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Conglomerate Killer

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Ms. Mahoro Saeki glowed under the golden chandelier lights. Her pale blue gown swished around her knees when she walked, and contrasted perfectly with her pink, wavy hair reaching just over her shoulders. Her laugh was akin to the clinks of the champagne glasses guests sipped from at this lavish party.

Such a charming woman, Suzue thought to herself.

And such an unfortunate situation to be in.

Suzue kept her distance from Ms. Saeki all night. She wanted nothing more than to have a conversation with her, bring out her bubbly giggles, and perhaps dance with her for a song or two. And yet, she stuck to the opposite side of the room Ms. Saeki was on at all times.

Yes, this was a rather unfortunate situation indeed.

Ms. Saeki finished her glass of champagne, then set it on the gold table with the rest of the empty glasses. She waved to Daisuke, then headed for the set of double doors at the back of the room.

Suzue waited a few seconds. She locked eyes with Daisuke across the room, and those two bottomless pits of ice said a single word.

𝘎𝘰.

Suzue set down her own glass of champagne— which had remained full the entire night— and followed after Ms. Saeki. She didn't need to see the woman to know where she was heading; HEUSC ensured every stall in the women's bathroom would be out of order, save for the first one.

Suzue quietly slipped into the bathroom, then locked the door behind her. She touched up her flawless makeup in the mirror. The cherry blossoms in the vase separating the sinks caught her attention. They were beautiful, much like Ms. Saeki.

A flush sounded behind her. Ms. Saeki opened the stall door. "Ah! Ms. Suzue!"

Suzue put on a curated smile. "Good evening, Ms. Saeki."

"Good evening to you, too!" Ms. Saeki walked to the sink and washed her hands, saying, "I heard you were here, but I couldn't find you anywhere."

"I heard you were here as well," Suzue replied. "I wanted to offer you a dance, but this party has kept me busy."

Ms. Saeki chuckled. "That's okay, I'm just glad I finally found you." She used her elbow to turn off the faucet, then dried her hands with the paper towels. A soft smile tugged at her lips. "Um, if you want–" she tucked a stray hair strand behind her ear– "we can do the next slow dance together!"

Suzue stared in silence. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears.

𝘉𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮—

This was what she wanted. One dance. Just one quick dance before she had to carry out her assignment.

𝘉𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮—

Daisuke's voice sounded in her earpiece. "Suzue, I am waiting for you in the car."

𝘉𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮—

Suzue took a deep breath. With a shaky hand, she moved the slit in her sleek black dress and withdrew the dagger attached to her thigh.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Saeki," whispered Suzue. She pointed the dagger at Ms. Saeki.

Ms. Saeki's eyes widened. Her chest rose and fell rapidly.

Suzue took a slow step towards Ms. Saeki, her heels clacking on the tile floor. "Someone has placed a bounty on your head. I do not know who. However–" Suzue took a deep breath, and silently begged her voice not to shake– "as a Conglomerate Killer, I have been ordered to take your life."

Ms. Saeki's round cheeks were wet. "Please," she cried, "please don't do this, Ms. Suzue."

𝘉𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮, 𝘣𝘢-𝘥𝘶𝘮—

Suzue tightened her grip on the dagger's handle. "I'm sorry."

Ms. Saeki lunged for the flower vase. Suzue swept the vase out of her reach, then rushed forward with her dagger. She thrusted it into Ms. Saeki's throat.

Ms. Saeki let out a strangled cry. She clawed at Suzue's hand. Suzue swallowed and blinked back tears.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Saeki."

Suzue pulled the dagger out. Ms. Saeki collapsed to the floor. Blood poured from the wound and puddled around the body.

Suzue took a step back and examined her dress. A few crimson splotches had managed to land on the fabric, but it was nothing a good wash couldn't get out.

Daisuke's voice sounded in her earpiece again. "Suzue."

Suzue put a finger to her earpiece. "I'm on my way, Daisuke."

"Remember to–"

"Yes, yes, I remember."

Suzue moved the slit in her dress and pulled out one of the small robot bugs. She leaned against the sink for support as she took off one of her heels. The bug attached itself to the bottom of the shoe and scrubbed away any traces of blood. Then, it did the same for the other shoe.

Suzue opened the bathroom door halfway to let the bug clean the door handle of fingerprints. When it finished, she attached it back to its spot on her thigh and left.

Rather than reentering the party through the double doors, Suzue kept straight down the long hallway. The floor swayed under her feet. She quickened her pace.

No matter how fast she abandoned the scene, she could not abandon the image in her mind. The image of the woman lying dead on the bathroom floor, with her eyes glossed over, and her hair and dress ruined with a glaring red.

She, Suzue Kambe, killed Ms. Saeki.

Suzue flung open the doors and stepped outside. The night air scratched at her face, and she welcomed it. Daisuke's car waited for her.

"You're late," he said as she stepped inside the car.

Suzue closed her eyes and leaned her head against the cool window. "I'm sorry."

The two stayed silent as the car lurched out of the parking lot. Suzue's stomach churned from the bumps in the road.

She hated it, being a Conglomerate Killer. She moved in with Daisuke and his family after her parents died under the condition that she would join the killers-for-hire family business. It was a fine job, at first, since the targets were strangers to her. She didn't mind doing a quick throat slit or jab straight into the heart back then. But now, after doing this for years…

Suzue opened her eyes and glanced at Daisuke. He was focused on the road, with that same stone expression he wore after every assignment. "You killed Mr. Yumoto," she asked in a whisper.

"Yes."

"Do you feel any remorse? He was your coworker, after all."

"Of course. But I had my orders."

"You don't seem to care," Suzue spat.

Daisuke's grip on the wheel tightened. "I care more than you think, Suzue."

Suzue rolled her eyes. She once believed that somewhere, somewhere under her cousin's stiff exterior laid a human heart. Now, she didn't know. She didn't feel human herself.

Suzue turned her attention to the monitor in the car. "HEUSC, who is our next target?"

"Ryo Hoshino, a twenty-six year old male currently employed with–"

"Stop," Suzue stated. HEUSC stopped talking.

"According to the guests," Daisuke explained, "Ryo Hoshino stayed home due to illness. You should pay him a visit tomorrow."

Suzue closed her eyes. "I understand."