Chapter 6:

Case 6 - Popularity Contest

The Dejected Detective

The underground workshop was painted red. Danzo had lost count of the family members that he saw that night, but, here stood three more. It had been over twelve hours since the beginning of this, and there was seemingly no end in sight. The guards who stood watch couldn’t believe the amount of times they had seen the three recruits they brought in disappear, only for Danzo to request more. It wouldn't have been crazy to think that the room itself was a mysterious beast with an insatiable hunger, constantly feeding on the victims they had marched to their deaths… that door emanated a horror not many could explain, nor would they wish to.Bookmark here

Danzo, who was catching his breath on the floor, stood once again. His eyes had been heavy for a while now and with each movement, he thought he would pass out. But Soichiro’s promise echoed in his mind and the fear made him stand again, it pushed him to use that new darkness that had bonded to him once more.Bookmark here

Minagawa had awoken from his quick nap in the WWO office, his mind was hazy and it seemed as though he forgot where he was. He tried to sit up, pushing one of the chairs across the room by mistake and falling off of the other one with a loud thud. Bookmark here

Right outside the room, was a smell he knew all too well. It was a hellish scent, reminding him of constant late nights. Okazaki had forced him to work overtime to get through his paperwork backlog, and in his hands… that dark, menacing liquid.Bookmark here

The scent was more powerful now, approaching rapidly. The fear grew, and then it hit him. As he tried to turn, a force had smashed into him… Kagari? He smashed into his partner like a train, launching him almost through the windowBookmark here

Okazaki followed behind him with three cups filled with the boiling wake-up juice Minagawa despised. “SENPAIIIIIIII!!! I’m so glad you’re better!” Kagari wailedBookmark here

“Hit me harder next time Kagari, I’ll be back in that bed” Minagawa snapped, but Kagari took no notice. Bookmark here

“You’d like that” Okazaki responded while handing his employee one of the cupsBookmark here

Minagawa took the cup “wise ass”Bookmark here

Minagawa had agreed to meet in Okazaki’s office, though picking up another staff member was not agreed, the thought of his new chore irritated Minagawa. He rounded the corner, absentminded as he thought of his bed, as he did he bumped into a familiar face. Folders flew across the floor.Bookmark here

“We really need to stop meeting like this, Saigusa” Minagawa stretched an arm out to the girl on the groundBookmark here

“Y’know in some circles they’d say bumping into someone like this is a bad omen” she responds as she takes his handBookmark here

“Oh, what omen is that?”Bookmark here

“The start of a relationship”Bookmark here

“…sorry Saigusa, I’m not into you”Bookmark here

“That’s not what I meant, moron!” She was bright red, and Minagawa found this hilarious. Bookmark here

“Oh actually!” His laugh ended abruptly as he remembered his task “Perfect timing, the boss wants to see you.”Bookmark here

“He sent you? Wonderful, next you’ll be telling me you’re going with”Bookmark here

“Now that you mention it…”Bookmark here

The two travelled together, as both had business with the boss. Bookmark here

“Searching through that vault was a nightmare. Do you know how many spells are in there?! Too many!” Saigusa complainedBookmark here

“Well yeah, otherwise they’d be out on the streets in the hands of people who could cause carnage and chaos. There are some pervy spells in there too.”Bookmark here

“Don’t I know it, I had to look through them all, the things I’ve seen… no young girl should have to see such things!” Bookmark here

“Any of them missing? Prime suspect is the district chief if there are”Bookmark here

“No, thankfully all of those are in check… it’s the ones we didn’t find that worry me” she looked down at the report in her arms and it was clear what the report would be, Minagawa had prepared for this already. “It's kind of worrying, don't you think?” Saigusa tried to sound casual but to Minagawa it sounded like a plea for help. “Y’know, the idea that there’s more than likely someone here, in this building, wandering around chatting like nothing’s changed… yet they’ve been selling us out.” She added, she tried to not look Minagawa in the eye but glanced over for a split secondBookmark here

“There’s no way it was someone here. That scum Sosuke’s the problem, always has been. He messes up and when he’s rightfully reprimanded for it he jumps in bed with the enemy” Bookmark here

Saigusa hadn’t seen the serious side of Minagawa yet, it was kind of heartbreaking that someone as carefree as Minagawa could be affected by this whole situation this muchBookmark here

“It’s kind of weird to say, but if it was this Sosuke person, I would be almost happy. There are people here that I’ve loved to be around, they’re people that I want to trust. Thinking that any one of them could be the person trying to destroy us is horrible.” Her solemn look was kind of strange, he hadn’t known this girl for long but sadness didn’t suit her.Bookmark here

“Well either way, things’ll work themselves out. I really doubt it’s anyone from here, but if it is, we’ll sort it out. Then you can go back to being angry at me” Minagawa smirked at her. She felt uncharacteristically close to him.Bookmark here

They finally reached the final boss...the boss… and Kagari… who was clinging to Minagawa like a lost childBookmark here

“Oi, if you carry on crying I’ll make you do Okazaki’s paperwork” Minagawa yelledBookmark here

Okazaki imagined not having to do any paperwork for a second, he almost slipped off of his chair from the brief relief. Kagari let go and tried to muffle his hics and hold onto the waterfalls from his eyes. Bookmark here

“Would you like the bad news or the bad news?” Saigusa askedBookmark here

“Uhhh… the bad news?” Okazaki was slightly confused at the question he was presented withBookmark here

“Well, bad news. The twisted magic spell, it’s gone.”Bookmark here

Okazaki sat back and gripped the arms of his chair tightly for half a second before relaxing. “That settles that then”Bookmark here

Minagawa couldn’t believe how casual his boss was after hearing such a report. That spell being missing meant a lot of problems for the order. It practically guaranteed that there was a double agent in the WWO. And it also meant that the Izumi had a terrible weapon at their disposal. He expected Okazaki to be ordering a full scale investigation, not to be relaxing in his chair.Bookmark here

“Sir, you did hear me correctly… right?” Saigusa askedBookmark here

“I did. After our little meeting about the suspects a few days ago, I met with the board and the district chief, they’d already assumed it was lost. If it’s confirmed, now it’s just a waiting game. We can’t find Takehaya or the rest of the higher ups right now, unfortunately we will have to wait for them to make the first move” he instructed. His relaxed expression strained ever so slightly, but he remained stoic. Bookmark here

“That’s not it either. The cataloguing team counted up to thirty eight thousand, two hundred and sixty six spells in our possession four months ago, you’d expect that number to have risen since then… we’ve lost the better half of a hundred birthright spells since then” Saigusa added. Her usual peppy attitude was dulled, and worrying about who had these spells, and what they were doing with them just made her feel even worse.Bookmark here

It was a mutual thought between the four, they spaced out hoping that they wouldn’t find an article in the news about a stolen spell… and a stolen life. The worry was only accentuated by the sound of the rusted metal cord clutching the hanging light, swaying in the breeze let in by the open window. Bookmark here

Okazaki was the first to snap out of the mirage, he took a deep breath as he stood which in turn helped the other two snap back to reality. “Looks like this double agent’s been hitting us for a while now. There’s no way they could cart off that many spells in one night. Still doesn’t cross anyone off of the list, but it’s a start.” He massaged his temples with his middle finger and thumb as he picked out a few things from his desk drawer.Bookmark here

“I guess I better get you up to speed on what you missed” He addressed Minagawa after a long break to change the topic. “The raid on the Takehaya compound was a success”Bookmark here

“And was there anything there worth the effort? We get Takehaya?” Minagawa respondedBookmark here

“Nope, he was missing. Hardly anything incriminating either. None of his gang had anything damning on the family, nor did they give anything about their boss up. Hattori and Kagari searched the vicinity and from the sounds of it, it looked too clean, almost like someone had covered their tracks before we got there.” Bookmark here

“So what you are telling me, is that it was pointless.”Bookmark here

“Not quite!” Kagari chirped. He pointed to a file on Okazaki’s desk. It was frayed and beaten. The bindings could hardly hold it all together. It’s cover was unassuming, just jet black with some patch work poorly done. Minagawa took a hesitant look at it, Saigusa used his shoulder to get a better viewBookmark here

“You're going to tell me this is some sort of world ending spell that, in the wrong hands, would wipe out the world!! Right?”Bookmark here

“Uhh… no. I’d be slightly worried if a moron like Takehaya had it. Even more so if we let Kagari hold it for more than ten seconds”Bookmark here

“Oi!” Kagari snappedBookmark here

“Ah, good point” Minagawa added. He opened the file, the first few pages didn't seem like much, and he kept turning the page expecting something mind blowing, some huge fire… all he got was lukewarm sparksBookmark here

“I see what you mean by nothing incriminating.” He picked up the book and gave it to Saigusa. “It’s just a book of spells. Why’d you even bring this back?”Bookmark here

“Guess” Kagari responded playfullyBookmark here

“O...k…? It’s not a bingo book?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, Takehaya is actually an eighty year old lady.” Okazaki responded sarcastically.Bookmark here

Minagawa was seriously trying to connect the dots, then it hit him. “This… It can't be! The magic of all of the Izumi family members!” He was more surprised than the other’s expected…Bookmark here

“Nope.” Kagari answered quickly. Minagawa was certain he had it right, and the gears in his head stopped abruptly. The hamster in there fell on its face and gasped for airBookmark here

“If it’s not that then what is it?!”Bookmark here

“It’s the missing spell!” Saigusa announced as she finally realised. Bookmark here

Okazaki smirked and rested his chin on his palm. “Correct.”Bookmark here

“But… wait, how did you know what this was? I haven’t even reported what spells are missing, none of my team have!”Bookmark here

“My first mission with Honsho, we went out to a hospital. There was a kid who had put herself and a couple of her classmates into intensive care. It’d made headlines across the country too, and a lot of people decided they’d make the situation worse by trying to get the big scoop like the vultures they were. We went down there to do some protection work after some of the other agents had taken her magic. While we were there, her parents were constantly asking about the magic. Apparently she manifested it a couple of days before the incident.”Bookmark here

“What was it?” Saigusa askedBookmark here

“Check on that list for a spell called Outburst”Bookmark here

Saigusa scanned through the list intently, turning each page quicker and quicker until she saw it. “It’s here. Let’s see… The user releases an intense-“ she paused as she read the rest and connected the dots. “-explosion, when under immense stress.” Bookmark here

“She was being bullied at school. According to her teacher, they had been teasing her about the fact that she still hadn’t bought the new talisman. It’d gone on for months and when she was hurting most it just happened.” Okazaki remembered it like a bad dream. “Poor kid, she goes through all of that then almost kills her classmates. Good news is that after that, she managed to fit in at her new school. No magic anymore though”Bookmark here

The room fell quietBookmark here

“Anyways, that spell? I had a hold of it for a while, never used it but I didn’t feel right just leaving it in a vault to fester. Well, since we found out about the leak, I put it in there so that no one could just take it off my desk but it looks like the vault wasn’t as secure as we thought it was.”Bookmark here

“You don’t say. This is a good thing though, if we put this against the records we have we can figure out exactly what’s missing” Minagawa added.Bookmark here

Saigusa nodded “I’ll pass it on to the team in the vault, we should be able to show you the details once we take a look”Bookmark here

“By all means. Good work, Ms Saigusa. Make sure you and your team get some rest first.”Bookmark here

Saigusa left the room in a hurry.Bookmark here

The basement door swung open, this time, it was not at the response of Danzo’s knocking. Soichiro glided down the steps, followed by the right hand, Akagawa. Danzo couldn’t move, he clung to the corner of the room and tried to catch his breath, it was clear to all present he was more than exhaustedBookmark here

“Oh?! Looks like we got a success! Pay up So-chan!” Akagawa yelled. Soichiro didn’t respond but his quick tch spoke for him and he handed a small something or other to the bet winner. They didn’t say a word to Danzo and rounded the corner to the other three in the room. Where they stood, a red film covered the ground, and the stench of blood that had been cleaned and spilt hung in the air. The three bowed as low as they could. Bookmark here

“Raise your heads, state your number, your name and your magic as well as their side effects.” Soichiro ordered. Akagawa stood beside him. The three stood straight and followed their orders starting from the leftBookmark here

“Test number thirteen, Higuchi Narita. My magic is named Noxion, and I produce poisons. The side effect unfortunately makes me more susceptible to my poison the more I produce” The first was an older man with a wicked gaze, they had plucked him from a lab, testing different spells to see what effects they would have on small animals.Bookmark here

“Test number nineteen, Hado Tenkichi. I can alter my luck, it’s called Snake Eyes” This one was younger, in his early thirties. He was tall and confident but this was of course due to his amazing luck. Bookmark here

“I think I’ve heard of you… you’re that moron who drained three casinos in two weeks and lost it all the next day, right?” Akagawa askedBookmark here

“Yes, sir. I hadn’t been well that day, however I needed the money. When I overuse Snake Eyes my karma is ruined and I end up making mistakes.” He responded. Soichiro signalled the final of the three, and she nodded.Bookmark here

“Number twenty one. The magic is Midas, I can turn what I touch to gold. I can’t switch it off, so my magic is constantly draining. My parents helped develop special fibres that can resist the spell but should my bare skin touch you, you make me more wealthy. The name is Mizutama Ritsu”. She was young, couldn’t have been older than eighteen. Her blonde hair was crudely cut short, and her fair skin, covered with bandages and scars. Bookmark here

“Surprising to see someone as young as yourself survive what many others could not.” Soichiro added. Ritsu did not respond Bookmark here

“All three of you have done well. You are the first but not the last, and therefore, your duty is to provide us with data. You have each been assigned a target from the Order. You are to find them, and either incapacitate, or kill them. My men outside will brief you”Bookmark here

The three exited the lab, leaving Danzo to deal with the two men he feared. He tried fruitlessly to stand, but could only muster enough strength to find his seat.Bookmark here

“How many failures, in total?” Soichiro askedBookmark here

“eighteen, sir.” Bookmark here

“Could’ve been worse. Alright then, you’ve got one more then you can rest. Boss wants you to do as much testing as possible today. I’ll have my men wake you when you are needed.” Soichiro turned to exitBookmark here

“W-wait. Sir Soichiro, I thought only three were required of me…” Danzo pleadedBookmark here

“You thought wrong. Don’t worry Takehaya, it’s only one person this time. Though if he dies, so do you.” He lightly tapped Akagawa on the chest with his fist, “so stay alive”Bookmark here

Akagawa grinned, “like this loser could kill me. You should be more worried for your own safety, So-nii, when this happens our little spars will become oh so easy”. Soichiro cracked a smile for the first timeBookmark here

“You wish” he walked away and out of the room, leaving Akagawa smirking and Danzo despairing. As the door closed, Akagawa took his spot, placed his hands behind his head and relaxed. Danzo just about managed to stand, he could feel an emptiness inside of him which worried him. He knew that, though he had figured out a way to increase the survival rate, it didn’t matter. The control needed would be difficult with the minuscule amount of energy he had left. It would strain him just to produce the spell, never mind controlling it after the sleepless night.Bookmark here

“Sir Akagawa, I apologise but I really don’t think this is a good idea. I’m sure that if you come back in a few hours I can-“Bookmark here

“Shut it. You can sleep when you’re dead”Bookmark here

Danzo snapped “and if we go along with it, you will be”Bookmark here

“Ooh, when did you grow a backbone? Don’t worry Danzo, I trust you. Well, not really, but considering your options you really don’t have a choice.”Bookmark here

“And those options are?” Danzo respondedBookmark here

“Well, you can walk out here or you can be carried out. Use your spell, trust that I’ll make it. Or you can be my test subject instead, test how much skin you can lose before you pass out. Your choice, but if I was you I’d go with the one that doesn’t end up in a body bag… Well, less body bag, more mop bucket.”Bookmark here

Now, at the Izumi family estate. Hisashi was finishing off a hot drink, he was tentatively watching a memory on his holoscreen. A young boy ran around, laughing as Hisashi tried to catch him. The boss smiled as he watched the screen and quietly laughed remembering the moment. “When I’m older, I’m going to be just like big bro Ren! I’ll fight those evil agents and beat them all!” the kid exclaimed at the top of his lungs, the Hisashi from the past laughed loudly. “Oh you will, will you? You’d have to be a fine mage for that now wouldn’t you?” Bookmark here

The kid smiled gleefully and nodded his head, “I’ll be the strongest mage there is! Old man Merlin will quake in his boots!”Bookmark here

“The grand mage Hikar!” Hisashi announced, the current Hisashi mouthed the words exactly. But the video ended, and the screen disappeared, with the boy’s face being the last frame. Hisashi’s joy turned to bitterness again as he mouthed the words againBookmark here

“The grand mage, Hikari…” he let the sound of his whisper replay in his head for a few seconds before his duty became his method to forget. “Soichiro.”Bookmark here

The left hand took a step out of the shadows, into the light and bowed. “Sir?”Bookmark here

“Where are we up to, right now?” the boss askedBookmark here

“The tests were a success, Takehaya has developed the magic of Akagawa and three other family members with minimal loss.”Bookmark here

The boss quickly glared at Soichiro, it made the usually calm and collected family member shudder. “I’m not asking about the damn Takehaya brat!”Bookmark here

Soichiro now knew what the topic was. It was one of his boss’ bad days. “Well? Do you have it or not?!” The murderous gaze continued and Soichiro was a deer in the headlights.Bookmark here

“We don’t, sir. But, with the shade we’ve been collecting efficiently. If you give us just a little more time!”Bookmark here

“I DON’T HAVE TIME!” Hisashi’s roar could be heard around the estate and all who heard it cowered. “And neither do you, Soichiro! I’m done waiting… I’m done waiting.” There was pain in his eyes, the video started to play once more and Hisashi was drawn to it once more. “I expect results, Masamori, and neither you or Ren have delivered so I am taking things into my own hands.” Hisashi’s orders were absolute, but Soichiro knew the next command, it would be a risk to everything they held dearBookmark here

“Sir I can-” his words stopped suddenly, and his lips refused to move. The aura around Hisashi’s eyes were next level, he had activated his law, his magicBookmark here

“Who told you to talk out of turn?! Do you think your rank gives you free reign?! It is not a privilege I give to allow you to interrupt me! In fact the only favour it does you is protect you, were you not my left, you’d be in a shallow grave alongside the rest of your pitiful family!”Bookmark here

Every fibre of his being told him to attack, but his body refused to move.Bookmark here

“Now then. You will listen, as that mutt Ren will. I’ve had enough of the smoke and mirrors. Gather every member, we will steal every spell in that vault.”Bookmark here

Soichiro’s body moved on its own, nodding and walking out of the room. Hisashi returned to his video, to the boy. “I will bring you back, Hikari.”Bookmark here

Danzo couldn’t keep his eyes open anymore. His breathing was so heavy he thought his lungs might pop. But if he stopped for a second or slowed down slightly, the fatigue would render him immobile. His beautiful silken shirt had been absolutely drenched in sweat and as such felt heavier, which didn’t do much for the fatigue. He had already given up on fighting to keep both eyes open, with the one that just barely remained ajar trained on the target of his earlier magic. Test subject number twenty two, Akagawa Ren. Standing resolute with a grin on his face as he stared past the floorboards and into the heavens. He had torn his shirt to shreds during the procedure, blood fell from his nose. He had burst a blood vessel by tensing to block out the pain. Bookmark here

But here he stood, a more dangerous man indeed. Suddenly the blood falling from his nose stopped and moved against gravity, it floated before his head and started orbiting him. Slowly at first it picked up pace before the drop became a thin line, forming a ring. Bookmark here

One of the Izumi henchmen from outside came in to check on the situation as instructed by Soichiro. Hearing the footsteps, Akagawa twitched. The iris of his eye, once a murky, dark blue, lit up with a bright green ember. The blood stuttered in the air, then, with speeds comparable to Minagawa’s Flash Step, it shot across the room and buried itself in the wall behind the henchmen before bubbling and melting back into a small puddle of red on the ground. Danzo had tried to follow the red disc on its path but lost it on its way… it was only when the same red drop fell from the henchman’s mouth. It seemed he too was as surprised as Danzo, he soon realised why when he felt a burning pain in his gut, so hot it was like he had stood in a furnace. His eyes rolled to the back of his eyes, and he fell to the floor.Bookmark here

Akagawa smirked as he took note of the damage his new magic had done and took his black jacket, or what remained of it, and covered himself with it. He left the room with a prideful grin, all Danzo could do was fear what was to come from this terrible gift. He walked past Danzo and smacked his back, “C’mon, Danzo. I’ve gotta learn all the tricks to this thing… and I know just the placeBookmark here

Danzo could only imagine, and it wasn’t pretty, but nor was what he imagined he would look like if he declined. And thus, the two unlikely new friends journeyed out together. Ready to cause untold mayhem and misery. Bookmark here

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