


This is essentially what the Dominator Directional Voice says when an authorized user (in this case Uta) picks it up and when it is telling her that the target's threat level has been updated to Destroy Decomposer. I had too much fun playing the first episode on repeat to get all the words down to not include it here. If you want the full effect of this, watch this compilation of scenes from the series that feature the Dominator. And in case you were wondering the who voice actor for the Dominator is, it's this amazing human person: Hidaka Noriko


The Names Ginoza is Repeating

Without spoiling the denouement of my own story and giving away a major plot point of Season 1, I do want to take a moment to specify that all the names Ginoza takes in his stupor (barring Tougane, who is a character from the anime) are the names of ACTUAL SERIAL KILLERS from Japan. I have a penchant for true crime and so I incorporated some of my research in to Asian serial killers in to this story. The crimes, MOs and victim-counts of course have been adjusted to fit the futuristic timeline. You can click on the names below to read up on the actual accounts of their murders. These are mostly Wikipedia links.

PLEASE PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.


Yoo Young-chul, this is the only Korean name on the list and I highly recommend the Netflix Documentary about this guy - The Raincoat Killer


Photo and Artwork Credit:

Masaoka's Safehouse: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Musashino Wilderness: Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

Yaki-gyoza: Photo by Guilhem Vellut taken from Flickr under the Attribution Licence

Wagashi: Photo by leketan on Pixabay

Gino and Uta, Outside the Noddle Shop in Chiyoda-ku: Original Art by Hina Siddiqui, Uta Yamako original character design by Auriond-san


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