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Porcelain Doll

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Yin stared at her reflection in the water of Yokohama Bay; immersed; she sent out a spectre to observe the city and its people. She wasn’t actually here on a job, Yokohama being a city infamous for its lack of contractors and Syndicate induced bloodshed. Hei and Mao had been worried about her when, in her last job of rescuing some government dolls, she had caught a bullet in the shoulder. They had told her to take a break to let it heal and though she didn’t really understand, given the amount of times Hei had nearly died, she agreed. She had texted Kiko who had told her to take a vacation and try to find herself. Seeing it as a common manga trope she agreed and went to Yokohama. For some reason, the Gate was telling her the city, or something in it, was important. Ever since she entered Hell’s Gate eight years ago the Gate had felt more entrenched within her. Intuition, maybe? Or a spiritual connection? She wasn’t really sure and trying to explain it to Mao and Hei had not gotten her anywhere.

The Gate was strange, it took from her and gave her, in return, powers. Equivalent exchange and all that. Yin had thought the existence of the Gate was like Truth, not good or evil -just there. She moved her spectre through the city; taking note of the people living there. A lot were normal civilians, but she also saw weapons dealers and gang fights. Upon getting into the business district, she found that there were large areas she was unable to access, blocked off via dolls. She brushed against them, curious, but they fluttered away from her. Curious, she was about to make her spectre move forwards when a disturbance rippled in the water.

She caught a glimpse of a flailing body in the water, and running through common scenarios decided it wasn’t normal. Preferring to not ruin her dress and being unable to swim, she sent her spectre forward to grasp the drowning figure. Her spectres had only gotten stronger in the past few years and now -with a bit of concentration- her spectre could maintain physical contact for a few moments. She pulled the figure out of the water, depositing what she could see now to be a teenage boy beside her.

He spluttered out water and she watched him, taking note of his bandages and black coat. He looked like a mini-Hei and were it not for his drowned cat state, she could see people calling him intimidating.

She waited patiently as he coughed, “Ugh, saved once more. I really do have the worst luck.” He turned to face her, and she noticed his glassy eyes and cautious attitude beneath his carefree smile.

“Oh, a lovely lady.” She saw him evaluate her appearance and bristle back at her dry clothes, suspicious as to how she got him out without becoming soaked.

“Well, my lady in shining armor, may I ask how you saved my wretched life.” She got that reference.

Matter of factly, “I pulled you out of the water.”

“Well, yes, but how? Are you an ability user or…” his eyes narrowed.

Blinking once she replied, “A doll.”

“Do you mean a contractor?” He sounded perplexed and had a small smile on his face.

“No, I mean a Doll. My spectre is rather strong though.”

He turned wistful, “I’ve never known a doll with a formed spectre; or one as interesting as you.”

“You mean besides yourself.”

“How?” Looking across at her, he hunched defensively, as if preparing to defend or to attack.

Realizing her mistake, Yin corrected, “It’s because my spectre is strong that I noticed. You don’t need to worry about others catching on. I can feel the Gate on you and I’m fairly certain I am the only person in the world who could recognize another doll via touch.”

“Alright.” He drew back, but she could feel the freezing cold emanating from him. Realizing part of it might be from taking a swim in the middle of the night, she threw off her shawl and tossed it to him. He looked at her surprised and accepted it. He had an impressive range of expressions and she told him so.

“It’s useful in my day job.”

“Hmm, I usually just play the aloof or shy foreigner.” She let out a small smile at that thought.

He shuffled his wet coat off and wrapped the shawl around him. Recognizing the opening for what it was, she looked at him directly in the eye. ‘May I communicate with you this way. It’s more private.’ His brows furrowed trying to grasp what she did.

‘Yes, how are we talking?’

‘Dolls can talk to each other through their spectres or if close mind to mind. I think it’s related to the Gate, but there has been little research on it. You haven’t met many dolls, have you?’

‘No, I’ve worked with some in my day job, but not directly and I’ve never talked to them. Do you work for someone?’

‘I used to belong to the Syndicate before it became well-known, but I left and now we help people, like me.’ The and you was left unstated.

‘I’m doing fine. I just want to die is all. A peaceful suicide to end this oxidizing dream called living.’

‘Alright.’ He looks so haunted, it reminds her of Hei. Hei, when she met him, was so cold and empty. He was broken and considered himself removed from humanity. Unable to believe he was a real person. He still struggled with his own humanity 13 years after Brazil, 8 years after stopping The Syndicate. Hei still sees himself as the Black Reaper. An emotionless contractor able to torture a friend without blinking, despite the nights it keeps him up unable to sleep with his demons. She and Mao know he isn’t, but it’s hard for him to believe otherwise. Not when he has spent all his life killing. Not when he drifted alone in the dark for so long. This boy is the same. Wandering alone in the darkness unable to see any other way to exist.

She broached the subject carefully, ‘You remind me of a friend, he’s a lot like you.’

‘Is he happy?’

‘I’d like to think so, but I don’t know if he knows how to be.’

He looked into the water, ‘Do you understand what it is to be no longer human. Staring at the humanity of others and unable to recognize yourself.’

Her heart ached for him. She’s not good with emotions, but she thinks this one is grief.

‘Yes.’ She has nothing more to say.

“Do… do you think I can find a reason to live?” He sardonically laughed.

She contemplated that. Even now she relies on others to give her a purpose forward; the ideals of Hei and passions of Kiko fuel the person she is, in many ways. ‘Yes, maybe not now, but eventually. Hei and I have people who grant us existence. It will never be perfect, we will never walk through life as they do, but we go forwards anyway.’

She pushed forward thoughts of Hei, Mao, Kiko, and even Huang, of all these broken people who have made her a person.

He pulled back at the genuine affection she flooded him with. He wasn’t ready not yet. She’s still a stranger despite their connection and he’s still bleeding. So she let him pull away. Dazai moved to stand and she let him. They had been talking for quite a while. Though recognizing that he might eventually wish to talk to her, she recited the number of her personal phone and tells him to contact her should he ever need him. He won’t forget it. Of this she is certain.

He pulled his coat around him like a blanket, “It’s getting late and I have to go, but thank you, Yin.”

“Anytime.” She smiled and laid back down on the grass. She looked for Hei and Mao’s stars and told them she thought she did alright.