March 14th, 2023, 7:00 A.M.
Yuni yawned as she walked down the street. This was going to be her first day back since Reika’s death. She hoped most of the station would not act hostile towards her like Serika and Bianka.
“If I walk in and they treat me like shit, I might start throwing hands. Besides, they’re not the ones who saw how bad she looked," Yuni thought.
She shuddered as she remembered the horrific sight of a bloodied Reika dying in front of her. She wanted that memory erased from her mind. However, she could never forget Reika’s dying words...
“Our station, Illumous mole.”
Those were the words that rang in Yuni’s mind and prevented her from falling into despair. The traitor was the reason their original mission failed in the first place. Had the bastards not known they were coming; they would have exposed Illumous and arrested one of their leaders. There were times Yuni wished they had more allies they could trust, but that was simply not possible. In the mainstream, Illumous was billed as nothing more than a conspiracy theory created by the mentally insane. Not to mention, Illumous was very protective of its secrecy and would eliminate any who dug too deeply into them.
As Yuni dwelled on the past, Madoka showed up riding with Emeri on a new motorcycle.
“Hey Yuni! Are you going to work today?” Madoka asked.
“Madoka!? Yeah. Hey Rolly, I see you got a new motorcycle and helmet," Yuni stated
“Yeah, this one’s a Yamaha XSR155. We were going out to get crepes again. This time we’re going to the trusted one we normally go to. I’ve also go a taser and installed an app that scans for poison on my phone, just in case that clown tries to ruin our early morning breakfast again," Emeri stated.
As the three walked into Ryokoma for breakfast, Emeri noticed Madoka gazing nervously at a somber Yuni.
"Hey Mado-chan, if you want to talk with Yuni go ahead," Emeri nodded.
“But what about you?”
“Don’t worry, besides I now have a smartwatch that can send an S.O.S. signal if I get in trouble, though I doubt that clown will try and kidnap me here. Well, I'll be in the arcade. Order some unadon for me.”
Emeri walked off as Madoka sat down with Yuni.
“So why are you looking so sad Yuni?” Madoka asked
“Oh, remember how I told you about Sensei? Well, I was just thinking about how I can route out the rat that leaked our plan to the enemy," Yuni stated.
“Wait! I thought only you and your chief knew. Does that mean it’s the chief!?”
“I considered it, but it’s doubtful. She and Sensei have been trying to bring down those scumbags for years. Plus, I’m sure Sensei would have easily countered if Nakajima was the rat. What most likely happened is the rat noticed the three of us always sneaking off to discuss our plans. All they had to do then was keep tabs on us and report any suspicious movement to their allies. That’s likely the reason our initial ambush failed and resulted in Sensei’s capture. The rescue plan was undeniably leaked in real time though.”
“Why did you run back to the station knowing there was a traitor?”
“As embarrassing as it sounds, I only came to the realization that there was a rat in our station after I heard Sensei’s dying words. At the time saving Sensei was the only thing on my mind. I told everyone that Sensei had been captured by the Yakuza we were trying to bust, our Superintendent gave the go ahead for the rescue mission, and I crafted the plan. Since I had to share the plan with the station, as well as all personnel from outside our station that were present, the rat undeniably leaked the plan then and there. If we caught them by surprise, I’m positive we would have saved Sensei before those bastards inflicted a mortal wound.”
“That’s why my family hates those creeps! They’re so sneaky and tough to expose even with our wealth and power. Plus, the big shots we do know about always take steps to cover their tracks. I wish that journalist that exposed them constantly was still around.”
Yuni suddenly froze.
“You mean Fubuki Dakota right?” she trembled.
“Yeah! That’s her name. Grandpa always used to say she was a savior that helped us finally begin a strong counteroffensive against those creeps. Ever since she disappeared three years ago things have been rough, though she briefly reappeared a year ago before disappearing again. Momma doesn’t think she’s dead but has no idea what happened to her,” Madoka explained.
“Hey Madoka, do you believe Fubuki Dakota is a respectable journalist, despite all the hate and scorn she and those who openly defend her receive?”
To Madoka’s shock, Yuni began to cry tears of joy.
“I’m so happy, so happy I found someone else that sees her for who she really is," Yuni cried
“Why are you crying!?” Madoka gasped.
Yuni composed herself before answering Madoka.
“Growing up, I’ve always had great respect for Fubuki despite what others say about her. I’d defend her no matter how many insults or stones were hurled at me. This is also why I had no friends and became an outcast. Even at my house, my aunt, Hitomi strongly discouraged me from following in Fubuki’s footsteps, while my cousin Kasumi openly despised Fubuki. I was only ever to get through life thanks to my high intellect, and the occasional visits I’d receive from my mother. My mother had an incredibly dangerous job, making it risky for us to properly live together or meet each other. The times we were able to reunite though, were some of the best moments of my life. Even if my mother gained new scars and wounds, her will was never broken and she’d always smile and comfort me," Yuni explained.
“Your mom sounds like a badass! Is she a secret agent?” Madoka giddily asked.
“I guess her job was kind of like being a secret agent. She’d constantly post videos related to her work on Ewetube. Even though we were apart, I’d always watch her videos. Ironically, Kasumi was the one who would usually watch them with me despite not enjoying the content. Sadly, she disappeared without a trace on my 16th birthday. I’ll never forget that horrific day.”
As Yuni began to shiver and tear up, Madoka got up and embraced her in a hug.
“You don’t have to say it if it’s too painful," she smiled.
“No, you’re the first person since Sensei that I’ve been able to air my grievances to,” Yuni tearfully smiled.
Yuni took a deep breath before continuing her story.
“On my 16th birthday my family received a disturbing package. Normally, my mother would usually send me a letter or try to meet with me on my birthday. At that time, I received none of it. Instead, I received a shrunken head in a package.”
“Was… that your mother’s-”
“No, we all thought it was at first, but after calming down and taking a closer look at it, we realized it wasn't even a real human head. Though I do assume it was sent by her as some kind of S.O.S. signal. My aunt seemed to be the only one who understood the message. After examining the head for a few minutes, she immediately packed her bags and left without saying a word.”
“How did she know but not you?” Madoka asked.
“Oh, I guess I didn’t clarify, my mother and aunt are identical twin sisters. Before my mother chose her career path, she and my aunt were incredibly close. I’d argue that she’s the only person that could understand my mother better than me.”
“Yeah, I can get the picture, two of my older sisters are twins and they’re always together and completing each other’s sentences.”
“Getting back on topic, an hour after my aunt left, Kasumi packed her bags and glared at me as she also left without saying a word. One of my remaining cousins then kicked me out of the house, as she blamed me for ruining her family. I was then forced to buy an apartment and work part time jobs to survive. My high school experience was by no means great, but luckily, I was able to fade into the background and not attract too much attention.”
“How’d you do that if you were super smart?”
“Simple, I deliberately passed my tests with the average score.”
“Wow that’s like that one guy from that light novel series.”
“Yeah, that’s where I got the idea from, and it’s one of the reasons Sensei took notice of me during my final year of high school.”
February 1st, 2022, Yuni’s 18th birthday...
Yuni sighed as she walked home from school. It was her 18th birthday, yet she was miserable. She still had no idea where her family could be and was starting to fall into despair. Had it not been for her remembering her mother’s strong will and love, as well as the support she received from Rika, she would have lost herself years ago. As she entered her apartment complex, she noticed a woman in a business suit standing in front of her door.
“Ara. You must be the one. Pleased to meet you, my name is Reika Yuzume, I’m a detective from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, though I’m just here of my own volition to meet you," the woman smiled.
Reika produced her badge as Yuni glared suspiciously at her as she began to mentally profile her.
“She looks to be in her late 20s, maybe early 30s. Her hairstyle and hair color look normal for a woman in her profession. The only standout things about her are her aqua colored eyes, and the fact that she’s wearing sneakers instead of more formal footwear...”
Her thoughts were interrupted by Reika clapping her hands.
“OK! Pop quiz! Why am I wearing sneakers?” Reika asked.
“Like hell if I know! Maybe she just likes the style, or maybe she thinks it’s more comfortable to wear them compared to heels or flats," Yuni thought.
Yuni composed her thoughts before delivering her verdict.
“You wear sneakers because they’re more comfortable to move around in compared to more formal attire like heels. The dirt on your shoes proves that you wear them quite frequently. I imagine you also don’t mind the style too much," Yuni stated.
“Not bad, seems like you have some keen observation skills, though you fail,” Reika stated.
“The reason I’m wearing sneakers is to test your observation skills. Seems you’re still a fledgling. The fact that I said “pop quiz” should have clued you in that I was giving you a test.”
“Bullshit! That’s just some lame way of claiming I lost!”
“Well then, allow me to give you the factual reason you failed. True, I do wear these sneakers constantly, but not ALL the time. Wearing sneakers in contrast with a business suit is bound to attract more attention than not. You failed to consider that I simply changed my shoes in order to grab your attention. After all, that is the thing that stands out the most about my appearance. Had I been wearing my normal shoes you would have undoubtedly focused on my eyes as they are my only other standout feature. Quite the metaphor for your current world view. Instead of looking people in the eyes, you’re constantly looking down at your feet. I imagine the answer you gave came more from your worldview. You wear sneakers for comfort and style while I wear them when the situation calls for it.”
"How do I-"
"Well, I do admit that perhaps I am stretching the truth a bit, though this is because you made the question more difficult than you should have."
"I believe we've encountered each other approximately 375 times at Ryokoma over the past 5 years. You've even been my server 75 times while you were working part time. "Honey pancakes for dinner" ring a bell?
Yuni grumbled and shook her head in defeat.
“All right Riddler, why are you here?” she grumbled.
“Because you deliberately failed, or should I say deliberately scored an average score on your tests," Reika smiled.
“How do you know I’m not just trying my best to scrape by?”
“Because of the questions you got right. While you did try to restrain yourself, your pride got the better of you as you were able to answer some of the hardest questions that only 1% of students in the entire country are able to answer.”
“Wait how do you know I didn’t just guess? And how’d you even get to see my test scores in the first place!?”
“Simple, under the pretext of looking for a student that could become my protégé, I was allowed to view test scores from schools within the city. I am quite a famous detective you know. Then I simply scanned the test scores until I found what I was searching for, you.”
“But why me?”
Reika chuckled as she pulled out a piece of parchment and showed it to Yuni. The only thing written on the parchment was a rebus puzzle. It took a minute before Yuni was able to solve it.
""For tee n m Find Key 0 pon?” What does that mean?" Yuni asked.
“The 14 m part is obviously referencing the population of Tokyo while I believe the second part references a fictional character that is highly intelligent, but deliberately fails his tests to sell the illusion that he is just an average student.”
“Coincidentally, you share the same family name of a mother and daughter that disappeared two years ago this very day. I find that intriguing. As for the rebus, I noticed it hidden in Fubuki Dakota’s latest video that released today.”
“You watch Fubuki Dakota!? Wait, what do you mean in the new video today!? Your story doesn’t make sense! You just claimed you found me after looking through thousands of tests! There’s no way you could do that in less than a day!”
“Simple, I just went directly to your school and viewed just your test scores under the pretext of viewing everyone’s. As soon as I noticed and solved the rebus, I did a search on all the students within Tokyo, I then narrowed it down to you after I searched for those born on this day. As soon as I saw your family name, I figured it was you. Then I simply requested to view everyone’s test scores for your grade in order to both confirm your identity and hide it.”
“What are you blathering about!? You’re not making sense anymore!”
“In her latest video, Fubuki hinted that there was a genius capable of taking down Illumous. As soon as I saw the rebus, I realized she was sending a message to me to find you. I had met her before and known her since I was in middle school. I assume she trusted me enough to entrust you to me.”
“How do you know the video is even from the real Fubuki Dakota and not a fake or a wanna be?”
“Because she posted the video at exactly 9:38 A.M. this morning like she does whenever she posts a video on this day.”
Yuni’s eyes widened as Reika showed her the video. Yuni trembled as she saw Fubuki. Fubuki looked horrible. Half her body was burned, and she only had one eye left. But despite all that, she still had the same unwavering look in her eye that always gave Yuni strength. Tears began to pour as Yuni’s mouth moved on its own.
“--- -san... WAAAAAAAAH! WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU! YOU LOOK HORRIBLE! BUT I’M GLAD, SO GLAD YOU’RE ALIVE!”
Reika warmly embraced Yuni as she sobbed into her chest.
“Don’t worry Yuni, I’m here. You’ve been through a lot; I can tell but you never gave up on life. I’m sorry about the roundabout way I introduced myself, but I didn’t want to scare you. Happy Birthday,” Reika smiled.
After sobbing for a few minutes, Yuni calmed down and entered her apartment with Reika. There she properly watched the video. It started with Fubuki communicating with everyone via a whiteboard. Since her tongue had been cut off, she could no longer speak. However, a voice sounding almost identical to Fubuki’s began speaking and explained that this was the voice of an aide, and that the communication via the whiteboard was just to reassure everyone that she was the real Fubuki. As soon as Yuni heard the voice, she understood everything.
“So that’s what happened, now I understand why she did that," Yuni sniffled.
Reika glanced at Yuni in confusion.
“Seems there was a deeper message for you here than I thought," Reika pondered.
“What? You didn’t figure it out? I thought you were supposed to be some ace detective," Yuni growled.
“I’m not all-seeing, though I do believe the voice belongs to -----. Which is likely why you had the reaction you did.”
“Not bad, though to be perfectly honest, even I didn’t understand the message at the time...”
“So that’s it! Well no wonder the two of us couldn’t understand it. Now I have a question, do you want to become a detective like me and bring down Illumous?” Reika asked.
“Wait detective? I thought you only used that as an excuse to see my test scores," Yuni gasped.
“Yes and no. I am truly looking for someone to be my successor. Plus, I’m sure Fubuki also wants to entrust things to the next generation as she is no longer in the state to continue her work as effectively as she used to. So, what do you say?”
“Fubuki always told me how much she didn't want me to follow her down her dangerous path, but she begrudgingly would have taken me with her if I still had the desire when I became an adult. Well, I still want to be by her side and I'm now an adult. If I can take out Illumous and pay them back 10-fold for what they’ve done to Fubuki as well as stop them from ruining anyone else’s lives, I’m in!”
Yuni finished her story as tears rolled down Madoka’s face.
“I had no idea you had things so rough, it makes all my hardships look like a vacation getaway," Madoka cried.
“I bet I’ll say the same thing when I hear about all the hell you’ve been through,” Yuni chuckled.
Rika then arrived with the food.
"You didn't get kidnapped again before coming here did you?" Rika asked.
"Nope," Madoka proudly answered.
"Well that's good, I'll go let Emeri know her food's here."
"The crepes here really are good. I can see why you eat a mountain of them," Yuni stated as she tried a crepe.
"Hmm, hmm, hmm! The Crepe goddess has bestowed her blessing onto you. Here, you can have one too Emeri," Madoka proudly huffed.
"Surprised you never tried one before, Yuni-chan," Emeri said as she placed a crepe on her plate.
“I have, but never the Kringle crepe. Hey, you’re not nervous around me anymore," Yuni exclaimed.
“Yeah, guess my brain registered you as friendly so I can talk normally. Guess the chat room really did help.”
“So how are you going to eat the crepe with the helmet on?”
After everyone finished their breakfast, Madoka hopped on Emeri’s motorcycle.
“So where are you two going?” Yuni asked.
“The museum, we’re gonna see that murdered mummy exhibition they’ve got going on," Madoka grinned as she put her helmet on.
“Just don’t end up mummified.”
“Who do you think you’re talking to? I can escape mummification with ease.”
Yuni smiled as Madoka and Emeri rode away.
“Don’t worry Sensei, Mother; I won’t allow Illumous to ruin anymore lives, especially those of my friends!” Yuni thought.