World“s First Demon Lord Chapter 27: Evidence and Investigation
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March 29, 12:07 pm, Tokyo, Japan
Two days. She only had two days. More than enough time, really. All she needed was something big.
She could get something big. All she needed to do, was to find out what they were doing with the bodies of humans at this laboratory.
Easier said than done.
Her first attempt to get in by using her journalist pass, saying that she was basically assigned to write a fluff piece about a "new technologies in research labs," was met with strong resistance. The receptionist all but accused her of being a corporate spy, trying to steal their methods. With that plan a blowing up in her face, Sakura had to try other means.
Sakura had already done the basic research. Her apartment now looked like the house of a crazy person, with bits of string connecting pieces of paper she had taped to the walls. Her board was just too small for all this new information she was getting. It got to the point where she was color-coding everything.
The lab used to do research for pharmaceuticals, before the company was bought out by Congo. She hadn't been too surprised by that; Congo pretty much owned half the corporate world at this point. What did surprise her was that the pharmaceutical company's previous owner had been the CEO of Congo's father.
"Family drama, been there," Sakura had muttered.
After the change of hands, apparently they were still doing pharmaceuticals. This particular lab, however, had been one of few that had changed over to "other research."
Well. Would it have killed them to be a little more specific?
Aside from learning that the lab did research, Sakura knew nothing. Nothing about what they were researching now, nothing about why they were reassigned, not even anything about the size of the project or who was funding it. Of course, a corporation as big as Congo probably didn't need any funds to do research, but that in itself was something strange.
The whole point of a corporation was to make money. Sure, research could eventually lead to money, but there was always risk. That's why corporations liked to rope in someone else, so that they could share in the risk; soften the blow of it if they couldn't get a return.
Sakura didn't know how much they were investing, but if there were no partners on this project, then it could only mean one of two things:
1) The project was so inconsequential, it didn't need another sponsor or partner, or
2) the project was too important to let others in on it, or was developing something that Congo didn't want others to know about.
Sakura was more inclined to believe it was option two. After all, people wouldn't be sending men in black to steal dead bodies and take them to a research facility if it was something inconsequential. That took money. A lot of it. That Congo definitely had, but it was still too much to pay if it was something small. Probably. Maybe billionaire's saw a few million as nothing?
For someone who was barely earning enough for their own one person apartment, it was difficult to think about how a billionaire saw money.
It was at that point that Sakura realized that it was very possible that she was going up against a multi-billion dollar corporation. A multi-billion dollar corporation, with fingers in basically every pie in the world…
No. She shouldn't get ahead of herself.
For now, she needed evidence.
She had spent the last few days meticulously surveilling the laboratory, almost to the point of obsession. She knew her time was limited, and every little thing mattered. She started to create a database of workers, who they were, their habits. All the entrances and exits. What times people went in and out of the building. After all, the only way she was going to get what she needed, was by actually physically entering the building.
And if they weren't going to let in her, Sakura would find her own way.
With a little help from some friends, of course.
"Michi, I swear, if you don't mute your mic while you're eating, I will reach through my earpiece and strangle you," Sakura whispered.
Mercifully, the chewing ASMR finally stopped.
"Wow, someone's grumpy," he said after a few minutes. "Just relax. You got this."
Sakura sighed, but didn't reply. She took in a deep breath, counted to ten, and let it out.
She was currently waiting in her car, one block away from the laboratory, wearing a janitor uniform that she had Michi make for her. Technically, it was one of Michi's cosplay friends who made it, but that didn't matter right now.
"Shouldn't they be here by now?" she whined into her earpiece. "It's past 12 already."
"Okay, calm down," said Michi. "Them being a little late won't change anything. The plan is still the same."
"I know the plan is the same. I just want to go ahead and...DO the plan already!
Sakura felt like strangling something. She'd been waiting for what seemed like years.
The plan was to sneak in with the outside cleaning crew that came in at around lunch time. From there, she would use the keycard she...acquired...to get into the more restricted areas (Sakura had followed the secretary one night to a bar and stolen it from her purse, and knowing that the secretary would probably get a new one, she passed it over to Bunta to crack; who told her to just use it on a door and get out within ten minutes before security came).
"What do you expect to find there anyway?" asked Michi.
"I...don't know," she said, half-truthfully, half-evasively. "Maybe nothing."
"You're breaking into one of Congo's research labs for 'maybe nothing?'" said Michi incredulously. "Are you that bored of financial stability?"
"I've got a hunch!"
"A hunch that can lead you to being sued by the richest man in the world!" said Michi. "Please tell me you have something a little more than a hunch!"
Sakura thought up all the evidence she already had. The connections...they were there...but…
"I have something a little more," said Sakura, only half-believing herself. "It's just...I don- that's them, that's them I'm going in!"
The blue van for the cleaning company drove by, which Sakura took as her cue to get moving. She almost dropped her earpiece while taking it out, scrambling to get out of the car. Luckily, she already had everything prepared. She placed the earpiece in a pocket, took out a toolbox, and got out to follow the car for one block.
She arrived just as the crew were getting all their equipment out of the van. The crew had about seven people in it; which was weirdly high number of cleaners for a building with no second floor. At least, that's what Sakura had thought before she managed to get her hands on the buildings blueprints, and found that the building had a basement.
"It's not a secret," Bunta had said, exasperated. "It's on public record with the city hall. A journalist really should know that trick, at least."
In any case, with such a large cleaning crew, it was easy for Sakura to slip in with them once they entered. The receptionist didn't even bat an eye as she let them all through; Sakura resisted the urge to stick her tongue out as the door to the restricted area shut behind her.
From there, the cleaning crew all separated into different directions. Thanks to the blueprints, Sakura knew exactly where she wanted to go. Her goal was a large room in the basement that was marked on the blueprint as a storage room.
"What could they be storing in such a big room there?" Sakura had pointed out to Bunta, who came up with several suggestions immediately.
"They could also be storing the bodies in there," Sakura countered. "Since I don't see any room designated as a morgue or anything. Not to mention, this 'storage room' has two entrances, and it looks like it's got a whooole bunch of cooling units in there for some reason, doesn't it?"
Bunta didn't have anything to say to that.
The halls were clean and sparkling white, with the lights being a similarly bright and surgical glare to them. Sakura's sensible tennis shoes squeaked as she made her way down the hall, occasionally peering through the windows of rooms to see what was happening. To her surprise, it was mostly officework, with people in lab coats on computers, typing up papers – Sakura was certain one of the employees was slacking off and watching anime.
So far, so good. All she needed to do was turn the corner, and take the stairs down. On her left should be the door to the so-called-storage room.
Suddenly, Sakura noticed that there was the sound of voices, and footsteps, suddenly getting louder. It was coming from up ahead, which meant…
"...just been delivered, we need you to sign it Dr. Larsson."
Three men, one Japanese and two foreigners, turned the corner. One of the foreigners had a lab coat on. The Japanese man had just finished talking, and the foreigner without the lab coat was now speaking a language Sakura didn't recognize as they walked towards her.
Sakura's heart was in her mouth. They were getting closer. She looked down, trying to seem as busy as possible, her palms slick as they gripped onto the toolbox she had brought along. Should she have brought gloves? Would it have been more believable if she was wearing gloves? The cleaners hadn't been wearing gloves, but then again, maybe they would when they started cleaning?
Wait, none of that matters, she just needed to-
The man in the lab coat caught Sakura's eye. She looked away immediately, quickening her pace. Was this how normal people walk? Or was this how suspicious people would walk? If it were like normal people, would it be slower? He could tell, couldn't he? He could tell from her walk that she wasn't supposed to be here, he was going to-
The man in the lab coat barked something, looking straight at her as she passed by. She stopped, frozen.
"Make sure to move it to storage immediately, we can't waste this opportunity," the other foreigner translated to the Japanese man.
Sakura quickly walked around the corner, and through the door to the staircase, before finally letting out the biggest sigh of relief in her life. It was fine. Everything was fine. She stayed there, in the stairwell for a minute, just catching her breath, stabilizing her heartbeat.
She was fine. They didn't suspect anything. Just. Act. Natural.
With a final exhale, Sakura continued on down the stairs, and out into the basement level.
This level was just as clean and hypnotically sparking as the upper ones, but for some reason, felt a little eerier. It could've been her mind playing tricks, but she thought she saw the lights flicker, just a little. As she got closer to the storage room, the air seemed to get colder, making the hairs on her arms stand on end.
Probably just her imagination.
She reached the door, and took out the keycard. She hesitated for a moment, watching the red light above the keycard scanner. Once she did this, there was no going back. Not to mention, she had about 10 minutes to find what she needed.
Gods she hoped she found what she needed.
She swiped the keycard, still praying. The light turned green, and the door unlocked.
Sakura entered the room.
The first thing she noticed was how dark it was. That, and how cold it was. She quickly closed the door, so no one would notice that someone came in here. Then, she turned on her phone's flashlight, found the light switch, and turned it on.
"Now let's see what...the...he..." Sakura's voice trailed off as the room slowly lit up, revealing what exactly was being stored down here.
Vats. Giant, glass vats, with weird, misshapen...monstrosities inside them, floating in green, glowing liquid. From what she could see, they looked like weird, misshapen animals. Rows upon rows of them, all slowly lighting up, one by one.
Sakura took out her phone, mouth ajar, still not completely believing her eyes. She had expected something shady, sure, but this…
What even was this?
Just as she was about to hit record on her phone, she remembered what Bunta had told her before this 'operation.' She took out the earpiece, and put it back in, opening the app he had installed for her.
"Michi. Michi," she said into the earpiece, hitting record on her phone. "Please tell me you're getting this."
"Oh you made it! Nice going, girl detective," said Michi cheerfully. "Looks like you're coming in. Now what are you..."
He went silent as Sakura got closer to one of the vats. Sakura slowly began to realize that the monstrosities were all patchworks of animals; this one had the head of a lion, the body of a gorilla, and claws of some sort.
"It's like...that one horror story," said Sakura, going down the rows and recording more of the monsters. "The one with the doctor and-"
"Frankenstein," said Michi, his usual cheeriness nowhere to be heard. "They're making patchwork animals."
"Why?" said Sakura, moving down the corridor of vats, recording each one separately. "What would possess someone to..."
She trailed off, realizing something. She turned the camera onto herself, catching her terrified expression.
"The bodies," she said, eyeing the claws of the monsters. "I have evidence of Neurix Labs taking actual human bodies from crime scenes. Bodies where the victims have been mauled..."
"Mauled? By one of these...things?" asked Michi. Sakura shook her head.
"I don't know," she said. "All I know is that they - the men in black - come in vans, to violent crime scenes, then bring the bodies here."
"The police know about it too," she continued, connecting the dots. "They know, I spoke with a police officer, and he was trying to cover it up...they know about this, and they're just letting it happen!"
"But why?" said Michi. "Why are they doing...whatever this is? What are they trying to cover up?"
Sakura had a very, very bad feeling about all this. She looked around to see if there was anything else here, anything else she could use as evidence.
At the end of a row was a large monitor. Bingo. She looked around a little more, and found the computer it was connected to. Perfect. She fished around her pockets, and took out Bunta's last little gift: a USB drive.
"Just plug it in, and run the program," he had said. "It should be able to download the entire hard drive, provided it's less than 256 GB."
She plugged it in, and moved the mouse. Locked.
"Michi, can you ask Bunta how to get into a locked computer?" she asked.
A moment later:
"He said to check to see if anyone left the password somewhere near," he said.
Sakura scoffed, but looked anyway.
"This is a high security lab, I don't think-"
"Someone left the password?" said Michi.
"On a sticky note. Behind the computer," said Sakura.
"Corporations suck!" yelled Bunta from the background.
Sakura had to agree. She got into the computer and started up the program
"Okay, that should be done in...ten minutes? Wait, I don't have that much time. How long have I been in here?" said Sakura, panicking.
"Well, we starting talking about five minutes ago," Michi replied.
Which meant she had five minutes left. Leaving another five minutes she didn't have to wait for the download.
Not to mention the however-long-it-would-take-to-get-out.
"Where are you, exactly?" Michi asked suddenly.
"I dunno, Bunta's asking."
She gave him the address. The next minute was possibly the longest of her entire life.
"Okay, Bunta says sit tight, wait for the download to end. He has a plan to give you some more time," said Michi. "I think I may have to go off-line for a bit. Okay?"
"Sakura? Sakura, you there?"
But she didn't reply. She couldn't.
Someone else had just entered the storage room.
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