Index: Chapter 1 – Chapter 2 – Chapter 3
Length: 25,800 total
Warnings: violence, gore, grief/mourning, betrayal, abuse.
Mori’s voice was velvet through the silence, tempered, measured. Dazai knew how little of that sweetness was real, but where he usually found amusement in the fact that Mori lied about this as he lied about everything else—straight-faced and kind-looking—he found that he couldn’t laugh tonight. Not even in the privacy of his own head.
His head was crowded. His ears rang with the sound of Chuuya’s voice like they would after an earthquake. He wished he could allow himself to step out of the office, to step out of his own mind, as he had wanted to since the thunder of the shot had struck down his hearing.
His trigger finger ached. He couldn’t uncurl it fully.
Mori was done recounting the events of the night to the other executives, now. Dazai pinpointed Oda’s careful breathing at the back of the room, focused his attention on it rather than on Hirotsu’s voice asking, “What do we do now, Boss?”
“Search for him, of course,” Mori replied. “I have already sent men after him, and I have to ask you three to share your resources as well. Chuuya-kun is only one boy, but I think we all know better than to underestimate him now.”
Ah, Dazai thought. That one was for me.
“With all due respect,” Ace interjected, soft and honeyed. The glance he leveled with Dazai was positively gleeful. “None of this would have happened if Dazai had done his job, Boss. Do you think it wise to include him in the search party? He’s the one who let Nakahara go.”
“I think I would very much like to have Dazai-kun protecting my life, yes,” Mori answered.
Ace sneered. “If you life even needs protecting.”
“It does,” Dazai said.
Oda’s breathing pattern had shifted. His pace had been forcefully calm, deep and chest-wide; now it hurried at the sound of Dazai’s voice, and the rhythm it took was one he only ever used for worry.
“I wasn’t lying,” he went on. His eyes found Mori’s across the shadowed length of the room. “Chuuya will have your head. He was pretty adamant about me telling you this, actually, which I think was a bit stupid of him.”
“And what would you do,” Mori asked, “If it were you instead of Chuuya-kun?”
What would Dazai do, if it were him and not Chuuya?
Dazai couldn’t imagine it. He couldn’t see himself wrecked with the kind of grief Chuuya had shown, couldn’t picture wearing such suffering over his open face. His mind was slow, still, with the aftermath of the affair. He stood still in the middle of the room, under Mori’s scrutiny and Ace’s thinly-veiled rancor, because it was better than to move, heavy-footed and sluggish.
His ears ached from the sound of the gunshot. On his hands, Chuuya’s blood was no longer slick. It was no longer warm.
“I wouldn’t tell you I’d be back for revenge for one,” Dazai said, staring absently somewhere below Mori’s chin. “Though, it wouldn’t be hard to guess his intentions either way.”
“Foolish,” Ace said haughtily. “He was never very bright, was he.”
Dazai was surprised by how irritated the words made him feel. “He won’t go after you yet, Boss,” he continued, pushing down the flash of bright anger. Mori had made no comment of Ace’s insult. He stared at Dazai silently, waiting for him to conclude. “Chuuya doesn’t like strategizing on the long term, but he knows you’re too well-guarded now. He’ll be patient. Wait for his chance to strike. There are other people he can take care of in the meantime, people who aren’t so heavily protected.”
“Even years from now?” Mori asked, mouth turned to a pout.
Oda wasn’t breathing anymore. Dazai thought of Ango, whose name Chuuya had said in those last moments with soul-deep hatred; he thought of Chuuya in Corruption, standing deathly still in the ruins of the hilltop house, waiting for his power to consume him; he thought of the corpse he had found hours ago in the dim-lit mansion he had so often visited.
Its face had looked peaceful. It wasn’t hard to guess who had taken the time to wipe away the blood, to change the clothes it wore, to lay it atop a bed as one lay a sick child. One of its hands had been out of the sheet. It had still possessed living warmth when Dazai had touched it, from being held by another.
Ace looked at him with outrage, Hirotsu with bored silence; Dazai rode out the nerves, rode out the emptiness, and he said, “You don’t understand. Chuuya doesn’t care about anything else, now.” He smiled at his boss. “You took away the only thing he cherished,” he said. “You cut down the one person tethering him to this organization. And now he wants equal payment. He wants what you care about the most—he wants your life, and he won’t die until he has it. He won’t rest until he has it. It doesn’t matter if it takes him two months or two decades.”
That was the sort of drive Chuuya possessed. The sort of loyalty that grief could inspire, the sort of love only one person had ever brought out of his heart.
“It seems we are in a bit of a predicament, then,” Mori said.
“Dazai should be kept away from the investigation—”
“You need me to catch him,” Dazai cut in. Ace glared at him, almost bare-toothed, a sharp contrast to the obsequious elegance he boasted. Dazai smiled at him thinly. “Unless you want to test your ability against his,” he added. “Tell me—how much do you think Chuuya’s life is worth in money, and how little do you think gravity manipulation cares?”
Ace looked about ready to try and strangle him. Dazai winked and looked away.
“We can kill him without you, Dazai-sama,” Hirotsu said lowly.
Dazai didn’t smile at him. He had never needed such niceties for the few members he respected. “I’m not sure about that,” he replied. “Turns out, he can stop bullets.”
“Even he has to sleep sometimes. And he’s weakened right now. We just need to locate him and catch him unawares.”
The rest of the conversation unfolded much the same. Dazai stood outside of it, vaguely trying to massage the ache out of his finger, blinking through the same images that he had for hours—Corruption, the destroyed house, Kouyou laid out on a bed, loved and grieved over.
Mori dismissed everyone but Dazai from the room, at one point. It didn’t surprise Dazai, and it didn’t surprise anyone else either. They trickled out of the office with heavy steps and resentful eyes, Oda without a word and Akutagawa without a care, Ace glaring, Hirotsu silent.
Dazai missed the sound of Oda’s breathing the moment the door closed on it.
“I thought that this whole affair would go under much more smoothly,” Mori complained, leaning back into his chair. “To think Chuuya-kun would betray us… I can’t say that I predicted this. No, I really never thought such a thing could happen.”
“Me neither,” Dazai murmured distractedly.
He was looking at the black permit still resting over the mahogany desk, eyeing the gold letters printed on it, the gloss of its expensive paper. Mori said nothing when he approached and took it, not even when he opened it and smeared a brownish stain on the letter inside. Maybe the blood wasn’t as dry yet as Dazai had thought.
“I wonder,” he said out loud, “whether you thought Mimic would attack me instead.”
Mori didn’t answer.
Dazai’s lips stretched joylessly. “Thought so,” he muttered. “It’s a shame Chuuya didn’t like me nearly as much as he liked Kouyou.”
“I don’t believe for one second that Gide would’ve been able to kill you,” Mori replied, nonchalant. “Not unless you wanted him to, and you’ve always so disliked the idea of death by bullet wound, haven’t you.”
“Odasaku’s ability works on me, you know. Gide could’ve done it.”
Mori gave him a very amused glance.
“I guess your loss is double this time,” Dazai said, sighing. “If you’d cared more about me, Chuuya would have taken my life as a way to get back to you.”
“He thinks of you as a partner.”
Dazai huffed softly. “Not anymore,” he replied.
Not even Chuuya would hang on to partnership after being shot in the face.
Dazai let the permit fall back onto the desk. The blood stain on it would be unwashable unless Mori risked blurring the text inside, and there was some satisfaction in that. There was some catharsis to be found in knowing that this prize was stained with blood, literally and metaphorically.
“Was it worth it?” he asked. It was the only thing he could think of saying. “You’ve lost a very influential executive, and now the port mafia’s most destructive ability user is out to kill you. All for a piece of paper.”
Mori was a hard person to read even to Dazai. But Dazai had an advantage, for a given value of the word, in that he had grown with Mori. He had an advantage in that learning to read what the man thought had always meant survival. He met the eyes of his mentor above the shining surface of the wooden desk, pressing his aching finger onto it, smearing viscous blood over its varnish; he searched the bleak depth of that familiar stare for even a hint of regret.
And in the smothered space of his own chest, where his heart beat only in name, Dazai thought that regret must feel how he felt. He thought regret must be the stickiness of drying blood on his hands; he thought regret must be cold metal against his finger, the click of a trigger and the sound of a gunshot, as a bond he had never had a name for snapped.
“Dazai-kun,” Mori called a minute later, as Dazai was on his way out of the room.
Dazai looked back, blinking fast under the strain of the bandage keeping his right eye shut. He’d have to take it off soon. “What?” he asked.
“You think he can do it, don’t you. You think Chuuya-kun will have my head one day.”
“I think there’s nothing to be done if he gets close enough to you to activate Corruption,” Dazai replied. “He doesn’t care anymore whether I’m here to stop it.”
Chuuya hadn’t cared at all that he would have died killing Mimic’s members if Dazai hadn’t caught him in time. He hadn’t even known that Dazai would be there.
“Unless you’re by my side,” Mori pointed out calmly.
Dazai bent at the hip, smiling at him.
“I hope this will help you reconsider my usefulness, Boss,” he said. Straightening out of the bow, he added, “I would so hate for you to die just because I wasn’t there to help.”
Dazai found Oda and Akutagawa on his doorstep. Oda was sitting on the floor, already looking at the doors of the elevator before they opened; Akutagawa was standing some distance away from him, despite the shaking in what Dazai guessed to be an injured thigh, and he was glaring at him. His face was still bruised from Dazai’s punch.
The good thing with Akutagawa being in his vicinity was that Dazai always had the energy to be irritated with him, no matter the numbness.
“What are you doing here?” he asked curtly.
Akutagawa jumped, not having heard him approach. He seemed to hesitate before speaking, not knowing which of them Dazai was addressing—it only made Dazai want to curl his lips back with disgust. He would never talk to Oda that way, as Oda well knew.
“Send me after him,” Akutagawa said. His voice, as always, sounded like a dying man’s.
Dazai walked past him and slid his key into the lock of his door. He shoved his hand through the frame once it was ajar, disarming the trap there with deft fingers. “After who?” he asked, though the answer was obvious.
“I thought you liked Chuuya.”
It hadn’t been an accusation, only an observation. Akutagawa did like Chuuya, admired him even, and it had nothing to do with what Dazai was aware of—Chuuya going behind his back occasionally and trying to lift the boy’s spirits, with plethora of insults for Dazai’s person as a perk. Anyone else would have welcomed the support eagerly, but not Akutagawa. No, Akutagawa admired Chuuya because Akutagawa only ever admired brute strength.
Of all the reasons to look up to his former partner, it was by far the least interesting; and Akutagawa, of course, took Dazai’s words for insult.
“He’s a traitor,” he said slowly. He spoke with a very light lisp, because of the teeth he had spat out the day before.
Oda was getting to his feet now, looking between the two of them warily. He walked into the apartment behind Dazai. Akutagawa hovered in the entrance, doubting his right to do so as well. In the end, he followed with gauche steps, though he didn’t go further in than the hallway. His eyes kept flickering to the walls around him and then to Dazai himself, quick and careful.
“I do not sympathize with traitors,” he added for good measure.
Dazai hummed. He dropped his keys into the silver box sat atop his liquor cabinet. He shrugged off his coat, hung it on the back of a chair, and he said, “Sure. Go look for him.”
There was a moment of silence.
“What?” Dazai questioned pleasantly. “You thought I wouldn’t allow it?”
Akutagawa opened his mouth, stricken, and for a second Dazai half-hoped that he would dare oppose him. But—”No,“ he said. “Of course. I’ll go at once.”
“Dazai,” Oda said quietly.
Dazai ignored him. “Chuuya might hesitate to strike you down, since he likes you too,” he told Akutagawa. The boy had taken half a step back, thinking he was allowed to leave; he stilled at the sound of Dazai’s voice. “Or he might not. He wasn’t exactly in his right mind when I saw him last. Do you know how Chuuya gets when he’s truly angry, Akutagawa?”
“Yes,” Akutagawa replied hesitantly.
“The right answer was no.”
Rashoumon shuddered around him, the sharp edges of the beast flickering to life on the curve of cloth on his shoulders. “I can take him,” he whispered.
“Then go, by all means,” Dazai replied. He extended an arm toward the door, almost touching Akutagawa himself on the way. “If your death can serve to tell us where he is, you’ll finally be of some use to me.”
Akutagawa didn’t look like he had a single word left in him anymore. The look on his face was one Dazai knew well, one he would have revelled in at another time, under different circumstances; he looked almost waifish still under the heavy coat bestowed upon him, skinny and pale and utterly clueless. In the faint glow of the window, lit only by the night streets, the sight of him was ghostly.
“Then again,” Dazai went on coldly, “you’ll definitely get some experience in using that worthless ability of yours for defense. If you last longer than five minutes, maybe the lesson will even have time to stick.”
“Maybe I should phrase it differently,” Dazai mused, glancing toward Oda as if looking for input. Oda only stared back darkly. “How would you feel if I were to shoot Gin-chan in the head, Akutagawa?”
Akutagawa’s whole body shuddered.
“I bet you wouldn’t be very happy with me. I think you might even find it in yourself to attack me.” Dazai stepped toward Akutagawa’s still form, meeting his eyes again, finding them wide with fear. “Maybe Chuuya didn’t value you enough to tell you that,” he murmured, “but Kouyou raised him. She took him out of the streets, like I did with you, but she wasn’t unkind to him, oh no. She loved him like a brother. And he loved her like a sister.”
Dazai smiled. Akutagawa flinched. His shoulder was tense as a bow, the line of it like stone under Dazai’s palm, once he raised a hand to touch it.
“I think you should stop thinking that you’re anywhere near strong enough to take down Chuuya on your own,” he said. “Or anyone, really. And I think you should go spend some time with your sister—she’s going to be under investigation too, after all.”
“Please,” Akutagawa breathed. Dazai squeezed his shoulder, and his mouth snapped shut once more.
“I could put in a nice word for her, tell Boss that I know for sure Chuuya acted on impulse and didn’t consort with anyone, including his favorite student.” Dazai felt the weight of Akutagawa’s plea almost physically, in the width of his pale eyes, in the choked workings of his throat. His neck was trembling visibly. “Or I could tell him to get rid of her,” he said softly. “Just in case. We wouldn’t want to risk another traitor in our ranks.”
“Gin would never—”
Akutagawa actually fought with himself for the barest second, the protest almost bursting out of him, pushed forth by his despair. Dazai waited patiently for it.
It didn’t come.
Fatigue won over disgust and curiosity alike, in the end. Dazai gave a light shove to Akutagawa’s shoulder and said, “You’ve never provided me with proof that I should trust you with this sort of responsibility. In fact, your stupidity in this whole affair considerably slowed down my investigation. You might yet claim responsibility for Kouyou’s death.” His lips curved cruelly. “Maybe Chuuya will figure that out in time, too,” he continued. “He’s probably finalizing his list of targets right now—I wonder if he’ll add your name to it?”
“I,” said Akutagawa.
“You must be proud of yourself. You and I, finally put down as equals.”
Dazai stilled. He didn’t immediately understand that the weight on his back wasn’t the heavy nothing he had felt since leaving the ruins of Corruption—it was Oda’s hand, and that had been Oda’s voice, sharp with disapproval. Once the realization crept in, he found himself wordless.
“You should go,” Oda told Akutagawa. His tone was firm, lacking the usual drag of laziness and alcohol, but Akutagawa barely seemed to hear it. He was staring at Dazai, transfixed.
Dazai shrugged off Oda’s hand. “Get out of my sight,” he let out tiredly.
It wasn’t until he turned around and walked into the living-room that Akutagawa obeyed. Dazai crouched by his liquor cabinet, pulled out the first bottle his unseeing eyes found, and didn’t move from there until he heard the door slam closed.
Then, he exhaled.
“I’m guessing you’re here about Ango,” he made himself say, standing up once more.
“Not only,” Oda replied.
Dazai turned around to face him. He blinked, after Oda turned on the light—he hadn’t realized how dark his apartment had been until then. Oda took the offered bottle wordlessly. He walked to the kitchen and set it down there without opening it.
“You said Nakahara might put Ango on his hit list,” he said.
“Not might. Will.”
Ango had been one of three certain names. Dazai couldn’t be sure about the rest.
“Ango’s smarter than all of us combined,” Dazai said. “I’m sure he already knows about Chuuya’s defection, and since we’re not allowed to harm him thanks to our Boss’s deal with the special ability department, he only has that to worry about. Piece of cake, after playing three gifted organizations for fools. He’ll be well-hidden until Chuuya makes it out of city.”
Oda took the information in stride. If he was worried, he didn’t show it, which was the smart thing to do.
Ango was a traitor as well.
“And you?” he asked lowly. “Are you gonna be okay?”
Dazai leaned against the back of his couch. “I said that to mess with Akutagawa,” he answered. “I can’t imagine Chuuya’s very happy with me right now, but I’m not responsible for Kouyou’s death.”
“I wasn’t talking about that.”
Oda looked as unperturbed as ever. Dazai had never heard him utter judgment in either words or tone, and he wasn’t judging now. If Dazai decided to do something as foolish as obey the weakness in his body and collapse, Oda would not think him the lesser for it.
“Are you okay?” Oda asked again.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Dazai replied.
Oda blinked slowly; he put a hand in the pocket of his rumpled jeans. “You were close to Ozaki, weren’t you.”
The picture burned itself into his mind again, of Kouyou’s peaceful corpse tended to with a care Dazai himself would have never had the strength to muster up. He couldn’t understand how Chuuya had even looked at her for so long, let alone cleaned her up and held her hand and grieved by her deathbed.
Dazai’s throat closed up. “I’m fine,” he let out, forcefully calm.
He took his right index finger in his left hand and tried to squeeze the tension out of it once more.
“You grew up with—”
“I don’t really care about Chuuya leaving, Odasaku,” Dazai cut in. “If I’m lucky I’ll never have to see his ugly mug in person again.”
Oda hesitated. “All right,” he conceded, unconvinced. “We can just drink if you want.”
And suddenly Dazai couldn’t do it at all. He couldn’t keep up the pretense, not even long enough to get drunk. Not with Oda looking at him with such compassion on his face. Space itself felt like too much; the sound of Oda’s voice, the feeling of crusted blood on his hands, the ringing in his ears that hadn’t stopped since he had fired the shot, everything collapsed together into a mass of overwhelming stimuli, of white noise and prickling goosebumps. He wanted to scream it away. He wanted to lock himself into a cramped room and fold his own body down to nothing. In two, in four, in eight, until he was reduced to dust.
“I’m sorry,” he said, turning away. His own ribs felt like a cage, trapping the air inside of his own chest. He was having trouble breathing, he realized. “I think I’ll just head to bed for now. You know,” he waved a hand awkwardly, “gotta get a search team together in the morning. Else Ace will try to come up with another clever plan to get me out of the executive position.”
“I don’t much like this guy,” Oda declared thoughtfully.
“I don’t think anyone does.”
Dazai stared at the unlit screen of his TV rather than look in the direction Oda was moving. A small red light kept blinking at the bottom of it. It was somewhat soothing.
“There’s something I want to say,” came Oda’s voice. “If you’ll hear me out.”
Dazai closed his eyes. “Sure,” he replied tightly.
Oda must be standing in the hallway already, maybe with one hand on the door, maybe with both in his pockets, his slouch hiding the swell of cloth over the twin guns he carried.
“I wasn’t sure about it before today,” Oda said. “And now is probably not the right time to say it, but I don’t know if I’m going to get a better chance. I know we don’t really… well. We meet for drinks, and I like that, but more than that, I consider you a friend. You and Ango.”
Time slowed like a sticky substance; it stretched and pulled without ever snapping, tugging Dazai’s skin along with it, expanding through his body like steam.
“So whatever happens next,” Oda continued. “Whatever you decide to do, I’ll be on your side of it.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying,” Dazai replied.
“I know exactly what I’m saying.”
Dazai breathed in. He looked over his shoulder.
Oda wasn’t slouching at all.
“Your side, Dazai,” he said, meeting his eyes evenly. “Not Mori’s. Not the port mafia’s. You’re the only person here that I want to follow.”
Katai often came out of sleep with progressive consciousness. His dreams were a tangled mess of screen-bright images, mostly soundless, mostly impossible to describe. He crawled to awareness the way he crawled out of it; surrounded by the dark, windows closed and curtains drawn, so that no natural light filtered through the single room where he lived.
So he didn’t notice anything different at first. His limbs were always heavy to him, weak from lack of use, his tongue dry and his heart slow. He awoke in his bed with the faint scent of burned plastic clogging his nose, with fresher air than he was used to running over the bare skin of his arms, and that was when wrongness settled in.
Someone was in his house.
He tried to move his head as slowly as possible and couldn’t. He tried to lift an arm and couldn’t. He felt suddenly impossibly heavy, pushed down by inexorable force, pressed face-first into his futon by no hand that he could feel.
Something sharp touched the exposed line of his nape, and a voice he couldn’t recognize said, “Don’t move.”
“Please,” he whimpered.
He didn’t know what he wanted to say—please don’t kill me, please let this be a dream—but it didn’t matter. He had to plea.
There came a hiss. The blade resting on the side of his neck was shaking.
“Please, oh God, don’t—”
“Shut the fuck up,” the voice said—it hissed once more with the words.
Katai had no room in him for shame when tears started dripping down his face. It was still mostly pushed into his pillow, unable to move, and so they crashed there and wetted the fabric until his entire nose felt damp.
“Calm down,” the voice said. “I’m not going to hurt you as long as you do as I say.”
Katai choked on a whimper.
Some of the weight on him shifted. He hadn’t realized that someone was straddling him, and he found that the sudden absence did nothing to alleviate whatever kept him trapped where he was.
An ability, he thought, and terror knotted up his throat tightly.
“You’re Tayama Katai,” the voice said. There was something pained about it, about the regular intakes of sharp air and the uneven grip on the knife. It did nothing to reassure Katai at all. “You’re an information broker. Your ability allows you to have complete control of any electronics you set your eyes on, as long as you’re not touching them.”
The person shifted again, level with Katai’s left shoulder. Something made them stumble forward, and the hand that the stranger put on the wooden floor to catch themself broke through Katai’s eyesight. It was marred with bruises, covered with slick blood.
“Answer me,” the voice panted.
“Yes,” Katai rasped. “Yes, yes, everything you said is true, I’m Katai.”
The knife left the side of his neck. Katai thought he would soon wet himself with more than tears.
“I screened your place for any electronics I could find,” the stranger continued. “Destroyed most of it. Sorry about that. I kept your phone, but I took out the battery, so you won’t be able to call for help.”
“You can have all my money,” Katai sobbed.
“I don’t want your money. No—shit, stop crying, you’re a grown man,” the person said, as more hiccups wrecked Katai’s trapped body. “Fuck, listen, I’m not going to kill you. I swear I won’t even put a scratch on you. I just need a favor.”
“I’ll do anything, anything—”
The weight lifted.
Katai didn’t move at all at first. He heaved into his damp pillow, breathing through his mouth, tasting salt on his lips. His toes wiggled when he made them. His arm bent at the elbow, once he brought his hand closer to his head.
Once he had checked each of his fingers and found them whole, he pushed himself to his knees shakily and turned around.
The darkness was thicker in the absence of his many laptops and tablets, at least one of which was always lit as if to make up for daylight; but his windows was ajar, the blinds pulled up by force and the latch awkwardly bent, and the nighttime breeze wasn’t the only thing filtering through its opening.
Streetlight made out the silhouette of a boy, crouched by the bed, wavering slightly. It shone off of his matted hair. It belied the unfocused quality of his eyes. The boy had a hand on the floor and another pressed against the side of his face—blood was running between his fingers and down the length of his bruised wrist.
“What,” Katai let out. “Who, who are you?”
The boy didn’t answer. “I need a place to stay for a couple days,” he said. Each word pulled a grimace out of him, made him press his hands closer to the bleeding on his cheek. “And I need you to use your ability for me.”
He was shaking from head to toe, Katai realized; he was pale, very much so, with blood loss or something else, and his grip on the long knife he held was loose-fingered.
“Okay,” Katai said.
The boy held the knife more firmly. “I’ll be watching,” he threatened. “So don’t even think of doing anything funny. If you tell anyone about my presence here, I will kill you.”
He let go of the floor and pulled something from behind himself. A laptop, and soon after the battery to go with it.
There were about a dozen ways for Katai to call for help unnoticed with a laptop at his disposal, but he wisely said nothing of it. “What do you want me to do?” he asked, with what he hoped was no relief at all.
“Turn it on,” the boy replied, pushing laptop and battery toward him.
Katai grabbed it with the tips of his fingers.
It didn’t take long for him to turn the laptop on. It was a sleek thing, expensive and new, protected by better security than even he used for himself. Katai kept it half a meter away from himself as he slowly worked his way through password upon password, and he thought he might open an email right there and then and send it to Kunikida or the police or both, unseen by all but the sharp static of his ability. This trail of thoughts halted once he finally saw the name of the machine’s owner.
“This belongs to Taneda of the special ability department,” he said, stunned.
“Yeah,” was the boy’s reply.
Katai didn’t even think of looking at him; his eyes flew over the screen, opening secured file after secured file, and his wariness grew with each. By the time he closed every window and came back to the innocuous desktop background, he felt nauseous with nerves.
“This isn’t just Taneda’s personal laptop,” he said.
The boy sat on his behind. “No,” he replied. “It’s the masterkey of the whole department’s archives. You can access everything with it.”
“How did you get your hands on it?”
“Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.”
Katai looked at him again. He took in the cold distance in his eyes, the blood splattered all over him, the trembling hand he kept pressed against his wounded face.
Instead of insisting, instead of emailing Kunikida, Katai asked: “What do you want me to do?”
The boy’s knife lowered. He looked exhausted. In the distant light of the neighboring building, his eyes were very bright.
“I want you to erase everything you can find about Nakahara Chuuya,” he replied. “Can you do that?”
Katai could. Easily. “How erased are we speaking?” he said. “Should I make it look like the file is simply empty or—”
“Erase everything. Every single mention of the name and everything associated with it, even if you have to take down half of the damn archive to do it. I don’t want them to be able to look up the name and find any result.”
“They’ll know instantly,” Katai replied. “There must be at least a dozen people monitoring the data.”
“Then you better hurry up before they realize their chief didn’t only lose his head.”
Katai wanted to protest, but something about the boy’s eyes then told him that it would be a bad idea. Or perhaps the menacing glint of the knife, shining oil-like in the soft light.
“How do you write it?” he asked, eyes shifting back to the screen.
Pulling up the file, once the boy spelled it out for him, was only a matter of seconds. Katai wasn’t surprised at all to find that Nakahara Chuuya was the name of his intruder himself; he took a moment to look over the whole gallery of pictures kept by the department, most of which were taken outside of Nakahra’s knowledge, judging by the face he pulled. Katai found row upon row of feral smiles and dangerous looks. He found videos. He found Nakahara scowling and Nakahara smiling, and he found him, in one, blurry enough to be unrecognizable, surrounded by black spheres of sizzling energy.
He deleted them all. Nakahara said nothing.
Katai saw the words port mafia repeated enough times that he thought he would never get them out of his mind. He saw a body count, which he chose to forget. He worked his way through the data until everything bearing Nakahara’s name was either empty or viciously edited. About half of the information related to someone named Dazai Osamu found itself lost that way.
“Thank you,” Nakahara said, once Katai ran a search of his name to prove that he could no longer be found in the archive.
It had taken only ten minutes, and the moment it was done, Nakahara clenched his fist. The sleek laptop glowed red. It flattened itself against the ground until it was thin as paper, the scent of burned plastic bristling through the air once again, every coil and screw become useless sheets of metal.
It was completely broken. Katai hadn’t even thought of sending that email.
Some tension seemed to drop out of Nakahara, then. The line of his shoulders eased, the hand he kept over his face lowered, unveiling a deep, thick gash, running horizontally through his cheekbone and still seeping droplets of gleaming blood. This entire left side of his face looked swollen.
“I’ll pay for the stuff I destroyed,” he said, startling Katai out of his numb stupor. “And for food. I’ll be out of your way in a couple days.”
“I’m going to do something really fucking stupid now,” Nakahara interrupted. His voice was growing rougher by the second. “So I’m sorry for that too. You can go back to sleep if you want.”
And then he burst into tears.
Katai’s mouth hung open, wordless and probably ridiculous, but Nakahara didn’t seem to mind. He wasn’t even looking. He shook and cried and sobbed with all of his body and, it seemed, all of his heart; he dragged his knees up against his chest, pushed his bleeding face into the space that opened there, and did everything short of scream out the grief wrecking him.
It was somehow more terrifying than anything Nakahara had done until then. It made Katai feel like the intruder instead of the other way around, and he could do nothing but watch each hiccup shake in Nakahara’s shoulders. He could do nothing but feel each drawn-out moan reverberate through his chest. There was something heartbreaking about the way Nakahara held himself, making himself smaller, choking every sound he made into the cage of his arms. There was something painfully, infinitely child-like about the way his voice cracked not even after a minute, out of gritty depth and back to higher wails.
Katai didn’t go to sleep.
He stood to his feet shakily, waiting for Nakahara to notice and threaten him again, but the boy didn’t. He showed no sign of having heard or seen him. So Katai walked to the tiny kitchenette on the other side of the room and put some water to boil. He stood by the kettle until it hissed at him, and not even that sound was enough to cover the expiation going on three meters away.
The tea was long seeped by the time Nakahara quieted. His violent sobs turned to whimpers; his gushing tears to quiet weeping. He stilled as he was, face cradled into the crook of his folded arms, looking at the space between his chest and knees, silent and immobile.
Katai set a mug full of hot tea next to him on the floor. He sat with another on the unmade futon he lived in, resting it in against his thigh until it cooled enough to be drinkable.
“Well,” Nakahara said, voice scratchy with the aftermath of his breakdown. “That’s out of the way at least.”
Katai debated with himself for a moment before asking, “Are you okay?”
Nakahara’s head lifted just enough that he could meet his eyes above the barrier that his arms made. The deep gash in his cheek looked even more inflamed now, and Katai winced, thinking about how painful tears must have felt.
“I, ah, I made you tea,” he said awkwardly. With his free hand, he gestured to the mug sitting by Nakahara’s left leg.
Nakahara looked at it silently.
“Do you make tea for everyone who breaks into your home and destroys all your shit?” he asked weakly.
“Only when they start crying in front of me,” Katai muttered. He took a sip of scalding tea, hoping the burn would help him feel less out of his depth.
He barely noticed that all of his fear was gone.
Nakahara spent another moment as he was, hunched over with misery; then he dropped a hand to the floor and grabbed the mug by its handle. It shook badly in his grip, the way the knife had before. It was even easier now to see the bruises marbling his skin from fingertips to elbow.
“I lost someone,” he said faintly.
Katai chewed the inside of his cheek lightly. “I’m—sorry for your loss,” he replied.
The glance Nakahara gave him then would’ve been amused, he thought, if not for how tired he looked. “Anyone ever told you that you’re a fucking idiot?”
“It’s been brought up occasionally.”
Nakahara looked at his tea with red-rimmed eyes. It seemed his wound had stopped bleeding at last, but it remained crimson and raw-looking. It looked very out of place on him, cutting through the handsome features he must have boasted all his life.
“She used to make me tea too,” Nakahara murmured. “Just… every time she was upset, or she thought I was upset, or we’d argue about something. She’d just shove her damn tea into my face like some miracle fucking cure. I started drinking wine instead to piss her off.”
“Many people find tea calming,” Katai replied mildly.
Nakahara drank from the mug; he shoved his trembling fingers through his unwashed hair; he hunched over again, eyes wet, mouth tight. “The funny thing is,” he said harshly, “I’d give anything to hear her yell at me again. Anything.”
There was nothing Katai, or anyone, could say to that.
Sleeping with an assassin of the port mafia in his home did not turn out to be as horrific an experience as Katai would have expected. He offered his first aid kit, once Chuuya—as he requested to be called—asked for it. He sat by him when his wavering hands failed him, holding disinfectant to the awful wound in his face, cringing when it touched skin, even though Chuuya himself only winced.
“I don’t think you can get that stitched up,” Katai said hesitantly.
It was a deep cut, wide of a centimeter and stretching for at least five in length, a whole strip of face gone and leaving slick muscle exposed. The skin around it looked burned as well.
“That’s fine,” Chuuya replied. “Just get me one of those gauze things. The greasy ones.”
He couldn’t put it on himself, because his shaking was too severe, so Katai ended up doing that for him too. For all that Chuuya had berated him his kindness, he didn’t seem very worried that Katai would use the occasion to hurt him. He sat as still as possible through the process, and by the time Katai was done, he was only sporting a square piece of bandage over his left cheekbone.
“That’s going to take forever to heal and scar horribly, isn’t it,” Chuuya said to no one, eyeing his reflection in the broken window. The blind had been shut back down behind it, hiding Katai’s entire place from view once more.
“Who did that to you?” Katai asked.
He wasn’t talking only about his face; Chuuya had taken off his jacket and shoes sometime during the night, laying the skin of his arms and feet bare, and they were stained with blue and black. The bruises crawled all the way up his throat.
“Myself, mostly,” Chuuya replied. He had been strangely forthcoming ever since the tea, maybe because he didn’t care, maybe because his light fever was clouding his judgment. “The face was a parting gift from a friend, though.”
Katai wanted to ask more, but Chuuya silenced him with a look, before asking to use his shower.
He left him to it while rummaging through his closet for clothes that would fit an eighteen year-old half his size. He found old high school garments at the very bottom: a rumpled uniform shirt whose logo he cut off with kitchen scissors and a pair of jeans way too tight on him now. It would still be too long for Chuuya, but at least Katai had once been skinny enough that the waistband should fit.
Chuuya came out of the bathroom washed of all grime and blood. He had tied up his wet hair with something, took the offered clothes with a murmur of thanks, slipped them on right in the room with no care at all that someone else was present.
He slept, after that. Curled up in a corner where a computer had stood only hours ago and dropped out of consciousness almost instantly. Katai watched him for almost an hour before feeling tired enough to do the same. He took the time to drop a spare blanket on Chuuya’s shoulders, waking him instantly, before passing out himself. Chuuya only said, “I’m a light sleeper, so don’t try to pull any shit.”
Katai didn’t wake up paralyzed this time.
Actually, he woke up before Chuuya, and so he gathered his strength and headed toward his kitchen, wincing at the sight of the dirty dishes he had let accumulate there for weeks now. He washed enough of them by hand to make for a good breakfast. His fridge still had some eggs, thankfully, as well as an sealed bottle of orange juice.
He didn’t open the blinds, though the day felt like one when he might appreciate a touch of sunlight—there was Chuuya to contend with, after all, and he was obviously running from something. Or someone.
The entire port mafia on the hunt, Katai thought in quiet panic, and I’m the one hiding what they’re looking for.
Maybe he should call Kunikida after all.
Chuuya stirred from the corner of the room only a few minutes later, looking groggy and pained but not shaking nearly as much as the previous day. The bruises over his hands had turned more green than black already.
“You’re too fucking nice,” he mumbled, sitting down at the table and accepting his half of the sweet omelette Katai had made.
He ate it slowly, sparingly, his chopsticks clicking against the plate in time with his tremors. The only outward sign of irritation he showed at that was a frown, which made Katai wonder if he suffered them often. Physical health issues of the sort didn’t seem very compatible with the number of kills or rumored kills associated with him.
Then again, neither did his age or stature. And he had implied, very strongly, that he had murdered the special ability department chief himself while injured.
Katai wondered what it said about him that he couldn’t find it in himself to be more afraid of him for it.
“Say, kid,” he said, idly playing with the last piece of his food.
“How did you even know about me?”
Chuuya took the time to finish chewing before answering. “Someone I used to work with told me about you ages ago,” he said.
Another pause. “Sakaguchi Ango.”
“Oh,” Katai said, smiling. “Haven’t heard from him in a while. I was wondering where he’d gone.”
His words halted under the look Chuuya was giving him. “What do you mean?” Chuuya asked.
“Well, Ango’s always been my contact with the special ability department,” he replied. “Up till a year ago when everyone said he’d quit. But then no one could tell me where he’d gone, so I guess, if he was working with you…”
It was hard to imagine someone like Ango in the port mafia, but Ango was the type of smart who could adapt to any work environment. Katai doubted that whatever Ango had done there had much to do with gunfights.
Chuuya wasn’t playing with his food anymore. Katai eyed him warily. “Is there something wrong?” he asked.
“No,” Chuuya replied. “Tell me about him. Sakaguchi.”
“Just curious. We never talked much.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Kazai replied, puzzled. “He’s the one who got me this job, pretty much. Found out about my ability and gave me a use for it. He was always nice to me—he used to pay for maids to come clean up my place once in a while, just because, he said. Weird guy.”
“Yeah,” Chuuya echoed, staring at his empty plate. “Weird guy.”
Chuuya looked away before Katai could ask anything; his eyes found the edge of the sink, and he rose from his chair, grabbing the wide scissors resting there.
“You wouldn’t happen to have any hair dye with you, right?” he asked.
“No,” Katai replied, surprised by the change in topic. Then, licking his lips surreptitiously: “I could go buy some if you want.”
It wasn’t an easy offer, even to escape the attention of the criminal holding him hostage; Katai hadn’t left his apartment in months and always ordered his groceries online. He never so much as took the trash out of the building either—there was a chute right outside his front door. The last time he had tried, a panic attack had stuck him to the bottom of the staircase.
But Chuuya had no way of knowing that.
He seemed to consider the thought, weighing his options without ever looking away from Katai. Katai felt sweat gather at his temples. He felt it slick his back and stick his shirt to his skin.
“All right,” he said. “Where’s the nearest convenience store?”
“Right outside the building.”
“You have ten minutes.”
Katai held his breath. Chuuya raised an eyebrow.
He found himself at the entrance of his building with his panic kept tightly in check. He still lost almost a minute standing there, staring at the stretch of street separating him from the store; in the end it was thoughtless obligation that made him push the doors open and walk out.
The cold was very harsh on his skin in spite of the many layers he wore. He wondered, waiting for his turn to cross the road, if Chuuya had suffered from it while coming to find him, what with the injuries he sported.
Katai couldn’t see anything or anyone suspicious around. He entered the store to a gush of too-warm air, skin rippling with instant shivers, and made his way toward the cosmetics section.
He picked the first bottle of black hair dye he found regardless of the price. He took more gauze and wound-cleaning things, as well. He hesitated, and grabbed a prepaid phone so quickly that his wrist ached with the movement.
Once he was out of the store, he called the only number he knew by heart.
“It’s me,” he said as soon as the line opened.
“Katai?” The sound of Kunikida’s voice sent a shock of heat through Katai’s chest, made his heart beat fast enough to ache. “Can you call me back later, I’m at work—”
“There’s someone in my house,” Katai blurted.
“He let me out to buy a couple things and I won’t have any other occasion to contact you so I thought I’d let you know just in case something happened.” He sucked in a breath once he was done, and the icy air did nothing to appease the frantic pace of his heart.
“Hang on—are you being threatened?”
“No,” Katai said. “Well, yes.”
“I’m calling the police—”
“No!” His shout startled a passerby; Katai swallowed painfully. “No, he’s, he hasn’t hurt me. He won’t hurt me. I think.”
There was a second of silence. “What happened,” Kunikida said. It sounded like an order.
“He broke in. Needed my help with something. He said he wouldn’t do anything to me if I obeyed and he hasn’t. Listen, Kunikida, I don’t have much time—he’s just a kid. Eighteen years old. He’s injured too.”
“What did he want you to do?”
That wasn’t something Katai felt much like answering. Getting access to the special ability department’s archives had been a blessing, and he had glimpsed quite a bit of useful information as he deleted everything pertaining to Chuuya himself—including the contents of his own file, which he had edited liberally. He didn’t want to admit to his own participation in something this illegal, or to his enjoyment of it.
“He’s a member of the port mafia,” he said. “I think he’s running away from them.”
It took a moment for Kunikida to absorb that information.
“You’re harboring a fugitive of the port mafia,” he repeated faintly.
“Yeah. A pretty notorious member too, I think.”
“So the police is out of the question, because they’ll know immediately, and then you’re going to be in danger when they come and fetch him.” He sighed. “How do you get in these situations without ever leaving your place?”
“I don’t know!” More people were looking at him now. Katai bit his lip, and it split open easily, because the cold had dried it so quickly. He walked across the road with the rest of the waiting walkers and sucked the blood into his mouth. “Listen, Kunikida—you said you were scouted for something. Some gifted police agency.”
“Detective agency,” Kunikida corrected instantly, unable to help himself despite his obvious worry. The thought made Katai smile. “Yeah, I met with their director a week ago.”
“Are you going to take the job?”
“Probably, but why—”
“Could this detective agency protect someone running away from the mafia?”
Kunikida sucked in an audible breath. It cracked over the line in endless static, similar to the sounds that ran through Katai’s ears whenever Futon was in use. “Katai,” he said. “I can’t show up on my first day on the job and ask if my new boss would be okay with protecting a criminal.”
“Please,” Katai forced out.
“There’s something you’re not telling me.”
The words almost made him laugh.
“It’s not nothing if it’s making you ask for help on behalf of the guy holding you hostage.”
“It’s really nothing, it’s just—he was crying.” Katai pushed open the door of his building, groceries in hand, his numb fingers keeping the bulky phone pressed onto his ear. His fear of being outside couldn’t push past the threshold of his current conversation. “He hasn’t even been mean or rude. He just needed a place to stay for a day, and some help erasing his presence. And then once that was done he cried, and he let me help a bit with his injuries, and I just think he doesn’t have anyone right now. He’s running away from an entire criminal organization on his own, and he’s a kid. He’s—he’s short, and he’s bruised all over, and I know he’s probably done horrible things, but he’s just a kid, Kunikida. He’s trying to get away.”
Not that Kunikida wasn’t a kid himself in many ways still, no matter that he had turned twenty and earned the right to his first drink, no matter that he was a legal adult with a job. But Katai had spent the night dreaming of the numbers he had seen, of the pictures of Chuuya much younger than he was now, surrounded by armed men or cleaning knives free of blood, looking all the way a child looked.
He wondered how young Chuuya was the first time he had been made to hurt someone. He wondered how one could ever recover from growing up that way.
“Just think about it,” he finished, starting his climb up the stairs. “It’s okay if you can’t. I have to hang up now.”
Kunikida sighed again. “I’ll see what I can do,” he muttered. “Be careful.”
The line cut with sinister beeping. Katai took a few seconds in the staircase, leaning against the old wooden railing and catching what was left of his breath, before stepping out into his floor’s hallway. He threw the phone down the garbage chute. Opened the door of his apartment.
Chuuya grabbed him by the neck in the following second, slamming the door shut and then slamming him against it, his grip tight enough that almost no air came through.
The otherworldly weight of the previous night was back, sticking him to the floor, disabling him of movement; yet somehow that threat felt less consequent than the dark gaze leveled with his, than the vicious fury etched onto Chuuya’s face that made him look a lot older.
“You called someone,” he said lowly.
Kata pawed uselessly at the hand suffocating him, arms heavy, eyesight blurring at the edges. “A—friend,” he managed, “he’s not going to tell anyone—”
Chuuya’s grip tightened. “Did you tell him my name?”
He was released, then, of all but the foreign gravity. Katai slid toward the floor helplessly and didn’t move again. If he hadn’t had the door at his back, he would’ve laid down in full.
He had completely forgotten about the fact that the store he had gone to could be seen from his window. Chuuya must have peeked through the cracks of the blinds.
The wide knife Chuuya had threatened him with was in his hand again, and this time, his grip was a lot more secure when he pressed the blade to the side of Katai’s face. “Why did you have to go and do something stupid like that?” he questioned tiredly. “I really hoped I wouldn’t have to kill you.”
“It’s not what you think,” Katai wheezed. His throat burned with the words, burned with the air.
“You think I’m about to trust you now?”
He shook his head helplessly.
Chuuya crouched in front of him, putting their faces level; he slid the knife under Katai’s chin to make him lift it, to make their eyes meet. “Do you think this is a game, Katai?” he asked.
“No,” Katai replied.
“You know who I am. You probably know that better than anyone alive right now.” The blade dug further into his skin, not yet to the point of a cut but not very far from it. Katai dared not breathe at all. “I probably have the entire port mafia looking for me right now,” Chuuya said. “And trust me, you don’t want to know what they can make of the smallest clue I leave behind. Such as a passerby hearing you talk about me on the phone.”
“I didn’t say your name,” Katai repeated breezily.
“These people know me through a lot more than my name.”
Something warm dripped down the hollow of Katai’s throat; with a jolt of pain, he realized that it was his own blood.
“Do you want to know why I left?” Chuuya asked softly.
Katai couldn’t think of anything he wanted to know less. Chuuya looked nothing now like the broken child Katai had glimpsed, the young man curled in on himself and choking on every sob, on every tear, as he tried to pour all the grief out of himself in one go. His eyes were very dark under the unflattering light. His hair looked like spilled blood.
Chuuya didn’t seem in the mood to share more than that, thankfully. “Tell me what you told your friend,” he ordered. “And tell me everything you can about him.”
Katai opened his mouth and said, “I called him to ask if there was a way for the gifted organization he’s a part of to shelter you.”
“What gifted organization?” he asked.
“It’s very new,” Katai explained shakily. “A detective agency, specializing in cases involving ability users. I, I heard their director only got the permit a few weeks ago. My friend’s going to work there very soon, I might work with them too—he’s an ability user, his name is Kunikida Doppo, and I promise you he’s not going to tell anyone about you being here. He’s a good man. Never broke a promise he made to anyone.”
The knife drew back from his throat, and Katai raised a trembling hand to touch the stinging cut left behind. It was barely deep enough to bleed at all, not life-threatening in any way.
“You called someone to ask if there was a way to protect me,” Chuuya said.
Katai kept his fingers on the cut. “Yeah,” he replied.
“Why would you do that?”
He flushed, knowing without needing to ask that Chuuya would not appreciate the reasoning he had laid out for Kunikida earlier. “It just seemed like the right thing to do,” he mumbled.
Neither of them moved for a while. Katai touched the cut until he stopped aching, until blood stop seeping out; Chuuya crouched in front of him and looked at the floor in silence.
“You’re a fucking idiot,” he said.
He didn’t sound so angry anymore.
Katai startled when he rose up anyway, and even more so when Chuuya’s ability loosened its hold on him. “I’m not staying in Yokohama,” Chuuya declared. “I need to get out of here and lay low until they start having better things to do than look for me.”
“Kunikida said the agency didn’t only operate in Yokohama,” Katai replied roughly. “They need help scouting members all over the country—”
“Thank you,” Chuuya said abruptly. The sincerity in his voice made Katai’s falter. “But I’ll be fine on my own once I’m out of the city. And I’ll be leaving today, so you can go back to your life and never think about this again.”
Katai blinked at him tiredly. “I thought you needed a couple days,” he replied.
“I just needed to hide until the shaking calmed down.”
He lifted his hands, which indeed were no longer trembling. The bruises were still very stark on his skin.
“I’m borrowing your bathroom,” Chuuya declared then. He took hold of the bag of groceries, satisfied with what he saw inside, and with his free hand, he grabbed the kitchen scissors. They left the side of Katai’s counter with an uncomfortable shriek of metal. “Don’t do any more stupid shit or I’ll kill you.”
Chuuya emerged from the bathroom an hour later.
He had cut his hair to about the same length Katai sported himself, dyed it black, and changed the dressing of his wound. With the ill-fitting shirt and jeans he wore now, he drew a very different picture than the boy with red hair who had waited for Katai to wake up with a knife at his neck.
Katai didn’t say anything of the change, or of the way Chuuya’s eyes seemed even more striking with black than red. Chuuya didn’t look like he would care very much about his opinion.
There was nothing to do but watch from the comfort of his bed as Chuuya meticulously destroyed every hint of his passage. He shoved all of his bloodied clothes into a plastic bag, swept the whole place up, wiped clean of fingerprints everything he had touched. With no care in the world, he opened Katai’s closet and rummaged through it until he found a pair of gloves his size. They were woolen, soft to the touch, Katai knew; they had been his favorites until he had outgrown them.
Then Chuuya dropped a ridiculous amount of cash on the coffee table. Katai choked at the sight of it.
“Sorry about the stains,” he said, waving vaguely. “Just tell people you had a nosebleed or something. That usually works.”
“This is way too much,” Katai replied faintly.
“I threatened your fucking—you know what, never mind. Never fucking mind.” Chuuya sighed. “Just take the damn money,” he said tiredly. “I have enough left on me to last me a while, I don’t need this much, and you’re gonna need to pay for all the stuff I broke.”
Chuuya put on the green coat he had been given, despite the fact that its sleeves fell way over his hands. He wrapped a thick scarf around his shoulders until most of his lower face was hidden in it. If not for his eyes, he would have been unrecognizable.
“Wait,” Katai let out, right as Chuuya took hold of the doorknob.
He scrambled for paper and pen under Chuuya’s curious eyes; with trembling fingers, he wrote down what he needed, and then handed the paper to Chuuya.
“Kunikida’s number,” he explained, as Chuuya looked over the digits.
“I don’t need it,” Chuuya said. He held it back toward Katai.
“No—please,” Katai said. “Just keep it. Call him, whenever you come back to Yokohama.”
“Call him,” Katai cut in. “Kunikida’s a good guy. He’s not going to tell anyone about you, and if you tell him about your situations—he’ll help. He’ll let you meet with the agency director.”
“You think what I want now is to be part of another gifted organization?”
“You’ll need to, eventually,” Katai said. He swallowed before adding, “You know they can’t let someone like you be on the run forever. Not with… with what I saw on those pictures.”
Not with Corruption ranked at such a high danger level in the ministry’s archives. Only three other files had been there alongside Chuuya’s own, for the entire country.
“If you don’t join a group eventually, they’ll all be after you,” he went on. “Not just the port mafia. This agency… I don’t think it’s a bad one to be a part of.”
“I’m not really made for catching criminals,” Chuuya replied quietly. “I’m more the kind to pat them on the back for a job well done.”
He looked over the slip of paper for another moment before pocketing it.
He met Katai’s eyes, then, watching over his face intently. Kazai withstood it with as much grace as he could.
“You’re not a bad guy,” Chuuya said.
Katai laughed nervously. “I’m a shut-in living in a dump, and you’re a murderer,” he replied.
Chuuya took hold of the door once again. He pushed it open, letting the kinder light of the hallway fall onto him. It shone off of his hair with unnatural blue tints; it washed over the reddish stain that had already spread through the new bandage he wore.
“Thank you for the tea,” he murmured. He bowed at the neck, surprisingly proper.
Kazai nodded back wordlessly.
He stood by the door for a very long time after it had fallen shut.