Actions

Work Header

Project Pinocchio

Chapter Text

Dazai Osamu woke up. That should not have happened.

A tube was inserted into his mouth. A tube was inserted in his penile shaft. There were wires attached to patches on his chest. There was the pain of something attached to his left hand. He heard bored melancholic beeps near him.
Intensive care management, huh. So he had been almost successful. Almost.

He lifted his eyes and found the boss. Not his boss, per se. The boss. Meaning, he was answerable to him, and give the boss fealty. But the boss was not a father to him, nothing close to that, no matter how rather kinder he was to Dazai.

"Welcome back, Dazai," the boss greeted with a smile that masked thoughts.

With a tube through his mouth and another tube through his nose and into his stomach, Dazai could only keep staring at Mori, standing by the bed, his hand on the railing.

"As soon as you are fully awake, the endotracheal tube and the artificial respiration will be removed," Mori, a doctor in his earlier life, said. Then he raised a thick envelope, with 'Confidential' marked over it. "I have a job for you. Supervisory. This holds all the information. I expect you to go over it and initiate the job the soonest you are able."

Dazai nodded slightly, that he heard and understood.

"I expect your best work for this long project. As always," Mori added. "Your brain is not expendable. It can be replaced. But while it is available, it is a vital asset to the organization. Remember this, Dazai."

Dazai nodded again.

"Well, then." Mori left the envelope on the medicine table.

He shut his eyes again and let the mechanical ventilator assist what disappointed breathing he was doing.

Why had he done this? He forgot. He had forgotten. He just knew it was getting so unbearably boring to be alive, even as the mafia was gaining sufficient control of much of Yokohama's underbelly. Also, he was rather tired of seeing so much violence and death, a good amount by his own hand or by his subordinates.

He wanted to fade into nothing, to be nothing. He already felt nothing, and felt like nothing.

Dazai Osamu woke up.

That should not have happened. Not after a whole bottle of sleeping pills, around twenty opiate tablets, and more than one glass of brandy. He had already closed all his pending cases and files, one of the rare times he managed to complete all his paperwork and duties for the Port Mafia, just to ensure that he left nothing unfinished before he went to sleep.

He had even filled a notebook with his handwriting, as neat as he could make it, all giving endorsements and instructions about how to do the work he would leave behind, to whoever replaced him. That was how complete his plans were. Because he had absolutely no plans to wake up after he went to sleep.

But he did. He did wake up.

He had no idea how long it took before he was found. He had tried to make it a bit harder, by taking a room at a motel not under the Port Mafia's protection. It seems he might have missed that one of the employees or the manager was in debt to the mafia.

He also did not know how long he had been asleep before he woke up. He just took those pills and tablets in rapid succession, drinking them down with the brandy. As soon as he felt incredibly dizzy and sleepy, he settled into bed, and that was that. At least, that was how he had hoped.

Unfortunately, now he was awake again, in a bright room with a strong scent of antiseptic, with beeps in various tones sounding in a boring way.

##

But he woke up again, the mouth tube removed and replaced with an oxygen mask over his face. Some of the wires and other attachments had also been removed, leaving the line attached to his hand. There was still some bored beeping beside him. His heart and maybe his breathing.

When he turned, the envelope with the 'confidential' markings was still beside him.

He weakly reached out for the envelope and tore off the seal.

It was a classified government file, for a discontinued project. Code name: Project Arahabaki. This meant that the government had thrown out the project, and the mafia had bought the information from an insider. It was now under mafia control.

He sighed. This was bad. He was interested. Very interested.

Now he had to stay alive, for quite a while.

He pressed buttons to raise the head of his hospital bed until he was half-sitting while his head was fully pillowed by the bed.

He opened the file.It was a project to create a human cyborg unlike so many in Yokohama, in the country, in the world. At the exterior, the cyborg would look like any other human, a teenaged human. But...

There were pages and pages of technical schematics, for each enhanced organ and limb of this enhanced human. The cyborg enhanced would have been designed to surpass most if not all cybertechnology available. And it would all fit into this compact teenage human.

This would create a superhuman, almost a god hidden inside a human frame. Hence, the codename. The humans tried to house a god inside a human.

It was not so much that the technology hid guns and cannons and super-lengthening or such like. Rather, all the technology made the human the fastest, most agile cyborg to walk the streets of Yokohama, the fastest and most able to inflict heavy damage, if ever he was released into the underworld.

It would also hide a powerful ability, previously unseen: an ability to control gravity, both for the human project, and the world around him. An ability to throw gravitons, if needed. An ability to manipulate the gravity of all objects within his range.

An ability that would make the boy be like a god on earth.

Dazai sighed as he closed the folder. He would look at it again when he felt less tired. But this was annoying, very annoying.

He was intrigued. He was interested. He wanted to see this cyborg. He wanted to see him in action. He wanted to know this strange cyborg boy.

He was interested. He had to stay alive to stay interested.

##

Days passed.

Soon enough, with nutrients and antidepressants forced into his system, he grew sufficiently well to walk around weakly. He bandaged his hands again, to once again hide and control the nullifiers embedded in his palms.

He was still alive. He was being made to stay alive.

He still ate small portions, without an appetite. But he had to shove several spoonfuls in, or Mori-san would hear how he disobeyed. He still felt unable to fight against whatever Mori would deal with him if he disobeyed.

What kept him moving was that file, that confidential file. He needed to see and meet that unusual new acquisition. After all, he had been tasked to supervise him.

As soon as he was able, he dressed into his work suit, dark and somber. He took up the file, hid it inside the suit.

Then he slowly made his way to the first level basement of the organization headquarters, where he was told the subject was kept.

He approached a room with large panel windows, clearly showing the inside. There was an even deeper room, after a small room that held scientists and assistants, sitting in front of monitors and keyboards. The larger inner room could also be seen from the entrance, as it also had large panel windows.

Within that larger inner room, overhead lights, machines, and scientists hovered around a figure, who looked human enough, placed over something like a modified operating table. He could not see much yet from that distance, but it looked like a male, a boy.

Dazai opened the door to the basement laboratory.

Immediately all the assistants rose from their seats, followed by the scientists. They all bowed together to the youngest executive of the Port Mafia.

Kaiji, the lead scientist, was the first to rise. He gave Dazai an interesting grin. "It's an honor to be visited by yourself, sir. I think you'll find the result of our work most interesting."

Dazai smirked, hiding the weakness he still felt everywhere. "Schematics," he said. An order, not a request or an inquiry.

"Of course," Kaiji answered, turning to a keyboard and pressing a few buttons.

Immediately after, several windows appeared on the display, presenting various parts of the boy before them. Chest cavity, abdominal cavity, each arm and leg, brain and skull, face.

They confirmed and updated the contents of the folder Mori gave him to study, showing the upgrades Kaiji and his team had added to an already powerful, strong, but lithe creation.

And yet, and yet. It all felt wrong.

In front of him were diagrams and schematics for a robot.

Dazai nodded, and the schematics were removed. He faced again the view of the mechanized body over a surgical table, with fiery hair.

"I have only one request," he said, staring forward at so much titanium, wires, pneumatics, and cables. "A humanoid shell."

"Make him look less a cyborg?" Kaiji confirmed.

Dazai nodded again. "Such that it's not immediately noticed that he is a cyborg, instead of emphasizing it. It will provide an element of surprise, some delay that will provide useful to us."

Kaiji bowed, then lifted his head quickly. "Ah! A good suggestion, from the youngest executive! It shall be done."

Dazai headed to the inner door. "Don't kill off your people with overwork, though. I've heard it happen."

Kaiji chuckled uneasily. "This is noted."

Dazai opened the door into the inner area, where the subject lay, rendered unconscious and nonfunctional as the scientists and engineers did their work.

Several assistants gathered around him and gave him the necessary protective gear before he approached. He nodded to them all as they completed the work and bowed as they moved backward.

He walked forward, nearer, until he reached the surgical table.

He stood beside the table where the cyborg lay.

The boy looked around his age, just shorter and more... battle-hardened, or life-hardened, or both.

The face was angular but not thin and not weak. While the eyes were closed, they looked delicate, fragile. The nose was just so. The lips were pale, slightly open. The fiery hair was pulled back but visible.

He tilted the chin slightly upward. He observed the area where the human neck ended and the mechanized section began, a rather drastic shift, with the cables and tubes still visible where they connected. It made one feel like observing the inside of a corpse, just robotic.

Then, he kept observing the face. It was... he was intriguing, this new acquisition. He was not destined to be a foot soldier, nor just a simple weapon of destruction. He was made to be feared, revered.

Dazai found himself the first one to revere.

He shook his head, trying to clear it of the many thoughts. But the boy's face stayed in his mind.

He requested to exit. "Inform me as well when all the preparations are complete," he told Kaiji as he opened the outer door.

The scientists bowed as he left.

##

Dazai woke up again. He sighed that he did, but he did.

He still felt the fog, of not wanting to be awake, of not wanting to be alive. The medicines only kept them at bay, from not reaching a point that he wanted to act on wanting to not be alive. But sometimes he still wanted not to be alive.

Something felt a little different about his room, though.

He tried his best to be alert. He was generally good at it, but not immediately after sleeping for twelve hours or more.

In the fog, he sensed it and tightened. A person was in the room. Walking around it quietly, maybe observing him.

He peeked out of the blanket.

Oh.

The cyborg.

The boy.

The boy he was supposed to supervise. The boy was in his room, looking at all the books and the visual screens.

A leather choker was around his neck, hiding the connection of the human neck to the mechanized body.

The boy's fiery hair fell in a short trickle past his neck and shoulder. He wore a tank top that hid his torso, and trousers and shoes that hid his legs. But the arms were visible, housed in a humanoid casing, as requested.

The boy walked with hesitation, half practicing, as it were, as he observed the books and furniture.

Interesting.

Dazai finally decided to sit up from bed. His whole body ached. His brain still felt numb. But his brain also remembered. That he was interested in this boy, past the assignment.

Of course, he rather realized that Mori knew exactly what to use to gain his attention. But for now, he was going to let Mori have his way.

The boy turned and faced the bed. He found Dazai on the bed. "You sleep so long," the boy complained.

Dazai smirked. So the boy had a retained personality. Interesting. "Do you sleep at all... little cyborg?"

"I am NOT little!" The boy protested. "I am designed to be light and fast!"

Dazai kept smirking, kept being interested. "Thus, small and short. A chibi."

"What!"

Dazai raised a hand. So loud. So noisy. So early in their relationship, whatever it was. "Your name?"

The boy immediately stiffened and bowed from the waist. It was a standard greeting of a robot to a human. "My designation is A5158. Government issue humanoid cyborg."

"Number one," Dazai corrected, "You belong to the Port Mafia now."

The boy glared at him.

“It is true. Ask both Mori and Kaiji,” Dazai said. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Number two, I didn’t ask for your designation. I asked for your name.”

The boy kept staring. He blinked a few times.

"What? Don't you have one?" Dazai asked.

"I have a name!" the boy declared.

Dazai smiled. At least no mind-wipe was done on this cyborg. "Well, chibi? I'm still waiting for it."

"You first, human," the boy demanded. "I have been assigned to you. I wanna know who I'm dealing with."

Dazai smirked. “Well, then. The name is Dazai Osamu.” He lowered his head deeply to bow to the boy. “May I know your name, subject A5158.”

"I have a name! I have one!" the boy insisted.

"So, tell me."

"Whatever!"

The boy marched up to the bed, and stood up to his full height, even though it was less than Dazai's.

“Before I was captured, they called me Chuuya. Nakahara Chuuya. Is that all you need?”

“For now, yes,” Dazai said.

“So, now, what?” Chuuya asked.

Dazai shrugged. “After I get a shower and breakfast? I really don’t know. But you’re in our organization now. You’ll have work to do. Soon enough.”

"They already gave me a job to do," Chuuya said, smirking back, squaring his shoulders, folding his arms over his chest.

"Oh? And what would a chibi like you be told to do?"

Chuuya kept the smirk. "I have been tasked to protect and monitor you."

Dazai raised an eyebrow. It was... reasonable, seeing that Mori can't keep tracking him every moment. But that he was to keep an eye on the cyborg, and the cyborg was supposed to keep an eye on him, that was an interesting arrangement.

There was more to this. Definitely.

"Interesting. This could get really interesting," was all he said to the new boy.

For now.

Chapter Text

Dazai and Chuuya marched and stopped at the large and heavy doors of Mori's office. Dazai was in his dark suit and heavy coat, bandages peeking at his neck and hands. Chuuya wore a closed jacket, covering his mechanical arms. He wore the leather choker at his neck.

Dazai took a deep breath, then gave two knocks, definite and confident.

"Let them in," said a voice inside, as the large doors opened.

The boys walked into the large room, musty with dust, expensive old art, and expensive old rugs. They stopped in front of a heavy oak desk, where a man read through piles of documents.

But the man looked up to them. "I see that you've met."

Dazai lowered his head, but did not kneel. Chuuya lifted his head and glared at the man.

"Ah, a cocky one, I see," Mori said. "The decision to retain his personality was a good one, what say you, Dazai?"

"I do not object. For now," Dazai replied.

Chuuya frowned and crossed his arms, still keeping his eyes on both Dazai and Mori.

"But he will bend to us. Though I would hope that it would be willingly. What do you say, young cyborg?"

"We shall see, sir," Chuuya said.

Mori chuckled." No assignment for now, though, young cyborg, I think you would like to practice and test your body, yes?"

Chuuya shrugged. "As long as there's a spot, sure."

"There is. Dazai. Lead him there and see the limits and boundaries of what he can do."

Dazai bowed his head. That instruction was very loaded, and he knew how. He was not sure if Chuuya did see, but for now Dazai would obey.

"Dismissed."

But as soon as the doors closed on them, Chuuya pulled Dazai back.

"Retained my personality, he said. You mean your people could have erased me?"

Dazai smirked. "Well, it could've made a chibi a lot less noisy, that way."

Chuuya grabbed him by the front of his shirt, at the neck. "What! How dare you even consider it! I won't be turned into a mindless robot!"

Dazai felt the slight loss of air. The grasp was tight and heavy. He felt some of the dizziness from the lack of oxygen. "It's actually very easy to do, any time. We can disconnect you and your personality anytime. Goodbye, noisy chibi."

"I fucking dare you to try!"

"You don't need to, little cyborg," Dazai said, quite ready to faint from the choke. "But...more interesting, this way."

His head spun as he blacked out.

He regained his senses, seated on the floor of the hallway, surrounded by guards who had all pointed their pistols at the cyborg.

Dazai raised a weak hand. "At ease. Chuuya didn't mean it. Right, chibi?"

The men slowly withdrew their pistols but kept their eyes on the cyborg. Chuuya stood over him, half panicked, half suspicious.

Dazai waved off the hallway guards. "As you were. I'm fine." He weakly raised himself to standing. "Some strength you have, o small one," he said to Chuuya.

Chuuya smirked. "And you're still not scared of me?"

"On the contrary. I find you interesting."

##

Over the next few days, they did not contact each other. There was just this unspoken agreement of where they would meet.

Whatever time of the late morning Dazai woke up, he showered and dressed and ate the late breakfast brought to his room. Then he would grab a book and head to their first basement.

The basement held a battle room, a testing area for the old and new armaments that came into their possession. Being encased in rock, and patted several layers thick, the noise was muted from outside, while they checked the power of the weapons.

Lately, it had been converted into Chuuya's practice area, as he tended to crow when successful at a run and loudly curse when he was not getting something right. The large room was filled with dummies and punching bags.

But Dazai did not find him there.

Another of the basement battle rooms had also been assigned to him, filled with weapons. The weapons were operated from an adjacent room, often under Dazai's commands. But he was late today, so Chuuya was running his own ordered drills.

He found that he did not have to give orders at all. The drills that Chuuya ran were brutal, even he could see that as someone who disliked training and exercise. Chuuya weaved left and right and bullets rained on him. He ran then vaulted then twirled in the air, avoiding even more gunfire. Even if they were blanks, they would hurt and injure if they hit him, and so far, none had come close.

If one did not know, enemies could not tell that they were dealing with a hyper-agile cyborg. With mechanics like this run incredibly well by a brain enhanced for movement, the cyborg would be nearly invincible in battle.

And yet.

And yet.

He had not seen Chuuya outside of the Port Mafia premises yet.

Chuuya found him past the bulletproof observation windows. He smirked at Dazai. His mechanical arms and legs were on display, covered by shorts and a tank top, but overall revealing a powerful but light frame.

"Like what you see?" he chided.

Dazai smirked in return. "It depends. But for now..."

Dazai gestured, and a technician stood up and walked into the battle room.

"Nap time, chibi."

"W... What?"

"Goodnight. I'll wake you up for lunch."

The technician pressed two buttons at Chuuya's neck, and immediately Chuuya's eyes closed as he dropped onto the floor.

"Cover up those switches with the choker and the neck guards, very well," Dazai ordered, as Chuuya was lifted onto an examining table. "They cannot be activated by a chop at the neck. Only we should know that."

"Yes, sir," the technicians acknowledged.

"Very well. Specs analysis, and damage analysis."

The technicians nodded as they faced the computers.

Dazai himself walked up to the examining table where Chuuya was placed. Unconscious, the boy looked quite... vulnerable, rather than peaceful.

His fingers traced, from the boy's streams of red hair, to his forehead, down to his cheek, to his lips, to his chin.

It was interesting how vulnerable the redhead looked, like this, how easy to damage. And...he realized he did not want anyone else aside from his organization, apart from him, to see this. He wanted the enemy to see this little chibi at his strongest. But it was, interesting, seeing this boy so vulnerable.

But also, this little cyborg was a boy, still. He was suddenly reminded. He was a boy, a teenager, as he was.

Dazai found himself holding on to that warm and soft cheek, as the analysis proceeded, as Chuuya slept on, his cheek inside Dazai's hand.

The specs and damage analysis reports came out well. The cyborg components did suffer a good amount of punishment from the intensive training. Dazai gave the order to adjust the capacity limits of all components, to match Chuuya's capabilities. Meanwhile, he went upstairs for lunch.

##

He woke up in the late afternoon to an insistent and strong shaking.

"What the hell, you bandaged weakling, you didn't wake me for lunch! Everything was cooled in the kitchen when I got there! I had to get things reheated!"

Dazai had taken a heavy nap after lunch. He could not get the feel of that face out of his head, so he forced his head to sleep for a couple of hours. He wondered through a thick fog why he deserved to be shaken and stirred.

"I lost a lot of practice time because of you, you irritating mess of bandages!"

He spoke past the fog, trying to get himself awake. “You would have...damaged your circuits and skeletal parts if you kept on...with that amount of training. So we had to do systems checks. No more and no less. I’m still sleepy Chuuya.”

"All the same! It's afternoon now, what am I supposed to do?!"

"What every boy is supposed to be doing," Dazai mumbled, not sure what he was saying.

"But, I'm not any other boy!"

Dazai sighed as he sat up, running his eyes. "Come on, chibi. You're a dog that needs walking."

"What!"

Dazai slowly got out of bed. He smoothed out his dress shirt and put on his suit. "Really. Let's go walking. Like any kid would."

"You're not just any other kid, either," Chuuya said.

"I know. I know. But still, come on. Let's get ice cream or something."

Like any boy. Like any human boy.

##

They walked past rows of hallway guards who bowed to them and exited through the main door unopposed. Dazai was sure one to three guards followed them from a safe distance, and that was fine. What was important was that they got to do what they wanted to do, for a few hours.

Dazai walked straight ahead, still half in a daze, wondering what exactly he wanted to do. Beside him, Chuuya grumbled as he walked, restless and testy. Chuuya's eyes scanned every building and person they passed.

"Will you relax. Not everyone is our enemy. Most of them are neutral parties," Dazai told him.

"How am I sure they're not staring?"

"They're probably not. Anyhow, the goal is that you would NOT be stared at. Because they can't tell you're a cyborg."

Chuuya grumbled but kept walking beside him, still staring and glaring at everyone.

People looked away from them, usually seeing Dazai’s dark coat and bandages. This was especially true of those who had obvious biomodifications, who were often people connected to the darkness. Dazai kept walking with his eyes ahead, looking only left and right, searching for a store or a building.

Dazai finally stopped at a street stall. Chuuya stopped with him, as he folded his arms in front of him.

Dazai merely grinned and looked up at a menu. He kept grinning as he spoke. “Double chocolate for me.” He turned to Chuuya. “You CAN eat, right?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“What flavor do you want?” Dazai asked, receiving his ice cream.

“Huh?”

Dazai showed his ice cream cone, with the two scoops of chocolate. “What flavor do you want?”

“Why are you asking me?”

“Because you’ll be the one eating, sir,” Dazai said. “Well? Strawberry? Vanilla? Double dutch?”

Chuuya pulled back, kept staring at him.

“There is no prank, chibi,” Dazai said. “Just order.”

Chuuya raised an eyebrow as he finally muttered “Pistachio and vanilla.”

Dazai grinned as the server started scooping. “See? That wasn’t so hard.”

Chuuya pouted at him, as he received the ice cream.

They stood silently beside each for a few moments, watching each other, as they finished their ice cream. Dazai kept looking toward Chuuya, who first tasted the ice cream with hesitation. But soon, Chuuya began to smile at the cold and flavors and began to lick with relish and enjoyment.

Dazai smiled.

He then kept walking, Chuuya following along grumpily.

So far, of all the people glancing at them, the people saw two teenage boys, one of them notoriously connected to the mafia, and therefore very likely so was the newer boy. But they saw two boys. None of them stared in the way people stared at cyborgs and androids. So far, so good. They were introducing the new member of the Port Mafia, the new weapon. But also, they saw a boy; they did not know the extent of the power of the new weapon.

But Dazai also remembered. They were two boys.

He stopped at a brightly-lit building. He entered.

“The arcade?” Chuuya complained. “What the heck?”

Dazai merely grinned at him.

There was no plan to this. He was just bored, after being stuck in the headquarters for days, after being stuck in the medical bay for days. He just wanted to run a few games, maybe along with Chuuya.

The arcade had a combination of classic machines along with the newest VR games. Dazai stopped at one of the most classic fighter games, one with knobs and buttons, instead of a VR headset and a VR pistol. He sat down, then gestured to the machine across from him.

Chuuya grumbled and placed his hands on his hips. “What do you want?”

“A battle. Choose your fighter,” Dazai said, as he activated both game machines.

“What? We could’ve just fought at the battle room back at headquarters.”

Dazai chuckled. “That would always be in your favor. This is a level playing field.”

“You are admitting that you’re weak?” Chuuya crowed.

“I merely admit that brute force is not my style,” Dazai said with a smirk. “Are you afraid I would beat you at a classic game?”

Chuuya raised a fist. “I can beat you at anything, you weak bamboo pole!”

Dazai started the game, opening the fighter list. “Prove it, then, chibi.”

Dazai won the first game easily. He was familiar with the game and used a fighter character he always did. Chuuya grit his teeth as he fumbled at the buttons and knob controls.

“I thought you were from the streets, chibi,” Dazai quietly teased.

“Shut up, rich kid!”

“I am no such thing, little chibi.”

“You have so many consoles and VR sets in your room, I’ve seen them!”

“Mori knows how to keep me around, is all,” Dazai said. “Whatever I have is because of him. But back to the original statement. I thought you were from the streets. I thought you knew these games.”

“I’m from the streets, you coddled pet, so I didn’t get to play at the arcade a lot!” Chuuya grumbled. “You know how pricey these older games are!”

“No time like the present, then,” Dazai said. “Choose your fighter.”

Chuuya grumbled as he sat back down at the game machine, and selected a different fighter, who used more arm and leg work and speed instead of bulk. “You’re going down, you pet.”

“You can try, little chibi.”

Dazai kept his original fighter, but his brain kept analyzing how Chuuya engaged his fighter. He was having a harder time keeping Chuuya at bay, now that Chuuya was getting the hang of the controls. Dazai used a balanced fighter, depending half on strength and half on speed. He was losing ground to the speed of Chuuya’s fighter.

He did win that round, but just barely.

“You are a fast learner, chibi,” Dazai acknowledged.

“I will beat you next time,” Chuuya challenged.

“Come on, then.”

Dazai switched to a fighter who utilized speed, while Chuuya kept the fighter he used before. Now he focused, played seriously, occasionally looking up. He found Chuuya also concentrating, now familiar with the controls, moving his fighter with coordinated attacks. Dazai stopped glancing up and concentrated on the game.

Chuuya attacked with a spin and a downward fist. Dazai’s character dropped to the ground.

Chuuya crowed. He had won.

Dazai gave him a slow clap, with a smirk. “Congratulations.”

“One more!” Chuuya challenged.

“Just one last game,” Dazai said, with a challenging grin. “We have to get back.”

“You’re going back a loser!”

“Oh, no, I’m not, chibi.”

They chose their fighters, and started.

Dazai kept his eyes on the game and so did Chuuya. He focused on his controls, now that Chuuya knew how to operate the controls himself. He should have figured that much, that the boy who mastered the battle room so thoroughly in so quick a time would master a set of buttons and a knob so quickly.

The last round ended in a tie, and stayed at a tie for two more rounds.

“I concede, you learn very quickly,” Dazai said, finally standing.

“Concede that you will lose to me!”

“Not today, chibi!” Dazai chided, as he walked away.

##

There was one thing he asked before they parted for the night.

"What do you mean, you were captured?" Dazai asked, directly, his demeanor as serious as he could concentrate on making.

Chuuya was doing his own system inspections, even after the official Port Mafia after-mission checks. He stretched out one arm and one hand, then the other. He extended one leg, moved it around on all its joints, then did the same for the other leg.

"I'm still waiting," Dazai sing-songed at him.

"Eh? Oh." Chuuya turned to face him. "What's the question again?"

"What do you mean, you were captured?"

Chuuya shrugged. "Stuff happens when you're an orphan and a stray kid, and the cops find you. That's all."

Dazai crossed his arms. "What exactly happened?"

Chuuya looked away. "I'm telling you, it was no big deal." But he had clenched a fist.

"I'm not stopping until you tell me," Dazai said, still looking at him squarely.

Chuuya frowned and clenched his teeth. "The cops caught us. They locked us up. They surrendered us to special services. Special services tried stuff on us." He breathed. "Happy now?"

"Not completely. It's impossible that you came to special services being a full cyborg," Dazai said. "Yes?"

"I...do not know," Chuuya said. "They...added and added, as I...damaged things, while doing stuff. I don't know the details. Maybe that weird scientist of yours knows more. Maybe YOU know more."

"Yes, and no. Otherwise, why would I ask you?"

“That is all I know,” Chuuya repeated. “Now get lost.”

Dazai shrugged and left.

##

Alone in his large room, Dazai sat before a desk and took out his voice recorder. The small machine was connected to his computer, which would transcribe his words shortly. He had already recorded other messages on it.

“Project Pinocchio, file number 2,” Dazai spoke into the recorder. “The boy is a very fast learner. Also able to analyze his way through a battle, even with different fighter classes against him. Don’t forget, for future reference.”

Dazai also scribbled a few things onto a small notepad. The information he did not want Mori to know.

That Chuuya liked vanilla and pistachio.

That Chuuya was easy, very easy, to rile. For better or worse. Oh, wait, maybe that was better as recorded information.

“The boy is driven by emotions. This can be considered both a strength and a weakness. He can be very focused in battle when his emotions are involved. However, he can also easy to rile and may easily lose concentration and may make crucial mistakes. This can be controlled by adequate training.”

In the notebook, he recorded: ‘Don’t tease about his past life, if possible.’

He lowered the voice recorder and allowed his computer to begin the transcription. After some time, the file would reach Mori, whether he wanted it or not. It was just the way things were. Mori knew everything. Or, so he thought.

Dazai did not want him to know everything. He wanted a few things to himself. That Chuuya was interesting to watch when he was angry. That Chuuya was interesting to watch when he was focused in battle, whether it was a game or in training. More than interesting.

He wanted to know more about this boy. Not just his skills and the way he thinks, the way he battles. He just...wanted to know him better.

He would never admit that to the chibi. Not to his face.

But for now, he had a reason to stay around, until the next day.

Was this part of Mori’s plans? Maybe. But for now, he was going along with it.

Chapter Text

Dazai’s Project Pinocchio file grew, one recording at a time, one report at a time.

Chuuya kept practicing his moves and his limbs at the battle room, trying all sorts of techniques and moves. Sometimes he also did target practice, while he was resting his circuits.

Dazai showed the nullifiers in his hands, for Chuuya to inspect. “One touch from these,” he explained, “and your movements and gravity-manipulation are immediately canceled.”

Chuuya smirked and raised his head. “You won’t need to stop me. I can control myself well enough, without you.”

“And yet I’ve been ordered to,” Dazai said, as he placed his right hand over Chuuya’s shoulder.

Dazai felt the electric surge that allowed him to short-circuit practically all abilities. He also felt Chuuya weaken under his touch.

Chuuya cringed. He quickly swiped at Dazai’s hand and jumped away. “Don’t…don’t do that!”

Dazai nodded. “I will try my best not to. But let us practice.”

Dazai had more or less mastered the use of the pistol and one type of machine gun. He had accepted that while he could move, and practiced what obvious evasion and protective movements he needed as a member of the underworld, he was not the most athletic. He told Chuuya as much, openly. If they were going to be paired together, they might as well know that much about each other.

They practiced movements together, at basic how to avoid knocking into each other’s movements, how to avoid getting hit by the other’s attacks. Dazai tended to stay in one place and shoot a pistol, so he did target practice while Chuuya weaved around him. Chuuya was agile and struck from many directions, thus he practiced attacking dummies placed throughout the battle room, as Dazai followed with a well-directed shot to the head.

Dazai added what worked and what did not to the file, what made Chuuya angry, what made him crow with victory.

They also went out to the arcade and the park several more times, playing all the arcade games, winning and losing at all of them. When they returned, they also played at the console games, fighting and arguing.

Maybe they were also starting to talk to each other, like two boys. Like friends.

"Soon, little chibi, we are going to the summer festival. You will just be an ordinary boy blending in with the crowd, and I will buy us ice cream to eat. We'll enjoy ourselves with everything. We'll eat takoyaki and taiyaki and sherbet and...and...whatever else is good to eat. We'll get some prizes at the games. We'll stare at people. We'll have a great time. Just us. You and me."

"How come it's just you and me?" Chuuya grumbled.

“No reason, but I do want to go to the festival, without being surrounded by men in black suits,” Dazai said. “Don’t forget. We have a date. It’ll be fun.”

#

But the time came that both of them were called into Mori’s large office.

They were oriented about an attack that would involve a lot of their men, several divisions. It was going to be an overpowering attack on a wayward warehouse.

Dazai looked at Chuuya. Chuuya looked at Dazai. Both of them did not know what was going on. Both of them also saw that the other was intrigued.

“This will be a huge operation,” Mori said. “You are going with them. If all other methods fail, or do not create the desired effect.”

Dazai quietly lowered his head. Chuuya looked at Mori with interest, itching to move.

“I expect the best work from you both.”

Both of them bowed.

#

In the darkness of midnight, the men in dark suits surrounded the warehouse at the end of the port. All of them cocked pistols, machine guns, rifles, and other weapons. They hid in the shadows, positioned themselves at the walls.

Dazai watched from a short distance and with binoculars, how people came in and out of the back door of the warehouse, burly men carrying large crates and boxes, other men clearly bringing out weapons.

The information they were given: this warehouse had not acknowledged them, and had not given tribute. For a while, they had given lip service to the mafia, but lately, even that was gone, and they were overtly ignoring mafia collectors. Worse, they were taking protection from elsewhere. But this was an important port. If they were going to lose this warehouse, they were going to lose it with people knowing. Preferably, they were not losing this warehouse, but taking down those who dared oppose, with people knowing.

Chuuya, beside him, grumbled. “We’re not needed in a shakedown like this,” he said.

Dazai also felt this. “There’s something Mori wants to know.”

“About this place, or about me?”

“Both.”

One of the senior executives gave the order that they all heard. “We’re going in.”

A wave of men started moving in all directions, appearing from the shadows. The various weapons were drawn. Some were shot.

Dazai took a deep breath, motioned to Chuuya and his division, and followed.

The mafia took the direct approach, entering by kicking open the front door.

Some pistol shots followed after this, but several return shots felled a few people immediately.

The more senior executive, Aritaka, in his dark suit, his graying hair pulled back, walked straight inside, flanked by other suited men.

“We’re not here to negotiate,” the senior said, as Dazai stood just behind, as Kaiji cackled from a short distance away.

Wait. Head scientist Kaiji of the weird lemon bombs was here?

Dazai’s head spun to Chuuya. Then his eyes rapidly searched out Kaiji. He was protected by the first flank of suited men.

A tall and burly man stepped forward to face Aritaka. “We’re not going to negotiate with the mafia, either,” he said.

“You feel you do not need our protection anymore?”

“How insightful of you,” the representative answered.

The men under the senior executive brought out their weapons, pointed them at the people in front and surrounding them. The warehousemen also took out their weapons, various pistols and other guns.

Dazai had also taken out his pistol. He kept his face in a mask, serious and threatening. But he pulled back. He was new at this, still getting familiar with the trade in death and destruction. Chuuya had readied his body, putting himself in a preparatory attack position. Both of them, in their own ways, were ready for a gunfight.

But while the senior executive gave the usual warning words before the main attack, Kaiji came close and spoke, only loud enough for the smaller boy to hear, but Dazai heard as well, as Kaiji pressed a button hidden by the choker.

“Arahabaki mode, activate.”

Chuuya’s eyes grew blank.

He heard a deep rumbling from Chuuya.

“O grantors of dark disgrace, do not wake me again.”

Chuuya stepped forward, walked in front of even the senior executive, leaving a gap between himself and everyone else. Dazai tried to follow after him but was surprised at how fast that gap widened.

But he was near enough to see Chuuya's body frame brighten with bands of fiery red spiraling through the arms and legs. The fiery red marks also streaked through Chuuya's face.

Chuuya roared, his voice from a deep darkness Dazai had never known existed. He lifted both hands beside him, and as he did so, men and machines rose into the air. Behind him, Dazai heard the sounds of men rapidly pulling back and pulling out weapons. Some had even begun shooting, in panic.

Then Dazai heard a burst of loud, terrible laughter, as machines began to spin around before them in a whirlwind. He also heard so many men shouting from above them, swearing and cursing.

Those were their last words, as they were thrown down to the ground.

Aritaka had been pulled back by his core guards. The men behind them and Dazai, thankfully still alive, began to curse and quake. “What is that...creature!”

Chuuya only cackled and laughed, unearthly and dark, warping steel and wood above them while continuing the whirlwind of objects around them.

Dazai rushed at Kaiji and pulled him down. “What the hell is happening to Chuuya!”

Kaiji turned to him, surprised. “What do you mean? This is incredible, incredible! We have power like this in our hands!”

Dazai tightened the grip. “What is happening to Chuuya? That is not a simple overclocking of the circuits! What is going on that I don’t know?”

Kaiji laughed heartily, as Dazai heard the crunch of bone and the screams of dying men. “We have the power of a death god in our hands! This cyborg has a second layer of circuitry that gives him the powers of a god!”

Dazai’s eyes widened in realization. “You...you used this mission to test that death god mode. To test it at the headquarters would be too dangerous.”

“Like so, young sir!” Kaiji said, still laughing with joy. “Watch! Admire our handiwork! Relish the power the Port Mafia now has!”

But Dazai was frightened instead. He was familiar with death and violence, but this was brutal and reckless. This was not LIKE the power of a god. It was THE power of a god, synthesized into its purest form. The actual secret of the secret government project. A power so uncontrollable that the government abandoned further research.

And now Mori expected him to be able to control such an uncontrollable force.

Dazai forced himself to move. He had to do something, anything. One foot forward, then the other foot, while he watched Chuuya cackle as more bodies fell.

Chuuya, Chuuya. He refused to call him anything else, he refused to say that this was a different mode, a berserker mode, a monster or god mode. This was Chuuya. This was still Chuuya. He just needed to do something, to keep things under control.

So many wooden boxes and weapons and other equipment were flying above them in the terrible whirlwind, as Chuuya kept cackling above the noise, a rumbling from hell. Then the boxes were dropped, with a strange order, on top of the people, crushing them under the weight.

The subordinates started running out of the warehouse, no longer caring that they were leaving their leaders behind.

Dazai forced himself to keep stepping forward. He forced himself to call out.

"Chuuya. Chuuya. You're loud and annoying, but this is clearly not you."

Deeper, dark cackling answered him.

Dazai kept moving. He began to unwind the bandages at his palms. "This is not you."

He reached out with his open palm, activating his nullifiers.

He felt the electric current beginning to charge up, to course through his nerves and into his palms. He felt the electricity powering up into his hands.

He grabbed onto Chuuya's wrist and held on.

Chuuya turned toward him, eyes still unfocused, as he roared in protest.

Dazai sensed the short-circuiting, as more electric charge passed from his hands, and into Chuuya.

Chuuya kept roaring, trying to kick Dazai off him, but Dazai held on, as firmly as he could. "This is not you," he kept saying as the electricity kept passing through him. "I kinda know you now, and this is really not you."

A few more seconds and the loud powerful roars turned into weak groans, as Dazai felt less power pulled from him, at last. He refused to remove his hand from Chuuya's wrist, not until all this extra power was controlled.

The electricity surged from him and into Chuuya, canceling the strong power. The surging hurt his hand and arm, but he needed to do this, or else Chuuya would stay uncontrolled.

He watched as the red fiery lines gradually faded, then disappeared. The surge in his hand stopped.

But as the lines disappeared, Chuuya’s eyes shut, and the smaller boy crumpled at his feet.

His eyes widened. His jaw dropped. He knelt down.

Dazai grabbed the cyborg--no, the boy--he grabbed the boy at the shoulders.

Did he use too much of the surge? Did he short-circuit too much of the systems? Where did he make a mistake? Why was Chuuya unconscious?

There was no sparking anywhere, no fluid spill on the ground, but Chuuya remained unresponsive.

He grit his teeth as he began to shake the boy. He had done wrong by him, used too much power, or forced him to use too much power and now it had been stopped wrongly.

“Chuuya. Oi, chibi. Little cyborg. Wake up. Wake up!”

Some of the foot soldiers began to surge into the warehouse again, shooting all those who remained alive after all that damage. Others were collecting the most valuable of the materials that remained usable: bullets, pistols, rifles. They moved around Dazai who stayed beside Chuuya, waiting for him to wake up.

But the redhaired boy remained silent.

#

Chuuya was brought back to base and immediately lain over a gurney. They quickly wheeled him through the halls, Dazai following after.

Mori watched the commotion with interest from the entrance.

Dazai stopped in front of him. “What happened, sir?”

Mori gave him a smile, unreadable, but victorious. “What, Dazai? You did not know?”

Dazai kept his mask of a face, but grit his teeth. “What do you mean.”

“The end of the berserk mode, when executed, does result in a complete system shutdown,” Mori said.

Dazai kept his eyes on Mori. This was not in the files given to him. This was new information.

“But, do not worry, child,” Mori said, rubbing in the last word. “Our people will be doing systems analysis. He should be fine in no time.”

Dazai stared at him. “When and how was this special mode inserted into him, by the special services?”

Mori smiled, like a father teaching a very young child something very simple. “The Arahabaki core was inserted into his heart core and was connected to his entire system, when he had done enough damage to his body, after all the experiments and his own practicing.”

“But he got too strong to handle, so he was put out of commission. Then you bought him.” Dazai maintained his mask of a face. “You did not warn me this would happen.”

“But, you are in charge of this cyborg. It is your responsibility to know,” Mori crooned.

“One last thing, sir,” Dazai said. “Is he alright?”

Mori shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“What.” Dazai’s heart pounded, while he forced himself to keep the mask.

“Contemplate about your responsibilities, Dazai.”

Mori turned from him and walked in the opposite direction of the medical bay.

Dazai paled.

He felt the world crumble inside him. He had failed someone who had trusted him completely. He did not deserve to continue this project. He did not deserve to be responsible for another life. It did not matter before, but it mattered now.

It did not matter before.

But it mattered now.

Dazai walked straight into the infirmary. He opened a random medicine cabinet, took up a random medicine bottle, and another, and another, not caring which ones they were. He did go to one specific medicine cabinet, and with intention took up a whole bottle of what he knew were sleeping pills. He swiped a bottle of water.

He did not deserve to be alive. He did not deserve to be awake.

He kept walking, looking straight before him, not acknowledging anyone he passed. It was not like they would matter.

He opened the heavy doors of the library.

He found the farthest, darkest, most silent corner, a place familiar to him from previous long hours of reading, but not known by anyone else.

First pill bottle. He took several tablets and downed them with several gulps of water. He opened another pill, took out several tablets, gulped down some water.

He stared at the bottle of sleeping pills, half full. His stomach started to ache. He began to get dizzy.

He took a deep breath.

He could not complete the project. Chuuya would not be a real boy, not now and not ever. Chuuya would have a different handler, either way. He would not be there to see it.

He filled his hand with the capsules, swallowed them in a gulp, drank some water. He filled his hand again, downed those next set of pills again.

Maybe Mori would find him, maybe he would not. Maybe Mori would try to wake him up again, as he has always done, maybe he would not and would throw him out with the trash. Either way, it did not matter.

He felt pain in his gut and his right side, as he quickly felt dizzy and immensely sleepy, as he wanted. He did not have much to say to anybody, anyway. Not even to Chuuya. He....wished him well. That Mori would make the best weapon out of him, that Chuuya would truly be useful to him. And yet he still wished that Chuuya would get to be a boy, not just a weapon.

He would miss the noisy little cyborg boy, the nearest thing he found to a friend in these dark halls. But he was not worthy of him. It was better this way.

He needed to sleep now. Hidden by the shadows, he lay over the carpet and curled up. He closed his eyes. His breathing slowed. His body slackened. He began to sink, deeper, deeper, deeper, into a very heavy sleep. The surroundings disappeared. He was surrounded by nothing, by unconsciousness and sleep. He continued to sink deeply into that nothingness.

But in the midst of the dark, thick heaviness, a voice.

"What have you done, Dazai? Wake up, wake up!"

Noisy, high tenor. Chuuya.

Chuuya.

The boy was alive. Oh.

And the little cyborg had found him.

So ironic. He was making the chibi worry over him, after he had worried so much about him.

But he was sinking deeper and deeper into the darkness. He could not obey. If Chuuya was doing anything, he could not feel any of it, he was becoming too deeply unconscious, too deeply asleep.

"Wake up, Dazai! You did nothing wrong!"

But he could not obey, he was sinking deeper and deeper into sleep and unconsciousness.

He could not feel anything that happened around him. He just knew he was asleep. But because Chuuya was around, he was not going to be dead. Just very asleep.

He heard nothing more, as it was all drowned out.

Chapter Text

His dream state lifted for a few moments. He heard that high tenor just beyond him. "I am here, you stupid mackerel, so wake up."

But afterward, he would drown again, and fell again into dark, heavy, unknowing sleep.

After some time he became aware of being slowly lifted up from sleep, like a rope had been given to hold, to help raise him to consciousness. He felt this along with the recurring voice. "Please wake up already, you mess."

The first few times, he let go of the rope and dropped immediately to deep sleep. But he found himself holding onto the rope, for longer and longer. His practical brain told him this was medicine and the dose was amped up higher and higher until he woke up. His practical brain told him this, but soon after he let go of the rope again and drowned again in sleep.

His eyes began to flutter open, but he was still too tired and drowsy and registered nothing except that insistent nearby voice. "Dazai. Keep your eyes open. Wake up."

He could not obey yet, and did not want to. His eyes shut again, and he drowned, not even seeing Chuuya.

He had no idea how long this had been going on. He was too drowned in a sleep that could have been deadly if it were not for that constant voice over him.

Either way, he did not deserve to be that noisy cyborg's handler. He deserved to stay asleep.

Some time in the drowning he felt a bed under him, a blanket over him, and that insistent voice still near him. Too comfortable a bed for the infirmary. Maybe his own bed. Either way, he was still too sleepy.

He had probably opened his eyes for longer, because the high tenor was speaking loudly from near him. "Thank goodness, you're awake. Are you better? Talk to me!"

He was not awake yet, though, and fell back to drowning.

"Stop blaming yourself!" the voice added. "It wasn't your fault! None of it was your fault!"

... What?

"None of it was your fault. Stuff happened, but it was not your fault, nor mine. Stuff just went out of our control. We'll get better at this. We will."

... What?

"Are you awake now? Get up already, the system scans and body cam recorded the event. Wake up."

But he drowned again, and heard not much else, as bed, blanket, and voice faded away.

"Dazai, oi! Wake up!"

He could not obey yet.

#

There was finally a time when he truly felt the force of Mori's coercion, even on his brain.

He was awake. Too awake.

"I will let you sleep deeply again," his boss said. Mori was too visible, too audible. "Most of the toxins from the multiple overdose have been cleared out of you. The overdose from the sleeping pills has pretty much been cleared out by now. I had you injected with some stimulants, so we can have a proper conversation." He raised a syringe. "But this is pure propofol. If you listen to me for the next few minutes, I will allow you to sleep again, more than 24 hours if you want. Maybe for another week if I do not have a mission for you. But I need you to listen to me. Are we clear?"

It was clear and he understood. The stimulants were rather strong and raced through his heart and brain.

"I still need you. To be the cyborg's handler, and partner."

His voice came out slow, dry, raspy from disuse and tubes into his body. "Partner?"

"At this point, I cannot allow you to abort yourself. I need you to keep the cyborg in line. But also, I need you to partner with him, as an equal."

He kept looking up at him. "How."

"The cyborg is unmatched in speed and power, that is certain. But our enemies are crafty. This is not to say that the cyborg does not have his own intelligence, but that he needs someone to make sure that we do not fall into any traps, and if we do, that someone will help him out of it. Similarly, whether you admit it or not, you need someone to act as your bodyguard, of sorts. Someone who could help you out of the traps our enemies and traitors will set against you."

It was truly not a bad idea, to be partnered with him. He just somewhat disliked the notion that it was being forced on them. "Why."

"Both of you are strong pieces. But you will be stronger, as a unit. The most powerful unit the underworld has ever seen."

Dazai rolled his eyes. Flattery did not work on him too much. Recognition of good work was a better incentive. "You did not tell me. That he had a berserk mode. Why."

"I figured that you would find out soon enough. I did not realize the level of control the cyborg had on his more powerful gifts," Mori simply said.

"You wanted to know...the limit of the nullifiers, as well," Dazai said.

"Yes, you are correct," Mori said. "They can handle the basic mode as well as the berserk mode."

"And if... I was not able to control him?"

"We have other means, you should know that."

Dazai did. But among them was allowing the berserk mode to kill the subject, or killing the subject outright.

"So. It is a done deal," Mori said. It was not a question. It was a declaration. "You and Nakahara Chuuya will work together. As partners."

Dazai let out a deep breath. "Does he know?"

"He will."

"I...have one request."

Mori raised an eyebrow. "What is it?"

"The summer festival. Only us."

Mori frowned. "Two plain-clothes. Moderately close proximity."

"Done," Dazai said.

"You have the weekend of the summer festival," Mori said.

"Noted."

"I will send you back to sleep now. But when you wake up, you will stay awake, and go back to working for me."

Dazai sighed. "Noted."

"How long?"

"One month."

"That is an unsustainable coma."

"Kidding. Two days."

"Done. It was a productive meeting. Good night. I will see you for breakfast. With your partner."

Mori was as good as his word, as the sharp alertness from the stimulants washed away and Dazai dropped hard into heavy unconsciousness, a heavy anesthetic sleep.

#

He felt the anesthetic slowly fade from his system as he slowly lifted from being sleepy, being drowsy. He felt the bed under him, the blanket over him. He was in a hospital nightgown, probably had been in those gowns for days, just changed regularly.

He opened his eyes. He found a ceiling.

He blinked. The ceiling was familiar. He turned and found the wall to ceiling bookshelves. It was definitely his own bed, in his own room.
Everything felt stiff, from lack of movement.

He turned his head the other way, and found a red-haired cyborg.

"Chuuya."

The other boy sighed in relief. "Are you awake now?"

"I... have no choice."

"You're.... you're weird."

Dazai smirked. "How long? Was I asleep?"

Chuuya cringed, and Dazai saw in it all his frightened concern.

"Mori-san told me to wait for you for two days. But before that...many days of watching people stick tubes and things into you, and you resisting everything they were doing, even in your sleep. Did you sense that they really brought you to the hospital?"

Dazai shook his head. He did not know.

"It was...scary. Don't do that stunt again, okay?"

Dazai sighed. "You're... going to stop me?"

"As your designated partner, yes."

Oh. Right. There was that arrangement.

"Also, what the hell. You promised that we'd go see the summer festival thing you were blabbing about. Then you go sleep like the dead on us, on me?"

Dazai sighed. Being dead was the point. It just did not happen partly because Chuuya kept calling him back.

"You kept calling me back," he said. "It failed because you kept calling me back."

Chuuya stared at him, eyes wide. "Oh."

"So. We do get to go see the summer festival. And, we start training as partners."

Chuuya raised an eyebrow. "Are you really...okay with that arrangement? That we're partners?"

Dazai sighed again. "We have no choice. But..."

Chuuya took up both of his hands and pulled him up to sitting. "But, what?"

Dazai felt his back ache, and his head spin. Nonetheless, he answered. "It's not so bad. Being stuck with you."

Chuuya kept pulling, making him get out of bed. "Being stuck with me, huh. Whatever. But don't ever stop me at the wrong time."

"I have...I am responsible for keeping you in line."

"I have orders to keep you alive," Chuuya answered back.

"Okay."

Chuuya pulled him to standing. "I'll get the timing right, so you don't have to stop me. And I'll keep your annoying smart head intact."

"Okay," Dazai said.

"That's it? That's all you'll say?"

Dazai was dizzy. "Yes. Partner." He took a deep breath. "I'm...still collecting the insults to hurl at you, that are not always about your size."

And yet he allowed Chuuya to hold his hand, to walk him around the room, as he gathered things for a bath, then got dressed.

Chuuya allowed him to hold onto his shoulder, as they made their way to the dining hall.

They only separated as they walked into the dining hall, walked its length to reach the end of the long table, where Mori was seated.

Chuuya bent on one knee and placed a hand over his heart. Dazai remained standing, but placed a hand over his heart.

"Ah. My new unit," Mori greeted.

"I hope to be useful," Chuuya said.

"Whatever," Dazai said with a sigh, head still bowed. "Either way, I am here."

"Good," Mori said. "To celebrate this, I agreed that you could go to the summer festival. It would also serve to introduce you to our...supporters."

Chuuya bowed his head again. "Thank you, sir."

Dazai looked sideways toward Chuuya. "Thanks, I guess."

"Alright, kids," Mori said, emphasizing the last word, digging it in. "Please wait for your breakfast to be served here. I have work to do."

Both of them waited until Mori was safely past the door and closed it.

Chuuya then shook his head and Dazai rolled his eyes, as a tray each of a light breakfast arrived in front of them.

“Kids. Who are partners. As a unit.” Dazai said it.

“No one else will question it,” Chuuya said, spearing into a sausage.

“Let’s...just make the most out of it, chibi cyborg.”

“Whatever, suicidal bandaged brainiac.”

“Whatever, partner,” Chuuya emphasized the word.

“Whatever to you back, partner,” Dazai retorted.

But with a grin.

Chapter Text

“Hurry up, you slowpoke, you heavy sleeper!”

Dazai grumbled as Chuuya pulled off the blanket from over him and then tried to pull him off the bed. “A few minutes more…”

“The sun is up, the festival is today! You promised! We were allowed!”

“I know...I know…” Dazai grumbled. “But hasn’t a street kid like you realized that the summer festival is mostly at night? When the stealings are best?”

“It’s almost noon, you bamboo pole!” Chuuya grumbled. “I’m done with all my drills and all my practicing, and you’re still asleep!” Chuuya tugged at him again. “Lunch, then we go out!”

Dazai smiled quietly. “Look who’s so excited to go out now, a chibi cyborg.”

“I am NOT little!”

“Well, you are, if you think about it…”

Chuuya activated some of his gravity control, finally managed to lift Dazai off the bed, then dropped him with a gentle thud onto the carpeted floor. Chuuya then pulled him up to stand. “Shower, now!”

Dazai sighed and rubbed his tousled hair, as he was pushed into the bathroom.

#

Chuuya grumbled at his kimono. He had rolled up the sleeves to his shoulders, revealing most of his robotic arms. As he had also chosen one of the shorter kimono, even for his size, his legs were also quite visible. He kept peeking at his sandals, comfortable to walk in, but he kept being awkward at his kimono.

Dazai, on the other hand, kept his limbs generally covered by his usual dark suit, his bandages peeking through what was visible of his neck, wrists, and ankles. He probably looked quite handsome, despite the bandages, if all the side glances by all the girls they passed were any indication. But he was not interested, at least today. He was with Chuuya today.

The stalls were all in place and doing brisk business with the crowds filling the closed-down street. The street was now filled with humans, androids, and cyborgs of all sizes and shapes, all enjoying the festival in some way. Dazai and Chuuya were ignored, as yet two younger people on the street.

Chuuya started to weave in and out, peeking at each of the stalls, watching at things to eat, things to play at, things to do.
Dazai smiled and let him be, watching from a short distance. He also glanced once in a while at the three plain-clothes agents Mori sent along with them, keeping a respectful distance from them, enjoying what they could of the event.

He was alive to be here.

He was alive.

He was alive, with Chuuya.

He was still comprehending this fact when Chuuya came back up beside him.

“Hey.”

Chuuya pulled Dazai and led him toward an empty table. “Stay there and keep our seat and table, okay.”

“Okay,” Dazai said dutifully, still somewhat dazed.

He waited at the table near a tree, where the festival lanterns were strung and swung with the gentle evening breeze. He watched the lanterns rock back and forth.

He was alive.

He was alive.

Chuuya returned with more food than he should have. Takoyaki and dumplings and mochi and gyoza and...was that taiyaki?

“Eat, you hopeless bamboo pole,” Chuuya declared.

“How...did you pay for all this?” Dazai asked.

“Mori gave us money!” Chuuya crowed.

Dazai chuckled. Mori knew that Chuuya was better won over with compliments and rewards, rather than threats and manipulation. It was fair. “Good for us,” was all he said.

He watched as Chuuya happily dug and bit into everything and relished all the food. His robotics allowed him to eat and generally replicate human digestion.

“How does everything even taste to you?” Dazai did ask.

“Mechanical,” Chuuya admitted. “But when it’s tasty, I know.”

“Well, if you say so,” Dazai said, quietly munching on a mochi.

“Dazai.”

He raised his head and turned to Chuuya. He noticed again the fiery hair, the lively face, the bright eyes. “Hm?”

“Don’t worry about me.”

“Huh?”

Chuuya glared at him. “You keep looking like I’d hate it being stuck with you and stuck with the mafia.”

“Well...do you? Hate it?”

“Stuck with you? I’m still thinking. But being stuck with the mafia? Nah.”

Dazai raised an eyebrow. “That was...new.”

“What? You get a bed. You get food. You get people under you. You get jobs to do. You don’t have to always worry about the next minute, the next meal.”

“Oh. I see.”

“Coddled pet,” Chuuya grumbled.

“Street robot,” Dazai retorted.

“I hate that you wake up so late.”

“Stop pulling me out of bed.”

“Stop waking up so late!”

“Stop overusing all your circuits and parts!”

“You’re an annoying partner.”

“So are you.”

They pouted at each other.

Then they stared at the remaining food.

They stared at each other.

They grinned.

Then they laughed.

“We’ll make this mess work,” Dazai said, chuckling.

“Somehow,” Chuuya said, laughing heartily.

END