Meeting up with Hei and Mao, Huang passes along their orders to try to kill Alma a second time and to dispose of Shihoko. What’s more, Huang will be coming along this time. After Huang walks off though, Mao tells Hei that they have another set of orders: if Huang cannot dispose of Shihoko, they have to kill him. The next night, Mao scouts the religious organization’s compound by taking over a bird’s body and then reports back to Huang and Hei. The two then sneak in past the security cameras and toss a smoke grenade at the guards guarding Shihoko’s room. After knocking them out, Huang heads inside and finds Shihoko unconscious on the ground, so he slaps her a few times to wake her. However, the compound’s alarms suddenly start going off, and outside, Mao takes over another bird’s body and drops a pair of grenades on the building. Huang then questions Shihoko about where Alma is, so she tells him about a deserted house nearby that’s guarded. Knowing this, Hei goes after Alma while Shihoko and Huang create the diversion by escaping. Hei makes it past the guards easily, but he’s stopped when Amagiri attacks him and shatters his mask. Recognizing Hei, Amagiri says if Hei leaves, he won’t chase, but if Hei is here to kill Alma, then he can’t ignore it.
That being said, he can’t kill Hei either without Amber’s permission because she wants to invite Hei to become their ally. Amagiri thus wants Hei to come with him, but Hei refuses and throws his dagger. As Amagiri shatters it with his Contractor ability, Hei ducks around the building, and Amagiri’s next shot causes the house to fall on himself. Hei then runs further onto the property and is surprised when he’s beckoned by Alma’s voice towards a stairwell below a tool shed. Amagiri meanwhile sits down beside the collapsed house and starts eating eggs. When one of his female comrades comes and asks him if he’s not going to give chase, Amagiri notes that they first need to transfer the Dolls. He then comments on how his price is unfortunate in terms of raising his cholesterol. By now, Huang and Shihoko have left the compound and are speeding away in the van with him saying how scary she is – her using her powers earlier on a guard during their escape reminded him of the events of that night. Huang now thinks that she got close to him for information, and he remembers how years ago, they had been out drinking when he asked her about what she was doing with her life. Shihoko had initially teased him for thinking about getting married and settling down, but she had eventually said that she was okay with it.
On that night, Shihoko got to see Huang drunk for the first time. After joking about him being drunk, he had suggested that the two of them be together, and they had watched a shooting star together before she asked him a question. Huang now remembers how she had asked him about the photograph he and Isozaki had found, and he questions why she killed Isozaki. Because Isozaki’s wife’s memory of her husband was wiped by the government, Huang actually blames Shihoko for erasing Isozaki twice: once physically from this world and once from the memories of his wife. Shihoko, however, surprises Huang by revealing that Isozaki was lying about his identity. The illegal immigrant group that Huang and Isozaki had been investigating was made up of early members of the religious organization, and Isozaki had been connected to them. Shihoko then reveals that the photograph they found back then was of Alma’s true appearance, and Isozaki had only pretended to hand it over to their superiors, instead concealing it. At that point, they weren’t able to figure out whether it was Huang or Isozaki that was the religious organization spy, and that’s the reason Shihoko got close to him. Having arrived at a secret location to wait for Hei, Huang decides that he’ll go back to the compound if Hei doesn’t show up, but only after killing Shihoko. Pointing his gun at her head, Huang then asks her why his memory wasn’t erased. She’s about to answer him when she suddenly gasps, grabs her head in fear, and starts screaming.
Back on the compound grounds, Hei arrives in Alma’s room to find her old body lying on a large bed, and she reveals to him that her price is aging. She ages each time she transforms, and she doesn’t have much longer. Wondering why Hei is being used by the Organization, Alma thinks that they probably won’t leave her alone, and she starts talking about how social sensibility and conscious disappears, and hesitation is lost to use one’s Contractor ability. With all that power to kill, it was inevitable that they were used like killing machines for man’s convenience. Hearing this, Hei thinks that Alma is speaking as if Contractor’s aren’t human, but Alma feels that that’s what they think. She then asks if Hei knows the differences between a Contractor and a human. Hei starts by saying that Contractors don’t have hearts, and after Alma wonders if that’s really true, Hei says that Contractors don’t have a sense of guilt. Alma doesn’t think that matters because someone who commits a crime will commit it regardless of being a Contractor or not, so Hei brings up the difference in ability. To this, Alma points out that even without a Contractor ability, it’s possible to kill someone with a gun or a sword. Instead, she believes that the biggest difference between humans and Contractors is their mental makeup – the so-called rational judgment. She feels that there are people in society who succeed because they are unswayed by feelings and sensibility and only care about their own interests, and that Contractors might be the form of evolution that wins through this system.
Hei then says that Contractors don’t see dreams, but Alma claims to have seen how Contractors and humans are linked through that ideal form. She goes on to admit how even she had used her powers and killed a person and how up to that point she felt the price was too high, so she didn’t want to do it. From that time on, she had dared to continue using her power, and repeated use meant that she repeatedly aged. As she says this, Alma transforms to her young self again and realizes that the time for her to pay her final price has come. Feeling freed from her karma, Alma closes her eyes and turns old one last time. Back at the waiting spot, Shihoko is recovering from her screaming and telling Huang how her price is getting back her human sensitivity for a short period of time. Like a punishment, she has to understand the meaning and frightfulness of what she’s doing. Shihoko turns to Huang because she’s afraid, and although he at first lets her cry to him, he soon pushes her back onto the nearby couch, unwilling to believe her acting. She then says that Contractors also have memories, but even though they’re her own memories, she feels they’re cold somewhere. Only that one night she and Huang spent together is different. Shihoko remembers all the sounds and sights from then and admits that she had forgotten to act because she was just happy. However, she had been afraid that the memories of the two of them would disappear from within him since she felt that someone erased from memory is the same as killing them. This makes Huang realize that it was her who arranged for him not to get his memory erased back then.
Having arrived earlier and having overheard most of this conversation, Hei now confronts Huang about being acquainted with Shihoko and wonders if the earlier failure was her fault. Huang is pushed by Hei to point his gun at Shihoko, however he finds himself unable to pull the trigger, so he hands the gun to Hei so that Hei can shoot them both. Hei tries to make Huang realize that he’s doing this for a Contractor, but Huang admits to the weakness since he fell in love. Taking the gun, Hei only briefly points it at Huang before lowering his arm, alarming Mao because it seems like Hei intends to overlook all this. Mao tries to warn Hei that this is serious and different from that recent Doll incident, but Hei responds by questioning if they are simply the Organization’s dogs. It doesn’t matter to him that Huang is different from him and Mao – what’s more important is how many times Huang has helped them. Hei then turns to Huang and starts to instruct him to tell the Organization that they don’t need to worry about information being leaked, but Huang cuts him off because he knows that this is a penalty since the Organization had known his relationship with Shihoko, yet had still given the orders. When Hei suggests that Huang run away with her, Huang initially doesn’t think they can, but with Hei’s support, he convinces Shihoko to come with him.
While he goes to make some arrangements, Huang leaves Shihoko with Hei in a warehouse, though as she exits his van, she pauses and seems to stare briefly at something in the distance. From his vantage point on the rooftop of the warehouse, Mao catches sight of someone hiding behind some crates. When Shihoko is alone with Hei, she tells him about how strange it is to be happy even though these are her Contractor feelings. Hei responds by saying that even Contractors are human, and Shihoko surprises him by saying that this is enough. Huang then returns to the warehouse with news about a boat coming, but as they leave the warehouse, Shihoko calls out to him using his nickname. Huang turns around in time to see her eyes glow red, and he gets thrown aside as Shihoko runs off. Both he and Hei chase after her, but they hear a car crashing and arrive on the scene to find Shihoko lying on the ground after being hit by a truck. When Huang rushes to her side, she takes one more look at him before dying. Hei meanwhile sees a man disappearing into the nearby shadows, and he tells Huang that the Organization had already noticed. As he grieves over Shihoko’s body, Huang asks Hei if Contractors don’t think about suicide. Sometime later, Huang is at eating and drinking at Isozaki’s wife’s bar again, and she observes that he’s in a daze. After Huang reveals that he had been dreaming a little, she wonders if he’s drunk. Although he isn’t, Huang says that he wants to be if possible, and he gulps down his beer.
Although the whole point of trying to kill Alma was lost on me (the explanation from last episode about her having killed that legislator was kind of weak), the main point of having her around appeared to be the conversation she had with Hei about the differences between Contractors and Humans, or lack thereof. Hei concluded by the end of the episode that Contractors were human too, but it all just seemed to confirm the human nature in the Contractors that we’ve been seeing all series. Still, I’m left to wonder if this will come up again in the actual story or if it was just a theme they wanted to touch on.
As for Shihoko, her suicide was sudden, but not all that surprising given that she probably wanted to protect Huang from a life of running from the Organization. Plus, I suspected that Huang wouldn’t get a happy ending, so I didn’t have very high hopes for her survival. Even with this though, I doubt the Organization is going to tolerate Hei and company much longer given all their past transgressions, and with only a handful of episodes left, something’s got to happen soon. The preview for next episode shows some very interesting scenes – including the return of both Wei and November 11, plus Misaki getting captured/arrested – but unfortunately, there’s no episode of Darker than BLACK next week. Episode 21 will air on August 30th.