“You’ve got shot before?” small talk. As he had learned from his mother when he fell on the ground and scratched his knees open and the tears wouldn’t stop tumbling down his cheeks.
After finding an entry and a nice flat somewhere on the fourth floor Kaoru and Toshiya had sat down in the bathroom. There were tiles and a floor already, some built-in tap and a shower with a bathtub, the kitchen was finished too. It seemed as if the construction company wanted to get it done best before August when the people had used their summer break to get everything ready for moving.
“Just cut the sleeve off, I won’t need that shirt anymore!” Kaoru growled as he saw that Toshiya was holding back, not knowing where to really start.
“Right…” breathing out once more Toshiya tightened his grip around the pocketknife and cut off the fabric around the arm seams, lifting Kaoru’s arm gently. The fabric was drained in blood already and dripped over Toshiya’s fingers as soon as he put it next to his feet on the floor. Standing next to Kaoru, he took a handful water that he had filled the sink with. At least the water was already running, but no electricity. The moon shining in from the outside was good enough to make out where the wound started, even if the dark tattoos were a bit tricky to figure it out immediately.
Cold water splashed down over Kaoru’s arm, spilled the bathtub in bright red drops. Another handful water, a gentle rub over his tensed up shoulder.
“You okay?” Toshiya checked, noticed the stern look, those black eyes staring past him, focusing on the wall behind him.
“Sure, never felt better in my life.” Kaoru joked to himself, gritted his teeth again as another rub followed.
“Cool tattoos by the way.” Now, that the blood was washing off Toshiya had a better look at the tattoos. They were colourful actually, some funky and spooky motives were drawn on the skin, delicate patterns disappearing under the shirt.
“Are you… are you a yakuza?” he asked curious, hadn’t seen this man before. Toshiya himself wasn’t that new in the business and had already met a good bunch of people. The bad guys, the shady guys, the really bad guys. He had also met Kyo once in his life, as he was passing him by in a street, his gaze hidden behind sunglasses, obviously staring far into the distance and not giving a shit about teenage-Toshiya.
“Shit, kid, how old are you? Stop talking and pull that bullet out already!” Kaoru whined with a frustrated growl, felt numbness in his fingers. The bad kind of numbness that didn’t come from alcohol or sleeping in a weird position, squeezing himself.
“Fuck you! I’m 25!” and with that Toshiya didn’t hold back anymore and pinched into the wound with his knife, pulled out the bullet with one precise movement. Immediately blood flushed out of the wound and Toshiya pressed his hand over it to stop the bleeding.
“YOU are the one acting like a bratty teenager. Did you want to go home with this and take care of it yourself?!” he snorted repellent, felt attacked by Kaoru’s behaviour when he was actually helping him.
“I mean how old are YOU? Something between 35 and 38? You should KNOW that you’d be better off in a hospital or at a real doc?!” – “I look like what? 35??”
Toshiya let go of the wound, took another handful water to wash off the blood. Kaoru had some little first aid kit with him and there happened to be a needle and some medical thread. So he was no stranger to stitching himself up or taking care of his wounds. The disinfection gel came handy now too as Toshiya thought and he got some on his fingers to dab them around the shredded edges before he’d start stitching the wound together. Deserved him right, he thought as he felt Kaoru flinching back at the stinging pain of the disinfection on an open wound.
“I’m 29!” he complained with a rather coarse voice, making Toshiya smile now in satisfaction. Really served him, to stop bitching around and treating him like a child.
“You look like shit.” He added and took up the needle and the thread, kneeled down next to Kaoru now. Staring down from his sitting position on the bathtub, Kaoru only rolled his eyes: “Well, I got shot for your information!”
After finishing a rather curse-filled treatment Toshiya put on some light bandages so no dirt would come onto the fresh wound and gave Kaoru some minutes to wash his face and the rest of his arm. Standing at the kitchen sink, Toshiya cleaned his hands, his nails, very thoroughly. As his mother always showed him.
Hopefully she wouldn’t be awake when I come back, Toshiya thought but in that second he heard a gun behind him being reloaded and unlocked. The water kept flushing over his fingers, but he didn’t dare to move them. Was he really going to shoot him now?
Slowly, really slowly Toshiya turned his head towards Kaoru and immediately he laughed out and turned off the water.
“What?!” Kaoru hissed, was confused over that behaviour.
“I just… For a second I thought you’re gonna shoot me!” Toshiya shook his head, wiped off his wet hands on his jeans and walked up to Kaoru. He was counting the bullets in his magazine, putting them into the pockets of his jeans.
“Nah, I’m not that kind of man.” He simply said and then looked up to Toshiya.
Dark brown, so many shades and layers of them behind the ash blond hair. The moon light showed a softer tone, something kind in his eyes that made Toshiya step closer. The contrast to his skin tone, the dark tattoos, the bright hair, it was irritating in one way, but fascinating in another way.
“Thanks for that.” He nodded, jerked his arm slightly to let Toshiya know that he was referring to the treatment. Even if he wanted to bitch around and complain and told him to speed up, he was thankful for him to stick around and help him with that.
“Just a scratch!” Toshiya waived it off with Kaoru’s words, offered him a smile.
“You gonna be okay out there, kid?” lifting his chin in a sassy manner Kaoru grinned back, watched the younger man rolling his eyes. He was young, too young probably for this all. Hot-headed, impatient. But he liked that side, kind of. There were too little out there, who would be so reckless but go through the whole bullshit.
“Fucker, of course!” Toshiya snorted. For a moment he hesitated, knew that this was the moment he should leave that flat, the moment Kaoru would also get his things and leave. Or crash for a nap and then get going.
“Hey…!” with that he slipped out of his own shirt, pushed it down his arms and handed it to Kaoru who took it with a rather concerned look. Toshiya was of course wearing a black tank top underneath, so he wouldn’t go home naked, or at least with a bare chest. But it was a rather uncommon gift, not unpleasant though. The fabric was soft, smooth.
By the time, Toshiya had walked out of the flat, Kaoru still was staring at the door, wondering about that man. Quickly he wriggled himself out of his torn and one sleeved shirt and lifted up Toshiya’s. It was still warm when Kaoru put it on, closed the buttons. It smelled… strange. His fingers didn’t smell like cigarettes anymore. The collar was a bit damp, from running around and walking in that misty sewage system. Kaoru didn’t mind, for once didn’t mind having this different smell going up his nose and accompanying him all the way to his little hiding base. And even there, he straight up went to his mattress, pushed his shoes and jeans off and sank into the pillows and blankets and let the night ease his pain and recharge his energies.
A weird feeling surrounded Kaoru when he woke up the next day. Not only did his skin twitch and sting from the fresh wound, the shirt he found himself in was wrapping around his body tightly, too tightly. Twisting and rolling on his back he picked on the shirt, sighed deeply. It was so wide that it had wrapped itself around his torso. With still half-closed eyes he lifted his hands to the collar and started to unbutton the shirt. His chest was lifting rhythmically, his heart was racing. Through parted lips he let the air flow out of his mouth. It was too warm and dry in here, his gums started to dry up, made him click his tongue and grab for the nearest bottle of water that was somewhere around his bed. Or not.
Opening his eyes fully, Kaoru sat up and searched for a bottle in the room, his eyes still needing more minutes to adjust to the darkness.
Getting fresh water down his throat helped him wake up more and more, even if there was a massive headache already starting to set in. Maybe he should visit Momo for a massage today to get the tension off from his shoulders. The fresh wound wasn’t really a nice gift from yesterday night and for sure the main trigger for his tensed up muscles.
After hitting the shower Kaoru poured himself some coffee in a cup and got back to his work table, took out the prints he had stored in one of the table’s legs. Some days he was proud of himself, to be such a perfectionist when it came to hiding and blurring his paths, other days it was exhausting and costed him every last nerve he still had.
Today, it was for the latter. He still had to get rid of his old jacket and any traces that he might have overlooked at night. Folding out the map he let his eyes wander over the lines. Tunnels, doors, secret chambers, additional information about electricity supply and further ways, smaller paths – the map was already a few years old but enough for Kaoru to find out which way they had taken yesterday to end up so far in the city centre. Although it seemed as if it was a rather rural area, little traffic and only a few shops around, it was directly in the heart of Tokyo. A businessman, Hiro Jakuv, had bought a large area there some years ago but had been quiet since then. The flat complexes and shops were still running, nothing had really changed. Slowly but steadily though the amount of people living there had changed. No new tenants followed the old ones that either moved away or died at old age so this thinning out went unnoticed for months, almost two years. Only until Kaoru’s brother Ren mentioned that the electricity and water consumption had shrunk down by half.
Now, is was abandoned and a new construction company had started to rebuild the flat complexes, had built up a completely new one just where Kaoru and Toshiya happened to crash in the middle of the night.
Planning out a route from his base to that flat Kaoru got his coffee down and then got up to dress himself and get going to erase any last remnants of his stay there last night.
Of course Toshiya’s mother asked him when he came back, where he had been to, whom he had met. Where his shirt happened to get lost.
A girl – Yuzu really loved to mock him. Rolling his eyes over his cousin’s childish comment on where he had been, Toshiya picked up the newspaper again and hid his face behind it. A girl, not really. Even if Kaoru was probably a few centimetres shorter than Toshiya’s last… girlfriend? Or at least that last girl he had seen some months ago. He seemed nothing girly or feminine.
An ice cold shiver ran down Toshiya’s spine as he thought about how close they had gotten yesterday, how weird it had felt getting squeezed and pushed into this small corner, being told to shut up or to run, getting ordered around. That flight second of panic when he thought Kaoru would blast off his head after patching him up.
“Ma?” interrupting his cousin from blurting more ambiguous comments on Toshiya’s adventure, Toshiya lifted the newspaper even further up, hid his face as he felt heat building up in his cheeks. If the skin around the tattoos would heal nice? They looked good, fitting for someone like him.
“How mad would you be if I told you I used my new shirt to strangulate someone?” Oh, stakes, interesting! The software company Toshiya had invested in a few months ago was doing well. He should get his part soon and get the money flowing in his business sooner or later. A high pitched gasp made both young men lay the newspaper down and glance over to the woman, that was standing at the oven, preparing breakfast.
“Did you really kill someone?!” Yuzu asked now, got curious. His little cousin hadn’t killed anyone since he got his first gun, so this rather blunt approach was a bit a surprise.
“Did you get rid of the shirt? I mean, you burnt it or bleached it?” Toshiya’s mother turned around swiftly and stared at her youngest son.
“Well um,…” – “Oh fuck, no! Really?! Beginner’s mistake Totchi!” Yuzu blurted out loud, let his head fall back in his neck. Toshiya rolled his eyes, waived it off as a joke. Just a joke, no traces, he had gotten rid of all evidence of course.
Fuck fuck fuck, he was really in a fix!
That shirt had probably hair from him on it, and now, that stranger had it, could do anything with it. He had to find him, to get his shirt back, or best, burn it down. With himself, he really messed up and made a beginner’s mistake and Toshiya felt like kicking himself in the butt for messing up such a tiny detail when he, in fact, just wanted to be friendly.
“So you can help me with the computer set up later?”
Of course, of course Toshiya could help him with the computer set up. He had time, where did he want to go to anyway? There was nothing to do later, no evidence to get rid of, right?
“Sure!” he smiled back at Yuzu and lifted up the newspaper, bit his lip once more. He SO needed to get back to that flat.
“Hey… where you going?” Toshiya just. could not leave the house today, he should have known better. After his comment on the whereabouts of his shirt in the morning his cousin had made him sit down almost the whole day for helping him with the computer set up. The new software needed a run through, some scans had to get done, change of IP addresses and all the things Toshiya could already do completely wasted and half asleep without even looking at the screen.
“Buying cigarettes, don’t tell ma!” Toshiya rolled his eyes and tugged in his collar, put on sunglasses even if it was late at night already. Hopefully he’d find a trace to this other guy, Toshiya had almost forgotten his name. Almost.
“Really?! What brand you smoke?” Yuzu asked, had never seen his cousin smoking. Even though everyone in this family smoked, hell, even Toshiya’s mother smoked while cooking or ironing the clothes!
Kaoru, almost it slipped Toshiya’s mouth. He had no idea about cigarettes and it was the first name that popped up in his mind. Rolling his eyes, he stepped out on the staircase, put his hands in the pockets of his jeans. It was fresh, smelled like rain. The night sky was clouded, a faint mist concealed the streetlamps. Should he get in again to grab for a rain jacket or an umbrella? No, he’d forget it anyway.
“None of your business…” Toshiya growled lowly and got going. Passing the garden and the neighbours’ house Toshiya made his way all up to the harbour, watched people with umbrellas under their arms pass him by. They were chatting nicely, going for a walk after dining out in one of those super fancy and expensive restaurants that lined up at the quay and lit the water like fairy lights. One day, Toshiya swore to himself, he’d take out a girl to a nice dinner here, propose to her, get her an expensive ring from Tiffany’s or whatever. He’d slide his credit card to the waiter – oh no, you’d get a fold to put the card in? Or he’d just walk in, eat, and walk out, the restaurant being his own. He’d own the whole quay.
“Hey, watch out kiddo!” bumping into the shoulder of a passer-by made Toshiya stumble for a second. Turning around and watching the back of that guy increasing in the distance, he blinked a few times. Where did his mind drift off these days again?
He’d tell his mother all those stories, his dreams for the future. And now, they began implanting themselves in his very own mind already. No, he really wasn’t too fond of the idea of owning restaurant chains, building up an empire in the gastronomy sector. He’d also never get married.
Huffing out in frustration Toshiya sped up until he reached the last landing stage of the quay. Two streets further was an entry to the subway system over a small sewage way. He could follow the subway line until he was close to that flat complex, then find the route to the flat by following the same path they had taken yesterday night. Toshiya had found a few old maps from his father that he used to figure out the best route. Maybe it was a bit of a cumbersome and long way and he would be off the whole night. But at least he could decrease any chance of getting followed or someone finding out his ways. There were too many options, too many sideways he could use to hide if he were to meet someone else down here.
Slipping into the road where his preferred entry was, Toshiya looked around – nothing. Quickly he approached the manhole, lifted it up and slid down the ladder, shoved the cover back to its original place.
Wrangling the memories and his dreams, figuring out what year it was and where he was, Kaoru opened his eyes again, felt a burning pain in his shoulder. The massage didn’t help in any way, only made it worse and was a waste of time. Time, he wanted to use better.
To get rid of any evidence that he could have missed out yesterday night after leaving that place rather worn out.
The complex was quite nice per se – the surroundings had some good hiding spots that Kaoru could use as second operation base from that flat where he crashed last night. He could also use that flat as decoy and work from one of the other buildings? Two old shops had basements and maybe Kaoru could find a way to build a path from one of them to the flat complex or to another building outside the area. The subway and sewage system canals were tight in the heart of Tokyo and it would be an easy job to find connections and work his own ways down here.
Finishing his cigarette Kaoru got up and let his eyes glide over the area – a good spot, really. He could see to the skyscrapers down in the business district but also had a good view at the harbour and the smaller, more rural areas. How could this estate slip from his sight back then? Maybe, this deal had went down much earlier, before Kaoru came back again to Tokyo. What a weird time back then…
The cigarette butt was pressed onto the pavement, put into a little metallic pillbox that held no pills for the last decades but was somehow a remnant of Kaoru’s past. A last piece that reminded him of an old friend. With a deep satisfied sigh he walked up to the door and made his way down the staircase to the flat on the fourth floor.
Not good. Kaoru had put a tiny scrap of the plastic foil from the cigarette packaging underneath the door gap. There were windows built in, not open, so no breeze could have blown it away. It also wasn’t shimmering or reflecting, was literally invisible for an untrained eye. Even Kaoru himself didn’t see it from a few metres distance as he checked on it before he had left yesterday.
If that brat came back again –
Hot air was streaming out of Kaoru’s nose as he approached the door and lifted his hand to the knob.
Pitch black hair, the back crooked, bowed forward, face tilted to the side to look out of the window. At the sliding of the door the body turned around, revealed the young man’s face and a small automatic gun.
“Put it away kid.” Kaoru commanded as wide eyes stared back at him, confusion and a slight look of panic and shock written all over the face.
“Fuck…” Toshiya sighed deeply, bent his knees a few centimetres as the sudden shock made his shoulder and legs tense up. Clicking the gun back in secure he watched Kaoru closely, if the other didn’t wear a gun or any other weapon with him and just wanted to irritate Toshiya with this move to be in advantage.
“What the hell are you doing here?!” he asked repellent, watched him strolling through the flat like a tiger looking for prey. And there, a few metres next to the oven he found his missing piece. Lifting up the thin foil, he held it in front of his face towards Toshiya: “Could ask you the same.”
Putting his little indicator, actual garbage, in the back pocket of his jeans, Kaoru kept on combing the flat for any last hints of their stay. The bathroom didn’t smell of chlorine anymore, there were no residues of his blood in the tile joints, nor any thread pieces from his cut apart shirt.
“Did you clean up?” Kaoru asked as he stepped out of the bathroom and opened the door to another room. A bedroom it seemed, it was large and had a nice view. Tall windows stretched from the floor up to the ceiling, but no direct sun would be an annoying factor if actual tenants would rent this flat.
“No? Did you?” Toshiya followed him into the room, his hands on his hips, the pinky finger touching his gun. Kaoru turned around, nodded, watched the young man. He looked exhausted and as if he got wet. Or went through the sewage canals again. But there were no traces from dirty or wet shoes, so that was another good factor.
“After you left. Got rid of the stains in the bathroom.” Kaoru explained coldly. Why was he here? Why did he come back? Passing him by now, Kaoru unintentionally ducked his head, felt small and greasy for a splint second.
“This is not your flat, isn’t it?” Toshiya asked and followed Kaoru back into the kitchen, watched his back. No gun at his belt? Was he wearing one in his boots or in the chest pocket of his jacket? Or was he – no, for a bullet proof vest his waist was too slim.
“And neither yours as far as I know.” Black eyes, pitch black, were darting at Toshiya, calling him out for being too nosy, too intrusive. He felt like a little boy again, getting scolded by his father for looking through his papers or playing at his work table.
It made him sick. Thinking about this commanding tone made him sick, thinking about his father made him sick. Thinking about the man that killed his father made him sick and angry and he wanted to scream and tear everything apart.
“What is YOUR business with Kyo? Are you also trying to get him?” he asked, louder and colder than intended. But he was too worked up from yesterday night’s events and that this guy here interfered with his observations.
Turning his whole body now towards Toshiya, Kaoru arched his eyebrows, was quickly able to find the connection and how he jumped to that question.
“Hey kid, you seriously need to watch your tongue!” he tried to cool him down, was too tired for this conversation and didn’t want that brat to spill anything to anyone he might know. Maybe he would be better off with just disappearing again for some weeks and waiting, staying put for some more time.
“Don’t call me a fucking kid!” Toshiya burst wrathful, flinched, fists clenched in anger. Kaoru just squinted his eyes, saw so much hurt and frustration coming from him. How his body moved, how rigid he stood there, a deep frown between his brows. He too was waiting, waiting for years to make moves. But maybe, he was still too young, too unexperienced.
“Good, Toshiya then.” He stated now with a calmer voice, cooled himself down.
He was so young, that was probably why they had never met. Why Kaoru knew his name, but Toshiya didn’t know him.
“Wh- From where do you know my name?!”
A cold, ice cold feeling soaked everything up in Kaoru. It was like an ice burn on skin and he didn’t know what would help, cooling or applying a bit heat. Releasing, rolling his shoulders to get the tension off, Kaoru took a deep breath, closed his eyes.
If Toshiya was starting to do his moves, Kaoru had to either be faster than him, or stay back and use every opportunity he’d give him with leaving unintentional openings. Yesterday night was a great deal and he was glad, that by just sitting there and trying to observe Shinya’s manor, Toshiya had attracted a bunch of henchmen that were guarding the manor. It probably wasn’t such a big loss for Kyo, but it was a warning.
“Yeah… I’m ALSO trying to get him.” Kaoru stressed the words, called Toshiya out for the way he had put his question. Unclenching his fists, he nodded, took some more breaths to calm down again. Whoever this man was, he was not to underestimate. Toshiya had a weird feeling about him and he could always trust his guts.
“He’s tough, right?” he tried to get the conversation in a more neutral way, but apparently put himself out again. Kaoru offered him a tired smile: “You’ve ever met him?”
“I’m just…” he waved it off, didn’t want to explain himself to Kaoru. After all he was a stranger and he’d by best wouldn’t see him again. It was for the better for both probably. To not accidently shoot off each other or get into the way of dealing with business.
“I know… everyone’s trying to get him.” Kaoru pressed his lips together. If Toshiya too had started to make his move, he was rather sooner than later in trouble of running out of time. He couldn’t waste more time than he already had done those past years.
“You should stay away from him if your life is dear to you!” offering him a playful smirk, Kaoru let his hand slide into his pocket. The foil was still there, he didn’t lose it while running around in the flat.
“YOU should stay away from ME!” Toshiya added with an angry voice, tried to sound convincing and scary. It only made Kaoru arch his brow, grin at him. It sounded like a little kid trying to be serious while looking adorable with ice cream smeared all over its cheeks.
“Where’s my shirt actually? Do you have it?” he asked before he wanted to head back home. For just buying cigarettes he sure was out long.
“Burnt it down with the rest.” Kaoru huffed playfully and walked up to the door, held it open for Toshiya to leave too. If this was, what made the younger one come back, then all things were said.
“You should actually stay away from me. If I see you again, you could lose your life before you even get to kill Kyo.”