Chapter Two: Return to Kimoto Manor:
Tsuzuki trailed the assistant funeral director to the crematorium grounds. Right then as he thought, a hitch arose. The usual cremator wasn’t at his post. Instead, a new guy in his twenties prepared the cremation. Tsuzuki watched on with a lump in his throat.
/Oh shit!/, he thought. The man hadn’t counted on this! The Shinigami drew in a deep breath and walked over to the coffin and the new guy.
“Hey there,” Tsuzuki said to the other guy. The young cremator paused and looked up at him. A puzzled look came onto his face.
“Sir,” the new guy spoke up. “What exactly are you doing here?” He looked about nineteen years old and fresh out of college. The Shinigami looked around for a moment.
“Where’s Narusawa-san?” he asked. The new guy looked at him surprised by that question.
“Haven’t you heard?” he asked.
“Heard what?” the shinigami asked.
“Narusawa-san died five days ago in Osaka. I took his place,” the new guy answered. A sweat drop formed on the Shinigami’s head.
“Oh yeah…” Tsuzuki replied. He just now remembered that little fact. The ministry heard about that as well. Okay, the plan just took a hard hit there. Seeing Anna again messed up his mind so much that he missed some important details. Narusawa-san’s death slipped his mind when he looked into the woman’s greenish-brown eyes. Tsuzuki pulled out a bottle of sake he managed to nix from Narusawa-san’s old stash in the cleaning closet.
“Drink?” he offered the new guy. The younger man shook his head.
“Nah,” he replied. “I’m straight edge.” Tsuzuki looked at him puzzled.
“Straight edge?” he asked.
“Yeah,” the cremator replied. “No drinking, drugs, or smoking!”
“I see…” the Shinigami replied. The cremator went back to his work. Tsuzuki looked on, biting his lower lip. He had to get Anna out of that casket or she would burn to death. The Shinigami looked around again for a little help. Tsuzuki spotted the guy’s cremation license in his brown fake leather wallet sitting on the table with the crematory supplies. He quietly took it from his wallet and slipped it into his pocket.
Plan B took effect right… now!
“So you’re new, right?” the Shinigami asked him aloud.
“Yeah,” his “friend” replied.
“Where’s your license?” Tsuzuki asked. The younger gentleman turned around, smiling.
“I’ll show you,” he replied. The man walked over to his wallet. Tsuzuki silently watched on. The new cremator opened his wallet and looked inside.
“Oh crap!” he mumbled as panic met his face. Tsuzuki gave him a curious look.
“What’s the matter?” he asked. His “friend” looked up at him pale as a ghost.
“It’s gone!” he yelped. “My license is gone!” The Shinigami looked on with fake concern.
“Did you lose it somewhere?” he asked.
“No, I had it in my wallet like I normally do,” the cremator replied. He sank down to the ground in a squat. He buried his face in his hands.
“Oh this is bad! I could get arrested for cremating without a license!” he moaned.
“Okay, calm down,” Tsuzuki spoke up. “Maybe you left it at home or something.” The younger man looked up, nodding with a desperate smile.
“Yeah,” he said, “I was in a hurry this morning. I must have left it at home!” The cremator rose to his face and turned to the Shinigami.
“I’ll be right back,” he said. “My apartment is just a few blocks from this funeral home!” Then, the new guy ran all the way home to go fine his “missing” license.
“Right…” Tsuzuki replied, giving a small wave. /Now to finish up here/, he thought.
Once he was sure the young man had gone, Tsuzuki opened the casket. Anna smiled at him as she lain waiting inside. The Shinigami smiled at her in relief.
“You okay?” he asked softly.
“Yeah,” she said with a nod.
“Let’s go!” Tsuzuki whispered. The woman nodded again. The Shinigami helped her out of the casket and shut it back. They hurried out of the crematory yard invisibly.
“What about your friend?” Anna asked in his arms.
“He’ll be fine,” the Shinigami replied. “I put his license back on the table before I got you.”
“Ah,” Anna replied. He took her all the way back to the old Kimoto manor within two hours time. The woman looked around in her bewilderment as they stood just two feet from the abandoned house.
“I don’t get it,” she said, “Why are we here?” Tsuzuki shrugged.
“Don’t really know,” he replied. “Just thought it would be a good place to hide you for now.” Anna looked at the old decaying building. Despite the dirt and weathering of the exterior, the house look just the same as it did in her memories. The place hadn’t been touched since that dreadful night…
“We can go somewhere else if you want,” Tsuzuki suggested. Anna looked up with big eyes at him.
“No!” she said as waved her hand back and forth. “This will do just fine. I have to face my past to find the truth anyway!”
“Alright,” Tsuzuki replied, sounding rather uncertain about the whole idea.
They broke into the empty house and went inside. He took her into the old living room. Still looked the same since 1999, only older and emptier except for some pieces of chipped furniture left over by the police. Small traces of Daisuke’s blood still stained the tatami mats. Tsuzuki and Anna tried to look away as they sat at the chipped black and gold coffee table facing each other. The Shinigami took a long while to get a good look at the girl he tried to comfortable ten years ago.
Had it really been that long? Anna used to have her straight auburn hair in a long ponytail when he first met her. Now, she had it out in a loose and neatly trimmed hime cut to her small, creamy-toned shoulders. The same old choppy bangs still hid her forehead. He could never escape from those greenish-brown eyes of hers—not then, not now. Anna’s face still reminded Tsuzuki of a little traditional baby doll in a museum. Her cheeks managed to stay plump and rosy after so long. Her Japanese and American attributes blended together to form a natural charm to her whole being.
/Damn, who knew ten years in America could do all of that to a person?/, he thought as his eyes stayed glued to her chest. Even those grew into a rather attractive shape of the passing years.
“Yes, they are real and 40 C,” Anna announced aloud. The Shinigami about jumped when she said that.
“Why are you telling me that?!?” he yelped. Anna laughed at him.
“You were staring at my breasts, weren’t you?” she challenged. Tsuzuki panicked as he brain dug for an answer.
“Yeah… I mean, no… I mean…” he tried to reason, “Why would you say something like that?!?” Anna laughed again.
“I only tell that to guys I like!” she replied playfully with devilish intent. The Shinigami blinked at her rather confused.
“You… like me?” he asked her.
“Maybe,” Anna replied before giggling again. Tsuzuki relaxed, still trying to follow the sudden turn the atmosphere took.
/She seems to like messing with me!/, he thought. Somehow, her goofy nature reminded him of something that he just had to now. Tsuzuki became serious for a moment.
“Hey Anna,” the Shinigami spoke up. The woman turned her attention back to him.
“Yes?” she asked.
“What are you doing back in Japan after so long?” he asked. Anna’s moon shifted to a serious as well.
“I wanted to find out why my father was murdered,” she replied. Tsuzuki pretended to look surprised.
“Wasn’t he killed during the home invasion?” he asked.
“I thought so too,” Anna replied, “But then two months ago, Kato-san came to visit me in California. He told me that my papa was murdered because of a hit placed on him ten years ago. I didn’t believe him at first; or rather I didn’t want to believe him. Then Kato-san put his hand on mine and shut his eyes. He began chanting something, but his voice was so soft that I could barely make out what he saying. Suddenly, I felt a little tingle all over my body as he spoke. Somehow, I saw bits and pieces of everything in a haze.”
“How do you mean?” the Shinigami asked her, bent on learning more about this encounter. Anna shook her head.
“I can’t really explain it,” she replied. “Kato-san just touched me on the hand and told me he took away the blindness in my heart. I felt as if I couldn’t ignore the gravity of the situation any longer.” Tsuzuki watched on in suspicion. Something about this Kato-san guy seemed pretty off. He tells Anna that Daisuke’s murder was targeted, took away the “blindness” in her heart as he claimed, then she comes to Japan, gets murdered, and Kato hands Tsuzuki the Hell stone to bring her back. It all smelled like a scheme.
“So you came back to Japan to find out the truth and got killed instead?” Tsuzuki asked.
“Yeah,” Anna replied, “How am I alive now?” Tsuzuki hesitated at first. He knew this would happen. Something told him that using the Hell Stone and keeping her alive was a bad idea; but yet, something about her made it worth getting deeper and deeper into this mess. So, deeper and deeper Tsuzuki went.
“I put a Hell Stone inside of you,” he admitted quickly. Anna didn’t understand him there at all.
“What do you mean?” she asked. “What is a Hell Stone?” Tsuzuki shook his head.
“I’ll tell you later,” he replied. “Do you have any idea who would have wanted you dead?” Anna shook her head as she frowned.
“No,” she replied. “I didn’t see my attacker. I was getting ready for bed that night when someone snuck up behind me, grabbed me, and muzzled me. The last thing I remember is feeling the wires around my neck being pulled tighter and tighter until I died.” A little disappointment crept into Tsuzuki’s eyes.
Figures!/, he thought. /She doesn’t know anything at all! He knew he should pull the stone out and be done with it there. However, something inside held him back. The Shinigami just couldn’t figure out what or why. It wouldn’t hurt to let her live long enough to find out the truth, would it? Surely the boss wouldn’t mind, would he?
Tsuzuki stayed up talking until it got late. He happened to look at his watch and panic.
“Oh no!” he cried.
“What is it?” Anna asked.
“I forgot about that I was supposed to meet up with my partner hours ago!” he explained. “He’s going to be so mad at me for standing me up!” He rose to his feet. Before leaving, he glanced over his shoulder her.
“Are you sure you’re be okay by yourself tonight?” he asked. Anna gave him a brave smile as she nodded.
“Yep!” she said. “I don’t think whoever killed me knows I’m alive again yet.”
“That is possible,” he said, “But I’ll be back in the morning to check on you, okay?”
“Alright,” Anna replied, “Good night.”
“Night,” Tsuzuki said. Despite hurrying out the door, the Shinigami left feeling warm seeing Anna alive once more. He would probably get in trouble for it later, but he didn’t really think about that at the time. Anna felt that same warmth from seeing him after so long. She began to remember the moments he stayed with her in the garden in the rain-filled darkness. That night brought her tragedy and happiness all at once. Speaking of which…
Anna stood up from the coffee table and walked down the darkened hall. She used her memory to find where Daisuke’s old office used to be.
/Last door to the left/, Anna thought to herself. She found it right away. The door stared the woman down like a hungry cat to a mouse. Anna drew in a deep breath and slide the door open wide.
Just like everything else in the manor, Daisuke’s office was the same, only older. Anna felt so cold being here. She wanted to turn back now, but if she did that, Anna wouldn’t know what happened to her father ever. At the moment, she needed to sleep. The woman walked over to Daisuke’s old leftover futon, lied down on it, curled up, and went to sleep.
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