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Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shi—

And then the van drove straight over her.

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Yako had been having a perfectly normal day—and not just by her screwed up standards, just a regular old day. No supernatural shenanigans, no world relying on her to save it, and not even a whiff of Neuro. He'd taken a trip to find some miasma, giving her some much needed space. Between her own career as a negotiator and helping him out with cases, she rarely had a free moment to herself.

She'd decided to make the most of it. For the first time in months, she was back at home. Perfect chance to catch up on things she'd missed—like the new restaurants.

She'd torn through three buffets and two sushi places, and that was barely scratching the surface of what she was capable of. Having consisted on only airline food for a month due to work, at various times she'd considered eating sidewalk gum, lint, grass, and her own hair. Luckily, she'd had some emergency pocky stored in her suitcase that had tided her over. Finally she had access to proper meals! She was pretty sure she could hit five more restaurants before being satisfied.

She'd been on her way to a new stir fry place when she heard gunfire. Years of being dragged through dangerous situations made her level headed. She dropped to the sidewalk, scraping her knees. Ignoring the discomfort, she scoped out the area. She made out five men with masks, heading right toward her.

Oh shit, that wasn't good at all.

There was no point in running. Those handguns looked rather... pointed directly at her.

Now how was she gonna get her kakuni?

She gave the men a confident look, hoping to get this over quickly. "How may I help you, gentlemen?" This had better not be another grudge. She'd already had four criminal organizations come after her in the last year, and that always managed to get in the way of her personal life. So many kidnapped boyfriends... No wonder she was single.

"You shut your mouth and come with us!" the shortest of the men snarled, pushing his gun into her mouth. Gross.

One of the thugs zip-tied her hands behind her back clumsily. The other criminals cursed at him to hurry as a van whipped around the corner of the road. Okay, not yakuza, not any professional mafia. These guys were morons. In a regular situation, she'd try to talk her way out, but they didn't seem like the sort of people to be reasoned with. Plus, she wasn't in the mood to take a bullet. The best course of action was to stay calm and find a way out.

They shoved her face-first into what she guessed was their getaway truck. She landed painfully, her face pressed into stained carpet which smelled like Cheetos and... bodily fluids.

Pull it together Yako. Deep breath in, deep breath out. Now she needed a plan of action. Maneuvering stealthily, she reached for the hair clip in her back pocket. Luckily it was new and plenty sharp.

As she filed at the plastic bindings, she listened to the man in front of her yell frantically into his phone. He wasn't natively Japanese, that was for sure. Russian, if she had to guess from the accent. "No, we finish the job!" she caught. The car swerved violently, breaking her concentration. She pricked her finger on the clip before she managed to get back to work.

"We have girl," she heard the man mutter. Whoever was at the other end of the call did not sound happy at that revelation. "For hostage! They do not shoot us now!" Again, angry yelling from the line.

These guys don't even know who I am, Yako realized. That's kind of a good thing... but I can't help to be insulted. She was so used to be being treated as a threat, and now she'd been grabbed by some petty criminals because she looked like a helpless girl.

Yeah, no way was she gonna sit still and take that.

She closed her eyes and thought of all-you-can-eat sashimi and set to work wearing down the ties. She tuned out the sirens, yells from the men, and squeals of the tires and got down to business. At one point Neuro had taken to tying her up while she slept and leaving her in random locations as "training." (Once it had been a raft in the middle of a lake.) In the end, she'd gone from decent at freeing herself from bonds to one of the best in the world.

She was out in around thirty seconds. Not her best work, but perhaps that was down to the circumstances.

She risked a peak out the windows. They didn't appear to be in an industrial area, and she spotted no traffic.

Knowing she'd have no time to hesitate once she'd made her move, Yako steeled herself for the pain and took a few deep breaths before springing into action. In one quick movement, she lurched towards the back of the van, seized its handles, and flung herself out.

She hit the ground in a blur if pain, tumbling across the concrete. The jolt of her head smacking the ground left her dazed for several moments.

Opening her eyes, she saw blood pooling out beside her. Despite her weakness, she needed to move. She heard the police sirens getting closer and closer. She attempted to ease herself up on her elbows and hissed in pain. Maybe crawling was going to have to rely on her legs.

She pushed herself forward slowly. She could make it—

Then the van swerved, a shadow falling over her. She had no time to process why they had turned around. A horrible squishing sound met her ears, pain filling every part of her body, and everything went dark.

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Now there was light, surrounding her from all sides. She was floating pleasantly. Whatever she'd been worried about didn't seem so important any more. Yes, she could just let go.

She took a deep breath. The air smelled sweet. She sighed and kicked her foot a little and started drifting up. Above her was the most beautiful light, all golds and pinks, bathing her in splendor. She wanted to go that way. She felt like there was something good waiting for her if she went.

Well, she'd make it up there eventually. She closed her eyes and relaxed, releasing a yawn and stretching her arms. Yes, she'd just float on up, no reason to worry—

A jolt ran through her body as she was yanked downwards. Something had a hold of her ankle! Her eyes flew open and darted to look. A cheshire grin met her gaze.

Neuro!

It was Neuro, her partner, the man she'd known since she was sixteen. He was flying beneath her! Why was he flying? Why was she flying? What was happening?

It all came back to her in a flash, and she covered her face with her hands. The men, the van, the pain—

Oh my god.

She peaked through her fingers and saw that Neuro was hovering across from her now, with a firm hold on her arms. "Am I dead?" she asked.

His smile didn't dim. "Yes."

Yako took a shuddering breath. "Okay." She looked up into the golden light. "Okay."

Neuro was floating alongside her now, a nonchalant look on his face. That expression may have fooled her when she was a teenager, but she knew better now. He leaned back into the air as if it were a pillow and gave a faux-wistful sigh. "Ah, heaven. Eternal bliss. The realm of fools who've lived in boring purity, such as yourself. There, all of your greatest dreams can be fulfilled. They say true happiness can only be found in heaven."

He began to tug at her, bringing her higher and higher. "Even fleas deserve a happy ending I suppose. Off you go, slug."

Yako frowned and yanked herself out of his grasp. "Hey, give me a minute! I wasn't exactly planning to die you know!"

He raised an eyebrow. "Oh? You need time? It seemed like just a minute ago you were ready enough."

She wanted to reach out and flick him but just barely resisted. She wasn't in the mood for retaliation. "I wasn't thinking! I was--"

"Blissfully drifting away?" Neuro finished. "Ready to shed your mortal coil? Your consciousness was clear and your heart was at ease. Don't you want that?"

She blinked. "I—I don't know."

He rolled his eyes. "As usual, you think at the same rate as a tape worm. Of course you want to go. Your father is there. All your friends and family will be coming eventually." He reached out to her again, but she slapped him away almost by instinct. Her heart was thudding in her ears. This was all happening too fast.

"But... would I be able to see you?"

"Please tick, don't make me regret ever making you my partner right here at the end. I didn't think you were that stupid. I'm a demon. You think we make day trips to heaven?"

She bit her lip. "Would I be able to visit you?"

"That's enough questions!" His ridiculous grin returned at full force as he grabbed her arpund the middle. She knew this stance—he was planning on flinging her upwards. She kicked at him with all her might and sat back in the air, crossing her arms.

"Stop that right now you stupid demon!" she huffed. "Just a minute ago, I was about to reach heaven on my own. If you hadn't interrupted me, I'd be there right now. But you did, and not just to say goodbye. You're being just as selfish as usual but trying to hide it. So stop pushing me around."

He shook his head. "You shouldn't give up eternal happiness, a life free of pain," Neuro said lowly. She'd never seen him look so serious.

Even though she'd just been hit by a car and killed, she didn't find this statement hard to refute. "Why not?" she demanded. "Sounds boring." Yes, life was painful at times. But without consequences and hardships, she wouldn't really be living at all. A Yako who never felt sadness, anger or fear wasn't really Yako.

He looked as though he'd been expecting this response. "Only a fool would want to stay with someone who tortures them for their own amusement." She snorted at the word "torture." Neuro always was melodramatic.

"Then I'm a fool," she replied stoutly. She was pretty sure they both knew she had never minded his sadism (and at times, enjoyed it).

A small, genuine smile began to creep over his face. "I could always fire you."

She flung herself into his arms. Beaming up at him, she gave in and flicked him hard on the nose. "You can't fire me," she said. "We're partners."

He leaned down and touched his forehead to hers. "Indeed." Her heart filled with joy, and she knew she'd made the right choice. His hand snuck up her neck...

And took on a painful grip.

Neuro spun them around so quickly she felt sick and then dove straight downwards. Over her screams, she could just make out his words. "I hope you know this means I'm never letting you go."

Yako didn't know where they were going. She didn't know if she could ever return to earth, or see her loved ones again. It was possible Neuro was dragging her to hell, and she'd get her soul devoured by some monster within a week. But she couldn't bring herself to feel anything but excitement.

She clung a little tighter to Neuro and pretended she didn't like being bolted to his side.

Their story was just beginning.