THE ADULTS, THEY ARE RESTLESS
May 3rd, somewhere in Ikebukuro
At the same time the mysterious little girl was trying to electrocute Heiwajima Shizuo -
Celty Sturluson was dealing with her own share of non-daily life.
Though for her, it was part of the job.
- Idiots who are way too used to peace, huh.
Celty sat on the comfortable sofa and considered the phrase she had heard from her underground doctor roommate the night before.
- The phrase was hard to associate with either underground doctors or underground couriers, though. The room she was in looked like a clean, beautiful office.
But there was a strange kind of minimalism in the way the room was furnished; even the number of desks was at an absolute minimum.
She was aware that the simplicity served a purpose: to enable the occupants to desert the office or change its outward appearance as quickly as possible.
She also knew that such needs would come up when the cops began to look for things here.
"We're really sorry for making you come all the way here. Ah, do you need a hand towel or anything?"
[No, but thank you.]
Celty typed onto her PDA as she concentrated her sensors on the man sitting opposite her.
The man's name was Shiki. He looked like he was around 30.
He often brings the underground doctor Shinra jobs to do, and Celty had worked as a courier for him on many occasions.
To the outside world he was the representative of a gallery - but in fact, he occupied an executive position in a large organization. Simply put, he was one of the executives in the yakuza organization "Medei Group Awakusu-kai".
In short, the office was the shell of their sham company. It called itself a gallery, but there was not a single painting in the reception room.
"I do think that I should put at least one or two paintings on the wall even if just for the show. But I haven't been able to find paintings that appeal to my aesthetics."
He might have said the same thing before, but Celty couldn't bring herself to care.
Instead she couldn't help but notice the way the new "employees" stared at her in alarm every time more of them stepped into the office.
[……Um, I feel like everyone's a little tense.]
"Hmm? Ahh, I'm sorry about that. A couple of days ago we had someone dressed like you come over uninvited to the financial branch of our corporation and protest a little bit too violently."
Celty was dressed in a black rider suit and a full-face helmet.
She couldn't help but feel slightly annoyed as she understood what he had meant, and began to type anew.
[Would you like me to change into something else and come back later?]
- It's kind of an advantage that they don't have to see my displeased face at times like these.
"You don't have to be so displeased."
- Is he an esper!?
[Can you read people's hearts?]
"You can too if you read carefully into a person's body language. It's kind of a prerequisite for our occupation to be able to read the opponent's heart even when his or her face is concealed. Ah, by the way, if you do wish to change or take off your helmet, just feel free to."
[Is it really OK? If I take off my helmet, I mean……]
"Yeah. That's what you usually would do when indoors, isn't it?."
[Um……I believe you're aware what kind of creature I am? Is it really OK?]
"I won't mind."
Shiki replied in a collected voice. Celty hesitated for a moment, but took off the helmet from her neck anyway.
The next second - quite a few of the men in the room froze. A younger "employee" who happened to be passing by shuddered and yelped.
"Uwah!? M - ……Monster……"
In the blink of an eye, Shiki sprung up from the sofa and grabbed the young man's collar.
Without even listening to what the other man had to say, he banged his face ruthlessly onto the sharp corner of a cabinet nearby.
The young man groaned as blood immediately began to trickle down the corner of his mouth.
Shiki grabbed him up by the collar and banged his own forehead into the man's temple as he said with a face devoid of expression:
"Yelping at the sight of a guest's face? What kind of manners is that?"
"What did I just say? I said it was only natural for people to take off their hats and helmets when indoors, didn't I?"
Celty could only type onto her PDA in haste not knowing what was going on. It was a waste of time, however, since Shiki was not looking at her PDA at all.
"I did, right? Then why did you, my subordinate, yelp like that when you saw the guest without the helmet?"
"……I……am really sorry……"
Shiki smiled slightly and said in a cold voice as he heard his subordinate moan and try to apologize.
"Aren't you apologizing to the wrong person? Why are you apologizing to me?"
Just as Shiki was about to deliver a further blow - "shadows" coiled themselves around his arm.
They were real, actual "shadows".
The shadows with mass appeared out of thin air in the 3D world and held Shiki back as if they were real tentacles.
Shiki turned silently towards the PDA that appeared before him with new words typed onto it.
[Um, I don't mind.]
The PDA with this line typed in a huge font was held up for him to see by another string of shadow different from the one holding Shiki back.
Other "employees" who had been paying attention to what was happening in the room stood dumbstruck with eyes the size of saucers as they saw shadows extending themselves from Celty's hands. But no one dared issue a sound after what Shiki had done to the younger employee.
Shiki sank back slowly into his chair and smiled as if nothing had happened as he said:
"I see. I'm really sorry that you had to see us make such an embarrassing scene."
[I don't mind, really.]
- ……These people are scary.
- In a different way from the White Motorbike.
"I apologize. I thought I said it was OK for you to take off your helmet. But the employees here simply did not seem to understand what I had meant."
Celty felt a chill running down her spine as Shiki kept his head very low in apology.
- Speaking of which……I think that was the first time I ever took off my helmet in front of this person.
The man named Shiki had never with his own eyes seen Celty take off her helmet before.
But there was not the slightest sign of change in his expression. Even the pace of his breathing remained unperturbed.
Celty couldn't help but wonder.
- ……It's a kind of pressure in itself when my abnormality is being completely ignored like this……
For Celty, the normal reactions she expected from humans were the likes of that yelp from the young man, who was now asking for her forgiveness while trying desperately to cover his nose.
Even if you ignored the black shadows extending from her palms -
She had nothing above the neck once the helmet was removed.
Celty Sturluson was not human.
She was a dullahan, a Scottish or Irish fairy that knocked on the doors of the dying and warned them of their impending death.
She carried her severed head at her side and rode a carriage pulled by a Coiste-bodhar - a headless horse - to the homes of the dying. If they were thoughtless enough to open the door, she would splash upon them a bucketful of blood - and was therefore regarded as a messenger of doom like banshees in European folklore.
Some believed that dullahans were the form Nordic Valkyries took when they fell onto the Earth. Celty herself had no idea whether it was true or not, however.
Perhaps she did know.
But she certainly did not remember.
She lost the memories as to what she was when her head was stolen in her homeland. That was the reason she followed the scent of its presence all the way to Ikebukuro.
Her headless horse was transformed into a motorbike and her armor into a rider suit; for decades she wandered the streets in this city.
But she ended up getting neither her head nor her memories back.
She already knew who had stolen her head.
She also knew who had been trying to keep her from finding it.
But still, she ended up having no idea where her head was.
For Celty, life was good as it was.
She had someone who loved her, and people who accepted her for what she was.
If what she was feeling was indeed happiness, then she was ready to carry on with her life the way she was.
Having made up her mind, the headless woman decided to show her resolve to the world through her actions rather than her nonexistent face.
- Such was the being named Celty Sturluson.
And so, to earn her living, the headless fairy started working as a lowly courier, taking orders from both the normal world and the underworld -
And the job she was about to take this time definitely fell on the side of the latter.
"I'm really sorry. He worked as a debt collector in our financial branch. Turned out all he was good at was talking. His success rate was so low that they had to demote him to work under me."
[A debt collector…sounds like what Shizuo does for a living.]
Celty had already typed out the sentence when she realized that it was not the best idea and stiffened.
There was no way Shizuo would be willing to accept a job from the yakuza. What if Shiki and his men did try to rope Shizuo into it? Celty was feeling uneasy.
But Shiki's reaction was so far from dramatic that it surprised her.
"Shizuo……ahh, you mean him."
Shiki seemed to be familiar with the name Heiwajima Shizuo. He averted his gaze and said:
"He's working as a debt collector for dating hotlines, isn't he? They shouldn't have anything to do whatsoever with companies like ours. Though there was this fool who took money from us and thought he could get away without paying his bills for the dating hotline. He was beaten up pretty badly*."
* The guy is Nasujima Takashi from Vol.2 of Durarara!!.
"……Are you under the impression that we would hire someone like him as a debt collector? Someone whose name is high on the cops' blacklist and doesn't even know how to control himself?"
She was convinced immediately.
Now that she thought about it, she couldn't help but wonder how Shizuo's boss - the guy with the dreadlocks - had been able keep a rein on him whenever it was needed and prevented him from causing such a commotion that the cops would take notice……that guy could turn out to be a more formidable character than she had imagined.
"Enough about him. Let's talk about the job."
Shiki said in a composed voice as he produced a photo from his chest pocket.
"This is not a routine transporting job……it's something more special, like the retrieval of those instruments we have entrusted with you before."
Celty was reminded instantly of the task she was entrusted with a year ago.
He had asked her to retrieve the pistols from a bunch of thieves before the police could catch them.
Celty had been reluctant to take the job. But she was aware that the thieves might use the pistols to shoot non-yakuza people. What was more, she had owed Awakusu-kai a big favor since she first came to Japan. She had no choice but to accept it.
- I was going to hand the pistols in to the police and pretend that I failed to retrieve them, but this man was quick to come and find me……
Celty knew that Shiki was a keen man and not to be messed with. Therefore she would have to be very careful if she chose to accept this job. Her own problems aside, she couldn't risk involving Shinra or other people in Ikebukuro - such as her friends Mikado, Anri, Shizuo and Kadota, not to even mention other ordinary citizens - in further trouble. She had to come up with a perfect answer whether she chose to accept or turn down the offer.
Celty proceeded to take the photo from Shiki carefully.
Her vision, which did not rely on the existence of eyeballs, told her that it was the photo of a middle-aged man.
He looked like he was about 45-50; his smile was bright and kind, making him look like an old gentleman.
Complete with a pair of reading glasses on his nose and a formal suit, he would have passed for a manager of a company or a chairman of a private school board.
- Who is he?
- Don't tell me my job is to kill this man?
[Um, who is this person?]
Celty was about to type [You're not asking me to kill this man, are you?] but thought the better of it since this man might very well be a former high executive of the group or something. She decided that it was more appropriate to ask first.
"Yadogiri Jinnai, the manager of Yadogiri Shining Corporation……I assume that you've at least heard of him?"
- That Hijiribe Ruri's - !
The name of a top idol came to Celty's mind.
She was a young actress who had made a lot of headlines recently because of her affair with the male idol Hanejima Yuuhei. Her acting skills had earned her critical acclaim. Celty and Shinra were both her loyal fans who paid attention to her recent activities.
Shortly after the media found out about their affair, Hijiribe got in trouble.
All artists under Yadogiri Shining Corporation were effectively without an agency after their manager Yadogiri Jinnai disappeared mysteriously.
On the same day she lost her agency, however, Jack Lantern Japan - the agency Hanejima Yuuhei belonged to - announced that they welcomed her.
Some rumors claimed that her boyfriend Hanejima Yuuhei had talked the manager into making this decision, but such rumors had already faded from the public memory one month from the ensuing publicity storm around the disappearance of Manager Yadogiri.
[So, what exactly happened with this former talent agency manager?]
Drumming the desk with his fingers after he saw Celty ask, Shiki said:
"He was sort of our business partner……but we disagreed in places."
"Of course, we're already utilizing every information network we have to look for him, but to be honest with you, we have to borrow even the cat's hands for this*. You don't have to spend all your time focused on this task, but you do get in contact with different people when you're working as a courier. Let us know if you hear anything….."
* Borrow the cat's hands: a Japanese idiom used to describe a short-staffed situation.
[I don't know if I'd be of any help, but I'll do what I can.]
- Speaking of which, though, did he ask me to come here just to give me this job?
- Plus that Yadogiri guy would probably end up fertilizing the soil somewhere deep in the mountains or feeding the fish somewhere deep in the sea if I found him and told Awakusu-kai about it. I'm not sure, though.
Shiki smiled bitterly as he sensed Celty's reluctance and said:
"All you need to do is to pay a little bit of attention to what people say. There's no need to overwork yourself for this."
- He read my mind again.
Celty was forced to keep up vigilance for the man in front of her as she waited for the man's next words.
Judging by the way he was talking about this task, there were probably more to come.
"And……we have something else to ask of you."
"It's kind of different from what you usually do as a courier as well……"
The evening of May 3rd
An upscale apartment building on the side of Kawagoe Highway
- Ahh, Celty is still not back.
This is the upscale living quarters shared by a headless fairy and a human.
At the center of the 150-square-meter luxury apartment with five rooms plus a living room/kitchen/dining room area, Kishitani Shinra was rolling around on the carpet, eagerly awaiting the return of his beloved female.
He was still wearing his white long coat, seemingly oblivious to the hygiene problem. It made him look like a complete freak, but judging from the fact that he had another white coat wrapped in nylon hanging in a corner of the room, he at least tried to keep his working and personal clothing separate.
Of course, it was abnormal enough that he wore his white coat even when not working.
Shinra was an underground doctor. Most of his patients had good reasons to avoid going to the hospital. But since he did not own examination instruments like X-ray machines, he did not have too many patients.
However, he was at least completely independent, which earned him quite a few VIP patrons.
His professional skills and knowledge along with his credentials would have been enough to land him a decent position in a large hospital, but he didn't look like he wanted anything more than to remain a completely useless man and spend his aimless days with Celty.
- A job from Shiki-san.
- But Celty's not too fond of the idea of working for "them" recently.
- She didn't really mind back when she had no real feelings for humans.
- But Shiki-san has probably already taken that into consideration.
Shinra did not believe in the goodness of Shiki's heart.
On the contrary, he had known since long ago that Shiki was submerged from head to toe in the underworld.
For the exact reason that he was an experienced player in that field, though, Shiki would know better than to give an "overly underworldly" task to Celty, an unaffiliated neutral being.
Shiki would trust such tasks with people "safer" than Celty. Shinra was spared his anxiety knowing that Shiki was not one to be deterred by other people's sensibilities.
Of course, it would still be better if they could avoid anything to do with the likes of him. But Celty did not have that much of a choice when it comes to work since she was not human.
- Ahh~but even if we won a third of a billion in lottery, Celty would probably still continue with her job for the sake of fulfillment.
- ……If we had a kid, would she become a housewife for the kid?
- ……I should probably check if Celty can actually have a baby with me, though.
- Or we can adopt one……on the paper he or she can be Father and Mother's adopted child.
- ……Eh, why am I picturing me as the househusband and Celty as the working wife?
- Celty as a housewife……
- Eh!? Naked apron!?
Shinra savored his imagination and rolled around on the carpet with more gusto than before.
He looked nothing less than a complete freak, but there was no one to point that out since his roommate was absent.
30 minutes later, the doorbell rang.
"Ah, is she back?"
Shinra sprung from the floor in joy at the thought of Celty coming home.
The doorbell rang a few times more. Shinra walked towards and door and muttered to himself:
"Why is she ringing the doorbell? Has she forgotten the key?"
He didn't even consider the most plausible explanation - that the one ringing the doorbell was not Celty - since he had only her on his mind right now.
He realized this the moment he opened the door - it was already too late, of course.
The one standing outside the door in a bartender suit was Shizuo, whom he had just seen the night before.
Shinra half-closed the door again and muttered to himself with a sigh:
"……I should seriously consider moving to the kind of building where you can't enter without a key to an apartment inside. Seriously……"
"I have no idea what you're talking about, but I see you kind of want me to beat you up."
Shinra shook his hands with a bitter laugh after he heard Shizuo.
"Don't. I can't rule out the possibility that a punch from you will kill me."
"Can I come in?"
Shinra answered in resignation as his old acquaintance asked while scratching his own face.
"Yeah, please. But what's up this time exactly? The guy you brought here was able to walk so I let him leave."
"Yeah, I know. I sort of saw him on the street just now."
"He's something. Even his cervical spine was still in its place despite having to suffer so many blows from you."
Shinra was about to open the door wide and let Shizuo in when -
There were other people than Shizuo standing outside his door.
"Eh? Um, you are……Shizuo's boss……"
"Ahh, I don't think I've introduced you. This is Tom-sempai."
"Yeah, I know. But still……"
Shinra's gaze had already left the man with the dreadlocks for somewhere else -
Namely, the girl holding firmly onto Shizuo's belt who looked like she was still in elementary school.
"Who's……this little girl?"
Same time, at Raira Academy
A long holiday was a long holiday whether you went to a public or private school.
The private Raira Academy - a famous high school situated close to the Ikebukuro Station - was no exception. It was the first day of Golden Week.
The school was nevertheless swarming with students.
Members of the sports clubs chanted on the playground. Music and art clubs were getting ready for the grand contest at the end of June.
Ryuugamine Mikado was among the many students who went back to school on the first day of the break.
He was not in any extracurricular clubs. But he had to attend a meeting on the coming field trip since he was the class representative.
It was supposed to be held the previous day after school, but they were already behind the schedule and the meeting ended up having to be held on the first day of the break.
The school wasn't about to let them, but eventually succumbed after the students suggested that they use the break to continue with the meeting and consult the absentees individually after the break before reaching a final decision.
"Ahh. Finally, it's over."
He had not expected a simple discussion on the field trip plans for his class to escalate into a fierce debate.
A small voice addressed him from behind as Mikado thought to himself.
"Good work today, Mikado-kun."
"Ah, Sonohara-san. That was tiring, wasn't it?"
The girl standing behind Mikado was the other class representative, Sonohara Anri.
Though Mikado had got to know her on the first day of school - before they became class representatives.
Mikado had a crush on Anri. He never talked about it, but everyone in the school seemed to already know. Anri was on pretty good terms with Mikado, and the two were usually regarded as a couple.
- Except that neither Mikado nor Anri was aware of it.
From their point of view, they were nothing more than good friends.
Mikado wanted to confess to Anri, but he felt like he had to wait until a certain problem is resolved.
The face of his best friend who had dropped out of school recently came to his mind.
He was Mikado's childhood pal back in their hometown. Anri joined them later, and their high school days had been happy and fulfilling.
But in fact - all three of them kept their respective secrets.
Ryuugamine Mikado was the founder of the Color Gang "Dollars".
Kida Masaomi was the founder and leader of its enemy, the "Yellow Turbans".
Sonohara Anri hosted in her body a "creature" that was abnormal like Celty Sturluson.
They began to find out about each other's secrets after a certain incident -
And Kida Masaomi ended up disappearing altogether from their lives.
Yet Mikado and Anri did not believe that it was the final farewell.
They believed that he would come back. That was why they did not dig deeper into each other's secret identity.
They had made up their minds.
Therefore they had been neither closer than before nor further apart; they maintained the delicate balance in their uneventful routine.
Until - something happened yesterday that threatened to break the balance.
Masaomi - who was "Bakyura" in the chartroom - talked to Mikado, who was "Tanaka Taro". He was talking not to Tanaka Taro, however, but directly to Ryuugamine Mikado.
- But should I really tell Sonohara-san about this?
The talk was sort of intense, and hardly suggested that Masaomi would be returning any time soon.
Dollars was in danger.
Mikado immediately began to look for news that could be relevant to this statement, but found none on the Dollars cell-phone chartroom and the message board.
But then, Masaomi had always been far keener and way better informed than he was as far as such matters were concerned.
He would just worry Anri unnecessarily if he told her about it without a second thought, wouldn't he?
Mikado was wondering what to do as he walked with Anri in the school building -
When a bright voice in the exact opposite mood Mikado was in reached his eardrums.
"Mikado-sempai~! And Sonohara-sempai! Good work today~!"
They turned around to find a boy standing there.
He had only just begun attending Raira last month, which made him Mikado and Anri's kouhai.
He had an even more childlike face than Mikado did, to the extent that he would have passed for a perfect elementary kid in the proper clothing. If he were to dress up as a girl, he would probably not be found out unless he uttered a sound.
He was a Dollars member, and one of the few who knew that Mikado was also a Dollars member. They had not been in touch since the incident that involved Mikado, Anri as well as Aoba last month.
"Yah, Aoba-kun……what's up? The first-years don't have a field trip, do you?"
Mikado had thought that Aoba had been avoiding him after all the trouble they got in. Aoba's face broke out, however, in as bright a smile as the one he wore a month ago.
His smile changed way too little for a boy who had barely escaped the claws of those raging bousouzoku -
But Ryuugamine Mikado did not notice what was weird about it.
"No, I came back for club activities. I'm in the art club."
"Oh, I see."
Did he come only to strike up a conversation with me?
Mikado thought and proceeded to look for routine topics in his head.
But before he could even speak, Aoba had voiced his intention outright.
"Mikado-sempai, are you free tomorrow?"
"Um, we planned to have you show me around but that didn't work out because of what happened last month. That's why I thought we three can probably go out together during the break!"
"Ah, but…..tomorrow is……"
Mikado would have said yes instantly had it been any other day but today.
He couldn't help but be reminded of what Masaomi had told him the day before.
- Avoid hanging out with anyone in Dollars.
That was what he was told. He wasn't sure about the likes of Karisawa and Yumasaki, but what if it was Kuronuma Aoba?
Mikado was reminded of Masaomi's advice telling him to "be a high school student with nothing to do with Dollars". If he was not to talk about Dollars with Aoba, they would be just like any other sempai and kouhai in high school.
- But would it be safer if I stayed at home?
- If anything happens to Dollars, I'll dig up information at home and send messages to everyone so they'll be on their guard.
- That sounds good. I'll turn Aoba-kun down, and make it up by inviting him out after Masaomi's problem is solved. I was thinking about introducing Aoba-kun to Masaomi anyway.
Mikado made his decision and shook his head in apology:
"……Um, I'm sorry, but something may come up tomorrow so I can't - "
"Eh~that's too bad."
Aoba looked very disappointed as he heard Mikado's reply -
But his smile was back in place in no time. He turned to Anri, who had remained silent by Mikado's side, and asked:
"What about Sonohara-sempai, then?"
"Eh? I um, I don't have anything for tomorrow so….."
For a moment Mikado couldn't think of anything to say. The turn of events had caught him unawares.
"But, but I'm not good at showing people around places……"
"Ah, that's totally fine! I'll do some research beforehand myself as well!"
"But I'll just be your burden if you come with me."
- ……Eh? What!?
Had Anri and Mikado really been in a relationship -
Or rather, had Anri been more aware of what people were actually thinking, she would probably not have replied in that way.
She knew nothing about "normal" love between boys and girls. That was why she didn't have the slightest doubt about Aoba's motives - all she worried about was whether she would be able to fill the role as a tour guide.
"Don't talk like that! Anri-sempai, you're beautiful! I'll be happy just to be able to see you there!"
- Since when has he moved from "Sonohara-sempai" to "Anri-sempai"!? Has she even agreed!?
- Cheating! This is cheating, Aoba-kun!
"Please don't make jokes about me."
"I was not joking. So what time tomorrow can you……"
Mikado could hold himself back no longer.
He was forced to open his mouth.
"Wait a moment! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I must have remembered wrong. I actually have nothing planned for tomorrow!"
Mikado was confused as Aoba flashed his innocent smile at him again.
- Eh……is it just me or is he looking really happy?
- Was he just kidding about Sonohara-san?
"……But I can only do in the day. The nights are too crowded during Golden Week, and we might get into trouble."
"OK, no problem!"
And so, without the slightest idea what the younger boy was up to, Mikado added one unplanned-for item on his schedule for May 4th.
Or rather, was forced to add.
And he stepped into his own non-daily life.
He did not even know if it was pure fate or if someone was actually behind it.
Though he had probably already stepped into this world the moment he founded Dollars - but he was oblivious of that.
Ryuugamine Mikado's daily life was silently being put to an end.
(TO BE CONTINUED IN PART II)