Maki tosses me a mask. It’s from the Masked Avenger TV show that Kaz loves.
“You couldn’t find one of the Phantom Defender?” I asked.
“What the hell’s a ‘Phantom Defender?’” he snaps back at me. “C’mon kid, who cares what you’re wearing?”
This was some cheap mask that kids would wear for Halloween. It didn’t feel right with the poor quality plastic in my hands, and I doubt I could even see through the eye holes.
“You’re really gonna be cheap on keeping our identities a secret?” I asked.
Maki scowls at me. “We Dominos don’t have the budget. Besides, this job should be in and out, quick.”
A heavy sigh escapes from my mouth.
I can’t believe I’m already a 2nd year at Kasumigaseki.
Maybe it was because of the Masked Avenger mask, but Kazuki popped into my head for some reason. Our second semester of school had just recently started, and already my partner-in-crime had gone to even lower lows than I could have ever imagined. Kaz finally confessed to the “Ice Witch,” Akane Yuki, in front of the whole school. I just wonder how he would react if I told him what I was doing tonight.
“By the way, let me introduce you to our new member.” Maki motions towards his car and someone steps out of the passenger door.
He didn’t tell me we’d be having company.
The figure moves towards us, and I notice she looks vaguely familiar.
“Aren’t these super cute?” as she reveals a bunny mask.
“Her name’s Shion.” Maki reveals.
Shion was a slim and slender girl, with her hair tied up using a red ribbon, styled like a pair of bunny ears. Immediately I feel my stomach turning, as my instincts are flooding me with uncertainty and doubts. She looks cute, but for some reason, too cute. It’s almost like nothing about her seemed natural in any way. Her dyed grayish hair and pale skin made her look like a mannequin.
“And you must be Daisuke-kun, right?” she asks me.
“Y-Yes.” I respond, trying my best to repress my blush.
Shion moves closer to my face.
“I’ve never noticed your nose is a bit crooked…” she observes.
I take a step away from her.
Who is this girl…? And why does she look so familiar?
“Anyways, Shion has been with us for a while, but tonight’s she’s officially a Domino Dog.” Maki calls for our attention.
“This should be a simple job okay? We just need to teach some punks who’ve decided to cause trouble for us. Just knock some heads, stir the pot a bit y’know?” he explains.
Maki heads towards the car, and we follow him.
“They’re apparently at the old abandoned factory near where the road splits. Just get in, and get out. Both of you got it?”
Shion and I nod our heads.
Get in and get out.
I had zero intentions of working with the Dominos since I wanted nothing to do with my dad and his legacy, as he was the previous leader. But, there was no way I could make the payments for Yui’s treatments at this rate. One more job could cover the next few payments at the very least. Hopefully by then, Yui’s condition would be better.
“Daisuke, you’ll be our lookout. Shion and I will take care of everything. Just leave everything to us, got it kid?”
“Thank you for saying yes at the last minute. It’s good we can help each other kid.” as he places his hand on my shoulder.
I brush off his hand.
“So long as I get paid.” I say coldly.
“Of course.” he says, a bit disappointed.
“You remind me a lot of him. You’re almost the splitting image of him.” Maki tells me.
His sudden mention of my father catches me off-guard.
“Let’s get this over with.” I stutter out.
Maki sits in the back, as Shion and I sit in the front.
“I look forward to working with you Daisuke.” as Shion puts on her mask.
I stay silent, and we drive to our location.
I breathe a sigh of relief.
We made it in one piece.
I’m sitting anxiously inside the truck. If anything happened, I was to be the lookout. Maki forbade me from going inside – no matter what. He didn’t want me to see the gruesome part of the job, and I had zero desire of seeing it either. Besides, I’m probably worrying about nothing, since Shion was there to help him. I look at my watch; it’s already been over 45 minutes. At most Maki said this would only take around 20 minutes. It’s been eerily quiet ever since we arrived.
What’s taking them so long…?
W-What was that?!?
I duck my head down underneath the steering wheel. If I didn’t know any better, it sounded awfully like a gun shot. I’ve only heard one gun shot in my life, and it’s a sound one would never forget. I slowly raise my head, thinking the coast is clear. The next sound I hear is a loud scream.
“Help!” someone said.
I couldn’t recognize that voice, but this was taking too long. What is going on in there?!?
That’s it, I’m going inside.
Before I knew it, I see two silhouettes stumble out of the building. They were heading towards me, with one person limping forward, while the other tried supporting them. As they come closer and closer, they reveal themselves to be Shion and Maki!
“Start the car Daisuke-kun!” shouts Shion.
They finally arrive at the car, but Maki drops to the floor on his knees.
“Ah kid…he just grazed me is all.” said a wheezing Maki.
I step outside of the truck and go to his side. I take off his mask, revealing his face was turning deathly pale. I could feel his pulse was getting faint; his hands were ice cold. I notice that his left sleeve was soaking in blood, presumably his. If he didn’t get any medical attention soon, I wouldn’t know what I would do.
“I managed to steal this from the guys who shot Maki.” as Shion reveals a pistol from her skirt.
I couldn’t help but immediately be suspicious of Shion. But, Maki would’ve said something if she was a traitor. However, Maki was bleeding out! I have to do something.
“G-Get him in the car!” I commanded Shion.
She and I heave Maki into the back seat, where he still manages to retain consciousness. Shion and I jump in front, and I start the car.
We have to get to a hospital. The closest one is where Yui is…
I reverse out of the factory, and start racing towards the hospital. Fortunately for us, there would be next to no traffic around this time of night. I drive as fast as I can.
“You’re going to be fine Maki! Hang in there!” I say words of encouragement to him, but I get no response.
Just a little longer.
“This doesn’t look good Daisuke!” Shion shouts to me.
It was obvious Maki was holding on by a thread. If we took the normal roads we wouldn’t make it in time.
There actually was a way we could go. I remember that there was a shortcut around here that would lead towards the main road at the end. Yes, of course! Kazuki and I would ride our bikes home through this route, though I remember him getting scolded by his mother for using it. We can cut our time in half!
“We’re gonna take a shortcut Shion!”
I swerve off-road into bumpy dirt and mud. Somehow I felt glad that Maki’s truck was built for this kind of terrain. I zoom past the trees and forest. The engine was roaring like a lion; I’m driving so fast that every little bump on the road would bounce the car up and down like a roller coaster.
I hear Maki’s short breathing. I think he’s trying to say something.
“Save your breath Maki, we’re almost there!”
“No…I need to tell you…the truth.”
I take a quick glance behind me.
“You’re going to tell me at the hospital. Just hang on!”
Stay calm Daisuke.
“I-I’m almost there! We’re at the end of the shortcut.” I say.
The revving of the engine mixed with Maki’s wheezing. I was finally off the shortcut, and back onto the main road. With smooth ground, I put the pedal to the metal. I drive even faster, zooming past the street lights.
“We’re almost there. We can make it-“
Before I knew it, I see someone on a bicycle appear in front of the truck!
I slam the brakes hard, but it was too late. The car comes to a screeching halt, and my head nearly hits the windshield. I just hit an innocent pedestrian. He just appeared in the corner of my eye, seemingly out of nowhere. I look into the rearview mirror, and I see a silhouette of a body lying face-down. Their bicycle collided with our windshield, and Shion hit her head on the dashboard from the sudden stop. A crushed bottle of milk spilled onto the road. He must have been doing an errand.
Should I step out and help?
I look to my left to see Shion’s breathing become shallow; she must’ve passed out. I turn my head back to see Maki’s arm fully covered in red from his blood.
I don’t have time.
“I’m sorry!” as I continue driving towards the hospital.
Please forgive me…
Akane just finished meticulously decorating Yui’s small hospital room.
“Everything looks so pretty big sis Akane!” Yui compliments.
“Ahahahaha…it was mostly Mary’s idea but if you insist!” as she tries to stop her face from turning a bright pink.
For the most part, it seemed like everything had turned back to normal – at least in World A(kane). Though we had talked it out, there’s this unmistakable distance between us now. It’s so subtle, that I think most people would’ve missed it, but whenever I look at Akane in the eyes, she quickly averts her eyes away from me, if only for a millisecond, and then back at me. Sometimes I feel like I’m looking directly through her, as if she’s not really present.
Maybe I’m just overthinking things again.
Despite all the tension between Akane and me, today was not about us. Today was Daisuke’s birthday, and through Mary’s secret planning, we were about to throw an impromptu surprise party for him. Daisuke regularly visited his sister here almost every day, making this the perfect place to surprise him.
“Alright everyone!” Akane peeks through the door. “Mary’s about to enter with Daisuke…”
She turns off the lights and hides herself right by the door. I take my position as well, crouching, hiding behind one of the small tables.
“W-Wait!” Yui whispers to us.
She quickly rummages inside one of the bags and hands us party poppers.
“Nice save Yui!” Akane gives her a thumbs up.
Yui puts on a party hat, and gets into position as well, hiding behind me.
“I can’t believe what today is!”
Just then we hear Mary’s distinctly loud and shrill voice.
That’s our cue.
We all hold our breaths as the doorknob slowly turns.
“Happy Birthday!” we all shouted in unison.
Akane suddenly turns on the lights, revealing confetti and paper streamer covered Daisuke, still frozen from shock.
“W-What’s going on?!?” he snaps out of his daze.
“It’s your birthday dummy! Did you forget?” Mary pouts.
Daisuke takes a second to process everything, his face a bit pale and red at the same time. Finally, Akane places a party hat on his head, making everything click.
“You guys…are the best.” Daisuke jokingly sobs.
For weeks, I haven’t seen Daisuke smile, let alone be in a cheery mood. It seemed like Daisuke had received a much deserved break from everything. Today was his day, a day where we celebrated his life, and what it meant to all of us. A part of me can’t help but wonder how the Daisuke of World B would’ve reacted.
I bet the last thing he’d want to see is me…
“It was all Mary’s idea.” Akane mentions. “Right Kazuki?”
Attention was suddenly shifted to me.
“Y-Yeah. All Mary.” I try to respond casually.
“Really?” Daisuke kisses Mary on the cheek.
“Y-You’re embarrassing me you p-pervert!” as her face turns bright red.
“B-But since today’s your birthday, so I forgive you!” she pouts.
I couldn’t help but laugh at their little exchange. I look at Akane, who’s face turned a slightly flushed pink. She was probably thinking the same thing as me.
These two knuckleheads.
“At least do it right…”
Mary suddenly tip toes to reach Daisuke and kiss him on the lips.
“W-Woahhhhhhhhh!” Akane and I gasped at the same time.
That was totally out of character for Mary! Did this mean that maybe Mary finally confirmed her feelings for him?
“W-What was that about M-Mary?!?” said Daisuke, still stunned at what just happened.
Daisuke pulled a bold move, but Mary was even bolder. His mind wasn’t able to process it, but his body did.
“That’s my job big sis Mary!”
We turn our attention to Yui, who was still hiding behind me. She had her arms crossed, her head turned away. Mary pushes Daisuke away lightly, almost as if it was a reflex.
“I knew you were a siscon.” I tease.
“H-How could you?!?” Mary stutters, pointing her tiny index finger at Daisuke, her whole body shaking at the lewd thoughts.
“Y-Yui?!? W-What’s g-gotten into you?!?”
“Hahaha!” Akane laughs.
One by one the room erupts into contagious laughter. For a moment it seemed like everything was going to be okay in the world, even if things looked extremely bleak. I’m glad to have experienced a Daisuke that was happy in this semi-perfect World A(kane). If I suddenly showed up to wish a happy birthday to the other Daisuke out of the blue, he’d probably kill me. But maybe that was what he needed right now.
Maybe Daisuke just needs a friend.
“There’s the birthday boy!”
My head turns towards the raspy voice, only to see an elderly man leaning against the door. He had a scar-ridden face, along with some large cauliflower ears. A long gold necklace hung around his neck, slightly blinding me from how reflective and shiny it was. But, despite his age and demeanor, everyone in the room suddenly felt this immense pressure, merely from his sudden appearance.
Who is this guy…?
I instinctively stand in front of Akane, pulling her behind me in case of trouble alongside Yui, but she steps aside and stands right by me instead. We both exchange looks of trepidation, and bring up our guards, prepared for whatever was going to happen. Daisuke stares down the old man, and approaches him face-to-face.
Here we go…
The room comes to a standstill, quiet enough that I could even hear the birds chirping outside the window. Finally, the stranger speaks up.
“It’s been a while…hasn’t it?”
Daisuke stays silent, unfazed.
“Yes…it has, hasn’t it?”
Suddenly the two hug in embrace.
“Thank you so much for coming Maki!” as a smile appears on Daisuke’s face.
Akane and I breathe a collective sigh of relief.
“Guys, this is an old friend of my father, Maki. He’s been sort of taking care of me ever since I was a kid.” he explains.
“You were such a cute kid Daisuke, what happened?” he laughs, wheezing hoarsely.
Daisuke pats Maki’s back in relief.
“Thanks kid.” as he clears his throat.
“Even though your father isn’t here right now, I’m sure he’d be happy to know that you have friends like this.”
“Yeah…dad would’ve hated you Mary.” Daisuke chuckles to himself. “He would think that you’d be using me or something since you’re too good to be true.”
“W-What?!?” she pouts.
Mary turns away, huffing and puffing her shoulders.
“W-Well, maybe you’re right. I am too good for you.” she says with smug.
“But…you’re even better Daisuke.” she turns and smiles at him.
What a weird couple…
I guess other couples had different ways of showing affection? I’m glad Akane and I have been straightforward for the most part…I think?
“Kazuki…your dad doesn’t hate me right?” Akane whispers softly into my ear.
“No way!” I shook my head profusely.
In fact, I think my parents think that Akane’s only with me because I got dirt or that I’m blackmailing her! All I know is, I am very grateful for the girlfriend of my dreams.
“Ahahaha! What a splendid girl Daisuke!” Maki laughs.
Maki bear hugs Mary, managing to lift her tiny body off the ground.
“Can’t…breathe!” she whimpers.
“Uh…what’s going on…?”
Another person has arrived. It was class president of 2-B, Tsubasa Takemi.
“Prez!” Daisuke unexpectedly hugs her. “I can’t believe you actually showed up! I invited almost every cute girl I knew and so far you’re the only one who showed up haha! The only thing I want for my birthday is a harem of cuties!”
“Idiot Daisuke!” Mary lightly punches him on the arm.
“Kidding…kidding.” Daisuke playfully rubs his arm. “Thanks for coming though.”
Somehow, I’m not surprised Daisuke would be that big of an idiot to do that.
“Even Shion?” I thought aloud.
Daisuke's response surprises me.
“Shion? Who’s that?” Daisuke replies.
“You don’t know a Shion Masaki? She just recently transferred to our school.”
Daisuke shakes his head.
“Dude, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” he says with concern. “You always did have a vivid imagination Kazuki.”
Suddenly a small chill runs down my spine.
No, there has to be a logical reason for this.
Shion Masaki must’ve just not transferred to Kasumigaseki High in this world. Yes! That has to be the case. It must be the same with Al and Frederick. I suppose that Akane and I being a couple has caused a butterfly effect, making subtle and not-so-subtle changes in both worlds.
“Then do you know a guy named Alexander?” I asked to confirm.
“Oh, I think I know someone like that, or rather, knew. He went by Al and was apparently a childhood friend or something of Mary’s. I think Mary said he was going to transfer to our school, but the moment he saw me he suddenly had a change of heart. Not sure why…”
That was probably a really smart idea for Al…
So it seems that Al and I’m assuming Frederick both exist in this world. But why was Shion the only person missing?
What’s going on…?
A sudden knock on the door catches Daisuke’s attention. It was Yui’s doctor.
“Happy Birthday Daisuke!” he laughs. “But, can we talk for a second?”
Daisuke excuses himself and steps outside with the doctor, closing the door behind him. Everyone feels a sudden awkward silence.
“Really?!?” we hear through the door.
What was that?
Daisuke dashes through the door and immediately hugs Yui, tears streaming from his eyes.
“Ahem.” the doctor clears his throat, as our attention directs towards him. “After some thorough analysis, it seems like Yui will be heading home very soon. To be honest, I’m not sure what happened, but it looks like Yui’s condition has changed for the better. It’s a miracle.”
We all immediately clap our hands in congratulations.
“You did it Yui!” Akane cheers on.
The brother and sister embrace for a moment. All their troubles, instantly washed away.
I’m glad they’re happy together.
“Here’s the cake everyone!” Mary appears, presenting a white cake, decorated with strawberries and cream.
“Did…you make this?” Daisuke asks, wiping snot and tears from his puffy face.
Mary nods. “Yep! And of course I had help from Kazuki and Akane too.”
Maybe I was just overthinking things again. Besides, today is Daisuke’s birthday. We should all have fun and relax a bit right?
Akane and I are lying in bed. Daisuke's party was fun, and we're both pretty tired. We were back in my room, after a whole day of partying it up in Yui’s room. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a livelier party to be honest.
It's really quiet...
Usually Akane would be be talkative, but right now, she's strangely silent.
"Did you have fun today?" I try to break the silence.
"Yes." she responds promptly.
She puts down her phone on the nightsand and turns her head towards me.
“You look worried Kazuki, what’s wrong?” she immediately points out.
Akane looks at me with her curious, cat-like eyes. But one thing was still on my mind…
“Did something happen at Daisuke’s birthday party?” she asks.
I stare blankly into my ceiling.
“It’s just…do you know a Shion Masaki?”
Akane ponders in thought.
“Hmm…it doesn’t ring a bell off the top of my head, but for some reason it sounds familiar. I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
Akane doesn’t know her either.
“Why do you ask? Is she some other girl?!?” she gasps.
“O-Of course not!” I immediately correct her.
I try to reorganize my thoughts as best I can from Akane’s sudden accusation of infidelity.
“But the thing is…she just recently transferred into class 2-B in my world, yet no one here knows who she is. It’s like despite almost everything being basically the same in both worlds, she’s the only outlier for some reason.”
I’ve been trying to avoid her in World B, but now actually thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Shion Masaki in this world at all.
“Even Daisuke has no idea who I’m talking about.”
Akane sits up, and grabs her old cat plushie, resting her chin on top its head.
“Why does that name sound so familiar…?”
She grabs her phone off the nightstand and searches her name.
“Look at this.”
Akane scrolls through her screen, as a series of links and images appear. She shows me an image of a woman attached to a headline that reads:
“Tragedy Strikes Mother and Child Caught in Crossfire.”
I read the article further.
“A young woman was killed near the Kaiyou harbor today. According to eye-witness reports, the mother and child were caught in between the crossfire of police and a neighboring gang, identified as the Domino Dogs. Although the woman had succumbed to her wounds, her three-year old child, is still missing.”
I inspect the photo of the mother closer. If it not for the brunette hair color, I’d think this woman was the splitting image of Shion. Eerily, the photo had the woman’s prize-winning smile, almost like how Shion’s was.
This woman looks like an older version of her…
“The photo doesn’t really help, but this article is our only clue. But, the young girl would be around our age today…right?”
Obviously there was no way the woman in the photo was the same person; she’s practically as old as my mother. The odd detail was the young girl. Aside from the same name and the incident happening in our town, there’s no way to confirm anything concrete.
“I know! Let me call Jumpy. He’s bound to have connections!” Akane suggests.
I give back Akane’s phone and she dials his number. After a series of tones, he picks up.
“H-Hello? Jumpy? Sorry to bother you so late, but do you happen to have access to police databases?” she asks.
“You do? That’s great.”
I hear Junpei’s voice emanating from her phone, though I can’t really make out what exactly he’s saying.
“Does the name Shion Masaki ring a bell?” Akane asks.
“You do?” she says, surprised. “I’m gonna put you on speakerphone okay?”
Akane pushes the button her phone, and places it between us.
“The name rings a bell. I think it was one of the very first cases I worked on actually. Something about a young girl going missing right?” he says.
“Yeah, we saw an article.” I responded.
“But there’s something fishy about the article…it didn’t mention anything about how it started or why the police were there to begin with.” Akane mentions.
We hear a deep sigh from the phone.
“It’s not exactly a case that the department likes bringing up.” he pauses. “Rumor has it was that it was a sting operation gone wrong, and that the woman was an informant. And so when the Dominos found out…”
“Things took a wrong turn.” Akane finishes his sentence.
“…Yeah. We never did find that kid. I’m assuming she was killed by the Dominos and disposed of.”
“But a body was never found right?”
Junpei confirms my thoughts.
“Yeah. She could still be alive as far as I’m aware.”
What’s going on…?
I take a deep breathe, and try to compose myself.
“What are you up to now?” I demand an answer.
Shion was still in my house, going on about some half-baked plan to save dad. It was too late now, as it feels like I’ve let a monster right in here.
“It’ll be easy Daisuke.” she says nonchalantly. “All you need to know is whatever I tell you.”
She steps closer to me.
“The plan is simple. I do an exchange for him.”
Shion nods up and down.
“You ever play Pockemon? Same idea. We trade someone for dad! And I think I have the perfect Pockemon in mind…” she grins.
“Who?” I ask.
“Oh some stupid foreigner who’s fallen head-over-heels for me. I’d just lead him somewhere secluded and then BAM! He’s officially my bargaining chip.”
“Why should they even listen to you?”
Shion laughs again.
“Oh big brother, you don’t think I’m that stupid right? This isn’t just any foreigner – it’s the prince of certain country. If our country doesn’t want an international embarrassment and scandal by the hands of a schoolgirl, then maybe they’d save face by letting one innocent criminal walk free.”
“Why do you even want me? Don’t you have so many Domino goons to help you?”
Shion places her hand on my left cheek. It’s cold.
“Because you’re my big bro. Aren’t you supposed to protect your little sister? I mean, you did that one night remember?”
She then places her index finger on my nose, running her finger up and down my face.
“And because you’re the only one I know who won’t betray me.”
“I’d tell the police as soon as I can.” I immediately say with conviction.
Maybe all this grand scheming had gone to her head. Shion can’t control me anymore.
Shion simply grins.
“You’d think twice about that wouldn’t you? You’re the son of a criminal, don’t be so naïve and think they haven’t been monitoring you forever. And well…” she mumbles off.
“And well what?”
Shion simply grins again. Her eerie doll-like expression makes the hair on my skin stand. I blink.
“It’s about your friend…Kazuki.” She stretches her thin arms towards the ceiling. “And being your best friend, I’m surprised he hasn’t told you.”
“Tell me what? That Mary had been in love with him the whole time? Or that maybe his interest in Akane Yuki is shallower than I thought.”
Shion erupts into a fit of laughter.
“Besides that. I'm just very interested in him. I’m talking about his power.”
“What power?” I ask.
“Well, even I’m not exactly sure how it works, but your friend has known everything that has happened and will happen.”
My confused expression gives it away.
“Or in other words, it seems like Kazuki has been aware of your feelings this whole time, and yet did nothing. Oh, and that includes other stuff like Yui and quite possibly how to save her.”
Kazuki knows how to save Yui?!?
“Then why…why won’t he say anything to me?”
Kazuki can’t be that cruel. He knows Yui! She basically like a little sister to him.
“Because he won’t. It might ruin the timelines or cause a paradox or something. Or maybe he just wants all that power for himself. I don’t know. And why should he tell you anything after what’s happened.” Shion explains.
“Proof! I want proof!” I shout at her.
This has gone on long enough. How ridiculous does this all sound? Timelines?
“Think about it Daisuke. How did Kazuki figure out where Akane Yuki worked? How did he find Mary when she went missing? Hasn’t he been acting strange since the accident?” Shion retorts.
“Why should I even believe you? How do you even know all this?”
Shion grabs my hand, and places it on her chest. I can vaguely feel her heartbeat.
“Deep down, you know it’s true.”
I let go of her hand lightly. I never noticed how dainty her hands were. Shion was delicate like a flower, but it was all an image. She has manipulated me many times, probably taken over the Dominos without question, and yet deep down, she was right. There was this gut feeling inside, that maybe for the first time, she was actually telling the truth. Talking to her tonight, it seemed like I was talking to a different person.
“And the truth is…I have that power as well.”
She clutches her chest.
“Do you remember that night? The accident?” she asks.
“You mean…when we were with Maki?”
“Yes. I wanted to tell you the truth about our family earlier, but there was never a good opportunity. Finding out through our blood tests wasn’t exactly how I imagined it.”
That was the night I hit an innocent pedestrian, and found out she was my half-sister. Shion was the same girl who showed up at my door one time, who I immediately shunned away.
I never found out what happened to that bicyclist.
“But, after that accident, I started having these weird dreams…where I see another life. I have dreams…too real to be false.”
She extends her hand.
“Join me, and together we can help each other big bro. We can save our father, and Yui.”