Cursing his foolish negligence, Detective Kusaka hid himself in a back alley, dragging his injured right leg behind him. The moonlit sky was frustratingly bright despite the late hour, hindering rather than helping his stakeout.
It was just his luck that there was an honest-to-god blue moon that night. Once every two or three years, the moon’s usual full cycle made its surface appear bigger and brighter, outshining the very stars in the sky. He recalled reading something about it in that day’s newspaper.
Kusaka glanced up into the night. The freakishly gigantic moon dazzled right back at him. It was often said that a full moon could turn a person’s head, make them crazy and uncontrollable. Dating back to ancient Latin, “lunaticus” was used to describe things originating from the moon. It was where the English word “lunatic” came from.
Luna, lunar, lunatic… All having to do with the moon. And that night’s moon was certainly big enough to cause unease in the sanest of men.
And here he’d hoped that nothing too ominous would happen that evening…
Disgusted, Kusaka clicked his tongue at his own wandering thoughts. Normally, the detective prided himself on being nothing if not a realist. He’d never believed in superstition. Never thought twice before stepping on cracks or passing black cats on the street. The state of the moon made no dent in the crime rate around the city, so why should he care? That much could be proven and quantified with logical, factual data. Spreadsheets, even. All this lunar crazy talk was just the work of fake occultists trying to squeeze money out of the gullible people who fell for their manipulative schemes.
The detective inhaled a deep, fortifying breath.
Breathing steadily, he gingerly lifted the cuff of his trousers to get a look at his bloodied leg. A brief surge of relief washed over him. Luck had been with him this time. The bullet from his earlier botched escapade had only grazed his right leg, leaving what he assumed was no permanent damage. However, it was obvious that any further skirmishes would be difficult in his present condition.
Kusaka took another deep breath.
It was three against one now. In the brief tussle before he’d been hit, the detective had managed to do enough damage that he was sure one punk was down for the count. That left two more. After his office received an important tip-off the previous day, Kusaka and his team had been sent out into the field. They had been tailing these thugs nonstop for two days straight.
He wasn’t one to brag, but Kusaka was known as the most capable detective in the 1st Division of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Investigation Department. He thought for sure that he had this case in the bag. And that wasn’t because he thought it would be a walk in the park, either. He knew better than to take any official case lightly. This time, however, he might have overestimated his own abilities. It was foolish to think he’d get through such a dangerous scene unscathed…
He could hear footsteps approaching. He was too vulnerable in his present location. Favoring his injured leg, Kusaka limped further down the alleyway. Even to someone as used to the backstreets of Shinjuku as he, this particular area was frustrating. Still, Kusaka had been born and raised in this part of the city. After thirty years, the twisting streets and high rises were practically his backyard.
He hoped that Matsuzaki made it out okay.
There were regulations that stated that detectives had to work in pairs at all times when out on a case. That way, if something were to happen to one partner, the second could take care of the situation. Acting alone meant the potential death of any unwary officer. They made an odd, but strong combination, he and Matsuzaki. When compared to Kusaka’s incurably dour attitude, Matsuzaki was friendly and outgoing. A real favorite of their division. But, it’d been thirty minutes since he’d had to break away from the other man and search for cover…
Now wasn’t the time to worry about his partner’s safety. He had to trust that the younger man could take care of himself.
The injured man veered to the left and slid up between a wall and a skanky billboard advertising a sleazy bar. It was a good opportunity to try and call for backup. The moment the thought crossed his mind, he reached into the breast pocket of his jacket to grab his cell phone. Just as suddenly, out of the corner of his eye Kusaka saw a human figure step out from the shadows of the alley and into the light. Wary, Kusaka stepped out to face the newcomer, fingering the gun still snug in its holster just below the line of his coat.
“Hey, you there…” he called, but cut himself off. Before him stood a young boy of about twelve years. Kusaka’s eyes ran over the boy, sizing him up. He obviously wasn’t Japanese. No one of Japanese decent had naturally golden curls that shimmered in the ethereal glow of the moon. His skin was the whitest shade Kusaka had ever seen. No, not white. It was unearthly pale, like a porcelain doll’s. But perhaps the boy’s most striking feature was his eyes. They sparkled red as a freshly cut and polished ruby. His faded, light blond eyelashes fluttered against his ashen cheeks.
“What’s the matter?” Kusaka tried to talk to the boy again, “It’s dangerous for kids to be out this late. Go home.”
The child made no response.
Kusaka stumbled, wondering if the young boy understood Japanese. Sighing just a bit, he tried to remember what he could of his patchy English.
「Ah…You should go home! Dangerous here…」
“I understand Japanese, don’t worry.” The smoothness with which the unknown boy replied was obviously that of a native speaker. Relieved that he didn’t have to rely on his rough language skills, but still concerned for the wandering boy, Kusaka approached him.
“Now listen. I don’t have time to explain, but it’s dangerous out here. Some bad men are going to be coming this way.”
“Bad men?” the child repeated, tilting his head.
Kusaka nodded, willing the young one to understand, “Yes, and that’s why you have to leave this place.”
“Are you being followed?”
Taken aback by the odd question, Kusaka mulled it over, “Actually, I guess you could say I was the one following them…”
The boy looked a bit confused, “Huh?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Kusaka brushed his own comment aside. “What matters is that you run far away! Try to find a place with lots of people in it, okay?”
“What?” the statement threw Kusaka for a loop, so focused was he on the boy himself.
“Your leg,” the blond boy pointed at Kusaka’s right leg. “It’s bleeding.”
“Oh, yeah. I got shot back there.”
“Shot? By a gun?”
Losing patience at the boy’s questions when he knew he needed to get the child to safety, Kusaka snapped, “Now see here! I don’t have time for this conversation, kid. Are from around here?”
“Hm?” Kusaka fumbled again, lost at the sudden shift in the boy’s conversation.
“I’m not a ‘kid.’ I’m Luca.”
“Alright then, Luca. Listen to me, okay?” Kusaka tried to reason with him one more time. The sounds of frantic footsteps drew nearer and the detective quickly stopped talking.
“This way! You, check over there!” a commanding voice reverberated through the cramped alleyway.
It seemed that Kusaka’s enemies had split up to look for him. He couldn’t waste any more time waiting around for them to find him there hiding. He had to get Luca somewhere safe as quickly as possible. Taking the pale boy’s hand, Kusaka turned back the way he’d come. As he maneuvered the two of them toward the street entrance, one of the brutes from the earlier bust came into view around the corner. Hissing his displeasure, the older man stood in front of the boy so as to shield him from the criminal who had reared his ugly head.
If he remembered correctly, this hoodlum wasn’t armed. Kusaka wasted no time weighing his options and instead took up an offensive kenpo stance. He wasn’t looked up to as the best in his division for nothing. Kusaka was more than strong enough to back up his reputation. Judo, kendo, kenpo, boxing… if it was a martial art, Kusaka was a natural.
Unfazed by the detective’s show of strength, the offender rushed the bigger man. Kusaka caught the other with one powerful kick to the gut, downing him instantly. Such violent behavior wasn’t without its own consequences. The damage to his already crippled leg was no laughing matter. Much as the shot was a flesh wound, the rend in the skin of his leg was starting to swell from the agitation. After running around for so long after the scuffle, it was no surprise that Kusaka could scarcely suppress his fatigue. Even his incredibly defined, toughened body and uncharacteristic height for a Japanese person, all 180cm of Kusaka was at its limit. He might have been fine with just himself to look after, but with a child in tow, he didn’t know how to proceed without endangering his charge.
“You’ll be fine, Luca. I’ll protect you.” Panting from exertion and exhaustion, Kusaka turned back to blond child. The boy looked alarmingly passive for one in such a dangerous predicament. What a strange kid not to cringe away from this sort of thing… The detective expected maybe some frightened tears or something. Was it shock? If so, this situation could be even worse than he’d imagined. If Luca ended up with PTSD from being present at the wrong place at the wrong time, the older man would never be able to forgive himself…
Faster than his mind could process the thought, the detective was knocked off his feet with an unbelievable blast of power. He was caught so off guard that he ended up sprawled ungracefully on the pavement, flat on his ass. Not believing what had just happened, Kusaka looked up at Luca. There was no one else in the alley that could have been behind that superhuman strength besides the boy next to him. As Kusaka opened his mouth to ask what the hell Luca thought he was doing, his voice caught in his throat.
The young boy was nowhere to be found. In his place was a tall, full-grown man gazing at the fallen detective. Clothed in magnificent black robes and looking down imperiously at Kusaka, his beauty made the detective catch his breath. The newcomer’s platinum hair now fell to his waist. He could barely believe his eyes… Could this young man be Luca? He didn’t want to believe it, but the mysterious man’s silvery locks and crimson eyes left no doubt in his mind.
Just as Kusaka was about to voice his bewilderment, another member of the crime gang rounded the corner on the other side of the alley. This time with the gun was clearly visible in his hand.
Kusaka knew that he had to face this new foe or risk another potentially fatal shot, but the pain from his fall and leg injury made his reactions sluggish. It was as if his entire body was paralyzed. He broke out in a cold sweat. At this rate, both he and the boy-turned-man were in mortal danger. As the thought crossed his mind, the gangster raised his revolver to point directly at Kusaka. Just before the man could pull the trigger, the pale young man stepped directly in front of the older detective.
Two shots rang out in an instant, plunging straight into the young man’s body.
“Lucaaa!!” Kusaka screamed as the figure before him jerked in time with the slugs. Kusaka saw the scene as though it was in slow motion. Luca picked himself up after having been spun back by the blows like it was nothing. But there, starkly framed in the center of Luca’s pale chest were the holes left by the two bullets…
As Kusaka watched, the flesh knit itself back together, repairing the wounds.
Out of bullets, the punk futilely continued to fire the empty magazine. As the gun clicked on the empty barrel, his face turned white as a ghost. Turning back around to confront the culprit, Luca slowly advanced down the alley. One step, two… Luca kept walking, closing the distance between him and the terrified shooter. He stopped a few feet away from the man and grinned.
“A-a monster! Argh!!” the gunman’s eyes bulged, twisted in fear as Luca reached out with one hand and closed his grip around the other’s neck, lifting him off the street as though he weighed nothing.
“Ugh! … Arr-ghack!”
Squeezing just long enough to stop the man’s breathing, Luca released the limp body and watched it crumple to the ground with a thud. Back turned, Luca addressed the stunned detective, “You don’t have to worry. These were bad men, right?”
With a smile, Luca turned to look at Kusaka, his strange eyes now emerald colored. The young man offered his hand to Kusaka in such an elegant gesture that the detective was reminded of long-forgotten history books and tales of European nobility. With a start, he realized that the paralysis from earlier was lifted and the pain from his earlier fall and gunshot wound was completely gone.
“Just who are you, kid…?” Kusaka breathed, eyes riveted to the person before him.
“I told you, my name’s not ‘kid.’ It’s Luca,” the man responded, teasingly.
Still grasping Luca’s hand, Kusaka wondered how on earth he was supposed to explain what had just happened to his superiors.