Takashi Kimura glanced at his cellphone and then let out a deep sigh. 11:30 AM. The free time just before lunch period for his daughter's school.
A soft chime echoed, and then a message appeared on his phone.
[It's fine, Papa. I made sure to pick up food and lock up the house.]
That was his daughter. Chihiro. Because Takashi had been busy handling the aftermath of dismantling the yakuza as well as properly resigning from his job at the police department, he hadn't been home for the past few days.
Well, not for long periods of time anyway. Only enough to stop in to make sure that his daughter was safe and healthy before heading back out.
"Make... sure... to eat healthy..." Takashi muttered under his breath as he typed out the message and sent it. After that, he slipped the phone back into his pants pocket. "Hah..."
Downtown Tokyo. His usual patrol route... Or rather, his former patrol route. Because, official as of thirty minutes ago at 11 AM, Takashi had resigned from his role as a police officer. He turned in his badge, his uniform, and filled out the paper work.
Like that, it was over. The dark and worrisome chapter of his life had come to a close, bookended by the death of Shin Seiryuu.
"Sure feels weird being a civilian again." Takashi muttered and then stuck his hands in his coat pockets.
A cold breeze blew past, causing his gray overcoat to sway, shifting over his black sweater and blue jeans.
Takashi frowned and pulled his coat closer before continuing on his way.
Since it was Wednesday morning, there weren't many people around. The kids were all in school, the university students had classes, the businessmen were at work... The only ones walking around the city at that time were people like Takashi who didn't have a job, or the elderly.
At least, that should have been the case.
But as Takashi rounded the corner, he saw someone that didn't fit the crowd. Someone that stood out completely from the usual people milling about and someone who would stand out even if it was crowded.
A beautiful young woman with long, flaming orange hair. Not only that, but as she turned to look around the area, she revealed a pair of glittering crimson eyes, the same color as rubies.
"Hm?" Takashi frowned.
If it was just a beautiful woman, Takashi would have ignored it. But as Takashi stared at her, and as he noticed that she was wearing a worn-out school uniform, he realized that she couldn't have been more than a few years older than his daughter. Not only that, but she kept looking down at a piece of paper in her hands and then at the surroundings, as if trying to figure out where she was.
While he might not be an officer anymore, Takashi's instincts and duty to help others didn't just vanish. Especially a beautiful and lost young woman who was around his daughter's age. He knew all too well just what sorts of fates could await someone like that in meeting the wrong person... even if the yakuza weren't around anymore.
So, putting a friendly smile on his face, Takashi walked over and waved. "Good morning, Miss."
The young woman paused and then turned towards him, tilting her head as if she didn't understand.
Takashi thought she might understand Japanese because of her uniform, but it seemed like she didn't. Instead of continuing in Japanese, Takashi spoke in English. "Miss. You lost? I help directions." For emphasis, Takashi pointed at the piece of paper in her hands and then waved at the city.
The young woman blinked and then nodded her head. With a faint smile, she said, "That would be helpful, Mister."
Perfect Japanese. Not even a hint of a foreigner accent. Instead, it was a delicate and polite voice.
Realizing that, Takashi let out an internal sigh of relief and then nodded. "My apologies. I didn't think you understood Japanese. If that was rude, I sincerely apologize."
"Oh." The young woman shook her head, causing her orange hair to scatter. After that, she smiled and said, "It's fine. I always seem to surprise people when I speak, so I'm used to it."
"Still, I want to apologize for making assumptions. Ah, and I am Officer Kimura Takashi." On instinct, he reached for his pocket to show his badge. And then he paused, realizing that he didn't have it anymore. "...That is, former Officer." He laughed and said, "I just officially resigned a few minutes ago."
"I see." The young woman nodded and let out a relieved sigh. "Good. Then you should be able to help me out."
Takashi frowned and then carefully examined the young woman.
Now that he thought about it, wasn't it strange that a beautiful high school girl was out and about this morning and not in school?
Takashi didn't think that she was in any trouble. His instincts told him that wasn't the case. At the same time, something was off about the young woman.
Still, Takashi nodded and said, "I will do my best."
"Thank you." The young woman bowed.
"No, no." Takashi waved his hands and said, "There's no need for that. You look around my daughter's age, so I couldn't simply stand by when you seemed to be in trouble."
The young woman straightened and let out a polite smile. "Even so, thank you." She looked around the surroundings and said, "I have been to many different places around the world, but this is the first that I have been to this city." She frowned and said, "I must admit. It's quite strange."
Takashi laughed. "Japan is like that. Though... Is Miss not from here? You speak Japanese very fluently."
"Ah. I apologize." The young woman bowed her head and said, "You introduced yourself and I failed to do the same... How rude of me." She lifted her head and said, "My name is Akairo Suzume. Akairo is my family name."
Takashi raised an eyebrow and said, "Your name is Red Sparrow?"
It was an odd name... But then again, Takashi had recently met John who had as generic of a foreigner's name as possible, so he supposed he wasn't in a place to judge.
The young woman, Suzume, nodded and said, "Yes. That's my name. I've had it..." A strange emotion crossed her face, and she muttered, "As long as I could remember."
Takashi frowned. "As long as you could remember... Then did your parents not give it to you?"
Suzume shook her head. "I never met my birth parents. A kind couple raised me from the time I was a toddle."
Takashi froze and then quickly bowed. "Forgive my rudeness."
Suzume waved her hand. "It's fine, Mister Kimura. I'm aware of how odd it is."
Takashi raised his head. "Even so... Well, I am sure that your parents are proud that their daughter grew up to be such a well-mannered young woman."
Suzume placed her hands over her heart and said, "I hope so."
"Ah. But it seems that I've derailed the topic." Takashi shook his head and then gestured towards the paper. "You were trying to find somewhere?"
"Yes." Suzume nodded and held out the paper to Takashi. "I am trying to find this place."
"Well." Takashi took the paper and said, "If it is nearby, I should be able to- Hm?"
When Takashi read what was written on the paper, he couldn't help but pause.
[Project MirAIs: Searching for new talents. High pay, no experience necessary. Call for an audition.]
He looked back up at Suzume and said, "You're applying for a job here?"
She nodded. "Yes. I..." She frowned and placed her hand over her heart. "I'm... not sure. But I feel as if that is where I need to be."
A face filled with longing, wistfulness, and hope.
Takashi didn't know her story, and he didn't dare ask. However, he could tell enough from the fact that her clothes were threadbare and that she was applying to a job that, quite frankly, could be anything from a proper job to one in the adult industry. Though, considering the purpose that John created Project MirAIs... perhaps that was intentional.
Either way, Takashi smiled and said, "You're in luck. I know exactly where this place is."
Suzume's eyes widened and she let out a bright smile. Clasping her hands together, she said, "Truly?!"
"Yes. In fact, that's where my new job is. If you want, I could show you the building... and maybe I could do something about seeing you to getting an audition for that job."
Takashi didn't know the process of how John chose the idols for Project MirAIs, but he was sure that Suzume had at least a decent shot.
Suzume's eyes watered and then she gave Takashi a deep bow. "Mister Takashi... Thank you."
"Hey now, enough of that." Takashi gently lifted her from bowing and said, "If it was my daughter in your position, I'd want someone to help out just the same. So it's fine."
Suzume straightened and wiped away her eyes. "Even so... Thank you."
"Thank me when we get you there safely Akairo-san. Now, if I recall correctly, the proper directions to the Myth Incorporated office building should be..."