Chapter Seven: Core Buds:

-August 10th, 2011-

Watari picked up his scalpel. Kyosuke and April crowded by his side. A white fleshy mass sat in a box on the counter. The blonde scientist plunged his scalpel into the skin. The mass shivered around the blade. Watari cut down the center. He didn’t flinch at the bright red inside. The shinigami could hear the pulse beating.

“It’s alive?” Kyosuke asked.

“Of course,” Watari said.

“Why is it not closing so quickly?” April asked.

“My scalpel is in it,” the blonde shinigami said. “Charlotte’s core is in her heart itself.” He pushed the incision further open.

“Ew,” Kyosuke said. The veins started beating. Watari pushed his finger in deeper.

“Hm,” he said. “It’s soft.” 003 flapped her wings on this shoulder. Kyosuke tried not to look at the fleshy core. April didn’t blink. Then, Watari paused.

“Hang on,” he said. His finger pressed in deeper. “There’s something here. It feels hard.”

“What is it?” April asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. The blonde shinigami dug in deeper. The core began trembling.

“Watari-san,” April said. “Maybe you should stop. You’re hurting it.”

“How can you tell?” Kyosuke asked.

“Look at it,” she said. The mass squirmed under the blade. Watari drew out his finger and scalpel. The wound closed up.

“It can feel pain,” he said. “Interesting.” Kyosuke winced as the wound closed.

“And they’ve been using this to keep alive?” he asked. “Creepy.” The shinigami rubbed his arm.

“Yes,” Watari said. The core was still on the table. The blonde scientist pushed up his glasses.

“How many have gone out just today?” he asked. April pulled out her phone.

“About 1,000,” she said.

“Damn it,” her employer said. “And it moved again, didn’t it?”

“Yes,” April said.

“Is there a pattern forming?”

“I think there is,” Kyosuke said. “I’m not sure, but I have a theory.” Watari and April eyed him.

“Go on,” the scientist shinigami said.

“Well, the loved ones seemed to be trading something of high value to the drop spot.”

“Drop spot?” Watari asked. April pulled out her phone.

“These places,” she said. The English shinigami tapped the screen. Watari looked at the map on the phone.

“See a pattern?” April asked. Her employer counted up eight orange dots. He touched one on the screen.

“A shrine?” Watari asked. He lifted his head. “Are you suggesting?”

“I believe so,” Kyosuke said.

“I see,” Watari said.

“What do we do now?” April asked. He looked up at her and Kyosuke.

“Track the activities at the shrine,” the blonde scientist said. “You’ll find one of the sources that way.”

“Which shrine?” Kyosuke asked.

“Well, most of the exchanges take place between midnight and three in the morning,” April said. “I have a guess of where the next one will be.”

“And what about the core?” her partner asked. Watari looked over at the fleshy mass was on the table.

“Oh,” he said. “I’ll study it more. I might have to cut it to pieces.”

“Do you have to?” Kyosuke asked.

“Of course,” Watari said. “We can’t overlook anything.” The younger shinigami swallowed back his sick. April gave him a sympathetic smile.


-7:30 a.m.-

Takumi walked up to the police station. The receptionist looked up from his phone call.

“Good morning, how can I help you?” he asked.

“Excuse me,” Takumi said. “I would like to file a missing person’s report. I last heard she was here in Tokyo.” The receptionist hung up the phone. He started typing on the computer.

“Okay,” the receptionist said. “Name?”

“Eliza Robinson,” Takumi said. He handed him the photo. The receptionist looked at the picture.

“Okay,” he said. Takumi waited as the receptionist got to work. He held the picture to his chest. Eliza-chan…