Not Justice (Chapter 2)

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Not Justice
Chapter 2

There were people disappearing.

Kuon felt a sort of crawling disgust every time he thought about how long it took him to notice. The fact that he did before Aoba was a poor consolation prize—and Aoba had called him the day before to talk about it, merely a day after Kuon himself had pieced it all together.

He knew Aoba was still stinging from the entire serial attacks thing, as well as Snake Hands in general. They hadn’t talked much since that night at the warehouse and Yahiro’s show of violence.

He mused over all of this as he made his way to Raira. It was the first day of class after summer break, and August had spread sweat over his back and an ache in his bones; by the time he reached the school’s gates he was regretting having worn the uniform altogether.

Missing people in a city such as Tokyo were common. Almost all of them were traceable in reverse, though—via links to the underground or a history of unpaid debts, or petty crimes littered along their way until they ceased, stone-cold. There was always a way to find out a reason for their disappearance, if not their whereabouts. Those who weren’t traceable were runaway kids of some sort or rare murder cases.

Not these people, though.

Kuon kept his eyes alert for Yahiro’s slouch or Himeka’s elegant stride as he leaned against the gates. He was too early by far. The grounds were almost deserted save for the janitor a little way ahead and two girls sitting on a bench by the entrance proper.

A school teacher in Shibuya. A cashier in Shinjuku. Three shopkeepers all over the city—and others, from pretty much every large district he could think of. Except Ikebukuro.

There was nothing about any of them. The news reported them, but nothing came out of it via official means, none via the information Aoba had been able to feed him, and none from IkeNews.

That was perhaps the most surprising thing of all: the fact that not a single person had had anything to comment on any of the articles Nozomi had written besides the usual internet garbage.

Kuon chewed on the inside of his cheek slowly; and then he yelled when someone hit him in the back and his teeth buried themselves into the soft flesh inside his mouth and spilled blood.

Fuck,” he exclaimed. When he spat out the excess saliva from the bite it came out pink. “What the fuck?”

“Language,” said Mairu.

She stepped around him with a grin on her face. Kuon felt his heartbeat slow down significantly, though the air in his lungs still burned. “There was no need to hit me.”

“Just checking how pathetically out of shape you are, Kuon-kun,” Mairu replied easily.

“As if I’ve been in shape a single day of my life.”

She jumped and latched her hands at the edge of the brick wall surrounding the schoolyard before hoisting herself up to sit on it. Kuon ran his tongue over the mauled skin in his mouth and winced. It was the same cheek Yahiro had punched weeks ago, and it throbbed.

“Where’s your sister?” he asked grudgingly.

“Out and about.”

Mairu never looked like anything could bother her. Kuon watched her as she gently hit the back of her calves against the stone wall and leaned precariously backwards, until she should have fallen on the other side. She had way more strength in her than she looked to, though, and so she didn’t.

“Ready for class?” she asked to the sky above. She sounded bored.

Kuon sighed. “Ready to feel my brain leak out of my ears, you mean.”

She giggled, and sat up to look down at him again. “You sound like an old man.”

“I’m not the one with porn mags in my backpack.”

She winked. Kuon scowled.

Kururi joined them soon after, along with dozens of students from the newly arrived train. The courtyard ceased to look so empty after only a few minutes; people gathered around, and chatted more excitedly than they would until the next break came. Kuon felt a pang in his chest when he looked around again and didn’t see either Yahiro or Himeka.

“Aoba’s sick,” Kururi mumbled at her sister, after throwing a quick glance Kuon’s way that felt like a greeting. “Says he can’t come today.”

“Poor soul,” Mairu replied. “Maybe we should pay him a visit after class, give him some proper caring for.”

Kuon resisted the urge to snort audibly. He’d rather believe Aoba had grown a heart than think he would miss school for a cold. It was more probable that he was busy looking into the disappearances Kuon should have noticed right as they started.

He stared at the ground and grit his teeth together slowly. His jaw ached.

“Kotonami,” came a voice behind him.

He turned his head; Himeka was standing a few feet away, but even as he looked over the perfect make-up on her face and the line of her collar he found his own eyes being drawn to Yahiro by her side, looking as infuriatingly refreshed as he felt sleep-deprived. Yahiro nodded somberly. Kuon felt his heartbeat speed up, and nodded in return.

“How was your break?” Himeka asked.

“Painful,” Kuon drawled, and though he hoped Yahiro would give some sort of a flinch in answer, the other boy didn’t react at all.

“Aren’t you cute,” Mairu said above them, breaking the vague unease Kuon could feel permeating the air around them. “All of you, but Himeka-chan especially.”

“Thank you,” Himeka replied, bored.

“Are you really going to let yourself be seduced by the Kurumai unit this easily?” Kuon complained immediately, heart still in his throat. “And here I am, trying my best for nothing. I knew I should’ve worn a vest.”

Kururi patted him on the head twice. “You’d look terrible in a vest,” Mairu translated.

“It’s god to see you,” Yahiro said then. Kuon looked back at him; but the boy was looking at Mairu and Kururi in turn, face pinched in discomfort and a crease between his eyebrows that never really left. He sounded sincere enough.

Mairu jumped down from the top of the wall. She spent a few seconds on theatrics, dusting the edge of her skirt and adjusting her glasses. Then she walked the few steps separating her from Yahiro and crushed him against her in a hug the way Kuon had only seen her do with Aoba.

She held him like this for longer than strictly necessary. From where he stood Kuon could only see half of Yahiro’s face, and it looked nothing but awed and a little bit pained. He didn’t move his arms to hold Mairu back, or say anything—in fact his mouth was open as if he had choked on every word he knew at once. When Mairu released him his eyes met Kuon’s, and then shifted away as fast as they could, and Kuon felt apprehension unfurl inside him like pure ugliness.

He stayed silent. Mairu said something, too low for anyone but Yahiro to catch, and then she walked away. Kururi went after her and gave Yahiro a one-armed press of her body on the way. When she spoke this time Kuon heard: “Thank you.”

He clenched his jaw again so that he wouldn’t speak, or look like a fish out of water. Yahiro still wasn’t looking at him.

“What was that about?” Himeka said. Bless her.

Yahiro shook his head once, firmly. “Nothing,” he mumbled.

But he didn’t look Kuon in the eyes.

Class itself felt comfortingly familiar. Kuon had never really had the experience of classmates in the meaning of people who knew him beyond name and general appearance; and if he were to be honest he knew part of the reason for his green hair was a call for attention. This had changed with Himeka, with Yahiro, transformed his days of solid nothingness and part-time delinquency into part-time delinquency and part-time fun. He didn’t like being honest, though.

When lunch came around he felt jittery, his phone burning along his thigh a little more with every notification buzz he received either from Nozomi’s website or his own bookmarked searches. He took a detour by the bathroom to read up on what he had missed before joining Himeka and Yahiro for lunch.

Is there anything to link them? he texted Nozomi as quickly as he could. Anything at all?

He waited for a few minutes. Nozomi didn’t answer.

Eventually he heard the flow of students from the hallways dribble down into the occasional hurried footsteps of a latecomer. About twenty minutes had gone by since he hid in the bathroom stall, and if he didn’t leave it now not only would Yahiro and Himeka worry, but he wouldn’t have time to eat lunch at all.

“God damn,” he muttered. But he did leave the stall, and though one boy that he hadn’t heard come in looked at him with empty eyes Kuon didn’t bother faking to wash his hands.

Yahiro watched him come from a very long way around the tennis courts. Not many people went as far as they did for lunch. They all preferred it that way, Kuon thought a little darkly. He tried to get a read of Yahiro again once he was within reasonable distance of the other boy, but Yahiro looked away.

“Anything interesting?” he asked. He was trying his best to hide the annoyance in his voice but he didn’t think he was successful, judging by the way Himeka stared at him. “Did you make any advances on Himeka-chan, Yahiro?”

“I didn’t,” Yahiro replied, at the same time as Himeka said, “You two aren’t so formal anymore now.”

This seemed to make them both pause at the same time. For the first time that day Yahiro met Kuon’s eyes, and Kuon could read the same panic in them as he did at any given moment. Yahiro didn’t say anything to confirm or deny it, though, and so Kuon stayed silent as well. He ignored the warmth tingling in his fingertips as he sat down on the dry grass.

His phone buzzed before he managed to completely finish his sandwich. He shot a look at his classmates before taking it out of his pocket to read Nozomi’s text, which just said, Yeah.

He waited for a minute. Nozomi didn’t seem like she was going to stop being cryptic, so he shot her a quick message demanding that she explain herself. You’re not going to like it, she replied almost immediately.


Kuon lifted his eyes to look at Yahiro. The boy was staring at the phone in his hands, but from his position he couldn’t have read anything on its screen, so Kuon didn’t make a move to hide it. Better not give that person any reason to suspect anything.

“What is it?” he replied after a while.

Yahiro chewed softly onto the inside of his cheek. He still refused to look up. “I was wondering if we could talk.”

Kuon’s blood felt cold. He glanced at Himeka, but the girl was finishing her lunch with the kind of application one reserved for painting a masterpiece. She didn’t make any move or sound to show what she felt about them leaving her or that she had heard them talk at all. “Sure,” Kuon said, and even as he stood up he felt the breath shiver out of him.

He had woken up that day with wrongness in his head and in the taste in his mouth. And now Aoba was sick, Nozomi was acting weird, and Yahiro wanted to talk.

They walked only a short way from their spot in the grass. No one was practicing on any of the fields or courts at this hour, so close to the end of lunch; the few students who came this way to eat at all had already packed and gone, not even leaving the evidence of plastic wrappings behind them to show. Yahiro walked behind what little plant coverage there was at the edge of the sports area and beckoned Kuon to follow, which he did with tension in his gut and his back.

For a moment Yahiro did nothing but look at him—at his face, but not his eyes. And Kuon realized what he wanted.

He lifted a hand to his cheek. “I’m fine,” he called, a little aggressively perhaps.

“I’m glad,” Yahiro nodded. “And your teeth?”

“Went to see a doctor the morning after. I’m fine. I’m tougher than that.”

“I know you are.”

Kuon tensed. He felt the outline of his phone in his pocket and thought, not for the first time, of calling Nozomi about this. Of letting her know how much he despised her for saying anything to Yahiro of all people, and letting her feel a breath of the injustice this was to him. But it was her story, too. She had a right to tell it. She had a right to say what she wanted, and Kuon should be glad that she had, even if not to him.

It still stung. He was the one person who could understand, and she had betrayed them both.

“If that’s all,” he said coldly. He started to turn around on his feet, but there was a hand at his elbow before he could shift the whole way, and Yahiro was in his face, quick as lightning. Kuon felt the flinch take over him and bit down on his tongue until the pain kept him still. His entire mouth tasted like blood.

Yahiro released him. “I’m sorry,” he said, pathetically earnest.

“Don’t be,” Kuon replied with a joyless smile. “This is what I want you around for, after all.”

He had meant it to hurt, but Yahiro’s face didn’t betray anything. Kuon wasn’t sure if he wanted to burn on the spot or make everything around them burn.

Yahiro hesitated visibly; then he raised a hand again, and put it on Kuon’s shoulder. “I just need to know something,” he said.

Kuon hunched his back. For a second he missed the practicality of his middle-school haircut and of the ugly fringe it offered. He would have loved to hide behind his hair. “Just shoot, Yahiro.”

“If,” Yahiro started. He looked troubled. “If I did something wildly out of your expectations, what would you do?”

“You mean if you betrayed me,” Kuon said. His heart was beating too fast again, and disappointment tore open something in his gut that he hadn’t even know was there.

“Is it betrayal if I’m doing it for you?”

Kuon stepped back, and Yahiro’s hand fell from his shoulder limply. “I don’t need you to do things for me. I just need you to do things the way I want you to do them.”

“Fine,” Yahiro said. “Then I’ll just do it for myself.” He nodded, then, as if to seal some contract with himself, and Kuon didn’t think he had seen anymore more ominous in his life.

His phone buzzed loudly. Yahiro looked down to his pocket, where Kuon had kept his hand the entire time. It was slippery now, and his fingers slid against the plastic case wetly. His entire body felt hot, from the weather and from his own discomfort. He was sure his face was red too.

The school’s bell tore into the silence. “We should go back,” Yahiro said. “Himeka is probably gone already.”

“Probably, yeah.”

He didn’t want to go just yet. He wanted to ask what Yahiro had meant, and he wanted to look at Nozomi’s texts and try to find out what she was hiding from him too—and mostly he wanted to go back to the stall in the boy’s bathroom and breathe heavily into the emptiness there until he didn’t feel like the earth was about to crack open under his feet and swallow him whole.

Himeka was gone indeed. The entire sports area was empty of everyone but the angry-looking baseball coach, who yelled at them to hurry back to class when he spotted them. Yahiro ran ahead, and Kuon followed best as he could, his breath hitching in his throat and his heart beating wildly against his ribcage. By the time they made it back to their classroom everyone else was already seated and waiting for the math teacher to arrive.

He should probably have waited until after class to check his messages. Maybe even until he was home so he could ask Nozomi directly, because he was sure that whatever she had sent was full of riddles and mockery; but Kuon took his phone out anyway and wiped his damp palms against his jeans.

A lot of them are former clients of Izaya-san, Nozomi had written. And if they aren’t, at least they look like they could be.

And, well. This sort of information, associated with this name, was something Kuon should have expected out of a day such as this.

Shizuo had taken to meeting Celty once a week, on Thursdays, when his shift at the agency ended earliest. It hadn’t been a conscious decision on their part, or at least on his. He had wanted to see her as soon as she came back from her trip and she had displayed the same enthusiasm—and though they had texted at least once a week while she was gone the memory of her excitement when she saw him again warmed his heart in a way nothing had for a long time.

After that they had just kept meeting on the same day, at the same hour, at the same place. Ikebukuro West Gate Park was popular enough that no one paid them much attention, and if they did they were from the wrong crowd. Not the types of people to make the association that the black-clad rider was the Black Rider or that the man beside her was just as infamous as she was. Shizuo tried to come wearing less recognizable clothes all the same.

Today was warm and dry, more September than August. They were a little closer to the main road than usual, near the cover of trees whose shadows they didn’t really need. Celty didn’t feel heat or cold anyway.

She looked tired, he thought. She tended to hunch on herself the same way Shinra did when she was, and her bike held most of her weight for her. She was sitting on it, almost.

It’s just been a rough few weeks, she said when he asked. Part of him wanted to press for more, and another remembered the videos he had seen of the screaming shadow-person and moonlit building and the violence that had taken place there.

She had told him she was there when it happened. He knew she wasn’t the one who had done it; he just didn’t know why she would feel so reluctant to tell him who had. As far as he knew the people there had been part of a conspiracy against her, he wasn’t going to run after the person who got rid of them.

How’s Kasuka-kun? she wrote. Her fingers were shaking a little, but he took the bait anyway.

“Good. He’s been doing more and more big productions lately.”

That’s awesome.

Shizuo smiled at her. “He said he’s been called to audition for a foreign movie. If he gets the part it might kickstart his career in America, I think? I don’t understand much about this stuff.”

Celty typed lazily against her phone. Her helmet was dangling a little low on her neck, he noticed warily. Will you be sad, if he goes?

He wanted to smoke, but he clenched his fist instead. He was trying to stop. “Dunno,” he said, looking up at the canopy of the tree above them glowing gold in the sunlight. “I guess I will. It’s not like he can’t come back or call.”

She patted him on the shoulder. When he looked down again she was saying, I hope Ruri-chan gets to go with him.

“She might. I think she said she wanted to go back to working behind the cameras.”

It’d be a shame if she stopped singing, though.

He didn’t think Ruri felt the same way, if Kasuka’s infrequent updates about her were to be believed. “I don’t like her music anyway,” he decided.

He watched Celty write agitatedly beside him and felt a bit relieved. It seemed she really was just tired, and nothing more. She must have noticed, because she said, Sorry. I think the distance with my head is affecting me.

“What do you mean?” He frowned.

I’ve been sleeping more since it’s been gone, she replied. And I feel more… emotional, maybe, would be the right word. As if my body is getting more human. Or human-like.

“That’s weird.”

I don’t know. I can’t remember how I felt before I came to Japan. I just know that while we were both here at the same time I hardly needed any rest. Now I feel like I’m running out of energy sometimes. She stopped; typed again, then erased, then again. When she finally turned her phone back toward him it said: I don’t dislike it.

She wouldn’t. For as long as he had known her she had longed for humanity and its displeasures, even as others envied her for the perks her body gave her. But Shizuo knew what strength and near-immortality felt like.

He didn’t like thinking about mortality very much. Or strength.

Tom was still in the hospital for his head injury. The Slugger—or the one Shizuo had beaten down for attacking his colleague at least—had been a mystery now for weeks, unheard of and unseen. It was like they had just disappeared.

“Feels weird, doesn’t it?” he asked softly. Celty turned her helmet to him. “The city, I mean. It hasn’t felt this weird since…” He stopped, because he didn’t know how to finish his sentence.

I know what you mean, Celty offered. Then, tactfully: It’s a bit like when Izaya was around, isn’t it?

Shizuo’s mouth was dry. “Yeah.”

He kept peering into alleyways or watching every corner of every room he found himself in, and expecting to see black clothes and black hair and quick blades. But Izaya only ever showed up in his dreams; and when he did, he wasn’t so quick, and his black clothes were stained with blood.

Leaning against the tree behind him and patting the untouched pack of cigarettes in his pocket, Shizuo thought life hadn’t been so bad. The chaos was familiar and comforting, somehow. Maybe that was the reason Celty didn’t want to explain what was happening. Maybe she was trying to hang on to the solid evidence of the unusual before it vanished again. If he closed his eyes and let the sounds of the city run over him, felt the glow of sunlight through the leaves overhead, and knew Celty was standing beside him in silence… he could consider himself happy.

Celty broke him out of his reverie a few minutes later. He felt her jump because her arm hit his in the process, with almost enough strength to make him topple sideways. He opened his mouth to ask what was wrong, but she wasn’t looking at him—she was staring at the sidewalk opposite theirs where a boy stood. He was staring at Shizuo.

If Shizuo hadn’t felt the strength of those eyes before with violence singing through him, he wouldn’t have recognized him.

The boy looked both ways carefully before crossing the street to join them. He was wearing Raira’s uniform, exactly like he had when they had seen each other last. Despite himself Shizuo felt his fists clench in preparation for a fight and his mended shoulder ache in memory. Guilt gripped him tight in the stomach.

“Good afternoon,” the boy said. His voice was soft but not hesitant.

Shizuo was surprised to see Celty fumble with her phone to answer and the boy not lift an eyebrow at the sight. In fact—and he blinked slowly as he realized it—the boy didn’t look at all surprised to see them here. Either of them.

He couldn’t catch what she wrote to the kid, but he saw him smile very briefly in answer. “I’m well. I’m sorry to bother you, I just…” His eyes met Shizuo’s then, something pained in them making him look younger than he probably was. “Heiwajima-san,” he said. “I’m sorry to intrude on you like this.”

He could feel Celty look between the both of them with someone akin to awe. “S’fine,” Shizuo mumbled. His heartbeat felt off. If he had been smoking he thought he would have crushed the cigarette between his teeth, not out of anger, but out of embarrassment.

He hadn’t planned on seeing the boy again so soon. Or ever.

Before he could voice this—or apologize—the boy spoke again: “I wanted to apologize for last time.”

“What?” said Shizuo.

“I’m sorry,” and the kid bowed deeply, his back straight as a ruler, “for attacking you, and for hurting you. Kuon—my friend—he apologizes as well, for those horrible things he said.”

“I’ll believe that when I’m dead,” Shizuo replied automatically. The boy flinched a little, head still turned to the ground, and Shizuo felt his face grow warm—”Sorry. I should be the one apologizing.“

The boy looked up, dumbfounded. “Why? You did nothing wrong.”

He had done plenty wrong. Attacking a teenager at all, just because he had felt so unsettled at his words and his smile and the rush of Izaya in his mind like never since that day and that phone call. And that was without the full-on battle that had followed and without the realization, very soon after, that the boy now bowing in front of him had only acted out of worry.

Shizuo bowed, too, awkwardly. “I shouldn’t have attacked you. Either of you.”

He wasn’t familiar with politeness. He straightened his back again, too soon, too slowly, and the boy—he didn’t even know his name—was staring at him in wonder.

Celty broke him out of his thoughts with a firm hand at his elbow. In her fingers she held her phone, turned outward so that they could both see the words on it, and still it took Shizuo a few seconds to blink the dregs of the fire out of his eyes and read them. You know Yahiro-kun?

“Yeah,” he said. His own voice sounded distant to him. “Sort of.”

His words seemed to trouble her greatly. How?

He couldn’t answer her. Yahiro took the burden away from him by saying, “There was a misunderstanding. We attacked each other.”

You fool, Celty typed angrily. Did no one tell you how dangerous fighting with Shizuo is?

“I know,” Yahiro replied, cheeks flushing to red under her attention. “I, uh. I realized that pretty quickly.”

Shizuo felt nausea creep up his throat slowly. His chest ached, and his hands felt weak.

I guess— Celty wrote. She paused for a second before writing the rest of her thoughts. I guess this place has a knack for attracting people out of the ordinary.

But Ikebukuro hadn’t attracted anyone weird enough to be noticed by Shizuo. Not for a year and a half.

Silence fell on them for a while after that. Despite the warmth of late summer Shizuo felt coldness in him, enough so that goosebumps were running up his neck and making the hair at his nape stand up uncomfortably. The boy, Yahiro, was looking at the ground rather than either of them. With flecks of sunlight pouring onto him through the tree’s leaves his hair looked more brown than black, Shizuo realized.

“I wanted to talk to you,” he said suddenly. He looked back at Shizuo with a child’s determination in his eyes—and a glint of something less kind. “But I’m not sure anymore.”

Shizuo felt his shoulder throb in answer, as if in remembrance of the powerful tug that had dislocated it weeks prior—or even further back in the midst of fire and with oxygen running low, when he punched a hole into the ground beneath him so that he wouldn’t burn to death.

“I think I got it wrong,” he said.

Yahiro’s head tilted to the side, the picture of innocent confusion. The sight was jarring. “What do you mean?”

“I thought your friend, the one with green hair, reminded me of this guy the most.” Shizuo dragged the pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and broke the seal mindlessly; one stick fell between his fingers, the paper creasing with a soft sound. “But I think you’ve got some Izaya in you.”

The smoke hurt in a comforting way. If he breathed in and focused on the smell and taste alone he could forget the memory of the fire and the feeling of gasping uselessly for a breath—could forget the outline of Izaya’s body standing above him, cut against the night sky like some skinny bird of prey, looking down on him as he died.

Shizuo breathed out slowly. “Get out of my sight,” he said, low in his throat, and though he wasn’t looking he knew Yahiro’s face wasn’t giving in. Not to fear, and not to his order.

He really needed to stop smoking.

Sozoro had woken Izaya every day at seven o’clock sharp since he had started working for him. Out of spite and no small amount of what he’d taken to call self-pitying Izaya had set an alarm for six, which left him with one ample hour to doze in and out of dreams and contemplate the day to come. On good days he simply slept. On bad days, he thought.

Today wasn’t a bad day, but it wasn’t a good one either. He found that a great majority of his days tended to be the same uninteresting shade of not-painful-enough-to-warrant-misery; it was infuriating, because Sozoro loved being lenient about as much as he loved Izaya, and because the edge between bad and worse left no time for relief.

His back ached, and his mood suffered.

“Good morning,” Sozoro said brightly when he came into the room. He made a beeline for the window and opened the blinds before Izaya could rip a word out of the dryness of his mouth, and sunlight poured into the room, blinding him. He swore under his breath.

“Can you at least give me a minute?” he protested weakly.

“It’s a beautiful day,” Sozoro continued in the same voice. Izaya might as well have not talked at all. “You have a client coming in an hour.”

“I know.” He sighed, and rubbed the wetness out of his eyes.

Sozoro helped him into the shower and out, made his breakfast to perfection, and brought him his laptop right as he finished eating. For all that he complained about the man himself Izaya knew he would be hard-pressed to find someone more useful.

Knowing that Sozoro planned to kill him kept things interesting as well.

It truly was a beautiful day. The sun was high and the city gleamed through the open windows, the wind cold enough from the top of the building that air conditioning didn’t seem necessary at the moment. Sometimes the harsh glint of the sunlight, reflected off some window, caught at Izaya’s eyes like a tiny needle, making him blink in and out of focus.

He finished his coffee like this, chair by the window and laptop on his knees. He waited patiently as it turned on and strained his neck to look as far down as he could in the hope of catching the city’s movement in the streets, people walking and cars running and maybe even children on their way to school. That would have necessitated standing up, though. These windows weren’t wall-size.

Namie hadn’t replied to him yet. Izaya eyed the New Message button and considered pressing for news; but Namie had been answering less and less as the months went by, and with fewer and fewer words. The thought stung almost as much as that of looking desperate, so he left her alone for the day and started working on clearing his inbox.

By the time he was done with the usual clients and other work-associated messages there was only one unread left. The kanji were unfamiliar and the address itself made them out into a strange name. The subject was blank.

The content, however, was not.

Izaya felt his hands start to shake before he finished reading the first sentence. He dropped his coffee onto the table next to window, spilling some of it against the potted plant sitting there and the remote controller for the television hung on the opposite wall. His voice was tight when he called, “Sozoro,” and maybe too soft. But Sozoro had the ears of an assassin and the eyes of one too, and he was here a few seconds later, his hand closed tight around a case Izaya knew was full of pills.

“I don’t need those,” he said through gritted teeth. Sozoro gave a pointed look to his hands, but Izaya waved them in front of him as if this was enough to shake off their weakness. “Just bring me my phone.”

“Of course, Izaya.”

The device was in his lap a moment later. Izaya typed in the number from memory and hit call before he realized that he should probably have waited for a more appropriate time—and that the call was going to cost him a fortune.

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