In which Count D buys a certain kind of cicada, and should really be glad he didn’t get the seagull, too.

Dicker
by gale

SUMMARY: D buys a certain kind of cicada. It's probably best he didn't take them up on the seagull offer. [Contains spoilers for PSOH: Tokyo and through EP 5 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni.]


Contrary to popular belief, D really does enjoy his job. There is no sin in this, he thinks; he does as his grandfather has bidden him, though not to the extent he did even a few years ago, and if he takes pleasure in bringing together pets and humans who are worthy of their company--well, so what? Surely there is no sin in that.

Then there are mornings like this one, where the first bell--

"Shopkeeper? Shopkeeper!"

--signals exactly what kind of day it's going to be. D sighs to himself, very softly, and walks out onto the floor. "May I help you, Miss--"

The woman smiles at him. Her hair is golden and pinned back in a style that has not been popular in a very long time, if indeed it ever was. She wears a black business suit with a small, tasteful golden butterfly brooch at the throat; when she shifts her weight, he sees that she is wearing sheer black stockings. She carries no handbag, wears no other jewelry. He wonders, idly, if she will attempt to flirt with him.

"Beato," the woman says. Her smile is wicked, much like many of the cats he's seen. He wonders--but no, she's not a pet, however cunningly disguised. "I was wondering if you purchased pets as well as sold them."

D raises an eyebrow. "It has happened," he allows, "though most people prefer to purchase an animal rather than part with one. May I ask what it is you're selling, Miss Beato?"

"Please," she says, "just Beato." She snaps her fingers, and one of the red-clad schoolgirls--for there are, in fact, girls in red school uniforms; seven of them, in fact--hovering near the doorway hands her a box. It looks small and handmade, if finely wrought and very old. Beato opens it and takes out--

"The Hinamizawa cicada," Beato says. There are several of them, in fact, males and females, in what looks like a remarkably well-kept habitat. Almost against himself, D is impressed. "Very rare."

"Very." D peers at them. "I must confess, I have never heard of such a thing before."

"Nor would you," Beato says. She crouches next to him. "They originated in a small village in the countryside. The circumstances of their creation have passed, and these are all that remain." She glances at him. "They would be safer with you, I feel."

"They are very lovely," D says. "How did they become endangered?" Human folly, no doubt: overpopulation or pollutants.

"They thrive in very peculiar circumstances," Beato says. "The circumstances that bred this bunch no longer exist. I'm told they eat perfectly normal food, however, and have no problem continuing on their own. They just won't get the numbers they once had." She pauses, head tilted to one side. "A most curious insect. They thrive near pain and suffering."

D frowns at her. "Pardon?"

"The village these cicadas come from was trapped in a stable time loop." Beato's voice betrays no hint of a smile, no sign she's teasing. He recognizes the tone well enough; he tends to use it with customers, when they ask why he's giving them a person instead of a bird or a cat. "In that time loop, the inhabitants suffered for--oh, I'm not sure how long, exactly. I believe a hundred years, though I could be wrong. I wasn't there."

"...I see." D's voice is carefully neutral. "The circumstances no longer exist, you said."

She nods. "The loop was broken years ago. An...aquaintance of mine retrieved the cicadas before she left the village." A shadow touches her face briefly before disappearing, leaving only a sly smile. "I thought to myself, 'Surely no one could do a better job with such a creature than the fabled Count D.' But you're not him, are you?"

D blinks. "No," he says. "My grandfather is away on business, and has been for some time."

"I have poor luck with grandfathers," Beato says. She stands up straight. "Is this your wish, D of the house of D, last scion of your line?"

"I--"

"Beato."

D looks up. There's a young man standing a few feet away, arms crossed over his chest. He has reddish-brown hair cut in a most ridiculous style, even for a human. His shirt is wine-dark with some kind of stylized shape on it; he looks mildly irritated. The schoolgirls have drawn back from him, though the one with straight black hair is torn between glaring at him and making cow eyes. (This is, of course, grossly unfair to the cow. D mentally apologizes.)

"What?" Beato asks, all innocence.

"You know what. I leave for two minutes to buy a bottle of water, and you find a cursed pet shop to peddle those things in."

"I'm not peddling--" Beato says, at the same moment D sputters out, "This shop is most certainly not cursed--
"

"If you're going to give them to him," he says, "then give them to him. Don't trade, or make a deal, or pull any of that crap you did with Kinzo."

Beato lifts her chin and looks at him. "Is that your wish?" she murmurs.

After a very long pause, the man starts to smile. "I don't know what kind of compensation you would like," he murmurs back. "You already have everything I have to give."

"Well," Beato says, "not everything," and she starts walking her fingers up his arm.

Delicately, so as not to be too much of a bother, D coughs.

Both of them look at him. Beato looks grumpy, while her companion looks--chastened, a bit. "Sorry," he says. "Do you want them? The cicadas, I mean."

"I don't know that they're yours to give," D says, with only a touch of frost. "Nor are they, precisely, mine to take. But I would be honored to take care of them until the proper owner comes along."

"Then they're yours," the young man says. And though it has been some time since D has been in the presence of a deity, he knows something great and vast when he hears it.

He narrows his eyes at them. "You're witches."

What Ds know about witches is limited at best. His grandfather had encountered only one, years before even his father was born, and his ancestors did their best to stay away from them. Witches, after all, had been born human, and no human was to ever be fully trusted. But their powers are wide and terrible, even by the standards of the D, and even his people are not immune to such things.

It occurs to D, slowly, that he is afraid.

"Guilty." The man gives a little wave and looks sheepish. "Uh, sort of. It's kind of a long story." He shakes his head. He's holding Beato's hand now, D notices. "Keep them. The cicadas, I mean. Though you might want to be careful with who you sell them to."

"I have seagulls, too," Beato says. Her sly smile is back. "If you're interested, that is--"

"Beato."

She sighs. "Fine," she says, like it's a chore. "Take the cicadas. Do with them what you will." Her smile, still sly, creeps back onto her face. "Your people always do."

D feels himself shiver and curses himself for the weakness. He stands straighter. "My people--"

"--hold onto grudges like they're children," she says, eyes still gleaming. "You punish every human who walks into this store as if he or she was the one who ordered that your line be hunted--and you can't even do that properly, can you? The latest D, too soft and full of human emotion to do his duty properly--"

"Beato," the man says again, but she doesn't so much as blink.

And then something curious happens.

When Beato speaks next, her words--impossible as it seems--flare in his mind bright as holly berries, red like blood.

"You love him," she says, and in that moment D can't breathe. "You will run and run until he catches you, and then you don't know what you'll do--"

"Stop," D says faintly, turning his head away.

"Beatrice."

Beato cuts off and glares at her companion. "I'm telling the truth! You can't fault me for that."

Her young man just looks at her, arms crossed over his chest.

Beato scowls. "You can't," she mutters, and subsides. She gestures, and the pile of schoolgirls files outside into the street. Curiously, the bell doesn't jingle when they leave.

She tilts her head at D. "Blessings to you and yours, young D," she says. "Whoever they are." Her smile reappears, sharp and malicious all over again. "You cannot run forever, you know."

And before D can respond to that, she's out the door, too, tugging her young man after her. Once again, the bell doesn't jingle.

D watches them go, then carries the cage with his new friends towards the back of the shop.

*

The next morning, D wakes and performs his ablutions. He makes himself tea with extra sugar and nibbles on pastries Mrs. Wendell--from the embassy; part of her payment for a calico kitten--then goes downstairs to open the shop for the day.

There's a body just inside the doorway. He can't tell who it used to be--the pets are very thorough, at that sort of thing; they take to intruders about as well as he does--but the shape is masculine, with a phone in his hand. D looks at the body for a moment, then crouches down and checks the phone.

There are four missed calls and three voicemails, all from Wu Fei. The voicemails in particular are clever: clearly upset about something not being done, but not phrased in any way that could be incriminating. D thinks about this for a while.

Then he gets to his feet and makes arrangements. There are carrion eaters in his shop, and some who don't mind killed meat as long as it's within a certain period of freshness. The corpse's clothes are dark and nondescript; he'll have one of the neighborhood children, the ones that run errands for sweets or small cash, to get rid of them later.

Wu Fei will be irritated, perhaps even incensed, but that's no business of D's. If anyone has the right to be irritated, after all, it is he. One day, he knows, perhaps sooner rather than later, Wu Fei will have to be dealt with.

From atop the corpse's head, a cicada trills.

D smiles and holds out his finger.


*


so my favorite manga of all time is pet shop of horrors, as i've mentioned before. you could certainly read it as your typical horror anthology-with-a-central-arc, but it's also the gayest manga i've ever read. seriously. gayer than hentai and hardcore BL, all right? d CRIES when he shoves leon off the magical boat, and leon waits a year before quitting the police force and TRAVELING AROUND, TRYING TO FIND HIS BOYFRIEND. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? the sequel does not have anywhere near enough "d flees just as leon gets there" vignettes, but a girl can dream.

it does, however, have wu fei, a member of the chinese underworld who runs the section of town d's shop is in, now that he's back in china. i think we're supposed to think it's the same basic relationship? except it totally doesn't work, because while leon is a well-meaning (if loud, abrasive, and goofy) police officer, wu fei is...you know, a gangster. who keeps threatening d. if this doesn't end in something eating wu fei, i'm gonna be kind of fucking upset. (dear matsuri akino: if you could also work in "leon finds d and they have something approaching closure, POSSIBLY INVOLVING KISSING AND LEON GOING WITH HIM", that would be gangbusters. thanks in advance.)

in addition, i'm falling in love (entirely via messageboards and spoilers) with umineko no naku koro ni, the sequel to higurashi no naku koro ni, aka "holy crap WHAT ARE THOSE KIDS DOING TO EACH OTH--OH MY GOD, ARE THOSE ENTRAILS?" seriously, you guys, it's so bad. battler has a bet with beatrice that he can use logic to prove he's not a witch! beatrice has a bet that he can't! she's STALKING HIM AT THIS POINT. he does not seem ENTIRELY IMMUNE TO HER AFFECTIONS. his reaction to eriko killing her in game 5? "uh, fuck you, I'M THE ONLY ONE ALLOWED TO DEFEAT HER. stakes, let's GET SOME SHIT DONE." and, you know, when the golden sorcerer, battler ushiromiya, gets cheesed off, people listen. OR THEY SHOULD. I’M JUST SAYING, MAYBE YOU TWO SHOULD GET TOGETHER. BATTLER, YOU COULD DO WORSE.

so, i don't know. i like the idea of them meeting. also, this is the first decent-sized piece of fanfic i've finished since bbb 2009, so i feel like i should give myself a cookie. or maybe just a hug. good job, me.
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