: Bak Chang's Capriccio :

This novel story from D.Gray-man Reverse Vol.1 was translated by Eden. It was not written by Hoshino (the author of D.Gray-man) but by her friend Kaya Kizaki. If you feel the characterization of certain characters might seem a little off, it might be because of that.

"A couple of months ago I went back and did a re-read of this story, which originally appeared in the first light novel back in May 2005 and got a bare bones translation into English in 2008.

I decided to do a brand new translation from my own reading of the text because this story both introduced Bak as a character and set out the foundations for Komui/Bak. Hoshino makes a few references in the manga and character books about Bak’s one-sided rivalry with Komui, but it’s in the novels that their interactions really shine through.

I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did translating it!"

- Eden

The man reflected in the mirror has short, light blond hair and sharp, clear grey eyes. This gives him a curious appearance because while the shape of his face is distinctly Chinese, his pale complexion is very European.

That’s me, the great Bak Chang, Director of the Black Order’s Asian Branch, a sanctuary that has been nicknamed the “House of the Holy Spirit”.

And just for the record I look amazing today.

Ah, almost forgot my hat.

I feel great, but to be fair anyone would feel elegant and dignified while wearing the Order’s uniform like this, Rose Cross emblazoned across your left breast with a fine tasselled hat upon your head.

I opened the door and stepped out into a spacious castle hallway. The heavy pillars lining the corridor were truly a magnificent sight. This place is the Headquarters of the Black Order, which I have visited ever since I was a young child. It’s almost like a second home to me.

That’s why this castle should be mine, and I’ll get it back no matter what it takes!!

Alas, the road towards that glorious path has been obstructed by none other than the despicable Komui Lee, a man from the boondocks of China. We’re the same age but he’s always acting like a fool, and even wears glasses to put on airs.

I didn’t even give him a second glance when he first joined the Order because he was just an ordinary Chinese man. His sister is an Exorcist, true, but there’s nothing special about his bloodline or background.

And yet somehow, he shot up the career ladder and became Head Officer. I still can’t believe it.

The Black Order is overseen by the Great Generals and divided into roughly two factions. The Exorcists are in the “Active Services”, while the “Support Services” are made up of the Science Division and Investigations Division, amongst others. The Branch Offices around the world also fall into that latter group.

The Head Officer leads the Support Services and candidates for the role are traditionally selected from among HQ’s Section Chiefs and the Branch Directors, so when they announced that Komui would be the next Head Officer I couldn’t believe my ears.

Certainly, the achievements he made in the Innocence Research Department are nothing to sneeze at, but if you take into account the sheer wealth of knowledge I possess and all the breakthroughs I have made in other fields then it’s obvious I have more triumphs to my name than he does.

They should have appointed me as Head Officer, not him! I am a direct descendant of a German sorcerer who was one of the founders of the Black Order, have received an advanced education from a young age, and possess both intelligence and character that surpass the average person’s!

So why was Komui chosen instead of me!?

There’s definitely got to be something shady going on behind the scenes!

“Thank you for all your hard work, Director Bak!” An Order member called out to me as I walked past, bowing his head respectfully. He was wearing a white uniform with a hood, so he was probably a Finder.

“You’re going to that general meeting tomorrow, right?” the Finder asked. “It must be tough having to travel such a long way every time.”

“What do you mean?” I replied, “Asia’s such a central location on the world map that it’s easy travelling around the world from there. Coming to Europe once a month is nothing.”

The Finder’s eyes were full of respect.

“I wouldn’t have expected anything less!” he said cheerfully. “Speaking of which, the Chinese herbal medicine that was sent over from the Asian Branch has been immensely popular here. You don’t experience any side-effects like drowsiness when taking it, so we’ve all found it really useful.”

“Ah, that compound was formulated by my great-grandfather and we’ve used it in the Asian Branch ever since,” I told him, “I thought it’d be nice to send some over to Headquarters, so I’m glad to see that it’s working as intended.”

“Is that right?” The Finder said. “Your family line must be quite prestigious Director Bak, to have so many generations of talented people.”

I puffed out my chest. “Well then, let me tell you all about …”

Suddenly someone bumped into me from behind, cutting me off mid-sentence. I looked over my shoulder, offended, and met a pair of jet black eyes.

“You’re in the way,” the stranger said flatly.

It was the Exorcist Kanda Yuu. He was wearing a Black Order uniform, his long dark hair tied up in a unique style.

How dare he, standing there looking so self-important when he was the one who bumped into me!

I shook my head. No, no I probably shouldn’t say that aloud. Even though he’s got a delicate looking face and slender features, Kanda is notorious for being one of the most aggressive and short-tempered Exorcists. He also had his Anti-AKUMA weapon ‘Mugen’ in his hand, and I’ve heard he has no qualms pointing it at whoever displeases him.

Well, as they say, a wise man stays away from danger.

I’m far too sensible for this nonsense. There’s no need to engage with such a rude fellow. My time is far too precious to waste on the likes of him!

I put my back to Kanda, ignoring him. The Finder looked anxious.

“Well I’d better be off!” he said, “Please excuse me, sir!”

“Sure,” I muttered, and watched as the Finder bowed his head again gratefully and left.

I glanced around the hallway again. Now then, where has Wong gone off to?

Typical. Just when I needed to tell him about this –

“Oh, good morning!”

I froze. That sweet voice, like a songbird singing in a springtime meadow–!

“Miss Lenalee!” I exclaimed, whipping around, and there she was.

Lenalee Lee.

Her beautiful raven black hair was tied back into twin tails, dark eyes shining in her face like precious obsidian. I swallowed hard. Even a goddess would fall from heaven at the sight of her radiantly superior smile.

Lenalee greeted me with a nod and set off at an energetic pace, her slender legs extending from the miniskirt of her uniform. I watched her leave, breathless with admiration.

Oh, beautiful noble Lenalee … I still can’t believe that she’s Komui sister. The first time I learned that fact I was so shocked I was overcome with the sudden urge to bang my head against the wall. And then I almost got a concussion as a result, but …

Hm? The back of my hand was starting to itch.

Wait, are those red rashes? Are my hives acting up again?

I always break out in rashes whenever I get extremely emotional. It really is troublesome to be such a great genius and yet so delicate.

All right, forget about those unpleasant thoughts! If I start worrying too much the hives will spread all over my body!

But it’s so itchy!

No, get a grip! If you start scratching you’ll just break the skin!

I have to admit that Lenalee is still magnificent, even if she is Komui’s sister.

He’s always hovering over her though. Apparently, all it takes to rouse Komui from sleep is to say “Lenalee is getting married”, or so the rumours go. Honestly … having a sister-complex at his age.

Just thinking about it makes me angry. Why is he always getting in my way!?

Argh, forget it! I can’t settle down like this, I feel like punching a wall.

I hit the stone wall with my iron fist, but the stone refused to budge, and a sharp pain immediately lanced up my arm.


“A-Are you all right, Master Bak?” An older Chinese man exclaimed, running up to me at top speed. It was Wong.

He is a member of the Asian Branch, but he also works for me as my personal assistant.

I made a face. “I’m fine, it’s not that serious.”

“But your hand is turning red!”

“Shut up!” I snapped, “I said it’s fine!”

Wong didn’t seem convinced, because he continued to eye me anxiously. His clan has been serving my family for generations, so he usually acts more like a servant towards me than an actual subordinate.

I sighed. “Forget it. Did you bring what I asked for?”

Wong bowed his head. “Yes, it has arrived safely. I was just on my way to deliver it to you.”

“Oh-ho.” A smirk spread across my face. I had told Wong to make sure the delivery arrived before the general meeting tomorrow, and it looks like it came right on schedule.

“Come, let us speak privately,” Wong said, and led me into a nearby reference room. Once inside he did a quick circuit between the shelves, which were stacked with various documents and official papers.

When he was satisfied he returned to my side. “It looks like there’s no one else in here. Here you go, Master Bak. This is the ‘truth tea’ you asked for.”

He held out a beautiful cylindrical tube with a dragon carved onto it.

At last … it is finally complete. I carefully popped open the lid and peered inside. There were three tea bags in the tube.

I frowned. “Is this it?”

“Yes, sir. Unfortunately, there were only a limited number of ingredients.”

“Hmm … well I suppose it doesn’t matter.” Only Komui is going to drink this, after all. Three tea bags should be more than enough.

I grinned to myself. “Heh heh … Komui won’t know what hit him.”

HQ’s Science Department has got nothing on me. I can trace my lineage from powerful German sorcerers and an ancient, noble Chinese clan, and have inherited the greatest secrets from both on top of that. There’s no way I’d lose to someone like Komui. I’ll show him a thing or two!

“Heh heh heh.”

This tea is my own special creation. While the recipe has been handed down in the Chang family from generations, we only recently discovered a rare plant in the Chinese hinterlands that has improved the formula immensely. Anyone who drinks this tea becomes immediately unable to conceal their most carefully guarded secrets and starts blurting out their true feelings. It’s almost like a truth serum but drinking it doesn’t cause any side effects or abnormal changes to the body. In other words, once someone drinks it there will be no evidence of the formula left behind.

Hence, we decided to call this creation “truth tea”.

Heh heh. With this, I’ll be able to learn Komui’s biggest weakness and the stage will be set for his dethronement!

By this time tomorrow Order executives from around the world will have gathered here for a general meeting … and that’s when all of Komui’s parlour tricks will be revealed! Then everyone will lose faith in his abilities and he will be utterly humiliated. There’s no way we can continue to leave the position of Head Officer in the hands of that man. It would be better if they entrusted the job to someone else entirely.

I’m looking forward to this!

“…… Master Bak, you’re going to break those tea bags if you keep squeezing them so hard,” Wong said nervously.

“Ah, good point.” I put the tea bags back into the tube. There are only three of them after all. This formula is very valuable and needs to be handled with care.

“Just so you know…” Wong suddenly spoke up, “The tea’s effects will only last for approximately ten minutes once it is consumed.”

“Only ten minutes?”

“Yes,” he said, “Because so much importance was stressed on the tea’s effects taking place immediately it considerably shortened the length of time the effects actually last. However, there are plans in place to improve this in future.”

…… Well it is a prototype, so I supposed it can’t be helped.

“But it only takes mere seconds for the tea to take effect!” Wong continued. “There were some variances, but we found that once the tea was consumed it only took between ten to thirty seconds for it to start working, after which the individual’s face became red and their mood became considerably brighter to the point they were very open with their words.”

“I see,” I said thoughtfully, “So it’s similar to the sensation of being drunk. And it only takes about thirty seconds at most for the effects to kick in? That’s pretty good.”

“Thank you, Master Bak.”

I straightened up. “Right then! Let’s find a place to prepare this tea. To the dining hall!”

“Yes sir!”

It was around noon so the dining hall was fairly crowded, and yet I noticed Komui was nowhere to be seen.

Ah well, there’s only so many places around here that guy could go. I’ll find him soon enough.

As we headed towards the kitchen counter I noticed the Finder from this morning was waiting in line.

“Oh, Director Bak!” he exclaimed when he saw me, “Are you here to have a meal too?”

“I’m here on business,” I replied shortly as Wong opened the door at the nook of the counter.

However, we had barely stepped into the kitchen when a tall muscular man leapt in front of us, plaited hair swinging as he moved.

It was Jerry, HQ’s Head Chef. The man is built like a tank but his manner of speech is just downright unpleasant. It irks me to think that Komui is on such good terms with this guy.

Jerry smiled. “Oh my, it’s Bak-chan! It’s been a while~ Why are you coming into the kitchen like this? Is something wrong?”

“None of your business,” I said flatly, pushing Jerry aside to move further into the kitchen. I didn’t have time to waste on this weirdo.

The next thing I knew Jerry was leading all the chefs to form a line in front of me, blocking my path.

I frowned. “Wh-What?”

Mannerisms aside, Jerry still cut a gigantic, imposing figure and standing there in front of all his chefs looming over me made him look even more intimidating.

“Now wait just one minute!” Jerry chided. “This place is our sacred sanctuary! You can’t just waltz in here like it’s no big deal!”

I gaped at him incredulously. “Huh? Isn’t this just a kitchen?”

Who does this chef think he is, telling me off like this? Unbelievable!

Jerry sighed. “Oh dear, you just don’t get it. Let me spell it out for you. Everyone in HQ gets their meals from this kitchen, right? So, what do you plan to do if something goes wrong while you’re in here!?”

I spluttered. “What do you think I am, bacteria!?”

“There’s always a one in ten thousand chance something could go wrong!” Jerry insisted. “What on earth does the esteemed Director of the Asian Branch need to do in the kitchen anyway?”

He glared at me as he said this, the sunglasses on his face making him look even more like a bad-tempered gangster.

“Well, I mean … I just wanted to put on a pot of tea,” I said, fumbling for an excuse.

“Tea? What kind of tea?” Jerry asked suspiciously.

I scowled. “Chinese tea. I brought some with me because drinking it is good for one’s health. So just give me some cups and a pot already.”

“Well why didn’t you say so in the first place!” Jerry exclaimed, stepping back. In a flash he had moved over to a cupboard and started taking out some white cups and a matching teapot.

“Here, take these.” He passed them over to me.

For the love of … this guy is so troublesome!

I lifted the lid of the pot and put a tea bag inside. I wonder how much hot water I should add?

“Hot water coming through!” Jerry suddenly shouted out, bringing over a kettle and pouring water directly into the pot before I could even make up my mind.

I jumped back, startled. “W-What are you doing!?”

“Adding hot water to the pot, what does it look like~?” Jerry replied, as though I was the one being ridiculous here.

“Don’t start doing things as you please just because you feel like it!” I snapped, making a grab for the kettle. It was scalding. I hastily yanked my hand back in pain.

“Well that was dangerous!” Jerry admonished as he continued filling the pot up with hot water. “Oh my, I think there’s enough tea here for about five people.”

“Wait, what do you mean five people!?” I demanded as some of the other chefs hurried forward, crowding around and peering into the pot with great interest.

“Oh wow, so this is Chinese tea huh?” one of them said curiously.

“Come now, the least you can do is let everyone here sample some after you took the trouble to bring this tea all the way from China,” Jerry said, deftly pouring the tea out into five cups.

“Ahhhh!” I exclaimed, and Wong sprang into action.

“Please stop!” he said desperately, trying and failing to snatch one of the cups away from Jerry.

Tsk, I’d heard rumours that Jerry practices some form of martial arts. Judging by the way he just moved that cup out of Wong’s reach, he’s no amateur either.

“You guys look like you’re having fun~” The Finder from earlier called out, leaning over the side of the counter. “What are you doing?”

“Bak-chan brought us some Chinese tea,” Jerry told him. “Would you like a cup?”

“Don’t just decide things on your own –” I started furiously, but the Finder had already accepted the cup.

“Thank you very much!” he said cheerfully and gulped the tea down immediately.

“Ahhh!” Wong cried out. I was starting to feel like screaming myself.

Jerry held some cups out for Wong and I. “Here you two. Drink up!”

“Um, th-that’s okay … none for me thanks. I didn’t bring this tea for myself after all …” I replied modestly, exchanging a quick, meaningful glance with Wong.

It will look suspicious if we both refuse … you drink it!

Truly, the fact that Wong understood what I was trying to convey without words speaks volumes about our near-thirty years long relationship. He accepted the tea and drank it without complaint, though the expression on his face made him look like I had just sentenced him to death row.

“Then I’ll have Bak-chan’s serve,” Jerry decided, taking a cup for himself and handing the remaining cups to two of his chefs.

I felt a sudden, overwhelming urge to knock all that tableware off onto the floor. The plan is ruined!

I took a deep breath. Calm down. Isn’t it better to test the effects of the tea out on these guys first before giving it to the real target? This is a great experiment!

Just think positive!

Oh! Everyone’s faces have started going slightly red. Does that mean the tea has taken effect?

Jerry exhaled deeply. “Oh my, I feel a little peculiar but this tea’s not half bad. In fact, I feel pleasantly warm all over… Maybe this drink is meant to make you sweat. You said it’s supposed to be good for your health, right?”

“Something like that,” I mumbled, eyeing him carefully. Jerry seems to be acting the same way he always does so maybe I should try asking him some questions.

“By the way …”

I jumped. I hadn’t expected Jerry to speak up first. “I-Is something the matter?”

“I’ve been thinking about this for some time now …” Jerry said seriously, “But you know, that hat on your head really makes you look like a student.”

I stared at him in complete disbelief. “Wh – Wha – What!?”

How rude! What does he mean, a student!? I’m already 29 years old!

“Ah… now that you mention it, I’ve always thought that too,” one of the chefs suddenly piped up. His blond hair was clashing terribly with his red face but he looked like he had just stumbled upon a profound revelation.

“Sure, the Director is kind of short and delicate-looking, but he’s got a very lovely face if you look close enough.”

“Th-That’s…!” I pressed my lips together tightly. This chef was clearly younger and of a much lower social standing than me, and here he was spouting off such cheeky things!

The blond-haired cook blinked and made a face, as though his words had just caught up with him. “U-Um I mean … Er. That’s weird, why did I say all those things? S-Sorry, Director Bak.”

“Hey, is it true you wear that hat to hide a bald spot?” The other chef suddenly exclaimed. He had black hair and a face that was shining with curiosity.

“Who are you calling bald!?” I snapped.

The black-haired chef reared back. “Whoa, sorry! I mean you’re still young, but even from the front your hair looks pretty thin so I just thought … argh, why do I keep saying these things!” He clapped his hands over his mouth, face crimson with embarrassment.

…… Hmph, I see how it is. It looks like the tea is making these guys blurt out all the foolish things they thought about in secret.

“Such rudeness!” Wong shouted out indignantly. “Master Bak’s hair is just naturally soft and fine!”

Ha! I knew Wong wouldn’t let me down.

Wong went on, “It’s true that he has very silky, beautiful hair but I still wish he would stop being so entranced by his own reflection every morning. It takes him ages to dress himself as a result and I have to keep calling him to leave over and over again. Honestly, the man is the biggest narcissist – I mean!” He immediately broke off at that, hurriedly covering his mouth with his hands.

Huh. So that’s what he really thinks of me, eh?

“Th-That’s not true Master Bak, please stop glaring at me with those cold eyes!” Wong said desperately, cowering under my gaze.

“Well you’re not wrong,” The Finder said easily. “Director Bak really is kind of a narcissist, isn’t he?”

I rounded on the Finder with raised eyebrows, Wong’s collar still clenched in my fists.

The Finder shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s an amazing person and all but he really likes to brag about himself, you know? Especially about his family and his lineage. He can go on about those things for hours. I’m usually quite busy because I’m in the middle of work so I’d really appreciate it if he stopped getting carried away.”

“Is that so,” I said through clenched teeth. I was starting to feel a vein throbbing on my temple from keeping my temper in check.

The Finder froze. “Eh? Huh? What am I saying … I mean obviously Director Bak is wonderful! Hahaha!”

Then still laughing ridiculously, the Finder turned on his heel and made his escape.

“Ah, um … Master Bak …” Wong began nervously. I noted the reddish tinge had all but disappeared from his face. Looks like the tea’s effects are pretty short-lived after all.

I released Wong’s collar and stalked off. “We’re done here. Let’s go!”

He scrambled after me. “Yes, of course!”


We left the dining hall and headed down the hallway in tense silence until Wong finally spoke up.

“Ah, sir … are you angry?” he asked in a very small voice.

I snorted and waved him off. “Of course not~ Thanks to that little impromptu experiment we were able to see the effects of the tea for ourselves and I was able to get a better understanding of what you people really think of me deep down in your guts! We got some great results!”

Wong seemed to shrink in on himself. “…… I knew it, you are angry.”

“I’m going to look for Komui now,” I told him sharply. “Go back to the room and wait for my report!”

“Yes sir …” Wong mumbled, and left with drooped shoulders.

Argh, I was furious! Who did those guys think they were, saying whatever the hell they liked!

Still, at least it proved the tea actually works and whoever drinks it immediately feels the urge to say what’s really on their minds. And the effects kicked in more or less immediately too, which was great!

…… So why am I not happy?

I reached up and touched my hair gently.

…… It’s not like it’s sparse or anything. It just has a really fine texture, that’s all!

I shook my head. Now’s not the time to dwell on that! I need to focus on how I’m going to get Komui to drink this tea!

“Oh hey, Branch Director Bak!” A redheaded boy called out cheerfully as I passed him. He had an eyepatch over his right eye and a black headband with a dragon-scale pattern pushing his hair out of his face.

It was Lavi. In addition to being an Exorcist he is also training to be the next Bookman – someone who records the hidden side of history.

“Are you here for the party too?” he asked.

I frowned. “Party? What are you talking about? I’m here for the regular general meeting.”

“Ohh, so you weren’t invited?” he wanted to know, looking even more curious now.

I scowled at him. “What kind of party is it?”

He shrugged lazily. “No idea. Komui’s the one who organized it. I’m just going along to eat the delicious food.”

Komui!? What the hell is that guy thinking, throwing a party just because he feels like it?

“Hey now don’t make that face,” Lavi said cheerfully. “If you want to go that badly you should just ask Komui for an invitation~”

I ignored his optimistic tone.

I see how it is. Komui couldn’t bother mentioning this party to me when I travelled all this way just to come to Headquarters, but he invites this kid along?

Well I have no interest in parties! Least of all one organized by that guy.

“Anyway, there’s still time before the party starts so I’m going to see if I can find Yuu,” Lavi said breezily, and then wandered off with a wave of his hand.  

I watched his retreating back, a fresh surge of irritation boiling up inside me.

A party? Really? Do these people not feel the tension in the air over the Millennium Earl’s return and how he’s trying to lead this world to ruin?

When I become Head Officer I will definitely have these guys whipped into shape!

The race to obtain the Innocence going on between the Order and the Millennium Earl will be fraught with violence until the very end. How many casualties will there be before it is over?

Still, we have to fight. Even if it means crawling over the corpses of our fallen comrades, we must keep going in order to protect this world.

My great intellect exists for this very cause. There’s no way I can leave the position of Head Officer to someone like Komui. The very idea is far too worrisome!

“Oh, Mr Bak.”

My heart suddenly swelled with hope. This celestial voice could only belong to –

I spun around, and sure enough Lenalee was standing there holding a thick bundle of documents. Ah, even with that slightly troubled expression on her face, she still looks lovely.

“Um, good day Miss Lenalee! Did you want some help carrying all those heavy papers?”

Lenalee smiled sweetly. “Oh, are you sure? If you could carry half of these that would be great, thank you.”

Lenalee passed half the documents over to me, declining my offer to carry all of them for her. She’s so cute and modest!

“So where are you heading?” I asked.

“The command room. Brother requested these documents.”

I felt my mouth curve upwards into a smile. “Did he now?”

What excellent timing! It seems like the heavens are on my side today.

“That’s perfect!” I said enthusiastically, “I actually brought some tea with me from China and wanted to prepare some for Komui as a treat. It’s got great health benefits and does wonders for fatigue.”

“Oh, really?” Lenalee said. “That’s wonderful. I think Brother will be delighted.”

Heh heh. This truly is a fortunate turn of events.

As we walked into the command room the first thing I noticed was the mountain of paperwork strewn across the floor. Honestly, would it kill that man to be a little more organized?”

“Sorry for making you wait Brother,” Lenalee called out.

Komui jumped up gleefully from his untidy desk at the moment he laid eyes on Lenalee. Usually he’s a pretty composed person, but whenever he sees his sister he suddenly becomes almost childishly open with displaying his emotions.

“Ah, thank you for your hard work Lenalee!” Komui said cheerfully and then paused, as if he had only just noticed I was there. “Huh? Why is Bak-chan with you?”

“Hey Komui,” I acknowledged with a tight smile. “It’s been a while.”

I wish he would stop calling me ‘Bak-chan’! I get that it’s a pun on my name and all but it’s not funny in the least!

I probably shouldn’t start yelling about that though, starting a commotion now would ruin all my plans and I’d rather not make a scene in front of Lenalee either if I can help it.

Deep breaths. Just grin and bear it!

Komui’s eyes seemed to glint behind his glasses. He looked me up and down. “It’s unusual for you to come to the command room like this, Bak-chan,” he said slowly. “Did something happen?”

Did he suspect something? I can’t afford to be careless and slip up around this man. Goofy first impressions aside, he’s pretty cunning.

I have to play it cool. There’s no way the tea’s hidden secret could have been exposed.

I cleared my throat. “These documents are heavy so I was just helping Miss Lenalee carry them here.”

“Is that so? How very kind of you,” Komui replied, his tone somewhat prickly. He didn’t look too happy about the fact that Lenalee and I had come down to the command room together.

Honestly, what a thoroughly irritating man. He’s always keeping a watchful eye on any men that approach Lenalee so he can make plans to eliminate them in future. Overprotective doesn’t even begin to describe him.

“Brother,” Lenalee chided patiently, “Mr Bak brought you some Chinese tea as a gift.”

Komui’s expression immediately turned cheerful at that. “Oh? Thank you very much! What a kind gesture.”

Heh heh, now I can carefully put the pieces of my plan into action!

“Um, we only have mugs here if that’s all right,” Lenalee told me apologetically, “Do you mind if I pour the hot water in from the pot?”

What a kind and considerate woman.

“That’s fine,” I assured her. “I don’t mind at all.”

I placed one of the teabags into a mug and Lenalee poured the hot water in. It felt nice, the two of us working together like this.

“Is that enough?”

“That’s fine,” I said. “Now we just have to leave it to steep for a little while. The colour of the water should darken when it’s just about done.”

It would probably be better to let it steep for longer than it did back in the kitchens in order to strengthen the tea’s effects.

Lenalee placed the mug on a tray and started walking towards Komui. This time the plan will succeed for sure.

“There you are, Chief Komui!” A young man with light brown hair suddenly called out, loudly bursting into the command room. It was Reever Wenhamm, the Section Chief of the Science Department. He stopped when he saw me.

“Oh, you have a guest! It’s been a long time, Director Bak.”

I nodded at him. “Reever. You’re looking well.”

Actually, he looked the same as the last time I saw him, face unshaven and the sleeves of his white lab coat pushed up in a slovenly, casual fashion. Not even a shred of dignity to his name. Just what you’d expect from Komui’s subordinates.

Reever looked apologetic. “Sorry, I didn’t realize you were in the middle of something,” he said, and then glanced at the tray Lenalee was holding.

He perked up and took the mug off the tray. “Ah, thanks. My throat is parched.”

No, you idiot don’t drink that! That tea isn’t for you!

“You imbecile!” I shouted, “What the hell do you think you’re doing!?”

Reever startled and immediately dropped the mug. It hit the floor with a crash, the contents spilling spectacularly all over Lenalee’s front.

“Ahhh!” she yelped.

“Lenalee!” Komui exclaimed, immediately rushing forward. He leaped over his desk and pushed Reever away from Lenalee with all his strength. Serves him right!

Oof! Why did he push me aside too!?

Komui put his hands on Lenalee’s shoulders.

“Are you okay!?” he asked worriedly. “Did it burn you?”

“I… I’m fine,” Lenalee reassured him. “The tea wasn’t scalding and most of it landed on my clothes anyway.”

“So, it wasn’t that hot?” Komui wanted to know.

“Only a little,” Lenalee said. “It probably won’t even leave a stain.”

I heard Reever sigh in relief. Looks like those specially designed Exorcist uniforms actually work after all. Thank goodness.

“Still you should probably change out of these clothes as soon as possible and stop by Medical just to be safe,” Komui insisted. Then he turned his head, his icy gaze completely at odds with the tender hands he kept on Lenalee’s shoulders.  

“Reever ….”

A sudden chill shot up my spine. Reever must have felt the same way because he immediately dropped to the ground and bowed his head vigorously in apology.

“I’m sorry, that was inexcusable! I’ll be more careful in the future so this never happens again!” he said fervently.

“See that it doesn’t,” Komui replied warningly, and led Lenalee out of the command room.

Reever let out the breath he was holding as they left and shook his head. Then he glanced at me.

“Why did you suddenly yell out like that Director Bak?” he wanted to know. “Was something the matter?”

“Eh?” Er, it was nothing,” I replied hastily.

This fool has ruined everything …

Reever relaxed. “Oh. Well that’s good I guess, but man … you seriously scared me.”

Wait. Why would he sound relaxed?

I glanced at him. Reever’s face was flushed slightly pink. The tea must be starting to affect him.

Reever scratched the back of his head and sighed again. “Geez, that guy’s entire existence revolves completely around Lenalee. I think it’s considerably shortened his lifespan.”

“Well you’re not wrong about that,” I muttered. “Speaking of Miss Lenalee, you wouldn’t happen to know if she’s involved with anyone would you?”

Now’s my chance to get some proper intel. Reever hangs around Komui and Lenalee every day so he’s bound to know something.

Reever let out a bark of incredulous laughter. “There’s no way. If such a person did exist, the Chief would have gone and buried them in the darkest pit imaginable. The men who have ulterior motives for hanging around Lenalee can’t even get close to her in the first place.”

Is that so … Well, I’m glad to know she doesn’t have a lover but still. Komui really is a nuisance.    

I looked up and noticed Reever staring at me intently.

“I-Is something wrong?”

He shrugged a little. “Eh, it’s nothing … so, um. Is it true you wear that hat to hide a bald spot, Director?”

My eyebrows shot up in disbelief. “Excuse me?”

This again!?

All the colour suddenly drained from Reever’s face.

“Ah, hell. Why did I say that!?” he hissed. “I was told that information was top secret. I’m so sorry, er … It’s really not noticeable at all! See you later!”

And with that he left the command room at a run.

I stared after him. Why does everyone assume I’m balding!? It’s not true! And what did he mean that information was ‘top secret’? Who’s been going around spreading all these lies!?

Argh, forget it. I can worry about those rumours later. I’ve got bigger problems to think about.

There’s only one tea bag left! That means there’s no more room for failure.

Tsk … what should I do?

Suddenly the door creaked open again.

“Oh, you’re still here?” Komui asked as he wandered back into the command room.

“…… Ah, yeah. How’s Miss Lenalee?” I asked.

Komui hung his head mournfully. “Well I tried to help her change her clothes and almost got kicked to death. You’re so heartless Lenalee, I was just worried!”

Wha … Th-This pervert! Lenalee must have a hard time dealing with a brother like that.

Komui let out a dramatic sigh. “Oh well, back to work. I really need to finish this off as soon as possible anyway,” he admitted and sat back down at his desk, which was almost completely hidden under mountains of paperwork.

Wait. Isn’t this my chance? There’s no one else in the command room right now, I can drag out Komui’s darkest secrets and no one will get in my way!

I cleared my throat and tried to appear as nonchalant as possible. I couldn’t risk making him suspicious.

“That sounds terrible,” I said as sympathetically as I could muster, “Come on, I’ll make you another cup of tea since Reever drank that other one. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your fatigue disappears.”

Ooh, that was some good acting if I do say so myself.

“Ah, thank you very much,” Komui replied. It still doesn’t look like he suspects anything.

I put the last teabag into the mug and started to pour the hot water in. Okay, third time’s the charm!

Maybe I should make some small talk while it’s steeping?

“How’s work?” I asked.

“Oh … you know, it’s been pretty busy,” Komui said, not taking his eyes off the documents he was reading over.

“Is that so? That’s no good,” I went on, “It must be hard being Head Officer and having to spend all your time both running the Order and the whole of Support Services. Didn’t you say you wanted to devote more time to your research?”

This idiot is really infatuated with research projects.

Komui didn’t even flinch. “Well it’s a big responsibility for sure,” he replied easily, “There are a lot of routine tasks to worry about but it’s not that bad. It’s worth it.”

I made a face. That was the most carefully constructed answer I’d ever heard. I should have known he wouldn’t be so straightforward.

I glanced down at the mug. Looks like the tea’s done. I picked up the mug and turned to hand it over to him.

“Now it might taste a little peculiar, so …”

“It’s fine, I’m accustomed to drinking tea,” Komui reassured me and took the proffered mug.

At last! I could feel my heart hammering with anticipation in my chest.

Then I noticed Komui was still holding the mug. He hadn’t raised it to his lips once.

I frowned. “What’s wrong?”

Don’t tell me … had he figured it out?

My palms were starting to sweat.

Komui smiled, then he laughed a little. “Nothing! It’s just hard to drink when you’re staring at me so intently, so …”

“Oh, right. Sorry.” I immediately turned away to face the opposite wall.

“Ahh! That was delicious. A little bitter though.”

Komui set the mug down. I turned and saw that it was completely empty. He drank every last drop.

“Thank you again for taking the time to do this,” Komui said.

I shrugged and averted my eyes. “Don’t worry about it. It’s not a big deal.”

This tea was far more concentrated than what Jerry and the others had earlier so the effects should start kicking in any second now.

“Hmm, I’m definitely feeling a lot more refreshed after drinking that,” Komui said thoughtfully. “It’s almost like … my heart feels lighter?”

“Oh, uh … is that so?” I replied and dared another glance at him. His cheeks were red.

Yes! It’s working!

“So, you know how I was saying that being Head Officer must mean a lot of work for you …” I began.

“Oh it’s no big deal~” Komui said happily. “Did you know I have the authority to increase funding for research projects~? Perks of the job and all. Oops, that was meant to be a secret~ Just kidding, everyone knows~!”

I gaped at him. Th-This idiot! Isn’t that an abuse of authority!?

Still, being able to do more research is beneficial to our work …. So that doesn’t even count as a failing on his part. He must be more resistant to the tea’s effects than I thought.

I racked my brain for another line of questioning. Maybe I’ll try asking him how he really became Head Officer!

I leaned over his desk. “So, when they appointed you Head Officer … was that really because of the approval you gained from your research on the Innocence?”

Ha! Try to worm your way out of that one! Now tell me the truth! Did you use any dirty, underhanded tactics?

Komui looked thoughtful. “As far as I’m aware, yes,” he replied easily. “I think they wanted someone who was very knowledgeable about the Innocence in this position, particularly since it’s such a key point of importance in this war.”

Damn it, that question didn’t work either. What else can I ask to get some information out of him?

What to ask, what to ask …

I bit my lip. “…Um, what do you really think of me?” I suddenly blurted out.

I need to know the answer. Komui is always hiding what he really thinks behind a smile, so I wonder what he’ll say. I could feel my heart thundering violently behind my ribs.

Komui stared at me, and then slowly opened his mouth. “…… Everyone recognizes your abilities.”

I blinked. “Huh……?”

“Not only were you born with innate natural talent, but you’ve also got a vast amount of knowledge and experience that you’ve accumulated in the Order since childhood. That’s not something an ordinary person can just acquire or aspire to be.  And I think that’s amazing. I may be the Head Officer now but I don’t know what the future will bring. That’s why if something ever happens to me, I know I can rely on you to lead them.”

I opened my mouth and then closed it again. Well that was nowhere near the answer I was expecting based on all the other responses I’d received today.  

I mean he’s right of course, I’m brilliant and that’s a fact, but I’m still a little surprised. Why would he even say those things? There’s no way he could be telling the truth … right?

But he drank the ‘truth tea’ so that means …

Komui gave me a brilliant smile. “So, do you think I’m worthy of being Head Officer?” he asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.

“Ah, yeah … we’ll be counting on you.”

Damn it, this whole plan was a bust.

That answer doesn’t count because what he said was completely obvious anyway! I have a superior intellect and bloodline so of course I’m gifted! That’s just common sense!

Argh, forget it! Just keep going. There’s still time to find out what Komui’s secret is!

I glanced back at Komui only to see him sitting very still, eyes carefully trained on me.

W-Why is he looking at me like that?

“So, tell me Bak-chan … are you on good terms with Lenalee?”

“Huh?” What does he mean “on good terms”? Did Lenalee say something about me?

“Come on now, don’t play dumb,” Komui said cheerfully, though I noticed his tone was steadily becoming more and more reproachful, “Just now you came into the command room together and then I watched you flirtingly preparing tea together … right in front of my eyes.”

I looked at him in disbelief.

“Now you listen to me,” Komui went on, now sounding downright dangerous, “No one’s going to lay a finger on Lenalee as long as I’m alive, got it?”

“Wha – What on earth are you talking about?” I demanded. “Don’t you think Lenalee should have the freedom to love whomever she wants?”

I’d barely finished my sentence before Komui jumped to his feet, standing up so fast his desk chair toppled over.

“Love!?” he exclaimed, voice cracking. “Lenalee’s in love!?”

I backpedalled immediately. “H-Hey! Calm down, would you!? It was just an expression, I didn’t mean she was actually …”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Komui let out a despairing noise, and before I could blink he’d reached under his desk and pulled out a machine gun.

Wh – Why the hell is he keeping something like that down there!?

“Ohh, this is the end for me!! If Lenalee disappears –!”

“S-Stop getting so unhinged over this!” I snapped.  

“I’ll kill everyone and then myself!” Komui howled.

“If you want to die do it alone—!!” I tried to grab the machine gun he kept casually swinging around, but then fire shot out of the muzzle. 

A tremendous cacophony of explosions started echoing around the room. I threw myself down onto the floor.

This is bad! I need to get out of here.

I started crawling towards the exit.  

Damn it, there’s papers all over the floor too! What a nuisance!

I could hear bullets whizzing over my head, and the sound of books and documents getting shot to pieces kept ringing in my ears. It was terrifying.

Just keep going, don’t look back!

I got to the door and pushed myself back up onto my feet. I made a dash for it, Komui’s manic laughter fading into the distance behind me.


I ran out into the hallway, a horrible sweat covering my body from head to toe. It felt like my legs were only a few seconds away from giving out under me.

What the hell was that!? My heart’s pounding like crazy.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d almost get myself killed while trying to dig up dirt on Komui. I guess that means the plan was a failure after all …

I put a hand to my chest and tried to catch my breath. Maybe I should just head back to my room and go to bed.

Then suddenly I noticed Lenalee sprinting down the corridor towards me.

“Oh Mr Bak, there you are!” she exclaimed, and just like that I felt a surge of energy return to my ailing body.

“Miss Lenalee! Is your burn okay?”

She came to a stop in front of me. “It’s fine, thank you. I’m so sorry about your tea though. After all the trouble you went through to bring it …”

I waved off her concern. “Don’t worry about it.”

Yes, it really doesn’t matter anymore. That useless tea!

“I’d still like to make it up to you,” she insisted. “Could you please follow me to the dining hall?”

I looked at her with surprise. “Huh…? Of course!”

I’d follow you anywhere!

I fell into step next to Lenalee as she led the way. It felt like I could just soar up into the heavens at any given moment, but alas the happy moment ended almost as soon as it began.

We stopped outside the dining hall’s doors and Lenalee stepped aside to let me pass.

“Please go in,” she said.

I stepped through the doors, and immediately a loud cheer rose up.

I froze and took in my surroundings. The dining hall had been adorned in flashy decorations, and a large crowd of Order members were clamouring about inside.

“Happy birthday, Director Bak!” they all chorused.

What was all this? I couldn’t comprehend it. It was as if my mind had ground to a screeching halt.

“You look really surprised,” Lenalee said as she came and stood next to me, smiling delightedly. “Brother said that you haven’t been yourself lately, so he suggested we throw you a surprise party.“

“Hey, what’s the man of the moment still doing skulking over there by the entrance?” Someone suddenly shouted out. “Come on, get in here!”

I felt a hand on my back and then the Order members were pushing me towards the centre of the dining hall. I saw Wong’s face in the crowd on the way.

“M-Master Bak!”

“Wong you bastard, did you know about this!?” I demanded.

“I’m just as surprised as you are sir, I swear! I’m just here because someone told me to head over to the dining hall”! Wong exclaimed, looking flustered, before he was swallowed up by the surging crowd again.

I ended up being shoved next to a gigantic cake, which was also sitting in the middle of the room. The words “Happy Birthday, Bak-chan!” had been carefully written out in icing on its surface.

“Well it looks like it’s time to put these on!” Jerry said happily as he approached me, holding a bunch of candles in his hand. “Everyone was so worried earlier when you came into the kitchen. We thought you’d find the cake and then where would we be?”

“Um …” I said, not knowing how to proceed.

“And now to hand these champagne glasses out to everyone~” Jerry went on obliviously, passing one to me as he went, “Here Bak-chan, you have one too!”

I couldn’t take it anymore.

“My birthday is on the 11th of November,” I told him.

Jerry paused in the middle of handing out champagne glasses and gaped at me. “Eh?”

The whole dining hall fell deathly quiet. You could have heard a pin drop.

And then suddenly there was a commotion of sound coming from all directions.

“What’s the date today?”

“It’s the 4th of January ……”

“Those are completely different dates!”

“Hey~ Sorry to keep everyone waiting! I finally got all that paperwork done~” Komui called out, tottering through the door.

All eyes in the room immediately zeroed in on him. He paused.

“Huh? What?”

“Chief Komui!” An Order member yelled out admonishingly, “You got Director Bak’s birthday completely wrong!”

Komui looked baffled at this news. “Eh…? That’s strange. I could have sworn it was the 4th of January.”

“It’s the 11th of November!” I snapped, but Komui just smiled, unmindful of my rage.

“Ah, so it wasn’t the “one of four” day?” he asked, sounding completely unrepentant, “My bad, guess I got it all wrong.”

This is infuriating. It’s not “one of four” but “four ones” because that’s how many ‘1’s are in my birth date! It’s the “Number One in Everything” day……


“Chief Komui ……”

“I-It’s fine though, right?” Komui said, waving his hands around in panic as everyone in the room shot a cold glare in his direction. “We can chalk this up as a rehearsal for the real birthday party! Come on now, let’s finish passing out those champagne glasses okay?”

The Order members still looked extremely unconvinced but they all took a champagne glass in hand anyway.

Komui raised his own glass to the room. “Well then! A very happy un-birthday to Director Bak and great job on all the hard work we achieve here on a daily basis. Cheers!”

“Cheers!” the Order members chorused, turning and raising their glasses towards me.

I smiled back at them, even though it was taking everything I had just to hold my temper in check. I swear that Komui really is unbelievable.

“Mr Bak!” Lenalee called out, sounding mortified as she approached me. “I’m so sorry, you must feel awful that we got your birthday wrong like this.”

“N-No, it’s fine. I’m touched that you put such a large celebration together like this.”

Lenalee immediately perked up at that. “I’m so relieved. Thank you Mr Bak, you’ve got a big heart. Even if you don’t feel bad I still hope that you’ll forgive us.”  

“Come on now, don’t be shy! Have some cake! We did make it for you after all,” Jerry said as he leaned into the space between us and handed me a slice.

“Oh, um. Sure …” I mumbled, taking the plate from his hands.

So many people gathered here to put this party together for me. Sure, it was all a big misunderstanding in the end, but that’s okay.

As I thought, I’m a pretty popular person.

However just as I was about to try some of the cake Komui suddenly approached me, a group of scientists following along behind him.

“Oh by the way, we have a present for you from the entire Science Department!” Komui said warmly, handing me a box with a ribbon tied on top. “Please accept it.”

“Th-Thank you …” I replied, taking the box from him warily.

A present for me? What on earth could it be? I untied the ribbon and opened the box.

It was … a bottle? I glanced at the label. It read ‘Revolutionary Hair Growth Formula.’

My mouth dropped open. “Wh… wha-” I stuttered.

“Well, you just seemed so concerned about it Bak-chan!” Komui said merrily, “I mean you’re always fixing your hair when you see a mirror and adjusting the angle of your hat, aren’t you? So we thought this is definitely a chance for the Science Department to shine!”

So it was him! The perpetrator of that completely unfounded rumour that my illustrious self is going bald!

“You should give it a try!” Komui urged, giving me a smile that lit up his whole face. “The results are fairly instantaneous~”

That insolent, son of a –!

I returned his sunny smile with a horrible imitation of my own. There wasn’t much else I could do with so many people watching.

Reever quietly shuffled closer to me.

“We really worked ourselves to the bone developing this tonic,” he whispered to me frantically, “Especially me. It’s heart-breaking even thinking about it … So please put it to good use!”

I glanced at the bottle again and looked up. The eyes of all the Science Department members were glittering with a strange light, like they were anxious to see the results of their scientific endeavours finally bearing fruit. 

I frowned. This was definitely a trap, there was no doubt about it. I really didn’t want to use this tonic at all, but it was hard to refuse with all those expectant eyes fixed on me.

“…… This tonic is safe, right?” I finally asked suspiciously.

“Of course!” Komui replied, as though he were surprised I even had to ask, “Section Chief Reever even tested it on himself!”

Ugh. I grimaced. Well, I guess trying it just once won’t hurt. I mean if it really does work I’ll probably be indebted to them someday …

What am I even saying!?

I sighed heavily and pulled my hat off. The crowd stirred.

“Ah, he isn’t balding,” someone said in an undertone.  

“But his hair still looks kind of thin … doesn’t it?”

I turned around and scowled at the gathered throng. You people may think you’re whispering quietly amongst yourselves but I can still hear you, you know!

What an unpleasant situation. I need to put an end to it as quickly as possible.

I popped the bottle open and spread the liquid over my scalp. It was cool to the touch.

“…… How’s this?” I asked, but even as I spoke I felt the top of my head tingling and my hair getting longer under my hand.

“Ahhhh!” The Order members cried out in alarm.

I heard a swishing sound as my hair kept growing, tumbling over my shoulders and not stopping until it came level with my chest.

“Wh-What the hell is this!?” I yelped.

“Excellent, it worked just as expected!” The Science Department members exclaimed and immediately started applauding themselves.

My eyes grew wide. “What do you mean as expected…?”

Reever sighed. “Well it looks like the effects are always strong but short-lived. Your hair will grow out super quickly, but it never stays that way longer than 24 hours. Oh, uh … by the way, trying to cut it off won’t work. It’ll just keep growing back until the 24 hours are up. Probably.”

His tone was sympathetic, but his mouth was trembling like he was restraining himself from laughing.

24 hours? That means I’ll still have this hair at the general meeting tomorrow!

“Oh yeah, when Section Chief Reever tried it out he ended up with a beautiful curtain of hair too. It was great. I guess that means there’s still room for improvement. No one’s tried the tonic out since he used it either, so thanks for all your help!” Komui said, placing his hands on my shoulders.

“Wha –you…” I began to stammer. I couldn’t believe it. Why did you call it a birthday present when you obviously just wanted to use me as a guinea pig!?  

What kind of treatment is this anyway? What did I do to deserve this?

I stopped dead. Only one thing springs to mind but … no. That’s impossible. Did Komui somehow find out about the tea after all…?

Komui laughed at my expression and gave me a sweet smile. “The speed of its efficacy is definitely an advantage, but the fact that it wears off so quickly means it’s not very useful, don’t you agree?” he asked. “About the tonic, I mean.”

His eyes seemed to be fixated on me, as if he was waiting to see my reaction.

The secret behind the tea must have been leaked … but no. It couldn’t have.

Still … When the others drank the tea and said what was really on their minds they turned pale after realizing their slip of the tongue and ran away as soon as they could.

But when Komui drank the tea he didn’t behave like that at all ……

I dared another glance at Komui. He was still smiling at me. I can’t even begin to guess what he might be thinking.

Could it be this guy actually showed me his true face before he descended into that fit of reckless violence?

I shook my head. No, there’s no way he would ever do that.

“True,” I said easily, giving him a smile of my own, “A lot of improvements will need to be made before it can be used for any practical applications but hey, you just have to keep trying right?”

Damn it, so what if his words in the command room were even a little inspiring, the whole plan was still a failure!

Listen up, Komui! There may be a smile on my face but my heart is on fire! How dare you make such a stupid tonic!

Why is this experiment geek the Head Officer anyway!? I can’t accept it!

Just you wait Komui, I’ll make you bow down before me someday!

You can count on it!