Mirei crossed her legs, picking up the cup of tea offered. Al, Ann’s retainer, informed the woman his young master would arrive in five minutes. She stared at the butterfly mask, recalling how easy it was to dispatch Tess’ group inside their own facilities. The woman hoped Tomo Yuki enjoyed her time away as well.
Her brother’s death meant little to her at first. After all, she never knew him. However, after learning about the circumstances surrounding it, she felt compelled to act. It was a strange feeling. She sipped her tea, pondering potential reasons. Kinship or selfish desire? Mirei came from a small town, the population only around five hundred people. She enjoyed it there though, never once voicing any complaints. Still, Ichizen’s sister always wondered if she could accomplish more in the city and beyond. Her thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Ann.
“Sorry about being late,” Ann apologized, pushing her sunglasses upward.
“No need to apologize. You’ve done so much for me that I can forgive almost anything,” Mirei responded, placing her cup down.
“Have I now? I haven’t done anything but stimulate your potential. The rest is up to you,” Ann refuted, shaking her head.
“My lady, I will take my leave now. You may call for me if anything comes up,” Al said, departing the room.
Mirei only knew her as Ann, a person well-versed in the heroes and her brother’s death. She was hesitant meeting her for the first time. Who wouldn’t be if they claimed she had a brother and his death was because of negligence from a group of people that saved the world? However, Ann provided solid evidence, taking time to answer all her questions. It took a while, but she eventually learned about her brother and how his death awakened Yuki’s power. She didn’t begrudge her brother’s close friend. After all, Yuki was a victim too. Still, her decision to align with Tess and her team didn’t make sense. They were aware of the situation but didn’t act fast enough. That was something she couldn’t forgive. Despite all of that, Mirei didn’t trust Ann completely.
“So, what do you think?” Ann questioned.
“I don’t know what you’re referring to,” Mirei replied.
“Tomo Yuki, does she have the will to give up and let you take over? It would simplify her life and she would no longer carry the burden of revenge. Essentially, she passes all that onto you,” Ann clarified, pouring more tea int Mirei’s cup.
“I don’t know. From the stories you’ve told, she’s stubborn. It wouldn’t surprise me if she continued. Ann, let me ask you, what do you get out of this?” Mirei inquired.
“I get to make my point. Tess and her people are on borrowed time. I can show I’m more capable with less talent. Aren’t you the same, Mirei? You can carry on your brother’s wishes of being a hero. Not only that, carve a legacy for yourself for beating Ace and the Traveler. Very impressive for someone who lived in the middle of nowhere,” Ann explained.
Mirei nodded at her words. Ann played on people’s desires. She observed it often when the woman trained her comrades. Always fixated on drawing out someone’s potential and being their best. No doubt she was hiding an ulterior motive. She didn’t know Ann’s history with Tess and her team for that matter. But, Mirei was interested in seeing what Ann could pull off with her vast resources and an excellent support team. For now, she would follow orders and watch how things play out.
“Accustomed to all the powers yet? I know it was a lot to learn, but you’re capable of shutting every one of them down,” Ann asked.
“Still having trouble mastering some of them. I got the basics down,” Mirei admitted.
“As long as your progress outpaces Tomo Yuki, you’re fine. I have high hopes for you,” Ann said.
“Thank you for your trust in me. You wanted this back, right?” Mirei questioned, pointing at her mask.
“Yes, I plan to make adjustments and release more limiters,” Ann answered.
“Do whatever you need to do. Just get it back to me when Yuki makes her decision,” Mirei said, standing up from her chair.
“Thank you for your time, Mirei. You’ll feel even stronger the next time you get this back,” Ann promised.
Al bowed and opened the front door for her. She walked through it, returning to her normal world. Mirei visited a nearby shop, ordering a cup of coffee. The woman sat down at a table and stared out the window.
“Yuki, what would my dear brother do in this situation?” Mirei muttered with concern.
The SIU captain read through the report one more time, making sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him. It wasn’t every day the Gatekeeper was ambushed and beaten. To top it all off, masked individuals were the culprits. He couldn’t connect them to the previous cases in the Crossroads. Still, he suspected these were all related.
“Sir, Ms. Zha’s analysis for the invitation card found at the factory has arrived,” one of his subordinates reported, knocking on the door.
“Thank you,” he answered, accepting the folder.
He read through it and then hurried over to the archive room. The SIU chief pulled open a drawer and pulled out a single piece of paper. A heavily redacted document concerning the Mirror. There were no direct connections to the area anymore, only vague references. He knew getting the information unsealed required a high-ranking official. No, the clearance was much higher, most likely on the level of a chancellor or president.
“Captain, something wrong?” a man wearing a motorcycle helmet walked in, noticing his boss’ expression.
“Yes, but I can’t do anything about it yet. I’m heading out to check something. Can you tell the team?” the captain requested.
“You got it,” the man agreed, walking off.
The SIU captain drove to the Crossroads central government building, stopping at a large gate. Four armed personnel guarded the area, raising their hands in the air upon seeing the man’s vehicle.
“Only authorized personnel allowed,” one of the guards warned.
“Here you go,” the SIU chief said, handing the guard a piece of paper and his badge.
The guard accepted his two items and waved at a security camera situated on top of the gate. Someone from the inside walked towards him and verified everything. She gave the outside guard a nod. The woman pressed her thumb against a scanner and then inputted a ten-digit code. The gate creaked open and the SIU chief stepped out of his vehicle. He stepped forward and allowed two of the guards to frisk him. They took his gun and anti-magic tools, finally allowing him entry.
“Is this your first time here?” the woman questioned, escorting him to front entrance.
“No, I’ve been here before,” the SIU chief answered.
“I will take my leave. Feel free to ask for help,” the woman said before departing.
The SIU chief took the elevator up to the eighth floor. He walked through several hallways before arriving at his intended location. The man knocked on a door, containing a name plaque reading “General Hung”, waiting for a response. A rotund man opened it, greeting the SIU chief with a big grin.
“Captain Maka of the famed Special Investigations Unit! What are you doing here, buddy?” General Hung said, pulling in his friend for a hug.
“Good to see you, my old brother,” Captain Maka reciprocated.
Captain Maka sat down, accepting the cup of tea General Hung offered. He took a sip, a bitter sensation filling his entire mouth. Just as he remembered.
“You’re not here to just catch up. What do you need?” General Hung went straight to the point.
“Not even trying for any pleasantries, are you? I appreciate it. Have you seen this before?” Captain Maka handed him the redacted document.
“You really know how pick them, don’t you? I’m aware of that document,” General Hung replied.
“What’s it going to take to unseal it?” the SIU captain questioned.
“Top level administrative permission that I don’t have. Tell you what, as a favor to an old brother, I’ll give you a less redacted version. Still impossible to read but I think it’ll help you out,” he offered.
“Favor to an old brother? I like that,” the captain accepted.
Captain Maka departed the government building after chatting with his friend. The new document
contained less censoring, but was just as impossible to glean any relevant information. Still, it was a starting point and that’s all the Special Investigation Units required.
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