Tokyo Demons Book 2: Chapter 5, Part 2
A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #002 back issue.
The wail of sirens and mixed shouts mercifully faded behind them. Ayase craned her head around to look out the back window of their car.
In the flashing glare of red and blue lights, Ayase barely made out police officers dragging bodies from the clinic. Then her sight was cut off as their car turned into an alley.
Sachi let out a breath. “Core’s gonna lose men in this one, right?” he asked. “The cops can arrest them?”
“They’d better.” Miki ungracefully shoved at Ayase from her right. She abruptly jerked her hip away from the tiny thug as he jammed three fingers of his left hand–the ones not bound by the cast–into his pocket. “But I didn’t see nearly the guns they had at Motoi. It’s harder to make charges stick without something obvious like a firearm.” He pulled a small box free and shook out the end of a cigarette. He pulled it out with his lips. “The mess at Motoi worked in our favor.”
“Did we lose any of our own back there?”
The bald twin who was driving (Naoki?) glanced at Sachi in the rearview mirror. “I’m pretty sure we were the last Byakko car to leave.”
“Right,” Miki said bitterly as he snapped a light at the end of his cigarette. “Because these fuckwits were too busy making out.”
Ayase felt humiliation rush to her face. She didn’t dare turn to Sachi; crammed to the left of her middle seat, their arms were touching, and she could only imagine what that was doing to him.
“Sorry,” Ayase murmured as evenly as she could. “We were…just…”
“Save it.” Miki took a quick drag and released a puff of smoke into the car. “I don’t wanna know how you churchie fuckers get your rocks off. But the next time you’re creaming your pants during a brawl, don’t leave us to run your fucking fetch mission.”
Ayase felt a defensive urge rear up in her. “I’m sorry,” she repeated. “But Daniel-san and Emi-san made it to the lab.”
“Good for them!” Miki growled out another cloud of smoke. “So you thought you could lock yourself in a room until we took out the Core ops? Fuck you!”
“You tried to shove me out of there! After Jo told me you were good in a fight!”
Ayase grappled with a response, but Miki’s smoke filled her lungs. She coughed as one of the twins in the front seat quietly rolled down a window.
Sachi straightened by her side. “She is good in a fight,” he retorted. “She helped us.”
“She did jack shit!”
“It’s complicated,” Sachi snapped back. “You don’t know what you’re talking–”
“It’s okay,” Ayase interjected, throwing Sachi a severe glance. “Miki-san is right. I didn’t do enough this time.”
Sachi opened his mouth, but Ayase glared at him until he closed it. No, she thought. Don’t try to defend me or we’ll blow our cover.
“I’m…usually better under stress,” she offered after a moment. “But I got freaked out, okay? I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.” She paused. “Sachi was…trying to help me through it.”
Miki snorted around his cigarette. “He was trying to help his dick through it.”
Sachi rose up on her other side. “Watch it–”
“Who brought the bugs?”
Sachi stopped. Miki puffed on his cigarette and dragged his one good eye from Sachi to Ayase.
“Well? Who brought ‘em? And where the fuck were they hiding a hornet’s nest?”
Ayase clenched her fists. She and Nick had planned for this, although she wasn’t sure how convincing their cover story was.
“I can’t tell you the details,” she murmured. “It’s a Church thing and they haven’t really explained it to us.”
Miki waited. He blew a stream of smoke into Ayase’s face; she coughed and waved it away.
“There’s a…hormone or something. Someone is supposed to spray the Core ops or rig something to spray out behind us. I guess it makes the bugs attack.”
“You didn’t answer my goddamn question. Where did the bugs come from?”
Ayase ground her teeth. “I don’t know, okay? The Church could’ve set up something outside days ago, for all I know.”
“No.” Miki’s uncovered eye gleamed. “They came from inside the clinic. And they went back inside the clinic, right around your little hiding place.”
Ayase threw up her hands nervously. “I didn’t even see that! What do you want me to say? I don’t know where they came from!”
Miki puffed on his cigarette, his eye flicking to the floor. Ayase tried to subtly rub the sweat from her palms.
“The church had three other people,” he murmured. “The priest, the woman, the martial artist. Martial artist came with us to attack. The other two were the distance team….” He glared up at Sachi. “…with you. So if Ayase didn’t see anything, you would’ve.”
Sachi swallowed. “It was a mob out there,” he said weakly. “I didn’t see anything but the guy in front of me.”
Miki’s eye narrowed. He dug out his cell phone and flipped it open.
Panic–the old, familiar panic that Ayase had almost forgotten in her new life–washed over Ayase like a crushing wave. She was suddenly drowning, helpless as it tore through her skin and left her vulnerable for the world to see.
She grabbed Miki’s wrist.
Miki snapped his head up at her. He bared his teeth.
Sachi shifted from her other side and clutched her shoulder. “Ayase–”
“Shut up,” Miki snarled. “I want her to take a swing at me.”
Ayase’s hand shook. Her paranoia climbed up around her like piling plates of armor, hardening her heart and tightening her fingers.
Sachi suddenly wrapped an arm around her. She released Miki, surprised, as Sachi pulled her back against his chest and pushed his lips against her temple.
“You’re okay,” he whispered, his mouth hot in her ear. “You’re okay. You’re not the person you used to be.”
Ayase was too shocked to respond. The soft rumble of his voice sent a shiver up her spine.
A new anger flashed across Miki’s face. “Oh, for fuck’s sake! Bang her on your own time!”
Ayase’s heartbeat thudded behind her eyeballs as her muscles began to unclench. She untangled herself from Sachi, almost regretting it, for some reason.
“I-I don’t know the details,” she offered after a second. “But I do know the Church is…secretive about it. It won’t work if people know the bugs are coming.”
“’People’ don’t need to know shit,” Miki growled. “But Mitsuko and I need to know everything. We’re the ones actually on the ground with Byakko and the Riot Girls. If you don’t give me the information, I’ll get it myself. I don’t care what leaks when I’m doing that.” He paused. “Or Mitsuko will get it out of Jo, if she hasn’t already.”
Sachi let out a fractured sigh. “Miki-san, we’re on your side.”
“No. We’re on your side, and only because Takeshi’s got a hard-on for whatever anti-establishment bullshit you people are selling. You need us, not the other way around.” Miki rolled down his window to flick out his cigarette. “And I’m shit out of patience for you cross-sucking assholes. Since the day Kiseki fell, I’ve lost eighteen guys to jail and twenty-six to the funeral pyre. You don’t get to keep secrets when we’re paying in lives.”
He jammed two fingers at Ayase’s collarbone. “I’m not Takeshi. I don’t care about Core or the youth riots he has wet dreams about. That crazy fuck ditched me for two years and let me get tortured because some pig told him to. He’s dead to me.” He flicked up, hitting her hard under the chin. “I’m only here so Byakko doesn’t get wiped out in his quest to be the king of broken youth. And I can’t do shit if I’m working in the dark.”
Ayase clenched her jaw. Her stomach twisted into knots.
She’d never spoken to Miki before this mission, but Jo had told the Church about him. Miki was supposedly more cautious than Takeshi–more grounded and realistic. Ayase didn’t fully understand what had happened at the Byakko rally in Blue Light, but according to Jo, Takeshi had stepped aside. He’d offered up Miki as the real leader in his place.
Ayase wished she knew Mitsuko better; Jo was strangely tight-lipped about her. But after that day in their dorm, when Mitsuko had offered a can of pepper spray, no questions asked…she’d given Ayase ammunition against the advances of Sachi. Mitsuko had reached out to Ayase long before they had reason to work together.
Maybe Miki wasn’t exaggerating–Byakko and Riot Girl lives were at stake if the Church kept secrets. And it didn’t sound like Miki would back off.
“It’s not my call,” Ayase murmured at last.
“Then whose call is it?”
Ayase hesitated. Sachi finished the thought for her.
“We can talk to Nick-san.”
Miki dropped his attention back to his phone. “Fuck that,” he said as he beeped through his contacts. “I’ll call him myself.”
“N-not here. Not with…” Ayase awkwardly gestured to the two boys in the front seat.
“I’m just checking that you pre-loaded this church phone with the Timebomb’s number.”
The twin with the long hair–Hideki?–smiled back from the front passenger’s seat. “Anything you say in front of Miki,” he drawled, “you can say in front of us.”
“Don’t listen to him.” Miki snapped his phone shut. “Those sneaky fucks defected from Seiryuu three years ago. They’re traitors.”
“We left Seiryuu to help Takeshi,” Naoki pointed out.
“A traitor’s a traitor.” Miki crammed his phone back into his pocket. “I wouldn’t trust you with shit.”
Ayase had the sinking sensation that she’d made things worse. But what could she do? Nick stayed in contact with Takeshi; if there were problems in the Byakko leadership, maybe it was better that he talked to Miki directly. Nick could probably concoct a better story to cover for the insects, anyway.
But Ayase knew, deep down, that Nick might tell Miki her secret. He and the Church had spread word about her before. And the thought of Nick deciding when and how people learned about her…it filled Ayase with the bitter, angry resentment that had defined her early relationship with him. Her ability wasn’t just some facet in the drug war that they had to control–it was her body, her life. She had to live with the repercussions if they survived all of this.
Aggression pumped out of her heart and snaked through her veins. As the car rumbled in the nighttime quiet, a surging purpose bloomed in her chest.
“Pull over,” she ordered.
Naoki looked at her in the mirror. “What was that?”
Sachi turned to her. Ayase slid a hand over his and leaned up to the twins.
“Pull over,” she said again. “Next to an alley. Uh…please.”
The twins exchanged glances. Miki snarled from the back seat.
“I said I’ll call the Timebomb later,” he snapped. “I wanna get back to HQ.”
“You don’t have to call anybody. We just need some privacy.” Ayase looked out the back window. “No one’s been following us, right?”
“Ayase,” Sachi breathed. “What are you doing?”
Naoki slowed down the car and pulled up along the sidewalk. Hideki unlocked the car’s doors with an automatic chnk.
Ayase gestured for Miki to get out. He stared at her for a second, then opened the door.
Sachi gripped her hand before she could follow. “Wait,” he said. “I know you wanna fix this, but–”
“I can fix this. As well as Nick can, anyway.” Ayase let out a breath. “You’re right, Sachi. I’m not the person I used to be.”
Sachi chewed on his lower lip. She gently pulled her hand back from his grip.
“Wait here. This won’t take long.” She tried to flash him a smile, but she wasn’t sure it came out right. She threw the car door shut.
Miki was waiting for her in the alley, his dark clothes blending him into the shadows. Ayase checked over her shoulder to make sure they were out of eyeshot of the car.
“So?” Miki crossed his arms.
Ayase took a breath. Miki was approximately her size, which was a nice change from usual. She gathered every ounce of determination she could find in her heart.
She lifted her hands. “Do you scare easy?” she murmured.
“Good.” She closed her hands into fists.
Then she exploded them into bugs, releasing enough of her wrists that her long sleeves dangled from her forearms. Miki jerked back, a choked curse on his lips; she stepped forward, crowding him with her stubby arms as her insects buzzed in circles around his head.
“I am the bugs,” she said thinly. “And they’re not hornets. They’re worse.”
Even in the dark she could see the white of Miki’s uncovered eye. He frantically swatted at the insects.
“What the fuck?!” he gasped. “H…how the fuck are you doing that?! What’s happening?!”
Ayase reformed one hand, slowly enough that Miki could watch. Once it was flesh again, she used it to grab the front of his shirt.
“It’s…complicated,” she said as coldly as she could. “But there’s a reason we don’t tell Byakko everything. Your gang couldn’t handle it.”
“You can control those things?!”
“Yeah. So the only reason they don’t hurt Byakko is because I say so.” She leaned in closer, her fingers trembling on his shirt. “If anyone else finds out about this, I’ll know it came from either you or Mitsuko-senpai. And I’ll…I’ll come for you. I’ll come for both of you.”
Miki’s eye narrowed. He grabbed the front of her shirt in response.
“Is that a threat?” he hissed.
Ayase clenched her jaw. “You threatened me five minutes ago! I’m just…returning it.”
He stared at her a second. He flinched at the bugs that buzzed around his head.
And then he slowly released her, his eye flicking away. She felt his body soften under her grip.
“Fine. I get it.” He shrugged off her fist. “Call off your…things.”
Ayase drew back the insects to reform her missing hand. She blinked her suddenly heavy eyelids.
Crap, she thought. I was the full swarm earlier. I need to sleep.
Miki let out a shaky breath and fished a cigarette from his pocket. He lit it, took a drag, and carefully pushed up the eyepatch on his face.
In the faint light of the moon, Ayase saw the bulge of a swollen, rippled eyelid stitched shut above his cheek. She winced as Miki gently raked his nails along the stitches.
“I thought I’d seen everything,” he muttered around the cigarette. “But if you fuckers are controlling magic, that would explain why people follow you.”
“It’s not…magic,” Ayase retorted weakly. “It’s…”
Ayase honestly didn’t know how to answer. She couldn’t explain the bugs more than Daniel or Nick could.
She sighed. “It’s complicated.”
“Right.” He pulled his patch back down. “You keep using that word.”
“It’s all I can tell you, okay?”
“Nngh.” Miki gripped the cigarette with his half-broken hand. “So…you can really control them? They’ll do whatever you say?”
The hint of something curved at the end of Miki’s mouth. He took a long drag.
“No wonder Jo likes you.” He released a cloud of smoke. “You’re a secret fucking weapon.”
Ayase bit down a smile. “Thank you,” she murmured as power swelled in her chest.
Proceed to Chapter 5, Part 2, page 2–>