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The Exception

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As a young boy, Kai Chisaki heard countless stories of soulmates.

They began when he was four, before his boss took him in as his own (and before he learned how cruel the world could be). Though he could not recall many memories with his mother, he recalled her voice—her stories. She smelled of fresh flowers. A bright yellow sundress clung to her body as dark hair spilled over her shoulders. His mother radiated unconditional love. Her hugs, warm and vivid in his adult mind, shielded him from the cold world.

“You’ll know when you see them,” she told him, Kai sitting on her lap. She stopped reading his favorite story to answer his question. “Your life bursts with colors—reds, blues, greens. It’s no longer blurs of whites, blacks, and grays. It’s beautiful, Kai—too beautiful to understand without seeing it yourself.”

She answered Kai’s questions about love with kindness and unwavering patience. After all, it was normal for a young boy to be so curious.

“Will I be scared?” Kai inquired, tilting his head to see his mother’s adoring gaze and smile. Her eyes always crinkled when she smiled, shining brighter than the sun itself.

She chuckled quietly. “You’ll just feel funny. Your stomach will have butterflies—“ She stopped talking to poke Kai in the stomach, earning a squirm and giggle. “— and you’ll try to talk but you’re utterly speechless. But it won’t last very long, because you’ll be excited!”

“Like you and Dad?”

She nodded, pressing a kiss to her son’s temple. “Just like me and Dad.”

That was before his quirk manifested—before he and the world grew unclean.

He asked the Boss about his soulmate when he turned ten. The Boss grew quiet, and his eyes swam with a mixture of emotions too powerful for the young boy to know. On the eve of Kai’s sixteenth birthday, the Boss quietly admitted that he had a long, long time ago. He never spoke of his soulmate; Kai assumed she passed a long time ago; maybe she left the Boss Man. The Boss’s eyes always grew soft and glistening—weak—at the questions, so Kai stopped asking.

Now well into his twenties, Kai’s life remains colorless and dreary. Kai grew accustomed to it; the lack of color never bothered him anyway. Soulmates, he decides, are myths; parents tell their children about soulmates to instill false hope. They are no more real than Santa Claus or fire-breathing dragons. Besides, soulmates make everyone around him weak. His would only get in the way of his goal of purifying this world of quirks. When Kai’s mind drifted—wondering of a soulmate—he pushed himself deeper into his work, refusing to feed his inner child’s curiosity.

Fate, however, loves irony.

Kai leaving the hideout is a rare occurrence, especially on a day so sunny and vibrant. (Not like he can enjoy the vibrancy, anyways.) With the lower half of his face concealed by a black surgical mask, his identity remains a mystery. Most civilians never stare; they are too caught up in their own lives or business. Those caught staring assume he is sick.

In reality, it is society that is sick.

With his gloved hands shoved deep into his jacket, he people-watches. His muscles tense at the sight of visible quirks. People with additional limbs stride down the street; children test their newfound abilities against one another. The occasional hero passes—a downside to residing in such a populated city. The pros, however, look too weak to waste his time on. When the time is right, they will be cleansed. Kai’s jaw clenches, amber eyes narrowing with pure loathing at the swarm of quirks. Disgusting.

The streets remain unchanged on every walk, no matter how much time passes. Though the people are different, the atmosphere freezes in time. Businessmen continue to blether on cellphones about important deals to close, while mothers drag their whining, spoiled children out on errands; vendors attempt to sell stale food drowned in air pollution to unsuspecting customers. Kai questions what brought him to such an area of disappointment and filth. Why was he wasting precious time again?

His golden eyes shift to another area of the street. His breath hitches.

Your thumbs fly across your phone keyboard as you await a bus across the street. Your teeth tear into your bottom lip, brows creased with frustration. A young woman—a friend, Kai presumes—talks miles an hour with wild, animated gestures that nearly smack you upside the head. Occasionally, you nod your head or add a comment Kai is too far away to hear. If it’s important, you glance up to tell her. You appear quirkless, though Kai rationalizes that appearances can be deceiving. Your clothes reek of normalcy. Your friend matches your plain attire— a uniform, perhaps. The large “Toshi’s Brewery” emblem across your chest and hers confirms it.

Your eyes snap up from your phone when your friend looks in Kai’s direction, noticing his staring. His body stiffens. Shit. He’s been spotted.

When your gaze locks with his, colors burst into his vision without warning, bombarding him. The impact causes him to take a step back, sputtering for air as he desperately attempts to keep his composure. The world gleams brighter than he ever imagined, just like his mother said. White clouds paint the brilliant blue sky. Your shirt even looks different—brown with gold lettering rather than black and white. The green grass poking through cracks of pavement glistens in the yellow sunlight. The sun feels warmer against his face. His senses overwhelm him as he attempts to process it all. He always assumed he was colorblind.

Now he knows the truth.

Realization settles in when Kai forces himself to breathe. With wide eyes, he realizes his eyes never left you. His stomach flutters uncontrollably at the sight of you. His gloved palms grow sweaty as his Adam’s apple bobs. Suddenly, he feels nervous at the sight of you. Nails dig into your friend’s arm as you grasp it for support, like one gust of wind could knock you over. No longer focused on your phone, he holds your undivided attention. Your expression matches his own; your face blossoms with pink as your lips part, ready to call out to him. You know it too, he concludes.

Kai Chisaki has a soulmate.

Despite all of his hate speech towards soulmates, he needs to approach you. One look and everything he said becomes outdated. Kai never wanted to be close to another person, yet a magnetic pull urged him towards you. Be his exception. Call out to him, and he’ll be there.

As he prepares to step forward, your friend tugs your arm as the bus arrives. You try to yank your arm out of her grasp, trying to explain. However, your friend’s stubbornness outweighs your own. She pulls you onto the bus, the doors closing with a hiss.

Kai lost his chance. A moment of hesitation cost him his chance.

He returns to the hideout more sour than usual. The atmosphere is tense, like one match could start a catastrophic fire. None of his subordinates—expendables—dare question his shift in attitude. The entire hideout walks on eggshells, taking longer routes solely to avoid him.

Hari Kurono, awaiting orders at the door of Kai’s office, visibly stiffens at the sight of Kai. Originally slouching, he stands straighter than a ruler.

Kai pauses, hand hovering over the brass doorknob. His head turns to gaze at Hari, amber eyes unreadable as the gears in his brain turn.

“Your coat has red in it,” he deadpans.

Hari’s eyes widen behind his mask. “Overhaul?”

“Your coat,” he repeats, “has red.”

Kai says nothing more as he enters his office, locking the door behind him. His teeth grind together in frustration. Kai’s head throbs as the stress builds, causing him to press his thumb against his forehead and lightly massage it.

He checks a mirror nearby, having to do a double take. His hand slowly touches the purple fur lining of his dark green coat, rubbing the material between his fingertips with disgust. Kai cringes at the sight of his coat. Was it always so ugly? The rest of his clothing, though baggy, are more fashionable. The black pants and button-up shirt go well with the white tie and shoes. But the coat? Not good.

Kai removed the coat, draping it over the back of his chair before sitting down. And you saw that atrocious coat, too.

He continues to massage his forehead, trying to block out the stress.

Perhaps it was for the best that he never spoke to you. Now he sees vivid colors /and/ never has to worry about potential attachments. Still, thoughts of you persist, intruding on his daily work. Though he clutches the pen, Kai cannot bring himself to sign any documents.

He leans back in his swivel chair, making a noise in the back of his throat. Forgetting you will be harder than he anticipated.

————————

Three days pass before Kai has enough.

His thoughts of you consume his nights; he struggles to focus as his team attempts to perfect his secret weapon. Kai thought distancing himself from you would make his feelings subside, but they only grow more persistent every waking moment.

Distance only makes the heart grow fonder, huh?

He has so many questions—how to proceed with his feelings, /if/ he should proceed. Yet no one in his yakuza could possibly understand. If anyone caught wind of his discovery, his weakness endangers his work. Not only his work, but a target could be placed on your back. Rivaling yakuzas always look fo weakness. One could sell you to the highest bidder, known as the one thing Kai Chisaki wants but cannot have.

Exposing himself is not on his bucket list.

After three days, Kai calls Hari into his office.

“I need information,” he coolly informs, “on a woman.”

Hari’s eyebrows raise, though his mask hides his curiosity well.

“What woman?” asks Hari, feigning ignorance. Of course he knows what woman; she’s the reason Kai knows Hari’s coat has red.

Kai describes you with perfection, despite only seeing you once. He remembers your hair, disheveled from work. You look shorter than him, and he likes it. His description is limited due to being across the street at the time, but his assistant assures him it suffices.

“Do you want me to bring her here, Overhaul?” Hari inquires, already prepared for a fight.

Kai raises a gloved hand. “No, that won’t be necessary. Just the information.”

“I’ll see what I can find,” Hari says before exiting the office.

Kai considers himself a patient man. After all, it’s necessary for a position such as his. However, now he can hardly keep himself from snapping. He holds himself together with a thin wire of patience due to snap at any moment. His subordinates take notice, though they do not ask. Instead, they avoid him at all costs.

Kai, unable to stand the confinements of his base any longer, trades his beak-like mask for a surgical one before going on a walk. No one questions him. He retraces his steps, amber eyes fixated ahead. Kai avoids people like the plague, winding through alleyways. His teeth grind together as colors, smells, and noises bombard his senses. During his three days of denial, Kai never took the time to process his newfound ability.

He finds himself at the exact spot where he saw you, eyes preoccupied with the familiar bus stop. Kai checks the time. It’s much later than when he first locked eyes with you, but he may see you if he’s lucky.

Kai ventures ahead, crossing the street when the pedestrian signal lights up. His tongue clicks against the roof of his mouth, eyes narrowing as he loses himself in thought. Was the bus stop apart of your daily routine? A coincidence, perhaps? He hates not knowing.

With a hiss, the bus arrives, and Kai retreats between two buildings. He sucks in a breath. He leans in until his chest touches the wall as he watches people unload one-by-one.

You take your sweet time, he notices. You even stop to thank the driver, who beams a grin missing several teeth. How kind of you, he muses, to waste your time on a stranger—on an expendable. One earbud dangles by your side, the other in your right ear. Like the first time, you type on your phone. How careless, your admirer thinks. Don’t you know that’s how criminals snatch up their prey? He must discuss your carelessness another day, when he makes himself known to you.

Your uniform differs from the last one. A restaurant? He thought you worked in a brewery. Judging by the style, it’s based off something American. Did you need money so badly that you worked two jobs?

“Who exactly are you?” he murmurs to himself as you walk away, fading into a sea of people.

Hopefully, he would find out soon.

——————

A carefully-assembled file drops onto Kai’s desk gently, labeled by a red “confidential” stamp.

Kai lifts his gaze to his assistant, chin resting on his folded hands. “What’s this?”

“Your information,” replies Hari. “Unless you don’t want it anymore.”

 

“No. I want it.” Kai doesn’t miss a beat, eyes half-lidded and tired. He dismisses the other man, not even thanking him for all the trouble. It’s his job, Kai internally huffs.

He leans forward in his leather swivel chair, flipping open the file. Kai bursts with a newfound surge of energy, hands trembling with excitement. His eyes scan the pages slowly, holding them with care. With this file, Kai will know if you’re worth pursuing; in a way, he holds a piece of you.

He murmurs your name like a prayer; he loves it. It’s perfect. Your name alone sends a rush of euphoria.

The file, though thin, holds all the information necessary to find you. He learns your blood type, your birthday, parents’s names and so on. You juggle two jobs while finishing your last semester of college (both the names of your workplaces and college are listed). Additionally, usernames of your social media are under your name. He wonders if he should check them, though that requires making accounts. Perhaps someone could comb through them for him. To his relief, your medical history shows the promise of a long life. Additionally, share a simple, cramped apartment with a friend—the one at the bus stop that day, Kai realizes. You two must be close , he thinks. Almost like siblings, even.

A sigh escapes through his nose. The corners of his mouth twitch upward, threatening to form a small smile. Not only are you healthy, but you’re quirkless. You’re clean.

A good sign.

He holds the essentials of your life in his very hands, yet he selfishly craves more. It isn’t enough to quench his thirst for knowledge. His eyebrows furrow; he huffs, pushing the file away. Kai tilts his head upward, shutting his eyes and taking a deep breath.

He thought he would find something that would be a dealbreaker. Yet there you are—record spotless. You hold no criminal record nor any reason for a Kai to distrust you. Being quirkless meant you aren’t sick, infected by the “hero syndrome” plaguing the modern world. Balancing two jobs and school meant you work hard, taking what you want rather than waiting for someone to hand it to you. You make your own opportunities .

In an attempt to distract himself, he logs into his computer. At first, he only accomplishes monotonous work tasks—e-mails and paperwork. Gradually his attention span wavers, eyes glossing over as his mind wanders to thoughts of you. Kai wonders what your voice sounds like—how your hair feels. He purses his smooth lips, an idea popping into his mind.

He closes his browser tab only to open another. Hesitantly, he types in a short phrase:

Missed connections .

Hundreds of links pop up—websites, blogs, videos. Some are individuals, others are companies. Kai feels stupid as he scrolls through the different pages of links, like he’s wasting his time. He could be doing something productive, yet he’s looking for something that might not even exist.

Soon, he finds what he needs.

The website is sleek and professional with a detailed filter to narrow down individuals. Kai hopes this is worth his time as he goes through the filter option-by-option. He describes himself, hoping someone wrote about him on the missed connections site. He feels absolutely ridiculous, yet he remains determined.

Finally, he finds something resembling his encounter with you; the post dates back to two days ago:

Missed Connection!

I saw my soulmate when waiting for my bus. He was across the street, so I didn’t get a good look at him. He has dark hair and wore a black surgical mask. He had a black button-up shirt and white tie. His pants looked baggy. He wore a green coat with purple fur, too. According to my friend, he was looking at me before she pointed him out. I really want to get to know him more. He’s my soulmate—I’m destined to see him again.

The description is undeniably him. Attached to the post is a selfie of you and the friend from the bus stop. You appear annoyed, but you manage a shy smile. The smile is far too fake; Kai doesn’t like it.

Intrigued, he scrolls through comments. His blood boils with jealousy and anger at the sight of men attempting to hit on you, knowing they aren’t your /real/ soulmate. There was only a handful of comments but still, the thought of someone else having you made him sick. Your interactions with them, though half-hearted, only fuel the jealousy.

Ha, guy sounds like a real weirdo! comments a young man with an anime profile picture. Maybe you should try looking elsewhere ;)

Haha , you reply. It feels forced, but Kai can’t know for sure. His chest burns as he resists the urge to put the man in his place. It isn’t worth it, he convinces himself . A waste of my time and quirk .

He wonders...if this excuse of a man could find an opportunity to talk to you, couldn’t he? But when? There are no convenient times to strike up a conversation with you—not with such differing social circles.

Maybe Kai should make some opportunities of his own.

Despite the urge to run to you, he has to be sure in his decision. One overview of you could not suffice when making such an important decision, after all.

“Chronostasis,” calls Kai. “Come here.”

 


———————

Hari obtains your work schedule easily.

It’s unpredictable. Some weeks are spent more at the brewery than the diner. A week can either be filled to the brim with shifts or completely free. How can a human withstand so much work? Surely you go home exhausted every night.

Kai busies himself with work to rid his subordinates of any suspicions. Truly, he wants to meet you, but his work must come first. Hopefully, you’ll understand .

In his spare time, he checks your post. The occasional man comments, but your replies are disinterested. Sometimes a woman—your friend—responds to them, tagging you and asking what you think about them. He doesn’t like it. Not one bit. The comments only fuel his jealousy, but your forced replies soothe him. You aren’t interested in any of them. Of course you wouldn’t be, especially after meeting your soulmate.

When development in his bullets spike, he rationalizes seeing your workplace as a reward to himself. Surely the man can spare an hour to feed his infatuation. As long as his subordinates believe it is business, he has no reason to worry.

“Chronostasis,” says Kai as he rises from his office chair, “I’ll be back shortly.”

His voice sounds disinterested, but Kai feels the exact opposite. Behind his stoic expression is his inner child threatening to burst. He trades his beak-shaped mask for his black, plain one before slipping out the back door, avoiding his expendables in the process; they aren’t worthy enough for an explanation.

With the help of his phone, he finds the diner you work at. It screams “America” to him, despite him never going there before. His nose scrunches beneath his mask as he enters the tiny establishment. To him, it is filthy, crawling with sick individuals in need of a cure. A waitress urges him to “just sit anywhere,” assuring that someone will be with him in a moment.

He chooses the least-sticky booth, concealing his gloved hands in his lap. Before he looks at the menu, Kai scans the area. You remain unfound; your shift starts when he plans to leave. Knowing this, he grows impatient. Yet he must take his time with his plan; all good things come to those who wait.

Kai orders water and some “All-Star breakfast,” knowing he won’t eat much anyways. Though the waitress is kind and bubbly, his nose continues to scrunch when she approaches him. Because of his seat, he has a decent view of the open kitchen, where men and women move around each other in sync. In a way, they are one, able to twist at a second’s notice out of the way. He exhales through his nose in relief when he sees the cook washing his hands. At least somebody knows what they are doing.

The food is neither disgusting nor exceptional. When it arrives, he prods at it with his silverware in uncertainty. Kai forces a few bites down his throat here and there to appear inconspicuous, immediately raising his mask to cover his features afterwards. His eyes scan the establishment in search of you, occasionally checking the time. Kai taps his foot lightly. No need to get impatient , he tells himself . You’ll have your moment. Then we can get back to working.

After hogging his booth for nearly half-an-hour, Kai relinquishes it. He pays slowly, buying himself more time before having to return to the hideout. As much as he craves to catch a glimpse of you, his work cannot be delayed forever. Does he want to go back to the hideout? Not necessarily.

As Kai opens the door to leave, a strong force bumps into his arm. Surprised, Kai reels back. Because of his sour mood, he simply wants to rip off his glove and end this quickly, despite how unprofessional it is. Yet the sourness dissipates. His mouth gross dry as his stomach flutters—just like the moment he first saw you.

“I’m so sorry! I—“ It’s you. He recalls your name in an instant. Kai can’t even focus on your babbling once he realizes who bumped into him, staring at you with intrigue. His head grows fuzzy; your voice is like white noise. You stop talking once recognition jogs your memory. He can see it in your eyes as they widen. You remember him! The blush creeping on your cheeks says it all. “Wait, you’re from the—“

A man with a greasy white apron interrupts the moment, and Kai wants to end him then and there. He shouts your name across the diner, spatula risen. “Hurry up! Rush’ll be coming in any second now!”

Your gaze snaps to the man, and Kai’s blood boils. Who does that man think he is? Conflicted, you look between the two. It should be an easy decision, Kai thinks. But for someone in your situation, where money is scarce, it can’t be. You and Kai hold different statuses. What he does not have he obtains with the flick of a wrist. For you, months of saving and budgeting is in order. Choosing to walk out with him can cost you a job, then you would never want to talk to him!

So he keeps his mouth shut and makes the decision for you. After waiting so long for you, longing for a chance to talk, he hates to pass up such an easy opportunity. Another time , he assures himself. Be patient. You’ll have your chance.

He’s tired of telling himself that.

He’s so tired of telling himself that.

Kai breaks the staring contest, slipping past you and out the door. Behind him, he hears a strangled cry, yet no one trails behind him. He turns his head slightly, enough to see your back as you walkwalk inside with your head down. Kai wishes things could be easier, but they can’t be. His inner child desires a painless happily ever after, though it feels unattainable.

Besides, he thinks as he begins the long walk home, could she even handle the Yakuza lifestyle ?

Civilians have no place in his affairs. To obtain his goal of eradicating quirks, he must refocus. If Kai was normal, he could pursue you in his free time. Yet he isn’t; he has no free time.

His jaw clenches as he crosses the street, hands shoved into the pockets of his green coat. Why can’t you be the exception? Just this once—let him have an exception .

Being with his soulmate shouldn’t be this challenging, yet it is. After all his hard, selfless work in ridding the world of quirks, why must /this/ be difficult as well? In a way, Kai feels like a child. He must be a child to be this impatient.

“Patience.” He repeats his new mantra, running a hand through his dark hair. “Just a little more time.”

He can draft a plan to balance you and his work another day, when he has you at his side. Until then, Kai must focus on getting you there first.

Maybe a talk with the Boss could give him some clarity.

—————

White lights fill a whiter room.

The lights shine so brightly that there is no place for darkness, every nook and cranny of the room exposed. The only colors shed in the plain room come from the vase of fresh flowers sitting atop a nightstand. For a long moment, the room remains silent, except for the beeps and hums of the medical equipment sustaining the man in front of Kai. He lies on his back, chest rhythmically rising and falling. A thin, white bed sheet covers him up to his chest. The man, though decades older, appears youthful in his state—peaceful, even. In all the years Kai knew him, the man’s face never held such tranquility. The prominent lines etched into his forehead from decades of stress appear fainter, as are the lines beside his eyes and mouth. The man holds no fear in the presence of Kai, for he cannot open his eyes to see him. On some days, Kai wonders if the man can hear him.

“I’m at a bit of an impasse,” Kai admits as he stands above the man, voice neutral but eyes betraying him as they swirl with conflicting thoughts. “It’s mainly my fault, really, but you were always good at giving advice—even if we didn’t always see eye-to-eye.”

Not even a twitch of an eyebrow. No twitches of his fingertips. Just stillness.

Kai shifts his stance slightly, patient yet uncomfortable. The moment feels too intimate, too private. He’s spoken to the Boss before, though the topics never made him writhe in his own skin. Kai never confided the Boss for “relationship advice.” Of course, Kai lacked relationships to need advice about. Albeit one-sided, the conversation topics consisted of work, primarily the development of his precious project. Though the Boss cannot respond to Kai, he knows what he would say. He could never understand—see things Kai’s way.

It’s why he had to go .

“I found her—my soulmate.”

Kai imagines the Boss’s perplexion. His eyebrows would rise up his forehead, eyes wide as he would try to process the information. Would he congratulate him? Would he be proud of him—encourage him to go to you? Would he tell Kai to go and live out a normal life with you? Did Kai event want such a life?

“She’s beautiful,” Kai murmurs. “She works hard; you’d appreciate that, right, Boss Man?”

A smile threatens to form as your face flashes across his mind. “She’s a college student—normal. You always wanted me to be normal.”

Kai’s brows furrow. “Maybe she’s too normal for me. She probably has no idea how corrupted the world is. Could you imagine me living with such ignorance? Could you imagine me normal?”

He pictures a moderately-sized home on the outskirts of the city. In another life, he could have that—picket fence and all. Definitely no pets; the shedding would torture him. Though if you asked nicely, he may compromise on a pet to roam the estate. He imagines a son with his eyes and your hair. He would be ambitious like his father, yet kind like his mother.

As nice as the fantasy sounds, Kai knows that life will never be his own.

“No,” he murmurs. “No, I can’t picture myself being normal either.”

“Did you have this much trouble with your soulmate? Are these feelings always so complex? I don’t see the appeal in working so hard trying to maintain a relationship. It’s exhausting.”

Despite the enervation, Kai’s feelings towards you did not waver. Couldn’t he have a trial run—to determine if the spark was strong enough? What was it called when a man and woman spent time together romantically? When they got to know one another?

“A date.”

 

His amber eyes sparkled. Right, that’s what it was called! 

 

What did people do on dates? Drinks? Dinner? Kai, a man with a literal yakuza at his fingertips, did not date. Yet he wanted to. He really wanted to. But before he can date, he has to meet you properly—like it was by chance.

 

“Good talk, Boss Man,” said Kai, fingers twitching at his side.



———————





The club pulses with music. 

 

The loud bass knocks against Kai’s rib cage like a second heartbeat, beating louder than his heart could ever manage. Kai’s jacket remains locked away at the base with a golden watch gleaming under his sleeve. His eyes scan the club with purpose—a predator on the prowl for its prey. Beneath his black mask, Kai deeply inhales the filthy air; the amount of unclean people disgusts him. Red hives threaten to break out on his forearms.

 

“And you’re sure she’s here?” he asks the man on his right, eyes fixated on the dancefloor ahead. It ripples with color, the bright tiles changing colors at every beat. Red. Purple. Orange. Yellow. Yet among the dancers Kai cannot find you.

 

“Positive,” replies Hari. No longer in his mask and Yakuza clothing, Hari appears almost normal—save for the noticeable arrows sculpted in his light hair. “I’ll check out the perimeter. Just...order a drink or something, Overhaul. Blend in.”

 

Kai finds the least-sticky table available. He orders an oolong hai, though he barely touches it; his priorities are elsewhere. 

 

The dim club only grows more packed as the minutes tick by. Packs of giggling college girls make themselves known after only half-a-glass; single people looking for a quick hookup trickle in. The dance floor takes up a majority of the space with booths and tall, circular tables to stand by beside it. Bartenders alternate between customers until they have to catch their breaths.

 

Should Kai have accepted otherwise on a Friday night?

 

Standing, Kai wipes down the circular table before resting his elbows against it. His chest tightens at the sight of someone resembling you, only for the feeling to vanish when he observes them longer. No, unfortunately, they aren’t the person he was looking for.

 

Maybe Kai should have contacted you. Would that alarm you? After all, your post still remained online. Did that make him pathetic—replying to a missed connections post? Did that imply he was looking for one? Perhaps a club made the meeting seem more normal, like fate wanted destined this chance meeting.

 

You don’t have to know it isn’t chance, he reasons. 

 

When Kai’s drink is half-empty, he spies Hari’s unmistakable hair in a sea of people. He moves with purpose, narrowly avoiding dancing couples and friends. Suddenly alert, Kai sits straighter, eyes narrowing. Eventually, Hari reaches the center of the dance floor, where a group of women—perhaps his age—dance together. The group stops when Hari approaches them, eyes scanning him. 

 

His lips move as he stands beside the small group of young women, though Kai cannot make out the words in the dim lighting. Hari seems most interested in the woman in the center of the group, whose back faces Kai. 

 

Distracted on the job? Kai thinks to himself, the grip on his drink deadly. He imagines it as Hari’s throat. But this behavior is so unlike the expendable.

 

The anger molds into curiosity as Hari retreats to the bar, woman in tow. The others stay behind, exchanging knowing looks and giggles. What is he doing? Kai wonders.

 

The woman hops onto a bar stool, Hari leaning against the bar side. Her head turns to face Hari, and Kai’s mouth goes dry as his Adam’s apple bobs. You.

 

So Hari was right. You came, though Kai didn’t think you enjoyed a place like this. Clad in a dress that hugs you well, amber eyes study the way your hips move.

 

“Still so much to know about you,” he murmurs to himself. He stands alert, waiting to swoop in at any moment should Hari overstep one of your or Kai’s boundaries. A gloved nail scratches at the table in anticipation. 

 

Hari’s hand gestures vaguely at the bar, and you smile and say something back. The smile feels polite, slightly forced at that. Hari flags down the bartender, ordering something before the bartender nods in approval. 

 

What is he doing?

 

He knows who you are—that you’re explicitly off-limits, even if Kai never vocalized it. His jaw clenches. Kai won’t hesitate to make a scene if Hari oversteps. And as he watches Hari from afar, his blood boils when you nudge him lightly, radiating with glee as you laugh. Hari’s eyes lock with Kai’s for only a moment as he subtly raises his drink. A mental note to strangle Hari burns in Kai’s mind.

 

Hari smirks, making a “come hither” gesture at his side. Hesitantly, Kai weaves through the club, narrowly avoiding dancers and couples. As he approaches the bar, Hari’s hand knocks into his glass, pouring its contents over the bar and into your lap. Nearly dropping your own drink, a horrified gasp escapes your lips as you jump off the stool. Whatever Hari says next must have been offensive, because you flick your wrist and splash him with your own beverage. He doesn’t even look bothered, eyes revealing ulterior motive. 

 

As you storm off into the direction of the nearest restroom, you run straight into Kai! He stumbles back, grasping your forearm without even realizing. 

 

“I’m so sorry, I—” you stop talking, staring up at the man in front of you with a mixture of surprise and relief. All the stress from your interaction with Hari melts away, your entire demeanor brightening. 

 

Kai looks over your head to see Hari crossing his arms with a smug smirk. 

 

“It’s you!” you exclaim. His gaze snaps back to you. Kai retracts his hand, mouth suddenly dry and palms wet beneath his thin gloves. “From the street! And—and the diner!”

 

You laugh like you can hardly believe it. Kai’s stomach flutters like a high schooler. The overwhelming feelings from when he first saw colors return, overtaking his senses. The most innocent smile Kai’s ever seen stretches across your face. Finally, you say, “Hi.”

 

Kai licks his lips, adjusting his weight. “Hi.”

 

You tell him your name, but he already knows it. Awkwardly, your hands move to conceal the blatant stain on your dress. “Your soulmate,” you clarify, face burning. But he didn’t need you to clarify, and you knew that as well. How could he not know? 

 

The name Overhaul may scare you away. So what should he tell you? He thinks back to a name he hasn’t heard in nearly years—the name his mother gave him. His amber eyes soften and glow in the dark club. A small but affectionate smile hides beneath his mask. 

 

“I’m Chisaki Kai.” His head bows in greeting. “Your soulmate.”