I admit this wouldn't have taken nearly as long if I hadn't started scanning the artbook halfway through it. Oh well. Enjoy.
Credit to danbooru for the textless pic with Tack and Tick. Thanks to contributor-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous for the other scans.
Tick has this elongated way of talking with dashes (Remember the dashes? Specifically, remember what i think about Narita's dashes? Raargh!) that really doesn't translate well into English. I've just written it normally in the interest of readability. If you want, picture it as a sort of breezy lisp like Yamaguchi Kappei's take on it.
Cloudy to Rainy
Color Pages and Prologues
Bloody to Fair
Color Pages and Connecting Chapter
Epilogues & Remnants
THE SLASH - Cloudy to Rainy
Written by Narita Ryohgo
Illustrated by Enami Katsumi
Why do you always carry scissors around?
"Mmm... I don't know, myself. Maybe it has something to do with why you're so smart."
Don't change the subject.
"Ahaha. But you know, Mother used to say that there shouldn't have to be a reason for someone to like something."
"And it just so happens that I like scissors."
I can never understand what you mean.
"Sorry... It must be because I'm dumb."
Yeah, you're right.
People tell me that you're not as smart as me.
They say that I'm a genius, and you're just normal. They say that I stole everything good from you when I was born.
"Ah... So that's it. You might be right..."
...Aren't you mad?
Your little brother's calling himself a genius and saying you're dumb.
"But it's true, isn't it? You are a lot smarter than I am. So that's that."
...I really can't understand you.
You think of yourself as a fool. You honestly believe it's true...
So how can you look so happy?
I envy you, to be honest.
It feels like you have everything that I don't...
That's why... I hate you, brother.
The Old Man and His Granddaughter
No, you can't.
You can't die yet, grandpa...
"Maria... is that... you...?"
"Haha... Why are you crying, child?"
I don't want you to die.
"Hah... You think... I want to? But everyone has to go... sometime..."
No, you can't.
I... I haven't been able to...
I haven't been able to cut you down yet!
What is it, grandpa? Why're you laughing? Are you feeling any better?!
"You are a good girl, Maria... Thinking of killing me even now..."
That's right! I'm going to cut you down and take your life, abuelito!
That's why you can't die until I do!
"...That's enough. That's enough, Maria."
"...You... have the clearest eyes... The eyes of someone who could kill... without a moment's hesitation..."
...Grandpa, no! Don't say anything more! The doctor said you had to rest...
"But even then, you can still shed tears... with those eyes. You can still show sadness at losing something... in those killer's eyes... Haha... hahaha... Maria. You'll make... a fine... assassin..."
...I couldn't slash you.
I couldn't cut you down.
Grandpa... I tried my hardest.
You told me, grandpa.
You told me that with Murasamia(1), I could cut down even things I can't see!
So I tried to cut down the Grim Reaper, and the ghosts that came to take you away!
But my sword... couldn't even touch them...
It's because I'm weak.
I'm weak, so I couldn't slash them.
I want to be stronger.
I want to be stronger...
Father and Daughter
You are a good child. You will do anything I say, and on the other hand you shy away from following the words of others.
Granted, you do not come into contact with people besides me enough for that to ever be a problem in the first place. Your mother included.
You are my daughter, my guardian, my experiment, the sentinel of my knowledge. That is why you were created.
So I will show you, and only you, a glimpse of the knowledge that only I hold.
But I will only show you. You are allowed only to listen, and remember.
You cannot tell anyone of this, nor use it for yourself.
Can you promise me?
Not a moment's hesitation. Excellent, Chane.
Then... I will show you. All that is forbidden. My goal. The world as it is seen through my eyes.
I see. I am practically forcing this on you, am I not? Very well. If you wish for anything in return for this, tell me.
"Take my voice away."
Ah, you are truly a good child, Chane.
As your father, I will do anything you wish for. Taking your voice from you is but a moment's work.
Indeed, taking my own daughter's voice away forever is as nothing to me...
See, this is why I cannot help but continue to experiment.
Elmer, oh, Elmer. What would you say if you could see me now?
Even guinea pigs show unexpected behavior from time to time. That is why I must conduct my tests.
I told her, "You cannot tell anyone," and behold. Chane, my daughter, chose to lose her voice--solely to prove to me her determination.
Truly sublime loyalty, is it not!
Well, Elmer? Smile Junkie, Mr. Happy End. Do you think that this pitiful specimen can achieve happiness as well?
No, perhaps I will observe the answer to that question myself.
That is my obligation as a researcher, after all...
Brother and Sister
Dammit, I hate these damn picture shoots.
"Dallas... Were you out fighting again?"
Yeah. So what? What's it to you?
How'd you know, anyway? I didn't get hurt.
"Of course I know. You've had your left hand in your pocket all this time... There's blood on it, isn't there?"
...It's someone else's. Don't worry about it.
"That's not what I meant! Why do you have to fight all the time...?"
I told you, it's none of your damn business! Or what, are you talking back to your big brother now?
...Oh, come on. I was joking. Don't look at me like that.
"Promise me you won't go out fighting again."
Yeah, yeah, I promise.
"...Honestly, Dallas, this is probably the thirtieth time you've promised me that."
Really? I could've sworn today was the first time.
Hey, what's so funny?
"Actually, I'm glad you won your fight, brother."
"And I believe that one day, you'll keep your promise!"
What're you talking about? You keep on babbling like that and the neighborhood kids're all gonna laugh at you!
"Then you'll come and help me, right?"
You mean I can fight?
"Mmm... Then I'll take care of it by myself!"
Don't bite off more than you can chew, Eve. Fine, I got it.
I promise you. I'm never gonna let anyone lay a hand on you. And that's a promise I'm gonna keep.
"Ahaha... That's enough to make me happy, even though I know it's a lie. Thank you, Dallas!"
...Shut up and smile for the goddamn camera.
The Gandor Family's torture specialist. Perpetually cheerful, and a masterful user of a pair of scissors.
Tick's younger brother.
The Gandor Family's uninvited guest. At first glance a naive Mexican girl, but actually a katana-wielding assassin.
Youngest of the three Gandor brothers. Not quite suited to be a gangster. Immortal.
Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent
Practically one person in two bodies. Immortal. Enough said.
A young officer in the Martillo Family. Immortal. Deadly with a knife.
A young woman who lives with Firo, and is also part of him.
The Martillo Family's bookkeeper. A handsome man who's always mild and calm. Immortal, and originally an alchemist.
The Martillo Family's secretary. The most dangerous man in the organization. Skill level unknown. Demon.
Martillo Family officer. Fat. Nicknamed "Meatball." Immortal.
Martillo Family officer. Thin. Nicknamed "Ghost." Immortal.
Dallas' little sister. Completely different from her brother.
Leader of a motley band of young misfits. Despite the tattoo covering half his face, he is actually extremely shy.
Jacuzzi's companion and girlfriend. Absolutely crazy about anything that explodes. Wears glasses and an eyepatch. Always polite to everyone but Jacuzzi.
John and Fang
Jacuzzi's companions. An Irish bartender and a Chinese cook, respectively.
Jacuzzi's companion. A monstrously strong Mexican man.
Jacuzzi's companion. Mute. A master with her knife. Originally a terrorist.
A nationally infamous terrorist. Currently in prison. Immortal, and originally an alchemist.
Leader of an organization under Huey's command, the Larvae.
Member of the Larvae. A shy, reclusive young woman. Deadly with a pronged spear.
A killer who's made his home in Manhattan. Monster. Nicknamed "Rail Tracer."
8 Years Ago
The Older Brother
The scissors danced in the boy's hands.
Madly, they danced.
Someplace in New York
"I may be young... but I assure you, my business here is anything but child's play."
"Oh, of course, sir! Wouldn't dream of saying otherwise! No sir!"
Afternoon heat still lingered in the evening air.
Two wildly contrasting voices filled the small store.
The stained counter inside was dominated by a large cash register. The counter was made of wood, giving the observer a certain impression of solemn weight, but it was so badly damaged that it only looked cheap instead of stately.
Said counter stood between two people as they stared at one another.
"Well, I'll cut to the chase. You need to pay us back," the boy said, his sharp eyes and unexpectedly mature tones belying his appearance.
"Ah, well... Err! Bu-bu-but please, young master! Lord have mercy, you're scaring me out of my wits! I can't even think straight!"
The man looked to be almost three times the boy's age, but nevertheless he all but prostrated himself before the youth. He wore a thick vest that looked totally out of season, and fat beads of sweat rolled down his face as he groveled.
The boy, for his part, was also dressed in apparel that didn't look quite right considering the weather. It was still early autumn outside, but he wore a bulky trench coat, and a grey fedora was pressed down deeply over his eyes.
He paid the man's subservient smile no mind and continued the conversation, his voice as calm as before.
"It baffles me as to how you can't pay back just two thousand twenty-five dollars and fifty cents. It's been twenty-three days, fourteen hours, thirty-four minutes, and nineteen seconds since you said you would, come to think of it. Assuming, of course, that the clocks in this store are accurate."
The boy fell silent, fixing the man with his sharp gaze.
The man bowed his head, ashamed, and only the sound of clocks echoed hollowly in the room.
Tick, tack, tick, tack, tick tack tick tack ticktackticktack.
The pendulums raised their voices in cacophonous harmony.
The many clocks arrayed in the dimly lit rim made it obvious at a glance that the owner made his living as a clockmaker. They were arranged haphazardly around the room, but despite that, it was hard to say there were many varieties.
To a one they were simple brown grandfather clocks, the sort one might see in any family's living room. None of them had any defining characteristics that made them stand out; the only readily apparent difference being their size.
The boy, Luck Gandor stood inside this house of clocks and opened his mouth once more.
"...Judging by your words, it's obvious you don't have the money to pay us back. What are you going to do about this?"
Understand he might, but pity he did not.
The clockmaker, transfixed by the boy's cold gaze, began to quiver.
He attempted a weak smile, still sweating profusely.
"Ha... Haha... Well, err."
"First," Luck offered, cutting off the man's excuses before they could properly begin. "Two thousand dollars is a mere two months' worth of a banker's salary. I think that selling this store should more than cover that amount. Selling off the clocks as well would be good, but then again, I suppose you're in this situation precisely because they don't sell. Then, assuming the clocks are worthless, the price of the land alone would be..."
"Ju-ju-just a second, young master! Please!"
"I'd appreciate it if you didn't call me that," Luck said, narrowing his eyes. The clockmaker shook his head from side to side, babbling wildly.
"I... I'm so sorry, young- Err! Mr. Gandor! Won't happen again! But, but just hold on a second! I actually live here, so if I sell this place I wouldn't even have a roof over my head! Have mercy, sir!"
"I'm honestly curious. Do you seriously believe excuses like that will work on people like us, especially after borrowing our money? We, who you ordinary citizens call mafia? Do you expect us to feel pity for the debtors we force out onto the streets?"
Luck, the Gandor Family's youngest executive officer, leaned in close to the clockmaker, the incredulity he felt clear in his eyes.
No youthful enthusiasm was present in his gaze. Only bone-chillingly cold ruthlessness.
The Gandor Family.
They were a small organization that controlled an equally small portion of Manhattan Island's turf. Though their territory and numbers were laughable, in other aspects the Family more than lived up to the title of mafia, to the extent that even other organizations in the area acknowledged them.
Luck's two older brothers, Keith and Berga, led the Family. Luck, still young, was currently the lowest-ranking executive in the organization.
Young he may have been, but his gaze carried no hesitation, for he had already waded through countless scenes of bedlam and come out tougher for it. If the clockmaker dared to say anything that made light of the Family, the boy was more than prepared to make him pay dearly for it.
The clockmaker shrunk unconsciously from the boy, sensing that he was someone who had clothed himself in the darkness of society, but despite his fear his mouth continued to move.
"No no no, of course not! Err! Not to imply that you're cold-blooded at all, sir! I, uhh, I mean, I'd never presume to think I could get away with not paying!"
And then the clockmaker made an offer that Luck hadn't seen coming.
"I-I'll pay back the debt with my body!"
Luck blinked slowly, unable for a moment to understand just what the man meant. Perhaps sensing the boy's doubt, the clockmaker hastily raised his hands in denial.
"Ah! Please, don't misunderstand! I'm not suggesting I'd try and become a gigolo at this age. I just recall hearing that the Gandor Family was looking to hire, you see!"
"...That may be true, but we have not fallen so far that we'd consider bringing you into our ranks."
It was a rude thing to say no matter how one looked at it, but the clockmaker seemed to take no offense.
"Of course not, sir! Why, what use would an old man like me be to you? That thing about my body was just a figure of speech. I'm actually hoping to sell you my son!"
Luck's lips parted slightly, his face showing open surprise for the first time. He looked utterly nonplussed, as though he had utterly failed to understand the meaning behind the man's words. He quickly realized how he must look and closed his mouth firmly.
The clockmaker, though, didn't even notice this quick changing of expressions and bustled over to one corner of the store, raising his voice in a shout.
The name bore a passing resemblance to his own. Luck shifted his gaze to the dusky depths of the store.
That was when he finally realized that there, in the hall, decorated only by long rows of clocks, he could hear something else mixed in with the sound of ticking pendulums.
The sound of metal sliding smoothly against metal, a sound that even had a certain crisp quality about it.
Luck soon realized just what it was.
Simultaneously, he wondered how it came to be that such a sound would be heard in a clockmaker's store.
The rhythmic song of well-sharpened blades came closer...
And there, in the deepest corner of the hall, there appeared a small silver something.
"What is it, Father?"
The boy who came around the corner was like a living pair of scissors.
All he did was open and close the silver tailoring scissors he held in both hands, as though in time with some unheard beat. That was all.
But that was simply the impression the boy gave.
Only the boy's scissors gleamed in the dim corner of the store, giving one the illusion that they were controlling the boy's fingers and body, not the other way around.
Indeed, Luck even found his gaze drawn to the silver blades, not the boy holding them, who looked to be about two or three years his junior.
"Oh? We have a customer?"
The boy's voice was so relaxed it almost seemed to melt into the air, a marked contrast to the sharp metallic sound of the tools he held.
Luck snapped out of his reverie at the sound, focusing again on the other boy's face.
His willowy body made it impossible to gauge his strength at a glance. He looked amicable enough, his eyes curved upwards in half-moon smiles.
There was nothing else remarkable about the boy, and so the eye was naturally drawn once more to the scissors in his hands.
If pressed to explain what he felt, Luck would have said that it felt as though the scissors were the boy's true form, while his actual body was simply an afterthought.
"Oh, hello..." the boy said, the slightly ponderous way he drew out his words making him seem even younger than he looked. But rather than making him seem disarming, it actually gave a somehow unsettling impression when considered together with the scissors held in his hands.
"...And this is?"
"Ah, Mr. Gandor! This here's my son Tick! He's awfully good with his hands! I'm sure he'll be of great help to you, yessir! So, err, what I mean is, maybe you can take him as collateral?"
"You've got to be joking..."
Normally Luck would have flown into a rage at being taken lightly, but this time, he could not.
True, he'd been caught flatfooted at the clockmaker's bizarre offer, but even more than that, he found himself interested in Tick.
Specifically, in the scissors Tick held in his hands.
Taking Luck's silence as agreement, the clockmaker unleashed a torrent of words, relief obvious on his face.
"You see, Mr. Gandor, I just remembered what you told me back when I borrowed the money! You told me that if I couldn't pay you back I'd have to be ready to sell my own family to make it up!"
"That was just a-"
"So anyway! Just a day! Try him out! If he don't please you, why, I'm a man of my word, yes sir! I'll sell this store and the land it's on, just you see if I don't!"
"...I'm too soft..." Luck murmured to himself with a sigh as he stepped out of the store. Unlike his cold tones earlier, this was said in a boyish way that fit his appearance.
The sky had clouded over, making it look like it'd rain at any moment. At the end of the street he could see the tower that supported the Manhattan Bridge standing tall. Having been made in 1905, the bridge was still relatively new, but the meticulous decorations festooning it gave the observer a sense of stately history.
Considering that the debtor's property was so close to a tourist attraction like the bridge, there should have been no problem attracting customers. In fact, it'd be hard to find a better location. Luck reflected that the clockmaker was either extremely bad at managing his business or extremely unlucky, to have been forced to borrow money from the mafia in spite of such fortuitous conditions.
He knew how much such land was worth, and so he'd stepped into the store fully intending to press the clockmaker into selling it, but...
"...So, why do you carry those scissors around?"
"It's a hobby."
"I... I see."
How had things come to this? Luck glanced sidelong at the boy walking alongside him and heaved another sigh.
"What's the matter, Mr. Luck? Something wrong?" Tick asked, smiling innocently.
Faced with those strangely good-natured eyes, Luck let out yet another long-suffering sigh.
...What the hell am I supposed to do with him?
The scissors in his hands were still quite unnerving, true, but besides that there was nothing really outstanding about the boy. He seemed a nice enough fellow, but it didn't look like he was that smart, and Luck was willing to bet he wasn't that strong, either. Perhaps as strong as Luck himself, if that.
Such was Luck's assessment of Tick.
"You were named... Tick, correct?"
"Do you understand just what kind of situation you're in right now?" Luck asked the smiling boy, just to make sure.
"Mmm, I think that Father borrowed money without being able to pay it back... So he sold me to you as collateral, Mr. Luck."
Luck wagered that Tick understood the words but not the meaning behind them. Still fighting his misgivings, he turned and began walking toward the Family's headquarters.
...Either way, if the boy turned out to be useless, he'd have the clockmaker right where he wanted him. The store would be sold, and the Family would get their money.
Granted, Luck could have dismissed Tick as good for nothing on the spot and intimidated the clockmaker into just selling the store right there and then, but for some reason, Tick intrigued him. There was the matter of the scissors, yes, but it was also true that the clockmaker's boasting had caught his interest as well. Awfully good with his hands, was it? Sure he'll be of great help had been in there as well.
"Listen, Tick. If I decide you're of no use to us, I'm going to stick a debt reminder on you and leave you outside your father's store again."
"Okay. I'll do my best," Tick replied, as breezy as before, and Luck's voice rose, sharp with agitation.
"Do you truly understand what it means to help people like us? It won't matter how 'good' you are with your hands. What matters if that you'll have to get them dirty. Do you get what that means? Are you prepared for that?"
Caught up in the moment, Luck followed up with a somewhat petty question.
"Say, for instance, that I told you to kill someone. Would you be able to do it?" he asked coldly. Now Tick would have no choice but to admit-
"If you told me to, Mr. Luck," Tick said, without a moment's hesitation, and gave the scissors in his hands another snap.
Luck had nothing to say to that.
...What the hell. This kid's got a few screws loose in his head.
Luck searched for a retort, his mouth half open, but at length he gave up and turned to look at the people on the street.
Perhaps because of the rain, there weren't all that many pedestrians, and only horse-drawn carriages clattered busily over the roads.
One such carriage passed in front of Luck, and once it was gone he noticed two people standing across the street.
The pair was composed of one skeletally thin man and one immensely fat one.
Luck knew their faces.
They were members of the Martillo Family, a small organization that operated in the same general area as the Gandors.
"What's this? It's the Gandor kid," the thin man--Randy--called teasingly upon catching sight of Luck.
"Off on a debt collecting errand for your brothers, eh?" the fat man--Pecho--added.
"Yes, I am. Have a good day, sirs."
It was clear that they weren't taking him seriously because of his age, but he didn't mind.
Luck himself was keenly aware of how strange it was for someone as young as he was to be acting as a member of a mafia family, and furthermore, it was obvious that Randy and Pecho weren't truly making fun of him.
The two men went their way, and Luck turned to leave...
"Oh, it looks like those people have business with Father, too."
Tick had turned around to watch them, and Luck, too, whipped around at his offhand comment, just in time to see the Martillo men kick open the clockmaker's door.
The frightening crash had barely faded when Randy and Pecho's voices rose in a fearsome roar.
"Look here, ya bastard! Hope you got the money you owe us ready, 'cause if you don't...!"
"You're gonna have to sell this store to pay back the twelve thousand dollars debt you racked up at our gambling house!"
Their shouts had been deliberately calculated to be heard by those nearby, and none among those bystanders was more shocked than Luck.
He clapped his hands to his mouth to stop the cry that threatened to come out.
...Twelve thousand dollars?! That's almost six times what he borrowed from us!
So the clockmaker had gone and saddled him with this scissors boy and piled up more debt with another organization.
Maybe he'd managed to scrape up just enough to repay the Martillos? And then given away the boy because he didn't have enough to pay back the Gandors...
Luck could see it all in his head. He turned around, all set to show the clockmaker personally just how terrifying the Gandor Family could be...
"Please don't do it."
The ponderous voice stopped him in his tracks, speaking as though its owner has read his mind.
"Father's already done for."
"...What was that?"
"He never had the money to pay you back. Not just you, and not just them, either. He borrowed lots and lots of money, from about eight other people. He couldn't pay it back even if he sold the store," Tick explained calmly, the smile never leaving his face even as he laid out the dire straits his family was in.
Luck slowed, then came to a stop as they talked, leaving the two facing each other, unmoving, at the end of the road.
"That's why it's all over for Father now. The people who're going to come now are all going to threaten him and maybe even kill him. That's why..."
The scissors sheared the air once again, but Tick's expression didn't change.
"I think Father's going to run away tonight."
Luck had been listened quietly up till then, but at those last words he took a quiet breath, looking at Tick as though he were something strange.
"...Run away? Leaving his family behind?"
"I have a little brother," Tick replied, his answer seeming to go off the mark. Luck wondered what he was talking about, but Tick continued before he could ask.
"He's named Tack, and he's really really smart. Not like me. People call him a genius, and he's good at whatever he does. He's a lot more help than most adults. So Father probably thinks he'll be alright as long as he has Tack."
Luck could find nothing to say in reply.
"I just get in the way, so Father was thinking of abandoning me anyway. He doesn't have the money to feed me. So he told me to go with you, Mr. Luck, to get you out of the way."
It dawned on Luck that the boy before him understood his own situation far better than he had first supposed.
"...How can you still smile, knowing what you do? Never mind your father. Do you hate your brother too?"
"Hmm? I love them both a lot, actually. Why do you think that?"
"Why...? No, it doesn't matter. Now that I know what your father had planned, I can't let this pass," Luck said shortly, heading back toward the clockmaker's store.
But... Tick's willowy hand grasped his arm.
The scissors made a dry metallic clang as they hit the pavement.
"...What is it."
"You still don't know, right?"
"Don't know what?"
"You don't know what I might be worth, Mr. Luck. For all you know, I might be worth Father's debt to you, right? You said it yourself. You promised Father that you'd look over me for a day. You said you'd see whether I could do enough work to pay back Father's debt to your family."
The light tone had faded just the slightest bit from Tick's voice, nervousness creeping in in its stead.
But even then, his eyes never quite lost their sparkle.
...Okay, so he isn't entirely an idiot.
Luck realized with some degree of relief that the boy did have emotions after all.
...He fully realizes the situation he's in, and he's long since come to terms with what he'll have to do.
"If you prove worthless and your Father does make a run for it... You'll be left holding the debt," Luck said, showing grudging respect for Tick's resolve. His interest in the boy renewed, the Gandor Family's youngest executive turned away from the store.
"...I really am too soft..."
Luck allowed himself a rueful smile as he led the other boy to the Family's office. He didn't turn to look back at the clockmaker's store, walking straight to his destination.
And as for the boy in question, who had been sold for a paltry month's wages... His fingers danced, looped into the scissors' handles.
In turn, the metal blades clanged open and shut at the behest of those long white fingers.
Merrily he brought them together, the sound of metal on metal rising rhythmically like some sort of instrument.
Luck cast Tick a sidelong glance and couldn't help but feel a twinge of pity for his future.
There was no way he'd become a member of the Family. The boy looked far too kind to become part of an illegal organization.
Still imagining the boy's future, Luck gave voice to a question, as though trying to make sure one last time.
"Still... Are you okay with this? You didn't even get to say goodbye to the family you're trying to protect."
"It's nothing as great as that, Mr. Luck. That's why I don't think I'll regret it. And the links between people aren't cut that easily. They don't have any form, just like air, so you can't cut them even if you tried..."
Luck found himself smiling along with the other boy, his leisurely good cheer finally proving infectious.
"But that means that on the other hand, people are easy to cut. You can touch them, you see. My scissors could cut them right up. That makes me sad, and happy."
Tick's smile widened, and a sudden chill ran down Luck's spine.
It wouldn't be long before Luck came to understand the meaning of his words.
The scissors in the boy's hands sang, clashing metal raising its voice on the street.
The sound did not mingle with the mundane noises of the road, instead ringing clear to the end of the dusky evening street.
As though prophesying the path the boy would walk in the days to come.
Eight Years Later
The Gandor Family Office's Basement
"That's why I need to make sure," Tick murmured, smiling brightly at the man in front of him.
The man replied...
With a scream.
The anguished shriek, like silk being ripped apart, echoed around the small, plain grey room.
Tick had just told his life's story to the man who was currently thrashing about, though most of it had, admittedly, been lost in the sound of the man's screams.
He didn't even know the man's name. He just sheared his flesh, the two of them alone in the secluded basement.
Healthy peach color split apart, crimson oozing through the gashes.
"I just wanted to see how much pain a person's mind can handle. How much a person's bonds can take. These invisible bonds. I really wanted to know, and that's why I tried to find out, with so many many many different people..."
Tick smiled sadly, snapping his scissors shut.
"Human beings are really strange. Some people won't ever betray their friends because of torture no matter what, and some people just start talking before I even cut them. I think you're the type who doesn't talk. That's amazing. I really respect that."
The next moment, his blades flashed once again, splitting open the man's skin.
He'd cut parallel to the previous wound--the two slashes running side by side with only a fraction of an inch between them--turning the wound into something far crueler than it had been before.
The room's single door opened as the man's screams rose an octave, and through the doorway stepped a young man with eyes as sharp and narrow as a knife. Luck Gandor.
"Mr. Tick... Perhaps a short break before you continue."
"Yes, Mr. Luck."
The scissors snapped closed as Tick replied docilely, and he exited the room.
Luck watched him leave for a moment, then walked forward and came to a stop in front of the ragged, helpless man.
"...Though, just how short this break will be depends entirely on what you have to say," Luck commented conversationally.
The man had been wheezing hard, bereft of even the strength to scream, but at Luck's words he looked up and forced himself to speak, his teeth chattering uncontrollably.
"Pl-pl-please, n-no more. I'll, I'll talk! I'll tell you e-everything! Just don't let that freak near me agaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!"
Pain had turned his words into a shriek, but Luck had no problem deciphering what he meant.
He sighed and cracked his neck from side to side, waiting for the man to come to his senses... But suddenly the man's voice rose in a terrified shriek.
"Oh god noooo!"
Following the man's gaze, Luck saw that Tick had come back, peeking around the open door.
"Oh? Is something wrong, Mr. Tick?"
"Umm... If you don't get him to a doctor soon, I think he's going to die."
The young man's smile faded for just a moment as he looked worriedly at the wounded man.
"Yes, yes. I'll take care of it. You can go upstairs and have some crackers."
"Yay! Thanks, Mr. Luck," Tick said, the smile reappearing as he turned and headed up the stairs outside, humming to himself as he went.
He disappeared from view, the scissors hanging limply from his hands. Luck waited until he was sure Tick had left, then turned and smiled at the bloody man on the floor.
"Mr. Tick is a kind man, isn't he," Luck said, and then kicked the man hard.
The man could only thrash soundlessly, the air he would have needed to scream suddenly forced from his lungs.
"But I am not. I hope you understand."
Tick was a kind man.
He was a supremely innocent person, one who had no business associating with the mafia.
But he had one talent.
He was very, very good at hurting and torturing people.
Perhaps that talent stemmed from his innocence, or, like some said, his scissors were cursed.
It had only taken a year for him to become infamous as the Gandor Family's torture specialist.
Every time the boy's scissors spoke, screams followed as though in chorus.
Still, he smiled.
Innocently, he smiled.
The scissors danced in the boy's hands.
Madly, they danced.
8 Years Ago
The Younger Brother
Thick clouds blanketed the night sky, hiding not only the stars but also the moon from view.
But those clouds weren't heralds of a coming storm; only silence reigned over the darkness.
Neither the neon lights of the city nor the raucous chatter of the taverns reached this place. The boy looked down at the river flowing through the dark and muttered quietly to himself, "The world really is a big place."
His gaze traveled upward from the lightless waters, looking up at the starless sky.
The boy's expression didn't change as he took in the inky blackness that filled his entire field of vision.
"It feels like it's going to swallow me up. No, I'm sure it already has."
I know that Father's planning on selling Tick tomorrow.
He wants to sell him to some mafia called the Gandors or something, to cover a debt of just two thousand dollars.
And then he's going to take me and run. Just me. No, if worst comes to worst, he's thinking of selling me, too, for a lot more than he will Tick, to a camorra called the Martillo Family.
I like to think I'm pretty smart.
I'm not giving myself airs or anything. It's just an objective fact.
They call me a wunderkind. I can understand what they teach at school just by reading the books, before the teachers even open their mouths. Actually, I can go further than that, extrapolating to conclusions that are outside the confines of the textbooks.
It's just that I don't really see much worth in it.
What use is all my talent, when it can't get me what I really want?
I just wanted to be happy.
It's a foreign thing to me. It has been ever since my biological father died.
Tick and I ended up moving to this new neighborhood because Mom found a new husband--that worthless clockmaker. A new life, new people, a new atmosphere.
I should have formed new bonds of family with my stepfather, finding new happiness.
But the neighborhood of New York was too large.
Far, far too large.
Mom died of tuberculosis before we even got settled down here.
Our stepfather didn't care about us.
In fact, I think he thought of us as a nuisance.
But that changed once he heard the rumors about me.
He'd decided, you see, that I'd be a good source of money for him.
That wasn't the sort of family I wanted.
I hate my stepfather.
All he thinks of is money. Just as I have no love for him, so does he harbor no affection for me.
Tick, on the other hand, thinks of his new father as family.
His new father, on the other hand, only thinks of Tick as a tool.
We're all the same.
Whether or not he cares for us, our relations with him are strictly one-way.
I hate Tick, too.
My older brother is a really innocent person. That's why things never ended well when it came to him.
Like my guinea pig.
He killed my first and only pet, my guinea pig, Jimmy. I'd raised him myself, and I honestly loved him.
Tick stabbed those scissors he always carried into Jimmy's back.
I don't know why he did it.
I don't want to know, either.
I haven't spoken a word to him since then, and I have no intention of ever forgiving him for it.
I just wonder... What does he think of me? I know that he thinks of the clockmaker as family. But I can't even begin to fathom what he thinks of me.
Tick acts that way to everyone, so there's no way to know for certain.
Still. I didn't forgive him for what he did, but I still wanted to believe that there was something between us, some sort of brotherly connection. A familial bond. That's why I thought to stay together with him as family, even though I hated him so.
But even that ends today.
The clockmaker is planning on tossing Tick to the wolves and making a break for it tomorrow night. I don't want to live together with someone like that, a goose forever laying golden eggs for his benefit.
I'm not being arrogant. I'm just confident in my ability to earn money--at least better than my stepfather, who managed to rack up enough debt at an underground casino to be able to sell his store and still come up wanting in paying it back. The ways I would do so might not be entirely legal, but it doesn't matter.
I don't want to live with my stepfather.
I'll never be happy then, no matter how much money I earn.
I imagined my future with him, as I might extrapolate a new equation from the answers in my textbooks.
I could only foresee boring days ahead of me. I was sure my predictions would turn out to be true.
That's why I ran away.
I won't say that it was in pursuit of happiness. Talk like that is cheap.
This is an experiment.
I'm conducting an experiment on myself, to see how far I can run on my own from the things I hate, from the misfortune that is sure to befall me.
That's why I won't regret the results, come what may. I need only to modify the procedure and try again. Over and over again, until I get the result I want.
There was something I dare to hope, just a little.
It's already been two hours since I ran away, but in my breast I still hold the small hope that Tick might come to look for me.
There's that hope that I might hear his voice calling for me from far away.
It's a selfish thing, yes, but it interests me, you see.
Do familial bonds really exist?
Furthermore, would they hold fast for someone despicable like me, who thought to test such things for the sake of potential personal gain?
That's why I allow myself to hope.
Hope that my experiment will come to a swift end as someone calls me from behind.
If that happens, I plan on running away together with Tick.
I hate him, yes, but compared to the clockmaker he's much much-
And from behind the boy came a voice.
"Tack Jefferson. Twelve. Single."
Naturally, the voice did not belong to his brother, nor did it belong to his father.
Tack's gaze snapped down from the dark heavens to earth, and soon focused on a faint light.
"Hmm. Perhaps the 'single' part was unnecessary. No, I say, I must make sure. There is not a single phenomenon in this world that is unnecessary to observe."
A person was there, illuminated in the wavering light.
"...'I say', hmm. That leads me to wonder how Nile is doing... Ah, that was just me talking to myself. Pay it no mind."
The light was coming from the round thing the stranger held, something unlike any lamp that Tack had ever seen.
It was roughly the size of a man's head, shaped somewhat like a butterfly's cocoon. It looked something like a sphere that had been stretched vertically, and stiff white paper covered its surface. Tack peered closely at it and saw that there were many wires overlapping each other to form a frame inside the paper.
From the flickering of the light inside the paper ball, it seemed that a candle or lamp had been placed inside.
All this was processed within an instant in Tack's head. It wasn't really the time for such things, but the sudden fear that gripped him had left him unable to look directly at the stranger's face.
"So while this may seem a bit silly, I must ask. Are you single?" the stranger asked quietly, heedless of Tack's anxiety, and only then could he bring himself to glance up.
Lit by the dancing firelight was... a beautiful, perfect face, like one would expect of an angel.
Tack cautiously thought it might be a man.
The way the stranger spoke was all the basis he had for that conclusion. The voice itself was androgynous, and the face so fair he might have mistaken it for a woman's. The stranger's expression was mature, but on the whole he seemed somehow young.
He wore white clothes, and the light in his hand reflected oddly off of them, making him almost seem to glow in the night.
"I suppose it must be startling to be faced with questions so suddenly. My apologies. Ah, does this light catch your attention? It is called a chouchin. I made it myself, based on a friend's description from Japan. Though, it is constructed entirely from hearsay, and I have never actually seen one, so I have no idea how accurate a recreation this is."
The man smiled gently as he spoke, as though to calm the boy's nerves.
Tack felt the urge to ask a question, but he couldn't find the words to express it. He felt a strange sort of pressure rolling off the man that made him hesitant to talk.
The stranger kept his smile as Tack struggled for words, and took a step closer.
"There is something I must make clear before anything else. Our meeting here is no coincidence."
Tack took a step back despite himself, unable to decipher the man's intentions.
He couldn't muster the courage to walk toward him. But neither was he brave enough to turn and run, and so he stood rooted to the spot, unable to move. Such was the quaint air about the stranger; Tack couldn't tell whether it was allure or menace.
"No, not a coincidence. I feel this is most important. Yes, I was waiting for you to come. I know what sort of straits your family is in right now, and predicting that you would leave your home tonight was well within my ability to foresee. You see--and for this I must apologize--I have been observing your every move for the past month. And my observations have borne fruit, for thanks to them I was able to meet you."
...What is he talking about?
The stranger kept going, even as Tack tried his best to make sense of the situation.
It seemed almost as though he was not talking to Tack, but was instead talking to himself in an attempt to confirm why he had come.
"You are far more brilliant than those around you can possibly imagine. I came here because I heard of a genius named Claire Stanfield, but it seems he has already left... Instead, I came to learn of you, and I must say that perhaps you will turn out to be even more outstanding than young Stanfield."
The stranger took another step. One step closer to Tack.
There was still a gap of a few yards between them, but the man's voice seeped into his thoughts as though he were whispering into Tack's ears.
"I must say I like your adequate level of misfortune. And I approve of the way you left your life behind without hesitation well before you came to taste despair. Truly, you are a fascinating specimen."
"Who... are you?"
It was the only question that Tack could manage, and he had to scrape together all of his rapidly flagging courage to eke it out.
He had provided the incentive, and now a flood of words was sure to pour out in reply. Perhaps making a run for it would have been wiser, but it seemed that his curiosity regarding the mysterious man far outweighed any concerns about his own safety.
The man folded down the outer layer of his chouchin... and held his finger to the flame of the large candle inside.
"I am... a monster."
His right hand held up the bottom of the lantern, while his left hand hovered inside the fire.
Normally, Tack would have dismissed it as a simple magic trick. Anyone could do something similar, as long as they had chilled their hand sufficiently with something like ice beforehand, and then cunningly used a layer of moisture or air to momentarily ward off the heat.
But soon enough the man's hand caught alight, his flesh merrily burning.
And then... the skin that should have sloughed off of his immolated hand slipped back into place and began to heal before his eyes.
The man's hand was wreathed in flames. But no matter how long Tack watched, his flesh never melted away completely.
The boy gulped, enthralled by the display of regeneration in the firelight... and then his eyes hardened as he began to analyze the phenomenon.
"A trick? No, but..."
After a moment of thought, Tack used the fastest method he could think of to explain the situation.
In other words, he decided to ask the man himself.
"Let me ask again... What are you?"
"Oh? I am quite impressed. I had not expected you to keep your calm so well confronted by such things. Most of the specimens I showed this to lost their senses, you see. Even Goose showed more of a reaction than you did... Granted, that time I chose to forgo such mild displays and instead sliced open my own jugular vein."
He'd completely cut Tack off, but the man continued, his voice growing louder with excitement.
"You could have run away upon deciding that I disturbed you, you know. Such actions are well within the expected behavior patterns of human beings, and I would not have been overly disappointed... Though I had no intention of letting you escape."
The man's stare slipped from Tack to a point behind him.
As though enthralled, Tack turned to follow his gaze and discovered a new silhouette standing behind him.
It was a girl about his age, dressed in black.
She stood barely a yard away from him, her golden eyes focused on him from behind a curtain of black hair.
There was nothing that could have been quantified as emotion in those eyes. She merely stared at him silently, like a puppet.
"Chane, it seems our guest won't be attempting to flee, so you can go now."
The girl nodded and vanished, sprinting soundlessly into the dark.
Utter quiet blanketed them, as though to say that there had never been anyone there save the two of them, the lantern's light revealing only Tack's shadow where the girl had once stood.
...Am I dreaming?
The chain of bizarre situations began to make Tack think everything was some sort of hallucination. He was losing touch with reality.
The man's voice, which was the most fantastic thing about the situation, was ironically the thing that brought him back to reality.
"Now, I suppose I should introduce myself. My aim is to understand the limits of the materials collectively known as humanity. To that end, I am gathering various specimens. Specimens such as yourself, for example..."
He trailed off, as though he had just remembered something once forgotten.
Both his hand and his lantern had returned to exactly like they'd been before the fiery display, almost making Tack suspect that he'd dreamed the whole thing.
"My, my. I completely forgot about the most important thing."
The laughter faded from the man's features, replaced by one of trite embarrassment as he shook his head.
These motions were so natural and intimate, so completely friendly and comforting, that they could not possibly have been anything other than coldly calculated.
"Huey. My... Mmm, my name is Huey Laforet."
The man finally revealed his name, and at the same time, revealed the reason he'd come.
As though they'd just met, and everything before this truly had been a fantastic dream.
"I want to take you with me. I come from the happy world you so fervently wish for."
8 Years Ago
The Only Daughter
A town in Northern Mexico
Far south of New York, there was a village close to the border between the United States and Mexico.
The sun had already set there, and deep dusk had fallen over the buildings.
Normally, beautiful stars would have lit up the sparkling night sky, but tonight, a thick cover of clouds served to make the night a single dull shade of black.
There were farms dotting the land around the town, and with the coming of nightfall the rustic atmosphere became dyed in subdued tones.
There was a single house, on the outskirts of the village, that fit perfectly with the placid air.
An old man and a young girl stood talking in front of an extinguished fireplace. The table beside them had been prepared for dinner, but they paid it no mind, instead seemingly absorbed in some great debate.
It was a rather ordinary, if heartwarming sight, but on that night, in that home, the reality of it was somewhat different from what one might have expected.
"Listen closely, Maria. This here is no toy."
The old man's prodigious mustache bristled as he squatted in front of the girl.
Illuminated by the lamplight, they seemed at first glance like family, and at second glance like complete strangers.
"This, you see, is a weapon and a soul and a simple lump of iron."
The old man raised the long object he held in his right hand and smiled gently at the child.
As for the girl, tears were threatening to spill from her eyes despite the old man's reassuring smile as she focused on what he had to say.
"It's not something you can just play around with."
"I'm... I'm sorry, grandpa... I, I didn't know this would happen," the girl, Maria, said, stammering through the sobs that shook her body.
"I didn't mean to do it! I didn't want to hurt anyone! I, I never thought... I never thought something like this would happen!"
The old man's left arm was swathed in bandages... and instead of keeping their pristine white color, over half the area covered by the cloth was stained dark red.
He had been content to listen, but at Maria's last outburst he spun the long object in his right hand around and with it slapped his wounded left arm.
"Maria, my girl. If you really mean that, that was the worst thing you could possibly have said."
The girl looked up cautiously, still sniffling. The old man grinned wider than before.
It was not a gentle smile. More a pure and innocent grin, the sort one would expect from a child who had found something interesting to play with.
The old man laughed and gripped the end of stick and held the other end fast within the crook of his left elbow. Then, before the girl's eyes, he drew forth from inside the stick--no, the scabbard--a katana.
The dazzling light reflected off the blade nearly blinded the girl for a moment. When she squinted cautiously through shuttered eyelids, she became aware that the end of the sword rested against the center of her forehead.
The girl could only stare at the living silver before her, enchanted.
Stationed directly between her eyes, the sharp blade confused her vision as her eyes crossed to look at it.
But in the end, what she focused on was not the point of the sword, but the rusty red-brown stain that was smeared on the middle of it.
This was the sword she had carelessly waved about.
This was the sword that had cut her grandfather's left arm as he tried to stop her.
Left untouched, the blood had soon dried right on the blade. It seemed to be scolding her, spread haphazardly across the shining silver. At least, that was what the girl thought.
"Look here. When you use this blade, you must never say 'I didn't want to hurt anyone!' When you swing this thing... No, when you draw it from its home, there should only be one thought on your mind. 'I'll cleave you in two!'" the old man cried, his words a far cry from what any guardian in their right mind would ever say.
"Look, Maria! This is my own blood, caked right here on this sword! My own blood, from my arm, that you cut! Do you understand how incredible this is?"
The girl looked curiously up at her grandfather.
"I fully intended to stop you right then and there, but look! Even though I was serious and you were just playing, you managed to avoid my grasp and slash me!"
The old man laughed, his shoulders shaking with mirth, and cleaned away the dried blood with a rag hanging from a nearby chair. The sword had been sheathed once already, so such a measure would be nowhere near sufficient to fully clean the blade. The blood caked inside the scabbard would surely serve to damage both the scabbard and the sword it housed.
But such considerations seemed to be the farthest thing from the old man's thoughts.
"I thought that I could easily take the sword from you. You're just a child. But you moved far more nimbly than I had imagined, and struck! A girl like you! Perhaps this is what they call genius... and I'm glad of it!"
He sheathed the cleaned blade casually, though he had but wiped it once with a rag, and thrust it toward the wide-eyed girl.
"Remember that you can only cut a few people down at a time with a katana. The blood and human fat will dull the blade in the blink of an eye," he said seriously, moving closer to the girl.
But then his features split with a wide smile as he continued.
"I'll have you know that's all a lie!"
The old man tossed the sword to Maria and sprang to his feet, his voice rumbling powerfully as he laid out his thoughts in a long ramble, as though he were drunk.
"All you need is belief! If you just believe, and if you have the strength and the skill, you can slash a person with a stick or a sheet of paper. You think a little blood and grease can stop a katana from doing what even a pipe or a plank of wood can do?!"
It was a preposterous theory, but it didn't seem like the old man was drunk at all. The flush on his cheeks was because of excitement, not liquor, and it was clear that he was in full possession of his senses.
If one had to define it, the old man looked like a dreamer drunk on his own dreams.
"If anyone tells you something can't be cut, take it as a lie. If only you believe, you can slash as many people as you want! You can keep on going forever. Dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions of people. You can cut down everyone except yourself--no, including yourself--in this wide world!"
The old man's gaze focused on something he could see as he continued to explain his bizarre dream.
"No, not just people, Maria. You can slash anything you want! If only your skills can follow your belief! That sword will let you do it!"
He spread his arms wide, then clapped his hands on the girl's shoulders.
"Try it out! Experiment! It doesn't matter what, just slash and cut and hack and slice and hew and slash and slash and slash and slash and slack!"
The old man coughed once, out of breath, but soon the manic smile reappeared on his face and he took up his chant once more.
"Slash and slash and slash and slash and slash and slash and slash... cut down everything in your path!"
At the time, the girl didn't understand what her grandfather meant.
But looking into his eyes, seeing the fierce resolve burning there, she unconsciously tightened her grip on the sword's handle.
Her tears had dried. Her sadness was long gone, as was her regret and her fear. All that was left in her mind was awe--awe of her grandfather's rousing speech.
"There's nothing in this world that sword can't cut! Even if you can't see it, that sword can cut it! As long as you believe! Water or air or vacuum or souls or bonds or hate or regret or hope. You can cut it all!"
The old man suddenly exhaled, sitting down heavily on the chair.
"Maria, you have the right to bear that blade."
"Your parents were skilled assassins. But they fell to the allure of firearms, and lay down their swords! And because of that, your Mama and Papa are dead. I killed them myself, with that very sword!"
The old man's story would have shocked anyone. But the girl's expression didn't change, and her voice remained calm as she spoke.
"Uh-huh. That was when I was still a baby, right? I can't remember anything, but abuelita(3) used to tell me about it all the time!"
"And she told you the truth. I'd intended to take that blade with me to my grave, but I saw you and changed my mind," the old man said, leaning back and letting the plushy chair shroud his body. The smile on his face was that of a man at the very pinnacle of life.
"You cried with fear at seeing the blood on my arm, didn't you."
"I told you, it's nothing! What's important is your expression when you did it."
The old man stopped and smiled, baring his teeth.
"Maria. When you were playing with that sword, and what's more, at the moment you slashed my arm, do you know how you looked? Did you see the look on your face? You looked so happy, my child! That's what's important! Now, Maria. Draw the sword passed down from person to person without regard for the bonds of teacher and student, of parent and child! Draw forth Murasamia!"
The girl unsheathed the strangely named sword as her grandfather had instructed. The blade came forth so cleanly it was hard to believe that a young girl's short arms could have done it.
For an instant, the lamplight reflected off the metal and shined on the girl's innocent smile.
The old man whistled unconsciously with respect for the perfect fusion of girl and sword.
"That's it, Maria! Once you've drawn the sword, don't think about anything else. Just believe in the power to slash. All you have to do is rejoice in cutting things!"
The girl sprang forward from her chair as she spoke...
...And swung her sword at the old man before her without a moment's hesitation.
"...Hah! Just as I'd expected! Maria, you truly are my most delightfully insane little angel!"
The old man held the fork he'd picked up from the dinner table firm in one hand as he smiled in his granddaughter's face.
He'd blocked the strike with but the tines of his fork. The keen and deadly blade came to a stop just a hairsbreadth away from his head.
"You have the belief, but not the skills to slash me. Not yet, that is. No matter! Technique can always be learned! When you become good enough, I'll give you another sword. With two blades at your side you can cut twice as many things twice as much!"
The girl stood with her eyes wide, her head slightly bowed as she drank in her grandfather's manic, absurd ranting. Perhaps the slight upward curve of her lips was a smile, and then again perhaps it was anger.
"Huh... What did I just..."
"You don't understand why you tried to cut me, yourself, do you? That's fine! Once you draw, you have to slash! Slash anything! The why of it can come later! That's how you and your blade will shine brightest! Hahahahahahahahahahaha!"
Her grandfather threw back his head and laughed crazily, and at length, following his lead, Maria began to laugh quietly as well.
Innocent madness colored her still childish features.
The grandfather--no, the killer--nodded in satisfaction at his granddaughter's mad laughter.
"I'll tell you once more. This thing here is no toy."
"This sword is... your compañero(4)."
Some Years Later
Somewhere in Manhattan
"What the hell is wrong with you, kid?!"
Shadows grew thick in the alley of the great city.
One man's shout rang out in the dimly lit passage.
Several figures lay arrayed about him. None of them were moving.
"The hell is going on? What do you want, huh?!"
The cloudy sky prevented even the moon from lighting the narrow pathway.
Only the faint light seeping in from the faraway road let the man see that the thing in front of him was actually a young woman, traces of girlishness still clinging about her.
And in her hands were two swords. They, too, shone faintly in the dusky light.
"Hi, amigo! I'm Maria, an up-and-coming assassin! Actually, that's why I'm here right now! This funny guy wanted me to slash you, you see!"
She finished her friendly introduction and began stalking forward. Even when she stepped in one of the puddles of blood pooled in the area, she made no sound as she approached, step by step.
"And now you're the only one left, amigo!"
"You... you little bitch! Who do you think..."
The man drew his gun and pointed it, his finger tightening on the trigger.
In that same instant, the girl's body seemed almost to sink into the ground, and then darted wildly to the right.
"...you're fucking with?!"
And at the same moment as that gunshot, the sharp sound of steel on steel.
The shrill noise rang dizzily in the man's ears, and when he came to his senses he realized that there was no longer a gun in his hand.
The katana had been far closer than he imagined, lashing out at the moment he fired to knock the muzzle away.
He drew a breath to shout, and suddenly remembered the fact that the woman had wielded two blades.
A realization swiftly followed.
One sword had hit his gun.
Then where was the other one...?
The answer came quickly, but too late for the man to notice, for by that time it was already lodged in his throat.
A moment later, a fresh fountain of blood stained the alley walls.
Not a drop of it landed on the young woman, who had at some point come to stand behind the dying man. She paid him no heed, instead staring down at a black mass on the ground.
It was the pistol she'd knocked out of the man's hand just a few seconds ago. She focused on it for a while, then stepped over the dead man as he keeled over, walking deeper into the alley.
"Aah... I'm still not skilled enough to cut a pistol in two," the girl mumbled, honestly disappointed, as she silently vanished into the dark of the city.
Her unsheathed blades, practically unstained by blood or grease, reflected the faint city light and shone with a calming luminescence.
Wavering, ever wavering.
The girl's heart, and the keenness of the blades, and everything else, melted away in that light, sinking into the shadows of the streets...
(1): 村雨 (rain shower). Actual pronunciation is "Murasame."
(2): Variation on "tock," as in "tick, tock."
(3): Spanish for "grandma." Masculine form is "abuelito."
(4): Spanish for "companion."