A wise man once said that reality was sometimes stranger than fiction.

Such were the thoughts of one Asakura Dan, five minutes to midnight, as he finished with an episode of the documentary series he’d been binge watching in the safehouse he shared with his gang.

Try as he might, Dan struggled to wrap his mind around how things like gene editing and experimental gene therapy were real, albeit exactly as controversial as one would expect them to be. Even more mind-boggling to Dan was the idea that human genes could be altered almost as soon as a person was conceived. Most of all, he found it incredible to fathom that a genetically altered human could and would then go on to pass those altered genes to their offspring. Despite the controversy that these ideas unsurprisingly generated, as well as the almost-certainly prohibitive costs involved that would render such procedures inaccessible to all but those at the highest levels of the socioeconomic scale, the mere thought that one could theoretically eradicate undesirable or even unambiguously detrimental genetic and hereditary traits from their bloodline was truly incredible.

Then again, mused Dan with a wry grin, I’ve just recently borne witness to more than my fair share of crazy.

Of course, the same held true for the rest of his gang who were just with him the other Wednesday. After all, most people generally considered it impossible for an individual to be capable of getting back on their feet after taking a bullet right between the eyes, let alone several dozen shots all over body. Even more unfathomable was the idea of a man not just shrugging off multiple gunshots in a row, but instantly regenerating from such extensive damage as nothing had happened. Even if they were to dismiss their adversary’s supposed deal with the devil as superstitious occult nonsense, there was no denying what Dan and his crew had encountered that fateful night.

And to think our lives used to be so much less complicated.

And then, all of a sudden, a phone call from an unknown number distracted him from those rambling thoughts.

“Good evening, Asakura,” said the unidentified caller.

For a moment, Dan thought the authorities had finally caught up with him – that the police finally managed to trace him, and that he and his boys could be looking at prison time sometime soon. Luckily for him, however, the person on the other end turned out to be someone he’d spoken to before. It was the client who hired them to carry out a hit on the very same person they’d encountered just a little more than a week ago. Dan offered the assignment to Haru, having anticipated that the young man would take the chance to exact payback on the one directly responsible for inflicting mental and psychological torture on him, on top of his friendship with a boyhood friend. And as it turned out, he barely had to ask.

“This better be important,” Dan responded, not bothering with pleasantries or any preamble whatsoever. “What is it?”

“Bad news, I’m afraid. Your boy’s been taken by the RCPD.”

The hardened criminal’s mouth fell half an inch open in mingled concern, disappointment, and surprise. “What happened to him?”

“I’ve just been to see him. He’s alive, but in bad shape from what I’ve seen.”

Dan closed his eyes and shook his head. He’d been prepared for it – Harusaki Ayumu was many things, after all, but a killer wasn’t one of them – but that prior preparation and knowledge on his part did nothing to soften the blow. This assignment aside, Haru had always been one of his most reliable and versatile subordinates, capable of both getting things done and of being discreet about it. And while it was never pleasant to hear that an associate or subordinate of his had suffered some sort of mishap, Haru was the least deserving as far as their little gang was concerned.

“I think they broke his mind,” the client added.

…Fucking hell.

“Can the rest of your guys get this done on short notice?”

The professional considered it. It’d be easy enough to call some of his boys and tell them to get to work, and after all, someone had to make that kid pay – not just for what he did to them last week, but for what he’d just done to Haru tonight. Then again, their target’s superpowers begged the question of how they expected to go about killing a man who didn’t seem capable of dying. If he, Dan, were to send his boys to work so soon after Haru’s failed attempt, he had to be sure he wouldn’t just end up getting them killed, or worse.

We’re professionals here, not Leeroy Jenkins.

“Don’t worry about the how,” the client assured Dan, clearly having anticipated these misgivings on his part. “I’ll have it handled, and I’ll make it worth your while. All you guys need to worry about now is actually getting the job done.”

If you say so.

“Alright,” Dan finally replied after a long silence. “We’ll do it.”

“Excellent. Here’s the when, and here’s the how…”

Shugo grimaced to himself, seeing how he was completely surrounded.

It was just a few minutes past 11 o’clock that Furukawa Shugo left the RCPD. Saaya, Riku made separate offers to drive him home, only for the teen to turn both offers down. Given how one of their colleagues had just reported an incident that occurred in the interrogation room, he figured that he was the least of their concerns right now. Besides, thought Shugo, he was more than capable of getting home via public transportation late at night.

Brought down to normal or not, I can take care of myself.

For their part, both cops tried to get him to reconsider. Riku argued that having at least one of them see him home wouldn’t be that much trouble, especially when measured against all the help the teen had been giving them by way of his nightly patrols. For her part, Saaya called his attention to how he’d already been attacked just earlier that day, and that he wouldn’t have his supernaturally accelerated healing factor to bail him out in case someone else were to try another attempt on his life. On top of that, Ryoma backed both his subordinates out, pointing to Shugo’s stab wound as proof that he wasn’t quite as invincible as he’d been up until now.

“Really, Officer, Detective, Chief,” Shugo replied, addressing all three by their respective ranks in turn. “I’ll be fine. You’ve got enough on your plate right now without babysitting me on top of it.”

In the end, all three relented, albeit not without expressions that suggested they were doing so against their better judgment.

Maybe I should’ve accepted their offer after all.

And in the end, Shugo found himself wishing at least one of them had overridden him and insisted on driving him home anyway.

Too late for that now, I guess.

Nine of the dirty dozen were wielding what appeared to be sticks and katanas, and it was likely at least some of them were carrying sticks that were concealing blades underneath. Meanwhile, the three remaining had drawn their guns and were now aiming them at the teen.

“There’s a price on your head, kid,” said one of them, a tall and lean man dressed in a business suit who didn’t look much older than Shugo himself, as he brandished a drawn sword and pointed it at their target in intimidating fashion. “We’re just here to collect.”

As Shugo carefully sized up the horde that had surrounded him, he briefly wondered whether they knew of his current dilemma. More to the point, he wondered whether they were aware that he wouldn’t be able to heal from whatever damage they were likely to inflict on him within the next several minutes.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter, he thought as he steeled himself for what was about to happen. Here goes…

“I don’t suppose we can talk this over?” Shugo called to the mob, even though he knew perfectly well what their answer would be. Sure enough, all he could do was sigh in resignation when the only responses he got were glares and snarls. “Well, it was worth a try.”

The teen closed his eyes for a moment.

And when he opened them again, they flashed blood red.


Nothing happened. Shugo watched the mob look at each other, exchanging near-identical looks of confusion and bewilderment, before the one who threatened him burst out in laughter as though the whole thing were a joke.

“Looks like someone’s having performance issues,” the miscreant commented with a smirk, eliciting mocking snickers and laughter from his peers. “Don’t worry, kid. This shouldn’t take long-!”

The man charged forward with his sword raised high in a clear attempt to cleave the youth lengthwise from head to toe-

That was too close…!

-Only to miss narrowly as Shugo sidestepped, causing his attack to cleave through little else but dust and air.

“My turn!”

The criminal screamed in pain and dropped his weapon as the teen countered with a savage forearm strike that broke his arm at the elbow joint. From there, Shugo restrained him in a headlock with his bandaged forearm across the man’s neck, while at the same time keeping a tight grip on the man’s left wrist from behind.

“Don’t fuck with us!”

Those of the mob with guns started shooting at him, not seeming to notice or care that he was using one of their own as a human shield. Sure enough, the bullets hit home all over the hapless criminal’s limbs and torso, with at least one bullet burying itself in his forehead when the teen held him fast when he took the offensive and rushed towards his attackers. Eventually he threw their comrade’s bullet-ridden and life-spent body at them and knocked at least one of them down in the process, but…

“Damn kid!”

Shugo fell to his knees with a cry of pain as one of the gangsters blindsided him, walloping him on the back of a head with a strike that could very well have cracked his skull-

“You’re dead!”

-Which was followed by an equally fierce blow across Shugo’s neck that caused him to fall face first on the dirt, resulting in a gash on his forehead that joined his growing list of injuries-

Looks like going home alone was a terrible, terrible idea, huh…?

At that point, all Shugo could do was curl up in a fetal position in an attempt to shield his vital areas as the crazed mob fell upon him like ravenous piranhas maddened by the smell of blood.

Before long, there were gashes, cuts, bruises, and even broken bones all over his body as the horde swung their sticks and swords again and again.

Before long, the teen’s cries and screams of agony became gasps of mingled pain and exhaustion.

And before long, the prolonged mugging reduced these to what even Shugo’s rapidly fading consciousness could tell were the beginnings of a death rattle.

Oh, look.

The enigma observed the skirmish from a nearby rooftop.

This is giving me déjà vu.

And as he did so, his impassive visage belied a mixture of approval and disappointment.

Not long now.

On one hand, there was approval as he saw how men he’d hired were on the verge of completing their objective. As the first attempt by Harusaki Ayumu had unsurprisingly ended in failure, the enigma promptly contacted Asakura Dan, the boy’s boss and friend, to inform him accordingly. It didn’t take long, nor did it take much convincing, for Dan to send some more of his subordinates to try and succeed where their compatriot had failed.

If the two of you have anything left, now’s the time to show me.

At the same time, however, the enigma also felt a sense of disappointment. His sole remaining quarry had been a most worthy adversary over the centuries, after all. They and their respective contractors had crossed paths and swords in the past, and every time they did, both she and whoever she happened to have convinced to do her bidding at that moment had consistently proven themselves to be more than a match for him.

If the hunt was easy, thought the enigma, it wouldn’t be fun.

Needless to say, it was hard to believe that this was the last he’d ever get to see of her, or of the boy who she’d taken as her latest partner. Even so, he continued to watch with bated breath, expecting the peculiar pair to get back up for a second round against the foes gathered against them.

Any time now…

Unfortunately for them, he thought as one of his hired hands stood over the battered boy’s body and levelled a gun straight at his face, a last-minute comeback was looking increasingly unlikely at this point.

The show’s over already?

The enigma sighed in disappointment as the crook pulled the trigger.

Well done, I guess…

And as the skirmish drew to an anticlimactic conclusion, the only thing left for the enigma to do was pull out his smartphone and arrange for a fund transfer to pay for the services he’d contracted.

Just get it over with already…

Shugo coughed up blood as one of the gangsters kicked him right in the nose, causing him to roll over so that he was staring up at the full moon even as the light began to fade from his eyes. Somehow, his pupils still managed to focus up as one of the hoodlums put a foot on his chest, cocked his pistol, and aimed his gun right at the dying teen’s already bloodied forehead.

“Heh,” Shugo mumbled through the pain; by now, it was all he could do to glare at his executioner with whatever defiance he had left to muster. “I guess… I’ll be seeing you all in hell, then…?”

The criminal’s only response was a snort of contempt, disgust, and hate.

“You wish,” he spat. “I’d like to see you walk this off, you son of a bitch.”

He pulled the trigger.

The last thing Furukawa Shugo ever saw was a blinding flash of light, accompanied by a brief burst of pain.

And then at last, at long last, darkness was all there was.

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