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# 28

A mystery fusion
by Brian Randall

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Humming to herself idly, a woman walked down the street. Her gait was carefully measured, moving at a calm pace; not an excited run, or a depressed crawl. A sheet of paper held in one hand rustled in a passing breeze for a moment, before she paused, stopping before a candy store, and held the sheet of paper flat before her.

The letters on the sheet meant little to her — 'minimal chance of recovery' they said. 'Brain damage' was another phrase that they spelled out. And 'permanent trauma'. Those she could ignore, but some of them meant something substantially more to her.

Those letters spelled out, 'Nancy Makuhari'.

But there was no reason to keep the paper anymore. Its purpose was served, and the words she didn't care for outweighed the ones she did care for. Like an extension of her will, the paper twitched in her hands, curling in on itself, and folding itself into a perfectly square sheet.

She hummed thoughtfully again, placing the fingers of her left hand on her lips. "I wonder," she mused. "Perhaps… a turtle."

Obediently, the paper shifted itself — too quickly for the eye to follow — and folded into a masterwork origami frog. She eyed it for a moment, then twisted her lips in a smile, and threw it up into the air. It caught on a passing air current, and drifted down the street. "Free," she whispered.

Resuming her walk, she dropped the fingers of her left hand to her side, and began walking again. A book, maybe. She had a little bit of money left over, still. Books served to fill the gap that leaving….

"That was years ago," she said quietly to herself. "They wouldn't remember me by now."

Perhaps… perhaps she'd simply go for a walk, then. There was time enough to read later, after all.


A thick stack of papers sat atop a desk in a somewhat dimly lit room.

The man behind the desk eyed it dubiously, uncertain that he wanted to begin leafing through it, and instead distracted himself by allowing his eyes to wander. A clock sat on the wall opposite his desk, ticking away quietly, and a number of unlit screens projected from various corners.

He turned his attention back to the papers, and sighed. Papers, of course. That was what nearly the entire thing was all about, anyway.

Glancing away — and glad for the distraction — he watched a pretty young woman walk cautiously through the doorway to the nearly silent office, bearing a tray laden with tea service anxiously. "Joker-san?" she asked nervously.

"Mmm," the man mused, nodding at her, and taking the first of the papers in his hand. "Yes?"

"I… I got the report you asked for," her voice quavered uncertainly, as she approached and set the tray on one edge of the desk.

"Which one?" he asked, setting the sheet back atop its stack.

"The one on Readman-san?" she squeaked, unable to remove the questioning tone from her speech.

"The Paper," the man asserted. "What did you find out?"

"Ah! Sorry, Joker-san! We… Ah, we found out that you were right — she was better with paperwork than we thought," she said apologetically, bowing and edging slightly away.

The man ran one hand through his short blond hair and frowned. "Well, it can't be that bad," he reasoned. "What turned up?"

"Ah, she was originally from Japan, just like we thought, but she's from Okinawa, not Hokkaido."

"Hardly worth hiding," the man mused.

"Um, she didn't actually graduate from the college that she has a diploma from — she changed that from a school she attended in Tokyo."

"Tokyo," the man stated levelly. Tokyo could mean many things, and while it was enough to set warning flags off in his mind, he couldn't guess what his aide was hinting at. "I'm guessing Nerima."

"N… no, sir."

That, at least, was some relief. "Well, where, then?"

"Um, it ties in with her power, Joker-san."

"That she's a meta?" he asked, bemused. "Well, that's hardly news, and not likely…. Wait. She was documented before she changed her name?" Sighing wearily, he removed a cup of tea from the tray, sipping it absently before setting it atop its coaster again. "I would have thought that anyone with her distinctive abilities would have been far too easy to track."

"Ah, Joker-san, her… she… that is…." The woman swallowed, then blurted out, "She has other abilities, Joker-san!"

"And they are?" he prompted, wondering at the woman's difficulty with the explanation.

"She… ah, she was able to withstand large amounts of physical trauma, and… um, speak with animals."

He blinked, not understanding. "Animals?"

"Er… turtles specifically, Joker-san."

"And?" he prompted again. "There's more to this, isn't there?"

"She was known to have been in contact with the… um, entities known as the Fixer and the Fox," the woman offered.

"Ah," he said nodding to himself. "I remember your own record — you had dealt with the Fox yourself once, hadn't you?"

"Er… Yes, Joker-san. That is, she changed… changed how I looked enough to get… to get away."

"I've read the report," the man said quietly, sipping at his tea again. "Were you friends with her before that, then?"

"Yes, Joker-san. I thought she looked familiar, but I wasn't sure. Um, you see, before… before I was changed, I used to be named Maehara Shinobu, and Yomiko Readman was Otohime Mutsumi."

 


Author's notes: another one no one will get.

Disclaimer: Love Hina was created by Ken Akamatsu, and Read or Die was created by Hideyuki Kurata.

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