Prologue B

The detective couldn’t believe his eyes.

In a flash, what he had assumed to be an innocent little boy, one who looked as though he’d stepped right out of a chapel’s stained glass window, had inexplicably grown into a handsome, fairy tale prince right in front of him. No trace of the twelve-year-old child remained. Instead, the young man had the strapping figure of someone twenty-five years of age. His long, flowing hair caught the moonlight shine in its impossibly pale strands. A simple, white chemise winked from under the folds his long black robe. His chest was broad and quite inexplicably bore no signs of the gunshot wounds he had received just minutes before. The holes themselves had already healed over, leaving nothing but smooth, porcelain skin in their place.

akuma_02“What’s wrong?” Luca asked in response to the older man’s extended silence. “Throw out your back?”

Kusaka couldn’t tear his eyes from the teasing smile playing about the young man’s lips. With a sudden jolt back to reality, the detective stood up intending to get some answers.

“Are you… really Luca?” he hesitated, once more looking the other man over for confirmation.

“That’s me.”

“What the hell are you…?”

Luca snorted slightly at the question and answered cheekily, “I’m the guy that saved your life.”

“Well, that’s…” Kusaka’s mouth turned down faintly, not liking the evasion. Luca was the type to trip people up in their own words. If it weren’t for that impetuous teasing of his, Kusaka was sure the young man could have passed for some lofty, European dignitary. Instead, the other man seemed content to annoy the detective by avoiding any straight answers.

“I’m not the kinda guy that would freak out over something like this. I’m a detective,” Kusaka reiterated. “And I’ve got better things to do than dance around this conversation. Gotta get back to those criminals from before. Do you live around here?” the older man tried again.

“Hm, I guess you could say that,” Luca answered impishly.

“What exactly were you doing in a place like this so late at night?”

“I have a question,” Luca broke into the detective’s tirade. “Do you often interrogate people who save your life?”

“Kid, you could fill a book with all the things I want to ask you…” Kusaka lifted an unimpressed eyebrow. “First off, what’s with that physique? You were a little boy up until a minute ago. How the hell did you manage to pull off that trick?”

“Trick?” the younger man looked genuinely confused, but Kusaka was having none of it.

“Is this some sort of illusion? You know, magic tricks kids are trying out these days?” Blinking in surprise at the serious expression on Kusaka’s face, Luca’s shoulders began to tremble.

A soft, barely stifled noise escaped from his closed lips, “… Hm… Heh heh…”

Finally, Luca could no longer hold back his laughter. “… Ha ha hah! You’re funny, you know that? And here I thought this place looked boring.” Luca wiped the corner of his eye where a bit of moisture had gathered from holding back the giggles. “I was planning to leave Shinjuku, but maybe I’ll stick around for a while yet!”

The detective was thoroughly confused. It seemed as though Luca jumped through topics like a circus performer jumped through hoops.

“Hey, what’s your name?” the pale man said abruptly.

Always a direct sort of person, the older man answered, “I’m Kusaka. Kusaka Daisuke, of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Investigation Department, 1st Division.”

“Fancy that… Shouldn’t you be getting around to arresting these guys, then?”

“I don’t need you to tell me that,” Kusaka was starting to get used to the kid’s quips. He continued, “But I’d like you to come back with me.”

“Hm? Why me?”

He quirked an eyebrow, “Suspicious people with unknown residences are usually taken in for questioning.”

“What gives?” Luca seemed rather perturbed. “You do remember the part where I saved your life, right?” he added needlessly. It wasn’t something that Kusaka was likely to forget.

“That’s a different matter,” the detective made as if to brush the thought aside with a wave of his hand. “I’ll need your real name, date of birth, and contact information. Show me your passport, too.”

“I don’t have one,” the young man said simply.

“Aren’t you a foreign national?”

“Nope.” Another short and simple response.

“So you’re Japanese?” Kusaka said slowly, wondering what strange miracle of genetics could have produced such a child.

“Nope, not that either.”

Frustrated at the circular conversation, Kusaka gave up, “Then what the heck are you?!”

“Man, we’re getting nowhere…” the younger man sighed.

“You’re telling me!” Kusaka shot back. In the middle of their banter, the older man suddenly made out the sound of rushing footsteps getting closer to their location. He was on guard in an instant, but relaxed as soon as he recognized the oft heard footsteps of his partner. He sighed in relief.

“Kusaka-san!” the younger detective called out to his partner. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah. Over here, Touru!” The newcomer’s face lit up as he glanced down the alley and spotted his partner’s form. He looked as relieved to see the older man as Kusaka felt. Matsuzaki Touru was a slim man boasting 180cm of height, a source of envy for many of his shorter coworkers. He looked and acted like a typical young man of the times. He wore jeans and a canvas jacket over a white sports shirt. The casual clothes made him look nothing like what one would expect from a homicide detective. His hair was a bit lighter than the average dark brown color of undyed Japanese hair, and fell straight around his ears.

“Kusaka-san! I was so worried!” the new detective panted out his greeting as he ran up to the other man. “I guess I should have known better. You took out the both of them, after all!” he stated, looking around the scene impressed.

“Never mind that,” Kusaka covered, embarrassed at the unnecessary flattery, especially considering the fact that he’d only taken down one of the suspects himself. “How did you guys fare? Did you manage to pin down the Mishima group?”

“Perfectly, sir!” Touru saluted, “Jin-san and the others are taking care of the rest of it now.”

“I see, then we should really drag these guys along with us soon… Before that, though, I gotta deal with this guy here…” But when Kusaka turned around, Luca was nowhere to be found.

“Dammit, he got away!” the older detective spun on the spot, hoping to catch a glimpse of where the pale young man might have disappeared to.

“Kusaka-san?” his partner sounded confused.

“The blond boy that was here a minute ago! Did you see which way he went?” Kusaka continued, distractedly.

At his partner’s bewildered expression, the older man spelled it out, “Come on, he was here when you arrived. The blond foreign-looking boy I had behind me!”

“What are you talking about?” Matsuzaki interjected. “I didn’t see anyone.”

“What?!”

“Are you all right, Kusaka-san? Maybe you’re a bit tired from…” the young man hesitated, as though worried that his partner had gone off the deep end.

“No, there’s no way. He was definitely here when you came down the alley…” He peered down the way Touru had come, looking for any sign of the boy, but there was nothing there but the dark of the night.

It couldn’t have been some sort of hallucination, could it? No, Kusaka was quick to refute his own doubt. There was no way all of that was just in his head. After all, the hooligan that Luca had taken down quite literally single-handedly was there, stretched out on the ground where he’d fallen from the man’s choking grip. He could smell the faint scent of ammonia from when he’d pissed himself. Even now, Kusaka could vividly picture the look on Luca’s face after being shot twice in the chest. He remembered the terror twisting the face of that fallen man. The fear must have been too much for him to hold in, in many ways.

But how on earth did Luca just… vanish?

“Shall we clean this up quickly, then, sir?” Touru roused the older man from his reverie with the sudden question.

“Yeah, I suppose,” shaking his head at himself, Kusaka took out a pair of handcuffs in his pocket.

Leaning down to get a grip on one of the fallen perpetrators, Touru waved a hand in front of his nose. “Whoa, I thought something smelled over here. Looks like they had a little ‘accident,’ huh? Just what did you do to them, Kusaka-san?”

Cringing, Matsuzaki hoisted one of the men up by the shoulder. Kusaka took the other that he’d felled with the kick and slung the gangster over his back. Before long, they reached the main road and the welcome sound of police sirens. For all intents and purposes, that night’s raid had gone as smoothly as could be expected. But still, something wasn’t sitting right with Kusaka. After shoving the men into the back of his patrol car, Kusaka took a moment to look up at the sky.

The blue moon winked back at him.

On the night of the full moon…

“Hmph, that’s ridiculous.” Sniffing, Kusaka lit up.

“Kusaka-san…” Touru made a disparaging noise at Kusaka’s dirty habit. “Do you have to smoke now? Can’t you get in so we can be on our way?” The older detective ignored him completely. “You should really quit, you know…”

Far from relaxed even after a few puffs, Kusaka quickly retorted, “Give it a rest. Lately everywhere’s become obsessed with this no-smoking nonsense…” Annoyed at his partner’s usual nagging, Kusaka opened the car door and made to get inside.

Just a few feet overhead, a black creature flew out of the night sky. Startled, the detective yelped in surprise and moved to cover his head with his arm. The thing missed him the first time, but just in case, Kusaka glanced up to see where it had gone. The black shadow swooped in toward him once more, though this time it seemed to be leisurely surveying the scene.

It was a solitary bat. A rare sight in downtown Shinjuku.

As though aware of Kusaka’s gaze, the bat wheeled slowly overhead and came to rest on a nearby power line. The moon lit the bat’s eerie silhouette.

akuma_03“Come on, Kusaka-san! I’m going to drive off without you.” Touru’s voice came through the open car door.

“R-right…” Distracted, the older detective folded himself into the passenger seat. The ignition caught and the car sped off into the night.

From its perch dangling from the power line, the bat watched the car go before taking flight once more.

It almost looked as though the bat was following the detectives through the dark streets of Shinjuku.