Pet Shop of Horrors and Utena characters belong to their various owners.
They crossed at the sandy shore of sea-hugged Houou City. Man and boy; he himself tall and blond, the boy dark and lean. Both aliens to this upscale Japanese town, the rugged wanderer allowed for the cultured young dandy to humor him as they strode down the palm-shaded beach. Arriving via the New Chitose Airport? Such a lovely entry into the land of rising sun. Chitose just got this sense of eternity to it, won’t you agree? Do you know? The beach gives view to a spectacular sunset. After sundown, the stars are brilliant at night. One hardly needs to visit the local Planetarium, if not for the novelty of the act. Talking about stars, here we are at the lagoon cave. Yes, even in a city like Houou, nature’s perseverance has left its mark. Beyond this tiny opening is a vast interior boasting a wondrous ecosystem almost completely unto itself. Starfishes with arms like feathery plums, urchins boasting crayons of violets and blues . . . But you don’t really care for tidal pool invertebrates, do you? A man like you . . .
“I didn’t come with you to fuck if that’s what you’re thinking, kiddo.”
“Oh?” Stopping, the boy looked up from where he knelt in front of him with wide green eyes (looking so innocuous as to be even more suspicious). “Then for what have you followed me all the way here, to the end of the beach?”
“It’s your scent,” replied the blond man, keen gaze upon the dew-drops (sea water? sweat?) currently coating this silver-haired exotic’s dark complexion.
“My . . . scent?”
“You have a sweet, nostalgic scent that shouldn’t belong to a beach, let alone a sea cave.”
The man reached down a hand. The boy reached up. The latter rose even as he pulled, offering him the illusion of being feather-light, ethereal. Damn, thought the man, not even that person -- more androgynous though he might be -- could compare with this homme fatale’s smothering, hair-raising sensuality
“Professor Ohtori Akio, I presume?” he said, staring down upon the other male -- tall, but still shorter than himself -- in hopes of upholding some aural high ground over this electrifying creature. “You look even younger in person than you do in photos.”
Somehow, Ohtori Akio flushed at the word ‘Professor.’ There was, however, a cat-like coyness to his otherwise demur expression. “And you would be . . . ?”
“Leon Orcot.” Leon flashed this impertinent creature his rugged, bestial grin. “Former LAPD. Current savior of rare and endangered species whose preservation was previously overlooked by the Washington Convention.”
The former cop’s words ignited a peculiar glint from within the professor’s emerald greens. “Savior . . .”
Eyes on Professor Ohtori’s, Leon stated his purpose: “I’ve come to save the newest addition to the Ohtori Aquarium: that shiny, miraculous creature whose discovery is said to have revolutionized modern biology.
“The ‘Rose Prince.’ ”
The shop always had a sweet, nostalgic scent. That was what Jill had said, and Leon had been using that piece of info as his primary lead towards finding D again because Jill, like himself, had perfect Cop’s intuition. So perfect, in fact, that she had since taken over after their Chief’s retirement. It had been twenty years since, more than enough time for a diligent cop like Jill to rise to the top, and for everyone else still working at LAPD to forget Leon ever existed. Of his old associates, only Jill alone had remained in contact with him throughout his decades long “self-exile” (as she called it); she alone had remained understanding –- of not always supportive –- of his fool’s quest.
“I’m still helping you with this -- in this day and age -- because if I don’t, no one else will.”
Chief Jill Freshney silenced her life-long friend with a lift of her hand.
“Back then, you said you saw yourself falling off the Count’s ship when in reality, we all saw you on the hospital bed in that coma.” Her eyes upon him were humorless and hard -- a stark contrast to the twinkle-dotted pools they were in her younger days. “It hurts us to see how you haven’t stopped falling since.”
Leon, who had nothing to say to that, reached for his cigarette . . . before stopping as he remembered just how damned sensitive that fire alarm was in the LAPD Chief’s office. Crazy as he may have become by the world’s definition, the middle-aged ex-detective-turned-wanderer was not unaware of the where and when. It was not like he was oblivious to just how much of a drag his decades-long D search had been for everyone who cared about him.
A sigh escaped Jill’s lips, followed a self-depreciating softening of her tight expression. “Even when I say ‘us’ . . . it’s really only me and Chris these days who still remember that time, who still buy your story about the ‘Kamis.’ ”
“We both know the ‘story’ is real, Jill”
“Real or not, we both know how your part in that story was long since over.”
“Your journey ends here. Humans have not earned the right to board this ship.”
Leon’s final memory of D consisted of the Kami having a tear in a golden eye, and a hand over the man’s chest. Back then, D pushed, and Leon fell; off the flying ship he had no right to board, before plummeting right through a human society he could no longer fit back into. With nothing left to gain footing upon, Leon had -- as Jill called it -- been left falling ever since.
All because of one cowardly, human-hating “god” who fucking stole his life before leaving him to rot in the shambles of a crumbled reality. If that is D’s sick way of making him suffer for killing the genocidal Papa D, then Leon must admit this to be an utmost effective revenge.
“I get you, Leon. You’re the type who’d never back down from a challenge, and would fight on until the very end. But perseverance is only admirable when it serves a purpose. Your futile D search has already eaten away twenty years of your life. If you don’t let it go now, you might end up going down with it.
“Look at Chris. For the first couple of years, he was always going on about how you must find the Count. Now, he is a brilliant talent of the FBI living with both feet firmly on the ground. He no longer cares if his drawing may never reach the Count: he’s old enough to understand how one’s feelings are not always reciprocated, that what’s not meant to be may simply never be.”
Leon’s head hung (even lower) at those words. Long ago, back before D, he and Jill had dated casually; had, in fact, slept together a couple of times even. Back then, the young buck he was thought it was no big deal, since Jill had acted so casually over the not quite relationship. Twenty years later, the eligible bachelorette that Jill was had remained not just single, but celibate. Even an insensitive fool like Leon knew he himself was not without guilt in this matter.
“Even though I’m saying all this . . . I, too, want to see this end.”
The abrupt turn in Jill’s stance, followed by her placing a big envelope upon the desk, had Leon –- slouched over from the weight of reality before –- straightening up. Something in the air had changed as per the envelope’s appearance, something that incited within him a sense of déjà vu . . .
“This is . . . ?”
“Maybe the best lead to the Count we’ve managed to come across throughout the last two decades.”
Leon picked up the envelope –- which was surprisingly hefty –- with his heart pounding. “This scent . . . ”
“I smell my grandma’s home-baked cookies.” Jill’s voice came marred by an anxious tremor. “And you?”
“. . . the frigging Petshop.” Leon gritted out the word from between his teeth. “Though, there’s also the smell of flowers mixed within.”
“This got delivered to my place, but is addressed to you,” Jill supplied, tapping at the recipient’s name with her pen. “They even knew that you have no permanent address, and that I’m sure to contact you over this.”
“The bastard . . .” Opening the envelope (its flower-motif wax seal since broken), Leon saw a sizable stack of documentations, photos, ids . . . along with a small note scribbled in elegant ink writing:
To the hero who can break the Rose Prince out of his shell, please come to the Ohtori Aquarium.
Upon succeeding, you shall be granted the ticket to board the Ship in the Sky, namely ‘Eternity.’
You will be shown how even humans can fly; yes, even you.
To be continued . . . ?