Game Plan Set in Motion
The girl blinked. "Ah…drat…they both went through…" she huffed. "I'll be right—"
Alu tackled the girl with no warning, restraining her. "Oh no you don't!" She snarled, eyes flashing silver. With a well delivered blow, the little girl was knocked out. Alu panted, gingerly holding the girl now in her arms.
Kunikida just looked back and forth from Alu and the spot that Ranpo and the President had been. "What the hell is happening here?!" He screeched, holding his head, ready to make a bald spot by force from how hard he was tugging on his hair.
"It looks like Ranpo just got swallowed up into a hole," Alu said, with a sigh. She looked to Dazai and Odasaku. "He was merely acting as the distraction, it would seem. I have no idea where that hole spit them out but based on this girl's ability, I'd say that she has to link it to a physical location each time—otherwise they'd both have just fallen right back through and returned here. It seems like Ranpo took a gamble, or rather, had a hunch that her ability had a different destination in mind for that sword."
"But why didn't she just drop them both—and the sword back here? Couldn't she just open up another hole at the same time as the first?" Kunikida growled, rubbing his head, exasperated.
Alu took a deep breath, looking at the unconscious girl. "No, that's not how her ability works. She can only do one hole at a time…and besides since she's knocked out now, she won't be making any more for the time being…But my own hunch tells me that's exactly what Ranpo had been planning all along…"
Kunikida growled. "How would you know what he's been planning? I work with him and I never know until it's too late it feels like…" He groaned holding his head.
"Regardless, I will note that the girl can only do one hole at a time as I said before," Alu glanced at Dazai specifically. "You noticed that also, didn't you, Dazai?"
Dazai nodded. His expression was serious. "Yeah, I did."
Kunikida and Odasaku just stared at Alu and Dazai with the same comical expression :someone please explain it to us because apparently we're too dumb to know the answer already.
Alu gestured to Dazai like to let him expound for the others.
Dazai nodded and he put his hand on his hip, gesturing to the little girl in Alu's arms. Okay, time for him to contribute to all of this properly. If explaining things clearly would help this girl out, then he was fine with spending a little energy himself. "This little girl has to time it still. Something I noted while she was interfering with the fight on the ship is she can only open up one hole at a time—and it seems she has to connect it to a physical destination that isn't necessarily the same place at once. In other words," he said, waving an index finger like a teacher teaching children about the alphabet, "….there's a sort of home destination… think of it like a wi-fi router. She needs to send the signal—or in this case— a hole that is linked to said home destination."
"If that's so…" Odasaku's eyes flickered. "Actually hold on, your ability anulls other abilities Dazai—how come you were still affected by her transportation hole ability?"
Dazai shrugged. "Well, that's because certain abilities I need to still touch the user themself to stop it from working. Unfortunately, this is one of those situations. Otherwise I'd have touched those black holes of hers long before now and deactivated them," he said, sighing. "Because the space itself wasn't physical…it'd be like trying to cancel air…if that makes sense," he grimaced. "Trust me, it's definitely an inconvenience…"
"…And what I'm trying to get at here," Alu continued quickly, "…is that the little girl is still a little girl. No doubt she had the hole linked for the 'router' destination—in other words— where that hole leads is most likely where Miss Yosano is also being held."
Kunikida and Odasaku's eyes widened as it dawned on them finally. Things finally made a little sense. Their expressions both comically looked like a lightbulb had gone off in their minds.
"So, to be clear, Ranpo is supposedly where Ms. Yosano is located because the girl had a limited range of destinations to choose from?" Kunikida reiterated, looking at Alu.
Alu nodded, still having trouble looking at Kunikida fully. Dazai was sharp, and the only one to note this. Smiling at Kunikida, he stepped over to Alu, blocking Kunikida for the most part from her vision. "So we have the little girl…what now?"
Alu blinked at him. "Oh, uh… that's a good question," she said, sheepishly. "I kinda panicked and knocked her out cuz I didn't want her just leaving again…"
Odasaku stepped over as well towards Alu and the little girl in her arms. He gazed down, though he wasn't really the chatty sort, he wanted to be useful somehow.
"Yo, Odasaku," Dazai called out to him, waving him closer.
"Yeah?" Odasaku said, glad to be able to at least start to involve himself again.
"I was thinking we should take advantage of having her in our grasp by collecting some intel from her," Dazai explained, glancing at everyone.
"How do we do that? Ango is out of commission," Odasaku frowned.
Dazai's eyebrow twitched with irritation. "Ugh, oh yeah…that guy…" He really didn't want to involve him at all. In fact, he wanted to throw him out of orbit of the earth. If only he could find an ability user to do that…Chuuya, the red haired Port Mafia Executive came to mind with his anti-gravity ability…but he didn't think he'd get the both of them tossed out of Earth's atmosphere just because he asked nicely.
"Oh, so what is that Ango's ability?" Alu asked, curious, glancing at Odasaku.
Odasaku nodded. "We don't usually share that information but this is a special circumstance…"
"If Ranpo had that guy tag in, then there must be a reason," Kunikida included, putting his hands on his hips with a sigh, now hovering near the rest of them. For the most part, he was just observing the discussion. "Ranpo doesn't usually involve the Department of Unusual Powers…"
"Agent Sakaguchi's ability allows him to extract information from a person's memory," Dazai said, with a sigh.
"Oh, so we use that to figure out who the mastermind is behind all of this?" Alu asked, tilting her head at the other men.
"That's actually not a bad idea," Odasaku agreed, nodding as well.
Alu looked at the girl in her arms. She was so young. She wore a simple blue jacket, baggy dark brown pants to her knees, more like capris honestly, and knee high socks and simple slip on brown loafers. Her long black hair was silky though like it was well taken care of. Her figure didn't show any signs of malnutrition. Alu hoped that meant that she was at least being taken care of. However, she was concerned about this little girl's future. She may have a useful ability, but she didn't have a guarantee that the life she was currently leading…Alu had a bad feeling. "Hey, Mister Oda…" she said, looking at him, serious.
Odasaku blinked. "Uh, you can just…call me…Odasaku.." he said, feeling awkward. Everyone at this point heard it from Dazai and honestly Odasaku hated overly formal means of being addressed.
"Right…uh…" Alu looked at the girl and then to him. "Would you be able…to take in this girl…?"
Odasaku blinked. "Huh?"
"Wait, hold on, she's not even from Japan," Kunikida said sharply. "If anything, she'd have to go to the U.K.'s special ability division for orphans…"
"I don't want that," Alu said sharply. "I'm not saying keep her forever in Japan…but for the time being…just until I can find her a proper home…a real home…"
"We're not foster care," Kunikida growled. "We have more pressing matters—like finding Ms. Yosano, the president, and Ranpo and getting them safely back! I understand your concern for the little girl…but there's still rules we have to follow…"
"It's not about that! She's an ability user Kunikida!" She said sharply, glaring at him, a bit irate. She realized she was looking at him and quickly looked away, back to the girl in her arms. "I just don't want her to be exploited by selfish adults—no—selfish people who would only seek to use her as a tool anymore!"
Kunikida's eyes widened as he realized what she was saying. "Oh…" he understood what she meant. He scratched his head, frowning. "Yeah but…that doesn't change the fact that she isn't a citizen from here…what could we possibly do?"
Alu grimaced. Ugh. Rules. "Since when did a government label of being a citizen have to be present in order to determine whether or not to give a damn about someone's well being?" She snapped back at Kunikida, annoyed. Kunikida actually shut up for a second. She blinked, and turned a bit red from embarrassment. She'd made eye contact with him. Whoops. Now she really felt embarrassed.
Her outburst left the others looking at her—with expressions she couldn't read well.
She hadn't meant to have an angry outburst. Not making eye contact with the others, she just turned her attention back to the little girl, now sleeping in her arms. She looked to the little girl in her arms, feeling uneasy about leaving her in the hands of the government—either one. "I'll figure something out myself then," she grumbled, pouting.
"No, I'll take her," Odasaku said, serious. "I agree with you. While I can't promise I can keep her permanently, I don't see a problem with temporarily introducing her to the other kids… and it may help her develop some normal social skills…"
Alu's eyes brightened. "Odasaku, you're an angel!" She beamed at him.
Odasaku blinked. "Huh? No…no I'm not." His deadpan bewilderment made him so teasible, Alu couldn't help but think to herself, amused with a small smile, as she gazed back at the girl in her arms.
Dazai snickered. Teasing Odasaku could be fun sometimes. He knew it was fun for him at least. "Oooh, Odasaku~ you're such an angel!" He teased Odasaku, using English, smirking.
Odasaku got a faint red blush from exasperation. Speaking normal Japanese, he groaned right back at him. "Dazai, cut it out! You're making this weird!"
Alu found herself giggling a bit, despite everything. She had been on a roller coaster of emotions but this was actually a nice one she was finally feeling. "You two are really funny," she snickered, shaking her head.
Odasaku and Dazai blinked at her. "Well, this guy is the weirder one," Dazai said, pointing to Odasaku.
Odasaku scratched his head, looking at Dazai with a pout. "How am I the weirder one. Coming from you of all people…" he trailed off, as he saw Alu and Dazai smiling at him with similar amusement. Ah, these two looked like siblings…
Kunikida cleared his throat meanwhile. "Alright, so that's the plan, then? We've wasted enough time as it is. We need to wake the girl up and…wait…why is agent Sakaguchi unconscious?"
Dazai found it comical that Ango was the last person on everyones' minds. That was fine by him. As far as he was concerned Ango had just made things even worse. He knew Ango wouldn't remember him shooting him through the chest thanks to Alu's rewrite ability but… even though he hated Ango now, what was this bad taste in his mouth?
"Uh," Odasaku honestly didn't know what to say. He didn't want to stress out Kunikida with what had actually happened—for some reason— both men knew that would send Kunikida off the walls even more.
Dazai and Odasaku exchanged glances. That's right, Kunikida had been previously indisposed during all of that. "He takes stress naps," Dazai said dead pan and completely serious. "It's something he just does. His condition is so bad that his doctor says one day he may go take a nap….and never wake up again…" He shrugged like that completely covered all the bases of any and all of Kunikida's future anxiety barking.
Odasaku and Alu both knew better though. Dazai really, really, disliked Ango.
"Well I'll go wake him up," Kunikida huffed, "…that's such a sad condition, how unfortunate," he said, sympathetically, completely buying Dazai's explanation with no questions asked.
Odasaku and Alu glanced at each other. They were just a little concerned about Kunikida being this gullible—when it came to believing anything that came out of Dazai's mouth, that is. Alu handed the little girl to Odasaku. Odasaku blinked, taking her carefully. Alu straightened up, her silvery tails fading, though the ears stayed for the time being—and a single silver tail still snaked around her legs. "Okay, so you boys do that. I'm going to grab the other orphans."
"Wait, how?" Kunikida asked, sharply.
"Well, they're still in this factory," Alu explained. "I can sense them," she said, to the confused expressions she was receiving from everyone. "That little girl placed us all in this location and that means the other location has to be wherever Ms. Yosano and the others disappeared off to."
"Okay, question," Kunikida said, like that one annoying kid in class that just kept going in circles while others were trying to get some work done and get the teacher to stop lecturing already, "I just want to know how a factory…a ship…and a submarine… have anything to do with…well everything… Ranpo said there were three locations but you only mentioned two." He frowned at Alu.
Alu was glad that Kunikida could talk to her like she hadn't just almost killed him earlier, but she was still having some trouble communicating with him that involved looking at him or in his general direction. "Uh, that's…" she felt uncomfortable again. She didn't have time to feel guilty. She had to focus. But things felt incredibly awkward when it came to Kunikida at least, right now. She was oddly more comfortable with the outbursts from Dazai than she was with Kunikida—she had no idea why.
"Who cares," Dazai shrugged, interjecting with a bratty tone. He trotted over to Ango and Tomoe's bodies on the ground. "The young lady said we're to get information while she goes to grab those other orphans, we'll work out the details when we're all not in danger, sound good, Blondey?"
"B-Blondey?!" Kunikida's teeth turned jagged like a comical little angry shark man. "Where do you get off calling me that! Listen here! There's no station on this earth that lets you get off and treat me rudely!"
"Alu," Odasaku said, turning away from the angry Kunikida about to chew out the unperturbed Dazai. "Those other orphans…do you need help?"
Alu blinked. "Ah, I would say yes…" her eyes fell on Kunikida looking ready to outright throttle Dazai who was ignoring him. "But…I think you're the only one who can stop those two from killing each other," she said deadpan.
"I suppose I can try," Odasaku sighed. "Dazai can handle himself though. I wouldn't worry too much."
"Odasaku," Alu said, looking at him with a small smile.
Odasaku blinked. "…?"
Alu held out her hand to him like she was offering him a handshake. He blinked. He took her hand, a bit puzzled. She patted it with her other hand. "Thank you," she said softly, smiling at Odasaku. "For those words you said earlier… and for being a kind person."
Odasaku was, well, he wasn't sure what he felt. He spent his life with his head down. People didn't typically comment on him or anything. He was like a shadow, he existed on the physical plane but wouldn't draw attention to himself. Sure, Dazai teased him for being a nice guy. Dazai was his friend so it was to be expected. As someone who used to survive by killing others, Odasaku had only stopped because of a particular author he liked.
His change of heart had only been because of a work of fiction.
He didn't feel like he deserved to be called kind by this girl. She was the one who was kind and untainted. Her hands, though bloodied by these events, still remained far cleaner than his hands ever would be. Her hands may have been dirtied—but his own hands would always be stained.
Odasaku didn't really know what to say.
But even as he was lost in thought, she turned away, letting go of his hand.
He looked at his hand.
Why did it feel colder after she let go? He was bewildered. He didn't actually get cold easily. But when her touch left, he felt cold? He shook his head. No, he wasn't going to overthink it. She was still a kid herself, and he was already in his twenties. Now was not the time for some weird…feeling that he couldn't explain.
Although, to be completely honest, it didn't actually feel like a crush or anything. He wasn't actually romantically attracted either. Not that it would matter if he had been as he didn't think someone like him was exactly the romance type. It was just an odd sort of warmth that she made him feel in his own mind. He blinked.
Ah, so that was it.
She was comforting.
He felt comforted by her…specifically from her gratitude.
Comfort was definitely not something Odasaku really allowed himself—or knew— how to feel.
Forget other emotions like Love…
Odasaku watched as the girl walked over to Dazai and Kunikida, clapping her hands together and talking to them like a babysitter soothing two teething children trying to chew on each other.
"Now, now," Alu said cheerfully, "Please get along! We have work to do, boys!"
"So, how do we wake him up?" Kunikida huffed, glaring at Dazai.
Dazai pulled out his gun. He had an idea.
Kunikida's jaw dropped. "Put that away!" He barked at Dazai, slapping his shoulder. "Are you nuts! We're not going to shoot something to wake him up!"
"Oh the bullet was meant for him," Dazai said, with childish surprise.
Kunikida really, really disliked this person. His veins were twitching all over his body—especially his forehead. He couldn't imagine being stuck with this sand-coat wearing lunatic as a partner. Yikes. What a concept. Thank the celestial forces in the universe that it wouldn't become canon….
"Ugh," Fukuzawa groaned.
He had tumbled and hit a desk as he fell through the black hole. While he'd managed to stumble in after Ranpo, he had landed on the desk on his stomach and he rolled off it now, hugging himself wincing in physical pain. Ranpo meanwhile, just grabbed Fukuzawa's sword wordlessly, and brought it over, treating it with care in his hands. "Ah, sorry…" Ranpo said, showing only Fukuzawa those rare little moments of his more mature side. "I knew you'd follow…but I had to make it believable."
"Okay, before I ground you —before anything else…please just tell me what is going on," Fukuzawa groaned, rubbing his side. Damn, he just knew he was going to get a bruise later on his side. How had Ranpo managed to land on his feet so easily while he ended up greeting a desk on his way down? Still, this bruise on his side was tolerable compared to the thought of what happened earlier with Ranpo. Fukuzawa was going to need so much damn alcohol after this.
No, he planned to get so much damn alcohol after this case was closed. He deserved to get smashed off his ass after this particular chain of events tonight.
"Well, we're on the submarine," Ranpo stated, spreading out his arms like Ta-Da~ to show off the office they were in. "This is where the magic happens!"
"Uh," Fukuzawa grunted. "So… we're here…because?" He asked, dumbly.
"To get Yosano back, of course," Ranpo said with a grin. "After all, that was the little deal I cut with our British lady friend~"
"Deal?" Fukuzawa frowned, trotting over to Ranpo. He honestly felt more confused by Ranpo's explanation. If answers were supposed to make things easier to understand then why was the headache he had making him feel worse than a hangover did?
"Yes. You see, that british woman and I, have struck what one would call, an 'accord'," Ranpo continued, strutting over to the door of the office. For being on a submarine, it oddly looked like a normal office with bookshelves, a few chairs to sit in, a nice desk… Even the walls though made of metal, felt like they weren't on board a floating hunk of steel.
Fukuzawa twitched with exasperation. He really wanted to wash his hands. He still had dried blood on them. He groaned outwardly. "I…"
"You brought him along, I see," a woman said from a speaker near them.
Fukuzawa's head turned like a startled owl's. "…!?"
"I want you to return my little girl to me," she continued. "Do so, and I'll give you back your woman."
Ranpo looked to Fukuzawa. "I knew we couldn't just come here empty-handed. Somehow, Alu figured out that I was planning to come back here for the purpose of making a deal to get Yosano back. That's why I knew I could count on her to prevent that little girl from coming here too soon! I also knew you'd totally follow me so that's great since I don't like fighting and if I was wrong and there was trouble you'd protect me! But I'm never wrong so it's nice to have you along regardless!" He wagged his index finger around as he talked, pretty pleased with himself.
Fukuzawa just stared at Ranpo. "Where's the light at the end of the tunnel in all of this?" He asked, anxious. "Your deduction… Ranpo, when that girl asked earlier why you're doing all this—going this far—why are you going to such lengths? Your Ultra Deduction would have had this case solved—and everyone would be safe right now… so what is going on with you?"
Fukuzawa took Ranpo by the shoulders, concerned. His voice was still sore from earlier but he was also at his wit's end. He just wanted to go home, honestly. He wanted to know that Ranpo wouldn't be doing any more reckless stuff.
Ranpo was quiet for a moment. He tilted his head finally at the President, scratching his head and frowning. "I thought it was obvious," he said, pouting.
Fukuzawa's expression made it very clear that nothing was obvious. Nothing had been obvious. And at this point, the only thing that made any sense to Fukuzawa was that sake was going to be his best friend after this. "…"
"Mah~" Ranpo bleated, "Well, worry not. The end is near! I, the Great Ranpo, will reveal all then, after all…all's well that ends well…for me that is!~" He beamed at Fukuzawa, once again, answering nothing straightforwardly.
Fukuzawa knew it was most likely illegal to want to strangle his kid so soon after being relieved he wasn't at death's door anymore… But well, seeing Ranpo smiling and acting like, well, Ranpo… Ah, what a complicated relationship being a father could feel like with Ranpo sometimes…
"What is this deal?" Fukuzawa asked sharply, worried.
Ranpo grinned. "Oh, she tried to bully me into leaving the agency originally and come work for her in the United Kingdom," he explained.
Fukuzawa felt himself twitch with possessive anger. How dare this woman try to take Ranpo out of the fricken country and try to turn him on the Armed Detective Agency itself.
"But I told her that she should be more worried about the consequences of the fight she picked in the first place when she refused to just let us take Alu and go home~" Ranpo hummed. "Let's just say," his eyes glinted as he opened them, smirking at Fukuzawa, "…she came to an epiphany that worked out well for us in the end!"
Then why had Ranpo been attacked? Fukuzawa grit his teeth. "If that's the case—then why did you get stabbed back there, Ranpo?" He asked, confused.
Ranpo blinked. "Oh…that…wasn't planned," he admitted. "Care to explain, Jane?"
"…I admit, I foolishly underestimated the rag-tag team you put together," Ms. Austen replied, clearly bitter. "Yes, I thought if you wouldn't join me, that it'd be easier to just get rid of you so you wouldn't cause problems for me in the future…but seeing as you're alive…it's clear that we failed."
"We?" Ranpo smirked.
"Uh, me," Ms. Austen said, quickly. "We, as in, my team and I…"
"Team huh? I know for a fact that there are three ability users besides yourself…and that more than that, the only reason your motive changed was because another player I have yet to identify came into play right after our previous interaction. Tell me if I'm wrong, but you took that chance on ending my life because you honestly thought it would work, not because you thought of it yourself but because you let someone else pull your strings, Ms. Jane..." Ranpo sneered up at the intercom. "You shouldn't lie, I don't need to see your face to know you're trembling right now…isn't that right?"
Ms. Austen was trembling, because out of anyone she'd ever faced—Ranpo had been the most terrifying and all he did was use his words to not only deduce with a terrifying inhuman level of accuracy but to make it clear that there was no escape from his 'web' of truth.
She glanced, silently from her own intercom mic to a man, lurking in the shadows near her. They were at what appeared to be in a nice room with a view of Yokohama. That's right, Ms. Austen was orchestrating everything from a hotel room in Yokohama. As it became clear that she'd have to extend her stay, she'd set up here for the time being.
An inconspicuous bell-boy uniformed man just stood, arms crossed, lounging lazily against the wall near her. However, as she looked to him nervously, his purple eyes glinted back at her. A smirk played on his pale lips. His stringy dark hair framed his face, not falling past his shoulders. All he did was smile with amusement.