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The art building was as normal as ever as we walked inside. Once again, commuters were sleeping on the couches and small collections of students made their way to their respective classes. Finally, Yukio and I didn’t receive any passing glances. I think people learned to mind their own business. Actually, given the extent of everything going on, that wasn’t the best compliment to be given exactly. Things were probably be better off if everyone just gave a bit of a damn about other people.
We passed Mia’s office where she was clicking away at her computer as normal. When she spotted us, she scanned the area around her and stood up, approaching us quickly. I grabbed Yukio by the sleeve before he could walk off. Mia looked utterly exhausted.
“Mia, is something wrong?” I asked her. She nodded unconvincingly, and smiled softly.
“It’s nothing. I just wanted to check in about last night. What have you two been up to since then?”
“Honestly, not much,” I said. That was, more or less, the truth. “We went to dinner and then straight to bed.”
“Is that the truth or are you stupidly becoming involved in matters you shouldn’t?” she snapped harshly under her breath. “I already told you to drop it. There’s nothing you two can do anyway, so leave well enough alone. If you become victims---.”
“We won’t,” I interrupted. “Besides, too many people are involved now.”
“Well, for starters, you and Sayu. And Nicole was found in front of her dorm room last night by Rachel and Felicity.”
“Wait, Nicole was…” she gasped. “Just last night?”
“Yes,” Yukio answered, “and her experience is almost a perfect reflection of the experiences shared by you and Sayu.”
“And Lily,” I added.
“Oh, my god…you’re joking, obviously,” Mia insisted, hiding her fear with a half-baked smile. “There’s no way this is true. That many students without being detected?”
“Well, that same number of students have chosen not to report anything to the police or the university,” Yukio explained calmly. “For many reasons, the victims have actively taken the effort to say nothing to the authorities. Unfortunately, this has just allowed our serial kidnapper opportunity to continue their rampage.”
“And what exactly do you plan on doing about it?” Mia asked. “Has anyone mentioned a location?”
“Sort of,” I replied. “A dark tunnel, a room with candles, and Nicole mentioned a hatch.”
“Yea, like some kind of underground room. Unfortunately, I don’t know of many places, if any, that would have something like that.”
“Maybe that’s where you can help us, Mia,” Yukio stated as she stepped closer to her. Mia’s eyes reflected her fear and her concern. I could tell that she didn’t want to continue this any further than we already had, but there was no turning back now.
“What exactly do you want from me? I already told you everything I know.”
“We need to know where Levi keeps his paintings. I know there’s a storage room in this building, but you need a key to get inside. Can you let us in?”
Her look was worry instantly changed to one of pure confusion. “His…paintings? Levi’s? Why him?”
“For evidence,” Yukio explained casually. I didn’t want him to go into the grand details of why this was important, so I knew I had to step in.
“We believe Levi may have a clue in his paintings somewhere. Like a hidden message or theme we missed before.”
“But why Levi?”
I sighed heavily before answering. “Both Nicole and Lily have stated hearing his voice while in that underground room. If we can find proof that Levi is involved, maybe even the main culprit, then that’s a start.”
“Well, obviously, he can’t be the main culprit seeing as how this has been going on for a minimum of six years,” she stated.
“Accurate, but it’s all we got. Please, Mia, just show us where he keeps his paintings and we’ll leave you alone. You won’t hear about this again.”
I could see the conflict in her eyes. The desperate desire to help, but also to run away as quickly as possible. She bit her lip, wondering if this was the kind of information she was finally at liberty to give. Additionally, I could see the confusion in her expression as she tried to understand how any of that would be of any help.
Finally, she conceded. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a rusting key. “Second floor, back hallway. You’re right, there’s a storage room of artwork for students who opt into it. Levi may or may not have something back there, but don’t be shocked if he doesn’t.”