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“Fifth, Second is doing something weird in the yard again.”

                “Again?” Rui swirled around, ladle in hand. Her hair was longer now, tickling her ribs. Yuuki was sprawled upside down on the table, so it looked like all that hair was spiking upwards. “Geez, that old man… His tastes are getting weirder by the day, have you noticed?”

                Yuuki nodded solemnly. Today Heike the Wonder had gleefully signed the arrival of his first ceramic bust by mail, together with the compulsory binding ropes. The ropes were becoming more colorful, too.

                “I don’t know how Yuki puts up with it…”

                “Yukinko?” Come to think of it, it’s been a while since they saw Heike’s partner around. Yuuki doesn’t think too much about it—they have begun operating on their own again recently. Toki was on a vacation with Nenene, and Ogami was on a mission. Besides, none of them were the type to stay still for long. There was just one thing they all agreed on: whenever they got tired of being alone, Shibuya Mansion was the one home they would all return to.

                After all, the President already made them pay the rent for the next twenty years. And they weren’t going to be swindled by anyone, not even that darned cat (Toki’s words).

                “Fifth…” The gears in Yuuki’s brain were turning. “Yukinko has known Second for a long time, right?”

                “Longer than the two of us can imagine.”

                “Do you think… Second was always like this?” Yuuki finally voiced the little doubt nagging at the back of his mind. “I don’t think Yukinko would have followed a man like that…”

                To this day, a tiny muscle in Yukihina’s face twitches whenever Heike reads out of those books. It wasn’t obvious, but nothing escaped Yuuki’s ears. Plus, with Heike moving on to busts and figures now, that twitch had gotten so obvious even the others could see it…

                “That’s… a very good point.” Rui mused over it, fishing her kaki-age out of the sizzling oil.

                “Maybe he wasn’t always like that.” Yuuki usually wasn’t one to pry – that was almost exclusively Nyanmaru’s job—but he was getting really, really curious. “Maybe something happened along the way… And if so, I bet Yukinko would know all about it.”

                And with that, Rui was hooked, too. She seemed to struggle with something, not even noticing when the vegetables came out a little drier than usual, before finally coming to a conclusion.

                “You know what, I think I’ll ask Kouji.”

 

“Heike’s habit? And you think Yukihina has something to do with it?”

                Rui shrugged, downing her whiskey and leaning just a little closer to Kouji. “They’ve known each other forever, right? It’s weird that Yuki doesn’t say anything about it.”

                To her surprise, Kouji chuckled. For a moment she got lost in his rare expression of joy, his hair blowing in the night wind. “Well, lucky you, because I happen to know the full story. That kid Yukihina gets really talkative when we go sakura-viewing, as you know.”

                He’s a confessional drunk… Rui stored that information away for later use. By the time she met him and Kouji, they were both too strong as power users to fall for the sakura effect, but everyone started somewhere.

                “It actually gets to him a lot more than he lets on, heh. Let’s see, I think he said it was his third job as a Code:Breaker…”

 

“Yukihina!”

                Heike rushed to the abandoned inn outside the capital, hoping with all his heart he would be in time. It was all Zed’s fault, for forcing him to read all that nonsense! Saying it was popular with the ladies wouldn’t sway him, so the so-called Hero had craftily explained that in the wrong hands, these lustful trends may become motivation for evil— when in fact Zed just wanted to see him falter! The bastard even admitted it himself!

                Heike took a few deep breaths. He was aware that his emotional state was more agitated than usual, but he wasn’t going to admit that it was because of those cursed books or—

                “Yukihina!”

                He saw a flash of the Code:Breaker’s dark skin through a tear in the paper screen—which was now flying towards Heike at an alarming speed, on fire. He had thought, no, known that Yukihina, the power user he acknowledged and bent his back to, could handle a simple arsonist. It was just that new intel came in just half an hour ago, saying that it wasn’t an arsonist, but a gang of more than twenty like-minded pyromaniacs holed up in that inn.

                “Heike?” Yukihina was freezing up the last man when he saw his superior running towards him, uncharacteristically flustered. For a brief moment he was annoyed—Did he really think he wasn’t capable of handling a few arsonists, when his ability was to control the forms of water? But then he saw that Heike was yelling something, something he couldn’t quite hear—

                “Bombs! They have bombs!”

                --over the explosion that promptly blew the inn into the sky.

                “Shit!” Heike was really not himself today. He even swore as he shot out his whips of light to catch Yukihina’s body, tossed into the air. The Code:Breaker’s new uniform had been instantly blown to shreds, if not by the flames then by the air pressure and the impact of the explosion. Heike wrapped Yukihina up tightly, feeling as though the latter were a kite in the middle of a blizzard. For a split second he felt that body go limp, and his heart skipped a beat. But in no time at all Yukihina was kicking against his bounds and yelling out muffled profanities—muffled because in his haste Heike had wrapped the strings around Yukihina’s mouth as well.

                Heike’s eyes quickly assessed his new comrade’s situation. Of course Yukihina wasn’t hurt—he had covered his entire body with water vapor at the first and last moment to absorb almost all of the heat, dispersing the steam before it could scald him. Only his clothes couldn’t stand the pressure. However, the exertion of protecting himself, reducing the extent of the explosion to minimize damage to the surroundings, as well as taking down more than twenty arsonists alone had taken all of his powers, and reduced him to his… lost… state…

                Heike’s eyes widened.

                It wasn’t the first time he saw Yukihina’s lost form. Yukihina had showed it to him personally as a sign of loyalty and trust, and Heike had – a little more reluctantly—replied in kind. Female Yukihina was, to Heike, a woman who looked and acted as formidable as any man, just like Sakurako. But now, naked, bound in ropes, those twins mounds fighting to break free, those fearsome eyes mellowed and helpless(?)…

                That was the first time he felt something in his heart melt.

 

“AH-HA-ha-ha-hahahaha…”

                “Someone seems to be enjoying herself back there,” Heike noted, gesturing towards the back of Shibuya Mansion where Hachiouji Rui and that Re-Code Kouji always loitered. “As a former evil, they should appreciate the time they have before they inevitably face their punishment in the end.”

                Yukihina raised an eyebrow. “You’re in a good mood today.”

                “You noticed?” Heike took another sip of his tea. “That’s because I met someone special today.”

                I shouldn’t ask, I wouldn’t want to know, I shouldn’t ask… He asked. “Who?”

                With a tiny smirk no one but Yukihina would have noticed, Heike put down his tea and waved toward the other end of the table with a flourish. On cue, the extremely life-like bust appeared.

                “Her name is—Yukina!”

                Even Ogami, who had just arrived at the main gate, could sense the burst of cold killing intent just then.