“Upon a closer look at the two questions, it becomes clear that the method used is actually quite simple.”
At the time when Fushimi and Doumyouji started their game of tag on premises of the Scepter 4 headquarters, Munakata was providing systematic answers to the two questions that Benzai had posed.
“Let us start with your former question first. You asked about the means that were utilized to find strain criminals. Benzai-kun, please recall how exactly Kounomura had taken the comicalarious photos featuring us at the beginning,” Munakata prompted while making up a peculiar new combo word.
Benzai took a few seconds to think.
“Some were peeping photos taken from a long distance. Others were illegally obtained through hacking of surveillance cameras.” And then it dawned on him. “Huh? Could it be…” “That is right.” Munakata nodded. “Kounomura-shi hacked every camera he could find, from security cameras legally installed within the city to private cameras for personal use. And that is all there is to it. His next step was to compilate a program that would search for a specific element in all the countless footage he had obtained.” “A program?” “Yes, a program, and the scope it works with was probably the whole of the capital metropolitan area.”
Benzai was lost for words.
So to put it another way…
The implications were such that of late, Kounomura had been watching not only the daily lives of the Scepter 4 members but of all the ordinary citizens as well.
“I believe I mentioned this before,” Munakata said dispassionately, “but Kounomura-shi is sending us a message. In this case, it is his manner of showing us that this way information crucial to the investigation of a crime can be obtained in advance. Thus, not putting this method to good use makes us negligent as an organization…” “But,” Benzai spoke over Munakata’s next sentence before listening to it, “that’s basically blatant disregard of human rights.” “Isn’t that lovely? He is right. He did hit a nerve with that message.”
When he processed Munakata’s last utterance, Benzai gawked. Fuse, too, was staring at Munakata in bewilderment. And only the criminal accompanying them, Tamada, lifted his head in pleased surprise and took his first good look at Munakata. Munakata coughed to clear his throat.
“…I suppose that statement was a little inappropriate for the king tasked with protection of order. Needless to say, it is necessary to uphold citizen’s rights to the best of our ability. However, it does not change the fact that Kounomura-shi has located multiple strain criminals that we had failed to find, and in such a short time, too. I think this deserves consideration.”
Both Benzai and Fuse couldn’t quite decide how to reply to that. Tamada, on the other hand, was staring at Munakata intently.
“To continue, let us move on to the other question Benzai-kun posed, about the means our opponent used to bring the strain criminals he had found under his control and make them scatter across the country.” Munakata showed a quick smile. “For that, he conducted a psychological analysis, anticipated their responses and coaxed them accordingly. As simple as that.”
Everyone fell silent. Benzai and Fuse said nothing, showing some reserve towards their superior, but Tamada the criminal retorted sharply in their stead for some reason.
“No, you can’t just brush it off with a friggin ‘as simple as that’!”
Benzai and Fuse thanked Tamada with their eyes for his unreserved statement.
“You can’t convince me a punk like you has exceptional brains or super complex personality or whatever. But still. But still, man, it’s just friggin impossible to read what a person is thinking like an open book or something, or coax them that easily!” “Except,” Munakata’s smile never wavered, “I did precisely that to figure out that you were hiding in a deserted house on the hill behind your parents’ home and capture you. All I did for that was copy Kounomura-shi’s method.”
Neither Munakata’s expression nor his tone fluctuated any. He was still smiling as he informed the other party in a calm level voice. And that was likely why he inspired shudder-inducing awe the way he was being now.
Tamada was left speechless. “Uh…”
Benzai and Fuse looked at Tamada silently but ardently, urging him to muster his strength. Perhaps, finding courage in those gazes, Tamada attempted to rebuke Munakata.
“Still, it could be just a coincidence.” “No, it is not. It is a highly accurate scientific method called the Probabilistic Future Decision-making Theory, also known as the Coin Toss Theory.” “Wait.” To Fuse, that sounded familiar. “Isn’t that…” “Correct. It is the theory at the heart of the service combining personal-use SNS, online shopping, video hosting and information retrieval run by James D Sevr-shi whom Kounomura-shi took advantage of to return to Japan. Now, does any of you have experience using the Coin Toss service?”
Benzai and Fuse only shook their heads in reply, but Tamada alone raised his hand.
“That’s one heck of a convenient service, lemme tell you. Yeah, seriously, it’s awesome.”
Munakata nodded. “The main selling point of Coin Toss is it gets progressively more personalized with each use and tailored to one’s ways of thinking and tastes, constantly updating with information and features the person in question most desires. Sevr-shi originally studied biotechnology, focusing on random changes in self-replicating life at the time, and he apparently sought a way to apply his research to forecasting the future. When I met him, he said a certain thing to me: 'from a high enough place, all coincidences become inevitability,’ to loosely quote.” “…But, no, wait.” Tamada immediately chimed in with friendliness more appropriate when talking to a colleage. It appeared that he became earnestly interested in this discussion with Munakata. “It’s just an internet service, right? Saying it can read your mind and predict what you’ll do is clearly an overreach, no matter how you slice it?” “Good observation.” Munakata raised a finger, as if to compliment Tamada like one would a child. “Indeed. Being an internet service with unspecified large number of users, its servers are not nearly powerful enough for that task. However, an exhaustive analysis is simply the question of enough processing power. If one had a computer with necessary and sufficient performance, through application of the Coin Toss theory making exhaustively accurate predictions of the actions a person would take becomes possible.” “That necessary and sufficient performance - how much are we talking?” “About what a supercomputer can muster.”
Tamada gaped at that.
In his stead, Fuse asked the main question.
“Excuse me, sir, but how could Kounomura get his hands on a supercomputer?” “I heard Coin Toss Corporation has its own supercomputer for research purposes on Hawaii. I imagine he borrowed it.”
Fuse fell in stupefied silence. Munakata’s way of saying that was so mundane like he was talking about borrowing miso or soy sauce from a neighbor.
“Huh? Please wait a second, Captain.” This time, it was Benzai. “Just earlier, you said you ran the same analysis to determine Tamada’s action, didn’t you? Does that mean you went and…?”
But Munakata shook his head. “No, not quite. I used a domestic device.” “Domestic?” “Yes. I borrowed the computer that His Excellency Gold King, Kokujouji Daikoku-shi, uses to analyze the Slate. His Excellency owed me a small favor for what happened this time.”
The things Munakata was saying so calmly and nonchalantly made even Benzai fall silent then.
“Hey,” Tamada commented in whisper to Benzai, “your place’s boss is friggin ridiculous.”
All Benzai could was to stretch his lips in a strained smile at that.
Munakata, on the other hand, was cheerful to the limit.
“Luckily, Tamada-shi’s data from the time the previous Blue King arrested him still remained in Zenjou-san’s archive room. I ran my analysis based on that. Only,” Munakata’s expression clouded somewhat, “unfortunately, with the exception of Tamada-shi, information on the other criminals is mostly non-existent.”
It was at that time that something suddenly occurred to Benzai.
“Um, Captain.” “Yes, what is it?” “While I was working on those cases, I compiled somewhat detailed profiles on the perpetrators of each case in the hopes of finding a common link. Would those be of use to you, maybe?”
Now it was finally Munakata’s turn to be surprised.
“Benzai-kun, you are wonderful. Good job!”
Benzai felt relief wash over him. He did manage to be useful to Munakata, if only a little.
The longer Doumyouji was running around the night HQ, escaping from Fushimi, the more fun it brought. The chase allowed the 19 year old airhead to display his real ability, and Doumyouji ran with a big smile on his face. To him, it felt like a game of tag.
After all, the work he had to do lately built up a lot of stress in him.
“You ass! Doumyouji! Get back here! Stop, damn you!” the profanities shouted from behind him only added more thrill to the game, spicing it up quite splendidly.
While the scene may have looked like a teacher chasing an enthusiastic kindergartner who escaped from the kindergarten, it should be mentioned that both participants were the same age.
Doumyouji ran through a hallway with flexible agility and jumped down the stairway; once, he barged into Enomoto and Fuse’s room, stepped over Enomoto who was groaning uneasily in his sleep and was gone, happily running away from Fushimi. As he ran around, he ended up tumbling into a certain room located at the end of the dead-end hallway. Alert and cautious, he produced a flashlight to illuminate the room’s interior.
And almost immediately he couldn’t help a disappointed, “Oh, it’s that room…”
Once before, when he was searching the headquarters high and low for anything that could be Munakata’s bedroom, he discovered this small room. It was furnished exceedingly modestly, having only a desk and a bed, and Doumyouji decided it was a spare room for visitors.
“You piece of shiiit,” came from behind him.
Fushimi, breathing a little rough, had caught up with him. In his left hand he held a lantern, while cracking loudly the knuckles of his right, clearly intending to punch Doumyouji.
“Doumyoujiiiii,” he articulated. “Hope you’re ready for what’s to— Mm? The hell? Ain’t this Captain’s private room?” “Eh?” At Fushimi’s words, Doumyouji, who dropped his center of gravity and was ready to gleefully flee again, straightened in surprise. “…Fushimi-san. What did you just say?” “Huh?” Fushimi’s expression looked vicious. “I said, this is Captain’s friggin room.” “Huh? Wait? Uhnm… but I thought Captain doesn’t have a room…?” “Are you an idiot? That’s impossible. Captain is a human, too,” Fushimi spat out. “Obviously he does things like resting and sleeping like the rest of us.” “But…” “He just works all the time like a moron. Since he’s got abnormally huge raw stamina reserves and mental fortitude, those around him mostly only always catch him awake. That’s why a stupid spooky tale of him not having a room even came into existence.” Fushimi’s lips twisted. “But even he’s only human. No different from the rest of us.” The wording was complicated, not only - or necessarily - conveying goodwill. “Then again,” Fushimi added with the undertone of irony, “if I hadn’t accidentally glimpsed him exiting this room, I would never have guessed this is his room. Not that I had any interest to begin with.” “…”
Doumyouji was staring intently at the room around them lit by the lamp. Munakata’s civilian clothes and accessories were probably stored in the closet, but it was almost strange how this room was utterly devoid of anything resembling personal effects anywhere in sight. That was something that struck a cord in Doumyouji somehow.
He was the type who sucked at putting things into words. As such, now, as well, he couldn’t find a good way to express the emotion that was surging in him. But if he had to try and find a word for it despite that… He’d say this blank empty room was overflowing with Munakata’s “resolve”. That’s how it looked to Doumyouji’s eyes.
“Fushimi-san,” Doumyouji suddenly spoke up. His face turned very serious. “I’ll do it.” “Huh?” “Paperwork. I’ll do my damnest to deal with it. Yep. It just occurred to me that I must give it my best effort.” “…” Fushimi gave Doumyouji a brief glance of puzzlement and suspicion. Then he snorted. “I have no idea what brought that on, but nice resolve there. And out of respect to that resolve of yours, I’ll make sure to squeeze every last bit of effort outta you.” The last part was said in a threatening tone.
Doumyouji turned pale in the face.
“Ah, erm, on second thought, could you, uh, maybe go easy on me, after all, please?” “Shut up. Let’s go!”
With that, Doumyouji was escorted out of the room by the watchful Fushimi, leaving it behind.
The light in the data processing room was on all night.
After barely waking up, Enomoto buried his face in the pillow once again. His blood pressure was always low to begin with, so he was never a morning person, but lately, due to barely getting any sleep at all, even after waking up, his head was full of white haze and he didn’t feel rested at all.
Still, he forced himself up through sheer willpower and headed towards the common use bathroom, washing his face, brushing his teeth and making effort to smooth out the bristling hair on his temples with water. But no matter how he tried, this particular case of bed hair was just too much for Enomoto to handle, so he finally gave up on trying to style his hair at all.
Feeling down, he made his way to the data processing room. For breakfast, he bought a jello drink. Draining the nutritious drink, he desperately tried to force his head to work on the sugar content from canned coffee, not forgetting that he needed to search for a way to restore the Scepter 4 computer system that was still down.
The sigh he heaved was heavy and bitter.
'Agh, every fiber of my being wants to watch some anime. And play games, tons of games.’
He was sick and tired of the staring contest with the monitor that only displayed rows of wrong numbers and of having to face a keyboard with its well worn off by now keys.
'Lord, please grand me salvation! Bestow your grace upon me so that this deadlock we’re in could be broken!’
Praying in the earnest, Enomoto opened the door to the data processing room and froze, for inside there sat a man who just might become his savior.
First thing to be mentioned was, in the back of the room right on the desk, there slept Doumyouji, restlessly moaning in his sleep. On the same desk, there sat stacks of processed paperwork. And next to the aforementioned Doumyouji, eyes on his tablet, there was Enomoto’s savior, Fushimi Saruhiko, drinking canned coffee.
“Hm? It’s you, Enomoto.” Noticing Enomoto’s presence, Fushimi lifted his head. His hand immediately resumed operating the tablet though. “Tell me frankly: are you an idiot? There’s so many clues scattered all around in plain sight, see? I found them right away without even trying. Listen, we’re gonna restart the Scepter 4 system now, so go get to your computer alre—” he started saying but faltered mid-sentence, startled and raising his head.
All because Enomoto walked up to him with brisk and determined steps and suddenly grabbed Fushimi’s hand with both of his.
“Fushimi-san. Can I please hug you for the dear life?” he asked misty-eyed.
Fushimi recoiled in shock. “F-Fuck off, moron!” He shook off Enomoto’s hands for all he was worth.
Enomoto couldn’t hold it together anymore and started openly weeping.
“Fushimi-san, Fushimi-san,” he kept repeating, “I’m really so, so happy you’re back! People here have no foggiest about these things! I was all alone, and it was so terrible!”
Indeed, with the exception of Fushimi Saruhiko, among the rest, not even Munakata Reishi could quite be called expert in information processing and machinery-related matters. There was no doubt that the burden Enomoto, forced to deal with the system-wide trouble all by himself, carried was immense.
“…” For a while Fushimi just started at Enomoto in silence with an unreadable face. “Tch!” he clicked his tongue at last. “Anyway, I’ll help you, so let’s get to it already.” Fushimi curly commanded, looking away.
To Enomoto though, those words were the best words of 'salvation’ he’d ever heard.
“Yes, sir!” Enomoto responded, wiping his tears and beaming with smiles.
“Captain. I have one more question.”
It was dawn when Benzai spoke up, addressing Munakata who was seated in the seat opposite of his.
At the moment, Munakata, Benzai, Fuse and strain thief Tamada were in the middle of traveling the northernmost area of Honshu via a local line.
Originally, after landing at the Hokkaido airport, they planned to take a direct flight to return straight to the capital, but due to squall winds, all flights were cancelled, leaving the four with no choice other than to spend the night in a hotel in the city and then to head to their destination via an overland route that was considerably more time-costly.
The four stocked up on crab lunches, tea, tangerines and dried scallops and boarded a normal car like they were on a most ordinary trip, taking 4 seats opposite of one another.
Those who happened to be near them kept whispering about the group. 'What’s that?’ 'Cosplay?’
It was only understandable seeing as Tamada was the only one among them not wearing the Scepter 4 uniform. To draw an analogy, it was not much different from policemen deciding to board a normal civilian train in full uniform. In other words, they were sticking out like a sore thumb, and nothing could be done about it.
Fuse and Benzai did feel a little uncomfortable under all those gazes, but Munakata was dignified and confident as ever.
“Yes, what is it, Benzai-kun?” Hand stopped mid-motion, Munakata looked up from the tangerine he was peeling. Like that, with a handkerchief in his lap, he somehow had a homey feel about him.
“…Sir.” Benzai was looking only at the tangerine. “After our last conversation, I’ve been thinking.” “Ah, do you want some?” Having followed his subordinate’s line of sight and probably misunderstanding, Munakata offered a segment of his peeled tangerine. Benzai shook his head with all due respect. “N-No, sir, I’m good, thank you, sir.” “Really. It is quite delicious though?” Munakata said after chewing on the segment he deftly tossed into his mouth.
Benzai made effort to put on a small insincere smile, but his face became serious again almost immediately.
“Captain, you said that the actions of the strains like Tamada, scattered all across the country, have been processed and analyzed by a supercomputer.”
Hearing his name, Tamada, who was enthusiastically wolfing down a crab lunch, stopped, looking from Benzai to Munakata in turns.
Munakata silently nodded. “Indeed, I said that.” “And I’m satisfied with the explanation you provided concerning the analysis method. But, Captain, from what you said, it appears to me that the means for procuring the information that had become the base for such an analysis are still unknown.” “What do you mean?” “Let’s assume that pictures and footage, as well as location, of each culprit in question was obtained via hacking. The problem is, in my opinion, that alone is not enough to get a good grasp of their personality and what makes them tick.” “…” “So I was wondering, what exactly did the Kounomura faction do to obtain enough data to run such an analysis?”
Benzai’s observation prompted Munakata to outline the report on the matter which he got from Fushimi.
Benzai’s eyes went wide. Fuse looked surprised as well.
“A strain that can read minds is involved?” “Yes, correct. Such an ability is very rare and very useful. I assume he did psychological profiling and collected data not only on Tamada-shi and the others like him, but on the Scepter 4 members as well.” “Now I see.” Benzai nodded, adding things up. “That explains a lot. Our psychological profiles, too, were analyzed by Kounomura, I take it. And via the Coin Toss theory that Kounomura applies, we, too, were made dance to Kounomura’s tune. That’s also the reason why we got split up and scattered as if in a scenario prepared in advance.”
Munakata smiled. “Correct. That is the sleight of hand behind the 'magic’ Kounomura-shi has worked on us.” “Damn it!” Fuse punched the palm of his hand with the fist he balled the other into. “Why is he going that far?!”
“Only,” Munakata suddenly interjected, “even that hypothesis leaves out a few things that I have yet to find an explanation for. That is why I think of it this way: there is a traitor in our ranks.”
An easily and casually made statement was shockingly scandalous.
Both Benzai and Fuse tensed and froze.
Munakata smiled and unhurriedly carried his tea to his lips. Glancing outside the window, he murmured in a perfectly carefree tone, “The clouds look quite menacing, wouldn’t you say?”
A single droplet of water landed on the glass of the train’s window.
It was no exaggeration to say that that person was entrusted with the most diffucult mission. As it were, the mission was to infiltrate the enemy territory all by himself. It required smarts, guts and the ability to always stay calm and collected, no matter the situation. And the man in question lived up to that high standard.
Being a police career-track bureaucrat to begin with, by the second half of his twenties he rose through the ranks to become the chief of a small police station, cruising through life comfortably and problem-free. His superiors had a favorable impression of him, and his colleagues and subordinates put a strong faith in him, but a single vice was the ruin of him.
In his case, it wasn’t alcohol or women.
It all went downhill thanks to his addiction to far too risky gambling.
Until having graduated from university, he had no connection to gambling to speak of; if anything, he found it rather disgusting. Since he chose to sit for the police force qualification exam, his sense of justice was on the strong side, and he actively wished to crack down on illegal gambling and related crimes.
But one day, his set of values that served as the foundation for his sense of ethics got turned upside down.
The reason was a change of heart of a woman he was going to exchange vows and shared the future with. They were supposed to get married at the start of the New Year, but the woman did an about-face, declaring that she fell in love with another man, and unilaterally cancelled the engagement.
Due to the shocking heartbreak, he wound up drinking alcohol he wasn’t used to drinking and found himself standing in front of a pachinko parlor before he even registered it.
He gave in to despair. But by some ironic twist of fate, that time he ended up scoring an unbelievably big win.
It sparked some really pleasant reaction in his brain. He almost heard how a forbidden door to never pass through slowly opened. The rest happened in the blink of an eye. At first, he got addicted to gambling on horse races and boat races, the amount he bet steadily went up, too, except soon, that alone stopped being enough to satisfy him and he got involved in illegal gambling.
Initially, he was able to hide his destructive habit successfully enough, but before long what was going on became evident along with skyrocketing sums pouring into it. Before he knew it, those around him, including his superiors in the police, learned he was a compulsive gambler and, after many a warning and reprimand, he was forced to retire from the police force 'at his own request’. In essence, it was a discharge.
In the end, no matter how much the people around warned him and what they said to him, he couldn’t stop gambling. Having burnt through all of his savings, he was rendered homeless without means of sustenance. But there appeared a man stretched out a helping hand even to someone like him. It was Kounomura Zen'ichi from the period when the short man was devoting all of his energy to charity work.
The former policeman was lucky enough to be admitted to a medical facility Kounomura established to cure dependence on alcohol, gambling and the like. Thanks to the rehabilitation program that a board of specialists developed, and the earnestness of Kounomura himself as their honored head, he was able to exercise a degree of control over his urge to gamble. The most important key to that turned out to be learning all about his personality traits and tendencies through exhaustive psychoanalysis.
He learned he was a person with a so called preference for suffering. Putting it crudely, he was a masochist, the type of person who derived absurd amounts of pleasure from being put in situations that caused him pain and suffering.
He chose to accept it in a positive way, and afterwards, starting with arbitrating conflicts between gangster organizations, he became a certain country’s agent affiliated with the government, undertaking dangerous jobs, such as tracking certain people down unofficially and smoking them out.
It was rather difficult to define his job in formal terms, but calling him a troubleshooter, a private eye or a handyman would be not too far from the truth.
To him, the more thrilling a job was, the more it was worth doing. He straightforwardly enjoyed doing risky things like infiltrating various places and gathering intelligence.
And then, he became a supernatural ability holder. It was like a sudden awakening.
That’s when he heard those words.
'I see. So you now have one, too. In that case, there is something I want you to do for me, if that’s okay with you?’
The one to make that request was Kounomura who the former policeman came to idolize after overcoming his gambling addiction. Two replies afer, he jumped at the request without second thought.
Partly it was due to the request coming from Kounomura, his benefactor, and the rest of the reason was that the mission sounded particularly difficult and risky. To him, with his borderline abnormal preferences, such circumstances were nothing short of ideal. And so, putting his strain power to good use, he had infiltrated Scepter 4.
The mission requested of him could be divided into 2 big tasks.
The first task was to keep gather data on Scepter 4.
And the second one was to obstruct Scepter 4’s work whenever a chance presented itself.
The former policeman was doing this high difficulty job with flying colors.
He concentrated his intel-gathering efforts on the members of the special operations squad, infiltrated the deepest levels of the facility and when the opportunity presented itself, he inconspicuously employed videotaping. The fact that the information he sent was of use to Kounomura fired him up even more.
Though, when putting together a jamming program in the data processing room in the very heart of Scepter 4 or causing trouble in the generator room to put it out of order, even he felt antsy. Between the algorithms for each member of the special operations squad derived from the Coin Toss theory, Kounomura’s detailed plans drawn up based on them, specially developed electronic devices and the ex-policeman’s own high grade skills and experience, such feats were made possible.
Needless to say some assumptions turned out wrong and there were a few small miscalculations here and there, but in general it was safe to say that the sheer military gain was big: the ex-policeman practically single-handedly plunged the HQ into chaos.
And it was precisely because he was so capable that he sensed that the tides were beginning to turn. The turning point was probably Fushimi Saruhiko’s return.
Kounomura ordered his man to withdraw immediately if he ever found himself in danger of being exposed. But the former law enforcer decided to risk it one last time because he wanted to come back to Kounomura bearing some quality information pertaining to Munakata Reishi.
His affection for Kounomura threw a monkey wrench into his innately cautious and careful approach.
Through the intelligence network he’d been building, he learned about important documents kept in Munakata Reishi’s office, so he chose the right timing and invaded the room. As he was opening one by one the drawers of Munakata’s desk, it dawned on him: he had fallen into a trap.
“What the hell are you doing, Gotou?” a voice asked, its owner sounding both accusing and refusing to believe what he was seeing. The voice belonged to Hidaka who, as it turned out, entered the Captain’s office unnoticed and was now standing by the door. Next to Hidaka, arms folded across his chest, there stood Fushimi Saruhiko and watched him with ice-cold eyes.
Intelligent as the ex-policeman was, he instantly grasped what was going on. There hardly could be any doubt that the one behind spreading the rumor about crucial information being in the Captain’s office to lure out the invader was Fushimi Saruhiko.
Still, the invader tried his luck and replied as Gotou Ren, “Hm? What do you mean?” “Tch!” Immediately, Fushimi clicked his tongue. “Your trick’s out in the open already, fucker. We know that you’re a strain with a perception manipulation ability, and that you were impersonating Gotou this whole time!”
And with that barked accusation, he steeled himself. Still, his mind demanded he grope for some way out of his desperate situation, so he rushed at the two. At the same time, putting his fingers to his lips, he blew with all of his might, producing a whistle which served as the trigger to activating his perception manipulation ability. Together with the high-pitched sound, he shapeshifted from Gotou Ren into somebody else.
“Ugh!” Hidaka faltered in a big way, for right now the invader had taken the shape of none other than Hidaka and Fushimi’s unquestioned boss, Munakata Reishi.
Incidentally, during Awashima Seri’s capture, the former law enforcer worked together with Kounomura, too, and employed the exactly same trick. When Awashima’s eyes registered Munakata’s form, she instinctively stayed the hand that was swinging her saber, flabbergusted.
“You two, out of my way!” His voice sounded like a perfect copy, he was sure. Even Fushimi appeared to be stiffening with shock, not to mention completely frozen Hidaka.
'Alright!’ Believing his escape route clear, he tried to slip between Hidaka and Fushimi, and when he did, another miscalculation on his part became clear.
Fushimi didn’t stiffen with shock. He tensed summoning his muscle strength.
What he did looked similar to the art of sword drawing. At a fearsome speed, he released the power gathered in his muscles throughout his body and, making the length of his arm from the shoulder to the elbow the pivot point, he swiveled his right arm. In his fist, the handle of his saber was gripped. He smashed it into the face of the running invader, not unlike a quickly executed counterattack.
The ex-policeman did what looked like almost a half turn in the air before crashing hard into the floor. For a second, his consciousness fled him.
“F-Fushimi-saaan!” Hidaka let out a small drawn out whine. “Moooron,” Fushimi snorted. “It’s not like he’s real,” he added, spitting the words out. “Look and see for yourself, his perception manipulation ability is coming undone.”
As the ex-policeman’s consciousness grew hazy, the last words he heard before blacking out were Hidaka’s, “Huh? Is it me or does the face this guy’s making look awfully content?”
It really just felt so good to get his butt kicked so thoroughly.
From a certain point on, Akiyama Himori, detained on molestation charges, stopped letting upset and agitation show on his features altogether. Every morning, he would do his personal maintenance, and then, during the long hours of questioning, he would always stay unfailingly polite and well-mannered. That dignified attitude and demeanor, even assuming it was only a tough facade, impressed even the detective who was in charge of Akiyama.
“You’re really something,” said middle-aged detective murmured absentmindedly and then immediately coughed, hastening to cover it up, as if ashamed of bringing his personal feelings into the investigation.
Akiyama’s only reply was a smile. In that smile, there was no resentment, or anger, or excuses or pleas - it was free of anything. All Akiyama did was calmly deny the charges against him.
He must have steeled himself.
No. He must have had faith.
Of course, Akiyama went through his fair share of conflict before reaching that state of mind. He felt furious at being arrested on such absurd charges, and embarrassed for his honor to be smeared like that. He also worried about the implications for his organization at his being detained by the police for the whole of the legally permitted detention period. He even considered the possibility of his arrest being a type of harassment by the police against Scepter 4 that they didn’t have a favorable opinion of.
But at the end of the day, Akiyama chose to believe: sooner or later, his innocence would be made clear, without fail; so long as justice lay with him, light would eventually shine on his circumstances, just like clouds hiding the sun would eventually be gone along with passage of time.
For truth’s sake it should be noted that were Akiyama alone in this fight, perhaps, he wouldn’t be quite so sure about it. But he wasn’t alone: he had trusty comrades in Scepter 4, starting with Benzai. And what’s more, his king, Munakata Reishi, would surely take the most appropriate measures for his sake. That, he could be adamantly sure of.
Maybe his faith was a little too blind. But that was the kind of man Akiyama Himori was, and he accepted himself that way and considered it a good thing. That’s why he concluded that what he had to do was to simply wait, calmly and patiently. That was all there was to it.
The moment he was waiting for had suddenly come.
The door to the room he was held in opened, and the detective in charge informed him, “Hey, you can come out. The charges against you have been cleared.” “Is that so,” Akiyama intoned and quickly started to gather his things. “What, ain’t you gonna ask why?” hearing his disinterested response, the detective in charge questioned in wonder.
Akiyama shook his head.
He knew precisely why: Munakata Reishi and Akiyama’s squadmates collaborated with the attorney and worked something out. That’s why Akiyama simply said, “I expect I will hear the details from my superior.”
He was already thinking about what would need to be done once he returned to his duties. He strongly suspected that Scepter 4’s situation at the moment was difficult.
For that reason, it was imperative he return as soon as possible and start filling the hole left by his absence. In the first place, his own ineptitude was to blame for his winding up in such a situation.
If one were to search for the most fitting descriptors for the members of Scepter 4, it could be said that, for example, Zenjou Gouki was best described as a warrior, Doumyouji as a free spirit, and when it came to Akiyama, the most fitting description would be a man with traits of a natural-born soldier. A professional who was naturally disciplined and utterly devoted to his task.
But still, when Akiyama exited the police station and saw his partner there, back propped against a pillar and one hand raise in a silent greeting, he couldn’t help breaking into a smile. Benzai Yuujirou walked up to him with natural unhurried steps, and Akiyama bowed his head slightly but sincerely.
“…Sorry to have caused you so much trouble.”
He knew even without anyone telling him just how tough Benzai had it having to cover up for Akiyama by doing his partner’s share of work in addition to his own.
Benzai wasn’t too verbose.
“Don’t worry about it,” was all he said, shrugging his shoulders a little. Clapping Akiyama a couple of times on the chest to let him know that he considered this conversation over, he headed over to the parked car.
His attitude was calm and collected, as always, even as light drizzle was sprinkling from above.