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z-The Morrigan

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June 25, 2011

Oshiro Yusuke loved his job because he got to help people. On paper, he solved crimes and fought bad guys; kept the peace in the busy streets of Tokyo. But when it came to it, he felt truly content when the downtrodden had peace or justice because of his efforts; preferably both. He couldn’t deny that his true love was helping others in whatever form that was. He suspected that this was a trait he’d inherited from his parents, passed down to him through a bizarre alchemy of genetics and socialization. His parents were both giving, helpful people; his given name, Yusuke, meant ‘to give help’. But ever since this case had landed on his desk, he’d felt anything but helpful to the quiet woman sitting on the bench next to him.

Oshiro stole a glance at Delayha Jenings. The black woman was staring at the floor, barely appearing to breathe. She was lost in her own world, probably one of fearful worry and grief. Oshiro thought of his two children and mused that nine months was a very, very long time to have no news of your child. His heart ached for her silent pain.

Another black-haired Westerner walked by their bench and Oshiro compared him to the picture on his phone. Jenings looked too, proving that she wasn’t completely lost to her surroundings. Though black-haired westerners weren’t that common in Japan, in the bustling Narita Airport, they were far more frequent. But this wasn’t the man they were waiting for, and both of them relaxed. “It’s hard to think that this is the last place I knew where she was,” Jenings murmured softly, breaking the silence.

Oshiro wasn’t comfortable with replying, so he merely nodded. Jenings had been quite composed for an American but occasionally, she reminded the Tokyo detective that she was definitely was a Westerner. Most Japanese people would have borne their grief publically in silence; they would have said nothing. Oshiro, despite his own discomfort, wished he had something to say to her. Her sorrow was a painful thing, particularly to another parent.

Another man appeared in the flow of the crowd; this one hesitated and looked at his phone when he spotted them. Oshiro and Jenings did the same, and all three realized at the same moment that these were the people they were supposed to meet. The detective and mother rose to their feet; the man turned toward them. He was massive; imposing was the word that came to Oshiro’s mind. The Japanese detective wasn’t a small man by his culture’s standards, but compared to the large man striding toward them, he was tiny. Even Jenings was a littler taller as he was, but she was dwarfed by the black-haired giant. He had a frame to match his height, wide and solid. His eyes were just as dark as his hair, especially in the shadows under his brow from the overhead lighting. It was one thing to hear that Misha “Nochlev” Rakov was gigantic; another to see it.

“Detective Oshiro? Ms. Jenings?” His voice was as big as he was, filling the concourse despite the low volume of his tone. He offered a hand that could palm Oshiro’s face, but his eyes were fill of benign goodwill. Had Oshiro not seen a video of the man roaring like a lion as he made an arrest for Team Tomorrow, he would have believed he was only a gentle giant.

“Yes,” Jenings said, taking the hand first. She was smiling, hopeful. Oshiro prayed that her hope would be rewarded today. “I’m not sure what your title is? Officer? Utopian?”

“I am out of uniform, please call me Misha,” the big man said with a smile.

“If we’re being informal, then I’m Delayha,” Jenings said. She’d said the same to Oshiro, but like Nochlev, she wasn’t close enough to him for him to use the familiar names. She seemed to accept it as an idiosyncrasy of his, for she was smiling as she said, “And this is Detective Oshiro; he prefers to use our last names, and for us to use his.”

“Then it shall be so,” Nochlev said, his bearing expansive with goodwill. He looked around and then asked, “Is this where I shall begin?”

“Yes, this is the gate that my daughter disembarked from,” Jenings said, swallowing as she always did when she spoke of her missing child. “But do you need to put your sit down or something? Get your bags maybe?”

“I am not tired,” Nochlev replied. The heavily sinewed man didn’t look like a marathon could tire him out, much less a twelve-hour flight. “I have no bags; I return when I am finished. Now, may I see a picture of your daughter? To refresh my memory.” Jenings offered a picture and watched as Nochlev took it, studying it for a moment. Then he handed it back. “I will need some help. I will not see the real world, if this works, but the past. I may walk into someone. Please try to keep the path clear for me.” Both he and Jenings nodded; Oshiro was privately relieved to have something to do. “I will describe what I see, but I will not respond to you as I will not hear you. I am blind to the present when I see the past. Are we ready?”

“I am,” Jenings said with a nod.

“Hai,” Orshiro stated. He was more than ready for a break in this case.

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Misha was privately sorry he had agreed to this but he would not break his word. Things were heating up in Africa, particularly in the Congo. Whispers that Einherjar had teamed up with Kurusu and Ausrine as well as the Morrigan and Vyse Elites were troubling. It was promising to upset an already volatile situation. He should be in Abbas Abba, in case things blew up. It angered him that PR had said to stay away from Einherjar; that the man was too popular to openly oppose. It was the ‘openly’ that gave Misha hope he’d find a way around that restriction.

But he had promised, and it was only a day, even with air travel. If only Ernesto had been available, it wouldn’t even take that long. The warper could have dropped him here and picked him up after, but he was away, dealing with a situation in Eritrea. Since this was a private matter, something he was doing on his own free time, the Utopian didn’t feel like he could use company resources to transport himself.

The two people were gazing at him expectantly. The ‘Black Lion of Russia’ closed his eyes, letting his perceptions drift away from the present. It was always difficult, to let his senses disconnect from the now. He was vulnerable when he peered into the past and he could feel it like an itch in his brain. He had to trust baselines he didn’t know to keep an eye out for him and it was unnerving, at best.

For a moment, all he could see was a gray fog. He was aware of time passing but he forced himself to relax and let the power work instead of fighting it. Snatches of color rose and fell in the indistinct moment in which he found himself. Misha felt a tremble of elation but he didn’t seize at it. To do so would invite it to fade like a dream.

The light was the first thing he noticed with any distinction; a beam of sunlight that pierced the room from above. It was night in Tokyo right now and Misha smiled with satisfaction. Motes of dust, ever stirred by the constant presence of people at one of the busiest airports in the world, danced in the light. Misha glanced up and saw the skylight next, watching as the past rebuilt itself from that ray of light. The ceiling filled in, then the floor and walls; next were things of permanence: the benches and seats and décor. The longest were the people, their forms hazy and indistinct for a long space of time. Micha thought of them as ‘ghosts of the past’, specters of a time long gone. When the ghosts of the past became as real, to his perceptions, as the people of the now, Misha began to watch for the child he was seeking.

He’d given himself more than enough time to part the curtain between the past and present before her flight was landing/had landed. It was always a bit confusing, for a linear being such as himself to attempt to walk one time while existing in another. A glance at the board over the gate, announcing the arrival of the flight he sought, told him that he was in the right time.

Casually, the big man rested back on his heels, letting the girl come to him. Passenger after passenger disembarked from the terminal and still he waited, scanning each face: the blonde woman with too many pounds in a business suit, the old Latino couple who were smiling and gazing around like tourists and the two students, marked by their university logos on their bags. On and on they went; then two Asian men parted suddenly, revealing the girl. “I see her,” he murmured, knowing that Delayha and Oshiro could hear him. The woman standing next to him turned without warning and passed through him. There was no sensation, nothing; he was less than a ghost in this temporal limbo.

Livy Jenings glanced around the terminal, looking for someone meeting her. Misha had wondered about that himself; she had disappeared from the airport, according to her mother. Had no one come to pick her up? He hadn’t asked Delayha; he preferred to get his information from the past. He’d let his own senses tell the story, rather than have him trying to fit others’ facts onto what he saw.

Livy walked past him, her expression becoming more and more uneasy as she didn’t see anyone here for her. “She is looking for someone,” Misha said aloud, aware that he’d been silent for what must have felt like forever to her mother. “She looks well – tired, but well.” As if to help, he turned and scanned the faces of the crowd, reading the signs some held with names. None of them bore her name and the girl didn’t seem to recognize them. Biting her lip, she took one step out of the terminal, then another. Misha sighed; had the girl remained where she was, she would have been safe.

“I am following her path,” he informed his helpers before he started moving, falling into step behind the girl. Her hesitant course bore them out into the main area. She wandered back and forth, her steps uncertain; Misha found himself silently urging her to turn back to the terminal or to speak to an airport employee. It was foolishness, but he was watching the child walk into danger and he felt the urge to protect her from her own fate.

Her trail took her to another terminal; this one bore the same numbers as hers, in a different order. “Smart,” he rumbled, running a hand through his black mane of hair, “she’s checking gates with similar numbers, to see if her ride went to the wrong gate.” She left that one behind as well, her steps carrying her ever forward. She went to another gate and scanned the people waiting, still chewing on her lip. Then she saw a Japanese man; he was dressed in a suit and looked annoyed. As they watched, he crumpled up a sign and dropped it in the trash. Misha took a closer look at the man as he crossed his arms and leaned against the railing. He was in a suit, but his tie was loosened, and his top two buttons were undone. His hair wasn’t styled like the other men in suits; it was spiky and artfully tousled. To Misha’s honed senses, this person was trouble. Livy didn’t seem to sense it, for she approached him with a pretty smile. “Hi. I’m Livy Jennings. Did my father send you to pick me up?”

The man smiled back at her after a flicker of surprise in his eyes. “Yeah,” he told her with a shark’s grin. “Car’s this way, Ms. Jenings.”

“Please call me Livy,” she murmured, blushing cutely at being treated like an adult.

“Ms. Livy,” the man said again, extending an arm to show her the way.

“She found a man who claimed to be sent by her father,” Misha stated, updating the people he hoped were still following. The big Russian listened closely, but the man never gave her a name; instead he casually pumped her for information, learning that her father worked for Hideyoshi Holdings and that she didn’t have a boyfriend. The continuing path of fate carried them to the parking lot, where they got into a black car and drove away.

Misha released the past; it was much easier to return to the present than to leave it. Oshiro and Delayha were both with him, still, their eyes locked on his with hope and excitement. “Pen and paper,” he ordered, holding out a massive hand. Both baseline dove for their supplies but it was Oshiro who got it first. Quickly, the Russian Utopian wrote down everything he could remember about the man and the car. When he was done, he realized he’d written it in Russian; with a wry smirk at his own mindlessness, he quickly translated it to English. “This is the man who took Olivia from the airport.”

Oshiro took the paper and read it, frowning. He picked up his phone and quickly pulled up an image. It was clearly a morgue photo. “Is this the man?”

Misha stared closely. “Yes, I think so. Yes. Yes, I am sure.” His gaze was sympathetic. “This man, he is dead now.”

“Yes, he is.” Oshiro looked grim. “Takahashi Kouichi. He’s Nakato Gumi. One of the things he’s best at is exploiting women. He will find Korean women, convince them they will have a good job as a hostess in Japan, be smuggled into Japan and then they are forced into prostitution.”

Delayha swayed as if struck. “So my baby…”

Misha’s heart hurt for her, watching as she pressed the back of her hand to her mouth. She looked as she’d throw up. “We must assume,” Oshiro said softly, “that was what happened to her.”

Delayha did fall then, and Misha reflexively caught her. He gave Oshiro an unhappy look; pointing out the obvious was a mistake. The woman was suffering enough. He guided her to a bench and sat her down. “Where is she?” Delayha asked, her voice terrible. It shook and rasped as she stared at the two men, caught in horror. “Where would he take her!?”

“I don’t know,” Oshiro answered truthfully, his face hard. “But I will find out.”

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Delayha stared out the window of the car, the lights of Tokyo passing by her. They washed over her face, just as they had done once before. But on that trip, she’d been young and eager, full of dreams and hopes. She’d been less than twenty-four hours from meeting the man who had won her heart with his shy smiles. She’d been a handful of weeks from conceiving Livy. It felt like another lifetime.

Somewhere in that lighted jungle, her baby was being hurt, forced into sex. Delayha stifled a sob, trying to keep herself under control. If she let go of the iron grip she maintained on her emotions, she was going to have a breakdown. I just need to get to my hotel room and call Mom, she thought.

Her phone rang before she was there. Delayha glanced at the screen and sighed. She wasn’t in the safety of her room and she wasn’t ready for this moment. Licking her lips, she answered the line and said, “Hey, Mom.”

“Delayha, any news?” Her mother’s voice was rough from previous years of smoking but it was a comfort to the overwrought woman.

“Yes. Utopia’s pretercog was able to find something.” The American could hear the dread in her voice and it communicated itself to her mother. “Misha saw a man convince Livy he’d been sent by Harou. Detective Oshiro said the guy was mafia. His usual jobs were… exploiting foreign women… girls…” Her voice caught with a sob as she heard her mother’s gasp of horror.

For a moment, there was nothing but the sounds of the two women struggling to control themselves; then Mary Jenings asked, “Do we know where she is?”

“Not yet,” Delayha said, hearing her voice crack again. “But Oshiro will find her.” The woman didn’t tell her mother the scenarios that Oshiro had painted for her: Livy could be anywhere in Japan, not just Tokyo; she might be in Korea. There was even the possibility that she’d been moved to the US, where she wouldn’t stand out so much. Or of course, she could be dead. Instead, she focused on the good, trying to keep her mother from falling into despair. Once, she wouldn’t have been able to lie about anything to her mother, but Mary was in so much shock that Delayha got away with glossing over the more horrific details.

Finally, she closed her phone with a pop, feeling drained. The woman stared at the floor of her cab, her forehead resting on the back of the front seat. The cabbie remained quiet; were she in the states, he might have struck up a conversation with her, but here he ignored her. Delayha was just going to go back to her hotel room and wait. Wait for news that they’d found her daughter’s body, or that they’d located her traumatized baby-

Her fingers were flying over the keys of her phone before she thought about what she was going to say. Tensely, she listened through the two rings; when the phone picked up, she hissed, “Our daughter was sold into prostitution because you didn’t have the balls to pick her up at the airport!”

There was a long silence, then a young male voice with a Japanese accent said, “Excuse me?”

Delayha yanked the phone from her ear long enough to verify that this was Harou’s cell number. “This is Harou Izumi’s number, right?”

“Yes. He left the phone at home tonight. He’s at a movie with my mother,” she was informed. “But I think you have the wrong Izumi Harou.”

“No, I don’t,” Delayha snarled. She’d respected Harou’s request that she not tell his family what was going on, but she was full of fury. “Are you his son?”

“I am Izumi Wakiki, yes.” The boy sounded confused and Delayha took advantage of his bewilderment to speak again.

“Wakiki, please give that message to your father: tell him because he’s a fucking coward, Livy’s been kidnapped by the Nakato Gumi. The guy who took her forces women into prostitution. You tell him that it is all his fault!” The last came out as a screech before she slammed the phone shut, panting with the force of her rage.

She shouldn’t have done that. She knew it. The American sighed, rubbing her face. She shouldn’t have gone off on Harou’s son. The kid wasn’t responsible for Harou’s actions. “Fuck,” she whispered, then dialed the number again. As expected, she got a voice mail – was actually funneled straight there. “Wakiki, I’m sorry you heard that,” she said, her voice shaking with emotion. “This is no excuse, but… I’m so sorry to say that to you. You don’t deserve it.”

The cab had stopped in front of the hotel when she got a call. As she passed over some yen for her fare, she frowned at the number. “Harou?” she asked, picking up.

“No, it’s Wakiki.” There was a pause and he said, “I want to meet you.”

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