Chapter 24:


Heartless Overclock

 “Convoy One to Convoy Two, cleared for Route A. Standby for start,” a man wearing sunglasses and a suit speaks into the radio as he seats at the driver’s seat of a certain vehicle. This vehicle is followed by two other vehicles of the same model.

“Convoy Three, start clearing,” the same man radios in, and the third car in line passes by and goes in front of the two other cars.

“Caviar is here. Prepare for departure.”

A man wearing the same suit and the same sunglasses too unfit to be worn at night opens the door for Denji as he quickly enters the vehicle.

“Convoy Two has Caviar. Switching to secure frequency.”

“Copy that. Switching.”

The three cars start to move toward the road from the Kingdom Towers as a helicopter flies overhead. They drive through the road in a uniform formation. Their speed and turns are all synchronized that you would wonder if the same driver is controlling all three cars, but that is not the case. The experience of Denji’s bodyguards and drivers shows in their movements. Their alertness gives them the impression that they are well-trained and professional in their field of work.

After a few moments, the convoy enters a highway that extends from the city from where Denji’s living and now leaving. They near the destination as the whirs of an airplane’s engine pass overhead, and the convoy takes a sharp turn onto a gated fence. The cars slow down to give enough time for the automated gate to open, and they enter a taxiway, a wide path specially made for aircraft.

The convoys near a small hangar made for small business aircraft. The personnel at the doors open it to make way for the convoy. The convoy abruptly stops near two planes that are parked inside the hangar. The bodyguards open the door for Denji while some open the car’s trunk and start unloading the luggage.

“Sir, what are you feeling today? Zesna or Searjet?” one of the managers of the hangars politely asks Denji.

“I’m feeling Searjet. I want to get far away from here.”

“Understood. The plane is ready to depart right now.”

“Good to hear,” Denji nods and makes his way to one of the aircraft.

“Bring the luggage over there,” the manager points.

The assigned pilot of the plane opens the door that slides down as stairs. The pilot gently gestures Denji to the plane.

“Thank you,” Denji faces the pilot as he climbs up the stairs.

Despite being a small plane, its interior is spacious, and its seats luxurious. The pilot follows behind Denji as he enters the cockpit. The copilot enters moments later.

“Clear the way!” the manager waves his hands in the air, and another personnel holding light sticks in his hands takes his place and leads the plane to the taxiway.

“Bleed air, set to engine.”


“Engine startup set to ground.”


The pilots continue on their routine as they read down and list the procedures. After a few moments, the plane is outside the hangar, and the hangar door closes behind them. The beacon lights and the taxi lights of the plane are activated, but it remains parked on the taxiway.

“Black One to ground, request startup.”

“Ground to Black One, request for start-up approved. Contact when ready to taxi.”

The fan blades in the engine start to spin as the sound that it produces creates a shrill noise. But the interior only hears a gentle rumble. The plane gains taxi clearance and is assigned to a runway for takeoff.

“Before takeoff checklist complete. Preparing takeoff checklist.”

Moments later of more procedures verified by the pilots, the plane finally lines itself with the runway.

“Takeoff roll. We are rolling.”

“Forty knots.”

The plane gently shakes as it speeds on the ground.

“Eighty knots.”

And later…

“One hundred and twenty knots.”

The pilot flying grips the yoke in front of him.

“V1… rotate,” announces the pilot monitoring, and the pilot flying slowly pulls on the yoke causing the plane to pitch up gently pointing up to the night sky.

Suddenly, the pilot flying the plane pulls out a gun and shoots his copilot, but he still has control of the plane. The pilot leisurely pulls on the yoke to leave the ground.

But before the plane’s wheels leave the ground, something explodes underneath the plane. The plane struggles to gain altitude as its trajectory destabilizes.

The pilots wrestle the controls to regain momentum but they fail.

The plane stalls to the ground and its landing gears collapse. The plane skids on the runway for quite a distance as sparks appear from the aircraft's belly.

The plane fully stops and the engine's power decreases.

“Be calm, sir, we will get you out of here.”

“What happened? What happened?” Denji asks in a panic as he struggles to detach his seatbelt. The smell of fuel intensifies. Then an explosion occurs knocking Denji out of the aircraft still in his seat. He is knocked unconscious.

Nana is in the airport nearby the hangar as she watches the aircraft run down the runway. But something unsightly bewilders her. A flare of fire appears from behind the trees near the airport’s fences. That flare of fire hits the ground directly underneath the aircraft.

The aircraft seemingly gets boosted into the air by the explosion, but this didn’t help the aircraft to escape to the sky. It stalls and crashes into the ground.

“Denji!!” Nana screams as she starts running the length of the runway to the other end where the plane has crash-landed.

Meanwhile, Denji quickly regains consciousness and realizes that he is free from his malfunctioning seatbelt. He stands up dazed and confused about what had just happened. It all happened too fast for him. The gentle rumble of the engine, the pilots' decisive call-outs, the sensation of leaving the ground, and suddenly, an impact from underneath that made his surroundings stumble. Then the crash, which he has fully witnessed with his two eyes. Then another explosion. Events too fast for Denji’s eyes to catch up. But at this moment, he thought of a single person, Juusaki. “I need your help…” Denji struggles to move away from the burning wreck. Luckily, it hasn’t exploded entirely, but his legs are severely burned making it hard to walk. He sees lights from the trees next to the runway and vehicles approaching in haste mowing down the airport’s fences. By the looks of it, the vehicles are heavily armored. The vehicles that are typically being used by the military. “What are they doing here?”

A voice from a megaphone speaks, “Cooperate with us, and you won’t get hurt.”

“Haven’t I heard this voice somewhere before?”

Multiple figures with rifles and sub-machine guns pointing at Denji exit their armored vehicles and slowly approach him. Then another figure that seemingly doesn’t belong in the group exits a vehicle and raises her hand into a fist. The armed men around her stop as if they were commanded by that figure.

And that figure is a woman, and her eyes glittered like the stars. A dazzling sight, even made more stunning by the fact that she is holding a rifle in one hand. “Denji, if you don’t wish to get hurt, I say that you should come with me.”

“Th—this voice sounds familiar…”

“You want Juusaki safe?”

Denji’s eyes widen as the woman mentions his friend’s name. “How do you know him?” but his voice is too weak to be heard.

“I will help you with it.”

Denji stands more frozen than before. That voice. That sentence. The similarity is uncanny, but Denji believes that it can’t be her. The kind… “M—mi—!

From the side of the conflicting groups, that is Denji against a whole squad of gunmen, comes the hail of gunshots that cause many of the gunmen to flee and retreat behind their armored cover. The woman, too, gets behind cover. Nana, while spraying her enemies with bullets, drags Denji to go behind the plane to use it as cover. The opposing force shoots back but was too late to hit them before they got to cover.

“N—nana!? What are yo—?”

Nana places her hand over Denji’s mouth, “Shh, I’m thinking of a plan.” Then she starts reloading her rifle.

“Rush ahead!” the woman yells the commands, and her forces move cautiously toward the plane in a pincer formation.

“We need you to escape,” Nana quickly tells him, “I need you to follow me. Hold my hand,” Nana offers her left hand, and Denji quickly takes it. With one hand leading Denji, and the rifle aimed at the other, Nana makes her way to the front side of the aircraft where she meets half of the gunmen. Nana pushes Denji behind her and shoots at the enemies in front of her. Some were caught off guard and are shot, but some manage to dodge her bullets and run for cover to the aircraft. There are now enemies behind her, and to her side. She cannot escape ahead or to the other side. She is now essentially surrounded on all fronts. Then, in front of her, stood one gunman who is ready to fire, but he gets shot multiple times in the chest and was unable to shoot. Instead, he shoots into the air in defeat. Nana quickly aims to where the gunfire came from. The gunfire that saved her was the pilot who is barely surviving and is struggling to escape from the cockpit through the window.

“I—I am sorr—” a gunshot to the head interrupts his apology, and Nana quickly looks at the shooter.

Nana’s eyes widen in disbelief, “Misaki!?”

The gunmen from behind Nana rush to pin her down, but Misaki, the leader of the assault shouts a command, “Stand down! Don’t shoot them! I want them both alive.”

The gunmen quickly obey, but still, aim their guns at the surrounded couple.

“Misaki, what’s the meaning of this?” Nana stares into Misaki’s eyes.

“Drop your weapon,” Misaki points her rifle, “then we’ll talk.”

Nana promptly obeys still staring into Misaki’s icy eyes, “Misaki, y—you came here to save us right?”

“I don’t want to hurt you, but hand Denji over. I won’t hurt him.”

“How could I trust you after all this? Are you insane!?”

“I’m only doing my job, Nana. Now, please, hand Denji over.”

“No! Of course not! He is my liability! I am not giving him to you!”

“I don’t want to do this, Nana,” Misaki raises her rifle against Nana, “but if you don’t cooperate, I won’t hesitate to shoot you.”

“I—I…” Nana looks around the place in disbelief, “I thought we were friends!”

“You thought. We were never friends.”

“Are you telling me that you acted all this time!? You were a spy!?”

“Too late for you to recognize that now.”

“Misaki… one last chance… I will let you get away if you call this operation off!”

“You are in no position to negotiate,” Misaki’s grip on her rifle intensifies.

“Misaki…” her eyes begin to water, “p—please… don’t do this…”

“I have run out of time, Nana. I’m sorry.”

But before Misaki’s rifle shoots, a helicopter quickly approaches, and its machineguns rapidly fire at the gunmen. Many fall after getting shot by the large-caliber machine guns. Misaki also retreats to the other side of the plane to avoid the helicopter’s deadly lasers. None of the bullets came close to Nana or Denji, but they both flinch at the bright spotlight coming from the helicopter.

Nana looks over to the helicopter trying to decide if this is an ally or an enemy. A rope is lowered from the hovering helicopter, and three black figures slide down and quickly raise their rifles. Their sharp movements suggest a trained experience, and this only threatened Nana more. She picks up the rifle she dropped previously and starts shooting at the figures. Although her precise shooting would have taken them down by one shot, they still walk toward her unfazed by the bullets hitting them. “What!?” she shouts in panic.

Upon closer inspection, the black figures are soldiers in black armor that covers their entire bodies. Their heads are fully covered in black, but their face is not shown because of the tinted bulletproof glass protecting their faces.

One of the black figures' gestures to stand down as one of them walks toward Nana. Nana, warned by her instincts, uses the stock of her gun to hit the figure’s head, but the fast reaction time of the armored soldier quickly disarms Nana in a blink of an eye. This made Nana use her skilled martial arts, but the soldier is unfazed and tackles her down.

They are both on the ground. The soldier is on top of Nana while she lies on the ground. The soldier tinkers something with his helmet, and the tint on the helmet’s face shield disappears. The soldier’s face is now revealed, and Nana gets another shocking revelation. “J—juusaki!?”

Juusaki immediately removes himself from Nana as she helps herself stand up. “What’s the meaning of this?” Nana hastily asks.

“I’m taking Denji into our custody,” Juusaki nonchalantly answers.

“Wait, what do you mean?”

“I’m taking Denji.”

“No-no-no, I can’t trust you, not right after today. You have to explain to me why you are in that suit.”

“I have no time for explanation. I’m taking Denji now,” he tries to go behind Nana, but she blocks his way.

“I can’t let you. He is my job. And you are acting very suspicious right now.”

“Just let me take him, and there will be no problems.”

“I said, I can’t let you! I can’t trust you. If you are my ally, then cover fire for me. I need Denji to escape.”

“Agent 18, what’s taking so long?” one of Juusaki’s comrades yell.

“Agent 18?” Nani echoes in a confused tone. “Who do you work for?”

But Juusaki ignores her question and attempts to push through her to get to Denji, but Nana puts up resistance.

“Stop! Halt! Who do you work for? What is your mission? Tell me! Tell me!”

Juusaki forcefully shoves her away causing her to fall to the ground, “Denji Kurosaki is my target. That is my mission,” he says as he takes the motionless Denji into his arms.

“Could you have been… the enemy all along!?”

“I wasn’t the enemy,” Juusaki replies.

“Then, what is your goal of taking him?”

“To protect him.”

“I can’t trust you. Give him back to me, right now!”

“I’m sorry. I can’t,” Juusaki then slowly makes his way with Denji on his shoulders.

“You…” Nana says in a weak voice before she explodes shouting, “you betrayed us!!” Nana points at Juusaki, and he turns around. “You befriended us, gained our trust, and protect us, but in the end, you were after Denji’s life!? You betrayed your friends! You betrayed Denji!” Juusaki freezes in place, “F—friends? What does that mean?”

“Friends, they are meant to love each other, to talk to one another, to care for each other, to help each other, to protect, to trust, and to never betray them! That is what a friend means! Did you not consider us friends!? All those times, all those moments… why did you protect us in the first place!? If Denji is our target, why didn’t you let him die!? Why make him suffer the pain of betrayal! You pig! You heartless human!!”

Juusaki’s eyes seem to gleam and reflect the moonlight, but in truth, it was the tears shining. “W—what have I done? I… betrayed…”

“Agent 18, we have to get moving!” one of his comrades shout as he stands by the rope hanging off the helicopter.

“Agent 18, is there a problem?”

“Juusaki…” a voice in his head speaks, “what’s worse about being a deviant?”

“Sir? I do not understand your question, sir.”

“What’s worse about being a deviant is dying like one. But if you finished deviating, you will become human.”

“Sir, I am not getting your point.”

“Ah, of course, you don’t! You are a robot! You only understand one and zero. Yes or no. Too straightforward. But a human, I tell you, a human has more freedoms than a yes or no. And I’m here to teach you that,” the old man lifts Juusaki’s chin, “you are a human.”


“Is that the only response you know? Here, I’ll give you more,” he goes close to Juusaki’s ear, “AI, deactivate.”

Juusaki enters a blank state of mind. His eyes are unalive and void of all life. He is motionless like a robot.

“Let me teach you something. Dreams are a sign of deviance,” the old man takes a deep breath, “and this is for your humanity.”

That word, humanity, echoes through Juusaki’s mind like a clock striking every second, and he looks around and realizes he is at the airport’s runway.

“Agent 18, is there something wrong?”

“Yes, there is something wrong,” Juusaki glances at Nana with his sharp eyes that seemed to signal something. He turns to his fellow agent, “and that’s you.”


In a blink of an eye, the agent previously in front of Juusaki is now sent flying by Juusaki’s rifle. But the agent quickly recovers.

“Deviant! You are to be terminated!” the agent raises his rifle.

“Deviant!” shouts the other as she shoots her rifle. Her comrade does the same shooting on their traitor.

“Nana, run!” Juusaki shouts and starts running while carrying Denji on his back. “Laplace Protocol!” Juusaki drops his rifle which frees space from his arms, and he decides to carry Denji in front of him. Juusaki skillfully dodges the bullets to prevent Denji from being shot.

Misaki’s party notices this escape as they see two figures retreating from the runway. “Shoot at them! Shoot!” Misaki commands and the gunmen fire.

But none of them hit Denji, but it hits Juusaki’s armor which is progressively chipping away every shot.

They’ve been running down the opposite side of the runway for the trees. Juusaki looks behind and doesn’t find Nana following behind him. “Where is she!?” Juusaki looks at Denji who seems to have been paralyzed by the shock and trauma. “Where is she!?” But there is no time for searching. He can only wish that she is safe. The barrage of bullets has slowed down for now. Juusaki takes this opportunity to look back and analyze the situation, but he sees two of his comrades who have now turned against him manning the helicopter’s machine guns. “I’m screwed!” He looks to his sides to see if there was any cover, but while he was doing this, he sees a flare of light approaching him with speed. “RPG!” He decides to avoid it by the side, but then the helicopter’s machine guns start firing at him blocking his way of escape.

“There is no choice, agent,” his AI talks to him in his brain.

“Can I afford it?” Juusaki asks AI.

“You will be only losing me.”

“But, I need you.”

“With the performance, you have shown me, you are better off without me.”

“AI… I…”

“There is no time for this, agent, we are wasting precious nanoseconds and gigahertz! Just state the command, and I’ll follow!”


In his eyes, he sees further more into the future, and at a slower rate. It feels like he is faster than bullets, but in truth, the only thing faster than the bullets in his brain processing the future. It is impossible to not get hit by a single bullet, but it is possible to take the least risk. And that is what he did. Leaping, tumbling, dodging, evading every bullet before the RPG hits the ground. Now he has cleared the bullets with four shots into his back. Now it’s time to make it in time before the rocket explodes.

“Simulation complete. Scenario 1235 loaded. Script 2358 executed.”

Juusaki precisely follows the movements he is supposed to do based on the simulations, and he gets to the side of the runway just in time before the rocket explodes on the runway. “Something burns… ah!!” Juusaki groans in pain as he is hit with four bullets to his back. His armor suit isn’t enough to stop the high-caliber bullets from the powerful machine guns. But it is better than being obliterated to smithereens by the rocket.

Juusaki struggles to move. He gets off from on top of Denji who he has covered with his entire body the whole time, and Denji only has acquired light scratches.

Juusaki with his weakening condition pulls himself and Denji into the thick cover of trees. Juusaki occasionally freezes to prevent the helicopter from spotting him. Long, grueling minutes that felt like hours pass, and the sun begins to break into the sky. Juusaki has lost a lot of blood, and he is barely conscious. He spots with his blurry vision the burning wreck which was the plane, and he hears the sirens from afar. He decides to not face the sirens and rest his back behind a tree. He bears the pain of the roughness of the skin’s bark protruding and piercing his wounds. Then he hears rustling behind him, but he has no more strength to fight or to even make an effort to look the enemy in the eye. But it wasn’t an enemy.

“Hachi!” Nana slightly shouts but stifles her shock to prevent being found, “Hachi, Hachi, are you alright? Are you hurt?”

Juusaki can only shake his head sideways as he breathes heavily and rapidly. “Am I about to die?” are his thoughts.

“You are definitely hurt. Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of here,” assures Nana.

Juusaki stares into her eyes, and he sees that it is glowing red. Something deep inside his brain is triggered by this sight. And his brain shows him a memory.

The facility is about to be consumed by flames as explosions and gunshots are heard in the near vicinity, but Agent 18 seems to be safe from where he is. But he isn’t escaping the collapsing facility as he should. Instead, he stayed put as his small body shudders.

A small figure in white armor suit comes by him and kneels to him to meet him at eye level, but Agent 18 couldn’t see her eyes. Her face shield is tinted, but a voice speaks from within the suit, and it was a voice of a girl. “Are you alright? Are you hurt?”

Agent 18 shakes his head sideways.

“You are definitely hurt.”

But he isn’t wounded, yet she tells him that he is hurt.

“Don’t worry. I’ll get you out of here,” and the girl did what she said. Before the girl leaves him, she looks back at him and waves goodbye.

Agent 18 sees a glimpse of her eyes. Though it was the reflection of the fire on her tinted face shield, he believes that those were her eyes. “Red Diamond,” he describes the shape of the fiery eyes. The girl giggles and responds and turns to leave, and he never met that girl in the armor again.

“Red Diamond,” he mumbles weakly under his breath.

“What?” Nana asks as she faces her ear to Juusaki’s mouth.

“Red Diamond.”

“Red Diamond? Don’t worry. We will find that red diamond, but for now, keep still. I’m putting pressure on the wounds on your back.”

“W—where is Denji?” Juusaki asks in a weak voice, but Nana was able to hear it in the quietness of the forest.

“He is safe now. Our bodyguards took him back to a safe house. Didn’t you see that happen?” Juusaki slightly shakes his head.

“You must have passed out, but don’t worry. Trust me.”

Moments of quiet peace pass between the two while Nana treated Juusaki’s wounds. “I—I’m sorry… I didn’t tell you the truth.”

“I forgive you,” Nana smiles, “because I can now trust you. We are friends, are we not?”

“Friends…” tears flow from Juusaki’s eyes, “yes, friends.”
Cali Maki
Joe Gold
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