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Demons behind red bars

Chapter Text

 

Taiga could have tried to run the moment they took him away from his family, but where was he supposed to go? He had been just 12 years old at that time and no one would have bothered with him or given him shelter. Years he had been forced to do the lowest work for different people. He had been reached around like a slave and now that he was slowly turning into an adult he hoped to be able to find his own way, but he was still too naive for that. One time he had asked to be allowed to leave and find a job and live a normal life, when that had been denied he ran away, but got caught and punished. After his punishment there was again someone new picking him up to bring him to a new place, but when Taiga realized where they were going he tried to get away. In the end he got punished again and each time the scars on his back got more. But this time it wouldn’t just be scars. This place was a final destination and there was just life or death.

He was standing in front of one of the red houses in the Yoshiwara district, two people holding on to him so that he couldn't run away.

Women and men were passing them, all of them laughing, being drunk and shamelessly touching on the street. Taiga closed his eyes with a shiver. This was definitely the worst place he had been brought to so far.

It was evening already and while he could see women sitting behind the red bars of all the other houses, their make-up seeming like the one of a demon with the red lights surrounding them, their house was different. It were boys sitting in the space in the window and in front of them women as well as men looked at them in fascination, all their dirty thoughts visible in those lustful and greedy eyes.

“Oh, a newbie?”

Taiga looked back to the entrance where a man had appeared. He was wearing a light grey kimono which wasn't properly closed and revealed his chest and partly his shoulder. He held a small black fan in his hand and approached Taiga with slow steps. His look was almost burning him down and he would have loved to make a step back, but he wasn't allowed to. He flinched when the other one put the fan under his chin to lift up his head. Taiga moved his head with a warning growl on which the other one lifted an eyebrow before he formed a lopsided smile.

“Interesting, I like you already. Bring him inside, I'll call the owner.”

Some boys crossed their way while they brought Taiga inside and they all seemed to want to know who the newbie was. Some seemed just interested in finding out more about him, others seemed to have other intentions.

“Thank you for bringing him in, you can leave him to us now,” a boy said as they pushed Taiga in a room with nothing more but a table in the middle and an extremely expensive looking floor chair behind it with a red silk cover. The men left Taiga with the boy alone and closed the door.

“You can sit down,” the boy said with a movement towards the pillow which was placed in front of the table. The boy sat down on the tatami ground next to the table and looked at Taiga with scanning eyes. The kimono he was wearing was colorful with a few small pink and violet lines on it, but still not too bright to be annoying to the eye and he had it closed up to his neck completely, looking more like a person from a tea house than a bordel.

“First time for you in Yoshiwara?”

Taiga just nodded nervously on which the boy let out a chuckle and moved a bit closer on which Taiga tensed.

“Okay for starters, just because this is a Yoshiwara, you don't have to fear that everyone here just thinks about sex, not all of the time at least.”

That didn't help Taiga to calm down, because he had seen the boys’ looks and they weren't even customers.

“You don't really want to be here, do you?”

Taiga didn't even dare to shake his head, afraid of receiving a punishment for it.

“By the way my name is Kentaro, would you mind telling me yours?”

“Taiga…”

His shy tone made the other one chuckle, but Taiga didn't feel annoyed by it. Actually since he'd arrived, Kentaro was the only person he didn't feel like some kind of prey to while getting looked at. “Nice to meet you, Taiga.”

Again just a nod, but Kentaro didn't seem to mind.

“The one you met at the entrance is Taisuke. He is one of the senpais of our house. I know he can look really scary and to be honest you should make sure not to end up alone in a room with him for now.”

That wasn't how Taiga had thought the second half of the sentence would end and he looked at Kentaro with wide eyes.

“I know you thought I'd tell you he is nicer than he looks, right? Let's say he can be nice as well, but never without a purpose.”

Before Taiga could think about it too much the door opened again. It took Taiga some time to realize that he kept staring at the person the whole way until he sat down on the chair behind the table, crossing his legs. His kimono had several layers and the upper one was red with a golden phoenix on it. The way he moved through the room had almost hypnotized Taiga without him noticing. The man in front of him had the same long hair as Taiga, while Kentaro and most other boys had it a bit shorter and there was a golden pin holding up the hair in the back of his neck. He was playing with a black cigarette holder in his right hand and just when he suddenly blew some steam into his face Taiga finally snapped out of it and lowered his head with a small cough on which Kentaro escaped a small chuckle.

“Thank you Kentaro,” was all the other person said before the boy turned towards him and bowed before he got up and left the room. Taiga stared almost panicked after him, but then the other one tapped the cigarette holder on the table on which he turned back.

“Don't worry I won't eat you.”

There was not the slightest hint of a smile on the other one's face while saying that and he kept scanning Taiga on which the boy lowered his eyes on the table, feeling extremely uncomfortable out of a sudden.

“Do you know who I am?”

“The owner of this place?” Taiga whispered and then he gasped when luckily the end without the cigarette landed under his chin and forced him to look up.

“If you know that show me some respect. Look at me when I speak and answer clearly when I ask you something.”

Taiga wanted to nod, but when the other ones look darkened he straightened his back a bit.

“Yes, sir.”

“In here it's not sir. You can call me by my name, Kamenashi. But you've to make sure to learn all our rules if you don't want to end up in trouble right from the beginning. Kentaro will help you remembering them later, but for now let me tell you the most important one.” Kamenashi leaned back on the chair and rested his chin on one palm while he faced Taiga with an intense stare and this time Taiga didn't dare to look away.

“If you run away you are dead!”

It wasn’t actually a rule that scared Taiga, because he knew that the rules in Yoshiwara were strict. Not everyone was forced to be here of course, but if looked close enough a lot of them had their own cruel story which made them end up in this kind of environment.

“No punishment, no warning, no second chance. Did I make that clear?”

“Yes,” Taiga replied in a neutral voice while facing the owner. It seemed like Kamenashi was surprised by his calm reply and suddenly his look changed to a more excited one.

“Good, then I guess the other rules can be explained by Kentaro later. For now let me see what kind of material they brought me this time.”

When Kamenashi stood up and walked around the table Taiga looked up at him kind of lost until Kamenashi waved his hands upwards.

“Stand up.”

Taiga did as he was told and stood in front of the owner who examined him carefully with his eyes. He had put the cigarette on the table and stretched out both hands to touch Taiga’s face and the boy stood still even though he couldn’t deny that he felt a bit uncomfortable.

“Such a soft and pale skin, the customers will like that.”

A compliment which actually made Taiga feel even more uneasy. Just thinking about all the people which were looking at the boys from the street earlier made him shiver. They didn’t even care how obvious their dirty and not always harmless intentions were and unfortunately the business itself also didn’t always care about the boys’ safety.

“Let me see the rest of your body.”

It happened automatically that Taiga stepped back when Kamenashi’s hands traveled to the opening of his jinbei*₁. His clothes were the usual work clothes with loose pants down to the knees and the shirt which got closed without any obi*₂. Never in his life had he even been close to expensive clothes like the kimonos they were wearing here.

“There is no reason for you to get scared,” Kamenashi said calmly. “You won’t have to start working right away and I am not a customer, but as much as you are workers you are also goods, material which we have to keep as beautiful as possible to please the eye of the customer.”

As much as Taiga was actually disgusted by that type of thinking he couldn’t actually make a ruckus on his first day. Kamenashi had made it clear he couldn’t leave or he would die. They would definitely always watch him and if he kept refusing even easy tasks like this he would definitely get punished soon.

Instead of stepping forward again Taiga removed his shirt on his own and took a deep breath before he removed the rest of his clothes as well. This time he couldn’t look up at Kamenashi as the latter started circling around him with a scanning look and when the latter’s hands landed on his back he flinched.

“Seems like you are the disobedient type,” Kamenashi said as he traced the scars with a gentle touch which made Taiga arch his back.

It got more unpleasant for him when Kamenashi moved his hands lower until they touched his hips. With a hum he moved to the front again, tracing the boy’s skin until he reached his belly.

“The scars are actually not as bad for the business as you might think. A lot of the boys have similar scars from punishments or also from customers.”

Again something Taiga didn’t want to hear, but what else did he expect?

“So tell me, are you still a virgin?”

The reason why Taiga hesitated with the answer was because he knew what his answer would mean and it made him feel nauseous out of a sudden. He had heard rumors about how boys were treated when they were still untouched. They were looked at as something sacred, getting displayed to the public like an animal in a cage for the spectators to form all their dirty thoughts about them before they’d get sold. Sold to someone who was the first and only person who could own them for one night. No rules, no boundaries. It was the scariest part of being at Yoshiwara and it made him unable to voice out an answer for several minutes until Kamenashi put his pointer finger under his chin to make him look up.

“I warn you, don’t even try to lie to me. I’ll hand you to Taisuke immediately if I’ve the feeling you lie and trust me he will find out the truth in barely minutes and it won’t be pleasant.”

Silence followed on that statement again and finally Taiga dared to take another deep breath before he looked directly back at the owner.

“Yes.”

One single word and it brought a wide smile on Kamenashi’s face before he removed his hand and stepped back.

“Great, then get dressed again. Kentaro will be in charge of you from now on. He is your senpai so treat him with respect and the same applies for the other senpais and boys.” Kamenashi opened the door as Taiga was dressed again and told a boy on the corridor which seemed to have been sitting out there the whole time waiting for instructions, to get Kentaro. The boy was about the same age as Taiga, but he wore a jinbei in dark grey  so maybe he was in charge of giving information around the building and guiding customers in and out.

“But that doesn’t mean that you have no right to defend yourself if something happens,” Kamenashi added before he stepped out to the hallways, obviously about to leave. Taiga understood what that meant, after all Kentaro had told him before already to not stay alone with Taisuke and he was sure he wasn’t the only one he had to be careful of. “Better make sure to stay with Kentaro for the first days or find a few friends among the boys which you can trust. They are no monsters you know? Allow yourself to find a new place to live here instead of seeing yourself as a prisoner.”

That wasn't actually easy for someone who had been treated like one for half his life, but Kamenashi seemed to know that. He still gave the boy an encouraging look before he left.

So for Taiga a new battle had begun and he couldn't deny that he didn't feel ready at all, but even though he went through so much hardship already he was still far away from the point which would make him give up. For now he could do nothing else, but somehow get used to his new environment and hopefully find some company which would help him if he actually ended up in some mess, which he eventually would, judging by his bad luck.

***

“I will give you a headache if I explain all rules today, so let's just stuck to the important ones,” Kentaro started as they walked down a corridor towards the back of the house. The part Taiga had seen so far seemed for the customers, with rooms on both floors in which they would spend their time with the boys. But after Kentaro had led him through a door in the back the environment changed and the luxurious red colored wood of the doors and windows got replaced by the usual brown one.

“This is the private part of the house, no customers are allowed here. The rooms for the boys are upstairs, but before I show you your room you'll have to take a bath.”

The next door Kentaro opened showed a bath which could already be called a private onsen*₃. It had several wash places and a spacious bath which was surrounded by a natural stone wall.

“Nice, isn't it?” Kentaro asked as he let Taiga enter first and the boy could just nod. At least their private quarters didn't seem bad at all, at least if their rooms were the same as the bath.

“When you've work you have to be in the front of the house, but on your days off you can be either here or also walk around town.”

It surprised Taiga to hear that he was allowed to go outside, but Kentaro already gave him a knowing look.

“I'm sure Kamenashi warned you about what will happen if you run and trust me those who tried while they were in town never got away.”

It gave Taiga and unpleasant shiver, because even if it was a lie to scare others to not run, it actually made him refrain from trying.

“So I guess even if I leave you alone for a few minutes I can be sure to find you in here when I come back, right?”

Did the boy trust him that much already or was it a test? Whichever it was Taiga nodded and Kentaro excused himself for a while, telling Taiga to take his time and that he would come to pick him up later.

Taiga couldn't deny that he was grateful for the opportunity to get clean again, after all the people he was with before didn't even give him a proper place to sleep or enough food. Taking his time he washed the dirt of his skin, trying to be careful with the fresh scars on his back, but when he got into the bath the hot water was like the best medicine he could get for his back.

With a sigh he let his head drop on the stones behind him and he closed his eyes for a moment. He couldn't deny that he was afraid of what was awaiting him, but meeting Kentaro he had the feeling he could maybe somehow get through this. After all the boy seemed totally okay with being a part of Yoshiwara, not that he could tell what kind of life he had before and what brought him here.

Not wanting to freak himself out with the thoughts about how his life would change from now on he took a deep breath and vanished under water for a moment. When he came back to the surface he flinched when the door to the bath got opened at the exact same moment, revealing two boys which were chatting and hadn't noticed him at first.

“To be honest I'd like those kinds of customers to be handled by Taisuke instead,” one of them let out while he started undressing. He was quite tall with short hair and his kimono was blue with a few white lines, making it look like water was flowing on it.

“Or give him to Hokuto, I know he wouldn't mind,” the other one added as he turned to the shelf and opened his half red half blue kimono with a dark blue obi. “And also- oh, we got company.”

The boy had spotted Taiga the moment he turned around again and let the kimono slide from his shoulders. Taiga looked away immediately, but didn't dare to get out the bath, after all he had been told to wait.

‘A newbie,” the taller one let out in pure excitement before he tossed his clothes in the shelf and almost skipped over to the bath.

“Reo I warn you, don't you dare enter that bath without washing yourself. You just told me what that customer did with you and I don't want you in that water like that and the newbie doesn't want that either, right?”

When Taiga realized that the boy had asked him directly he just nodded.

“Look! So wash yourself!”

“Yes mum,” Reo pouted on which the other boy also went over to the wash place.

“You know that the only mum here is Kentaro. Oh by the way newbie what's your name?”

“Taiga,” he replied in a neutral voice, still a bit confused about the two boys showing up.

“I like that name, it sounds cute,” Reo replied teasingly on which the other boy threw a washing towel at him.

“You will scare him if you keep talking like that,” he scolded Reo before facing Taiga who hadn't moved from the spot at all and kept looking at the two boys while trying to find out if he was in trouble or not.

“Don't mind him, Reo can get easily excited, but he is a good guy, even though he might start touching you at night and pretend later that he was sleepwalking.”

“You're still complaining about the one time that happened?”

“Anyways,” the other one continued as he got up and entered the bath on which Taiga eyed him carefully, especially as the boy moved over to him right away and came a bit too close for Taiga’s liking, but he didn't seem of the dangerous type, even though Taiga wasn't sure how easily he could actually tell who was and who wasn't dangerous.

“So Taiga, welcome to Yoshiwara. I'm Juri.”

“And as much as I got scolded before, you know my name already,” Reo added as he also entered the bath and moved on Taiga's other side so that he felt kind of trapped between them.

It was when Juri wanted to lift one hand to his face that Taiga slightly flinched, but he was still calm enough to not push both away and dash out the bath.

“Mh, the shy type I see,” was all Juri said before he sat back a bit on which Taiga relaxed.

“Don't worry we won't bite. Did you meet anyone else already?” Reo asked almost soothing.

“The owner,” Taiga started in a low voice. “Kentaro and Taisuke.”

“Uh, you met the worst company right from the start. Stay away from Taisuke!”

Juri’s words were more direct than Kentaro’s were and it made clear that Taiga should definitely remember their advice.

“Taisuke can be nice as well and extremely convincing, but-”

“Never without a purpose,” Taiga ended Reo’s sentence and the boy formed a lopsided smile.

“A quick learner. That will help you a lot. I can always give you some advice if you are troubled though,” Reo let out while he sneaked a bit closer again.

“If you touch him Kamenashi will cut your hands off immediately,” Kentaro was suddenly heard when he entered the bath, carrying a towel and a white yukata.

“Oh an untouched one,” Reo let out in fascination, but backed off on Kentaro’s warning.

“Taiga, come here. You'll have enough time to get to know those idiots better. They are your new roommates.

“ Wuhu~ we get the newbie,” Reo let out enthusiastic before he exchanged a high five with Juri.

Taiga carefully got away between them and got out of the bath. When Kentaro handed him the towel the two boys started struggling in the bath and Reo pushed Juri’s head underwater before the latter pulled his leg away so that he also landed with his head underwater. Taiga looked at them for a brief moment before a chuckle made him turn around again.

“What?”

Kentaro gave him a bright smile in reply on which Taiga’s look turned to confused. “Did I see a brief smile on your face just now?”

On Kentaro’s teasing Taiga looked away and hurried to get dry. Kentaro kept his teasing look, but handed him the white yukata without another word and made him follow him through the house towards a different room.

The room had a tatami floor and a few shelves with kimonos inside. The only other item in the room was a wooden box on the floor.

“Get out of the Yukata,” Kentaro ordered out of a sudden after he had closed the door, but somehow with Kentaro he didn’t mind. After all they all had seen his body and also his scars in the bath before and none of them had made a comment about it.

Taiga did how he was told and watched Kentaro how he opened the box, revealing an extremely expensive looking kimono. It was mostly white, but there was a golden embroidery on it. The pattern looked a bit like the golden parts were flames trying to burn the white Kimono.

“This kimono is exclusive for the untouched boys. It will make everyone look at you, but it will also protect you.”

Kentaro lifted it up and held it out to Taiga who turned around and let Kentaro help him get dressed.

“Usually you’ll get work Kimonos and Yukatas for your free time, but until your ceremony you’ll have to wear this one no matter if you are inside the house or outside.”

“Ceremony,” Taiga repeated in a low voice and when Kentaro stepped in front of him to close the Kimono with the white obi, he looked up at him with a kind of apologizing look.

“I guess you heard the rumors?”

Taiga nodded while Kentaro pulled the Kimono straight. “I’d love to tell you that you don’t have to worry, but I don’t like lying and you should be prepared for what awaits you.”

In silence Kentaro checked everything once more before he stepped back, now with a darker look on his face.

“You experienced it as well,” Taiga concluded on the boy’s behavior and to his surprise Kentaro’s look brightened up a bit again when he looked up at him.

“Yes I did. Years have passed since then, but trust me it’s an experience which will haunt you forever if you are not prepared for it.”

From the first moment he had met Kentaro he had seen a strong young boy and here he already saw a vulnerable part behind that strong front, but it wasn’t something bad. It actually made it easier for Taiga to get closer to him, because a lot of them had their haunting stories which brought them here in the first place.

“Ok come on, let me show you your room. The serious talks can still happen over the next days.”

It didn’t seem to Taiga as if he was running away from this topic, but he was right, Taiga also preferred to not get all the negative things thrown at him at the first day.

They went upstairs and Taiga realized soon that most of the rooms were no private ones.

“As long as you are a newbie you will share your room with other younger boys. Normally just the senpais have private quarters. Taisuke and the other older ones have their rooms at the other side of the corridor. My room is at the end of this one on the left.”

Knowing which parts of the upper floor were safe and which weren’t was helpful information to Taiga and he followed Kentaro to a room towards the end of the corridor where he slid one of the doors open.

“You will share your room with three other boys, you met Juri and Reo already and-”

Taiga tilted his head when Kentaro stopped speaking the moment he entered the room and when he dared to look inside the room he found another boy in it. He was sitting on the windowsill with a book on his lap, but he seemed to have fallen asleep while reading. A round pair of glasses was dangerously low on his nose, definitely about to fall if he moved now.

Kentaro walked inside the room and took the glasses carefully off on which he gained a groan, but the latter didn’t wake up. The windowsill was wide enough to not easily fall off and there were even pillows on it so it seemed quite comfortable, not to forget that they had a nice view towards the garden behind the house. The boy was wearing a dark violet yukata instead of a fancy kimono, which showered that he had definitely a day off.

Kentaro put the glasses on a table at the other side of the room before he waved at Taiga to get to the front of the room to not disturb the other one. They sat down on the tatami floor before Kentaro pointed at the other one.

“So this is your third roommate, his name is Hokuto.”

Taiga took another look over to the latter, but he was still peacefully sleeping and seeing him in one of the normal yukatas he didn’t even seem like a person which would belong to such a place.

“Don’t get fooled by his first impression!” Kentaro warned him in a low voice. “He is not dangerous don’t worry, but he has a quite cold attitude, not just towards newbies, but you’ll get used to that.”

When Kentaro stood up Taiga wanted to follow him, but the latter waved his hand. “For today you should rest. I’ll come tomorrow to pick you up and show you the front of the house and explain a few more rules.”

The other one walked over to the door, but seemed to realize Taiga’s troubled expression which made him turn to him with a brief smile.

“Relax, okay? The more you show everyone how uncomfortable you feel the more they’ll try to approach you. They know they are not allowed to make a move on you, but they like games. Don’t let them play.”

With that he left and Taiga felt completely lost for several minutes in which he didn’t move from the spot. He scanned the room carefully, but there was not much in it. The futons were stored in the cupboard at daytime and the only other furniture was a table at the end of the room. There was a mirror placed on the ground next to it. It was quite tall and slowly Taiga got up and walked with careful steps through the room to not wake the other one up. When he stood in front of the mirror he felt like he wasn’t looking at a reflection, but at a whole different person. His pale skin was almost as white as the kimono itself and he couldn’t deny that the golden pattern made the kimono look extremely special. But that would also make everyone look at him as Kentaro had explained, after all the boys as well as the customers knew the meaning of this kimono.

When Taiga looked to the ground he spotted a few books next to the table and he sat down to take one in his hand. They seemed to have quite difficult topics even though Taiga couldn’t understand them, after all no one had ever taught him how to read.

The second book he took in his hands had a few drawings in it as well and Taiga kept flipping through the pages absentminded until he thought he had felt something moving against his hair. He wanted to look over to the window, maybe a breeze was coming in from there, but when he turned his head he came eye to eye with Hokuto. The latter was sitting right behind him, his face barely centimeters away from his and Taiga squealed and leant backwards so far that he was about to end up flat on the floor, but Hokuto grabbed him by the waist and pulled him up again.

Taiga froze when the other one kept holding on to him and burned him with an intense stare. It seemed as if it took minutes until the other one moved again and he took the book out of Taiga’s hand, which he hadn’t dropped to his own surprise.

“Don’t touch my stuff, newbie.”

With that warning Hokuto finally released him and stood up, putting the book back in place before he walked over to the windowsill again as if nothing had happened. Taiga kept looking at him in pure confusion. But before he could even make sense out of what had just happened he heard loud voices in the corridor and soon Juri and Reo entered the room.

“Oh my god you got your kimono already, let me see,” Reo yelled as he dashed towards Taiga and made him stand up. “It fits you so well. Everyone will just have eyes for you tomorrow.”

“Which is not necessarily a good thing Reo, you know that,” Juri was heard as he took the futons out of the cupboard and it surprised Taiga that Hokuto got up and helped him. The other two boys didn’t seem bothered by Hokuto’s cold attitude and maybe Taiga would get used to it as well, but he would have enough time to talk more to all of the boys after all.

“Ehm, can I ask something?” Taiga let out in a low voice on which Reo smiled at him and nodded. “Kentaro said I’ve to wear this the whole time, even in private, but I hope I am allowed to get out of it at night?”

The question made Juri laugh and after he put down the last futon he walked up to him.

“After you just put it on it’s a shame to actually take it off, but yes you are allowed to take it off at night.”

“Here, this is yours,” Reo said as he threw a light yukata for the night at Taiga.

Hokuto had obviously already been in his night yukata as he walked up to the futon close to the door which made Taiga look at the remaining futons.

“You want to choose who you want to sleep next to?” Juri asked while both boys stood next to the futons. They had changed into their yukatas right after the bath already and waited patiently for Taiga to give them an answer.

Taiga needed some more time to realize that they were actually serious about letting him decide and to his own surprise it wasn’t hard for him to choose at all and he stretched out his hand, pointing at Juri.

While Juri just smiled, Reo let out a disappointed sigh and pouted before he dropped on the futon next to Hokuto.

“I told you, you’d scare him,” Juri scolded him as he sat down next to him and hit him with his pillow.

Taiga slowly moved over to the futon next to Juri and sat down, still observing the others. Hokuto had already turned away from them, while Reo and Juri were struggling over the pillow until Juri pulled too hard and when it slipped out of Reo’s hand Juri threw it to the back through the lost force on one side and it landed on Taiga’s face.

“Whups,” Juri let out while trying hard to keep from laughing, while Reo burst out laughing right away, but when the pillow landed on his face this time his expression turned to completely confused making Juri laugh as well.

Taiga had to smile himself after he had successfully aimed for the other one’s face, but his smile faded slowly and got replaced by an embarrassed expression when Juri turned to him with a bright smile.

“I already like you! You fit quite well in this room,” he said while clapping Taiga on the shoulder before he went back to scolding Reo and stopped him from actually throwing the pillow back at Taiga.

While watching them Taiga felt how he finally calmed down a bit more and he couldn’t deny that he was happy to have some boys around him which seemed good company, weird indeed, but definitely not dangerous and that was what mattered to him for now.

 

+++

*₁ jinbei: traditional Japanese clothing with short pants and short-sleeved top
*₂ obi: traditional Japanese belt to close yukatas, kimonos, etc
*₃ onsen: Japanese bath with water from a natural spring

Chapter Text

The next morning Taiga woke up in a quite uncomfortable position and when he tried to turn around he found out why. Juri’s leg was stretched out against his back and had pushed him half off the futon. Carefully he moved away from the latter and sat up, realizing that Hokuto’s futon was already in the cupboard while Reo and Juri were still sleeping.

Before Taiga could decide if he wanted to go back to sleep or not the door got carefully slid open and Kentaro came inside.

This time he was wearing a different kimono and Taiga couldn’t from thinking how good it looked on him even though the pattern showed pink flowers which was clearly unusual even for such an environment.

“I see you tried to go with the safe choice for the night and ended up being kicked out of bed, am I right?” Kentaro asked with a chuckle.

“Is he usually doing that?” Taiga asked in a low voice to not wake the others up.

“Sometimes he kicks, but you could also wake up as his personal teddy bear, don’t worry he is really doing those things without any intention.”

Juri was clearly the one Taiga worried about the least at the moment anyway.

“Those two have off today, so come on let me help you dress and then we go to the front of the house.”

“Does Hokuto have work today?” Taiga asked on which Kentaro nodded before he helped Taiga in his Kimono. It wasn’t like he couldn’t close it himself, but somehow it felt nice to have someone around who guided him for the first days.

“I bet you think we just have work in the evening, but actually our business starts early in the morning and all houses close at nine in the evening. The police control the area quite strictly.”

It made perfect sense now that Kentaro explained it, but as so many others, Taiga had thought they were an exclusive night business.

“Okay, let’s go.”

Taiga followed him back to the front of the house and to his surprise it was already loud inside, a few customers already leaving again. It didn’t take them more than a few steps along the corridor for people to turn to them and when Taiga realized that they were all staring at him he felt more and more uncomfortable.

“Don’t let them scare you. They know that Kimono and that makes you so interesting. Even if they talk to you or stop you in the corridor just be friendly, okay? They know that they are not allowed to touch you, but there are potential people for the ceremony here as well, so better make a good first impression then you might get a good buyer.”

“A buyer,” Taiga repeated in a low voice, his own words giving him shivers. He was used to getting treated like a slave, but getting looked at as some kind of price, an object, barely more than something they want to possess for a night was something completely different.

They wanted to pass around another corner when there was suddenly shouting heard behind them. When Taiga looked back he saw the boy from yesterday. He was at the entrance and the customers which had just entered were obviously causing uproar and while he kept bowing to them and apologized they just pushed him around the whole time, which actually made Taiga extremely angry, but before he could make s step forward Kentaro had passed him.

“Wait here, I’ll be back in a moment.”

Taiga kept looking at them while Kentaro stepped in front of the other boy and spoke with the customers and out of a sudden Taiga felt like there was a complete different person standing over there. His calm and friendly attitude had changed into something wilder, even a small movement of his arm as he touched one of the customers’ shoulders seemed way too voluptuous to be even allowed outside a private room. There was so much confidence in his look that Taiga felt impressed how easily he calmed the situation down. While he kept talking to the customers he pushed the other boy slightly behind him, making sure that he wouldn’t become their target again. When he waved his hand and obviously wanted to guide them into the house, Taiga’s look darkened on the men’s attitude, because not just the looks they gave Kentaro were already more than disrespectful, but also the way one of them had walked up to him and suddenly started touching him while they walked down the corridor.

“As soon as people walk in here they forget all their manners, after all they think we are not more than an object they can use and throw away after that.”

Taiga turned towards the stairs next to the corner they wanted to pass and spotted Taisuke. The man’s kimono looked as if it didn’t get treated carefully, because even though Taisuke had closed it completely this time the material was slightly ripped at some parts which showed that his last customer was definitely not of the careful type, not that Taisuke seemed to mind.

When Taisuke reached the last step of the stairs Taiga wanted to make way, but suddenly Taisuke stepped in his way and trapped him in the corner.

“So you were an untouched one, what a surprise. With your attitude I thought someone would have already gotten the chance to do you.”

While Taiga was normally the restrained type and got silent and shy when people came too close it was different with Taisuke and he gave the older one a judging look.

“What? Shall I apologize that I see a really good slut in you?”

“Maybe you should just stay away from me in the first place?” Taiga shot back on which the latter put his arm to the wall right next to the other one’s head and leant closer.

“You know this kimono might make you feel invincible for now, but remember that there will be the time when you are becoming fair game to all of us.”

That actually made Taiga gulp nervously, but even knowing that, he wouldn’t just let his senpai treat him this low, after all he was just longer in this business nothing more, it didn’t give him the right to treat the younger boys the way the customers were treating them all.

It obviously took Taisuke by surprise when Taiga also leant forward and put one hand on his chest while tilting his head.

“But that time still hasn’t come, so I fear you’ve to step out of my way now, senpai.”

Taiga pronounced the end of the sentence extra mockingly on which Taisuke’s look darkened to a dangerous degree, especially when Taiga dared to push him back and wanted to move away from him.

For a brief moment Taiga felt kind of proud that he hadn’t let himself get cornered, but that feeling lasted just for a second, because he hadn’t thought of the possibility that Taisuke could easily snap. With the next move Taisuke swirled around and grabbed Taiga by the arm, pulling him back. When Taiga turned around with wide eyes the latter had already raised his arm, ready to slap him. Taiga closed his eyes, but when the impact wasn’t coming he dared to open them again.

Hokuto had appeared around the corner and was holding on to Taisuke’s wrist.

“Hands off,” Taisuke growled at him, but Hokuto didn’t seem the slightest scared.

“That’s my line. You touch him and I’ll make sure Kamenashi will cut your hands off.”

A clear warning and it was obvious that Taisuke wasn’t the slightest amused by the fact that one of the younger boys was actually giving him orders. Luckily Taisuke let go of Taiga the next moment on which Hokuto also released Taisuke’s arm.

Taiga was sure that Taisuke would at least threaten Hokuto, because he had dared to talk impolitely to him, but all that happened was a death glare exchange between them before Taisuke vanished around the next corner.

“If you feel like testing your luck and challenge senpais then you’ve to be strong enough to do so until the end. Now he knows that he can scare you after all, so be careful.”

Taiga could just nod while he automatically scanned Hokuto’s clothes. He looked completely different from the evening before. His kimono was black with some white lines which almost looked like lightning, closed by a silver obi.

“Hey, what’s going on,” Kentaro interrupted them as he walked up to them, followed by the boy from before.

“Our untouched one tries already to test his limits,” Hokuto replied before he walked up the stairs without another explanation.

“What does that mean?” Kentaro asked with a raised eyebrow on which Taiga gave him a kind of guilty look.

“Guys, I am sorry to interrupt, but you are kind of in the way,” the boy was heard behind them when other customers were entering and obviously moving towards their direction.

“Right, sorry. By the way Taiga, this is Yugo he is in charge of this house.”

“Not the best way to say it. I am not like the owner, I am more like someone who keeps an eye on everyone and everything, so if anything is up don’t hesitate to ask me,” Yugo said while facing Taiga with a bright smile on which he bowed lightly towards him with a thankful expression.

“Ok, so you can talk later, let’s not get in Yugo’s way for now, because trust me he can get seriously scary.”

Something Taiga couldn’t really imagine, especially because the boy pouted on that before he moved back to the entrance to welcome the next customers.

Kentaro guided Taiga into one of the free rooms and told him to sit down next to the door while Kentaro stopped in the middle of the room.

“So let’s start with the easy stuff. I know you won’t need all those information until your ceremony is over, but let’s say maybe a few of the routine rules might even be helpful to you before you will get your normal customers.”

It always had to end at that topic, but what else was there to talk about anyway? If it was about work in this place it was either about his ceremony or the customers he will have after that. “Hey, don’t space out.”

When Taiga looked up at Kentaro again he blinked a few times in confusion, because somehow the boy had suddenly switched into the same attitude he was showing at the entrance with the customers before.

“All the rooms are the same as this one. Even if the customers pay more the room won’t change, what will change is the service.” Taiga’s eyes were glued on Kentaro while he kept explaining and moved back to the door, stopping next to Taiga. “When you guide a customer to a room make sure that you let him inside first if you are not inside already. In that case Yugo will let him in. After he entered you sit down next to the door and close it.”

Kentaro opened the door for a brief moment just to show Taiga how to close the door and Taiga couldn’t even explain how a normal movement like that made him feel way too warm out of a sudden.

“Depending on the customer you have to make the first move or maybe he will also order you around. You will learn about the customers liking the more you work, but to be honest you should try to please them so they will come back, after all this is how the business here works and with the same customers you won’t get so many new ones and you never know when you’ll get one which might be hard to handle.”

When Kentaro stood up and stretched his arm out, Taiga took it right away and let himself get dragged up. With a graceful movement Kentaro made him turn in front of him so that he was facing the futon on the ground with his back.

“Always observe your customer. Why did he choose you and not another boy?”

Kentaro moved one hand towards Taiga’s chest and the boy followed the movement with his eyes until Kentaro’s hand moved up to his chin and made him look up. “Don’t look away when you’ve the feeling he likes keeping eye contact. Or she, because we get customers of both genders and you've to learn how to please both.”

Taiga wanted to nod, but before he could do so Kentaro had suddenly pushed him backwards and he stumbled, landing on the futon.

“If it seems like he wants you to take the lead, do it. He likes it rough? You’ve to be able to switch between gentle and rough in seconds.”

“Something you seem to have mastered already,” Taiga replied as Kentaro suddenly sat down on top of him with a teasing look before he moved one hand carefully over Taiga’s cheek on which the boy closed his eyes. When he realized that Kentaro had leant down even more and was now with his face right in front of his he got way more excited than he wanted to admit.

“Normally explaining the rules doesn’t take much time, but let’s say with newbies like you, which have no experience it’s always easier to show some things.”

The way Taiga felt the boy’s breathe on his face with every word he flung his eyes open again, as if he would miss something if he didn’t look. But then Kentaro’s finger landed on his mouth with a kind of warning look, even though it still had something playful.

“Don’t get too excited. I am in no position to take care of you. Don’t make me break the rules, because it would be the first and last time I do.”

Clearly Taiga didn’t want to bring Kentaro into trouble, but the boy was at fault as well, after all he had decided himself to show some things instead of just explaining them.

When the boy got off Taiga again it seemed like Kentaro tried to switch back into his usual self. It wasn’t like Taiga knew much about him, but something told him that he had actually just lost control over his own actions. Maybe teaching Taiga the rules was more fun for him than he would actually admit and as much as Taiga was still not ready for any customers he suddenly felt like he wanted to find out more about Kentaro’s behavior change as soon as his ceremony was over.

“Don’t worry it’s normal that you will think about it a lot until the ceremony is over,” Kentaro let out, which made Taiga realize that he had obviously spaced out for a moment, his look darkening as he had thought about the ceremony again.

Taiga was about to ask something when there was a knock on the door and he bit his lip. It wasn’t actually the best moment to ask Kentaro about his experiences with the ceremony and it was also a quite impolite thing to ask, so for now he tried to pretend as if it wouldn’t freak him out with every passing hour. After all no one had even told him when it would be.

“What is it?” Kentaro asked and walked over to the door, sliding it open. Yugo was standing in the hallway with a kind of apologizing look.

“Sorry, I know you’re busy today, but one of your regular customers asked me to at least call you even if you don’t have time for him today.”

That actually brought a weird smile on Kentaro’s face and he looked at Taiga in excitement which gave Taiga a shiver.

“You know what, bring him here,” Kentaro said on which Yugo slightly bowed and left again. Kentaro left the door open and walked up to Taiga who was still sitting on the futon with a confused expression.

“Explaining things is complicated with people like you and because I also can’t show you the way I’d like to, let’s try another way.”

Before Taiga could make sense out of what he said Kochi was back and let someone enter the room before he closed the door.

“Oh we got company today? And an untouched one? You are always full of surprises and here I thought I would have to leave today,” the person let out while Kentaro turned towards him and approached him, moving one arm directly around the other one’s hips as he reached him.

“You had a really good timing today, I actually need your help.”

The other one seemed quite excited about hearing that and he moved one hand up to Kentaro’s face, suddenly pulling him into a greedy kiss on which Taiga looked to the ground right away, feeling more than uncomfortable out of a sudden.

“So what do you have in mind?” The customer asked while he gave Kentaro a bit space again.

“Taiga ,come here,” Kentaro let out on which Taiga almost flinched and he slowly stood up and walked up to them with slow steps, his look still directed to the ground. When he stood next to Kentaro he suddenly received a hit on the back of the head on which he let out a hiss and looked up at the other one with wide eyes.

“What did I tell you about the customers? How dare you not look up at him and greet him?”

It was actually the customer who started laughing on that and Taiga finally dared to look at him directly and he seemed around the same age as him. His clothes were also quite casual, a usual grey yukata and he couldn’t deny that his smile calmed him down a bit.

Taiga hurried to bow towards him before Kentaro could scold him again. On that move he got an approving hum from the customer who looked towards Kentaro next.

“We should make sure that he joins us from time to time when his ceremony is over. I like him.”

“Oh, do I hear any intention there of buying him?”

“Sorry, but the only one I would have ever spent that money on is you and unfortunately I didn’t know you at that time.”

Taiga wasn’t sure if he started relaxing because the attention wasn’t on him or because the situation suddenly got quite cheesy.

Kentaro gave the latter a teasing smile on that before he put his hand on his shoulder and turned back to Taiga.

“So, this is Fuma. He is one of my regular customers,” Kentaro introduced the other one who flashed another brief smile at Taiga. “He will help me explaining some things from now on.”

“Oh, I do?” Fuma asked teasingly on which Kentaro rolled his eyes, before he pushed him more into the room and told Taiga to sit next to the door.

“As I know you, you will totally enjoy this,” Kentaro whispered as he stepped so close to the other one that their lips almost touched again.

“I already do,” Fuma let out before he moved his hands to Kentaro’s hips and made him move closer so that he could put one leg against his crotch on which Kentaro gave him a challenging smile.

Kentaro was about to say something to Taiga when Fuma interrupted him and pushed him down on the futon. Kentaro didn’t actually seem to mind, but he still stopped Fuma when the boy was about to open Kentaro’s kimono.

“Give me a second, okay?” Kentaro asked of the other one and even though Fuma let out a kind of annoyed growl on that he let Kentaro sit up, which didn’t actually stop him from slowly undressing himself and landing his hands soon on Kentaro’s obi.

“Taiga, don’t look away!”

The scolding reached the boy exactly at the moment he wanted to look to the ground and he forced himself to look at Kentaro.

“There will be plenty of times where you won’t be alone with a customer. You might have two customers at once or take care of one customer with another boy, so take this as you first lesson even though for now I can’t allow you to do anything else but watch.”

“Then let him watch, while we do the work,” Fuma interrupted impatiently and turned to look at Taiga while he let his kimono slide from his shoulders. “I bet he will like what we are about to show him.”

“Oh, guess I got you on a really good day. But don’t scare him, okay?” Kentaro warned the other one on which Fuma turned his attention back to him and moved his hands to the opening of his kimono after he had gotten rid of the obi.

“Then let me make him desperate just by watching,” he let out challenging before he slowly opened Kentaro’s kimono and pushed him down on the futon. He let his tongue travel down to the boy’s belly while he revealed more and more skin. His hands kept traveling lower to his thigh as he pushed the fabric completely out of his way and Kentaro hurried to get his arms out of the sleeves to be able to move better.

Even if Kentaro hadn’t warned him that he shouldn’t look away he felt like he wouldn’t even be able to. It was like a weird kind of shock he was in, after all the last thing he had thought could happen was Kentaro coming up with the idea of making him watch while he had sex with a customer.

But as weird as it seemed to him he couldn’t deny that he got way too aroused by the way those two seemed to melt under each other’s touch and out of a sudden his view of the customers changed. He knew that not all customers were the same and there were definitely a lot which would bring him unpleasant experiences, but as Kentaro had said before with the right regular customers he could keep new, potential dangerous customers away from him.

A low moan distracted him from his thoughts and even though he hadn’t looked away he felt like he had missed a lot, because Fuma had already turned Kentaro into a moaning mess after barely minutes and was now pushing in on which Kentaro arched his back so much that Taiga wondered how flexible the boy actually was.

What actually surprised Taiga was when Kentaro suddenly slapped Fuma without any kind of warning. It was just a careful slap, but it still made Taiga look at Fuma in slight worry, but the latter just let out a chuckle on that.

“When I said not to scare him I didn’t mean you are allowed to tease me the whole time you know?” Kentaro scolded the other one on which he suddenly received a way too lustful kiss which made Taiga feel like he was blushing.

“Sorry?” Fuma let out as he backed off.

As a reply Kentaro closed his legs around Fuma’s back and rocked his hips up on which the other one gave him a lopsided smile. “Don’t tell me, show me.”

“So greedy today, aren’t you?” Fuma teased him again before he made him bend one knee towards the side to get a better angle. “Watch him closely boy, trust me you don’t want to miss his sweet moans.”

Taiga just kept staring on that, because talking was something he wasn’t capable of for minutes already and Fuma hadn’t promised too much. The moment he thrusted in deeper and closed his hand around the boy’s erection, Kentaro’s moans got more desperate and he didn’t even try to hold them back, which was obviously because Fuma enjoyed hearing them and pleasing the customer was what they were here for after all.

Suddenly Taiga felt how his own body was reacting way too much to what he was watching and he tried desperately to calm down, but even shifting positions wouldn’t help him anymore as he tried to somehow hide his hardening member.

A few moments later Kentaro came with a deep moan on which Fuma leant more to the front and started sucking on the boy’s neck while Kentaro flung his arms around him, allowing him to thrust in a bit rougher and soon Fuma reached his climax as well, while he tried to hide his moan against the boy’s soft skin.

“You know I feel like we just lied to the boy,” Fuma let out as he sat up.

“Why? Because we are not always that harmless? It was to show him a regular customer, not your weird fantasies, you know?”

“I’d say he has his own phantasies at the moment.”

Fuma’s reply actually made Taiga finally spend attention again, once more he had spaced out without noticing, until both were suddenly looking at him with a teasing smile on which Taiga leant more to the front and put his arms down on his knees to cover the part they were looking at.

“No worries boy, this is the last place you have to feel embarrassed about getting excited,” Fuma said soothing as he got back into his kimono and Kentaro was up to help him right away, even though he still hadn’t put his own clothes back on.

“I make sure you’ll have the chance to take care of him when he is allowed to have regular customers.” Kentaro promised as he pushed Fuma gentle towards the door.

“You want to get rid of me?” Fuma teased him on which Kentaro sneaked closer to him and placed a short kiss on the other one’s lips.

“Not in this life. You would need to mess up pretty much to make me not want to have you back the next time you visit.”

“Good to hear that,” Fuma replied before he looked at Taiga once more, but the boy was kind of stressed out of a sudden, after all he was still a bit over challenged with everything what had just happened.

“I bring you outside, wait,” Kentaro said as he opened the door for Fuma, but hurried back to get his kimono. He stopped next to Taiga for a brief moment and leant down to him so that he could whisper into his ear.

“Just because we are not allowed to touch you doesn’t mean that you are not allowed to do so yourself.”

With that he vanished outside the room together with Fuma and closed the door. Taiga let out a long breath after he allowed his body to relax again. And as much as he felt embarrassed, there was no way he could stop his own body from moving as his hands automatically started pulling the lower part of his kimono away until he could finally touch himself.

He closed his eyes, the pictures and sounds of what he had just witnessed showing up in his mind and making him speed up the already desperate movements of his hand. It should actually make him feel even more embarrassed how fast he was able to jerk off, but at this point he didn’t even care anymore and the fact that Kentaro had done him the favor of leaving him alone for a while was also taking the shame away. And as Fuma had said, shame or embarrassment weren’t actually suitable for this place, which didn’t mean that Taiga could easily get rid of them.

Chapter Text

“In three days?” Juri repeated after Taiga who was sitting on his futon like a statue for minutes already.

The rest of the last day had been quite calm, Kentaro explaining some general rules about when he was allowed to go out, how is days off were decided and so on. But in the evening Kamenashi had suddenly called him and announced that his ceremony would be held in three days.

“Guess that hit him quite hard,” Reo said as he waved his hand in front of Taiga’s face, but got shoved away from Juri the next moment.

“It’s not the time to tease him.”

Juri sat down next to Taiga and hit him lightly against the shoulder to get his attention, while Reo sat down next to them.

“Don’t freak out, okay? I know we can’t really help you with anything as we haven’t experienced it ourselves, but we are here for you, okay?”

“How was your first time?”

The direct question made both boys look at Taiga, but his look hadn’t changed at all. He seemed even paler than usual, the shock about having his ceremony so soon still too much to take.

“Ehm, you sure you want to hear about that? Not that I mind telling, but I am not sure if it’s the right topic?” Reo let out worried, but Taiga just looked up at him and waited for him to reply. He knew that it wouldn’t calm him down and that wasn’t what he was aiming for. He just wanted to know what could await him and not just the boys who had a ceremony could actually tell him about their first time.

“Fine,” Reo said as he realized that Taiga wouldn’t easily get distracted from the topic. “My first time didn’t happen willingly. When I was still a kid I lost my mum and I didn’t know my dad at all. I ended up as an orphan on the streets and well bad things happen out there you know.”

Reo kept telling his story as if it wasn’t haunting him at all and when Taiga looked at him with wide eyes the boy even cracked a small smile.

“I told you this might not be what you want to hear now,” Reo scolded him. “So anyway, when they were done they left some money and even though they did it to mock me it made me realize that if people actually paid for getting my body I could sell it officially. That thought made me end up here and spared me a death on the street.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you speak about such a painful memory.”

“It’s alright. I wouldn’t have told you if I didn’t want to,” Reo replied with a smile. “It’s a story of the past and I can’t deny that I’ve got used to this job.”

“Gotten used to it?” Juri asked with a raised eyebrow. “That’s the understatement of the year. You love this job.”

“Maybe?” Reo said innocently while he shifted from a sitting position on his stomach and rested his chin on his palm. “Anyway, Juri your turn.”

“Eh, what? Just because you told yours I don’t have to do it.”

“Shall I tell it instead, if you’ve forgotten I know,” Reo teased him on which Juri pouted.

“If you don’t want to tell, it is fine,” Taiga was heard on which Reo gave him a scolding look. “Hey, so I had to tell, but Juri doesn’t? You already picked favorites or what?”

It wasn’t actually intentionally, but somehow Reo was right. While Taiga couldn’t deny that he felt safe with Kentaro and found him interesting at the same time, Juri was different. It was like being with an old friend and that already on the second day and somehow he didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable.

“By the way it’s a kind of fun story, so I’d say he should tell!”

“It’s not funny!” Juri complained, but Reo’s smile just grew wider and Juri grabbed his pillow, but Reo rolled away hiding behind Taiga before he could throw it.

“Coward, come here,” Juri shouted and tried to get a grip on Reo who used Taiga as a shield. End of the story was that Juri stumbled to the front and landed on top of Taiga. The boy complained right away, but the reason for that was Reo’s knee under his back which made everything quite uncomfortable.

“If you want to have a threesome wait until he is fair game and please take one of the rooms in the front of the house,” Hokuto said as he entered the room. There was no hint of a smile on his face and he moved directly to his futon. His workday had been long and his hair was still wet from taking a bath.

The other three exchanged a brief look before they somehow managed to untangle and they moved to their own futons to make sure that Hokuto would get his deserved sleep.

“You’ve work tomorrow?” Taiga whispered and Reo nodded while Juri shook his head.

“You get two days off in a row?” Taiga asked on which Juri formed a weird smile which made Taiga tilt his head.

“Normally no, but let’s say I’ve a special task tomorrow.”

Reo’s giggle was heard on that before he hid under his blanket to not get hit by Juri, but the boy was still looking at Taiga.

“You should sleep. You have to get up early tomorrow as well.”

“I do?” Taiga asked in confusion, but the boy didn’t give him any more explanations and urgent him once more to sleep.

***

“Wait, what do you mean with we are going out?” Taiga asked almost panicked the next morning when Juri told him to get ready.

Hokuto had already left the room before them and Reo was also getting ready for work, his kimono a light blue one with a yellow bird pattern, which looked almost childish, but it somehow fit Reo. Taiga actually wondered if they chose their kimonos depending on the customers, but even if they knew that some regular customers may come they couldn’t know about others, so maybe it was really just a question of their daily mood, which would mean that Hokuto was better not getting any customers which pissed him off, because his kimono was completely black, just a small silver pattern on the lower part, seeming like fluid metal dripping from the sky.

“Sorry, but this is nothing you can decide.” Juri explained while he got in a normal yukata. It was light green and looked way too casual next to Taiga’s white and gold kimono. “Kentaro has work today and Kamenashi told me to take care of your ceremony preparations.”

“What preparations? Can’t we do them inside here? I seriously don’t want to go on the street with this kimono.”

“Dude, you will have the attention of everyone in the area, enjoy it,” Reo said before he winked at him and left for the front of the house.

“Told you he likes his job,” Juri let out with a chuckle before he pushed Taiga to the door.

“I’d like to tell you to ignore those who stare at you, but his kimono is made for that purpose! One of the reasons we go out is to make people see you. We will have other announcements as well and through the customers who saw you yesterday already, the word must have spread a bit as well. But just try to act natural outside, okay? Don’t freak when they come too close or want to talk to you, it might happen.”

“As long as they don’t touch me,” Taiga growled while he finally walked down the corridor on his own so that Juri could stop pushing him.

“No, trust me, they won’t do that. They like keeping their hands,” Juri said teasingly, but this time it couldn’t bring a smile on Taiga’s face. He was more than nervous about going outside like this and especially at daytime.

“Hey, calm down,” Juri let out soothing and suddenly reached out for the boy’s hand on which Taiga slightly flinched, but didn’t pull away. He hadn’t even realized that his hands were shaking now that they were about to exit the house, but Juri had obviously noticed. Taiga looked up at him and the boy gave him an encouraging look. “Just look at me instead of spending your surroundings too much attention.”

Taiga actually forgot completely about his surroundings for the first steps, because he kept staring at Juri’s hand which was still holding on to his and dragged him along the road. Just when he heard the first whispers he looked around and as he had expected there were already a lot of people in their district and he found people pointing at him, scanning and also dangerous looks surrounding him from all directions. He lowered his eyes on their hands again and sped up a bit, so that he was walking next to Juri instead. Juri seemed to have noticed his discomfort and squeezed his hand on which Taiga walked even closer to him.

“Get used to their looks. They will be even closer to you at the ceremony.”

“What exactly do I have to do at the ceremony?”

“It’s not that complicated, but the first thing you have to master is to calm down. If you show them that you are scared you’ll attract even worse buyers.”

That was what Taiga had already thought, but what else was he supposed to do? He couldn’t change his whole attitude in just three days.

“So, they will all take a look at me and then what?”

When Juri suddenly chuckled next to him Taiga looked at him in confusion, but Juri just formed a faint smile and kept walking.

“Okay, maybe I should explain it a bit more in detail. Even if I said it’s not that complicated it’s not that easy either. They’ll come to our house to take a look at you, yes, but you will be the one showing yourself to them and that in the best way possible, because you want a good buyer after all.”

“So what, I’ve to walk up and down in front of them?”

“More or less. We are not like Geishas*₄ and also different from the female Oirans*₅, we don’t sell any skills so the only thing you’ve to show them is how attractive you are.”

“Right, because I have such an awesome charisma as Kentaro,” Taiga let out mockingly.

“You don’t have to copy someone, but you shouldn’t walk up to them with the attitude you have at the moment, because even though one of them will possess you for one night that person doesn’t necessarily want a scared little boy, but someone who can entertain him.”

“What if no one wants to buy me?”

Taiga could feel how some weird hope was rising inside of him, but it died away when Juri shook his head.

“Trust me there will never be no buyers, but just right and wrong ones.”

“And I am on the best way to be a possessing of exactly the wrong type,” Taiga let out in a low voice on which Juri squeezed his hand again.

“Don’t worry, we still have three more days to prepare you. So for the theory part, you just have to move alongside the inner part of the windowsill of our house. They will be outside, so even though you will feel like an animal in a cage, you should think about it the other way around. They can’t harm you! Show them what they want to see, if you dare you can get closer to the bars, let your hand slip through them. They won’t bite it off you know? They are still not allowed to touch you at that time, but you can touch them.”

The way Juri explained things it suddenly didn’t feel that scary to Taiga anymore. At least not until the main part. He had the control over the ceremony so he could play with them first before he would have to be the one to play by someone else’s rules.

“How far am I allowed to go?”

Taiga’s sudden question made Juri stop and turn to the other one with a confused look which soon changed into a knowing smile before he kept walking.

“There are no actual rules. It’s something intuitively. You can move and bend your body? Use it. You can arouse people with just one look, even better. Make them fall for you one by one. The more they like you, the more they’ll pay.”

“Will I have to do the ceremony in this kimono?”

Instead of an answer Juri just gave him a lopsided smile and started walking faster out of a sudden, before he stopped abruptly and turned Taiga around to a shop in front of them.

“No, you won’t. And that is why we are here today. Our first stop!”

“A kimono shop?”

“Exactly. This place is where we get all our kimonos from and you will need a special one.”

“Oh, so there is an even more special one than this one?”

“Actually, you are allowed to choose it yourself, but it’s a special type you’ve to wear. Let the shop owner explain more, come on,” Juri guided Taiga inside and the building looked even bigger from the inside than from the outside. There were no separated rooms. The whole building was like a huge storage full of kimonos. A few were on shelves, other spread on a wooden holder to show the beautiful pattern. Never had Taiga thought he could walk inside a shop like this without getting kicked out right away, because people thought he might steal something.

“Tegoshi, are you there?” Juri shouted inside the building and at first nothing was heard until Taiga heard someone coming down the stairs from the second floor. The person coming into his sight though made him stare in disbelieve. He couldn’t even describe how confused he was about the other one’s appearance. All his features showed that he was Japanese indeed, but his hair was almost white and that definitely not because of his age, after all he seemed not older than around thirty. His clothes were also something he had never seen before. The material was definitely from a kimono or more like from several ones, but instead of the normal layer it was made of a pair of tight pants which ended in black boots. The top was closed by an obi as usual, but both sides had several colors, like Tegoshi had randomly cut apart kimonos and sewed them new together. When he came closer he could also see that the man had blue eyes which was fascinating and yet scary.

“I heard you’d bring me an untouched boy today, but I didn’t expect someone that delicate,” Tegoshi let out as he walked more into the room and Taiga held his breath as the older one stopped briefly next to Juri and moved his fingers playfully through the latter’s hair before he pulled back and kept moving. Juri didn’t seem to mind, maybe it was something like his usual greeting, but when Tegoshi turned towards him, Taiga felt like he had turned to stone. The older one’s eyes were scanning him so intensely that he would normally look away, but he couldn’t. Tegoshi was indeed weird, but also fascinating and it seemed like the other one could read Taiga’s thoughts, because he stopped in front of him and moved one hand to his cheek, brushing his thumb carefully under his eye.

“You like what you see?”

The question made Taiga hawk and look to the ground in embarrassment on which he earned a quiet chuckle.

“Don’t worry, I also like what I see.”

Taiga couldn’t even explain why he was suddenly looking back up at the other one even though he came even closer, letting both hands explore the features of Taiga’s face.

“Tegoshi,” Juri let out kind of warningly on which the latter cracked a smile and backed off.

“My apologies,” Tegoshi let out playfully before he turned around and waved his hand at both of them. “Follow me boys.”

Juri snapped his fingers in front of Taiga’s face when he kept looking after Tegoshi instead of following him.

“I’d scold you for getting distracted so easily, but to be honest even though Tegoshi is known for being touchy with everyone he seems to be extremely interested in you, so maybe you should just keep getting distracted by him or more like let him get distracted by you and enjoy it, maybe he wants more through that.”

At first Taiga didn’t understand what Juri meant until he looked up at Tegoshi again and the latter was already on the stairs, but his look was on Taiga once more. Such a scanning and interested look that Taiga finally understood. If Juri wanted him to draw Tegoshi’s attention then he was definitely not a bad guy and obviously a potential buyer.

When they reached the second floor Taiga's look fell on the kimonos in the middle of the room. There were just a few, but they were all carefully unfolded on a holder.

“Aren't these women kimonos?” Taiga asked in confusion when he realized that they were so long that they would actually get dragged over the floor in the back while wearing them.

“It's the same type yes, but the cut is made for boys,” Tegoshi explained and waved his hand, allowing Taiga to take a closer look at them. “You can choose between all of them. I'll correct the size, so don't worry if it doesn’t seem to fit for now.”

When Juri had said a special kind of kimono he hadn't exaggerated. The material looked extremely expensive, but to his surprise each kimono had just one layer. Which was actually understandable after thinking about it, after all they wanted to see a lot of him and that meant the more skin the better and undressing him would be easier as well. A shiver ran through Taiga's body as his thoughts drifted off again.

“How about this one?” Juri asked and Taiga walked up to him, his eyes scanning the white/pink kimono with a white obi in front of him.

“You think pink would fit me?”

“Let's see?”

Tegoshi seemed to approve as well and he took the kimono and guided Taiga to the back of the room on a tatami floor behind a small wooden wall. Juri joined them and leant next to the big mirror while Taiga got out of his white kimono and he could see Tegoshi’s scanning look through the mirror.

The man didn't feel caught at all when he stared back at Taiga through the mirror and unfolded the kimono for him.

“Is this support to sit this way?” Taiga asked when Tegoshi stepped back with an approving look and Juri let out a whistle.

“Yes it does and trust me you look gorgeous in it! Pink seems to be not just Kentaro’s color.”

Different to Tegoshi, Juri looked away quite embarrassed on his own words when Taiga gave him a scolding look.

The neck part of the kimono was wide open and showed his skin up to his shoulders, while the lower part under the obi was also weirdly open and Taiga knew of course why it was cut like this, but it made him automatically try to close it more.

“Don't, it fits perfectly,” Tegoshi said as he stepped closer and took Taiga's hand away from the kimono. Taiga gave Juri a worried look, but the boy gave him a lopsided smile and pointed towards Tegoshi.

Taiga got the message, but that didn't mean he could easily get past his nervousness. But he succeeded in tightening his own grip on Tegoshi’s hand without his hands shaking too much.

“So you like pink as well? Or do you just like it on me?”

There was a quiet laughter from Juri heard on that, but Tegoshi's eyes were fixed on Taiga.

“I like pink, but I've the feeling I'd like every color on you.”

“Then maybe I should try some others as well?” Suddenly Taiga felt how he was enjoying making Tegoshi look at him this intensely. It was like a game and the one who lost control first would lose.

“Then I'd say you've to move,” Juri interrupted them as both remained quiet for a while.

“Are other customers coming up to this floor?” Taiga asked on which Tegoshi shook his head.

“Perfect, then we can speed this up a bit,” Taiga let out playfully before he let the kimono drop right in front of Tegoshi and went completely naked back into the room. He didn't even need to turn around to know that Tegoshi and definitely also Juri were staring after him in disbelieve.

After looking at a few less colorful kimonos Taiga stopped abruptly in front of one which was spread on a holder on a small platform at the back of the room.

It was almost completely black, but it wasn't the usual color as Hokuto was wearing it, the material was shining and it made Taiga move closer to touch it.

“It's made out of silk,” Tegoshi said as he slowly walked up to Taiga, obviously trying hard to look at the kimono and not Taiga. Juri followed him in silence, but he was unable to keep a poker face and a teasing, almost proud smile spread over his face.

“It looks extremely expensive.”

“It is,” Tegoshi confirmed as he moved on the platform and took it of the holder. “It's actually the most expensive kimono I ever made.”

“So, am I worth trying it on?”

Taiga’s question was answered right away when Tegoshi walked up to him and threw the fabric over his shoulders.

Taiga shivered on the cold touch of the silk, but he couldn't deny that he liked it.

“The most important part is the golden pattern,” Tegoshi said as he kneeled in front of Taiga and traced the golden lines which moved from the lowest part of the kimono up to where the slit closed right under the obi.

“It actually looks like hands,” Taiga said as he tilted his head and took a closer look.

“A good observer,” Tegoshi said with a smile while one hand traced the pattern even more to the top of the slit. “It's like a guideline, you know? Showing them the way to what they desire the most.”

When Tegoshi dared to move his fingers over the fabric towards Taiga's crotch the boy slightly tensed, but a warning hawk from Juri made Tegoshi back off.

“But as expected every color suits you,” Tegoshi said as if nothing had happened.

“So which one do you like more?” Taiga asked as he was the one moving closer to Tegoshi this time. The fabric of them kimono getting dragged over the floor through his slow steps and Tegoshi made a step back when Taiga came so close that he could feel his breath on his face.

“It's about which one you like,” Tegoshi replied, this time a bit more in control of his own actions as he moved back even more and put his hands on his back. “Please feel free to choose whichever you seem the most fitting for your ceremony. It depends on what you've planned. What side you want to show the buyers.”

“Juri, isn't this one too expensive?” Taiga addressed the boy, but he shook his head. “For the ceremony no kimono is too expensive. You are free to choose whichever you like. “

Taiga kept thinking for a while longer. The question was if he could actually pull something similar off at the ceremony as he just did with Tegoshi. There would be a lot people he didn't know and he could already tell that some would actually feel almost provoked, if he played with them. On the other hand he felt like this was the only chance for him to not look like a scared boy to them and he had already pulled off the same attitude with Taisuke.

Thinking of it as a challenge he finally faced Tegoshi again, a confident smile on his lips.

“Then it will be this one, but I'd like you to make me an accessory for it.”

That request brought an excited look on the older one's face and he bowed slightly towards Taiga.

“It will be my pleasure to dress you for the ceremony!”

 

+++

*₄ geisha: performer of traditional Japanese arts, dance and singing (usually women, but the first geisha were men)

*₅ oiran: Japanese prostitutes and entertainers

Chapter Text

“Could you finally stop grinning?” Taiga growled, but Juri just chuckled before he shook his head.

“You have to admit what you just did in there was fabulous!”

“Thank you.” Taiga replied cold as they kept walking down the still empty main street along their district after leaving Tegoshi’s shop.

“I mean; come on you were like a whole different person! With that attitude you could become our number one boy in no time.”

“Wait, what? There is something like a ranking?”

“Not officially, but of course we know who gets the most customers.”

“Let me guess Kentaro is the undisputed top?”

“Right,” Juri said with a lopsided smile while he snapped his fingers.

“Then let him be the top, because I don’t even want so many customers.”

“For now let’s concentrate on your buyer.”

“Where are we going by the way?” Taiga changed the topic, because after already trying his best to somehow make Tegoshi become interested in buying him he felt exhausted about the topic.

“There is a shop on the other side of the small bridge at the end of our district which paints posters for upcoming events,” Juri explained on which Taiga let out a sigh.

“A poster, great. It’s enough already that the few people which pass by here so early in the morning are staring at me as if I was something like their main dish, now they will see my face at every street corner for the upcoming days as well.”

Juri clapped him supportive on the shoulder and Taiga couldn't actually say why, but Juri’s smile always helped him to calm down, as long as he was not teasing him, because then he could drown him in the river which was now already right in front of them.

“It’s not like the people which are coming here are not used to it. The poster is not as important as showing yourself to the people, so we will be going out over the next two days as well, for example to pick up your kimono, but we will go when it’s a bit more crowded so more people see you.”

“Totally looking forward to it,” Taiga let out sarcastic as they walked over the bridge when he suddenly stumbled and even though Juri had tried to stop his fall he landed on his knees with a hiss as he stopped his fall with his hands and scratched them on the wooden bridge.

“Are you okay?” Juri asked worried as he crouched down next to Taiga.

“All good, don’t worry.”

But when he looked up to Juri it wasn’t worry that was written on his face, but pure anger and it was directed towards three men which were standing at the railing of the bridge and didn’t even try to hide that they had just made Taiga stumble, their mocking stares hitting Juri’s death glare, but Taiga held him down on the sleeve as it was obvious that he wanted to get up.

“Please, let’s not get into any unnecessary fights,” Taiga begged on which Juri bit his lip, but helped Taiga up instead of dashing towards the men which were not much older than them.

“What a gentle behavior. Maybe you should also apologize for stumbling over my leg?” One of them let out mockingly on which Juri and Taiga turned their attention towards them completely, but Taiga still didn’t want to make a ruckus, but Juri seemed ready to explode, which made Taiga drag him back on the arm once more before the others could feel provoked.

“I’m sorry if I caused you any trouble,” Taiga said neutral, before he bowed slightly and turned away, dragging Juri with him.

“Taiga what are you doing?”

“Making sure that we don’t get into trouble.”

“They are not allowed to harm you, but they just did, we are the ones which should cause them trouble!”

Taiga tightened his grip on his arm as Juri’s voice got too loud for the small distance to the men and Juri hissed, but shut up on the boy’s death glare.

“Do you think they would care for any rules if we provoke them? They are obviously here to cause trouble in the first place, so let’s just keep moving, okay?”

Juri flicked his tongue, but nodded to Taiga’s relief.

“If they touch you again I will cut off their hands myself though!” Juri hissed.

Before Taiga could reply Juri let out a yelp as a stone hit him at the back of his head. Juri crouched down on the sudden pain and held his head on which Taiga swirled around in shock, seeing the men right behind them.

“Big mouth for a weak whore like you,” one of them let out, holding another stone in his hand.

“Please excuse his behavior. He is-”

“No little untouched one, we won’t excuse anything,” one of the others interrupted Taiga and made a threatening step forward on which Juri shot up again and stepped in front of him.

“I warn you if you hurt him I make sure you are all losing more than your hands,” Juri hissed at them, but they didn’t seem the slightest scared of his threat and why should they? At the moment there were no other people around, nor any open stores nearby. They were also outnumbered, so the ones which should be scared were Taiga and Juri, but while Taiga actually was worried a lot, Juri seemed to take his protector part a bit too serious.

“Who said we want to hurt him?” The one in front of Juri let out as he stepped closer. “You are the one who insulted us.”

“Insulted? You are the ones which dared to touch an untouched boy,” Juri shot back.

“Not quite,” one of the two in the back let out. “My hands didn’t touch him once, everyone here had witnessed that.”

“A smartass, aren’t you,” Juri let out mockingly on which the one in front of him punched him without a warning.

“No, please leave him alone!” Taiga yelled after Juri had fallen on the side and the other one stood above him, ready to punch him again. Taiga threw himself over Juri, but soon the other two were there as well to get him off.

“I told you not to touch him,” Juri roared and ripped the other ones’ hands away from Taiga and started kicking and punching around, but there was no way he could get the upper hand and soon he was kicked to the ground once more.

“Let go!” Taiga shouted as the other two dragged him away from Juri, but they didn’t attack him, they just wanted to make sure that he wouldn’t interfere. But there was no way he would let the other one keep beating up Juri while they had been the ones to cause trouble.

“Maybe we should help you cool down a bit?” The one in front of Juri said as he dragged the boy back on his feet and pulled him over to the river.

“No, don’t!” Taiga shouted as it was clear that he wanted to throw Juri in the river and even though Juri tried to get away the other one was obviously stronger.

Not knowing what else to do Taiga started struggling with all his might and when their grip loosened a bit he kicked one against his shin as hard as he could and luckily the other one let go of him with a hiss. When the remaining one tried to get a tighter grip on him, Taiga bit him in the hand. Through the shock he pulled back with a yelp and Taiga dashed forward, reaching Juri just in time before the man could drag him over the railing next to the bridge.

“I said leave him alone!” Taiga shouted as he jumped on the man’s back on which he let go of Juri who stumbled to the back and was out of reach for the short moment the other one struggled with Taiga.

“Little brat, let go!” The other one shouted, but Taiga was slashing his fingers through his face on which the man tried to get Taiga off his back. Through their struggle the man lost his balance and fell to the back, hitting the railing on which Taiga lost balance as well and when he realized that he was about to fall down the steep stone wall next to the river he closed his eyes, hoping that he would somehow not hit the wall while falling.

“TAIGA!”

Taiga had heard Juri calling out for him, but the moment he had lost balance his orientation  was completely gone for a moment, but then he realized that his fall had abruptly stopped. So abruptly that his wrist and shoulder were suddenly aching and he took a sharp breath, demanding his senses to work again. When he opened his eyes and tried to find out where he had ended up, he found himself hanging on the other side of the railing, but when he looked up someone was holding on to his wrist.

Before Taiga could even make sense out of what had just happened the unknown person held out his other hand towards him as well and Taiga let himself get dragged up.

The boy who had helped him was maybe just a few years older than him, but a lot taller and obvious way stronger with the way he had easily dragged him up again.

The three men from before were still there, but the one who had dropped Taiga to the back had obviously hit his head quite badly as he had stumbled to the back and the other two helped him up and tried to retreat, but the other boy stepped in their way on which they looked quite panicked for a moment.

“If I see you around here ever again I’ll make sure that you will get gelded, is that clear?”

The warning was clear and obviously scarier than Juri’s try to make them back off. They all vanished in an instant while Taiga kept looking a bit lost at the other boy before Juri suddenly jumped at him.

“Taiga, oh my god, are you okay? Are you hurt? Please tell me that you are okay?”

“Juri, calm down! Everything is fine,” Taiga soothed the other one as he pushed him carefully back on the shoulders. After all Juri was the one with the injuries, even though they didn’t seem to be that bad. Taiga wasn’t completely unhurt either, but the small pain in his arm through the sudden rescue wasn’t something to worry about. “Which is thanks to-”

Taiga stopped as he wanted to address the person who helped him, but didn’t know his name of course.

When the boy turned back towards them Taiga could finally take a better look at him. He was extremely muscular that was even visible with the casual grey yukata, closed by a green belt he was wearing. He actually looked kind of scary the way he was looking back at Taiga, but somehow he didn’t feel threatened by it. Which actually seemed to surprise the other one and he made a step closer to Taiga on which Juri seemed to tense again, but didn’t make any rushed move this time.

“For two boys who can’t fight at all as it seems, you are quite some troublemakers,” the other one said instead of answering Taiga.

“If possible I stay away from any type of fights, but I won’t stand back when a friend of mine is in trouble,” Taiga let out confident on which the other one lifted an eyebrow and started scanning Taiga’s clothes. Hadn’t he realized before what he was wearing? Maybe he had just reacted intuitively, because he saw someone in trouble. The question was if realizing who Taiga was would change the situation?

“Sorry,” Juri let out in a low voice next to Taiga on which the boy searched for his hand and squeezed it with a brief smile.

“I hope you two learned your lesson. Maybe you should take some of your senpais with you next time.”

With that the other one turned around and wanted to leave, but without actually knowing what he was doing Taiga gave Juri a signal to wait before he ran after the other one and passed him, so that he could stop in front of him.

“What is it boy?” The older one asked in a neutral voice, but his face still hadn’t changed and Taiga would usually never dare to talk to such a type of person if it wasn’t necessary, but something was interesting about him.

“You didn’t tell me your name.”

“You didn’t ask.”

“I am asking now,” Taiga let out almost playful and instead of turning to annoyed, the latter’s look turned to something more excited.

“What use will my name have to you?”

“I don’t like thanking people when I don’t even know their names. And I still haven’t properly thanked you,” Taiga explained and suddenly he felt how the same playful attitude rose in him as with Tegoshi.

The other one hesitated for a brief moment, before he faced Taiga with an intense stare.

“Hikaru.”

That was everything Taiga needed to know and he stepped back and bowed towards the older one. “Thank you Hikaru for helping us. I owe you a favor.”

Hikaru walked up to him on those words and even though he came extremely close as he leant down to Taiga, he didn’t even flinch.

“I’ll make you remember those words.”

“Is that a promise or a threat?”

That question made a weird smile appear on the other one’s face and it gave Taiga a shiver, but not really an unpleasant one. Out of a sudden he felt like the excited one and when the other one dared to move his hand up to Taiga’s face he kept looking at him with the same intensity he received.

“Depends on what you are able to show me,” Hikaru let out before he brushed his fingers over the boy’s cheek. He seemed impressed of how calm Taiga was and maybe he also felt kind of challenged through it.

“Then please feel free to come and see what I can offer,” Taiga replied with a lopsided smile before he bowed once more. Hikaru left without another word, but it was clear that no matter if he had realized who Taiga was before he helped him or not, now he was definitely interested in him, which was actually a mutual feeling.

“Taiga, what the hell was that?” Juri asked him as he dared to get closer to Taiga again and pulled on his sleeve.

“Hey, you were the one who said I should talk to people.”

“But why choose a scary one like him?”

“I’d say he is interesting,” Taiga said with a smile on which Juri tilted his head with a confused look.

“Say, did you actually hit your head when you fell?”

On that Taiga let out a chuckle before he hit Juri on the forehead.

“Shut up and let’s go. We have to get that stupid poster done and treat your wounds!”

***

 “Ow, Reo would you be more careful. I thought you wanted to help and not make things worse,” Juri complained as Reo put a patch on the boy’s lip corner where the blood from his fight before had dried already.

“Don’t complain, you can be happy that neither Kamenashi nor Taisuke saw you when you came back. If I get any customers over the next hour Kochi will come looking here for me, so you both better hurry cleaning yourselves up.”

“Which reminds me that I should maybe wash my kimono as fast as possible, because somehow I think Kentaro won’t be too happy either to see it that dirty,” Taiga said after he had changed into one of Juri’s usual yukatas so that he could clean his kimono.

“Actually a good idea, but if you are done you two have to tell me exactly what happened,” Reo said as he wanted to take a look at Juri’s head injury where the stone had hit him, but Juri slashed away his hand with a growl.

“Guess we can be happy that you weren’t there or the whole town would know about it by now.”

Taiga looked at Reo in confusion on that statement, but the boy just shrugged his shoulders before he moved around Juri and made him hold still as he brought a wet towel down on the wound on which Juri let out a hiss.

“I bet you thought I’d be the calm type, right?” Reo addressed Taiga with a lopsided smile.

“Actually I’ve the feeling most of you have a lot of hidden faces,” Taiga said as he moved to the door with his white kimono in his hand.

“You’ll learn about all of them over the time, don’t worry,” Reo said kind of challenging.

“Taiga, you know the storage room in the front of the house?” Juri addressed him before he could leave the room and Taiga nodded, because Kentaro had shown him all the rooms the day before.

“Put the kimono into the washing place on the veranda for now, but take the white washing powder which is in that storage room to clean it! It will be way easier to get the dirt out.”

Taiga did how he was told and put the kimono next to the washing place before he headed to the front of the house and tried to not be seen by too many people, because he was supposed to wear his white kimono after all.

He found the powder quite fast, but when he slid the door close again Kochi stepped inside the building with a customer and Taiga vanished around the corner to not be seen, but he actually had to leave to the other side to be able to move to the back of the house.

Carefully he looked around the corner where Kochi told the customer to wait before he vanished up the stairs for a moment.

The man standing in the corridor was maybe in his early forties and he wore a formal western suit which was still rare, but those kinds of clothes were recently increasing around the Edo area. It seemed like he wasn’t a usual customer, because otherwise Kochi would have just brought him to one of the boys. And his thoughts got proven right when Taisuke was the one coming down the stairs together with Kochi.

“How may I help you?” Taisuke addressed the man in a neutral voice.

“I’d like to ask for your youngest boy,” the man let out on which an unpleasant shiver went through Taiga’s body. He hadn’t seen all the boys until now, but he was quite sure that Reo was definitely one of the youngest ones. But somehow it felt so wrong for such a person to ask for one of the younger boys. Taisuke or one of the other senpais would be way more fitting, but Taisuke turned towards Kochi and said something Taiga couldn’t hear. Kochi bowed on that and vanished towards the other corridor.

“What’s your highest price?”

That question was something Taiga already understood, because Kentaro had explained to him more detailed the evening before what it meant when customers paid more. It wasn’t just the service that changed, but also what they were allowed to do with the boys. What actually surprised Taiga was the way Taisuke’s look darkened. After all he had judged him as one of those people who would enjoy doing exactly those things this customer was asking for.

“For the younger boys the service isn’t as high as with the older ones. If you want to go out completely on someone I fear you have to take an older person.”

That actually brought a kind of mocking smile on the older one’s face, but Taisuke didn’t seem to feel offended. After all he seemed quite good with dealing with any kind of customer.

“Thank you, but I will just take what is available for the younger one,” the man let out in a calm voice and that was the moment when Kochi came back down the corridor and everyone turned towards him and the boy he brought.

Taiga almost stepped out his hiding place when he realized who he had brought, because he was totally confused when Kentaro came in his sight.

Kentaro stopped in front of the customer and bowed on which Taiga blinked in confusion as his attitude was completely different than he had seen it with the other customers or Fuma before. Out of a sudden he looked at least five years younger. The customer seemed pleased as well, but the way he scanned Kentaro from head to toe made Taiga extremely angry, because if older or not, this man was obviously having a special thing for younger boys and the fact that Taisuke gave him to Kentaro instead of sending him away didn’t actually make it any easier for Taiga to accept Taisuke as one of his senpais.

When Kochi went down the corridor and Kentaro guided the customer to show him to their room, Taisuke turned towards the stairs again, but stopped suddenly and let out an annoyed sound before he crossed his arms to his chest.

“You know if you want to spy around you should maybe look for a better hideout.”

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that he was addressing Taiga and the boy stepped out to the corridor. Taisuke scanned the yukata he was wearing with a sceptic look, but luckily he didn’t seem in the mood to ask why he wasn’t wearing his regular kimono.

“Why did you get Kentaro? What if he realizes that he isn’t one of the younger boys?” Taiga asked worried.

“You prefer if I get Reo the next time or one of the other younger ones? Maybe you want such a customer right after your ceremony to see how hard to handle they are?”

His snappy answer actually made Taiga shot him a warning glare and Taisuke turned completely to him with a raised eyebrow.

“So letting Kentaro handle him instead is totally ok with you?”

Instead of a direct answer Taisuke went closer to Taiga and grabbed him by the chin with such a force that Taiga flinched, but didn’t try to pull back.

“I’ve the feeling you are a good observer so you should perfectly understand why I chose Kentaro instead of someone else. There is no way someone can tell if he is eighteen or almost thirty if he is in one of his play moods. Instead of judging me, you should maybe thank him for taking those customers away from you boys!”

Taisuke snapped his fingers under his chin when he let go on which Taiga gave him an annoyed look, but didn’t say anything else as Taisuke left upstairs again.

Suddenly he didn’t feel angry anymore, but stupid for not realizing that it wasn’t Taisuke who forced Kentaro to take those customers, but the boy himself who had decided to take those customers to make sure that the younger ones didn’t have to deal with dangerous people like him.

First he returned to the back of the house and started cleaning his kimono, but thinking about what this customer could actually do to Kentaro, Taiga made the maybe stupidest move since he had come to Yoshiwara and he put everything aside and went back to the front of the house to find the room Kentaro had vanished into.

It wasn’t actually hard to guess which room it was, after all Kentaro had explained to him that customers with higher payments got the rooms at the end of every corridor, which was out of an easy reason. It normally got quite noisy with them and to not scare or annoy any other customers they tried to isolate them as much as possible.

Taiga had seen in which corridor they had gone off to earlier, so knowing where to look was easy and soon he walked slower as he made it towards the end of the corridor without getting seen by anyone.

Carefully he sat down next to the door and put his ear against it. He could hear that someone was definitely in the room, but for a while he could hear no one speaking. The next sound made him jolt though, because something had been slashed with in the room, but without seeing what was going on Taiga could just guess and a shiver ran through his whole body when his mind went through all possibilities of what was happening.

“Aren’t you a tough boy?”

Now Taiga was sure that it was the customer from before as he recognized the voice, but once more he jolted when the same sound was heard, this time followed by a hiss which came obviously from Kentaro. The customer flicked his tongue on that sound and moved around in the room.

“What did I tell you?”

“Sorry…” Kentaro let out, but as much as he tried to make his voice sound steady, Taiga could tell that he was in pain which made him finally move and with a careful and slow movement he dared to open the door just a tiny bit to peek inside.

It took him a great effort to not gasp on the picture in front of him and he wasn’t sure if the shock or the anger was taking over faster. Kentaro had his back turned towards him and the customer was sitting in front of him, lifting his chin up. He had the belt of his suit in his hand and Kentaro’s kimono was down at his hips, revealing his upper body and the red marks on his back which had obviously just been created by exactly this belt.

Letting the customers hurt the boys that badly was something Taiga couldn’t understand. Why was Kamenashi allowing this? Why was the whole principle of Yoshiwara allowing such rules? It was nothing else than sexual abuse and normally a crime. It was more than disgusting to Taiga how money was the biggest weapon of the customers in Yoshiwara. As Taisuke had said earlier there were some rules and borders to what they were allowed to do, especially if it was about the younger boys, but for this customer Kentaro pretended to be exactly one of the youngest and realizing that Taiga could actually get such a customer at some point made him wonder if it wasn’t actually worth taking the risk to flee from Yoshiwara after all?

He was ripped out of his thoughts when the customer moved again and released Kentaro, but put his belt around his neck and closed it until it got hard for the boy to breathe normally.

"Maybe if you can't stick to the rule of not letting out any sound this will help you."

The man pushed Kentaro to the floor and Taiga could just imagine in how much pain he must actually be though his injured back getting pressed into the tatami mats. There was a small sound coming from Kentaro as the man closed the belt with even more force as he sat on top of him, but he obviously tried hard to not let out a cough or anything else that would make the man punish him even more.

"Good boy," the man let out in an excited tone while observing the boy.

It wasn't clear to Taiga if Kentaro played a part of his suffering to please the customer or if every emotion on his face was real which would make Taiga feel extremely worried.

When the man moved one hand down to the opening of Kentaro's kimono it didn't even surprise Taiga that he willingly spread his legs. The other one moved between his legs and opened his pants impatiently, but still kept a strong hold on the end of the belt so that he could pull on it whenever he felt like it. He didn't even bother with undressing more and as soon as he got his own pants a bit down he forced Kentaro to spread his legs even more and he rushed in with a harsh first thrust, but as cruel as the truth was, Kentaro seemed to be used to it.

Taiga hadn't even realized when he had moved even closer to the door, one hand now on the doorframe, but he didn't dare to open it even more.

While the man didn't even try to hold back any sounds and randomly pulled on the belt in between his thrusts, Kentaro tried hard to stay silent. Who knew how far this customer would go if the boy wouldn't follow his rules.

Taiga's eyes were fixed on Kentaro and after another harsh pull of the belt it seemed to get even harder for him to breathe, but of course the man wouldn't even notice, he was just concentrating on his own needs. But Taiga slowly started worrying. What if he actually suffocated him? No one would actually be able to stop him.

Suddenly the grip on the belt seemed to loosen a bit on which Kentaro closed his eyes and took a deep breath. But it didn't seem like the customer was done already, which made Taiga look to the man and then he froze.

The man was looking exactly at him. Could he really see him through just the small gap in the door towards the dark corridor? Taiga stopped breathing for several seconds, hoping that the other one had just randomly looked around, but luck didn't seem to be with him.

"Little rat," the man hissed and Kentaro looked at him in confusion and slight worry as he got up, pulled his pants up and suddenly walked with big steps towards the door.

Even though it was clear that he had seen Taiga, the boy was too shocked to even try and get away as the man slid the door to the side.

He grabbed Taiga immediately by the hair and tossed him in the middle of the room.

"Idiot, what are you doing here?" Kentaro let out worried as he removed the belt and crawled over to Taiga, but before he could reply the customer gave him a sudden kick against the back on which he let out a yelp and dropped on his side.

"Please don't hurt him. He is new, he still doesn't know all the rules," Kentaro tried to calm the man down and sat in front of Taiga.

"Then maybe this is a good time to teach him," the man shot at him before he pushed him out of the way. Taiga curled up on the ground as the man started kicking him again.

"What's going on?" Kouchi shouted into the room as he had heard the uproar.

"Kochi, get Kamenashi here, now!" Kentaro ordered him and the boy immediately turned around and started running.

Kentaro jumped up once more and tried to get in between Taiga and the customer, but this time he received a punch for interfering.

"Please let off him!" Kentaro tried again, this time throwing himself over Taiga on which the customer got even angrier and kicked Kentaro a few times before he tried to drag him off the other one.

"Kentaro, don't! This is my fault, I don't want you to get hurt because of me," Taiga begged and tried to push his senpai off him, but Kentaro tried with all his might to stop both sides until luckily the customer was pulled away from him.

"I am extremely sorry that we caused you trouble, but I've to ask you to calm down," Taisuke was suddenly heard.

The man luckily didn't try to attack Taisuke, but he gave him a death glare nevertheless.

"He needs to get punished!"

"And he will, but getting randomly violent is something I won't allow," Kamenashi was suddenly heard as he stepped inside the room in his typical double layered silk kimono, but his aura was darker than usual.

"Then what punishment will he receive?" The customer asked in annoyance on which Kamenashi turned to Kochi who had waited behind him. The boy handed him a wooden branch and Taiga hid even more behind Kentaro. After all he had received several similar punishments already. What made him widen his eyes in shock though was the fact that Kamenashi handed it to the customer and Taisuke stepped back on that.

"He is an untouched boy so I have to ask you to not hurt his face, but I'll allow you three hits on his back through his impoliteness.

The customer seemed pleased with that decision and stepped closer to the boys.

"Kentaro."

Kamenashi didn't have to explain anything, because the boy bowed immediately and turned to Taiga who looked at him in slight panic.

"This is your own fault so don't make a scene now," he warned the younger one before he turned Taiga around and the boy flinched when Kentaro forcefully stripped him out of the upper half of his yukata before he backed off, but remained close to Taiga.

"Don't turn around," he said in a low voice, but Taiga was prepared anyway. He was used to the pain of punishments, not that he actually liked them.

He could see at Kentaro's look already that the man was lunging out and seconds later the branch got slashed over his back. The scars from his last punishment were still fresh as well and he didn't succeed in keeping quiet through the pain. The second impact hurt even more and he let out a small scream. At the third one the relief of the punishment being over was bigger than the pain, but again he had let out a scream which seemed to the customer's full satisfaction.

"Be happy that you get away that easily," the man hissed before he handed the branch to Kamenashi before Taisuke and Kochi guided the customer outside.

"Hey, everything is alright. It's over."

Kentaro's words didn't make much sense to him until he came closer and brushed some tears off his cheeks. He didn't want to cry. He hated looking weak, but this time he couldn't deny that he had been scared.

"I'm sorry you got hurt, because of me," Taiga apologized in a low voice on which Kentaro chuckled.

"Trust me I would have gotten hurt today with or without you," he said teasingly, but looked up at Kamenashi when the owner stepped closer to them. He stood up, getting his kimono up over his hurt back and bowed, signaling Taiga to get up as well.

The boy took a moment longer to move as his back was burning under the try of getting the fabric back on, but then he realized that he must be looking pathetic to them after all Kentaro was hurt as well and he didn’t let it show at all. When Kamenashi stood right behind him, Taiga turned slowly towards him and as expected his look had darkened even more and without a warning he gave him a harsh slap on which Taiga closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath before he turned back to face the owner. He knew that he had deserved this slap and he could have been punished even more through his naive behavior. With the next move Kamenashi pulled out the small red fan which was stuck at his belt and made a step to the side to hit Kentaro with it on the head.

"As his Senpai you are responsible for this as well! Not interfering in the business of other boys and customers is a basic rule, you should have told him that earlier."

"He actually did," Taiga whispered in a guilty voice and with the next move he was the one who got hit with the fan.

"Then this was for your stupidity to go against the rules," Kamenashi scolded him before he hit him once more on which Taiga let out a small hiss. "And this one was for not wearing your kimono. Let me guess I won't like hearing the reason why you don't wear it?"

An apologizing look from Taiga was enough to make Kamenashi roll his eyes, but luckily he didn't ask what had happened.

"Kentaro make sure that he gets back in his kimono and put someone at his side for the whole time until the ceremony. I can't risk him getting into even more trouble."

Both boys bowed when Kamenashi left and Taiga felt extremely stupid for causing so much trouble in the first days already and having other boys or senpais with him all the time would actually make him even more nervous. The won confidence he had shown with Tegoshi and Hikaru seemed to be completely erased and replaced by the same insecurity he had carried at first. The question was how he was supposed to go through his ceremony like this?

Chapter Text

It wasn't just the fact that there were a lot more people on the road when they went to Tegoshi's shop to pick up Taiga's kimono that he felt extremely uncomfortable, but also that the person who was with him the whole day was Hokuto. Of course the boy and also Juri and Reo had heard what had happened so especially Hokuto seemed to be even more annoyed.

"You wait outside," Hokuto announced when they arrived at the kimono shop, but that decision made no sense to him. After all Kamenashi had told the boys to always keep an eye on him and Taiga was also supposed to talk to people and Tegoshi was a potential buyer.

"Did you observe your own behavior since the evening?"

Hokuto's question confused him even more on which the other one let out a sigh and crossed his arms to his chest.

"You slept rolled up in your futon like a turtle, kept avoiding speaking with people in the house and also on the street the whole way up here."

Taiga couldn't deny that it was true. He had realized the change, especially when the first thing in the morning he saw was the poster. He was told it had been up the night before already and they had brought one copy late in the evening to the house. Reo had almost thrown it in his face in the morning, but even though Taiga couldn’t deny that it was beautiful, people unfortunately started approaching him out of a sudden and even though Taiga tried to be friendly he realized how he hid behind Hokuto a lot and crawled back into the shell which would bring him exactly the wrong buyers.

“If you talk to Tegoshi like this I doubt he will even show up at your ceremony, so let’s just pretend you are the same boy who he saw before and if you don’t want to end up with seriously dangerous people as buyers you should maybe finally snap out of it.”

With that warning Hokuto vanished into the shop and Taiga let out a sigh as he turned around and lowered his eyes to the street. He couldn’t even stand getting looked at anymore, but what else had he expected? This was the usual thing to happen. If he did something which resulted in a punishment he was normally too scared to attempt the same thing again. In this case it was a bit different, but it was the whole environment which had suddenly grown even scarier to him. First the attack on the street, then his stupid move in the house. There was no way he would do well in Yoshiwara anyways, even if his ceremony ended without any big trouble he was still stuck here and that meant pleasing people the whole day, no matter if they were women or men, old or young, he had to pretend to be whoever they wanted him to be and even though he had seen Kentaro succeeding perfectly in it and also Reo and Juri working like it was just a usual day in a restaurant or another harmless job, he wasn’t sure if he could even handle his ceremony without doing something stupid.

When he realized that someone had stopped in front of him he slowly looked up and as expected interested and intense stares were hitting him. They were two men, both maybe in their mid-thirties and they both were wearing hakama*₁.

“And here I thought the painter of the poster just did a bad job, but your skin is really almost white,” one of the men said with a light smile and even though he didn’t seem dangerous Taiga could of course sense both their thoughts regarding the ceremony. As if they were deciding to buy something, estimating if it was worth the money. It took Taiga a tremendous effort to keep calm and just bow to them instead of vanishing into the shop to find Hokuto and scold him for leaving him outside alone. After all he could have also run away, but it was daytime and the streets were crowded. A lot of people would see him and there were also some customers around which would report his escape back to the house immediately.

“You mind?” The other man asked and held his hand out towards Taiga. They were both actually quite gentle, but it still didn’t help Taiga calm down. He didn’t like feeling like a product instead of a human being. The man’s move signaled him that he asked if he was allowed to touch him and as much as Taiga was ready to freak, because he seriously had enough of talking to people, playing the calm little untouched one, once more he succeeded in staying calm and he moved his hand slowly and kept it with his palm open so that the other one could touch it.

“Such beautiful long fingers, the shape and the soft skin, almost the same as a woman.”

Something Taiga hated to hear, because it wasn’t the first time that he got told that. Even if it wasn’t about sexual interest a lot of people had made comments about his appearance. Soft and pale skin, long fingers and a slim figure. It hadn’t been a mocking comment this time, but it made Taiga want to retreat and he slowly pulled his hand back, but luckily both men didn’t seem to mind, but they also didn’t seem that interested in him, which wasn’t important to Taiga. But when Hokuto stepped out the shop seconds later and looked at the two men which were already getting ready to leave Taiga looked at him kind of relieved, but the boy’s look was scolding which didn’t make much sense to him, until Hokuto suddenly walked up to him and grabbed him by the elbow, forcing him to turn back to the two men which looked at him a bit confused, but still patient.

“Excuse his cold behavior. He is kind of nervous, because of his ceremony, but he is usually an extremely entertaining and talkative character. He will show you an interesting ceremony, so please have a look if you have the time.”

It wasn’t just what Hokuto had said which made Taiga blink at him in confusion, but also his attitude. He was smiling brightly at the two men, who suddenly seemed to gain more interest in Taiga through Hokuto’s words and when the boy’s grip on his arm got so tight that it hurt, Taiga forced himself to form a small smile towards the men. He tried his best to at least get a bit of his playful behavior back he had successfully showed the day before, but he could feel that it wasn’t working as well as he wanted to. Luckily it seemed enough to keep the men interested and they nodded with a smile.

“Then I hope for an entertaining show,” one of them addressed Taiga and this time he was better in showing one of his challenging smiles before he bowed towards him.

“I’d be pleased to see you tomorrow evening.”

Both men nodded and walked away, while Hokuto and Taiga bowed towards them until they were not able to see them anymore.

Taiga wanted to ask Hokuto what came over him and why he had suddenly tried so desperately to make them interested in him, but his lips automatically zipped when he turned towards Hokuto and got hit by a death glare.

“We’re heading back,” Hokuto announced and instead of releasing Taiga he moved his hand to his wrist and pulled him along the whole way.

They didn’t stop anywhere else or talked to anyone. Hokuto kept walking straight to their house, moving to their room without any comment. When he closed the door he put the bag with the kimono on the ground and opened it.

“Get out of your kimono,” he ordered while he kept unpacking and somehow Taiga felt like he would snap if he asked any stupid questions, so he did how he was told.

“Seriously now?” Hokuto asked in disbelieve when he put the kimono and obi to the ground and lifted up the accessory Taiga had asked Tegoshi for.

Seeing it now made him feel extremely embarrassed, because his confidence of wearing it had vanished completely.

“I guess I won’t use it,” Taiga let out in a low voice on which Hokuto narrowed his eyes and stood up, approaching him with the black object in his hand.

“I heard from Juri how impressive you behaved yesterday in front of Tegoshi and the boy who helped you, so what’s your problem now?”

“There is no problem. I just don’t feel like I can actually keep this game up through the whole ceremony.”

“Game?” Hokuto repeated and Taiga felt even more uncomfortable out of a sudden. Instead of scolding him even more he finally moved the object up to his neck and closed it. Taiga lifted his hand to the black choker he had asked for. Yes, when he had asked Tegoshi to make it, it felt like a game. But wasn’t Hokuto right? This was definitely too serious to be treated like a game and if it was about the cruel reality he was definitely not ready to behave this seductive.

“I should really not wear it,” Taiga tried again.

“Leave it where it is,” Hokuto warned him as he got the kimono and threw it over Taiga’s shoulders who got into the sleeves without complains and let Hokuto close the obi for him. It took a while until Hokuto had checked if everything was fitting.

“Wouldn’t it have been easier to make Tegoshi take a look if it fits?”

“So that he can decide already if he likes you in it or not and won’t come to the ceremony? Would you finally start thinking at least a bit? It’s not so complicated to behave the right way to make the right people come.”

Taiga bit his lip on that, because he hadn’t even thought about it that way, but now that Hokuto had explained it, it made sense. Even the poster just had him in his white kimono, after all the people wanted to get surprised by him tomorrow night, but Taiga felt like they would all rather get disappointed.

With slightly shaking hands he moved his hands down to the opening under the obi. He still didn’t like that it was cut open at his legs as well as at his shoulders. Sure the choker was actually showing off quite well with all the skin the kimono revealed around his chest and shoulders, but he still wanted to pull it close just a bit more.

Hokuto reached out for his hands when he realized what made him feel uncomfortable and when he took a hold on one of his wrists and pulled his hand up Taiga looked away with a guilty expression.

“Do you know why I talked to the two men on the street today when you refused to act the way you are supposed to?”

First Taiga wanted to shot back that he wouldn’t let anyone force him to behave as they want him to, but Hokuto’s look was still dangerous so he just shook his head.

“How did they look to you?”

“Nice, I guess?”

“Exactly, so why didn’t you try to charm them more? Those types of people are rich and like spending their money here. Not more and not less. They like interesting company, but they are not planning on playing any weird games with you.”

“And what if they suddenly show another face at the ceremony?”

This time Taiga’s answer had been a bit snappier as he didn’t want to believe Hokuto’s words that easily, after all he had seen a lot of weird people over just a few days already. But without a warning Hokuto snapped and grabbed the collar of his kimono and pulled him closer.

“Do you have any idea with what kind of people I dealt with until now?”

Again Taiga shook his head, but Hokuto didn’t back off. “Then how dare you doubt my ability of reading people’s intentions? If there is anything dangerous about a person then trust me I will be the first one of all members in this house who can see it. And the way you are behaving at the moment I can tell you already that I will see a lot of dangerous faces outside the window.”

“Even if I fake my behavior those faces will be there, what if they pay the most? Then it doesn’t matter anymore if I tried to play strong or not,” Taiga shot back, getting angry himself out of a sudden. Hokuto’s words definitely meant that he had experienced something that made him see through people’s intentions quite easily, but nothing could keep those people away from the ceremony after all.

“You really don’t want to get it, right? You have two potential buyers, JUST two. That makes the chances of someone else buying you higher than if it were already ten by now, but you idiot refuse to properly talk to people and make them interested in you. Who knows if those men from before will even show up with your cold behavior.”

“Don’t tell me about cold behavior, you are the walking shadow in this house, not me!”

This time Hokuto lost the last bit of calmness and pulled him so close that they could feel each other’s breath on their faces.

“You should think twice before you make fun out of me or I will reconsider if I keep helping you.”

When Taiga let out a chuckle on that Hokuto’s look turned into something even more dangerous and after all the death glares he had already received it was actually scary to see that he could actually put on the face of a demon.

“Helping me? Right, I am so what of seeing your honest support here,” Taiga mocked the other one and this time he made Hokuto freak with his arrogant behavior and the other one lunged out, giving Taiga a punch in the face. The boy seemed angry enough to not care about any punishment he could receive for hurting him right before the ceremony.

 Taiga stumbled backwards through the punch and Hokuto pushed him back even more on which he fell on his back. When Hokuto sat down on top of him, Taiga tried to hit him back, but Hokuto was stronger and pinned his wrists to the ground.

“You still don’t seem to understand what kinds of people are lingering in these streets, just waiting for an opportunity like this one. They might not kill you, but trust me there will be a point when you wish you were dead.”

Hokuto shouted the words at him, because Taiga didn’t want to listen and tried the whole time to twist away, but Hokuto wouldn’t let him and suddenly he released his wrists. But his hands traveled to his kimono instead and without any hesitation he ripped it open, his hands moving roughly as he touched him, one hand holding him down on the shoulder.

“You think they will care if you beg? If they hurt you?”

Instead of even spending Hokuto’s words any attention Taiga lunged out for the other one and succeeded in punching him this time, but then the latter’s hand travelled to his hair and he pushed him back down on the tatami ground while he spread Taiga’s legs with his own and ripped the obi open.

“Stop it!” Taiga yelled at him, but Hokuto blocked his next attack and pulled him up on the hair just to throw him on his stomach. When Hokuto put his knee down on his back, right over the fresh scars Taiga let out a hiss.

“They won’t stop just because you say so! They paid for you. They will do everything they want to! And if you go on their nerves…”

With the next move Hokuto took the obi and forced Taiga’s arms on his back tying them up and as much as Taiga struggled he couldn’t stop him, which made him realize that if he already lost against Hokuto he wouldn’t stand a chance against any of the buyers and no one would come to his help at that time.

“They will tie you up, they will hit you, and they might get even more violent with you. Do you know how much pain a person can cause you if they are enjoying it to hear you scream?”

This time Hokuto pushed Taiga’s head forcefully against the ground as he pulled the kimono down from his shoulders and revealed the scars on his back.

“The pain you endured at those punishments is nothing compared to what will await you if the wrong person buys you,” Hokuto hissed before he suddenly buried his fingernails in the boy’s back on which Taiga let out a scream.

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? STOP IT!” Taiga shouted at him while he tried to somehow make him let go, but he couldn’t free his hands and slowly he started panicking.

“You know how much they can hurt you here,” Hokuto continued as if nothing had happened and pulled the kimono up from the bottom and moved his hand over Taiga’s butt on which the younger one tensed, but somehow he was sure that Hokuto wouldn’t go that far, after all it would maybe not just cost his hands if he ruined the ceremony.

Suddenly Hokuto’s weight on him got a bit less and he used the chance to turn on his back, but he regretted his choice immediately, because Hokuto covered his mouth with one hand and pushed his head down to the ground.

“It doesn’t even matter if you scream for help no one will help you at that time.”

Hokuto had trapped him completely and put more weight on his body again while his free hand was still under his kimono and for a moment the panic got the upper hand and Taiga struggled with all his might, letting out a muffled sound against the other one’s hand.

Hokuto leant down to him on that move. “Why are you scared? I didn’t even do anything bad until now. The more you struggle, the more fun they will have. They enjoy your fear. Show them how scared you are and how easily they can break you and they will hurt you even more.”

Taiga desperately tried to get his hand away to yell at him that he got it, but somehow it felt like Hokuto was waiting for something else. He had made his point extremely clear and Taiga’s body wouldn’t even stop shaking at this point anymore, even though Hokuto was right he still hadn’t done anything compared to what a bad kind of buyer could do to him. Just with Hokuto’s rough behavior Taiga felt over challenged already, how was he supposed to handle such a buyer who wouldn’t know any boundaries?

His own thoughts made his body relax and he realized what Hokuto was waiting for. No, he wouldn’t be able to handle such a person and Hokuto knew that. The older one sensed the change and looked at Taiga curiously and the boy kept starring back at him with a calm look. That made Hokuto move again, but he didn’t back off. Slowly he moved his hand back between the boy’s legs, but this time Taiga remained calm and spread his legs. Obviously pleased by that reaction Hokuto removed his hand from his mouth and Taiga took a deep shaking breath.

“Don’t let them play with you all the time. Staying calm is good, but don’t freeze,” Hokuto said with a complete different attitude this time. Taiga reacted immediately on that statement and lifted one leg and pushed Hokuto on which the boy was forced to put a hand down next to Taiga’s head.

“Better?” Taiga asked with a still shaking voice, but he succeeded in keeping his confident attitude.

“Way better,” Hokuto let out against the other one’s lips, but when Taiga wanted to lean forward he backed off.

“The moment someone sees me I am dead meat, so I hope you took this lesson serious,” he explained before he finally helped Taiga to get his hands free again and the boy sat up on shaking legs, closing his kimono protectively around him.

They both remained silent for a moment and somehow Taiga knew that this time it was his turn to speak.

“You could tell from the beginning that I couldn’t handle such a buyer that’s why you tried to help me and get the right people coming to the ceremony,” Taiga started and Hokuto kept looking at him, no reaction visible on his face. “Instead of fearing that one of the bad buyers will pay more I should try my best to give those I invited myself to the ceremony an entertaining show so that they will pay the highest amount, right?”

The question made Hokuto’s look darken a bit again and suddenly he hit Taiga on the head, but it had been just a light impact and Taiga bit his lip and rubbed his head on the move.

“A bright spark, aren’t you?” Hokuto mocked him, but there was no actually smile on his face. “Remember what I told and showed you today. Each time you crawl back in your shell or get scared the shadows around you will grow. Don’t give them the chance to swallow you.”

Taiga couldn’t deny that he somehow liked Hokuto’s way of talking and knowing that he was reading a lot he should maybe ask him someday if he could teach him how to read. For now he was just thankful for his help. His methods were questionable, that was for sure, but definitely effective.

“You have one more day to gather people which seem to be good buyers, and then everything is up to your performance,” Hokuto said before he got up and wanted to leave the room.

“Hokuto?” Taiga asked hesitantly and the boy stopped once more, but didn’t turn around. “The things you told me today, the reason why you can read people that good. Did you experience something which made you want to prevent the same happening to others?”

Hokuto lowered his head a bit on that question, but then he let out a sigh and opened the door. “Call it help if you like to, but in here it’s the survival of the fittest, so all I am doing is making people clearly open their eyes to reality.”

“Then thank you for that,” Taiga replied instead of asking more questions, after all he could imagine that it was definitely not a topic Hokuto liked talking about.

“Thank me after you have successfully made it through your ceremony,” Hokuto said before he left Taiga alone.

Just a few days had passed in the house and of course Taiga could still not tell who was going to grow closer to him and who wouldn’t, but somehow he had the feeling that Hokuto would sooner or later let go of his cold behavior and talk more openly with him. For now he could just try his best and get himself a good buyer to thank Hokuto for his efforts.

***

 

*₁ hakama: wide trousers worn with short kimono like jackets

Chapter Text

The next day passed tormenting slow, but luckily Taiga had enough distraction to not freak out. First thing in the morning he went to see Kamenashi again and apologize once more for his behavior two days ago and asked him at the same time if it was possible to give Hokuto another day off so that he could accompany Taiga around the district.

Kamenashi seemed quite pleased by Taiga’s sudden open attitude and so he allowed them to leave together. It had actually been Reo’s turn to go out with Taiga, so when Taiga came back to their room and explained everything the boy felt quite down, which would change with the beginning of the ceremony in the evening, Taiga was sure of that. After all, the boy talked nonstop of it and couldn’t wait to see Taiga in his kimono.

With Hokuto at his side Taiga succeeded to find a few more fitting people to invite for his ceremony, but of course a single day wasn’t much and personally he hadn’t found someone he would actually want to choose over everyone else, but that was something which he couldn’t be picky with. He should be happy if he got a normal buyer instead of someone dangerous.

They had also made sure to pass by Tegoshi’s shop once more now that Taiga was able to seduce him a bit more to make sure he would show up at the ceremony.

But as much as Taiga tried to keep the same attitude up the nervousness took over him in the evening the moment he got in his black silk kimono.

“Wow, that is seriously a first,” Kentaro said impressed as he held up the choker and handed it to Hokuto who was dressing Taiga for his ceremony together with him.

“I don’t really know why I asked for it. Somehow the heat of the moment let me say it and-”

“I warn you if you start again with this I don’t want to wear it shit, I am going to strangle you with it,” Hokuto warned him as he closed the choker a bit too tight on which Taiga slightly coughed and Kentaro let out a chuckle.

“Hey, don’t get so tense,” Kentaro said as he stepped closer to Taiga and lifted up his chin when the boy got lost in his thoughts. “You had just a few days of preparations. You were never in such an environment before and let me tell you that you did great until now, okay except of one extremely stupid side step.”

“Sorry,” Taiga apologized on the reminder, but tonight he couldn’t allow himself to lose focus. The whole day Hokuto had tried his best to make him realize how important it was to make the right moves and decisions in the short time he had in front of the buyers.

“If you show them one moment of hesitation you will let the wolf into the cage,” Hokuto reminded him as he checked the kimono and obi again before he stepped back.

“I am not a sheep, so the wolf won’t have anything to eat anyways,” Taiga replied more confident than he thought he could at the moment, but both boys seemed pleased by how good he still handled the situation, but of course the real test would await him downstairs as soon as he moved inside the red windowsill and presented himself to the buyers.

A knock on the door made Kentaro slid it open and Kochi waited outside, but he seemed to have forgotten what he wanted to say as he spotted Taiga and after a moment of silence in which Kochi stared with an open mouth, Kentaro snapped his fingers in front of his face.

“Hey, don’t space out.”

Kochi shook his head on that, but Taiga couldn’t suppress a small chuckle and even Hokuto cracked a small smile. “Imagine what you can do to your buyers when just looking at you seems hypnotizing already,” Hokuto whispered at him and out of a sudden it seemed like a challenge to Taiga and that was maybe the best way to see it. He could think about everything that was coming after that later, for now he should try to seduce them in a way that they would actually fight over him, even though that fight would be settled by money.

“Kamenashi said the preparations are done, you can come down,” Kochi said.

“Are there many buyers?” Kentaro asked and Kochi’s look turned to something that was hard to interpret and at first Taiga thought he had after all ruined everything through his behavior, but then the boy cracked a proud smile.

“Kamenashi said there had never been so many buyers for a boy which came just a few days before the ceremony.”

That actually made something inside Taiga jump, was he actually proud of hearing that?

“Guess I see a confidence boost there?” Hokuto asked with a lopsided smile before he waited for Taiga to follow Kochi down the corridor.

“Guess today it’s time to set a new record,” Taiga replied with an almost arrogant look on which Kentaro shook his head with a teasing smile before they all moved downstairs.

“Oh.my.GOD!” Reo was heard the moment they passed around the corner towards the entrance of the house. He dashed forward and Taiga just smiled at him as he touched the material of the kimono and got sparkling eyes on the sight of the choker.

“I told you, you’d like it,” Juri said in a calm voice as he had seen Taiga in it already, but his attention was on the new accessory as well.

“I LOVE it, Taiga you look so stunning! My gosh I wish I’d had more money, I’d seriously try to buy you.”

Taiga let out a low chuckle on that before he moved his hand up to Reo’s cheek. “Such a nice compliment, but don’t you think it would be a waste of money?”

On that question Reo tilted his head in confusion on which Taiga stepped forward to whisper in his ear. “We can still have our own fun after the ceremony is over and that for way longer than just one night, doesn’t that sound way more inviting?”

When he moved around Reo the boy had frozen to the spot and soon the others were teasing him on how easily Taiga was able to make him fall in his seducing trap, but it had been something like a last try out before he had to not try, but definitely succeed with this strategy.

“I am not sure if I like that confidence or not,” Juri let out as Taiga stepped next to him.

“Maybe for now you should like it? Or do you want me to fail?”

“Definitely not.” Juri said seriously as he faced the boy with an intense stare. “We all know how important it is that you succeed in those few minutes, but please don’t lose yourself over all the attention, okay?”

Taiga was confused about Juri’s worries, because after all it was quite hard for him to keep this kind of attitude up in the first place. His real character had nothing in common with the way he acted for the buyers, but maybe Juri spoke out of experience? His serious look made Taiga refrain from a teasing answer and he nodded. “Don’t worry, I will always find my way back and if not I’ve you and the others to pull me up to the surface again.”

His trust into the boy made a bright smile appear on Juri’s lips, but before he could answer anything, Kamenashi approached them and all boys stood slightly back. Taisuke was the next one to join them as he was the one who would be in charge of keeping order at the ceremony. No one was allowed to touch Taiga even if he would touch them and if anyone dared to break the rules Taisuke and some other older senpais would make them leave.

“What an interesting choice,” Kamenashi said as he touched the material of Taiga’s kimono. After all this part of the ceremony was completely left to him so no one except Juri and Hokuto had seen the kimono before. “Can I make the announcement?”

It actually made Taiga feel a bit nauseous as he nodded and saw how Kamenashi moved around the corner to the windowsill and announced the beginning of the ceremony.

“And I thought you’d mess up the whole way until here,” Taisuke was heard next to him on which Taiga got ready to snap at him, but somehow the latter didn’t have the same mocking look as usual.

“I had a lot of help over the last days and I realized that failing here would just make the way from now on even harder.”

“Bad memories can be extremely haunting,” Taisuke said in a calm voice which made Taiga listen carefully to him, after all he had never seen his senpai speaking to him with such a gentle attitude. “For now concentrate on how to act in front of them to get the best buyer, but don’t let your guard down after that. Don’t panic even if you are alone, don’t freak out when a person enters your room which you haven’t expected.”

Taiga wasn’t sure if he should feel angry or grateful that he was having such a talk with him at such a critical moment. He could have come earlier to him if he wanted to give him advice, but maybe he should feel happy that he was talking to him in the first place. After all he would have to leave to his room right after presenting himself to the buyers and it would take some time until they all had their meeting with Kamenashi in which they decided the highest price. If he was just going unprepared into his room he really just might freak himself out.

“Don’t let them toss you around like a puppet, but also don’t get to arrogant or demanding.”

It sounded so easy, but to Taiga it was his first time after all which made it so difficult, but also so entertaining for the buyers.

“Don’t think about it too much. It’s easier than you think. Instead of pretending to be tough in front of your buyer or please him with a fake attitude, how about you just try and enjoy it yourself?”

It sounded too easy, so easy that it almost sounded stupid to Taiga, but wasn’t he right? That was a view Taiga hadn’t considered until now. Sure it was his first time, but what if he liked it? What if he had a buyer he could actually enjoy the night with?

“You have no experience so just let it happen and decide later what you liked and disliked tonight, but don’t drive yourself crazy with all the “what if” questions.”

Taiga looked at his senpai in a loss of words for a moment, but when he wanted to voice out a thank you Kamenashi appeared again and waved him over.

“Time to make them fall for you, don’t disappoint me,” Kamenashi said, but this time in a way lighter tone than when he had received his punishment.

Taiga looked over his shoulder to the other boys again, but they all gave him encouraging looks, while Taisuke tried to behave like he hadn’t said anything the moment Kamenashi had shown up.

After another deep breath Taig dared to step onto the windowsill and he closed his eyes once more, repeating in his mind everything the boys had said to him over those days. With a confident feeling in his chest he opened his eyes again and dared to step around the corner in front of the buyers.

The picture he remembered from the day of his arrival was suddenly showing up in front of him the other way around. This time it weren’t the people inside the house looking like demons in the red light, but the people outside. With greedy looks they squeezed in front of the wooden bars of the windows, impatiently waiting for their main dish to be served. But something had changed over the last days. There was no unpleasant feeling inside Taiga on the picture in front of him. No shiver was running through his body, because luckily the first person he spotted in between the crowd was Tegoshi and it made him relax immediately. With confident steps he walked closer to the bars, but he moved slowly, knowing how important it was to keep the buyers entertained. So he wouldn’t just walk up to them and present himself. For now he kept his distance, pausing in front of the part where Tegoshi was standing. The latter gave him an excited smile on which Taiga looked at him for a moment longer trying to seduce him with just a look and his choker was definitely something Tegoshi seemed extremely proud of. Other buyers had started pointing their fingers at it as well, a low whisper went through the crowd and Taiga lifted his hand in front of his mouth to hide a small smile. That move actually made the people’s eyes follow the movement of his long fingers and Taiga knew how to get their attention even more as he slowly moved his fingers over his own lips on which it seemed as if some people would soon lose their patience and try to grab him through the bars.

Slowly he kept moving, knowing that he can’t just spend Tegoshi attention in the short time he had and while he moved alongside the bars he dared to get closer as he saw the two men from before which had come through Hokuto’s help. He let his fingers move over the inside of the bars, making it obviously even harder for the people outside to keep their distance and a few suddenly stepped even closer, but instead of backing off Taiga dared to present himself even more to them. They stood lower than him, so they had an even better view of the opening of his kimono around his legs and that was what Taiga used to arouse them without even getting into any physical contact. He moved one hand down on his own body, slowly tracing the golden pattern on the seam of the kimono and pushing it open just a tiny bit more around the legs. A small move, a big reaction. Some people grabbed the bars, others more in the back craning their necks to an unhealthy degree and Taiga enjoyed every single reaction. Talking to Taisuke had suddenly proven itself as useful after all, because not just later, but also now things were definitely going more smoothly while enjoying what he did.

With the next step he reached new faces, this time also women in between the spectators, a few he had seen on the street before, he had talked to them and of course he wanted to give them some special thanks for coming. For a moment he thought about daring his hands once more on the bars, maybe even through, but when he wanted to make a step forward he recognized another face and he automatically stepped back. He immediately concealed his mistake with a turn of his body so that his move wouldn’t be seen as fear, which it actually was, because the person he recognized was the one he had received his punishment from the other day. Those types of people were definitely the worst kind of buyer he could get, because the only reason he would want to buy him was to obviously make him pay for his impoliteness without rules. It disgusted Taiga to see how far some people would go just because of a single unpleasant happening. But once more he succeeded in facing the man as he won against his fear and was determined to make someone else fall for him so badly that the man would have no chance of buying him. Soon he moved one, because there were still some people more towards the end of the windowsill and there he finally dared to get closer to the bars again, first looking at the people in the back then more to the front and as his eyes met the person’s stare in the first row his look turned to excited.

It was Hikaru who was standing there, looking at him with a neutral look. Was he just curious or had he really an intention of buying him? Whichever it was Taiga was already in the mood to try his luck with him even more than he tried with Tegoshi. Unfortunately Hokuto couldn’t help him now and tell him if Hikaru was a good or bad choice, so he had to leave this to his own feeling and for now he was excited enough to not doubt that Hikaru would be a good choice. Not necessarily a safe choice though, but who knew, maybe even a dangerous person could make the night entertaining for him? After all as Taisuke had said Taiga didn’t know himself what he liked and what not, so why not find it out?

Slowly Taiga sat down on his knees and he could see in the corner of his eyes how many buyers seemed jealous of that move and tried to get as close as possible. It wasn’t just because Taiga wanted to be on the same height with Hikaru, but also because he knew what this move meant for the view inside his kimono and he sat with his knees slightly spread and even though it was just for a second he saw how Hikaru’s eyes traveled down there before he looked up at him again.

He had his arms crossed to his chest, again a casual grey yukata and nothing on his face showed that he was interested in Taiga at all, but alone the fact that he had come showed Taiga that he was just the type to not show emotions that openly, which made him want to seduce him even more.

With the next move Taiga dared one hand through the bars and again some whispers were heard on that move, but Hikaru remained rooted to the spot. He didn’t even flinch when Taiga’s hand found his cheek. Carefully he brushed his long fingers down the latter’s cheek towards his chin line and left just his pointer finger under the latter’s chin. With a little bit more pressure he actually succeeded in lifting up the latter’s chin a bit and finally there was a reaction. His look darkened and instead of pulling back Taiga formed a triumphing smile. Exactly such a reaction was what he had wished for. Hikaru was definitely a strong character, so letting someone play with him wasn’t something he would normally accept, but this time he had no choice. He wasn’t allowed to pull back or slap Taiga’s hand away.

There was a sudden clicking heard from the end of the windowsill and he knew that it had come from Taisuke, telling him that it was time to come back. After all this part of the ceremony was held as short as possible to make the buyers even more interested, because just having a small glimpse would make them want to see more.

Before Taiga got up again he thought of a last move and he leant to the front so that the bars were the only thing left between Hikaru’s and his face before he dared to blow some air in Hikaru’s face on which the latter was forced to close his eyes. With a low chuckle Taiga pulled his hand back and when Hikaru opened his eyes again a shiver finally ran down his spine. But it was caused by excitement, not by fear. The latter’s look showed something dangerous that was for sure, but somehow it also made Taiga want to know more about him and hopefully that also applied the other way around.

On his way back he walked as slow as possible, daring his hands through the bars here and there again, but he had no time to sit down once more, so he tried to make his stares as intense as possible.

His last look was directed to Tegoshi and the latter seemed extremely proud of how Taiga had acted through this part and he could just hope that it wasn’t just his personal feeling that he had done quite well.

The moment he disappeared inside the house again he let out a long breath and closed his eyes before he heard some people approaching. A little bit confused he looked up at the boys who came from the entrance of the house. Taisuke had been right at the end of the windowsill, but he had remained there after Taiga had walked down, because now it was time for Kamenashi to talk to the buyers again and let those into the house which were interested.

“Weren’t you supposed to wait here?” Taiga asked as everyone had obviously been outside the whole time, which made him realize that they had seen his ceremony and judging by their teasing smiles they had had their fun while watching.

“Dude, you were amazing!” Reo said in pure excitement and jumped up and down a few times.

“You saw him, right?” Kentaro was heard next with a bit less enthusiasm and of course Taiga knew who he was talking about.

Taiga nodded with a worried look, but Juri walked up to him and put his hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry, you did awesome! There will be enough people who will pay a higher amount! Tegoshi came and even the guy who helped us before, even though I am not sure why you chose him for the most seductive part.”

Juri’s worries made Taiga look at Hokuto and the boy seemed to understand the silent question and when the latter’s look remained skeptical Taiga felt insecure out of a sudden.

“Was it a bad choice?” Taiga asked and all eyes were on Hokuto.

“Let’s not say bad, but maybe risky? He is hard to read even for me and I’d say there are people who can handle characters like him and people who can’t, and I am not sure which type you are.”

“That sounds at least better than you seriously messed up,” Taiga replied with a brief smile and that was really how he felt. Like this he could calm down at least a bit. When he looked up at Reo he tilted his head as the boy had obviously bit his lip over the whole conversation.

“What is it Reo?” Taiga asked a bit worried on which Reo felt caught and shook his head, looking a bit apologizing around while Juri and Hokuto also gave him questioning looks.

“Nothing really,” Reo tried and waved his hands, chuckling weird, but before he could explain anything else Kochi appeared next to Taiga.

“I’ve to bring you to your room now,” Kochi interrupted their conversation with an apologizing look, but Taiga felt as if he could go through the night now that he had succeeded with the first part already.

“You will be fine,” Juri said encouraging on which Taiga nodded with a thankful last look to all of them before he followed Kochi. If he was going to be fine was depending on who was going to enter his room, but until then he had to keep calm, after all it was thanks to all of them that he had made it without too much trouble to this point and he didn’t want their efforts to go to waste.

Chapter Text

A whole night. It didn’t just seem like a long time it actually was. The sun had barely set before Taiga had stepped in front of the buyers and the one who paid the most would be allowed to stay with him until the sun rose.

Taiga was sitting on the futon in the prepared room for some time already, just two small lamps in the corners brightening the room up a little bit. The nervousness was slowly reaching its peak, but he tried his best to repeat everyone’s words in his head to keep calm.

He knew what was going on at the moment and there was nothing he could do. Those who were interested in buying him would get brought to a special room where Kamenashi was waiting for them. Just the senpais of the house were allowed around that time, so the other boys all had to wait in the back of the house until the next day.

The payment wasn’t decided like as for an auction, there was just one chance for each of them to buy him, which made it kind of tricky to know who the buyer would be. All of them would hand an envelope with money to Kamenashi and he would leave the room for a moment to see who handed him the most. Just that person will find a white card inside which allowed him to come back inside later. First they would all get the envelopes back and leave the house and just the one with the white card would come back later and hand the money and the white card to Kamenashi, then he was allowed to see Taiga.

It wasn’t a given time they had to come back, most of them waited until things had calmed down a bit, but that also meant Taiga had no clue how long he had to wait.

“Try to enjoy it yourself,” Taiga repeated Taisuke’s words and of course he couldn’t deny that he was curious about how it would be, but what if the person stepping inside the room wouldn’t care about him at all? Then this night would end with another haunting memory.

Lost in his thoughts he needed a moment to realize people were talking outside the room at the end of the corridor and with slow steps he heard someone approaching, just a single person. That was also something Taiga had heard about the ceremony. They would just tell the buyer where his room was, but not show him inside like Kochi did with usual customers.

The steps got slower and stopped in front of his door. Taiga’s heart felt as if it would jump out of his chest at every moment now, but he tried his best to stay calm as the door got slid to the side and then he automatically held his breath, his eyes on the buyer who slid the door closed behind him.

A cold stare was what met him, but the played lack of interest made a challenging smile appear on Taiga’s face. “Did no one want to spend any money on me or can I feel honored now that you made sure to keep me company at my first night?”

It had just taken seconds for Taiga to leave all his nervousness and hesitation behind and replace it by a confident and teasing attitude the moment Hikaru had stepped inside the room.

Instead of replying, Hikaru stepped closer on which Taiga stood up. He hadn’t actually been told anything about how he was supposed to behave when the buyer entered the room. It seemed like from here on everything got decided by Hikaru.

This time there were no bars between them and somehow Taiga had forgotten how tall the latter was, but when Hikaru stopped right in front of him he gulped nervously. Not that his confidence was already leaving him again, but he also realized what Hikaru could do to him with all the advantages on his side.

When the older one didn’t say anything Taiga tilted his head with another teasing smile. “Guess today I can finally thank you properly for you help?”

This time Hikaru moved and grabbed the boy by the chin with such a tight grip that Taiga escaped a gasp.

“Maybe I should have left you falling in that stupid river back then. Seems like your way of thanking people is annoying the heck out of them,” Hikaru said, but even though his look was still as dark as before Taiga somehow just couldn’t feel scared of him.

“Or maybe I just want to give you the chance of receiving something better than just a simple thank you?”

Hikaru leant closer to him, but still didn’t release him. He seemed impressed by Taiga’s calm attitude, but something told him that he also felt challenged by it, so they were both in the mood for games. “I hope you know what can happen if you play with fire!”

“A few burn marks won’t be too bad, don’t you think so?” Taiga replied before he dared to lift one hand up to touch the latter’s face the same way he did before, but this time the latter’s eyes got even darker on that move.

“I won’t leave you any chance to complain later when you don’t tell me about any limits now.”

The fact that Hikaru even asked him about something like that made Taiga halt for a moment, because he hadn’t even thought about the possibility that whoever bought him would care for his opinion in the first place. But on the other hand it gave him a dangerous boost in a direction he might regret later, but as the others had said before he didn’t know himself how far he was willing to go, so why not test his own limits?

This time it was Taiga who moved and he put his free hand on Hikaru’s hand so that the latter let go of his chin. With his hand on the older one’s face he pulled him a bit closer with his hand moving towards his neck. He could feel the other one’s breath on his face and a shiver of excitement went through his body as he made his final decision. “I am all yours for tonight,” Taiga whispered against the other one’s lips.

Hikaru moved immediately on that, but instead of pushing Taiga down he pushed him against the wall and that not carefully. Taiga tried to take a deep breath as his back collided with the wall, but it got interrupted when Hikaru grabbed him by the hair and pulled his head up.

“I’ll make sure to wipe that arrogant look from your face tonight.”

“Looking forward to it.”

Taiga felt like someone else was speaking instead of him, but the way Hikaru stepped even closer showed him that he had indeed said those words.

This time Hikaru finally dared to touch Taiga more as he lowered his hand from his hair to his face and moved his other hand towards the outside of his thigh, but he still seemed to hesitate or more like he didn’t see any need to take things fast, because he had the whole night and why should he rush things after he had paid a lot of money to be the first one to have a taste of him?

His lips wandered of to the boy’s neck and Taiga caught himself how he gained him better access, moving and bending his body with every new body contact from the other one. When he felt Hikaru’s tongue at his neck a shiver of pleasure ran through him while the latter took his time exploring the boy’s exposed skin up to his shoulders and collarbones. Without even wanting to Taiga let out a low moan when Hikaru went up to his neck again, biting his skin right behind his earlobe.

That sound made Hikaru move back to his face and he moved positions, trapping Taiga’s body against the wall with his own, but the boy didn’t mind at all. One hand forced Taiga to look up at the latter, but his eyes flickered from his eyes to his lips a few times before Hikaru finally replied to his silent request and gave him a first real kiss.

Even though the kiss was quite rough Taiga didn’t find any reason to complain. When Hikaru gained himself access with his tongue Taiga tried to keep up with the pace, but he couldn’t deny that he felt suddenly a bit embarrassed through the lacking experience and to his surprise Hikaru backed off after a moment. Maybe he had felt how Taiga had tensed out of a sudden and his look was kind of questioning on which Taiga tried to look away, but the latter kept his hand at his face so that he had to keep looking up at him.

“Could it be that I just stole your first kiss?”

“Don’t you think that is quite unimportant over the fact that you will steal way more tonight?”

“For me maybe, but what’s about you?”

Again a question which startled Taiga. Why did he even care in the first place? Not that it offended Taiga in any way, he was grateful for the concern, but still, somehow he felt like his hesitation made it complicated for both of them, like Hikaru could just make another move when Taiga was showing him that he was comfortable with the situation.

But truth was that he wasn’t feeling uncomfortable at all, just a bit too slow to keep up with Hikaru’s pace, even though they hadn’t even made it to the complicated part until now, at least complicated for Taiga.

He tried to snap out of it as fast as possible and this time he tried to go with his own plan and he moved his arms around Hikaru’s neck on which the latter raised an eyebrow at him.

“If my opinion is so important to you, then how about you try it with my pace this time?”

The sudden entertained shine in the older one’s eyes gave him the confidence to move forward and lean in for another kiss. It wasn’t like Hikaru was letting him lead the kiss, but he was obviously trying to give him more time to adjust.

Carefully, but determined Taiga was the one who deepened the kiss and soon Hikaru took his chance to push him back against the wall, but this time Taiga didn’t tense. He moved his arms more around the latter’s neck while he tried to remind Hikaru to not get too excited, but that wasn’t of course easy, after all the older one had just started, this was nothing compared to what he had still planned for the night.

Instead of deepening the kiss too much Hikaru’s hands wandered off to Taiga’s kimono and one leg moved between his, but it didn’t make him feel insecure. Hikaru’s hand on his obi made clear that as slow as he would like to keep the pace for Taiga he wouldn’t be able to hold back for the whole night and after all just kissing and touching wasn’t what he had paid for. What Taiga realized though was that Hikaru’s moves had become a bit more hesitant out of a sudden and as stupid as it sounded in his own head he didn’t want the latter to adjust to his pace too much or it would take the excitement for both of them. That thought made him switch back to the same teasing method he used before, but he was determined to level things up so he tried to take control over the kiss as good as possible before he took Hikaru by full surprise as he pulled back and bit him harshly into the bottom lip. The latter hissed and pulled back, a confused but still dangerous look on his face.

“What?” Taiga asked almost snappy and because Hikaru had removed his hands, Taiga moved his own hands to his half open obi and took it off, holding it up to the other one. “Weren’t you busy with something? I just thought you are taking a bit too much time here.”

When he let the obi drop to the floor he couldn’t even think about his next move, because Hikaru was back in attacking mode as he stepped forward and grabbed Taiga by the collar of his now open kimono and pulled him away from the wall and throwing him on the futon.

Taiga could call himself lucky that he had aimed right, because the impact had been quite hard even with the futon and he needed a moment to get his orientation back, but soon Hikaru was sitting on top of him.

“You know I’ve the feeling that you don’t like a slow pace or concern?”

“Mh, maybe I really don’t?”

“Then how about you stop pretending you do?”

“Am I? You are the one who keeps getting distracted when I tense or hesitate, but maybe all I need is to get guided through it with a strong and if necessarily harsh hand?”

Not a single word had made sense to Taiga, but he had still said it. He couldn’t keep up with his own attitude, but somehow he felt like that was exactly what was necessary at the moment. He should stop thinking and act more impulsive through the whole night. Hadn’t he just realized himself that his hesitation and Hikaru’s concern was annoying both of them?

There was another short moment of hesitation from Hikaru before the latter suddenly reached out for the boy’s choker and pulled him up on it. The material was strong and wouldn’t rip easily, so Taiga was forced to move up.

“Fine, as you wish,” Hikaru hissed.

“Oh? So am I allowed to order you around?”

That teasing question made Hikaru tighten his grip on the choker and the pressure made it hard for Taiga to breathe, but he didn’t complain.

“You wish.”

Instead of waiting for a reply Hikaru gave Taiga another kiss and this time he didn’t react to any change in Taiga’s movements, but luckily Taiga had been prepared and tried his best to just relax. Not that it was easy to stay relaxed the way the older one still held him up on the choker in a kind of uncomfortable position, but now that he had robbed himself of the chance of being able to complain he needed to find a way to solve things which he didn’t like in another way.

With the next move Taiga threw his arms around Hikaru’s neck and pulled himself more into the kiss. The result was as he had hoped and the other one removed his hand and moved it under the kimono on Taiga’s back. Instead of making him lie down he pulled him up even more until the younger one was sitting on his lap. But his hands remained on his back for a while longer and Taiga shivered when the other one traced the scars with his hands.

“A troublemaker, I see.”

“As if you wouldn’t have figured that out already.”

The lopsided smile Hikaru gave him as a reply made clear that yes he was indeed not surprised, but even though he should definitely feel that the scars were still fresh he dared to move his fingers rougher over them on which Taiga let out a hiss. When he got a mocking low chuckle on his reaction he dared to sit down with a bit more weight so that he was able to move his crotch over Hikaru’s.

The latter’s hands moved up to his collar on that move and Taiga let the kimono slide from his shoulders. Luckily he felt too excited to let the embarrassment about being naked while the other one was still fully dressed take over him. But that didn’t mean that he didn’t want to change it, so he dared to pull away from the kiss and move his hands to the older one’s obi.

It surprised him a bit that there was no complain from Hikaru even as he let the obi drop to the ground and wanted to open the latter’s yukata. When he pulled it open around the chest he halted for a moment and moved his hand over the well-structured muscles of his chest and stomach.

“Not what you expected?” Hikaru asked half teasing, half proud.

Taiga tilted his head with a playful smile. “A nice surprise. I’ve to admit that a lot of people told me that you seem scary, maybe now I can understand them better.”

“You don’t seem scared though.”

And he really wasn’t! Not the slightest! Since the first moment he had met him he had somehow seen it as a challenge to talk to him, to remain calm and strong in front of him and mostly he had succeeded, so getting scared now would make no sense at all. He hated losing challenges after all.

Curiosity took the upper hand as Taiga moved again and he wondered if Hikaru would stop him, but all the boy did was observing Taiga with an intense stare as he didn’t just lower his hands on the other one’s stomach, but moved down with his upper body as well and let his lips explore the latter’s chest.

Even when he moved a bit lower there was still no complain heard and his own excitement made him move his tongue over the stomach muscles which his lips explored next. On the new touch he received a shiver and it made him feel as satisfied as never before and the night had just started, who knew what new sides of himself he could discover until the morning? If Hikaru would let him!

For now the older one seemed to enjoy the boy’s new found courage and he slowly moved one hand to Taiga’s hair, but he wasn’t trying to pull him in any direction which made Taiga move in his own pace. It was when he reached his lower stomach that he wasn’t sure if he should pull back or not, but when he tried to move up Hikaru’s hand put a bit pressure on his head.

“Why stop when the fun part begins from here?”

Even without any kind of experience Taiga knew what he meant, but again he tensed for a brief moment. It wasn’t like he minded, but he worried that he would actually ruin the mood if he did something wrong.

“As long as you don’t dare to bite me you don’t have to worry,” Hikaru said.

It was actually a warning Taiga should definitely remember, but it hadn’t sound in any kind threatening. With slightly shaking fingers Taiga dared to pull Hikaru’s yukata open completely. He tried to calm down before he could move too hasty, after all there was no need for any kind of hurry. If the pace was too slow for the other one he would definitely complain at some point and just decide the new pace himself, which actually happened immediately. Hikaru pulled on his hair when he hesitated again, but Taiga didn’t dare to look up at him.

“A strong hand to guide you, right?”

The mocking sound of Hikaru’s voice was what pulled the trigger inside Taiga and he switched into playing mode. Even without actually knowing how to move the best and how to make it the most enjoyable for the other one, he could just use his intuition as he moved his hands around the other one’s member. He didn’t have so many other people to compare with until now, but he had the feeling that the only bad point about his buyer was his size. After all for his first time it would hurt enough already, but someone like Hikaru could definitely cause more harm than someone else. When the grip of Hikaru’s hand tightened again Taiga knew that it was not because he wanted to scold him. He could feel the shivers he was giving him through the touch already and he dared to move his fingers even more teasingly over the full length until he moved one hand back to tease his tip with his thumb. When he heard a low moan from the other one he knew that he was doing something right at least. But soon he would definitely get scolded if he kept teasing him too much and he finally leant a bit more down to be able to take him in his mouth.

A bit hesitantly he tried to move, but he wasn’t sure how much he should take him in or how far he should back off at some point. But once more Hikaru’s hand guided him and he pushed him a bit more to the front while he also moved his hips, but slowly so that Taiga could get his hands to help with the rest of the length he couldn’t take in if he didn’t want to choke.

“If you don’t want to bore me you should get a bit more creative,” Hikaru let out when Taiga was still trying to find a fitting pace and movement, but on hearing that he dared to just try instead of thinking first. If the other one complained about him messing up later he could remind him of what he had just said. So slowly Taiga dared to move a bit more and while he first made sure to cover as much of the length as possible, because he could get some low moans from the other one like this, he also dared to back off almost completely at some point and just teased his tip with his tongue. The teasing made Hikaru act rougher again as he rocked his hips forward a bit harder this time and Taiga escaped a small cough while he tried to keep control of both their movements and somehow synchronize them, but that was obviously not Hikaru’s plan. He tried to force his own movements on Taiga and the boy new better than try to resist, but it got hard for him to keep up with the other one’s hip movements as he obviously got too excited already. Sure the latter had warned him not to bite him, but he could complain another way as well, so he moved one hand down to his balls and buried his nails in them. First just with a light grip, but when the other one still didn’t slow down he tightened his grip while Hikaru pulled even more on his hair until he pulled him up instead of forward.

Taiga got ready for some scolding, but the shock was written all over his face when Hikaru didn’t say anything, but slapped him without a warning. The force made Taiga fell a bit to the side, but he still kept looking up at the other one.

“What? You thought I will treat you with kid gloves when you keep that behavior?”

“You prefer me tamer?”

Hikaru pulled him closer on the choker again on that question and moved so close that it was hard for them to actually look at each other. “Maybe obedient would be the better word.”

Taiga’s body seemed to move on its own as he leant forward and wanted to bite Hikaru on that comment, but the older one had seen it coming and reacted with his hand moving to his hair and pulling his head back with a rough movement. Taiga escaped a hiss on that, but he didn’t complain more. “So how did you like it?”

“Shouldn’t I ask you that?”

“Trust me you'd have realized if I didn't like it.”

Taiga was sure of that and as the other one kept looking at him he licked his lips with a shy expression. “It tasted weird.”

He had actually thought Hikaru would laugh at him for such a comment, but he just formed a lopsided smile before he leant to Taiga's ear.

“Now imagine how it tastes when I come in your mouth.”

Just thinking of it gave Taiga a shiver and he caught himself licking his lips once more. “But that has to wait for later.”

Which meant as much as that Hikaru had definitely planned several rounds, but of course for the first one he'd choose the most enjoyable for himself.

Finally Hikaru seemed to get too impatient to go with just the foreplay anymore and he pulled Taiga even more back on the hair until the latter was lying under him. Taiga gulped nervously as Hikaru pulled the already on his hips hanging yukata away, leaving them both touching skin on skin. But Taiga couldn’t stop his body from tensing when Hikaru moved between his legs and spread them.

“Trust me you don’t want to tense.”

Sure that was something Taiga could obviously figure out himself, but relaxing wasn’t actually easy without knowing exactly what was going to happen from now on. Instead of trying to talk him into relaxing Hikaru used his hands to help Taiga and when he suddenly moved his hand around the younger one’s member Taiga breathed in sharp, but after a moment he realized that it actually really made him relax instead of making him tense even more.

Hikaru seemed pleased with his reaction, especially as he gave in right away when Hikaru pushed his legs a bit more up. What took him by surprise though was when Taiga closed his legs behind his back and pushed him a bit to the front so that he put one hand next to Taiga’s head.

“Mh, you seem to get easily in the right mood.”

“The question is if you can keep my mood up or if you’ll disappoint me?”

Another teasing and it made a new shine appear in Hikaru’s eyes. There was no chance he could postpone this for longer and there was no actual need to either, but it didn’t take the nervousness away when Hikaru positioned himself and kept scanning Taiga’s face.

“You didn’t actually think I was that nice, did you?” Hikaru asked when Taiga couldn’t hide a slight move of panic when he realized that Hikaru wouldn’t even consider any kind of preparation. There was no way the older one would start a discussion about this topic now, but there was also a high chance of Taiga not being able to take at all what was coming from now on.

“How about you wait and see before you panic?”

Well that sounded a lot like Taisuke and it was definitely a good advice, because Taiga had tensed to a degree that Hikaru had to actually hold him down on one arm, because he intuitively tried to crawl to the back.

To make things easier Hikaru sat up straight again, but left one hand around Taiga’s member to give him a few strokes from time to time so that he could relax a bit more, but this time it wouldn’t help that much, but it was better than no distraction at all. With his other hand he stabilized Taiga’s hips, trying to find a good position for both of them, but his eyes never left the other one’s face.

Taiga couldn’t concentrate on returning his look, because he was forced to close his eyes when it got too much for him and for a moment he wondered how people could actually enjoy this? After all it wasn’t like he was made for doing this in the first place. Seeing how many people actually came to their house and how much money people were willing to pay for them it was making him fear that no matter how often he would bottom for someone it would hurt the same. On the other hand it didn’t seem to him as if Reo and the others would mind that much, which made him hope that it was actually going to be something he could enjoy at some point.

Taiga hadn’t even realized how much his breathing pace had sped up until Hikaru suddenly shifted his weight and leant to the front, moving both hands to the boy’s face as he realized that Taiga was about to shut himself away and Hikaru had definitely taken things extremely slow for him, because he could tell that he hadn’t even entered him completely yet.

“Look at me,” Hikaru said, more demanding than soothing and Taiga obeyed, because somehow he felt like requests or questions wouldn’t reach him anymore. Hikaru’s hands were closing half around the back of his neck with his thumbs on his lower cheeks, giving him no chance of pulling away when he looked up, and finding Hikaru just inches away from his face.

It was hard for Taiga to tell if Hikaru really tried to somehow help him or if he just seriously enjoyed to see him suffer, because he moved again and entered deeper resulting with Taiga letting out a gasp and biting his lip with such a force that he tasted blood in his mouth and all Hikaru did was looking at him with an even more intense stare. It was obviously that he enjoyed the way the younger one tried to not show too much how badly it actually hurt and that made him pull out a bit again and enter him even deeper with the next thrust. He knew that it was a breaking point and there was no way Taiga could hide that from him.

This time the pain got overshadowed by the anger about the lopsided smile Hikaru formed when Taiga let out a way too high pitched sound and without being able to explain what came over him he was the one to lunge out this time and he gave Hikaru a resounding slap on which silence filled the room for what seemed to be minutes. Taiga was still breathing hard while he waited for a reaction and when Hikaru turned his head back to look at him Taiga’s whole body filled with a weird excitement, which he didn’t understand, because the look he received was more than dangerous and still he didn’t care. He tried to move his head upwards the same moment Hikaru moved his hands to another position and crushed their lips together.

It wasn’t clear if it was the excitement which made him suddenly adjust at least a bit easier when Hikaru gave him another thrust, but he tried his luck and rocked up his hips with the next move and lucky it really seemed to get easier to move, even though he couldn’t deny that it was still hurting. But he got enough distraction through their sudden fight about the lead in the kiss, because as usually Hikaru invaded his mouth right away, but Taiga tried to pull back a bit to bite him, but Hikaru wouldn’t let him. The taste of blood in his mouth made everything weirdly more arousing to him and he moved his hands over Hikaru’s body to find more skin to grope greedily on which he received another harsh thrust and he let out a groan into the kiss.

“I wonder how much more it takes to break you,” Hikaru whispered against his lips when he pulled back for air and Taiga used the chance to bite him quite harshly in the underlip this time. The force was enough to make the other one hiss, but his lip wasn’t bleeding, yet!

“Depends on the way you want to break me?” For each new provocation he let out he wanted to slap himself, but he wasn’t the type to just shut up, the scars on his back were proof enough for that.

Hikaru slightly changed the angle on that and sat more to the front while pulling Taiga a bit more under him before he leant to the side to whisper in his ear. “Scream for me!”

So that was it. Taiga suddenly remembered a talk with Kentaro about the different likings of customers and how to find out how they liked it and he finally understood what would please Hikaru the most. There was just one problem, Taiga didn’t like to be loud. That had been the reason why he tried so desperately to muffle his own sounds as good as possible. But again it was a challenge and he moved his hand under Hikaru’s chin so that he would look directly at him, before he gave him a short, but deep kiss.

“Then make me!”

That had been maybe the worst thing he had said in his life and the way Hikaru’s eyes filled with excitement Taiga could just hope that he hadn’t turned this night into something horrible through his own stupidity.

When Hikaru finally moved again Taiga had the feeling he had seriously held back until now and he had felt a bit over challenged at some point before already. This time there would be no way to stop the other one, except of giving him what he needed. Hikaru moved one hand to Taiga’s leg and bent it in an almost unhealthy way to get better access when he started thrusting in further. First Taiga was distracted through the sudden pain in his leg, but the new pace of Hikaru’s thrusts made him forget about such a small matter quite fast as he let his head drop on the floor with a groan. It almost felt as if Hikaru had succeeded in filling him even deeper and he was still way too tight to be able to enjoy it, even though he couldn’t deny that in between the pain there was something that made his body feel more and more excited with each deep thrust.

“A tough one, aren’t you?” Hikaru let out dangerously as he kept scanning Taiga’s look without a break. The younger one’s breathing had turned unhealthy erratic, but he refused to let Hikaru win that easily and he bit his lip, closing his eyes for a moment, but that made it even worse, because there was absolutely nothing else he could focus on. That was definitely also why Hikaru wouldn’t touch or kiss him. The more the pain was on one spot the more unbearable it would get sooner or later.

And exactly that sooner came immediately when Hikaru somehow succeeded in entering him so deep and so rough that Taiga felt literally like breaking and he threw one arm over his mouth, trying desperately to stay calm, but he could feel how tears were forming behind his eyelids and before he knew what was happening, Hikaru ripped the arm away from his face and pint it to the floor. He thrusted almost desperately into him as if he feared he could lose the game if he wasn’t able to level it up, but he had already won and Taiga couldn’t drag his defeat for longer when he took another sharp breath and the next wave of pain was mixed with pleasure and his breaking point felt way different than he had imagined it. The scream he let out wasn’t as desperate as he thought it would sound and a weird satisfaction also filled his body with it and he felt how he was almost burning in his own skin.

Taiga let out a few small coughs when he had calmed down again, but something felt weird. When he dared to open his eyes a few of the held back tears ran free and he needed a moment to see clearly. What confused him was how Hikaru was staring back at him, halting his movements. Had he messed up somewhere? Had he broken too easily? He couldn’t exactly tell what the look on the latter’s face should tell him, but he got distracted by the pain of his own body this time. A pain which might needed another name, but he hadn’t experienced it until now and he dared to lift his head just a bit to be able to look down his own body and then he froze.

“What...when?”

He had come without even realizing how and when and the confusion on his face made Hikaru chuckle. It wasn’t like he hadn’t done this by himself already, but this time it had felt so different and sudden.

“Guess you didn’t see that coming? Let me tell you I didn’t either, but I have to admit I am impressed.”

A compliment, maybe? Taiga couldn’t actually get his thoughts together. Everything seemed still way too clouded in his mind to get even a hold on his body’s reaction. Now he could at least explain what the weird excitement hidden under the pain had been.

It was actually the first time for this night that an embarrassment made Taiga feel uncomfortable. Carefully he looked up at Hikaru, getting ready for a scolding or an annoyed look, because even though it wasn’t actually like with a normal customer the ceremony was made for the buyer to be able to live out his phantasies and here Taiga felt like he had took a lot of the fun away without even wanting to. But to his surprise Hikaru's look wasn’t the slightest annoyed, it could even be called playful. Still Taiga felt the need to apologize or do something to make up for it, but he had no time, because Hikaru gave him a lopsided smile before he closed his hand around his erection, which actually made Taiga jolt, because he was still far from down from his climax and when Hikaru gave him a low stroke it couldn’t be called pleasant.

“That’s your punishment for going on ahead without me. Let’s see if the second time will make you scream even sweeter for me.”

The realization of what Hikaru was up to made Taiga struggle for the first time, but the latter’s look showed an excited shine through that reaction. It was more than obvious that he enjoyed it each time Taiga felt insecure. After he had first made sure where the younger one’s limits were, Taiga had robed himself from the possibility of Hikaru slowing down for his sake.

When Hikaru also kept thrusting in, Taiga let out a whine, but didn’t actually try to get the hand that gave him unpleasant strokes away, after all he didn’t want to pick a fight, he would lose anyway.

“Relax,” Hikaru whispered next to his ear as he leant down to him to be able to thrust in even deeper and the boy wondered for how long he could go on like this? But his question got answered when Hikaru let out a deep moan which signaled him that he was finally getting close as well. But he wasn’t planning on reaching his climax alone and he gave Taiga even rougher strokes over his member and the boy tried to find a way to turn the pain into pleasure once more. Not knowing what else to do he roughly pulled Hikaru’s head up so that he could give him a rushed kiss and luckily the older one seemed to need exactly this as well. It was hard for Taiga to keep up with the pace as Hikaru arched his back and started shivering, obviously about to come and this time he didn’t want to be the one getting left behind, so he rocked his hips up, making Hikaru’s hand tighten around him and this time they succeeded to come together, both pulling away from the kiss at the last moment. While Hikaru’s moan was as low as before, but filled with more pleasure this time, Taiga’s moan had ended up more high pitched once again, even though it counted more as an actual moan this time instead of a scream. Even though he had to admit that it was kind of an unpleasant feeling to be forced to come two times in such a short time.

“I’d say that was enough for you to get warm,” Hikaru said after a while in which they had remained silent to get down from their climax. When Hikaru carefully slipped out Taiga flinched, now realizing that no matter what they were doing in this night he wouldn’t be able to enjoy it completely and he didn’t even want to know how much his body would complain the next day.

“Getting warm…” Taiga whispered, but what else had he expected? It was a whole night after all and Hikaru seemed like the type who could come over and over again without problems.

“You still have to feel how it tastes remember?” The shiver Taiga felt on that wasn’t actually unpleasant. He had been curious since their conversation earlier, but when he sat up Hikaru stopped him from leaning down. “Let’s keep this for later.”

He lifted the younger one’s head up and gave him another kiss, this time it wasn’t as rushed and deep as the ones before, but it lasted longer. So long that Taiga felt completely out of breath when the other one pulled back.

“For now let me play a bit longer and teach you some manners,” Hikaru whispered against his lips and Taiga nodded as if he was under a spell, accepting everything Hikaru would do to him. Pleasure and pain, excitement and fear dancing dangerously close together in his mind.

Chapter Text

It was the noise in the corridor which woke Taiga up the next morning, but he refused to open his eyes. Like a child he wanted to crawl back into the futon and ask someone for five more minutes. He turned around with a groan and stretched out his arm, finding an empty space next to him and that was when he finally cracked one eye open carefully.

It wasn’t like he had forgotten about Hikaru, but what he couldn’t remember clearly anymore was when the latter had actually allowed him to sleep? But it seemed like he wouldn’t get an answer soon, because the older one wasn’t in the room anymore. Hikaru seemed to have taken the scheduled time “until sunrise” literally and had left before the regular customers showed up, which they obviously had already.

With a sigh Taiga turned on his back and faced the ceiling with an absentminded look for a while. Everything that happened the night before was still way too clearly showing up in his mind to give him a calm moment, but it wasn’t actually a bad memory, so he had succeeded in creating something that would make his upcoming work a bit easier. Not that his ceremony would protect him from any weird or dangerous customers. Slowly he moved one finger over his lips. They were still swollen and the skin around them felt weirdly rough. At one point Hikaru had bitten him back he remembered that clearly and the mark on his under lip would definitely take a few days to heal. When he let his hands wander to different body parts one memory after the other showed up. Sure Hikaru had bitten him a lot here and there as well, but the most unpleasant one had been on his hipbone and Hikaru hadn’t held back the slightest there, so Taiga withdrew his hand from there immediately. But a small chuckle escaped him when he remembered that he had more or less by accident kicked Hikaru on that move and the latter had carried a sulky expression for a while after that.

When the noise outside was making him unable to fall asleep again he finally sat up, but when he moved his legs he let out a hiss. Good or bad memory, the pain would last for some time and that made him wonder how things were going from here on. He wasn’t even sure if he could normally walk in this condition, because he was sure that the pain he had experienced several times the night before wouldn’t go away that easily. It had become a bit easier after the third time, especially when Hikaru had calmed down a bit and didn’t rush things that much anymore, but the pain was a constant companion.

“I am not going to take a look first, he will definitely scold me,” someone was suddenly heard outside the door.

“Oh and you think I won’t get scold?”

“He definitely trusts you more than me, so you go in first!”

The voices were definitely not meant to be heard by Taiga, but they were talking way too loud to count it as whispering and Taiga could clearly hear who was talking outside.

“Why don’t you just take a peek inside for now? If he is still asleep we will just come back later?”

Taiga had to smile on their conversation and he shook his head before he got ready to stand up and open the door for them, but before he could move the door got pushed completely open out of a sudden. That move made Juri and Reo fall flat to the ground, as they had been sitting on their knees in front of the door, trying to hear if Taiga was awake or not.

“If you want to check up on him, just do it, but don’t disturb the customers,” Hokuto scolded them. The boy had obviously seen them from the corridor and had just slid the door open so that they wouldn’t make the customers look at them.

When Hokuto stepped inside the room as well he slid the door shut again and the other two boys sat up with an apologizing look. Taiga’s chuckle made them all turn toward him and while Juri formed a relieved smile, obviously happy that he seemed okay, Reo crawled over to him and sat down next to the futon. His eyes were shining already when he saw the marks on Taiga’s lips and neck, while he was hiding his upper body still under the blanket. But when Reo wanted to pull away exactly that blanket the boy took a hold on it.

“Hey, just because my ceremony is over doesn’t mean you can jump on me right away,” Taiga scolded the boy on which Reo stuck out his tongue.

“I might be impatient, but I am not that mean. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see what you two did.”

The knowing look of Reo made Taiga raise an eyebrow in confusion and when he lifted his eyes to Juri who had walked up to them his suspicions got confirmed.

“You know who was with me? Weren’t you supposed to wait in the back of the house?”

Reo chuckled on that and winked at him with a lopsided smile. “Yes, the rules say so, but we are good in not getting discovered when we want to know what is going on in the front of the house.”

“Don’t give me that scolding look, Reo was the one who got the information! I was just told who it was from him,” Juri defended himself as Taiga seemed to be ready to scold them all.

“So anyways, how was it?” Reo asked impatiently, but before Taiga could answer a yukata landed half over his face and he pulled it down, looking up at Hokuto in confusion. The latter had brought it with him and the first thing Taiga was relieved about was that it was indeed just a normal yukata and no work kimono, so he wouldn’t need to work right away. The other three had a work kimono on though and it was obvious that Hokuto didn’t want the other two to keep getting distracted by Taiga.

“Ask him about the details later in our room, but for now get Kochi here so that he can bring him to Kamenashi.”

“You’re such poor sport!” Reo complained, but stood up nevertheless.

“For now I am relieved to see that you seem fine, more or less. Take it easy for now,” Juri said with a light smile and Taiga nodded thankfully before both boys left the room, leaving him alone with Hokuto. The boy approached him and took the blanket in his hand and for a moment Taiga wanted to keep a grip on it as he did with Reo, but he also didn’t want to start an argument with Hokuto and because the boy had work as well he had definitely not all day to take care of Taiga, so in the end he let Hokuto put the blanket aside. But Taiga still closed his arms around his body, not that he could hide any of the marks he had gotten from last night.

“Mh, seems like he wasn’t actually such a good choice,” Hokuto let out in a neutral voice as he scanned the boy’s skin.

“You should see his marks though,” Taiga let out with a proud undertone on which Hokuto gave him a weird look, but didn’t comment on it. He moved in front of Taiga and stretched his hands out.

“Trust me you don’t want to get up alone for now, it will hurt more than you think at the moment.”

Taiga trusted the latter’s words completely, after all they all went through the same, even if it weren’t all ceremonies, the pain of their first time was more or less even.

Carefully he let himself get pulled up and Hokuto grabbed the yukata, handing it to the younger one who got dressed without another word. The marks Hikaru had left on his neck and also upper body weren’t even half as bad as the pain he would have to endure while walking he could feel that already and it made him hesitate to even make a step.

“Don’t worry, Kochi will bring you to Kamenashi so that he can decide for how long you’ll get off. Then you can go to the back of the house take a bath and rest for now.”

“Sounds too good to have no catch?”

“I know you are a newbie here and are suspicious about everything and everyone, but this time you should make sure to properly thank Kamenashi for the time you will get off. He is a truly good owner of this place, you better treat him with respect!”

Sure Taiga had seen already that Kamenashi was making good decisions as the owner. After all the punishments were a part of keeping order and he couldn’t judge him for punishing him for his own mistakes.

“How long will I get off?”

“That depends on your talk with the owner. You have to tell him everything that happened last night and he will take a proper look at your body as well before he decides.”

Even though Taiga couldn’t deny that he would love to get as much days off as possible before having to start working regularly in the house, but giving all the details to Kamenashi wasn’t actually that pleasant for him and ‘taking a look at his body’ would also definitely be more detailed than just a brief look from afar.

“Would you stop freaking about everything so easily? You make yourself always crazy over things you don’t even know.”

“I am not freaking out,” Taiga pouted, but who was he kidding, Hokuto could easily tell when he was feeling restless. The boy seemed to be able to read all of them without a problem.

A knock on the door told them that Kochi had arrived, but when Hokuto went over to open it he turned to Taiga once more.

“Will you be able to tell the owner everything?”

The question wasn’t as harmless as it sounded at first and Taiga thought about an answer for a moment longer before his look turned to confident and he nodded.

“There is nothing I would need to keep a secret.”

“Good, then your choice was a wise decision.”

It was making a proud feeling rise in Taiga’s chest to get told something like that, by the one person who seemed to care the least at first sight, but when looked closely enough tried all he could to help others to not live through a nightmare.

It was not just thanks to Hokuto, but also the other boys that Taiga had been even able to take all those big steps in just a few days. And Hokuto making sure that there was no hidden wall building up inside of Taiga, some secret about a happening he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone about, made him realize that Hokuto’s cold attitude was exactly that kind of wall. If he could take a look behind it after some time wasn’t sure, but for now he was happy that the boy didn’t crumble under whatever burden he was carrying around with him.

***

A brief talk with Kamenashi, a not so pleasant examination of his body, a long and definitely needed bath and some more hours of sleep in his own room. That was how the rest of the day had been, but of course the moment his roommates came back in the evening the calm time was over.

“That’s all? You are kidding me, right? There must be some dirty secret you don’t want to tell us.”

It made Taiga smile how Reo sat on the futon in front of him with crossed arms, pouting like a kid who wasn’t satisfied with his parents’ good night story. The talk with Kamenashi had somehow made it easier for Taiga to actually tell the others as well about his ceremony, after all there was really no need to hide anything. A few things he even talked proudly about and Reo’s eyes shined more and more with each time Taiga talked about something that had to do with biting.

“I can imagine that after all the time working at this place this is nothing compared to things you have experienced, but come on for my ceremony it’s enough, isn’t it? It was my first time after all, it could have ended in a huge chaos as well.”

“Luckily it didn’t,” Juri replied while he was already lying under his blanket with his arms thrown around his pillow. Hokuto was asleep already or he at least pretended to be, because Taiga doubted that with Reo’s excited loud voice he could sleep. He wondered if someone from the other rooms would come at some point and actually scold them.

“By the way for how long did you get off?”

Taiga hesitated a moment on Juri’s question, because he wasn’t sure what kind of reaction would come from the boys on his reply.

“Five days.”

Reo nodded slowly on that before he dropped to the side on his pillow with a pout. “So there were seriously no other dirty secrets.”

Taiga shook his head with a light smile on the boy’s disappointment before he looked at Juri who was about to fall asleep.

“Hey, did you hear what I said?”

Juri cracked one eye open again when Taiga hit him on the forehead.

“It’s one of the shortest breaks you can get, so you can be really happy that your ceremony went without problems,” Juri replied in a tired voice.

“Such a shame that I couldn’t give you any other stories, right?” On Taiga’s teasing question towards Reo there was no reaction and when Juri turned to look at Reo as well the boy had suddenly fallen asleep.

“And that after he had been so hyper the whole day and couldn’t wait to talk to you,” Juri scolded him before he threw a blanket over him and turned to Taiga. “You should sleep as well.”

“I slept half of the day, I am actually not that tired.”

“Then sleep for my sake? Because I have work tomorrow.”

That actually made Taiga finally lay down and he faced Juri who still carried a slightly worried expression, but the exhaustion of the day was visible even more clearly.

“Did anything happen at work today?”

“What? No, all good.”

“Are you sure? You seem seriously exhausted!”

Suddenly Juri’s expression turned to something more embarrassed and Taiga raised an eyebrow in confusion at him on which the other one let out a sigh of defeat.

“I couldn’t sleep last night after hearing from Reo who you were with. After all I had seen Hikaru just once, but I couldn’t actually tell if he was just looking scary or if he could do you serious harm.”

“Thank you for worrying so much for me,” Taiga replied honestly and the other one cracked a sheepish smile.

“I am really happy that you are fine!”

“Let’s hope it will stay like this after I start working.”

“Let’s think about that when the time comes, for now you can rest a while longer.”

“By the way how long did the others get off after their ceremony?” Taiga had lowered his voice with that question, not wanting Hokuto to hear the conversation, even though he was sure it wasn’t actually a bad question, after all none of them had actually told him that it was forbidden to talk about the ceremonies of other people.

“Mh, I came here after Kentaro and Hokuto and since then we had just one other ceremony and yours. The other boy had about a week as well, like you. For the others I just know what the others told me.”

“Which would be?” Juri’s sudden hesitation made Taiga feel a bit uncomfortable after all.

“Hokuto had eight days if my information is right.”

That actually made Taiga blink in confusion. So his ceremony hadn’t been that bad, right? But the fact that he had had a ceremony meant that nothing else in that kind of way could have happened before, so through what experience did he built up this strong wall around him? Sooner or later he needed to find out, but for now it could wait, after all the boy wouldn’t just openly talk to him.

“What about Kentaro?”

“His ceremony had been quite chaotic and kind of dangerous as I heard. Rumors said that Kamenashi was even considering in stopping it at some point. He got a whole month off.”

There was nothing Taiga could reply to that. A whole month? And he was still one of the calmest senpais around, always taking care of the younger ones. After all the talks he had with him already he hadn’t thought of the possibility that his ceremony had been that bad. Now he felt like apologizing to the latter for bringing up the topic right on his first day. But at that time Kentaro had also just smiled and waved it off as if it was just another bad memory they all shared.

***

After spending at least an hour on the windowsill Taiga could finally understand why Hokuto liked this spot so much. There was light breeze going and even though it was quite cold outside with the leaves turning red it was still pleasant. The view on the garden made it easy to relax and with the pillows on the windowsill it was easy to fall asleep.

All his other roommates had work and so Taiga had been left alone since the morning. Kentaro had come by once to check up on him, but he had work as well and couldn’t stay long. He didn’t mind it though. He could need some time alone and before he could fall asleep he decided to take a walk in the garden instead of just looking at it.

The yukata he was wearing was from Juri. It was a simple dark grey one with white lines on it. The boy had promised to help him decide on his own yukata and kimono in the evening. He had almost demanded to wait for him, but Taiga didn’t mind, it wasn’t like he cared for his clothes so much. The room he had received the white kimono from also had storage with yukatas and work kimonos for new boys. The others were also allowed to put theirs back and choose new ones if they wanted to show the customers something new.

Slowly Taiga made his way downstairs and went to the back of the house, stepping out on the veranda. Here it was even a bit cooler than upstairs, but he still could spend some time here without freezing. Instead of sitting down he walked alongside the house to the next corner, but when he turned around it he spotted someone sitting there, looking up at the small pond in front of him where a few carps had gathered, obviously hoping for the boy to give them some food.

“Hey,” Taiga addressed Kochi before he stepped closer, not wanting to scare the boy. The one in question turned to look at him and cracked a wide smile.

“Good to see you wandering around like this,” Kochi said before he tapped the spot next to him and Taiga walked closer. He knew what he meant with that, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t in pain and the way he had to watch out how to sit down made that obvious.

“Don’t worry in a few days it will be fine again,” Kochi ensured him and Taiga had to admit that it was already a bit better.

“You don’t have to work today?” Taiga asked curious and the boy shook his head.

“Like the boys I have my days off as well.”

“So you are living in this house as well?”

“Yes I have my room on the other side of the corridor.”

Taiga felt a bit stupid for not having realized that until now, but he also barely met Taisuke or other senpais around the quarters. Their work times were divided in shifts, so they rarely met if it wasn’t in the front of the house.

“You have a room for yourself?”

“Jealous? If Juri keeps kicking you, feel free to come to my room.”

Both boys had to giggle on that.

“Or when Reo tries something at night.”

“Oh trust me, sooner or later he will.”

“So, you are not taking customers, but…” Taiga wasn’t sure if he should actually ask a question like this, but the boy talked as if he didn’t get his information just by talking. Kochi didn’t seem to mind as he gave him a lopsided smile.

“The members of the house tried, as they always try with new people no matter if it’s a new boy or just a worker, but let’s say Hokuto wasn’t that happy about it and because he is scary no one ever approached me after that.”

“Hokuto?” Taiga asked in disbelieve, because the boy seemed like he never interfered in other peoples’ business so he was positively surprised.

“Weird, right? But I guess he was just annoyed, because it is already like a habit for some boys to approach new people.”

“Guess in this house it would be a miracle if there was nothing going on.”

“But you can always say no, remember that. At least when it’s not a customer,” Kochi explained and Taiga nodded thankfully, because there were definitely some people he would refuse and Taisuke was the first name on that list.

“And if you get Hokuto to do it then you’ll definitely get an award.”

Taiga tilted his head in confusion on that statement, but why was he even surprised? Hokuto didn’t seem like he wanted to be here in the first place.

“Since when are you here?”

“I came here a bit before Hokuto.”

“So do you know why Hokuto came here?”

Of course the boy shook his head and Taiga wondered why he had even asked. Was it important?

“I just remember him almost begging Kamenashi to let him stay. He came barely weeks after me and he seemed quite of desperate.”

“He didn’t want to accept him?”

“As you have definitely realized as well he isn’t the usual type to work at such a place, so Kamenashi didn’t see him as fitting.”

“But in the end he let him stay?”

“He said if he shows him a good ceremony he can stay if it fails he has to leave.”

Again the point which made Taiga curious about Hokuto’s past. “Did something happen to him here after the ceremony?”

“No, he is actually one with the quietest customers. They like his quiet, yet dominant attitude, so he normally doesn’t get many customers which are dangerous, they search themselves weaker boys.”

Hearing that gave Taiga a shiver, after all he was definitely on those customers’ lists. But that left the question open why Hokuto was able to read people so easily. Had he always carried that dark aura around with him? There was so much he still didn’t know about him and the other boys, but he had to first become part of the house to be able to ask more questions. Someone like Hokuto wouldn’t openly talk when he wasn’t feeling secure, something Taiga would maybe never accomplish, but he still wanted to try.

“Why did you end up here?”

Kochi’s look slightly darkened on that question, but that wasn't a surprise. He was such a calm and polite boy that Taiga doubted he came here on his own free will.

“You could say it was more or less a coincidence. Kentaro was the one who brought me here. I didn’t even realize how I ended up here. I got told he actually dragged me out the river covered in my own blood,” Kochi said and opened the top he was wearing and turned his back to Taiga on which the boy gasped. A long deep scar ran over his back.

“I had a heavy head injury as well and it seemed like a miracle that I survived whatever happened.”

“Whatever happened?” Taiga asked carefully, already guessing the boy’s answer.

Kochi nodded with an almost embarrassed smile. “I can't remember what happened. I don't remember anything that happened before that day.”

“But your name?”

Kochi nodded with a neutral expression, almost as if he wouldn’t mind not even knowing his name.

“Don't you want to know what happened? What if whoever did this to you still tries to get after you?”

“Then this will be my fate I guess.” He said it so carefree that Taiga got almost angry, but it wasn't his life and he couldn't imagine how it must feel to lose all memories. What he could tell though was how grateful Kochi was to be allowed to stay. As long as he could restart here maybe it really didn't matter what happened before.

***

“Juri stop pulling, they are not running away,” Taiga scolded the other one when they went to choose Taiga's new clothes. Juri had rushed to take a bath and immediately dragged Taiga out of their room.

“I like choosing kimonos,” Juri said with a wide smile as they entered the room.

“Could we start with the normal yukatas, so I can finally give yours back?”

“You don't like it?”

“That’s not the point,” Taiga said before he wanted to sit down in front of the shelf, but Juri was next to him immediately, taking a hold on his arm to help him. While he felt quite embarrassed around the other, with Juri he didn't mind at all to show that it still hurt. Juri set next to him and opened the wooden shelf.

“Ok so you usually get two yukatas. How about you choose one and I choose one?”

The shine in Juri’s eyes made it impossible for Taiga to refuse. Like a kid which was allowed to choose his own birthday present he waited for Juri’s reply.

“Fine, then go ahead.”

Juri did immediately as he was told and went with his hands through the yukatas. A few he pulled out a bit to have a better look on the pattern, but then he shook his head and put them back. Then there was an approving hum heard when he pulled the next one out and handed it to Taiga.

“This one!”

Taiga took it in his hands and unfolded it. Sure it wasn't really fancy, but it was green as grass with some thin black lines on it.

“You really think this fits me?”

“Definitely! You've pale skin and something with a bit black in it makes it even more beautiful.”

“Do I hear a compliment there?”

The embarrassment was written all over Juri’s face and he put his hand to the back of his head, looking to the ground.

“Thank you,” Taiga said with a smile on which Juri nodded.

“Okay, next one is your choice.”

Taiga looked back into the shelf and pulled one yukata out which he had spotted earlier already.

“Wow, are you sure?”

“Too much?” Taiga asked and wanted to put it back, but Juri grabbed his wrist and stopped him.

“Most of those would fit you perfectly. it's a question of confidence.”

Exactly what Taiga was lacking and still he always chose ways which needed exactly that.

“Then I guess it's time to break out of my shell,” Taiga said confident as he put the purple/white yukata to the side. The lines on it were thicker than the one Juri chose and they didn’t just move straight to the bottom, but crossed at several points.

“Great then we have those two, you can choose several obis for them as well and exchange them whenever you feel like it,” Juri said and handed him a grey obi for the green yukata and a violet one for the second one for now.

“Next are your work kimonos,” Juri said as he crawled over to another shelf. “Sometimes you have to change into another kimono on the same day, depending on your type of customers. A few might also get ripped.”

Taiga just nodded, not wanting to think about the unpleasant parts of his new job so soon after his ceremony.

“So you can choose four kimonos and in case you need another one you can always get one from here.”

Taiga waited for Juri to choose one, but this time he didn't.

“I want you to choose them, after all you will wear them a lot,” Juri explained, but Taiga could read the boy like an open book. There was a smirk on his face which he tried to hide, but failed. For now Taiga just started choosing.

The first one he chose was violet/blue/white with balls like kids use for playing as a pattern. The second one was darker, black as the main color with a red/golden pattern in form of several rhombus connected to lines.

“One more,” Juri said and Taiga was sure that the boy hadn't realized his own mistake, but he just cracked a teasing smile before he pulled another kimono out. This one had a simple pattern with two colors. The main color was also black, but there were a lot of small red dots on it, making it look like half black, half red instead.

“So?”

“So what?” Juri asked with a raised eyebrow, but he was bad at bluffing and Taiga pointed at the shelf.

“You are dying to choose the last one, aren't you?”

Juri bit his lip on that, but he didn't start looking for a fitting one.

“Actually…” he started before he stood up and Taiga kept looking at him in confusion as he pulled out a small box from a corner and walked up to him again, placing it in front of him. “I got one for you.”

“What do you mean you got one for me?”

“It's a present.”

“Juri, don't tell me you bought this from Tegoshi’s shop?”

He didn't even need to hear the answer. Juri’s apologizing look made Taiga hit him on the head.

“Idiot, there are so many kimonos here, why would you do this?”

“Because I think this one fits you way better than any of the ones we have.”

Taiga still looked at him scolding, but finally opened the box and somehow he had expected the color, but it looked way more expensive than one of their usual kimonos. He unfolded it to look at the pattern. The kimono itself was white, the pattern silver and pink. On the back was a silver river flowing and on the sites were Sakura trees from which the pink Sakura fell over the whole length of the kimono.

“Do you like it?” Juri asked carefully, not sure how to interpret Taiga’s silence.

Taiga put the kimono back and turned to Juri with a stern look. When he hit Juri on the chest the boy gasped out of surprise.

“That was for choosing such an expensive kimono,” Taiga replied and Juri looked a bit down, but then he got pulled into a hug. “And that is for going through the trouble to choose such a beautiful kimono for me!”

Those words made Juri relax right away and he hugged Taiga back.

“I'm so happy that you like it!”

“I'll wear it on my first work day I promise.”

Juri pulled back with a wide smile on hearing that.

“The customers will love it.”

“As long as you do it's enough.”

Chapter Text

The next day none of the boys had off either and Kochi was back at work as well. Juri and Reo had told Taiga that they could at least all take a bath later, but Taiga still had to spend some hours alone.

First he thought about going out, but the bruises on his neck were still quite visible and he doubted that he could already walk through their whole district. So he ended up in the garden again, but having enough from the back of the house he walked inside the front part. He was just wearing one of the usual yukatas, the green one which Juri had chosen and he was kind of happy to be almost invisible to the customers’ eyes like this. Without problems he was walking around the corridors, no one bothering with him.

“It's fine Kochi, you know that I know my way out,” someone was heard from the stairs where Taiga just wanted to pass by. Automatically he stopped to not collide with the customer who stepped down into the corridor the next moment.

“Oh, what a surprise the famous newbie.”

Taiga bowed towards the man who was maybe end of twenty, but maybe he also looked younger than he was. He was shorter than Taiga, but he was definitely stronger than him. The man wore a Kamishimo*₁  and the Katana on the side of his Hakama made clear that he was obviously a samurai.

“Not seeing a lot of those I think?” the other one let out with a smile as he followed Taiga’s look towards his Katana and Taiga bowed once more with an apologizing look for staring this intense. “Taiga is it, right?”

It wasn't that surprising that he knew his name and he nodded slowly. The latter stepped closer on which Taiga automatically held his breath. A scanning look hit him for quite a long time before the older one stepped back with an approving hum.

“Guess I know why he is interested in you. You are the type he falls for way too easily. Let's play when you start working!”

With a pat on the shoulder the latter left and Taiga blinked a few times before he turned and walked up the stairs. Now he was curious who the customer had been talking about. He hid at a corner seeing how Kochi walked inside another corridor. There was one open door and soon someone stepped out. So it had been Kentaro the customer had talked about. First he wanted to walk up to him, but then someone else stepped out of the room as well and Taiga’s look darkened when he saw Taisuke. So that customer had asked for both of them? Nothing unusual as Kentaro had explained before. But what was definitely unusual was Taisuke’s kimono, because until now he had just seen grey ones on him, this time it was red, bright red! Had he chosen this extra for this customer? Kentaro’s kimono was one he had seen before, the pink one with the flowers.

“You’re ruining the fun each time you are with us,” Taisuke complained on which Kentaro gave him a teasing smile.

“Do I hear jealousy there? It's not my fault that I'm his favorite. “

“Favorite? In your dreams,” Taisuke replied and suddenly he pulled Kentaro closer on the obi on which Taiga tensed. But Kentaro kept a calm expression even when Taisuke stepped way too close to call it personal space.

“But now that you got most of the fun today, I might want you to take care of my negligence later.”

Kentaro let out a low chuckle on that and lifted his hand to the latter’s cheek.

“The evening it is then.”

The invitation was more than obvious, but not logical to Taiga at all. When he looked at Taisuke the latter stared back at him. Again he had seen him, like he had a sensor for finding his hideouts. He gave him an almost mocking smile before he put one hand to Kentaro’s face and gave him a sudden kiss. Kentaro seemed a bit surprised, but responded nevertheless.

“Don't be late,” Taisuke let out against his lips before he walked away.

“Taiga, you seriously need better hideouts,” Kentaro scolded him as he turned around and faced him with his arms crossed to his chest.

Taiga walked up to him with an apologizing look.

“What are you doing here?”

“I was just wandering around.”

“Mh, okay and?”

“And?”

Kentaro rolled his eyes at him and Taiga bit his lip on the knowing look he received. “So what do you want to ask?”

“Isn't that obvious?” Taiga asked with a raised eyebrow, looking down the corridor where Taisuke had vanished around the corner.

“We had a customer together, I told you that is not uncommon.”

“And the conversation right now is also not uncommon?”

Kentaro gave him an understanding look, but then shook his head. “I know I told you to stay away from him, but let's say if you learn how to handle him he can be quite entertaining.”

It was obvious that Kentaro could tell that Taiga didn’t really understand how someone could deal with Taisuke in this way, but it wasn’t his place to butt in.

“If you think so,” was all he replied before he turned back to the stairs and Kentaro went to the first floor together with him.

“By the way was the customer a regular one?”

“Oh, did you see him?”

“He briefly talked to me when he left.”

That made a lopsided smile appear on Kentaro’s face and that was all he needed as an answer.

“So when he said let’s play the next time he really meant it,” Taiga said almost to himself and Kentaro gave him a chuckle.

“Don’t worry, Hiromitsu is Taisuke’s regular customer, but he loves to have his fun with others as well or add someone together with Taisuke.”

“I don’t want to have a threesome with him,” Taiga growled, but he knew that this wasn’t something he could choose.

“I bet Hiromitsu wants to have his fun with you alone first and maybe I can convince him to add me instead of Taisuke.”

“That would definitely make more sense, after all he said he realized that you are interested in me.”

When silence followed on that statement Taiga tilted his head in confusion, especially because of Kentaro’s questioning look.

“Ehm, I never said something like that to him though?”

It didn’t take a genius to figure out what that meant and while Taiga’s eyes went wide in confusion and shock, Kentaro’s look turned to teasing as he also understood.

“Wow, you seem to have had a huge impact on Taisuke. He would never talk with Hiromitsu about other boys if he wasn’t seriously interested.”

Why did Taiga’s stomach feel like turning on hearing that? Everyone had told him he can always say no if it’s about the members of the house, but somehow he had the feeling no matter what, Taisuke wouldn’t accept a no if he wanted to go for it.

He gulped nervously, but Kentaro clapped him supportive on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, he won’t just jump out of a corner and attack you, that’s no his style. But be careful that you don’t owe him anything or he will definitely use it against you!”

Taiga could just nod on that, because he had no idea on what Taisuke could be up to. Maybe he had to keep analyzing the latter as good as possible to stay safe on distance.

Kentaro left him alone as new customers entered the house and Taiga retreated to the back of the house.

Maybe he needed to just clear his head for a while, away from this new uncomfortable environment, but he definitely didn’t want to go out alone. But luckily he knew exactly the right company!

***

“Can we eat something here? Please? They have the best dangos around!”

“Reo, we are out for just two hours and you ate something at three shops already,” Juri scolded the younger one, while Taiga observed them with a smile.

Both boys had off and so Taiga had asked them if they wanted to join in for some time outside the house and both had agreed immediately. With their usual yukatas they looked like any other young adult and even though a few people around their district knew their faces Taiga didn’t feel bothered at all by a few looks. It was nothing compared to his ceremony after all.

Juri was wearing the light green yukata he had lent him before, while Reo’s choice was kind of questionable, but what wasn’t about this boy? His yukata was red with a black river on his back. The red was so bright that it was almost annoying to the eye and it could actually almost be called a work kimono instead, but the boy liked attention that was no secret after all. Taiga had chosen his green yukata with the black lines, because as much as he wanted to get a bit more confident and wear his more colorful yukata outside as well, he stuck to Juri’s ordinary style, because Reo was already colorful enough for all three of them.

“We are not in a hurry, right?” Taiga interfered when Reo started pouting on Juri’s parent like behavior. With a squeal the boy dashed towards the shop and Juri shook his head with a sigh.

“I feel like I have to watch out for my younger brother each time we go somewhere.”

“But he is a good boy, right? You don’t really seem annoyed by him.”

“Annoyed, not at all. Worried would be the right word I guess.”

Taiga nodded on that with a small chuckle, because who wouldn’t be worried for someone like Reo with his way too open and naive behavior? Not to forget that his past would make other people shut themselves away from the world, why he had opened up to a world which should normally be the scariest place to him.

“Here you go!” Reo announced proudly when he held out some dangos he had bought for Juri and Taiga. They took them with a grateful smile before Juri took a look around.

“Around that corner we will end up at the river, we can sit down there.”

They all agreed and moved over there and somehow Taiga was happy to find the riverbank not as high as before where they had first met Hikaru. The small benches which were placed close to the river were just about a meter higher than the river itself and the river wasn’t deep at all at this part of their district.

Reo jumped directly on one bench, the food he had bought already half shoved into his mouth and when he started coughing as he had swallowed way too much at once Juri patted his back, with a bit more force than needed.

“Didn’t I tell you so often already not to eat why you are still walking?”

“Now I am sitting, don’t I?”

“You call that sitting?”

The boy was crouching on the bench instead of properly sitting down, but all he did was giving Juri a played annoyed look on which the latter flicked his tongue and hit him on the head. “Such a brat, aren’t you.”

Taiga observed them with a calm look, happy that they had accompanied him. It was good to see how they could fight like siblings and talk normally to each other the next moment.

“You should eat as well,” Juri said as he sat down next to Taiga and the boy nodded, taking a bite of the dangos.

“Is it that good?” Juri asked kind of amused on Taiga’s face as he smiled before taking another bite.

“I don’t know to be honest. I’ve never eaten them before.”

“What? Not even once?”

Taiga shook his head and his look darkened a bit. “Even the food we have in the house is way better than everything I’ve ever eaten before.”

“Wow, then I should stop complaining how bad our food is,” Reo said teasingly and succeeded in brightening up the mood a bit.

“As long as you don’t ask to get sweets every day you can complain as much as you want, but trust me Kamenashi will kick you out if you get fat and round through all the sweet stuff you’re shoving into you!”

“Me and getting fat? Come on I am almost the same wandering skeleton as you.”

“But just almost,” Taiga entered the teasing on which Juri shot them both a scolding look.

“Maybe I should leave you to your teasing for a while,” Juri said as he stood up and Taiga gave him a worried look, fearing that he had actually made him angry.

“I will just get us something to drink,” Juri explained immediately.

“Let me help you, I remember the last time you tried to bring three cups alone,” Reo continued his teasing on which Juri growled at him dangerously. “Hey, it was you after all who emptied those cups over Hokuto’s head that time, remember? You want the same to happen to Taiga?”

“Fine, whatever,” Juri replied and put his food down on the bench. “We will be back in a minute, feel free to eat mine as well.”

“That’s exactly why you are so thin!” Reo said on which Juri turned around and tried to hit him, but Reo jumped back and ran away when Juri dashed after him. Taiga looked after them with a bright smile before he finished his food, but he would leave the rest for Juri, after all Reo was right.

Lost in his thoughts he stared at the river for a while, before he got up and walked a bit alongside it. There were some carps in it, coming closer to the edge when Taiga crouched down next to them.

“Sorry guys, I have nothing for you,” Taiga said apologizing as he moved his hand over the water.

“Shall I kick you in? Then maybe they can eat you?”

Taiga looked up over his shoulder on the sound of an unknown voice and he found two boys standing behind him.

A joke that was how it had sounded, but the face of the boy who had obviously said it was not in any way showing a smile. He had his arms crossed to the chest and stared down at Taiga as if he was his worst enemy. He was wearing a yellow yukata with green triangles, while the boy behind him was wearing a casual grey one. They were both taller than Taiga, which he realized when he slowly got up and turned towards them with a slightly worried expression.

“I prefer to stay dry today,” Taiga replied in a calm voice on which the boy in front of him showed him a dangerous smile. His hair was hanging in long strands in his eyes, while the other boy had slightly wavy and short hair.

“Do you know who I am?”

On the latter’s question Taiga shook his head, after all he hadn’t seen any of the boys before. When his look fell on the other one in the back he saw that he walked over to the bench and sat down before lifting up the dangos Juri had left behind.

“Hey, that’s not yours,” Taiga complained as the boy took a bite from it without even asking. But when Taiga wanted to walk up to him the boy in front of him put a hand on his shoulder and held him back.

“How about you learn how to share, after all I shared something with you already as well.”

“What are you even talking about?” Taiga growled at the later in annoyance and his tone made the other one raise an eyebrow.

“You are quite offensive for someone who just had his ceremony. Did Hikaru go that easy on you?”

First Taiga wanted to shot back at him that he was the offensive one, but on the realization that he knew his buyer he halted before replying.

“How do you know about my buyer?”

After all the system was made in a way that it wasn’t easy to find out who had bought him. It was to protect both, the boys and the buyers.

“Why don’t you try and guess?”

“I am not here to play games with you,” Taiga shot back and passed him this time, ripping the remaining food out of the other one’s hands and put it back on the bench. “I am waiting for someone so would you mind leaving me alone?”

The boy on the bench just formed a teasing smile on that and stood up, but didn’t approach Taiga. Instead the boy with the longer hair walked up to him again and pushed him a bit to the back when Taiga turned towards him.

“Are you now also getting demanding?”

Taiga couldn’t say why, but the boy gave him the same vibes as when he talked to Taisuke and he didn’t like it at all.

“Are you deaf? I don’t even know you and here you come and think you can push me around? If you are impolite I can be as well.”

“Such a confidence,” the other one let out in a dark voice before he stepped closer to Taiga again, but this time Taiga slashed away his hand before he could push him. After all they were already standing quite close to the river.

“Hands off,” Taiga growled warningly on which the second boy stepped closer as well and for a moment Taiga wasn’t sure if he was in serious trouble.

“SURPRISE ATTACK!”

Out of nowhere Reo jumped at the long haired boy and Juri pushed the other one to the side as well, resulting in both of them falling into the river. Reo was laughing like a child after playing a prank before he turned to Taiga and grabbed his hand.

“Let’s go!”

First Taiga was still way too confused to realize what was going on. When he looked back he saw both boys getting out of the water again and shouting loud curses after them, but they were already too far away for them to catch up.

“Reo, you know that Myuto will kill you for this the next time he sees you, right?” Juri asked worried while he ran after him and Taiga.

“Wouldn’t be the first time he tries,” Reo replied teasingly before he dashed around a corner where he finally slowed down and released Taiga’s wrist. “I doubt they will catch up, but let’s keep moving.”

“Wait, can someone explain to me what just happened? Who were they?” Taiga asked in confusion, but Juri kept pushing him so that he would keep walking before he explained anything.

“The boy with the long hair is called Myuto, the other one is one of his friends his name is Hagi. They are from another house at the end of the district.”

“Wait, there are other houses like ours?”

“Just ours and theirs,” Reo explained briefly.

“But they seemed to know me?”

“Of course they do, we also know when they get a new one for a ceremony,” Juri said.

“But he talked about Hikaru as well, how did he know my buyer’s name?”

“Because he lets himself get fucked by him,” Reo replied a bit too directly and Taiga blinked at him in confusion before it clicked.

“Wait, Hikaru is a regular customer at the other house?”

“Myuto’s regular customer to be more precisely,” Juri let out with a nod.

“But don’t worry, even though he is grumpy now he won’t keep going after you. He treats Hikaru like his own boyfriend, even though we are of course not allowed to see them that way. So in the end he will just have to deal with the fact that his oh so beloved Hikaru played with someone else.”

Taiga wasn’t actually calming down through that explanation, but there was nothing he could actually do about the problem. There was no way he would lock himself in the house just because Myuto could be out there waiting with some beating for him.

But then another realization made Taiga stop and turn to Juri so quick that the boy almost ran into him. “You knew who he was when we met Hikaru the first time?”

“No I didn’t,” Juri immediately explained. “It was Reo who realized who he was at the ceremony and he told us about him and Myuto later that evening. We didn’t tell you to not worry you.”

“We are usually not telling the boys of the other house about our regular customers, but Myuto runs around with Hikaru in the district as if they were married, so it’s not actually a secret,” Reo replied casually.

“Well, anyways, I’d say we should maybe head back for today?” Juri suggested and Taiga was definitely up for that as he already started moving towards their house’s direction. Reo seemed a bit down, but Taiga was sure that his mood would switch back to hyper in no time. He didn’t seem like the type of person to get affected by bad happenings easily.

***

The evening was quiet and while the other boys had somehow ended up busy with helping Kentaro out with some things in the front of the house even though it had been their day off, Taiga headed for the bath.

When he went in two of his senpais were getting ready to leave and he politely bowed to them and stepped out of the way. Just when they closed the door Taiga realized that he had automatically held his breath. There were so many people in the house he still didn’t know much about, so that each time he ended up alone with someone he got nervous.

Nevertheless he went over to the washing places to get clean. He didn’t actual plan on staying long, so he entered the bath just for a few minutes to warm up his body before he stepped out again.

The moment he wanted to walk over to the shelf the door opened again and this time Taiga didn’t just froze, but also wanted to vanish into thin air right on the spot as Taisuke stepped inside the room.

He of course spotted Taiga immediately, but he didn’t say anything. Instead he walked over to the shelf and took off his work kimono. A grey, almost boring kimono, like always. But Taiga found his eyes glued on it anyways when Taisuke let it slide down his shoulders. Sure his senpai’s build was also of the slim time as himself, but his body was more structured. He could clearly see the small, yet detailed muscles around his shoulders. When Taisuke put his hair up into a ponytail Taiga found his eyes tracking his neck and before he could react he found Taisuke staring back at him over his shoulder.

“Like what you see?”

Taiga lowered his eyes immediately with an embarrassed hawk. Inside his head he was cursing at himself for acting this stupid. Why would he even look?

He flinched when Taisuke snapped his fingers in front of his face. He hadn’t even realized that he had walked up to him and automatically Taiga made a step back and tried to cover his body a bit with his arms.

“Okay, you know this is getting ridiculous,” Taisuke scolded him before he made another step to the front, but this time Taiga couldn’t step away any further or he would end up falling backwards into the bath. “Boy, where do you think we are?”

“In the bath?” Taiga asked a bit scared that his answer was actually stupid and his senpai would get angry at him.

“Exactly, so what do you think will happen in here?”

Before Taiga replied this time his look darkened and he shot his senpai an evil glare. “If you are just here to mock me then go on and do what people usually do in a bath,” Taiga replied sharply, because what were those stupid children questions for?

Taiga wanted to make a step to the side and leave the bath, but this time Taisuke grabbed him by the upper arm and stopped him. When he pulled him back a bit Taiga could feel how panic rose in him, but he still tried to keep calm, even as Taisuke’s face was already way too close to his ear when he spoke again.

“You are mocking yourself, there is no need for me to do so. Panicking each time I show up, even if we are in the bath? I wonder what the others have told you about me or what you have misinterpreted about what you’ve heard.”

This time Taiga looked away a bit ashamed of his reaction, because wasn’t he right? There had been people in here before as well and it was just a matter of time until other boys would enter. So what did he expect to happen?

“If you want your life in this house to work out you should maybe start learning a bit more about its members.” Finally he released the boy again, but he still remained close to him and suddenly leant a bit closer on which Taiga gave him a warning look.

“Let me make this clear, I like playing and trust me I am good in winning games, but I never play unfair.”

With a lopsided smile Taisuke turned away from him and Taiga needed a moment longer to finally snap out of it and hurry out of the bath.

Back in the corridor he needed a moment to calm down, but this time it wasn’t actually panic which made his heart beat that fast. Was he actually getting used to having Taisuke around? Or even worse, did he actually find it interesting, somehow challenging? Shocked by his own thoughts he shook his head and hurried back upstairs. He shouldn’t even spend Taisuke any attention at all, but Kentaro’s words were making that a bit difficult.

“He can be quite interesting if you know how to deal with him…” Taiga repeated the boy’s words, but scolded himself for getting distracted. There were so many things he needed to worry about from now on, so many challenges to overcome, why would he bother with playing a game his opponent would win for sure?

Maybe the question was if he minded losing the game in the end?

 

___

*₁ Kamishimo: traditional two part clothes for men, worn by social high ranked people and also as ceremony clothes for samurai

Chapter Text

Taiga had learnt by now to ignore the noises in the morning when everyone got ready for work. What he still needed to figure out though was how to not get kicked by Juri at night, but the boy left for work as well in the morning so Taiga decided to just keep sleeping.

The problem was just that it wouldn’t work as he wanted. After all it was the last day before his official work began and he felt everything but ready. Sure he had managed to get through his ceremony, but what now? Could he just keep going like this? It wasn’t like he could refuse, but that didn’t mean he was ready for what was coming out of the blue. One night in which he had succeeded to keep calm and also enjoy things in the end, even though it got quite rough at some point. That was at least something, but what if his first customer was a special case? Or the customer after that? How was he supposed to act around them? There were so many questions and still he hadn’t found the courage to ask someone for advice. Kentaro had explained a lot to him already, but he had more the learning by doing opinion, so there was no way he would run after him and throw his entire questions at him.

The one he could speak to the easiest was Juri, but somehow that was also the reason why he didn’t want to bother the boy. Juri was somehow different. He didn’t want the boy to feel uncomfortable and that made him refrain from any inappropriate topic.

With a sigh he gave up on falling asleep again and turned around on his futon, opening his eyes to check how bright it was in the room already, but when it was a face right in front of his which was the first thing he saw he squealed out of surprise and shifted back.

“Damn it, Reo. You scared the hell out of me!” Taiga scolded him immediately, but the boy had already brought out into a resounding laughter, rolling on his back. “Sorry, but I didn’t want to disturb your sleep.”

“So instead you are watching me like a stalker?”

“I was just observing. So how are you feeling?”

“Don’t you have work today? You had off yesterday already.”

Reo shrugged his shoulders on that and sat up, Taiga following his example. “Sometimes we can ask for two days in a row, you know like Juri when he went with you to get the kimono.”

“Wait, does that mean your day off has something to do with me?”

The lopsided smile on Reo’s face made clear that yes it definitely had something to do with him. The question was just if everyone knew about it or if Reo had decided this on his own, after all the boy was known for his spontaneous ideas.

“That depends on how you are feeling.”

“How I am- Oh, you mean…?” Taiga didn’t know exactly how to end his sentence, but Reo seemed to understand and he just nodded. “I guess I feel okay, I hope. I am not sure, but I think we will know tomorrow.”

“Perfect, then come on,” Reo said and suddenly dragged Taiga up on his wrist and walked towards the door.

“Wait, where are we going? We aren’t even dressed properly!”

“Oh don’t worry, you won’t need any clothes.”

“What? Reo, what are you up to?”

Instead of a reply there was a chuckle when Reo turned towards him and gave him a wink. “You’ll see soon enough.”

Reo dragged him through the corridors downstairs, but they remained in the back of the house. When they entered a room which was at the end of the house where Taiga hadn’t entered until now he wondered if it was a private room, because it looked like one. A futon was prepared as well, but somehow the room looked kind of unused.

“This room is free for all of us to use. Normally it’s just something like a spare room, but it rarely gets used for someone to stay,” Reo explained, obviously knowing Taiga’s question already.

“Then for what…” when Taiga could answer his own question already he intuitively made a step back and shook his head. “No Reo!”

Even though he complained, Reo dragged him further into the room and slid the door closed. Taiga finally ripped his wrist out of the other one’s grip and crossed his arms to his chest. “Did you really think I would just agree to this?”

“I haven’t even explained anything yet.”

“You don’t have to, I am leaving!”

“Wait,” Reo almost begged him and blocked the door, but Taiga got angry already.

“I haven’t even started working regularly yet and you already want the first round? Don’t you think your way of handling this is a bit rude?”

“That’s why I want you to let me explain first,” Reo replied patiently. It took Taiga a bit by surprise how calm the boy acted while he normally was so hyper. So in the end Taiga let out a sigh and stepped back. “Well, then go on.”

“Okay, so you start working tomorrow. Well, you had your ceremony and that was definitely helpful to understand what is going to await you from here and Kentaro also gave you some explanations, but are you sure you know how to handle situations which you are not used to?”

“What exactly do you mean?”

It was maybe Taiga’s curious tone which made Reo dare to take a step closer and stretch out his arm towards Taiga’s hip and when the latter didn’t complain about the touch Reo stepped even closer. “This is something you can handle, right?”

Taiga didn’t need to nod, because his look should tell Reo the answer already. So Reo went on not waiting for a reply. Slowly he walked around Taiga, letting his hands explore the boy’s body above the yukata until he stood behind him and stroke the hair out of Taiga’s neck, pressing a sudden kiss on the skin. Taiga closed his eyes on the cold touch, but he still didn’t complain.

“Someone touching you, kissing you, undressing you…” Reo said when he let his hands slip down to Taiga’s obi to open it. “All things you are used to now.”

It wasn’t like Taiga would actually call it used to, but yes he could at least handle it. He had to after all. No matter if it was Reo or someone he didn’t know at all.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s this way,” Reo whispered against his ear as he slowly took the yukata from Taiga’s shoulders and let it slide to the ground before he changed positions with Taiga and made the boy fall down on the futon, sitting on top of him. “Or this way around.”

Taiga kept staring at the younger one as Reo got rid of his own yukata as well. Even though he had complained earlier that he didn’t agree on this he didn’t feel like stopping the boy now. Reo definitely knew how to make people excited, no wonder he loved his job so much.

“But what if it’s something new? Something you haven’t experienced yet?” Reo asked as he suddenly pulled Taiga back up into a sitting position and the boy looked a bit confused when Reo changed positions with him. “What if you have to top?”

“What? Why would someone let me top?”

“Remember, our customers are not just men and even they sometimes want you to top. If it’s a woman you have to learn how to entertain them. How to make them feel like they are in control, even though you are the one doing the work.”

So now Taiga understood what he was up to, but realizing that Reo was right made him feel nervous and he wanted to sit back, but Reo lifted his legs, making him fall to the front with his hands next to his head.

“Don’t hesitate. I am here for you to be able to try things out. I can help you if you want, but I’d say it’s better for you to go through this intuitively first. Who knows maybe you won’t have a female customer for some time, but you could also have someone tomorrow already. Don’t make them feel uncomfortable through your hesitation.”

“Easier said than done,” Taiga whispered, not sure how to act at all. After all, this situation had happened out of nowhere and here Reo wanted him to act through this without any doubts. But on the other hand the boy was right, better messing it up with Reo once and being able to get some advice from him, before actually getting scolded for messing up with a customer.

With an almost shy expression Taiga dared to move a bit closer on his own and luckily Reo wasn’t the type to show a teasing expression when it came down to such intimate moments, otherwise Taiga wouldn’t be able to go through this, he was sure of it. First he wondered if he was even allowed to take the lead in anything at all, because after all kissing and touching should normally be decided by the customer. But on the other hand Kentaro had also explained that there were people who liked it to get entertained, so for now he just saw Reo as one of those kinds of customers. After all Reo would tell him if he messed up somewhere.

Still a little bit hesitant Taiga moved one hand around the back of the boy’s neck before he leant in for a slow kiss. Not knowing a customer meant careful approach as long as he wouldn’t get told how to move or how to act.

He could feel how Reo suppressed a smile, but that made Taiga deepen the kiss instead of keeping it slow. Something Reo obviously liked, because he closed his legs around Taiga’s hips and pulled him closer.

Soon the lead of the kiss switched to Reo as the boy lifted his hands and buried them in the long strands of Taiga’s hair, pulling here and there as he dared his tongue out.

When Taiga moved his hand away from the boy’s neck down over his back to his butt Reo let out a low moan in the kiss and Taiga felt how he actually got excited about the situation. Sure it would still be difficult for him to deal the right way with a customer, especially with a woman he had to figure out the touching part differently, but there he had to go with Kentaro’s learning by doing strategy, not that he wasn’t actually doing that one at the moment already.

Taiga wanted to pull back to be able to shift is position, but Reo had become a bit too clingy, making it hard for Taiga to even break the kiss, so he went with another strategy, taking Reo by full surprise when he bit him. With a hiss the boy pulled away and the confused expression on his face was priceless and finally made Taiga smile.

“What’s that look for? Don’t tell me no one had bitten you until now?”

“Oh trust me biting is one of the most harmless things people do to me, but wow I’ve not expected you having such a kink.”

“It’s not a kink! You said I should try things out, right? So that’s all I am doing,” Taiga pouted.

“Oh, so you didn’t bite Hikaru?” Reo asked with a knowing expression on which Taiga hit him on the forehead. “Look, I knew it! Believe it or not, but things like this easily turn into a habit. Just be careful with customers which don’t like it. They might hit you for it.”

A warning Taiga should definitely keep in mind. Getting too excited himself could make the customers angry and that was something he definitely didn’t need. He had still enough from his punishment after making Kentaro’s customer angry at him. He didn’t need to repeat the same mistake twice.

“So are you not sure how to get going with this or are you just enjoying the foreplay that much?”

Taiga was close to hitting Reo for that stupid question. After all it wasn’t like this had been Taiga’s idea. But he couldn’t deny that he felt a bit lost, because no matter how much he wanted to act as if he knew what he was doing, he indeed had no clue.

But the more he thought about something like a plan the more he felt insecure so he just gave up on something like a strategy before Reo could come with another smartass comment.

It obviously took Reo by surprise when Taiga shifted his weight and used his knees to spread Reo’s legs. But when he thought back at his ceremony he automatically wanted to add a step, which Hikaru had just skipped. When he moved one hand down to Reo’s crotch though, the boy took a hold on it.

“Okay for starters, most customers are not coming here the first time, so make sure to find out if this is necessary or not, otherwise they might scold you for not being able to read the atmosphere and now it’s me and trust me you will just bore both of us if you take your time with unnecessary preparations.”

At least that statement was something Taiga fully understood and he couldn’t actually find a reason to disagree. After all Reo and the other boys were used to this for a long time already, he couldn’t compare himself to them in this case.

“Fine, as you wish,” Taiga replied before he shifted once more and suddenly he felt even more nervous, after all he wasn’t even sure how to move. Sure he could recall a lot from Hikaru, but he was on the other side this time and the fact that Reo was also used to this made him hesitate again.

“You know if you have the feeling things aren’t working out, you just have to make the customer do the work for you,” Reo explained on which Taiga tilted his head. Before he could ask for an explanation though Reo suddenly pushed himself up and pushed Taiga to the back, down on the futon so that he was sitting on top of him. “Like this,” he whispered next to Taiga’s ear before he took a hold on Taiga’s erection and lowered himself on him.

There was a small gasp from Taiga, but he bit his lip right away when he saw Reo’s teasing look on that reaction. With a firm grip Reo guided Taiga’s hands to his hips so that he could feel his hip movements.

“A move like this makes them feel in control. You just have to make sure that you are not ordering them into doing it. Make them want to be on top and do the work.”

“Not showing hesitation, but being a bit vulnerable is ok?” Taiga asked with a teasing expression on which Reo gave him a proud smile. “A quick learner.”

On that Taiga rocked his hips upwards making Reo let out a low moan, but he wasn’t easily thrown out of balance and he adjusted his movements.

As much as Reo wanted Taiga to believe that this was just to help him it was more than obviously how much he had waited for a chance to actually find a fitting moment to get through with this way too well thought through plan. But Taiga couldn’t actually be angry, because after all he had promised Reo some private time after the ceremony, not that it had actually had to be that soon after it, but at least Reo was fair enough to let him top, at least for this time.

Reo had succeeded in making Taiga switch a bit into competition mode and also make him feel a bit more confident. The rest was up to Taiga’s ability of observing people and figuring out how to act around all the different kinds of customers.

And who knew maybe Reo had a few more tips for him over the day, after all this room wouldn’t actually be used by someone else soon.

***

It was the teasing smile on Juri’s face which made it obvious that he knew exactly what had happened.

“I swear if you keep looking at me like this I might snap,” Taiga growled at him while he put all his kimonos on the floor to decide which one to wear on his first day of work. After spending way too much time with Reo in the room downstairs the day before and trying out things which brought him to his embarrassment limits Taiga had pretended to be asleep already when Hokuto and Juri came back. But now that it was the morning of his first work day he couldn’t actually hide from them. Not that Hokuto was interested in anything they were doing, but he was sure the boy had noticed as well and who wouldn’t with Reo acting all hyper since the morning.

Hokuto had been up first, already in his kimono when the rest of them got up. This time it was a brighter one than usual. The main color was black, but the pattern was spread over the full length, silver and white circles, forming to something looking similar to snowflakes.

Reo had tried to wait until Taiga would leave as well, but Juri had scolded him for making Taiga even more nervous, because after all the boy couldn’t actually read the atmosphere that well and no matter how much he had actually helped Taiga before, he couldn’t take away his nervousness, but Juri could! Somehow Taiga felt always calm around him and so he was thankful as Juri made Reo leave first. The boy had pouted for a while as he got in his white kimono with yellow and red flower pattern. Like a spiral they went over the full length of the kimono up to the sleeves. The golden obi made it look even more stylish. Not that it was real gold as they weren't allowed to add gold or silver in any of their clothes, but Tegoshi knew how to make up for that.

Juri had also made sure to get dressed before he helped Taiga with his choice. He wore the half red, half blue one he had seen before, with the dark blue obi.

“Then let’s better get you to work so you can distract yourself. You can still snap at me in the evening,” Juri let out a bit teasingly as he sat down next to Taiga. “So which one will you take for your first workday?”

“I promised you I’d wear the one you bought for me, remember?”

But even though he said that, Taiga let out a sigh and Juri put his hand on his shoulder. “Hey, it’s okay. There is no one who walks out there without being worried at first. Okay no one except for Reo.”

That statement actually made a brief smile appear on Taiga’s face before he concentrated back on his kimonos. He intuitively touched the one Juri bought him, but hesitated to lift it up.

“I know that look. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear it just because you said you would. Especially not now that you are still that nervous. Just choose the one you feel most comfortable with.”

Too much attention was what Taiga wanted to avoid on his first day so slowly he stretched his arm out to the black kimono with the red dots. He lifted it up with a questioning look towards Juri and the boy nodded with a bright smile. “Good choice. Then come on, let’s not be late.”

Juri helped him in the kimono and when they had closed the red obi they made their way to the front of the house.

Their first stop was greeting Kamenashi and the owner seemed to approve of Taiga’s kimono choice after a scanning look. The man was sitting with his cigarette at the table, so it didn’t look like he would actually guide Taiga through anything on this day, but after a moment someone slid the door to the side and bowed before entering. To Taiga’s relief it was Kentaro and not Taisuke, because he had already guessed that at least one senpai would be around for his first day.

“Make sure that things won’t get too chaotic for today,” Kamenashi addressed all three of them before he allowed them to leave.

“You somehow don’t seem as rested as you should after a week off. Did you do anything exhausting yesterday?” Kentaro asked with an honestly worried expression and Juri escaped a chuckle on which Taiga hit his elbow against his ribs as they walked down the corridor.

“Okay...I guess I shouldn’t ask,” Kentaro said with a knowing look and to Taiga’s relief it didn’t seem like they would get scolded for anything. After all he knew already that it was common for a few of the boys to have their things going on in the back of the house. Not to forget that he had actually seen Taisuke and Kentaro being up to exactly the same before.

When they made it to the entrance they saw how Kochi guided a customer inside, Reo walking by his side.

“Unbelievable, he went into the windowsill for what, 5 minutes? And he already got a new customer. This boy should get an award for his work,” Kentaro let out teasingly.

“Are you sure you’re not talking about yourself?” Juri teased back on which Kentaro gave him a scolding look. “What? You know it’s true! The only reason you are almost never in the windowsill is that you have enough regular customers to not have to go up there anymore.”

“It’s not like Reo wouldn’t have enough either, but we all know that he uses every free minute to get a new customer.”

“He has a pretty good stamina that is for sure.”

Taiga shut up right away when he realized how that had sounded, but both boys had turned towards him with knowing looks already.

“Okay, so let’s get you two in the windowsill,” Kentaro changed the topic immediately. After all they were at work and supposed to get customers and not have a small talk in the corridor and stand in the way. “Taiga you know the basic rules already, so don’t freak yourself out now.”

Easier said than done, but all Taiga could do was nodding before he followed Juri around the corner behind the red bars. For his ceremony it had been prepared for him to be able to walk along the whole length of it, but now there were several pillows on the ground, some boys already sitting alongside the windowsill and of course some people were walking by, some of them getting closer and taking closer looks. Some of the boys even sat closer to the bars to be able to talk to the people or let them touch their hands and arms.

“Relax, okay?” Juri said in a calm voice when he pointed towards the pillow next to him and they both sat down. Kentaro hadn’t come up with them, but he was still watching from the back, because he needed to make sure that things wouldn’t get out of hand at the first time or that Taiga wouldn’t mess up. He felt nauseous since the morning, he hadn’t even been able to eat anything and that made it even harder for him to act calm.

“Don’t sit that stiff, it’s not like you have to sit straight and stare outside the whole time,” Juri said as he let himself drop to the side and rest his head on his elbow. For a moment Taiga thought he would get scolded by Kentaro for what he was doing, but then he realized that the other boys were also sitting or half lying on the pillows as if they were actually taking a break instead of working.

“You know, the moment you see someone outside who seems interested that is when the work starts! Pay them attention, make them come closer, that is the main part. But until then you don’t have to behave like a hawk on the hunt.”

“I feel more like the people outside are the hunters,” Taiga whispered while observing the people passing by. Some weren’t even spending them any attention, after all there were some other houses as well and most of the people coming here were going to those which had the girls sitting in the windowsills. When Taiga saw two women pointing at their house he looked away immediately, on which Juri gave him an understanding, yet scolding look.

“Remember what you said at the ceremony? You are no sheep, so even if the customers are the wolves, they won’t have anything to eat.”

Right he had said that before, but his level of confidence was changing every few minutes now.

“For now, would you finally sit a bit more relaxed? You are making me feel bad,” Juri said a bit teasingly on which Taiga finally moved out of his stiff and upright position and let his knees slid a bit to the side so that he wouldn’t sit straight on them as if he needed to be ready to bow to someone any second. “Way better, so let me make this a bit easier for you. What is the difference between your Ceremony and now?”

“What exactly do you mean?” Taiga asked a bit confused on which Juri sat up a bit again and pointed outside towards the street.

“You were nervous at your Ceremony as well, but you got a grip. What stops you from staying calm now?”

“Maybe that I have no control over the situation?” Taiga said in a low voice. “You know, at the ceremony I could still somehow at least try and influence the buyers. Now I feel a bit helpless.”

“And here is your mistake!” Juri let out to Taiga’s surprise. The boy chuckled before he looked over to a few other boys and pointed at them. “Look at what they are doing.”

Taiga didn’t understand at first, because they were actually all behaving differently. One sitting back and not spending the people outside so much attention, while there were actually people looking at him. Another boy had eye contact with a man who was still quite far away, but moved closer through the intense stare he received and that was when Taiga’s expression changed.

“You understand now?” Juri asked and Taiga nodded.

“I still have influence on the customers’ reaction.”

“Exactly! You don’t want someone to get interested in you? Ignore them, try to let someone else get them interested or focus on someone else to make that person your next customer. You have a lot of possibilities to interact with them. You are in no way helpless. This time you can actually call this a game.”

“A game…” Taiga remembered how he had gotten in a fight with Hokuto over this topic, but maybe this time he was actually allowed to see things a bit more relaxed? After all that was what everyone was telling him?

“Want to try your luck or shall I go first?”

“If you dare leave me alone I am going to drown you later in the bath!”

A bright smile appeared on Juri’s face on that statement and Taiga had to suppress a laugh as well and he put his hand up to his mouth to hide his smile. When Juri made a small movement with his head towards the bars Taiga looked towards the street and he found some people looking at them. So it was actually possible to get their attention without even trying. The question was just if he wanted them to get more interested or not, so carefully he scanned the people which had stopped walking. He couldn’t see any potential dangerous people, but he knew he was far away from Hokuto’s ability to tell that for sure.

There was a young man, maybe still a boy like him, but formally dressed in a black expensive looking kimono, staring at him and somehow he seemed a bit shy so Taiga took his hand a bit lower to give him a faint smile on which the boy actually looked away, which made Taiga’s smile grew a bit bigger. The effect on that was incredible, because it seemed like the boy couldn’t resist looking back at him even though he obviously didn’t come to Yoshiwara that often, maybe it was even his first time coming? His shy reaction made Taiga switch even more into some kind of playing mood and he moved his hand up to his under lip and brushed over it while keeping a faint smile. The boy’s eyes were glued to his lips now and Taiga knew that he had to decide fast now what to do. If he looked over to Juri now maybe the other one would just take the chance and run away in embarrassment. Taking the opportunity Taiga stretched one arm out and pointed at the boy, before he made a movement with his pointer finger, signaling him to come closer. To his surprise he actually did! Like a puppet he followed his order and Taiga dared to crawl a bit to the front, off his pillow and even though he was sure that he would like to hit Juri at the moment, because he just knew how teasing his look was, he stayed focused until the boy was right in front of the bars. Now that he could take a closer look it seemed like the boy was even younger than Taiga, but the clothes definitely made him look older than he was.

“Your first time here?” Taiga asked with a luring voice, suddenly feeling like a siren. The boy nodded, the mix of shyness and obvious interest making it hard for Taiga to not smile even more. “What’s your name?”

Taiga had been told by Kentaro that they were allowed to ask as many personal questions as they wanted, after all it was the customers’ decision if they wanted to reply or not.

“Aran,” the boy replied without any hesitation.

“Nice to meet you Aran. I am Taiga.” Taiga said without giving any more details, because after all the boy could ask, right? Somehow he wanted him to crawl a bit out of his shell, because he could see that there was definitely a lot hidden behind that insecurity. “Do you want to come inside?”

There was of course some hesitation and the boy’s eyes went to the ground and Taiga wanted to reach through the bars to make him look up again, because he was more than sure that he would definitely love to come in, but just needed another small push. But before he could move something got hit against the bars right in front of his face and with a surprised yelp he fell to the back, even more confused when Juri stopped his fall. The boy had obviously observed them the whole time and had seen the other person approaching while Taiga was busy.

“What are you doing? We are not here to play around!” The older man who had appeared next to Aran scolded the boy and he stepped back with an apologizing look before he bowed to the other person.

Taiga’s look first fell on the weapon the man had in his hand and which he had hit against the bars before. It was a Jutte*₁ which made Taiga scan the man’s clothes and his suspicions got confirmed right away as he saw the navy colored hakama and the blue shirt with the brown obi. The man was a police officer and Taiga immediately turned towards Juri, asking in silence if he was in trouble now, but Juri gave him a soothing look. Also the fact that Kentaro hadn’t jumped into the windowsill made clear that nothing bad would actually happen, at least not to Taiga, because the boy didn’t look as calm as before.

“Get moving or we will be late!”

With a disgusted look the man turned away from the boys and pushed Aran along the street. The boy gave Taiga an apologizing look before he obediently kept walking.

“What was that?” Taiga asked perplex as the situation had calmed down a bit and they both sat down on their pillows again.

“Nothing uncommon here in this area to be honest,” Juri explained. “I guess Aran is the son of that police officer and he will join the police office in our district from today that is why they are here.”

“His father doesn’t seem to approve of our business, is it a good idea to let his son work around here?”

“Hey like this you will get a chance to meet him again. Now that you’ve got his attention once already it would be a waste to not use the chance the next time you see him,” Juri said with a wink on which Taiga raised an eyebrow at him.

“The next time I see him he will come in his uniform and I bet we don’t need trouble with the police.”

“Oh, don’t worry, it’s not like they are forbidden to enter here, at least not as long they are not on patrol.”

Taiga couldn’t actually explain why he felt kind of challenged hearing that, but somehow the boy had drawn his interest, so who knows maybe he would come back after all and that not just for a patrol.

“Do you want to take a break or are you okay?” Juri asked a bit more serious this time, but Taiga shook his head immediately.

“It’s okay, I just got a bit startled, that’s all.”

“Then how about we make a challenge out of this?” Juri said as he sat a bit to the front.

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s see who gets a customer first?”

At first Taiga wanted to complain that he had already said he didn’t want Juri to leave him alone, but somehow he suddenly felt the right amount of excitement to be able to handle this alone even if Juri won the challenge and left first.

“Can I brag about it if I win?” Taiga asked with a lopsided smile on which Juri laughed.

“You can try, but I guess as long as you don’t win such a challenge against Kentaro or Reo there is nothing to brag about.”

“Mh, fine, I guess I will be happy enough for now when I win against you.”

“When? Wow, you got one boy come close to the house and your confidence overflows. Guess I’ve to show you how this work gets done by a pro.”

Taiga had to chuckle as Juri stretched like he would actually get ready to fight someone, but he couldn’t deny that he somehow couldn’t imagine Juri to even be seductive enough to get some customers interested if they didn’t intend to enter the house anyway. But maybe he would surprise him so for now he took the challenge and went into some kind of battle mode. His first workday was definitely way more fun than he had imagined.

 

+++

*₁ Jutte: special police weapon without a sharp blade

Chapter Text

It wasn’t like Taiga hadn’t tried to get someone else’s attention, but somehow there weren’t many people on the street anyway, after all it was barely noon by now and it was a busy weekday. Nevertheless had he lost the challenge about half an hour ago when Juri had made a beautiful young lady come inside the house. The fact that he won the challenge didn’t get to Taiga that much, but still he felt a weird sting when Juri left the windowsill and walked inside the building with the young woman, Kochi guiding them to their room. Of course Juri had given him a teasing look, but Taiga had just rolled his eyes. Why was he so pissed when he actually didn’t give a damn about the challenge in the first place? Lost in his thoughts he let some time path while not spending anyone outside attention until another boy left the windowsill next to him and he snapped out of his daydreams.

When he realized that the boys around him were changing all the time even though there weren’t that many customers he felt a bit left behind. It wasn’t like he would mind if he didn’t get any customers, but what would happen if he wouldn’t? Even Hokuto, who had sat on the other end of the windowsill, hadn’t been there for a long time. Would they kick him out of Yoshiwara if he didn’t make any money for the house? What other place was there for him to go if he failed here? His thoughts gave him a slight headache and he wondered if he was allowed to take a break, but he couldn’t see Kentaro anywhere, after all the boy couldn’t just stand around the whole day and see how he was doing. With a sigh Taiga turned back to the window before he took a deep breath.

“One more try,” he whispered before he turned his attention back to the street. If he didn’t find anyone right away he would leave the windowsill to ask Kentaro or another senpai if he could take a break.

People were walking past, a lot of them busy, not spending the house any attention. Those which did looked at other boys or went inside, knowing who they would choose already. With an almost annoyed look Taiga leaned a bit back and let his eyes wander away from all the people walking past and stared straight ahead, towards the building across of theirs.

Finding someone leaning against that building with his arms crossed to his chest wasn’t surprising him, but that someone was staring straight back at him, which made him hold his breath for a moment. The latter’s look wasn’t the friendliest and Taiga needed some time to fix his expression to something softer, more curious instead of annoyed.

The first thing which caught his attention was the short blonde hair, but the man in his early thirties was definitely Japanese. Taiga had never seen someone with that hair color except for the very few foreigners he had seen when he had once been at the Edo harbor.

The man had the sleeves of his dark blue yukata rolled up to his elbows, revealing extremely muscular forearms.

Everything about that man screamed danger and still Taiga kept looking at him, especially because the man also didn’t look away and somehow it felt like if he looked away now it could actually make the latter angry.

Taiga hadn’t even moved nor changed his expression when the latter suddenly stepped away from the building and approached their house. With a heavy gulp Taiga tried to stay calm, but the man kept looking at him while coming closer. Not even once did the man spend any of the other boys any attention and he abruptly stopped a few meters away from the bars. It took a lot of effort for Taiga to keep a neutral expression on his face, because there were so many possible wrong moves that he just didn’t dare to move at all. Regardless his efforts it seemed like the man could see completely through his facade and knew all about his insecurities and worries. With a lopsided smile he finally looked away, but when he started walking away Taiga’s heart almost stopped when he realized that he was obviously heading for the entrance of their house.

He couldn’t see the entrance from the windowsill and it seemed like endless minutes passed in which he couldn’t decide if he should just freak on the spot, try to run away or maybe play sick to get the day off, but there was no time to decide because suddenly Kochi and Kentaro stepped into the back of the windowsill.

“Oh that’s not good…” Taiga let out worried on their expressions and Kochi bit his lip almost apologizing, even though he had absolutely nothing to do with the choice of the customers.

“Guess you can show us today how tough the Ceremony made you,” Kentaro let out as neutral as he could. “I think you can guess who your customer is?”

Taiga could just nod nervously on that before he got up on shaking legs.

“So just so you know he paid a higher price as normal, but not as high to be allowed to do things which will actually cause you visible damage.” Kentaro explained on which Taiga’s stomach got ready to twist on the spot. Visible damage? There were so many other ways to cause him damage after all and he was sure that man was more than aware of that fact.

“Okay let’s go, Kochi show them their room. Give them one at the end of the corridor on the left,” Kentaro added before he turned towards Taiga once more. “Just don’t freak out, okay? No matter if it’s today, tomorrow or in a month. This type of customer is just one of dozens of other dangerous and difficult ones.”

How could Kentaro’s words always be so on point, but so damn unhelpful and unsupportive at the same time? But he was right after all and with a deep breath Taiga finally followed Kochi into the house.

The man had waited for them at the entrance and when he came in sight he saw how Taisuke walked away from him, but it wasn’t obvious if he had talked to him or had passed by coincidence.

“Sorry to make you wait. This is Taiga, you will be his first customer since his Ceremony,” Kochi introduced him and a bit hesitant Taiga bowed to the older one.

“Show us our room,” the man said without even spending any more attention to Taiga which surprisingly made Taiga feel a bit angry, even though he knew he should lay more than low if he wanted to go through this without any big trouble.

 Kochi did how he was told and excused himself before he slid the door to their room shut, leaving Taiga alone with his first customer.

As much as the situation felt awkward and dangerous, Taiga knew that he had to behave the way Kentaro had taught him or he would risk bringing the house into trouble.

The man was still standing next to the door while Taiga walked next to the futon before he dared to turn around, trying to form the most confident look he could come up with.

“So do I get to know the name of my first customer?”

“Why would you want to know it?” The man’s question was in no way showing any sign of being offended by Taiga’s question so he tried his luck with some improvised strategy. After all he could still switch to some other tactic if he sensed the latter could get annoyed or angry.

“Maybe it can be helpful at some point? That depends though if you like me to shut up for the rest of the time or if you prefer me being a bit noisy?”

The man had definitely understood what that meant and he finally stepped closer to Taiga, but instead of touching him he walked around him once, scanning his body. He stopped behind him and took a hold on Taiga’s upper arms while he moved his face closer to the boy’s neck. He breathed in through his nose while he moved his face up to the boy’s hair and weirdly that action made Taiga feel excited instead of nervous.

“If innocence had a smell I think this would be it,” the man let out in a playful, yet almost threatening tone before his hands traveled a bit back to slip to the front of Taiga’s kimono. He wasn’t trying to open it yet, but his hands were traveling over the obi down to Taiga’s crotch as he touched his ear with his lips resulting in Taiga being unable to suppress a small gasp.

“Do you promise to let me hear my name in your sweet voice later if I tell you?”

Taiga nodded immediately, because after all that was what he had indirectly promised already if the latter wanted him to. A deep chuckle was heard when the man moved one hand to the obi to undo it fast and skilled like it was his everyday business before he let it drop to the ground and put his hands back on Taiga’s kimono.

“My name is Tatsuya,” the man whispered against his ear before he stepped a bit back to open Taiga’s kimono and took it off the boy’s shoulders before he let it drop to the floor.

Taiga shivered a bit when the cold reached his exposed skin, but Tatsuya’s hands on his hips were warmer than he had expected and he automatically turned around on the touch even without the latter pushing him towards any direction.

“Then tell me Tatsuya, do you like what you see?”

“More important is if I like what I hear,” Tatsuya replied before he suddenly shoved Taiga to the back, making the boy fall to the ground. Different things made Taiga lose a bit of his confidence through that move. The strength the man had used was quite a lot and he also didn’t even aim for the futon, ending in Taiga hurting his arm when he tried to stop his fall on the tatami ground. Not in any way impressed by the boy seeming a bit scared Tatsuya continued to undress himself before he gave Taiga a signal to stand up again, which resulted with Taiga getting angry for a moment, after all there had been no need to make him fall if he wanted him to stand up again.

With a tight grip the older one took Taiga’s face in his hands and moved his fingers over his skin as if it was an expensive piece of fabric he wanted to buy.

“Now I wonder if your moans are as soft as your skin?”

Taiga tried to reply with his look this time, not feeling confident enough to make his voice sound steady anymore.

“Why so shy? Didn’t you just offer me some fun?”

It didn’t actually sounded like he was angry, but he could obviously see through Taiga’s sudden hesitant behavior no matter how hard he tried to somehow show a poker face.

Slowly Tatsuya moved and brushed his own lips against Taiga’s while he kept a strong hold on his cheekbones and chin. “I can make you let out the sounds I want to hear if you are too shy to let them out willingly.”

There wasn’t even the time for a reply, because Tatsuya crushed their lips together and invaded the boy’s mouth with his tongue immediately. The kiss was deep and rough, the pace too fast for Taiga to even be able to think about how to move or follow. Not that he could decide how to move anyway, because Tatsuya pushed him backwards until they reached the wall and again he used too much force when he broke the kiss just to shove Taiga against it. Without saying anything he attacked again, continuing the same kiss than before.

It seemed as if he enjoyed seeing how Taiga kept panicking more and more, each time he pushed him around. That thought made him realize that this was indeed the case! That was why he had paid more! Tatsuya’s kink was obviously watching people getting confused, a bit taken aback, and if possible even scared. So he’d just stand back for a moment, watch their reaction and go for the next attack. It seemed to arouse him when the other person was inferior.

Moving fast Tatsuya grabbed one of Taiga’s legs and made him put it up on his hips before he lifted him up and pressed him against the wall, Taiga automatically closed his other leg around the latter’s hips as well, putting his arms around his neck.

“Don’t get too comfortable.”

“Then don’t offer such a nice position to me,” Taiga finally dared to shot back after he got to understand with what kind of customer he was dealing.

A lopsided smile appeared on Tatsuya’s lips on Taiga’s sudden snappy attitude and he pushed him even more against the wall when he lowered his lips to the boy’s skin this time and bit harshly down on his neck. Taiga let out a yelp on that and buried his fingernails in the latter’s skin.

“Not that comfortable anymore?” Tatsuya asked mockingly as he lifted his head just enough to bite down on Taiga’s earlobe this time. Instead of a yelp it was just a groan escaping him this time and he received a chuckle on that. “Already playing tough? Boy, I didn’t even get started.”

Which he proved immediately as he made a step back and dragged Taiga from the wall, throwing him on the futon this time. The force had been way more than before and Taiga could call himself lucky that he had aimed for the futon this time, because his back complained a lot on the sudden move.

“Turn around,” Tatsuya ordered and when Taiga needed a bit too long to move, the older one grabbed him by the hair and forced him to turn. Taiga sat up on his knees, not sure if he should bend to the front or not when his hair got released again. That question got answered seconds later though when Tatsuya moved one hand to his cheek first and let his fingers travel over Taiga’s lips. Taiga moved faster this time, understanding what the latter wanted when he added a bit more pressure. With a slow movement Taiga took the man’s fingers in his mouth and started sucking on them, while Tatsuya moved one arm down to the boy’s crotch and started touching him without any kind of warning on which Taiga flinched, but succeeded in not seeming insecure through that move.

“Let me hear something sweet and I might play nice,” Tatsuya offered as he removed his fingers, but it wasn’t easy for Taiga to come up with anything, because the latter’s hand was moving slowly over his cock, making it unbelievable hard to concentrate.

“I-” Not even able to say a whole sentence when Tatsuya stroke over his full length when he tried to come up with something he gave up for a moment and closed his eyes. Then he realized that there was no need to come up with anything, after all he knew what he wanted to hear. He let his head drop to the back, so that it was resting on Tatsuya’s collarbone and he parted his lips to take some shaking breathes while the older one kept teasing him until Taiga’s breathing turned into small moans.

“Tatsuya….” he finally brought out in between his low moans and he had obviously succeeded in making it sound as arousing as he wanted it to, because he could feel how the older one’s body shivered a bit under his.

With the next move the man had his fingers ready to push in and Taiga welcomed the preparation, no matter how rough and deep the other one moved right away, after all preparation was a luxury in their business, so there was no way he would complain about the pace.

When Tatsuya finally moved a bit away Taiga could relax a bit, but he didn’t get a lot of time to do so, because this time he got pushed to the front and he put his arms to the ground to stabilize himself and soon he rocked his hips backwards against the latter’s movement of his fingers burying too deep in a way too fast rhythm.

“Seems like you don’t really mind a fast pace,” Tatsuya said kind of impressed, but Taiga couldn’t actually say if that was true or not, after all a fast pace was all he had experienced until now. “Then I think it’s okay to speed things up.”

Was Taiga even allowed to complain if he wanted to? Those were small little details he had no clue about. What if the pace was really way too fast for him, would the amount they pay also decide about where he had to put his own limits? Well, for now he was definitely not going to complain, because causing trouble at his first day was definitely something he would avoid at all costs.

When Tatsuya pulled back he made Taiga turn around and the boy tried to read the man’s next moves, but it was extremely difficult. Somehow it felt like Tatsuya wasn’t even sure himself how far he should take things with Taiga. Nevertheless he suddenly pulled him closer on the legs, again such a fast movement that Taiga couldn’t actually adjust. Tatsuya settled between his legs, but when Taiga tried to spread his own legs a bit more to the sides to find a more comfortable position the other one took his left leg and bended it in a quite uncomfortable position upwards so that Taiga had to bend his knee.

“I told you not to get too comfortable,” Tatsuya let out playful, but also with a warning undertone.

Their eyes locked after that and when Taiga had an almost pouting expression on his face the older one formed a lopsided smile before he finally pushed in.

“Don’t look away,” Tatsuya warned him when Taiga wanted to close his eyes as he arched his back. With a lot of effort he kept looking at the other one, but while he was usually good in enduring sudden pain he would normally do so while hiding behind a facade, which he couldn’t form if he had to stare back at the other one that intensely. It almost seemed like Tatsuya knew that and even more, he enjoyed it!

He took it a bit slower this time, but still fast enough for Taiga to let out a gasp when he thrusted quite rough with his first move.

In silence Tatsuya sat up a bit more and used his free hand to lift Taiga’s hips a bit to be able to thrust in deeper with the next move and Taiga automatically put the back of his hand over his mouth to muffle his own sounds and he could already tell that this would definitely become a habit of his. Unfortunately Tatsuya didn’t seem to approve of it and he finally let go of his leg, which made him relax a bit, but with the next move his wrist was pinned next to his head and Tatsuya had leant so close that he could feel his breath on his face, giving him shivers down the spine.

“Why would you swallow those sweet sounds? Let me hear them clear and loud.”

With the next thrusts there was no way Taiga could hold back anyways and he let out a few small moans and then dared his head a bit up so that he could brush over Tatsuya’s lips.

“Tatsuya....” he let out in between his next moan, his voice sounding unfamiliar to himself. Way too demanding and arousing at the same time. It was enough to make the older one force his head back down with a rushed kiss.

It was a good distraction as the pace of the thrusts got faster and Taiga could finally move his legs a bit more freely to make it more comfortable and with Tatsuya busy he couldn’t complain about it this time.

There was a short moment when Taiga started struggling for air and he considered biting the older one when he didn’t back off right away, but he halted that move, doubting that he would get away without problems if he actually dared it. A few seconds later Tatsuya moved his lips to the boy’s jawline and when it was him who bit instead Taiga let out a shuddering breath.

Slowly he dared to rock his hips up against the latter’s fast thrusts and he could hear a small chuckle on that, muffled against his neck when the other one kept exploring his skin with his lips. When he bit down on his neck this time Taiga put one hand to the latter’s back and clawed it in his skin with a little bit too much force. The older one arched his back, but didn’t complain, instead his thrusts got rougher on the move and he finally released his wrist to put both his hands to the boy’s hips.

When he tried to sit up though Taiga threw both arms around his neck, holding him down.

“Are you demanding my attention now?”

He was actually just trying to stop the latter from getting a better angle to move even deeper, but well if challenging him would work then he was fine with any tactic.

Instead of a reply he pulled him closer and bit in his bottom lip with just a bit of pressure to be able to pull it down before releasing it again with a teasing smile.

“Am I not worth your attention?” This time Taiga didn’t feel surprised, but proud of the pleading tone of his voice and he could feel how a shiver ran through the customer’s body. Now he had made Tatsuya feel even more in control of the situation and the latter seemed to enjoy it to the fullest. Instead of sitting up he gave Taiga the attention he demanded, giving him another deep kiss as he kept thrusting more desperately this time. It was obvious that he was close, but Taiga wasn’t and somehow he wanted to change that, the problem was just that the other one didn’t actually consider his needs at the moment and if Taiga moved his arms down to his own member now it would definitely be the worst move ever, so for now he endured the denied attention, after all it was his job to pleasure the customer and not the other way around.

It was when the latter got too close that he broke the kiss again and buried his face in the crook of the boy’s neck. The deep moan he let out when he reached his climax made Taiga tighten his grip around Tatsuya’s back, because normally he’d love to come now as well, to share the shivers he could feel, but he still remained calm and gave the latter a lopsided smile as he sat up and pulled out.

“And, was my voice satisfying enough for you?” Taiga asked teasingly while the latter kept sitting between the boy’s legs for a moment, still breathing a bit erratic while coming down from his climax.

“If you get your nervousness a bit better under control then I’d give you a full score.”

Confusion was written all over Taiga’s face, because that had been a quite weird answer, but well he didn’t know the customers at all, so who knew how small talk instead of sex would show different parts of their personality. But there wouldn’t be any more small talk as Tatsuya finally got up and dressed. Taiga rolled on his stomach and watched him as he wasn’t supposed to guide him outside. That was Kochi’s job. Just for regular customers they would sometimes go with them, like Kentaro normally did with Fuma. Nevertheless he grabbed his kimono, threw it over his shoulders and got up when Tatsuya was ready to leave.

“Maybe next time I can get a full score then?” Taiga said before he bowed to the customer as he was told to do when they would leave. The latter let out a low chuckle on that and even though Taiga had been quite taken aback by his appearance at first with the weird hairstyle and dangerous aura, he couldn’t but find him interesting now.

“Then make sure not to mess up until I’ll be back.”

Why did it feel so satisfying to hear that? Was he proud that he hadn’t messed up? That he had been good enough to maybe make him come back? That he had handled a complicated customer right from the start? Whatever it was, it made Taiga smile as he bowed to Tatsuya again before the man left, leaving Taiga alone.

Taiga could leave the room on his own or he could wait for Kochi to tell him that the customer had left, which would mean he had to go back into the windowsill, but for now he needed a few minutes for himself.

He sat down on the futon again, closing his eyes with a deep breath as his hand finally found his own neglected erection. It had been quite mean to arouse him at first and then leave him like this, but somehow Taiga didn’t feel angry about it. Maybe he just had to learn how to get to his climax even without the customers taking care of him.

For now he’d just do it himself, after all he wouldn’t be able to sit still in the windowsill like this. Just remembering Tatsuya’s rough movements, his lips exploring his skin and biting down here and there, were enough to make his hand move faster and he jerked off faster than he had thought.

He rested some more minutes until his thoughts stopped spinning and he finally got dressed completely again. Now he could at least face Juri with a proud smile. After all even though he had lost their bet he had definitely won a bet against himself. It was a confidence boost he had definitely needed, but he had to make sure that a misstep or complicated situation wouldn’t throw him off balance.

***

Never had Taiga thought he could feel that exhausted after a day which he had spent sitting around almost all the time.

After getting back in the windowsill he hadn’t gotten a new customer for some time and had been ordered by Kentaro to take a break at some point to eat something. Later though he had succeeded in luring someone inside the house and he had to admit that he had dealt with the young boy even better than with Tatsuya. Which was maybe because this time the customer had been a bit insecure, a little bit like he imagined Aran and being able to guide the customer through everything had given him even more courage to try things out. Now he also really wanted Aran to come by, no matter if he was becoming a police officer or not. Maybe it would make it an even bigger challenge.

“Taiga, it’s time to get back. It’s soon closing time for the district,” Kochi was heard next to the windowsill and Taiga nodded, getting off together with the last two boys sitting there.

Juri had been off a bit earlier already, but it hadn’t been too long so Taiga wondered if he went for a bath now if the boy would be still there?

The last customers got guided out of the house and Taiga bowed politely to the people crossing his way. When he wanted to enter the back of the house he saw someone turning towards the corridor with Kamenashi’s room. Hadn’t Kochi just said it was closing time? Maybe a customer had lost his way through Kochi being busy making sure that everything was set for closing?

Taiga hurried back towards the corridor, but when he turned around the corner the person was entering Kamenashi’s room. That wasn’t actually the only point which made Taiga tilt his head in confusion.

“Blond hair?” He whispered to himself, because how big was the possibility to meet two people with blond hair in one day? He hadn’t seen the face of the person entering, but now he tiptoed towards the door and sat down next to it, pressing his ear carefully against the thin fabric.

“And with what tactic did you go this time?” Kamenashi was heard and then a chuckle followed, making everything in Taiga shiver all of a sudden.

“You told me he was a bit insecure, so I tested his ability to read a rough and rushed customer.”

He wasn’t mistaken, definitely! The voice belonged to Tatsuya and it made Taiga’s thoughts rush, because why was he with Kamenashi? What was this meeting about?

“And did he pass?”

“At first I thought he would fail to be honest. He tensed up and seemed completely lost as he couldn’t follow the pace, but then it somehow clicked. I guess he needed a moment to understand what I wanted him to do, but after he got it he reacted quite well. If you make sure he doesn’t get too difficult customers at first he will be fine. Just make sure you don’t let him handle too much at once. If he messes up, give him a break. He seems like that kind of person who needs to restore his courage after failing.”

It wasn’t like Tatsuya had said anything wrong, all of it was true, but it still made some weird kind of rage boil inside the boy. It had been a test! A trap he had totally fallen for, not that it was meant to mock him he knew that, but it still felt like a betrayal.

“Thanks for the advice. Until now you were never wrong with your guesses, so I am really happy I asked for your help today as well.”

“As long as I get what I want afterwards I am always here to help out, you know that.”

This time the chuckle came from Kamenashi, but Taiga’s mind was still caught up with something else.

“Until now?” Taiga repeated before he slowly retreated from the room, after all he could at least read the atmosphere and Kamenashi would skin him alive if he found out that he had eavesdrop not just the conversation, but also what would happen from now on, so leaving before he could get discovered was the best choice.

Without losing any time he went for the bath, loud voices reaching him before he was even getting inside.

“Finally, I thought you’d have just rolled yourself in the futon,” Reo teased him as Taiga stepped inside the bath. Instead of replying anything Taiga got out of his work kimono and went to wash himself.

Juri and Kentaro were also in the bath, but Taiga tried to ignore them for now. But that move didn’t get by unnoticed.

“Did anything happen?” Juri asked worried, but Taiga turned towards him and shook his head.

“No, I am just a bit tired, don’t worry.”

Well, at least the questioning would stop like this, but Juri always kept worrying, Taiga had figured that much already.

A few minutes later he joined the boys in the bath and never before had he been so happy about the warm water. Kentaro let out a chuckle on the sigh the boy let out.

“Guess the day was exhausting enough even with just two customers, right?”

Taiga felt how his eye twitched on Kentaro’s words and he looked at the boy with a death glare, which made Juri and Reo exchange a worried look, while Kentaro lifted an eyebrow.

“Did I say something wrong?”

“He is not making fun of you. We are all exhausted after long days, no matter if we have many customers or not,” Juri tried to calm Taiga down as he felt the sudden tension in the air.

“Do you know who my first customer was today?” Taiga asked Reo and Juri, but both shook their heads, because they had been busy at that time.

“His name was Tatsuya,” Taiga continued and both boys failed miserably in keeping a poker face. Reo looking awkwardly to the ceiling, while Juri bit his lip and sank a bit more into the bath as if he wanted the water to swallow him for good. That reaction made Taiga’s eyes burn like fire and he moved to the front, getting closer to Kentaro while the other two boys shifted to the other end of the bath.

“You met him today at the entrance, right?” Taiga asked in a calm voice and Kentaro just nodded. “You even received the payment from him and warned me what he could do.”

“I am your senpai that is what I am here for,” Kentaro explained with such an honest smile that Taiga wondered where his poker face’s limit was. But now it didn’t matter, because Taiga’s limit had been reached and he moved one hand up, touching Kentaro’s cheek with his wet fingers. The older one didn’t pull away, but he looked a bit skeptical out of a sudden.

“Helping me to understand my first customer, I should be happy to have such a good senpai, right?”

“Better me than Taisuke, I guess?” Kentaro asked a bit childish and flashed a teasing smile on which Taiga also smiled before that smile turned into something more alarming as he moved his other hand up as well, letting both hands travel to the boy’s hair and suddenly Kentaro’s calm mask was a bit scratched and he looked a bit taken aback.

“Ehm, what are you doing?”

Before replying, Taiga let out a chuckle, his smile growing wider again until it was already creepy instead of bright. “Thanking my senpai for his good work.”

The next move had Kentaro gasp, but all he could do was trying to take a last deep breath before Taiga pushed him completely under water.

Reo gasped as well, putting his hands to his face in shock and staring at Juri with a questioning expression. But Juri’s look was more amused than shocked, as he understood why Taiga got angry.

“Are we not supposed to do something?” Reo asked seriously worried after Kentaro started struggling after some time, but Taiga kept him under water with all his might. “Juri, he will scold us as well if we don’t help him. He is our senpai as well!”

“Calm down, he knows he deserves this,” Juri soothed the younger one.

When Kentaro’s struggling got a bit too much Taiga finally released him and the boy broke through the surface with a painful cough before he automatically backed away from Taiga.

“What the actual heck was that for?” Kentaro yelled at him.

“As I said it was my thanks for your help with Tatsuya. By the way Kamenashi also just thanked him.”

“Thanking someone is not- wait, what? Kamenashi…,” Kentaro’s look changed immediately as he realized what was going on. “You found out about Tatsuya?”

The death glare which hit him on that question was answer enough and Kentaro seemed to feel caught out of a sudden and when he tried to shift towards the edge of the bath to obviously get out, Taiga got closer to him again on which the older one stretched out his arms protectively, which made Juri chuckle.

“You two, I swear I am so going to punish you for this later.”

“Hey, I didn’t do anything!” Reo complained.

“Exactly and that is why I will punish you.”

“Don’t you think it’s time for your punishment first?” Taiga interrupted on which Kentaro seemed to get more and more panicked, which finally made Reo also unable to keep a straight face and he tried to hide a smile behind his hand.

“Taiga, wait. It’s not like this was my decision. A lot of new people went through the same, ask Juri and Reo. We are just doing what Kamenashi orders us to. With the next new boy you might have to do the same.”

“Doesn’t matter, I am angry now and at you, what comes later is no problem of the moment.”

Taiga moved quick and almost chased Kentaro through the bath and the boy squealed as the younger one got a grip on him again. “Taiga, I am sorry. How often do you want to hear that? You already punished me, didn’t you?”

“Well, I am still feeling angry so, sorry I won’t accept your apology for now.”

“Juri, Reo, stop him!” Kentaro yelled as Taiga tried to push him under water again and almost jumped on his back this time to be able to do so.

“No chance,” Juri replied laughing before he and Reo hurried out of the bath so that they wouldn’t be caught in between their struggle. They kept cheering for Taiga from the side though and soon Taiga’s anger was replaced by loud laughter and a teasing smile each time Kentaro tried to apologize again until Taiga finally let off him.

“You are forgiven,” Taiga finally announced as Kentaro was clawing his hands in one of the rocks at the bath to not be half drowned again.

“Is it my turn to say thank you now?” Kentaro asked in between some coughing and heavy breathing. Taiga lifted an eyebrow at that question, but while he got ready to get out of the bath, Kentaro stood up and grabbed Reo and Juri by the wrists without a warning and pulled both of them back in the bath.

Taiga kept laughing from the side while it were now Reo and Juri shouting apologies at Kentaro and all the anger was completely gone.

It didn’t matter if they lied to him, after all they all did it to make sure that he would be ready for this job and with all of them at his side he actually felt more than ready to face his new life in Yoshiwara.

Chapter Text

After just two days of work Taiga had gotten another day off and he had been extremely grateful for that, because he couldn’t deny that his body wasn’t the least used to this work yet and he still wondered if it was going to get easier at some point or if the other boys were just good at pretending.

Nevertheless had Taiga found the courage to wear Juri’s kimono after his day off and of course the boy had worn a super bright smile over the whole day thanks to that. It felt weird how Taiga was so easily affected through Juri’s mood, but it also made him wear a smile most of the day as well.

Two customers in the morning had been not much trouble for him, but one of them had been actually quite rough and Taiga had been thankful for the break Kentaro had made him take after it.

Slowly he walked through the corridors back to the windowsill after his break was over, but when he wanted to turn around to the entrance he heard someone shouting. It wasn’t really outraged, more begging, but it made Taiga slow down and peek carefully around the corner.

He saw a boy in the entrance and Taisuke was standing in front of him with a pissed expression.

“I can wait if he is busy. I really need to see him today,” the boy let out almost pouting while he swayed a bit and couldn’t really stand still.

“You were here yesterday already and the day before as well and that he has another customer at the moment isn’t even the problem. You know the rules! You are not allowed to enter when you are drunk!” Taisuke warned him strictly, but the boy just shot him an annoyed look on that. “Come back when you are sober.”

When the boy made a few fast steps to the front Taiga automatically held his breath, fearing that he would get angry and attack Taisuke, but it came different and the boy actually tried to hug Taisuke and begged him to let him stay.

Taiga hid a smile behind his hand as he couldn’t deny that it was a funny picture seeing Taisuke this lost.

“Oh, you are here again,” Reo was heard out of a sudden as he walked around the corner together with someone who had been obviously his last customer.

“Reo~” the boy squealed and pushed Taisuke to the side, throwing his arms around Reo’s neck while Kochi apologized to the previous customer for the chaos and guided him to the exit while Reo gave him an apologizing look before he concentrated on the boy who clung on him on unsteady feet.

“Fu, did you drink again?”

“Maybe?” The boy replied with a teasing expression.

“Not maybe, but for sure. I can smell you until here and now out,” Taisuke repeated again on which Fu put his arms around Reo’s hips and shook his head like a six year old boy.

“I don’t want to go. Reo, don’t let him throw me out.”

Reo let out a sigh before he looked up at Taisuke, but his senpai shook his head right away. “Don’t even try that look on me Reo. Rules are rules!”

“He doesn’t get violent though when he is drunk, you can see that yourself,” Reo tried his luck, but Taisuke just rolled his eyes on that. Before he could reply something though Kochi entered the building again and he seemed kind of in a hurry as he approached Taisuke and whispered something on which Taisuke’s look turned to even more annoyed.

“Fine, Reo take him with you to a room. If you don’t want a break after your last customer then I won’t stop you.”

Taking breaks wasn’t what Reo was good at anyways, but it confused Taiga that he had given in so easily after he was definitely about to drag Fu out the building if necessary.

“Kochi, give them a room.”

“Great! Thank you grumpy senpai!” Fu chirped at Taisuke with a bright smile before he dragged Reo down the corridor after Kochi. The boy shook his head, but he wasn’t annoyed at all. It was the first time Taiga had actually seen such an honest and bright smile on the boy’s face when having a customer.

At the last moment Taiga realized that Taisuke was about to turn around to him so he hurried back down the corridor so that he wouldn’t get scolded again for eavesdropping. But his break had been officially over anyway, so after a second corner he stopped and tried to calm down. With a played neutral expression he slowly walked back towards the front, but as expected Taisuke showed up in front of him.

“Where are you going?” He asked directly on which Taiga pointed towards the windowsill.

“Back to work, my break is over.”

“Take a longer break then.”

“What? Why should I-”

“Just do it, off with you to the back of the house,” Taisuke said strict on which Taiga pouted.

“I don’t need a longer break.”

“Well, I don’t care. Just do as you are told.”

That arrogant behavior made Taiga forget all about the amusing thoughts he had had a few moments ago about the latter and he shot him an annoyed glance, ready to freak at him.

“Oh, already working?”

A familiar voice made them both turn to the corner from where Fuma approached them together with Kentaro. While Fuma was wearing a usual grey yukata as the time before, Kentaro wore a white Kimono with silver lines on it and a silver obi.

“Right, I totally forgot to tell you,” Kentaro said towards Fuma before he looked up to Taisuke with a confused expression.

“Well he is not working now, he is taking a break.”

“And as I said I just came back from my break.”

The other two shot each other knowing looks, the tension in the air more than visible to them, but while Kentaro just shrugged his shoulders a little bit lost Fuma suddenly cracked a smile and leant towards Kentaro, whispering something in his ear on which the older one chuckled.

“Taisuke, when you don’t want him in the windowsill would you mind if we borrow him?”

Taiga got ready to explode if Taisuke would actually say it wasn’t okay, but then he realized what the question actually meant and he looked at Fuma and Kentaro in confusion.

“Excuse me, what?”

“Completely okay with me. Please take him with you, but make sure to tell me when you are done. I will decide then if he goes back in the windowsill or not,” Taisuke said neutral before he walked away as if nothing had happened.

“What the hell was that?” Taiga asked more in a monolog as he kept looking after his senpai, but got distracted when Kentaro suddenly pulled him on the wrist towards another corridor.

“Worry about that later, now you come and play with us.”

“But-”

“No but, I am paying for you as well so you better treat me well,” Fuma interfered as they reached their room and Fuma slid the door open. There was a playful look on his face and while Taiga had met him before already he also didn’t forget what Kentaro had said before that they weren’t always that harmless and the older one seemed to be in play mood judging by the way he urged the other two to enter the room before he closed the door.

“How much do you intend to pay today?” Kentaro asked as he approached Fuma with the same playful expression and it didn’t surprise Taiga when Fuma pulled him closer and gave him a rushed kiss, pressing the older one’s lower body against his own on which Kentaro automatically rocked his hips forward.

“Mh, let’s go easy on him today, shall we?” Fuma replied and Taiga felt at least a bit relieved on hearing that, but when Fuma looked towards him he automatically tensed.

The older one made his way over to him and just kept staring for a moment before he clapped him on the cheek. Taiga flinched a bit on the move on which Fuma let out a low chuckle. “Finally I am allowed to touch you.”

Before Taiga could reply anything Fuma turned away from him and suddenly pulled a pillow next to the futon and sat down. With a confused expression Taiga looked at him, but Fuma just made a move with his hand towards the futon. “Entertain me.”

When Taiga turned towards Kentaro he realized that he was the only one in the room who hadn’t understood what that meant, because Kentaro’s eyes were shining in excitement on that statement before he walked up to Taiga and made him turn towards Fuma again before he let his hands slowly slide from Taiga’s shoulders towards his hips.

“Won’t you do what the customer is asking of you?” He whispered next to his ear while his hands pulled on his obi and Taiga remembered how much he got affected by Kentaro’s touch before already and how much he had actually wished to be able to get a chance like this. Did it really matter if it was just one or two people instead? Well, he would find out, so why not take the chance and play a bit as well?

There was a moment of hesitation when he looked at Fuma and wasn’t sure how much fun he was actually allowed to have alone with Kentaro, but on the other hand Fuma wasn’t the type to sit back for long, so he would just use the time he was given and pay Fuma back for the time he had to be the one watching.

With a swift movement Taiga turned around and made Kentaro let go off him. With the next step Taiga was behind Kentaro, so that the older one was facing Fuma and judging by Fuma’s teasing expression Kentaro hadn’t seen Taiga’s move coming. Without leaving the older one any chance to complain Taiga pulled his obi away and pulled the collar of his kimono just a bit to the back so that he could press a soft kiss on Kentaro’s neck.

The satisfaction running through his body when he felt Kentaro shiver on that move was making him move again and he pulled Kentaro’s kimono lower, but made sure it would just slip from his shoulders and not lower. After all they were told to entertain Fuma, so why take away the fun? Taiga made sure to give Fuma a side glance here and there to be sure he wouldn’t get bored or even angry, but all he could see was a mocking expression towards Kentaro. It was obvious that they shared the same satisfaction about seeing Kentaro crumble under them.

Still moving a bit careful Taiga moved his lips upwards, licking over the older one’s already light salty tasting skin until he reached his earlobe. When he bit into it he received a low moan and suddenly Kentaro’s arms were on his hips and without even being able to look what he was doing he slowly opened Taiga’s obi.

“Be careful, he has skilled hands, he can easily turn the game around,” Fuma warned him suddenly when Taiga’s obi dropped to the ground as well and Kentaro’s hands were already vanishing inside of the younger one’s kimono. Taiga flinched a bit when the older one’s hands found his butt and started squeezing teasingly. When Taiga let out a chuckle on that move he couldn’t recognize his own voice. Was he so confident because he knew both boys this time? Whatever it was he couldn’t deny that he liked feeling this way and he escaped Kentaro’s touch with a step to the front on which his kimono opened completely and he pressed his erection against the fabric of Kentaro’s kimono on which he could feel how the older one’s legs got weak out of a sudden.

“So confident aren’t you?” Kentaro asked as he let his head drop against Taiga’s shoulder and lifted his hand to the other one’s face. For a moment Taiga let him do as he pleased, but when his fingers brushed over his lips he took two of them in his mouth and sucked on them on which Kentaro tried to moved his other hand back on Taiga’s body, but he wouldn’t let him and trapped his wrist while he finally opened the older one’s kimono with his free hand and let his arm slowly explore his lower stomach, intentionally not moving it lower which made Kentaro suddenly push his fingers deeper into the younger one’s mouth, making Taiga cough.

Taiga had already moved, but Kentaro was faster this time, pulling out his fingers and moving quick. Without a warning he turned and grabbed Taiga by the open kimono, shoving him down on the futon. Taiga had planned the same move, now giving the older one an annoyed look.

“One point for Kentaro,” Fuma let out with a chuckle. They were lying right next to him now, but Taiga’s attention was completely on Kentaro, but the older one had trapped him under his weight and looked up at Fuma with a smile before he stretched out his arm and brushed his pointer finger with a slow movement over the latter’s lips.

“Are you going to fuck the winner or the loser?”

“How about I fuck the one who gets laid first?”

“Totally ok wi-”

A squeal replaced Kentaro’s reply as Taiga suddenly pulled him down with his arms around his neck and almost wrestled himself on top of him. Fuma burst out in a resounding laughter on that move, while Kentaro’s look had turned to completely stunned by the way Taiga had easily switched positions with him.

“Do I need to worry that you don’t want to do it with me?” Fuma asked almost disappointed on which Taiga gave him a lopsided smile.

“Let’s say I need to take this opportunity, because who knows when I will get another chance like this?”

“Good point! Then please feel free to go for it.”

“Hey, does anyone care for my opinion?” Kentaro interfered pouting, but Taiga’s hand found its way in his hair and pulled his head up instead of giving him a reply. The movement had been quite rough and made Kentaro gasp, but he didn’t try to pull away when Taiga suddenly brushed his lips over his, but pulled away with a smile once more.

“Who knows what Fuma will allow you later if you behave now?”

That actually seemed to sound quite promising to Kentaro and he moved one leg up against Taiga’s crotch, but Taiga didn’t even flinch this time. “Then what are you waiting for?”

It was Kentaro’s tone which made Taiga move rougher and faster than he would normally do, but well he had been through something similar with Reo and Kentaro was a senpai, so why should he hold back? With the next move Taiga had already spread Kentaro’s legs with his knees, but he halted and pulled Kentaro a bit up on his hair once more, not the least surprised when Kentaro welcomed the following kiss with an almost impatient pace.

It was the way Taiga could feel how Kentaro tensed a bit when he pushed in which made him move a bit slower, but he still didn’t break the kiss and he wouldn’t be able to anyways as Kentaro closed his arms around his neck and pulled him even closer, deepening the kiss until it was Taiga’s turn to struggle.

“I told you to be careful,” Fuma scolded him from the side, but it wasn’t like Taiga would easily lose the game. First he rocked his hips forward and it resulted in Kentaro to take a deep breath before he tried to pull Taiga back into the kiss. This time Taiga gave in to it once more, but not without a plan. Kentaro got used to Taiga’s pace fast and he closed his legs around his hips, moving his own hips almost too fast for Taiga to keep up with the pace. It was obvious that Kentaro still tried to turn things around, but Taiga saw it coming as Kentaro wanted to put his hands on Taiga’s shoulders to somehow turn them around. Kentaro’s move got stopped with a yelp as Taiga bit him harshly on the lip.

“Nice try,” he let out as he pulled back and took a look at what he had done. A small blood drop had formed on Kentaro’s bottom lip and the latter’s look had turned dangerously dark, but it made Taiga’s look turn even more confident as he leant down and licked the drop away. “Such a bad boy.”

A low growl was heard from Kentaro on Taiga’s arrogant tone, but before he could even think about any kind of reaction Fuma was up next to them and both looked up to him as he got out of his yukata.

“Playtime already over?” Taiga asked almost disappointed.

“It’s your own fault when you two make it so hard to just sit still and watch.”

Taiga carefully sat back and slipped out, ready to make space for Fuma as the latter stepped on the futon, but Fuma reached out for his kimono and pulled it from his shoulders. With a confused look Taiga kept eying the latter as he sat down in front of him with a teasing look.

“For me playtime has just started.”

When Fuma shifted behind Taiga the boy looked at Kentaro with a lost expression, but the teasing look he got in return made him roll his eyes. “You two had planned this from the very beginning, didn’t you?”

“We don’t need words to communicate anymore after all,” Kentaro explained as he sat up and left his kimono down on the futon. Soon Taiga found himself trapped between the two and hands were all over his body, lips exploring his back, then hands finding his erection and for a moment he just gave up, throwing his head back against Fuma’s shoulder with a moan. A low chuckle was the result and when he opened his eyes again Kentaro leaned over him to give Fuma a kiss instead. That move made Taiga take action himself and he put his hands around Kentaro’s body, groping his butt on which the older one broke the kiss to take a look at Taiga.

“I guess we shouldn’t let you wait for too long?”

No they should definitely not, but it was two against one after all, so Taiga gave up on trying determining the pace. Luckily Fuma finally shifted a bit back, just to push in with a finger without a warning and Taiga almost yelped on the sudden action, but he got distracted by Kentaro with a kiss and soon he got used to Fuma’s fingers preparing him and while he rocked his hips backwards, his upper body automatically followed Kentaro as he tried to sit back.

“Are you running away?” Fuma teased him as he had to pull him back on his shoulders as he positioned himself. Distracted by Fuma pushing in Taiga didn’t realize how Kentaro had gone down on all four, but when he licked over his erection all of a sudden he took a sharp breath.

The stimulation coming from both sides was a whole new experience for him and he wasn’t sure how to act between them, but Fuma kept the latter’s upper body pressed against his chest, mostly to prevent Taiga from falling forward on Kentaro.

Fuma’s pace was fast, but his thrusts weren’t as rough as Taiga would have imagined them from the way he handled Kentaro, but he had said before that they should be nice to him today so he was sure that the older one was holding back. When it got slowly too much for Taiga his hand found Kentaro’s hair, pulling desperately on it on which Kentaro sucked even more intensely, resulting with an almost high pitched moan from Taiga.

“Such a sweet voice, you should use it more often,” Fuma whispered next to his ear before he put one hand to the younger one’s cheek and made him bend far enough so that he could kiss him.

As much as Taiga enjoyed the kiss, especially because he hadn’t expected the other one to be such a good kisser, he wanted to pull away as he realized how close he was. But realizing his struggle, Fuma’s thrusts got deeper and while it got harder for Kentaro to even move on his own with the way Taiga’s hips got rocked to the front, they both worked perfectly synchronized to drive Taiga insane and over the edge before he could even warn any of them.

The last deep moan got swallowed in the kiss and Kentaro backed off to make it possible for Taiga to collapse to the front as Fuma released him.

“Can you be that nice to me as well?” Kentaro asked with a teasing smile, but of course Fuma shook his head as he crawled over to the latter.

Taiga didn’t even care how easily the attention wasn’t on him anymore, after all a break was what he definitely needed now. Fuma on the other hand was still not done and he attacked Kentaro immediately with a deep and rough kiss on which the older one dropped to the floor and closed his legs around the latter’s hips immediately.

They were indeed handling each other way rougher than they did with him, but that was for now. Maybe time would change that, but for now he could watch without feeling left out, after all this time they had taken care of him first.

***

Chapter Text

The next workday had passed without trouble as well and somehow his time with Fuma and Kentaro had made Taiga a bit more confident and he had challenged Juri once more and won this time as he lured someone in the house after several minutes already and that even though it had been early in the morning.

He had also had his first female customer later that day and even though he had felt a bit insecure at first he was lucky to get a woman which knew exactly what and how she wanted it, so there wasn’t much Taiga could mess up.

The evening had been quiet as well, a lot of them being exhausted and none of them stayed up long, but somehow Taiga couldn’t fall asleep easily that night. Reo had been extremely quiet before and had gone to bed before all of them which was indeed unusual, but even Reo would need to rest at some point and maybe he had finally reached that point.

Taiga closed his eyes with a low sigh, but when he finally felt tired enough to fall asleep a hand landed on his face and with a groan he took away Juri’s hand and turned to his side. The room was too dark to see the other ones face, but his calm breathing made it clear that he was indeed asleep.

“You are unbelievable,” Taiga scolded him before he put his hand down between them and held on to it for a moment. Wouldn’t it be a safer choice to just keep holding it over the night? Like that Juri couldn’t move that much and had one hand less to slap him in his sleep. A bit hesitant Taiga kept Juri’s hand in his and somehow he really wanted to see the latter’s sleeping face all of a sudden, even though he knew he was acting ridiculous.

With a sigh he put Juri’s hand down after all and shook his head, yes he was indeed acting ridiculous. First he wanted to turn away and finally go to sleep, but then there was a low groan next to Juri, but it stopped immediately as if someone tried to not make a sound. It actually made Taiga sit up and he kept staring at the space Reo was lying, because he was sure it had been coming from there. Listening for a while he could hear how Reo was moving nonstop. Was he dreaming? But somehow his movements didn’t seem like the ones Juri did when he was sleeping and normally Reo was quiet when asleep. After a moment there was a sound again, this time louder and there was no doubt that it sounded like he was in pain.

Not wanting to wake the others up in case he was mistaken he crawled off the futon and to the corner where the lamp was placed. He put on the candle inside and crawled back to the futons, finding Reo completely rolled in his futon.

“Reo? Are you awake?”

No reply, but when Taiga tried to lift the blanket there was resistance and that made clear that Reo was actually holding on to it.

“Cut the crap out Reo or I will wake up the others,” Taiga whispered warningly.

With his next try he was able to pull the blanket off the boy’s head and he let out a gasp. Reo’s forehead was sweaty, his skin pale and his breathing pace extremely erratic.

“Idiot, why are you keeping quiet when you feel bad?” Taiga scolded him this time in a louder voice and Hokuto moved next to them.

“What is going on?” Hokuto asked in a tired voice, but sat up nevertheless as he realized that Taiga was up.

“Reo doesn’t feel well,” Taiga said on which Reo tried to crawl back under his blanket.

“It’s okay...it’s nothing….” Reo let out in a low voice, but even the sound of his voice made clear that he was in pain and Hokuto lifted an eyebrow at him before he sat up on his knees and pulled the blanket away completely this time.

Reo was curled up, his hands closing around his upper body. It was obvious that he had tried for some time already to play down the pain to not worry them, but he had obviously reached his limits.

“Let me see,” Hokuto said.

Reo let out a struggled sound when Hokuto tried to make him turn on his back and touched his stomach area. With a groan Reo curled up again and Taiga finally turned to Juri to wake him up.

“Mh, why are you all awake?” Juri asked sleepy before his look fell on Reo. “What’s wrong? Is he okay?”

With a worried look Juri sat up and took one of Reo’s hands in his. When Reo didn’t pull away, but squeezed Juri’s hand with a force that it could hurt the latter already it was clear in how much pain he actually was.

“I will wake up Kochi so he can prepare some cold water. We have to get the fever down. Then I’ll get Kamenashi and ask him if we should get Nakamaru here or not,” Hokuto announced and was up immediately.

“Who is Nakamaru?” Taiga asked Juri as Hokuto was already out the room.

“He is the doctor taking care of the people of the house.”

“I don’t want him to come,” Reo whispered and somehow his voice sounded scared this time.

“Why not? He can definitely help you.”

On Taiga’s words Reo shook his head and let out another pained sound as the pain seemed to get more. A bit lost Taiga looked at Juri, because he couldn’t understand why anyone would refuse a doctor’s help, but somehow Juri had the same sad and somehow understanding look on his face.

“Is there something I should know about?” Taiga asked a bit scared now.

“You know when boys like us get ill then it’s not necessarily just a cold.”

“Well, because it could be something else we are asking Nakamaru, right?” Taiga asked almost angry this time, but then there was a sniff from Reo and Taiga could see how his body started shaking and he wasn’t sure anymore if it was just of the pain.

“If we need to call Nakamaru then it’s normally because it is serious and that means that it can be something we got from the customer….” Juri explained in a low voice as if he didn’t want to say it out loud in the first place.

“From the customer, but...oh…” Finally Taiga understood and now he also felt how his stomach slowly twisted on that thought. A sexually transmitted disease would be indeed the worst case.

“Please don’t make him come…” Reo begged again, but there was no way they would let him suffer like this and luckily soon Kochi finally appeared with some water. They helped Reo drink a bit before they tried to bring the fever down.

Kamenashi had taken a look at Reo just for a brief moment before he had asked Kochi to get Nakamaru. Since that moment Reo hadn't stopped crying and Juri wouldn't let go of his hand, even though the boy had curled up again.

Taiga didn't know how to act at all. He hadn't thought of such an outcome, but he felt extremely relieved that he had noticed Reo's suffering or maybe they had found him dead in the morning. Just the thought of it made Taiga's stomach turn and all he could do was watch Hokuto how he tried to keep the fever down somehow while bringing cold fresh water every few minutes.

Kamenashi had gone downstairs again to greet the doctor and minutes later they finally entered the room together with Kochi. All they could do for now was waiting for Nakamaru to examine Reo and tell them that he could hopefully somehow help him.

Nakamaru wore a usual yukata, but before he started Kamenashi helped him to put on a beige sheet over it. Kamenashi's clothes were also just a normal yukata for the night which made him look like a common person and definitely not the owner of this place. But it was somehow a relief to see so much worry on the owner's face, it made it easier to believe that Kamenashi indeed cared for the boys.

“Would you hold him down?” Nakamaru asked after he had taken a quick look at Reo’s fever, but couldn't examine the boy's body, because Reo refused to lie on his back.

“Boys, would you help out?” Kamenashi asked and even though it was hard they all agreed and while Hokuto and Kochi went to Reo’s legs, Taiga and Juri turned Reo on his back on his shoulders.

“Please, stop! It hurts too much!” Reo begged as he started struggling and Taiga needed to use a lot of force to keep Reo on his back, because Reo still kept a hold on Juri’s hand so that the boy could just use one hand to hold him down. Hokuto and Kochi also had to watch out that they wouldn't get kicked as Reo started struggling even more.

Nakamaru ignored them as good as possible and opened Reo’s yukata, examining his stomach area and when he used more pressure there was a sudden scream from Reo which made Taiga almost let go of him.

“Please…” Reo whimpered as his struggling got weaker even though each touch on his body still seemed to hurt a lot.

Taiga dared to let go with one arm and put it to the younger one's face on which Reo looked up at him with teary eyes.

“It will be okay! Just hold on for a bit longer!”

Reo could just nod on that and with a deep breath he shut his eyes, exhaustion finally making him unable to struggle.

“Would you hand me a cup of water?” Nakamaru asked of Kamenashi after he seemed done with his examination. His expression hadn't changed at all so it wasn't clear what exactly he was thinking. Was it that bad? Or easily healed?

When he got the requested water he put some different ingredients from a medical case in it before he handed it to Taiga.

“Help him drink this.”

Taiga nodded and Juri helped Reo to sit up. First Reo wanted to spit it out again, because it tasted extremely bitter, but the boys all urged him to drink it.

“What now?” Kochi asked worried when he and Hokuto got up as it didn't seem like Reo would start struggling again.

First there was no reaction from Nakamaru and it made them worry a lot, but then he sighed and pointed to the door.

“Now you bring him to the toilet.”

“What?” Taiga asked in confusion and all the others also looked dumbfounded at the doctor.

With his next move Nakamaru put all his medical stuff back in his case before he turned towards Reo with a scolding look and suddenly hit him on the head.

Reo let out a yelp on that. “What was that for?”

“For you causing your friends so much trouble!” Nakamaru scolded him. “How much did you eat today? And more important how fast did you eat?”

A question none of them had expected, but slowly Reo seemed to get smaller between Taiga and Juri.

“Wait, does that mean…” Hokuto started as he was the first one to catch up.

“He has a stomach colic! As I know him he ate way too fast to not waste time with a too long break. Then he did the same at dinner and went for a bath after that, making his stomach unable to digest the amount so his intestine closed down, causing him a lot of pain.”

“Are you serious?” Juri asked scolding, but the question was directed towards Reo and the latter bit his lip in apology.

“It's not like it doesn't really hurt you know…” Reo tried to defend himself.

“Oh trust me we know that and it could have actually killed you if no one had realized that you were in pain,” Nakamaru explained on which Reo looked even more beaten.

“I'm sorry….”

“Don't be. We're all happy that you will be fine!” Taiga said and it finally made Reo crack a brief smile, but he was still in pain, the fever still there.

“Now hurry, because as soon as the medication starts working you won't have time to bring him to the toilet anymore.”

“Okay let's move, I won't use this room anymore if the medication shows effect here already,” Hokuto let out serious before he urged the others to help him bring Reo out of the room.

Taiga was of course happy that this time the situation wasn't as serious as they had feared, but now the talk he had with Juri before wouldn't leave his mind. How hadn't he thought about this until now? It was so easy for them to get infected with something through their customers. Had they lost boys before through it? They definitely have, but how often did it actually happen? How big was the danger? It would give Taiga a headache and some more sleepless nights, but what could he do about it? The other boys also worked with that risk and there was nowhere else they could go anyway.

***

Through the whole chaos the night before the boys got each half a day off to take care of Reo. Hokuto and Juri had stayed with him until noon and then Taiga and Kochi switched with them.

Things had calmed down since the evening and Reo had been able to sleep most of the time, but he would still need a few more days to get better.

“Did he eat?” Taiga asked Kochi who brought a trail out of the room.

“Yes the bit Nakamaru allowed him to. He is really eating way too much and definitely too fast. Even now I had to scold him to eat slower.”

Taiga shook his head on hearing that, because Reo’s unhealthy eating habit was definitely something they had to look out for.

“I'll bring the trail to the kitchen. I'll be back in a minute.”

“Take your time,” Taiga replied before he entered his room, finding Reo on his futon, this time on his back and finally not curled up anymore.

“Is the pain better?”

On Taiga's question the boy looked over to him with a brief smile. “Yes, a lot. I'm really sorry for causing you so much trouble.”

“Just don't keep silent next time, okay? And please try to eat a bit healthier from now on.”

Reo nodded with another apologizing look before he turned on his side and Taiga pulled a pillow over to him so that he could get a bit up on his elbow without using too much strength.

“Guess I've to leave my customers to you for some time.”

“Well, those which don't mind will be okay with other boys as well, right? Fu on the other hand left again.”

“What, he came?” Reo asked and for a moment it seemed like he got ready to dash out the door to get back to work.

“He said he'll come by each day from now on to ask how you are.”

“Idiot, he has way too much free time.”

Taiga chuckled on that, because he could see how happy Reo actually was about Fu worrying for him.

“By the way Kentaro said we have to take care of your duties for a few days as well. What exactly did he mean?”

Reo stood silent for a moment upon hearing that and Taiga waved his hand in front of his face when the boy seemed to have frozen.

“Everything alright?”

“Taisuke will kill me…” Reo let out and suddenly sat up on which Taiga scolded him right away, but Reo took him by the shoulders. “Taiga, I've forgotten to run my orders yesterday! If Taisuke finds out, he'll drown me in the bath.”

“What orders?”

“The newbies have no duties, but after a while you get told to run some regular orders, like food or supplies for the house.”

“Reo, don't get up. What are you doing?” Taiga scolded him as the boy suddenly hurried through the room even though it was more half crawling than running, but it still worried Taiga.

“Here,” Reo said and handed Taiga a paper before he dropped back on the futon, obviously exhausted just through this small sprint.

“A kimono order?”

“Yes, I was supposed to pick it up from Tegoshi’s shop yesterday, but because I wasn't feeling well I totally forgot. Please Taiga would you get it for me before Taisuke finds out that I forgot?”

“Is it okay for me to go?”

“As long as you bring this paper with you Tegoshi will hand you the kimono! Please?”

How could he actually say no to Reo's begging, especially because he didn't forget it because he was lazy, but ill.

“Fine, I guess Kochi will be back soon anyways, so I will go and get it for you!”

With a squeal Reo threw his arms around Taiga’s shoulders and dropped a kiss on his hair. “You are the best, thank you.”

***

It had been a while since Taiga had met Tegoshi and he felt a bit uncomfortable as he stepped inside the kimono shop, alone for the first time as he realized.

“Tegoshi?” Taiga asked in a loud voice as he couldn't see the latter anywhere. But the shop was open so he had to be around. Slowly Taiga moved through the shop, taking a look at all the expensive looking fabrics which were spread over the shelves on the first floor. For a moment he halted in front of the stairs, because he remembered that Tegoshi had told him that normal customers weren't allowed upstairs. It was just for those who had their ceremony coming up.

“Tegoshi, are you up there? I've come to pick up an order.”

No reply and after another moment Taiga let out a sigh and made a first step on the stairs.

“You want to have another ceremony?” Tegoshi was heard right next to him out of a sudden, making Taiga jolt. Like a magician he had appeared out of nowhere, now scanning Taiga with an intense look. Taiga turned towards him with an embarrassed look before he held out the piece of paper he got from Reo to him.

“I guess Kamenashi wouldn't pay me another kimono,” Taiga let out playfully and Tegoshi’s smile turned into a lopsided one as he took the paper from him. “But you can still come by our house. I've chosen some kimonos you'd definitely like.”

Even though there was no need at all anymore to try and seduce Tegoshi it somehow came naturally that Taiga tried and the latter didn't mind at all.

“Then I should definitely take a look. I've to make sure that my favorite boy looks stunning and not like a low whore.”

Which he was actually, but of course they were both aware of that. Tegoshi handed him the bag with the ordered kimono, but of course he used the chance to brush over Taiga’s hands and the younger one gave him a playful look.

“Then I'll be waiting for your opinion.”

“Am I allowed to spank you if your choice of kimonos is really bad?”

That was definitely something Taiga hadn't expected to hear from Tegoshi, but it made his smile grew even wider.

“For one choice you've to spank Juri if you don't like it.”

“Well that boy definitely deserves it.”

Taiga let out a laugh on that, because he couldn't deny that he was right.

“Be careful on your way back,” Tegoshi said before he went out to the street with Taiga and watched him until he was around the next corner.

Taiga shook his head on how easily he still ended up in some sort of seducing battle with the older one, but because of Reo’s bad condition he wanted to hurry back, taking a few short cuts he had learned from Juri before.

Somehow he also hoped to spot Aran somewhere again, but he knew that if he was on patrol he couldn't approach him anyway.

Completely in his thoughts and in a hurry he passed around the next corner, but then he suddenly got pulled back and landed on the dirty ground of the backstreet he had used as a short cut. He had let the bag with the kimono drop and wanted to pick it up, but it got kicked away before he could do so.

“What are you doing?” Taiga yelled at the other one, but when he looked up at the man he froze. This couldn't be possible. How could he have such a bad timing and why was this person around here anyway? Was it just a coincidence?

“What is a dirty brat like you doing with something expensive like this in the first place?” The man asked provokingly. The same man Taiga had interrupted as he had been Kentaro's customer. The same man which had punished him for his impoliteness.

“I'm running an order for our house, so would you mind letting me bring it back? They are waiting for this.” Taiga tried to stay as calm as possible, but it was no use, because the latter moved right away, grabbing Taiga by the hair so that he was forced to stand up again.

“Let go!” Taiga yelled and tried to make him let go, but got pushed against the back of a building as a result.

“You really have no manners. Guess your house doesn't teach you well.”

“I didn't do anything. Let go of me,” Taiga shouted this time, trying to push the other one to the back to run away, after all he could tell that the situation was about to escalate and talking wouldn't help him. Somehow it didn't feel like a coincidence at all that the man had suddenly approached Taiga again and thinking of him as some kind of stalker made even more panic rise inside him.

When he kept struggling but couldn't free himself he took another deep breath, ready to scream for help, but then he got a sudden blow in the stomach forcing him to bend to the front. When he got a grip again and started struggling once more a hand landed over his mouth and pushed him forcefully with the back of his head back against the building, on which he felt extremely dizzy out of a sudden.

No words would come out anymore, because each time he tried to take another breath he received another punch or kick, until he slid to the ground after being thrown against the building once more.

“Did that hurt? I'm not sure though you'd learn through such a short lesson.”

Taiga could taste blood in his mouth and his yukata was ripped as well, showing some bruises and cuts on his skin. Still he tried to get up. The next kick he received threw some sand from the street in his eyes and with a cough he curled up, trying to somehow avoid even worse injuries, but the other one kept yelling at him, but Taiga couldn’t even clearly understand him anymore with the way his surroundings kept spinning and his body started shutting down through the pain.

There was a sudden break and Taiga dared to take a deep breath and turn around, but when he saw how the latter took a wooden bar which was leaning against one of the other houses Taiga used his last strength to somehow get up and crawl away.

“Oh how cute, trying to run away from your punishment?”

“What’s wrong with you? I apologized for my mistake! You already punished me back then. Leave me alone already!” Taiga yelled at the man as he kept backing away, but he couldn’t even get back into a standing position and the man didn’t even seem to consider having any kind of conversation with him before he roared and lunged out with the bar.

At the last moment Taiga lifted his arm to protect his head from the impact, but the force was enough to make him scream out and he wasn’t sure if another impact couldn’t actually break his arm.

“STOP IT!” Taiga shouted again, but another impact was the only reply he got. When the bar clashed against his shoulder he turned away, but that resulted with another impact on his back.

Fear started paralyzing Taiga as he wasn’t sure anymore if the latter actually aimed to kill him, but he wouldn’t be able to defend himself anymore, because his injuries were making him almost lose consciousness. When he failed in protecting his head at one impact he felt like throwing up all of a sudden the pain too much to bear, but then the shouting of the man changed, it seemed even more outraged than before, but there was no new impact, but Taiga was too weak to even turn around.

He wasn’t sure how much time passed while he was lying there, but the pain made him unable to even get a clear picture of his surroundings in the first place, so when someone crouched down next to him he didn’t even flinch. If he got beaten again he wouldn’t be able to stop the other one anyway. And the pain returned when the other one touched his body, but he didn’t attack. Carefully someone lifted him up in his arms, but Taiga couldn’t see the other person through his blurry vision. He could feel the warmth of his own blood running over his face, the pain in his body through every move making him want to scream out, but the dizziness forcing him to stay silent.

“You’re such a troublemaker,” the other one was heard in a scolding voice, but while Taiga wanted to shot back at him that it wasn’t his fault there was no way he could even bring up the energy to reply.

When the other one finally started walking Taiga realized that the danger seemed indeed over, so he allowed his senses to finally give up on him, after all he had recognized the voice of the person carrying him and even though it was definitely not his favorite choice of someone coming to his rescue, especially because now he owed him something, he knew that for now all he should be was thankful and as much as his pride would stand in his way he had to thank him later for rescuing him.

***

“I’m sorry I didn’t inform you earlier, when I came back Taiga had already left.”

Those were the only words Taiga could clearly remember when they had entered the house again. Kochi’s voice made him realize where he was and soon Kentaro and at least Juri had been there as well, but he could just remember fragments from that moment. Too much shouting, too many voices and in the end he was brought to the back of the house. Maybe Kamenashi had been informed he wasn’t sure, but for the time being he seemed to be left alone with just one person, the one who had rescued him and it made him feel a bit uncomfortable as the fog in his mind slowly started to clear a bit again.

“You know pretending to be asleep won’t help me with your treatment. How about you talk to me instead, then I know at least where it hurts.”

Slowly Taiga dared to open his eyes, but soon he realized that one eye was swollen so badly that he could barely open it. He couldn’t recognize the room he was in which made him slightly panic out of a sudden, even though he knew he was definitely back at the house.

“This is my room in case you wondered. The boys were making way too much ruckus so I decided that it was better for you to rest here for now instead of your own room.”

With an almost careful look Taiga finally dared to face Taisuke directly. The latter wasn’t looking at him though. He had brought a case with some medical supplies with him, so at least he didn’t seem injured too badly or they would have definitely called Nakamaru over.

“Can you get out of your yukata yourself or do you need help?”

The question startled Taiga and instead of replying he looked back at the ceiling for a moment, but somehow Taisuke didn’t seem annoyed at all. Was he actually reading the atmosphere and understood that Taiga would need a bit longer to finally catch up with everything?

“Let me treat your head injury for now then, it’s still bleeding,” Taisuke said neutral and Taiga didn’t stop him as he brought a small pad down on the wound. His thoughts were still racing so he didn’t even bother with the few stings he felt while Taisuke took care of the injuries he could treat easily for now.

“Why were you there?” Taiga finally asked after a while, but at first Taisuke didn’t reply and kept treating his wound. “Did you just find me by coincidence?”

“Don’t you know the answer yourself already?”

How could he read him so easily? It had been a normal question and still his senpai could already tell that Taiga was indeed aware of the answer.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Taiga asked, but while he somehow wanted to sound scolding all he could hear in his own voice was fear and a weird kind of disappointment.

“What would you have done if I told you?”

Yes what would he have done? What would he have done if he had known that Taisuke had sent the customer away several times before already and made Kochi report to him as soon as he approached the house? That was why Taisuke had made him take weird breaks or took him out of the windowsill in a hurry. That was also why he had rescued him. Kochi had given it away when they had arrived back at the house. He had told Taisuke about Taiga leaving to Tegoshi’s shop as soon as the boy had heard it from Reo.

“See, that is why I didn’t tell you. Knowing that you don’t like me in the first place it could have backfired and you might have just acted like you could handle the situation just so you wouldn’t owe me anything.”

There it was. The part everyone had warned him about, not to owe Taisuke a favor and here he suddenly owed him a pretty huge favor.

“So you just rescued me to make me pay you back at some point?”

“Is that what you think?”

“I am not sure what to think to be honest,” Taiga replied a bit colder than he wanted to, but at the moment he was stuck between angry and confused so he wasn’t sure how to react.

“Well, then for now just think what you want,” Taisuke said before he prepared a bandage. “I will talk to Kamenashi later about your days off, after all there is no way you will get any customers with that bruised face. After I am done treating your injuries, take some rest.”

“Can’t I go back to my room to take a rest?” Taiga replied and tried to sit up, but let out a hiss as he tried to put his arm down on the floor.

“Right, so that Juri can kick you against that arm?”

It was actually the first time that Taiga had seen Taisuke’s expression a bit teasing and it made him stare at the other one nonstop while he bandaged his injured arm. When the older one looked up at him, Taiga looked to the ground right away, feeling caught like he always did when Taisuke stared back at him.

“Is there anything else I should treat right away?”

“No, I think it’s okay,” Taiga let out in a low voice and shifted a bit uncomfortable as he wasn’t sure if he should add something or not. Taisuke didn’t seem to notice though as he wanted to get up. Taiga looked up at him on that move, but before he could say anything he saw the change on Taisuke’s face as the latter wanted to push himself up, but suddenly pulled his arm up.

“Everything alright?”

“It’s nothing,” Taisuke added before he turned and put the remaining medical supplies away, but that was when Taiga noticed what was wrong and before he could stop his own body from moving he had grabbed the older one by the wrist on which Taisuke flinched, but didn’t pull away.

“How did that happen?” Taiga asked worried as he pulled the latter’s sleeve up, revealing his wrist. It was slightly swollen and the skin had turned violet on one side.

“Can’t you guess?”

“You got into a fight with the man?” Taiga asked shocked even though he should have guessed it.

“You should know the best that he wasn’t actually in a mood to just leave, so I had to make him leave somehow, but of course he wouldn’t just listen and walk away without causing some trouble.”

Taiga kept looking at his senpai’s arm as if he had been the one causing the injury. After a moment Taisuke pulled his wrist out of the other one’s grip and got up without another word.

“Taisuke…” Taiga said in such a low voice as if he hoped the other one wouldn’t hear him, but Taisuke stopped and turned towards him. Taiga bit his lip before he finally found the courage to speak again. “Thank you and I am sorry that you got hurt because of me.”

He hoped that he hadn’t sounded somehow mocking or in any way as if he didn’t mean it, because he indeed felt sorry and also thankful, but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t still carry some unnecessary pride which made it hard for him to say those words out loud. Luckily his senpai seemed to have noticed his struggle and he nodded with a serious expression.

“Just make sure that you rest for now.”

For a moment Taisuke halted in the doorframe. Did he want to add something? He looked over his shoulder, but then Taiga could hear a low chuckle as the older one shook his head and just slid the door closed behind him without another word.

What kind of reaction had that been? Before Taiga could get a headache he lay down back on the futon and rested as he was told. He was sure now that he actually owed Taisuke something he would have more time later to properly talk to him, not that it would stay at talking after all the stories he had heard about his senpai.

Chapter Text

It had been quite an uncomfortable night for Taiga and that not because of his injuries, but because Taisuke had come back in the evening to inform him that he would get at least three days off for now. After that the latter had prepared another futon in the room and as much as Taiga had tried to convince him that he could go back to his own room and would just make sure to sleep next to Hokuto instead of Juri or Reo his senpai refused.

It wasn’t clear to Taiga if he was really worried or if he had been told by Kamenashi to keep an eye on him for some time. The problem was that Taiga hadn’t been able to calm down at all with Taisuke next to him. He was sure that the latter wouldn’t try anything of course, but that didn’t stop him from looking over to the older one’s futon almost for the whole night. The full moon was out and he could clearly see the other one’s face even at night.

His exhaustion had forced him to fall asleep at some point nevertheless and when he woke up in the morning the latter wasn’t there anymore. He most likely had work and like this Taiga could finally relax a bit. But when it wasn’t actually fear which stopped him from falling asleep next to his senpai why had he kept staring at him like this? A question he couldn’t find an answer to at the moment.

“What if he comes back to take a look?”

“Hiromitsu just came by, so trust me he will be busy for a while.”

The voices in the corridor didn’t surprise Taiga at all. He had actually waited for them to finally show up. Carefully he sat up, watching out not to use his hurt arm before he waited for the two boys to enter.

“I am awake, you can come in,” Taiga said as he saw how Juri slid the door carefully open to take a look inside. On his words though Reo suddenly shoved Juri out of the way and hurried towards Taiga. Without saying anything he sat down next to him and pulled him into a hug.

“I am so sorry, Taiga. If I hadn’t forgotten about my duties this wouldn’t have happened!”

“Reo let go of him are you stupid?” Juri interfered almost yelling as he could see how Taiga tried not to scold the boy for actually hurting him instead of comforting him.

“Shit, sorry,” Reo apologized, now ready to cry as he pulled back and took a closer look at Taiga’s injuries. “What did he do to you? Damn it, this is all my fault.”

“Reo, calm down,” Taiga soothed him and put his hand to the latter’s face before he could actually get a break down. “Yes it hurts I won’t deny that, but if it hadn’t been yesterday, he would have maybe gotten me today or tomorrow. I heard that he came back to the house several times already and that Kochi and Taisuke made sure to send him away each time.”

“What, they knew he was actually following you around?” Juri asked with a shocked expression.

“Yes, but they did what they could do. It was just a bad timing for me to go out.”

“Bad timing? Taiga if they had told you then you would have been more careful.”

“Exactly, I wouldn’t have asked you to go if you knew,” Reo also interfered, but Taiga shook his head.

“Telling me would have just resulted in me getting scared of him coming for me. Staying inside the house the whole time? Fearing that after each next customer he could be the next? What kind of life would that have been?”

He couldn’t believe that he was actually defending Taisuke’s decision. But after their talk he had thought about it the whole night and his senpai had indeed made the right decision in not telling him. Slowly Juri and Reo also seemed to accept that and with a sigh Juri sat down next to Reo and lifted his hand carefully to Taiga’s eye, watching out that he wouldn’t hurt him with his touch.

“I will still make sure that this man won’t hurt you again.”

“I hope Taisuke made sure of that already,” Taiga let out a bit scared on the thought that he could get attacked again.

“Well, in case he didn’t we are here to send him to hell,” Reo explained with a bright smile which didn’t fit his threat at all, but Taiga chuckled nevertheless.

“Thank you, it’s good to know that I have some friends to rely on.”

“We are always here for you,” Juri assured him on which Taiga put his own hand over Juri’s and moved it down to press a light kiss on it.

Juri fell weirdly quiet on that action and slowly pulled his hand away, which made Taiga smile at him. Reo shot both a teasing look before he turned towards the door as he heard steps in the corridor.

“We should leave before Taisuke finds us here,” he said and got up, peeking out the corridor to make sure they could leave without anyone seeing them.

“Rest a bit more and we will take a look at you later again,” Juri said before he got up as well.

“I hope tonight I can finally come back to your room anyways. I just have to keep annoying Taisuke enough then he will let me go,” Taiga replied teasingly on which Juri let out a laugh.

“Be careful, he might just gag you instead of letting you go.”

“Guess when Kamenashi told him to take a look at me for some time there is no chance he will just let me go,” Taiga let out a bit disappointed.

“Ehm, Kamenashi didn’t tell him anything though?” Reo said on which Taiga blinked at him in confusion. “He just said you’d get three days off and then he will take a look at you once more if you can go back to work or not.”

That was information which would give him another sleepless night and several hours of staring at his senpai’s face to understand what he was up to.

***

On his second day off Taiga was finally allowed to go back to his own room. With his injuries getting better as well it was already easy to walk around and also use his arm a bit, even though it had been quite difficult to take a bath, but he somehow didn’t feel like asking someone for help. All his roommates and also Kentaro and Kochi had work, so he spent the whole day alone in his room.

Looking out the window for the windowsill had become a habit at least when Hokuto wasn’t in the room, because this was obviously his favorite spot as well.

It was noon time and he spotted Kochi at the veranda at the garden, taking a break. What surprised him was Hokuto joining him after a moment, handing him something to eat before he sat down next to him. It made Taiga smile to see Hokuto talk to Kochi with a bright smile while he was usually always the grumpy one, never really showing any interest in anything in particular. Exactly that mood was what awaited him the next morning when Hokuto was the only one who had off. Still he woke up quite early and when Taiga woke up he was sitting on the windowsill with a book already. His yukata was almost showing the same pattern as the sky. Two blue shades, mixed with some white, seeming like the cloudy day it was outside. The black obi seemed like the night approaching and while it was still morning outside, there were some heavy rain clouds on the horizon and it would definitely soon start raining.

With a sigh Taiga sat up, knowing that with the bad weather outside he would need to somehow kill time inside the house once more, not that he would feel confident enough to already go outside alone and he was sure that Hokuto wouldn’t want to spend him company on a random walk, especially if they could end up in a rainstorm.

“How are you feeling?”

Taiga looked up at the latter, but Hokuto kept reading even though he had asked him a question. “Fine, I guess. Most bruises will be okay by tomorrow I think and the swelling on my eye is also getting better. Not sure though if I can work with my arm like this.”

Instead of replying Hokuto suddenly put his book down and carefully placed his round glasses next to it before he went over to Taiga and sat down in front of him.

“Let me see.”

A bit hesitant Taiga stretched out his arm and Hokuto took the bandage off. When he touched the bruised and still swollen part with his fingers Taiga let out a hiss.

“Mh, seems like this one will take a few days longer. You should maybe ask Kamenashi for a few more days off.”

“Great, more boredom to deal with,” Taiga whispered and somehow he felt like he had offended Hokuto when he looked up at the latter. He bit his lip almost apologizing, not that he had said anything against Hokuto in the first place.

“Seems like you got used to this job quite fast.”

“Well, until now my customers weren’t that bad. Who knows how my opinion will change if I get a customer like the man who attacked me.” His own thoughts gave him a shiver and he suddenly felt like crawling back under his blanket, but suddenly Hokuto got up and pulled it away.

“Get dressed. You can’t lie around here the whole day.”

“But there is nothing I’ve to do, is there?” Taiga asked curiously as Hokuto somehow waited for him to move instead of leaving him alone.

“If you lie around here the whole time then definitely not.”

Which meant as much as first get up and get dressed, otherwise he would get angry. So Taiga did how he was told and while he put his futon back in the cupboard he saw how Hokuto was preparing some papers next to the table where his books were lying.

“What are you doing?” Taiga asked carefully as he sat down next to him, now dressed in his violet and white yukata.

“Making sure that you are busy for the rest of the day.”

First Taiga didn’t understand until Hokuto put some ink in front of him and gave him a Fude*₁.

“You want me to write? I don’t know how to write.”

Instead of replying to that Hokuto took a Fude as well and wrote some letters on the top of the white sheet he had unfolded in front of them.

“These are some of the regular kanjis you will need in and around the house. When you go to Tegoshi’s shop or are running orders for the house,” Hokuto explained before he pointed at the first Kanji. “This one means Obi. You will often find it together with a Kanji for the color Kamenashi wants you to get it from Tegoshi. The Kanjis next to it are for the colors black, white, blue and red.”

Because Taiga couldn’t read any of them at all he feared he would forget which was which right away, but he didn’t dare to interrupt Hokuto in his explanations.

“Look carefully, I will draw the one for obi once more and all you have to do is copy it.”

Taiga nodded and tried to remember all the movements Hokuto did, but it was indeed hard to remember which line he had drawn first and from where to where he had drawn.

“You try.”

With a nervous gulp Taiga moved his own Fude on the paper right under the last Kanji Hokuto had drawn. He remembered the first four lines clearly, but then he wasn’t sure anymore which had been the next one.

“Always remember, it’s from top to bottom and from left to right, there is no other right way to write them.”

That actually gave him the hint he needed and he succeeded to copy the kanji without getting scolded for making a mistake. But that didn’t stop Hokuto from chuckling at the outcome and Taiga formed an almost apologizing smile as he realized that what he had written seemed like a drawing by a six year old kid.

“Well, at least you understood the way you have to write it down. I will show you the others as well.”

Once more Taiga tried to remember them as good as possible, but this time Hokuto showed him four kanjis in a row and when it was Taiga’s turn he messed up at the third one, ending with Hokuto scolding him for making such a basic mistake. Two more times he had to write down the same kanjis before Hokuto nodded.

“Great, so the order of the lines doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore. Then copy them until the paper is full.”

“What? Until it’s completely full?” Taiga asked in disbelieve, because Hokuto had made sure that Taiga would write the kanjis as small as possible and with the space left he would need to write them at least two dozen times again if not even more and even though he used his unhurt arm for it he wasn’t used to the movement and he could feel how his wrist was complaining already.

Hokuto didn’t seem to feel pity for him though as he sat down on the windowsill again and put his glasses back on. “Learning by doing,” he replied before he opened his book again. “And make sure to put the sleeves of your yukata up before you proceed or you’ll definitely strain the floor with the ink.”

With a pouting expression Taiga turned back to the sheet. It wasn’t like Taiga had anything better to do and being able to read and write even a bit could be extremely helpful, but the way Hokuto made him learn the Kanjis didn’t make it a fun task. Still he felt somehow challenged and he would try his best to write them down as good as possible so that Hokuto wouldn’t make even more fun out of him later.

***

With a low curse Taiga slid the door to the bath open, carefully taking the yukata from his shoulders without making the ink spread to even more parts.

“Damnit,” Taiga hissed as he saw how much he had actually ruined his yukata and that while he had succeeded in not spilling any of the ink until he was almost done, but when he wanted to lift the paper up in the end to show it to Hokuto he hadn’t seen that the ink was standing a bit on the paper and it spilled over the lower part of his yukata.

“What happened?”

Taiga flinched on the question, because he hadn’t realized that someone was in the bath.

“Juri, what are you doing here so early?” Taiga asked back.

“I just got off a bit earlier. So what’s with all the cursing?”

Taiga turned to show him the ink on the yukata and the boy bit his lip. “Oh that’s not good. Ask Kochi later to help you with getting it clean. This happened to Hokuto before as well and Kochi helped him at that time to get the yukata clean again.”

“When it happened to him too why is he yelling at me for it?”

“Wait, this happened because of Hokuto?”

Taiga put the yukata to the side and walked to the washing place to get his skin clean which had a few strains of the ink as well. “Not exactly because of him, but he taught me a few kanji and in the end I didn’t watch out and spilled it. I didn’t know he could be that scary…”

Well, that was actually a lie, but what had happened before the ceremony was a different kind of scary and Hokuto yelling was definitely not one of his favorite moods of his.

“Wait, he seriously taught you how to write?”

“Yes, he seems to be pretty educated after all. But you guys can all write and read, can’t you?” Taiga asked when he entered the bath on which Juri backed a bit off, maybe to make some space for him, but the bath was big so there was actually no need to back off that much, but Taiga didn’t comment on it for now.

“I can read and write basics not more and that is all I was able to teach to Reo as well, because he couldn’t write or read either when he came here.”

“So why didn’t you ask Hokuto to help you?”

“We did, but he refused.”

“What? Then why did he teach me? He even said that I should continue with practicing regularly and that he would give me new kanji every few days.”

Taiga knew the meaning of Juri’s smile already, but somehow it didn’t have the same teasing as usual. Somehow it seemed a bit gloomy instead of bright. “Somehow you easily get everyone’s attention, I wonder why they are all so fond of you?”

“Well, Hokuto doesn’t even seem to like this job, so his and Taisuke’s intentions aren’t the same I think.”

“Oh don’t be so sure of that, just because Hokuto doesn’t seem so into his job it doesn’t mean that he can’t get close to people.”

For Kochi that was obviously right, but why would he even bother getting closer to Taiga? From the very beginning he had just caused trouble for him and now he was suddenly helping him with something he normally did for no one else?

A low groan from Juri made Taiga snap out of his thoughts and he looked at the younger one in slight worry as the boy rested his head on his arms on the side of the bath.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, all good.”

“Shouldn’t you maybe get out and take some rest for today?”

“I’ll get out in a bit,” Juri replied, but Taiga wasn’t satisfied with that reply, because it was obvious that Juri had been in the bath for too long anyway. Maybe he had planned on leaving when Taiga entered.

“I don’t mind if you leave first, I can also leave with you together if you want?”

“No, really it’s okay.”

This time Taiga got angry at the latter for the first time, because no it was obviously not okay, whatever was wrong with him and still he tried to not worry him. Which was weirdly exactly the same way Taiga behaved when he had something that could bother Juri.

“Tell me what is wrong.”

“Why do you think something is wrong?”

“Juri cut the crap out! You got off early from work, are still in the bath even though it’s obvious that you need to get out, so what are you hiding?”

Feeling obviously caught Juri finally gave up on lying to the older one, especially because Taiga’s tone had turned to angry and maybe now he felt a bit guilty for lying.

“It’s really not that bad, I just...didn’t want to worry you.”

“I figured that out already, but remember that this can end badly? Like Reo?”

“I am not ill though, don’t worry!” Juri added in a hurry as he feared Taiga could actually really worry way too much.

“What is it then?”

A bit hesitantly Juri finally stood up and turned around, that was when Taiga let out a gasp and jumped up immediately to take a closer look at Juri’s bruised back. That was why he had backed away at first, why he remained in the bath. He didn’t want Taiga to see what his last customer had done to him.

“I feared that after what happened to you just recently you would feel even more troubled, knowing that complicated customers are not as rare as we always hope.”

“Juri, that doesn’t matter now at all!” Taiga cut him almost harshly before he made him sit down on the edge of the bath. “This looks horrible, was he allowed to do this?”

Taiga didn’t even dare to touch the fresh bruises, because he could tell that they were hurting a lot.

“He paid the highest price and it’s not like he used anything forbidden to leave those marks.”

That comment made Taiga take an even closer look and in shock he realized that those bruises had indeed been left through nails burying in his back. Some were maybe also caused through beating, but he could clearly see the small open cuts as well now and for a moment he didn’t know what to say.

“Please don’t worry about it too much. It really isn’t as bad as it looks!” Juri said on Taiga’s silence and turned towards him. Taiga sat in front of him on the edge of the bath now while Juri took his hands in his own. “I know this kind of job can be really tough and you will have to face more hardship from here on as well, but we are all like a family here, so no matter what happens we will protect you.”

A low chuckle escaped Taiga on which Juri blinked at him in confusion. “You are the one who got hurt, you are the one which had a bad experience today and still you try to comfort me? I am not sure if you are stupid or just way too nice?”

That question made an embarrassed smile appear on Juri’s lips. “Maybe a bit of both?”

Instead of a reply Taiga squeezed the boy’s hands before he leant to the front and placed a short kiss on the latter’s forehead.

“Then let’s make sure you learn how to be a bit nicer to yourself as well, shall we?”

Juri’s smile grew even wider on that and he nodded before he stood up and pulled Taiga up gently.

“Is your arm okay?” Juri asked as he realized that it was still swollen and dark violet. But before he could examine it Taiga had suddenly hit him on the head.

“Worry for your own injuries for now, would you?”

“I am way better in worrying for you though.”

“Is that a compliment?” Taiga asked teasingly as they got ready to leave.

“You want it to be one?”

“Mh, maybe?”

Chapter Text

In the end Taiga had to take two more days off to make sure that his arm was okay, but eventually he was able to go back to work without any problems. It surprised him a bit how easily he had gone back into the windowsill and didn’t mind strangers getting interested in him. Was he that prepared to get even a dangerous customer? Had this bad event been of help instead of making him feeling scared? The real challenge would be when he’d actually get a more complicated customer, but for now he didn’t want to worry about that too much.

“Are you taking a break?” Reo asked when Taiga stood up and wanted to leave the windowsill.

“Well, I had two customers already, but since it’s not quite busy outside I might just take a break now.”

“Take it slow, it’s been just a few days since you’re back at work.”

“Says the right one,” Taiga scolded the younger one who gave him an apologizing look. But luckily Reo was completely fine as well and as usually he didn’t care for breaks that much, but he had promised everyone to take better care of himself from now on. “Just make sure you take at least a short break later, because now you will be busy for some time.”

Reo blinked at him in confusion until he pointed outside the window with a teasing smile and when Reo followed his look he formed a bright smile as he spotted Fu walking up to their house. Without even waiting for the boy to enter the house Reo jumped out the windowsill and hurried to the entrance.

With a quiet laugh Taiga followed the boy after all he had to pass by the entrance to make it to the back of the house. When he arrived at the door Reo was pulling Fu inside one of the corridors already.

“Those two are so lively all the time.”

When Taiga recognized a familiar voice he looked towards the entrance door where Hiromitsu had just entered after Fu and he was staring after him with a smile.

“Oh, our little troublemaker back at work?”

Taiga didn’t even have to ask how he knew about what had happened, after all if Taisuke talked to anyone about private matters then it was definitely Hiromitsu.

“Taiga, are you on your way to take a break?” Kochi was heard next to them all of a sudden and when Taiga nodded Kochi turned towards Hiromitsu with an apologizing look. “Sorry, Taisuke has off today, didn’t he tell you?”

“Mh, he normally forgets to mention his days off,” Hiromitsu replied with a calm smile.

“You want to come back another day or shall I call Kentaro instead?”

“No it’s okay. I will borrow him instead if you don’t mind?”

It took Taiga a moment to realize that Hiromitsu was pointing at him. With a confused expression he pointed at himself and Hiromitsu nodded with a teasing smile.

“He is free so yes I can give you a room.”

Taiga turned towards Kochi with a death glare, but the boy didn’t notice it or he was extremely good at ignoring it. Taiga flinched a bit when Hiromitsu stepped next to him and put his arm around his shoulder. “I promised you that we would play, right?”

Yes he remembered that, but somehow he felt nervous out of a sudden. Was it because he was Taisuke’s customer? But he would soon find out if there was any reason to get nervous or not, because the excuse that he wanted to take a break wouldn’t work, so in the end he followed the older one towards a room Kochi prepared for them.

“So how did things go since you’ve started working?”

It wasn’t the question itself which startled Taiga, but the fact that Hiromitsu was bothering with asking anything in the first place. He sat down on the futon after taking his swords out his hakama and putting them to the side before he signaled Taiga to sit down as well. A bit hesitant Taiga sat down in front of him, but he just kneeled on the side of the futon, somehow not trusting the situation, so for now he just tried to be polite.

“Well, until now most of my customers were easy to handle and there were just a few incidences, which weren’t that pleasant.”

“What kind of incidence?”

Was there any need to reply? The way Hiromitsu had greeted him at the entrance had shown that he knew what had happened.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“No that’s not it,” Taiga replied in a hurry, not wanting to make the latter angry, but Hiromitsu didn’t seem offended by his hesitation.

“I just wondered if you haven’t talked with Taisuke about everything already.”

“I indeed have.”

“Then why do you want to hear it again? I mean I don’t want to bore you with private problems.”

“Well exactly that is the problem,” Hiromitsu replied to his confusion. “Taisuke talks to me about stuff like this from his point of view. He tells me what troubles him, but not the others. So this time I am asking you for your point of view. How you feel about what happened!”

“But why would you want to know about that?”

Taiga hoped that he didn’t seem annoyed, but he was honestly just confused and luckily Hiromitsu smiled at him, obviously understanding his troubles.

“I am coming to this house for a long time already. I know all the members and while some are pretty close to me, others aren’t. But I can easily tell when you boys are troubled and you are extremely troubled at the moment. I bet talking with the other boys or even with your senpais isn’t that easy, right?”

Was he really troubled? Somehow he couldn’t reply to that question immediately. After all he was working normally and he didn’t feel scared or like he was behaving differently than normally, but Hiromitsu had sensed something else somehow.

“Just tell me what happened. Let me know how you felt at that moment and how you feel about it now. After all pretending to be okay is way easier than actually being really okay.”

There was another moment of silence in which Taiga nervously twiddled his fingers, but the older one kept waiting patiently.

“It scared me,” Taiga said without actually knowing from where to start, but the other one could still just interrupt him if he annoyed him. “I hadn’t thought of the possibility of him coming back to the house and definitely not about him stalking after me. I know I made a mistake on that day, but he had been allowed to punish me so I felt like it was over. I still wonder what has driven him to hold such a grudge against me?”

Taiga paused, but the latter didn’t seem like he wanted to have an actual discussion about that topic, at least not now.

“Anyway, now I don’t actually feel scared anymore, which I have to admit seems a bit weird to myself, because I know that he could come back or that someone else could show up and do something even worse.”

“And still you do your job like every other day.”

“I guess so? I mean I seriously don’t think that I am just pretending to not be scared. I feel, well, how to say it…”

“Safe?”

After a moment of letting the word sink in Taiga nodded, because wasn’t that actually the case?

“Even though that man hurt you that badly and you know that it could happen again?”

“Yes he hurt me, but Taisuke was there to help me, later all the others were there to support me and it feels like we’re always having each other’s back somehow.”

Somehow his own words felt a bit cheesy, but it was the truth after all. He had helped Reo, because he was worried, Juri tried to hide something from Taiga so that he wouldn’t feel uncomfortable and Taisuke, he rescued him, because...he was worried as well?

“I know that look. You think Taisuke just helped you so that you would owe him something.”

Taiga shook his head right away, because that was something he couldn’t tell one of Taisuke’s regular customers, especially not when he was sure that Hiromitsu would tell Taisuke later that they had talked. “Don’t worry, it’s not a wrong thing to assume, at least depending on the situation. After all Taisuke is good with games.” Before Kitayama continued he shifted a bit to the front and sat closer to Taiga, suddenly a more serious expression on his face. “But let me tell you that no matter how much he likes games, he would never risk any of your boy’s safety for it!”

Which meant as much as he had really worried and had tried his best to keep that man away from the house.

“So, feeling better now?” Hiromitsu asked as he suddenly sat a bit to the back with a teasing smile. Taiga just nodded, because at least some things were clearer now, but even if Hiromitsu told him that Taisuke was worrying for him and the other boys he had also said that he liked games after all, so it wasn’t like he could just sit back and ignore him from now on.

“Then come on, entertain me a bit.”

With a confused look Taiga blinked at the older one, because Hiromitsu didn’t move at all. There was no move from him to get out of his clothes or give Taiga any orders what to do. He was just lying on his side on the futon and kept looking at Taiga.

“Ehm, what exactly do you want me to do?”

“What I said, I want you to entertain me. How you do that is your choice.”

That was a pretty vague statement and Taiga felt how his insecurities got the upper hand. Because Fuma had told him and Kentaro more clearly what to do and Kentaro had helped him understand if he hesitated, but this time he was completely on his own. Was he allowed to touch the other one? Was he supposed to get undressed? Too many questions, too many things he wasn’t sure he was allowed or not allowed to do.

“Hey, what’s the panic for?” Hiromitsu asked when he saw the younger one’s troubled expression. “Just get creative. I won’t scold you for anything. I might laugh at you though, depending on how badly you fail.” The mocking smile Hiromitsu formed made something jump inside of Taiga. Like an engine that had been switched on his nervousness changed into something else. A challenge always made him feel some tingling inside his body and he wanted to immediately change the latter’s expression. A surprised, maybe even stunned expression would fit him much better.

Instead of getting any clothes out of the way, Taiga moved away from the futon and grabbed the shorter sword which Hiromitsu had put down. First he halted a moment, giving the older one a questioning look if he was allowed to touch them, but the other one wasn’t complaining so he took it with him as he sat down on the futon again. Carefully and with a slow movement he pulled it out. It was the first time for him to actually hold a sword so he was extremely fascinated on how beautiful the blade was forged.

“Don’t cut yourself,” Hiromitsu said as Taiga moved his fingers over the blade. When he looked up again his look had darkened and Hiromitsu seemed to have noticed the change. Something dangerous was nesting in his eyes now as Taiga stood up slowly and moved the sword carefully between both hands. He had no clue how to hold it the right way, but he could feel how the hilt felt good in his hands, that was when he closed both hands a bit tighter around it before he stepped closer to the older one.

“The one who should be careful not to get cut is you,” Taiga let out warningly, the tip of the blade pointing at Hiromitsu’s face. The latter’s smile had fallen, an entertained look now on his face.

“Then what do I need to do to not get cut?”

With a careful movement Taiga moved the blade towards the belt of his hakama. “Get rid of this.”

“And if I don’t want to?” Hiromitsu asked challenging.

“Then I will cut it into pieces and make you leave without it.”

Taiga started to feel too confident in his role and he forced himself to take a deep breath before he could actually get too demanding or annoying. He had to keep analyzing the other one’s reaction to not overstep any borders. For now he seemed safe though, because Hiromitsu sat up a bit to open his hakama and Taiga kept looking until he had tossed it to the side. Somehow it felt like he was the customer this time and he could understand why people actually liked it when he slowly got out of his clothes, letting them see more and more skin bit by bit.

“And now?” Hiromitsu let out challenging as he sat up on his knees and Taiga needed to pull the sword back a bit as the other one leant a bit closer. A chuckle was the reply to that, because after all the other one knew how dangerous his own weapon was, but in the hands of a nervous boy it could cause some trouble after all.

“Now this one follows,” Taiga ordered as he moved the blade a bit lower and touched the fabric of Hiromitsu’s remaining clothes. He had to watch out not to cut the fabric and he could feel how his hands started shaking slightly. Even though he had chosen the shorter sword it was quit heavy.

Once more Hiromitsu moved obediently and Taiga found himself staring at the latter’s body for some time before he shook his head and tried to switch back into his role. Was he allowed to take it even further? To demand even more? The latter’s eyes were still filled with an amused shine, but they also carried something dangerous as if he just waited for Taiga to make a mistake.

“Are you not going to join me?”

“You do it!” Taiga ordered, but when the other one wanted to get up, Taiga pressed the flat side of the blade on the latter’s shoulder. Hiromitsu’s look landed on the blade for a moment, obviously just to confirm that Taiga wouldn’t accidently cut him, but then his eyes were back on him. “Do it from down there.”

Now the danger in the latter’s eyes got more visible, but he still obeyed and moved a bit closer to Taiga on his knees before he reached out for his obi to open it. With a slow movement he took it off and it was definitely no accident that the older one pressed his hands on the younger one’s body here and there a bit. The kimono fell open a bit as the obi was gone and a smile finally appeared on Hiromitsu’s face again. “You want me to take it off completely?”

“Yes,” Taiga said, but stepped back when the other one wanted to reach out for the kimono. “But you are not allowed to use your hands.”

The excitement level seemed to have reached its peak and Hiromitsu’s eyes were sparkling.

“Stand up,” Taiga ordered and took the sword a bit down. “Show me how talented your mouth is.”

What a choice of words, he was somehow proud of himself on the way he was able to seduce Hiromitsu like this. The latter stepped right in front of him and leant closer to his lips first. “I will have you to show me your talent later then as well,” he whispered before he leant to the boy’s neck. Instead of biting into the collar of the kimono directly he first moved his lips up and down the fabric a bit before he stepped behind Taiga. When he moved his mouth closer again he touched Taiga’s neck with his lips before he moved a bit more to the front closer to his collarbone. Just when Hiromitsu’s tongue was out on his skin for a moment Taiga failed in keeping calm and he closed his eyes with a deep breath. The older one proceeded to take the kimono between his teeth and pull it slowly down the younger one’s shoulders.

When the kimono dropped to the ground the older one moved his lips up to the younger one’s ear and Taiga could feel how he was forming a smile.

“And is my mouth talented enough?”

Before Taiga could even find a fitting reply he was bitten in the ear and he completely failed in hiding a moan and he had to watch out not to let the sword drop.

“You know what the easiest way is to defeat an enemy?”

 Taiga looked a bit over his shoulder instead of replying, after all he didn’t know the answer.

“Make your enemy feel like he has the upper hand. Make him lose his concentration and then…”

Hiromitsu’s hands were on Taiga’s body without him even realizing it, but he had no time to react, because instead of just touching him, Hiromitsu suddenly shifted his weight and without knowing what was actually happening Taiga completely lost orientation as he was thrown to the ground. He couldn’t even think about getting the sword out of the way or how to not hurt himself. But all those decisions hadn’t been in his hand anyway. When everything stopped spinning around him he dared to open his eyes again and with a gasp he realized that the sword was pressed right against his neck, with Hiromitsu’s face so close to him that their lips were almost touching. Taiga couldn’t even remember when the latter had snatched away the sword nor how he had ended up on top of him with one hand on his back and the other hand on the hilt, with the word between them.

“Then you can make them fall in whatever trap you want,” Hiromitsu completely his sentence from before and Taiga let out a shaking breath as he realized that he had stopped breathing. But this was just the beginning of Hiromitsu’s trap as he slowly moved the sword away and the way the cold metal touched Taiga’s skin, but didn’t leave a cut made him shiver.

He was sure that he had definitely succeeded in entertaining Hiromitsu a lot until now, but the same applied the other way around. Who knew what the latter was capable of when he was with Kentaro or even Taisuke and somehow Taiga wanted to know, but for now he had to surrender, after all he had fallen into the enemy’s trap.

***

“Juri, don’t run away! Come back here!”

 The shouting came from the second floor and Taiga stopped next to the stairs right before Juri dashed down and almost ran into him. He suddenly took Taiga by the shoulders and gave him an intense stare. “Tell him I ran outside.”

With a confused expression Taiga nodded and looked after Juri as he dashed passed him around the next corner. When he heard fast steps on the stairs he turned back and soon an annoyed looking Taisuke came into his sigh. That actually made him relax, because first he had feared Juri had problems with a customer.

“Where is he?” Taisuke addressed the boy.

“If you mean Juri he just dashed out the front door,” Taiga said and pointed towards the door. Taisuke didn’t seem to doubt his words at all. He clicked his tongue before shaking his head. “Why can’t he take care of his duties on time, I always have to scold him first.”

With that Taisuke went back upstairs and Taiga couldn’t hide a small smile as he looked after him.

Several weeks had passed in the house. It was calm in Yoshiwara and none of them had any big trouble with new customers. There were some small things here and there where they had to make the senpais or even Kamenashi interfere, but no one had actually had any big trouble. Taiga had messed up one time with a customer, resulting in Kamenashi getting quite angry with him and scolding him for almost an hour in his room. Juri and the others had waited for him the whole time, worried as he was gone for such a long time. But it hadn’t been something to take Taiga’s confidence away and he had kept working normal. Also his reading and writing lessons with Hokuto continued and Reo had become so jealous at some point that Hokuto had allowed him to take part sometimes as well.

Still smiling Taiga turned around the corner, finding Juri hiding at the corner. “Did he buy the lie?”

“Yes he did,” Taiga said before he gave the other one a scolding look. “What did you forget this time?”

“It’s not like I forgot, but that lady at the market is really scary and she doesn’t seem to like me, so I hoped I could ask Kochi to get it in the morning, but I heard he doesn’t feel well.”

“Is that why Hokuto suddenly took off?” Taiga asked and Juri nodded.

“He is looking after him at the moment.”

“Then I guess you have to go to the market after all,” Taiga said before he kept moving, but Juri kept following him around.

“Did you take your break already?”

“Juri, forget it,” Taiga scolded him before the boy could even try to ask.

“Please Taiga~ At least come with me?”

“Come with you where?” Reo was suddenly heard as he entered from the back of the house.

“Oh, you are done for today?” Taiga asked as Reo wore a white yukata with a beige bamboo pattern while he had been in one of his usual kimonos in the morning.

“I have to run an urgent order for Kamenashi.”

“What a perfect timing,” Juri almost yelled on which Taiga hit him on the back of the head.

“Timing for what?”

“To ask you for a favor!”

***

“I can’t believe this!”

“You could have said no.”

Yes Taiga could have indeed said no, but leaving all the work to Reo didn’t feel right after Juri had succeeded in convincing Reo to take care of his duties as well. Taiga had changed into his violet/white Yukata and hurried to leave with Reo before the market could close.

“That lady is super nice to me all the time, I wonder how Juri succeeded in pissing her off,” Reo wondered as they walked towards the market place.

“Maybe he talked too much?” Taiga asked with a teasing smile on which Reo started laughing.

“That might be the reason. If he starts talking once you can’t stop him.”

That is something Taiga had realized over the past weeks, but somehow he didn’t mind and each time Juri realized he kept talking for hours in the evening or when they were in the bath, he apologized, making Taiga tease him about it later.

“You get along with Juri pretty well recently.”

“Well, the same as with you and the others I guess?” Taiga said while shrugging his shoulders.

“Mh, are you sure?”

“What, why shouldn’t I?” Taiga asked in confusion, because there was really nothing which stood between him and Juri. “Did he say anything? Am I bothering him?”

“No, don’t worry. That’s not it. You are just, how to say it, keeping your distance.”

Was he? Because he hadn’t noticed something like that. He was with him a lot even on their days off after all.

“I didn’t mean in the usual way.”

“What do you mean then?”

“Okay then let me ask directly: you didn’t sleep with him yet, did you?”

That question made Taiga stop dead on his tracks. No he hadn’t, but was it something that made the others believe they wouldn’t get along? After all Reo had invited him at first and with Kentaro he had Fuma as the same customer. Until now he had also joined Reo and Fu once and he was still waiting for Taisuke to finally make a move. But with Juri it was different. He didn’t even think about it, or did he? He had held his hand at night several times by now, normally because the boy had tossed it over him in his sleep and he had just kept their fingers entwined to keep him still. He also kept staring at him when he was sleeping or enjoyed to see his smiles, but that was it.

“Don’t overthink it so much. If everything is okay in your opinion then leave it as it is, but maybe you should ask Juri at some point how he feels about it?”

Reo’s suggestion made Taiga somehow worry, because could it be that Juri felt differently about them? Did he actually hope for Taiga to make a move on him? Or even worse did he want him to stay away more?

“Taiga, come on we have to hurry,” Reo shouted over to him as Taiga had fallen several meters behind while thinking about what Reo had just said.

They hurried to get everything from their list and left the market right before it closed. The lights of the houses around were on already, the days now getting shorter. It was getting louder already, with the small bars around opening their doors for customers. Some were already drunk and shouting on their way out the bars.

“Ah, really now?” Reo was heard next to him out of a sudden and when Taiga looked at him the boy was looking at his shoes. One of the strings had ripped. “Taiga, would you hold this for a moment?”

Taiga took the bag he was carrying from him while Reo tried to somehow attach the string good enough so that he could at least make it back to their house.

“Perfect, that should hold,” Reo announced before he stretched his arm out and wanted to take his bag back. Before he could grab it though someone suddenly grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him away from Taiga with such a harsh pull that the latter let out a whine.

“Hey!” Taiga scolded the man next to them immediately. He wore a quite fancy looking red white yukata and had longer hair, almost hiding his eyes with the rest up in a ponytail, but Taiga still saw the death glare towards his direction.

“Why are you not at the house?” The man addressed Reo with a threatening tone on which Taiga wanted to make a step towards them, but Reo stretched out his arm towards him, signaling him to stay out of it. Even though the older one still kept a tight grip on the boy’s wrist Reo formed a soft smile before he bowed towards the other one a bit.

“Domoto-dono, it has been a long time since you visited Yoshiwara. If I had known that you were on your way to our house I would have made sure to greet you. My apologies.”

It was the first time that he heard Reo speak in such a polite way and it seemed like he calculated every move carefully, chose every word before he spoke. Nevertheless the older one still seemed angry and pulled on his arm instead of letting him go. Reo was forced to step closer to him and suddenly Domoto’s hand was on his face on which Taiga had to gather all his patience to not interfere. After all this wasn’t their house. They weren’t at work at the moment.

“Well, I found you now, so let’s go.”

The latter started pulling Reo after him, but this time Taiga moved to block their way. Domoto looked at him with a dangerous expression, but Taiga wouldn’t get that easily scared anymore.

“The house closes in a few minutes, so you need to wait until tomorrow to come back. We are also not at work at the moment, so would you please let us leave?”

He had succeeded in at least adding a bit of polite speech, but his look told how annoyed he was by the latter. Before the older one could reply though Reo shot between them and pushed Taiga a bit to the back.

“Stay out of this,” Reo scolded him in a low voice, which made Taiga blink at him in confusion. After all it was rare to see Reo getting worried or angry, but this time he seemed both and that quite a lot. “Domoto-dono, are you in town tomorrow as well? I would love to invite you to our house if you are?”

“No reason to wait,” Domoto let out impatiently. “I have the money with me, so it doesn’t matter if it’s the house or not.”

Without waiting for a reply he tried to pull Reo away from the main road on which Taiga panicked. Was he really trying to do it somewhere in the back streets instead of coming back the next morning?

“Wait, you can’t just-”

“Taiga, shut it! It’s okay!” Reo hissed at him and pushed him away as he tried to grab Reo’s arm to pull him back.

“What are you saying, it’s not! Let go of him!”

“No, Taiga, stop it!” Reo yelled this time, but Taiga wouldn’t let him get dragged away like this. He was way too worried about what could happen and Kentaro had told them that this was strictly against the rules, so why did Reo not try to get away?

“Boy, don’t go on my nerves, I warn you!” Domoto addressed Taiga when the boy clenched his hands in Reo’s sleeve so that Domoto couldn’t easily drag him along.

“Warn me? You are the one breaking the rules here! Let me warn you that this will have consequences!”

“Consequences?” Domoto asked in amusement, his eyes suddenly scanning Taiga with an intense stare and his look turned to something amused and challenging. “Oh boy, you have no clue.”

“Please ignore him, he is still new,” Reo interfered, but this time Domoto pulled him almost behind him and that with such a rough movement that Taiga couldn’t keep a hold on him.

“Let him go!”

“Taiga, leave!” Reo tried his luck once more, but Taiga tossed the bags he was holding finally to the ground to be able to fight the other one if necessary.

Taiga tried to reach out for Reo, but the latter tried to push him away and keep Domoto away from Taiga at the same time, resulting in the three of them pushing forth and back before Reo had enough and pushed Taiga with such a force that the boy landed on the ground.

Taiga got ready to dash forward again and this time he would definitely punch that arrogant bastard. He had already prepared himself for a fight, but when he was up on his feet there was a hand on his shoulder holding him back.

“How about you leave the fighting to those who can actually win?”

A familiar voice made him swirl around, but at the same time he also wanted to dash after Reo, because Domoto had of course not waited for him to get up again, but had vanished with Reo around the next corner. When he turned around he found Hikaru and Myuto behind him. With a panicked expression he looked from them back to the corner, but then Myuto slapped him on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry newbie, let the adults solve this.”

With that Myuto followed Domoto and Reo while Hikaru remained next to Taiga.

“Are you not going with him?”

“Trust him and also trust Reo, he knows what he is doing, even though I wouldn’t actually call any of those idiots an adult,” Hikaru let out with a mocking smile before he walked away with calm steps. That move made Taiga panic even more. What was going on, why was everyone behaving that calm?

“Are you not worried for Myuto? And why would Myuto help him? The last time we met-”

“I heard about the last time you met. Myuto can be quite a brat, but the same applies for Reo that is why they are like brothers. You don’t have to worry for them.”

That couldn’t help Taiga calm down, but Hikaru suddenly put his hand on his hair on which Taiga peered up at him. “Protecting the rules is important, but sometimes you have to protect your friends or also yourself. This business can be quite dangerous and you still have to learn a lot to make sure you won’t bring yourself or your friends into trouble.”

For the time being they remained on the main street, but Taiga couldn’t calm down, while Hikaru looked around as if he was on a regular evening walk.

It was when Taiga was ready to run out of patience that he finally saw Reo and Myuto walk up to them. Taiga dashed towards them immediately and squeezed his hands before he took a closer look at him.

“Are you okay? What was that? Who was he?”

“Taiga calm down, everything is okay,” Reo said in a soothing voice and squeezed the latter’s hand back with a brief smile.

“It didn’t seem okay, don’t lie to me!”

“Boy, come on, don’t be so overdramatic. Getting fucked in a back street isn’t the end of the world,” Myuto interfered with an annoyed look, his arms crossed to his chest.

“What, you didn’t stop him?” Taiga asked scandalized. “Why did you go after him then? I trusted you! You said you’d help him!” Taiga yelled first at Myuto then at Hikaru.

“And he did, by having an eye on the situation,” Reo explained calmly. But everything they said didn’t make any sense to Taiga. All it did was making him feel nauseous. A stranger dragging Reo away, Reo not fighting back even though he knew it was against the rules to accept customers outside the house, Myuto and Hikaru pretending to help them, while Myuto did nothing else but watch! What was going on? Where was the sense in that?

“Where is that guy now?”

“He left. He isn’t around here often,” Reo said neutral.

“But he might come back.”

“Oh, he definitely comes back. As long as our little Reo is here,” Myuto said almost teasingly.

“Well, I know how to be polite that is why he doesn’t show up at your house as often as at mine.”

Stuck between stunned and angry Taiga kept looking from one to the other. Was it really the time to tease each other? Feeling like no one would listen to him anyway Taiga grabbed the bags and started moving towards their house without uttering another word. There was no need for a thank you, after all none of them had actually helped and when Reo seemed okay with how he was treated by that customer he wouldn’t feel sorry for him either. No one tried to stop him, but he had the feeling that Reo wouldn’t let him off like this. Sooner or later he would try and have a talk about it, but that was definitely going to happen later, because now he was extremely confused and angry about what had just happened.

***

Chapter Text

“It really bothers you, doesn’t it?” Juri asked when Taiga kept sitting in the windowsill with crossed arms for what felt like hours already.

“I don’t get why we have such rules if no one cares if they get broken. How are we supposed to protect ourselves when no one cares if we get hurt or not?”

Since the evening Taiga had been in the same annoyed mood thanks to what had happened to Reo. The boy had assured him until late in the evening that everything was fine, but Taiga had kept rolling his eyes at him and tried to make his point clear. At some point Hokuto had scolded them both and made them go to bed.

Taiga could tell that Reo felt kind of guilty, because he had been out of the room early and tried to avoid Taiga since then, but Taiga kept feeling bothered about it.

“Happenings like yesterday are rare, but they actually protect us instead of hurting us,” Juri tried to explain.

“Hikaru and Myuto were there as well, we could have easily done something!”

“And then?”

“What do you mean? Then everything would have ended without anything happening.”

“And the next time? What if Reo is alone the next time? And that after you pissed Domoto off? What would he do to Reo then? Or what would he do to you or Myuto if you piss him off?”

Taiga wanted to immediately protest that if they thought like that then there was nothing at all they could do to protect each other, but Juri realized what he wanted to say and he shook his head.

“I am not saying that if something really dangerous happens you shouldn’t interfere, but Domoto isn’t going to do anything bad to Reo. He is his favorite boy in whole Yoshiwara, but he is, well kind of possessive and not around here that often because he has not that much time to come by. But he has a lot of influence and pissing him off is seriously dangerous! So in his case breaking the rules is indeed the safest choice so that no one gets hurts! Trust me Reo would beat up everyone who tries to hurt any of his friends outside or also inside the house, but he knows when it’s better to stay calm.”

With a pout Taiga gave up on the conversation. It wasn’t like he didn’t get Juri’s point, but his pride was too high to admit that he indeed understood now why Reo tried to make Taiga stop interfering. Now his anger had changed into feeling stupid for needing Juri to explain everything and even having Reo who was way younger than him behaving like the protective older brother.

“I’m taking a break,” Juri announced all of a sudden and clapped Taiga on the shoulder before he left. Of course the other one would immediately realize when Taiga felt somehow annoyed and giving him some space was definitely the wisest choice.

With a sigh Taiga closed his eyes for a moment, ignoring the people passing by, after all his mood had been bad enough over the whole morning to scare away everyone. But maybe he should actually try now to get some customers to distract himself?

Taiga was wearing the Kimono with the Sakura trees and the silver river which Juri had gotten him so he could indeed try and challenge someone. It would be quite entertaining to try and get someone in the house who wasn’t sure if he really wanted to enter or not. Many of the boys have told him already that in this kimono he had something like an irresistible aura and he was in the weird need of feeling in control over something or someone.

Determined to actually find himself the right kind of customer for his mood he opened his eyes again and scanned the street. Samurai hurrying down the street, women on their way to the market, some people on their way to the local gambling places in Yoshiwara. No one interesting so far and then he looked down the street a bit more before he spotted a familiar face. Almost hiding in one of the small back streets next of a building there was Aran and even though he looked away immediately Taiga had realized that he had indeed looked at him. A bright smile appeared on his face when he realized that the boy wasn’t in his uniform which meant that he wasn’t on patrol. Immediately Taiga moved towards the bars and when Aran looked up with a shy expression Taiga moved one arm through the bars and pointed at him. The boy flinched on the move which made Taiga chuckle before he moved his pointer finger to call him over.

First the boy didn’t move, but he also didn’t seem like he was about to run away, still Taiga tried his best to keep the boy’s attention.

“Hey Aran,” Taiga greeted him like an old friend as the boy had finally made his way towards the bars. The boy’s eyes widened as if he hadn’t thought that the boy would actually remember his name. “No work today?”

“I had the night shift,” Aran let out in a low voice while his hands played nervously with his obi and his eyes kept moving towards the ground. Once more Taiga moved his arm through the bars and put his pointer finger under the boy’s chin on which Aran let out a surprised gasp, but didn’t pull back.

“Then why don’t you come in and take a rest? You must be tired!”

Well they weren’t a place to rest, but he could actually stay a bit longer after they were done and really rest for some time. It wasn’t forbidden. People could spend hours in the house if they wanted. Kitayama did so a lot, Kochi even bringing him and Fujigaya tea and food to the room. They had a lot of different services depending on what the customer was willing to pay for.

“I am not sure if I should-”

“Why not? You have off, right? You are not forbidden to come in,” Taiga hurried to take away the boy’s worries before he moved his hand down to the boy’s collar and pulled him a bit closer to the bars. “By the way, do you remember my name?”

When the boy bit his lip Taiga’s look turned to something a bit more dangerous. He liked this game way more than he should. He was gaining control over everything way too easy with Aran, but what if the boy could actually get a bit more open and active if the right buttons were pushed? Taiga really wanted to find out. “If you remember I will give you something nice in return.”

It was an offer which made Aran’s eyes shine and he leant closer to the bars on his own, now Taiga could feel the boy’s breathe on his lips, but when he wanted to speak he put his finger over his lips.

“You are just allowed to tell me if you come in.”

The hesitation was obvious, but now the boy also seemed to get too excited to give it too many thoughts and slowly he nodded, which made a wide smile appear on Taiga’s face. As much as he played with the boy he also felt really happy about him coming back and of course about the fact that he had indeed decided to enter. Aran seemed to relax a bit as well on the way Taiga seemed to excited all of a sudden and he hurried to the entrance.

Not giving Aran a lot of time to think he made him pay a normal price and hurried to find a free room. There was no need to take it too far at his first visit. If the boy suddenly showed another face he could still pay for other services later, for now Taiga wanted him to enjoy this.

Taiga shut the door and remained close to it as he observed Aran moving through the room. It was one of the usual rooms, so there was nothing special about it and still Aran looked at everything as if it was all fascinating him.

“I bet you are used to way more expensive interior, right?”

Taiga hadn’t meant it in any bad way, but still Aran’s look got a bit darker. “Well, my father is the machi-bugyo*₁ of this city after all.”

That reply made Taiga stop breathing for a moment. He had expected his family to have some influence, but being so close to the Tokugawa shogunate made it quite dangerous to play around with Aran, at least...if the boy wanted to use his power and influence, but somehow Taiga doubted that.

“You don’t seem happy about it though?”

Aran let out a bitter chuckle on that before he shook his head. “I bet you would call me crazy if I told you that I hate it.”

“Why would I?” Taiga asked as he finally dared to step a bit closer as the boy stopped next to the futon and slowly sat down next to it. Taiga copied his move and sat down opposite of him.

“What do you see in your own life?”

The question startled Taiga a bit, but with Aran being the customer he had to answer honestly. “It’s painful sometimes and also shameful if you judge it by the opinion of the people looking down on us and treating us like trash. There is no future for people like me.”

It was extremely easy for Taiga to speak openly with Aran even though he knew he should be careful what he told him.

“You know what I see?” Aran asked in return and Taiga tilted his head curiously. “A free life!”

It took Taiga a big effort to not laugh on that, because free was a word not existing in Yoshiwara, but maybe the boy’s interpretation of it was just different.

“My life is controlled by rules. There are no choices, because everything is already set. You can’t decide a way, because everyone tells you where to go. How to dress, how to speak, what to work and...who to love.”

Now it clicked and Taiga’s look softened a bit before he reached out for the boy’s cheek. Aran flinched again on the touch, but this time he could see more in Aran’s eyes as the boy dared to look up at him. “Is this why you came back even though you know your family is against it?”

There was no need for an answer, it was written all over his face. Taiga traced the seam of the expensive looking Haori*₂ he was wearing over his kimono. “All of these clothes were made extra for you I guess? Do you like them?”

Something in Taiga’s tone must have triggered Aran, because his look got almost desperate before he bit his lip and shook his head. Taiga moved immediately on that and opened the Haori and almost ripped it from the boy’s shoulders before he tossed it in the corner. Aran peered up at the other one with wide eyes, but he didn’t seem scared. He didn’t even complain as Taiga grabbed him by the elbows and forced him to stand up.

“Who made this one for you?” Taiga asked when he grabbed the obi and pulled Aran closer on it.

“My mother,” Aran replied in a low voice.

“Is this real gold?” Taiga asked as he traced the thin lines of the black obi which had some unnecessary golden lines sewed in it just to make it look fancier.

“Yes, and I don’t need such stupid things,” Aran replied as if he had read Taiga’s thoughts and the boy gave him a lopsided smile before he opened the obi and pulled so roughly on it that Aran was forced to turn away from him so that he could pull the obi away.

“So what’s about this one?” Taiga asked again as he stepped right in front of the boy and held on to the collar of his kimono, but his lips were now almost touching Aran’s and the boy needed a bit longer to reply.

“My father wore it when he was younger. He said it’s in the family for some generations already and a symbol for our position.”

“You like your position?”

This time Aran didn’t even need to voice out a reply, one intense stare was enough for Taiga to pull it roughly down the boy’s shoulders and let it drop to the ground.

“Feeling a bit freer already?”

Aran nodded and his lips slightly brushed over Taiga’s chin as he did so, but he didn’t back off. He was shy indeed, but that wasn’t the problem. All the rules chaining him down, all the things he had learned so far, what was right and what was wrong, that was what kept him from breaking free.

“I fear all those chains are too heavy to get broken,” Aran let out a bit insecure, but Taiga noticed how he kept staring desperately, how his body twitched here and there while he tried not to make a move, because it was against the rules! It was shameful!

“You broke the rules. You came to a shameful place,” Taiga said in a low voice not stepping back even a centimeter. “You let me touch you, undress you. Me a low and dirty prostitute. Nothing about this is right, is it?”

He kept provoking Aran and it felt more satisfying than anything he had ever done in Yoshiwara before. Maybe Aran was right, there was some weird kind of freedom he was possessing, something Aran wanted to gain so much. At least in here Taiga could share it with him.

Once more Taiga dared his hand on the boy’s body, this time on his hip and he could feel how the boy’s body was slightly shivering under his touch. “What would your family say to this? A prostitute and even worse a boy is touching you! How beautiful is she? I bet your family has chosen one of Japan’s most beautiful women to be your bride.” Keeping his hand steady on the boy’s hip he leant to the front, his lips brushing over Aran’s before he met eyes with an almost arrogant look. “Are you so weak that you can’t break the chains yourself?”

Like a trigger getting pulled back Aran launched himself to the front and grabbed Taiga by the hair and crushed their lips together.

Taiga had expected a lot when he had seen Aran the first time and he had also hoped for something entertaining as he had finally succeeded to get him inside the house, but he got way more! Like a switch clicking in some kind of off mode Aran’s personality seemed to have changed in an instant and Taiga enjoyed every single move of the boy.

When he broke the kiss he hurried to get Taiga’s obi out of the way as well, but he made sure to not look like he was somehow trying to rush through things and Taiga closed his eyes with a small gasp when Aran suddenly moved forward and bit on his neck when he pulled his kimono down from his shoulders. He moved as rough as Taiga did before, maybe even rougher.

“Such a bad boy,” Taiga mocked him as he pulled him back on his hair so that he was forced to face him. His eyes were so dark now and it aroused Taiga to an unhealthy degree, but the same happened to Aran through Taiga’s repeating mocking.

When it came to physical strength they were maybe even, but Aran was a trained police officer so Taiga didn’t even try to somehow get in any physical leading position and Aran wouldn’t let him, because with his next move he had shoved Taiga down on the futon, trapping him under him.

“Let them think of me as a disgrace, I don’t care.”

“Oh? And why would you risk all that luxuriant life to fuck a low hoe like me?”

It wasn’t like Taiga didn’t know the answer since the first time Aran had explained what chained him down, but he wanted the boy to say it out loud, to break free from it completely, because here he could do so!

Instead of replying directly, Aran pulled Taiga into another kiss while he moved his hands between the boy’s legs and shifted his weight. Taiga spread his legs and let him sit between them. When the boy seemed to get lost in his own world Taiga bit on his bottom lip to make him back off. What he hadn’t expected at all was the slap which followed and with a quite shocked expression he looked up at Aran, both of them breathing heavy after their last deep kiss.

“Sorry,” Aran replied immediately and his confident expression seemed to crumble a bit. But Taiga just chuckled before he grabbed one of Aran’s hands and guided it to his cheek.

“You don’t have to apologize for something like this here, but if you do it again I might have to charge you more later.”

The teasing expression Taiga showed him made Aran relax a bit again and Taiga hurried to lift his legs and push Aran to the front so that he could close his arms around his neck before he bit in his earlobe. The boy’s moans were so sweet that he would like to tease him even more, but after entertaining himself for a bit longer while teasing the boy’s earlobe and neck he backed off a bit. “So why me if you have such a beautiful lady at home you could play with every night?”

“No matter how expensive or beautiful something is if you don’t like it then there is no need to play with it.”

“Then am I beautiful enough to play with?” Taiga asked as he shifted his position and rocked his hips up against the other one and Aran moved as well on that, but halted once more before he gave Taiga a questioning look, but the boy shook his head.

“Don’t worry, you know expensive toys break more easily than cheap ones,” Taiga replied on which Aran pushed in carefully, but still with a deep first thrust and Taiga put one hand to the futon to clench his hand in it while he threw his head to the back with a low groan.

“The price doesn’t show if a toy is beautiful though,” Aran whispered as he fell to the front again to give Taiga a short kiss on which the latter opened his eyes again. “You see yourself as someone without any value, but for me you are priceless!”

Before Taiga could reply anything Aran kept thrusting deeper, but one hand found its way to Taiga’s hair to stop him from bending too much to the back as he let out a deep moan this time. “Like this you are even more beautiful.”

Aran’s sweet talk was something Taiga would find annoying with other customers, but definitely not with Aran and it gave him shivers how the boy kept him so close, but didn’t actually try to kiss him again, all he did was observing him while he rocked his hips in a faster rhythm.

“You just don’t want to say it, do you?” Taiga teased him once more, but it got complicated keeping his teasing expression while the boy kept turning him into a moaning mess.

“Is there a need to say it?”

“That depends on how heavy your chains feel,” Taiga replied as he finally found  chance to rock his hips up as well and bring the boy a bit out of balance before he moved his hands over his lower back down to his butt. “Why do you want me to touch you? Why does it feel so wrong to your family, but so right to you?”

Once more the boy remained silent, but his look had turned more determined. Maybe it was really harder for him to voice it out than he had thought.

“Is it just easier to fuck someone like me than one of the beautiful women which will follow all your precious rules?”

No of course that wasn’t the reason, it was way easier than that and Taiga knew that, also Aran knew that, but he had to admit it finally to break the last chains as well.

Taiga used the boy’s distraction to close his legs around him once more and pull him down at the same time to turn them around. At first he had failed badly at this move, but Reo had taught him a lot when it came to flexible moves and by now he was quite good in not disturbing them so much. He picked up the same rhythm than before has he mounted Aran, while his hands explored his upper body. “How about now, do you still find me beautiful? Even when I am in control? What would happen if I fucked you instead? Would the loss of control blind your judgement?”

“There is no way I am that easily blinded by power, Taiga.”

“What?”

The confusion was written all over his face and Aran let out a laughter. “Did you really think I forgot your name? After everything you figured out already how did you still think I wouldn’t remember your name?”

True, he should have guessed, but he hadn’t said it until now so it made him freeze in his movements for a moment before Aran suddenly grabbed him by his hips and forced him to get up.

“What are you doing?” Taiga asked a bit insecure out of a sudden. Had he messed up somewhere? Had he gone too far? But before he got a reply Aran pulled his legs to the side and made Taiga sit down between them before he copied Taiga’s move from before and made him fall to the front with his legs closing around his hips.

“Taiga!” The boy repeated again on which the one in question tilted his head. “You promised me something nice when I remember your name, right?”

Now Taiga’s look finally changed back to teasing as he realized what Aran was up to. Aran pulled Taiga down into a greedy kiss, not releasing him until both of them started struggling for air.

“I like you,” Aran finally said. “There is nothing I find attractive about women and for boys it’s exactly your type I am attracted to.”

The smile Taiga formed on hearing that almost seemed proud, because that was exactly what he had wanted the boy to finally admit, to voice out.

“How does the chains feel?”

“Extremely loose,” Aran replied before he gave Taiga a long and passionate kiss. Taiga could tell how much the boy was longing for all the physical contact and how he melted under each move Taiga made, each touch on his skin.

“Fuck me Taiga,” the boy let out between heavy breathes as they parted once more and there was no way Taiga would even waste a single second on discussing this request. He spread the boy’s legs a bit, but then he took his own fingers in his mouth before he started stretching the boy and as much as Aran tried to pretend that it was fine he could feel how much he tensed through the first minutes. Something Aran had longed for so much, a physical contact he had imaged definitely thousands of times while walking through Yoshiwara and passing by the boys’ houses and finally Taiga would be the first one to gain him his wish and take those chains off for the first time.

After he was sure Aran was a bit more relaxed Taiga finally pushed in, but Aran immediately arched his back.

“Trust me I know exactly how you feel,” he soothed him and with his ceremony being just a few weeks ago his memories were helping a lot to help Aran through this. He pushed the boy’s hips a bit down again and tried to find a better position for both of them, but Aran seemed to tense up over and over again. In the end Taiga pulled out again on which Aran seemed relieved, but also bit his lip as if he wanted to scold himself.

Taiga crawled up to his face and placed a small kiss on his forehead. “Don’t feel embarrassed, this is not easy at first,” Taiga reminded him before he pulled the boy into a sitting position on which he got a questioning look. “Just trust me, okay?”

Aran nodded with his eyes following Taiga’s movements until he couldn’t arch his neck enough to look at him as Taiga sat down behind him. With a swift movement Taiga spread the boy’s legs with his knees and put his hands on the boy’s shoulders.

“Relax,” he whispered next to his ear before he pushed in from behind this time and first Aran automatically collapsed a bit to the front, but Taiga kept him upright with his arms closing around his upper body and slowly Aran relaxed, his legs slowly sliding more to the sides as he was able to stop his body from tensing up.

Still Taiga took it slow for some time and placed kisses over the boy’s shoulder blades while he picked up a slow and gentle rhythm.

“Taiga…”

“You like my name, don’t you?”

“I like a lot about you,” Aran whispered before his words turned into sweet and soft moans which made Taiga’s body fill with a wave of pleasure.

“Well I’d say that is a mutual feeling,” Taiga whispered as he finally dared to pick up a faster rhythm and close one hand about the boy’s erection on which Aran’s moans turned more desperate and that sound made Taiga move rougher without even wanting to, but luckily the boy didn’t tense again even with deeper thrusts.

“It’s okay to let go,” Taiga let out as Aran grabbed the boy’s wrist. “Or are you not planning on coming back?”

“Those chains will just be decoration from now on,” Aran let out before his last moan brought him over the edge and Taiga made sure to follow soon so that the boy could lie down and relax a bit. Something he had also learned from Reo and of course from Kentaro as well, after all coming perfectly on time with the customer wasn’t easy, but it was super annoying to be left out as it had happened with Tatsuya, so he had made sure to get better in reaching his climax at his own pace.

He lay down next to Aran who had crumbled like this on the futon with his eyes closed. Taiga threw a light blanket over both of them as he was sure the boy wouldn’t leave immediately. He had indeed found his own place of freedom here, so there was no need to leave it in a hurry.

“Let me know when your decoration gets too heavy again,” Taiga said before he placed another brief kiss on the boy’s hair on which he got a small groan as a reply which made him chuckle. “You are always welcome to call my name again if you need some entertainment.”

That brought a smile on the boy’s face, but he still didn’t open his eyes and Taiga decided that he could just remain here and take his break with Aran. It didn’t happen often that he was feeling this relaxed around a customer after all. It almost felt the same as if sleeping next to Juri, but just almost.

 

+++

 

*₁machi-bugyo: a samurai official who acted as the police chief, judge and mayor of a city

*₂Haori traditional kimono jacket

Chapter Text

Taiga got to meet Aran just a few days later once more, but it was obviously no visit out of fun. This time he was wearing his police uniform and he had come with several other police men. What surprised Taiga though was that Aran was already a Yoriki, a high class officer, even though he had just entered the police, but well with his father being such an important person inside the system there was no way Aran would perform the duties of a lower rank. What was also impressive was the way Aran handled his responsibilities. There were no insecurities visible at all while he talked to Kamenashi and Fujigaya which had come to greet them at the entrance.

“What’s going on?” Juri asked as he shoved Reo a bit to the side to peek out the bars of the windowsill between him and Taiga.

“New boys,” Reo said in excitement.

“But they don’t seem that young.” Taiga had spotted the two boys between the police officers and while they didn’t look older than Kentaro they also didn’t look like they were new in such an environment. Only their clothes seemed a bit uncommon for Yoshiwara. They wore usual yukatas and they seemed extremely unhappy about being brought to their house in the first place.

“They are from an illegal house,” Hokuto was heard behind them all of a sudden. The boy leant on the wall behind the windowsill and watched how the policemen brought them into the house. “The police checks for those illegal places and when they arrest them the workers from that place will be send to official houses in Yoshiwara and here they will work without any payment for some time as a punishment.

“Then that means trouble,” Juri let out with a sigh.

“What do you mean?” Taiga asked worried.

“Illegal houses don’t have the same rules than we do and the boys there are usually quite arrogant and cause a lot of trouble when brought to our houses,” Reo explained on which Taiga slowly nodded. That indeed didn’t sound good.

“Well, our room is full so at least we don’t have to deal with them in the back of the house. Just make sure to be careful!” Hokuto warned them.

***

It had been a bad idea to carry them all at once, but Taiga had been running forth and back three times already and he wanted to be done with his duties, but his hurry had made him choose to carry all the remaining kimonos at once so that he couldn’t really see where he was going anymore, resulting with him in missing the small step before getting out on the veranda at the back of the house. He let out a squeal as he fell flat on the ground, the kimonos luckily reducing the force of the impact. What he hadn’t expected was the resounding laughter he heard from behind and when he turned on his back he found Juri approaching him with a teasing smile.

“You’re alright?”

“Shouldn’t you ask that before laughing?” Taiga scolded him, but still took his hand as the latter offered to help him up again.

“Sorry, but it looked way too hilarious to not laugh. But you are not hurt, are you?”

Juri’s look got a bit more serious as he scanned Taiga’s hands for bruises, but the boy shook his head.

“All good, don’t worry.”

“Good, then let me help you before you actually fall down the stairs the next time,” Juri teased before he helped picking up the remaining kimonos.

They walked next to each other in silence for a while until they reached the laundry place at the back of the house where Taiga had washed about two dozen kimonos already. For his duties he had been off his regular work, so he was wearing one of his usual yukatas, the grass green one, but to not get it wet he had tied the sleeves to the back.

“By the way, how did you end up with this duty?” Juri asked after he put the remaining kimonos down and sat on the veranda while Taiga put the next kimono in the bucket with water to clean it.

“Is it a bad duty?” Taiga asked a bit confused while he put one of his long strands of hair behind his ear before he went back to work.

“You tell me?”

“Well, it takes way more time than other duties and I can’t deny that I’ve started cursing a lot after a few hours and realized I wasn’t even half done. How many kimonos does this house have?”

Juri let out a chuckle on that while he kept observing the other one’s work.

“Let me just give you some advice. As annoying as it is to wash them all one by one, don’t ever try to put them all in together. Kamenashi will hunt you down if you mess the colors up, especially of the white patterned kimonos.”

“Thanks, I will keep that in mind. Especially because now that you said this is not one of the usual duties I don’t want Kamenashi to give me even worse ones.”

“So you did something after all?” Juri asked curious.

“Well, I...said something I shouldn’t have said I guess.”

Now Juri’s look got even more curious, but he still remained seated, but Taiga could tell that Juri wouldn’t be satisfied without an explanation.

“You remember when I found out about Tatsuya?” Juri just nodded and let him continue. “Well, I found out even more on that day, like what kind of relationship he has with Kamenashi.”

Juri didn’t seem the slightest surprised so at least it didn’t seem to be a secret for those who knew him.

“Kamenashi caught Fu the other day as Reo let him go without paying, because he had forgotten to bring money. Reo got a lot of scolding through that and unfortunately I had been present when he let Fu go so I ended up in the same scolding.”

“And like always you couldn’t stop yourself from giving some snappy replies,” Juri guessed right and his smile got even bigger on the way Taiga rolled his eyes.

“He told us to make sure to protect the rules from now on or it would have consequences. Well, I might have hissed under my breath that he is the only one who seems to be allowed to pay with his body instead of money.”

“Ohhh,” Juri let out in a way too loud voice and in sheer amusement while he clapped his hands. “Congrats, you just made yourself a really easy target for the dirty work in the house.”

“Well at least this one is a ‘clean’ work for now?”

Juri fell completely silent on that and Taiga stopped his work to look up at him before he bit his lip with a shy expression, but then Juri burst out laughing and it made Taiga relax right away. He wasn’t the type to make stupid jokes and when people wouldn’t react to them he would completely curl up into his beloved shell, but Juri somehow made it way easier for him to even try such stupid jokes from time to time.

Taiga chuckled on Juri’s reaction and went back to work, but once more one of his strands got in his way, but his hands were wet already and so he tried to somehow push it back with his elbow.

“Wait, let me help you,” Juri said as he had finally calmed down and jumped from the veranda and pulled one of the wooden sticks from the bar where they hang the kimonos. Taiga froze in his movements as Juri stopped behind him and took his hair in his hands to put it up with the small wooden stick.

“Perfect, now it won’t bother you anymore,” Juri announced proudly. “Doesn’t look as beautiful as Kamenashi’s hair needles, but I’ve to admit your face looks even more beautiful with your hair up like this.

Regardless how annoying his hair had been before now Taiga wished for nothing more than his hair falling to the front again as he looked to the ground in embarrassment. But now his hair wouldn’t help him to cover up for his shy behavior, but luckily Juri didn’t seem to notice or he didn’t mind, because he proceeded to sit back on the veranda.

“I’d like to help you, but the rules forbid it.”

“Well, you let Reo and me help with your duties as well,” Taiga said with a teasing smile on which Juri put his finger in front of his own lips.

“Don’t say that here. You want me to get into trouble this time?”

Instead of a reply Taiga lifted his hands and tossed some water at Juri on which the latter squealed and shifted away from him.

“Then hurry and search yourself some other duties or I’ll find a threat good enough to make you take care of all my duties from now on.”

“Here I ask for one favor and get threaten right away for it. You are so cruel!”

“Love you too,” was all Taiga could reply on Juri’s fake pouting and they both started laughing once more.

***

The next day Taiga ended up spending a lot of time with Juri as well and with not many customers coming, they also took their break together.

“I still think this kimono fits you way too well!”

Taiga turned towards Juri who lay in the middle of their room after he had taken a small nap. Taiga had been up and looked out of the window, but he had caught himself watching Juri's sleeping face a lot as well.

“What's the compliment for? You want to ask me another favor or was that just a self-satisfying statement because you picked a good kimono?” Taiga asked with a lopsided smile on which Juri sat up with a chuckle before he got up and joined Taiga on the windowsill.

“Neither would I say. I just really think it fits you.”

Taiga could feel how a familiar heat crawled up his cheeks. Recently Juri kept talking like this and it also felt like he was around more often, but each time he realized that he felt like running away.

He didn't miss Juri's hand movement, but just before he could reach out to touch him Taiga lifted his hand and pointed to the garden.

“Look, he is unbelievable!”

“Who?” Juri asked in confusion and luckily he didn't seem too disappointed by Taiga's try to distract him.

“Hokuto. There look.”

Juri followed with his eyes to the place Taiga was pointing at.

Hokuto was sitting on the veranda towards the garden in his blue white work kimono, obviously taking a break as well, but he wasn't alone. Kochi was next to him, both of them talking loudly, Kochi waving his hands around a lot as if he retold a funny story and then...Hokuto laughed. A bright smile showing his teeth and it made Taiga shake his head with a faint smile.

“Well, that explains at least why Hokuto keeps everyone away from Kochi.”

“Eh? What do you mean?”

Juri's question made Taiga face him for a moment, because he couldn't be serious, right? Something he just experienced himself, something he tried with someone else exactly the same way, he couldn't see in someone else's behavior?

“Nevermind,” Taiga replied before he got up. “Let's head back before our senpai can scold us for taking a too long break.”

Juri just nodded and followed after him in silence. When they moved down the stairs they heard voices from the storage room with the kimonos and they peeked around the corner towards the open sliding doors. The two new boys were standing inside. Both still dressed in their usual yukatas while Kentaro pulled out two kimonos.

“Because this is your punishment for working at an illegal place you won't be allowed to choose your clothes yourself. You are also not allowed to request days off or breaks. Everything will be decided by your senpai.”

The kimonos Kentaro handed to them weren't a weird choice or in any kind provoking, but the two boys still seemed extremely pissed at the whole situation.

“This one is for you Shota,” Kentaro announced and handed the boy a dark blue kimono.

“And this will be yours Ryota.”

The other boy grabbed the wine red kimono, but flicked his tongue as he unfolded it before randomly tossing it to the ground.

“I'm not going to wear such girly stuff. Give me something that is without any flashy colors.”

“As I said this is not -”

“I've seen someone with a grey kimono so you definitely have some,” Shota interrupted him and it was obvious that Kentaro was running out of patience.

“Boys, did you listen to anything Kamenashi told you yesterday? Why won't you just follow the rules then you will soon be able to decide more freely and even receive payment for your work.”

“We don't like being forced to play after rules,” Ryota replied snappy.

“Here you have no choice though, because the rules here are strict and you'll be punished if you don't follow them.”

Shota stepped a bit to the front on that and let the kimono drop between him and Kentaro. “And who is going to punish us, you?”

He stepped on the kimono with a mocking smile, but Kentaro didn't seem impressed.

“Be careful how you address your senpai,” Kentaro let out annoyed, but that made Shota’s look darken before he pushed him to the back with such a force that Kentaro almost stumbled.

“Or what?” Ryota asked as he stepped forward as well.

“Taiga, wait!”

But he wouldn't wait. Juri had tried to get a grip on him as he dashed towards the room, but failed.

Just when it seemed like the boys wanted to seriously get into a fight with Kentaro, Taiga reached them and pushed Ryota to the side so that Shota had to catch him.

“What the hell?” Ryota hissed and made two big steps towards Taiga and took him by the collar. “You damn little brat. Who do you think you are?”

“The question is who you think you are?” Taiga shot back and slapped Ryota's hands away.

“All of you stop!” Kentaro interfered, but suddenly Shota stepped in his way.

“And why would we?”

“Someone needs a lesson here first then we might stop,” Ryota said and before Taiga could react he lunged out and pulled him closer on the collar. Taiga shut his eyes, but then the other one's grip on him was gone and he flung his eyes open.

“Juri, stop! JURI!” Kentaro shouted at the boy who had suddenly jumped at Ryota and brought him to fall. Now he was sitting in top of him and had actually punched him once already and lunged out for another punch on which Kentaro shoved Shota to the side to grab Juri's arm and pull him up.

“Let go! I'll teach those assholes a lesson!”

“Such big words for such a tiny skeleton,” Shota mocked him on which Juri wanted to dash at him next, but Kentaro held him back.

“Juri, for God's sake you are not Reo so calm down!”

“Let him keep going if he wants to. I have to repay him for this punch,” Ryota said as he got up and Juri got out of Kentaro's grip once more before he took the latter by the collar.

“Don't you dare to ever lay a hand on Taiga again!”

“Taiga?” Ryota let out a bit perplex before he looked up at the boy in the back. “Oh, so that is what this is about. Interesting.”

Taiga made an automatically step back as he felt Ryota's scanning look all over him.

Kentaro pulled Juri back, but then Shota was about to interfere again and Taiga took a deep breath getting ready to interfere in the struggle before it could escalate, but then there were suddenly a few pained yelps from all of them, one after the other, after the wooden fan had hit them all on the head.

“What's with this kindergarten? I can hear you until the front of the house?” Taisuke scolded them.

“They were the ones-”

“Juri shut it!” His senpai warned him and Juri pouted, but remained quiet this time. “Kentaro bring Juri and Taiga back to the front and you two-”

Taisuke grabbed them both by the hair and they let out a hiss, but didn't try to struggle or fight back. “You'll have your first taste of punishments in Yoshiwara, congratulations!”

Juri couldn't stop from smiling mockingly after them as Taisuke pushed them through the corridor towards Kamenashi's room.

“Deserves them right.”

That statement resulted in Kentaro slapping Juri on the back of the head.

“Be happy that I don't consider punishing you two as well! Stay out of the senpai business, I warn you!”

“But I was worried…” Taiga said apologizing and Kentaro's look softened a bit as he approached him.

“I might not look like it, but you should know that I can pretty well handle a lot, okay?”

Taiga bit his lip and nodded, because he knew that of course, but that didn't mean that he didn't want to come to his friend's rescue, no matter if senpai or not.

“And you!” Kentaro scolded Juri who was still pouting. “The next time you raise a hand first I'll make sure you're getting punished. You never react that impulsive, what got into you?”

It wasn't like he couldn't answer, but he didn't have to, because while Kentaro couldn't understand what had happened, Taiga did and that was enough. After all he was emotional still not ready for this topic. He wanted to keep running away, at least for a while. So he apologized to Kentaro once more and they finally were allowed back to work.

***

Chapter Text

Even two days later Juri still threw the two new boys death glares, but at least when Taisuke was around they were behaving, not that they were actually putting effort in their work, but that was something no one of them cared for anyway.

“I hope he doesn’t get into trouble with them again,” Taiga let out a bit worried after Juri had vanished with a customer in a room and left Taiga alone with Reo in the windowsill.

Reo was wearing the gold/red flower kimono while Taiga wore Juri’s kimono again. Somehow he had ended up wearing it almost all the time, especially when he was in the mood of getting a lot of customers and since they had ended up in trouble with Shota and Ryota he liked distraction a lot, because as much as he pretended to be the calm one of the two he could totally understand Juri’s rage. Taiga didn’t like them at all either and he might start a fight with them as well if they did something stupid again.

“And here everyone usually scolds me for getting violent right away,” Reo let out with a chuckle.

“I still can’t imagine that to be honest.”

“Because you haven’t seen me going wild until now, but trust me if those two new boys try anything stupid then I will be the first one to beat them up.”

“Maybe we should all just stay away from the as much as possible.”

“Well they won’t approach me anyway,” Reo said while dropping on the side to make himself a bit more comfortable on the pillow.

“Why is that?” Taiga asked in confusion.

“I am a too easy target for them. Too boring to play with.”

That statement made Taiga blink at him in even more confusion, but before he could ask Reo waved his hand.

“Yes I know, I said I’d beat them up, but that is when they do something to my friends or get violent with me.”

“But, what….oh, you mean...?”

Taiga didn’t have to ask directly, because Reo’s look told him that his guess was right.

“In the illegal houses the survival of the fittest is the only rule, so they don’t care so much if a member of the house wants it or not, if they want it they will take what they want.”

And that was a way Reo could definitely handle the best of them all, so why would he even bother fighting? It gave Taiga slight shivers thinking about that possibility, but as Reo had said he was open for stuff like that so they would indeed stay away from him, at least if they didn’t get bored. They wouldn’t approach any of the senpais either, except Kentaro maybe, but the usual boys were definitely their main target. That thought was making Taiga worry even more for Juri after he had provoked them.

He was ripped out of his thoughts when there was uproar out on the streets and he got closer to the bars, followed by Reo.

“What’s going on?” Taiga asked curious as people kept pointing their fingers and then Taiga could see how there were samurai marching down the street. Not many of them, but they carried a litter and they were all keeping their eyes on the people around as if the person inside was someone really important.

“Shit,” Reo hissed next to him and before Taiga could even ask anything Reo was up and ran down the corridor.

“Kochi! KOCHI! GET KAMENASHI HERE, NOW!”

Taiga ran after him and just saw how Kochi took a short look outside before he dashed towards the owner’s room.

“What’s going on? Who-”

“Taiga, leave! Take a break! Go to the back of the house, before-”

But that ‘before’ had already happened before Taiga could even move and the door was opened by two samurai and then someone stepped inside. Wearing a blue Kamishimo and the crest of the Tokugawa Shogunate on the shoulder parts there was Domoto coming inside the house and while Taiga froze to the spot Reo hurried to his side to greet him.

Seconds later Kamenashi showed up as well and he looked so different, almost obedient and slowly Taiga realized how much he could have actually screwed up the last time they had met Domoto. He hadn’t expected him to be an upper member of the Shogunate, but the way everyone kept bowing towards him made clear that he had more than just a bit of influence.

“If you had informed us of your visit I would have prepared your usual room,” Kamenashi said kind of apologizing.

“No worries, a standard room will do it.”

“Then may I guide you to a room?” Reo asked and stretched his arm out towards the opposite direction of the corridor Taiga was standing at, but Domoto shook his head to everyone’s surprise.

When he lifted his gaze towards Taiga the boy could feel how cold sweat was running down his temples just through that. Knowing of what a person was capable of was making his whole appearance look way more dangerous to Taiga than last time. Unfortunately he had been quite an idiot at that time and had done his best to piss off one of the most powerful persons in the country as it seemed and when Domoto suddenly pointed at him it was clear that fate was laughing at him.

“I’d like some private time with him today.”

That statement made everyone freeze for a second before Reo got a grip and tried to form a polite smile towards the other one.

“May I ask to join you in that case?”

It was a tactical good question and Kamenashi seemed quite relieved about him thinking that quickly. Domoto lifted his hand to Reo’s face before he gave him a faint smile.

“You know that you are my favorite boy and I doubt that will change today, but let’s keep this for next time.”

Which meant no, just a bit more polite, but definitely strict enough to refrain from asking again.

Reo bowed towards him a bit reluctant this time before Kamenashi made a step to the front.

“I guess you will stay for some hours as usual?”

When Domoto nodded Taiga’s knees got extremely weak out of a sudden. Hours? Did Reo have to deal with him for hours each time? They were allowed to stay a long time after all, but hours with that man could bring Taiga into even more trouble.

“Then would you mind if I ask for some of your time for a talk? After all it has been some time since your last visit.”

Luckily Domoto accepted that offer and Kamenashi guided him down the corridor to his room, two of his soldiers following him even inside the house while the rest remained outside.

Before Taiga could even process what had just happened Reo dashed towards him and pulled him down the corridor with such a tight grip on his wrist that Taiga yelled at him to let go. But he didn’t until they reached an empty room and Reo slid the door shut behind them before he released him.

“Reo, what was that-”

“Shut it, Taiga. We don’t have much time! Listen! You are not ready for what is coming, not at all!”

“What, but last time you said nothing bad happened.”

Reo suddenly shook him on the shoulders on which Taiga flinched. “Idiot, last time nothing happened, because Myuto and Hikaru were there on time to stop you, but unfortunately you had gone far enough to make him angry and trust me you can’t handle it when Domoto is angry!”

“It’s not like he can do more than the highest price allows.”

“And what does it allow?”

That question made Taiga fall silent for a moment and Reo pulled back with a sigh, pulling on his own hair with a troubled expression.

“Okay, we need a plan. You better make sure to somehow make yourself faint or knock yourself out at some point. Get creative, but make sure you get out as soon as possible!”

“What?” It wasn’t even the confusion about Reo’s suggestion, but more some weird kind of anger rising inside of him.

“You want me to run from him?”

“Yes, indeed. As I said, you have no clue what will await you.”

“Well, I will know soon and when I can’t handle it I guess I can still decide what to do.”

Once more Reo approached him with almost threatening steps on which Taiga automatically made a step back.

“Stop this nonsense. It’s no time to play the proud newbie!”

“I am not a newbie anymore.”

“You are and you will be as long as you don’t get the difficult cases and learn how to handle them.”

“Then this will be the best way to start.”

“NO!” Reo yelled this time and Taiga jolted when Reo pushed him against the wall out of a sudden, his look getting darker now. “Did you listen to anything I said? This is not a start, but the end! You are NOT ready for someone like him!”

“I made it through the Ceremony, something that has no rules, why-”

Reo shut him up with another push against the wall on which Taiga let out a gasp. “A ceremony which had you take off 5 days? Rules or no rules, that doesn’t matter. Hikaru went way too easy on you to even call this a ceremony. Maybe you should ask Kentaro how a real ceremony looks like!”

Taiga bit his lip on that reminder, but even though his ceremony hadn’t been that bad didn’t mean he had to run away from difficult cases and somehow he was still angry at Domoto for his arrogant behavior. He was using his influence, playing with his power and Taiga didn’t like people like him.

“You heard what the highest price allows them, but Domoto doesn’t stop at some marks or cuts on your skin. What he does the best are mental games and you won’t be able to stand them. So do as you are told and make sure to get out of his room as fast as you can, I don’t even care if you have to burn the room down, we will prepare water in that case, but get out!”

Reo felt like he had made his point extremely clear and he had, but when he moved over to the door Taiga didn’t follow him.

“I won’t run,” Taiga let out in a low voice.

“What?” Reo hissed at him, but Taiga wouldn’t get scared. He looked up at the latter with an almost hateful stare before he approached him, but Reo did the same and took Taiga by the collar in the middle of the room.

“I told you-”

“I DON’T CARE!” Taiga suddenly yelled back at him.

“Taiga stop this nonsense. You can’t-”

“I CAN HANDLE HIM!”

“NO YOU CAN’T!”

Taiga ripped himself free from Reo’s grip and made a step back, but he couldn’t calm down and he felt how tears of rage filled his eyes. “AND WHAT IF I CAN’T? WHAT DOES IT MATTER TO YOU? OR TO KAMENASHI?”

There was no reply from Reo this time, just a shocked expression while Taiga took some deep erratic breathes.

“DOES IT EVEN MATTER WHAT ANY CUSTOMER DOES TO ME? OR TO YOU? WE ARE JUST GOODS TO THEM, SOMETHING THEY CAN USE! THAT IS WHAT KAMENASHI TOLD ME! AND THAT IS THE TRUTH HERE IN YOSHIWARA!”

It took Taiga some more deep breathes before he was finally able to calm down a bit and stop his body from shaking and clear his vision which had gone blurry through his tears flowing over.

“No one cares for us…” he whispered this time, his voice shaking as much as the rest of his body. “They come to hurt us, to use us and no one will even spend an eye what we think about it, how we feel about it.”

It had been an explosion Taiga had seen coming, because as much as he had found a liking in dealing with easy customers he had been indeed scared a lot of the possibility of getting a more complicated customer. He didn’t like it to be seen as a product. Something you could purchase and didn’t have to watch out if you break it or not.

Taiga clenched his fists and faced the ground, but he was unable to get a grip on which he let out some low curses.

“I hate it here! I hated my whole life until now, but this is the worst place I’ve ever come to! Building up a facade, showing everyone a smile and pretending to be okay is something everyone learns here easily as it seems, but because there is no one who looks deeper there is also no need to show what we really feel…”

This time Taiga didn’t flinch when Reo reached out for him and there was also no need to, because the boy pulled him in a tight hug on which Taiga teared up once more.

“You’re such a stupid idiot,” Reo was heard while Taiga tried to muffle his sounds against his shoulder. He could feel that Reo was shaking slightly now as well and his voice didn’t sound as steady as before anymore. “Yes we are all good in pretending and yes we are worthless scum to everyone who watches us from the other side of those bars, but what do you think why Kamenashi told Domoto to join him for now? What do you think why I want you to run for once?”

Slowly Reo pushed the older one a bit back on his shoulders and Taiga tried to calm down as good as he could, but seeing that Reo was ready to break into tears as well he didn’t feel that weak anymore. “It is because we care! It doesn’t matter if the customers care or not! We do! We are here for you! We are your friends, your family! Scolding you, warning you or even shouting at you happens just out of one reason: because we care!”

Taiga wanted to reply something, but the only thing he could bring out was another loud sob on which Reo pulled him into a hug once more.

“I- I am sorry…” Taiga whispered, but Reo shook his head right away before he placed a kiss on the other one’s hair. “Don’t be! We’ve all been there! We all carry our worries, our problems and our scares! Sometimes it gets too heavy! You are not the only one feeling like this!”

“Is it going to go away?”

“No…”

He wasn’t disappointed about the answer. He had somehow expected it, but knowing that he wasn’t the only one hiding behind thick walls protecting him from those downfalls was giving him the push to actually build it up again if he couldn’t actually find a way to live without the wall in the first place.

Slowly he escaped Reo’s hug and used his sleeve to make the last tears disappear from his face before he looked at Reo with a determined look.

“Let me try.”

It was obvious how much Reo got ready to yell at him again, to ask him if he had even listened, but hadn’t he also just said that no matter when he’d reach his limits it wouldn’t matter? Even if it was later, even if it begun with an easier customer, in the end he would get another breakdown, and another one...like a routine they would build up their broken wall over and over, just to be able to pretend for the next customer that they were a brand new and undamaged product!

“I don’t want to say yes,” Reo whispered with a broken expression.

“You don’t have to. Just don’t stop me.”

It was more than obvious that Reo struggled a lot with that decision, but this time Taiga didn’t feel like scolding him.

“I won’t be okay,” he admitted to the other one’s obvious surprise. “But none of us is. That doesn’t mean you won’t come later to pick up the pieces.”

That statement made Reo tear up for good and suddenly Taiga felt like the stronger one for the first time. He pulled the other one in a brief hug before he took his face in his hands. “I know how much you care for all of us and how strong you are, but just for once let me try and be the strong one as well.”

Reo nodded slowly on which Taiga kissed him on the forehead. The way he chose was dangerous and would leave him with a lot of scars, but they all carried them, no matter if visible or not.

***

Taiga looked a bit questioning at Kochi as the boy put a cup and a pot of tea on a small table in the room where Taiga was supposed to wait for Domoto. When he also put the slim wooden stick inside the room a shiver went down Taiga’s spine. He remembered how he had been punished with it once already and he also knew that the highest price allowed using it.

“I was told not to give you any instructions so I fear you’ve to find out how to handle this yourself,” Kochi said apologizing before he retreated out of the room immediately. It was obviously how much they all feared Domoto’s influence, but Taiga didn’t want to freak out before anything even happened.

Hiromitsu was also the type to just hang around a bit with Taisuke for some hours, but usually he asked Kochi for tea later, so Taiga wondered what Domoto was usually doing all the time inside their house.

When the door got slid to the side again he automatically jumped up, faster than he wanted to, but luckily it had been Kamenashi first, so Domoto hadn’t seen his hectic movement.

The owner gave him an almost warning look before he stepped to the side and let Domoto enter the room.

“Kochi will wait in the corridor so please let him know at anytime if you need anything,” Kamenashi said with a light bow before he slid the door closed.

The older one seemed calm, almost bored as he stepped further into the room, but then he halted and looked up at Taiga with a weird expression. Was he expecting something from him? It seemed like he was actually waiting for him to move, but Taiga wasn’t sure how to react, after all he remembered how angry he had made the latter last time.

“I see you are low born, aren’t you?”

Taiga just nodded on that, because it was obvious, especially because most of the boys in Yoshiwara had ended up here, because they had nowhere else to go.

“Then I guess it’s time to teach you some lessons.”

When Domoto moved to get the stick from the ground Taiga automatically stepped back, but he didn’t take his eyes of the older one.

“First rule: When someone who has a higher rank than you steps into the room you bow!”

Domoto tapped the tip of the stick on the ground on which Taiga moved a bit hesitantly and bowed to the front.

When the end of the stick landed on his shoulder with a harsh slap without a warning he let out a hiss and stumbled backwards holding his shoulder.

“You call that a bow? You might greet someone on the street like that, but not a samurai or higher rank.”

Taiga froze when Domoto tapped the stick on the palm of his own hand a few times before he stepped in front of Taiga and put the end to his arm.

“Put them straight down.”

Taiga followed his orders, but still flinched a bit when the stick landed on his back a bit harsher again.

“Straighten your back and never look up while you bow.”

Once more Taiga dared to bow, this time trying to make it look more obedient, but a tap on his back with the stick made him bow lower and lower.

“There is your place!” Domoto let out mockingly as he was finally satisfied with the angle of Taiga’s bow.

Luckily he couldn’t see the younger one’s face, because Taiga had gritted his teeth the whole time, but when he was allowed to stand straight again he tried to find a neutral expression. Unfortunately it seemed like Domoto was quite good in reading his expression.

“Second rule: You prepare a place to sit.”

This time Taiga moved a bit smarter, hoping that he won’t do a mistake again. He took one of the pillows from the corner of the room and placed it next to the futon, in front of the small table with the tea. Until there it had been fine, but when he wanted to retreat a bit the stick landed at the side of his knee and Taiga almost fell to the side through the sudden impact.

“How dare you keep standing when I want to sit down? Do you really think you are allowed to look down on me?”

Once more Taiga succeeded in staying calm and not letting the annoyance take over him as he sat down at the side of the table before Domoto sat on the pillow.

“A quick learner, great. Maybe Reo should have taught you a bit of this faster, that would have saved you a lot of trouble.”

Biting back a snappy comment Taiga just bowed in an apologizing manner to the front on which Domoto let out an entertained hum.

“I see, trying to behave now that you know what I could do to you and the house?”

Taiga kept leaning a bit to the front and bit the inside of his cheek, because it got harder to not snap on all those arrogant statements. When the stick landed under his chin he flinched and lifted his head to face the older one.

“Rule three: When you are asked a question you answer!”

“Yes,” Taiga replied, answering both questions from before with this and Domoto formed a satisfied smile.

“Then tell me Taiga what do you think about me?”

That question made him freeze for a while until the latter tapped the stick in front of him on the floor.

“You are a member of the shogunate with a lot of influence and power and... you know how to use it.”

Taiga had tried to bite back the last half of the sentence, but he couldn’t and Domoto had obviously noticed it as he let out a small chuckle.

“I indeed know how to use it. But tell me just because I have power will you do everything I tell you? Because last time you didn’t seem as if you like to obey.”

“It’s not about obeying, but about protecting a friend.”

“Oh, so if I do the same to you next time instead of Reo you won’t refuse?”

It wasn’t like he didn’t want to answer, but he didn’t know an answer. Would he?

“See, people change their behavior immediately when they realize they could end up in a fight they can’t win.”

“With the rules being unfair that is no wonder.”

Taiga had whispered it, but of course Domoto had heard it. Luckily he didn’t seem annoyed by Taiga’s slowly snappy turning attitude. It seemed even as if he enjoyed it a lot.

“So you think no matter which rank or status, we should all be treated the same?”

“Yes,” Taiga let out directly this time, because this was how he had always felt. He had been treated unfair all his life. Had been punished for the stupidest reasons and that just because he was of a low rank and now one would care if he got hurt or not.

“So if I asked you now to pour me a cup of tea would you do it?”

Taiga nodded to the latter’s obvious surprise.

“You are a customer of this house. It doesn’t matter what rank you are. This is my job, so I will do what you ask of me.”

“As long as I play by the rules,” Domoto assumed on which Taiga licked his lips nervously. Was he trying to drive Taiga to a corner? Was he waiting for him to make a mistake that allowed him to punish him?

“Well then go ahead and do your job.”

Domoto’s expression didn’t change at all, but Taiga wasn’t a fool, as much as he enjoyed it when Taiga slipped he was definitely going to punish him if he did something stupid.

Carefully he turned to the table and put the sleeves of his kimono a bit up to take the pot, but before he could even pour tea into the cup the stick landed on his hands and the surprise made him almost drop it.

“You don’t even know how to hold it properly and you say you can do your job?”

Of course Domoto would find a way to make him regret what he had said, but truth was that Taiga had no clue about such details. They weren’t Geishas and also not taught how to behave like servants for high ranked families. All they did was behaving polite, but that didn’t seem to be enough for Domoto.

“Put your other hand on the bottom to hold it in place so you won’t spill anything and don’t grab the handle as if it was a hammer.”

The sigh Taiga was about to let out was luckily nothing more than a heavy breath coming out, but he knew Domoto had noticed, because he got a slap on his fingers this time and at the last moment he stabilized the pot with his other hand, burning his fingers slightly on it.

Without another word he changed his grip on it and poured the tea into the cup before putting the pot back and handing the cup to Domoto. At least that move seemed to have been right, because the other one didn’t complain this time and took the cup.

“So obedient, aren’t you?”

And again he tried to provoke him, but Taiga said nothing this time as Domoto took a sip from the tea with a lopsided smile.

“I wonder what I have to do to make you angry again.”

“If you want an apology for last time then you can just say it.”

This time he had spoken without thinking at all, but it was so obvious that Domoto was still angry at him for what happened before and now that Taiga didn’t get provoked this easily he got bored. Unfortunately now Taiga had slipped and revealed that he indeed was still pissed and could also get provoked.

“Oh you want to apologize? Go ahead!”

“I didn’t say that.”

“So you don’t see a need to apologize?”

A dangerous question, but if he apologized now he would need to fake way too much from here. Truth was that he indeed saw no reason to apologize. After all he had made clear that as long as the rules were protected he was fine with a lot, but that time it had been strictly against the rules.

With a serious look Taiga faced the latter again. “No, there is no need for me to apologize.”

It happened so fast that Taiga wasn’t sure if the shock or the pain was bigger when Domoto emptied the hot tea from his cup right into Taiga’s face. With a yelp he fell to the back and threw his hands over his face, but the pain remained. His eyes were burning, his skin turning red through the way too hot liquid on it.

“What about this? You think I should apologize to you now?”

It took a moment longer for Taiga to be even able to speak and slowly he sat up before he shook his head. “You paid the highest price. This is something I am not allowed to complain about.”

“Oh, so are you promising me that you will stay silent no matter what I do?”

Staying silent....that wasn’t easily promised, after all pain would definitely make him let out at least some sounds. “At least as long as you don’t take it further than the rules allow I won’t complain.”

“That’s not what I asked. Will you stay silent?”

Of course Domoto knew exactly when Taiga tried to change the topic even a bit to make things easier for him, but he wouldn’t let him run.

“If that is what you want me to do I will stay silent,” Taiga let out in a low voice and without hesitation Domoto took the pot from the table. That move alone made Taiga freeze, because he knew what was coming and even though he was prepared the pain was worse than he had expected when Domoto emptied the whole pot over his head this time.

The hot tea ran down his face and neck, while his whole body started shaking under the pain and he forcefully clawed his fingers into his kimono to stay silent, but even gritting his teeth couldn’t stop him from letting out a small gasp in between. When the pot got shattered right in front of him on the ground he jolted.

“You failed at such a small task already?”

“My apologies…” Taiga let out in a weak voice and he had seen the next move coming before it even happened and Domoto slashed the stick over his cheek this time, leaving a red mark on it.

“When you apologize then do it seriously!”

Without any hesitation Taiga crawled a bit back to be able to lean to the front and put his hands to the ground and his forehead between them before he forced his voice to sound steadier this time. “I am sorry for upsetting you.”

“Great, then how about you make sure to entertain me instead of upsetting me all the time?”

That statement could have a dozen right and wrong ways, so for now Taiga just sat back up. “In what way would you like to get entertained?”

“That I leave to you. Choose what you can do best, but don’t complain in case you fail.”

Of course, what else did he expect? Leaving the choice to Taiga, but also giving himself the chance to punish him if he didn’t like what he did.

It wasn’t like what he did in this house was what “he could do best”, but it was what they were supposed to do in here and why Domoto usually came here in the first place so Taiga tried to sort his thoughts and find a way to approach Domoto without him failing right from the start.

The problem was that it didn’t seem at all like the older one was even in the mood for anything that didn’t involve punishments, but that was when it clicked and even though Taiga hated that he had maybe found a way to entertain him that it was definitely a painful one.

After another deep breath Taiga did his best to switch into a neutral mood and he sat up on his knees, crawling a bit to the front so that he was right in front of Domoto who raised an eyebrow at him, now having to lift his head a bit to be able to look at him and the anger about that was already visible.

“What do you think you are doing?”

Instead of replying directly Taiga moved his hand to the latter’s neck before he dared one finger under his chin. With a luring look he leant closer to the latter’s lips, but made sure to not to get too close. “Aren’t I a bad boy? I am looking down on you! A low born hoe like me.”

It was the fact that Domoto didn’t move immediately that he was sure that he had pushed a right button with his behavior.

He took it even further when he put one leg more to the front so that he was almost sitting on top of the other one and put his arms around his neck. “Shouldn’t you do something about my behavior?”

And indeed this time he did! With a fast movement Domoto’s hand was in Taiga’s hair and he switched positions with him, harshly pulling him down to the ground, Taiga accidently kicking the table to the side through that, but Domoto didn’t seem to care for anything else anymore. Like absorbed by the boy’s present he was focusing on him alone.

“There is your place!” Domoto hissed at him, but Taiga just kept his teasing attitude as he lifted one of his arms to his mouth to hide a smile, but Domoto took a tied grip on his wrist and pinned it to the ground.

“So what do you want me to do from down here?” Taiga asked, but moved one leg up immediately with which he rubbed his knee over the older one’s thigh and slowly Domoto’s look darkened even more.

“Getting comfortable now that you are at your right place?”

Domoto was really good in making Taiga angry over and over again, which would lead to another punishment in the end, but somehow just this once he didn’t feel that angry, after all it was the truth. This was his job and this was his place at least for the time he was at the house.

“You want to make it more uncomfortable for me? Please go ahead, I don’t mind it rough.”

That was definitely the worst thing he had ever said in his life and just for a moment he hoped he could pull this off, but something about the older one’s look told him that he had done something extremely stupid with taking it a bit too far this time.

“I’ll make you regret that choice.”

Taiga was sure he would, but there was no way he could stop him anyway and after all Reo had said he didn’t have a bad ceremony after all and all his customers were more or less easy to handle until now as well, it was time to show him his limits for once so that he could actually grew stronger through it.

Domoto reached out for the younger one’s obi and Taiga automatically wanted to help getting the kimono out of the way, but then he halted his movements and Taiga didn’t like the change in his look. There was a shine in his eyes now as if he had found something even more interesting to make Taiga suffer.

The older one still hovered over him, but one hand traveled from the obi to the kimono now, tracing the sakura blossoms which were embroidered over the whole length of it.

“Such a beautiful pattern. It’s quite an uncommon kimono for such a house, is this by any chance a present from someone?”

Was he allowed to lie? Would he even be able to fool the other one if he tried? Instead of a reply Taiga let out a shacking breath when Domoto traced the pattern up to his shoulders and just one look gave away how precious this kimono had actually grown to him and that weak moment was Domoto’s biggest triumph.

“NO!”

Taiga had grabbed the latter’s hands immediately, but it had been too late and Domoto ripped half of the kimono sleeve off, leaving Taiga staring at the ripped fabric in shock.

“Suddenly not liking it rough anymore?”

The triumphing and self-satisfied smile on Domoto’s face would have made Taiga freak a few minutes earlier, but now he felt like thrown into ice cold water. It shouldn’t affect him this much, but it did and he could feel how his wall crumbled brick by brick.

“Please stop…” Taiga let out in a low voice as Domoto reached out for the fabric once more, but as much as he wanted to shout, to push the latter away and get his wall up again he felt how it was too heavy. When Domoto ripped a long part of the sleeve off completely this time Taiga let out a whine and tried to somehow curl up to protect the rest of it from the destruction, but suddenly his strength was completely gone and the latter could easily force him to lie on his back once more.

“You are way better in begging than demanding, you know?” Domoto whispered as he leant down to his face, his breath on his lips giving him shivers while he tried to make the tears of rage in his eyes disappear to not give the other one even more reasons to mock him. When Domoto moved his hands around the boy’s collar to the back Taiga let out a shaking breath as an unpleasant shiver ran down his spine.

Taiga opened his mouth to speak, to somehow make a use of the way Domoto liked seeing him beg, but the latter shook his head before his lips were suddenly on his, with a light touch.

“Shhh,” the latter let out against his lips. “There is no need to say anything, because none of your begging will stop me anyway.”

With the next move Domoto ripped the back of the kimono into half. Taiga let out a gasp on the move and while he felt so angry he felt also defeated as he couldn’t stop the first tear from escaping his eye.

“Hurt you look even more beautiful!”

Taiga swallowed a sob on that while his eyes kept throwing daggers at the other one. The latter’s hands were still on the ripped fabric which was hanging from Taiga’s shoulders and he pulled the younger one closer on it.

“You really thought you could beat me in my own game?”

No of course he hadn’t thought he could do that, but he had indeed hoped to be at least a bit stronger, after all it felt like Domoto hadn’t even started playing and Taiga already went game over.

“Let me show you what being rough really means!” Domoto whispered against his lips before he finally kissed him for the first time. The first real body contact between them and Taiga’s whole body tensed up to an unhealthy degree already, how was he supposed to go through the rest? Reo was right he wasn’t ready for Domoto’s games, but he didn’t feel like he had made a wrong decision. Sooner or later he would have had to face someone similar he was sure of that. At least with Domoto, Reo knew how to take care of all the shattered pieces later.

Chapter Text

He felt used, beaten and even worse, ashamed when Domoto finally left. The physical pain was something he could deal with, but as Reo had already predicted, Domoto’s mind games had been way worse. The man left with a satisfied expression seeing in what a broken way he left Taiga behind.

To make it his ultimate win he had made Taiga wear the ripped kimono once more in the end and made him bow to him as he left the room. Taiga didn’t even dare to lift his head from the ground, because he knew that Kochi was outside in the corridor and he also knew that he had heard everything that had happened and it hadn’t been quiet. He could barely carry the weight of his own emotions so facing someone else would shatter him to pieces now.

“I hope you learned you lesson,” Domoto let out in a calm voice, but luckily he didn’t wait for a reply this time and slid the door shut. A heavy silence filled the room in which Taiga’s breathes seemed to get louder and louder until he couldn’t stand even the smallest sound and he moved his hands to his ears. He still didn’t sit up straight, but the more he remained quiet the more his own emotions crushed him. His body ached at so many points that he couldn’t even whine over any pain, he had gone in a numb state. His mind though wouldn’t easily leave him alone and he cursed himself for feeling so embarrassed over the whole situation. Was he so disappointed in himself? Had he lost this game so badly that the shame would make him unable to put the pieces back together?

But he wasn’t alone, he had asked for help, hadn’t he? He had known he would break under it! Remembering his own request he slowly took his hands away from his ears and then he heard the door getting slit open once more and he put his arms protectively around his body, after all the kimono was nothing more than a ripped mess of fabric. For a moment it remained silent and Taiga leant to the front with his eyes closed, still way too close to shattering and even with Reo next to him it would be hard to collect himself again.

“What did he do....”

The voice he heard would usually make Taiga feel relieved, but now it petrified him and he sat up straight with wide eyes. Why? From all people he would be somehow able to face now Juri was the last one.

As if he had expected to see this picture in front of him Juri was carrying a yukata in his hands, but he seemed too shocked to make use of it for now as he slowly walked up to Taiga, his eyes never leaving the other one’s face.

Taiga felt like he had stopped breathing for several minutes already and his body filled with a painful emptiness as Juri stopped in front of him. He could hear it inside of him the small cracking noises and when Juri tossed the yukata to the ground before he fell on his knees and pulled Taiga in his embrace, everything finally shattered.

Taiga pulled himself even closer into the other one’s embrace as he heard his own sobs like an echo from afar in his ears. He could tell how the small sobs grew louder and almost reached the level of a scream as his tears were flowing over and he buried his face against the latter’s chest.

Juri was shaking almost as badly as him, but he kept him in a tight hug, dropping some kisses on his hair while whispering some soothing words Taiga couldn’t clearly understand.

What he heard next was the door getting closed and he was sure that it had been Reo. After all Juri had been with another customer when Domoto arrived, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t ask where Taiga had ended up for such a long time and maybe even though Juri was the last person Taiga wanted to see him like this, he had been the only person who could actually help him at the moment. Luckily Reo seemed to have figured that out as well, so for now he would let Juri pick up the pieces and thank Reo later for his wise decision.

“I am sorry…” Taiga let out in a shaking voice, his sobs not stopping and his body still shaking.

“What are you saying? For what are you apologizing?” Juri scolded him, but kept him in his embrace as if he feared he would fall apart if he released him now.

“I couldn’t stop him. I tried, but he didn’t care how precious it was…”

It took a moment longer until Juri understood and a slight slap on Taiga’s head followed before he dropped another kiss on the same spot immediately.

“You are such an idiot! Who cares for some stupid fabric?”

“But-”

“No but! I care for you and for nothing else! I want you to be okay and if I have to rip a dozen kimonos apart or even set the house on fire to make sure you are okay I will do it! I am so sorry that I couldn’t be there for you!”

“But you are now,” Taiga let out in a weak voice as his body started feeling heavy out of a sudden. The physical pain was slowly getting to him, now that Juri was easing his mental pain bit by bit.

“And I will stay as long as it takes.”

“Then you should get ready for some hours in this room, because I doubt I’ll be even able to stand up soon.”

It wasn’t actually a lie, but Taiga also wanted to postpone talking to the others and he would definitely be called to Kamenashi sooner or later, but for now he wanted everything to be later!

Finally Juri took the yukata from the ground and threw it over Taiga’s shoulders before he closed his arms protectively around him once more.

“Might not take as long as you think, but I’ll wait until the end of time for you if necessary.”

When Taiga was able to form a brief smile on that he realized that the boy was right. Without even noticing it he had slowly started calming down in the other one’s embrace, but there was still something which made him feel way too heavy to get up and while it was the one thing he didn’t want to do it was also the only thing which would make the burden a bit lighter.

“Would you listen?”

Juri didn’t even need to ask to what, because he understood right away and nodded before he placed another kiss on the boy’s hair.

“I’ll listen to everything you want to tell me. I’ll do whatever it takes to make you feel better.”

Taiga took another deep breath on hearing that before he finally decided to tell Juri about what exactly he had gone through. After all nothing was really worth telling until now, even his ceremony was something he could talk about with a smile now, but there was no way he could smile about this, at least not for now. Maybe one day he might grow as strong as Kentaro and Reo and face his past with a smile. For now all he wanted was the pain to get a little bit less and with Juri at his side he was sure they could put the pieces back together.

***

Once more Hokuto was down at the veranda with Kochi, both on a day off with Hokuto wearing his usual blue white yukata. It seemed like each time he spent time with Kochi he wore that one instead of his dark violet one. It was the only colorful one he owned after all, even his kimonos were quite dark usually, as dark as Taiga’s mood.

And once more Taiga had failed in distracting himself from his thoughts and he let out a sight, standing up from the windowsill.

The incident with Domoto had been three days ago and everyone handled him extremely careful and a part of him was happy about that, another part wanted to yell at them.

Kamenashi had had a talk with him, but at that time Taiga had succeeded in remaining calm around the owner, even though he was sure that Kamenashi didn’t just give him a week off because of his physical injuries.

Another week...his ceremony had given him just a short time off, then the incident with the violent customer had made him unable to work again and once more he felt trapped inside the back of the house. The only difference this time was that he liked it inside this cage!

A cage filled with hurt, shame and fear and somehow he had made himself comfortable inside of it without letting the others know.

Of course Juri had succeeded in taking a huge part of the burden off his shoulders and that just through listening and being there, but as much as Taiga wanted it to be over through that it wouldn’t work that easily.

For the first day Juri had refused to work and stayed with Taiga in their room while Reo and Hokuto went to work as usual, but from the next day on Kamenashi ordered them all to go back to their regular schedule, which left just Hokuto with a day off from their room and luckily the younger one was good in reading the atmosphere and he left Taiga alone for most of the day.

“You’re not planning on barricading yourself in here for good now, do you? It’s just a week not a whole lifetime.”

Taiga turned his attention to the door where Kentaro was leaning against the doorframe, wearing his pink flower kimono.

“It’s been just three days. I still have a lot of time to take care of my boredom.”

Kentaro gave him a skeptical look on that before he walked inside the room and without even knowing what came over him Taiga moved to the table in the corner to get one of the pillows on which the other one raised an eyebrow.

“Wow, seems like his lesson will remain in your head for a long time.”

When Taiga realized what he meant he clenched the pillow in his hands and slowly he started to drown in those dark memories once more, but then the pillow got pulled out of his hands before Kentaro slapped him with it on the side of the head.

“Stop looking so gloomy, it won’t help. Now get yourself a pillow as well.”

Taiga did as he was told and he sat down in front of his senpai, feeling a bit tense out of a sudden. Kentaro had heard about what happened of course, but they didn’t have a direct talk since then.

“You know, some things will help you a lot from now on. After all you should have offered me a pillow each time I come to your room.”

The teasing smile on the older one’s lips made Taiga relax a bit, but he couldn’t smile back. Taiga was still wearing his night yukata, but he didn’t plan on going out so he didn’t see a need to get ready. That was definitely also one of the points why Kentaro scolded him for shutting himself in, but was he already ready to face anyone?

“Thinking will make you go crazy,” the other one let out on which Taiga gave him a questioning look. “Trust me, I’ve been there. You ask yourself so many questions and you’ll most likely never find the right answer.”

“Then how do I make this go away.”

Somehow Taiga was sure that Kentaro didn’t need an explanation of what he meant with “this”, his senpai was able to read his emotions like an open book.

“Let it stay instead of trying to make it go away. Learn from it and use it when you don’t know how to handle a situation.”

Always wise words, always right words and still it was so hard to do what he told him to.

“Don’t worry, we all know this gloomy look, on others and on ourselves. There are always dark days for all of us. Even if it doesn’t seem like it now, you’ll be able to learn how to move on.”

“Like you? How will I be able to smile that brightly and be so confident when I can’t get rid of those dark shadows?”

“Well, confidence and also smiles can be faked,” Kentaro said to his surprise and suddenly he saw the same slightly broken expression he had seen when he had first asked Kentaro about his ceremony.

“But how did you make the first step? What do I have to do to be able to leave the shadow?”

It seemed to be a complicated question, because Kentaro stayed silent for a while, lost in his thoughts.

“There are different ways, but not all will work for you.”

“Which way worked for you?”

“The direct one.”

Taiga gulped on hearing that, because he knew what that meant. Going back to work as if nothing had happened, finding the courage to sit in the window sill again not knowing if the same thing would happen to him right away.

“In my case I was lucky, because it could have ended very badly after my ceremony, but someone took really good care of me at that time.”

First Taiga wanted to ask if he was talking about Fuma, but the latter had said before that he still didn’t come to Yoshiwara around the time Kentaro had his ceremony.

“But in your case I think a leap in the cold water might back fire, so maybe you should approach it slowly. Take your time and try things out.”

Meant as much as he should maybe ask someone from the boys for help and as much as Reo would be usually his first choice he somehow didn’t want to involve him even further. The boy had to handle Domoto a lot as well and Taiga didn’t want to be a burden to him. The way Kentaro talked about it made clear that he would indeed also offer his help, if necessary together with Fuma, but somehow the members of the house were already too close to Taiga to see this as a step towards the right direction.

“Take your time thinking about it. Maybe you’ll find a way on your own, but just don’t let it swallow you!”

“Thank you,” Taiga said honestly on his senpai’s advice before the latter left the room again.

With a sigh Taiga got up once more and looked out of the window, finding Juri at the laundry place and his feet almost moved automatically as he wanted to hurry down to him to help, but then he forced himself to stop as he saw what he was holding in his hands. With a shocked expression he realized that Juri had taken the ripped kimono from him without Taiga noticing and even though it was nothing more than a piece of ripped fabric now he cleaned it carefully. But what shattered Taiga’s heart into even more pieces was the sad look he could see on the boy’s face. Taiga wasn’t stupid, he knew that Juri wasn’t angry that it got ripped, he felt sorry for Taiga and that gave him another unpleasant sting. He somehow couldn’t stand seeing Juri that down. He needed him to smile and laugh and do stupid things. He didn’t want to be the reason for the latter looking so gloomy. On the other hand their expressions were even and as long as he didn’t find a way out, Juri would keep him company in the shadows.

***

Two days later Taiga had been allowed to at least do his typical duties so that Juri could rest a bit as well, not that Taiga hadn’t realized that Reo had also helped out with his duties. In the morning Taiga had done his best to make his roommates believe that he was okay so that they would all leave to the front of the house. Truth was that he was still everything but okay, not that he had tried much to change that since his talk with Kentaro. In his mind he was busy, trying to find a way how to handle the situation, but he always reached a dead end where he could suddenly hear Domoto’s voice, feel his touch and then he stopped thinking before he could freak himself out too much. Like a doom loop this repeated day and night, but now he was at least busy with washing kimonos once more.

With slow steps Taiga walked back inside the kimono room, putting some clean kimonos back into the shelf. Lost in his thoughts he looked at all the patterns. Should he choose a new one? After all he was short of one now and he was allowed to choose or switch kimonos when he wanted to, but somehow it felt so wrong and so he withdrew his hand with a guilty feeling before he got up with a sigh and wanted to step out into the corridor again.

When someone stepped in his way he automatically stepped back inside the room, which was a mistake as he realized seconds later when he was pushed even further into the room and then the door got shut behind the two boys who had just entered the room.

“What do you want?” Taiga asked not even annoyed, more like tired, because he wasn’t in the mood of getting into any unnecessary fight now.

“Thank you for last time,” Shota let out mockingly while Ryota leant against the frame of the closed door with crossed arms. They were finally using their work kimonos and were most of the time following the rules, at least when someone was watching them, which wasn't the case at the moment unfortunately.

“You were the ones behaving stupid at that time, not me.”

“I see that a little different,” Shota said as he stepped closer, but Taiga didn’t even back off a bit. “Your friend behaved even worse, don’t you think so? I didn’t lay a hand on anyone, but he did.”

“Right, because you two didn’t intend at all to lay a hand on Kentaro seconds before that.”

“But we didn’t,” Ryota replied with a played innocent look.

“That still doesn’t explain what you want from me though,” Taiga said. After all if they were annoyed about Juri’s behavior they could go directly to him, not that Taiga would allow them to hurt him.

“The reason he freaked was you after all,” Shota explained, but that still wasn’t an exact reason. To his own surprise he didn’t even flinch when Shota grabbed him by the chin to make him look up. “How much would he freak if he break what he tried to protect so badly?”

Now everything was clear, but still Taiga didn’t panic and that reaction should make him actually worry. What was wrong with him? Why did he feel so numb, so empty? They were threatening him and here he didn’t care. That was definitely not the way of handling his problems the way Kentaro had told him to. Instead of somehow reaching the light he felt like drowning even more in the darkness.

When Ryota stepped away from the door on a side glance from Shota, Taiga’s eyes kept following him until he moved behind him. Trapped between them he felt a slight shiver running through his body, but there was still no reaction which would give him the needed will to fight back.

“You were so protective about your senpai before, where did that fire go to?” Ryota asked as his hands landed on Taiga’s shoulders.

“It got extinguished,” Taiga let out in a low voice on which Shota let out a mocking chuckle.

“What a shame and here I thought you’d give us a good show.”

Once more the latter put his hand under his chin, but this time he dared to get even closer, but Taiga didn’t flinch, not even when Shota got way too close.

“Mh, you really seem to have lost that exciting shine in your eyes,” Shota said as he stroked the long strands of hair out of the boy’s eyes with an almost disappointed look.

“Then maybe we have to help him get back that energy?” Ryota suggested and his hand traveled to the front of the latter’s yukata, but when Taiga didn’t even react to that move Shota stepped back with an expression which almost made Taiga laugh. He looked almost pissed as if someone had told him that he didn’t want to play with him.

“Leave him alone for now.”

“Are you serious?” Ryota asked perplex, but removed his hands and stepped back.

“Playing with a puppet is no fun after all.”

Without losing any more time both left the room as if they had done nothing at all and Taiga remained alone. That was the same reason why they wouldn’t approach Reo. It wasn’t like he was a puppet they could play with, but he didn’t mind the games. Taiga usually minded them, a lot! And here he hadn’t been able to do anything. No complains, no shouting, no fear! Wasn’t that good somehow? But as soon as he started thinking about it a bit more the more he felt how everything got heavier again and then he finally sank to his knees, burring his hands in his hair. Once more all the thoughts were coming back, all the emotions crushing down on him like a wave of fire burning his skin.

Would this continue like this now? Would he remain unable to build up his wall again? To put boundaries? Surrendering to everyone and then getting crushed under all the weight after it? This couldn’t be the answer.

***

“Taiga!”

“What?”

“Oh no- watch out...got it!” Reo announced proudly as he caught the ink right before it could hit the ground.

“Whups, sorry.”

His apology didn’t save Taiga from Hokuto’s slap against the back of his head.

“I know you distract yourself with those writing lessons from your real problems, but do me the favor and stay focused on doing it right and without staining the whole room with ink.

Reo put the ink away from the table Taiga was writing at so that Hokuto wouldn’t get another outburst, but they seemed all way too careful with him anyway, so Taiga didn’t mind when they actually scolded him and treated him like it was just a random day off.

“I’ll be more careful,” Taiga promised, but before he could keep writing Hokuto took the paper in front of him away.

“Then how about you are more careful about what you are writing as well?”

“What do you mean?”

“What did you write here?”

“Samurai? At least that is what you told me it means.”

When he heard a chuckle from Reo and saw how the latter hid a smile behind his hand he raised an eyebrow at him in confusion before he turned to Hokuto once more.

“Did I write it wrong?”

“It means time, Taiga! You learned that one two weeks ago!”

“Oh…”

“Guess he wanted to tell you that it’s time for a break?” Reo teased.

“I’d say it indeed is,” Hokuto said before he took the Fude out of Taiga’s hand.

Reo got up and put the ink on the windowsill together with some of the remaining papers, but then he gasped, making both boys look at him.

“What is it?”

“Ehm, Hokuto, you should maybe-”

Hokuto looked out the window before his look darkened.

“I am going to kill them!”

“Stop them! I wanted to say stop them, but well do whatever fits you best,” Reo said while Hokuto was already on his way to the door with threatening steps after finding Shota and Ryota next to Kochi and the boy didn’t seem pleased by their company.

“Should we get Taisuke or any other senpai?” Taiga asked worried, but Reo sat down on the windowsill and shook his head.

“Hokuto is not stupid, he won’t freak as much as it seems at the moment. He knows exactly how to control his emotions if necessary. It won’t help if he ends up being the one getting into trouble if he gets into a fight with them when they didn’t actually do anything bad yet.”

“Yet…”

Of course Reo’s look got a bit sceptic on hearing that and Taiga bit his lip, but of course the younger one moved closer immediately and sat down in front of him.

“Is there something you didn’t tell us?”

“Not really.”

And it wasn’t actually a lie, right? After all Reo had said it himself they hadn’t done anything “yet”.

“Are you really sure you can handle this on your own?”

The sudden worry in the other one’s voice made a stone drop into Taiga’s stomach, one of so many already. Why did the topic always switch back to him and his problems?

“What do you think?”

“What do you mean?”

“Am I looking like I am failing? Am I not able to put the pieces back together?”

Maybe he shouldn’t have asked, because the other one’s look darkened a bit on that question.

“It’s not like I think you won’t be strong enough to handle it, but it seems like you are a bit lost and you don’t know where to start so...you keep ignoring it and that could backfire at some point.”

Well, it indeed had backfired already with Shota and Ryota and if he just went back to work in this state the worst of the worst customers could have the fun of their lives with him and he wouldn’t even be able to complain.

“Are you okay?”

Reo waved his hand in front of the older one’s face as he seemed to have been lost in his thoughts for quite a while. Taiga shook his head to make himself focus again before he faked a brief smile and nodded. “All good. I guess I am really just tired. I will take a break for now and see if I can find something to keep myself busy with later.”

“We’re always here for you if you need our help,” Reo said almost careful and this time Taiga’s smile wasn’t fake as he nodded. “Thank you.”

Chapter Text

The days were slowly getting colder and Taiga needed to take breaks when he washed the kimonos outside or his hands would start feeling numb in the cold water.

His time off was almost over and things just didn’t seem to move on, like a stuck gearwheel Taiga felt like running in circles. After offering their help Reo and Kentaro had left him alone most of the time and Hokuto also just helped with distracting him with writing lessons.

And Juri…

It wasn’t clear anymore who was running from whom. The boy had been there for him right from the beginning and Taiga had opened up to him completely. Still he felt like he would remain a burden if he relied on Juri too much.

After hanging the last kimono on the line Taiga sat back on the veranda with a sigh. Then his look fell on one of the baskets at the side. Because he hadn’t been in charge of this duty for some days he hadn’t actually taken care of everything yet. He leant to the side and pulled one of the baskets closer. The kimonos in there seemed already older. Maybe they were put there to be thrown away in the end and first Taiga wanted to push the basket back, but then he saw the familiar pattern between all the kimonos.

Almost as if he was afraid the fabric could hurt him if he touched it he carefully reached out for the ripped fabric and pulled his kimono out. Who had put it in there? He had seen Juri washing it and hanging it up, but now that he thought about it after he went back to his duties he hadn’t seen it anymore. Had Juri put it away? Had the boy been afraid of hurting Taiga with keeping the kimono visible to everyone?

For the first time in quite a while Taiga felt how anger rose in him. Anger about himself being so weak. Why did everyone always feel the need to protect him? Was he really unable to protect himself or stand up on his own after falling? He clenched the fabric in his hand before his look changed and he stood up, folding the fabric together before he finally dared to make his first step out of the shadows.

About half an hour later, dressed neatly in his violet and white yukata, he arrived at Tegoshi’s shop.

“Oh what a surprise, welcome!” Tegoshi greeted him. The man was wearing one of his weird self-made pants style kimonos with high boots, but Taiga still thought that they suited him so much better than a usual kimono or yukata. The colors were of yellow, orange, red and black, they were spiraling over the different parts of the outfit as if they showed the cardinal points, following the sun rising and setting.

“What gives me the pleasure of your visit?”

“I was wondering if you could repair something for me,” Taiga explained and Tegoshi waved him over to a big table in the middle of the room where he usually seemed to cut fabric.

With slightly shaking hands Taiga unpacked the kimono and put it carefully on the table.

“Oh dear…” Tegoshi let out in a low voice as he stepped closer and unfolded the fabric in full length. Taiga automatically stepped back, somehow afraid he could be pulled back into his dark thoughts if he looked at it for too long.

“You were wearing this one when Domoto visited?”

“What- How did you…?”

“Know? Boy, here in Yoshiwara word spreads fast, there is no one who doesn’t know about what had happened.”

Hearing that, Taiga felt like crawling back into his shell, pretending to not even existing anymore.

“What’s on your mind?”

“Mh?”

“I know that look. You think they are judging, right?”

Taiga couldn’t deny that those kinds of thoughts were indeed circling in his mind. “More laughing though I guess.”

“Laughing at you? Why should they? Taiga nothing of what happened would make anyone laugh at you or did you see anyone laughing at you in the house or on your way here?”

No he hadn’t, but that didn’t mean they weren’t laughing in silence. Before he could drown in his thoughts for too long Tegoshi concentrated back on the kimono.

“It looks worse than it actually is. Most of the parts are ripped at the seams so it will be easy to fix and the parts which are ripped in the middle I can somehow cover up with a new pattern. The question is just…”

“What?” Taiga asked carefully as Tegoshi kept starring at the fabric, but didn’t say anything else before he looked up at the boy with a kind of expecting look.

“How precious it is too you.”

“It’s a present from Juri it is the most precious Kimono I have.”

“I know that, after all I made it for you,” Tegoshi said with a light smile before he moved up a bit towards Taiga, his look now turning a bit interrogating.

“What I meant is what price would you pay for it?”

“How much do you want?”

This time Tegoshi let out a small chuckle before he licked his lips and tried to put on a serious face, but all Taiga could see was his stare getting more intense and that was when it clicked even before the older one explained himself.

“It’s not about how much, but what kind of payment.”

“This is against the rules,” Taiga replied immediately. After all he had made such a fuss about Reo and Domoto breaking the rules that he couldn’t just accept this.

“So if I said I go back to the house with you instead would you accept?”

“It’s not like I can refuse a customer.”

“In this case you can, because I ask you for payment, so this is not about me going there to play with you, but about you offering me something for my services.”

Taiga wasn’t sure if he should feel impressed by the way Tegoshi was playing with him or if he should actually get annoyed. He had said he heard about Domoto and still he tried to make such a move, but it wasn’t like Tegoshi was a stranger, after all he had also tried to get him interested in the ceremony.

“I see, you are still lost.” Tegoshi said before he folded the kimono together. “Don’t worry I’ve seen boys in even worse states and they all somehow made it back.”

When Tegoshi held out the kimono towards Taiga the boy wanted to take it, but somehow his mind suddenly blocked his movements. A step towards the wrong direction. He had thought like that a lot over the last days when he thought about asking the others for help. Taking the kimono and going back felt even worse. It wasn’t just a step to the wrong direction, but a step off the track, a move that could make him stumble and fall, unable to get back up.

“What are you waiting for? I bet you’ve things to do at the house, don’t you?”

Had he made it sound provoking intentionally? Even if not, Taiga couldn’t stop himself from glaring back at the latter, but it seemed like Tegoshi had waited for that reaction. He pressed the kimono against the younger one’s chest as he leant a bit closer.

“By the way I won’t offer this again.”

It was a switch which Taiga had forgotten about. Like an outlet he hadn’t opened for way too long his body filled with a mixture of annoyance and excitement. With a swift movement he took the kimono from the latter and tossed it back on the table before he stepped even closer on which the latter moved his head a bit back, but kept looking at the younger one.

“Then better do a good job or I will be the one asking for a payment for my services instead.”

“I’d say the quality of my work will depend on how good you are.”

Tegoshi’s look had always been dangerous, but being that close it was like Taiga could drown in his eyes in an instant. He had regained a bit of his confidence, but with Tegoshi he didn’t feel like he could lead this at all, but luckily the other one seemed to have other plans anyway. With a rough movement he pulled the younger one’s head to the back and let his lips brush over his before he pulled back just enough to be able to look Taiga in the eyes.

“We’ve to do something about these clouded eyes.”

Taiga knew what he meant, because no matter how confident he seemed to the outside there were more than just a few doubts about what he was doing inside, but realizing that Tegoshi was aware of that made him feel like he had finally found the right person to pull him back on track.

Tegoshi released him just to pull him on the wrist towards a door Taiga hadn’t even realized was part of the shop until now. He slid it to the side, revealing a small storage room.

“What a shame that the shop is open for the whole day, so I guess we’ve to hurry a bit,” Tegoshi said teasingly as he closed the door. Taiga had no time to even take a look around before he found himself pressed against the wall, Tegoshi’s hands on his hips and his lips slowly exploring his jawline up to his ears.

“Don’t make me hold you up that won’t work.”

First the warning didn’t make sense to Taiga until Tegoshi put one of his legs between his. With a small gasp Taiga straightened his back and realized that he had already started sliding down the wall.

“I can’t help it, you are somehow irresistible. You’ve a melting touch,” Taiga praised him as he got the chance to crane his neck enough to whisper into the other’s ear.

“What a compliment,” Tegoshi teased him and made use of Taiga’s weakness right away as he let his hands explore the boy’s body even more. He didn’t even need to touch his bare skin to make the boy let out some low moans at some point and a shiver ran through his whole body as Tegoshi rubbed his crotch over his and let a sweet moan out himself.

“Mh, still too tense,” Tegoshi complained as he backed off a bit and Taiga couldn’t deny that he was right. It was still hard to relax, but at least he didn’t actually feel afraid, at least not until Tegoshi suddenly went on his knees and Taiga’s eyes went wide.

“What’s the shocked expression for? I told you that for today I am not one of your customers.”

Well, he was indeed proving that at the moment, but it wasn’t like he needed to take care of Taiga, but there wasn’t even enough time to complain, not that there was a reason to complain the first place. With quick movements Tegoshi let the obi drop to the ground and opened Taiga’s yukata and with skilled movements he had his fingers on the boy’s member on which Taiga felt how his knees got weak out of a sudden and he threw his head to the back with a low moan.

“Don’t you dare to slide down now!” Tegoshi warned him again, but it was harder than ever to actually remain in a standing position.

The most distracting thing was that Tegoshi kept looking up at him and slowly Taiga felt how his body temperature rose and as much as he didn’t want to feel embarrassed it was impossible to keep a straight face with the way Tegoshi played with him.

“That’s way better,” Tegoshi let out pleased after another moment of teasing and then suddenly he took him in his mouth which made Taiga gasp. Seconds later Tegoshi pinched him on the thigh on which Taiga flinched a bit and realized that he had again started to slowly slide down the wall. This time though he used one hand and grabbed Tegoshi by the hair to be able to stabilize himself a bit more. The latter seemed to like that move and he sped up his movements a bit, forcing some desperate moans out of Taiga.

“Tegoshi...please…”

“Well that finally sounds like someone is enjoying this.”

This time Taiga dared to pull on the latter’s hair on that teasing comment, but Tegoshi was up on his feet immediately and his hands removed Taiga’s yukata from his shoulders so fast that there wasn’t even any time for Taiga to feel cold before he got suddenly turned around. Before Taiga could even start thinking too much again Tegoshi attacked his neck with his teeth the same moment he pushed in with two fingers.

Taiga let out a small muffled sound on that, but it wasn’t like Tegoshi moved in any way rough and the way he kept touching, kissing and biting his skin Taiga melted more and more under his touch, almost not realizing how he had pulled out again. Like a black out he couldn’t tell when Tegoshi had opened his pants, but then he pressed him against the wall with more weight than before and made him spread his legs.

“Not that your weak legs give up on you after all,” Tegoshi teased him before he pushed in and left Taiga to his low moans for a while before he attacked his skin once more as he picked up the pace of his thrusts.

The danger of his legs giving up on Taiga was quite big the closer he came to finding release and he could call himself lucky that Tegoshi had decided to make this fast, because all his teasing touches and his way too right movements inside of him would make him collapse at some point.

When Tegoshi closed one hand around his member again Taiga let out a moan mixed with a small cough on which Tegoshi let out a quiet chuckle next to his ear.

“My precious boy, you were so interesting from the very first time you came to my shop. You really have to learn how to use your skills!”

The skill of surrendering or the skill of seeming always like the right victim for everyone? Taiga scolded himself right away for letting the negative thoughts get the upper hand. If he wanted to become more confident he had to start from his thoughts. The skill of making people fall for him, getting interested in him! The skill of seducing with his look! Yes he indeed had some skills he needed to learn how to use better while also slowly getting rid of his weaknesses. Getting easily driven to a corner, immediately losing confidence at the smallest mistake and the worst of all: always trying to keep all the problems to himself to not be a burden!

His thoughts suddenly got disturbed when Tegoshi's thrusts got rougher as he was obviously close as well.

“Let me hear your sweet voice once more,” Tegoshi whispered before he made Taiga come and the boy made sure to not hold back his moan and it helped Tegoshi to find release immediately as well.

When Tegoshi’s weight on him got less he actually needed to use his arms to stabilize himself against the wall or he would definitely lose balance this time. It took him a lot longer than usual to calm down, which was obvious because normally the customers didn’t actually care for his needs in the first place. When he finally dared to turn around his yukata landed in his arms and he was surprised to see Tegoshi completely dressed so fast.

“By the way I won’t tell anything, I don’t want one of my favorite boys to get into trouble,” Tegoshi said with a wink before he left the room as if all they had done was talking.

Slowly Taiga put his yukata back on and followed Tegoshi back inside the shop, feeling relieved to not find any other customers inside.

Tegoshi was on the side of the table, preparing some yarn and somehow the silence between them made Taiga feel a bit weird. It was clear that Tegoshi was doing him the favor of repairing the kimono for him, but somehow that had turned irrelevant to Taiga at least for the moment, because he finally realized that Tegoshi had done something way more important for him.

“Thank you,” Taiga let out as he stopped next to the table, but the latter didn’t look up and kept analyzing the parts of the kimono he had to fix.

“I got paid, right? So this is not more than my job.”

“You know exactly that I don’t mean the kimono.”

Yes of course he knew, it was written all over his face. The calm smile, the proud expression. And knowing that Tegoshi had understood him Taiga bowed to him slightly before he wanted to leave the shop.

“Taiga.”

The boy stopped in front of the door and turned around, finding Tegoshi finally looking up at him.

“Make sure that your strengths get the upper hand from now on and not your weaknesses! If you fail I am always there to help you out, but so are the others!”

“I know, thank you,” Taiga replied with a faint smile and now he could finally reach out for his friend’s outstretched hands again without feeling ashamed. Not too close, not too far, he had found someone to reach out to for his first step, now he could dare to try other distances again, hoping that he could keep his promise to Tegoshi and work more on his strong points.

***

“Ah! Oh no, damnit!”

Taiga had tried to catch the ink at the last moment, but failed, as so often.

Finding back to a more confident level of himself Taiga had also started being more open with everyone and even though no one had directly asked what had happened they seemed quite happy that he was on the right way.

Unfortunately now he really felt like he needed to go back to work or he would die of boredom. Since the morning he had kept writing, knowing that all of the others had work and no one could keep him company. But as so often he got tired at some point and again he had tossed the ink to the ground, staining the tatami mats with it.

As fast as he could he tried to get the strains out of the mats, but he needed to get water to be able to erase them for good, so for now he moved the table aside and rescued Hokuto’s book and his glasses before the boy would kill him if any stains would reach his personal belongings.

He also moved the mirror to the side and the small cupboard next to it. When he realized how dirty the corner actually was, because they never cleaned it he wanted to make sure to take care of that as well, but then his look fell on the mat in the corner. Something was different than with the other mats. It was just a small part in the corner, but somehow the part on the side seemed of slightly different color so Taiga crawled closer and then he saw why. The part was cut and was now upside down, leaving the wrong side up. Carefully Taiga pulled on the corner and a small square of the mat got easily lifted up by him. He tilted his head as he found a small box inside a small opening under the matt and just for a moment he thought it would be better to close it again and pretend that he hadn’t seen anything. After all hiding things meant that someone didn’t want this to be found, but no one was here at the moment. No one would find out if he took a brief look, right?

His curiosity won the upper hand in the end and Taiga lifted the small box out, making sure to not scatter the dust on top of it all over the floor. When he opened it he found a Shoto, a short katana, inside of it. The sheath was black and there didn’t seem anything special about it at first sight. Taiga dared to pull the short blade out the sheath and then he saw the emblem on the lower part of the blade. It looked like a bridge, but Taiga didn’t know much about all the clans of Tokugawa and who had which emblem, maybe it was just a normal family emblem?

“Hey, what are you doing?”

Taiga jolted and then he hissed as he had cut himself with the blade in the hand by accident.

“Sorry, I didn’t want to scare you! Let me see your hand!”

When Kochi suddenly hurried over to him Taiga felt relieved, after all this was definitely not the boy’s katana as this wasn’t his room.

“It’s okay, just a small cut.”

Kochi still urged him to come with him to clean the wound and put something over it.

“Let me put this back first...and would you mind not telling anyone?”

“Sure, I didn’t know about this myself.”

Right, which meant that this katana belonged to one of his three roommates, but who? Or was it in here for even longer already?

“Let me put it away for you, as it seems we also have to take care of the floor again?” Kochi asked laughing as he took the sword from Taiga. The younger one nodded with an embarrassed smile while Kochi took the sheath from him as well, but then he halted as he saw the emblem.

“You know it?”

“I’ve the feeling I saw it before. But I don’t know where…” With a hiss Kochi bought one hand to his temple and Taiga looked at him with a worried expression.

“Are you okay?”

“All good just a sudden headache. Let’s put this back and take care of this mess and your hand,” Kochi said before he urged Taiga to stand up and get ready to go downstairs.

“Oh, by the way, why did you come up here?” Taiga asked when Kochi put everything back.

“Right! I totally forgot. The others want to go out tomorrow.”

“Go out?”

“Yes. We do this not so often, especially because we need the permission of our senpais, but because Kentaro is joining us we are allowed to go.”

“But go where and do what?”

Kochi just grinned on that before he played innocent. “We’ll see…”

“What’s with all the secretive behavior?”

“Don’t be so suspicious and let yourself get surprised!”

Taiga didn’t like that, not at all, but what else could he do? He was sure no one of the others would tell him anything either.

“Oh and don’t tell Juri!”

That was even more suspicious, but for now he gave up and let the topic drop, he could still see what was going to happen the next day.

Chapter Text

It had been a weird feeling to leave Juri behind like that, everyone coming up with an excuse except for Reo. The boys seemed to have not noticed though that something was off. After all they didn’t exactly tell him that they left, but just came up with excuses like duties outside of the house, a meeting with Kamenashi or others.

Taiga met with Kentaro, Hokuto and Kochi in front of the house after the house had already closed. Taiga was wearing his violet/white yukata, Hokuto his blue/white one, Kentaro a light violet one with red roses and Kochi a plane grey one.

“So where are we going?” Taiga tried again, but of course he didn’t get a direct reply.

“Just follow us, you’ll see,” Kentaro teased before they started walking. They had some small luggage with them, wrapped up and Taiga wondered what it was.

They walked for quite a while and left the Yoshiwara district which explained why they actually needed to inform the senpais about this trip.

They followed the river along the road until there were no houses close by anymore and then Taiga saw light at the river side. There was a place like a small beach and he could see lanterns being set up by some people. When they came closer one of them saw them coming and waved at them.

“Hey, is everything ready?” Kentaro asked and then Taiga gasped as he realized who was waiting for them.

The person Kentaro approached pulled him closer and gave him a greedy kiss before he replied. “All good, you are late anyway so we had enough time for the set up,” Fuma replied. The boy was dressed a bit fancier than usual as well, his yukata a dark brown with thin pink lines on it and his hair tied back in a small ponytail.

“If the place left you speechless I’d say we did a good job.”

Taiga flinched when Hikaru stood right next to him out of a sudden. The older one let out a chuckle on his jumpy behavior and clapped him on the shoulder before Myuto and Hagiya approached them as well. While Hikaru wore a black yukata with a grey obi, Myuto’s yukata showed a yellow flower pattern on a dark green background with a black obi and Hagiya was the only one of them who was wearing a grey jinbei instead of a yukata.

“Let me guess they didn’t tell you anything about today?” Myuto asked and Taiga shook his head. “Well, you still showed up, that means you are fine I guess?”

Of course they had heard about Domoto as well and both seemed a bit worried, but Taiga nodded right away. “I can’t say that it’s all good, but I am fine. It’s getting easier.”

“Great then you can help us with the food,” Hokuto shouted from behind and then Taiga realized that most of their luggage had been food and drinks.

“Is that sake?” Taiga asked a bit skeptical as he approached them.

“Hey, we are all allowed to drink after all,” Kochi said teasingly.

“Well, except for Reo, but I will make an exception today,” Kentaro said with a bright smile.

“So then what is this all about? Will you finally tell me?” Taiga tried again.

“Well now you can’t actually spill the beans anymore so I guess it’s okay?” Kentaro asked and everyone nodded.

“It’s Juri’s birthday and we prepared a surprise party for him,” Kochi explained.

“And why wasn’t I allowed to know?”

“Because you are too close to him. You would definitely not be able to hide it from him,” Hokuto explained and first Taiga wanted to complain, but weren’t they right? Since the night with Domoto he had tried to go on distance, but he had done the same with everyone and the distance he tried to put between him and Juri was out of completely different reasons.

“They are coming!” Hagiya whispered out of a sudden and Kentaro urged them all to hide behind the bushes next to the river side.

In the dark Taiga could see the silhouette of two people walking and hearing the voices he could tell that it were Reo and Juri. From the path they were coming they couldn’t see the lights of the river side yet, so they could surprise Juri. Reo had come up with an excuse why they had to come up out here Taiga was sure of it, even though Juri should already have realized that something was off.

“Ready?” Kentaro whispered and he got a few giggles as replies before they all jumped out the bushes, Taiga a bit later than the others.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

All of them shouted their congratulations somewhere between Juri scolding them and them hugging him. They kept laughing and shouting until it was Taiga’s turn to congratulate Juri directly and suddenly both stopped, starring at each other as if they hadn’t seen each other in ages.

“Happy Birthday,” Taiga let out in a shy voice and tried to form a smile and luckily Juri smiled back at him.

“Why so stiff?” Fuma interfered and pushed Taiga to the front so that Juri had to catch him as he stumbled. “Here go again!”

Before Taiga could turn towards Fuma and scold him Juri closed his arms around him and squeezed him so tight that Taiga complained on which the others laughed.

“Thank you for coming,” Juri whispered next to his ear and this time Taiga flashed a brighter smile at him as he got released.

“Come on, we’ve some stuff prepared and we also have to give you your presents!” Myuto announced on which they all dragged Juri towards the prepared place.

Taiga remained rooted though. A present? He hadn’t known about his birthday, so how was he supposed to come up with a present now?”

“Here!”

Taiga flinched when Reo held up something wrapped up in front of his face.

“What is it?”

“Your present to Juri.”

“What?”

Taiga blinked at him in confusion, but Reo just gave him a teasing smile. “Wait a bit longer with giving it to him, I will let you know when you can use it, for now let’s sit with the others?”

Taiga just nodded and followed the boy towards the others.

“Why is it always me who gets all those weird birthday surprises?” Juri complained as they had all finally sat down at the river side after already having some drinks. Just the presents they had left for later which made Taiga get even more nervous, because he had still no time to take a look at what was in the bag Reo had given him.

“Because you are the only one who gets actually tricked by us every year,” Hagiya let out with a teasing smile on which Juri hit him on the arm.

“Then let’s do the same with Taiga,” Juri complained and hooked his arm into the older one’s on which Taiga froze without wanting to.

“And here we can’t do it anymore, because you just spilt the surprise already,” Hokuto said while Myuto’s look had turned into teasing as he kept analyzing Juri’s behavior and whispered something towards Hikaru.

“Well, maybe he forgets it until then again? Taiga when is your birthday?” Reo asked next to him and Kentaro also leant a bit to the front next to Reo with a curious look.

“I don’t know…”

That statement made them all fall silent in an instant before Juri released him just to be able to have a better look at his expression. “You are joking, right?”

Slowly he shook his head with a kind of embarrassed look.

“But you know how old you are, don’t you?”

“Well I was twelve when I got sold the first time I remember that, but it wasn’t like we ever celebrated any birthday or if my age was of any importance.”

When suddenly someone chuckled in the tense atmosphere all eyes landed on Myuto, but he was looking at Hikaru with a teasing expression.

“Calm down, I bet more than four years have passed since then. Does he look like under sixteen to you?”

On Hikaru’s kind of shocked expression Kentaro suddenly started laughing as well. “Even if now it’s too late anyways.”

“What are you talking about?” Taiga asked more curious than scared, because they all seemed to have way too much fun about Taiga’s unknown age.

“You are not allowed to work in Yoshiwara when you are under sixteen,” Hagiya explained.

“And when you lay a hand on someone younger than that,” Fuma continued before he looked at Myuto who scared the heck out of Hikaru as he brought down the side of his hand with a fast movement on his wrist while imitating the sound of a moving sword. “It will be the last thing your hands will ever touch,” he completed the explanation before he moved his hand to the latter’s face to calm him down a bit, because Hikaru’s confidence level seemed to have dropped drastically through their conversation. “Maybe that’s your punishment for choosing someone over me?”

“Please take that somewhere else!” Kentaro complained before Myuto could actually crawl on Hikaru’s lap and with a chuckle he backed off just to lie down with his head resting on the latter’s legs.

“Poor sports!”

“You are the last one I want to be told that from,” Kentaro teased back.

“Did I bore you that much back then?”

“Well, your talks repeated at some point you know.”

“So what, you tell me now that you wanted me to go further after all?”

The discussion continued, but Taiga couldn’t follow at all and then Reo tapped him on the shoulder and made him turn away from the others a bit.

“I know a lot of things are confusing for you today, but you don’t have to be this tense, no one will bite you.”

“But our first encounter with Myuto and Hagiya wasn’t actually something I’d say is a good foundation to have a birthday party together you know?” Taiga asked skeptically.

“And the incident with Domoto on the street wasn’t?”

Well, Taiga hadn’t forgotten about Hikaru’s and Myuto’s help at that time and that Hikaru told him that those two were like brothers, but he still felt like the outsider in the group.

“Hikaru had his ceremony with you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk normally to him. Myuto and Hagiya also won’t hold a grudge against you just because Myuto was a bit pissed when he found out about it. Look at those two how awesome they get along!”

Taiga looked and who he was pointing at, but didn’t get the meaning of it.

“Why shouldn’t Kentaro and Myuto not get along?”

Before Reo spoke again he pulled Taiga even more to the back and luckily Hokuto and Kochi had dragged Juri towards the drinks once more while Fuma had joined the discussion with Kentaro so no one was spending them any attention.

“Well, there was quite a tough time for them as I heard. I wasn’t present at that time, but it seemed like Kentaro was in a really broken state after his ceremony and I am not talking about how you were after Domoto, I mean an empty shell nothing more.

Taiga gulped on hearing that, because he couldn’t believe his strong and confident senpai had actually walked barefoot through hell to come out with a smile.

“Word spread fast and people started using him like a puppet and it was Myuto who had shown up to put an end to it.”

Taiga just blinked at Myuto in confusion on hearing that, because he seemed to be such a carefree person, why was he even bothering with boys of other houses.

“He had heard about his ceremony, but had never met Kentaro before. He had just taken a look at the house sometimes and when he had seen him with those empty eyes, breaking to pieces more and more with each passing day he came back each day! Two weeks in a row he came to the house and spent hours with Kentaro in a room.”

“Why?”

“So that no one else could ask for him. He made him disappear from the eye of the customer, because he knew that Kamenashi couldn’t take him out just because he couldn’t handle his new job. It would have brought trouble to the house, so Myuto took care of that problem.”

“But what did he do to help him?” Finally Taiga understood that the one Kentaro had been talking about before was Myuto. He was the one who had taken good care of him after his ceremony.

“By talking.”

“Talking?”

“Yes, just talking, nothing more. I heard it took him days to even get a single reply which wasn’t like a puppet repeating its orders.”

Just hearing about it gave Taiga an unpleasant shiver, but seeing how they all laughed together now gave him hope that he could also keep laughing with them no matter what was going to happen.

“Present time!” Kochi announced all of a sudden as he hurried over to the place next to one of the lanterns where they had put the presents.

“You shouldn’t have gotten anything in the first place,” Juri scolded them, but Hokuto helped him up and pushed him towards the presents.

Kentaro hurried there as well, but then he grabbed the present Reo had brought with him and threw it towards Reo without Juri noticing.

“Here,” Reo said as he gave the bag to Taiga. “Hurry you have like five maybe ten minutes before we send him over.”

“What are you talking about? What’s going on?”

“You’ll understand soon. You see the last lantern over there at the high grass? Move around it and you’ll be out of our sight, but you’ll still have the light of the lantern. Get ready and wait there!”

Before Taiga could complain, Reo pushed him towards the other direction and Taiga looked at the others in confusion as Reo ran over to them and kept Juri busy with all the other presents they had gotten.

Before he could get scolded again Taiga moved to the place he was told and unfolded the cloths he had received from Reo and then he gasped.

“What the…”

What he took out and unfolded was the kimono he had asked Tegoshi to repair for him. Had Reo picked it up without telling him? Tegoshi had told him to pick it up at the weekend. Was this all planned from the beginning? For now he had no time to think about all those details as he heard Juri’s loud laughter about another present.

Reo had said they’d send him over, which meant he’d see the kimono, but of course they didn’t want him to show it to him like this, but make Taiga wear it!

Finally a small smile appeared on Taiga’s lips as he hoped that this was really a present Juri would be happy about. He hadn’t told him about Tegoshi fixing it and he had planned to surprise Juri with it, but of course not in such a way. Nevertheless he hurried to change into the kimono and he had to admit that Tegoshi had done an astonishing job. He couldn’t even tell anymore where the kimono had been ripped before, not that he would ever forget.

“Taiga?”

A bit surprised by how fast they send Juri over Taiga flinched a bit, but the latter was still not in sight. The same as him before he seemed not sure if he would still be able to see when he left the lantern behind him and went around the corner to the small grass field.

“I'm over here. Don't worry the light reaches enough over here to clearly see.”

“That's a relief, I really wondered if they played another game with me when they said you'd wait here and-”

When Juri finally came closer and looked up at him he froze in his movements and Taiga wasn't sure for a moment if his shocked expression was a good or bad sign.

“Happy Birthday?” Taiga said innocently trying to leave the explanations for later, but Juri's look just changed to confused and suddenly Taiga wasn't so sure anymore if Reo's idea wasn't just to tease him.

“Sorry, I didn't know it was your birthday. No one told me so I had no present,” Taiga started, playing nervously with the seam of his sleeves while he felt how embarrassment was taking over. ”It was a stupid idea to present it like this to you. It was your present to me. I should have come up with a better present, but-”

Before Taiga could keep talking nonsense he was pulled into a hug. A cheerful one and when he heard Juri laughing and felt how he swayed slightly from left to right, cuddling him like a huge teddy bear all of Taiga's worries vanished into thin air.

“Idiot, I love it! I seriously love it! You have no clue how happy I am that you repaired it!”

“If you are happy why are you crying?” Taiga asked a bit teasing as he was able to pull back a bit and saw the tears on Juri's cheeks while his smile got a little less bright as he tried to stop new tears from falling.

“Because you took me by surprise and I'm too happy to express it just with a thank you.”

At least the surprise part had worked perfectly. Now that it was clear that Juri's shocked and confused look was just because of the surprise, Taiga could relax again and at first he wanted to ask if they should go back, but somehow he didn't feel like it. The need to stay away from Juri was gone out of a sudden. Like a boost of confidence out of nowhere he took Juri's hand and pulled him a bit to the river side.

“Do you want to sit down for a while?”

“If that spares me the mocking comments of the others that I cry too easily then yes.”

Taiga let out a chuckle on that before they both sat on the grass. It didn't even feel awkward to stay silent next to each other. The only thing which had felt awkward and also wrong was Taiga's try to stay on distance.

“So do you really don't know your birthday?” Juri asked after a while.

“Is it so important?”

“Well, I personally like celebrating everyone's birthday expect for the surprise part.”

“Liar, you'd love to organize a birthday surprise yourself, your eyes were sparkling when you arrived. I don't want to know what you'd come up with if I told you my birthday.”

“But that's- wait what?”

Taiga bit his lip immediately when he realized that he had slipped, but Juri had already hit him on the forehead before he could say anything.

“So you do know your birthday. Why come up with such a lie?”

“Don't tell me what happened after I said it wasn't entertaining?”

Juri raised an eyebrow at that statement, but Taiga's smile grew bigger on that.

“You seem to have a quite big teasing side I didn't see until now. But yes Hikaru's shocked expression was definitely the highlight of the night!”

“Look? So it was worth it and I wanted to make sure that no one comes up with any surprises for my birthday.”

“Well, now you gave me a challenge!”

Taiga pouted on that, but before he could complain the younger one pushed him a bit away on the shoulder.

“Don't give me that look. The more you are against it the more I'll make sure you'll get the best birthday surprise ever.”

“So looking forward to it…” Taiga said while rolling his eyes.

When there was no teasing reply Taiga looked up at the other one, but to his surprise he wasn't looking at him. With a peaceful smile he searched through the small stones in front of their feet to throw one into the river.

How could they behave this calm around each other all the time? Why did it feel so warm and familiar even though they met barely months ago?

Teasing each other, helping each other, protecting each other! All those actions came naturally by now, the same as Taiga holding his hand at night. That memory made him reach out for the latter's hand carefully and Juri stopped his movement as he wanted to throw another stone and looked curious towards their hands between them. Taiga had lifted the latter’s hand up in his like he wanted to take a closer look at it. The touch of his fingertips on the latter's palm gave the other one shivers and Taiga enjoyed that reaction a lot.

“I've to tell you a secret,” Taiga started with a nervous glance up to the other one's face and he met Juri's curious look. “I'm holding your hand at night.”

Taiga had thought that the other one would definitely laugh on hearing that, but it came different as Juri lifted their entwined hands and kissed Taiga's fingers. “I know.”

It wasn't as shocking as Taiga had thought. He had somehow guessed that Juri had realized it at some point. “But you stopped lately.”

That realization gave him an unpleasant sting and with a guilty expression he pulled his hand back.

“Are you not going to ask why I stopped?” Taiga asked after a moment of silence.

“I wanted to, I still feel like asking, but I- it feels wrong.”

“Why?”

Because the fact that you stopped holding my hand at night the same time you stopped speaking to me in the house showed me that you needed some space.”

“I'm sorry.”

“Don't be. Everything that happened to you isn’t easily handled by any of us. I am happy that I was able to be there for you right from the beginning, but it seems like I wasn't enough to ease your pain.”

“No, please Juri that's not it!” Taiga interrupted him right away after all he had gone on distance already before Domoto's visit. At that point Juri still hadn't noticed though. “Without you the pieces would still be scattered all over the ground!”

When he realized how Juri's mood seemed to switch to gloomy he reached out for the latter's hand once more, but Juri kept staring towards the river.

“I was conflicted. There were things I wanted to tell you, but then Domoto showed up and everything somehow fell apart without me noticing. I'm sorry for taking so long to get closer again.”

“But what if I can't help you next time either? It felt so wrong to be so close to you and still not being able to stand by your side, to not know how to help you.”

Taiga remembered Juri's expression while Taiga was drowning in his dark thoughts. Like Juri was sharing the same fate he wore the same pain on his face and Taiga had promised himself to not let it happen again and here he was letting Juri fall into that dark place once more.

“Then don't let me shut you out next time! I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable so sharing my problems with you makes me feel bad, but seeing you suffering with me through my silence makes everything even worse.”

A bitter chuckle from Juri was heard before he took a deep breath as if he got ready to cry. “Will I ever have a strong enough argument to interfere with your feelings that much?”

When Juri finally turned to look at him, Taiga gave him the clearest reply he could think of. He didn't want to see the latter's broken expression anymore so before he could even take a closer look he leant forward and gave Juri a kiss. The younger one seemed surprised, but didn't back off. Taiga pulled back almost immediately, but he stayed so close that he could still feel Juri's breath on his lips.

“You love me, that is a good enough reason to interfere with everything considering my life.”

“Yes I love you and I'd do everything to help you, but I need you to allow me to interfere.”

Juri leant a bit to the front as he waited for his reply and of course Taiga knew what he needed to hear.

“I love you too.”

With that they both had good enough reasons to interfere in each other's lives and this time Juri eliminated the space between them. His hands found their way into Taiga's hair immediately while he changed positions a bit so that he sat almost in front of the other one.

As if he had waited for this kiss to happen for an eternity, which he actually had Taiga was sure of that, Juri didn't keep it as innocent as Taiga before and he licked the other one’s lips impatiently until Taiga gained him access.

After a while Taiga's position got too uncomfortable and he moved his arms around the other one's neck and let himself drop on the grass while Juri crawled on top of him.

“Why did it take you so long to say it?” Juri asked carefully as they pulled apart for air.

“There are too many reasons.”

“I want to know them all.”

Taiga let out a small chuckle on hearing that. “Already starting the interfering part?”

“I love you and you love me, right? So there is nothing we should keep secret between us.”

“I'd never keep anything secret from you,” Taiga let out while he pulled the other one down a bit to give him a short kiss on the nose.

“Then tell me.”

“First I didn't accept it myself,” Taiga started, choosing his words carefully. “I had been forced to join Yoshiwara and I was happy to find a friend I could open up to, but actually falling in love with a member of the house had me somehow scared. I didn't know if it was even allowed and how the others would think about it, how you'd think about it.”

“But you figured that part out fast, right?”

“Yes I realized that our feelings were even which made it even scarier. First I wanted to try and go on distance and see if I was just trying to find a safe harbor for my problems, but then Domoto visited and things got even more complicated.”

Juri's look darkened a bit again on his name, but Taiga moved his hands soothingly to his face.

“The reason Reo let you go to me after it was because he also knew and it was the best decision. You helped me more than anyone else could have. But I didn't want to confuse love with sympathy so I went on distance trying to reorganize my own feelings, but the more I went on distance the more I realized how much it hurt.”

“Both of us.”

Taiga nodded on that before Juri leant down to give Taiga another passionate kiss and the older one melted under his touch. How had he been so stupid and ran away from something that felt so right while everything he had done before felt so wrong?

“Then I guess we should join the others for now before they'll come up with the stupid idea of checking up on us, because we need so long.”

“Well I'm sure Reo was fully aware of what could happen through this set up, but that gives them even more reasons to take a look so maybe we should really head back.”

Juri helped him up and made sure both their clothes were in place again before he lifted Taiga's yukata from the ground.

“You want to change again?”

“It's your birthday present, you decide.”

A bright smile formed on Juri's lips on that before he folded the yukata together.

“Then as long as it's still my birthday I want to make everyone jealous with your present.”

Taiga formed a teasing expression on that before he moved his pointer finger under Juri's chin before he snapped his fingers under it, making the other one slightly flinch. “Then let me seduce you in front of them, today I'll do whatever you want.”

“Oh you shouldn't have said that!”

Chapter Text

It had barely taken a day until the others couldn't hold back their questions anymore. At Juri's surprise party they had all held back even though both hadn't tried to hide anything.

Now after another regular workday was over Reo and Kentaro had almost forced them to take a bath together.

“Okay, spill.” Reo said without any hesitation.

“You make this sound as if we did something bad,” Taiga complained as he sat on one of the stones so that just his legs were still in the water.

“Well maybe not bad, but dirty?”

Juri splashed some water on Reo's face on that statement on which the latter squealed and hid behind Kentaro.

“Your imagination is the only dirty thing here.”

“But you ended up on better terms at least, right?” Kentaro asked.

“One is exaggerating and the other one understating”, Juri let out while shaking his head.

“Not that we were really on bad terms anyway,” Taiga explained.

“Didn't look like it though,” Kentaro said with a raised eyebrow.

“Senpai, could it be that you still didn't catch up on their situation?” Reo asked a bit teasing.

“How should I? You are their roommate, not me. There was enough chaos recently with which I was busy, who is doing it with who inside the house is not of my interest.”

“Well I guess from now on Taiga might be a taboo for us?”

“I am?” Taiga asked a bit confused.

“Wait, so this is not about just having their fun together?” Kentaro finally caught up. “Are you trying to make this a serious thing?’

When their senpai pointed from Juri to Taiga they both exchanged an embarrassed look.

“It's not like I could claim him completely in this type of job, but I think this goes indeed deeper than the just having fun part.”

“What a shame, guess I've to ask someone else to play with me from now on.”

There were so many things in this conversation which made Taiga want to talk in private. After all they really needed to talk this through a bit more. They had both accepted the fact that their feelings were strong enough to make this somehow work, but what was about the rest? As Juri had said their work was something different, but inside the house? Was Taiga meant to stay away from everyone now when it came down to those kinds of things? Naturally yes, after all Juri wasn't the type to have his time with the other boys either.

“You two don't look so thrilled about it,” Kentaro said on which Taiga shook his head right away.

“That's not it. Guess we have to figure out how to work this out for now.”

“Well we are here in case you need advice and here's my first one: maybe the spare room downstairs is more fitting than our room for some nights.” Reo said with a teasing expression, but when the other two just exchanged a shy look Reo gasped.

“Wait, don't tell me you haven't done it until now?”

“Do you really think we had that much time at my surprise party?”

“Well for Fuma and me it would have been enough time,” Kentaro said almost proud.

“That reminds me, Kentaro are you officially together with Fuma or not?” Taiga asked.

“The same as Hikaru and Myuto we are not allowed to call this a relationship in any way and we've to watch out to not cause trouble to the house through it.”

“But you could actually call them a married couple,” Juri teased.

“The only married ones here are Fu and Reo.”

“Hey,” Reo complained immediately and splashed some water at Kentaro.

“You've to admit that he is the one not even trying to hide how much he loves you.”

“Well I still have my time with others though.”

“So do I, but he doesn't care neither does Fuma.”

That talk made Taiga think about Reo saying he should let his hands off Taiga from now on. Was it different with him and Juri, because they were both from the house? Not that Taiga thought it would be appropriate to still have his time with the others when he openly accepted to be in love with Juri, still it felt like their relationship wasn't as strong as the others’ relationship.

***

“Are you even putting any effort?” Hokuto asked next to Taiga on the windowsill, ripping the other one out of his thoughts.

“To be honest I hoped I could wait for a familiar face,” Taiga admitted and luckily Hokuto didn't seem annoyed by that reply.

No one knew about what happened at Tegoshi's shop, but they could of course tell that Taiga's attitude had changed a bit to the better again now that he was back to work.

“Then take a break for now and I'll see if I find any of your regular customers. In case anyone shows up I'll send Kochi to you.”

“Thank you.”

Taiga hurried out the windowsill a bit faster than he'd usually do and when he hurried down the corridor he almost collided with Taisuke who appeared around the corner.

“What's with the hurry?”

“I'm just taking a break.”

Taisuke looked a bit skeptical on that, but didn't comment on it.

“Oh back at work as I see. I always seem to have a good timing.”

Both turned towards the entrance where Hiromitsu came into sigh now.

Taiga bowed slightly towards him in which the older one hummed.

“Got your confidence back?”

Of course Hiromitsu had also heard about what had happened so Taiga just nodded.

“Then what about you join us today?”

The question had Taiga gasped and he looked up at his senpai with wide eyes.

What surprised him was Taisuke’s skeptical look. Taiga hadn't forgotten that he had helped him out a lot until now and no matter if he said he didn't actually owe him anything for it he felt like he had been holding back with approaching him the whole time because of all the incidences. Nevertheless he shook his head.

“Maybe next time. You said you were on your way to take a break, then go.”

The confusion was written all over his face, but then Kitayama pushed him towards the corridor with a chuckle.

“Didn't you hear what your senpai said?”

Now he was even more confused. Did Kitayama understand why Taisuke refused? He didn't seem angry or disappointed at all. After all if he really wanted Taiga to join no one could actually say no, but he still stuck to Taisuke's decision and they walked up to the second floor, leaving Taiga behind in confusion.

“Oh, you are still here,” Kochi was heard next to him out of a sudden. “Can you take a customer?”

Taiga's heart jumped nervously, but he still nodded.

“Great, then come on I give you two a room.”

When Taiga went back towards the entrance and found Aran waiting for him a relieved smile formed on his lips and the other one gave him a calm smile as well.

***

“You seem tired? Don't you want to stay a bit longer?” Taiga asked when Aran got ready to leave.

“I'd love to, to be honest, but there is an important meeting in the afternoon I've to attend.”

“You don't seem that thrilled about it.”

Aran let out a sigh when he closed his hakama. “Who'd be thrilled of Tokugawa clan members coming to Edo to visit the Tokugawa shogunate?”

The only reply Taiga could give on that was a confused look and it made Aran chuckle before he sat down next to Taiga on the futon.

“Right, you don't really know anything about our political situation.”

“Not really. I know the Tokugawa shogunate, but how the system works or who other members are, that's something I have no clue about. Well now I know that Domoto is a member of it.”

Aran bit his lips on hearing that after all he had heard about what had happened as well. Which had maybe also been a reason why he hadn’t come for a while and had been quite careful today.

“The meeting this time has something to do with the battle of Sekigahara. Ever heard of it?”

“The name yes, what happened there no.”

“Well to keep the explanation easy the Ishida clan fought against the Tokugawa clan and they lost, through which the Tokugawa shogunate got established. The Ishida clan members were allowed to keep their territory as long as they swore loyalty to the shogunate. That often happened with them giving one of their children to one of the Tokugawa clan members to form an alliance. You and me were still small kids when all that happened. But some alliances still have their troubles so each time we have such meetings in Edo it usually never ends without some uproar.”

“Doesn't sound like a meeting I'd want to attend.”

Aran nodded on that with an almost annoyed expression. “Trust me you definitely don't want to. This time the Yamashita clan is joining and that means a lot of trouble.”

Taiga shifted nervously on hearing that. Domoto was already enough trouble and here there were worse people coming? All he could hope for now was that they didn't intend to visit Yoshiwara at their stay.

***

“Do we have everything?” Taiga asked as he double checked the list with things they had to get from the market and other places around town.

“I think so,” Hokuto said as he lifted the bag he was holding and took another look inside.

“I also got the new obis from Tegoshi,” Reo said. “But I still don’t get why you didn’t go, Taiga. You still didn’t thank him for repairing the kimono for you.”

“Well, I can do that another time,” Taiga said and started moving, but he could feel Reo’s burning stare from behind already.

“You know I wondered all the time, but didn’t he ask for a lot of money to repair it? As much as I heard from Juri it wasn’t cheap in the first place.”

“I paid him if that is what worries you.”

“The question is how you paid him.”

Reo stopped walking on that and gasped while Taiga turned towards Hokuto with an annoyed look. Why was the other one so good in realizing such stuff while everyone else didn’t even bother until now?

“Oh my god now that explains why Tegoshi seemed so weird when I asked him about the kimono.”

“What do you mean with weird?” Taiga asked a bit worried.

“He usually behaves a bit weird we all know that, but at the day I passed by and saw the kimono by coincidence and asked him about it he was so, how to say it...childish? Like he had finally gotten the attention of his crush he had waited for so long. Damn, if I had known earlier-”

“Then you would have also done nothing with the information except for annoying us,” Hokuto interfered.

Taiga wanted to drop the topic as fast as possible so that they wouldn’t come up with the idea of telling everyone about it, but somehow he doubted they’d do that in the first place. Before he could say anything though, shouting disturbed their conversation and they looked over to one of the small gamble places around their area.

“What’s going on?” Reo asked already alarmed by the noise, but then they all gasped as two boys dashed out the building.

“What are these idiots doing?” Hokuto hissed on the sight of Hagiya and Myuto, but when they all got ready to move towards them three more people came outside and stopped the two from running away.

“First deceiving and then running?” One of the men shouted at Myuto.

“We didn’t deceive, it was them!”

When Hagiya pointed towards the entrance two more men came outside. While the others were obviously workers the other two seemed like customers and their clothes reminded Taiga a lot of Domoto’s, but the sign on their kamishimo*₁ wasn’t of the Tokugawa shogunate.

“Are you sure you want to accuse us of something like that without proof?”

“Oh so just because you have some political power you think you can get away with everything?” Myuto hissed at him on which the worker which held on to him gave him a harsh slap.

“Don’t you dare to speak like this to clan members of Tokugawa.

“Okay that’s enough,” Reo hissed as he dashed forward.

“Reo wait! Hokuto what do we do?” Taiga asked worried, but the latter didn’t move. He actually didn’t do anything at all.

“Hokuto?”

“I-I’ll hurry back to Takizawa’s house and get their senpais to help.”

Without even waiting for Taiga’s reply Hokuto hurried towards the opposite direction. It was a good idea no question, but now he had to deal with the situation without him and that seemed almost impossible.

More shouting made him look back towards the gambling place and he cursed when Reo had suddenly interfered, his non existing patience leading to a fight with the workers right away.

“Reo stay out of this!” Myuto scolded him right away, but of course the other one didn’t listen and kicked one other worker away after he had punched the one holding on to Myuto already.

“So many trouble makers at one place, seems like we should teach you a lesson,” one of the customers said as he stepped to the front, the hilt of his sword already in his hand.

“Hey, we didn’t do anything in the first place, there is no need to threaten us,” Hagiya hissed.

“Oh, so accusing us of deceiving while you were the ones actually doing it is doing nothing in your opinion?” The second one asked as he stepped closer to Myuto and Reo who backed off a bit.

The men had their backs turned to Taiga who was still standing a bit to the back while the three workers left the dirty work to the clan members.

“Assholes, you really think your position protects you from everything,” Myuto shouted at them and made a threatening step forward, but the other one just laughed at him. His mocking expression made Myuto lose it and he dashed to the front ready to punch the other one, but before he could even get close enough the man drew his sword.

“Watch out!” Reo shouted and pulled him back on his yukata right in time before the blade could cut over his stomach.

“Fucking bastards, how dare you draw your sword without us being able to defend ourselves?” Hagiya interfered. “You have no right to attack us, no matter what you think we have done. You have no proof!”

“Well, it’s not like anyone would care for your opinion anyway.”

“Not to forget that dead people don’t speak,” the second man spoke as he drew his sword as well and when he got ready to lift it and they both got ready to dash forward Taiga jumped at them. He hit them by full surprise as he jumped one of them into the back so that he stumbled on the other one.

“Run, NOW!” Taiga shouted at the others and they all looked at him completely perplex before they dashed after him.

“YOU DIRTY BRATS, COME BACK HERE!”

Taiga pushed them down the main street for some time until they finally accepted that running was the better option for now.

“Let’s spilt up!” Reo shouted at Hagiya and Myuto and before Taiga could complain Reo had grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him into one of the small streets on the right, while Hagiya and Myuto vanished to the left.

They passed around a few corners before the shouting wasn’t heard anymore and then Reo dared to slow down a bit.

“Did we lose them?” Taiga asked already out of breath, but when he turned back to Reo the boy gasped as he looked to the side and at the last moment he pushed Taiga to the back so that the sword which was brought down hit the air between them.

“You really think you can outrun a samurai that easily?” The man hissed at Reo.

Taiga had landed on the ground and was the easier victim, but the man turned to Reo instead who backed off a bit when the tip of the sword came a bit too close to his face.

“A samurai is a man of honor as much as I know. I can’t see any honor in your actions though.”

“Oh so now you want me to feel guilty and leave you alone because of it?”

Reo couldn’t back off any further as he had unfortunately ended up in a dead end, so Taiga wanted to get up and try his luck with the same move as before, after all the man had his back turned to him once more. He sat up and got ready to dash forward when a sword got suddenly pushed over his shoulder, right next to his face. With a gasp he froze in his movements.

“LEAVE HIM ALONE!” Reo shouted at the other man who had appeared behind Taiga. “He has nothing to do with this.”

“So did you until you dared to interfere.”

“And it was you two who lifted a hand against us, remember?”

On his words the man brought the katana closer to Taiga’s face and when he opened a cut on his cheek he hissed, but didn’t dare to pull away, afraid of the sword causing even more damage.

“STOP IT,” Reo freaked and dashed to the front.

Taiga held his breath when he barely dodged the attack which was directed to his shoulder. With an outraged scream he launched himself at the man in front of him and brought him to fall, luckily avoiding to get cut by the katana as it fell to the ground. Furiously he started punching the man under him on which the other one dashed passed Taiga, but this time he reacted immediately and kicked the other one’s legs so that he stumbled and fell before he could reach Reo.

“You will pay for that,” the man said as he got up and turned back to Taiga instead.

Reo seemed to have the upper hand, but the other one wouldn’t just get defeated that easily so he couldn’t actually help Taiga. Unfortunately Taiga didn’t feel confident at all at winning against someone with a katana, not to forget a samurai.

When the man launched himself to the front, bringing the katana down, Taiga stumbled to the back, avoiding to be cut somehow, but the only thing he could do was run!

Maybe making it back to the main street would make someone interfere or Hagiya and Myuto would find them in time, but he wasn’t fast enough and he yelped when the blade cut over his shoulder with the next attack.

He stopped abruptly and ducked, holding his shoulder. The other one almost passed him as he didn’t expect that move and Taiga used that chance to dash towards one of the small streets on his left. He wouldn’t be fast enough to get away, but he could at least try and lose him in between the small streets.

After passing around the felt dozen’s corner he had completely lost orientation and when he saw a small carriage with rice he hurried to hide behind it.

Desperately he tried to make his breathing pace calm down and he held his hand in front of his mouth to be as quiet as possible.

“Nice try.”

Taiga jolted as the other one came from the completely opposite direction and this time he had no time to get away and he closed his eyes and held his hands over his head when the other one lifted his sword.

“If you dare to hurt him I’ll make sure that you will be immediately deposed your rank!”

Luckily that threat made the other one hold and Taiga also looked up on the sound of a familiar voice.

“Oh and who are you that you think you can do that?”

“I can’t,” Taisuke said in a calm voice with crossed arms to his chest.

“But I can,” Hiromitsu was heard from the opposite direction and Taiga felt a huge wave of relief when he saw Reo walking next to him. The few bruises he carried were nothing considering what could have happened if Hiromitsu hadn’t found him in time.

Hiromitsu had his hand lose over the hilt of his sword, but it was obvious that he would indeed draw it if needed. Luckily the other one seemed taken aback as he got suddenly outnumbered.

“How about you take your comrade and get out of here? You find him where you left him earlier.”

Taiga wasn’t sure what was going on, but the man luckily stepped back with an annoyed growl before he vanished into one of the side alleys.

“Taiga, are you okay?” Reo asked as he hurried towards him.

“All good just a small cut,” Taiga said soothing, even though he was sure that the cut on the back of his shoulder needed some medical treatment later.

“How did you two end up here?” he asked Taisuke and Hiromitsu.

“We ran into Myuto and Hagiya as they searched for you,” Taisuke explained.

“Can you really depose samurais from their rank?” Reo asked Hiromitsu after he had helped Taiga up again.

“I indeed can. I am not a member of the shogunate, not even close to it, but I am quite good with all the paper stuff and I know ways to punish people without even drawing my sword.”

“That sounds way more awesome then just cutting someone to pieces.”

“I will never give you a sword,” Hiromitsu said before pushing Reo towards the main road. “Every time you get interested in something it ends in chaos anyway. You’d kill yourself at the first time holding a sword.”

“Is that a challenge?”

Reo laughed when Hiromitsu slapped him against the back of his head on that while Taiga still didn’t move from his spot until Taisuke put his hand on his shoulder. For a moment Taiga thought about thanking him, as well as Hiromitsu, but something about his senpai’s expression made him hesitate. Taisuke leant down to his ear and Taiga somehow knew what he would hear next.

“Now you owe me a favor,” the other one whispered before leaving towards the main street as well.

So that was it. That had been it from the moment he had rescued him from the customer. At that time Taiga had been still too scared of everything, too unsure about his life at Yoshiwara, so Taisuke left him alone. Not to forget that everyone had made clear that it wasn’t Taisuke’s way to take what he wanted, he could be patient if he knew the other one would actually give him what he wanted on his own. Now it also made sense why he had refused adding Taiga as Hiromitsu had visited. He didn’t want him to join before Taiga hadn’t surrendered to him and Hiromitsu had noticed that, leaving Taiga out for now.

It felt so weird seeing Hiromitsu being totally okay with Taisuke’s behavior while Taiga felt extremely troubled. He had realized a long time ago that he was indeed attracted towards Taisuke, the same way as it had happened with Kentaro and Reo, but now the situation was different. Hadn’t they talked about it earlier that Taiga was now out of reach for other members? But would Juri really complain? After all this time it was about repaying a favor.

***

One stroke, two strokes…

They knew they had messed up, but they were still relieved when Kamenashi stopped after two strokes with the branch and ordered them to get their yukatas back up.

Taisuke had brought Reo and Taiga to Kamenashi as they were back at the house after a quick visit at Nakamaru’s clinic to treat Taiga’s shoulder. A punishment was what followed, but luckily the owner seemed to get over it fast so they could treat their injuries and even though Kamenashi had of course not slashed over the cut on Taiga's shoulder the pain had grown through the impacts next to it.

“Can't you for once stay out of trouble?”

That question was meant for Reo, but the boy just bit his lip and looked guilty to the ground.

“Next time just follow Hokuto's example.”

“But it would have been too late if we had waited for them,” Taiga let out in a low voice.

“If you hadn't provoked them then maybe they would have stayed calm.”

“One drew his sword even before I interfered,” Reo complained immediately.

Kamenashi let out a sigh on the way the boys kept defending their actions.

“Anyways, stay out of trouble from now on! There is an important meeting in Edo over the next week so please make sure to stay away from anyone who could cause the house trouble.”

Taiga wondered if this was about the same meeting Aran had talked about, but he didn't ask. It wasn't of his concern after all. Both boys bowed before they waited for Taisuke to bring them upstairs.

Taiga saw the look Taisuke gave Kamenashi when the boys turned around, but the latter shook his head.

“Later.”

Taisuke bowed and brought them outside the room. Later? Why did he had the feeling this wasn't about Taisuke, but about them and somehow he already didn't like it.

***

+++

*₁ Kamishimo: traditional two part clothes for men, worn by social high ranked people and also as ceremony clothes for samurai

Chapter Text

“Stop touching it that won't make it better,” Juri scolded Taiga for the dozen’s time as they were resting on the veranda next to the garden, but Taiga kept moving his hand to his shoulder.

While Reo had to go back to work the next day Taiga got a few days off for the cut to heal and with Juri having off as well they took it as relaxed as they could.

“And I thought Kochi was the mum here,” Taiga complained.

“The mum yes, but I'm you boyfriend I can complain even more.”

Taiga chuckled on that and leant closer to give Juri a short kiss before he shifted a bit to the back and clapped on his thighs.

“Then come on boyfriend and relax a bit. If you keep worrying over me the whole time you'll never get a break.”

Juri took that invitation and dropped on his back, resting his head on the latter's legs.

Taiga started playing with Juri's strands of hair which were falling in his eyes and Juri peered up at him with a calm smile.

“This feels so much better than taking our distance.”

Somehow it gave Taiga a guilty sting, but he nodded nevertheless. “Definitely.”

Juri searched for Taiga's free hand and placed a kiss on his fingers.

“I'm really happy I can call you mine officially now.”

Mine…there they were back at the topic, but did Taiga really feel like discussing this?

“Hiromitsu and Taisuke helped you, right?”

On the change of topic Taiga blinked in confusion, but nodded eventually.

“I can read that gloomy expression of yours better than you might think.”

So it wasn't actually a try to change the topic, but he had realized Taiga's struggle which made him look away guilty on which Juri squeezed his hand gently.

“I'm not blind I can tell that Taisuke is interested in you and I also know that you are not as much against it as you were at first.”

“But now it's different,” Taiga said immediately. “Reo and Kentaro had also drawn my interest, but that was before -”

“Before you accepted that your interest in me was of a different kind.”

Taiga nodded and let out a small sigh on which Juri lifted one hand to his face and stroke his cheek carefully.

“I don't mind.”

Taiga almost choked on his words before he was able to reply. “What?”

“What Reo said the other day got to you and I can tell that. You feel like when it's not directly connected to a customer you'll be unfaithful.”

“But that's how it is…”

“Usually I'd say yes, but this kind of work effects our personal life as well. Look at Reo, even though Fu is a customer and he can't actually be officially together with him he openly told you how much he likes you. He played around with you and others so often.”

“Because there are no deeper feelings involved,” Taiga said.

“Exactly and even though we are both from the house it's the same for me. You didn't fall for the others, you fell for me and knowing that you'll always come back to me no matter how much you play with someone else makes me your safe harbor and I like that.”

It still sounded somehow wrong to him, but maybe being a part of Yoshiwara would change his view of relationships sooner or later as well.

“Don't worry about it too much, okay? I promise you I'll let you know when I'm annoyed of someone approaching you.”

“More like jealous I guess?”

Taiga teased him on which Juri pulled him down for a slow kiss.

Juri wanted to deepen the kiss, but without a warning Taiga jolted and pulled back with a hiss.

First Juri didn't even understand what had happened before he saw how Taiga was holding his shoulder and then his look fell on Shota who was standing a bit behind him. Next to Taiga there was a broom lying on the ground.

“What are you doing?” Juri hissed at the other one as he realized that Shota had dropped the broom on purpose to hurt him.

“Sorry, it slipped out of my hand,” Shota replied with a mocking expression as Juri took him by the collar.

“Slipped my ass. Stay away from him, do you hear me?”

“Such an overprotective boyfriend, but so easily getting violent.”

Juri got ready to punch the other one, but then Taiga was up and put one hand on his shoulder.

“Let's not get into an unnecessary fight now,” Taiga said even though Juri gave Shota another death glare.

“Better listen to your better half, you wouldn't stand a chance anyway.”

This time Taiga stepped in between them before Juri could explode, but he faced Shota instead.

“Aren't you busy with your duties? Please feel free to keep skipping them then I can report you to Taisuke.”

“Mh, someone seemed to have gotten his fire back,” Shota said with a lopsided smile. Instead of making another comment though Taiga turned away and grabbed Juri by the wrist dragging him along before they could end up in another argument.

***

Three days off had luckily be enough this time to make Taiga able to go back to work. He still had the shoulder bandaged, but with his usual customers and some safe choices there was no problem.

With a sigh Taiga put his violet/blue kimono in the shelf before he hurried to wash himself and get into the bath.

Everyone else was still busy in the front of the house with the last customers, while Juri and Reo were running some errands.

Not feeling in a hurry Taiga took his time until the door opened again and Taisuke stepped inside. He realized Taiga's present, but didn't say anything. In silence he got out of his red kimono which signaled him that Hiromitsu had come by today.

“How's your shoulder?” Taisuke asked randomly as he broke the minute long silence between them as he stepped into the bath.

“It's getting better.”

“Let me see.”

“It's really okay,” Taiga said as he backed off a bit, but one annoyed look from his senpai made him roll his eyes and he turned his back at him as he came closer to take a look at the injury.

“You can be lucky he didn't kill you.”

Even though the touch on his skin was gentle Taiga shivered under it and he soon backed away when Taisuke's hand remained unnecessarily long on his back, exploring the skin next to the cut.

“But he didn't.”

“Well, maybe next time if you keep being so stupid.”

Taiga gave him a warning look on that comment, because Taisuke had heard what had happened and he didn't see helping the others as stupid, even though they have been indeed a bit reckless.

“Hiromitsu asked again today by the way.”

First Taiga didn't understand and blinked at him in confusion until it clicked.

“I don't mind. It's just work after all.”

“But he is my regular costumer and I don't want you to mess up.”

Taiga frowned on that. “How do you want to know if I mess up when you don't even know how I behave with other customers?”

Taisuke moved closer on that question and Taiga couldn't back off further as his back hit the rocks at the side of the bath.

“Exactly because I don't know I won't let you join.”

Why did he feel disappointed by hearing that? When had he actually felt the urge to join them? Was it a personal challenge?

“Are you not confident enough to help me in case I mess up? Kentaro managed that quite well,” Taiga replied almost mockingly, but his senpai's expression didn't change.

“I am not the person to take risks and newbies like you are normally messing up a lot. Not to forget that you've shown already that you are easily over challenged with rough people.”

This time a lopsided smile appeared on Taiga's lips as he leant a bit to the front, but of course Taisuke wouldn't back away.

“Mh, so you think you are too much for me to handle? Because I had no problems with Hiromitsu until now.”

Like a battle of patience they kept their lips just inches away from each other like trying to find out who could hold back longer.

What Taiga hadn't seen coming at all was Taisuke grabbing his legs and pulling him against his body. Intuitively Taiga had to put one hand around his neck to not land under water, but the shock was written all over his face. An expression Taisuke seemed to enjoy a lot as he released him immediately and backed off with a mocking chuckle.

“See? One move and you panic. If you can't handle me you won't ever be able to handle me together with Hiromitsu.”

Taiga didn't reply to that, because out of a sudden he felt angry. Pouting he got out of the bath and left his senpai behind. He didn't care if Taisuke felt like he had won, because it was far from that and in a few minutes his senpai would realize that.

His repeating mocking had finally made a switch turn and when Taiga went up the stairs in his night yukata and tossed his kimono into his room before he went to the other side of the corridor.

He slid the door of the room he was looking for open without any hesitation. Still finding it empty he closed the door and sat in the middle of the room.

“I'll show you how good I can handle you!”

***

There was not the slightest sign of surprise written on his senpai’s face when he stepped inside his room, finding Taiga sitting in the middle of it. That reaction made him actually realize that as much as his rage was at fault for daring such a move, Taisuke had actually aimed for exactly this to happen. So more or less he had once more fallen into his senpai’s trap, but now there was no backing out anymore.

“Don’t you think the others will worry where you’ve suddenly vanished to?” Taisuke asked as he slid the door shut and put his kimono into the corner of the room before he turned to Taiga with a calm expression.

“You want to keep me here the whole night?”

“I don’t want to keep you at all. You were the one entering my room without asking.”

This time Taiga remained calm and got up, approaching the older one with slow steps. When he lifted his hand Taisuke gave him a warning look, but he didn’t stop him when he traced the latter’s night yukata collar until his fingers touched the skin of his neck.

When there was still no complain Taiga put his pointer finger under his chin, a move his senpai had done to him so often already, but still he didn’t pull away.

“You know, senpai, you are so good with words, but I wonder if that’s all.”

Maybe it was his tone, maybe also his look which made the older one’s expression switch to something dangerous for a brief moment. Taiga remembered that look, a lot! At first Taisuke had always looked at him like that, but then too many things had happened. Taisuke had turned tame towards him, but that wasn’t how he wanted to be it was more than clear. All he did was being careful, because as much as he was indeed the dangerous type, he was also his senpai and Taiga couldn’t deny that he was taking care of the boys in the house quite well and was there for them if needed, even if he was indeed strict.

But now he didn’t want his strict senpai, he wanted the dangerous person he had met at the entrance of the house at his first day and the fire shining in Taisuke’s eyes was showing how he was close to releasing exactly that demon hidden behind the red bars of their house.

“So what if I am more than just mocking words?”

“Then maybe you are interesting enough for me to stay a while longer?”

Taiga had waited so long to be able to snap his fingers under the latter’s chin the same way he had done it with him. He couldn’t wait to see the shine in his eyes turn brighter, his intentions clearer and he was prepared for his senpai to go all out on him.

Taisuke moved fast this time and his body was pressed against the younger one as he shoved Taiga against the wall, but he halted when Taiga just peered up at him with a calm expression.

“You think you can get me with the same trick twice?”

“Playing tough won’t help you though. There is always a limit to how long you can play this game.”

“When there are no rules, there is also no end to the game.”

Taiga couldn’t deny that the way his heart was hammering against his chest with each stupid comment he made was making him slightly nervous and he knew Taisuke had realized that as well! That wouldn’t make him pull back though. Taiga had made clear that he wasn’t going to run away from him this time. Taisuke kept searching for any sign of hesitation, but Taiga kept staring straight back at him.

The rough kiss that followed was something Taiga could handle. After all he knew that his senpai was impatient, not to forget that he wanted to be in control. Not just now, buy in common. But this time Taiga didn't want to surrender, for once he wanted to be the one showing off.

Unfortunately his first try was stopped before he could even do anything in particular. He had tried to bite Taisuke to make him back off, but the latter had been faster and with a yelp Taiga was the one who wanted to pull back as his senpai bit him on the bottom lip. But he couldn't escape for long and Taisuke had him trapped once more. Licking away the small blood drop which has formed he demanded deeper access and when his hands suddenly pulled Taiga's yukata harshly from his shoulders a weak moment made him lose the game once more. But the gasp he had let out hadn't been through the surprise, but because of the cut on his shoulder. He hadn't bandaged it so he had to watch out not to hurt himself even more.

Taisuke wasn't the type for long foreplays and his hands moved fast and skilled as he removed just the upper half of the younger one's yukata down to his obi.

Instead of letting him have all the fun by himself though Taiga reached out for the latter's obi and pulled it away before he could complain.

Somehow Taiga felt relieved that his senpai let his actions speak, because he was good with words after all and Taiga didn't want to lose his patience through his annoying comments.

When he got pulled away from the wall it was obvious that Taisuke wouldn't do him the favor of getting out a futon, but the tatami was still good enough.

The way Taisuke was so careful with him as he wanted to make him lie down on his back made something suddenly snap inside of Taiga. With a fast movement he had one hand in Taisuke's hair and the surprise was written all over the latter's face as he got harshly pulled to the ground and Taiga sat down on top of him.

“Too much to handle, you said?” Taiga repeated the other one's words mockingly, resulting in his senpai's eyes getting darker.

Something told Taiga that what Taisuke meant wasn't just about his usual way of handling customers. There seemed to be something he tried to hide, as if he tried to hold back.

Taiga on the other hand had just started and for the first time he finally felt at least a bit in control.

He opened his own obi and threw the yukata to the ground before he crawled down to sit on Taisuke's thighs.

When there were still no complains he took the other one's member in his hand, giving him slow strokes.

It was obvious how Taisuke would love to just throw him to the ground and do him roughly as he had said earlier, but for the first time Taiga saw an entertained look on his face. Was he still trying to test Taiga's limits?

Taiga proceeded to sit up and positioned himself and as much as he had thought for a moment to prepare himself a bit he somehow didn't want to see an arrogant look on his senpai's face, so he lowered himself on him without preparation.

He was used to the painful feeling at first and for a moment he kept it slow, but then Taisuke suddenly thrusted upwards while holding Taiga by the hips. He got a hiss as a response and a death glare from Taiga.

“Oh sorry, too rough after all?”

He knew perfectly when to wait and when to tease and it made it extremely complicated for Taiga to plan his next move, but exactly that was the challenge. That was what Taisuke wanted to see! To not mess up he had to be able to read the other one, to adjust to situations immediately.

He let Taisuke thrust into him from below, but put more weight on his knees so that he could move in the same rhythm, but still stop him from entering too deep.

It didn't take long for Taisuke to get impatient and he tried to pull Taiga down, buy the younger one refused and leant to the back. Any kind of distraction would cost him his position and just for a bit longer he wanted to play with his senpai.

It was when Taisuke buried his nails in his lower arm when he refused to move that Taiga finally lowered himself completely and with his full weight, resulting with the other one's hands moving to his hips instead.

For the first time he finally heard a low moan from Taisuke and it made him move faster, while his hands traveled to the latter's chest and he dared to lean to the front.

Like an animal waiting for his pray to finally make a mistake Taisuke grabbed him immediately by the hair and pulled him down for a kiss.

This time his movements were a lot rougher than before. He didn't give Taiga any time to adjust or even refuse.

When Taisuke tried to turn them around Taiga wanted to stop him, but this time he had made his senpai angry and the latter almost threw him on his back.

“Don't take it too far I warn you,” Taisuke hissed against his lips before he entered him once more and this time Taiga couldn't actually control the situation anymore so he surrendered to the first deep thrusts until Taisuke's movements seemed to reach a kind of uncontrolled stage. Almost impatiently he thrusted into him and had his lips and teeth on his collarbone for some time before he went up to his neck.

With everything getting slightly unpleasant for Taiga he tried to make him slow down, but he wouldn't react to his tries to get his head up so he could distract him with a kiss and when he tried to use his hands to somehow adjust his hip movements Taisuke pinned his wrists to the ground without a warning. The next move had Taiga yelp as he got bitten harshly on the neck.

“What was that for?” Taiga complained.

“For trying to interfere where you should obey!”

It was more the arrogant look than his words which made Taiga struggle for the first time and he got one hand free and tried to push the other one up just a bit, but that didn't stop the older one from deepening his thrusts and Taiga let out a gasp when Taisuke pushed one of his legs up in an uncomfortable position.

Ready to complain that he made it uncomfortable for him on purpose Taiga wanted to grab the latter's hair to make him face him, but his hand got trapped once more and a kiss stopped him from complaining, but this time he wouldn't just surrender and he finally dared to bite his senpai back, unfortunately it didn't have the effect he wanted. Taisuke didn't pull back and just moved more demanding, making it hard for Taiga to even pull back for air.

When their struggle reached its peak Taiga kicked his senpai against his knee on which Taisuke reacted intuitively with one hand releasing his wrist and burying into his shoulder blades with his nails as Taiga tried to twist away to get some space.

The scream that followed had Taisuke jolt and then freeze in his movements before he realized what he had done.

Forgetting about Taiga being injured he had aimed for the cut on his shoulder and pulling his hand back he realized that he had opened the cut through his actions.

Taiga needed a moment to calm down and make the pain bearable again, but when he realized that his senpai wanted to pull back he reached out for his arms and pulled him back down.

“Don't you dare back out now!”

For a moment he feared Taisuke wouldn't listen, because for the first time he saw an insecure look on his face.

Instead of giving him the time to think, Taiga pulled himself up with his arms around his senpai's neck and the latter moved back to be able to pull him on his lap.

“If you feel sorry then make sure that this was worth my pain.”

That finally made Taisuke move and even though his thrusts were a bit more careful this time he succeeded in turning Taiga into a moaning mess with his touches and kisses in less than a minute.

Way too close to be even able to complain Taiga finally left everything to his senpai and soon his erection got the attention it needed to find release and while he kept his eyes shut and his arms around the other one's neck for balance, Taisuke kept thrusting into him for a bit longer and as a favor Taiga pulled his head back to be able to bite into his earlobe. Another sweet moan was the response to that and Taisuke finally found release as well.

They remained in that position for a moment longer until Taisuke finally made Taiga sit back on the ground.

His senpai was up immediately and pulled his medical equipment out of the cupboard before he even bothered getting dressed.

“It's not that bad,” Taiga said when the other one sat behind him, preparing some bandages before Taiga even felt completely down from his climax.

“It wasn't bad a moment ago, now it's a mess,” Taisuke said before he started bandaging it. Taiga didn't even wait for a direct apology, because now he finally knew why Taisuke had hesitated with his move on him for so long.

“It's okay.”

“As I said-“

“No, I mean you losing control.”

That statement had Taisuke silent for a while, but he kept bandaging Taiga's shoulder.

“We all have our habits and kinks. Your mind going blank and you getting rough until the point where injuries can happen is something I haven't experienced for the first time, you know?”

And of course Taisuke should know, after all everyone knew how Domoto treated people when he wanted to teach them a lesson.

“But I'm your senpai not your customer. I'm not supposed to hurt you.”

Taiga turned to look at the other one as he was done and formed a faint smile.

“If I hadn't been injured from the start it would be just a few marks.”

That was definitely something Taisuke hadn't expected to hear and it made the younger one chuckle. “I'm not sure if you've noticed, but except for your one pretty bad aim you were quite tame with me. I'd say Hiromitsu would laugh at you if I told him about this.”

And one look at Taisuke told him that he was right. Maybe it had been good that the injury had made Taisuke hold for a second. Like this he had been able to calm down before the situation could escalate for real.

“Who knows if I still had my ears if it wasn't for my injury?”

On that comment Taisuke hit him on the forehead before he put the medical supply back. “I'm rough, but I'm not planning on eating you.”

Taiga let out another chuckle on that before Taisuke threw his yukata at him and got back into his own.

Instead of getting dressed though Taiga kept staring at the door. He had reacted impulsive before, but what now? Juri and the others would definitely be back in their room by now? Would they ask? Would he be able to tell?

Before he could drown in his thoughts a futon landed in front of him and he flinched. Looking up he saw how Taisuke pulled a second one out as well.

“Didn't you say you don't want to keep me for the night?”

“Yes I did and I actually don't want to, but I met Reo in the corridor earlier and he had seen you entering my room so he suggested that it might be better for you to stay.”

Should this suggestion make him feel happy or worried now? Was Reo thinking that Juri would get mad after all or had he actually thought of this outcome that Taiga felt uncomfortable after finally doing what everyone had seen coming for so long already?

“You are free to go back if you want,” Taisuke said as he got ready to sleep.

Slowly Taiga grabbed the futon and unfolded it, even though he felt like a traitor for running away like this. Juri had told him it was okay and even though Taiga knew that it actually wasn't he had chosen this step to prove himself something.

“Would you calm down?” Taisuke said while Taiga took way too much time to get ready. “The only thing you have to worry about is if Juri is going to kill me if he realized that I've hurt you. And well, maybe you should prepare for your first time joining me with Hiromitsu.”

Taiga blinked at him in confusion for a moment until his eyes widened in shock, but what else had he expected? Sure Taisuke hadn't lured him for Hiromitsu's sake, but as it seemed he was satisfied enough to let him join the next time.

Chapter Text

The next workday had been quite busy and that helped Taiga a lot to run away from all of his friends. Reo knew of course, but he didn’t even try to talk to him about the topic, it was clear that he wasn’t the slightest angry. The problem was that Taiga still wasn’t sure about Juri and though he tried to keep himself busy with as many costumers as possible. To his luck Hiromitsu didn’t come by, otherwise he would have maybe ended up with him and Taisuke right away and somehow it felt like putting oil into the fire.

As it got late and most of the boys already left the windowsill Taiga remained a bit longer than actually needed until someone tapped him on the shoulder and he flinched before turning around.

“Are you trying to break Reo’s customer record?” Kochi teased him on which Taiga gave him a brief smile.

“The only one who could actually manage that is Kentaro I think.”

“Oh don’t be too sure about that, let’s say you are pretty good catching up recently.”

Taiga blinked at him in confusion on that statement, because with all the trouble he had faced recently he hadn’t even realized that the number of his regular costumers had indeed increased and he didn’t spend even half of the time as before in the windowsill anymore.

“Let’s call it a day?” Kochi asked and with a sigh Taiga nodded, slowly following Kochi into the corridor.

“Are you alright?” Kochi asked worried on the way Taiga looked more than unwilling to return to the back of the house. So at least no one had actually spread anything about him and Taisuke, but on the other hand why would they? No one had done so with Reo or any of the others either. It was something completely normal in the house, but now he had a reason to feel guilty for the first time and somehow it slowly started to rip him apart.

“Here.”

Taiga looked at some papers Kochi held out to him before he grabbed them, but didn’t actually know what they were for.

“Would you bring them to Kamenashi for me? I’ve to take care of the closing of the house.”

Realizing that Kochi was trying to help him distracting himself even though he didn’t know what was wrong he smiled at the older one and nodded.

Relieved about not running into anyone as he made his way to Kamenashi’s room Taiga turned around the last corner and was about to knock when he heard Taisuke’s voice from the inside and he halted.

“It’s already tomorrow, do you really think it’s a good idea to hide it from them? Not even Kentaro knows about it.”

“I thought a lot about this, but they would just make themselves freak out and it won’t help them, so leave them in the dark and we will send them over tomorrow then they can’t overthink too much,” Kamenashi said, but somehow his tone showed that he wasn’t really sure about the situation either.

Taiga hurried back around a corner as he realized that Taisuke got ready to leave, but something told him that this conversation was connected to what they had talked about before after the incidence with the samurai.

He handed the papers to Kamenashi after Taisuke was gone and the owner acted completely normal around him and Taiga couldn’t tell at all if he played calm or if the conversation really had nothing to do with them this time.

Lost in his thoughts and somehow trying to find an explanation for what was going on he walked to the back of the house and entered the bath first before he went to his room as if he had totally forgotten that there was a reason that he didn’t want to come back.

The moment he entered the room though he was reminded of it immediately as Juri sat in the middle of the room with his arms crossed to his chest. Hokuto and Reo were nowhere to be found and they hadn’t been in the bath either. There had been almost no one else around at all Taiga realized slowly, but now his attention was on the boy in the middle of the room. Juri looked back at him with a calm expression, but Taiga halted in the doorframe and bit his lip, feeling somehow caught.

“You are late.”

“Well, I helped out Kochi with some stuff,” Taiga explained before he finally dared to enter the room a bit more.

“So I guess you are done with everything now?”

“Yes…” Taiga let out a bit skeptical. What was Juri even implying with his question? Was he waiting for Taiga to talk about what happened or did he just want to make sure that he could yell at him without Taiga finding an excuse to run away?

When Juri stood up Taiga made a step to the back, but while he felt super awkward with Juri behaving like this Juri didn’t even seem to notice, it even seemed like he tried to hide a smile which made Taiga feel even more stressed out.

Juri moved over to their cupboard and Taiga almost lifted his arms too late as Juri threw something at him without a warning.

“Get dressed.”

“What?”

“You want to go out with your night yukata?”

Now Juri finally cracked a smile and Taiga realized that he was wearing his light green yukata and had just thrown Taiga’s violet/white one at him to change into it.

“Going out? Where to? What is going on?”

Taiga’s confusion made Juri finally lose the calm expression he tried to carry and his smile grew even bigger as he almost jumped at Taiga.

“Explanations later, come on! We are late already!”

Taiga just obeyed and let Juri help him change into his yukata before the latter suddenly grabbed his hand, entwined their fingers and dragged him out to the streets.

When they left the Yoshiwara district behind, Taiga got seriously worried. Were they even allowed to leave like this? A lot of people suddenly started crossing their way or more like heading towards the same direction as them. Young and old, friends and families, but soon Taiga made Juri slow down.

“Juri, please tell me where we are going. What is-”

An explosion like sound made him flinch and look up as a bright red light appeared in the sky and the people next to them gasped in astonishment, some people pointed out at it with laughter.

“What does it look like to you?” Juri asked with a bright smile. “We are going to a matsuri!”

“But are we even allowed to go there?”

“Idiot, do you really think I’d drag you out like this if we weren’t? The others are here as well, you were late so I waited for you.”

That explained at least why it was so silent in the house in the evening and before he could drown in his thoughts Juri grabbed his hand once more, but this time he walked a bit slower as Taiga followed him willingly this time.

“But Kochi was still with me, is he coming as well?”

“Actually no. He is with Hokuto. For some days already he seemed to be even quieter than usual and since yesterday Kochi started to worry so he decided to stay with him. After all Hokuto doesn’t like Matsuris anyway.”

When they finally reached the long main street the sound of people shouting and laughing got louder and the bright light of the fireworks colored the whole street in different shades.

Dancers were all over the street, stands with games and food on the side with a lot of people gathering all around the area.

“There they are!” A familiar voice was heard close to them and soon they spotted Reo running towards them.

“Eating as always,” Juri scolded the boy as he didn’t even stop eating the dangos he had in his hand while greeting them.

“Trust me if you had seen what he ate until now you’d be impressed that he is still eating at all!” Myuto was heard next to them. Reo pouted on that, but Myuto just stuck out his tongue on which Reo wanted to say something, but choked on his food on which Myuto rolled his eyes and hit him on the back.

“How old are you, seriously?”

The scene in front of him finally made Taiga chuckle and Juri turned towards him with a smile. “So what do you want to do?”

“Eh? Ehm, not sure. I never was on a Matsuri before.”

“What?” All three of them replied in union and when Reo wanted to take another bite from his tangos Myuto took them away from him on which they started quarreling, not spending them any attention anymore.

“Then I guess we have to get going or we won’t make it through the whole thing before we have to head back!” Juri said before he hooked his arm with Taiga’s and started moving. “Maybe we should eat something first?”

“I know a lot of good food stands!” Reo shouted from behind, but before he could even try to show the way Myuto pulled him to the side.

“You just want to keep eating yourself. How about you help me looking for Hikaru? He said around this time he would arrive.”

“To watch you two making out the whole evening, no thank you then I could also look for Fuma and Kentaro.”

“Then how about you keep me company for a while?”

Before anyone could even turn around Reo squealed and span around with his arms spread wide open and without any hesitation Fu jumped into a hug.

“Perfect then everyone is hooked up now,” Myuto let out teasing before he looked at Taiga. “Better get going before Reo wants to make a double date out of this.”

“Not tonight,” Reo said with a wink towards them before he vanished with Fu into the crowd.

“Lucky~” Juri let out before he waved good-bye to Myuto for now and headed further into the street with Taiga.

Minutes later they found a nice stand to eat something and they sat on the small bench in front of it. While Juri was in a hyper mood, obviously having waited for this Matsuri to come, Taiga kept rolling his takoyaki left and right until Juri suddenly took the last one away from him.

“Hey!” Taiga complained, but Juri didn’t laugh at him this time which made Taiga’s mood even gloomier than it even was.

“Okay, spill. What is wrong?”

“What do you mean?”

Juri gave him a warning look and Taiga sighed, but was it the place for such a conversation?

“You don’t like this place? We can leave if it’s too crowded or too loud for you.”

“No, that’s not it! Not at all, I really like it here! I am sorry that I ruin your mood,” Taiga apologized immediately on which Juri’s hand landed on his lower arm as he turned a bit more to face him.

“Then tell me what’s wrong. I don’t want to keep secrets between us.”

“I just don’t want to ruin the mood. We can talk later as well.”

“Which mood? Taiga you look completely beaten as if you had done something completely forbidden.”

“Or stupid…” Taiga added on which Juri lifted an eyebrow at him.

“Do I have to worry? Are you in trouble?”

“Maybe?”

“Okay now you scare me.”

Taiga realized that if he kept running away from the topic Juri’s speculations would go to the completely wrong direction. With another sigh he faced him with an apologizing look, already getting ready to get yelled at or for Juri leaving immediately.

“You know, it’s just- last night…”

“When you were with Taisuke? What’s about it?”

Taiga stared back at him in a complete loss of words for a moment. “You knew?”

“You think I wouldn’t have worried if I didn’t know where you were?”

Actually he should have guessed! But now his look turned even darker, knowing that Juri was fully aware of what he was doing. So Reo making Taiga stay at Taisuke's room hadn't been for Juri's sake, but for his.

“And?” Juri asked again.

“And nothing. I won’t deny that I was with him and I am sorry for doing something like this. I know it wasn’t right, I should have-”

Juri lifted his hand right in front of his face, making Taiga fall silent, biting his lip nervously.

“That’s it? That’s all?”

The confusion on Juri’s face didn’t make sense to Taiga at all and all he could do was looking back at him dumbfounded. “Taiga we talked about this. You know I don’t mind.”

“I know you said that, but that doesn’t mean I should actually have done it.”

“Okay stop!” Juri said a bit stricter this time, but instead of getting angry he took Taiga’s hand in his, squeezing it. “Let me make this clear! That you felt attracted to Taisuke is no secret, because come on let’s be honest we all are! But he also helped you out twice already, you owned him a lot and paying a senpai back is nothing bad, no matter if in a relationship or not.”

Taiga wanted to say something, but this time Juri’s finger landed on his lips and Taiga let out a long breath instead.

“I don’t tell you things like I am okay with something to make you feel better or let you run around having fun without thinking of me. I do it so that you know what I am capable of carrying and what not! You won’t spend your nights at his room every night from now on, will you?”

“Of course not, as you said I owed him a lot and, well...he provoked me and I had a weak moment.”

“And that is totally okay. Taiga, no one is blaming you. I am the last to blame you! Even if you had a weak moment with Reo or Kentaro again I wouldn’t mind.”

“How can you say that so easily?” Taiga really wanted to know, because he could see how serious Juri was about what he said, but he was also extremely serious about their relationship that was even more obvious. A faint smile on the boy’s lips made Taiga give him a curious look.

“Because no matter what, in the end you come back to me! I am your safe harbor and that makes me special. I know it might sound arrogant, but I like being special to you! Alone the fact how much it troubled you that you turned towards someone else shows how much you treasure me.”

This time Taiga was out of words for a felt eternity and soon Juri let out a chuckle before he leant closer and gave Taiga a kiss on the forehead.

“We can still leave in case you don’t feel like staying out.”

Taiga shook his head immediately and was finally able to form a brief smile. “Not before I didn’t get to see the goldfishes!”

“What?”

“They don’t have them? I heard that there is a game where you can try and get a goldfish?” Taiga asked like a child which tried to make his parents to buy him a toy and soon Juri cracked a bright smile before he stood up, holding his hand out towards Taiga.

“Then let’s go before the good ones are all gone!”

It had indeed been a good idea to let Juri know about his worries and while he still couldn’t believe the boy completely that he didn’t feel affected he could at least give him bright smiles now and didn’t need to pretend to have fun.

“Oh…”

“Seriously now, at the first try?” Juri said almost pouting as Taiga had succeeded in getting a goldfish out of the small water filled tank in front of him while Juri had destroyed three of the easy breaking paper catchers already.

“Beginner’s luck?” Taiga asked with an apologizing smile while the man from the stand asked him if he wanted to keep it, but Taiga shook his head and let the fish escape back into the tank.

“Kamenashi wouldn’t be thrilled if we told him to build a pond in the garden for a single fish.”

Juri let out a loud laughter on that before they both got up and kept walking down the street. This time it was Taiga who reached out for the other one and stroked with his finger over the latter’s hand on which Juri looked down to their hands before he entwined their fingers.

“So what do we do next?” Juri asked enthusiastic while Taiga took another look around, first halting at a stand with a lot of masks. Some were scary, demon like ones and when Juri tried one of the Tengu ones with the long nose on Taiga held his hand in front of his face to hide a smile.

“How about this?” Juri asked as he handed Taiga a Geisha mask and the boy put it on, posing as if he was making a fan dance and Juri applauded him. “Perfectly fitting!”

Taiga shook his head as he put the mask back and they kept moving. Another fire work made them look up into the sky before Juri suddenly squeezed his hand before letting go. “Turn that way!”

Taiga looked at him in complete confusion as Juri shoved him to the opposite direction where nothing special was in front of him. “Don’t turn around until I tell you!”

“Juri, what are you up to? Juri?”

The boy was obviously already gone, but Taiga just did as he was told and waited. After a while he got slightly nervous and shifted from one leg to the other. When something got suddenly put right in front of his face he gasped and pulled back a bit just to find a pink pinwheel right in front of him.

“Better than the mask?” Juri asked playfully as Taiga took the small toy from him.

“A lot better!” Taiga said with a thankful smile before he blew some air against the toy on which the wheel started turning. Like a five year old he giggled on the movement, but he couldn’t deny that after his childhood was everything but fun it was nice to just be able to enjoy life’s little pleasures as much as he could now!

“Aren’t they cute, our kids are growing up.”

The teasing comment made them both turn around, finding Fuma smiling at them while Kentaro tried to hide a chuckle.

“Okay wait that sounded all wrong somehow,” Kentaro let out while shaking his head.

“What, why? Look at how happy he is about a toy. I would adopt him immediately if he was still a kid.”

“Well, but you are not sleeping with your kid usually,” Kentaro teased him.

“Okay now this conversation gets gross,” Juri interfered.

“We can leave you again if you prefer that,” Fuma said with a played annoyed look. Before anyone could agree or refuse though they heard an announcement from back in the street and a lot of people started moving.

“What’s going on?”

“The huge firework is going to start, let’s hurry!” Juri said as he grabbed Taiga by the arm and dragged him with him. Kentaro and Fuma walked in front of them and soon the crowd got a bit too big for Taiga’s liking and he tried to pull Juri a bit to the side.

“Oh do we play family gathering?” Reo was heard as he suddenly jumped almost on Kentaro’s back, followed by Fu and also Hikaru and Myuto were with them.

“Not again the family topic!” Juri said as he moved a bit forward to hit Reo on the head. Taiga fell a bit back as they started quarrelling. Now their group was a bit too big to make it all together through the crowd and soon he couldn’t see a few of them anymore.

He tried to at least keep a hold on Juri, but as he tried to reach out for his sleeve some people got in his way, pushing a bit towards the side of the street. They apologized immediately and Taiga assured them that nothing happened, but when he looked back he couldn’t spot his friends anymore. Soon they would notice that he was gone so he decided to just wait on the side until any of them would come to search for him.

With a calm smile he moved a bit back towards the houses so that he wasn’t in the way of all the people passing by in a rush to see the last firework of the evening. With a faint smile he kept looking at his pinwheel and he span it with his fingers.

Then he realized that he should maybe get something for Juri as well, but moving away now would make them lose sight of each other for good. Before he could decide though if he wanted to move away or not there were hands on his yukata from behind and all he could do was gasp as he was dragged between the houses at the side and let the pinwheel drop. He tried to turn around, but an arm around his waist stopped him from doing so and when he tried to at least figure out who was behind the sudden attack he gasped once more as he came face to face with two people wearing some demon masks from the Matsuri.

“What do you want? Let go!” Taiga slashed around him so that the one holding on to him was forced to let go, but the other one blocked his way as he tried to get back to the main street.

There was no hesitation in the other’s movements and one pulled him back against the wall while the other one tried to get rid of his obi immediately. Without knowing what else to do Taiga tried kicking the one in front of him away, but the other one was holding on to his arms and he couldn’t break free. With the next move he was forced with his face against the wall and one of them lifted up his yukata.

“I SAID LET GO!” Taiga roared as he tried to stop them once more and this time he lunged out with his elbow, finally succeeding in landing a hit right against the side of the head of one of them. A pained yelp followed and then the mask landed on the ground and instead of feeling shocked all Taiga did was feeling extremely annoyed.

“What the actual fuck? Could you two finally cut it out?”

When he looked at Shota with a death glare the latter just formed a lopsided smile before Ryota also took off his mask.

“Oh we have just started,” he let out mockingly.

“You are not gaining anything out of doing this!”

“That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun,” Shota said and pushed Taiga back against the wall as he tried to twist away.

“Not to forget what little Juri will say when we tell him what we did.”

On Shota’s words Taiga got ready to freak, because he actually didn’t care that much for what they tried with him, but he wanted them to finally leave Juri alone and knowing that Juri would feel guilty even though he didn’t even know what the boys had been up to for so long already, Taiga needed to make them stop.

With a swift movement he dropped to the ground, taking them both by such surprise that they couldn’t keep a hold on him as he dashed back towards the main street. Unfortunately he got caught before he could make it back and when he tried to shout out so that someone would hear him Ryota put his hand over his mouth and pulled him back.

“I like you way more with that fire back,” Shota said with an arrogant tone before he started undoing his own obi as Ryota tried to keep Taiga as immobile as possible. When Shota pressed his lower body against his and tried to pull the rest of the fabric out of the way Taiga bit Ryota in the hand on which the other one cursed and put his hand to the boy’s hair instead to pull his head back.

“Would you hurry,” Ryota asked annoyed.

“You should have seen that coming to be honest, you know that he bites.”

“Then why are you coming so close?” Taiga asked on Shota’s mocking comment. Before the latter could even make sense out of what he had said all Taiga did was grabbing him by the front of his yukata and pulling Shota as close as possible before he first pushed his head back so that it collided with Ryota’s chin on which he released his hair and then he moved forward, biting down on Shota's neck with such a force that it made the latter scream out before he pulled back and slapped Taiga.

“Fucking asshole, you’ll pay for that!” Shota shouted.

“Didn’t you just say you like my fire?” Taiga teased this time and when Shota approached him again he was obviously watching out to not get kicked or bitten, but he hadn’t seen it coming when Taiga spit him in the face.

On that move Ryota turned him around once more and pushed him with such a force against the wall that Taiga’s head collided with the wooden surface and he hissed as he could feel a cut on his temple.

“Okay enough with the games,” Ryota hissed as he grabbed Taiga’s yukata and got ready to just rip it open, but before he could pull on the fabric something suddenly wrapped around his wrist and with a yelp he got pulled so forcefully to the side that he landed on the ground.

“Who are you?” Shota hissed at the person which had suddenly appeared next to them. Ryota tried to get up once more, but then the person pulled on the manriki*₁, a metal chain, once more to keep him down.

“The question is what you think you are doing on an official Matsuri?”

Taiga recognized the voice right away and he turned to face Aran with wide eyes. He felt extremely relieved that he had found him instead of Juri or some of the others, but he still tried to fix his yukata right away, feeling also a bit embarrassed about the situation.

“That is none of your business!” Shota shouted as he dashed forward and Taiga held his breath as he feared that they would hurt Aran, but the boy just released his weapon and pulled out his Jutte*₂, which was like a short sword but without a sharp blade. When Shota lunged out for him he dodged and hit him on the arm with the heavy metal weapon and the boy yelped and pulled back. Ryota was up the next moment, but Aran had seen his move coming and turned to stop his attack before he could even lunge out. He hit him on the shoulder with his weapon before he kicked him to the ground.

“Did you still not recognize me?”

Both boys hadn’t even spent him so much attention at first, but now they both gasped, after all it had been Aran and his men who had come to bust their illegal bordel. He was wearing a usual hakama this time, obviously working with other police officers undercover on the Matsuri to be able to take better security measures. He put his weapon back before he drew out a knife on which both boys tensed.

“Don’t look so shocked, you know exactly that actions like this won’t go without a punishment. Be happy I will go nice on you and don’t put you to a public stoning sentence which you definitely deserve, but that won’t stop me from taking one finger of each of you!”

They didn’t even try to run after all running away now would mean they would get sentenced to something even worse for running away from Yoshiwara in the first place, most likely their last punishment.

Aran had already grabbed Shota by the arm and the boy had gone completely pale, but didn’t try to struggle. Before Aran could do anything though Taiga had stepped between them and made Aran let go of him.

“Please let them off like this.”

“What are you saying? Taiga you know what they were up to, do you think they will leave you alone from now on just because you show mercy?”

“Maybe, maybe not. But I don’t want them to get punished this hard for being idiots.”

Aran’s shocked expression showed Taiga that this was obviously not what he thought he would hear from Taiga and honestly a few weeks ago he wouldn’t even have been able to stay this calm. He would have maybe cut one of their fingers off himself and would have thrown stones at them himself while crying. But now he was able to form a calm smile, because he had indeed grown a lot stronger. “Please, Aran?”

The younger one let out a growl, but nodded eventually. “Fine, but just because it’s you. And you two get out of here immediately before I change my mind and I warn you if you dare to act like this again I will take a whole hand next time!”

Both boys’ expressions were stuck between shocked, grateful and also annoyed. Getting help from Taiga was definitely not how they wanted this to end and they would definitely not leave him alone like this from now on, but Taiga couldn’t care less. With a sigh he finally relaxed a bit again as the boys left through the back streets.

“You’re an idiot!” Aran said strict on which Taiga bit his lip in apology. The younger one helped Taiga closing his yukata properly and get the dirt off his clothes before he took a look at the cut on his face.

“It’s not that bad, but you should clean it as soon as you are back at the house.”

“I will, thank you,” Taiga let out, but he hesitated to walk back towards the main street on which Aran tilted his head.

“What’s wrong?”

“Could you keep this happening a secret from the others?”

Aran looked ready to scold him immediately even though he could understand his reasons.

“I found him!” They suddenly heard someone shouting and the turned towards the main street from where Reo came running with the pinwheel in his hand, soon a really worried looking Juri came running after him.

“Taiga, where did you go and why are you here Aran?” Reo started in a calm voice before he took a closer look at them and lifted an eyebrow. Aran still had his weapons out and Taiga’s clothes spoke for themselves.

“Oh god, Taiga! What happened?” Juri asked worried as he came closer and he immediately reached out for his face. “Are you okay?”

“All good, don’t worry,” Taiga let out as he took Juri’s hands in his to calm him down.

“It’s not good. Why are you here in the first place? Why didn’t you wait on the main street as we got separated?”

Taiga tried to come up with a good excuse, but he was out of words for a moment too long which would definitely make them suspicious, not that Reo wasn’t already guessing what had happened.

“He had been actually waiting there. Sorry, it’s my fault that you couldn’t find him.”

Aran’s words made them all turn to the young policeman. “There was some uproar at one stand next to him and someone accidently pushed him to the ground as two of them got into a fight. I urged him to leave into the side alley so that he wouldn’t get even more hurt. I just came to take a look if he was okay.”

His emergency lie was almost perfect and Juri seemed to believe it as well. After all the use of his weapons was also explained like this and Taiga urged them to leave back to the main street as the fireworks were finally starting.

Reo handed Taiga the pinwheel back and left first, also to inform the others that they had found him and while Juri refused to let go of his hand Taiga turned towards Aran and voiced out a silent thank you on which Aran nodded with a kind of apologizing expression. It was clear that he was also worried and didn’t like it to keep the happening a secret, but at least for now he would stay silent.

When the sound of the fireworks was loud enough so that their conversation wouldn’t be easily overheard Aran came a bit closer to be able to whisper.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay tomorrow after this?”

Taiga’s look turned to confused on the boy’s words and he tilted his head. “What exactly do you mean?”

“The shogunate meeting tomorrow! It’s the last day of this week’s congress. The last day is always taking place at Domoto’s place. Didn’t Kamenashi tell you?”

“Why should he?”

“Because I am escorting you and Reo there tomorrow.”

The shock was written all over his face and Aran gasped. “He really didn’t tell you?”

Taiga’s grip on Juri’s hand got tighter without him realizing before Juri reached out for his shoulder. “Taiga, what’s wrong?”

But Taiga couldn’t reply. His thoughts were racing. He was going to Domoto’s place tomorrow, with Reo? For what reason? What was that last meeting of the shogunate clan about that they needed to go? And even more important why them? Why him?

Out of a sudden all the strength he thought he had built up, all the courage seemed to have vanished in a second and he could feel how his knees seemed to get weak, but luckily Juri seemed to realize because he was now holding on to both of his shoulders.

“What’s going on?” Reo asked as he stepped next to them.

“Sorry, I thought you knew. I just told him that you two have to go to the last shogunate meeting tomorrow.”

This time Juri and Reo gasped as well, but somehow Reo wasn’t actually shocked for himself more over the fact that Taiga had to come as well.

“I am really sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“No it’s okay. You couldn’t know that we weren’t told,” Reo soothed him. “But we better head back now there are a few things we better clear out before tomorrow.”

Taiga couldn’t even reply to that, because even though he didn’t know anything about that meeting he knew already that it wouldn’t end without trouble no matter how much Reo would try to prepare him for the upcoming challenge.

Chapter Text

“Don’t space out!” Kamenashi warned Taiga in a strict tone, but the boy had been doing nothing else than spacing out for the whole night instead of trying to get some sleep. Not even Juri had been able to calm him down and Hokuto hadn’t even tried as they had come back and told him about the meeting.

Now it was morning and Kamenashi had come with Taisuke to their room. They had allowed Hokuto and Juri to stay for now, but Reo and Taiga were supposed to listen to Kamenashi’s explanations or more like warnings, but it was obvious that Taiga still felt like trapped in a nightmare.

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Taiga asked before Kamenashi could even start explaining anything.

“Because I knew that exactly this would happen and I didn’t want you to freak out.”

“Oh and you thought just sending me there wouldn’t have me freak out?”

“That’s why I am here now to explain things, right?”

Taiga got ready for a snappy reply, but the owner had obviously read it on his expression already and he pointed with his fan right at his face, inches away from him so that he gasped and backed off a bit.

“Careful Taiga, know your place!”

Taiga bit the inside of his cheek on that warning and Juri put his hand over his to try and make him calm down at least a bit.

“Let me make this clear if any of you causes the house trouble at that meeting your punishment won’t be pleasant!”

Reo didn’t seem the slightest taken back by that threat, but Taiga felt even more angry on hearing that, but he succeeded in staying silent.

“Reo you were at that meeting last year as well, so you know the rules.”

Reo just nodded on that and the only positive thing about hearing that was that Reo was still with them and didn’t seem affected by the meeting, on the other hand Reo wasn’t affected by anything easily.

“Taiga for you this is the first time attending the last meeting of the shogunate congress. That meeting usually takes place at Domoto’s house and while the higher ups of the shogunate usually don’t participate through security reasons all the clans which came the whole way to Edo are there. While all other meetings had been about politics this one is like a farewell meeting and they want to do is have fun and relax! You won’t be the only ones there to keep them company and entertain them. There are Geishas as well, female Oirans and other people they invited for several entertainment. So all you do is what you always do.”

“With the difference that you have to take care of other duties as well if you are asked to,” Reo added on which the owner nodded.

“Of course you are no Geisha or dancer, but if they want you to bring them tea or even ask you to dance for them, you will do so!”

Taiga couldn’t even nod on all the information, all he could was somehow remember it for now and try to not mess up.

“Can I ask something?” Taiga asked carefully on which the owner nodded.

“Why did Domoto ask for me to come?”

That was an obvious question for all of them, because Reo was his favorite, there was no question he wanted him to come.

“What do you think?”

There was no reply he could think of. He couldn’t think of a proper reason. Did he want to check up on him and see if he had learned his lesson through his last visit? Was he going to hurt him again, this time in front of everyone else?

“They are not allowed to go until the limit,” Taisuke was heard in an almost soothing way as he was obviously able to read Taiga’s troubled expression.

“It might sound weird, but Domoto usually gets his favorites through- well...doing what he did to you.”

Reo’s words made Taiga stare at him in disbelieve. The fact that he had done something similar to Reo wasn’t shocking him as much as it might should, but something else did.

“You want to tell me that I have become one of his favorites?”

The looks of the others gave him the reply he needed and Juri squeezed his hand. “You know that this is actually something good, right?”

“Indeed, because like this the other members of the meeting will definitely be careful of how they approach you,” Reo added.

“Except for Yamashita maybe,” Taisuke said on which Kamenashi’s look darkened as well.

“He didn’t come to the meeting for three years now, but we had some trouble with him before so please try and stay away from him, but make sure not to make him angry.”

Kamenashi’s warning made them both nod before he got up.

“Taiga, don’t freak yourself out too much, okay? As Taisuke said they are not allowed to completely go out on you, because we can’t control the situation the rules are strictly set right from the start. But that also means you’ve to watch out for each other in case one of you ends up in private with one of them. At that meeting you have my permission to interfere if things go out of hand, but make sure not to do anything reckless!”

Again both boys nodded before Kamenashi told them to get ready and made Hokuto and Juri prepare for their workday. Taisuke told them to come to the entrance as soon as they were done. Aran was waiting with his men there already and just the fact that they were escorted instead of going on their own made Taiga tense up once more.

“Hey, it’s going to be okay,” Juri tried to sooth him and kissed the back of his hand before he helped him up.

Hokuto was already in his work kimono, like so often he had been up before everyone else. But before he left the room he turned to them with a serious expression. “I know Kamenashi warned you already, but you should really watch out for Yamashita and also for the people which are with him.”

“The people with him?” Reo asked curiously.

“I heard rumors about Yamashita having some pretty skilled shinobi with him on his trips to other cities, so better don’t make him angry.”

They both promised him to watch out before he left the room in a hurry while Juri helped Taiga getting ready before he wanted to go to work.

“Wow Reo where did you get that from out of a sudden? Is that real gold?” Taiga asked completely stunned as Reo unfolded a kimono he hadn’t seen until now. It was a picture like pattern in white, red and gold. Birds, trees, even people embroidered on the full length of it.

“Yes it is indeed real gold that’s why I am not allowed to wear it at work. It’s just for this meeting, I got it from Domoto.”

“He gave it to you as a present?” Taiga asked while he touched the fabric with shaking hands as if he was forbidden to even take a closer look at it.

“Well, I told you I am his favorite,” Reo let out almost teasing. “But who knows, maybe I get replaced soon?”

Juri hit him against the shoulder on that, but all Reo did was laugh before he got up and finally dressed so they could get ready to leave.

“Which one are you choosing?” Juri asked as Taiga took his kimonos out of the cupboard.

“Can I choose freely?”

Reo nodded as he realized that the question was for him and Taiga took another thoughtful look at them before he turned towards Juri with an almost apologizing expression, but then it turned to confused as he saw Juri’s smile.

“I don’t mind.”

“How did you-?”

“You want to show him that he didn’t break you, that is really brave of you, but also so typical stubborn of you,” Juri replied as he grabbed the kimono he had presented Taiga and which Tegoshi had to fix after Domoto had ripped it.

“Are you sure?” Taiga asked as Juri helped him up, so that he could help him get dressed.

“It’s not my decision anyway, but to be honest I’d kill to see Domoto’s expression when you show up in it.”

Finally Taiga could crack a brief smile on hearing that and while Reo headed already to the door, Taiga used the calm moment to pull Juri closer for a short kiss. The younger one’s hands were on his face right away and Taiga closed his eyes as he let the other one deepen it for a moment.

“Stay safe, promise me that.”

Taiga just put his forehead against Juri’s before he nodded slightly. “I try.”

***

It had taken them quite some time to arrive at Domoto’s house and that even though they had been going with a carriage, but Taiga was extremely happy when he was allowed to get off, because his stomach wasn’t at all used to such a way of transportation.

“Are you coming?” Aran asked and while Reo moved up to him, Taiga looked up towards the building in front of him and then his eyes grew wide. That couldn’t even be called a house. Surrounded by huge white walls there was a white main building visible through the spacious wooden gates, but there were several other small buildings connected to it through open corridors over a spacious garden with several ponds.

“Wait until you see it from the inside,” Reo teased and put his finger teasing under Taiga’s chin and the latter shut his mouth as he realized that he had kept staring open-mouthed at the amazing construction in front of him.

When they made it to the entrance several servants were already waiting for them and Taiga soon spotted female oirans as well alongside the corridor and when they moved through the long corridors around the house two geishas with golden fans and a Koto were passing by them.

There were also people in hakama and kamishimo passing by them, a few didn’t spend them any attention while others looked quite interested. They all had different symbols on their clothes, similar to the mon*₁  from Tokugawa, so it was obvious that they were all clan members of different areas.

“My men are around the building for the whole day.” Aran explained as they arrived at the end of the corridor with a closed sliding door, but they could hear the loud laughing and talking from the inside clearly already. “We are not allowed inside the house, but if anything happens come outside and find me, okay?”

Taiga felt somehow relieved about Aran’s offer, even though he hoped that there would be no need for it.

“Relax, okay?” Reo said and squeezed Taiga’s shoulder. “You can see this similar to your ceremony. It’s a first time thing and all you have to do is enjoy it.”

With a wink Reo turned towards the doors and a servant who was waiting for them sat next to the door to open it for them. Aran gave Taiga a last encouraging look before he made it back down the corridor.

With a deep breath Taiga finally turned towards the door and entered the spacious room. The one coming into sight first was Domoto. He was sitting at the left end of the room on a small platform of the room, while the other clan members were sitting all over the room, most of them drinking sake, chatting with each other or listening to the music and watching the dance of the two geishas which were entertaining them. A few girls from Yoshiwara were inside the room as well, but to Taiga’s surprise it all seemed extremely calm.

“Finally, come here my boys!”

Reo bowed slightly towards the head of the clan before he moved towards the end of the room. Taiga followed his example, but felt all eyes on him and Reo. When he moved up on the platform area which also had tatami mats like the rest of the room he followed Reo’s example once more as the boy kneeled down next to Domoto and bowed once more.

“This kimono fits you so well,” Domoto let out as he stroke with his fingers over Reo’s kimono. “And Taiga…”

On the sound of his name he flinched without being able to stop his body from moving and he wasn’t sure if he had imagined the small chuckles from the people or not.

“Oh, don’t be so nervous,” Domoto said in a way too sweet voice. “Come over here, would you?”

With an almost shy look Taiga faced the leader directly and as he pointed out directly in front of him Taiga gulped nervously before he shifted right in front of him and as he had somehow already expected Domoto took one of his sleeves in his hand. “Mh, impressive work.”

The mocking tone was what made it hard for Taiga to not let out any snappy comment, but Reo gave him a warning look as well, so he tried his best to calm down.

The sound of the door sliding to the side was heard once more and then Domoto’s look fell towards the door with a bright smile. “Great, now you are all here. Come over here my boy.”

A bit perplex about someone else joining them Taiga turned his head and gasped as Myuto walked up to them. He hadn’t seen him in any work Kimono until now, but he could tell that the one he was wearing now was definitely a present from Domoto as well. A silver/black obi with a silver, white pattern, cranes with beautiful patterns on their wings embroidered on both sleeves. And Myuto having his hair back into a small ponytail made Taiga keep staring at him until he was right next to him and hit him slightly against the shoulder. “What a surprise,” he whispered before he sat down right next to him and Domoto sat a bit to the front and put his hand on Myuto’s cheek on which the latter tilted his head with an almost teasing look.

“Missed me?”

“I surely missed that attitude,” Domoto said as he pulled Myuto closer on the chin and the boy gave him a challenging smile. Taiga could do nothing more than stare at them dumbfounded, because never had he thought that Domoto would let someone talk like this to him without getting angry.

“Domoto, are you planning on having your fun with those three all on your own?” One of the men in the room was heard on which Domoto let out a chuckle.

“Well I assume it’s just natural that you all want a piece of my favorites,” Domoto said on which some of the men whistled, others looked kind of expecting at the three to join them.

“Myuto, Reo would you mind?”

Taiga could tell right away that something was off on the way the two boys exchanged a knowing, yet somehow apologizing look as they got up. Taiga starred after them almost panicked as they went down to the clan members, greeting a few they obviously knew from before, but instead of it getting chaotic everyone fell quiet again when Reo and Myuto randomly chose some people to sit with and then all eyes were on Taiga.

When Domoto got up Taiga hurried to do the same, but then he halted when Domoto walked away from him and took a box from the side of the room and stopped with it right in front of Taiga.

“Here.”

“What is it?”

Taiga took it with slightly shaking hands when the latter handed him the box and urged him to move to the middle of the room. There he stood in front of Taiga and opened the box. “Your present.”

The shock was written all over Taiga’s face when he saw the expensive fabric. Never had he expected to get a kimono just like this, especially because it was his first time at this meeting and Domoto didn’t know yet if he might mess up or not, but with Domoto’s next move it got clear why he had handed it to him at this timing.

“Then let’s see how it looks, shall we?”

Of course, what else had he expected? There was no move from Domoto which hadn’t been planned carefully through and everyone else had known what was going to happen.

Domoto took the box away from him and took the kimono out, waiting for Taiga to move. With a short side glance to Reo it got clear that he was definitely not allowed to refuse and slowly he took his obi off and folded it carefully before he put it next to the box. A bit hesitantly he grabbed the seam of his kimono, but then he reminded himself why he had chosen to wear this kimono in the first place and that he had promised to make it through this without trouble. With a confident look he faced Domoto and the latter seemed slightly impressed by the sudden shine in the boy’s eyes before he let the kimono slide down his shoulders.

Domoto kept observing him while he put his kimono down next to his obi before he stood straight again.

“Satisfied with what you see?”

In the first seconds which passed in silence Taiga thought he had overstepped a limit already as he had addressed all the people in the room with a kind of snappy attitude, but then Domoto formed a lopsided smile which made him relax a bit. When Domoto unfolded the kimono Taiga could finally see the whole pattern. The main part was black, which was quite a rare color for an expensive kimono like this. Their work kimonos were chosen by taste not by price and black was seen as quite a cheap color for a kimono.

The pattern though was embroidered with gold mixed with violet, blue and red. It showed traditional Japanese kabuki fans on the full length and Taiga couldn’t deny that it looked indeed amazing. Domoto held it open for him and Taiga turned to let him put it over his shoulders.

Next he got the obi out of the box, a golden obi also with a bit black mixed into it and Domoto closed it around his hips before he let his hands wander over the collar of the kimono to pull everything in place and of course his hands landed on Taiga’s cheeks after that.

“I knew this one would fit you.”

Instead of replying, Taiga lifted one of his arms and took a closer look at the pattern before he tilted his head a bit, brushing his cheek intentionally against Domoto’s hand. “Seems like you know me too well already.”

On that statement Domoto came a bit closer and brushed his lips against his earlobe on which a shiver went down Taiga’s spine and unfortunately it wasn’t pleasant at all. Having him so close again, even with all the people around, he felt how his strong front was easily scratched.

“After our last meeting I think I indeed know a lot more about you than any of your other customers.”

Like a challenge Domoto brought the topic up again and for a moment it had the wished effect on Taiga and he felt like shutting himself back into his shell, but then he lifted his arm and put his hand on Domoto’s chest with a teasing smile. “Guess that is a mutual feeling then.”

Without even asking for permission Taiga turned away from him and made a few steps through the room, giving some of the people teasing and also challenging looks and they seemed to enjoy the show a lot. Even Myuto had to hide a smile through the way Taiga provoked Domoto and entertained him through that at the same time.

“You got yourself a pretty entertaining favorite this time,” one of the men said teasing and seeing how Domoto totally enjoyed the situation instead of getting annoyed Taiga dared to make his way to some of the people sitting at the side of the room, giving him intense stares. The music played by the Geisha made it even easier for him to make his moves look seducing without even trying that hard. For now he didn’t sit down next to anyone, but kept the game up for a bit longer. Like as being at his ceremony he kept playing with them and when he stood close to Reo a completely stupid idea crossed his mind.

First he took a side glance at Domoto, making sure that he was still looking and while he had moved back to the place he had been sitting before, he was indeed still looking at him with an entertained look, like almost all other people in the room. So when he stood right in front of Reo and the boy gave him a teasing look as well, he leant down to him and stroke with his hand over his cheek.

Never even once had he taken Reo by surprise, after all the boy was in this kind of business way longer than him, which made him feel somehow proud that just this one time he caught him completely off guard with his demanding kiss with which he made him almost fall to the back as he crouched down in front of him.

As he had hoped for he made the room fill with loud voices through his actions. Some were whistling, others cheering for them and that was when Reo finally caught up with Taiga’s movements and pushed himself to the front so that it was Taiga who almost lost balance this time and had to sit down properly to not fall to the back. But Reo wouldn’t let him back off and he grabbed him by the hair, deepening the kiss on which the people’s cheering got even louder.

Reo pulled back with a low chuckle before he turned to face Domoto and Taiga didn’t even have to look to know that he was more than pleased by what they were doing.

“You are still full of surprises,” Reo whispered before he pushed him with such a force to the back that he landed on his back. A round of quiet laughter went through the room before there was a whistle from the other side of the room and Taiga turned his head to find Myuto pointing at him before he moved his pointer finger up invitingly.

“Getting rejected and finding someone else to play with right away, that’s what I call talent,” one of the men said amazed on which Taiga gave him a lopsided smile as he got up and approached him before he went over to Myuto. Instead of crouching down he just let his fingertips move over the latter’s cheek before he leant down to his ear.

“Maybe I have even more talents to show?”

When Taiga backed off the man licked his lips with an intense stare and just a few weeks ago a reaction like this would have given him unpleasant shivers, but now he knew how to handle such situations. After all he was provoking them all this time. He wasn’t forced to do what he was doing. He could have just sat down next to Reo or someone who didn’t seem to show any interest, but he wanted to prove himself that he could handle this meeting no matter how far things would go.

To not get into the way of other people on his way towards Myuto, Taiga made his way over to the door from where he could approach the boy from behind and he had already formed a plan how to play with him as well, even though he knew Myuto was definitely planning something too.

It was when he was right next to the door that it got slid to the side again and he met a cold and dangerous stare. His teasing smile fell immediately as he looked at the people outside the room and even though it didn’t take him more than a few seconds to move out of the way and bow slightly towards them somehow the look of the person in front had given him the creeps already.

To his surprise the person in front stepped aside and let someone else step in first. They were all wearing Hakama or Kamishimo so it was clear that they were clan members as well, but somehow their aura was completely different.

The person stepping inside the room first gave Taiga a kind of judging look as if he had insulted him just by being accidently next to the door as he wanted to enter.

“Oh, Yamashita, you have a bad timing as always!” Domoto greeted him and on the mention of that name Taiga bit his lip and automatically stepped back even more. The other man stepped inside as well and gave Taiga another side glance, but the younger one looked away immediately. When a third person entered the room a bit hesitantly, Taiga met the shy look of a boy his age. With a slim figure, longer black hair and pale skin he could be almost called his little brother, but the boy looked away immediately and followed the two others towards Domoto to greet him.

 

+++

Mon*₁ : emblem of a clan

Chapter Text

The attention remained on the Yamashita clan for a while and it was obvious that a lot of them respected Yamashita a lot, but somehow he had a pretty dark aura and while the man who sat to his left when they finally settled down seemed even more dangerous, the boy to his right seemed extremely uncomfortable next to them.

When Taiga realized that everyone was slowly settling down with their own business again he wanted to move back towards one of the people he had gotten some attention from before already, but on his way through the room he passed by Yamashita and the man suddenly snapped his fingers and Taiga looked at him a bit startled, but it was obviously meant for him so he turned towards him and bowed slightly, trying his best to be polite, after all everyone had warned him about this clan.

“Boy, bring us something to drink.”

Taiga bowed once more, but looked at Reo a bit lost when he turned around. Luckily the boy had already moved and Taiga walked up to him as he took a sake cup and three cups from a table and handed them to him.

“No matter what, be polite, okay?”

Taiga nodded and took the cups with slightly shaking hands. He sat down in front of the small table at which Domoto sat and poured all three of them some sake. Not sure how he was supposed to behave he tried his luck and took one of the cups and handed it towards Yamashita. The latter seemed pleased with that move and took the cup from him. He proceeded immediately to hand the second cup to the other man, but he received another dangerous glare in reply instead of taking the cup.

“What is it, Ryo? Not in the mood for drinking?” Domoto asked from the back on which the man turned slightly towards him.

“I am sure that your sake is indeed one of the best they have in town, I am not sure though if it will still taste that good after being touched by someone as dirty as him.”

That comment hurt Taiga more than it should. He knew his position and he knew that not everyone was fond of people like him, but even Yamashita had taken the cup from him, why did he have to make such a fuss?

“How about you just try and see?”

Somehow Domoto’s tone showed some annoyance which made Taiga feel a bit more confident out of a sudden. Maybe it had some good parts as well to become one of his favorites after all.

Taiga held the cup out to him once more, but Ryo just frowned before he pointed back at Taiga. “You drink it!”

Taiga blinked a bit in confusion on hearing that, after all he was there to serve them, not to drink himself not to forget that he didn’t like alcohol in the first place. His look also landed on the other boy for a moment, but he was staring absentmindedly to the ground.

“Don’t worry about him he doesn’t need a drink anyway.”

Impoliteness was that man’s middle name and Taiga was already more than annoyed by him, but he could also tell how dangerous he was so he still remained calm. With another hesitant look over to Yamashita and then to Domoto he dared to bring the cup to his lips as no one seemed to interfere.

“Drink it all at once,” Ryo added and with a slight grimace over the smell Taiga finally gulped the luckily small cup down his throat. Unfortunately regardless the small amount the burning feeling in his throat made him start coughing right away and he got a round of laughter from most of the people in the room through that.

When Ryo leant to the front Taiga automatically tensed and he bit his lip when the latter suddenly grabbed the sake and poured another cup.

“Drink again.”

The first time Taiga had still tried to see it as something like a prank and everyone had laughed so wasn’t it enough? This time he couldn’t from forming an annoyed expression for a brief moment, unfortunately it didn’t pass unnoticed.

“Are you sure you know your place?”

The question came from Yamashita this time and Taiga tried immediately to soften his expression as he faced him, but that small moment of disobedience seemed to have been enough to make him angry. What scared Taiga even more was when he realized that the boy next to him had somehow turned even quieter next to him and was clenching his fists. He wasn’t even involved in what was going on and still he seemed extremely uncomfortable.

“Here,” Yamashita said and Taiga turned to face what he was holding out to him. It was the whole sake bottle. “Drink the whole bottle at once.”

“What? But that’s-” Taiga looked up to Domoto instead this time as if he was hoping for him to interfere, after all Myuto and Reo weren’t allowed to help him. What made him stop complaining was the clan leader’s look. It was clear that he wasn’t going to stop them, but there was something weird on his expression. Like a warning, not of the bad kind though. As if he was worried that Taiga could end up in trouble it seemed like he wanted to tell him that just doing as he was told would spare him a lot of drama.

With a sigh he faced Yamashita once more and took the bottle out of his hand with slightly shaking hands.

“Don’t forget this one,” Ryo added and poured the cup back into the bottle with a mocking expression.

The bottle itself was luckily small as well, but that didn’t make it any easier for him, after all he wasn’t used to drinking at all.

“You can do it!”

Taiga turned towards one of the other men who looked at him with an entertained smile.

“Show them what you are capable of!”

More and more of the people cheered for him which confused him a lot, because Yamashita didn’t seem annoyed by it at all. They were indeed treating this like a game, but that also made Taiga relax a bit. Did it really matter how he’d handle it? If he messed up everyone would laugh, if he succeeded they would cheer and somehow that small chance of seeing Yamashita and Ryo’s expressions in case he succeeded made him move finally.

Trying to ignore the bitter taste in his mouth and throat he tried to gulp everything down as fast as possible and even though he felt like throwing up at some point he forced his hands to keep a tight grip on the bottle and refused to take it down to take a break. One deep breath would already be too much, so he kept going until his mouth didn’t fill with new liquid anymore. He immediately let the bottle drop to the ground and leant to the front with his hands in front of his mouth, trying hard to not throw up. The cheering had already started though, but Taiga needed a moment longer to be able to sit up straight.

“So now we have proven that this expensive sake can be drank in one go as well,” Domoto said as he clapped his hands once to get the attention of the others. “Myuto, would you get us a new bottle?”

The boy was up immediately and left the room to get the requested sake. Taiga finally dared to look up at Yamashita as the latter sat a bit back with crossed arms. He didn’t seem annoyed, but also not that impressed. Ryo on the other hand seemed even more annoyed than before.

“Taiga, would you come here for a moment?”

Domoto’s request would have made him nervous a few minutes ago, now it felt like a rescue move and Taiga bowed towards Yamashita before he slowly got up. His stomach was complaining a lot about this small move and he saw the worried look of the boy next to him as he got up on unsteady feet.

“Sit down,” Domoto urged him as he went up to him and Taiga did as he was told. He flinched a bit when Domoto put his hand on his cheek, but there were no bad intentions visible on his face. All he did was taking a closer look at him and as weird as it sounded it made Taiga feel somehow safe. “How do you feel?”

“Okay I guess,” Taiga whispered, because even though the music and the laughter in the room weren’t making it easy to hear them talk, he somehow feared that Yamashita or Ryo could spend them attention. But luckily Myuto had come back already and was now handing the bottle to one of the Geisha’s who immediately walked over to Yamashita and the others.

“Don’t worry about them too much. They think of themselves as one of the noblest clans in whole Japan.”

Taiga just nodded on that and when Domoto didn’t order him to get up again he took the chance to calm down for a moment. Becoming one of Domoto’s favorites had proven itself helpful in the end. The way to becoming one hadn’t been pleasant at all and it was kind of ridiculous how the person who hurt him at first wanted to protect him now, but it seemed to be something about feeling in control. With Taiga surrendering to his demands Domoto wanted to keep him for himself, no one else was allowed to hurt him anymore.

Realizing all of this he somehow felt stupid for his reaction at their first encounter, but how could he have known? Maybe if Myuto had explained a bit more at that time Taiga wouldn’t have ended up here with them in the first place, but maybe he could now use this to his advantage? Not that he was in the need of using Domoto’s influence at the moment, but who knew maybe that day would come.

When Taiga looked up as the door got slid open again he blinked in confusion as Reo left the room, but not alone. He had spaced out so much that he hadn’t even noticed. Reo didn’t seem worried at all though and the person he left with didn’t seem dangerous, at least not on first sight. Still Taiga started shifting a bit as a few minutes had passed. He realized that Myuto had also started looking over to the door from time to time, but he was in a conversation with two people and couldn’t easily leave.

“Domoto-dono?” Taiga had addressed him without even realizing what he was trying to ask for.

“Taiga would you do me the favor and get the water refilled?” Domoto said before Taiga could even voice out any question and he nodded immediately as he saw one of the girls moving through the room with the empty bottle.

Domoto called her over and made her hand the bottle to Taiga. The boy got up and bowed to the leader before he left the room. He had to ask the maid in front of the door where he should go to refill it and she pointed down a corridor on the other side.

There weren’t many other people in the house as the main meeting was inside one room, so Taiga slowed down behind the corner, scanning his surroundings and when he saw a side corridor with a few more sliding doors he stopped there and tried if he could hear anything and luck seemed to be with him as he could indeed hear something. Carefully he made it down the corridor to one of the sliding doors. He put the bottle carefully to the side, making sure not to accidently break it.

He could feel how he felt nervous again as he reached out for the door. He clearly remembered what had happened the last time he did something like this. But this time he had been told it was okay and he would leave immediately after making sure that everything was okay.

Carefully he opened a small gap and took a look inside. It didn’t take him more than a few seconds to realize that there was nothing going out of hand with the person who had brought Reo here, so he slid the door shut again and left as fast as he could.

After refilling the water bottle he headed straight back to the meeting room, but before he walked back around the corner the boy from the Yamashita clan left the room and headed with slow steps towards his direction. He was holding an empty plate and Taiga waited for him to make it to the corner. The boy almost let the plate fall as he hadn’t realized at all that Taiga was standing right in front of him.

“Sorry, I didn’t want to scare you,” Taiga apologized and the boy bowed immediately as if he had done something wrong. “By the way what’s your name?”

The boy hesitated a bit before he dared to look up at Taiga directly as if he wasn’t used to looking up at people. “Ryuya.”

“Nice to meet you, Ryuya. I am Taiga.”

Once more all the boy did was bowing and Taiga couldn’t but feel sorry for him. It was so obvious how he didn’t want to be here at all. When he heard someone talking Taiga turned towards the room once more and he saw Domoto in the corridor, talking to the maid before he turned towards their direction.

Ryuya was already on his way to fill the plate as he was obviously told to do, but then a sudden idea made Taiga hurry after him and he grabbed the boy by the wrist, pulling him back.

“What are you doing?” The boy sounded extremely panicked out of a sudden, but Taiga gave him a calm smile.

“I know this is much to ask, because you don’t know me, but trust me, okay?”

Before the boy could even reply Taiga took the plate out of his hand and put it upside down on the floor as if he had let it drop. Before the boy could complain Taiga pulled him closer, but he put himself with his back against the wall before he guided one of Ryuya’s hands to his wrist. “Pin it against the wall!”

“What?”

“Just play along, we don’t have much time!”

Ryuya seemed way too confused to refuse so he grabbed Taiga’s wrist and pushed it carefully against the wall. Taiga had the water bottle in his hand so he had to watch out not to let it drop.

It was exactly that moment when Domoto came around the corner, but before Ryuya could even turn to look at him Taiga pulled him to the front so that he had to use his other hand for balance and put it right next to Taiga’s head on the wall. Luckily the boy completely froze in his movements as Taiga pulled him into a kiss and made it look as if it was Ryuya who had kissed him instead. If he had pulled back then his plan would have failed.

“Oh, what a surprise.”

On Domoto’s words Ryuya pulled back with wide eyes and he bowed to the leader immediately. Taiga remained calm though and faced Domoto with an almost teasing look.

“Sorry for the delay,” Taiga said as he took the plate from the ground, but as he hoped Domoto walked up to him and took the plate and also the water bottle from him.

“Oh that is nothing to be sorry about,” Domoto said highly entertained. “How about I take care of this and you take care of him?”

If someone had told him one day earlier that he could pull something like this off and that even with Domoto he would have called that person crazy, but here he was smiling like an idiot and bowing to Domoto and he could tell that exactly those kind of games were what the latter enjoyed a lot.

Before Ryuya could even catch up to what exactly was going on Taiga grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him towards the other corridor, finding a free room and pulling him inside.

“Wait, I need to go back, I will definitely get scolded!”

“Calm down, Domoto said it’s okay and when he says so it is! He will make sure that you won’t end up in trouble.”

Ryuya didn’t seem so sure of that and he started pacing up and down the room. When Taiga stepped in his way the boy tensed immediately.

“What are you even up to?”

“What does it look like?” Taiga asked teasingly and made another step forward on which the boy hit the wall with his back and jolted more than necessary. Taiga let out a chuckle on that and backed off. “Okay I should stop teasing. You are way too tense anyway.”

He went to the cupboard and pulled two pillows out, throwing one in front of Ryuya on which the boy looked at him in confusion.

“Sit down.”

When Taiga lay down half over the pillow instead of sitting straight the boy carefully moved and sat on his knees with his whole body still completely stiff and that picture made Taiga laugh, because he totally remembered how he had been the same when he had been at his first workday in Yoshiwara.

“Could you relax? I am not going to do anything to you if that worries you,” Taiga finally explained directly, because the boy seemed extremely bad in getting jokes.

“Then why did you bring me here?”

“To give you a break and myself as well. Because I can’t deny that being forced to drink a whole bottle of sake made me want to throw up right at the spot.”

“I am impressed that you didn’t. Are you feeling alright?”

Taiga nodded with a faint smile. He was happy about the boy even asking in the first place.

“My stomach will calm down soon I think, I am just a bit afraid of the effect of the sake.”

“Who knows maybe you will entertain everyone later even more than you want to.”

Taiga let out a chuckle on that, because finally the boy had cracked a small smile, but it vanished immediately.

“Is it so hard for you to relax? It was totally obvious how much you hated it to be at that meeting and with the Yamashita clan. Which makes me wonder, aren’t you one of their members?”

It was clear that the boy wasn’t sure if he should reply or not. He twiddled his fingers nervously and his eyes went over to the door every few seconds.

“You know I won’t force you to stay here and definitely not to talk if you don’t want to, but if you want to take the chance and take a break just do it.”

It sounded so easy, but it obviously wasn’t. Ryuya seemed to reach his stress limits though and he finally slid to the side, sitting more comfortable on the pillow and taking a deep breath while closing his eyes for a moment.

They both remained silent for some time and while Ryuya kept his eyes closed Taiga kept scanning him a bit and then his look fell on his wrist where he could see a scar running down to the back of his hand. Suddenly the boy’s other hand covered the scar and Taiga looked up at his face.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.”

The boy hurried to pull his sleeve even more over his hand, but something made Taiga keep trying to approach him. “Somehow I’ve the feeling that this is not your only scar?”

Once more Ryuya’s look went over to the door before he slowly got up and Taiga sat up when the boy approached him. He sat down right in front of him, so close that it was Taiga who wanted to pull away this time, but Ryuya pulled him back on the sleeve.

“Never underestimate a shinobi’s hearing.”

Even that close he was whispering in such a low voice that Taiga had problems to clearly understand him, but now it finally clicked. Ryo was one of the shinobis Hokuto had talked about.

“Is that why you are so afraid?” Taiga tried to keep his voice as low as possible now as well and the boy nodded. He was still hesitating, but it was obvious that he was somehow feeling relieved to finally being able to talk to someone.

“I am not an official member of the clan, as you can see I have no emblem on my clothes.”

He indeed hadn’t, but Taiga hadn’t spent Ryo and Yamashita’s clothes much attention either earlier, he was way too busy with staying calm at that time. All the clans had different emblems after all and he didn’t remember any of them by name.

“But why are you with them?”

“Since we entered the Edo time the clans which were on the side of the Toyotomi clan side had to somehow keep the peace between the different provinces.”

“And some did that through giving their child to one of the Tokugawa clans,” Taiga said as he remembered his talk with Aran.

“The Yamashita clan had a lot of enemy territories around so there were many clans which had to make sure they could make it through the change to the Edo time.”

“So you are not the only one?”

“We are not as many as before,” Ryuya explained and a shadow passed his face. “There was a fire at some point and not everyone made it out of the house in time.”

A shiver ran down Taiga’s spine on hearing that, after all fires weren’t that rare in bigger towns and Taiga could just imagine what a horrible memory it was for the boy to lose people in it who were maybe the only ones who understood him.

“But the scars, are they…?”

He didn’t want to voice it out, but the look Ryuya gave him was reply enough.

“Yamashita’s father who had fought at Sekigahara at the front line was the one to take us in at first and he was a great man!” Ryuya moved one hand to his hakama and pulled out a short sword, caressing the sheath with his thumb. “He took great care of us, made sure that we got a proper education in reading, writing, even math and also sword fighting. We didn’t feel like prisoners at all.”

“But that changed when he passed away?” Taiga concluded, now that his son was the only one attending the meeting.

“Yamashita has a quite sadistic side when he once sets eyes on someone. There had been one boy he was extremely annoyed off, because his father treated him almost better than him. He was intelligent and eager to learn, so Yamashita became jealous of him.”

Taiga could imagine how that story had ended and how Yamashita had turned crueler with the other boys after his father’s death.

With a heavy heart Taiga let out a long breath, feeling somehow as if his life hadn’t been hard at all after hearing that. When he looked down at the Shoto in the boy’s hand he tilted his head curiously.

“Do you mind?” Taiga asked and pointed out at the weapon. Ryuya handed it to him with a faint smile.

“It’s a present from Yamashita’s father. All of us boys carry the same one. It’s really precious to all of us, because he treated us like a real father after all.”

Taiga pulled the sword out of the sheath and as he had expected the emblem of the Yamashita clan was on the lower part of it. It looked way too familiar.

“The shape of a bridge,” Taiga let out before he gasped.

“What is it?”

“I know this emblem! I’ve seen a Shoto like this with exactly the same emblem before!”

Ryuya’s eyes grew wide on hearing that, but before he could ask any questions the door was suddenly pushed open and both boys jolted. Ryuya snatched away the blade so fast from Taiga that he cut him accidently on the hand before he was able to hide it behind his back.

Taiga succeeded in suppressing a hiss on the pain and just looked up at the door, getting ready to find any possible excuse to make sure that Ryuya wouldn’t end up in trouble.

But the person standing in the open door with crossed arms and a teasing expression made Taiga relax immediately and he let out a long breath.

“Myuto, for god’s sake, don’t scare us like that!”

The boy just chuckled before he stepped inside the room, but didn’t close the door again. “I’d say I am sorry, but I like scaring people. Anyway, you should head back.”

Taiga gave Ryuya a worried look on that, but the boy’s attention was on something else and with a gasp he took Taiga’s hand in his. “Oh god, I cut you!”

“Don’t worry, it’s nothing!”

“I will treat it, let’s go,” Myuto said and they both got up to leave. “Ryuya, you go back first. Domoto told Yamashita that you weren’t feeling good that’s why he let you rest for some time. So if anyone asks, you came back because you are feeling better.”

The boy seemed impressed by the lie the clan leader had come up with, even though he didn’t have to actually take care of him in any way.

“Ryuya, don’t worry you won’t end up in trouble, we are here to help you out,” Taiga encouraged him before he wanted to head towards the other direction with Myuto.

“Shime,” the boy let out on which Taiga turned back to him with a raised eyebrow. “My friends call me Shime.”

Taiga flashed a bright smile on hearing that and nodded. “Then hurry back Shime, so that none of us will end up in trouble!”

Myuto made Taiga follow to another room where he asked one of the maids to give him something to bandage his hand.

They headed back to the meeting room together after that, Taiga also having his excuse ready in case someone would ask where he was.

No one spend them much attention as they entered, just Domoto flashed them a brief smile and luckily Shime was also just sitting normally next to Yamashita, but now his hand was on his short sword again with an absentminded look. But at least he wasn’t tense anymore, not that Taiga didn’t feel worried. After all he couldn’t help the boy in any way. Listening to him was all he had been able to do. He wouldn’t even meet him after today again, maybe the next year at the same meeting or not…

Reo was back in the room as well and Taiga went over to one of the men which had given him some attention before as well, but then the door opened once more and that was when he realized that Ryo hadn’t been in the room and that made him look at Ryuya with wide eyes. The boy gave him the same panicked look, but Ryo ignored both, wearing a perfect mask. It wasn’t visible if he had after all somehow heard them or had just been out by coincidence.

The picture in front of him was so wrong. Yamashita pretending to be the calm clan leader, while Shime seemed to fear for his life each time he was alone with him. Ryo being ready to get rid of everyone who might stand in the way of the Yamashita clan and while they were indeed laying low for this meeting, Taiga could just hope that they would leave the city for as long as possible. They hadn’t been at this meeting for three years anyway, so maybe they wouldn’t show up for some years again. Unfortunately he had to let Shime leave with them and that somehow broke his heart. Seeing someone suffering like him and being unable to help was making it hard to even find the calmness to finally take his eyes off the boy and keep entertaining the other members.

But life was cruel, he had experienced that a lot as well and sometimes freedom wasn’t what they would be given.

***

Chapter Text

“Don’t look at me like this, it’s not my fault!”

But no matter what Reo said Kentaro kept looking at both boys with a scolding expression as Aran had brought them back to the house so early in the morning that no one else was awake yet. Except for Juri and the boy had rushed to Taiga’s side immediately, but surprise was written all over his face when Taiga threw himself at him with an amused expression, giggling and swaying.

“How could you let him drink that much? Do you know what could have happened?” Kentaro scolded Reo again, because there was no way he could scold Taiga at the moment. The boy wouldn’t remember anything of it anyway.

“Yamashita made him drink a whole bottle at once, how should I have stopped him? Well and later he got a bit carried away through that and some people found it funny to make him drink even more until the point where he didn’t care anymore.”

“And that was where you should have done something!”

“Guys, could we discuss this later?” Juri begged as he tried to bring Taiga inside the house, but the boy could barely walk anymore.

“Can my men leave or do you need anything else?” Aran asked and Kentaro nodded.

“Thank you for bringing them back safely. I hope everything went without troubles at the meeting as well?”

“Yes, there was no trouble this time.”

Juri left inside the house first, leaving Kentaro with Reo for now. Until Taiga was fine again the younger one needed to take all the scolding. As soon as Kamenashi got informed about everything there was enough scolding waiting anyways.

“Taiga, would you at least try and walk a bit on your own?” Juri scolded the boy as he kept clinging at him.

“But I like it when you are taking care of me like this!”

Usually Juri would find it funny how Taiga clung to him and had this childish smile on his lips, but the smell of alcohol coming from him made everything a bit unpleasant. “Where are we going by the way?” Taiga asked a bit confused as they passed the stairs up to their room.

“Everyone is still sleeping, so we’ll use the spare room downstairs for you to sleep for now. Don’t worry you’ve off today anyway.”

“Mh, I think I could go to work though.”

Right after saying that he almost stumbled as Juri had to let go off him a bit to be able to slide the door open.

“Yes totally,” Juri scolded him before he made him sit down. “Wait a moment I’ll prepare a futon.”

“Not two?”

It was the disappointment in his voice which made Juri turn to him once more. He shouldn’t feel guilty about not wanting to stay with him in this condition.

“You really need to sleep for now and I need to get ready for work, but I’ll check up on you later.”

Juri put the futon on the ground and prepared everything in silence, but he hadn’t missed Taiga’s pouting expression, not that he didn’t know it came from the alcohol.

“Okay, so for now sleep and-”

Before Juri could even get up from the prepared futon Taiga had suddenly pushed him on his back as he turned around. With a playful look he sat on top of him, but Juri just rolled his eyes.

“Taiga come on, would you do me the favor and stop? I have to say I’m impressed that you didn’t collapse yet.”

“Why do you want me to stop?” Taiga asked playfully as he moved one hand teasingly over Juri’s yukata, but the boy tried to get a grip of his wrist and sit up at the same time. Taiga was faster though and put his weight to the front while grabbing Juri’s hand on the way and pinning it to the ground. His other hand landed on the boy’s collarbone, pushing the yukata slightly down his shoulder. “You can’t tell me that you don’t like this.”

No he really couldn’t say that, but that wasn’t the point. Unfortunately Taiga was good in making it hard for Juri to actually voice that out, because the boy had moved to his earlobe and bit into it as his hand kept slowly pushing the other one’s yukata open.

“Taiga-”

Once more his voice betrayed him as the older one redirected his attacks to the boy’s neck and moved his tongue teasingly over the boy’s skin. “Give me one good reason and I will be a good boy and leave you alone.”

Juri couldn’t deny that he felt entertained and also challenged by the boy’s attitude. It was the first time he saw such an attitude from him, but the problem remained: Taiga would feel embarrassed about it as soon as he was sober again, so this was definitely something Juri didn’t want to take advantage off.

“Okay, stop!” Juri said warningly this time as he pushed the other one up on his shoulders. “We should have a talk when you are sober again.”

“I don’t want to have a talk though and for what I want we don’t have to wait until I am sober again.”

“That is exactly what I mean! Because you are not sober you want to play around, but what if you were sober?”

“You don’t want to?”

Juri let out a sigh as Taiga wasn’t even spending his questions any attention or he really just couldn’t anymore. “I didn’t say that, but fact is that with you being like this all I want is you resting for now.”

Once more Juri tried his luck in getting up, but as expected Taiga ignored him and tried to push him back, when he also tried to kiss him this time Juri intuitively turned his head away.

“So you really don’t want to. You could have told me earlier if I was just someone for you to play around with.”

“Excuse me what?” This time Juri was completely weirded out by Taiga’s words and even though he knew the alcohol made him say stupid things he felt a bit hurt by that statement.

“What else could it be?” Taiga asked snappy as he sat up. “You know everyone else kept jumping at me and here you keep your distance all the time. Now I made the first step and you refuse. So you just used me to fool around.”

First Juri got ready to explode, but he was able to keep his calm once more. “Okay, you know that this is a ridiculous talk to have now. You are still not that wasted to not realize that you keep talking nonsense because you are drunk. Did you even realize how badly you smell of alcohol? Who would even want to kiss you in this state?”

“Well, some of the shogunate members didn’t seem that bothered by it earlier.”

Another sting for Juri, but he just shook his head and used the chance to get away under Taiga as the boy didn’t spend attention.

“Good for them. Then you had enough fun for one night, now sleep!”

“Oh suddenly you are getting jealous after all? I thought you didn’t mind?”

Juri had to take a deep breath this time to keep it together, but he just got up and looked at Taiga with the most neutral look he could somehow form. Taiga also got up, but kept his distance this time. “I don’t mind, it’s our job after all and I am really happy you came back without any trouble. I worried the whole night for you.”

“Oh isn’t that sweet?” Taiga let out teasingly and that was the final straw to make Juri freak. Without a warning he lunged out and gave Taiga a harsh slap with the flat hand. Taiga’s eyes went wide on that and he put his own hand to his cheek in disbelieve. Finally his eyes seemed a bit clearer than before and instead of any snappy reply he just kept staring at Juri who tried hard to calm down first before speaking or he would wake up the whole house with his yelling.

“Fooling around with you? Not wanting you? If you weren’t drunk I’d seriously rip you to pieces!”

Juri’s voice sounded weird to himself, never had he sounded so threatening, but the hurt made his body shake already and he couldn’t stay silent as much as he wanted to.

“So fucking you and then not caring for you anymore is not fooling around, but taking care of you,  and worrying for you is? Making one careful step after the other to make sure you can follow and doesn’t feel like just being wanted because of your body was a move in the wrong direction as it seems.”

Taiga wanted to say something on that, but Juri made a threatening step to the front immediately on which Taiga backed off so much that his shoulder hit the wall, but Juri didn’t calm down. Just for once he needed to stop caring, just this one time he had to make his point clear.

“As soon as you are sober again I want you to think about this once more, to think about us once more! If you still think the same way about just one point from what we just talked about I want you to stay away from me! Don’t ever talk to me again! Just go and fuck around with your senpais then.”

Taiga’s eyes had grown even wider on that, but Juri forced his body to move towards the door without giving Taiga the chance to reply. He would just talk nonsense again anyway. When he had slid the door open already he turned towards the older one once more. Seeing how Taiga flinched just on that move made him feel guilty already and as soon as he was out of the room he would get a breakdown at his own cold behavior, but it had to wait a few minutes longer.

“I really hope you will speak to me again though. I hope you wake up later and realize what a shameless asshole you were. How much you’ve hurt me with every word. If you should realize that then I hope you come to me with an apology first. I won’t accept silence as an apology!”

Everything was clear like this and Juri almost dashed out the room, making sure that Taiga wouldn’t try and follow him. He had left him with an ultimatum. It was silence or an apology. The question was just exactly how much the alcohol had spoken for Taiga or how much Taiga had been able to speak his mind through the alcohol, those were two different things after all.

Never had Juri expected things to crumble that easily between them, but maybe he had been too naive from the start. Maybe he had been too careful after all? With both of them being usually the careful and silent types it was hard to read each other. But now he could just see and wait. No matter what he would have to live with Taiga’s decision.

***

It was already evening when Taiga finally woke up. It was completely dark inside the room, but he didn’t bother to light a candle. All he did was staring at the dark ceiling and then everything crushed down at him. Like sharp needles one memory after the other shot through is body. Couldn’t he have been drunk enough to forget everything? Or to just fall asleep the moment he was back at the house?

But he hadn’t forgotten anything he had done and even more important, what he had said!

The longer he spent in the dark, letting his memories crush him, the more he kept falling into a numb state. When he felt how a single tear escaped his eye he cursed himself in silence. He wasn’t allowed to cry. He wasn’t the one hurt.

“What have I done….” he whispered into the darkness as if the shadows could creep up to him to release him from all the pain he was feeling. He didn’t see any way to make things right again. But even an apology wouldn’t make this right again, so was there even any other way than staying away from Juri from now on? Had he really messed up so badly, because he hadn’t been able to control himself through the influence of some alcohol?

He accepted that there was maybe some truth in his words, but there was no excuse in the world he could use to justify the way he had hurt Juri with his words.

Slowly he dared to sit up and he could feel how his body was slightly shaking. He couldn’t even tell how much time passed with him remaining like this in silence until there was a knock on the door and he flinched.

“Taiga, are you awake?”

“Yes…”

Reo slid the door open, holding a lamp in his hand as he stepped in and Taiga automatically turned a bit away, somehow afraid that he looked as bad as he felt and he knew he wasn’t allowed to make anyone worry for him.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better, thanks. I am sorry for causing you all so much trouble. Does Kamenashi want to see me?”

Reo put the lamp down and together with that also some clothes he had in his other hand and Taiga looked confused at his own work kimono, the one with the red dots.

“No, he said it can wait until tomorrow. But you need to work tomorrow as usually, so I leave your clothes here. By the way the bath is free at the moment as well, the others were in already.”

Taiga didn’t even need to ask and once more he felt like the worst person existing. He was sure Juri hadn’t said anything, but Reo was good in reading both their expressions and bringing his kimono here meant as much as he shouldn’t come back to their room for now.

“Thank you.”

Taiga hoped for Reo to leave him alone like this, but as expected the other one remained sitting next to him.

“You did great at the meeting. I am happy that we had no incidences this year, especially because I wasn’t sure how much Ryo and Yamashita would keep playing with you.”

“Well, seems like I am an easy victim anyways.”

“Don’t say that. Taiga, you know yourself how strong you’ve become over the last months. You’ve learnt how to handle difficult situations and people.”

“What doesn’t help at all when I don’t know how to handle myself,” Taiga whispered while burying his face on his knees. Why couldn’t that stupid pain go away? He didn’t want to feel hurt. He knew he shouldn’t feel like this.

What made him jolt though was Reo’s tight grip around his upper body as he pulled him into a hug. Taiga didn’t dare to lift his head or hug him back. Forcefully he bit his lip to not let out a sob.

“You know, Fu also drinks a lot and he talks a lot of nonsense when he is drunk and sometimes it can also hurt what he says, even though that is rare in his case. But everyone reacts different to alcohol. Some feel more freely, some get aggressive, some just get funny. We all know that, no matter if we have experienced it ourselves or not. We also all know that it makes us say things we don’t want to say as well sometimes and as a result of that someone else could get aggressive, because they can’t make the other one snap out of it. In some cases time is the only thing to heal some wounds which we cause ourselves.”

Taiga almost chocked on the sob which he tried so hard to hide and Reo squeezed him even more on that, placing a kiss on his hair.

“Why do I always need to get help from someone after messing up?”

“Mh, maybe because even though you’ve become stronger you can’t change who you are? You will learn from your mistakes, that’s what we all do, but sometimes we can’t stop ourselves from doing them, no matter how much we watch out.”

Reo backed off eventually and luckily he didn’t try to make Taiga look up at him. He caressed his hair for a short moment before he stood up. “Keep thinking about it even if it won’t solve the problem, it might make you aware of your own feelings and decisions. The important part is to take action after realizing what you want to do.”

Without waiting for a reply Reo retreated again and Taiga finally allowed himself to get the breakdown he had tried to hold back. Reo’s words made him realize that he indeed had the right to feel hurt and sad. It was a feeling he redirected at himself, something he needed to learn from to grow stronger.

Not able to make himself move Taiga remained in the room for some hours more and he was sure it was already in the middle of the night when he finally decided to take a bath. He was still smelling a lot of alcohol and hadn’t even changed out of the kimono Domoto had given him. Juri had taken his other kimono from him earlier and Taiga forced himself to not start thinking too much about Juri again.

Reo had brought him his night yukata together with his work kimono, so he took it and made his way to the bath. He took the small lamp from the room with him, but to his surprise he could see light in the bath through the not completely closed door.

When he took a careful peek inside he saw Hokuto inside the bath and then he remembered that the boy had the habit of taking bathes at night. He had realized that habit quite early. When Juri had woken him up through kicking him in his sleep he had realized that Hokuto wasn’t there sometimes.

The fact that Hokuto worked in Yoshiwara, but seemed uncomfortable with people around him when he took a bath or changed into other clothes still made Taiga wonder why he chose to work here in the first place, not that he knew if he was here on his free will and somehow Taiga never found the will to ask. Hokuto always seemed too distant to have private conversations.

He wanted to close the door and give the boy some privacy and take a bath a bit later, but then Hokuto stepped out of the bath. Taiga just looked up to see if Hokuto had realized that he was standing in the door, but the boy had turned around to take a small towel he had left on one of the stones.

Taiga could barely stop himself from letting out a gasp and with wide eyes he stared at Hokuto’s back. What he saw weren’t the usual punishment marks he carried himself. It was something way more brutal. Burn marks, cuts, maybe even acid marks. Before Hokuto turned back Taiga made sure to vanish back into the corridor. At least now he had an explanation why the boy tried to not be seen. Well, regarding his customers it made sense now why Kamenashi didn’t want to accept him at first.

But this was a personal burden the boy had to carry and nothing Taiga wanted to interfere with. They all had their pasts and their stories. For now Taiga had to make sure that his own wouldn’t end in a disaster.

***

Taiga hadn’t planned on this to happen, but he couldn’t deny that the physical pain was somehow easing the mental one. A numb state would have been the best, but one look from Juri in the morning as they met in the front of the house had been enough to drag Taiga back into the shadows. Since then he had somehow not watched out for what customers he’d get and his first one had already paid a pretty high price, making Kochi asked later if he should maybe get a senpai or even Kamenashi to take a look at him if he didn’t want to take off for the rest of the day. But Taiga had said it was alright, which it obviously wasn’t because he was hurt already, but the danger had started from there. Once more he had gotten himself a potential dangerous customer and since then he had somehow find a masochistic liking in trying to find the most dangerous people in front of the bars instead of his safe choices as usual. For the first time he felt like one of the demons behind the red bars he had seen at his first day, but he was luring other demons to keep him company so no one could actually complain.

Kochi was left behind in a state of panic when Taiga’s third customer paid the highest price. But Taiga made him give them a room as if it wasn’t anything special at all. As if he had completely forgotten what the highest price meant he weirdly enjoyed getting a dangerous customer as if he had hit the jackpot. Hokuto and Reo had seen what was going on and they weren’t exactly pleased by it, but they also didn’t stop him. When they also passed Shota and Ryota on their way through the corridors Taiga felt superior for the first time. If he couldn’t win anything with his own strength, then he could at least show off with taking an advantage of his own weaknesses.

As his third customer left he remained in the room, unable to get up easily. For the first time since Domoto’s visit he was bleeding and he remained rolled up on the futon for a while, not sure how to stop the bleeding to go back to work, because no he didn’t feel like playing the hurt newbie and just take off for the rest of the day.

The marks he had on his body were nothing to him anymore. He had weirdly gotten used to that pain, but as he forced himself up into a sitting position to get back into his kimono when he realized how bad the damage actually was.

The door slid open seconds later, but Taiga was facing it with his back as he somehow closed his obi for now. “Don’t even ask Kochi. I told you it’s fine.”

When there was no reply Taiga wanted to turn around, but before he even could do so he was roughly pulled up by the hair, making him yell at the other one.

“Let go, you are hurting me!”

“Hurting you? Don’t make me laugh!” Taisuke shot back at him before he dragged him out of the room no matter how much Taiga complained.

Taiga was already close to start punching and kicking his senpai as he kept pulling him to the back of the house and wouldn’t let go of his hair no matter how much he struggled.

Just when they reached Taisuke’s room the older one released him. Taiga turned towards him ready to freak, but before he could say anything he got a harsh slap, leaving him unable to speak for a moment.

“What were you thinking?”

“What do you mean, I am just doing my job!” Taiga hissed back, but regretted it right away as Taisuke lunged out again. Taiga wanted to block the slap which made Taisuke freak even more and he used his fist this time, hitting him so hard that he fell to the ground.

“CUT IT OUT TAIGA! I WARN YOU!”

“Warn me and then what? As you can see I am totally able to handle myself.”

Taisuke crouched down next to Taiga on that comment and took him by the hair once more. “Handling yourself? Says the small little weakling who complained that me pulling on his hair hurts him?”

Taiga’s expression turned to pouting on that before he tried to make Taisuke let go, but the latter wouldn’t and soon they started struggling on the ground until Taisuke got the upper hand and punched Taiga again.

“You can handle yourself? Okay, let’s see if that’s true.”

Without a warning Taisuke ripped Taiga’s kimono open under his obi and pushed in with two fingers without a warning.

Yes he had been sure he would be able to handle even a new customer, his numb state was telling him no pain could stop him, but he had mistaken.

Taiga escaped a scream on the sudden pain and he tried to push his senpai away, to crawl away from him and luckily Taisuke pulled out. As expected his fingers were blood stained and his expression got even darker as he looked back up at Taiga.

“I don’t know in what mess you’ve brought yourself in this time, but could you stop beating yourself each time you do something stupid?”

“I am not-”

“Last warning!” Taisuke hissed with his hand in the boy’s collar and Taiga bit his lip, even though his eyes were still throwing daggers at his senpai. Unfortunately he could feel how his eyes started burning. “You were so good in getting yourself easy customers until now, so don’t tell me this wasn’t on purpose. If you lie to me I will make sure this will end in an even worse punishment for you and I will let Kamenashi know about it as well.”

That was actually a threat which made Taiga fall back on the floor with a defeated expression. He didn’t want to cause himself trouble. All he wanted was distraction.

“Running away was always your strongest weapon until now,” Taisuke said as he got up, obviously realizing that Taiga wasn’t going to just get up and run away. “But I’ve seen you fighting as well a lot and to be honest you shouldn’t be proud of the way you handle the pain, but should try to find a way to avoid the pain and feel proud about that instead.”

On hearing that Taiga bit his lip with even more force, but it was already too late. He had realized how his bottom lip had started shaking and then there was the familiar sign of weakness running down his cheeks.

Taisuke came back with his usual medical supply box to treat his injuries and luckily didn’t comment on Taiga’s emotional outburst.

“In case you ever get a masochistic touch again, just think about how the people around you feel about it,” Taisuke said while he started treating his injuries. “Just remember Kochi’s expression today as he had to leave you with those customers. Imagine how your friends looked at your back hoping you’d be fine, hoping you’d come back to them without injuries.”

Taiga closed his eyes with a shuddering breath on that thought, because no he hadn’t thought about it in this way at all. He wanted to prove them and himself that he could handle it, but not even once had he thought about the pain he could cause them.

“I’m sorry…” He let out in a shaking voice and didn’t even care anymore about the sobs escaping him in between.

“Like so often. You really are a troublemaker. I hope you’ll learn your lessons from now on in a less painful way.”

Chapter Text

As expected Taiga had gotten two days off after his foolish move of trying to run away from his problems. Unfortunately that resulted in him having way too much time to think. He kept using the spare room downstairs and over his first day off no one had even taken a look at him. None of his friends had asked how he was, neither had Taisuke come to check up on him.

It was when he couldn’t fall asleep at all at night that he made a decision. He had to somehow drag himself out of those shadows he ended up in so often through his own stupidity.

When everyone was at work the next day Taiga returned to their room and got Hokuto’s writing utensils out. When he was done writing he put the letter on Juri’s night yukata before he left the room and the house behind.

Taiga was wearing his grass green yukata as he made his way to the river. He had just been here one time, but he remembered the way clearly. He took his time coming here, knowing that if Juri was even coming it would be in the evening.

But it was already getting slowly dark outside, so Taiga sat at the shore of the riverbank where they had celebrated Juri’s birthday.

When it turned even darker he realized that he should have brought a lamp with him, but now it was too late to think about that. Time seemed to pass way too slow and soon Taiga couldn’t even tell anymore how late it was with the night sky turning completely dark, only offering him the light of the moon and the stars.

At night it had gotten quite chilly outside, but even that he had forgotten when he had left the house in a hurry, so he had to deal with the cold for now.

His request was selfish and he knew he shouldn’t complain about needing to wait in the cold. He had chosen this place instead of just having a talk in the house.

Hugging his knees he tried to make the cold somehow bearable, but through the lack of sleep and his injuries which would still need a few days to heal he felt pretty exhausted just by sitting and waiting.

Just when something landed on his shoulders he realized that he had fallen asleep and he turned his head, finding Juri standing next to him with a lamp in his hand. He was wearing a haori against the cold and had brought a blanket for Taiga, obviously already expecting him to be reckless.

“Do you even know how much you scared me with this?” Juri asked as he put the lamp down and pulled out the letter Taiga had left him. “I seriously thought you had run away at first.”

“But that would have meant they would capture and kill me and I don’t want to do things which make you sad or angry anymore.”

Juri had obviously not thought of Taiga giving him such an honest reply, because he was already getting ready to scold him again as he halted.

“What?”

“Would you mind sitting down first? This might take some time,” Taiga asked and Juri joined him with a skeptical expression. “Thank you for coming.”

“I told you if you want to talk I will listen, but why did it have to be here? You could have just talked to me in the house.”

“It’s always hard to get some privacy in the house and I wanted to make sure we have the time to talk things through.”

“Fine, then I am listening.”

Taiga remained silent for a moment longer, trying to find the right start, but there was way too much he needed to apologize for that he didn’t know where to start.

“I am sorry for what I did and said after coming back from the meeting.”

“I figured that much,” Juri said neutral, waiting for Taiga to keep going.

“I won’t use the alcohol as an excuse. After all I still remember everything. That is also why I have to apologize not just for what I said, but also that I meant some things I said.”

This time Juri’s look turned stunned, before it darkened a bit.

“Please don’t get this wrong, I never even once thought you are just using me as a pastime, but I really had the feeling at some point that you don’t want to take it any further so I wondered if we had a chance of keeping this relationship up. Because with everything going on at this job and at the back of the house it felt so weird to have such an innocent relationship.”

Juri just nodded for now, obviously trying to understand how Taiga had ended up thinking this way. But once more he didn’t interrupt him.

“But knowing that you worry for me each time you can’t help me with a complicated customer or when I went to the meeting made me think a lot as well. I feel grateful for it, I was always happy when you waited for me, when you comforted me, but...I also want to grow stronger and become a person that can comfort others as well. Unfortunately I’ve realized that I still need a lot of time to find the right way to do so.”

“Yes because what you pulled off two days ago was definitely not the right way,” Juri finally voiced out and Taiga bit his lip with an apologizing expression. “Are your injuries okay at least? I heard from Taisuke that he treated you.”

“Your worries show that it was indeed not the right way. No matter what I do it always ends up with you worrying for me.”

“But aren’t you worrying for me and the others as well?”

“I don’t have so many reasons to worry for you. Most of you are not as stupid as me, so you don’t end up in the same situations and even when you do it feels like you are all capable of handling them.”

Once more Juri just nodded, his eyes wandering over the river with an absent-minded look. “But the road until that point was hard for all of us. We all have our pasts and our stories and yours has just begun here in Yoshiwara. Look at Kentaro, you’d never guess how vulnerable he was just a few years ago.”

That was indeed a strong point to make Taiga believe that he could someday maybe become as strong as his friends, but it would be definitely complicated.

Silence fell between them once more and Taiga grabbed the blanket and pulled it a bit more around his body.

“I know I said I am sorry already, but I know that it won’t be that easy to just forgive me and go on like this. Especially because I also don’t want to go on without a solution.”

“Then would you listen if I wanted to say something as well?”

“Of course,” Taiga said immediately, facing the other one with an almost scared look, not knowing what would await him.

“When we got together, when we both finally accepted that we were feeling more for each other I was asking myself as well at what timing we should take it further. After all sleeping with each other should be something easy for us, right? Something completely natural. But that was the problem and to be honest I think that was what held you back as well without yourself noticing it.”

Now that Juri explained how he felt about the situation Taiga couldn’t deny that he was right. How could he have not noticed? After all he hadn’t made any step to approach the other one either, except for the one time he didn’t even care about it that much, when it was just his drunken mood of wanting to sleep with someone.

“Without emotions connect to it, it doesn’t feel right,” Taiga whispered and somehow Juri’s look changed to something brighter as if he was proud of Taiga for realizing and feeling the same.

“Exactly. As you said, people literally jump on each other, because they don’t care for what was before and what will be after. It is nothing special for people like us, but I want it to be something special between us.”

“I am so sorry for not realizing that I made you wait the same way,” Taiga said guilty, but Juri shook his head.

“Didn’t we find out that you are too stupid to realize such things? That’s another point you have to work on.”

It was the teasing tone which made Taiga relax a bit, but they were both still far from showing each other a smile.

“Is it too late to try again? To find a way to approach each other without being over careful, but also without seeing it the same as our job?”

Taiga was scared of the silence that followed in which Juri seemed to be lost in his thoughts.

“I think without giving it a try we won’t know,” he finally said on which Taiga’s chest felt a lot lighter.

“I promise I will be more careful from now on and make sure not to hurt you or worry you!”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

Taiga’s look darkened immediately on hearing that and he faced the ground with a sigh. When Juri’s hands landed on his cheeks to make him look up he flinched, but didn’t look away.

“I don’t need any of those promises. I don’t care if you make me angry, I can also deal with being sad or hurt because of you from time to time, but I don’t want to feel as if I don’t matter to you that is my biggest fear. Don’t ever make me feel like my love isn’t wanted, because just then I will pull away.”

“Then I promise to make sure not to give you a reason to pull away ever again!”

***

It wasn’t like it still hurt, but this was definitely not the most relaxing way to get back to work, not to forget that those who were with him, weren’t known for making it comfortable for him.

With a groan Taiga tried to pull away a bit, but of course hands on his shoulders stopped him and with a quiet laughter Hiromitsu leant over his shoulder.

“You know, Taisuke told me that you were so confident and were sure you could handle both of us perfectly.”

It was the mocking tone which made Taiga bit his lip and swallow his next moan. Taisuke would have definitely agreed on Hiromitsu’s words, but his mouth was busy with Taiga’s cock while Hiromitsu had two fingers stimulating him at the same time.

Barely minutes had based since they had entered the room and Taiga felt already like he needed a break. He couldn’t deny that those two knew how to make someone feel desperate.

“Come on be a good kohai and ask your senpai to play nice,” Hiromitsu said teasingly on which Taisuke looked up a bit, but Taiga didn’t want to start begging this easily.

He let his hand vanish behind his back instead and searched blindly for Hiromitsu’s hakama. While he had been stripped out of his clothes right away, Taisuke and Hiromitsu were still dressed, which had to be changed.

“Oh, up to something there?” The older one asked as Taiga tried to open the latter’s hakama one handed, which wasn’t exactly easy. Instead of replying he somehow managed to get his hand inside the half open hakama and he felt already satisfied by the way Hiromitsu suddenly flinched when he closed his fingers around the latter’s erection.

“Don’t you think you should ask me or my senpai to take care of you instead?” Taiga asked teasingly.

The reply came from Taisuke instead and Taiga whined as the latter buried his nails in his thigh.

“Mh, seems like Taisuke doesn’t agree.”

With his next move Hiromitsu got out of his clothes as well though and Taiga tried to shift positions a bit on which the older one chuckled.

“You know that I won’t do you any favor without you asking for it,” he let out before he moved his fingers in even deeper, making Taiga let go of his member to somehow stabilize his body between them as he arched his back even more.

Giving finally up, Taiga dropped with his head against Hiromitsu’s chest.

“Please…”

“Please what? You have to be a bit more precisely.”

Taiga wanted to roll his eyes on that stupid question, but if they kept going like this he would be done before they had even started.

“Please get a bit more active.”

“Your choice of words is always so cute.” Hiromitsu said, but pulled out with his fingers and shifted a bit. “Say it more directly and I might do you the favor.”

Taiga let out a low growl somewhere deep in his throat on that, because he had never been the type to easily voice things like this out too directly. But this time he felt too defeated to resist.

Searching for Hiromitsu’s face Taiga put his hand on the latter’s cheek to make him bend more over his shoulder so that he could reach his ear with his lips.

“Please let me feel your cock,” Taiga said and when he bit in the latter’s earlobe Hiromitsu finally pushed in, making Taiga move his hips a bit too much to the front and Taisuke had to push him back down.

This time Taiga finally let out a deep moan, unable to stay silent and when he tried to move his arm over his mouth Hiromitsu took it away and put his thumb in his mouth to keep it open.

“Why hiding those sweet sounds from us?”

For a moment Taiga thought about biting him, but maybe it would back fire with him being outnumbered. Speaking of that Taisuke suddenly backed off and that right in time, because Taiga was already way too close.

His senpai crawled up to them, but ignored his kohai and reached out for Hiromitsu, giving him a deep kiss which made Taiga rock his hips up to the front at some point to bring Taisuke out of balance.

“Someone doesn’t like to be left out,” Hiromitsu teased before he put one hand down to Taiga’s hips and gave him a few thrusts on which Taiga tried to swallow some sounds, but failed.

“Isn’t he cute?” Hiromitsu asked Taisuke on which the latter backed off a bit to have a closer look at his kohai.

He grabbed his chin with one hand on which Hiromitsu finally removed his finger. With a scanning look Taisuke made Taiga move his head from left to right before he leant closer.

“So how much can you take today?”

It was a challenging question and as usual Taiga didn’t want him to think he wouldn’t be able to take their games, but Taisuke’s look turned to warning before he could reply.

“Don’t play the tough one. I will make you regret it! For once just be honest.”

It always took Taiga by surprise when Taisuke worried for him, but this time it wasn’t his pride making him answer. He had had his days off and he had indeed recovered way faster than he had thought.

“I am fine,” Taiga replied confident and first Taisuke raised an eyebrow at him. “If it gets too much I will let you know, but for now I am fine.”

“For now, let’s see if we can play enough to keep it like that,” Hiromitsu said on which Taisuke looked up at him with a knowing look.

“I doubt that,” Taisuke said and before Taiga could even complain Hiromitsu slipped out, but Taisuke turned him around immediately so that he was facing Hiromitsu who was lying down on the futon while reaching out for Taiga’s hips, telling him to lower himself.

It was when Taisuke positioned himself behind him that Taiga finally realized what his question had been for and his eyes widened a bit as he looked over his shoulder at his senpai.

“Want to back out? Now you still can.”

The main problem was that he really didn’t know if he should back out or not. This was a first for him and even though his injuries had healed this would give him new ones without a question.”

“Don’t worry, I can already promise you at least one day off after this if you agree,” Taisuke said as he waited patiently for the boy’s reply, a bit too patiently. Taiga didn’t like it when people started worrying for him so he finally gave his senpai a lopsided smile.

“I will remind you of that when Kamenashi complains that I have too many days off.”

Taisuke just clicked his tongue while rolling his eyes on that before he made Taiga bend even more to the front on which Hiromitsu grabbed the boy by the hair.

“Let me play with you for a while instead.”

“More like let me distract you from the pain?”

It was obvious indeed, but Taiga still gave in to the older one’s kiss and also didn’t complain as Hiromitsu pulled a bit too harshly on his hair. When he felt Taisuke pushing in next to Hiromitsu his body tensed up even with all the distraction and Taisuke’s hand wrapped around his erection immediately to make it a bit easier for him. Unfortunately Taiga had to pull away from the kiss to take a few deep breaths, which didn’t stop Hiromitsu from making him bend his head a bit upwards so that he could bite down on his jawline and that quite roughly.

Taiga let out a yelp, but didn’t pull back. His own hands buried in the sheets of the futon as he didn’t want to hurt any of them with his desperate grip. He got ready for more pain, but Taisuke had already started moving on which Hiromitsu threw his head back with a moan this time and Taiga could finally start relaxing a bit even though it was difficult.

The stimulation came from way too many sides and he had been close already so soon his moans started to get higher pitched on which Taisuke gave him faster strokes, but luckily didn’t deepen his thrusts too much.

He didn’t care if Taisuke and Hiromitsu would go on without him, because Kentaro and Fuma also did so a lot. For now he could just concentrate on himself and he couldn’t even reach out for anyone before he finally came with a high pitched moan.

“Looks like you can indeed take more than I thought,” Taisuke said as he pulled out and let Taiga drop a bit more to the front so that he almost lay over Hiromitsu. The customer gave him a lopsided smile as he took his face in his hands.

“But remember we don’t always play this nice.”

If this was playing nice he didn’t want to know the leveled up version, but for now it seemed like he was allowed a rest.

***

Things had been quiet over the last week and the Yoshiwara district had also finally been a bit calmer with the Shogunate members finally leaving. After the last meeting some of them usually stayed for a few more days in the city, usually for their own entertainment, but luckily Taiga didn’t have to deal with any of them.

After he had had his talk with Juri he had returned to their room, but for some days already Hokuto wasn’t with them. Kochi had told them that he was now using the spare room, because he had caught a cold and didn’t want them to get it as well.

After Hiromitsu had finally made him join together with Taisuke the day before he had gotten his promised day off and he was indeed in need of it, but luckily he was able to walk around normally, which brought him to Tegoshi’s shop.

“Hey little troublemaker, how are you doing lately?” Tegoshi greeted him with his usual carefree attitude.

“A lot of up and downs as usual,” Taiga replied a bit teasing.

The older one was cutting some new raw forms for ordered kimonos and Taiga didn’t want to interfere, so he just stood next to the table observing him for a while.

“How are things going in private matters?”

Taiga blinked at him in confusion, but Tegoshi didn’t even look up at him.

“What exactly do you mean?”

“You know I have my ears and eyes everywhere, right? Not to forget that Juri is an open book when he feels troubled with something.”

“Was he here over the last days? Did he say something still troubles him?”

The panic in Taiga’s voice made Tegoshi finally look up at him, but the calm smile made Taiga calm down.

“Look you are an open book as well,” Tegoshi said teasingly. “Don’t worry, I’d say the only thing troubling him at the moment is how to make things completely right between you two again and you seem the same.”

Tegoshi’s words made Taiga fall silent for a moment. Of course they still needed some time and they were both not sure how to approach each other again.

“But something good happened, didn’t it?” Tegoshi asked as he stepped closer to Taiga and leant with his back against the table.”

“Eh, how did you know?”

“Told you I can read you like an open book. So then you did a step towards the right direction already, didn’t you?”

Taiga couldn’t hide a brief smile on that, because they indeed had made a bit of progress, even though they had indeed started from zero. The night before Juri had pushed Taiga off his futon like so often at night, but this time Taiga had finally dared to hold Juri’s hand for the first time in a while and when the latter had squeezed his hand in return he felt already stupid for feeling so happy about something they were actually already passed.

“And coming here is definitely another right step, isn’t it?”

Taiga felt like all his thoughts were exposed to the latter, but it didn’t actual matter, because he was right and with a faint smile he nodded.

“Then let me hear what I can help you with,” the latter said with a light bow to the front.

After a few more minutes of explanations Taiga was back on the street. Of course Tegoshi would help him out, not to forget that Taiga always had a good payment for the latter.

For the first time in a while Taiga felt relieved that things were about to return to normal. This time he just had to watch out not to make another stupid move.

On his way back it had already gotten a bit darker outside and a lot of the bars around the area had already opened, leaving even the side streets quite noisy.

When someone bumped into him so that he almost lost balance he looked up at a drunken man. He didn’t seem like a samurai or any higher up, but he was extremely noisy and unfortunately easily pissed through the alcohol.

“What do you think you are doing kid?”

“I am sorry, I didn’t intend to get in your way,” Taiga apologized even though he knew it wasn’t his fault. The other one though was too drunk to even care for that and he suddenly took Taiga by the collar on which the boy gasped.

“The youth of today has no manners! I bet you tried to steal something from me!”

“What? No, I just accidently ran into you. I am sorry.” Taiga tried once more, but the latter didn’t seem easily convinced.

Taiga was wearing his white violet yukata so it was obvious that he was part of one of the houses in Yoshiwara and he hoped the man wouldn’t cause the house any trouble in case he’d find out, but luckily he seemed too drunk already to even realize that.

“Let me see if you stole something!” The man hissed, but instead of first checking if he was still holding on to his belongings he tried to make Taiga strip out of his yukata.”

“Please stop, I told you I didn’t steal anything.”

Taiga didn’t want to make a huge ruckus, but when he tried to make the man stop he saw how he lunged out and intuitively he closed his eyes.

The one to yelp though was the other one and suddenly he let go of him. When Taiga opened his eyes he saw how someone had jumped between them. That person had obviously just hit the other one before he pulled out a purse from the other one’s yukata.

“Here you stupid idiot, your own money in your own yukata and now fuck off!”

The man was luckily feeling threatened enough to leave them alone after that and Taiga looked at the other one in confusion as he turned towards him.

“Shota?”

“What?” The other one said in annoyance.

“Nothing, I was just a bit surprised that’s all.”

“Don’t think I like taking care of other people’s mess, but I still owed you something that’s all. And now let’s get back.”

Without waiting for a reply Shota headed back towards the house and Taiga followed him in silence, but he couldn’t from forming a small smile behind his back. Sure Shota was carrying some bags, so he had been out for his duties, but he could have just ignored Taiga. Also the fact that he had asked Aran to spare them a punishment wouldn’t have bothered those two with helping him a few weeks ago. But now they finally seemed to change bit by bit. Maybe at some point they could actually fit in without causing trouble.

***

Chapter Text

Carefully Taiga took a peek inside the house, but luckily everyone seemed busy and no one spend him much attention. With the clothes wrapped in a neutral grey fabric he made his way towards the back of the house.

“Oh already back?”

Taiga flinched and moved the clothes behind his back immediately as a door next to him got slid to the side. He let out a relieved sigh when Reo and Fu were standing in front of him.

“Did we scare you this much?” Fu asked laughing while Reo’s eyes wandered off to what Taiga was hiding.

“Don’t even ask!” Taiga warned the boy, because he knew he would definitely ask.

“Ah, Taiga already back? Wait Juri was looking for you,” Kochi was heard all of a sudden from the corner.

“Wait, Kochi, no!” Taiga tried to stop the boy, but unfortunately he had already called out to Juri who was obviously coming from the other direction. Slightly panicking Taiga looked up at Reo and Fu, both boys giving him a confused look.

“Here!” Taiga said as he shoved the clothes against Reo’s chest.

“What? What are you doing?” Reo complained as Taiga pushed them back into the room without a warning.

“Don’t come out before I tell you to!”

Fu was obviously about to complain, but Reo just grinned, obviously knowing why Taiga was panicking so much. Just before Juri came around the corner Taiga slid the door shut.

“Hey,” he greeted the other one, feeling already super suspicious.

“Morning,” Juri said with a bright smile. “You were out quite early today, did anything happen?”

“What? No, not at all, but because Taisuke insisted that I need to take off two days in a row I thought I’d get out and have a walk before I end up sitting in the house the whole time.”

“That’s a good idea, let me join next time.”

Taiga nodded with a smile on hearing that. It felt good to be able to have those kinds of conversations again, but something on Juri’s bright smile caught Taiga’s attention.

“Did anything good happen?”

“Eh? No, not really...I am just in a good mood.”

That was more than obvious a lie, but because it seemed something good instead of something bad Taiga didn’t ask.

“So why were you looking for me?”

“Oh, right! It’s nothing really important, just wanted to let you know that Aran was here earlier asking how things were going after the meeting. He might come back tomorrow.”

Getting reminded of the meeting a shadow passed Taiga’s face and Juri clearly seemed to have noticed as he stepped closed and ruffled through Taiga’s hair without a warning, making the latter squeal.

“What was that for?”

“Nothing special, I just don’t like that gloomy expression.”

Before Taiga could reply anything Juri gave him a short kiss on the forehead on which Taiga froze for a moment. But Juri just moved back towards the entrance of the house.

With a confused expression Taiga looked after him for a moment before he remembered about Reo. When he opened the door both boys were already grinning at him and he rolled his eyes.

“Don’t even say anything!” Taiga warned them and stretched out his hands to get the clothes back and Reo handed the fabric bag to him with a lopsided smile.

“Nice taste by the way,” Fu said with a wink before he walked towards the exit.

“I am sure he will like it,” Reo added, clapping Taiga on the shoulder before he hurried after Fu.

First Taiga blinked at them in confusion before he let out a sigh. “Who allowed you to look inside?” Taiga scolded them on which both started giggling and vanished around the corner.

“Seriously, unbelievable,” Taiga said to himself, but had to smile a bit, because after all they liked his choice that was good to know.

Back in his room he wanted to put the clothes somewhere safe for now, but right away he had to hide it again.

“Is your cold better already?” Taiga asked neutral as Hokuto was sitting in the room, having his writing utensils on the table.

“Yes, thanks,” was all he said while he kept writing. Taiga used his chance to let the clothes vanish in the corner of their cupboard before he approached the other one.

“Wow I didn’t know you can paint as well,” Taiga said impressed as it weren’t letters the boy was writing, but some ink paint he was doing.

“I was taught a lot of different skills when I was a child,” Hokuto said before he turned to face Taiga. “You want to try?”

“Are you sure? I already have my troubles writing the kanjis in the same size, I am not sure if I can paint.”

“You won’t know if you don’t try.”

When Hokuto moved to the side to let him try, Taiga sat down with the fude, not even knowing how to start on the white paper.

“Don’t worry about how you want it to look like in the end, just paint what comes to your mind. It doesn’t matter if it’s not looking good.”

Hokuto got up after that and sat on the windowsill with a book like he did so often. He put his round pair of glasses on and left Taiga to his not existing inspiration.

Minutes passed without him coming up with any idea at all. He didn’t want to paint the same as Hokuto and he wouldn’t be able to, because the boy had drawn a bird flying over a temple in the mountains and it looked way too good to try something similar.

Absentminded his look fell on the mirror and then down on the tatami mat, the cut mat which was the hiding place for the Shoto he had found before.

Right! He had completely forgotten about it being there and the fact that Shime had the same Shoto with the same emblem engraved in it made him remember all the different clans with their emblems. Slowly he brought the Fude down on the paper. First he drew the Tokugawa emblem, then two others he had remembered from the meeting and then he tried to remember the Yamashita emblem with the bridge.

“So did you come up with something…” Hokuto asked as he walked up to him after he had seen that he was drawing something, but he was obviously surprised, almost shocked by what he had drawn.

“I somehow couldn’t come up with something like an animal or landscape, so I tried to remember the emblems of the shogunate members, but I couldn’t draw all of them.”

When Hokuto didn’t reply anything Taiga looked up at him, but Hokuto was looking down on the paper. Taiga waved his hand in front of his face after a moment and Hokuto flinched a bit, hawking in embarrassment over spacing out, but there was another side glance which made Taiga look after him even more confused as the boy sat back on the windowsill as if nothing had happened.

***

It was hard for Taiga to fall asleep at night, because he kept thinking about things he should definitely not get involved in the first place, but things finally started to make sense and he really wanted to know what was going on.

He tried to force himself to fall asleep, but at some point Juri’s hand landed on his stomach, making Taiga growl as he took the latter’s hand and rolled to the side, hugging the latter’s arm like a teddy bear.

When he took a quick look at the latter’s face he could see the room clearer than he thought as they had a full moon. Looking over to Reo he realized that Hokuto wasn’t there as so often.

But this time he just couldn’t stop himself from getting up.

He didn’t even bother taking a lamp with him, after all Hokuto had one with him for sure.

As expected he found the boy in the bath as he was already getting back in his night yukata.

“You know I’ve always wondered why you took your bathes at night.”

Hokuto jolted and turned around to Taiga with wide eyes as he closed his yukata in a hurry.

“Great, now you know why. Are you satisfied now?” Hokuto hissed back, clearly not happy about Taiga stalking after him like this. He wanted to hurry out the bath, but Taiga blocked his way with his arms crossed to his chest.

“Okay what do you want?” Hokuto asked annoyed.

“The truth maybe?”

“What do you mean?”

Why did you enter Yoshiwara?” Taiga asked directly, but Hokuto didn’t seem easily to fall out of his role.

“Because I had nowhere else to go.”

“Then tell me where you’ve been before coming here!”

“I was in a well-educated family, but unfortunately my parents got involved with some unfortunate shogunate business and got killed. I came here to avoid getting killed.”

The story sounded so dramatic that Taiga would have believed it right away if Hokuto had told him even two days ago.

“Then tell me Hokuto, do you know anything about a Shoto hidden in our room with the emblem of the Yamashita clan on it?”

Taiga studied every single reaction of Hokuto, but the boy wasn’t easily brought out of his cold behavior. He didn’t even seem surprised by that question, but usually everyone would, right? No matter if it was his or not, telling someone that a sword was hidden in their room would bring at least some surprise on your face.

“I wasn’t aware of that. Where did you find something like that?”

“Unimportant,” Taiga interfered and that was when he first saw a bit more of annoyance and impatience on Hokuto’s face.

“Then let me tell you something else. When I was at the shogunate meeting I talked to a boy from the Yamashita clan,” Taiga said, but Hokuto just kept waiting for him to continue. “He had the same Shoto with the same emblem. He said just the boys of the Yamashita clan had gotten it from Yamashita’s father before he passed away.”

“Are you now trying to educate me about the clans? Sorry, but I think I know way more than you.”

“Right, because you are well educated, right? The boy also told me that there was once a well-educated boy with him and the others, someone Yamashita’s father treated like his own son.”

Hokuto pretended to be completely uninterested in what he was saying, but Taiga didn’t miss how he slowly started to shift his weight, obviously hoping for Taiga to leave him alone.

“The boy’s name is Ryuya by the way.”

There it was! A reaction, finally. But as soon as Hokuto’s look had changed it turned back to stone.

“Great, then take that Shoto and bring it to him. Or keep looking for the owner of it, I really don’t care. We both have work tomorrow so we should go back to bed.”

When Hokuto tried to pass Taiga once more the latter blocked his way once more on which Hokuto rolled his eyes.

“Taiga come on, I am too tired for this shit.”

“No, you are just too good in running away.”

“From stupid conversations? Yes, I am indeed good with that and now stop this!”

This time Hokuto pushed Taiga out of his way, but Taiga grabbed him by the wrist.

“Shall I bring Ryuya here then? Maybe he can tell us who the owner of the Shoto is?”

Hokuto ripped his wrist out of the other one’s grip with an annoyed expression, close to losing his temper. “What a shame the shogunate clans left already.”

“I can write him a letter as well, maybe he’d like to find a lost friend?”

“Could you finally stop it with your stupid theories?”

Hokuto headed towards the stairs, faster than necessary. He was indeed good in running away, but Taiga wouldn’t make it that easy for him.

“What would happen if I told Ryuya your name?” Taiga shouted after him on which Hokuto turned around with an almost threatening look as he pointed at Taiga.

“I told you to stop this! I have nothing to do with Shime so leave me out of your weird suspicions!”

Taiga formed a triumphing smile on what he had just heard on which Hokuto approached him with dangerous steps. “What are you smiling at? Are you now making fun of me?”

“Not at all, but my suspicions have just been proven as the truth.”

“What are you even saying? You are not making any sense.”

“Shime,” Taiga just said.

“What’s about him?”

“Ryuya,” Taiga said next and then Hokuto’s look finally changed completely and he turned completely pale as he realized his own mistake.

“I never said that his friends call him Shime, but you just called him like that, even though you said you don’t know him.”

Hokuto stepped back on that, shaking his head, his look turning more and more panicked. “No, that is- he is…”

“Hokuto, why do you keep lying? You can just tell me the truth,” Taiga said soothing, because after he had seen Hokuto’s look to the corner with the Shoto earlier after he had painted the emblems, he could finally make some connections, but he still didn’t understand why Hokuto kept it a secret or why he was here in the first place.

“Shime thinks you are dead, you know? Shouldn’t you let him know that you are alive?”

“NO!” Hokuto yelled, pulling on his own hair as he almost stumbled to the back. “No, no one is allowed to know. Why now, why did you have to find out about this…”

Taiga wanted to reply something, but then a weird smell made him halt and he turned towards the other direction. Then he suddenly heard noises from the outside and before he could even voice out anything he heard the bell outside, making Hokuto jolt.

“FIRE!” The voice of a police officer was heard and soon a lot more voices followed. More bells all over the district were heard as well and before they had even moved, smoke was filling both sides of the corridor.

“Shit!” Taiga let out panicked. First he rushed to the back of the corridor, but when he tried to open one of the doors to the veranda a huge fire was already spreading over the back of the house and with a yelp he jumped back. He could see that the buildings around them were on fire as well. Had it spread that fast over several buildings without anyone noticing until now?

“Hokuto, move!” Taiga yelled as he hurried towards the other side as the fire started spreading fast over the corridor. Hokuto looked completely shocked at the flames and seemed unable to move until Taiga dragged him with him.

“FIRE! EVERYONE WAKE UP! THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE!” Taiga yelled as loud as he could and soon he heard fast steps upstairs.

“What is going on?” Juri asked as he hurried down the stairs, but stumbled back as the flames had almost reached the stairs. “Oh shit!” With fast steps he hurried upstairs once more, after all they had all been told what to do when the house would be on fire. Unfortunately it wasn’t that uncommon.

“Kochi…” Hokuto let out all of a sudden and before Taiga could do something the boy ran up to the second floor.”

“Hokuto, wait! What are you doing?” Taiga shouted after him, but the latter vanished inside the smoke cloud which reached until the second floor already. Soon the flames would reach the second floor as they spread towards the ceiling already, but Taiga needed to remember his own duties. He ran towards the kimono room and took as many of the kimonos as he could carry and ran towards the front of the house which was luckily still not on fire, so they had an escape route.

When he jumped out the front door he saw how the buildings around were on fire as well, people running forth and back with water buckets. Many people yelling and crying to get trapped people outside. Taiga just threw the kimonos to the ground before he hurried back. Kentaro, Taisuke and Juri crossed his way as he ran back and they yelled at each other to be careful and get out as soon as it seemed that the building would collapse.

Reo passed Taiga as he brought the next kimonos outside and he just yelled over his shoulder that he would get Kamenashi and would be back as soon as he could.

“Someone bring him out!” Hokuto yelled as he came downstairs with Kochi and Taiga had to catch the boy as he seemed to collapse through the smoke.

“Hokuto, wait! HOKUTO!” Taiga yelled after the boy as he ran upstairs once more. Most of the other boys had already grabbed the necessary things from their room and had made it outside.

“What are you waiting for, let’s go!” Kentaro was heard behind Taiga and Juri joint them as well.

“Then let’s go, Kochi...Kochi?” Taiga turned towards the other one, but the boy was suddenly breathing extremely erratic before he moved one hand to his hair.

“Kochi what is wrong?” Kentaro asked worried.

Before they could decide what to do the boy let out a scream and dropped to the ground.

“KOCHI!”

All three of them gathered around him, but the boy was unconscious.

“Get him on my back, we have to get out!” Juri said and Kentaro helped him.

“I come in a minute, I just have to get the last kimonos,” Taiga yelled after them before he ran back to the kimono room.

Just when he got the last clothes out he heard a cracking noise and a part of the corridor collapsed, filling the room with a heatwave on which he let out a gasp and turned away to protect his eyes.

Then he suddenly heard someone shouting and he hurried back inside the half collapsed corridor. In shock he saw how Ryota was standing inside the flames, trying to lift a collapsed beam, but it was on fire so he couldn’t actually touch it. Then his shock turned even bigger as he realized that Shota was lying under it. The boy was trapped and the fire threatened to burn him alive.

“Damn it,” Ryota yelled as he tried to kick the beam to make it move, but he had several burn marks on his leg after trying a few times.

“Ryota, move!” Taiga yelled at the other one and threw one of the kimonos over the burning beam. None of their belongings should be worth more than their lives. He would throw even Juri’s present kimono over the beam to rescue someone’s life and he knew that no one would complain. Throwing the third kimono over the beam finally extinguished most of the flames.

“Okay, so show us how strong you are!” Taiga said challenging and Ryota moved right away as he tried to lift the beam up and luckily it moved enough for Taiga to pull Shota out. The boy was unconscious, but Ryota lifted him up as if he was weighting nothing.

“Bring him out before more of the house collapses,” Taiga ordered him.

“Thank you,” Ryota voiced out in a hurry before he made it to the front of the house where the flames had finally reached so that no one could easily come back inside the house.

Taiga wanted to hurry after them, but then he realized that Hokuto still hadn’t come back down.

“Such an idiot!” Taiga hissed before he rushed upstairs to their room. The other half of the corridor had already partly collapsed as well and he wasn’t sure if they would be able to make it back to the stairs.

“Hokuto, what are you doing? We have to-”

He froze on the spot when hateful eyes were staring back at him behind a black mask.

Hokuto had obviously hurried back to get his Shoto, but now it was lying on the ground, the blade was drawn, but Hokuto hadn’t succeeded in defending himself from the attackers, which wasn’t a miracle with his opponents being three shinobi.

One of them carried Hokuto over his shoulder, while one was already half out the window. The third one looked at Taiga now and the boy had frozen to the spot. Just when the one carrying Hokuto made it to the window Taiga moved and picked up the Shoto on the way.

When the other one got in his way he tried to lunge out for him, but as expected the Shoto got ripped out of his hand before he got tossed to the ground.

“I won’t let you take him!” Taiga shouted as he got up once more. He knew that he couldn’t win, but maybe he could delay them enough to make Aran and his men secure the area and stop them. Unfortunately there were too many of them and Hokuto vanished out of his sight before he could stop them.

The third one pushed him to the ground before he also made it to the window. Without thinking about any consequences Taiga took a run up at the window and jumped out right after the other one. He knew he’d hurt himself pretty badly, but he didn’t care. He had luckily made it in time to jump on the other one’s back and bring him to fall as they both first hit the roof over the veranda and landed  then on the grass of the garden.

Taiga let out a painful yelp as he hurt his ankle and shoulder as he hit the ground while the shinobi just rolled over. But this time he didn’t just leave, once more he turned towards Taiga. A shiver ran down his spine on the look he received. He had known from the beginning that something extremely dangerous was hidden in those eyes.

Without any hesitation the other one drew his sword and took a run up on Taiga. The boy tried to get up, but his hurt ankle made it impossible for him to get away and he screamed out in fear as the other one lunged out.

He closed his eyes and turned to the side, but then there was another sound in front of him and slowly he dared to open his eyes.

“…Kentaro…”

At the last moment his senpai had jumped in front of him and while he couldn’t see his face the shinobi’s blood stained blade spoke enough for itself.

To their luck the other one retreated after his attack and like a shadow he vanished in the dark of the night.

Taiga couldn’t move for another moment, the shock still paralyzing him. Just when Kentaro let out a gasp and fell to the front Taiga was finally able to jump up.

“Kentaro! What did you do…” Taiga asked as he reached out for the other one’s shoulders. His senpai immediately collapsing to the back, right into Taiga’s arms. “Kentaro?”

As he could finally see the damage the sword had caused he was sure that all the color had left his face immediately. The cut on the boy’s upper body wasn’t just reaching from his chest down to his hip, but it was extremely deep as well.

“Oh god…” Taiga didn’t even know what to do. He couldn’t stop the bleeding with the cut being so long and Kentaro wasn’t even reacting anymore. “Kentaro, wake up! KENTARO!”

Already getting hysteric Taiga kept looking around, but with the building ready to collapse they needed to get away from there, but he wouldn’t be able to drag the other one with him.

“HELP, SOMEONE PLEASE HELP!”

Taiga’s voice was so unsteady that he couldn’t understand his own words anymore and all he could do was holding Kentaro protectively in his arms while shouting for help. “Don’t die on me. Please don’t die,” he let out in a shaking voice, his tears making his vision blurry.

“HERE THEY ARE!” Someone shouted from the corner of the house and the first one coming into Taiga’s sight was Juri. Ryota and also Aran with some of his men were there, but he felt already too worn out to spend his surroundings much attention.

“Taiga, what-,” Juri stopped in the middle of the sentence as he realized Kentaro’s conditions.

Taiga grabbed Aran by the sleeve as the latter was close enough and the younger one gave him a worried look.

“They got Hokuto. They just left, three of them…”

Aran didn’t seem to need more information and he shouted at his men to search the area for them.

“Taiga, let’s bring Kentaro and you out of here for now,” Juri tried to calm him down, but it wasn’t easy. When Ryota lifted Kentaro up and hurried with him away from the house Taiga grabbed Juri’s arm desperately, his tears and sobs still not stopping.

“Please don’t let him die. He protected me, I can’t let him die!”

Juri was about to reply something, but then everything started spinning around Taiga and he saw how Juri reached out for him before everything turned black.

Chapter Text

It was the need for air which made Taiga jolt and wake up as if he was about to drown. When he tried to jump up without even knowing what was going on or where he was someone pushed him back into the sheets.

“Calm down, everything is okay.”

But nothing was okay, Taiga felt like he couldn’t breathe and he looked up at Juri with a panicked expression. He wanted to speak, but he choked on his own words, even unable to let out a cough even though his lunges screamed for air.

“Taiga, look at me! You can breathe, everything is fine, you just have to calm down!”

He sounded so sure and still Taiga couldn’t easily do what the latter wanted him to. He clawed his hands into the latter’s arms, but Juri didn’t complain. He kept trying to calm Taiga down until he looked over his shoulder as someone else entered the room.

“I told him, but he seems too panicked,” Juri said and then Nakamaru came into Taiga’s sight as he crouched down next to him.

“That’s nothing uncommon after a smoke poisoning,” the doctor said calmly as he moved his hands to Taiga’s hurt ankle. Taiga could feel the touch, but when the pressure got more he tried to twist away. What surprised him was that he didn’t get stopped and when he turned on his side he suddenly was able to take a deep breath, followed by some painful coughs which left him dizzy once more.

“Sometimes they just need some distraction to not concentrate on the tight feeling in their chest,” the doctor explained. “Better?”

Taiga slowly turned back, but it was still hard to breathe regularly. He nodded, but kept looking confused through the room which he couldn’t identify.

“We are at Nakamaru’s house,” Juri explained with a bitter expression. “Our house burned down completely.”

As sad as it was that wasn’t actually what mattered most to Taiga now and slowly he tried to sit up, Nakamaru and Juri helping him. Even his clothes were not his own. It was just a simple night yukata.

“Where is Kentaro?”

Juri looked up at Nakamaru on that question and Taiga’s heart started racing uncontrollable as he saw the doctor’s defeated expression.

“No, please don’t tell me…” Taiga automatically started to breathe way faster than he should and he let out a groan on the pain in his chest, but when Juri tried to reach out for him he slashed away his hand and turned towards Nakamaru, shaking him on the collar. “Tell me that he is alive. Tell me that you rescued him! You are a doctor, right?”

Nakamaru took his hands away as Taiga couldn’t really come up with any strength in his condition.

“Calm down, he is alive.”

Alone this small statement made a huge stone fall from Taiga’s chest, but something wasn’t right, the atmosphere was still way too gloomy.

“But?” Taiga asked in a shaking voice.

“But I don’t know for how long…” Nakamaru let out apologizing on which Taiga fell back on the futon and this time he didn’t complain as Juri put his arms comforting around his body.

“For now we can’t do anything else but wait, hoping that he will be strong enough to make it,” Nakamaru explained.

“What’s with the others?” Taiga asked to run away from the cruel reality. He knew he couldn’t do anything at the moment so he wanted to at least calm down for now. It would just cause more trouble if he got a breakdown now.

“Kochi is still unconscious, you were unconscious for a few hours through the smoke poisoning.” Juri explained before he looked up at Nakamaru.

“Shota got some heavy burns on his back while Ryota just suffered light burns on his leg. Both will be fine eventually, but it will hurt for some time.”

When Nakamaru didn’t add anything else Taiga felt relieved that this meant no one else got injured.

A knock on the door made Nakamaru stand up and slide the door to the side and as a doctor his look didn’t seem that pleased about the persons in the door.

“He just woke up, you should let him rest a bit more.”

“This can’t wait, sorry,” Kamenashi said as he stepped into the room followed by Aran. Nakamaru just bowed to him before he left the room.

“How are you feeling?” The owner asked as he sat down next to the futon with Aran.

“Okay I think. My chest still hurts a bit,” Taiga let out as calm as possible, but he knew what would come and he wasn’t sure if Juri had noticed, but Taiga had leant even more against the latter’s body as if he was searching for help. Searching for someone to tell him what to say.

“Taiga, I am sorry that we have to ask right after you’ve woken up, but we couldn’t find Hokuto or the people which attacked you, so we need more information about what happened,” Aran said apologizing.

“Do you know why they attacked you?” Kamenashi asked and Taiga shook his head without even realizing it. Why was he lying already? What did he fear to happen if he said the truth? Wouldn’t it be easier to get Hokuto back if he just said everything?

“Where did they attack you?”

“In our room. When I came inside they were already there and one was carrying Hokuto. He had tried to fight them off, but he was already unconscious when I came.”

“How do you know that he fought them?” Aran asked.

“He had- he had tossed several things through the room, the mirror was broken as well so I guess he tried to fight them off,” Taiga lied once more as he stopped at the last moment to tell them about the Shoto.

“You said there were three of them, did you see their faces?”

“They were Shinobi, so they had their faces hidden behind masks.”

“Shinobi?” Kamenashi asked in confusion and Taiga bit his lip. Should he have kept this part a secret as well?

“So you didn’t recognize anyone?” Aran asked and once more Taiga lied and shook his head.

“So they were after Hokuto in the first place?” Kamenashi asked on which Aran gave him an unsure look.

“Without knowing what exactly happened and who they are it’s hard to tell. Taiga, they tried to attack you as well, right?”

“But just because I tried to stop them, I jumped after them out the window.”

“Which was pretty awesome to be honest, but also kind of stupid,” Juri interfered for the first time before he fell silent again.

“I was able to stop one of them like this, but the other two were gone already and when he attacked me, Kentaro was…” he didn’t want to voice it out and Kamenashi’s look darkened as well.

“It’s okay, don’t worry. No one gives you the fault for that. You tried to protect Hokuto and Kentaro tried to protect you, that’s all,” Kamenashi said soothing before he got up.

“I guess we can let you rest a bit more for now then?”

Aran nodded on that question and got up as well. “Please let me know if you remember anything that could help us looking for your friend.”

Taiga promised him to do so and when they finally left the room he let out a long sigh on which he had to move his hand up to his chest once more.

“You really should rest a bit more,” Juri said and Taiga lay down back on the futon as he really felt already exhausted just through this short talk.

It was hard for Taiga to calm down again as he remembered everything that had happened and all he wanted for now was to see Kentaro and to make sure they would somehow find Hokuto. Juri suddenly squeezed his hand as Taiga couldn’t fall asleep and shifted on the futon.

“Don’t worry you did the right thing,” Juri said and Taiga blinked at him in confusion as the boy got up with a faint smile. “Let’s talk again when you feel a bit better.”

***

With the bandages covering almost every part of his upper body Taiga couldn’t tell how good or bad the wound looked, but he remembered how much blood Kentaro had lost after being attacked and that thought made him tear up as he sat down next to the other one as he was allowed to see him the next day.

Taiga stroke a strand of hair out of his face before he let out a shuddering breath. “I am so sorry. Please stay with us.”

Juri sat next to him, but didn’t say anything for now. He clearly understood how hard it was for Taiga and even though he had started crying the other one didn’t reach out for him this time.

“I will make him pay for this,” Taiga hissed after another moment of silence.

“So you indeed lied to them,” Juri let out in a low voice, but Taiga wasn’t surprised that the latter had realized.

Taiga turned away from his senpai to face Juri with a serious expression. “There is a lot I have to explain, but I need you to promise to not tell anything of this to Kamenashi or Aran.”

“But why? Don’t you want to find Hokuto?”

“Of course I want to, but to be honest I fear that it would get dangerous if we let the police take care of it like this.”

“You mean dangerous for Hokuto?” Taiga nodded, knowing that he must sound ridiculous, but he knew how unpredictable their enemy was.

“Let’s talk somewhere else, I don’t want to disturb him,” Taiga said before he stroke over Kentaro’s face and got up, followed by Juri.

They passed by Ryota’s and Shota’s room on the way and asked how they were feeling. To their surprise they both thanked Taiga once more for helping them.

Next to their room was Kochi’s room and they first took a careful peek inside, finding the boy in a sitting position with his eyes staring straight at the wall.

“You are finally awake. How are you feeling?” Juri asked as he walked inside the room.

Taiga remained in the doorframe as he realized something weird about the boy. He didn’t smile at Juri nor did he in any way seem relieved about being unharmed.

“Are we at Nakamaru’s house?” He asked eventually.

“Yes, unfortunately we lost the house, but we all made it out. Somehow…”

“What do you mean with somehow?”

“Kentaro got wounded by some Shinobi which came out of nowhere and took Hokuto with them.”

Kochi’s eyes went wide in an instant and he jumped up, shoving Juri to the side as he aimed for the door. Taiga slid it shut right before he reached it and blocked his way.

“Out of my way!”

“Explain where you want to go and I might consider it.”

Both of them exchanged some dangerous glances on which Juri’s look turned to confused as he didn’t understand what was going on.

“Looking for Hokuto of course.”

“The police searched for him right away, but they couldn’t find him for the past two days.”

“That’s why I am going to look for him.”

Taiga pushed him forcefully backwards as he tried to get to the door and Kochi gave him a death glare.

“Right, because you know exactly where he is, don’t you?”

It wasn’t like Taiga was sure that his guess was right, but something about Kochi’s reaction made him believe that he didn’t mistake. “You regained your memory in the fire, didn’t you?”

“What? Seriously?” Juri asked perplex as he faced the other one who fell silent immediately.

Instead of replying, Kochi dashed to the front and pushed Taiga with such a force to the side that he crushed into the wall with a yelp, but before Kochi could get out Juri had grabbed him by the back of his yukata and pulled him to the ground.

“Okay enough of this! You stay here until you spill what is going on!”

“You have nothing to do with this, so leave me alone!”

Kochi tried to push Juri off him, but to his obvious astonishment Juri lunged out instead of trying to calm him down and the slap he received finally made him stay still for a moment. He gasped when Juri grabbed him by the collar and lifted him up a bit.

“Nothing to do with it? They burned down half of Yoshiwara to get Hokuto, they hurt Taiga, they almost killed Kentaro and you dare to tell us we have nothing to do with it?”

Juri’s outburst finally made Kochi stop fighting back and Juri tossed him back on the ground.

“Kochi, please. We want to help, but you have to tell us what is going on,” Taiga interfered. Kochi sat up while Juri walked back next to Taiga, making sure he would calm down instead of attacking the other one again, but Kochi remained silent.

“Fine, then I will start,” Taiga said as he sat down and Juri followed his example, listening carefully to what Taiga had to say, because he also didn’t know what was going on.

“Remember when I found the Shoto in our room?” Taiga asked Kochi and of course now that he regained his memory he remembered it.

“A Shoto?” Juri asked perplex.

“There was a Shoto hidden under the tatami where the mirror is placed. Later when I was at the Shogunate meeting I realized that it was from the Yamashita clan when Shime showed me exactly the same one, explaining that all boys of the Yamashita clan had it.”

“Shime is alive?” Kochi asked with wide eyes before Taiga could continue.

“Let me guess you though he died in the fire? While he thought you and Hokuto died in it.”

“I am getting a headache already,” Juri admitted, rubbing his temples.

“I will explain everything more detailed to you later, but I have the feeling we have to hurry.”

“We indeed do or we will be too late,” Kochi said with his look darkening.

“What exactly happened back then? Why did you both ended up here?” Taiga asked on which Kochi let out a sigh, but finally seemed to give up in keeping silent.

“Hokuto’s father was a clan leader on the Ishida side at the battle of Sekigahara and to make sure his clan and his people were safe he gave Hokuto to the Yamashita clan which was in charge of the area after Tokugawa had won. I was part of the Yamashita clan from the beginning, but my family was nothing more than a servant family. MY family was in charge of taking care of the boys coming to the clan. Yamashita’s father was a man of honor and treated the boys well, even giving them one of the best educations in the country. Especially Hokuto gained his interest, because he was extremely talented with arts and also writing.”

“And his real son wasn’t fond of that at all,” Taiga said, already knowing about that part.

“While his father was still alive he held back, but I saw him abusing the boys before he passed away as well, but there was nothing I could do, no one would believe my words anyway. When his father passed away things got out of hand immediately and he treated the boys even worse than the servants, using them as mere slaves.”

“And I bet Hokuto was his favorite victim,” Juri concluded with a pale expression, finally catching up bit by bit. It was obvious that he felt guilty for not realizing anything about it over the time they had been together in the house.

“But why would he try to get Hokuto back?” Taiga asked in confusion.

“When Hokuto turned older and started fighting back Yamashita somehow developed and even worse sadistic behavior towards him, finding a liking in the boy trying to make him stop with all the torture he was making him go through.”

“So he wants him back just to be able to keep torturing him?” Juri asked disgusted.

“One night things escalated pretty badly and I was close by. It was the first time I couldn’t take it anymore and I took action.”

“Kochi, could it be that you and Hokuto..?” Taiga asked carefully and Kochi looked away with an embarrassed expression.

“Well that explains why Hokuto was so close to you while he stood away from everyone else. I wonder how hard it must have been for him without you remembering.”

Juri’s words made Kochi’s expression turn even darker, but they didn’t have time to drown in bad memories.

“You never thought about running away together?” Taiga asked curious.

“I actually suggested it to him, but he didn’t want to involve me. It was dangerous enough that we were together if anyone had noticed, it would have ended in a disaster. But that night...Yamashita usually tortured him with whatever would bring the most pain to Hokuto so that he could find his pleasure in listening to his screams.”

Taiga remembered seeing Hokuto’s body and it still gave him the creeps. Through how much pain had the boy gone over the years?

“But that night it was the first time he actually dared to go so far that I feared he could actually kill him…I thought it was now or never…”

“The fire...it was you?” Taiga concluded and Kochi closed his eyes before a tear could escape his eyes and he hurried to put his sleeve over his eyes for a moment.

“I didn’t intend to involve others, but I needed to make him stop so I used one of the lamps in the corridor to set the house on fire. I shouted through the house that it was burning, hoping he would stop, but my plan didn’t work and even though the fire spread towards his room pretty fast he didn’t release Hokuto so I rushed inside the room with a katana and slashed him over the back with it.”

“Wow, ruthless Kochi,” Juri said a bit teasing, but didn’t interrupt him more.

“I unluckily didn’t succeed in killing him and before I could lunge out again he had turned around and ripped the katana out of my hand. He stabbed me with it before he sank to the ground through the wound I caused him. I took Hokuto and ran, but it wasn’t easy with me being wounded and Hokuto also in a very bad physical state. I hoped Yamashita would die in that fire, but now I know he didn’t and regaining my memories I wasn’t sure if I hadn’t killed everyone else instead.”

“Shime and most of the boys are alive,” Taiga calmed him down. A few people had died though, but Kochi could mourn them later.

“We took two horses and got away as fast as we could, but the clan members caught up fast, especially Ryo and his men. We had almost reached the city boarders of Edo when they got us. We had to split up, but I turned around trying to fight them off so that Hokuto could get away. What happened after that I can’t remember.”

“Kentaro found you on a riverbank close to the Yoshiwara district and you were badly wounded so I guess they thought they had killed you and tossed you in the river,” Juri concluded.

“And Hokuto had somehow gotten away and hid for some time until he tried to find you,” Taiga added.

“That explains why he had tried so desperately to enter our house at that time.”

And also why he was able to read people’s intentions that well through which even his ceremony had been quite harmless. But Taiga’s stomach twisted more and more through all the information and he wasn’t sure what they should do now.

“There is no way I will let them keep him,” Kochi said and got up, but Taiga blocked his way once more.

“Please Kochi just give us one night to think and make a plan. You have all the information about the clan members and who we have to be careful of. So all we need is a good plan.”

“We?” Kochi asked.

“Of course, do you think we will let you run off alone?” Juri said with a teasing expression.

“Guys, do you even understand how dangerous this is?”

“Exactly because we understand we won’t let you handle this by yourself.”

“Why didn’t you tell Aran about everything by the way?” Juri asked a bit confused.

“I am not sure to be honest. But something about the clan members made me stay silent about the fact that it was the Yamashita clan.”

“And that was the best you could do. They have a lot of influence and even if the police gets involved they will make sure to get rid of everything that could make them guilty of anything bad.”

“In this case getting rid of Hokuto,” Juri concluded.

“Okay so it’s time for a plan now?” Taiga asked once more and even though Kochi didn’t seem the slightest amused by the choice of those two wanting to help him he didn’t stop them this time and they sat down, discussing the details about their hopefully somehow working out plan.

Chapter Text

“He still didn’t wake up?” Taiga asked as he walked into Kentaro’s room, finding Kochi sitting next to his futon.

“No, there is still no reaction and Nakamaru was here earlier saying that if he doesn’t wake up in the next two days it doesn’t look good.”

Taiga sat down next to Kochi and both remained silent for a while. They had decided to wait until the next evening and then leave while everyone else was sleeping. They didn’t want to involve even more of their friends.

“I should have said something earlier. If I had talked to Hokuto earlier all this wouldn’t have happened,” Taiga said, but Kochi shook his head immediately.

“Don’t do that to yourself. You couldn’t have known about our past or what would await us from now on. You didn’t do anything wrong. You even tried to rescue Hokuto and got hurt because of that. You did already more than we could ever ask for. Also Kentaro getting hurt because of us is already a heavy burden, are you really sure you want to join this fight?”

“You know that we won’t stay behind no matter what you say,” Taiga said with a faint smile before he turned back to their senpai and stroke over the boy’s hair. “Please get better until we are back.”

Juri waited for them in Kochi’s room and they got ready to leave, but Taiga almost squealed when he opened the door and Shota and Ryota stood right in front of him.

“Get back inside or you’ll wake up the whole house,” Ryota said as he pushed Taiga back.

“What are you doing here?” Juri said annoyed, but then Shota threw a bag in front of him. Kochi opened it, pulling out clothes.

“What’s that for?”

The clothes were Jinbei in black color and there were three of them. Then they realized that the two boys were wearing the same clothes.

“You know the walls in here are thin and we have the room next to you,” Ryota said with a lopsided smile.

“Wait you want to come with us?” Taiga asked in confusion.

“And where did you get the clothes from?” Kochi added.

“Yes we will join you because we’ve to pay back a favor,” Ryota said facing Taiga.

“And the clothes are a present from Tegoshi. We went there in the morning, because were you seriously thinking about going in your Yukata the whole way to Matsumoto?” Shota added teasingly.

Having no other choice they had indeed thought about doing that, but they gratefully took the jinbei. It was way easier to move in them and the color also made them more unsuspicious.

“I know you’ll pay a favor back to Taiga, but are you sure you want to do it now, because this is really dangerous and can easily cost your lives,” Kochi warned them.

“Well, it’s kind of boring here in Yoshiwara anyways, so why not take the risk,” Shota said confident on which Juri rolled his eyes, but didn’t complain. They changed their clothes and got ready to leave.

“Where are you going?” Juri asked as Shota and Ryota wanted to move to the opposite direction of the house as they left.

“We’ve another surprise,” Shota said and the boys followed them curiously, all of them gasping as they came around the corner finding eight horses waiting for them.

“Fu? Reo?” Taiga asked in disbelieve as the two boys faced them with a smile.

“Don’t look at me like this,” Ryota said in defense as Kochi gave him a scolding look. “We didn’t want to involve them, but they saw us at Tegoshi’s shop and they are stubborn and in the end we let them take care of the horses.”

“After all the way to Matsumoto is long and Fu’s family takes care of the horses of the local samurai,” Reo said proudly. “Not to forget that I will definitely kick the asses of a lot of the Yamashita clan members for taking Hokuto away from us.”

Taiga could just shake his head, but he knew he couldn’t stop them.

“Wait, there is one horse too much,” Juri realized and tilted his head in confusion.

“Not if you don’t want to walk the whole way, because I won’t,” Someone was suddenly heard behind him and they all turned towards the corner of the house.

“Fuma?” Juri asked in confusion and the boy suddenly pressed something against his chest and Juri took it, while Fuma went to the others and handed them all the same object.

“A Shoto?” Taiga asked curiously.

“You are all not good with long swords after all no one of you trained with them until now, but you will somehow be able to defend yourself with a Shoto.”

“Wait you are not a samurai are you?” Taiga asked confused as he saw that Fuma had a sword over his back, but it wasn’t a usual katana. It was more like a short shinobi sword.

“No I am not, but I am a sword maker and that means also training with them from time to time to see their balance and the sharpness,” Fuma explained before he got on one of the horses. Ryota, Shota, Reo and Fu also got on right away.

“Okay I will just take it as it is and scold you later in case we survive,” Kochi said as he got on as well.

“Juri come on,” Taiga urged him, but the boy hesitated. “What is it?”

“I can’t ride a horse,” Juri said a bit embarrassed on which Taiga flashed a teasing smile.

“Finally something I can do and you can’t.”

Juri pouted on that, but the others just chuckled before they already turned to leave. Taiga helped Juri up and took his horse on a lead rope next to his to make sure he wouldn’t run off with it.

“You enjoy this a bit too much,” Juri scolded him, but Taiga couldn’t hide his teasing smile. With all the servant jobs he had done so far he had to ride horses and drive carriages a lot, so this was something he could finally call his specialty.

“Just for once let me be the one bragging with something!”

“But just for tonight!” Juri said still a bit pouting on which Taiga laughed before they followed the others.

***

“Kochi, shouldn’t we take a break somewhere?” Reo asked after they were already on the road for several hours. It was in the middle of the night so no one had crossed their way until now, not to forget that there were just a few small villages on the way.

“I don’t want to waste time,” Kochi explained.

“It’s okay. As long as the horses are not too exhausted we can go there in one night, right?” Juri said, but it was obviously that he was the one feeling the most uncomfortable through not having ridden a horse until now and after some hours his body would of course start complaining about the position.

“If you are okay for about one more hour we can take a quick rest,” Kochi said to everyone’s surprise. “There is a river we have to cross right before the Yamashita clan’s territory begins and I’d say we leave the horses there, take a break and discuss a plan before we split up.”

“Split up?” Shota asked in confusion.

“We are way too many people to get even close to the castle. Ryo and his shinobi are definitely on guard.”

Hearing that name again Taiga automatically took a tight grip on the Shoto he had received from Fuma.

“I am definitely going with Taiga,” Juri announced on which Taiga looked at him with a teasing yet thankful look.

“Let’s discuss that at the break,” Fuma said as he made his horse trot on faster. “We should hurry then to have more time to get a good plan together.”

“As long as I get to kick someone’s ass I am fine with any kind of group,” Ryota said on which Shota let out a chuckle and agreed.

“Well I guess no matter what they decide you will follow me anyways,” Reo said teasingly towards Fu.

“You can bet on that,” Fu said with a wink as they all followed Kochi and Fuma.

About an hour later they finally heard the sound of a river. They made sure that their horses wouldn’t run away in the meanwhile they were gone, after all they couldn’t be sure how easily they would get away from the castle.

***

“I still don’t think this is a good idea,” Juri said as he walked with Taiga through the dark forest behind the river. Their clothes were completely wet, but it was luckily not too cold. They had decided against taking the bridge, because they were sure the shinobi would have a look at it.

“We are Kochi’s best shot though.”

“As much as I want to help him and Hokuto I don’t want to die though,” Juri complained.

They had split up after all. Juri and Taiga in one team, Fu and Reo in the second team and Shota and Ryota in the third team. Fuma and Kochi were the only ones heading straight for the castle. Kochi knew the place the best and Fuma was the best fighter so they had the best chances to reach it, but they needed to distract the guards and that was the task those three groups had now.

“Trust them.”

“Easier said than done.”

“Do you think this is a good place?” Taiga asked as they arrived at a rocky area with a lot of hiding places.

“I guess so. If we take too long we might miss the timing with the others.”

Taiga pulled out the firework Fu had handed to all groups before. It was just one, but he said it made a lot of noise and would definitely distract the guards.

“Okay let me take a look for a good hideout,” Juri said as he moved around the area and just when Taiga had positioned the firework a fizzing sound was heard, followed by a violet light brightening up the sky and then a huge sound of the firework exploding was heard.

“Wow, I’d say that doesn’t just distract the guards but wakes up the whole castle,” Juri said astonished by the bright firework.

“Let’s hurry then so that they don’t have to deal with all guards rushing to their direction,” Taiga said and just when he pulled out the stones to lit the firework another firework exploded this time in bright red.

“Get back,” Taiga said and Juri hurried to guide the way to their hiding place. When they had reached the small crack between a few rocks which made them disappear from the eye of everyone who would come here to take a look of what was going on the firework went straight up into the sky, exploding in bright green.

“It’s so beautiful, such a shame we have to use it in such a situation,” Taiga let out on which Juri squeezed his hand.

“We will see the next firework with all the other boys together next time in Yoshiwara.”

Taiga cracked a bright smile on that before they fell silent and hid as good as possible.

It was hard to tell how much time had passed, but slowly the sky seemed to get brighter.

“Do you think we can try and get back already?” Taiga whispered.

They had been told to head back to the river after they were sure no guards were actually still around, but no guard had shown up at their place until now. Maybe they had searched at a wrong location or had all headed to the other teams.

“I guess if we retreat as silent as possible it should be okay,” Juri said as he peered around the two big rocks. “If no one showed up until now, I doubt they will still come.”

Carefully they got out of their hiding place and hurried to get back into the dark forest. They moved fast, trying to make no noise, but also to not take too much time.

When they reached the river it was already bright enough to see the other side of it, but it was quite a wide river and the way over was risky, the stream was strong and one wrong step would make them get dragged down several hundred meters.

“Thanks god the others are back already!” Juri said as he waved over seeing Fu and Shota waving back at them. Reo and Ryota had checked on the horses and waved as well as they saw them.

“Now we just have to hope Kochi and Fuma will make it. We didn’t plan any rescue, but I won’t leave without them.”

“No one of us will, don’t worry,” Juri ensured him as he took the first careful steps into the river.

Taiga also made his first step into the river when he suddenly stopped. It hadn’t been too cold all the time and still a shiver went down his spine all of a sudden. Like a dark aura approaching him out of nowhere and before he could lose his balance he took a step back to the river bank.

“Taiga, are you-” Juri turned towards him, but then he froze in his movements, his eyes growing wide in panic and that was when Taiga’s worst fears got proven right and he didn’t even need to turn around to know who was standing behind him. Like a black shadow he had appeared behind him and Taiga slowly moved his hand to take a hold on the Shoto he had in his belt.

Through the sound of the river they couldn’t hear the boys on the other side, but Taiga could see how they were shouting in panic, but Taiga still didn’t move.

“Leave him alone!” Juri shouted as he tried to hurry back to him. That was the moment Taiga swirled around and pulled out the Shoto, slashing it blindly to the back.

Unfortunately his attack was stopped immediately and a tight grip on his wrist stopped him from moving and immediately the Shoto was taken out of his hand.

“Cute,” the other one said, stopping the Shoto without any trouble. “Shouldn’t you have learned after your first failed attack that this doesn’t work?” Ryo asked him, but Taiga just started struggling and tried to free himself, kicking and punching wild around him. The result was that Ryo forced his arm on his back and pushed him to the front so that he was facing Juri instead.

“JURI, GET OUT OF HERE!” Taiga shouted back at the other one as he was almost back at their side.

“I won’t leave you behind!”

“Get to the others and head back.”

Head back...that wasn’t what they were planning, but wasn’t it the best they could do for now? If Fuma and Kochi had still not been discovered they could think there was no one else around anymore and the guards and Shinobi would try to hurry after them instead of protecting the castle, but Juri was of course still throwing daggers at Ryo with his eyes.

When Juri made another step towards them Ryo took the Shoto from Taiga and held it right at his neck on which Juri finally stopped. Taiga wasn’t sure why, but he felt like his life was not as much in danger than Juri’s at the moment so he gave him a begging look to finally leave.

“Juri, please!”

“Oh aren’t you cute. Go on and flee, we will get you eventually,” Ryo said with a lopsided sneer towards Juri who gritted his teeth.

Juri made a hesitant step backward towards the deeper part of the river, now his eyes on Taiga.

“We’ll be back,” he promised before he turned around and hurried through the river.

“Mh, maybe not,” Ryo said and when Taiga looked over the shoulder he shouted out for Juri, but it was too late.

The boy turned around, but at the same time the knife Ryo had thrown without a warning hit him in the upper body. Through the impact he lost balance and fell into the river, getting taken away by the stream immediately.

“JURI, NO! JURI!” Taiga started struggling with all his might and succeeded to break free. He saw how the other boys were already rushing down the river side, Ryota and Shota already in the water, trying to reach Juri who wasn’t even breaking through the surface anymore.

When Taiga tried to jump into the river he was violently pulled back. When he wanted to turn around and fight Ryo off once more he got a hard blow into the stomach, leaving him without air for a moment before his body felt heavy and he sank to his knees.

“Guess Yamashita will have someone else to play with from today on,” Ryo said mockingly as he threw Taiga over his shoulder and headed back towards the castle with him, but Taiga’s body gave up on him before he could try and take another look towards the river.

***

It wasn't a good moment to regain consciousness Taiga realized when he was suddenly thrown from Ryo’s shoulder to the ground. With a yelp he landed in the wooden floor of the room.

“So I couldn't find you, because you were playing around with someone important like him?” Yamashita was heard in an outraged voice on which Taiga dared to sit up and scan his surroundings. What he found though made him gasp.

The room was similar to Domoto’s room they had used for the shogunate meeting. It was definitely a room inside the castle, but instead of tatami the room had a wooden floor with the same podium like back as where Domoto had been sitting. Yamashita was standing in front of it though, his hand shaking slightly with a wooden katana in it.

On the floor in front of him a boy was lying, rolled together to obviously protect himself from another impact and of course Taiga had realized it was no other than Shime.

“But seeing that this worthless boy also showed up here I have no doubt that his friends are at fault for the loss of my precious toy.”

“Wait, Hokuto is gone?” Ryo asked confused. So their distraction plan had at least worked and they had somehow been able to take him out.

“This dirty brat helped them though,” Yamashita hissed as he stroke the katana down on the boy’s side on which Shime yelped and rolled up even more.

“I didn't do anything I promise! I heard explosions around the castle and wanted to make sure you got informed.”

“Right and that my guards got knocked out and Hokuto who shouldn't have been able to free himself on his own was gone when I came back had nothing to do with you?”

“But I was with you the whole time,” Shime tried to defend himself, but all Yamashita did was striking down once more and this time it was a loud scream escaping Shime as the wood hit his arm with an ominous sound.

“If you keep lying I will make sure you'll never dare to lie to me again!”

“Yamashita-dono, shall I take my men and bring Hokuto back? They can't be far we've seen his other friends near the river earlier.”

Finally Yamashita left off Shime, but walked up to Taiga instead who didn't dare to move and peered up at the man.

“No let them go for now, after all we know where to find them, right?”

Taiga didn't reply of course even though Yamashita had asked him and not Ryo. “In the meanwhile I will make sure to take care of their friend until they come to get him back.”

Taiga was prepared, because the latter's expression was a mask of rage, but when he lunged out and hit Taiga with the katana right against the head the pain made him collapse to the ground. His surroundings kept spinning and he could feel how blood was running down his temple.

“So you little dirty hoers really thought you could just intrude my castle and take away what I searched for so long and had just gotten back?”

“No we didn't think we could do it, we actually succeeded in doing it!”

Taiga's mocking comment made Yamashita lunge out for him several times and Taiga ended up curled up as Shime, who wasn't even moving or looking up at what was happening around him.

“Arrogant brat, it's time to teach you a lesson.”

Yamashita walked away from Taiga and tossed the wooden katana to the ground before he stepped back on the podium and drew his real katana without a warning. Taiga crawled back immediately as he came back, but with Ryo waiting at the door, the only exit of the room, he wouldn't be able to get away.

When Yamashita lunged out Taiga lifted his arm, knowing that he could lose it, but the other one kicked him back to the ground on that move. When Taiga got his orientation back the blade was already aiming for his face and he had no chance of dodging. With a yelp he fell back on the ground, holding his cheek where Yamashita had opened a long and deep cut, making the blood drip to the ground between Taiga's fingers.

Without giving him a break Yamashita started kicking him until Taiga wasn't even trying to block anymore and just tried to curl up as much as he could.

“Dono, may I remind you that if you kill him now already that you might lose your chances for an entertaining game when they try to get him back?”

Ryo’s words made Yamashita stop and that just in time before Taiga felt like passing out. He didn't dare to look up even as he heard how Yamashita moved away from him.

“You're right. Lock them in here for now and make sure they won't get away. I'll see later what I'll do with them.”

Both of them retreated from the room like that. They didn't bother tying them up, but that just confirmed Taiga's worries that there was definitely no other way out and someone would always guard the door that was also for sure.

“Taiga?” Shime was heard in a shaking voice as he finally dared to move, but it was obvious that he was too beaten to get up. Taiga ignored his pain and also the stains of blood he left on the floor as he crawled over to him.

“And here I've hoped our next encounter wouldn't be this messed up,” Taiga said a bit teasingly. “I'm sorry you got involved in this.”

“I actually involved myself.”

“What?”

“I saw Fuma and Kochi so I helped them to get Hokuto out.”

So he had lied to Yamashita, but what else should he do? Saying the truth would most likely cost his life.

“But why didn't you flee with them instead?”

“Hokuto was in a pretty bad shape and without a distraction they wouldn't have had enough time to get him out.”

Taiga felt more than sorry for involving the boy in their plan and even though he remained on his own wish, Taiga wanted to make sure that as soon as the others came for him they would take Shime with them as well. If they made it back…

Chapter Text

They didn’t speak much over the time they were locked in the room, both of them too weak to actually even try to form an escape plan and Shime had told him that a risky escape would definitely cost their lives with Ryo and the other shinobi able to catch up to them.

When they heard people talking in the corridor though they exchanged a worried look. They were both sitting on the wooden floor, but a bit apart from each other which was on Shime’s request. As weird as it had sounded to Taiga at first it was definitely better to pretend to not be friendly with each other or they would definitely assume even more that Shime had to do something with Hokuto’s escape.

“Well, well both of you are still alive, means I might not have used enough force.”

Yamashita’s mocking made Taiga throw a death glare at him and while the other one looked at Shime and didn't notice, Ryo who had entered behind Yamashita had of course seen it, but for now he remained silent.

“Dono, I promise you I had nothing to do with this. I beg you, please believe me!”

It was a weird picture seeing Shime bowing so deep that his head was on the wooden floor while he was actually lying, but what else was he supposed to do?

“So what do you think?”

When Ryo kicked him against the leg out of a sudden Taiga finally looked away from Shime and realized that Yamashita had actually addressed him.

“What I think?”

“Yes, you came here to take Hokuto back, didn’t you? So tell me did Shime help you out?”

Taiga wanted to reply immediately and tell them that he didn’t, but he halted for a moment, fearing that a too fast reply could actually make them even more skeptical.

“I don’t think so,” Taiga replied hesitantly, trying his best to act nervous and stressed out. “I mean I came just with some other people from the district and I was out to distract the guards, I don’t know what happened.”

Shime didn’t seem surprised by Taiga’s words which made him relax a bit. After all he tried to make their story as believable as possible.

“I swear I didn’t even see them entering or leaving, I just heard the noise around the castle and wanted to report to you as fast as possible.”

Yamashita’s look didn’t change at all since he had entered the room and it was hard to tell if he believed them or not, also Ryo wasn’t actually showing any reaction.

“Shime, come here,” Yamashita ordered with a side glance at Ryo on which the latter stepped away from Taiga which weirdly made him even more nervous. Shime did as he was told and even though his injuries made it hard for him to walk he stopped in front of his leader.

“I believe you,” he started and first both boys seemed to relax, but something felt off. “If you prove that you have absolutely nothing to do with them.”

“How am I supposed to do that?” Shime asked in confusion, but his question got answered immediately as Yamashita pulled out a knife and held it out to the boy. “Kill him.”

On the movement Yamashita made towards Taiga, Shime tensed, but didn’t dare to look over to Taiga. It was clear that his thoughts were racing and he looked up at Yamashita with a begging look, but the latter shook his head without even waiting for the question. “Either he dies or you do.”

There was another struggle visible in the boy’s eyes before he suddenly fell silent, his look completely emotionless and when he turned towards Taiga the boy automatically crawled a bit back.

Truth was that he didn’t know much about Shime and even though he had helped Hokuto it was different now. This time his life was at stake and he definitely didn’t have the same emotional attachment to Taiga which he shared with Hokuto, but would he really go as far as kill him?

“Hesitation doesn’t actually make your words seem trustworthy you know?” Yamashita said while he and Ryo kept waiting for the boy’s reaction.

Shime’s hands weren’t even shaking as he took a tighter grip on the knife before he looked up at Taiga and moved! He dashed forward so fast that Taiga couldn’t even think about backing off or stopping the attack. All he was able to do was somehow reaching out for the boy’s shoulders for balance as Shime had fallen almost on top of him as he had dashed into his attack.

Taiga couldn’t even remember if he had gasped or even screamed on the shock, but now his eyes were on Yamashita and Ryo who looked kind of satisfied. They couldn’t see Shime’s face and Taiga needed another moment to be able to move and he pushed the boy a little bit back on his shoulders before he took one hand down between them, grabbing Shime’s wrist with shaking hands.

“How could you…” Taiga whispered as he let out a clear gasp this time the moment he dared to push Shime away from him on which the Shoto dropped right next to him. Taiga’s hand landed on the red spot on his clothes around his stomach with a pained grimace. Now Shime’s hands were shaking bitterly as he fell back, crouching to the front and hiding his blood stained hands at his upper body as if he felt ashamed for what he had done.

“Good work, next time better stab him in the chest to spare him the suffering,” Ryo let out in a cold voice while Taiga let out another pained noise and fell to the front.

“I am impressed,” Yamashita said before he went over to Shime, but the boy was still curling up, unwilling to even look up.

“Shall I let him suffer or do you want me to spare him a cruel death?” Ryo asked as he was standing right next to Taiga.

“I’d say he deserves to suffer a bit longer, but I am not in the mood to sit hours and wait for him to die, so let’s get over with it.”

Taiga could hear how Ryo pulled out his sword he was carrying on the back and he also realized how he lunged out with it and that was the moment he moved. The Shoto was in his hand now after he had intentionally landed on top of it as he had collapsed to the front. With a fast movement he sliced it blindly to the side, luckily hitting exactly where he wanted to hit, on Ryo’s legs. The man hissed and was forced to pull back to search for balance. Exactly that opening Taiga used to jump up and attack the man directly with the Shoto this time and luck was with him as he succeeded in stabbing it in the latter’s upper body.

The shock was written all over Ryo’s face, but there was nothing he could do anymore, because the next moment he started coughing blood and when Taiga stepped away from him the man collapsed immobile to the front.

As much as Taiga felt conflicted about actually killing someone and relieved on the other hand about his sudden attack working out he knew he had no time to relax and he swirled around the Shoto already lifted in his hand as he searched for Yamashita, unfortunately when he faced him he was forced to stop dead on his tracks. His attack had surprised Ryo, but it took too long to do the same with Yamashita and the man had drawn his own sword now, pointing it directly at Shime’s neck.

“As much as I appreciate my followers to be ruthless I thought something is off here,” Yamashita said completely emotionless as if it didn’t even matter that he had just lost his best shinobi.

With his sword pressuring the boy’s neck he forced Shime to get up and that was when he got a better look on his hands. One of his hands was bleeding extremely badly after he had stabbed his own hand, letting it look like he had stabbed Taiga instead. Luckily Taiga had caught up to his plan immediately, playing along and making everything look as if he had been the one hurt.

“What a shame that I don’t give second chances,” Yamashita let out before he lunged out with the sword on which Shime let out a scream and crouched back down. Taiga knew he wouldn’t be fast enough so he threw the Shoto at the man and luckily it made him hiss and pull back long enough for him to take a run up at him and tackle him to the ground.

It was a miracle that he hadn’t ended up impaled by Yamashita’s sword on that move, because the blade was just centimeters away from his face as he tried to somehow make the other one let go of it.

Shime also moved and tried to get the Shoto back which had landed a few meters away from them, but unfortunately he wasn’t fast enough and Taiga not strong enough to win their struggle and he ended up being kicked off, landing in front of Shime as the clan leader got back up with a death glare towards both of them.

“You’ll regret this,” was all he said and the boys were already sure that they indeed would, but at least they had delayed their deaths for a while, because now Yamashita seemed ready to torture them instead of giving them the fast death he had promised at first.

***

Maybe a few hours, possibly already another day Taiga wasn’t sure anymore. He felt too exhausted to keep track of time and for the first time he was sure that he couldn’t free himself out of this messed up situation and all he wanted was to die fast.

“Taiga, are you awake?”

Shime’s question made him realize that he hadn’t been until now, which was not because he fell asleep, but because Yamashita had beaten him so badly that he had fallen unconscious at some point. He was trapped at one of the wooden poles in the room, with his hands tied on the back of it and he couldn’t sit down which made his whole body ache now that he had been in the same position for hours.

“Yes, all good,” Taiga replied on which Shime let out a mocking chuckle.

“All good, right…” the boy said on which Taiga let out a sorrowful chuckle as well. Shime was sitting on the other side of the room, but he was tied up so he wasn’t able to move and after Yamashita had gone out on both of them for what felt like at least a whole hour Taiga wasn’t even sure if the boy could get up even without the ropes.

“Shime I am so sorry for involving you in this trouble,” Taiga said in a sore voice on which the younger one shook his head immediately.

“Don’t even start. You know I involved myself, I was completely aware of the chances of this outcome. I am the one who should be sorry that not all of you could leave together.”

“But they will come back and get us out.”

It wasn’t like Taiga didn’t believe in his own words, but the shadow passing over Shime’s face was passing his own face as well, because the problem was time and that was what they didn’t have at all. As much as Yamashita seemed to enjoy torturing them he would eventually get tired of them and at least kill one of them.

“Don’t give up,” Taiga tried to encourage the other one, but before he could receive a reply the door got slid open, revealing Yamashita once more.

“Give me that look one more time and I cut your eyes out!” Yamashita said immediately while Taiga hadn’t even realized the death glare he had obviously given the other one. “But the fact that you are conscious already means I am definitely going too easy on both of you.”

Without even saying anything else he walked up to one of the candle stands in the room and took one of them from it, walking over to Shime.

“You know I just got my precious Hokuto back and you took the opportunity to play with him away from me. Guess you’ve to take his place for a while.”

There was not even a warning before the man turned the candle around and Shime screamed out as the hot wax dripped down directly on his face. Taiga jolted on his reaction, but bit his lip to bite back a comment. It wasn’t like the same or even worse wouldn’t await him minutes later, Yamashita didn’t let off any of them even with the other one cursing and shouting so they tried to stay silent instead, maybe it would take away the fun for the clan leader.

“Oh by the way,” Yamashita said as he randomly let the candle drop to the ground and walked over to Taiga instead, revealing a weirdly formed half round and short sword. “Do you know what this is?”

Taiga shook his head on the view of the small object which was indeed unknown to him. With Yamashita’s next movement Taiga gasped as the latter grabbed his crotch and put the blade with such a force against the fabric of his hakama that it got cut a bit. “We usually geld our horses with this,” Yamashita whispered next to his ear as he tightened his grip on which Taiga couldn’t hide a whine. “It would be over in just a few seconds. I wonder what a hoe like you would do without any chance of feeling pleasure anymore?”

It was definitely fear Yamashita had hoped to find in Taiga’s eyes as he backed off a bit to have a better look at him, but once more Taiga had given him an arrogant look without realizing it. The punch he received seconds later made clear though that he had to watch out more.

“I warned you before, but I can also cut your eyes out with this, but I am pretty sure that it will hurt a lot more,” the latter said in annoyance as he brought the blade to Taiga’s face instead and stabbed him under his eye on which Taiga slightly panicked. Truth was that he wouldn’t even care for Yamashita gelding him, because he had become used to his job, but that still didn’t mean that he loved it and it would actually spare him a life at Yoshiwara, not that there were many other pleasant places he had left to go to. On the other hand he felt extremely scared of losing other body parts and it was clear that Yamashita wasn’t joking about his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Taiga let out almost pleading as Yamashita seemed to wait for a reaction as the blade almost touched his eyes.

“Oh and you think that’s enough?”

Had he reached his limit? Was his playtime over? Because this time Yamashita seemed to not know a limit and Taiga pulled back as much as he could before the blade could actually cause even more damage. That reaction made the latter curse and pull Taiga back on his hair.

“Leave him alone!” Shime was heard next as he couldn’t sit back anymore either, but there was nothing he could do. Taiga tried to somehow break free, but he knew it was impossible and he almost started hyperventilating as Yamashita forced him to stay still and lunged out with the blade towards his face.

Shime’s shouting and his own last tries of somehow getting away made him miss the shouting on the hallway before the door got harshly kicked to the ground.

“Stop this nonsense immediately!”

A strict and luckily familiar voice was heard out of a sudden, making Taiga relax enough to dare opening his eyes. The first person coming in his sight was Hiromitsu, his sword drawn and pointing at Yamashita. Right behind him was Aran with a few of his men rushing through the corridors obviously securing the castle.

When Hiromitsu wanted to make another step forward Yamashita moved again and the blade was still right next to Taiga’s face and as much as Taiga wanted to remain calm he let out a whine as the blade came closer again.

“How dare you march in here like this?” Yamashita shouted at Aran who remained at the door for now, but had his sword drawn as well.

“I am coming with a warrant against you Yamashita-dono,” Aran explained.

“For what crime?”

“For contract breaking with other clans.”

“What nonsense are you talking about?”

Hiromitsu was the one to step back a bit this time and he pulled out a paper roll, opening it and showing it to the other one. “This is the contract you have with Hokuto’s family clan and we have copies of those you have for other clans as well. All of them say that you are not allowed to hurt the boys and you obviously broke that contract.”

“Which allows us to take all the boys out from your clan and still promise their clans to stay safe even without a contract to a Shogunate clan member,” Aran added.

The explanation made sense, after all they also had Hokuto back now and finally knew the truth and the way he treated Shime right in front of their eyes was also proof enough, but the clan leader still didn’t seem to be ready to surrender like this.

“Then take the boys away I don’t care about that. They are lying anyways,” Yamashita hissed at them, totally talking nonsense as he should realize himself that the situation he was found in was proof enough for all his crimes. “This boy though will get his deserved punishment. They broke into my property and need to get punished!”

Once more the attention was back on Taiga and the blade was lifted into the air again before another person spoke up.

“If you dare hurt him any further I will take more than just your hands,” Kamenashi was heard next as he stepped inside the room, followed by Taisuke. It was a weird picture seeing both of them in Hakama instead of Kimono, but Taiga was even more shocked about the fact that they had come to rescue him. That his friends would have come at some point was something he had hoped for, but that they had gone through all the risks and asked the owner and even the police for help made Taiga feel almost embarrassed.

“Boys which are the property of Yoshiwara need to be returned immediately when found after running away,” Taisuke explained.

“Running away? What nonsense are you talking about?” Yamashita yelled at him.

“We came to search for him as he ran away from our district,” Kamenashi explained in a calm voice. The perfect lie for this situation.

“If you let off him now I will spare you the punishment for the crime against a boy of Yoshiwara and we will just have a talk about the boys from the other clans,” Aran explained and Hiromitsu also hoped for the man to finally give in now that the situation was messed up enough already.

First there was no reaction from the clan leader until he lifted the blade once more and Taiga gasped as he brought it down, but then he realized that he wasn’t hurt. The man had cut his hands free from the pole and after cutting the other ropes holding him as well Taiga almost collapsed to the front as he was too exhausted to keep his balance.

On the man’s reaction Hiromitsu dared to slowly walk over to Shime and free him as well. Aran didn’t dare to let his guard down yet and just stepped aside, waving towards the exit. “If you don’t mind I would like to skip the escorting part and let you follow us on your own.”

Aran knew how to handle people with a lot of pride which was good, because like this he wouldn’t make the other one turn even more upset.

Yamashita’s look had turned to something that was even more dangerous than the weapon in his hand, but he still didn’t move when Hiromitsu lifted Shime up in his arms and made it next to the others.

“Taiga, come here,” Kamenashi said as calm as possible and Taiga bit his cheek from the inside as the pain of just walking was almost unbearable. He had barely made a few steps when he had to pass Yamashita to get over to them and he could feel Yamashita’s eyes on him, then he made the biggest mistake of his life. It was just one look, but exactly that look was enough to not just upset Yamashita, but to turn him into a beast.

“DON’T!” Aran was heard the moment Yamashita moved. Taiga hadn’t even seen the movement coming as the weapon in his hand hadn’t been lifted up. There wasn’t even pain, it was like a moment of emptiness and numbness before Taiga started screaming and hid his face in his hands as he sank to the ground.

“DESERVES YOU RIGHT, ARROGANT BASTARD!” Yamashita was heard shouting, but Taiga couldn’t care less for him anymore. When there were hands on his shoulders he started screaming even more, but didn’t dare to take his hands away from his face. He could feel how the blood was running between his fingers and his eyes felt like they were burning.

“Taiga, it’s ok it’s me, Aran!”

Aran made him sit up and soon Taisuke and Kamenashi were also heard next to him.

“DON’T TOUCH ME!” Taiga shouted to his own surprise as someone reached out for his hands. This time the pain got the best of him as he couldn’t stay calm anymore and all the shouting around him got even more intense through the loss of his eyesight.

He could hear Yamashita laughing, while Shime was shouting his name in panic and Aran tried to calm him down, but it was just too much and with another scream Taiga collapsed to the front, someone of the others around him catching him before he fell unconscious.

Chapter Text

It was the familiar feeling, the warmth of his hand in his which made Taiga finally wake up, but he felt the heavy bandage around his eyes immediately and gasped before he could even try to open his eyes.

“Shh, it’s okay.”

His worries vanished into thin air as he realized that he hadn’t dreamed and that the pressure on his hand hadn’t vanished, but protectively increased as he had woken up. Blindly Taiga lifted his free hand and it was guided carefully to the other one’s face with a soft touch. “You are at Nakamaru’s house. We are all back, everything will be okay!”

Taiga didn’t even bother with a reply, instead he pulled the other one down and he heard the quiet chuckle right before he was able to pull the other one into a passionate kiss. Instead of letting him go Taiga closed his arms around the other one’s shoulders.

“I am so happy that you are okay,” Taiga whispered on which Juri let out another chuckle.

“As long as you don’t strangle me now I will be okay.”

“Are you hurt?” Taiga asked worried and let the other one go, trying to somehow feel any bandages on his body, but Juri took his hands in his and placed a soft kiss on the back of them. “Everything is fine, don’t worry. It’s just an injury on my shoulder and the others got me out of the water right away.”

Taiga felt relieved hearing that, but then there was a weird silence falling between them for a while until Juri squeezed the latter’s hands again.

“Taiga, I am so sorry we took so long to come back or more like sending someone to get you out.”

Why couldn’t he say it was okay? Every time he made Juri worry he would immediately say something to make him feel better, just this time he couldn’t. It wasn’t okay and even though they had been somehow in time it hadn’t worked out as all of them had hoped.

“Nakamaru-”

“I don’t want to know,” Taiga cut him immediately. “Not now at least.”

There were so many possibilities of how bad his injury was that he couldn’t deal with all the information right after he had woken up.

“Is Hokuto okay?” Taiga asked instead.

“He will be eventually. He was in a pretty bad shape when we brought him back, but he is just next doors so if you want to-”

“Maybe later.” Another try to run away from everything. Was he blaming Hokuto now? He couldn’t tell what was wrong with him. “Is Shime here as well?”

“Yes we brought him here as well. He should be fine soon and then Aran will send him back to his clan.”

“At least a happy end for one of us.”

Why did everything he said came out snappy? Had Yamashita been right? Had he always been that arrogant without even noticing?

“Shall I leave you alone for a while?”

How much must it hurt to feel the need to ask? Just a minute ago Taiga was so relieved to realize that Juri was fine, that Hokuto was back and that they even rescued Shime and now?

“Would you mind if I sleep for another while?” Taiga replied instead, hoping that it wouldn’t hurt the other one as much as a direct yes.

“Okay, please let us know if you need anything. There is always someone around so just call for us.”

Us, not me. Every choice of words hit Taiga like a thousand blades and he couldn’t even see the hurt in Juri’s eyes which was definitely there. But just for a while longer Taiga wanted to drown in this miserable feeling. This dark hole which tried to swallow him and somehow it seemed so much easier to just let it happen instead of getting up and get back to his life no matter the new circumstances.

***

Of course at first Taiga hadn’t slept at all. All he had been doing for hours was to somehow stop thinking about himself, but it just wouldn’t work. In the end he had been too exhausted after all and had given in to sleep once more.

The next time he woke up though wasn’t through a sound or a touch, it was a presence he could somehow feel and it made him stay immobile for another while even though he was awake.

After a few minutes there was a sudden sigh before he got slapped against the forehead which made him jolt.

“Oh sorry you couldn’t see that coming! As you couldn’t see me sitting here. Shall I apologize for you not being able to see my annoyed look as well?”

It was the first time Taiga felt happy about hearing him being so pissed and annoyed, because he had feared to never hear his voice again.

“Kentaro…”

“At least your ears are working fine, perfect.”

Taiga bit his lip on the other one’s snappy tone and remained silent again.

“So what, no ‘are you okay? How are you feeling?’ Or do you want me to ask you first? We can both play the victim role here!”

“Did you by any chance talk to Juri?” Taiga asked carefully.

“Bright spark, aren’t you?”

“I am sorry. I was really worried for you, how are you-”

“Don’t even try!” Kentaro cut him harshly. “I am not here to show you that I am fine, you can’t see that anyway.”

“Could you stop talking about my eyes all the time?” Taiga bit back snappy this time as well.

“Oh, my apologies? Shall I get you a stick already so that you can walk around hitting everything and everyone when you can’t see them?”

This time Taiga had enough and he sat up, even though he regretted his move immediately as he could feel that his body was still in a too bad shape for rushed movements, but his adrenaline helped for now. “Did you just come to make fun out of me and make me apologize to everyone for being annoyed for once? I am so sorry for being inconvenient for once, I should smile and laugh with all of you instead and pretend like everything is okay! My dearest apologies!”

Taiga’s mocking tone made Kentaro lunge out, but of course Taiga couldn’t know and he almost fell to the side when the other one slapped him. It had hurt more than he had thought as his injury got affected through the impact as well and he lost his calm as he blindly reached to the front and when he had somehow grabbed Kentaro’s yukata he tried to push him away, but the latter wouldn’t let him.

“So what now, I hurt you so you want to hurt me? Go ahead! If you throw me to the ground now my wound will open immediately.”

Getting reminded of that, Taiga froze in his movements. How could his rage made him act so stupid? They had feared for Kentaro’s life barely a few days ago and now he was fighting with him? On the other hand his life wasn’t in danger in the worst case he would never be able to see again, and that...that was all.

“It’s not the end…” Taiga whispered before he let go of the other one and pulled his knees up, hugging them as he felt how he was about to start crying, even though he wasn’t sure if it would hurt? Or if it was even possible now?

“Finally realized that?” Kentaro said this time in a calmer voice. “How come someone always has to shout at you until you snap out of something stupid?”

Well that was indeed one of his really bad points. But this time he hadn’t been hurting himself, but the people around him and that wasn’t fair. He had offered his help to get Hokuto out, he had tried to help Shime as well and he had been so worried for Juri. And now everyone was worrying for him.

“I need to talk to Juri,” Taiga let out, but Kentaro’s hands landed on his shoulders as Taiga tried to stand up.

“Okay let’s not get too panicked now. Don’t worry Juri is not angry at you. I will call him over later, but you definitely shouldn’t get up yet.”

“What did Nakamaru say?” Taiga dared to ask this time.

“You really want to hear that now?”

“Kentaro, please.”

“Okay, fine. But promise me to not drop back into your bitchy attitude. We are all here for you no matter what will happen from now on. Don’t push us away!”

“I won’t, I promise!”

***

Both eyes got damaged, but while the right eye didn’t take much damage the left eye was a different matter. There was a chance from complete healing over one eye maybe healing to none of them ever being able to see again…

That explanation hadn’t calmed Taiga down at all, but it also didn’t make him switch back into a bad mood after all there was a chance of everything being fine again. He should have let Juri talk about this at their first conversation already then he would have maybe stopped himself from being such an asshole.

Nakamaru and Kamenashi had taken a look at him earlier as well, but had told him that he wasn’t allowed to take the bandages off for now. It would take at least a week, maybe more for him to be able to test if he could see or not.

It was obviously in the middle of the night already as the house was completely silent, but Taiga couldn’t sleep. He was doing nothing else than lying around for two days already and while he had talked to Juri and Kentaro already, the others haven’t shown up yet. Well, with his mood swings it was no miracle though that everyone else tried to stay on distance.

With a sigh he tossed the futon covers aside and got up.

Over the day Nakamaru and Kentaro had helped him around, but now he didn’t want to wake anyone up and he knew the house after all. He should be able to make it on his own.

The fact that he made it without problems in the end gave him a bit of courage that in case he wouldn’t be able to see again he could somehow handle it.

On his way back to the room he needed a bit longer, having to make sure not to enter the wrong room. When he finally closed his room door again he let out a relieved sigh, feeling as if he had run a marathon.

“At least you have a good orientation sense.”

Taiga jolted on the sound of Hokuto’s voice, but he couldn’t actually take a look around to see if he had mistaken the room after all.

“I heard you wander around, but I thought I let you manage on your own. I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.”

So it was indeed his room at least, but not knowing where the other one was he remained at the door for now.

“I am sorry that I brought so much trouble to all of you.”

“Are you kidding me?”

When he heard how Hokuto approached him he feared that he would get scolded again and he pressed himself more against the door until Hokuto reached out for his hand making him slightly flinch. “Come on sit down for now.”

Taiga did how he was told and he could tell that Hokuto was sitting across of him, but it felt weird to not be able to tell his mood.

“Thank you.”

“What?” Taiga asked in confusion.

“For rescuing me.”

“Well it wasn’t actually me who did that.”

“It was all of you! That’s what I mean, why are you saying you caused anyone trouble when all you did was risking your life to help me and also Shime? Taiga, say are you ashamed of being hurt?”

It sounded like a weird question at first, but thinking about it maybe it was true?

“I feel weak,” Taiga let out in a low voice. “I feel like I cause more trouble than I help anyone. If they hadn’t caught me, Juri wouldn’t have gotten hurt, Shime wouldn’t have gotten in so much trouble and if I had spoken to you earlier about everything I knew maybe I could have spared you even more pain as well, not to forget that Kentaro also got hurt because of me…”

Without any hesitation Hokuto grabbed Taiga’s hand and lifted it up to his face. Taiga gasped on the sudden action, but didn’t stop him. When his palm got in contact with Hokuto’s cheek he slightly flinched. He didn’t need to see to tell that there were wounds on his face.

“Don’t pull back, feel what he did to me!” Hokuto almost ordered and Taiga gulped nervously before he dared to sit up on his knees and put his other hand to his face as well.

He could feel two deep cuts on Hokuto’s cheek and jawline, as well as something which felt like a burn mark on the boy’s neck.

He pulled back a bit when he felt how Hokuto got out of the upper part of his yukata before he grabbed the boy’s hand again and guided it to his shoulder.

“Be a bit careful with that one,” Hokuto asked and Taiga nodded before he let his hands travel carefully over the boy’s shoulder and back as Hokuto had turned away from him.

“That’s horrible,” Taiga let out in a broken voice as he felt all the new cut and burn marks on the boy’s body, remembering how bad his old ones had looked already.

“Now imagine what would have happened if you hadn’t come? What would have happened if you hadn’t volunteered to distract Ryo and the others? You all risked your life to get me out of there! You are no burden Taiga, you and the others saved my life and you should never feel sorry for that and you should never pity yourself for getting hurt by someone as crazy as Yamashita! You didn’t do anything wrong and you are not weak, you showed that often enough over the last months!”

Taiga started twiddling his fingers nervously after sitting back on his futon, but as much as everyone told him all those comforting things it wasn’t easy to just thank them and accept things as they were.

“It will take time,” Hokuto said. “It always takes time.”

Taiga nodded on that, because it was indeed how he felt and who could understand that better than Hokuto and also his senpai Kentaro, both have gone through horrible experiences.

“Thank you,” Taiga let out on which Hokuto suddenly ruffled through his hair.

“I bet you’d totally stare completely perplex back at me now, but ask Kochi, I was quite a bright and open person when I was younger.”

Taiga flashed a brief smile on hearing that. “I can’t wait to hear more stories from both of you then.”

***

“Meet the blind Yoshiwara hoe! How is that one?”

“It needs something more special,” Reo said on Juri’s suggestion.

“How about you say the blind beauty instead?” Shota suggested and the next moment a pillow landed perfectly on his face, making everyone else laugh.

“Did I aim right?” Taiga asked.

“Perfectly! Your aim got way better!” Ryota replied laughing.

A whole week had passed since they had come back from Yamashita’s castle and finally things have calmed down and the most important part, Taiga had calmed down! He had finally had a long talk with Juri and now he could laugh with all his friends as if it was just a usual day at work.

“Don’t you dare!” Juri was heard out of a sudden and Taiga could feel how he leant a bit over him. Taiga was resting with his head on the boy’s knees and Juri was now half lying over him as Shota threatened to throw the pillow back.

“Get ready to get kicked out by Nakamaru if you hurt him one day before we take the bandages off,” Reo was heard on which another squeal followed as he was the one to get the pillow thrown in his face next.

“Okay guys time to leave him alone,” Kochi was heard as he stepped inside the room. “It’s late already and you have to help in the new house this evening so come on.”

“I can’t wait to see the new house,” Taiga said and suddenly everyone fell silent. “Did I say something weird?”

“Not at all,” Juri replied and gave him a short kiss on the forehead.

“Guys come on, we are running late,” Taisuke was heard in the corridor now as well and the boys excused themselves for now. Just Juri remained as Kamenashi had given him permission to take care of Taiga while Shime, Hokuto and Kentaro were also told to rest a bit more before they would open the new house in the upcoming week.

“You want to sleep already?” Juri asked as they were left alone?

“I doubt I will be able to fall asleep,” Taiga replied honestly on which Juri suddenly shifted away and for a moment Taiga panicked as he couldn’t tell where the boy was. When a blanket landed over him and he felt how Juri lay down next to him though he calmed down.

“Do you think you can fall asleep now?”

“Definitely,” Taiga teased as he snuggled himself more against the other one’s body on which Juri closed his arms around him and placed a kiss on his hair. A few minutes passed in silence until Juri squeezed him a bit. “You don’t have to pretend to be asleep.”

“How can you tell that so good?”

“Your breathing pace gives you away.” Juri said with a light chuckle before he crawled a bit back so that his nose touched Taiga’s. “You are worried, aren’t you?”

“Is it so obvious?”

“Well the others are worried as well.”

“That’s why they are also reacting so weird each time I say I want to see something, like earlier with the house.”

“Actually,” Juri started on which Taiga felt a bit startled.

“Is there another reason for their reaction?”

When Juri chuckled Taiga felt even more confused and he searched for Juri’s arm to pinch him on which the other one yelped. “Tell me!”

“Okay, okay,” Juri said laughing. “It’s natural that you thought the silence was a bad reaction, but it actually wasn’t. They were happy to see that you had a set goal that you said you were looking forward to seeing the house and being together with everyone again, they were exchanging smiles in silence.”

A smile found its way on Taiga’s face as well on hearing that and it made him even more happy to realize his own reaction was finally getting more positive. After all the negative emotions he had spread he tried his best to stay positive and it helped a lot to see that his friends were supporting him so much.

His own thoughts made Taiga fall silent for a moment until he heard a surprised gasp from Juri.

“What is it?” Taiga asked a bit scared before Juri’s hand landed on his cheek and he could feel how he wiped away a tear under his bandage.

“Well I’d say that’s a good sign, but why are you crying? Did I say something bad?”

Taiga shook his head immediately and he tried to form another smile even though his lips were shaking a bit this time. “I guess everything is crushing down a bit too much at me at the moment, but it’s okay. I am nervous about tomorrow, but I am also happy knowing that you are all by my side, supporting me no matter the outcome.”

“Of course we are all here for you that won’t change tomorrow no matter what,” Juri said and wanted to place another kiss on his forehead, but Taiga noticed the movement and was faster, catching  the other one’s lips with his own on the way.

He could feel how Juri was smiling into the kiss, but he didn’t pull back. When Taiga’s hand found its way to the latter’s cheek Juri let him deepen the kiss even more, but he didn’t allow him to move much, obviously still urging him to keep things slow, but Taiga didn’t mind he could tease enough from the position he was in now and no matter if he could see Juri’s smile again or not he would make sure to not let that smile vanish through his fault again.