Another ordinary day in Tokyo - 428: Shibuya Scramble.

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Could the kidnappers have mistaken Maria for Hitomi?

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Image Unrest.

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The girls hadn’t gotten themselves mixed up, had they? Maria with Hitomi, Hitomi with Maria... If that were the case, then the syndicate’s plan actually had been to abduct Hitomi.

“Yeah,” Kano said excitedly. “When you think about it, it all makes sense.”

Canaan gave him a look.

“No. It doesn’t. Not that it isn’t an...interesting idea.”

Well, so much for that, Kano thought.

“I’ve met both Maria and Hitomi,” Canaan said. “They look alike, but they’re completely different. That was definitely Maria who was here just now.”

She had a point. Last night, back at the Osawa residence, when Hitomi had agreed to make the ransom handoff, her parents would have been with her. And they certainly wouldn’t get Maria and Hitomi confused. It was hard to believe the girls had actually switched places.

Which meant the criminals had deliberately abducted Maria after all. “It’d be like mixing up two completely different colors,” Canaan said. “They’re that different. So it wasn’t Alphard’s mistake.

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It’s...it’s my fault that Maria was kidnapped.” Canaan looked away. “I contacted her before this all started. I told her about the kidnapping plan, and I gave her a GPS beacon to give to her sister, so that I could track Hitomi’s location after she was abducted. But my plan backfired. Maria switched places with Hitomi, and let herself get taken by Alphard.”

What the hell? Why hadn’t Maria taken this to the police? Or, if she was so determined to protect her sister, why not just get her to leave town or something like that?

“There must have been some sort of accident, though,” Canaan continued. “The GPS was never turned on after the kidnapping, and I wasn’t able to track Maria down. But there was something that even Alphard hadn’t counted on.” Canaan cast a glance over at Tateno.

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“This person right here,” she said.

So, Tateno had disrupted Alphard’s plan by going after Hitomi himself.

“Considering where it’s all led,” Canaan continued, “Alphard must be panicking about now. But we can’t let down our guard. Even now, I’m sure the mastermind is thinking of some way to fit what this man has done into the master plan.”

“So it’s a perfectly imperfect plan, is that what you’re saying?”

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“Precisely.” Canaan flashed Kano an approving grin.

“I heard that from Stanley,” Kano said. “The man who drove you to the hospital earlier.”

“That case officer, huh?”

Case officer?

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So that was it. Stanley was CIA. Now that Kano thought about it, it all made sense.

“Since Alphard is an arms dealer with worldwide connections, I don’t know what nation might be trying to obtain the antiviral. Obviously any country that has the viral weapon would want to prevent their enemies from obtaining it. It’s no huge surprise that people are butting in trying to put a stop to Alphard’s plan.”
General Tip – CIA wrote:The U.S. Embassy in Akasaka functions as the headquarters for the CIA’s Japan branch. As the embassy building is not reliably secure, however, the agency carries out many of its activities in specially constructed embassy annex facilities, often under the guise of cultural exchange organizations. There are reportedly over one hundred CIA personnel active in Japan, but given the inherent secrecy involved, the exact number is not officially known.
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A tiny beeping sound caught Kano’s attention. Canaan pulled a PDA from her breast pocket.
General Tip – PDA wrote:Personal Digital Assistant.

Refers to various types of small, portable devices for information management. Occasionally also referred to as a “handheld PC.”
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“Interesting. The GPS I gave to Maria has just been powered on. Now I can find her location.”

“Where is she?”

“She’s on the move. But why is the GPS suddenly active now?” Canaan frowned. “At any rate, I’ve told you what I know. Now tell me where Hitomi is.”

“All right.” Kano got out his phone and called Stanley.

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The American was quick to pick up. “What’s going on?”

“Where’s Hitomi?”

“We’re on our way to Endo Electronics in Dogenzaka.”

“Endo Electronics? Why are you going there?” Kano was familiar with the dilapidated old storefront. He had passed by the place countless times.

“Too long of a story-there’s a lot that’s happened,” Stanley replied. “How are things on your end?”

“About as bad as they could be-but I’m getting closer to the truth. Please, make sure you keep Hitomi safe. Alphard is after her blood.”

“Her blood?”

Kano told Stanley what he’d heard from Canaan.

“I see. So, that’s what’s going on. Once we’re finished with things in Dogenzaka, I’ll bring Hitomi right back to the precinct.”

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“Where is she?” Canaan asked as soon as Kano had hung up.

“She’s on her way to an electronics store in Dogenzaka.”

“I see...” Canaan checked Maria’s location on her PDA.

“First, I need to get Maria,” she said. “I’ll get to Hitomi after that.”

“I’m going with you.”

“Be my guest.” With that, Canaan was off and running.

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Kano took one last glance at the unconscious Tateno, then hurried after Canaan as fast as he could.

Image Shibuya Scramble.

They ran from South Hill in Nanpeidai toward Shibuya Station. As they darted and weaved madly through the narrow side streets, Canaan took an occasional glimpse at her PDA.

It felt to Kano like they must be taking the shortest possible route to Maria’s location. He stayed quiet, keeping pace as Canaan led the way.

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Before he knew it, they were heading up Dogenzaka. In not too long, they’d be at Endo Electronics.

“Hey!” Kano called out to Canaan.

“What?” she shouted back without turning.

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It’s not doubt, but what is it?

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Image Shibuya Scramble.

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“No, it’s not that...” Kano scanned the area. “It’s just that Endo Electronics is right up ahead.”

“What?”

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Canaan stopped abruptly. “What are you suggesting?”

“The twins are heading for the same location. That’s my guess.” Still, what did that actually mean? Kano hadn’t figured that out yet.

They took off running again, and before long, Endo Electronics came into view. Canaan stopped in front of the shop door.

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“Right here,” she said, glancing again at her GPS.

I knew it, Kano thought. Endo Electronics-the same place Hitomi was headed.

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“Guess we’re all winding up together,” Canaan said. “Or else we’ve been brought together.” She peered keenly at the building and its surroundings.

Kano swallowed hard. “‘We?’ You think you’ve been roped into this, too?”

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“Quite possibly.” Canaan flashed a winning smile, then started to head into the shop.

“Hold on. I need to report in to HQ.” Kano hurriedly called Kuze on his cell.

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“Kano, what’s going on?”

“I’ve located Maria Osawa.”

“Huh? Whuzzat?!” Kuze’s words came out as a surprised and childish yelp.

“Come on.” Canaan’s smile turned to a steely glare. “Time is critical.”

He nodded silently back at her.

“Kano, what’s the location?” Kuze asked. “Where are you?”

“I can’t say right now, sir. Please, just leave this to me.”

“Hey! Now just hold on-!”

But Kano ignored the director’s squawking, and hung up.

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Canaan had already entered the shop. She seemed wholly unconcerned by the idea that she might be playing right into Alphard’s hands. Despite her youth, she clearly thought of herself as quite capable.

Warily, he followed after her.

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After navigating a veritable cavern of junk, they came to a door that led to the living area beyond. Canaan quietly opened the door and immediately stepped inside. The home was divided into a dwelling area and a workroom.

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A man’s voice could be overheard from the workroom, raised in anger. “Don’t you want to save Suzune?!”

Kano and Canaan crept closer. Peering through the next doorway, they saw a tense confrontation in progress.

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Maria and Stanley were standing there, looking down at a middle-aged man who had restrained Hitomi with a stun gun pressed to her throat.

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“Dad, of course I want to help Suzune.” A young man stepped into view, speaking to the older fellow. “But do you think this is what she’d want you to do?”

Kano watched intently, tensing for action. There was so much at risk here. He was about to barge into the workroom when Canaan grabbed him by the shoulder.

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“Let’s wait and see how this goes, first,” she whispered.

He realized this was good advice. If they provoked the older man, things could very well take a sharp turn for the worse. They’d just have to hope the young man could talk him down.

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  • Everyone is currently locked at a Keep Out – does anyone want to try guess how to break the lock? We're looking at a particular choice in Minorikawa's route.

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Image Setup.

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Image Yum Cha.

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The workroom door slowly eased open.

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Achi was too shocked for words.

The girl who entered looked just like Hitomi.

“Maria!”

“Hitomi!”

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Achi blinked in bewilderment. It was almost as if Hitomi were standing in front of a mirror-the two girls looked so similar.

“Maria...thank goodness you’re all right.”

“I’m so sorry I had you worried.”

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Maria was safe, Achi realized. At last, he had managed to fulfill his duty.

“You...how did you manage to get out of the storeroom?” Daisuke had gone pale.

“Tell me,” Maria said sharply. “Who was it who came up with this kidnapping plan?”

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Suddenly, Daisuke shoved Maria aside and lunged for Hitomi.

Stanley moved to stop him, but before he could intervene, the older man had a hold on Hitomi, pressing something that looked like a flashlight up against her neck.

“Dad?!” Achi started toward him, but Stanley held up a hand. “Don’t move. That’s a stun gun. If he zaps her in the neck, it could kill her.”

“You know your stuff,” Daisuke said. “You deal in American electronics?”
General Tip – Stun Gun wrote:A piece of self-defense equipment for repelling would-be attackers with an electrical shock. There are several types, including baton-type stun prods and guns that fire needles attached to flexible wires. The latter type especially is frequently referred to in the U.S. as a “Taser” or “Taser Gun” due to the popular models produced by TASER International (now Axon). Stun guns are used not only by civilians, but also by law enforcement and military personnel for non-lethal applications.
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“Wait! Hold on!” Achi interposed himself between Stanley and his father.

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“Dad, let Hitomi go. You need to stop this nonsense.” Achi walked slowly toward his father, a pleading look in his eyes.

“Nonsense? Which one of us is talking nonsense, here? You don’t know what’s going on. If you knew everything, then you’d be helping me.”

“What do you mean, ‘everything’?”

“With this girl’s heart, we can save Suzune!”

“Dad, who was it exactly that told you that?”

Daisuke did not reply.

“I asked you a question! Who was it that put this crazy idea into your head?!”

“A...a foreign organ trafficker I met at the hospital,” Daisuke muttered.

Stanley let out a snort. “A likely story.”
General Tip – Organ trafficker wrote:In Japan, a medical professional known as a transplant coordinator handles the liaison between the donor and recipient parties, but there are many cases of illegal or borderline illegal activity carried out by third-party organ brokers. There are countries where organ transplants are openly performed for monetary gain, and no shortage of specialists willing to do the job. These questionable markets include suppliers who source viable organs and tissue for transplant from cadavers.
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“It’s true! I was suspicious at first, myself,” Daisuke said stubbornly. “But I couldn’t just sit around and wait for Suzune to die. And after talking to him about her rare blood type and all the difficulties in performing a transplant, he promised he’d do everything in his power...” Daisuke’s hands were trembling. Tears welled up in his vacant and bloodshot eyes. “Then a while later he got back in touch and told me he’d found a potential match. Someone with the same blood type as Suzune, and roughly the same age. But then he told me that the girl was still alive. And so what was the point? Her heart might be a match for Suzune’s, but it didn’t matter if we couldn’t get our hands on it. And I said that, but then the man told me...”

“He told you what?” Achi bit his lip.

“He told me to abduct her and turn her over to him. After that, he’d find a way to make it all work.”

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At last, Daisuke had confessed. Now Achi had to try to come to grips with the truth he had just heard.

“I had to do something!” his father continued vehemently. “I had to abduct this girl and see things through. I just couldn’t take it. Kotone had already been taken from me. The thought of losing Suzune too...I had to make sure I didn’t fail.”

“So it was this organ trafficker who came up with the kidnapping scheme, then,” Stanley said. He kept his gun aimed at his target. Daisuke nodded.

“Describe him for me.”

“He was tall, had black hair. Spoke fluent Japanese.”

Stanley raised an eyebrow at that. Achi wondered if he had some idea who it might be.

“And taking Maria Osawa hostage in order to lure out Hitomi-that was his idea as well?”

“Yeah...yes, that’s right. I allowed his computer to access my surveillance camera system, as well. But then...this morning, I got a call from the hospital saying Suzune’s condition was critical. I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to help my girl right away. And then...”

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Daisuke cut himself off, reaffirming his grip on his stun gun. “I was looking at the surveillance monitor and I saw a detective I happen to know. He was right next to this girl here. And so I decided to ask him. I knew if I did he wouldn’t refuse. He could never refuse a request from me.”

“And that was the man with the cane?” Achi asked. His voice was low and hoarse.

“Yes. I was giving him directions while I followed you on the monitors.”

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“Dad, you need to let go of Hitomi now. There’s no point to this.” Achi took another step closer to his father.

“There is a point! If I kill this girl here and now, your sister can get the surgery she needs!”

But even Achi knew that things couldn’t possibly work out that way. His father had grown so desperate to help Suzune that he’d lost all sense of judgment.

“Why, Achi? Why won’t you help me? Don’t you want to save Suzune?!”

Image Coming back alive.

Daisuke made a pathetic sight. And yet his desperation to save his child was so palpable it was heartrending.

Achi thought back to that time he’d laid his father out when sparring. No matter how pathetic he may have looked, Achi had always felt that sense of paternal love from him.

“You’re not going to be able to talk him down,” Stanley murmured.

Achi shook his head. “Stanley,” he said, “lower your gun.” Tears were welling up in his eyes.

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“Please. Lower your gun.”

Hearing the determination in Achi’s voice, Stanley quietly complied.

Achi stepped up to Daisuke, getting a firm grip on his father’s slender shoulder.

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“Dad, of course I want to help Suzune.”

“Then why are you trying to stop me?!”

“Dad. Do you think this is what she’d want you to do?”

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Daisuke’s face fell.

“Did Suzune ask for this, Dad? Did she tell you to take someone else’s heart so that she could live longer? Did she, Dad?”

Suddenly the fight seemed to ebb from Daisuke’s body. The stun gun hung limply in his hand.

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“If Suzune asked me to go and get someone’s heart for her...I wouldn’t object. I’d help her, just like she wanted. I wouldn’t let you bear these crimes by yourself. But that’s not what this is, is it? Suzune would never ask us to do something like this, would she?”

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By now tears were streaming down Achi’s cheeks. He knew that his father thought about Suzune more than he thought of anyone else. And so he should know full well that she would never want this. “Suzune’s not like me-she’s smart, she’s kind, and she’d never be happy about taking someone else’s heart. Even if it saved her life, I’m sure she’d never accept that. She wouldn’t be able to live with it, knowing something so horrible had happened to someone else for her sake. Isn’t that the Suzune we know?”

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Daisuke’s cheeks were smeared with tears, now, as well. “But...then...then we’re not going to be able to help her...” The sound of father and son weeping echoed through the workroom.

“Maybe so. Maybe we won’t. But that’s better than the misery and suffering she’d have to live with.”

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Daisuke slumped to his knees on the floor, collapsing like a crumbling mound of sand. Hitomi, freed from his grip, stood motionless. There were tears in her eyes, too.

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“You’re such an idiot, Dad...such a complete, utter idiot...” Sobbing, Achi embraced his father.

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There was a sudden thud from near the door. Everyone turned to look.

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Maria had crumpled to the floor.

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And a newcomer had appeared-at some point, Canaan had silently entered the room; now she cradled Maria in her arms.

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Standing in the doorway was a man Achi didn’t recognize, his face pale.

“Stay back!” Canaan shouted at Achi when he tried to approach.

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It looked like Maria had fallen unconscious. Achi’s heart was racing in his chest.

An eerie silence fell over the room. For several seconds, no one said a word, their eyes all fixed on Maria.

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Finally, Canaan looked up, her face ashen. “It’s starting...”

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Image Powerless.

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After the young man’s desperate pleading, the other fellow-apparently his father, finally gave in. He released his hold on Hitomi.

The tension in the room was replaced by a solemn air of gravitas.

Seeing father and son weeping as they spoke made Kano think back to his conversation with Tateno before the stakeout.

What was it in people that drove them to do such horrible things? Sometimes, it was the desire to save the ones they loved. Even such a heartfelt human emotion could drive someone to wrongdoing. Why? Why did people have to be like that?

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A sudden thud snapped Kano out of his musing; an instant later, Canaan hurried past him into the workroom.

Image Maneuvers.

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Maria had collapsed on to the floor, and now Canaan was beside her. In a panic, Kano rushed into the workroom as well.

“Stay back!” Canaan shouted as the others tried to huddle around the fallen girl.

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Please don’t be what I think this is... Had the virus gone symptomatic? Two hours ago, Stanley had told Kano that Maria was infected. He’d also said that her symptoms wouldn’t develop for another four hours. Shouldn’t they still have two more hours to go?

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Maria looked like she was dead-her eyes closed, her body motionless.

Hitomi tried to approach despite Canaan’s warning. “Maria!” she cried. “Maria, what’s wrong?!”

Kano held his arms wide to hold her back. “Your sister has been infected with the Ua virus.”

“The Ua virus?” Hitomi’s face went pale.

“Hey,” Kano said to Canaan. “Should you really be that close? If she’s developed symptoms...”

But Canaan didn’t move from Maria’s side. She calmly rested her hand on the other girl’s forehead. “There’s no fever,” she said. “And there’s no blood coming from her ears, no lymph swelling. I’ll be all right. She hasn’t gone symptomatic yet.”

“In that case, why did she collapse?!” Hitomi asked.

“I’m not sure yet. Whatever the case, if we don’t get her that antiviral, she’s done for.”

“Then we have to get her to the lab right away!” Hitomi said. She was trembling with anxiety.

“No. That’s not an option.” Kano’s tone was grave.

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“You may already be aware, Miss Osawa, but without a password, we can’t access the antiviral storage.”

“But, when I went there, my father and Mr. Tanaka-”

“Mamoru Tanaka is dead. Murdered.”

“What?!” She stared at him uncomprehendingly.

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“No...No, that can’t be true...”

“He was a member of a crime syndicate. It’s possible they killed him in order to silence him.”

“So then...there’s no way to save my sister?” There was a hollow look in Hitomi’s eyes.

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“No! I won’t accept that! Why?! Why can’t we help her?!”

But no one had an answer. Kano gritted his teeth and hung his head. Why did it have to come to this? He’d come this far, but there was nothing he could do, and he hated himself for it.

“I’ll go to the laboratory.”

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It was Canaan. “Electronic lock-breaking is my specialty.”

“Wait...” The young man, Achi, spoke up suddenly. “So you’re a martial arts badass but your specialty is lock-breaking?” He looked positively dumbstruck.

Canaan ignored him, thinking out loud. “Brute-force, side-channel, shortcut...Given the situation, I think I have to go with side-channel.”

“Side-channel?” Stanley asked. “Where’s your equipment?”
General Tip – Brute-force wrote:A cryptanalysis technique that involves test input of all theoretically possible patterns; if time were unlimited, this would be the most reliable means of decipherment. However, in practice, the process takes massive amounts of time and computational power, and can be defeated by systems that prohibit access after a limited number of failed input attempts.
General Tip – Side-channel wrote:Rather than trying to decipher the password itself, this method involves analyzing information from the device, such as processing time, power consumption, and electromagnetic leaks, and using these details to exploit the system. Isolating the run state of devices is a crucial element of countering side-channel attacks.
General Tip – Shortcut wrote:A cryptanalysis method that uses mathematical algorithms to carry out efficient bulk calculations against a block cypher that makes use of a shared key for encryption and decryption. Even when such calculations are theoretically possible, however, in practice the process requires large amounts of time, and the block cypher is seldom at real risk.
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“One of the lab PCs will suffice. I can connect to a special server from the net.”

“I don’t really understand the stuff you’re talking about,” Achi said, “but I’ll trust you to handle this. I mean, you did risk your life to save Hitomi from that minivan explosion and all.”

Canaan nodded. “I have to warn you in advance, though: cryptanalysis can take hours and still yield no results. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to get the doors unlocked before Maria develops symptoms.”

“I understand,” Hitomi said.

Achi nodded, too.

No one present had any objections.

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All of a sudden, there was a curious sound from somewhere in the room.

“What’s that?” Kano asked. “What’s making that noise?” He looked around the workroom.

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“That’s-That’s my computer.” Daisuke hurried to his desktop.

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The bank of monitors, which had been displaying surveillance camera footage from around Shibuya, had all gone black.

“What the hell?”

“What’s going on, Dad?” Achi joined his father, staring at the computer screens.

“It’s all gone...The camera footage-it has been deleted.” Daisuke blinked in disbelief.

“Now then, it seems our main cast has all been assembled.” A man’s voice, distorted by a voice modulator, suddenly emerged from the computer speakers.

Image Shibuya Scramble.

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A moment later, the monitors all began to display a view of the inside of the workroom.

“Dad, what the hell is this?!”

“Someone’s broken through our firewall. They’ve hijacked the surveillance camera system.” The color drained from Daisuke’s face as he looked at the screens.
General Tip – Firewall wrote:A security system for preventing unauthorized intrusion into a computer network. The term stems from a metaphorical reapplication of the concept of a wall meant to inhibit the spread of fire or other destructive forces.
“Where are they filming us from?” Kano asked, scanning the inside of the room. He used the image on the monitors to guess where the camera might be located. “Over here?”

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The lens of a camera set atop the computer monitor glimmered like an eye. It was a miniature camera, used for web conferencing and the like.

“Now that Maria and Hitomi are both there, you have probably surmised the situation at hand. And so I offer a proposal: the laboratory password in exchange for Hitomi’s blood.”

Realizing now that that it was Alphard’s voice they were hearing, everyone in the room froze.

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“At 7 o’clock - roughly one hour from now, see that Hitomi Osawa is waiting at the scramble intersection outside Shibuya Station, just like this morning. Unless, of course, you’re feeling particularly confident. You do have Canaan with you. Perhaps you’d care to take a gamble on her lock-breaking skills, instead.”

Canaan clucked her tongue in frustration. Alphard had known exactly what the plan was.

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“Of course, if Canaan isn’t able to get the door open in time, what will you do then? Maria is sure to die, yes. But that’s not all. If you don’t agree to my offer, I have the means of creating another Maria, and a third. These infectees will spread the virus through Tokyo; the death toll will likely number in the hundreds of thousands. So do think carefully before you decide.” Alphard’s voice was chillingly matter-of-fact.
General Tip – Death toll wrote:It is difficult to predict the scope of infection in the event of a bioterrorist attack employing a highly infectious viral agent in a city with a large and mobile population. In a worse-case scenario, some researchers estimate as many as several million infected in a matter of days
“I will appear at the rendezvous in person. After all, it wouldn’t do for the star of the show to miss the final curtain. I’m looking forward to meeting all of you then.”

Silence fell.

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Then the images on the computer monitor returned to normal; the surveillance camera footage came back online as well.

Daisuke promptly yanked out his ethernet cable and slammed his fists on the keyboard. “Dammit! There was a hole in the firewall. I’ll have to redo my security from the ground up!”

“Good call,” Canaan said calmly. “We can’t win this if our intel keeps getting leaked.”

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Stanley pursed his lips in consternation.

“What do we do?” Kano asked him. “Do we give in to his demands? I mean, do we really expect he’s just going to blithely show up like that? He’s practically begging for us to come and catch him.”

There had to be some deeper plan at work.

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“If it means saving my sister, I’ll do it.” Hitomi was resolute.

“No,” Stanley said, “you can’t.”

“What? Why not?”

“Because if you do, you’ll be killed.”

“What?!” Hitomi’s voice caught in her throat.

“With the antiviral still present in your body a week after the fact, you’re too much of a liability for Alphard to just let go.”

“He’s right-don’t do it!” Achi exclaimed. “Hitomi, you can’t go!”

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“Even still, I...I want to do it.” Hitomi stared defiantly at Stanley.

“You still want to go even knowing that you’ll be killed?”

“I can’t just sit here and hope that Canaan is able to pull this off,” she said.

“I want to do something for my sister. I want to save her.” She peered down at Maria, sprawled on the floor.

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She’d object to me going. I’m sure of that. But I want to do what I can. To do things my way.”

No one tried to contradict her this time.

“If she’s willing to take the risk, then there are things the rest of you can do, too.”

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It was Canaan again.

“Let’s hear it,” Kano replied. He squared his shoulders. He was of the same mind as Hitomi-he couldn’t just do nothing and leave it all on Canaan. After everything he’d been through, he wanted to stick with this case until the very end.

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“Apprehend Alphard at the rendezvous and demand the password from him.” Canaan offered the suggestion as if it were a simple task. “That lets you get what you want without putting Hitomi in danger.”

Kano let out a sigh. “Hold on,” he said. “Even if we do arrest him, how are we going to get him to cough up the password? We don’t have time to drag him off to an interrogation room. And besides, he doesn’t strike me as the sort to offer a confession that easily.”

“There are ways,” Canaan said. “Once Alphard has made contact with Hitomi, call my cell phone”

Hitomi tilted her head. “Call vou?”

“I have plenty of information Alphard might want to bargain for. I can negotiate with him directly.”

Kano considered Canaan’s proposal. “1 see. So we’ll try both options-attempt to hack the password at the lab, and also try negotiating with Alphard. That gives us two chances.”

With that tiny ray of hope, Hitomi’s face brightened some.

“We’ll split into two groups-one for the lab and one for Shibuya Station,” Canaan said. “Let’s exchange phone numbers so we can be in touch when the time comes.”

The group quickly shared contact info as suggested.

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Hitomi and Canaan called one another’s phones to be sure. Hitomi’s cheerful ringtone felt out-of-place, but also somehow soothing-a fragment of normalcy in the midst of crisis.

“Well. Guess we’re all set then,” Hitomi said, looking down at the LCD screen. Her expression turned apologetic. “I’m sorry, Canaan. For having to keep putting things on you.”

“Hey,” Canaan replied, “don’t worry about it.”

“Okay. Now I guess I should call my father.” Hitomi called Kenji Osawa on his cell, asking him to let Maria and Canaan into the lab.

Kano leaned in to whisper into Canaan’s ear. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?”

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“With what?”

“I know that you’re after Alphard. Are you sure you want to go to the lab and not-”

“Right now I want to save Maria. That’s all.” Her tone was as curt and mechanical as ever, but there was a fierce gleam of determination in her eyes. Maria was clearly someone very special to her.

“All right,” Kano replied. “Leave Alphard to me.” He thumped himself on the chest. He’d succeed this time.

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Kano could scarcely recall the whirlwind of events that had brought him here. He’d somehow survived a dozen disasters; even now a dear friend was in the hospital, at risk of dying. There were times when he’d been ready to give up.

And yet, at the end of it all, here he was.

His opponent was an international terrorist. No matter how you looked at it, that wasn’t a matchup for a mere detective.

But I’m going to do it anyway.

Rumi.

Shizuo.

Sasayama.

And Detective Tateno.

I’m going to take down Alphard and save Maria Osawa’s life-just you watch and see.


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Image Shibuya Scramble.

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Osawa’s cell phone rang. When he saw the name on the incoming call display, he nearly shouted out loud.

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It was Hitomi.

“Hitomi?! Are you all right?! Please, tell me you’re all right!”

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“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. But...Maria’s...”

Image Hope.

“Maria? Is Maria there with you?!” Osawa’s heart leaped.

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“Dad, there isn’t any time for me to explain everything, so I’ll have to just give you the main points. This is so we can save my sister, so just stay calm and listen.”

Osawa struggled to hold back the thousand questions that immediately came boiling into his mind.

“There’s a girl named Canaan who’s going to bring Maria to the lab. She’s going to try to hack the password in order to get us inside.”

“Wait, hold on! Just what in the world is going on?”

“There are a bunch of people here working to help save Maria. Can you wait for us at the lab, Dad?”

“I’m not sure that electronic lock is something that’ll be so easy to-”

“We’ve got another plan in motion too, and if that goes well, we might be able to learn the password.”

It was all too much to follow-but Osawa realized he’d have to take Hitomi at her word. It was their only hope of saving Maria. “All right,” he said. “I’ll do as you ask, but...you said you’re trying two approaches-you’re not going to be in danger, are you?”

“No. I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me.”

“Okay. Very well. I’m heading to the laboratory now.”

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“You can’t! You can’t go.” The moment Osawa hung up and started for the house, Ai clung to him from behind. “If you use the antiviral now,” she said, “everything will go public!”

“There’s no way we can keep the virus or the antiviral under wraps at this point.” Osawa tried to pull free, but his wife was stronger than he expected. “Besides, if Maria infects other people, the whole world is going to find out in a matter of hours.”

“No. We can just quarantine her. If it’s handled correctly, we’ll still be able to retain secrecy.” Ai’s voice was cold as ice.

“Do you...do you even have any idea what you’re saying right now?”

“I do. I know how it sounds. But this is-this the only thing-the only thing I can...” Her voice trailed off; he could feel the force of her trembling where she held him.

“Have I really put you into that much of a corner?’

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Osawa slipped from Ai’s arms and prostrated himself on the ground in front of her. “I’m sorry. I’m truly, truly sorry.”

“Oh, stop this! Get up! If you’re really sorry, then don’t go to that lab!”

But Osawa remained silent, his forehead pressed to the dirt.

“If you use that antiviral without corporate approval, your time with Okoshi is finished!”

“That doesn’t matter to me anymore.”

“How can you say that?! Virology is the only thing you’ve ever cared about!” Ai began pummeling his back.

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“Maybe virology is all that I care about. I don’t know the first thing about anything else. I never wanted to know. Never even thought to find out. Never bothered to learn what you or my own children might think. I’m a failure...as a father, and as a husband.”

“How dare you say that only after it’s come to this!” Ai struck him again, harder than before.

“You’re right.” He gasped out the words between her blows. “Maybe this has been too long coming. But it’s not too late. I can still start over.”

“Start over?” She paused in disbelief. “You already turned down that American job! If you use that antiviral now, there won’t be any starting over-you’ll lose everything.”

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“Will I lose you, too?”

“After you’ve gone and thrown everything else away like this? How could I possibly stay with you?” Ai was sobbing softly now.

Osawa wondered what her tears were for. But there was one thing he did know: she was right-they couldn’t be together anymore.

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He got to his feet and headed back into the house, leaving Ai behind.

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He hurried through the back entrance and went into the garage, climbed into his car, fastened his seatbelt, and took a deep breath. The image of a younger Maria arose in the back of his mind.

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There she was at that park, getting drenched by the rain. Holding back her tears as she waited for her father.

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“Wait for me, Maria. This time, I’m going to come for you.”

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Ai was wrong. Going to the lab wouldn’t mean losing everything. He’d let too many important things slip through his fingers. Now, it was time to go take them back.

Osawa pulled his car onto the street and sped toward the laboratory.

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As if to signal that the long day was drawing to a close, the dazzling sun sank down between the buildings in the distance.

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We've reached the final block of 428 - please vote for our next character. As Osawa's story finished in the previous hour, only Achi, Kano and Minorikawa are available.

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We haven't seen Minorikawa in a little while.

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Let's go, Minorikawa!

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Image Setup.

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Image Maneuvers.

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“Hang in there, Chiaki. Just keep it together!” Minorikawa rushed to her side and offered her a hand.

“Surely it hardly matters at this point. You’re not going to make it on time regardless,” Katayama said coldly.

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“And in any case, if Four-Star General Gossip doesn’t get released, it’s Mr. Toyama who’s going to be in trouble, not you. I daresay the world would be better off with one third-rate gossip rag less, anyway.”

“Shut your mouth!” Chiaki snapped.

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“If the Gossip doesn’t come out, I am going to be in trouble. An article I’ve written is supposed to be in next month’s issue. It’s a piece I’ve worked my very hardest on, to the very end. A piece Mr. Mino saw fit to put in print. And so if that goes away...if all of that goes away...yeah, I’ll be in trouble, all right.”

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Chiaki’s legs wobbled as she struggled to get back to her feet.

“Chiaki,” Katayama said, “your zeal is a marvelous thing. Worthy of admiration, even. But when it comes to work, results are all that matters. I’m sad to have to put it that way, but I must be honest; it’s just common decency.” Katayama glanced at his pocket watch. “You have fifty-seven minutes and ten seconds remaining. At this rate, you won’t even make it to the interview venue before your time’s up. Frankly, I don’t think even a further extension of your deadline would make any difference, in the end.”

“Dammit!” Minorikawa ground his teeth. He wondered if he should just leave Chiaki here and go interview S.O.S. by himself. He could expand the article on S.O.S., then work a small part of Chiaki’s interview piece in to at least fill the layout. Right now, the single most important thing was getting the magazine out the door, for Toyama’s sake. But if he did cut most of Chiaki’s copy, after all she’d done, he might wind up totally killing her passion for being a writer.

I have to stop waffling. Professionals don’t let their personal feelings dictate their decisions. I can help Chiaki work through her emotional struggles later.

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“Chiaki, that’s enough!”

The young woman got to her feet, staggering as she began to climb the stairs. “I’m not giving up,” she said under her breath. “I can’t give up now.” Though obviously in pain, she struggled to keep her legs moving.

Damn. I can’t do it. Look how hard she’s fighting to stay in the game-I can’t tell her I don’t need her article now.

Releasing the next issue of the Gossip wasn’t just going to save Toyama; it would save Chiaki as well. Minorikawa couldn’t abandon either one of them.

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Which left him with a hell of a dilemma. He needed to make a decision; if he didn’t stop wavering soon, they’d be out of time. But try as he might, he couldn’t come up with a plan.

Then he heard a familiar voice from behind him.

Image Cigarette Smoke.

“If you’re wondering what path to take, allow my taxi to be your guide.”

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Minorikawa spun around to see Kimizuka standing there.

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“Where to, sir?” the driver asked. Despite his polite demeanor, his pride was obvious.

“Mr. Kimizuka, I appreciate the thought, but with this traffic-”

“Traffic? I see nothing of the sort.”

“Okay, sure, but...”

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Minorikawa was well aware of Kimizuka’s capabilities, but the prospect of cutting through the chaos that currently filled the streets was more than a little daunting.

“When you know this town as well as I do, there’s nowhere you can’t go.”

“All right.” What other choice do I have? “Guess I’ve gotta trust you. This’ll be my last request of the day!” Minorikawa pointed down the street.

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To… Inferno!

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Image Cigarette Smoke.

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“Did you have anyplace in mind?”

Kimizuka’s eyes went wide. “Do I have a glimpse into a young lady’s mind?” he asked.

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“Look, I’m sorry, but we’re in a big hurry, here. Don’t make me have to repeat myself.”

“Uh...yes, sir.”

“Thanks”

“Very well. Then here goes.” Kimizuka cleared his throat, and adopted a look of artistic intensity.

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“I want to say it, but I can’t say it. I thought today might be the day, but when our eyes met, it felt so cold. I’m wandering alone in a labyrinth of love. Why can’t I just share how I feel? Look back my way-no, don’t look back. If I do ever share my feelings, what happens to us then? That’s a river we won’t be able to uncross.”

“I want to wreck things, but I don’t really want to wreck them. I’m sorry for pretending to be so upset. I want to get some distance, but I can’t get that distance. I can’t do this over the phone. I want to forget, but I can’t forget-that day, about half a year ago. It was such a trivial thing, and yet I treasure it even now. I want to say it, but I can’t say it. Even if I did, even if I could. Like a shell caught in the pounding surf, caught and tumbled back and forth. More than friends, but not quite lovers. Not quite lovers, but more than friends...”

“My apologies, Mr. Kimizuka. I should have repeated myself. To Inferno in Ura-Harajuku, if you would.”

“Very well, sir.”

Image On The Move.

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As soon as Minorikawa and the others had climbed into the cab, Kimizuka tore off through Shibuya’s network of narrow side streets. The passengers in the back seat jostled roughly back and forth to the sound of screeching tires.

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“This is altogether far too excessive,” Katayama murmured, wincing as his head bounced repeatedly against the window. “To think we allow such inconsiderate driving here in this country.”

Chiaki, meanwhile, had opened her laptop and was somehow working furiously to finish her copy. The sound of her fingers clicking across the keys echoed within the vehicle.

“How’s it going, Chiaki?” Minorikawa asked.

“Just a little more!” Her eyes were glued to her monitor, her face all seriousness.

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Kimizuka glanced over at Minorikawa. “If I may ask, sir, what business do you have at this bar?”

“Just a little interview. I hear a local gang called S.O.S. uses the place as their big hangout”

“You’re interviewing S.O.S.? Sir, I feel it might be best not to get too involved with that lot.” There was something about the driver’s warning that seemed a little off.

“Do your taxi driver connections tell you what S.O.S. is up to?” Minorikawa asked.

“Originally, they were something of a vigilante corps, in the name of keeping the neighborhood clean and safe. But lately I hear nothing but bad things about them.”

Those loan sharks had said something very similar. Minorikawa reminded himself that he’d better be on his guard.

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Katayama chimed in. “And just how do you plan to go about interviewing a gang like this?”

“That’s nothing for you to worry about. I have a plan.”

“Oho. And just what exactly is this plan?”

“It’s a secret.”

Katayama gave him a derisive grin. Clearly he wasn’t impressed.

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Minorikawa turned to look at Chiaki. She appeared too engrossed in her copy to even hear the conversation.

“I realize this is for work,” Kimizuka said worriedly, “but do you really need to take such risks?”

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“Yes. I do.” Minorikawa thought back to that look on Toyama’s fac-that look when he’d finally regained his confidence. He couldn’t let Heaven Publishing go under. Toyama provided the canvas on which Minorikawa shared his art with the world.

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Thinking about it now, Minorikawa realized he’d always been chasing Toyama’s shadow. Though it was galling to admit, that man had been the ideal Minorikawa strove to live up to. That was why he’d hated seeing Toyama reduced to such a pathetic state. He wanted Toyama to remain indomitable, to keep busting down any and all obstacles in his own peculiar way.

Still, Minorikawa wasn’t about to voice these feelings aloud. He felt more than a little embarrassed to be taking it all so personally.

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“When you take on a job, you give it a hundred percent, every time. That’s what makes you a professional,” he said.

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“Wouldn’t you agree?”

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“I do indeed,” Katayama chimed in. “But you’ll have to demonstrate that hundred percent in the limited time you have left-which, by the way, is fifty-one minutes and thirty seconds. And I will not budge in the slightest on that submission deadline. Please do keep that in mind.” The man took another look at his watch.

“I’ve got half a mind to break that thing,” Minorikawa told him.

“Breaking my watch will not stop time.”

Minorikawa shot him a furious glare, but Katayama’s composure was unwavering. The guy was unflappable, and the only way Minorikawa was going to be able to put him in his place was to meet his damn deadline. Easier said than done, though. He’d want to use thirty of the fifty-one minutes he still had to write his article. That only left him twenty or so to get the material.

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Kimizuka suddenly slammed on the brakes, and the cab skidded to a halt.

Minorikawa stared through the windshield in shock and saw a smallish, boxy minivan weaving erratically along the road. “Whoa, look out! That thing’s heading our way.”

“Don’t worry, sir,” the driver replied. “Just leave this to me.” Keeping his cool, Kimizuka dexterously steered them clear of the oncoming vehicle.

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As the minivan sped past, an eerily cold breeze wafted over the taxi.

“What the heck was that?” Minorikawa asked.

“I’m not sure,” Kimizuka said. “But let’s hurry on our way.” Nimbly manipulating the gear stick, he stomped on the gas once more.
428 Tip – Minivan wrote:The vehicle is being driven by members of the Wandering Angels theater troupe. They are on their way to return the dry ice machine they used in their performance to Endo Electronics. The machine is malfunctioning, continually spitting out white plumes of carbon dioxide. The troupe members inside the van are beginning to suffer from oxygen deprivation, and are driving around Shibuya in a daze. Will they be able to make it to Endo Electronics in the end???
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“Here we are, sir.”

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They’d pulled up outside of a dilapidated old pool hall.

“You’re a lifesaver.” Minorikawa clapped a hand on Kimizuka’s shoulder.

“Just be sure to be careful, sir.”

Minorikawa nodded.

“Huh? What?” Chiaki asked, looking up. “What are we being careful about?”

“Nothing,” Minorikawa said. “You just wait here in the car. You’ve still got that copy to finish up, yeah?”

“Uh, well, yes. All right, then.” Chiaki frowned, but resumed her typing.

“And you wait here, too,” Minorikawa said to Katayama.

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“But of course. That goes without saying. Incidentally, you have forty-nine minutes and six seconds remaining.”

Minorikawa did some quick mental math.

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With the half hour he’d already set aside, that left him nineteen minutes. However dangerous S.O.S. might be, he couldn’t afford to hesitate for even a single second. Bracing himself, he stepped out of the taxi and headed for the pool hall.

“Phew.” Minorikawa took a deep breath as he approached the grimy door. “Here goes.” He drew his leg back and gave the door a hearty kick.

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The mob of young men inside the bar turned as one at the sound of the door crashing open.

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“Who the hell are you?” Several of them started toward him belligerently.

“Just calm down and hear me out!” he said. “I’ve come to interview you!”

“Interview us? What the hell for?” These were hot-headed punks, all right; they seemed to be itching for a confrontation. Minorikawa felt like a punch might come flying his way at any moment.

Then another voice called out from further back. “Hold up, guys.”

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It was a young man seated in the far back corner of the bar; his air of authority marked him as the gang’s leader.

That must be Susumu, then, Minorikawa thought.

“When you say interview, do you mean for TV? Or like a magazine? Mind telling us who you are?”

“The name’s Minorikawa. I’m a freelance journalist. I’m doing a magazine piece about young people in Shibuya. All I’m asking is just for you guys to answer a few questions.”
General Tip – Answer wrote:Here’s the answer to the science quiz from last time.

° Methane

Methane has been tapped as a potential new energy source to replace fossil fuels or atomic power, but there are concerns about its tendency to exacerbate the global warming process. It is extremely flammable; the methane produced by food waste has been known to cause garbage trucks to catch fire.
“Huh.” Susumu sounded less than enthused.

“Just five minutes,” Minorikawa said. “What do you say?”

“Nah. I’m not in the best of moods right now. Go on, get outta here.”

Right, Minorikawa thought, he’s going to make things difficult. But he hadn’t expected these troublemakers to just up and accept an offer to appear in print. Now was when the real battle would begin.

“Guess I’ll just have to write my piece without your help, then.”

Susumu took the bait, and shot him a look. “Write about what, exactly?”

“Your little warehouse raids.”

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“Warehouse raids?” Susumu raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”

“Really now? You’re gonna tell me you don’t know your boys are dealing in stolen goods?”

“S.O.S. doesn’t steal, man. You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

“Oh yeah? Why don’t you ask those two over there?”

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He’d spotted the two fellows he’d seen arguing earlier, at the scene of the explosion; now he pointed them out. Their faces betrayed their alarm.

Susumu glared at them. “Is this true?”

They averted their eyes, and said nothing.

“I asked you a question! Have you been stealing stuff?!”

After a long moment of surly hesitation, both young men nodded.

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“You idiots!” Susumu marched up to the two, and without warning decked them both. “How dare you sully the S.O.S. Name!” As the two gang members cowered, he continued to punch them repeatedly.

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“Okay, enough with the beatdown!” Minorikawa stepped up to intervene. “Let’s get down to business, here. I won’t reveal about the warehouse raids. In exchange, you give me my interview! How’s that? Not a bad deal, I’d say.”

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But Susumu ignored him, continuing his pummeling of the pair.

“Whoa, hey! Nobody’s gonna play nice with a guy who flies off the handle and beats on people, y’know.”

“What’d you just say?”

“Well, look at yourself. You’re clearly not the cream of the crop here, kid.”

At that, Susumu’s fists finally fell still. The rowdy bar went completely silent.

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“Say that one more time-I dare you. I’ll put your ass in the ground.” The gang leader’s eyes were red with rage.

Minorikawa snorted, unafraid. “Hmph. That’s the exact sort of line I’d expect from a total wuss who’s all bark and no bite.”

“Shut your damn mouth! Get the hell out of here!”

“Oh, this is hilarious. S.O.S.’s top dog is such a yappy little puppy.”

Susumu snarled like an animal. “You son of a bitch. I am gonna heat your ass.”

“Mr. Mino! I’m all finished!” An ebullient voice resounded suddenly through the bar.
General Tip – Ebullient wrote:Cheerful and full of energy. Originally the term indicated a state of bubbling or boiling, so it’s effectively a fancy way of describing someone as ‘bubbly'.
Image On The Move.

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“Chiaki?!” Minorikawa looked and saw that both she and Katayama had appeared in the doorway.

“I finished my copy. Could you please look it over for me?” She thrust out her laptop proudly.

Susumu stared in bewilderment. “Who the hell are you?”

“Oh. Um...I was under the impression you S.O.S. folks were, uh, being interviewed...” Chiaki broke off, haltingly.

“Yeah, you’re right about that.” One by one, gang members started to close in around her.

“Well, it’s just..you look like you’re really angry, is all.”

“Oh do we now? That’s because we are pretty damn angry.”

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Good grief,” Katayama groaned. “It would seem that getting your interview is quite impossible. By the way, you only have another-”

You shut up,” Minorikawa snapped as Katayama peered at his watch. “Just leave this to me. You two hurry up and get out of here.”

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“No way,” Chiaki said.

“What?! Why not?”

“Because, I want you to read my copy, Mr. Mino.” She looked him right in the eye.

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Image On The Move.

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He didn’t have much of a choice. He’d postpone the interview to read over Chiaki’s copy. “All right,” he said. “Let me see your laptop.” He held out his hand and started to make his way over to her.

“Whoa!”

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Before he could reach her, though, the S.O.S. punks had Chiaki and Katayama surrounded.

“Ooh, what’s this? Something important?” One of the gang members reached out to grab Chiaki’s computer.

“Knock it off! Don’t touch that!” She struggled to resist.

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“Leave the girl alone, you scumbags!” Minorikawa barked.

The young men in the bar stopped and turned.

Susumu was quick to respond. “Screw you, man. Who’re you calling scumbags, here?”

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“Any guy who raises a hand to a lady is a scumbag. If you’re looking for a fight, you can fight me. Just get your hands off the girl!” Minorikawa did his best to look unafraid as a couple dozen vicious gazes now turned back on him.

“Bring it on!” Susumu said. “Hey, someone go stand lookout out front.” He snapped his fingers sharply. “Get ‘im.” At the signal, Susumu’s men quickly closed in on Minorikawa.

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It was like being caught up in a tsunami. He took a hard punch to the face, and his vision went blurry. Before he could react, he was hit again-twice-thrice, with punches and kicks.

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The moment his first assailant paused, another joined the assault. Four blows, five blows, six... Minorikawa lost count somewhere around thirty.

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A metallic taste filled his mouth, and he could feel his consciousness fading. All the strength was being battered from his body. He couldn’t even tell if he was standing on his feet or lying on his back. Then, finally, he felt himself crumple to the floor.

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Even then, the beating did not let up. As he writhed helplessly, the young men kicked him in the gut over and over.

“Stop it!” he heard Chiaki shriek. “You’re going to kill him!”

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Eventually, Minorikawa forced himself to go limp. Finally the kicking stopped.

“Aw, crap,” one of the thugs muttered, sounding panicky. “Did we take this a bit too far?”

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“Mr. Mino!” Chiaki rushed to Minorikawa’s side, sobbing. “Please!” she cried out. “Answer me!”

He held his breath and said nothing. “Mr. Mino!” Tears streaked down her cheeks; she shook him desperately.

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“Don’t worry...” he gasped out at last, holding up a hand to stave her off.

She let out a yelp of surprise, staring at his battered face; he could feel blood trickling from the corner of his mouth.

He turned his grisly visage on the gang members as he painfully rose to his feet.

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“Wahahahaha!” Abruptly, Minorikawa broke into peals of mocking laughter.

“Um, Mr. Mino?” Chiaki stared at him, aghast.

“Waaah-hahaha!” He only laughed the harder.

“It seems he took a few too many blows to the head. The poor thing.” Katayama averted his eyes, unable to watch.

“Wahahahahaha!” Minorikawa shot out an accusing finger out at the crowd.

Image Best.

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“Looks like I win this round!”

“Uh...what?” Susumu blinked, dumbstruck.

“Don’t you get it?” Minorikawa said thickly around his bruised tongue. “What am I saying; you’re a bunch of idiots. Now then, if you’ll pardon me...”

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“Oh, I get it!” Minorikawa was halfway to the exit when Katayama’s exclamation rang out. “You were planning all along to let these guys beat you up, huh?”

Minorikawa jerked to a halt, his shoulders trembling.

“You knew they’d turn down the interview. And so by letting yourself get beat up, you’d have something to put in an article, yeah? It’s a bit bogus, maybe, but I guess it’s one way to get material to fill your pages.”

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Minorikawa broke out into a cold sweat. Shut up, you idiot...

But Katayama continued with his oh-so-brilliant analysis. “You sure pulled a fast one on this gang, here. I wonder what sort of headline your piece should have? ‘The Twilight of Shibuya’s Legendary Street Crew-Former Vigilante Squad Now Mere Gang of Common Thugs.’ Something like that, maybe?”

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Susumu stared daggers at Minorikawa. “Go on, I dare you to write that up. Then we really will put your ass in the ground.” He moved to block the path to the door, clutching a broken beer bottle in one hand.

“You moron!” Minorikawa bellowed at Katayama. “I was this close to pulling it off!”

“Ah. Well, that’s a shame, isn’t it?” Katayama replied.

Minorikawa rolled his eyes. “Gee, ya think?!”

Susumu slowly advanced on them, beer bottle at the ready.

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“Incidentally,” Katayama said, “you have forty minutes and seven seconds left. Good luck.”

Minorikawa hung his head. Was everything futile at this point?
General Tip – Futile wrote:Hopeless. Pointless. Ineffectual.

Not to be confused with feudal, which refers to the sociopolitical system of the Middle Ages involving lords and vassals and fiefdoms.
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“All right, cool your jets. I’d say that’s quite enough.”

Image Unrest.

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Susumu stopped, and spun around. Kimizuka had entered the bar. The taxi driver stared out sternly from behind his sunglasses.

All the young men in the bar fell silent. Minorikawa and his companions exchanged glances.

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“Aw, man. You?” Susumu’s face twisted up in awkward embarrassment.

Kimizuka’s tone was light and playful, but intimidating nevertheless. “Whoa, hey now. That’s no way to address your teacher.”

“Teacher?!” Minorikawa blurted in disbelief.

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Kimizuka nodded. “Yeah, until last year, I used to be a teacher. But I got into a bit of a dispute with my school, so I moved on. These guys in here are all former students of mine. Sorry that they’re such a bunch of good-for-nothings.”

“Wow,” Chiaki said. “I’d have never guessed.”

“I thought, since I wasn’t their teacher anymore, it wasn’t my place to butt in. But I couldn’t sit idly by and let one of my customers take a beating.” Kimizuka turned back to Susumu.

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“This guy totally played you. Every last one of you.”

Susumu bit his lip in frustration.

“Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone would want to take a beating from this many guys all at once. So it’s hardly your fault for falling for it.” Kimizuka had switched gears from taxi driver to street-smart mentor. “You guys lost this one,” he said. “And for that, you need to give him his interview.”

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“No way.” Susumu looked disgusted.

“Look here, kid,” Kimizuka said. “Let yourself save some face and help the man out. And maybe you won’t come off as a bunch of total idiots in his article.” He flashed an amicable grin.

“Well, when you put it that way...fine, all right.” Susumu blew out his breath in resignation.

“Susumu, you can’t just let yourself cave like that.”

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The remark had come from a particularly nasty-looking young fellow who slouched on the bar sofa.

Minorikawa recognized him-the kid he’d encountered earlier that afternoon, wandering around with a wooden cudgel.

“You shut up, Kiryu,” Susumu said.

“So what, you’re just gonna let S.O.S. make a mockery of itself?” Kiryu demanded.

The gang leader let out an annoyed growl, but said nothing.

“And you still think you’ve got what it takes to run Shibuya?”

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“Shut up! I’ve already said I’ll do it!” Kiryu sneered sullenly at Susumu’s outburst.

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“Mr. Mino!”

Minorikawa was just letting out a sigh of relief at being able to get his interview when Chiaki scurried back up to him. “Please, can you read my copy now?” Her face showed a strange mixture of confidence and unease.

“All right,” he said resignedly. “Let me see it.” The proofing deadline was drawing steadily nearer. Still, if the piece wasn’t good enough, he’d have to make her rewrite it again. He wasn’t going to compromise on quality.

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Bracing himself, Minorikawa stared at the monitor.

Chiaki swallowed hard, so anxious that it was audible.

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Minorikawa gave the piece a fast once-over, then read it again more closely. When he was done, he closed his eyes, considering.

Chiaki held her breath, waiting for his response.

“It’s okay.”

She looked back at him blankly for a long moment. “Really?”

“It’s really okay.”

“Is it really really okay?”

“It really is really okay!”

Minorikawa watched in surprise as she broke down in tears. “Oh, thank you so much!”

Image Implications.

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Chiaki bowed profusely.

He gave her an affectionate little ruffle atop her head.

She wiped at her face with her palms, scrubbing the tears away. “Um, so I guess I never really told you. What sort of articles I want to write, and all.”

“No, I don’t think you have.”

“Well, I mean, I want to write socially conscious exposés like you do, Mr. Mino. And so, to hear you say that an article I wrote is okay, that makes me really...I mean, happy, I guess? Or maybe moved?” Her eyes were still bright with emotion.

“Well then. Really?” There was actually another writer who took inspiration from his work, and who strove to be like him. Minorikawa had never thought a day like this would come. It was a peculiar feeling. He’d always been the follower, chasing after interviews in order to be more like Toyama. It made him feel both bashful and proud that the skill and soul he’d honed might be passed on to the next generation.

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“Right. I should be off.” Kimizuka gave Minorikawa a slight nod.

Minorikawa returned the gesture, but more deeply. “You really have been a tremendous help today. I’m not sure where I’d even be right now if you hadn’t been there for me.”

“Oh, no, not at all. I was just driving a customer around to where he asked me to go.”

“Oh, that’s right-I still owe you a fare.” Opening his wallet, Minorikawa saw he had only a 10000-yen bill. Still, now was no time to be frugal.

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“Keep the change,” he said as he handed it over.

But even as he said it, Kimizuka was already handing him some money back. “Here. I insist.”

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The driver had already counted out the exact change in advance.

“You really are a pro, huh?” Minorikawa took the money and stuffed it into his pocket.

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“We’ll meet again-somewhere out there on the streets of Shibuya.” Kimizuka pointed his index finger at Minorikawa’s face. Minorikawa responded in kind.

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After that, the interview with S.O.S. went off without a hitch. Now that the tension was diffused, these were just a bunch of ordinary young guys. The juxtaposition of their appearance and their behavior would make for an interesting piece.

“So...about what you said earlier,” Susumu said once Minorikawa had finished his questioning.

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“About how I’m not the cream of the crop.”

“Ah, yeah. That. I just said it to get you worked up. Don’t worry about it.”

“Well, let me just ask you what you really think, then. How do you think I could be a better leader?”

“I don’t know. I’m not really the sort of guy who wants to stand at the top, y’know? But...I guess I can tell you two things that’ll make things go more smoothly with you and your buddies.”

Susumu leaned in, listening intently.

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“Forgiveness, and also trust.” Minorikawa chewed over his own words. The events of the day replayed in the back of his mind. He’d forgiven Toyama for his faked suicide, and trusted that he’d regain his reporter’s edge. He’d forgiven Chiaki for her bungled interviews, and trusted that she’d grow as a journalist. In the end, that’s what it was that had helped him through-forgiveness, followed by trust.

Susumu grumbled softly. “Forgiveness and trust, huh? Doesn’t sound so easy.”

“People gravitate towards somebody who can handle things when they get tough.” With that, Minorikawa got to his feet.

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“Now we’ve got all the articles we need covered!” Chiaki rushed over to his side. “Well, I guess we still need Mr. Toyama’s piece...”

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“I just got off the phone with my office,” Katayama said casually. “It seems they’ve already received the data from him.”

“Whoa, what? Guess he really can get the job done when he applies himself.” Minorikawa felt an inner surge of pride. “Now, then...” He indicated Katayama.

“How much time do we have left?”

“Thirty minutes remaining,” Katayama replied, eyeing his watch.

“Thirty minutes, huh? Looks like we might make it after all. Chiaki, laptop!”

“Right!” With a beaming grin, Chiaki held out her computer.

Minorikawa got ready to start typing-but then a young man barged into the bar.
428 Tip – Young man wrote:It’s Achi Endo. He’s come to ask the members of S.O.S. to help with the planned operation down at the scramble.
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The newcomer hurried over to where Susumu was sitting and promptly prostrated himself on the floor. Whatever this was about, it looked like a big deal.

Who was this kid? The gang’s feelings looked decidedly mixed.

“I need people to bring a guy down. I’m here to ask for your help. I know I have no right to ask you this. But please, I really need your help.”

Image Minoru Minorikawa.

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As Minorikawa listened to the young man’s conversation with Susumu, he could feel his blood start pumping. It sounded like they were talking about the terrorist plot in which Shibuya had become embroiled.

“Hey, Chiaki?” he said quietly. “Did you hear that just now?”

“I did! I’m not sure I follow all of it, but it definitely has the whiff of a major scoop!”

Minorikawa shot her a daring grin. “So what’s the play here, Chiaki?”

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“We interview him, of course!”

“But we only have thirty minutes left, right?”

“So we take ten minutes for our conversation, and use the remaining twenty to write up the piece! I’ll help you out!”

“You learned good, kiddo.” Minorikawa ruffled Chiaki’s hair again. They both blushed profusely, gripped by a surge of excitement.

“Why are you doing this? I can’t make any sense of it whatsoever.”

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Katayama stood peering at them skeptically. “If you write up the piece you just did your interview for, you’ll make your deadline. Why go out of your way to trouble yourself further?”

“It’s no trouble,” Minorikawa said. “I’m just doing what a professional does. That’s all.”

Katayama let out a solemn sigh. “Good grief...”

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He looked at his pocket watch again, then snapped it shut. “Well, if you aren’t concerned about the time, then do as you like, I suppose. I’ll admit you’ve made me quite curious to read this magazine you’re putting together.”

Minorikawa and Chiaki rolled their eyes as they turned away. Already they were making their way over to Susumu and his gang.

The interviews aren’t over until you have what you need. You refuse to let them be over. You spend every last second you have to do the best job you can. That’s what being a professional journalist is all about.

Minorikawa cracked his knuckles and stepped between the two young men.

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“Sounds like you’ve got an interesting story. Mind letting me hear it, too?”

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With Minorikawa's story now finished, we're down to our original two - Achi and Kano.

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Well, let's see how Achi got here, then?

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  • Decided to show one last thing in Minorikawa's story off first.
Image Cigarette Smoke.

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“Take us to the Labyrinth in Ura-Harajuku!”

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“The Labyrinth in Ura-Harajuku, you said?” Kimizuka quirked an eyebrow.

“Is something the matter?”

“No, nothing at all. Hurry up and get in.”
428 Tip – Labyrinth wrote:A complex series of passageways designed to be difficult or confusing to navigate; a maze.

It will indeed by quite easy to get lost or disoriented in the place where Minorikawa is going (and where you’re going, too!) - but any maze can be solved with enough effort. All you need is perseverance and wit (though taking frequent notes wouldn’t hurt either). Best of luck!
Image Violation.

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“What the heck? What is this place?” Minorikawa had come to a pitch black void. A cold wind blew from deep within the darkness, carrying with it the sound of a bestial roar.

“It almost looks like a...dungeon of some sort,” Minorikawa said. “Well, I anticipated this much.” He pulled a fountain pen from his pocket. “It's no good bringing your gear with you if you don't actually equip it,” he said. Pen clutched firmly in his right hand, he strode boldly into the darkness.

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“Oho. A branching path, huh?” He'd been walking for some time; now, up ahead, there was a “T” that led both left and right. “And that sign there looks pretty important.” Minorikawa peered closely at the four lines written there.

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this is excellent.

right.

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Image Violation.

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“”I'm black and white'? What's all that about?”

The blue cat's heavy head wobbled as it answered Minorikawa's inquiry. “It's a hint! A hint saying that whatever it is is black and white.”

“Hmm. I get it. So by getting hints like this, I'll eventually be able to solve some riddle and win the challenge?”

“Ah-ah-ah, no questions, please! All you get is what's written here. Now go! Go forth!”

“Is that it? Wouldn't we normally have a battle here? “

“No, that's not my thing. It'd only make me hungry. Besides, that weapon of yours is way too flimsy.”

Minorikawa stuffed his fountain pen back into his pocket.

“A pen is best used as a pen,” the blue cat said. “But more importantly...” The cat lowered its voice. “There's a liar in here.”

“A liar?”

“Yes. Of course, I would never tell a lie. But everything the red cat says is untrue.”

“The red cat is a liar?”

“Yeah. A bold-faced liar. The boldest-faced of all.”

“Boldest-faced, huh?”

“Keep careful notes with that pen of yours, and carry on. Bye!”

And with that, the blue cat scampered off down the passageway. Minorikawa followed in the same direction.

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There appeared to be no other way to continue. Minorikawa headed down.

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to the right

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Image Violation.

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As before it wore a message around its neck.

“'I can't move under my own power.' Huh.” He jotted the words down on the palm of his hand. “Ah, shoot. I wrote 'can't mote' by mistake.” He tried to rub out the misspelled word with his fingers, but only managed to smudge the ink around.

“You got that? Yeah, you got that. Later, then.”

“Hey, hold up!” Minorikawa called out before the blue cat could disappear.

“What is it?” the cat asked.

“Well, I kinda messed up the note I just took...”

“Then hurry up and fix it.”

“Sorry about this... okay, got it.”

“Later, then.”

“Hold up!”

“What now?”

“I have to ask. Are you the liar?”

“No, I'm not. The red one is the liar.”

“Really?”

“Really. You can rest easy on that. Now I really do need to be going.” Wiping away the text from the whiteboard around its neck, the blue cat turned and vanished into the darkness.

Minorikawa followed in the same direction.

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From the bottom of the long ladder stretched another passageway. Minorikawa squinted, but it was too dark to see how far the tunnel might go on. He was starting to think it might be a good idea to turn back, but he couldn't bear to give up now. He walked onward, never looking back.

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To the right again

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Tie breaker between Left and Right.

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Image Violation.

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It had arranged them on a grill over a charcoal brazier and was using a brush to coat them in oil.

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Minorikawa swallowed, his mouth watering. “Hey, mind if I have one of those?” he asked.

The chicken gave a nod. “If you have some seaweed to wrap them in, they're ready to eat, but...”

Minorikawa took a look around. If someone was cooking rice cakes in a dreary place like this, it seemed reasonable to expect a shelf or something with some seaweed nearby. After all, there was a charcoal grill set up and everything. He soon caught a whiff of the scent of the seashore.

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“I see. These black walls are the seaweed!” Now it made sense that the chicken had come to a place like this in order to grill up some rice cakes. Minorikawa grabbed at the edge of one wall and peeled a piece off.

Image No music.

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Image Dread.

A section of wall toppled toward Minorikawa. It was heavy. Far heavier than seaweed ought to be. Then the other walls began to collapse in around him.

“Whooooaaaaaaa!”

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  • Do we want to reattempt the labyrinth, or go back to the main story? (Option C just leads to a Game Over.)

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Fuckin lmao
Let's try it again

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Image Setup.

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  • Achi starts off with a Keep Out.
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Kano’s cell phone rang; he saw Kuze’s name on the display.

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“Kano speaking.”

“What the hell are you doing?” The director’s voice was shrill with irritation. “What’s the situation with Maria Osawa?”

“I have her in custody, sir.”

“We need to get her into quarantine immediately. I’ll send a counter-NBC terrorism unit to pick her up. What’s your location?”
General Tip – Counter-NBC terrorism unit wrote:A Public Safety Mobile Investigation Unit belonging to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Public Security Bureau. The acronym “NBC” refers to Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical threats. The unit not only gathers information and investigates terror incidents that make use of these means, but also deploys relief and safety restoration measures.
“Sir, the situation’s a little complicated at the moment,” Kano replied. He and Stanley made eye contact.

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Kano gave him a knowing nod; he knew what he needed to do, here. He briefly informed Kuze of the plan to take Maria to the laboratory, but was careful not to mention Alphard. “Please, sir,” Kano said, bowing reflexively to the phone, “let me handle this.”

Image Shinya Kano

“Absolutely not!” Kuze exclaimed. “There’s no way I can allow that. Maria Osawa needs to go in quarantine right now.

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“Sir, please, just give us a little more time. Giving her the antiviral is the only way we can save her. If we put her in quarantine it’ll be a death sentence.”
General Tip – Quarantine wrote:The act of placing infectees in isolation, such as in a medical treatment facility, in order to prevent the spread of infection. For viruses capable of airborne transmission, an Airborne Infection Isolation Room (AIIR) is sometimes used, which employs negative air pressure to ensure that air from within the room does not leak outside.
Kuze let out a growl of frustration. “Kano, that isn’t your decision to make.”

Kano had run out of arguments. It was clear that Kuze’s only concern was stopping the spread of the virus. “Director Kuze, are you just going to let Maria Osawa die?”

“We can’t put the lives of everyone in Shibuya at risk in order to save a single person.”

“I know that, sir. That’s why I’m asking you to please let me go to that laboratory. And if it looks like we’re not going to be able to hack the password, then at that point, a quarantine can-”

“Kano!” Kuze snapped. “I’m giving you an order!"

“And I’m not accepting that order!”

“Listen,” Kuze said. “How many years have you been a cop?”

“What do you mean by that, sir?”

Kuze didn’t reply.

“Is this an order from up top? What’s going on here, sir? Please, I need some kind of explanation!”

“Stop it,” Kuze said. “You sound like a child. This is dereliction of duty.”

“Call me a child if you want, but I’m not following an order that I know isn’t right.”

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Kano punched the end call button with his thumb.

From an objective standpoint, maybe Kuze was right. They needed to think about more than just Maria. If the Ua Virus spread through Shibuya, it would be a nightmare of epic proportions. Kano understood that perfectly clearly. But still... He looked down at Maria’s face as she lay collapsed on the floor.

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This girl was still alive. And Kano couldn’t stand idly by and let a living, breathing person die. Consequences be damned-he wasn’t going to be the one to weigh the worth of someone’s life.

As he stood, still clutching his cell phone, Stanley gently set a hand on his shoulder.

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“You did fine,” he said quietly. “Alphard is in possession of the Ua virus. The people of Shibuya are already in danger. He may have already released the virus in the city; if he hasn’t, he may do so at any time. Right now, what we need to do is get that antiviral, and arrest Alphard. You made the right choice here.”

“Thanks, Stanley. I appreciate hearing that.” Stanley gave Kano a slap on the back.

He was right. At this point, they needed to focus on the things they could still accomplish.

“So, guys...” Achi stepped forward.

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“Who’s going to take Hitomi’s sister and Canaan to the lab?”

Maria was in no condition to walk, so they were going to have to take a car. Which meant they needed a driver.

“I only have a motorcycle license,” Achi said, “and I don’t know where the lab is, anyhow.”

“I should go with Maria alone.”

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Canaan looked over at the others. “There’s no way of knowing for sure when she might become contagious. We shouldn’t needlessly risk exposing more people to infection.”

She knelt down to gather Maria in her arms.

Image No music.

“In that case, I should drive.”

Kano whirled around at the sound of a new voice behind him.

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Tateno was standing in the doorway.

“You!” Achi’s face went red with rage.

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  • We've just passed the Jump point to unlock Achi's Keep Out.
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Image Maneuvers.

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“You!” Achi snarled.

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In the doorway stood the man with the cane.

“Detective Tateno?”

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“Tateno.”

Kano and Daisuke spoke simultaneously.

Now, at last, Achi had a name for the assassin. It was a name he felt he’d heard somewhere before.

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“You son of a bitch!” Achi roared. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Tateno bowed his head profusely. “I am truly sorry.”

“You’re sorry?! Sorry don’t cut it, man! Not after what you were trying to do to Hitomi!”

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“I don’t expect you to forgive me. And I intend to turn myself in, to be punished for my crimes. But before I do that, please, let me do what I can to help you.”

“I think you’ve helped enough!” Achi grabbed Tateno by the collar and drew back his fist.

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Kano moved to stop him, but Tateno held up a hand. “No. It’s all right. Let him do as he pleases.” There was no trace of the menacing expression the man had worn in their previous encounters.

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Achi scowled, but lowered his fist, then released his hold on Tateno’s collar. “Fine. Hitomi’s sister needs help, so we do need a driver right now. Make sure those two get to the lab and back safely. That’ll make up for that punch I didn’t give you just now.”

“Thank you. I am so sorry.”

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Daisuke stepped forward. “No. I’m the one who should be apologizing. I’m the one who got you caught up in this.”

“Daisuke...we really didn’t grow up to be very good people, did we?”

“No. Guess not.”

The two men stared bleakly at each other, shoulders slumped.

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“In the end,” Tateno said, “I guess we were just trying to run away from our pain.”

“Yeah. Didn’t expect my own son to be the one to teach me that.”

“Achi’s turned out to be a fine young man.”

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“He is Kotone’s boy, after all.”

“Guys!” Achi stepped into the middle of their solemn heart-to-heart. “You can get sappy all you want later. Dad, once this is all over, we’re going to go see Suzune, okay?”

“Sure.” Daisuke nodded heartily.

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“Hold on.” Kano spoke up, turning to Stanley. “If these two take Maria to the lab, that leaves just us two to apprehend Alphard down at the scramble. Is that going to be enough? I mean, Alphard’s not going to show up without a plan. The more people we have on our side, the better. And I doubt we’ll be able to get any help from the police.”

“Good point,” Stanley agreed.

Image Contemplation.

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“Hey!” Achi said. “I’m here, too. And I’m going with you. I’ll keep Hitomi safe.”

“Oh, look. Good news, Kano. Now we have three people.” Stanley let out a sardonic laugh.

Kano frowned. “Achi, I appreciate the offer, but having three people instead of two won’t make much of a difference. When you’re not sure of the enemy’s exact plan, you really need strength in numbers. If we could set up a dragnet like the task force did this morning, that’d be ideal, but...”

“Come on, Detective,” Achi said. “Don’t you have any idea what sort of approach this psycho might take?”

“If I were Alphard,” Kano mused, “then I suppose my biggest problem would be figuring out how to get away after I’d taken Hitomi’s blood.”

Stanley nodded in agreement. “I’m betting he plans to involve the Ua Virus,” he said. “If, for instance, he tells us he’s set up a device somewhere to spread the Virus throughout Shibuya, that prevents us from taking action against him.”

Achi swallowed hard.

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This guy wanted to unleash a killer virus in Shibuya? If he succeeded, then the town Achi had known and loved all his life would become a graveyard.

“Of course, that’s mere conjecture,” Stanley murmured. “Quite frankly, even I can only guess what he’s going to do.” His expression was grim.

“Strength in numbers, huh?” Achi said. “So you’re saying we absolutely need more people, is that it?”

“Essentially, yes,” Stanley replied. “But not just anyone, mind. If it’s not a group that meshes well, it’ll hinder more than help.”

Kano folded his arms across his chest; he looked perplexed.

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  • We already know Achi's going to end up going to S.O.S to ask for help.
Image Achi Endo.

He could ask S.O.S. If there was anything he could do, it was that.

It was a selfish request; he knew that. Susumu would probably be furious with him-but Achi would just have to deal with that. Even if his old pals wouldn’t forgive him, if they understood that they’d be helping protect Shibuya, he was sure they’d step up and take action. After all, the whole point of the gang was that it was made up of people who loved their town.

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“Can you gimme a half hour? I’m gonna try and see if I can rustle up some people.”

Kano straightened himself up. “You think you can do it?”

Achi nodded assertively.

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“Just wait here for me, okay?” he said to Hitomi.

She gave him a worried smile. “All right. I’ll be waiting.”

“It’ll be okay.” Achi did his best to sound reassuring. “I promise I’ll bring back some help.”

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He knew where he needed to go: the pool hall in Ura-Harajuku that was his old gang’s main hangout Running at top speed, he could probably make it in about ten minutes.

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“Awright!”

Rushing out the door with a battle cry loud enough for Kano and the others to hear from back inside the shop, Achi sped on his way.

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Traffic on Dogenzaka was at a near standstill. Had there been some sort of major accident? As Achi ran along the roadside, he heard a middle-aged man screaming angrily.

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Image Achi Endo.

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Calm down, old man.

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Achi ignored him and kept on running.

Image No music.

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Finally, he arrived at S.O.S.’s hideout. Two young men were standing by the door as lookouts. Achi recognized one of them. It was the kid whose so-called buddies had tried to shake him down earlier that afternoon.

They roused themselves as Achi approached.

“Hey! I need to see Susumu.”

“No can do. He’s in the middle of something right now.” The lookouts made no move to let him through.

Achi felt a surge of resentment towards Susumu. If he’d still been with S.O.S., he’d never try to post members on guard duty like they were low-ranking yakuza thugs.

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“Fine. Then I guess I’ll have to do this the hard way.” Achi forcibly shoved the two of them aside.

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But the two recovered quickly; before he could get in the door, they grabbed hold of him and pushed him away.

“Look, I don’t have time to screw around! Just go and tell Susumu that Achi’s here!”

At the mention of his name, the two lookouts exchanged wary glances.

“All right. I’ll go ask him.” One of the lookouts headed inside, leaving Achi alone with the kid he’d helped out earlier.

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“Do they always stick you on guard duty?”

The boy didn’t reply.

“Back when I ran with S.O.S., we never needed anyone on lookout. We were just a bunch of guys who loved Shibuya, and who had a fun time hanging out with each other. That’s all it was, really.”

“It’s not Susumu’s fault that S.O.S. Changed,” the boy said, somewhat fearfully. “Lately it’s Kiryu who’s been driving things.”

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“Kiryu? Oh yeah. That guy.” Achi recalled his earlier run-in with him. The guy was an arrogant bully.

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“Kiryu’s planning to steal Susumu’s throne.”

“What for?”

The boy took a nervous look at the door before hurriedly continuing. “He’s trying to expand S.O.S.’s influence. And he’s got a lot of people on his side. Right now, the gang is kinda split into two factions: Susumu’s guys and Kiryu’s guys.”

Finally Achi understood what was going on. The gang members had all been acting so weird because they were caught up in some kind of internal struggle.

“Kiryu goes around recruiting new followers by force. And if he doesn’t like you, he dishes out punishment. This month alone he’s sent eight people to the hospital. S.O.S. is a total mess, man.”

This plan of mine might not work after all. Achi felt a sinking sense of despair. If S.O.S. was ravaged with infighting, it was doubtful they’d heed the dangerous request he had for them.

Image Hitomi Osawa.

“But even still, I...I want to be a part of this gang,” the boy muttered.

Achi peered at him in surprise. “Why? They shake you down for dues, stick you on guard duty-that’s not a decent way to treat someone.”

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“I look up to Susumu. He treats me like he would anyone else, even though I’m way down at the bottom. And, it’s not just me. Susumu always puts the members of the gang before himself. That’s why I want to stick with S.O.S.”

Aha. So that’s it, huh?

Susumu really had been trying his best. And the members of S.O.S.-some of them, at least-admired him for it and stuck by him.

“Thanks!” Achi said.

The kid gave him a dubious look.

Achi didn’t know if Susumu would help him out or not. But he knew it was still worth putting their disagreements aside in order to ask.

The door opened, and the other lookout returned. “Susumu says to come on in.” Achi nodded, and strode inside.

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  • Another Keep Out we can unlock straight away.
Image Implications.

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Image No music.

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The scent of alcohol and cigarettes washed over him.

Susumu sat on the sofa at the far end of the bar. It was where Achi used to sit, back in the day.

“What do you want?” Susumu asked immediately.

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Achi walked up to him and then got down on his hands and knees.

“Huh? What’re you doing down there? The hell is this all about?”

“I need people to bring a guy down. I’m here to ask for your help.”

The crowd around him flew into an uproar. Peals of mocking laughter rang in Achi’s ears. “I know I have no right to ask you this. But please, I really need your help.”

“Just some guy, huh? Who?”

“He’s an international terrorist trying to get his hands on some wonder drug for a killer virus. If we don’t catch him, somebody I know is going to die. And that’s not all. He might try to unleash the killer virus here in the city.”

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Susumu burst out laughing. “This some kind of joke? You all right in the head there, Achi?”

The other gang members followed his lead, unleashing another storm of mockery. The laughter continued for quite some time.

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I think Achi would grit his teeth and wait.

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Achi said nothing. He endured the ridicule and simply stared up at Susumu. As patiently as he could, he waited for Susumu to give the proverbial nod.

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Finally, the laughter subsided, and Susumu crouched down and got in Achi’s face. “Is that how you go about asking someone a favor?” Susumu growled menacingly.

“If you have a problem with me kowtowing like this, I can apologize some other way, all you want. But don’t you care that I just told you Shibuya is in danger?” Achi’s voice was unwavering. “But face it, Susumu-isn’t Shibuya the reason everyone here hangs out with each other? If you’re telling me you don’t want to keep our town safe, then I won’t ask you guys for anything again. I withdraw my request.” The two glared into each other’s eyes.

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Then, before Susumu could reply, an odd man stepped in between them. “Sounds like you’ve got an interesting story,” he said. “Mind letting me hear it, too?”

“You again? Didn’t you already get your interview?” Susumu rolled his eyes.

“I think Grovels here might be telling the truth.” The newcomer’s face was all seriousness. “It lines up with the information I have. Hey, Grovels. You got a second?”

“My name’s not Grovels,” Achi growled. “It’s Achi.”

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“I’m Minoru Minorikawa, magazine reporter. And I know a bit about that stuff you were saying just now: The killer virus you mentioned is called the Ua virus. That ‘wonder drug’ is an antiviral medication. And the person you know who might die is Maria Osawa. Am I right?”

Achi was almost too shocked for words. “How...how do you know all that?”

Minorikawa ignored him and turned to the S.O.S. leader. “Susumu,” he said, “something really is going down in Shibuya. What are you going to do about it, boss?”

Susumu bit his lip. He looked pretty conflicted.

“Sounds good to me,” someone called out. “Let’s give ‘em a hand.”

Image Confusion.

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Achi turned to see where the voice had come from.

It was Kiryu.

You shut up,” Susumu said with a glare.

“Break out of your rut, old man,” Kiryu sneered. “Achi here is right. Isn’t keeping our beloved Shibuya safe what S.O.S. does?”

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He slipped an arm around Achi’s shoulders. “You’re okay with that, right, Achi? Me going against Susumu’s orders to help you out?” Kiryu’s lips pulled back in a broad unsettling grin. “But first-we have unfinished business, you and I. I mean, I’m willing to lend a hand even though you ditched the gang and all. But first we’ve got to settle our score-here and now. You understand, don’t you?”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

Kiryu grinned hungrily.

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“It’s Guillotine time!”

A bunch of the gang members started up an eager clamor at Kiryu’s pronouncement.

In a matter of moments, Achi was grabbed from all sides and hoisted up onto a pool table. A dozen young men held down his arms and legs, positioning him so his head jutted out past the table’s edge.

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Kiryu brought out a steel pipe nearly a meter long. It was caked liberally with dried blood.

“Guillotine!”

“Guillotine! Guillotine!”

“Guillotine! Guillotine! Guillotine!”

The men of Kiryu’s faction pumped their fists in the air, chanting madly.

Kiryu licked his lips as if drunk off of their cheers.

Glancing to one side, Achi saw Minorikawa speaking emphatically to Susumu. It looked like the reporter was trying to talk some sense into the S.O.S. Leader.

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“Man, today is my lucky day. I get to take the head...of S.O.S.’s original head!”

Achi twisted his neck to peer up at him. “Man, what point is there in taking my head right now?”

“Oh, my, my, my. You don’t get it, do you? See, if I send you to the hospital, everyone is Shibuya is going to know my name. And once I’ve got that big-ass sign over my head, I’ll be able to unite this town under my banner in one fell swoop.” Kiryu’s eyes were crazed and bloodshot.

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“Then that’s all the more reason for you to do as I’m asking. If you want to unite Shibuya, you have to protect it, first. But if you think you need to take my head to do that, then go right ahead.”

Even if these guys were all like Kiryu, if this many of them actually showed up at the scramble, they’d be able to do far more than Achi could hope to by himself. The ultimate goal was to capture Alphard. Achi didn’t care how they made that happen. He was just sorry he wouldn’t get to see it through-to protect Hitomi to the very end.

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Do it

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Image Confusion.

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“Go on. Do it.” Achi braced himself. “Just make sure you keep your promise.”

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Kiryu raised the steel pipe high above his head. And then, before he brought it down, he flicked the tip of his tongue from his mouth like a snake.

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“You dumbass. I didn’t promise you nothin’.”

Achi strained in sudden panic, but his limbs were pinned down too forcefully for him to have any hope of avoiding what was to come.

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But the steel pipe never struck home. Just when it was about to smash into Achi’s head, Susumu grabbed hold of it.

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“The hell you doin’?!”

“Enough of this crap, Kiryu.”

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Susumu yanked the pipe from Kiryu’s grasp and tossed it onto the floor.

Kiryu stood frozen in surprise; a vein pulsed angrily in his forehead.

“You guys, too,” Susumu added, glaring at the others. “Let him go.”

The toughs holding Achi down cautiously took their hands away.

Kiryu let out a red-faced cry of rage. “But we got unfinished business!”

Ignoring him, Susumu helped Achi slide off the table.

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“Every man gets to make one request in his life that cannot be denied. Do you remember saying that?”

The words stirred up some bitter memories within Achi. “Yeah. Yeah, I remember.”

“But you didn’t grant me my request.”

“No, I guess not.”

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“That’s why I’m going to heed yours, no questions asked.” Susumu held out his right hand.

“Susumu...you are...?”

“That’ll make me the better man. Finally.”

Achi reached out and clasped Susumu’s hand in his. “Yeah,” Achi said, letting his relief show in his face. “You’re quite the guy.”

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Susumu cracked a tiny grin. It was the sort of smile Achi had seen all the time back when he’d run with S.O.S.

Suddenly, Susumu staggered and dropped to the floor, falling too fast even to cry out.

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Kiryu had snatched the steel pipe back from the floor, striking Susumu from behind once his back was turned. “To hell with this!” he howled like a madman. “S.O.S. doesn’t belong to you guys-not any more! I won’t allow it!”

Achi didn’t flinch. “S.O.S. doesn’t belong to anyone,” he said. “It’s not mine, it’s not Susumu’s, and it isn’t yours. We’re just a bunch of friends hanging out and having a good time. That’s the only reason we get together. Nothing more, nothing less.” He turned and looked slowly around the room.

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“Hey, you guys! Do you all get together because someone told you to assemble? Do you get together to follow someone’s orders?! No, you don’t! Of course you don’t!”

The bar fell silent. Achi could see the young men who surrounded him exchanging glances; they could tell that his words rang true. Kiryu saw it, too-and it only made him more and more agitated.

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“Shut up! Enough with the warm fuzzies!” Abruptly he charged forward, giving the steel pipe a mighty swing.

Achi managed to dodge the attack by a mere hair. If it had connected, the blow might well have knocked his head clean off. He quickly backed away.

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“What’s the matter?” Kiryu taunted. “How come all you do is run?!”

Image Escape.

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The pipe crashed down onto the bar top. Bottles of beer and liquor smashed and scattered.

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“C’mon! What’s the matter, Achi?!”

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Kiryu slammed his weapon into the pool table, sending balls scattering across the floor. Some of them collided with Susumu.

“Urgh...” Susumu let out a faint groan. Smirking at the sound, Kiryu stalked toward him.

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“Speaking of ‘unfinished business.”’ With a gleaming grin, Kiryu took aim at Susumu’s head, lifting the pipe up high.

“Stop!” Before he could think better of it, Achi was rushing for his fallen friend.

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“Heh, you dumbass.” Without missing a beat, Kiryu shifted his weight and swung the steel pipe at Achi’s temple.

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Achi responded with a fast high kick with his right leg. The steel pipe connected hard with his shin, but it was Kiryu who went reeling off balance.

“Kiaaaahhh!”

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Achi pivoted and put all his might into a straight right to Kiryu’s jaw. The blow struck home; Kiryu’s head snapped back, and he crumpled to the floor.

There was a momentary hush of indrawn breath. Then the bar erupted in a wild clamor that practically shook the whole building. All eyes were fixed on Achi, marveling at what they had just seen go down.

Image Echo.

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“Heh. Sounds like folks were hoping for a little more of a fight.” Susumu got to his feet, his left hand clutching his right shoulder.

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“You all right?” Achi asked.

“Mostly. Guess my shoulder took the brunt of the blow.”

The gang members from Kiryu’s faction rushed to their unconscious leader’s side. Achi shot them a steely glare, and they gathered up Kiryu and dragged him out of the bar.

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“I didn’t go too far here, did I?” Achi asked Susumu. “Is this gonna cause trouble for you?”

“No. I figured Kiryu would pull something like this eventually. It was just a question of when.”

“Right.”

“I’m sure he’s going to go gather up his own bunch after this. We’ll probably wind up butting heads again.” Susumu didn’t sound especially eager for that fight-but he didn’t sound especially afraid of it, either.

Achi was still worried about a few things, but his friend had clearly grown as a leader.

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“Anyhow-back to that story about you needing some manpower. Will the guys here be enough?”

There were around thirty gang members still in the bar. Achi looked each of them in the eye in turn. Some he knew from back in the day, while others were fresh faces.

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“I was born and raised in this town. I’m fond of the friends I’ve met here, and this has always been a great place to have a good time. And today, right here in this town, I met someone who’s very special to me. And I know this doesn’t involve the rest of you, but I’m willing to protect her.” Achi knew he wasn’t doing a great job of getting to the point, but the members of S.O.S. listened quietly.

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“And so...it’s like...um...” He felt like a grade-schooler who didn’t know the answer to a difficult question. He fussed with his hair and frowned sheepishly. “Okay, so I’m not sure how to really put this, but Shibuya is a special town to me because of getting to meet people like that. And maybe...no, I mean, it’s like that for you guys, too? Don’t you love Shibuya? So help me help this town!” He bowed low and deep. “I want to protect this girl who means so much to me, and the city that means so much to me as well.”

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“I know my answer.” Susumu clapped a hand on Achi’s shoulder.

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“Listen up, everyone! S.O.S.’s original founder is back in action! He needs our help, and I for one am ready to follow him into battle! Whaddya say?!”

Susumu’s people let out a hearty cheer.

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When Achi marched back into his home followed by thirty members of his old gang, Hitomi and Kano were obviously overjoyed to see him. Their happiness raised his own spirits unexpectedly high. He felt a palpable sense of accomplishment. “All right, Detective!” Achi shouted. “Let’s do this!” His resounding cry echoed throughout the workroom, and the gang set out for the scramble.

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“What’s the matter?” Hitomi asked Achi as they made their way through the busy streets.

“What’s the matter with what?”

“You look pretty pale.” She peered good and hard into his face.

“Do I now?”

“Are you tired or something? I mean you’ve kind of been going all-out all day long, after all.”

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“Nah, it’s nothing.” Achi kept his voice nice and bright. “I’m just a little hungry, is all. So don’t worry ’bout me-or Alphard, either, okay? I swear I’ll keep you safe, Hitomi.”

“All right.” Hitomi gave a tiny nod.

“Just leave it to me! Alphard’s got nothin’ on this guy!”

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He thumped his chest in a display of bravado, but he could feel the sweat heading on his brow.

Image Contemplation.

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When they reached the scramble, Achi took his place at the location specified by the battle plan Kano had drawn up. Hitomi was only a few meters away. Whatever happened, he was in a good position to shield her from harm.

There were three minutes left until the appointed rendezvous. Achi wondered what sort of person was going to show up. Still, he knew he couldn’t scan the crowd too much. He needed to act as naturally as possible so Alphard wouldn’t be suspicious.

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He risked a glance over at Hitomi. Maybe now wasn’t the time for admiring, but he couldn’t help but think how cute she looked.

In some ways, seeing her there felt similar to when he’d first seen her that morning, in the very same spot. The difference was that, this time, it wasn’t just Hitomi’s good looks that made him find her so attractive.

They might have only spent a few hours together, but in that time he’d learned a lot about her as a person. He knew what was important to her. What her worries were. Her wants and desires.

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And also, he’d learned what a kindhearted person she was. Achi recalled what had happened back in the workroom. Even though her own life had been in danger all day, Hitomi had shed tears for his father and his sister. She really understood people’s grief and suffering.

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“What do I do if I can’t protect someone as good as her?” Achi muttered under his breath, clutching his right leg. His shin was throbbing wickedly where the pipe had smashed against it. He’d been okay walking, so far, but any intense fighting and the leg might just give out. But he couldn’t let himself worry about that now.

If it came down to it, he’d be a human shield to protect Hitomi if he had to.

Achi looked at his watch. Only one minute to go before 7:00 pm.

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He glanced again at Hitomi, and saw her eyes widen with surprise. Quickly he followed her gaze across the plaza.

He spotted a tall white man approaching.

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  • Back to Kano.
Image Achi Endo.

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Achi’s protests were vehement, but he backed down at last. Tateno would escort Canaan and Maria to the lab.

That left three to try to apprehend Alphard: Kano, Stanley, and Achi. Having only three people was a dicey prospect, though, so Achi took it upon himself to head out and gather some backup.

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Tateno got the car keys from Daisuke, then helped Canaan pick Maria up off the floor. Kano watched him warily.

There was no trace of the bloodcurdling expression the older detective had shown when he was holding Maria at gunpoint. His face was that of a man with a responsibility-the Tateno that Kano had always known.

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“Are you sure you’re okay doing this?” Hitomi asked Tateno. “You might get infected.”

“That doesn’t matter. Don’t worry about me. All I care about now is helping you two if I can.” He hesitated, glancing down at the unconscious girl he held. “By the way...have Maria’s memories come back?”

Hitomi tilted her head. “Her memories?”

“I suspect she took a blow to the head when she was abducted. When I ran into her earlier, she didn’t even know her own name.”

“Well, she seemed like the same sister I’ve always known when she came in here.”

“Good. Then her memory must have recovered.”

Kano was shocked to hear that Maria had suffered amnesia. But it explained why she hadn’t contacted anyone after she’d been set free.

“All right, then,” Tateno said. “We’ll be back.” Carrying Maria, he and Canaan headed for the door.

“Detective Tateno.”

ImagePride.

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Kano called out, then paused, tongue-tied, when Tateno stopped.

“I...”

There were so many things Kano wanted to say. But he couldn’t find the words for any of them.

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“Once Maria is safe, I’ll turn myself in.” Tateno kept his back turned.

The words were like a dagger in Kano’s heart. Once this was all over, Tateno would no longer be a detective, but a criminal. Kano knew there was no alternative; but still the realization hit him hard.

“Detective Tateno, I...”

“Stop your dithering.”

“But-”

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“Never lose sight of what you’re supposed to protect. Ever.”

Kano snapped back to attention at Tateno’s words. That was Dick Dictum #1, the advice that had kicked off the whole Dick Diary.

“I’m not the one you should be worrying about right now,” Tateno continued. “We need to save Maria Osawa’s life, and protect the people of Shibuya.”

Kano bit his lip.

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B. Get the feelings out.

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ImagePride.

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“I know that, but...” Kano still wanted to express his regret at how things had turned out for his idol.

“You really are a terrible policeman, you know.” Tateno gave him the bare hint of a smile, then headed out of the room.

And as Kano watched him go, he realized he really didn’t have anything to say.

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There were only thirty minutes remaining until the time when Alphard had told them Hitomi should be at the scramble. They needed to get ready for action.

“Is the surveillance camera system still up?” Kano asked.

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“Yes,” Daisuke replied. “It looks like what happened earlier was just a temporary hacking job.”

“Then will you help us?”

Daisuke inclined his head. “What do you mean?”

“I’d like you to keep your eye on the scramble for us. If anyone suspicious tries to get near Hitomi, let us know.”

“Anyone suspicious? How will I know what’s suspicious?”

“Like that organ trafficker who suggested you kidnap Hitomi, Mr. Endo. It’s possible that he might be Alphard. Would you be able to recognize his face?”

Daisuke furrowed his brow deeply as he began entering commands on his keyboard. “Yeah. Don’t think I could ever forget. It’s because of him that I...” He left the rest unsaid.

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A moment later, several of the monitors switched over to feeds from around the scramble.

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“All right.” Daisuke squinted at the images. “I’m not sure how much help I can be, but...let me at least try to atone for what I’ve done.”

“Of course. And thank you.”

Image Decision.

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Daisuke’s fingers flew over the keyboard, and soon all of the monitors were focused on the scramble and its surroundings. Then he carefully adjusted the angle and zoom for each of the cameras.

Now the whole area was under total surveillance. All they had to do was get their stakeout crew to the scene.

“Where did Achi go?” Kano asked Hitomi.

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“I’m not totally sure, but I think he went to find some of his old friends.” Hitomi sounded worried.

“Friends?”

“Achi used to belong to a gang called S.O.S. Actually, he told me he was the one who formed the gang in the first place.”

“What?” Kano couldn’t keep the shock from his voice.

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Achi was the founder of S.O.S? How bizarre that the two of them would wind up meeting each other this way...

“But, I guess there was a big falling out between them. So I think he went to try and win them back over.”

Kano hadn’t heard anything good about S.O.S. since Achi had left them. If things had ended on bad terms between him and the gang, getting them to help might well be a lost cause. And even if Achi was able to gather some people up, how much would Kano and the others be able to trust them?

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“It’ll be all right,” Hitomi said, as if sensing Kano’s thoughts. “I’m sure Achi will bring back some of his old friends. And when he does bring them, I’m sure he’ll choose people we can count on.”

“You really trust him, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Hitomi said without hesitation; then a blush came to her cheeks.

“All right. Then I’ll trust him, too.”

It would take about ten minutes to get from Endo Electronics to the scramble. Kano turned to Stanley. “Let’s plan to head out by 6:50.”

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Stanley gave no reply. He had withdrawn to the edge of the room, where he stood lost in thought, his expression uneasy.

Kano decided to leave him alone for a bit. Taking a sheet of paper from one of the desks, he began drafting a plan for positioning Achi’s reinforcements around the scramble. “All right, there we go.” In about five minutes, he had drawn up a little map of the optimal places to deploy the team. It included positions for as many as twenty people Achi might bring back.

“Kano.”

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Kano turned around, surprised to find Stanley right behind him all of a sudden. The American looked haggard.

“Is something the matter?” Kano asked.

“You need to go to the scramble without me.”

“What?! Where’s this coming from all of a sudden?”

“Please, don’t ask me to explain. Something else has come up, and I have to see to it.” Sweat beaded on Stanley’s brow.

Whatever had happened, Kano had no doubt it was something major. And almost certainly, it had something to do with Alphard.

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User avatar
I imagine B is the right answer but Stanley has played his cards close to his chest for a while, so A

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