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The Change in Direction: Dark Shadows on City Streets

Chapter Text

Hideyuki Makimura considered himself to be a conscientious person.

His father had spent much of his childhood teaching him the value of careful thought and planning, and Makimura had been grateful for the lesson. It had kept him focused when his father died and he was given the responsibility of raising Kaori alone. It proved to be an asset as a cop when he needed to solve crimes and come up with strategies to deal with criminals.

And now it was proving to be an indispensible trait for his work in City Hunter…more specifically in dealing with the reality of having Ryo Saeba as his partner.

Makimura ambled over to the chalkboard in the Shinjuku station and adjusted his glasses as he scanned the messages for any job requests. He found one “XYZ” scrawled on the board and began to write down the information into his notebook.

As he wrote, Makimura contemplated the contrast between his straightforward, meticulous methods of searching for jobs and researching clients and Ryo’s seemingly spontaneous, haphazard way of carrying out those jobs. There were many times when Makimura worried that Ryo would be too distracted or too carefree to get things done, but after working with him for a little over two years now, he learned to trust Ryo’s commitment to whatever job he took on.

Makimura shoved the notebook back into his pocket and started to walk back toward his car. He already had a meeting with a potential client that afternoon and decided to head over a little early to the place mentioned in the request.

This work, the work in City Hunter with Ryo, was the other side of his conscientious nature.

Working in the police department, Makimura had quickly grown frustrated at how ineffective he was as a cop at providing real solutions to the problems that rampant crime caused. A burning desire for some measure of justice in an unjust world had propelled him to become a police detective, but it didn’t take long for disillusionment to set in. Instead of working for justice and acting as a true deterrent to crime, Makimura frequently felt like little more than a janitor, cleaning up whatever scraps remained of the victims while the perpetrators continued to hunt for their next prey. When he made the decision to quit, it had had almost as much to do with disillusionment as it did his need to take responsibility for the female officer who had been killed in one of his uncover operations.

Despite his initial worries over the arrangement, Makimura had found a great sense of relief and satisfaction when he managed to form this partnership with Ryo. Here, he could have a more immediate and long-lasting impact on the lives of those who asked for their help. He was no longer a custodian waiting for the next crime scene to examine. He was part of a team who swept the filth away, making it so that there wouldn’t be more victims in the future. It was this satisfaction, this need for justice that drove Makimura to work hard just about every day to find viable clients for Ryo.

 It was also the reason why he decided to wait on a bench in the park on a cloudy, blustery day in the hopes that someone would show up with a job request.     

He didn’t have long to wait. Minutes after sitting down and lighting up a cigarette, Makimura noticed a lone figure walking toward him.

Makimura took his glasses off and cleaned them. It turned out to be a girl who looked to be no more than sixteen or seventeen years old.

About the same age as Kaori,’ he noted to himself. ‘What would a girl like that need with a sweeper?’

The girl was wearing a short skirt with a low cut blouse and a flimsy jacket. Makimura frowned slightly; it didn’t seem like appropriate attire for a high school girl.

“Excuse me,” the girl said in a tiny voice. “I um…I….I….”

Makimura tossed aside his cigarette and waited. Time spent in this work had made it so that he was accustomed to potential clients being hesitant to make initial contact…if they ended up going through with it at all.

“I um, XYZ,” she finally stammered. Makimura smiled and leaned toward her.

“XYZ,” he nodded. “So, what is your request?”

The girl looked away again and stared at the sidewalk. Makimura noticed the haggard look on her face and thin wrists that led to nervous hands. This girl had clearly been living a hard life for a while now.

Despite his questions, Makimura leaned back and waited for her reply. Ryo had told him more than once in the past of the need for him to “turn off his cop persona” when dealing with clients, and while Makimura bristled at the idea at first, it didn’t take him long to realize that that demeanor had no place when working in the underground. Thus, one of the first things he had learned was to not start interrogating the client immediately after meeting them.

“I need you…to kill someone,” the girl whispered.

Makimura’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. The request itself wasn’t so unusual. There had been more than one case where the client wanted someone dead. Sometimes, these requests were borne out of pettier reasons like infidelity or financial gain, but just as often they were attempts at revenge against murderers or rapists or even against the men who didn’t get their own hands dirty, but who were responsible just the same for those types of crimes.

Still, Makimura was always hesitant to bring a proposal like that to Ryo. He knew that Ryo did not have an issue with eliminating the absolute worst types of criminals from the face of the earth, but Makimura found that he still occasionally had some qualms about accepting a contract for a hit.

Especially when it came from a teenage girl.

“That is a serious request,” Makimura said, his tone grave. The girl looked up at him with wide, frightened eyes.

“Are you saying that you won’t do it?” she said. “But you have to. That’s why I wrote that on the board. This is my only chance. Please, you have to believe me.”

Makimura stood up and took off his long overcoat, draping it over the girls shaking shoulders and guiding her to sit down next to him. His work as a policeman had helped him to develop a calming presence that he was able to muster up when necessary. It had proven particularly useful these days when a female client became excessively upset with Ryo’s usual antics around beautiful women.

“I am not saying that we can’t help you,” he responded as he sat down next to her. “I am saying that it is not a request that we can take lightly. I will need to know why you want this person killed before I can give you a definite answer one way or the other.” He then patted her shoulder, causing her to look over at him. She pulled the coat closer around her, and Makimura was pleased to see her calm down slightly.

“So please, tell me about yourself and why you need to have someone killed,” he added. The girl abruptly turned her face away.

“I…I can’t tell you why,” she said. “But I promise you that it’s someone really bad. He…he’s the reason why my sister is dead.”

“He killed your sister?” Makimura asked. “Why not go to the police?”

“That won’t work,” she said, shaking her head. “He’s got too many friends who protect him from the police. Besides, they wouldn’t arrest him anyway because he didn’t actually murder her himself. Not technically. But…he is responsible just the same. My sister would still be alive if it weren’t for him. If we hadn’t trusted him….”

Her voice trailed off, and Makimura watched her scrub her eyes with the back of her hand.

“I know that he’s after me too,” she continued. I know that he’d like for me to disappear. He won’t do it himself, of course, but there are others, so many others, who are loyal to him.”

“Give me some details,” Makimura said. “If this guy is as bad as you say, chances are there are people who know plenty about him. I can do some asking around….”

Suddenly the girl jumped up from the bench, letting the overcoat drop to the ground.

“No! No one can know what I am doing,” she said.

“Don’t worry, I will be discreet,” Makimura assured her. “Just tell me his name, and I promise that I will….”

“No!” she repeated, nearly jumping away. “This…this was a mistake. Forget it.” She started to run off, but Makimura rose to his feet and held out a hand to her.

“Wait,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to help. You can trust me.”

The girl looked back at him for a moment, her eyes shining with tears.

“I believe you,” she said. “I’m sure that I could trust you. But I…”

Without another word, she turned and ran away. Makimura watched her leave for several minutes before finally reaching down and picking his coat up off the ground.

This wasn’t the first time that negotiations had fallen through for a job. He was also certain that wouldn’t be the last time either. Still, Makimura always felt a twinge of guilt when it happened with a client who clearly needed some kind of help. He thought again of Kaori and felt an involuntary shudder go through him at the idea of her ever being in a desperate situation like the one this girl was living.

He ended up sitting back down and smoking a couple of cigarettes, hoping in vain that the girl would change her mind and come back. He didn’t move until it finally started to rain.

Makimura sighed and stood up, drawing his overcoat closer to his body. He knew that there was no point in dwelling on things like this. The only rational thing he could do was hope that the girl changed her mind eventually about going to the police while the best thing to do now was focus on other possible jobs and clients. After all, there were always other people who needed their help.

Makimura lowered his head and adjusted the glasses on his face again. He knew that he could tell himself all of that and it wouldn’t make a difference. The fact remained that he wasn’t going to be able to forget about that girl.

So he decided to go with the next best alternative: he hoped that there would be a happier ending to her story. It wasn’t much of an alternative, but Makimura knew that it would have to do.

The rain continued to drizzle as he made it to his car. He decided to stop and pick something up for Kaori on the way home.

He wasn’t always entirely sure why, but in situations like this, the thought of doing something for her always made him feel a little better.


 

Two days later, Makimura was back at the Shinjuku station again, checking the blackboard. None of the people who had contacted them recently had legitimate job requests, and thus, he frowned when he saw no messages at all today.

Hopefully something will come up soon,’ he said as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. ‘Especially since I’m pretty sure that Ryo is running out of money again.’

Makimura shook his head as he scanned the board one last time. He knew that some of the reasons why Ryo was often broke were valid ones. Maintaining the apartment building he lived in along with keeping a fully stocked arsenal and keeping certain underground connections was not cheap, and Makimura knew that Ryo made sure to pour sufficient money back into his own business. That did not change the fact, however, that Ryo was also a little too free and easy with money…especially when girls and alcohol were involved.

“Do you think you can squeeze me into your client list?”

Makimura whirled around to see Saeko Nogami standing behind him, her arms crossed over her chest.  

“Saeko,” he murmured. It had been almost a year since he had seen his former partner, but that time had done nothing to dull the feelings he felt upon seeing her.

“I never thought I’d hear myself saying this,” Saeko sighed. “But the truth is, I need your help. More accurately, I need City Hunter’s help.”


 

Ryo yawned for the fourth time in ten minutes while driving his Mini-Cooper, Makimura sitting beside him in the passenger seat.

“Hey, Makimura, why exactly am I going with you?” he grumbled. “It’s your job to set things up with the clients, even if it is Saeko.”

“Saeko said that she wanted to explain things to both of us at the same time,” Makimura replied. “She wouldn’t give me any other details.”

“Oh, is that how it is?” Ryo grinned at him. “And you just immediately agreed to this meeting without knowing anything about what’s going on? I take it she’s still as hot as ever then?”

“It’s got nothing to do with that,” Makimura insisted. “It’s just…I know her. She wouldn’t come to us unless it’s something serious.”

“Sure, Makimura, sure,” Ryo said, the same smirk plastered on his face. “Oh well, at least I know that I’ll get to see one vision during this job. And by the way, how is she paying us? She does know that there will be some…compensation, right?”

“Of course,” Makimura said, flustered. “She’ll probably just use the fund the department has for informants and consultants. Don’t get any ideas, Ryo.”

Ryo giggled and watched as Makimura sank in his seat while fiddling again with his glasses. He had been irritated with Makimura for getting him up early and was enjoying the chance to extract some revenge with his needling.

Makimura is such a klutz around women,’ Ryo laughed to himself. ‘Can’t really blame him though for feeling that way about Saeko. She is definitely grade-A mokkori material.’

Ryo laughed to himself again before rubbing his head. He was still nursing a hangover and was eager to find anything to distract him from it.

Still, even if it’s job with the police department, I’ll probably have to take it because I need the money.’

Ryo did his best to suppress a sigh. He dared not mention his money concerns around Makimura. All that would get him is yet another lecture about financial responsibility.

Makimura never gets tired of lecturing,’ Ryo thought while letting out a huff. ‘”Ryo, don’t drink so much. Ryo, don’t gamble away your share of the payment from this job. Ryo, don’t lift that woman’s skirt too”…There is no end to it.’

Soon, Ryo pulled into the parking lot where the two of them were supposed to meet Saeko. She was sitting in her Ferrari, tapping the steering wheel with her fingertips impatiently.

“Hey Saeko,” Ryo grinned at her, poking his head out the window. “How about we head over to a hotel after going over this job?”

“Not a chance,” Saeko smirked at him. “Now, how about we….” Before she could go any further she was interrupted by the ringing of the phone in her car.

“Detective Nogami,” she said after picking it up. As she listened, Ryo watched agitation creep into her features.

“I understand,” she said. “I will be there as soon as possible.” She then hung up and looked over at Ryo and Makimura, sighing.

“I need you to go with me to a crime scene,” she said. “There’s something there you need to see.”


 

A short drive later, Ryo parked down the street from where he had seen Saeko park her car. He and Makimura walked over toward the police, who were milling around a sheet on the ground.

“There’s a new drug syndicate in town from Osaka,” Saeko said as they met up with her. “They refer to themselves as Oracle. Apparently, the money they get from the drug trade has not been enough for them, so recently they have gotten involved with prostitution as well. In particular, prostitution with minors.”

Ryo let out a deep sigh. This case was sounding more and more depressing by the minute, and he hoped that Makimura wasn’t thinking about taking it on. Truthfully, Ryo never understood men who found pleasure in taking advantage of young girls, and he didn’t really want to deal with anyone who had that kind of loathsome hobby.

“We haven’t been able to make any real progress as far as catching this group,” Saeko said.

“So, you want us to investigate Oracle?” Makimura asked. “And I take it that this crime scene has something to do with it?”  Saeko nodded, her expression grave.

“The only leads we tend to get are from homicides perpetrated by Oracle,” she continued, walking toward the sheet. “Usually, the victims are rival gang members. But recently, a new kind of victim has started to surface: young girls who try to escape their prostitution ring. This girl here is the fifth one we’ve found here of late.”

Saeko pulled back the sheet and exposed the body of a young girl underneath. Upon seeing the body, Makimura gasped, his face becoming pale.

“This…this is…,” he croaked out.

“Hideyuki?” Saeko said, her voice a whisper. “What is it?”

Ryo also watched Makimura carefully as he crouched down beside the body. Putting aside anything to do with his sister, Makimura was usually levelheaded and reserved to the point of seeming dispassionate about life in general. Ryo could think of very few times when he had seen Makimura respond so intensely to anything crime-related in the course of their work.

“Did you know the victim?” Saeko asked. Makimura did not answer right away. He continued to stare at the girl on the ground, his eyes fixated on her face.

“Not really, no,” Makimura finally muttered. He eventually stood back up and Saeko put the sheet back over the girl.

“This is why I need your help,” Saeko said. “We’ve had five girls murdered and nothing solid to go on.”

“And you know for a fact that Oracle is behind this?” Makimura said, still staring at the sheet.

“We can’t prove it, but I am certain of it,” Saeko said bitterly. “Each of these girls was found with a blue silk handkerchief in their pocket which is known to be a sort of code within the organization. But sadly, even with that there is no way to tie them directly to these murders.”  Saeko crossed her arms over her chest again and leaned against a nearby wall.

“I need people on the inside who can get us some hard information that will help us put these people away,” she continued. “We’ve already tried getting other police officers into the group by going undercover, but we’ve had no luck so far. That’s where you come in. I’m hoping you can succeed where we have failed so far. I’m asking you to help me take this group down before they destroy even more lives.”

Makimura continued to say nothing while staring at the ground. Ryo, uneasy with tension radiating from his partner, grabbed Makimura’s arm and started to guide him away.

“We’ll let you know tomorrow, Saeko, ok?” he smiled. “In the meantime, are you sure you don’t want to go out drinking with me?”

“Sorry,” she smirked at him. “But I am swamped with work right now. And with what happened today… Well I think you understand.”

“That doesn’t mean I have to like it,” Ryo said, sticking his tongue out at her. “We’ll call you tomorrow with our answer.”


 

A couple minutes later, Ryo was driving down the streets of Tokyo again with Makimura sitting beside him. He now could feel the tension in the car and only waited a couple more minutes before finally clearing his throat.

“That girl, you said that you didn’t know her,” he said. “But you did recognize her, didn’t you?” Makimura did not respond, but the way he ground his jaw told Ryo that he was on the right track. Suddenly, Ryo was hit with a flash of inspiration.

“A couple of days ago, you told me about a girl who tried to contact us,” he added. “A girl who wanted someone killed and who ran off before you could learn anything. That was her, wasn’t it?”

“Ryo,” Makimura said. “If you don’t want to take this job, I’ll understand. But you should know that I plan on working with Saeko on this one, so I won’t be available to set up clients for you for a while.”

Ryo glanced over at Makimura. He recognized that look on his partner’s face, that look Makimura got when his sense of justice had been violated in some way. It was then that Ryo knew that there was no chance of Makimura backing off of this case.

“All right then,” Ryo said, leaning back in his seat. “Then I guess I’m in on this one too.” Makimura’s mouth dropped open and he turned to look at Ryo.

“Ryo? Are you sure you….?”

“The girl should have been our client, right?” Ryo said, a grim smile on his face. “So it’s time for City Hunter to get to work. And that means both of us.”

Makimura smiled in return and removed his glasses so he could clean them.

“Ryo….thank you.” Ryo coughed and a lecherous grin soon lit up his face.

“But just so you’ll know now, I’m not giving up on the idea of an ippatsu as part of the compensation from Saeko,” he smirked.

“Wait, wait a minute Ryo. You can’t do that.”

“Oh, so you do have feelings for your old partner after all, don’t you? Admit it.”

“Ryo, don’t goof around like that while you’re driving. Keep your eyes on the road.”

“Ah ha ha, I’m going to tell Saeko what you said.”

Ryo laughed as he watched Makimura squirm in his seat. He figured that it wouldn’t be long before Makimura launched into a lecture over safe driving skills, but this time, Ryo was surprised to discover that he wasn’t dreading it for a change.

 

 

Chapter Text

The next day, Makimura met up with Saeko for some coffee and she gave him a file containing all the information she could give him about Oracle.

“We identified the victim we found yesterday,” she said. “Natsumi Iwasaki, sixteen years old. Her older sister, Yuki, was found dead a week previous.”

Makimura ground his jaw again, but remained silent as he sipped at his coffee. He thought again about how Natsumi had mentioned her older sister and had wished that he had been able to give her some peace of mind before she ended up dead in an alley.  

“The both of them were suspected of being caught in Oracle’s prostitution ring,” Saeko continued. “In fact, we had reason to do more than just suspect it.”

“Why so?” Makimura asked.

“Natsumi and Yuki were orphaned at a young age and had spent a couple of years in an orphanage,” Saeko replied. “And the man who finally adopted them is none other than Makoto Fukamachi, a man who we are certain is one of Oracle’s top generals.”

Makimura’s hands shook as he lifted his mug up to his lips for another drink, anger visible on his features.

He adopted those girls and then used them like that to make a profit?’ he thought to himself.

If we hadn’t trusted him…’

Natsumi’s words echoed in Makimura’s mind. He thought about how his father had adopted Kaori as his daughter and how he himself had taken on the role as her big brother without hesitation.

Even if they weren’t his flesh-and-blood relations, they were still his family and he was theirs. How could he use those children, who looked to him as their father, that way? What kind of a monster does that?’

“Are you sure you didn’t know Natsumi before I showed her to you yesterday?” Saeko said, noting his demeanor. Makimura took a pronounced slurp of his coffee and sat the mug down with a grim expression.

“No, I didn’t know her,” he insisted. “Tell me some more about this organization.”

Saeko appeared hesitant to continue, but after a moment she opened the file she had placed on the table and went over the contents. As they talked, Makimura eventually calmed down and even felt a slight stirring of nostalgia at the idea of working with Saeko on a case again.

“Let me make this clear,” Saeko said as she finished going over the file with him. “These people are dangerous. We’ve actually lost a couple of our people who tried to go after them.”

“I understand,” Makimura nodded after taking a long sip of his coffee. “After all, I used to be a cop too. Risks were always part of the job.  If anything they are even more present in my current line of work.”

Saeko finished her coffee and sat the mug down, staring into it.

“I also want to explain something else to you,” she said. “I didn’t really want to ask for your help in this case. I…I still don’t know about this work you do with him.” Saeko lifted her head, her expression stern.

“You’re working outside the law, Hideyuki,” she said. “Are you sure that this is how you want to pursue justice? By teaming up with a criminal? A killer? How can you be so sure that what you are doing is actually just?”

Makimura didn’t respond at first, choosing instead to drink the rest of his coffee and consider his response. He knew that Saeko had had questions like these ever since she found out about his decision to form City Hunter with Ryo. Honestly, he grappled with them himself from time to time. Instead of filling him with a host of doubts, however, Makimura considered it a good sign that he occasionally questioned his own moral judgment. Becoming too complacent in one’s own beliefs was a sure path to corruption in his view, and that was something he worked to avoid at all costs.

After finishing his coffee, he took off his glasses and sat them down onto the table, making sure to look Saeko in the eye. This sort of contemplation gave him the confidence to answer her questions without worrying about how she would respond.

“Saeko, I understand your concerns,” he said. “But there are some things you need to understand. Ryo is a lot of things, but he is not a wanton killer. I am certain of that.”

“How can you say things like that?” Saeko said. “You don’t know anything about his past or where he comes from. I tried to do a background check on him once and came up with nothing. It’s as if he doesn’t even exist.”

“When we worked together, you always trusted my instincts and my insight when it came to people,” Makimura said with a slight smile. “So try to trust in them now. Believe me when I say that, while I do not know much of anything about Ryo’s past or his personal life, I do know him well enough to trust him.”

Makimura reached for his glasses and pulled out a cloth to clean them.

“We may be working outside the law in a technical sense, but you and I both know that, sometimes, what happens in the police department isn’t always just either,” he continued. “The line between the law and the criminals can be very thin and it is frequently crossed. The truth is though, there are no simple solutions. What we did, what you still do within the confines of the law is important, but I also think that there is a need for people like me, like Ryo, who work in the shadows. When the law and justice do not coincide, there needs to be someone who can protect the innocent people who will get caught in the middle of this divergence. That is where Ryo and I come in.”

Makimura put his glasses back on his face and shoved the cloth back into his coat pocket.

“The fact is, we still have the same goals, Saeko,” he said. “I’ve just chosen to pursue justice in a different way. City Hunter is here to support the work you do, not to oppose it.”

Saeko smiled and put a hand to her forehead.

   “As principled and as stubborn as ever. You really haven’t changed after all,” she said. “I’m glad.”  Makimura smiled in response as her expression softened and she looked back up at him.

“Still, how can you work with that idiot?” she asked with a laugh. “That pervert has been hitting on me ever since we met.”

“Ah well, Ryo definitely has some…eccentricities,” Makimura sighed.    

“More like severe character defects,” Saeko smirked. “Is he really that good at what he does?” Makimura chuckled slightly before adopting a more serious expression again.

“Actually he is probably one of the best at what he does,” he replied. “Give him a chance, and I think you will see it for yourself. As for the rest of it, well…I promise that there is more to him than that.”

“I would hope so,” Saeko said. “Otherwise, I don’t know if I could handle being around him for any length of time.”

 “I am sure you could figure out how to handle Ryo, if you wanted to,” Makimura said with a playful glint in his eye. “You are never at a loss when it comes to that sort of thing.”

“Don’t be so sure of that,” Saeko said with a sly smile. “After all, there is one man who I haven’t figured out how to handle. One man who continues to elude me.”

Makimura’s eyes widened for a moment before he coughed and glanced at his watch.

“I need to get going,” he stuttered as he stood up. “I need to check the board again and catch up with Ryo. I will talk to you as soon as I can.”

“I understand,” Saeko nodded. “And please, be careful. The both of you.”

Makimura nodded in response and yanked out some money to pay the bill. He then rushed out of the café, leaving Saeko alone. She shook her head and laughed to herself again.

You really haven’t changed at all, Hideyuki. You’ve known how I feel about you for a while now, and yet you are still waiting to see if I am sure of my feelings before you make a move.’

Saeko opened her purse to fish out some additional money for the bill. She knew that Makimura had not been bragging when he mentioned his uncanny insight into people because he had been able to see the truth in her as well. Even if she could not admit it aloud, she had to concede that he was right in thinking that she was still unsure of the true extent of her feelings for him. Saeko did hope, however, to figure them out before too long and perhaps give him the chance to finally make that move.

She also hoped though that she wasn’t sending him on a mission that would cut his life short before either one of them got that chance.


 

Ryo was sitting at the table, polishing off the rest of his take-out meal when Makimura knocked on the door and then walked in to join him. Makimura tossed the file Saeko gave him onto the table and Ryo picked it up and glanced through it.

“That’s everything the police have on Oracle,” Makimura said.

“It’s mostly just names and backgrounds on suspected members,” Ryo said. “How reliable is this?”

“Most of it was compiled by Saeko herself,” Makimura replied. “I trust her findings.”

“Yeah, she seems pretty sharp along with being a hot mokkori vision,” Ryo sniggered. “But as usual, the police do not have the whole story. Not by a long shot.”

Ryo pulled a scrap of paper out of his pocket and tossed it toward Makimura. Makimura unfolded it and found a list of names and addresses scrawled onto it.

“I did some asking around with my contacts in Shinjuku,” Ryo continued.  “These are the places and people we should concentrate on. They are the leaders in Oracle and we’ll be more likely to find something useful to the police at one of their business, which, by the way, act as fronts for their drug and prostitution operations.”

“Makoto Fukamachi,” Makimura read off the list. “It says here that he runs a Chinese restaurant and bar.”

“Interested in him in particular?” Ryo asked. “Let me guess, he has something to do with that girl’s death?”

“Her name was Natsumi Iwasaki, and you could say that he does, yes,” Makimura replied.

“Well, his is as good of a place to start as any,” Ryo nodded. “He’s pretty high up within Oracle and from what I was able to gather, he’s looking for some people to help beef up the security at his place. Apparently some rival gangs and policemen looking for hush money or a quick arrest have been hanging around him a little too much.”

Ryo stood up and wiped his mouth off with the sleeve of his shirt.

“I’m going to go offer my services to them tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll talk to you in a couple days when I have something.”

“No, I am going undercover with you on this one,” Makimura said.

“Not a chance,” Ryo frowned at him. “This sort of thing is my job, not yours.”

“Saeko thinks that this job is too dangerous for just one of us to go undercover, and I am inclined to agree with her,” Makimura countered. “We’re working together on this one, Ryo.”

“Then I am quitting this job,” Ryo growled at him. “I can’t do my job undercover if I have to worry about watching your back at the same time.”

“I can take care of myself,” Makimura replied coolly. “I did uncover work as a cop. I know what I am doing.”

“You don’t get it,” Ryo said. “You step into their place, and they are going to know that you used to be a cop. They will sense it from you. And then they will get rid of you and maybe even me in the process.”

“I’ve already planned for them to make me as a former cop,” Makimura said as he pulled out a cigarette. “Saeko warned me that she has reason to believe that someone from the department is feeding Oracle information, so there wouldn’t be any use for me to pretend anyway. And if you want to back out, I will understand. I can get her to find me someone else from her section of the department to work with me.”

“That’ll be even worse,” Ryo scowled.

Unperturbed, Makimura lit up his cigarette and started to smoke while Ryo continued to glare at him.

He’s not giving up on this, no matter what I say to him,’ Ryo fumed to himself. ‘Why did I team up with such a stubborn nitwit? He’ll just get in the way and I’ll have to put my neck on the line to bail him out.’

‘But…if I let him work with some clueless dolt from the department, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Makimura will get himself killed. And what will happen to City Hunter then?’

Ryo’s frown continued to deepen. As much as the obligations of City Hunter grated on him at times, the fact remained that Ryo felt more at ease within this business arrangement and this line of work than he had for pretty much his entire life. City Hunter gave him a way to use the skills he had honed over the years to help others in a meaningful way and that gave Ryo some solace from the darkness of his past. Working with Makimura had given him a purpose and that was something that Ryo desperately needed at this point in his life.

Putting all that aside, the memory of what happened to Kenny Field, one of his previous partners, was still fresh in his mind and heart and that provided all of the motivation Ryo needed to make a decision.

“All right, fine,” Ryo huffed. “I’ll go undercover with you. But I’m going to be the one in charge, you understand?  If at any point, it looks like things are going to go the wrong way, you’re getting out and letting me handle it in my own way. Am I making myself clear?”

 “I understand,” Makimura said. “You’re taking the lead on this. Since you know more than me about this world, I can live with that. But I do ask that you not underestimate me, Ryo. I am not just your liaison and assistant in City Hunter. I can be your full-fledged partner when needed as well.”

We’ll see about that,’ Ryo said to himself. He thought one more time about trying to talk Makimura out of this, but gave up on the idea. Makimura had made up his mind about this and it was useless to try to get him to budge.

At this point, Ryo just hoped that everything wouldn’t blow up in their faces.


 

The next evening, Ryo and Makimura walked into Fukamachi’s restaurant and sat down at the bar. They both ordered drinks and Ryo made a comment to the bartender about an appointment with the owner. A few minutes later, the two of them were led were led by a pair of henchmen to a backroom where Fukamachi, a lean, balding man with nervous hands and furtive eyes, was waiting for them from behind a desk.

“I understand that the two of you are looking to help me with my pest problem,” Fukamachi said. “Recently, I’ve had issues with too many rats and cockroaches hanging around my place and could use some people who are…qualified to take care of such things.”

“Oh we are more than qualified,” Ryo smirked. “If the pay is right. Would you like a demonstration?”

Ryo pulled out his gun and the two men, who had escorted him and Makimura, immediately panicked.

“Hey, what do you think you’re….?”

Neither of them was able to finish that question because the second one of them laid a hand on Ryo’s shoulder, Ryo went into action. He quickly took both of them down with a series of expertly delivered self-defense moves and he then aimed his gun at them.

“It’s not nice to interrupt people while they are in the middle of a business deal,” Ryo said. He then shot at a cigarette that was hanging out of one henchmen’s mouth, shaving it down to the filter.

“I trust that you’ll be quiet now,” Ryo said, his voice void of emotion. Both men trembled and whimpered at the look in Ryo’s eyes, and Fukamachi laughed at the sight.

“I like you. You’re just the type of guy I need around here,” he said to Ryo. “I can already tell that you will be very beneficial to our organization. However…”

Fukamachi pointed a finger at Makimura, his smile turning into a frown.

“I don’t think I can trust you,” he continued. “You smell too much like the cops who have been hanging around, looking for a handout.” Ryo immediately became tense and readied himself for another battle, but to his surprise Makimura simply smiled.

“You’re right,” Makimura said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I used to be a cop. And I’m sure I remind you of some of the pests that are giving you trouble now. But it’ll be a mistake to send me away so soon.”

Fukamachi’s eyebrows went up, his face quizzical as Makimura leaned against a wall.

“The fact is, your men aren’t going to be able to handle the cops who are either looking for a bribe from you or who are looking to take you and your organization down,” Makimura added. “You could kill them, but after a while the police department will be obligated to put even more pressure on you. No, the best way to handle the cops is to have someone around who used to be one of them. And that is where I can be very useful to you.”

“And how do I know that you aren’t just looking for a way to take me out too?” Fukamachi glowered.

“Like I said, I used to be a cop,” Makimura said with a slight smile. “I’m not one anymore. I’ve got my own agenda now.”

“So I see,” Fukamachi grinned. “You’re wanting to move up into a more comfortable lifestyle, perhaps? Or maybe you’re looking for your own piece of the action with this organization?”

  “You could say that I am looking for my own measure of satisfaction, yes,” Makimura replied. Fukamachi laughed again.

“You’ve got guts, I’ll give you that,” he said. “But if you are going to work for me, you’re not dressing like that. We’ve got an image to uphold around here.”

Neither Fukamachi nor Makimura noticed the stunned expression of disbelief on Ryo’s face or the way he laughed nervously while beads of sweat dropped off his forehead.

Way to overplay your hand there, Makimura,’ Ryo thought to himself, groaning inwardly. ‘It’s a good thing that you’re telling him the truth to some extent because you are a terrible liar, you know that? Thankfully, this guy is so greedy, he can’t think straight.’

Fukamachi stood and walked over to shake both Ryo’s and Makimura’s hand.

“Welcome to Oracle gentlemen,” he said. “I think this is the beginning of a very profitable arrangement for all of us.” Ryo smirked as he shoved his hands into his pockets afterwards.

Oh it’s the beginning of something all right,’ he thought with a laugh. ‘You’re just too blind to see that it’s the beginning of the end for you.’

 

 

Chapter Text

Makimura studied his reflection in the mirror. Fukamachi had given both him and Ryo orders and a stipend to buy some clothes more “suitable” for the atmosphere of the restaurant. He hadn’t been entirely sure what Fukamachi meant by that, but Ryo had some definite ideas about it, so Makimura decided to let him choose for the both of them.

Makimura sighed as he adjusted his tie. The black suit with the silk green tie and green shirt weren’t really his taste, preferring to stick with his normal white shirts under his beloved overcoat, but he understood the need to blend in as much as possible.

As he got ready to meet Ryo, Makimura thought back to earlier that morning. Kaori was on vacation from school and had been invited on a trip with her friends to visit Kyoto. Makimura had driven her to the train station a couple hours previous.


 

 "I’ll be back in a week,” Kaori had told him. “I will make sure to get you plenty of souvenirs, aniki.”

“Don’t feel like you have to do that,” Makimura had smiled at her. “Just concentrate on having fun.”

“I plan on having fun,” Kaori smiled back. “But I am still making sure to pick up some souvenirs. I wouldn’t be a very good sister if I didn’t do that.”

Kaori hugged him, and Makimura patted her back as he held her in response.

“Be careful,” he told her.

“I will, I promise,” Kaori said as she let him go. She studied him for a moment before leaning toward him. “You’re getting ready to do a job with Ryo, aren’t you?”

“I am, but it’s nothing major,” Makimura said with a nervous smile. Kaori narrowed her eyes at him.

“Don’t lie to me,” she said. “It’s going to be dangerous, isn’t it?”

“No more so than when I used to be a cop,” Makimura replied, a bead of sweat dropping off his forehead. “And besides, Ryo will be there, so I’m sure it will be fine.” Kaori grabbed him for another hug.

“You make sure to be careful too, aniki,” she said. “Or else.”

Makimura swallowed hard. Despite the caring tone in his sister’s voice, he was not naive enough to ignore the veiled threat behind it. He knew that she worried about him and that even though her warnings were meant out of love, she sometimes expressed that love with one of her classic displays of anger. Makimura, having been long acquainted with her temper, was always reluctant to do anything that might trigger it.

“I promise to be cautious,” he told her. “Now, you should get going. You don’t want to be late for your train.”

Kaori nodded and picked up her suitcase. She started to walk off, but stopped to turn back toward him.’

“Oh and make sure to tell Ryo that if anything happens to you, he’ll be sorry,” she said. She then smiled and waved at him before rushing off toward the train.


 

Makimura finished fiddling with his tie and looked over his appearance one last time. He thought again about Kaori and the look she had in her eye when she mentioned Ryo.

That look…it’s the same one she had after meeting him about a year ago. Come to think of it, she has it whenever she mentions Ryo. I’ve never seen it before then and…’

A thought came to Makimura’s mind and he gulped.

Wait a minute. Don’t tell me….don’t tell me that Kaori is…interested in Ryo.’

Makimura snatched the glasses off his face and cleaned them. Now that he thought about it, he realized that Kaori had not shown any interest in boys her age or in dating or romance in general for that matter, even though he was aware that she was at the right age for such things. But after she met Ryo, she had spent a week caught up in daydreams and giddy excitement. At first Makimura thought that she had developed a crush on a boy from school, but she never mentioned anyone and eventually he had let the matter drop from his mind.

It wasn’t until this moment that he had started to make a connection, and Makimura gulped again as realization set in.

It’s nothing to worry about,’ he tried to tell himself. ‘Ryo’s made it clear that he won’t date underage girls, so Kaori is out of his range of vision. And as for Kaori, well there is no way she would put up with his bad habits. And with her temper…..’

Makimura put his glasses back on and walked away from the mirror. He knew that it wouldn’t be good to let himself get distracted by things like this, so he took a deep breath and tried to put his concerns aside.

‘I’m just being paranoid. Kaori falling in love with Ryo? It’s absurd. I’m sure that my instincts are wrong this time. After all, everyone makes a mistake eventually.’


 

“Ah ha ha, so many mokkori appetizers, so little time,” Ryo laughed. Makimura put a hand to his face and sighed.

The two of them were currently at Fukamachi’s restaurant, waiting for another meeting with the boss. While they waited, they kept an eye on things in the restaurant itself. Other than one incident involving some low-level gang members who proved to be no match for Ryo, little happened out of the ordinary. Ryo quickly got bored with passively watching the customers and soon started to eye the waitresses.

“Say Ryo, you haven’t forgotten what we are supposed to be doing now, right?” Makimura said.

“Of course not,” Ryo said, a lecherous grin plastered on his face. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t sample the menu around here in the meantime. Now, who should I start with? Megumi-chan is definitely my type, but Shoko-chan is very cute too.”

Ryo’s grin grew as he elbowed Makimura in the ribs.

“Don’t tell me that you haven’t noticed the girls around here,” he said. “Fukuamachi has some taste, making all of his waitresses wear those dresses with the slit on the side. Are you saying that none of them have caught your eye?”

“Well they are all pretty,” Makimura said, adjusting his glasses. “Almost as pretty as my sister.”

Ryo groaned loudly and let his head drop forward.

His sister again, of course,’ he thought to himself. ‘Why is it whenever I talk to him about the visions I see around me, he brings up his sister? Maybe this is part of his plan to distract me from my mokkori pursuits. He is much sneakier than he looks.’

But you underestimate me, Makimura. The Stallion of Shinjuku does not give up that easily.’

Ryo noticed a couple of waitresses watching him and he smiled and winked at them, causing both woman to blush and smile.

“I think my choice might have already been made for me,” Ryo grinned. “I’m sure I could send someone your way too. All you have to do is ask.”

Makimura sighed again, rolling his eyes, and Ryo giggled at his reaction.

The light-hearted move abruptly ended, however, with the arrival of Fukamachi and a few of his men.

“Ah, Saeba, I hear that you’ve kept a good eye on my business today,” Fukamachi said with a large grin.  “That makes me very happy. And you should know that there are plenty of rewards for making me happy.” Fukamachi walked over toward Makimura.

“I have a special assignment for you,” he said. “I have it on good authority that there will be a rat prowling around this place at some point tonight, a particularly greedy rat who has been trying to get me to put him on my payroll.”

“I see,” Makimura said, pushing his glasses up along the bridge of his nose. “You want me to persuade him to give up on this kind of business opportunity.”

“Good, we understand each other,” Fukamachi replied. “Now, I don’t want to involve the rest of the police department, so please, nothing too drastic.”

“Don’t worry,” Makimura said. “I have no intention of doing anything that could attract that kind of attention.”

“Splendid,” Fukamachi said. “As for you, Saeba, I plan on having some ‘entertainment’ here later tonight. Perhaps you would like to join us?”

“Sure,” Ryo said with a grin. “I’m always up for some fun.”

“Good,” Fukamachi said. “We’ll wait until after the bar closes in about three hours. By then our ‘guests’ will have arrived.”

Fukamachi smiled again and walked off with a pair of his henchmen toward the back office. As soon as they were gone, Ryo frowned and leaned against a wall.

Given this guy’s tastes, his idea of fun is probably a twisted one,’ he told himself. ‘Especially if what Makimura said about those girls he adopted is true.’

Ryo let out a sigh. He knew that it wouldn’t have been a good idea to turn down the boss’ invitation, but that didn’t stop him from dreading what was to come. He looked over at Makimura and noticed that his partner was staring out a window with a scowl on his face.

“What is it?” Ryo asked.

“There is someone hanging around the restaurant,” Makimura said. “I think it’s the rat that Fukamachi was talking about.”

“You recognize him?” Ryo replied.

“Yes,” Makimura nodded. “From when I still worked at the department.” Makimura then started to walk toward the door.

“I’m going to go have a talk with him,” he said. “I’ll meet up with you later.”

“See you,” Ryo said. Makimura gave him a wave before walking out the door.


 

A few minutes later, a man was standing alone on a corner across from the restaurant. He knew that he had been spotted by the staff of the establishment, and he decided to make his presence known for a while. The man pulled out a cigarette to smoke but was stopped by the sound of footsteps coming up behind him. The man whirled around toward the sound.

“Who’s there?” he said.

“Tetsuo Kanamori,” Makimura said as he walked toward him. “I can’t say that I am surprised to see you here.” Kanamori frowned as he watched Makimura draw closer to him.

“Makimura,” he said. “What are you doing here? Don’t tell me that you are actually working for Fukamachi. A straight arrow like you? You certainly have changed.”

“And I see that you haven’t changed,” Makimura said. “Let me guess, Fukamachi pays you off, and you promise to look the other way when something less than legal happens in his restaurant.”

“So what?” Kanamori said. “Are you saying that you’re here to stop me? You couldn’t handle working in the police department, so what makes you think that you’re any sort of threat to me now?”

Kanamori took a step toward Makimura and opened his jacket slightly, revealing his shoulder holster.

“I suggest that you stay out of my way, Makimura,” he said. “That is, unless you would like me to arrest you for harassing a real police officer.”

Kanamori’s hand started to go for his gun, but Makimura reacted first by pulling a small knife out of his suit pocket and throwing it at Kanamori’s hand. Kanamori yelped in pain as the blade buried itself into the back of his palm.

“Bastard,” Kanamori hissed as he pulled the knife out. “You’ll pay for that.” Makimura pulled out his revolver and pointed at Kanamori’s head.

“You know what kind of things these people do, and yet you’re still looking for a bribe from them?” Makimura said. “Haven’t you seen those girls that were killed? How could you take money from people who do disgusting things like that? You’re supposed to uphold the law.”

“The law? Please,” Kanamori spat. “It’s not like anyone really cares about a bunch of drug addicts and delinquent girls. The fact is, people like Fukamachi are just giving these degenerates what they want, so why should the police bother with trash like them?” Makimura tightened his grip on the handle of his gun, but showed no other reaction.

“Since you don’t seem to care about the law, let’s discuss something you do care about,” he said. “I still have contacts within the police department. If I were to give them a tip about a cop who is taking bribes from Oracle, they would be very interested. So I suggest that you leave here and forget that you’ve seen me. I know that you have other ‘sources of income’ and I am sure that certain interested parties would be very nervous if you had to go through an internal review.”

Kanamori’s eyes grew wide, and Makimura was confident that he had gotten through to him. He slipped his revolved back into its holster and turned away.

“I hope that this will be the last time we run into each other,” Makimura said. “I suggest that you follow my advice or I will be forced to make a couple of phone calls.”

He then walked away and seconds later, he heard Kanamori dash off in the opposite direction.


 

Almost thirty minutes later, Makimura was standing in an alley behind the restaurant, smoking a cigarette. Truthfully, he hadn’t wanted to let Kanamori go. Makimura had suspected that Kanamori had been taken bribes for a long while, but had no way of proving it. He knew that it would be easy to go ahead and make good on his threat to Kanamori, but Makimura knew that, in the long run, it would only draw unwanted attention onto himself. Attention he could not afford to have while he worked in the underground and especially while he was working undercover on this case. No, Kanamori would have to wait for now.

Makimura threw the last stub of his cigarette onto the pavement and sighed. Even though he had freely made the choice to leave the police department and work in the underground, making the adjustment had not been easy. He still struggled with his instincts as a cop while trying to develop a better understanding of what worked best in his new line of work. Ryo had been somewhat instructive on various points and had given him some valuable lessons about dealing with people who lived in their world.

Makimura also knew, however, that Ryo himself was still adjusting to the idea of being a deliverer of justice and protector of innocents as opposed to only thinking in terms of his current contract. Thus, there were many questions and conflicts that Makimura knew he would have to figure out on his own.

Makimura thought about going back into the restaurant and finding Ryo when the sound of crying interrupted his reverie. He looked around the alley and found woman sitting on the ground, her legs folded up near her chest and her head buried against her knees. Makimura walked over and crouched down beside her.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Are you all right? Is there anything I can do?”  The woman looked up, and Makimura was dismayed to see a teenager behind all the makeup and the mature style of dress.

“Fukamachi-sama…Fukamachi-sama,” she wept. “He…he promised me…he promised that he wouldn’t….”

The girl wept even more and Makimura put a hand on her arm.

“Listen to me,” he said. “You don’t have to depend on him. I can help you.”

“You can? Really?” she said with a trembling voice.

“Certainly,” Makimura replied with a hint of a smile. “I have some contacts who can get you the help you need.”

“Oh thank you,” she said, lunging over to hug him. Makimura blushed, a bead of sweat dropping off his brow.

“It’s fine,” he said, patting her shoulders. “No need to thank me.” The girl then started to stroke his back.

“Don’t say that,” she replied. “I know that something like this isn’t free. Just tell me what you like and I’ll be sure to give you a good time.”

“What?!” Makimura gulped. “Ah no, that’s not…I’m not looking for….”

“And if your contacts have good stuff, I’ll be sure to do business with you in the future,” the girl grinned, her tears drying up and her eyes lighting up with a far more malicious glint. Makimura wriggled out of her embrace and stood up.

“Stuff? You mean drugs?” he said. “That’s not the kind of help I’m offering. I’m giving you a chance to get away from Fukamachi.”

“Why would I want to do that?” the girl pouted. “He treats me really good…that is when he isn’t cheating me out of my rightful wage. Wait…are you trying to move in on his turf? Or maybe you’re a spy for one of our rivals?”

“I’m not….”

“I bet that’s what you are,” the girl said, pointing a finger at him. “I’m going to tell Fukamachi-sama what you tried to do. He’ll deal with you and I’ll be back on his good list. I might even get a bonus for this.”

Makimura held out a hand to stop her, but the girl continued to back away from him. She immediately stopped, however, when she backed into someone. She whirled around to see a man glowering at her.

“Ryo!” Makimura said.

“Hey, you work for Fukamachi-sama,” the girl said to Ryo. “That guy over there is a spy. You take care of him while I tell….”

“Don’t lie to me,” Ryo growled, causing the girl to flinch. “I know that you’re just covering up your own actions.”

“What…what are you saying?” the girl said, putting a hand to her mouth. “I would never…”

“I saw you steal some product from the boss’ office,” Ryo continued. “You’re trying to make sure that the boss doesn’t find out that you’ve been stealing from him. Well, you should know that he already suspects you. And I think you know what happens to people who steal from him.”

“Oh god,” she whimpered. Ryo advanced on her, his gaze cold and distant.

“Get out of here,” he ordered. “If you show up in Fukamachi’s restaurant again…if I even hear about you talking to anyone in Oracle…I’ll make sure to tell him about your activities.”

The girl trembled for a few more seconds before running away. Ryo watched her leave silently.

“Ryo, I….” Makimura started. Ryo turned toward him, anger still evident in his features.

“What on earth are you thinking?” Ryo snapped at him. “You keep doing stuff like that and you’ll blow this whole undercover operation.”

“I was just trying to help,” Makimura retorted. “What was I supposed to do? Just let Fukamachi continue to use her for his own amusement and profit? She’s just a kid, Ryo.”

“She may look like a kid,” Ryo said. “But not everyone around here who looks like a kid is a kid anymore. Not all of these girls are Natsumi…or your sister for that matter.”

“Kaori has nothing to do with this,” Makimura replied, a scowl forming on his face. “Don’t you dare bring her up. And as for the rest of it…I already know how some of these kids are in this world. I have seen it before.”

“You’ve seen it before as a cop,” Ryo said. “This is nothing like that. Don’t you understand that you have to stop thinking like a detective if you are going to do this kind of work? Especially undercover work?”

“I told you that I’ve done this kind of thing before,” Makimura responded. “I would have found a way out of that situation even without your help.”

“You could have fooled me,” Ryo snarled back. “And who are you kidding anyway? You would have been in deep trouble if I hadn’t been here.”

Ryo turned away, his posture tense.

“I think you need to decide if you really want to work in City Hunter or go back to being a detective,” he said. “Because as far as I’m concerned, you aren’t cut out to be anything other than my assistant.”

“You’re wrong, Ryo,” Makimura said, his tone quiet but firm. For a moment, Ryo didn’t respond, and then suddenly, he spun back toward Makimura with his gun in his hand.

“I’ve warned you more than once about the kind of life you would have in this line of work,” Ryo growled at him. “And yet you refuse to listen. You don’t belong here. You never did.” Ryo walked closer, his gun still pointed at Makimura’s chest.

“I will finish this job with you,” Ryo said. “But after that, you’re either going back to just being my liaison or you’re leaving City Hunter behind.  I’m not going to work with someone who is going to get me killed.”

Ryo continued to glare at him with his gun aimed at Makimura’s heart, but Makimura said nothing and only frowned again in response. Eventually Ryo put his gun away and started to walk off.

“I heard from some of Fukamachi’s men that there will be several high-paying clients in tonight to ‘sample’ some of the girls and to buy large amounts of product,” Ryo said. “This would be a great night for the police to ‘randomly’ show up at the restaurant. Maybe you and Saeko should think of a way to make that happen.”

Ryo walked to the end of the alley, pausing before moving toward the street.

“Leave,” he ordered. “I’ll cover for you with Fukamachi. You just make sure to take care of your end of things.”

Ryo then walked off, leaving Makimura alone in the alley. Makimura stared at the path that Ryo had taken for several minutes before heading away from the restaurant in search of a phone booth.

 

Chapter Text

After making a phone call, Makimura went to a café. He was nursing a cup of coffee when Saeko finally walked in. As soon as she as she saw him, she let out a quiet laugh.

“Did Ryo talk you into wearing that suit?” she said as she sat down across from him.

“He said that Fukamachi would find it less ‘offensive’ than my usual attire,” Makimura said. “It seemed to work all right.” He then looked down at his suit and smiled sheepishly. “But I guess it isn’t my style, is it?”

“Not really,” Saeko said, continuing to grin in response. Her smile fell a moment later.

“There is something else I thought you should know,” she said. “I looked at the coroner’s reports for both Yuki and Natsumi Iwasaki. Apparently the cause of death in both cases was a drug overdose. The report also said that there were signs that both of them had been using the same drug that they overdosed on for some time.”

Makimura looked down into his mug and struggled to maintain his composure. He thought back to the girl in the alley from earlier that night. He didn’t like to think that Natsumi or her sister could act that desperately for their habit or that Natsumi could have used him as a means to secure more drugs for herself.

If we hadn’t trusted him….”

‘No,’ Makimura thought. ‘Even if they were using drugs, chances are, Fukamachi is the one who introduced them into their lives. It’s not their fault that the person they trusted to take care of them got them dependent on drugs.’

 “So, you said on the phone that something is happening at Fukamachi’s restaurant tonight?” Saeko asked, interrupting his thoughts.

Makimura finished his coffee and told Saeko the details about what Ryo had told him. As he finished, Saeko nodded her head.

“I’m pretty sure I could arrange it so that we have a couple of uniformed officers patrolling the area in case of any ‘disturbances’,” she said. “The key thing will be making sure that there will be reason for the officers to investigate.”

“Ryo and I will take care of that,” Makimura said. “Just make sure to be ready by around midnight. That is when the ‘party’ is supposed to start and it would be the best time to catch them by surprise.”

“Have the two of you worked out a plan?” she asked.

“Not exactly,” Makimura said.

“Not exactly? What is that supposed to mean?” Saeko said, incredulous. “This isn’t the time for improvisation. Things could get dangerous in an instant and I can’t guarantee that I will be able to help you in that situation.”

“We understood the risks going in,” Makimura replied. “But don’t worry. We have it under control.” Saeko studied him for a moment before narrowing her eyes at him.

“If that is the case, then tell me exactly what Ryo is doing right now,” she said. “You can’t, can you, because you don’t know. Am I wrong?”

Makimura let out a sigh as Saeko frowned and crossed her arms across her chest.

“Let me guess, he’s decided to do things his way and on his own,” she said. “It doesn’t surprise me. I had a feeling that Ryo has no idea how to work with a partner for a while now and this confirms it.”

Makimura said nothing as he stood up from the table and pulled out his wallet to pay for his coffee. Saeko rose from her chair and moved to stand next to him.

“One last thing,” she said. “When our people arrive, you and Ryo cannot be there. Otherwise….”

“Otherwise, you’ll have to arrest us too,” Makimura finished for her. “And since we aren’t officially working with the police, as far as the law is concerned, it will be as if we are some of Fukamachi’s men.”

“I’m sorry,” Saeko said, lowering her head. “I was the one who asked for your help in this, but I can’t….” Makimura put a hand on her arm.

“It’s all right,” he smiled at her. “We understood that going in too. And don’t worry. I’ll make sure that the two of us are nowhere near Fukamachi’s restaurant when you get there.”

He then paid the bill and walked out of the restaurant. Saeko sank back into her chair, a pensive expression on her face. She knew that she had touched a nerve when she shared her concerns about Makimura’s ability to work with Ryo as his partner, but she was also frustrated that Makimura was being so stubborn.

Despite all of his frustrations, I know that he enjoys the work he does in City Hunter,’ she thought to herself. ‘And I know that he wants to continue doing this as long as he can, but I just don’t know if he can carry on this kind of work with Ryo as his partner.’

Saeko sighed and put a hand to her face. A part of her wished that Makimura had never left the force and that the two of them were still partners. She had understood his reasons for leaving, and as much as she didn’t want to believe it, she had often suspected that Makimura’s passion for justice would eventually lead to his current path.   

Saeko stood up and walked out of the café. She needed to make preparations for dealing with Fukamachi and his men and tried to shift her focus in that direction. As she got into her car, she thought back to the last conversation they had over his work.

“…you always trusted my instincts and my insight when it came to people…so try to trust in them now….”

 ‘I do trust you, Hideyuki,’ she told herself. ‘I just hope that you aren’t wrong this time.’


 

After talking to Saeko, Makimura swung by his apartment to change back into his normal attire before heading back out. He knew that Fukamachi would probably not expect him for the rest of the night, and Makimura decided that it would be better to keep a lower profile by donning his usual shirt and slacks under his overcoat.

As he walked back toward the restaurant, he thought back to the conversation he had had with Saeko and the one he had had earlier with Ryo.

“I had a feeling that Ryo has no idea how to work with a partner for a while now and this confirms it.”

“You don’t belong here. You never did.”

Makimura frowned. He understood Saeko’s worries and frustrations because he occasionally had the same ones himself. Ryo was not always the easiest person to work with, but Makimura had thought that he had managed to foster a comfortable arrangement within City Hunter for the both of them. When he thought back to what Ryo said to him in the alley, it occurred to him that things were not as stable as he thought they were. Makimura resented the implication that he was somehow incompetent and felt that Ryo was being far too dismissive of him and his abilities.

Still, Makimura found it difficult to stay mad at him for his outburst. It had not been the first time that Ryo had lost his temper with him or even the first time that Ryo had pointed his gun at him, and Makimura suspected that either event could happen again in the future.

For someone like Ryo…who’s probably lived a good portion of his life in this shadowy world…it’s a huge adjustment to trust someone like me. I imagine that he has had to be wary of the police for a long time, and now he works with someone who used to be one of them.’

‘Plus…I imagine that trust doesn’t come easily in his world. Trusting the wrong person could get you killed. And even if one could learn to trust someone else, betrayal is probably an ever present threat.’

‘Still….’

Makimura shook his head. He knew that Ryo was prone to speaking and acting impulsively. He also knew, however, that Ryo was just as likely to be deliberate in his actions, even if they seemed spontaneous at first. Makimura understood that it was very possible that Ryo was serious when he gave him the ultimatum of either acting solely as a go-between for clients or dissolving City Hunter. Makimura did not relish making such a decision, but he also knew that he could not function as just a liaison for Ryo. It would be too much like the job he had as a policeman, right down to how impotent he felt in the face of injustice. No matter what Ryo decided to do, Makimura knew that he would find some way to carry on with the work he was doing.

Makimura found Ryo’s car and got in, leaning back in the driver’s seat. Ryo had positioned it so that there was a clear view of the back door of the restaurant, and Makimura figured that it would be the best vantage point to keep an eye on things while Ryo got ready to make his move.

'It’s up to you now, Ryo,’ he mused. ‘I’m ready whenever you are.’


 

Ryo frowned as he watched some of Fukamachi’s men ogle the young girls who had arrived at the restaurant.

All these girls look hot, but I know that none of them are over sixteen,’ he thought to himself. ‘Not a single mokkori opportunity in sight.’

Ryo let out a sigh and feigned keeping an eye on the perimeter of the restaurant. By now, he figured that Makimura had already arranged something with Saeko and was waiting for him in his Mini-Cooper, which he had parked nearby.

Thinking about Makimura brought another frown to Ryo’s face. He regretted being so harsh with Makimura, but the truth was that tonight was merely the result of things that had been gnawing at him for a while now.

Ryo heard laughter and glanced over to see some of Fukamachi’s clients start to arrive. He moved to stand in a corner of the room and decided to watch the people around him for now.

While he watched, he thought more about what he had told Makimura. Ryo admitted to himself that a large portion of what he had said had been a lie. After working with him for this long, Ryo was aware that Makimura had superb instincts as a detective which had proven to be useful when learning about potential clients, targets and other various bits of information. Ryo also acknowledged that Makimura was a fast learner, enabling him to handle all the adjustments he needed to make in a transition from working within the police to working in the underground. Plus, while Makimura was not at his level of ability as a professional, Ryo knew that he was quite skilled in his use of knives and suspected that Makimura was better with a gun than he was letting on.

More important to Ryo than any of these skills, however, was the depth of Makimura’s character.

 Ryo still remembered the day that Makimura had approached him with the proposal to work with him to pursue criminals who evaded the system and to help him protect people who needed their help. It had been a tense meeting to say the least with Ryo keeping the muzzle of his Magnum pressed up against Makimura’s forehead during most of the conversation.

Ryo’s first reaction had been to laugh at Makimura in response to the idea of becoming some kind of “defender of justice”, but what had also struck him immediately was the fact that Makimura had not flinched or cowered even once during their entire talk. Ryo had grown used to people either fearing him or recoiling in disgust when he revealed the darker aspects of his personality. He had been shocked when Makimura continued to maintain a calm, open demeanor while extending his offer to work with him despite the fact that Ryo had shown him his face as a killer. 

It was in that moment that Ryo realized that Makimura’s fortitude was easily on par with his own, and Ryo could not help but respect him for it. It had been enough to make him seriously consider Makimura’s offer, and in the end, it had been the deciding factor in his choice to go ahead with the formation of City Hunter with him.

The more he thought about it, the more Ryo was forced to admit that the problem was not that Makimura was unqualified to be his partner. Instead he realized that the problem was that he had actually grown fond of Makimura as a person.

Ryo sighed as he watched more of Fukamachi’s clients file in. He had been wary of forming any sort of bonds with other people due to his experiences in his past. Whether it was events like the moment when the man he knew as his father betrayed him and used him as a killing machine or events like the tragic ending to his partnership with Kenny Field, Ryo had thoroughly learned the danger of letting anyone get too close to his heart.

Still, the fact remained that, despite Makimura’s gloominess, his straight arrow demeanor, his stubbornness, and his tendency to preach and lecture, Ryo admired him. He admired the dedication Makimura showed in his care of his sister. He admired Makimura’s persistence in regards to his belief in the better aspects of human nature in the face of the ugliness he had seen. He admired Makimura’s unflagging work ethic in trying to find ways to help the people around him. Most of all, however, Ryo admired the fact that Makimura’s strong desire for justice was tempered with an equally strong compassion for others. It made it so that Makimura was neither a single-minded vigilante nor a naïve humanitarian with nothing but good intentions. It was a combination of traits that Ryo had rarely seen in anyone either in his world or among those who professed to enforce the law.

This admiration had grown over time and now Ryo was aware that it was mixed with a sort of friendly affection for his partner. Ryo was usually reluctant to think of anyone as his friend, but it occurred to him that Makimura could qualify as one in his eyes.

None of this changed the fact, however, that Makimura was at risk the longer he stayed in this world. Ryo had not forgotten the day he had met Makimura’s sister, Kaori, or the fears she had expressed at losing her brother, the only family she knew. Ryo had understood her fears because he had had some of them himself in regards to his partner. Once in a while, Ryo had tried a variety of subtle methods to encourage Makimura to reconsider his work in City Hunter, including reminding him of his sister and the need she had for her older brother. None of these methods had ended up working, however, and Ryo found himself increasingly frustrated at how the number of risks that Makimura took continued to escalate. He was convinced that he would have to eventually be more forceful in his attempts to get Makimura to see the light.

This case and the events that happened tonight had given Ryo his first opportunity. Ryo knew all too well what would have happened to Makimura if that girl had squealed to Fukamachi about him, and it served as both a reminder to Ryo why he needed to take these steps and a way to plant the seed of discontent in Makimura’s mind.

Ryo sighed again, one of his hands clenching into a fist. He didn’t enjoy having to resort to the kinds of tactics he had used tonight with Makimura, but he also knew that Makimura was stubborn and would sometimes refuse to listen to reason. Truthfully, Ryo did not want to dismantle City Hunter, but the fact remained that he did not want it to continue at the cost of Makimura’s life.

The last of Fukamachi’s clients arrived and some of his henchmen escorted a few of the girls toward the tables where the clients were sitting.

Looks like a lot of Fukamachi’s men are planning on joining in the partying. Their guard will be down and that will be the perfect time to create some kind of disturbance which will give Saeko reason to interrupt this party and find all the evidence she needs to put a major dent in Oracle. I just need to wait for my chance.’

Ryo was so intent on watching the henchmen and the clients that he didn’t notice a woman watching him from around a corner.


 

Fukamachi sat in his office and gazed several open suitcases of drugs in front of him. There were several deals that would be negotiated tonight and he wanted to be sure to be ready to settle the best terms for each transaction.

His contemplation was interrupted, however, when a woman walked into his office. Once he got a better look at her face, he stared to grin.

“Ah Mitsuko-chan,” he said. “Long time, no see. I’m glad you could get away from your bar to come to my party.”

Mitsuko smiled at him and moved to sit in his lap, but her smile soon turned into a frown.

“Fukamachi-chan, I’m afraid you’ve got trouble in your place tonight,” she said.

“What kind of trouble?” Fukamachi asked, his face donning a frown.

“I just saw someone I know among your men,” she continued. “Ryo Saeba.”

“Yes? I just hired him,” Fukamachi said. “He’s been good for us so far.”

“You don’t know Saeba,” Mitsuko replied. “He’s not a contract professional anymore. He’s teamed up with some ex-cop to fight crime and act as a bodyguard. If he’s here, then it’s likely that he’s looking to shut your business down.”

“What?!” Fukamachi roared. “So him and that other guy….they are working for the police?”

“Probably,” Mitsuko said. “I know for a fact that his assistant has a contact with someone from the homicide squad.” Fukamachi pounded his fist against the desk.

“Well then, we will just have to get rid of Saeba and his partner,” he said. He then looked into Mitsuko’s eyes, his own eyes glittering with malice.

“How about you help me?” he said. “I’ve seen enough of Saeba to know that he’s very fond of beautiful women. I’ve got just the thing for him if you are willing to play along.”

“I am at your service,” Mitsuko smiled. “That bastard needs to be taken down a peg or two.”

Fukamachi grinned again and pulled out a vial and a syringe out of his desk drawer.

Now Saeba, you’ll find out what happens when you try to mess with Oracle. Let’s see how you enjoy being the new “test subject” for one of my latest products.’


 

A few minutes later, Mitsuko was walking through the restaurant and found Ryo still leaning against a wall. She put on her best smile and moved closer to him.

“Say, Saeba-san,” she chirped at him. “I didn’t know that you would be here.”

Ryo looked over at her and gulped while still trying to smile in response. Mitsuko had recently opened up a bar in Shinjuku, and while Ryo enjoyed the drinks and the waitresses, he did not enjoy Mitsuko’s pursuit of him because he sensed that she had little in the way of kindness or scruples. He ended up staying away from her place after only a couple of visits and was now worried that Mitsuko might be holding some kind of grudge against him for ignoring her.

“Ah, hi Mitsuko-chan,” he replied with a laugh. “I just started working for Fukamachi-san. It’s been a pretty good job so far. I might have to consider sticking with it.”

“Oh, then we might be seeing a lot of each other,” she grinned as she moved closer. “Fukamachi-chan and I enjoy each other’s company, if you get my meaning.” Mitsuko leaned close to him and placed her hands onto his chest.

“I do,” Ryo replied with a smirk. “So, don’t you think that it’s a little dangerous for us to be meeting this way?”

“Ah, don’t worry about that,” Mitsuko said. “Fukamachi-chan is not the jealous type and neither am I. So how about we continue this conversation in a more private setting, hmm? Then later we can re-join the festivities for a while before the real business begins.”

Ryo continued to force himself to smile as she ran her hands through his hair and along his chest. Despite his misgivings about Mitsuko, Ryo found her to be an attractive woman and he was longing for an opportunity to excuse himself from a party involving grown men groping teenage girls.

“Why not?” he smirked again. “I’m no lolicon. I’d much rather spend time with a mokkori vision like you.”

“Good,” she winked at him. “So let’s go.”

She took his hand and led him down the hallway toward Fukamachi’s office. Once they arrived, she wrapped her arms around him.

“You should know that I’ve been waiting for a moment like this for some time now, Ryo Saeba,” she grinned.

She then leaned toward him, her lips puckered for a kiss. Ryo bent down and gave one to her, his arms enveloping her and pulling her close to him. He felt a surge of pleasure at the way she was kissing and touching him and decided to let himself enjoy the sensations for a while.

Suddenly, Ryo felt the prick of a needle on his skin. He yanked himself away from Mitsuko, but not before she had emptied most of the contents of the syringe into his neck. Ryo put a hand up to the spot where she had injected him.

“What…what did you do?” he asked, stunned. Mitsuko laughed and Ryo soon felt nauseous and disoriented. He started to walk away, but stumbled onto the ground in front of her. The sound of footsteps caused him to look up and see Fukamachi walking toward him.

“What’s the matter, Saeba?” he asked. “Not feeling well. You should feel honored. You get to be the first one to try my new product before Oracle sells it to the general public.”

“Fukamachi,” Ryo slurred out. He then put a hand to his head. His vision was becoming increasingly blurry and his heart was racing.

This feeling…it’s familiar…like I’ve…’ Ryo’s eyes then widened in terror.

What did Mitsuko give me? Wait…did she…is this a version of angel dust? Did Mitsuko give me angel dust?’

Ryo’s body trembled as he pulled himself back onto his feet.  He remembered all too well the nightmares he had lived while he was pumped full of angel dust and sent out to massacre entire enemy divisions and while he struggled to recover from his forced addiction. The idea that he would have to re-live even a moment of that time filled him with horror.

Seconds after making onto his feet, Ryo slid back down into a sitting position on the floor, his legs unable to hold him upright. Fukamachi walked over and grabbed Ryo by the hair, forcing him to look up at him.

“Looks like you weren’t smart enough to know not to mess with Oracle,” Fukamachi smirked at him. “No one gets away with making a fool out of me. No one. I could kill you right now, but that wouldn’t be much fun. I think I’ll keep you around for a while instead.  I’m interested in knowing what happens to a person who uses my new product for a prolonged period of time, and you seem like the perfect test subject. After all, it’s not like anyone is going to miss a guy like you.”

Ryo panted, his breathing becoming increasingly labored. He managed to pull Fukamachi’s hand out of his hair and push him away from him, but Fukamachi responded by giving him a swift kick to the ribs, causing Ryo to collapse onto his side. He then started to pull out his gun, but three of Fukamachi’s henchmen had shown up by that point and their combined strength was enough to restrain Ryo and yank the gun out of his hands.

“I’ll hold onto this,” Fukamachi said, placing the Magnum on the table. “It will make a nice trophy after you are dead. For now though, enjoy your sample of Oracle’s wares.” Fukamachi then turned toward his men.

“Watch him,” he said. “Make sure he does not leave this room, but do not kill him.”

Ryo watched as Fukamachi and Mitsuko left the room. His mind was already conjuring up hallucinations, and Ryo was quickly losing the ability to distinguish reality from illusion. He tried to stand and fight against both the men surrounding him and the images he saw in his mind, but was unable to do little more than flop back onto the floor which prompted a round of laughter.

“Hey, this was the guy who made me look bad in front of the boss,” one of the men said. “It’s time I paid him back for the favor.”

“Hey, remember what the boss said,” another man replied. “We can’t kill him.”

“We might not be able to kill him, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t give him some payback,” the first man said. 

Ryo was barely able to brace himself for the first kick to his side and his breath was nearly taken away by the impact. He clasped his arms over his head as the blows rained down, but the pain barely registered in Ryo’s mind. Half-formed nightmares and memories clouded his vision and fear flooded his soul, making his heart race faster and faster.

Soon, Ryo felt himself falling into a sea of darkness, and he was almost certain that he would never be able to re-surface.

Chapter Text

Makimura wasn’t sure why he thought this way, but he was certain that something was wrong.

He had watched the clients file into the restaurant and some of Fukamachi’s men continue to occasionally patrol the area near the car, but none of them paid him the least bit of attention. Eventually, it grew quiet and Makimura assumed that the festivities had begun. He figured that it wouldn’t be long before Ryo created some kind of disturbance, and Makimura prepared himself to act quickly once it happened.

Time passed, however, and nothing out of the ordinary occurred. Makimura was wondering if Ryo decided to wait until the actual business went underway when something else caught his attention. He noted that a couple of Fukamachi’s men were completing their established patrol at the back of the restaurant when another man ran over to them and the three of them ran inside.

Something is up,’ Makimura thought to himself. ‘All three of those men seemed agitated.’

Makimura pulled out his gun and checked it one last time before putting it back in his coat and getting out of the car. Seeing no one around, he crept in through the back door of the restaurant. He scanned the hallways, but could find no one. He then heard music and yelling off in another part of the restaurant.

Most of the men must be at the party,’ he mused. ‘And it sounds like it’s getting boisterous. I wonder what is keeping Ryo.’

Makimura ducked into a side room when he heard footsteps coming his way. He held the door open slightly and watched as another pair of Fukamachi’s men walked by.

“The boss is going to make that guy into a real mess,” one of them said. “Bet he wishes that he hadn’t tried to go up against Oracle.”

“Yeah,” the other one laughed. “He thought he was really cool, but he doesn’t look so cool now.”

The both of them laughed again and continued on their way. Once they were gone, Makimura quietly exited the room and continued down the hallways.

Those men...were they talking about Ryo?’ he wondered. ‘Has his cover been blown? And if so, what’s happened to him?’

Makimura began to search the rooms around him. Judging from what those men had said, Ryo was probably in real danger, and Makimura knew that he would have to act swiftly in order to save his life.

He walked over to Fukamachi’s office and noticed light from the space under the door. Makimura leaned close and could hear a voice inside. He pulled out his revolver and strained to hear what was being said.

“….it won’t matter, because no one is going to care what happens to you. Think about that….”


 

Sadamitsu Iwase was not a patient man.

Ever since he was a child, he couldn’t understand why he had to wait for the things he wanted. As he grew up, he discovered that the easiest way to get what he wanted was to force others to give in to his demands. He made a reputation for himself as a bully while he attended school and then he graduated to acting as an enforcer for various small yakuza groups. Eventually this led him to Fukamachi and Oracle. Iwase enjoyed the power he felt as one of Fukamachi’s top men.

That feeling of power was threatened, however, when Ryo had effortlessly defeated him in front of Fukamachi. It was an incident that Iwase could not forget. The moment was burned into his memory and since that moment, Iwase was waiting for the chance to have his revenge. When Fukamachi ordered him to guard a drugged and barely coherent Ryo Saeba, Iwase finally saw his chance arrive.

He had joined in the beating with the two other men who were assigned to guard Ryo, taking immense pleasure out of every kick and punch. Ryo had struggled against them at first, but eventually he simply put his arms over his head and did nothing to deflect their blows. Soon Ryo passed out, and they let him lying in the middle of the floor. The three of them watched him for a short while, but soon they became restless.

“This guy is completely out of it,” one of them said. “I see no reason why we all have to be here.”

“Yeah,” another one grumbled. “I wanted to join in the fun out in the restaurant.” Iwase smiled to himself as a idea entered his mind.

“Hey, you two go ahead,” he said. “I’ll stay here and watch this guy.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Iwase said. “Go ahead and have some fun. I mean, it’s not like he’s going anywhere any time soon.”

The other two men laughed and exited the office. After they were gone, Iwase grinned and crouched down beside Ryo.

“Hey,” Iwase said, giving him a hard tap to the head. “Wake up. I said wake up. I want to talk to you.”

Iwase kept prodding until Ryo let out a groan and began to stir. Iwase grabbed him by the hair and turned his face toward him. Ryo’s eyes were open, but they were unfocused and showed no awareness.

“You thought it was funny to make a fool out of me in front of the boss, didn’t you?” he sneered. “Well who is laughing now?” Iwase then leaned even closer to him.

“How do you feel about the fact that you’re going to spend the rest of your life as an experiment for the boss?” he said. “I know that, if it were me, I would have just killed you. But now that I think about it, I think he had the right idea. Killing you would be quick, but this, this is even better. It will be fun to watch you turn into a mindless zombie, begging for your next dose, unable to think about anything else.”

Iwase pulled Ryo’s head off the floor by his hair and smiled when Ryo flinched at the action.

“You know what the best part is?” he asked. “The best part is that you can beg as much as you want for your next dose or maybe for someone to kill you, but it won’t matter. It won’t matter because no one is going to care about what happens to you. Think about that.”

Iwase chuckled as Ryo murmured something unintelligible His laughter stopped, however, when Ryo suddenly narrowed his eyes at him and spit in his face. Iwase let go of his hair and jumped to his feet.

“You….” Iwase snarled as he wiped the salvia from his face. Ryo slowly raised himself up into a sitting position and slumped against the wall. Blood from a cut near his temple dripped down the side of his face as he continued to pant, but his eyes took on a hard glint.

“If you come near me again,” Ryo growled. “I will kill you.” Iwase trembled at the cold, defiant look in Ryo’s eyes.

“You’ll kill me?!” Iwase said. “How dare you threaten me? I am going to make you wish you never said that.”

Iwase cracked his knuckles and took a step toward Ryo, who was crawling toward the table. Iwase was interrupted, however, by a sound coming from the doorway. He spun around to see Makimura standing behind him seconds before a knife hit him in the leg. Iwase yelped in pain and crumpled to the ground. He started to reach for his gun, but Makimura threw another knife at his hand, the blade burying itself in Iwase’s knuckles.

“Bastard!” Iwase growled. He made a move to get to his feet, but Makimura pulled out his revolver and pointed it at him.

“Don’t move,” Makimura ordered. “Ryo, are you all right?”

Ryo did not answer, and Makimura watched as he stumbled against a nearby table and collapsed back onto the floor.

“What did you do to him?” Makimura asked Iwase, anger creeping into his tone.

“He’s just got a sample of one of Oracle’s latest products,” Iwase smirked at him. “If you ask me, I think he’s enjoying it.”

Makimura frowned, his jaw tightening. Iwase looked like he would say more, but Makimura silenced him with a swift blow to the head with the handle of his gun. He fell unconscious onto the ground, and Makimura dragged him behind a couch in the room and used Iwase’s tie to bind his hands to one of its legs. He then put his gun away and walked over to Ryo.

“Ryo?” he said as he knelt down beside him. “Are you all right?”

Ryo remained face down on the floor and Makimura grew concerned when he didn’t respond to his voice. He reached for Ryo’s shoulder and began to carefully turn him over when Ryo suddenly pointed his Magnum in his face.

“Back away,” Ryo hissed at him. Makimura blinked but did not lose his composure. He noted the almost feverish glint in Ryo’s eyes and how his hair was matted to his forehead with blood and sweat, and Makimura suspected that he wasn’t himself.

“Ryo,” he replied, his voice calm. “This is the second time tonight you’ve pointed a gun at me. Don’t you think that is taking things too far?”

Ryo’s mouth dropped open and he blinked several times while lowering his gun.

“Mak…Makimura?” he croaked.  Ryo dropped his gun onto the floor and fell back onto his back.

“Yes, it’s me,” Makimura replied. “Hold still while I take a look at you.”

Makimura put a hand to Ryo’s chin and tilted his head while reaching for Ryo’s wrist with his other one.

The wound on his head looks like just a scratch,’ Makimura thought to himself. ‘But he might have a concussion. And with the way his eyes are dilated and his pulse is racing, it’s clear that he’s been drugged.’ Makimura put a hand to Ryo’s abdomen, and Ryo groaned.

“Looks like they might have broken some ribs too,” Makimura said, consolation coloring his tone. “Ryo, we need to get you out of here. Can you stand?”

 Ryo nodded very slowly and tried to sit up. Makimura spied a syringe on the floor. He pulled out a handkerchief and wrapped it around the syringe before putting it in his pocket.

This is probably what they injected him with,’ Makimura said. ‘There is still a little bit left. Hopefully a doctor can figure out what it is so that they’ll know how to treat him.’

“No…no more.”

Makimura looked to see Ryo huddled near the table, his breaths still coming out in slow, uneven gasps.

“No more,” Ryo mumbled. “Please…oyaji.” Makimura was swiftly filled with a mixture of confusion and concern.

‘Must be some kind of hallucination,’ he thought. ‘Still…why would he plead with his own father that way?’

Makimura heard a faint burst of laughter and turned his head toward the sound, grimacing. He knew that it was only a matter of time before either Fukamachi’s men discovered them or Saeko showed up with her men. The two of them needed to leave soon to avoid getting arrested or worse.

“Makimura?”

Makimura turned back toward Ryo and was relieved when he saw some lucidity return to Ryo’s eyes, even though he was still shaking with what Makimura could only guess was fear.

“I’m still here, Ryo,” he said. “Can you stand up now? We need to get you to a hospital.” Ryo shook his head vigorously.

“No,” he said. “Take me to the Professor’s.”

Makimura frowned again. About a year into their partnership, Ryo had given him a card with the Professor’s address and had instructed Makimura to take him there if he was ever seriously injured or debilitated in any way. Makimura had stored the card in his wallet, and the matter had never come up again.

“Ryo, you need help,” he said. “A hospital would be better for….”

“No!” Ryo insisted. “The Professor can treat me. He…he did before…Please.”

Makimura sighed. He didn’t like the idea of taking Ryo to some unknown location for what could be dubious medical treatment, but Ryo’s pleading tone and extremely agitated state convinced Makimura that it would be better to do as he asked for now.

“All right, Ryo, all right,” Makimura said. “I’ll take you there. But right now, I think we will need to concentrate on getting out of here. I am sure that Saeko has sent people over to this area by now.”

Ryo nodded again and carefully rose to his feet, his stance unsteady. Makimura stood up and managed to catch Ryo’s arm before he fell back down.

“Most of Fukamachi’s people are at the party right now,” Makimura said, slipping one of Ryo’s arms around his shoulders so he could help hold him up. “We might be able to sneak out of here without anyone noticing us.”

“We can’t,” Ryo replied.

“It’ll work out,” Makimura insisted. “The car is where you left it. I’m sure that….”

“No, I mean we can’t leave without doing anything,” Ryo said. “We still have a job to finish, remember? Besides, I need to pay these guys back.”

 A slight smirk made its way onto Ryo’s face, and Makimura was relieved to see some of his usual demeanor return.

“Right,” Makimura smirked back. “How do you want to do this?” Ryo picked up his gun and looked toward the doorway.

“I think we’re going to run into some people before long,” Ryo said. “Let’s make sure to give them a proper greeting.”


 

Ryo and Makimura inched their way down the hall, carefully checking their surroundings. Ryo was able to walk at this point, but still leaned heavily on Makimura to help maintain his balance. The both of them had their guns drawn, ready for any encounters.

“Hey, you! What are you doing?”

Ryo and Makimura turned to see three of Fukamachi’s men in the hallway behind them. The two of them jumped to the side around the corner just as the men pulled out their guns to fire. Several bullets streamed past Ryo and Makimura, some of them striking the wall beside them.

Ryo took a deep breath and flipped himself onto the ground in front of the source of the gunfire. He let loose a series of shots which caused all three men to drop their guns and fall to the ground.

Incredible,’ Makimura marveled to himself as he helped Ryo back to his feet. ‘Even in this state, Ryo has not lost any of his skills as a professional.’

“What’s going on?”

Makimura heard the sound of more footfalls rapidly heading their way and pulled Ryo into a run. Ryo stumbled several times as they ran, but they still managed to make their way out the backdoor and into the alley. Makimura started to yank Ryo toward the car when he saw three more men, including Fukamachi himself, run toward them with guns in their hands. Makimura immediately changed direction and guided Ryo to take cover with him behind a pair of large dumpsters. Seconds after they made it back there, there was a hail of gunfire.

“Makimura,” Fukamachi yelled. “You bastard. You told me that you weren’t a cop anymore, but you lied to me. You might not have a job with the police, but you might as well be on their payroll.”

Makimura looked over at Ryo, who had collapsed onto the ground. He was shaking and muttering something in another language, and Makimura figured that he was hallucinating again.

He also figured that this meant that he would have to deal with this situation on his own.

“What were you looking for, Makimura?” Fukamachi shouted. “Money? A way to get back into the department? Or maybe you were working for one of my competitors?”

“Natsumi and Yuki Iwasaki,” Makimura yelled back.

“What? What about them?” Fukamachi spluttered. “What do they have to do with this?”

“You adopted those girls. They trusted you to be their father,” Makimura said. “And you betrayed them. Why? Just to make some money off them? Is that all they meant to you? They were your daughters.”

“Is that what this is about?” Fukamachi scoffed. “Those two brats? First of all, it’s not like they were my actual daughters. I adopted them as a favor to one of my old mentors from back in my early drug running days. Secondly, I told them to stay out of my business, but Yuki decided to stick her nose in things and got herself hooked on some of my product. And Natsumi, being her usual self, went right along with her sister. They fed one of my subordinates some line about how I would cover the cost of their habit. When I found out what they were doing, I decided that it was time for them to pay me back for what they had cost me.”

“Why not just get them treatment instead?” Makimura said. “You made them into prostitutes.”

“They never showed one bit of gratitude for anything I ever did for them,” Fukamachi barked back. “I gave them a home, gave them food to eat and clothes to wear. I sent them to school. And how did they repay me? By stealing from me. Yuki tried to claim that she and Natsumi were just trying to find a way to get closer to me and that they were tricked into trying the drugs, but I knew the truth. Those two got everything they deserved.”

Makimura ground his jaw, anger building inside of him. He snuck over closer to the edge of one of the dumpsters and discovered that he had a clear line of fire at Fukamachi. Makimura took off his glasses and poised himself so he could aim his revolver at his head.

It would take just one shot. One shot and Natsumi and Yuki would have vengeance for their deaths. One shot and Ryo would have his payback for what Fukamachi did to him.

One shot and Fukamachi would not have a chance to harm anyone else in this world.

“What’s the matter?” Fukamachi laughed. “Nothing to say now? You might as well give up.”

Makimura pulled the hammer back on his gun, his hands tightening on the handle. He thought not only of Fukamachi, Natsumi and Yuki, but of Ryo, Saeko and Kaori.

It was then that Makimura knew what he had to do.

He fired three shots. The bullets hit their targets and Fukamachi and both of his men gasped as their guns were shot out of their hands. He then fired three more shots, hitting each of them in one of their arms. Both of Fukamachi’s men dropped to the ground in agony while Fukamachi fell against the wall, holding his arm.

Makimura stood up and suddenly heard the distant sound of sirens heading their way.

“I knew that you were a great shot.”

Makimura turned to see Ryo sitting upright against the wall, a lopsided grin on his face and a hint of admiration in his eyes. Makimura smiled and let out a soft chuckle while shoving his gun back into his pocket.

“I guess everyone gets lucky once in a while. Even me,” he said as he put his glasses back on. “Come on, we need to get out of here. Saeko can handle the rest of this.”

Makimura helped Ryo back up and the two of them bolted for Ryo’s car. Neither of them saw Fukamachi reach down for his gun.

“I’m not letting you get away,” he shouted. Fukamachi then fired his gun. His injury made his shots wild and erratic. Makimura and Ryo dodged the bullets as best they could, and Makimura managed to get Ryo into the car unscathed. He then headed for the driver’s side door.

It was then, however, that one of Fukamachi’s bullets met its mark, hitting Makimura in the shoulder.

Makimura grunted in pain and stumbled down near the door, but was still able to get into the car. He started up the engine and took off as fast as he could while Fukamachi continued to fire. As he drove, Makimura saw a Ferrari passing them in the opposite direction. He managed to catch a quick glimpse of Saeko in the driver’s seat and winced.

Sorry, Saeko,’ he thought to himself. ‘Things didn’t go as smoothly as we hoped they would.’

Pain flared up in Makimura’s shoulder and he pushed down on the accelerator. He was certain that the wound itself wasn’t serious, but knew that it could become serious if he lost too much blood. He looked over at Ryo, who was only semi-conscious and suddenly reached over across him to grab the seatbelt.

“Put this on,” Makimura said as he pulled the belt across Ryo’s chest and buckled it in. “This might be a rough ride.”


 

Saeko pulled her car up behind the restaurant and got out to find Fukamachi standing with a gun in his hands, trembling with rage.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” Fukamachi spat at her.

“Detective Saeko Nogami,” she replied. “We received reports about possible gunfire on your premises. My men are searching the rest of the restaurant right now. I think you will have a lot of explaining to do, Fukamachi-san.”

Fukamachi continued to grit his teeth while Saeko smiled at him. She then looked off in the direction the Mini-Cooper had taken.

That was too close, Hideyuki. Much too close.’


 

Makimura continued to speed along the road. He was glad that he had taken the time to memorize and find the address Ryo had given him on a map because he was sure that there was no way he could have taken the time to figure out where it was in his current condition. Blood seeped into his overcoat, and Makimura was beginning to feel lightheaded.

Makimura glanced over at Ryo again. Ryo appeared to be near tears and was babbling something in English, and the most Makimura was able to decipher was that that Ryo was talking to someone named Kenny about someone named Sonia.

Ryo then closed his eyes and fell silent. Makimura continued to watch him while also trying his best to concentrate on the road. As he watched Ryo pant and tremble, Makimura couldn’t help but think about how young he looked.

Now that I think about it, I don’t really know how old he is,’ Makimura pondered, trying to distract himself from the throbbing ache in his shoulder. ‘Ryo is very tight-lipped about personal details like that, and as Saeko mentioned, there’s no way to run a background check on him to find out for sure. I’ve heard him tell some of the woman he flirts with that he’s twenty, but I don’t know for sure if that’s just a line or not. It’s entirely possible that he really is only about twenty…not much older than Kaori.’

Ryo’s eyes re-opened and Makimura watched him stare silently at some unknown point. He sensed that Ryo was trying as hard as possible to pull himself together and push down his drug-induced fear, and he felt his instincts as an older brother start to stir. He reached over and placed one of his hands over one of Ryo’s.

“It’s going to be all right, Ryo,” he said, his voice soft and calm. “We’re almost to the Professor’s now.”

Ryo did not respond and Makimura wondered if he had heard him. He patted Ryo’s hand, and Ryo startled him by grabbing it.

“Ok, ok,” Makimura said, wincing at the hold. “It’s going to be fine. You do know that you have a pretty strong grip, right? And that it’s not safe to keep driving with one hand?”

Ryo loosened his grip and Makimura let out a sigh of relief as he extracted his hand.  He did make sure, however, to occasionally pat Ryo’s hand again for the rest of the drive.


 

A couple of minutes later, Makimura pulled up in front of a large house and parked the car. By this point, he was struggling to remain conscious, but continued to move as best he could, stumbling out of the car and walking over to help Ryo out as well.

Not what I expected,’ Makimura said as he half dragged Ryo. ‘I wonder what kind of person this Professor is.’

Makimura reached the door and pushed the button for the intercom.

“Who is it?” a voice called out. Makimura paused for a moment while searching his mind for the phrase Ryo told him to say in this situation.

“The stallion is on the ground,” Makimura said. It seemed like a strange thing to say, and he hoped that whoever was behind the door would actually let them in.

As it turned out, he had no reason to worry. Seconds after he said that, the door opened and Makimura was greeted by an old man leaning on a cane. The man’s eyes widened at the sight of Ryo, who was barely able to stand by this point.

“Ryo! What happened?” the man said as he moved aside so that Makimura could guide Ryo in.

“Professor,” Ryo slurred. “I...I think…angel dust…” The Professor’s expression immediately became grim and he put a hand on Ryo’s arm.

“It’s all right, Baby Face,” he said gently. “I’m here now. You’ll get through this.” The Professor then looked up at Makimura, who was starting to sway.

“You must be Hideyuki Makimura,” he said. “Follow me.”

The Professor walked away, and Makimura followed while helping Ryo lurch along. With each step, he felt increasingly faint, and the weight of Ryo leaning against him was becoming harder to bear. Moments later, Makimura was stunned as he entered a room with an array of monitors and various pieces of medical equipment sitting on a series of tables.

“Help him lie down on the bed,” the Professor ordered. Makimura nodded and pulled Ryo toward a bed at the side of the room. He sat Ryo onto it, and Ryo rolled over to lie down before falling unconscious.  Makimura then reached into his pocket and pulled out the handkerchief with the syringe.

“He was drugged with this,” Makimura said, holding out the cloth with a shaking hand. “There’s still a little left. Maybe you can figure out what it is.”

“That was very conscientious of you to bring this to me,” the Professor smiled at him as he took the syringe from Makimura’s hand. “You certainly are just as Ryo described.”

“Can you help him?” Makimura asked. The Professor moved closer to him, his smile still present, but his eyes showing concern.

“I think maybe I should be helping you first, Makimura-san,” he said. “You’re bleeding badly. I’m surprised that you haven’t passed out before now, although I think it won’t be much longer. I suggest that you lie down on the examination table before you fall down.”

The Professor continued to advance toward him, and Makimura staggered backward and ended up running into a table. He pushed himself onto it and put a hand to his head.

“I…I…”

The room grew dark and started to spin, and Makimura lay down on his back. Seconds later, he saw the professor looking down at him.

The last thing Makimura thought about before passing out was how angry Kaori was sure to be when she found out about all this.

Chapter Text

As he struggled to regain consciousness, Ryo blinked several times and groaned. He then lifted his head and tried to get his eyes to focus so he could make sense of his surroundings.

“How are you feeling, Baby Face?”

Ryo looked over to see the Professor standing next to his bed, a smile on his face. Ryo ran a hand over his face and rubbed his eyes before sitting upright in bed.

“Sore,” he croaked.

“I’m not surprised,” the Professor replied. “You have three cracked ribs, a cut near your temple, and you’re a mass of bruises. And that’s not even including the side effects of what you were drugged with.”

“The drug,” Ryo said, worry instantly clouding his features. “Am I….?”

“Don’t worry, Baby Face,” the Professor said. “It wasn’t angel dust. It turned out to be a blend of ketamine and a mild narcotic.”

“It wasn’t angel dust?” Ryo echoed. “Really? It felt so... familiar.”

“I know,” the Professor nodded. “Ketamine is in the same family of hallucinogens, so it’s no wonder why it felt similar to you. But it is not the same. There won’t be any lasting effects and you won’t have to go through any sort of withdrawal.”

 “Are you sure?” Ryo whispered. A look of consolation made its way onto the Professor’s face in response to Ryo’s apprehensive tone of voice.

“I’m sure,” he replied. “Your partner was conscientious enough to bring me a sample of what you were injected with. I was able to analyze it, and I can assure you that, while you might feel somewhat disoriented for a day or so, you won’t have to go through anything like what you experienced with angel dust.”

Ryo fell back onto his back while the Professor moved closer to him. Neither of them said any more on the matter, the both of them aware of what Ryo had alluded to in his questions, and the both of them sharing an immense feeling of relief.

 He continued to lie still and stare at the ceiling while the Professor checked his pulse and examined his ribs and head which had been taped. A couple moments later, however, he remembered the Professor mentioning his partner and sat up again.

“Is Makimura still here?” he asked. “Or did he leave already?” The Professor let out a sigh, concern evident in his eyes.

“Ryo, how much do you remember from last night?” he asked.

Ryo blinked in surprise before furrowing his eyebrows in thought. He searched his mind for any memories of the previous night, but discovered that most of them were jumbled and incoherent. He groaned and rubbed his temples when suddenly a familiar object caught his eye.

He saw Makimura’s overcoat sitting on a table. His eyes widened in horror as he realized that it was stained with blood.

“Makimura,” he gasped as he jumped out of bed. Ryo staggered and nearly fell as soon as he tried to stand up.

“Ryo, be careful, you still haven’t fully recovered from….”

Ryo ignored the Professor and walked out of the room on wobbly legs as he searched for any sign of his partner. Eventually he walked into the front room and was shocked to see Makimura walking toward him with a teapot in one hand.

“Ah Ryo, you’re finally awake,” Makimura nodded as he sat the teapot onto the coffee table. “Are you sure that you should be up? The Professor acted like you should be resting as much as possible.”

Ryo stood silently as he watched Makimura study him while pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. Makimura had changed out his normal attire into a grey sweater that did not quite fit him along with a pair of jeans. Ryo could see that Makimura’s shoulder was heavily bandaged and noted the way that Makimura held one arm stiffly against his side.

“Makimura-san,” the Professor said, appearing behind Ryo. “I appreciate your taking the time to make us tea, but don’t you think you should also be resting? It’s true that your bullet wound was not serious, but you did lose a lot of blood.”

“Yes, well, I’ll admit that my shoulder still aches and I am a little tired,” Makimura said sheepishly. “But I do feel much better after your treatment and after having a chance to sleep for so long.”

“So long?” Ryo echoed, dumbstruck.

“Yes, Baby Face, it’s evening already,” the Professor laughed. “You passed out last night and slept for most of the day today.”

Ryo sank down to sit on the floor while Makimura poured the Professor some tea before sitting down on the couch next to him.

“Ryo, are you sure you are all right?” Makimura asked. “You look pale. Professor, are you sure that he should be out of bed?”

“He’ll be fine,” the Professor said as he sat down in a chair across from them. “He just needs a little more time to recover. He should be able to leave here by tomorrow. Although, I do suggest that you take it easy for at least a week, Makimura-san. Your shoulder should heal quickly, but you’ll tear your stitches if you try to do anything strenuous any time soon.”

Makimura nodded and poured another cup of tea. He then held it toward Ryo.

“Here,” he said. “It will help you relax.”

Ryo mutely took the cup and sipped at his tea. As he sat and listened to Makimura and the Professor converse, bits and pieces of the events from yesterday filtered back into his brain. He remembered parts of his and Makimura’s escape from Fukamachi’s restaurant, but mostly he remembered a collection of what he had thought were memories turned into nightmares from the night before. As Ryo drank more of his tea, he realized that not all of those nightmares stayed inside his head.

What did I do and say while I was drugged?’ he wondered, suddenly tense. ‘And how much of it did Makimura see?’

Ryo hunched down on the floor and gulped down the rest of his tea before sitting his cup back on the coffee table. He dreaded the fact that he had no real way of knowing what Makimura saw and heard without asking him directly, which was the last thing Ryo wanted to do.  Ryo ducked his head and was careful to study the walls around him rather than look at either Makimura or the Professor.

The Professor slurped down the rest of his tea and looked thoughtfully at Ryo. An eyebrow arched upward as it occurred to him what could be going through Ryo’s mind right now. He then retrieved his cane which he had set beside his chair and rose to his feet.

“I have some things I need to work on,” the Professor announced. “I will check on the both of you later.”   

The Professor walked out of the room, his tip of his cane tapping softly along the floor as he went. Makimura and Ryo sat quietly for several minutes until Makimura cleared his throat, causing Ryo to look up.

“The Professor really is a remarkable man,” he said. “Now I understand why you wanted me to bring you here in case of an emergency. He did a great job taking care of my shoulder. But Ryo, I am curious about something. Just how long have you known him?”

“Why do you ask?” Ryo said, his tone quizzical.

“Because when I was making lunch earlier this afternoon, he kept asking me if I wanted to check out some ‘interesting’ videos,” Makimura replied, exasperation in his tone. “And the situation reminded me a little too much of times I’ve spent with you. So, tell me, are the two of you related or do people like you just happen to find each other?” Ryo laughed and put a hand to the back of his head.

“Aha ha ha, no, he’s sort of a mentor of mine from long ago,” he chuckled. “Seriously though, you should have taken him up on his offer. He has the best collection of mokkori videos in Shinjuku. His library puts mine to shame.”

Ryo laughed again as Makimura sighed and put a hand to his face before pouring himself some tea. Ryo soon felt his cheer vanish, however, and went back to gazing at the floor and brooding.

“I called Saeko a couple of hours ago,” Makimura added. “She said that all of the arrests of Fukamachi and his men went smoothly. It seems that Fukamachi is willing to negotiate for leniency in his charges in exchange for some valuable information regarding Oracle. This will probably be a fatal blow to the organization.”

“Good for Saeko,” Ryo scoffed. “I’m sure this will mean a big promotion for her. And it’s nice to see Fukamachi and his people get what they deserve.” Makimura eyed his partner, curious about Ryo’s rough, cynical tone, but continued on.

“Still, she isn’t going to be able to formally charge him with Natsumi’s and Yuki’s murders,” Makimura sighed. “There’s just no evidence that proves that he was the one responsible for their deaths.”

“Are you going to be ok with that?” Ryo asked. Makimura took a deep breath and leaned back against the couch.

“I think so,” he replied. “I suppose a part of me suspected that it might end this way when we took this job. When I was a cop, I saw this kind of thing all the time: make a deal, bring down the bigger criminals, brush aside the ‘lesser’ crimes in the interest of the greater good.”

“But you’re not a cop anymore,” Ryo said. “It doesn’t have to be that way, you know?”

“You mean revenge?” Makimura said. “I suppose you are right. I could have tried to get revenge for Natsumi and Yuki. I had the chance last night.”

Ryo finally looked up at Makimura, shock etched into his features. Makimura noted his expression and nodded.

“Last night, while we were trying to get away,” Makimura continued.  “I ended up in a shoot out with Fukamachi and his men.”

“I remember your shooting skills,” Ryo said. “And yet you keep insisting that you are no good with a gun.”

“What you might not remember is the fact that I did have a chance to kill Fukamachi in that moment,” Makimura responded, ignoring Ryo’s comment. “I had him in my sights. It would have been easy to end his life then and there.”

“And yet you didn’t,” Ryo said. “Why?”

“I didn’t really understand why myself at the time,” Makimura said, shaking his head. “But after I had a chance to think about it, I realized that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I might not be a detective anymore, but that does not change who I am and how I perceive justice.”

“So, you think you made the right decision? The one that best serves justice?”

“I still do not know that,” Makimura answered. “Was it justice to let Fukamachi live when he is responsible for so much death and suffering? I really do not know. But I think I can understand your point of view a little more after last night. People might think that the path you take and the things that you do in the pursuit of justice are simple and easy, but I am certain now that they are not. Far from it. And I would like to say that I am grateful that you are willing to travel that path.”

Ryo looked back down at the carpet. He didn’t know how to feel about what Makimura had just said to him. He figured that it was meant as a compliment, but he was still feeling too vulnerable and too embarrassed to be able to accept such things with any sort of grace.

“In the end, I know that I will have to be satisfied with the fact that, even though Fukamachi gets to live, his life will not be an easy one,” Makimura continued. “In that sense, I do believe that he will get everything that he deserves. Still….”

Makimura removed his glasses to clean them for a moment before continuing.

“What he did to Natsumi and Yuki, it still disgusts me,” he said. “Fukamachi claimed that his daughters willingly got themselves involved with drugs and had chosen their fates. I can’t believe that. Not entirely.”

“You can’t believe that they could have wanted to do what they did?” Ryo asked, his voice low.

“I can’t believe that that they actually wanted to live their lives as drug addicts and prostitutes, no,” Makimura replied. “They were used, Ryo. Plain and simple. And I…I guess I am having a hard time letting that go.”

“People get used, even kids,” Ryo said, shrugging his shoulders. “It happens. And maybe those kids…maybe…maybe deep down…a part of them was so desperate to do what their father wanted, to make him happy, to repay him for everything he did for them…maybe that made it harder for them to stop.”

Ryo pulled his legs closer to his chest and hung his head between his legs while resting his arms on his knees.  

“And when you’re that far gone on drugs, it’s not like you can think all that clearly anyway,” he continued. “Even if you know that you’re heading down a path that only ends in death…It’s not like you see it or truly care. And when it’s your own father putting you on that path and not doing anything to stop it…well that just makes it an even worse sort of hell.”

“Ryo?”  Makimura said, his voice tinged with disbelief. “Are you saying that….?”

“Forget it,” Ryo said. “I’m just tired.” He then looked up at Makimura a smirk firmly fixed on his face.

“You said that you talked to Saeko earlier,” Ryo chuckled. “Did she mention anything about compensation?”

“Ryo….”

“Hey, she had to have known that there would be some kind of payment going in,” Ryo said with a leer. “And you better have not led her to believe that this would be for free.”

Ryo laughed again and went back to focusing on the floor. There was a loaded silence between them for several moments until Makimura left the room without another word. Once he was gone, Ryo slumped back downward.

What in the world did I just do?’ he asked himself. ‘What was I thinking, telling him that stuff?’

 Ryo shook both from cold and from the strong emotions welling up inside him. Truthfully, he already knew why he had let his guard down: what he had endured last night had stirred up feelings he normally tried to bury and had poked at wounds from his past that had never really healed.  A part of him wanted to think that he could have some measure of release from all of this by sharing bits of it with someone, a person he could trust. That part of him was longing to believe that Makimura could be that person.

The more he thought about it though, the more he chided himself for thinking that way.

Makimura is such a straight-arrow. His father was a policeman and then he grew up to be one. His whole life has been about justice and working against criminals. Drugs and the people who are involved with drugs are abhorrent to him. So what is Makimura going to think when his partner practically confesses that he used to be a drug addict? Nothing good, I’m sure.’

Ryo clenched his hands into fists and continued to shiver. Despite their success on this job, he knew that he had made professional mistakes and had almost certainly revealed things about himself and his past that would disgust most people. He was sure that City Hunter was near its end as a partnership, and even though he had wanted this outcome at one point, Ryo found that he was saddened and disappointed at the prospect.

Just as disappointing to him as the demise of City Hunter was the idea that Makimura might look at him in a different way now. Ryo had thought that Makimura viewed him as a gifted professional with some eccentricities while still being a good person overall.

The way that Makimura had abruptly left the room, after his veiled confession, made Ryo wonder if that was the case anymore.  


 

Makimura went into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water, gulping it down as he tried to digest what Ryo had just told him. Even though Ryo tried to brush it off, Makimura was certain that Ryo had been talking about himself and his own past in his vague comments moments ago. That combined with what he heard from Ryo during his drug-induced delirium had created an ugly picture in Makimura’s mind.

He then went to stand near the entrance of the kitchen and watched Ryo stare at the carpet. Makimura had suspected a couple of times that Ryo had spent most of his life, including his childhood, training to reach the level of skill that he had as a professional. He also guessed that that sort of background came with opportunities for others with fewer scruples to take advantage of Ryo due to his youth and inexperience.

How many times did someone he looked up to or trusted use him toward their own ends while he was still a kid? How many times did someone at least try to exploit his abilities without considering his well-being?’

‘How many times was he treated in a way that was not totally dissimilar from the way that Natsumi and Yuki were treated?’

Makimura let out a deep sigh. Ryo’s comments about Natsumi and Yuki in reference to their use of drugs also filled him with even more regret over how his partner might have been treated in the past. What he did learn about Ryo’s personality over the past couple of years told Makimura that there was little chance that Ryo would get involved with drugs willingly, leaving only one other terrible possibility.

Seeing Ryo sit on the floor, shivering while maintaining a posture that could only be discerned as one of shame, finally moved Makimura to act. He quietly walked back into the front room and picked up a blanket that he found draped on a nearby table. Makimura then moved to sit behind him again and draped the blanket over Ryo’s back, letting his hands rest lightly on his shoulders. 

“Listen Ryo,” he said. “I told you that one of the reasons I left the police force is because I wanted to find a way to more effectively dispense justice. But there were other reasons as well.” Makimura paused and took a deep breath before continuing.

“While it was true that I was focused on doing more about the filth who find profit and pleasure in hurting others, I also wanted to do more for the people who were affected by these crimes,” he said.  “All too often, people in my department only saw the victims as simply another variable in a case. There was almost no consideration for what happened to these victims after some monster took something precious from them, whether it was their sense of security, someone they loved, their health or well-being or even their lives. Even worse, sometimes some of the people I worked with would try to find ways to actually blame the victims. As if they somehow these people had asked to have someone do something horrific to them.”

Makimura patted Ryo’s shoulders and then clasped them firmly but gently.

“What I wanted to do and what I still want to do is to not fall into the trap of only caring about crime and criminals while losing sight of the people I’m trying to protect,” Makimura added. “Even a person who is normally strong and independent can suffer at the hands of someone else, and just like you said, sometimes even kids, who we like to think are immune from this sort of thing, get used by the very people they thought they could trust. They are also among the people I want to help, Ryo. I want to help all those who need protection from the evils in this world, not just the ones who most people think to shield first. And that includes people who needed protection at some point in their past and weren’t able to get it.”

“That is part of my mission for City Hunter, Ryo,” Makimura said. “And I hope you can understand why I feel this way. But, I also want you to know that while I might have this mission guiding my actions; this is still a partnership, equal on all terms. I am not just the messenger between you and our clients any more than you are just the hand that pulls the trigger. I may be the one who decides what jobs to accept, but you always have the option to override my decisions in that area. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” Ryo said, his voice a hoarse whisper.

“Good,” Makimura said, patting his shoulders one last time before letting go. “Now, I’m going to make us a snack. You’re probably starving by now and I’m feeling a little hungry myself. Oh and Ryo.”

“Hmmm?”

“Don’t sit on the floor. There’s a draft and you could catch a cold if you stay there.”


 

As soon as Makimura left the room again, Ryo smiled and laughed even as he felt tears sting his eyes.

Of course, of course…Of all the things he could mention, leave it to Maki-chan to choose my sitting on the floor as the one to focus on.’

Ryo scooted himself onto the couch, pulling the blanket tighter around him. He hadn’t expected Makimura to say the things he did and a part of him was annoyed and angry that Makimura had managed to pull his emotions even closer to the surface.

But another, larger part of Ryo was touched and relieved that Makimura had responded the way that he did. There was no rejection, no interrogation and no moralizing, just open and honest understanding and concern along with a strong assertion of their equal standing within their partnership. It made Ryo start to think about other things Makimura did in a different way. It suddenly occurred to him that Makimura did not lecture him just out of habit or some need to assert his moral superiority. Makimura did it because he actually cared about what happened to him and about his welfare.

Which is not something that people who are just co-workers or acquaintances concern themselves with,’ Ryo mused.  ‘It is something that friends, close friends, care about.’

Ryo let out a sigh and scrubbed his eyes, his smile widening. It had been a long time since he felt secure enough to consider someone else his friend, but he had finally come to the realization that that was what Makimura had become.

He was also relieved to find that he had no apprehension or regrets about the idea either.  


 

Makimura busied himself in the kitchen, quickly putting together a simple soup from ingredients he found in the fridge and cupboards for the two of them to eat. He was unsure of how Ryo would react to his actions a few minutes ago, but he hoped that Ryo would appreciate his intent at the very least.

Makimura stirred the contents of the pot and watched the broth start to boil. His father had told him once that everyone needed to be taken care of at some point in their lives. He had often thought about that in relation to his responsibility for Kaori and had understood it when he allowed his sister to care for him once in a while. It was simply part of being connected to other people and forging those connections into deeper bonds. Makimura sensed that Ryo might need a chance to receive that kind of care after what he had been through and hoped that it had provided Ryo with some relief from his experiences last night.

He glanced back out at the front room and saw that Ryo had moved to sit on the couch. Ryo was still staring off into space, but the smile on his face told Makimura that he had succeeded in his efforts.

Makimura let out a slight smile of his own before going back to tend to the food.


 

A short while later the food was done and Makimura waved Ryo over to the table. The two of them ate their meal in silence and once they were done, Makimura made some coffee and they each took a mug of it back to the couch.

“Whiskey would be better suited for a night like tonight,” Ryo said, slouching against the back of the couch.

“Not in your condition,” Makimura frowned. “You should lay off the drinking for a couple of days. I’m sure the professor would agree with me on this.”

“Fine, fine,” Ryo pouted. Another thought suddenly popped into Ryo’s mind, however, and he started to grin.

“Just how do you plan on explaining your shoulder to Kaori?” he chuckled. “I bet that she told you to be careful before she went on vacation. And I have a feeling that she not going to be happy when she finds out about this.”

“Well that…that is…” Makimura stuttered, a giant drop of sweat falling off his forehead. Ryo laughed again. He stopped laughing, however, when Makimura looked at him with a smirk of his own.

“You know, Ryo, she also told me to tell you to make sure that nothing happened during this case,” Makimura replied. “If she found out about this, I wonder if you would really be exempt from her wrath.”

Ryo gulped and then the two of them looked at each once more before they both laughed again. As their laughter died down, Makimura leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes.

“I think we both better make sure to keep this from Kaori as best we can,” he said.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Ryo nodded. “Hey, if all else fails, you could stay at my place for a while after she comes back. I’ve got plenty of room, and I can show you some great bars in town where we can….”

A soft snore interrupted Ryo’s train of thought and he looked over to see that Makimura had fallen asleep where he was sitting.

That idiot,’ Ryo thought to himself, rolling his eyes. ‘He was so wrapped up in being a busybody that he forgot that he had been shot last night and ended up driving himself to exhaustion. There’s no way he’ll wake up any time soon.’

Ryo let out a sigh and stood up from the couch. He carefully pushed Makimura to lie down and threw the blanket he had used previously onto him.

Ryo then yawned and headed off for one of the guestrooms, making sure to turn off the lamp next to the couch before exiting the room.


 

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the Professor smiled and took a sip of the coffee that had been left over. He had managed to catch most of the conversation Ryo and Makimura had had and was pleased with what he had seen and heard.

As he drank his coffee, the Professor pondered how just a couple of years ago, he had had many concerns in relation to Ryo with a prime one being Ryo’s insistence on a solitary lifestyle. After all of the horrors and tragedies that Ryo had been forced to suffer though in his recent past, the Professor was starting to worry that Ryo’s ability to form any sort of lasting bond with another person might be damaged beyond repair.

Seeing him interact with Makimura, however, had convinced the Professor that there might be some hope in that area after all, and he was happy that Ryo was working with him in this venture of City Hunter. He laughed and finished the coffee in his mug before walking toward his library.

‘Hideyuki Makimura….You might not be aware of it yet, but I have a feeling that you are going to have a huge impact on Baby Face’s life. An impact that is sure to be wide-ranging and just what Ryo has desperately needed for far too long.’

Chapter Text

Two weeks later, Makimura sat at his usual table in a café and looked up from his coffee with a smile when Saeko walked over to join him. She smiled in return and opened up her purse to pull out an envelope.

“I was able to arrange payment for the two of you as informants,” she said, sliding the envelope toward him. “You should get far more than this for what you did, but I….”

“It’s fine,” Makimura said, putting the envelope into his coat pocket. “This job was never just about the money. For either of us.” Saeko nodded and leaned toward him.

“How is your shoulder?” she asked. Makimura let out a sigh and smiled nervously.

“It’s fine too,” he said. “The bullet went clean through, so it wasn’t that serious. Other than being a little sore once in a while, it’s pretty much healed.”

“And I suppose Ryo got away without a scratch,” she sighed. Makimura frowned and took off his glasses.

“No,” he said quietly. “He went through far worse than me. Thankfully, he is doing much better now as well.” Makimura cleaned his glasses and put them back on before she spoke again.

“I’m sorry,” Saeko said, her tone contrite. “For what I just said and for asking you two to do this job, even though I knew how dangerous it would be.”

“Saeko, it was nothing that we wouldn’t have faced together as cops,” Makimura replied. Saeko held out a hand toward him.

“I’m also sorry for how I have been acting,” she said. “Ever since you decided to form City Hunter with Ryo, I kept asking myself why you did it, why you would go from being a detective to a vigilante. But…seeing what you did on this case made me realize why you do this kind of work. We would have never been able to do so much damage to Oracle on our own. Fukamachi’s arrest, the arrests of his men, and all the clients we were able to implicate…none of that would have been possible without your help. I understand now what you meant when you said that City Hunter would support the work that I do.”

Makimura watched Saeko put a hand to her forehead and sigh.

“I also kept asking myself why you would choose Ryo to be your partner,” she continued. “I kept thinking about back when we were partners, and it just did not make sense to me that you would work with someone like him. That is, until today.”

Makimura raised an eyebrow and she let out a laugh.

“A young woman stopped by my office today, looking for you,” she said. “She didn’t know your name, but apparently she remembered you. Up until a couple of weeks ago, she used to be one of Fukamachi’s prostitutes. She said that you offered to help her.”

Makimura’s eyebrow went up as he realized that Saeko was talking about the teenage girl who threatened to report him as a spy to Fukamachi. Saeko noted his expression, her smile growing.

“Apparently, she is back home with her parents, getting treatment for her drug addiction,” she said. “She said that what you did, the way that you offered to help her, that was the first time in a long time that anyone had been so kind to her. And the reason she is back with her parents is because another man, a man who had actually threatened her that same night, had tracked her down, and persuaded her to get help. It wasn’t until later that she figured out that that man was your partner.”

Makimura sat back in his chair and looked down, a smile lighting up his face.  He now knew what Ryo had been talking about when he mentioned needing a couple of days to himself so he could run an errand not long after the two of them left the professor’s care.

Saeko blinked in surprise. She recognized the knowing smile on Makimura’s face and had not expected it in the least.

“You aren’t surprised by what I told you, are you?” she asked incredulous.

“No,” Makimura said, looking back up. “Like I said before, I know Ryo well enough. The story you just told me, that is exactly his style.”

“And that is why he is your partner,” Saeko replied. Makimura nodded and Saeko let out another sigh.

“I guess I should have trusted you after all,” Saeko said. She put her elbows on the table and leaned toward Makimura, resting her chin on one of her hands.

“Hideyuki, I….”

“Hey Saeko! Are you finally going to pay off your mokkori debt?”

Both Makimura and Saeko looked up to see Ryo walking toward their table, a giant grin on his face.

“You know, you still haven’t paid us for the Fukamachi job,” Ryo continued, waving a finger at her. “A good client pays off her debts promptly.” Ryo grabbed her hands, but Saeko immediately pulled them away.

“I just gave Makimura your payment for the job,” she replied.

“Oh really?” Ryo asked, his grin growing even wider. “I didn’t think that there were any love hotels in this area.” Saeko’s face turned red while Makimura coughed violently.

“It wasn’t that kind of payment, Ryo,” Makimura insisted, pulling out the envelope and showing it to him. Ryo tried to snatch it, but Makimura shoved it back into his pocket.

“I will give you your half later,” Makimura said firmly.

“But Maki-chan, I need the money tonight,” Ryo pouted.

“Why? So you can go out for a night of drinking?” Makimura said, exasperation in his tone.

“No,” Ryo said. “So I can take you out for a night of drinking.”

Makimura’s mouth dropped open as he stared at Ryo, who continued to grin. It was not that common for Ryo to start calling him “Maki-chan” and even rarer yet for him to invite him to spend time together outside of work, and Makimura wondered what had prompted this surge of friendliness.

“Ryo, I….”

“Come on, Maki-chan,” Ryo cajoled. “You never let yourself have any fun. That’s why you have that gloomy look on your face all the time. I can show you some of the best places in Shinjuku.”

Makimura let out a nervous laugh. Kaori had already given him plenty of grief for what happened to his shoulder, and that was with his conscious decision to make sure that she did not know the whole truth behind it. He imagined that coming home drunk would set off her ire even more.

“Um, Saeko….” Makimura stammered.

“Oh no, I think we are done here,” she smiled, waving a hand at him. “Go ahead and have your fun. I will catch up with you later.”

“Great, then let’s go,” Ryo laughed. “That is, unless you would like to join us, Saeko-chan?”

“I wouldn’t dream of intruding on your evening,” she smirked at him. “Besides, I have so much more work to do these days.”

“Ah, you’re about as much fun as this guy usually is,” Ryo frowned while pointing at Makimura. “Fine, let’s go, Maki-chan. If we head out now, we can get the drink specials at Nekomama’s.”

Ryo grabbed Makimura by the arm and guided him to rise from his chair and follow him out of the café. As he was dragged along, Makimura let out a sigh of resignation. He understood that this invitation held a lot of meaning for Ryo, and he decided that the potential consequences for the upcoming activities would be far outweighed by the chance to strengthen their partnership.

At the very least I can make sure he doesn’t drink away all of his earnings for this job,’ Makimura told himself as Ryo steered him toward his Mini-Cooper.


 

Saeko laughed to herself as she watched Ryo pull Makimura along. She thought again about what Ryo had done for that girl and how Makimura was not surprised by his actions.

Makimura is able to see a side to Ryo that most people don’t, including me,’ she thought to herself.  Seeing the way Ryo laughed and grinned while almost shoving Makimura into his car made her reach another epiphany.

Ryo…he realizes it too. He realizes that Makimura sees past the perverted habits, the coarse demeanor, and the dark aura that surrounds him to the heart of who he is. That is why he….’

Saeko smiled and laughed again. She knew that, while Makimura was polite and congenial to most people, he was very selective when it came to choosing his friends. The fact that he had clearly chosen Ryo to become both his partner and his friend spoke volumes about Ryo as a person.

Ryo Saeba, it appears as if I underestimated you. There really is a lot more to you than what is on the surface….and I think I would like to get to know more about what is lurking underneath.’

Saeko suddenly put hand to her face and felt her cheeks growing hot from the blush that had appeared.

No way. It’s not possible. It…it can’t be.’

'Don’t tell me…don’t tell me that I am falling for Ryo too?’


 

About three hours later, Makimura leaned against a brick wall, his hand to his face as he tried to clear his head.

I should have known better than to try to keep up with Ryo’s drinking,’ he told himself. ‘I don’t know how he is able to stand at this point.’

After they had left Saeko at the café, Makimura made sure to deposit most of the payment from Saeko into his and Ryo’s bank accounts while still leaving plenty of money available for an entire night of partying. The throbbing between Makimura’s temples, however, made him question the decision to have so much money available for Ryo to spend.

Makimura ran a hand over his face and watched Ryo flirt with a pair of hostesses while on his way out the door of the nightclub. He smiled to himself as he thought about Ryo’s boisterous and uninhibited antics at every place they visited.

You can call Ryo many things, but boring isn’t one of them,’ he mused. Makimura then pondered how often it wasn’t just Ryo that seemed to be having a good time at the places they visited. It was also everyone around them; everyone who joined in with Ryo’s celebrating seemed to have fun. It was then that Makimura realized that this could be a deliberate result on Ryo’s part since he was often more than willing to be as loud, entertaining or exciting as he needed to be to generate plenty of reactions from the staff and patrons who were involved with the show.

Makimura rubbed his temples and let out another sigh as he leaned even more against the wall.  He figured that he could easily spend a lifetime trying to understand Ryo Saeba and never have all of the answers. As it was, Makimura had to admit that he was having fun tonight and that he enjoyed the chance to see more of this carefree side to Ryo.

“Let’s go,” Ryo said to him as he waved one last time at the hostesses. “Time for the next stop on our itinerary.”

“Ryo, don’t you think we should be heading home?” Makimura replied.

“No way, it’s not even midnight yet,” Ryo grinned. “The absolute best places don’t come alive until at least one am. In the meantime, I know a great place where we can grab a snack before the real partying begins.”

“That wasn’t the real partying?” Makimura gulped, a bead of sweat appearing on his forehead.

“Oh no,” Ryo said, his grin getting even wider. “Not at all. You’ll see soon enough.”

Ryo smacked him playfully on the back, almost knocking Makimura’s glasses off his face before walking off down the street. Makimura repositioned his glasses and started to walk alongside him.

“Ryo, when you see the professor again, please send him my thanks,” Makimura said. “I thought for sure that my coat would be ruined, but whoever he sent it to did a great job with it. Especially with the repairs to the shoulder. I will try to find some way to repay him.”

“I’ll let him know, but don’t worry too much about repaying him,” Ryo said. “The professor has a lot of people who owe him favors, and he wanted me to tell you to consider that his way of thanking you for making sure to take me to his place that night. Although, I don’t know why you don’t get yourself a new coat.”

“This one works best for me,” Makimura shrugged. The two of them walked along silently before Makimura spoke up again.

“Ryo…I also wanted to thank you for what you did for that girl,” he said.

“Huh? What girl?” Ryo said. “I’m telling you that that hostess at Nekomama really is twenty years old no matter what she might….”

“That’s not what I mean,” Makimura smirked at him. “Saeko says that she is doing much better now because of what you did. So thank you, Ryo.”

“No big deal,” Ryo said, shrugging his shoulders. “Besides, you said it yourself, she’s just a kid.”

“Yes, but I am also certain that that was not the only reason you made sure to find her,” Makimura said. “You also knew how important it was to me that she didn’t end up as another Natsumi or Yuki Iwasaki. Again, thank you, Ryo.”

“Hmph, well at least that brat was willing to listen to reason,” Ryo harrumphed. “Too many of them aren’t.”

Makimura smiled as he looked up and noticed the faint blush on Ryo’s cheeks. He knew that Ryo had appreciated his compliment even though he would never admit it. Makimura had often suspected that most people paid little attention to Ryo’s random and frequent acts of kindness, and thus he tried to acknowledge his awareness of them to Ryo every once in a while.

  “Ah, here’s the place,” Ryo said, pointing to a ramen noodle stand. “This guy changes locations all the time, but I know his route. Trust me; the food is cheap, but tasty.” Makimura pulled out a cigarette and lit it.

“I’m going to have a smoke before I join you,” Makimura said. “I need a chance to sober up a little before we start on the next string of bars.”

“Amateur,” Ryo sniggered before walking over to the ramen stand and sitting down on a stool in front of it. Makimura leaned against another wall and let out a few puffs.

He was so intent on trying to clear his head; he did not notice the two men sneaking up behind him until it was too late.


 

Ryo slurped down the rest of his bowl of ramen soup and immediately ordered another one. A part of him had been hesitant to invite Makimura for a night on the town with him, but as the night progressed, Ryo became confident that Makimura was enjoying himself.

Maki-chan always takes everything way too seriously,’ he thought to himself. ‘He needs to take some time off once in a while and see a different side to this town. Maybe I should take him to that one strip club next. That will sober him up, I’m sure.’

Ryo laughed to himself as he imagined what was sure to be an indignant reaction from Makimura toward some of the places Ryo had in mind to visit. Ryo glanced back to see if Makimura was ready to join him and was shocked to see that he had disappeared.

Did he decide to go home after all? Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to take him along for a night like this.’

The idea that Makimura ducked away without a word left Ryo with a bitter taste in his mouth, and he was about to leave for some solitary drinking when he spotted a lit cigarette lying on the ground, most of it still intact. He narrowed his eyes and excused himself for a moment from the noodle stand. He then circled around the nearby buildings so as to approach the alley Makimura was standing next to from behind. As he crept down the alley, he saw two men with guns raised at Makimura, who was slumped against the wall.

“We’ve got a message for City Hunter from Oracle,” one of the men said. “We would have liked your partner to be here for this message, but I think your corpse will convey our point well enough.”

Both men moved their fingers toward the triggers of their guns, but were stopped by a pair of shots that knocked the hats off their heads and then by another pair that dislodged the guns from their hands. They both turned toward Ryo, who still had his gun drawn.

“I have a message for you and for everyone left in Oracle,” Ryo said as he walked toward him. “If any of you try to go near me or my partner ever again, I will erase all of you from existence.”

The men gritted their teeth and opened their mouths to respond, but they immediately froze when they saw the look in Ryo’s eyes. Soon the both of them dropped to their knees and held up their hands.

“Please, spare us,” they both cried out. Ryo moved even closer and pointed his gun near their heads.

“I will spare your lives this one time,” Ryo continued in the same cold voice. “There will not be a second time. Do you understand?”

“We understand,” they whimpered as they got back up. “You’ll never see any of us again.” The men then ran off down the alley, and Ryo waited until they were gone to put his gun back in its holster. He then turned toward Makimura, who still hadn’t moved.

“Makimura?”

“Sorry,” Makimura mumbled, his head down. “That shouldn’t have happened.”

Ryo moved closer and could see the beginnings of a bruise near Makimura’s jaw. The way that Makimura was massaging his side also told Ryo that he had taken a few additional blows. Seeing nothing serious, Ryo relaxed and softened his expression.

“It’s all right,” Ryo said. “It was nothing that I couldn’t handle. And I am sure that’s the last we will ever hear from Oracle. So, are you still up for getting something to eat before we continue?”

“Continue?” Makimura said, raising his head.

“Of course,” Ryo grinned at him. “I told you that we haven’t gotten to the really great spots yet. The night is still young, Maki-chan.”

Makimura looked at him with a stunned expression on his face for a full minute before shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head.

“Sure,” he said. “I suppose I could use a chance to sit down.”

“Great,” Ryo said. “We better hurry though. I don’t want to miss it when Akemi-chan goes onstage, and believe me, you won’t want to miss it either.”

“Ryo,” Makimura sighed, putting a hand to his head.  Ryo noticed the frown on Makimura’s face and turned toward the entrance of the alley.

“Everyone makes a mistake eventually,” Ryo said. “That’s why it’s good to have a partner.” Ryo turned his head back to smile at Makimura.

“Partners watch out for each other,” he added. “And that is what I’m going to do. I’m going to protect you, Maki-chan, so don’t worry about anything bad happening while I’m around.”

Makimura stared at him silently for a full minute before finally smiling back and letting out a soft laugh.

“Thank you, Ryo,” he said. Ryo smirked and began to giggle again.

“Right, so let’s get going,” he chortled. “I don’t want to keep Akemi-chan waiting.”

“I think I might have to take you up on your offer to spend the night at your place,” Makimura said, his voice grim. “I don’t want to think about what Kaori’s mood will be like by the time I get home.”

“I don’t know,” Ryo said. “Might she get even more upset if you don’t show up until the next day?”  Makimura groaned and shook his head again which prompted even more laughter from Ryo.

“Come on,” Ryo said. “We might as well have as much fun as we can now. We can worry about the other stuff later.”

Makimura let out another laugh and resumed walking alongside Ryo, the both of them ready to make the most out of the rest of the night.