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"The problem with being a kid isn't that nobody with any connections takes you seriously; it's that they take you the wrong kind of seriously. I already know I belong in some facility chained to a wall, but can we deal with it later? I mean, if I'm going to be used anyway, I'd like it on my own terms."

The grin he had gotten from this gleamed in the dark. "Are we talking about a deal here, kid?"'

He smiled himself. "No way, Mr. Kasper. I''m just asking for my compensation."

He wasn't dreaming about hell anymore.

Well, to be honest, he was. He still dreamed about it every once in a great painful while. It wasn't as bad anymore. Maybe because the dark edges were gone. Now everyone just died over and over again. Now he just fired a gun more often. It wasn't that it was easier to deal with now; it wasn't that he was getting better.

Taiki realized relatively quickly that he was starting not to care.

"Pay attention! This will be on the test!"

Wilee's pen slapped gently at his knuckles as he doodled. It was mindless, pointless. It was rather like changing your expression. He didn't want to do it anymore. "…Re-pe-ti-tion." It was enunciated in new, different syllables, kind of funny on his tongue. The laughter rose up and died real fast and he found it stopped mattering real soon.

He wasn't sure if stuff was important these days.

Did people always go through such monotonous cycles?

If that meant he was turning normal, then God help both worlds.

"Normalcy doesn't save anyone Taiki-kun. It kills them." Her young, nimble fingers brushed his cheek in a pantomime of affection. "But you aren't normal. And I need that from you. Someday, someday soon, I need you to open the door for me."

From his bed, he managed a tiny chuckle, the sound shrill and helpless. Shutting the door was painful. (More like impossible.) He scrubbed at the wounds, the burns from that day. It had been a week, two. Maybe more. He didn't quite keep track of the days anymore. Everything was going the same way. Taiki used to welcome it. Now he wanted to break someone's head with a crowbar, maybe even his own. Reluctantly, he turned on his television. It was a mindless show, something that made him think without realizing it.

"Damn," he murmured sadly, glancing at the homework that was already done and the quiet Xros Loader. His friends were asleep, weren't they? He hated being awake at four in the morning for no reason. It almost made him want to Hunt. At the thought, his stomach clenched and he sighed. No, not possible. He was hunted too much. Nervously, he shifted under his covers, watching the melodramatic act of a sitcom. Thispassed for entertainment, huh. Then again what teenager would turn on this channel this late at night?

Red streaked across his eyelids and he stilled quietly, forcing himself not to look and see the news. I should have known better than to turn this on after all. News was just a recipe for depression for anyone anyway. The recent gun control debate in the West was pointless anyway. He reminded himself of this as the kanji ran across the banner. There were always going to be maniacs with guns. He was one of them. The only real difference between him and them was that he had something to lose if he got caught. All they had was their lives and from these reports, and from his own experiences, they didn't value them all that much.

No one really seemed to value their lives all that much.

Taiki snorted suddenly, looking at each rose and black number on his wrist. "You damn hypocrite Kudo Taiki."

His Xros Loader beeped softly and a pink face appeared in its window. "Kyu?" The rabbit's expression was obvious even without his eyes on it. The beady black eyes quivered with sleepiness and concern. The creature couldn't help himself. He was too good for his own sake. ""

He smiled quietly, genuinely apologetic. "I'm fine Cutemon. I just can't sleep again. That's all. Go on and rest." There was an incoherent noise before silence reigned once again. He breathed softly, resigning himself to being antisocial tomorrow as a set of colors burst together over his eyelids.

"This just in..." the reporter recited right on cue as a young child's face appeared on screen.

Taiki felt his heart shudder to a halt, a familiar branding burn searing itself onto his skin.

It was never going to end, was it? He flipped open his phone and dialed.

"One… two… three…"

The bar was solid metal, easily holding his almost dangerously low weight. He spun himself over the chin bar, trying to lift his legs straight over in an imitation of a handstand. Taiki grunted softly, wincing in pain as his arms protested. This would, he knew, be so much easier if he did this on the ground. However, he wanted this to tax him. He wanted to forget. Gritting his teeth, the brunette managed to pull himself up, arms wobbling to keep his body from falling to the ground.

"Breaking News… three children found dead… gunshots… missing…more bodies..."

"I… shit…"

This morning's text message had come with a picture: 'Hey, dude, do you know what this is? There was one in the kid's hand and it was sparking all over the place.' - Mary

It had been a Xros Loader, a damn Xros Loader with its color washed out.

Coincidence, one would say. However, Taiki trusted that word as much as his own sanity.

This was shit and that was the nicest description he could think of.

Back smacking harshly into the ground, he rolled over to grab at the knife lying by his feet. He threw, a savage satisfaction rising in his stomach as it sank into the wooden trunk like butter. Rising to his feet again, Taiki lunged for it, throwing it toward the bushes in a spiral.Those bastards probably branded them...

"Isn't… it good to not disturb someone's practice… kid?" He panted each breath with careful timing, going back to swing himself over the chin bar once more. "Aren't you… supposed to be sleeping?" He coughed in pain when his head smacked the metal but ignored it, wrapping his legs firmly around it to dangle there. He peeked one eye open toward the direction his knife had gone, concentrating on his training.

The bushes rustled a moment later and a familiar face met his. The scarlet eyes stood out in the dark and Ren glared, licking loosely at the blood dripping from his left hand. Masochistic little twat, he thought affectionately despite himself. Or I'm thinking of a blood fetish. "Are you trying to kill me? If so, nice try." He gave the knife a haphazard little toss and the other snatched it out of the air, tutting at the poor aim under his breath.

"Don't let me succumb to temptation." Despite the fact that Taiki had encouraged the other kids to keep away from him, this one had a very irritating habit called stalking. The others probably did as well: he was just less subtle about it. He could just ask Shoutmon to drag the kid home by his hair but that was probably a bad image for the citizens this early in the day. Then he paused to think about it, eyes profoundly warm. "Or maybe you and I are united by a blade obsession."

Ren snorted. "Dude, too much information."

"Sorry," was Taiki's unapologetic reply. "Force of habit." The other groaned, picking up his hat and dusting off the dirt. "Never mind, you have a beanie obsession." He was happily avoiding the word fixation because really, that left nothing to thought and chance.

"It's not as passionately disgusting as your goggles," the other shot back, childish pout in full. Taiki chuckled and spun himself back to his feet as composure dripped down the other's face. "Why the hell are you out here anyway? Your idiot friends flagged us down, thinking we had kidnapped you or some shit. You missed school apparently." Ren rolled his eyes. "Because you could be caught by us." He rubbed his throat in recollection, earning a small grimace disguised in a smile.

Oh. That's right. He had forgotten something this morning. Eh, it was one day.

The brunette smiled softly, wiping dirt from his shirt. "Could you be worried about me? That's kind of you." The sad thing was: he was being honest. Still, the other bristled like a cat and Taiki sighed. He was turning into Koko... or her brother. Ew... That process had to crash and burn as quickly as possible, much like he wished Ren could stop looking at him like he was about to jump into the path of an oncoming bus. This was why he had so many secrets. This was why his mother was so "carefree".

He despised when people started being concerned about him.

Mentally he snorted. You god damn hypocrite.

Theory was always prettier than practice. His Xros Loader burned at the possibility and he shook his head. "I'm fine, you know." He tried to sound reproachful, but with his eyebrow quirked in that amused way it didn't come out quite as well as he had planned.

Clearly Ren was thinking something else, based on the scarlet eyes rolling. "Didn't you just murder somebody in the past few weeks? I dunno how that makes you "all right"." Taiki rolled his eyes. It was not a murder; it was a reconciliation of a business venture. It just went horribly, horribly wrong on the other end.

"That's what I said," Shoutmon grumbled. Taiki gave a halfhearted glare toward the device. Of course he wasn't going to listen. It wasn't likeShoutmon had listened. He was just stuck under the opinion that Taiki was a messed up guy and was slowly losing his mind. This was coming from the guy that decided becoming the ruler of a world was a good idea.

He wasn't sure if someone had cut open a pig when he entered the area, but he doubted it. They didn't do this, he thought in the back of his mind. They were capable but they weren't nearly as messy. Koko was the epitome of efficiency, or... well, he didn't quite have the word that could sum up Miss Koko yet, but he could find one. That was of course, when he grew up.

If he did that.

"Kid, get down." He dropped as the words left her lips, rolling with the knife sheathed in one hand. He was not cutting himself today, no sir. Even as footsteps dashed toward him, he remained peacefully still. Moments later that familiar giant's rumble shot over his head and crashed; red searing vision and something splashed harmlessly into his hair.

The little boy merely wrinkled his nose. He was going to smell for hours.

"Oi, you psychotic legend, wake up." Ren was snapping his fingers in front of Taiki's eyes, making the other frown.

"I ought to bite those," he muttered gently. "It is weird having anything that close to my face and it not being shot" Ren raised an eyebrow.

"Dude, are you gay or something?"

"Could be," Taiki replied cheekily. This guy seriously brought out the worst in him. Or it was possibly people like him. The problem was he didn't really mind. It was a distraction, an avoidance technique from the issues at hand. "Could not be. I'm just a kid: what do I know?"

The Hunter rolled his eyes. "Yeah, just. And your friends there are just a couple of goody two shoes. Give me something feasible."

Shoutmon snorted. "Think he did actually." Despite the jest in the red dragon's voice, Taiki could feel his partner's blue eyes drilling into his cheekbones. He wanted him to talk, clearly. Taiki wasn't sure he had much to say... considering the situation.

Ren scowled at the Xros Loader. "Stop interrupting conversations. Kings have to be polite, don't they?" At this, Taiki watched his partner burst from the device, fixing the human with a look of deeply contemptuous amusement. He shook his head. This was going to be nasty. He didn't care how long it had been since Shoutmon was a kiddie in the Village of Smiles or a soldier against Bagra Army; his digimon partner was always going to have a bit of that "You aren't Xros Heart so you clearly have a process loose" mentality.

Taiki turned away from them as the argument began to rise, flipping his phone open with a curious glance. He was happy to note that he wasn't the only one who couldn't get out of the world of war. He had sent the notice out to a few people, simply because he could possibly be talked out of doing something stupid. Or talked into it. With a case of children found dead and marked, coincidence aside, the others had a bigger tendency to go up in arms. This thought in mind, he clicked the mail open.

'Some crazy mofos in the world bro. But this is sounding big, and I mean global big.-KC'

The brunette frowned. Kasey was a conspiracy theorist with more paranoia than someone from Hinamizawa, but when it came to serial crazy people she tended to be... ninety-five percent accurate. He sighed regardless. 'Wasn't what I was looking for.'

The response was instantaneous, 'What do I care what you were looking for? Meet me somewhere, like, I dunno, safe?-KC'

'There is no such thing as safe with you.' Taiki remembered when he had found her hiding bullets in her training bra.

'Exactly. Location: that cafe where you met crazy lady. Two hours.'

'Stalker.' There was only one crazy lady whose name was universal in their circle and it was apparently common knowledge that he was on speaking terms with her. He closed his phone and gestured to Shoutmon. His friend must have been enjoying himself as he reluctantly obeyed this command, glaring a petulant blue at his back. "Come on, business or something. Maybe homework."

Ren raised an eyebrow. "What am I, chopped liver?"

"Hindrance is more accurate," Taiki muttered, rolling his eyes over the other 's ferocious, kitten ferocious to be precise, glower."No, listen, you oversensitive cat. I'm fine, you guys might be in deep shit. I need to look. Okay?" That came out harsher than he expected, judging by Ren's wince. Taiki softened his expression guiltily. "Sorry, I just..." He scratched his head. "I'm worried."

"I thought your shit was over," Ren commented as carelessly as he dared.

Taiki laughed bitterly."In this world, we have no shortage of dragons and monsters." Turning away, he started walking. "And don't worry, I'm not an exception."

Koko would likely consider him a hatchling at best. The thought wasn't comforting.

In the time before he met up with Kasey, he decided to go for a walk. A walk with purpose of course. He was hoping he could meet the Clockmaker. He had a deal to offer, a... business transaction if you will.

I'm clearly losing my mind.

Well, he knew that at least. However, whether the Xros Loader was in the picture or not, the guy deserved to know. One child was a murder, three or more with similar methods was a plan in motion. All of it, of course, was a tragedy, but it wasn't one anybody was making much of a fuss over three weeks down the line. Besides, the man would probably be concerned possible... contractors were dying.

"That's a thought," Taiki thought aloud to himself. "He's an equal opportunity Incubator." Smirking to himself, he sighed. "Now if I was a manipulator of children where would I hide that wasn't a white van?"

"I did not know you had such a twisted mind Taiki-kun." He turned with a tiny smile, sheepishly scratching the back of his head.

'It's a special occasion," Taiki uttered with a tiny bow toward the hunched old man. As always he let his gaze linger placidly on the cane. He was a dangerous one, though anyone was with a cane. "I would be happy to behave normally, except... these are extenuating circumstances."

The old man scratched his head, white hairs falling loose in the motion. "Anything you consider extenuating seems worth looking into..." His eyes flashed beneath red-rimmed lenses. "Is what you're telling me?" The crooked grin on the other's face was almost foxlike. "You speak as though I'm an easily frightened man."

Taiki mentally grimaced. He really is like Kasper. The thought of Koko's brother in the near vicinity was chilling and obnoxious. He twitched visibly. "With all due respect, please don't play with me right now. I'm not in the mood, nor in a particularly healthy state of mind at the moment." I killed a man a short while ago. I'm probably going to kill more. I don't know, nor do I care. Please. His hands felt sticky again; his mind foggy. Idly Taiki rubbed his eyes. He wasn't sure if he was trying to clear his head or wake up.

Oh reasons. Who needed those?

The Watchmaker smirked and in return, Taiki's smile gleamed against the darkness of the buildings. "Well then, be a little more straightforward. Isn't that your tendency?"

Taiki twitched again but shook it off. He wasn't going to pulled off his beat, not by some cryptic bastard. How he knew that was irritating andwhy the information was being used was suspicious. He really was getting paranoid. "Kids are dying," he finally spat. The words were bitter on his tongue and his left hand closed around a weapon that wasn't really there. "Is that straightforward enough?" Even as he winced at his own temper, a part of him was relieved. He could still get angry. He could still care. Taking a deep breath, he continued. "The news reported a few corpses around the city. Apparently, they've been gone quite a while, via gunshot wounds and strangulation." He lifted his Xros Loader gently. "A couple had these little things and those weren't looking too good either."

The old man's expression didn't change but Taiki was unconcerned. It was customary for that to happen. However, there was something in the way he shifted back, hand clenching around his wooden cane like a drowning man. "Did you expect this?" the younger asked with an innocent smile, glancing at the red tinted lenses. As he turned away, the cane swung, aiming for his back. Taiki spun patiently, catching it and wincing at the burn of wood on flesh. Supple, his mind unconsciously supplied at the rough texture. "You are one paranoid bastard," he commented without thinking, grinning to himself. "Are you in the arms business too?" When the man didn't answer, he sighed. "I have nothing to do with this. I never have and never will have anything to do with the dehumanization of people," he spat. "Human in appearance or otherwise." Like you.

The Clock Maker stared silently and once again, Taiki had the vivid scent of junk food and gunpowder in his mental nose. This guy didn't glare either. He just stared. He stared at you like you were shit. His eyes, even though they were unable to be seen, were in another universe where he was god and you were lucky to be an barely scuttling bug. It was deplorable. Then a smile graced his grizzled beard and he laughed. "You are truly a Legendary General Kudo Taiki-kun."

Xros Heart's commander shrugged. "The world doesn't need comic book heroes with white hearts and pure intentions." He let go of the walking stick.

The old man smiled right back. "That's what you're known for."

A snort escaped his lips, dark as wine. "Only because I let it be." He steepled his fingers together and gave a smile of his own, absurdly gentle. "Let's get down to work, okay? I have an offer for you." His voice lilted and he laughed a bit for good measure. There was no need to be that kind of scary. Any further and his mouth would have blurted something this guy did not deserve to know."You have a game to run and I have a part to play in it, don't I? The least you can do is let me amuse myself in the meantime."

Eyebrows lifted in what appeared to be amusement. "What offer are we talking about here?"

Taiki's smile widened. Then his phone rang.

There was something beautifully obscene about this moment. He rushed past his mother with a grin that was by any standards of sanity wonderfully psychotic. She only waved at him, her expression that set little line she got when he was doing something that the title "mother" had no control over. He really hated that look. He gave the door a gentle prodding with his foot and glanced at his phone screen, the object screeching in his ear via speakerphone.

"Taiki, if you hung up on me, I swear to the Devil-"

"That's not healthy; I'm right here," he chided mildly, diving under his bed and lunging his thin fingers toward a small latch. Shoutmon released himself and watched silently as Taiki pulled a large silver box from the confines of his bed. He hesitated for a mere moment before Kasey, no longer screeching her irritation and pain through the speaker. "Did the bleeding calm down?" the teen inquired kindly, slowly clicking open the case and looking passively down at the weapons splayed before him. The firearms were polished to gleaming, ammunition tightly packed into boxes. Taiki examined each one with an almost tender stroke of his finger pads.

Kasey chuckled, a wheeze escaping her lips as she held the phone with her non-injured shoulder. "Yes, but it still hurts idiot!" Her voice hardened. "Man has piss-poor aim, so you know."

"Well," Taiki mused with a sigh, pulling out his choice with a small sigh. "You were shot at, after all, even if it was just in the shoulder." He loaded the magazine with a click and replaced everything else back into the box. "All right, I'll get him for you. Where are you?"

"Five blocks from the cafe we were supposed to meet at and gaining. How are you gonna catch up?"

"I have resources too, you know." He clicked the phone shut and dropped the device to rest in his pocket. He hurried down the stairs, returning Shoutmon to his Xros Loader again. A red dragon would be too noticeable, wherever he was going. "I need to go back out!"

"Do you?" The woman's voice made him flinch and turn, shifting guiltily with the weapon in his hand.

He turned to look up at her, at her amber, unhappy gaze. "Mom, I have to-"

"Where is that written," his mother interrupted in that stern voice that she used once in maybe a blue moon. "What universal law states my son has to fight these battles?" When he didn't answer, she continued. "That man is dead, your friend's enemies are dead. You don't need to pick up that gun. But you want to, don't you?" He visibly flinched.

"Mom, I-"

"You want to kill more people, Taiki? Do you understand that? My son wants to go shoot people, after all that those guns and knives and whatever else they used have done?" She visibly shook, menacing and horrified in one stance. "I couldn't stop you before, and I know that if you wanted to, you could walk out whether I wanted it or not. But... But I... I don't want you to. I hope at the very least, that you will consider that."

She was close to crying. He hated when she cried.

What can I say? He clenched his spare fist and shook his head. "Mom, I... If I don't go now, I will definitely have to later." She opened her mouth. "No, I know I will. Because eventually, no one will be able to stop it. I don't want that possibility. And to make sure it doesn't happen, I need to pick up my gun. I need to want to pick it up. I know I'm not okay now, but... I can't be any better if I do nothing or I hesitate." Taiki shook his head. "I'm sorry Mom. I want to kill people, but I want to kill the right people right now."

When she didn't answer him, he turned away to tie his shoes. "... I will always hate her for this, you understand."

Taiki smiled miserably. "It's okay Mom, sometimes I hate her too."

"You have to hold it in until it's over," she hummed in his ear. "Otherwise, no matter what you've earned, you've still lost in the end, you know?"

Taiki's eyes looked through his bangs down at the quivering man in front of him. Scum, a part of his mind whispered. It had been so easy to find him. Trash, it sneered seconds later as the others recoiled. He didn't respond to either mental comment, letting his eyes watch the man's hand. It was itching toward a gun. That could be oddly messy. In one swift movement, he stomped on the man's hand, smirk tugging at his lips. Being that he was only wearing gym shoes, he earned a mere grimace of pain. It went mildly unnoticed and Taiki knelt, drawing the pistol from his fingertips and clicking the safety on. "Don't be so scared," he commanded gently. "It's not like I'm going to murder you or something. That would be rather fitting but…" He smiled. "I'm not quite like that. Not yet."

Moving back, he lowered the gun. The man's expression never changed, but Taiki himself hardly noticed, placing the weapon a distanc eaway. "Well then," he hummed, well aware of the Hunters' expressions behind his back. "What will we do with you?" He regarded the man with nothing, leaning against the wall and ignoring the growling of the monsters in the Xros Loader. "That Xros Loader… it's not yours is it?" He looked at the pallid color of the device in Shoutmon's hands, a washed out palette with only the screen to signify it working. His own, a burning scarlet, flickered silently from its place on his pocket. "Where did you get it?"

Taiki looked away as he asked this, standing there and observing the passing breeze. For a moment, there was no answer from the man, the nameless face who he had found. "Why… why should you want to know that?"

The child soldier shrugged, still letting his bangs shadow his face. "I'm just… a curious person?" He paused. "No, that's not quite right. It is more that…" He let his voice wander, still smiling. "I have a curious client. It is more like…" His grey eyes flickered. "There are some high stakes in this game and…" Taiki glanced at his trembling body and raised an eyebrow. "Aren't there enough sacrifices?" The Watchmaker stiffened, now stepping to block the Hunters from view.

Still the man was silent. Then, he scowled, rising to his feet and glowering, hand slipping into his pocket. "I suspect you already know."

Taiki smiled sheepishly. "That's right… I probably do, don't I?" Smoothly, he raised the gun and clicked off the safety, firing the bullet into the man's thigh. Behind him, he thought he heard someone scream. Taiki ignored it and watched. "Who was it?" he asked over the man's cries of pain (Funny, he had missed those until just now.). "Who did you kill?"

"I'm going to kill you in a second you piece of shit!" snarled the older man, pulling a switchblade from his pocket and lunging forward. Taiki sighed and ducked, diving to twist the knife out of the man's wrist, aiming the gun between his eyes.

"What was that…" he whispered with a smile. "About killing me?" Sweat dripped down the taller man's face as Taiki released his grip on the other's arm. The knife clattered to the concrete and Taiki raised his Xros Loader for him to see. "Okay now…" he hummed. "You have thirty seconds. Time Shift."

When the man didn't move, Taiki let himself laugh. It wasn't hard. "Do you think I'm bluffing?" The eyes on his looked positively horrified. Of a child, a child with a gun. The brunette sighed and took pity on the man, raising his weapon. "I really shouldn't be so cruel. I mean; you were only told to go kill children right? You didn't enjoy it I'm sure." He rolled his eyes. "Oh wait, I'm wrong. You loved it." He saw Yuu shift where he stood and gave him a tiny, affirmative nod. He stepped back, clicking the safety on the handgun with a minute sigh.

Now, if the man had been paying attention, he would have noticed this. However, he instead tackled Taiki to the ground. The gun went flying, carelessly sailing to hit the concrete. Taiki let out a grunt of pain as the enemy's knees practically stabbed into his chest, knife tip digging almost into his throat. He coughed air back into his lungs and sighed. "You aren't helping your case here... Yuu?"

"Right here, Taiki-san." The safety clicked loudly against the bricks. Yuu held it firmly towards the man's head. His legs were braced for recoil and he managed an impressive, cold glare. Taiki inwardly thanked any religious deity that Yuu hadn't lost that necessary ruthlessness of a General. It wasn't like he could ask one of the others to pick up a gun. "Don't," he warned softly. "Get off of him and on your knees."

"Yuu!" Tagiru roared, amber eyes glittering with dismay. "What the hell is the matter with you?"

"Shut up, Tagiru!" barked the blonde. "Stay where you are! He's still armed." His eyes, periwinkle crisply turned ice blue, swiveled to look at Taiki. He nodded slowly, keeping the Desert Eagle near the adult's head. "Where first?"

The brunette shook his head. "Give our man a chance to stand up, at least." Yuu scowled at him and Taiki merely gave him an impish grin. "He's not going to run... or, well, he could. You could run, if you wanted to." He examined the rising man, whose sclera were so visible he thought they were lighter than the other's skin. Taiki reached up to the man's jacket pocket, removing a leather wallet and a knife. "You could run... and I wouldn't stop you. My legs are shorter, my muscle possibly weaker, and there are a whole lot of people who could stop me if they tried." The teen tilted his head. "Theoretically, you could get out of the district in a manner of hours, Japan maybe a couple days. If you, well,ran, of course." He pocketed the knife and smiled again, catlike in satisfaction.

"I don't think you will though," he commented offhandedly, waving flippantly at Yuu. The blond adjusted his aim suspiciously, noting the dangerous angle. This stranger was trembling and for some reason, Yuu couldn't find himself caring. This wasn't like him. Clearly, this wasn't like Taiki-san either. However, if he did something that just wasn't right without any obvious provocation, Yuu figured it was best to simply trust him. Hell's Field proved that much, even if it was an off scenario.

Despite having accepted that rule for himself long ago, Yuu still found that smile completely and utterly wrong.

Taiki stepped back the second Yuu's arm moved, still watching the other with his eyes. "Yeah, you're going to stay right here and that man is going to chat with you. The alternative is something you won't like. It's rather familiar to me, probably familiar to a lot of people at this very moment." He spun the knife with his thumb. "You see, if you run, I will hunt you down." The words were acidic in his mouth, burning fact with a straight-faced careless truth. "It could take a couple days, months, maybe a year even. However," His grey eyes leveled on the trembling person and mentally, he sighed. "I will find you. Maybe by that time, things will be different. It's more likely that you'll die more painfully than now."

The other opened his mouth to speak, likely to beg, but Taiki smiled, silencing him. "I am a patient thing. I waited quite a long time to finish what I started as a child. However, I quite hated him. I don't really feel up to the energy of hating you. Just killing you is enough."

Yuu hesitated for a second. "Taiki-san... will you really kill him?"

Taiki shrugged. "Do you actually want to shoot him?" Yuu grimaced and scowled. "That's what I thought." Thank God. He stepped over and patted Yuu's head. "Lower it. It's okay now." Yuu obeyed, his will the only thing keeping him from dropping the Desert Eagle to the concrete. Taiki carefully took it from him. Raising it, he fired a shot to whiz past the man's ear into the wall. There was a choking noise and the man sagged to the ground once more. The brunette watched him fall and shook his head, unloading the ammunition. "Well then, that settled that. Kasey, he's all yours."

"'Bout damn time," grumbled the voice of a woman. Her Japanese was slightly thick in their ears. She stalked over to the unconscious man and winced, shoulder twinging in pain. "Ought to have shot him," the redhead informed Taiki icily. "Been nice, clean, and over with." She nudged him roughly with a black-toed foot.

Yuu watched his senior shake his head. "This is a group and all we have is a little one," he replied, taking the rope and smoothly pulling the man's wrists behind his back. "Much as it pains me, we need a little fish they don't mind leaving behind." He couldn't say the real reason: none of these kids deserved to see a dead body.

Kasey observed this and scoffed. "Dude, you're freaking scary."

Taiki raised an eyebrow as he stepped away, glancing at the other Hunters in the background. Yuu was clutching the Xros Loader Shoutmon had been holding, looking it over with confusion dancing in his face. His calm and determination had returned, likely with the loss of the gun."You don't become a dragon if you can't breathe a little fire," he reminded her.

"You don't become kind without a little friendly fire," she countered, texting with one manicured nail.

Taiki snorted. "Please don't confuse my kindness with weakness. You know better than that. So, old man," he called toward the Clock Maker. His smile was back on, full force and positively excitable. "Will the price fit the task?"

Whether the man said yes or no was not entirely Taiki's concern at the moment. He would go on with this regardless. He gave Tagiru and the others a lighter smile, a liar's smile. He would protect them. He would play the little game for a bit longer.

It wasn't like a few more bad dreams could do him any further harm.

"Don't you think it's a bad idea to follow me?"

The grin he wore was not catlike or friendly now, but gentle in defeat. He glanced at Ren from where he stood, obediently waiting for him to walk away and never come back. Taiki absently examined his gun, unclipping the magazine.

Ren didn't even shift this time, something Taiki mentally applauded. Quite a feat for a kid who nearly had pissed himself only a few months before at Taiki's implied threats. "...What's going to happen to that guy?" Taiki shrugged. "I'm being serious here."

"So am I, " he replied distantly, glancing at the other with a raised eyebrow. "I don't know. Kasey does what she wants. He'll probably be taken to Circle and interrogated before being sent to some real authority. Or they'll shoot him. Can't be sure."

Ren tutted. "Shitty name for an underground organization."

"Was founded by a bunch of kids, what do you expect?" Taiki grinned. "Anyway, you should get going. It's dangerous out here."

The other snorted before slowly turning away. "... Thanks for not killing him."

A laugh. "The pleasure is all mine."