“You sound proud of her,” said Shi.
“I guess.” Shotgun scratched his nose. “She’s kind of like my grandmother, you know? Hovering. Always there. Sending me money when I need it. Plus, she’s alive,” he added, gesturing toward the sky with his right hand, “which makes her infinitely better than my biological grandmother.”
The girl’s eyes narrowed into thin slivers. “Stop talking to me.”
Shotgun shook himself like a wet dog and clapped his hands together once. “That’s me in my place.”
“How close are they?”
“Eh…not terribly. The one you really have to watch out for is Kirikizu.”
“Tall, muzzled, carries an ungodly amount of knives and has a lovely flat stomach.”
Saizou recalled the figure standing beside the Prince-Regent during the hearing, and again at the gate. He recalled how close the blades came to cutting him – to cutting Shi – open and tightened one hand into a fist. “How dangerous is he?”
“On a scale of one to ten?”
“Twelve. Thirteen, maybe. If you need clarification, I’d put you at a twelve.”
“How much farther, specifically?”
“You’re heading to the shipyard. The docks.”
“Yes, the shipyard. You know the place. It’s where all the ships are?”
Saizou shook his head, wishing he could be rid of the voice but not willing to give the earring back to Shotgun. “I know what a shipyard is. I know it’s a good place to dump bodies in the water.”
“I know war makes people suspicious, but you really are something.”
“Is this our contact?” Saizou asked, watching the figure grow closer, still too far away to make out anything distinct. “Riza?”
“Just don’t stare at him,” was the response Saizou could only take as an affirmative. “He hates that.”
“Show us your face,” said Shi.
The figure paused and turned back toward them, his lean silhouette still just out of clear sight. He made a sound that was both a snort and a sigh before taking a step into the ring of light. “Show me your face,” said the albino, his white skin and red eyes awash in a yellow glow. He smiled at Shi, his lips parting just enough to show sharpened, reptilian teeth.
“The Shinsengumi is welcome to search this place, I’ve already told you. So search.”
“There would be no point. You know as well as I do.”
“Knowing a thing is pointless has rarely kept you from doing it,” Winter replied.
“I know you don’t have it in you. You lack the heart, you lack the courage, and you lack the conviction to follow through on anything you know is right, and you lack what it takes to stand up to anyone with the ability to hurt you.”
Haka’s laugh was brittle, breaking in his ears. “You think now, after everything, you have the ability to hurt me? I live in the real world, brother; I uphold the law while you hide away in the mountains, alone, professing a God you don’t know and atoning for your sins by doing nothing.”
“You uphold nothing. You drag down everything and you crawl in the presence of worms. You are no brother of mine.”