Part 2

Next morning, when Kaori woke, she couldn't believe how relaxed she felt, despite the strange dream she have had. Finally, when her body began to recover its senses, she noticed her bed a little unusual and decided to open her eyes. To found herself holding and being held by Ryo's firm and strong body.

Her scream could have easily woken up the dead.

Nozomi run upstairs. What had happened? That had been Kaori. Had it been their assailants?

- Kaori! Are you ok?!… Huh?!

What Nozomi saw when she arrived at the room was a smashed Ryo beneath the biggest mallet she had ever seen. Kaori was standing in the middle of the room, visibly agitated and blushing. She noticed the girl, but she said nothing. Kaori passed her, embarrassed, and went out of the room. Nozomi turned to Ryo. He was getting off the hammer and cleaning himself form the little pieces of wall and floor. They didn't say a word, just staring at each other. She wore a glance between confusion and saying "you're helpless". Ryo looked at her openly not trusting.

Downstairs, Kaori's mind was desperately trying to remember, to recall something more from that dream she had have, and which she was sure it was somehow connected with the fact that she was sleeping in Ryo's bed. But nothing came out, only a headache. She stepped into the shower. The hot water soon filled the place with a humid mist. She tried to clear her mind from all the confusing feelings. Whatever it happened, she had to calm herself before facing it. Besides, she had a case, and that was the most important thing to attend to now. Yes, that worked, if she focused on her job, all would be all right. She finished to wash off the soap from her compact body, turned off the tap, wrapped herself in a towel, and for a second an image crossed her mind: Ryo getting out of the bath-room two days ago. Shit.

- Ryo, Nozomi and I are going back to her place and check if those men are still waiting for her.

- Don't be stupid.- Ryo simply said.- Do you really think those two are going to make the same mistake as yesterday? If they appear today, they sure will have weapons this time. And if they really want to kidnap Nozomi, they won't be only two. If you think you can manage the band by yourself, go with it. But it's more clever to wait and stay today at home, that will get them nervous, and an enemy who's not thinking with full faculties is easier to beat. You should know that.

- Yes… Maybe you're right.- she felt insecure again. What Ryo had said made perfect sense.

- Kaori onee-san…- Nozomi's voice surprised them both, they had almost forgotten she was there.- I prefer to stay at home too… I'm still a little afraid.

- Well… in that case… I guess we will wait until something happens.

- Ok, I feel much better. Oh, Kaori, I wanted to ask you something. I woke up in the middle of the night and you weren't in your bed. Are you feeling ok? I got worried.

- What!- Kaori turned red and Ryo had a sudden cough attack.- No… I'm fine… I just…

- Oh, right.

- Well girls, see you at lunch time.

- What? Where are you going?

- Hey, that you have to stay here doesn't mean I have to stay too. I have some things to do, some girls to see.

- This sukebe! This isn't fair!

Ryo hurriedly left the house, waving his hand with a grin.

- I bet he did it on purpose.

Nozomi only replayed with a smile.

Ryo walked into the large and beautiful park in front of the police station. The trees bestowed their shade over the pedestrians, who thanked the fresh air they provided in a so much hot day like that. Ryo followed the path under those trees to the entrance of the station. He said a quick hello to one or two agents who he knew from his more or less frequent visits to Saeko. He hadn't come now since a long time. He found the attractive woman's office without any problem. Oh, of course, he tried some of his mokkori attacks on his way with some young female agents and some other girls who did not look like agents at all.

Saeko received him with a frown.

- Do you always have to do this chaos?

- Oh, yes.

As always, he had left behind him a track of annoyed women complaining about the pervert. But that was his nature, he couldn't help and it made him feel alive. All those shouting women were so stimulating. And the best part was still to come, getting Saeko mad at him. It was always funny. His ancient animal instincts felt more than happy at those moments.

- What do you want? I suppose you didn't come only to disturb my agents and cause me troubles with my father, did you?

- You're right, my little wildcat. You know, I feel on my full power today and came for two or three of the "favours" you owe me. Eh? What about it?

- Ryo, I can't leave the office now, we have plenty of work.- Saeko tried to keep him off her, but it really was difficult today.

- We don't need to. There's a wonderful toilet out there that can serve.

- Ryo!- wow, he sure was spirited.

- C'mon, don't be so unpleasant. Work with me. Give your Ryo-chan only two times.

- No!

- One time?

- Not now.

- Tonight?

- Well… let me think of it.

- You're thinking of it enough time.

- Ryo, what happens to you? Did Kaori and you argue?

- What has she to do with this? Don't mention her when we're in a so romantic moment, I can get a stomach ache.

- What romantic moment? Your hands were abusing me.

- That's the idea.- he leant forwards her once more and put his hands on her rear, but this time she didn't allow him to approach her so much. Finally, he asked her what he really had come for. They talked for a while. Curiously, Ryo didn't try to get at her again. Then Saeko took out a fold with documents from a filing cabinet and showed them to him. Ryo carefully examined the papers, then, gave them back to Saeko and thanked his friend. This had cost "one time", but it was interesting. If things continued this way, he was going to run out of "favours" (yeah, sure, had you ever seen the length of your list, Ryo? NbA).

- Hey, pretty lady, d'you wanna go out with me?! Let's go to that hotel!

- You pervert! Don't touch me! Help!

In the meantime, Kaori and Nozomi had been tiding up the house for a while, seeing that there was little to do. Kaori was feeling like a beast in a cage. So impotent. Waiting. Great. Of course, the conversation with Nozomi was never boring. But there was something, in her eyes, in the whole story, that made her feel on edge. Her eyes, yeah. They were dark of course, but, Kaori would say that, if it was possible, they were darker and sadder by night. Like that part of her soul that she hadn't already told them about. Kaori wanted to ask her, but every time she opened her mouth, she remained wordless. What the hell was she supposed to say? How to tell her that she needed to know it all in order to help her right? In the other hand, their guest always seemed to push the right keys on Kaori to know whatever she wanted. She was a little, lucky brat.

Kaori wandered through the house and ended up turning on the TV. Nozomi joined her, but soon they both got fed up with it, TV programs were worse day by day.

- Nozomi, are you feeling better?

- Yes. Yesterday I was a bit scared, but now I'm ok.

- Good.

- And you? Didn't they scare you? You didn't seem to be afraid in the slightest.

- Didn't I?- she gently smiled.- Well, I was.

- Really? But you managed them as a real professional. Did you see how they run away?

- Thank you. But the sight of a gun can make miracles.

- Don't be so modest, you were brave.

- I truly was afraid, though. I was afraid of not doing well my job. Afraid of getting you hurt.

-… It's very important for you to be a good partner for Ryo, isn't it?- She was doing it again. How did she know the exact point of things? Kaori gave a sigh.

- Yes. It's the most important thing to me.

- But I think you are. And that he knows it too.

- That's very kind of you…

- Oh, I wish I'll have someone who loves me as much as Ryo loves Kaori onee-san.

- Nozomi!

They exploded in laughs like children.

That's when Ryo arrived home. The scene was strange but wonderful. In their line of life, that kind of laugh isn't much common. It's only allowed to the happy and innocent children in the street and in other's houses, not in theirs. But Kaori knew how to keep it. It was like the most beautiful music to Ryo's ears. He entered the room where the two girls were sitting on the couch.

- Is it a private joke or can I join?- They looked at him.

- Oh, you arrived?- Kaori asked still smiling.- Ok! Let's eat something!

Kaori and Nozomi had visibly got along, Ryo noticed that. They really were like an elder sister and a young sister. Or like mother and daughter. Ryo felt a chill. Don't even think of that. Nozomi kept calling Kaori onee-san, that was funny. And he felt very good in that atmosphere, that was funny too.

He waited a bit more, then he spoke. It was enough time.

- Kaori, have you made up your mind yet with this case? Have any ideas? – Now he seemed a coach talking to his student.

- Eh? No. Don't have a clue of what they want. They sure want to kidnap you- she looked at Nozomi-. But why, for the money? You told me that only you have access to the money your parents left you. Maybe they plan to oblige you to take it from the bank. But they need your legal tutor's sign too, your aunt's. So why haven't they tried anything against her in this two weeks? Ryo is right, we can only wait.

- Yes…

- I don't think they want your parent's money.- That was Ryo.

- What else?

- I don't know. What do you think?

- I don't know either.

- What do you have that they want better than the money?

- What… I … I don't know…- she was getting nervous.

- But in fact you are a rich girl, aren't you?

- Ah… well, not so much…

- Ryo…

- No?

- I'm telling you! Let me in peace, I'm the one in danger and you speak like if I were the criminal!

- Oh, sorry, Miss Inaba I didn't mean to bother you.

- What?

Nozomi stayed wordless. Kaori looked at both of them. They didn't move or say anything for a moment. Had she heard well? Ryo had called Nozomi Inaba.

- What's happening here? Ryo, would you explain us?

- Me? I think that Nozomi should do it.- Ryo was calm. The girl didn't say a word.- Her real name is Nozomi Inaba, daughter of a millionaire business man.- The girl still kept quiet.- She's missing from her house for two days, since she came to our house. Four years ago her parents got divorced, not dead… Now she lives with her father in a large mansion in the outskirts of Tokyo. Yesterday, the assailants were obviously not waiting for her but looking for, and probably found her while she went to her preferred shops to buy all the things she brought in that beautiful and too new bag she was carrying, and followed her to the parking, lonely and dark. They thought it was perfect, they were only two girls, what trouble could they give? That's why they hadn't any weapon with them. But that attack was too much for Nozomi, wasn't it?, because she really didn't expect it at all… - Ryo made little pauses for letting the girl speak, but she didn't.- She invented the whole story herself, but suddenly it had come true. That's really scary. Your own horror fiction becomes true, where can you hide from it? But now she is safe with us. She even has found a friend who cares about and can understand her.

Nozomi looked defying at Ryo. Yes, it all was true. She had lied them, she had lied everybody.

- Nozomi, why?

-… He deserves it. It's all his fault…- she said with a little voice.

- Who?

- My father. I bet he didn't notice my absence since last night, or maybe this morning.

- He reported it to the police the afternoon we met. He has contacts in the police and the case has priority. If you would have gone out today, they had probably found you.

-… Yes. He's a powerful man, he has contacts all around the world. He can buy any exotic gift for his child. He can manage any complicated business in the world. But he can't give her daughter one minute of his time, because it would be the end of the world if he would do. He has to be in charge of everything. That's why my mother left him. He always has to have the control. But my life is mine, and I can do with it whatever I want.- Tears were running freely now down her cheeks.- I had to show him that he can't take the control of my life. I'm not a baby anymore, he can't decide over my life, my friends, my clothes, my… hair…, my… I hate him! He claims to be my father but never behaves like one. I wish I've never met him! I'd prefer not to have any parents than these!

- Shut up!- Kaori couldn't stand it for more. She had slapped her in the face. The younger girl looked astonished.- How can you say those things? It's horrible! Your father cares for you, I'm sure, he loves you. If you don't feel ok, at least you have the opportunity to tell him. Is he really a bad man? Does he hit you? Do you think that your mother doesn't love you either? Don't say you don't want your parents. You're lucky to have them. Luckier than we are.

- What?

- Ryo and I never met our real parents. Ryo even doesn't know his real birth date. Tell me, have you ever been alone in your birthday?

-… No.

- You always had your friends and parents with you, hadn't you?

- Yes…

- Then, maybe you should start facing your problems, rather than blaming on the others and running away from them.

Nozomi had stopped crying. She wiped the tears and stood up.

- I'm sorry- she said, and went to her room.

Kaori watched her leaving the room. She took her breath. Eventually drove her eyes to Ryo. He was looking at her.

- Good job,… partner.

-… I think… the Inaba… must know where their daughter is.

- We'll go and talk to him when Nozomi calms down.

The house really impressed Ryo and Kaori. The man did have money enough to bath in. They had arrived there through a road that, at a certain point, turned aside the main highway and, after passing next to a forest, led directly to the mansion.

The outside doors were closed by a security lock. There was a panel with two buttons and something that probably was a camera. Resolutely, Nozomi almost jumped out of the car and went right to the panel. She pressed the left button and patiently waited. Just a few seconds after, a voice answered. They didn't hear very well from the car, but reached to catch the girl's reply.

- It's me, Nana, Nozomi.

The female voice at the other side of the line made a gasp and shouted something like "Oh, my! Nozomi-chan!"

As moved by the spring of that, the doors immediately started to open.

Instead of coming back into the car, Nozomi crossed the doors and went in to show Ryo where he could park. After, she walked in front of the principal door of the house, and stopped there, suddenly paralyzed. Ryo and Kaori joined her, and gave her looks plenty of comfort and encouragement. Nozomi made the last three steps and put her finger over the bell.

The door opened before she could ring. A middle aged woman wearing an apron appeared in front of them. Directly she run over the girl holding her tightly into her powerful arms. Her cheeks had a pink dyeing of pure joy.

- Oh, my girl, my little girl! You are all right! Thank God, thank God! We were dying of worry! How are you feeling? What happened? Are you harmed?

- No, Nana, I'm ok, I'm fine. I came with these friends, they took care of me.

- Oh, thank you very much. Thank you… Please come in, I can't let you out there.

The three of them made as she said, Nozomi and the lady first, since this last hadn't let go the girl and still was holding her. The inside of the house couldn't be much different of what they saw. A large hall opened at their sight. There was a table with beautiful flowers in the middle of the room. All the furniture was made of an excellent wood. The walls were decorated with an exquisite mirror and some paintings. Ryo didn't seem much impressed, as always, but Kaori couldn't hide her emotions, and looked around her with admiration, she even felt a bit inhibited.

- Oh, darling, your father is going to feel very relieved.

- Is he in the house?- Nozomi asked in surprise.

- Of course, he is. He hadn't left the house but for going to look for you. He's been very worried. I'm pretty sure that he has not slept a whole hour since you disappeared.

- But…

- He's in the library now. Go and see him.

- No…, just tell him to come down, please.

- Ok.- She went to the rich stairs at the left of the large hall, but before she went up, the lady turned to Ryo and Kaori and addressed to them- Very pleased to meet you, thank you again for taking care of Nozomi-san.

A minute later, a bold voice preceded the matching grave figure of a man by the stairs. Nozomi tensed, but remained bravely in her place. It was obvious she was waiting and preparing to receive a reprimand. And the man looked like one capable to give the worst reprimands. His face was one to must fear. But also his movements were like those of a lion in his lair, ready to fight whoever who dare to irrupt into his territory.

- Who is it?

Nozomi already made another act of courage and walked some steps towards the end of the stairs. When her father saw her, his face suffered an incredible change. It miraculously enlightened, and got the shine of one who has received the best gift in the world. He run to her, and catch the girl in a tight hug.

- Daughter…

Nozomi eventually replayed to the embrace, and left behind any sign of fear.

- Father-. Then she got apart and started to explain.- I'm sorry. Father, these are Mr Saeba and Ms Makimura, they have taken care of me the last days.

Only in that moment the man noticed them, and as sudden as the change before, he looked at them with a serious face again. He let go of her daughter, stood rigid and dryly said:

- Thank you very much. If this caused you any trouble, of course I'll pay for your help, but now, please, I'd be very thankful if you left my daughter and I talk alone.

- No, father, I'd prefer if they stayed.

- Nozomi, I said they should leave, don't contradict me in public.

- But, father, they're my friends and they had something to tell you.

- We'll talk tomorrow then, but now you have to tell me what happened.

- No! You're doing it again! When will you start to listen to me?

- Nozomi, how can you talk to me like that? I'm your father!

- You think you can solve it all by paying money and giving commands, don't you? If you're my father, then listen to my wishes at least for once, and maybe you'll get surprised at seeing that they're not so bad.

- You won't keep talking to me in that tone, miss.

- Of course I won't. I won't talk to you anymore!- With that, she run upstairs and disappeared in a sea of tears.

- Excuse her. Now please, we'll talk tomorrow.

- Excuse me, Mr Inaba, but I think we should talk right now.- Kaori couldn't contain herself for more. But Ryo stopped her holding her by an arm.

- Sorry, Mr Inaba, we didn't mean to disturb you. We'll leave now, but please, I only ask you one thing: make sure that Nozomi doesn't go out of the house today. I'll call you tomorrow morning.

- Yes. We will talk tomorrow.

And with that, they went back to the car.

- Damn! Now I almost understand Nozomi, with that father, I would try to run away too! Why did you stop me? Than man deserves a couple of lessons!

- Calm down. We couldn't do anything now. They really need to talk.

As usual, Ryo's thoughts were a mystery. But he sure had his reasons to do what he was doing. However, she couldn't agree with him at that moment. She was angry at that insensitive man. Although deep in her heart, she knew that Nozomi's attitude wasn't completely right; after all, her father loved her and he had suffered very much with her absence. A son or a daughter is the most precious thing for their parents, and it's not easy to control if they are not showing their love the right way. Ryo and herself knew about troubles in showing feelings.

Kaori didn't feel like getting in the house yet, so she asked Ryo to stop her near a park, not much far from their apartment. Ryo in his side, announced that, seeing that they could have a break from the case, he was going to visit some of his friends in a cabaret. That of course, meant a hammer attack, from which he could only scape thanks to the car.

The place was begining to get plenty of clients, all male. The only females there were the girls dressed in sexy stuff, who walked among the tables offering their attentions to whoever that accepted them. One of the girls immediatly recognized Ryo. She approached him with a smile. They talked for a while. The girl laughted when Ryo tried to peal off her bra.

They spent some time more drinking, and soon more girls were added to Ryo's company. At the end, he stood up.

- Are you leaving so soon today?

- Yes, babe, got some work to do. Thanks for this wonderfull time, call me if you learn something more.

- I will. Good bye.- she blew him a kiss.

- Ah, women, they can't live without me.

Outside, it was starting to get fresher. He sighed. This wasn't the same than when he came with Makimura. He allways had been there to help him get to his house when he had drunk too much.

There was nobody at home, the house was so silent. The living room was empty. No sound from the kitchen. Her room was empty. His room was empty. It really was a big apartment when there was only one person in it. It was better when they were two.

He heard her when she opened the door and came into the house. She knew he had arrived yet for his shoes were in the entrance. He heard her walking to her room. For a moment there was no sound. Then her steps became nearer, untill she stopped by his door, it wasn't closed, but she knocked two times.

- Can I?

He only looked at her. It was dark yet, but they hadn't turned on any light. Anyway, the light from the full moon was more than enough.

He was half lying half sitting on the bed, and put his hands behind his head. Kaori sat in the bed, right where she had knelt the night before. Ryo's heart began its race.

- You know, I've been thinking. I beleive now that you are all right. The girl and her father need to talk. And not only about these last days, but about their lives. They love and care for each other very much. It's only that both of them have such a strong character.

Ryo realized that this was the usual Kaori, and somehow, he felt a bit less tense.

- I get so sad when I see that she can't enjoy what she has. She has a father, and a mother. She has true parents, and it's a shame that they can't live like a true family.

Ryo leant forwards.

- D'you envy her?

- No. I want her to be happy. She seems to had all she needs to be happy, but she isn't... Sometimes I miss him so much.

- Me too.

- Life is unfair. He didn't deserve to be killed. He left us alone. I lost my beloved brother and you lost your best friend... Sorry, Ryo. At the begining I stupidly thought that I could replace him by your side. But after seven years, it's obvious that I can't.

- It's impossible for both of us to replace him. I thought I could make a good brother... Seven years and four months..., but it seems like yesterday.

- But you make a good brother. You allways came to save me, didn't you? You're my protector, with you I know I am safe.

He stared at her, in silence. She saw something in his eyes that had been hiden from her until now. Pure and simple tenderness. That wasn't exactly like her brother's look, but it was fine for her. A look like that from Ryo was like a dream.

- All I have in this world now is you...

- And what about Sayuri?

-... It's true... but she isn't here, she has her own life there in New York. I promise I'll give my best to be a good family for you.

- You're doing fine.

- I know I can't be like my brother for you, but I was happy trying to.

- You are my best friend. I don't want another Hideyuki Makimura... I'm happy with you... I'm happy that you chose to stay by my side when I asked you. You gave me all I needed, and more... and you gave it for free.- He stroke her face with his thumb, and with a smile he continued- I'm not alone anymore...

- Oh, Ryo…- that was more than she could stand. Kaori's heart was melting. She threw her arms around his neck, trying to stop her tears from coming out.

Ryo hesitated for a minute, he wasn't used to these things. To have a woman crying in his arms, and a woman like Kaori, who awoke those emotions inside him. How could he give comfort to her, as she gave it to him? He put his hands in her back, and slowly, feeling that it was the right thing, he laid back onto the bed with her in his arms.

There they stayed for a long time, savouring the moment, the sensations, thinking of what they had just said. Heaven must be something similar. When had Ryo felt in peace like then? What had he done to deserve someone like her? He wasn't more than a dirty rat, but she wanted to stay with him, to be his family.

- Are you sleeping?- her sweet voice said.

- Mmh...- he denied.- What is it?

- What are we doing know?

- What?

- What's the next step?

Ryo's heart made a start, what were she talking about? He fought not to sound so much scared.

- Next step?

- With the case. What is our next movement? Now that she is in her house. It will be a hard thing to talk to her father and try to convince him to let us protect his daughter.

Oh, the case, of course. Ryo let go the breath he had been holding.

- We'll talk to Mr Inaba, I think he can teach us some interesting things about that girl. Anyway, I have been making some research and I'm pretty sure of who the stalkers are.

- Really? So soon?

- They seem to be new in the business. And who do you think you're talking to? I'm not the number one for nothing.

She smiled, he caressed her hair.

- Ryo...

- Mh?

- Can I stay here tonight?

-... I was going to ask you the same... Promise not to make appear one of your mallets?

- Promised, not this time.

Then, Ryo took the sheets and made them cover Kaori and himself. He cuddled her between his arms and nestled her, feeling as well her hands on his chest, until they fell asleep.

The sun wasn't much high in the sky when Ryo woke. He opened his eyes, and stretched out an arm to the missing heat by his side. Kaori wasn't there. It wasn't really late, but she was used to get up very early in the morning. He couldn't hope her to stay in bed as long as he was, but he had to admit that he would had liked to find her there when he opened his eyes. Call it male sense of property. All she had left was a slight track of her body heat, and her perfume all around him.

Finaly, he rose up from the bed. They had things to do.

She was in the kitchen, finnishing the breakfast.

- Oh, I was just going to call you. We can't be late this morning. How did you sleep?- Her hair was wet.

- Well, strange. It's been the first time that I've slept with a woman without making love to her.

- Sorry, you pervert! I was trying to be kind! Sorry if I'm not one of those girls from your cabarets!- A great hammer of 1001 tons sent him to the opposite wall.- And it's not been the first time we've slept together!

- If you let me speak. I didn't say I didn't like it.- But Kaori was already out of the room.

A phone ring came from the living room. Kaori went and picked it up.

- Moshi moshi?

- It's Saeko, hello, Kaori. Is Ryo awake? I have to talk to him.

- Yes, he's awake, but he's busy now.

- What? Well, I suppose this is important for you too.

One minute later, Kaori went running into the kitchen.

- Ryo, hurry up, something happened to Nozomi!

- What happened?

- I'll explain you on the way to her house.

He got up to his room quickly, changed his clothes and soon they were in the red mini.

- It was Saeko at the telephone before. Mr Inaba had called her.

- Nozomi disappeared, isn't it?

- Yes.

- They've been fast this time.

When they arrived, tension could had been cut with a knife.

Nana openned the door and let them in.

- Thank God you arrived.- her eyes were red from crying.

There was somebody more with Mr Inaba. It was Nozomi's mother. Maybe Nozomi had inherited her father's character, but her nice features were from her mother.

- How was it?- Ryo went straight to the point.

- They came this morning. Two men had kidnapped my girl.

- Did you see them?

- Yes.

- Tell us every detail.

- We should go to the living room. We can sit down and talk there.- said Nozomi's mother.

- Thank you.- Ryo replayed.

They went into a large but comfortable living room, nicely decorated. Ryo was examining with his profesional eyes the big windows from which it could be seen a garden at one side of the house. Form the windows, long curtains held to the floor. At one edge of the room was placed a black piano. Several book cases were spread through the walls. A big lamp made of crystal bejeweled the ceiling. At the other edge of the room was sited a fireplace, and next to it were a couple of sofas, one opposite the other, separated by a short table. They sat down and Ryo continued the conversation.

- Please, start from the beginning.

- This morning, after the breakfast, my daughter went out to the garden. I tried to tell her not to go out of the house, as you told me yesterday. But maybe, it had been better to tell her to go, she always does the contrary of what she's been said. So, without a word she got out of the house not listening to me. I went upstairs to my office, but I couldn't work, I was worried knowing that she was alone outside. So I went down again. I didn't have the time to arrive at the end of the stairs when I thought I had listened to something like a shout. I run the fastest that I could to the door, but only got to see two men pulling Nozomi into a car, a black car. Sorry I didn't take the number plate. They were dressed in black too.

- You saw the car. Was it inside the property?

- Yes it was near the part of the garden that ends in the front of the house.

- Then, how did they entered? There's a big door, and it's a heavy one.

- The doors were opened and, as you can see, it can't be closed now. They must have broken the electric circuit.

Mr Inaba seemed tired, as well as his ex-wife. They had lost their child for a second time. That really can destroy someone's nerves.

- I… I tried to go after the car with my own, but they had a good advantage and I haven't been able to follow them for long.

He was fighting to stay calm, but he had his hands tightly clenched. For a man like him, who was used to control everything, it was hard not being able to save his own daughter.

- Ok. One more question. Were they carrying any weapon?

Nozomi's mother grabbed an arm of the sofa.

- Sorry, madam, but I have to know.

- I didn't see any weapon. In fact I only saw the man who had taken Nozomi, the other was in the car yet. But I didn't see any weapon.

- First, she runs away, then she is kidnapped, and now you're talking about weapons? What is happening in this house? I swear, if she gets injured I will take her with me.- Nozomi's mother exploded.

- What makes you think that she will be better with you?, traveling all day, never a whole week in the same place. What kind of life is that for a girl?

- At least she would be with me, she wouldn't be alone!

- What do you mean?!

- Please! We don't have time for family dramas, we have to find your daughter, remember?

The two parents kept quiet. The woman stood up and went to a bar at the back of her seat. There she put herself a drink and took a quick shot.

- I suppose you want to know how we met Nozomi.- It was Kaori's turn to speak.- We're friends of Ms Nogami, from the police. Nozomi has been in our house the last days. She told us she thought she was being followed, and we were protecting her. Of course we wanted that you knew where your daughter was and what was happening. That's why we came here yesterday.

- I see…- Mr Inaba said.

- It's not difficult to imagine what can they want with your daughter's kidnap.

- The bastards want my money, of course.

- However, I think there's something more about Nozomi that what we see. Isn't it?

- What do you mean, Mr Saeba?

- What has she got that could be as much interesting as your money for a gang of amateur thieves?

- Ryo…

-… So, you know it.

- Oh, I'm right, there's something more. No, I must confess that I don't know what it is.

- It's her hypnotic powers.

- Takashi!

- No, they're right, they have to know… Yes… Nozomi has the power of hypnotizing people and control their wills. She only has to look at someone in the eye, and she has quick access to his mind. When we realized she had that power, several years ago, we tried to stop her from training, we were afraid that some day it could go against her…, but you know her, she never listens to what she's said. At the beginning she could only induced some sort of trance in the people. But she kept practicing and now she can even give orders and make people do things. She can play with the people's mind and memories, she can make someone remember or forget. She is a good girl, and I'm sure she will never use her powers to cause any harm.

- But in the bad hands, Nozomi's powers can be a great weapon.

The four of them remained in silence. It was obvious now. If the thieves knew about that power, then the money Mr Inaba could give, could be not enough to bring Nozomi back. Nozomi's mother collapsed onto the sofa. Ryo and Kaori decided to leave them rest. They agreed to call as soon as they received any call from the kidnapers. The sweepers got into the car and left the house. It was a silent travel. None of them expressed aloud whatever they were thinking of. But both were deep immersed in their own thoughts.

When they arrived home, Ryo stopped the car in front of the building, but didn't get out.

- Look, Kaori. I'm going to talk to somebody who can help us some useful information. You wait here.

- But, Ryo, can't I go with you?

- No. Stay here. It won't take much time.

He was serious. Kaori chose not to insist, that was not the time. So, she let him go.

She was feeling sorry for Nozomi. For what it was happening to her now, but also for what she had had to suffer in the past. With friends and a family around, and still so lonely. At least, she herself had Ryo now. He was all she needed to be happy. Despite their strange relationship, she knew he always would be there for her. She did know that. As well as he did know that she was his forever.

The shooting room was so silent and darkness that it almost frightened. She turned on the lights and everything came from the void like if it had never been there before. The smell of powder was spicy in Kaori's nose. She took out her short gun. She stared at it for a moment. Then, she operated a device in the near wall and a new target appeared at the end of the room. Kaori knew that she wasn't as good at this as she wanted to be. It had been so many years by a professional shooter's side, but she wasn't already able to make a good job with guns. Well, if she wanted to help Nozomi in this case, she should be prepared for using her weapon. So, she walked towards the line of tables, put a pair of stoppers in her ears and started shooting.

In the meantime, at the other corner of the metropolis, alone, in the middle or the darkness, tied and scared, a girl was trying hard not to let the tears fall from her beautiful eyes. She should had been more careful. How could she had been so stupid! It was very quick. Her father hadn't had the time to stop them, she had noticed it. He had run to the car but it had been too late. But at least he had tried. He was very worried about her. She couldn't remember the last time she saw that caring look in her father's eyes. Her memories of him were always of anger and coldness. Oh, how she wished to be with him right now. It was impossible for Ryo and Kaori to find her there.

Noises could be heard approaching to a more or less near door that communicated the room where she was with another smaller one. They seemed to be arguing.

Enough. Kaori couldn't know how long she had been down there. What time it would be? All she knew was that her arms were tired, as well as her mind. Stop lying to yourself. You know this is not going to help anymore for today. If you're no talented, you aren't, and that's all. Besides, Ryo wouldn't change his mind and see you as the partner he deserves just for you shooting better. I have to do it well this time. I can't let pass this opportunity of helping him in our job, of showing him that this is important for me too.

It's not that she held any doubts about Ryo's trust in her. Not anymore. But she still needed, for herself, to prove her value, as if doing so would granted her the right to be by his side. She still was afraid as hell of losing him.

More than only that, she felt the need to do this. She needed to feel him by her side in their job. She needed him to feel that she was there, with him. To help him, or just to be with him.

Kaori left the basement and went to the first floor of their house. She made her path straight to her room and started removing her clothes when the sound of the entrance door being closed announced that Ryo had just arrived. That was good, she felt relieved, as always when he came back home. But she did nothing for him to know her presence in the flat. He hadn't said anything either. She stood in her underwear in front of the closet. She roamed through some clothes to finally find the one she wanted. The elastic tights she liked to wear for they were so comfortable. She put a shirt on too and laced it over her belly. Well, she was ready.

The lights of the living-room were off, but she wasn't surprised to see Ryo there, his silhouette next to the glass doors of the balcony. For a moment, Kaori lose her breath. Oh, God, what a vision. The gorgeous shape of his muscular body leaning on the door frame hit her right through her heart. And he, gracefully turning to see her approaching, made her cheeks stain with a lovely light pink. In silence he stared at her shy attempt of hiding her sudden embarrassment looking at her feet. His pupils got wider when he took a better look of her. He lift a glass of whiskey to his lips and almost drank it all in a single shot.

"Good idea", she thought, "I need some too". And taking the glass from Ryo, she emptied it and left it on the near table. The man looked at her with a hint of surprise, but Kaori didn't see it, because she only felt brave enough to look at him when a few more seconds passed. Then, she was first to speak.

- Did you find something?

- Yes.- Ryo answered with the monosyllable, not looking at her yet.

- Well? What did you find?- Geez, couldn't he be more explicit?

- Soon I'll know more, for now I think they are a group of thieves, they're new in town.

- But being able to kidnap someone in her own house surely is sign that they are a more or less organized group, I don't think they are so inoffensive.

- You're right, partner.- He said with a smile, and Kaori inexplicably blushed again.- I'm almost sure that the guys who attacked you two, and who eventually succeeded kidnapping Nozomi, are the amateur ones. But they are hired by someone who knows this city well and who does know Nozomi's powers. Think of it, isn't it a great weapon to be able to use hypnotic power on the people when you are a thief?

- Yes, but…, I don't know. I think that something doesn't match in the whole plan. It's too risky. Even if they threaten her, for example harming her parents or something, Nozomi isn't just a little girl, she's probably smarter than they are. What if she tries to hypnotize them, I'm sure she can.

- That's it. You're right again.

- She's very good at that.

- So it seems.

- It's easy for her to manipulate people.

- Yes.

Then, they kept quiet. Both of them realized that suddenly the thing was getting somewhat… personal.

Kaori didn't know how she could say it aloud:

- So, those weren't dreams…

-… No…

His answer echoed in her ears for a whole long minute. She had said it. So, she remembered everything from the last two nights. That made it even more real. The memories of their meetings and the way he had enjoyed her touch. Now he was lost. They stood side by side, Ryo looking at the dark horizon lost in the city lights, Kaori paying an intense attention to her feet again. Until she eventually broke the dense silence built between them.

- I'm sorry. If it bothered you, I'm sorry.

She turned to leave, not knowing how to feel, if embarrassed, ashamed, angry or what. But she was blocked by Ryo, who held her by her upper arm. They were now very close. Still Ryo tilt his head a bit forward. Now they couldn't avoid looking into the other's eyes, trying to avoid looking at the other's mouth, which was a very dangerous territory.

- Silly…- he said.

She opened her eyes wide. Then she frowned a little bit, trying to understand the so sweet tone of his voice. The beats of her heart went even faster when she saw his pupils go lower in her face, and she got terrified when realized that her own eyes were helplessly doing the same path on him. She saw his lips coming closer until she had to close her eyes. And then, she felt the softness of his mouth over hers. And all beautiful and exciting things in this world invaded her body and soul at a time. Her heart was captivated by a warm sensation, time stopped running. Ryo pressed a bit more, the kiss became deeper, more passionate. It was like if nothing could keep him apart from her now. For a few moments there was nothing between them. They were finally face to face. Only them and their feelings.

He held her tighter. His hands exploring her backside while his lips and teeth played with her mouth and chin. Tormenting her with light bites. Oh, gods, she was delicious. Strong yet delicate, and so beautiful. They got locked one to the other. Their mouths played together for a few minutes. Neither of them felt strong enough to stop. On the contrary. The years of repressed desire finally blasted out of control. Ryo pressed her against his body, unconsciously increasing the sensations. Kaori felt like a tiny thing in his arms, he had to ease his grip, afraid he could hurt her. She was so innocent. The thought passed through his mind just for a second. Oh, gods, he was going to have a good time teaching her. But how sweet she could taste… It was simply glorious. To have her in his arms, and responding to his kiss in such a lovable way. Ryo guided the girl's arms to put them around his neck. His desire only pictured him taking Kaori to the couch, lying there next to her, bathing her skin with caresses and kisses.

Involuntarily, those images made his movements a bit more ardent, what caused Kaori to make a little noise from the back of her throat. The hum resulted of that kind no man would resist, neither Ryo. He graciously, but certainly excited, made them spin so that Kaori's back was now near the wall. He gently and slowly pushed her till it was supporting their weights. The girl blushed even more, seeing herself with no escape between the wall and Ryo. They soon started to feel the absence of air in their lungs. Reluctantly they broke apart, but only inches enough to breathe. Their lips never too much far to keep contact now and then, in a series of slight kisses that turned out into something extremely more stirring than they had first intended. Kaori tightened her hold on Ryo's neck. As in answer, one of his arms slid down her back to her waist and began loosening the knot of her shirt. At the same time that Kaori felt Ryo's hand moving on her stomach, she also could feel some warm, wet and soft thing brushing her lips and past her teeth.

She was taken so by surprise that her eyes opened wide and her whole body froze. He noticed her shock and stopped too. He looked at her, who shyly looked back at him, flushed, biting her lower lip. He made half a step back.

- Sorry- he said, still with breathless voice.

"What?!" she thought "No, Ryo, it's just…" she wanted to tell him. But a sudden ring startled them both.

Ryo turned to look at the phone. Professionally he walked towards it and picked the receiver up. He only spoke a couple of 'hai' and an 'arigatou, Tetsu'. When he looked back at Kaori, he announced:

- The girl has been located. Let's go.

And with that, they were back to reality again.

Kaori laced her shirt for a second time that night, and Ryo put his jacket on. Both of them assured their weapons in their places without a word and prepared to leave the house, a look of real pro in their eyes.

Ryo explained Kaori the situation during their ride in car. He had been receiving information, about new criminals in town, from the old man Tetsu and a girl who worked in one of the cabarets he used to go. That's how he learnt that some strange guys who smelled like simple amateurs at least from a mile, had arrived a week ago and where proclaming to the world how clever they were and how they had found a 'pretty' source of money. What a stupid couple! It hadn't been much difficult to see the connection between those two and their client's odd case.

-Is that what you were to do this evening? Go to that bar and talk to that girl?- Kaori asked, a little hope in her heart.

- Among other things.- was his elusive answer. Anyway, he couldn't fool her that much, and he knew it.

Sitting side by side, Kaori felt, as the silence fell over them once again, that their proximity was shorter than ever. Was she unconsciously moving closer to him than before? No, and the seats were the same distance as always. Then, why did she feel that she only had to spread her fingers to touch his hand in the break? And why was she more tempted that ever to do so? Their last moment together had been incredible, it was a shame it had been cut so soon and in such an abruptly way. She couldn't even make clear to him that she had liked it a lot, despite her confusing reaction.

They arrived near the seaside, where a long file of storehouses were displayed one beside the other, drawing narrow and dangerously dark alleys. Ryo hid the car so that no one could notice that anybody was around there. Probably, the kidnapers had done the same, because Ryo smelled something like fuel (and not only from their own car) mingled with the see air.

He told Kaori to be alert and careful not to make any noise.

- Stay at my back and try not to fall down and make everybody know we're here.

- What do you think I am? At least I've learnt how to behave, in all these years.

- Fine.– he whispered.- Then, why don't you shut your mouth?

All he got for an answer was her absolute silence of mouth and movements, after having hit his head with a tiny and cute 1 ton mallet. He secretly smiled.

They got into the building through a hole in the left wall. There were broken wooden boxes everywhere. The floor was covered with a sheet of dust, and it was easy to distinguish several different types of footprints. With the gun in his hand Ryo walked first, leading Kaori next to his back. They had a little flashlight but the place was very dark. It was pretty silent too. For a couple of minutes they searched for any sign of a door or something like that. When Kaori passed near one of those broken boxes, she got hurt in her right thigh.

- Ah!

- Shhhh...

- Sorry, it hurt.

- What? What was it?

- Don't worry, it's nothing.

Fortunately, Ryo believed her and he didn't pay much attention to her wound. They reached a corner and soon the sound of voices arrived to their ears from a nearby room. It seemed to be male voices. They listened closer.

- Don't, you idiot! The boss said not to look her right in the eye! Do you ever listen?!

- But, why? That's a nonsense, what harm can make her with the eyes. Look at her, she's a stupid scared child.

- If the boss said that, it wasn't for nothing. You are the stupid here.

The other said something more, but in a low voice, and Kaori and Ryo couldn't hear it. Anyway, that wasn't important now because Ryo had already taken notice of the weapons existing in the room and was ready to start the action.

He opened the door with one hand, while the other held the gun, pointing right to the two men. These were taken aback and they didn't have the time to get to their own guns. Ryo left them k.o. with his bare hands. In the meantime, Kaori had entered the room and was freeing Nozomi of the rope that was tied to the chair and her hands at her back.

The girl was very happy to see them. Kaori held her tight for a while until she started feeling better. Ryo took the two men's guns. He also discovered a cell phone in one of the pockets of the taller man's jacket.

- Interesting...

Ryo took out his own cell phone and made a call.

Twenty minutes later a red and beautiful car arrived. From inside a young woman and three men came out. The following scenes went from a tender meeting between a father and his daughter to a rather comical arresting. Mr Inaba thanked Ryo, Kaori and the police for their work. He was ready to go home, they were tired, but there was still something to be done.

When the two men in black awoke, Ryo had tied them. They were confused. Ryo offered his scariest face and the two men talked. Their boss was supposed to come and meet them to take the girl to a safer place. They only had to wait till midnight.

And midnight soon arrived.

Out of the building, muffled sounds could be heard. Inside, the miscellaneous group formed by the two sweepers, the four policemen, the father, his daughter and the two men in black, listened in complete silence as steps echoed more and more audible.

Finally, a shadow appeared by the semi-opened door, complaining to his accomplices of the ruinous place they had chosen. His words got caught in his mouth when the two men he expected to see appeared in front of him, tied to his chairs. The fat man remained perplex for some seconds. Then Ryo's form appeared at the back of the two men. The boss' jaw dropped open and he turned to leave, but he almost hit the guns of the three policemen accompanying Saeko.

He had lost and gave up, hands up. Probably, he was still wondering what the hell had happened when Saeko and the policemen took him arrested to the car, along with his two stupid accomplices. How could he had failed? The plan was going very well, he was going to be rich and famous in the underworld. How all of a sudden? Why him.

Nozomi hugged Kaori, all fear gone away now.

- Thank you, Kaori. Thank you, Ryo.

- Honey, I'm going to call a taxi. Mr. Saeba, Ms. Makimura, thank you for protecting my daughter. I know there's no money that can pay for my daughter's safety, but we'll talk tomorrow about your fee.

- Ok, Mr. Inaba,- Ryo said with a little smile- we'll talk about it.- Then the two men shook their hands, as Nozomi happily watched them.

Mr. Inaba left to call and wait for the taxi, while Nozomi stayed a bit longer to say goodbye to her guards.

- Umh, Kaori, I guess you know about my little power now.

- Yes.- Kaori's face started to redden.

- Oh, I hope I didn't cause much trouble.

- Well, ahem..., n-not much..., but, next time, please ask first.

- Sorry, I was trying to help, somehow.

- I know. But yours is a great power, to control another's mind, you'll have to be careful.

- Well, it's not exactly "controlling", it's more like "giving a little push".- she said smiling innocently.

- You call that a "little push"?!- Ryo couldn't keep quiet at that. He had suffered that "little push" in his own flesh.- Then, what would have you told her to do if it would have been a big push?!- Now, Kaori was certainly red and her face felt hot.

- What? It's not that I had set the rest of her life for her. I just told her that she should let herself go more often and make what her heart really desires. I don't think that's so bad.

Ryo and Kaori remained speechless.

- What. What did you do, Kaori? ... I just hoped that you would finally admit your feelings for each other...

- What-what are you talking about, little brat?- Ryo said.

Nozomi just smiled back. Then her father called for her, and she said goodbye to the two slightly embarrassed sweepers.

In the car back to home, Kaori couldn't stand the silence, she felt uncomfortably shy.

- At last, Mr. Inaba wasn't that insensitive a father.

- I've known much men like him. Their fortunes are so huge, they carry a strong responsibility, and in the end they forget that they had started making money for their family's sake. It's good that Mr. Inaba understands that what really maters is the lives of the ones you love... You know, I can understand him.

She didn't replayed, she just formed a little smile and kept quiet for the rest of the way, listening to her heart above the car's engine sounds.

Kaori was still absorbed in thinking of what Nozomi had said when they arrived home. She was at least surprised by the fact of her being able to draw such behavior. She knew that expression on Ryo's face. It said that he was deeply pondering something, and she knew what it was. That made her blush. Only a few hours ago they had been there in the living room, just a few steps ahead, locked in each other's arms like two passionate lovers. Like two lovers who had just discovered what love was.

The girl walked in light steps to the kitchen. The man slowly followed her. Some coffee would do wonders. Kaori was beginning to feel the dizziness of the night and the lack of sleep and rest. However, her body felt relaxed, like the softness after doing some intense exercise.

They were sitting at the table in the kitchen, one in front of the other. They weren't talking, just staring to the table, the floor, each other's mugs, each other's hands.

- I think we should take some sleep.- Ryo said.

- Unh...- she nodded.

-... Sleep well.- He raised from his chair.

- Wait!- she was standing too.- Please, stay a bit longer...

Ryo stopped a little surprised by her tone, and turned around. He stared at her. She had just realized what she had done and an enticing sheet of pink stained her cheeks again.

- I... uhm...

Her indecision made her even prettier. Nothing to do with the passionate Kaori he knew, but they were the same, they were his Kaori. A tender smile appeared on Ryo's lips. He slowly leant, rather than sat on the table. And with an irresistible and confident look, his eyes invited her to come closer. When he had her at arm's reach, he held her hand and guided her in front of him and nearer.

- Hey, what's the matter? You know you can say it to me.

- Baka, you know what's the matter...

- Yes? But I can't know if you don't tell me. There are several things I can figure out, but I don't want to take the wrong choice.

Kaori finally gathered the strength to look at him. She found his eyes, the eyes she loved so much. She became aware of his hands on hers, rubbing his thumbs over the back of her fingers. She felt her body reacting at these simple touch and looks, she noted her heart melting at his only presence, and knew this was the man for her.

- I neither want you to take it wrong. I...

-... I think we were interrupted before. Where were we?

He lovingly drew his lips to hers, brushing them together and then breaking apart.

- Was it here?... Or was it here?- He came closer again and kissed her mouth slowly and deep, while his arms reached around her back, as if claiming her his.

Kaori thought she was going to loose consciousness, this was even better than before. Oh, God, how could something be even better than before? And better than this? No way. This was Heaven. Her hands now rested on his chest. They broke apart again.

- ... Or was it... here?- His voice sounded husky and terribly sensual. Her heart was pounding hard with anticipation. His mouth opened over hers, probing and tempting. Her response was delicate, sweet. He could taste her innocence, her passion. She desired him at least as much as he desired her. Their embrace tighten. The little moans intertwined with their breaths and the sound of cloth being torn. Her hands were running through his back now. His hands were running, well, through all of her.

Eventually, they made a short pause for breathing. But soon Ryo was kissing her again. And again.

He mourned her name between her lips, then his tongue left her mouth for her neck and ear. He had to force himself to withdraw from her to speak.

- We better get out of the kitchen, or I'll end up making love to you on the table.

Kaori whispered a small, stunned smile and went to rest her head on his chest for a while. He put his arms around her and closed his eyes. When she could speak again she said:

- Then maybe we should go find another more comfortable place.

The man raised his head to take a better look of her.

- Don't think I will be told twice.- He took her in his arms and quickly left the kitchen and went to the stairs to the second floor. He didn't let go of her until they had entered his bedroom.

There he put her on the floor and gave her the most sensual and sexy look she had ever seen. It was like a predator's look, deep, bold, intense. It made her heart almost ache from emotion. Images of the previous nights flew mixed up with her own fantasies in her mind. She saw him come to her, put his hands on her waist. He kissed her on her lips, and neck, and shoulder. Half of their clothes somehow managed to fall on the floor while they fell on the bed.

A world of sensations opened before them. Their hands and bodies explored the other's ones, removing the rest of the clothes, letting it slip by the edges of the bed.

Outside, the moon had started to decrease, she watched them as her own light reflected in their hot skins, humid with transpiration. Dawn was still a few hours far. They had the night before them. Soon, the woman's cries mingled with the man's low groans. They made love for a long, long time, slowly and gently and passionately, to make up for the consuming long years of wait.


This is it. Did you like it?