Chapter 1: (prologue)
Sometimes, I think I see you out there. Then, my heart skips a beat, two beats, I can’t breathe properly and feel like drowning in the masses, desperately trying to catch your glance. I row and row through the stream of strangers passing me, but only for me to realize, that it is just the same jacket, that you once put over my shoulders when it was in the middle of the night and I was freezing and was too stubborn to go back in because I didn’t want to talk with you.
Sometimes I want to call after you. What would the people around me think, if there would be no response? I could laugh it off, say that I forgot to put on my glasses. As you did ever so often, frowning deeply, trying to focus.
There’s days, I think I would never see you again. I feel lost then, alone. Even when I sit with Die and we laugh and chat. My smile doesn’t reach my eyes, the words melt away in the fire that is burning in me. I guess, no amount of water could extinguish this fire that is slowly killing me from me inside. The air is hot then, dense. I can’t concentrate on anything anymore, mess up even the easiest of tasks. The blaze licks on old wounds that you ripped open and never cared to look after. You left me bleeding. But I guess, that is just fair? I’m not a child anymore, I should be able to take care of myself. Maybe, you knew that I was stronger than I thought.
There’s been days, I felt your presence, so vividly that it shook me to my very core and sent an ice cold shiver down my spine even on the hottest day of July. It’s those days, I can’t sleep and need routine. I feel odd, off, as if you tilt a frame two millimetres. It’s those days, I sit alone and fill the silence with words. I tell you stories about the past months. As if you would be present, because I for sure believe, that you are near. Maybe you hear me. When my mind is clear and I can put my feelings into words without sounding as if I would blame you on the miserable situation I feel I am in.
Sleepless nights, I can’t even think of a time where I last found a decent night rest. I feel the coldness around me, the lack of you. It’s those nights, I wake up in cold sweat, gasping for air, tears blurring my sight as I try to figure out where I am, the night lamp showing the mess I made with the blankets that I meticulously put around my body before I close my eyes. I can’t count the nights I woke up like this, it would make a good statistic, huh?
The hours where I can finally escape from reality, make it only worse when the daylight wakes me up. It’s not even cruel nightmares that haunt me. I dream of you, of us. About the endless bickering, the cheerful evenings, the tension. I dream about your hands, that flowed down my body as shivers ran down my spine and I had to close my eyes because I thought this wasn’t real. Now I wish I would have let my eyes open. To remember the look on your face, how you traced my silhouette with your eyes, your lips.
By the time I wake up, it feels like a cruel nightmare. A reminder, sitting in the back of my head, pounding memories, scraps of conversations, in my mind.
By the time I wake up, I don’t know where I am most mornings. Ah, yes, Die’s house. Somewhere, down the main part, in one of his guestrooms. If you have stayed here too? I would have wanted to know more about you. But you know, the past is history, you always said.
Some mornings, when I still try to find my way out of the fog of memories, I’m not sure anymore if I dreamed of you or my mind replayed a memory once again. I feel like I lose grip on those things.
This is why I’m afraid, but also looking forward to closing my eyes. So I can be with you again, even if it is just my mind tricking me, lulling me with sweet images only for me to wake up alone, my hands cramping around the pillow, unable to wipe away my tears. By the time I wake up, I wash off the last remnants of the night. You always did this, when we were together. Now, all I’m left with is just the greasy sweat, I can take care of that by myself. Until I feel like a somewhat decent being again, I shove the pictures away, drain out your voice by the sound of the shower.
You became a dream, that I can’t quite remember by the time the first rays of sunlight creep into this room.
So many things started to merge together, I feel like I lost grip of time. Did I ever tell you, that I liked the blue jacket on you? Or that your hands were warm, comforting, when you showed me how to handle an automatic gun without being pushed back by the recoil?
Did I ever tell you, how much I loved it, waking up next to you?
I guess this is the worst part. Not even for the time where my eyes are closed and images of us haunt me. But for facing the next day without you. I dread the hours my mind tries to stay in this reality, fill them with work. As long as my body has energy, I run around and keep myself busy, when I sit down, I keep my head busy. Die is proud of me I guess? It is but a mere façade that I’m trying to keep upright. You’d see through my bullshit in not even a second.
Your skilled eyes would notice all the fatigue of the past months. So, maybe it is for the better, that you don’t come back, that you don’t see me like this. Maybe you would laugh about it, tell me a stupid joke and then kiss me so I would close my eyes and can drown in you again.
Maybe it’s stupid, you would call me childish and sappy, but sometimes I go back to the closet, in the darkest corner. There’s your jacket, on a hook, right next to mine. It still smells from gunpowder, cold cigarette smoke and your aftershave. It smells of all the nights you put it around my shoulders when I was cold, it smells of all the nights I put it around my shoulders because it was cold without you. Some days, I run my fingertips over the seams, as you ran your fingertips over my chest ever so often. You know, there’s one seam that ripped on that day. The thread was cut off, hangs loose on it. The other end of the thread is stuck somewhere on the inside, lost in the inner lining probably.
Ironic, huh? I’m out there, bare, still holding out my arms while you merged into the darkness.
Were we two lines, that at some point crossed ways? I’m still looking back, behind me, trying to see where you went. But it’s dark, and I don’t know if I’m dreaming when I see you, or if I would one day wake up again with you next to me.
Chapter 2: tis but a scratch
A really nice manor – Toshiya stared at the trees already for over thirty minutes. Still, nothing. No lights, no cars, no movement at all. Sighing again he slid on the park bench, nervous. What if they had already spot him, creeping around, lurking here without even doing anything? His father had been right, he should have started smoking or something. A reason to go out, to stick around for some time. Something that you can share with someone, a simple treat. But Toshiya had always disliked cigarette smoke and hated it when his father came home from one of his business meetings and reeked from hard liquor and cold cigarette smoke.
So, the more irritating and frustrating it was, as a stranger passed him, a strong cloud of fresh cigarette smoke fogged his sight, made him squint his eyes. The irony…
Pressing the air out through his nose, Toshiya blinked against the smoke and tried to stay calm. He wasn’t here to get into action right away, but he could have a bit more action. Paperwork had damned him behind the table anyway for the past months and he was by now already old enough to go on missions by himself. He was no child anymore as much as his mother plead him to stay in the house. As long as the murderer of his father was out there alive, Toshiya wouldn’t sit still for one day. All he had done the last years, was working on figuring out how to kill him.
He knew everything he needed. Where he lived, where he worked, who worked close with him, what kind of arms he got, the security system to the manor.
But one thing, he didn’t know, hadn’t taken in account.
“You smoke?” there he was, again. That stranger from just earlier. Toshiya looked up at him, squinted his eyes against the bright light of the street lamp.
“No?!” he shot back repellent and then let his gaze wander off again, followed the trees of the avenue.
“You should… if I may.” And with that the other man sat down right next to Toshiya, fuelled his frustration even more. He was on a mission and wanted to observe at least! Angry and disturbed by the intrusive behaviour, Toshiya crossed his arms over his chest, tried his best to ignore him. But that guy was really not being easy with him.
“Look-“ – “No, YOU look!”
Dark brown eyes stared back at him, almost pitch black without the street lamp. Furiously huffing hot air out of his lungs, Toshiya leaned forward on his knees and pressed his hands together.
“Get lost!” he growled lowly, wanted to have a bit peace of mind. Nevertheless, that other one apparently wanted to bug him even more. Taking another cigarette from his pack, he leaned back on the bench, lit it slowly. As if he had all time in the world. And it made Toshiya even angrier.
Taking in every so insignificant motion, he sat there and watched Toshiya. A young man, a few years younger than him probably. Still a child, soft features, too much emotions painted in his face. Impatience.
“You won’t see anything tonight.” He spoke lowly, blew some more smoke into the cool night air.
“What?!” anger and impatience, so clear in his voice, that a chuckle crept over his lips too.
“I’ve been watching you for the past half hour already. Don’t get me wrong, pretending to go out for a phone call is nice, but loud and very conspicuously!”
It was an easy trick to flee from unpleasant situations but not for long time observations.
“Tsk… and what do YOU recommend? Smoking a fag that’s done in 3 minutes?” Toshiya shot back, turned around to face that stranger. Had he ever seen him before? He had prominent, flashy tattoos on his hands where the cigarette lighted up, he’d recognize them.
“Cigars do the thing for about ten minutes? Or, simply, a book. Not an ebook, too bright and not so easy for your eyes to switch.” A mocking tone in his voice fuelled Toshiya’s anger even further. He wanted to scream at him, shove him off the bench. But, he was no teenager anymore, where he had done this so often with his brothers when they mocked him about girls or not hitting the centre of the target during training.
“A book? At night?” Toshiya deadpanned him and felt fooled by him. Grinning again, he laid his head in his neck and blew the smoke up in the air, letting the street lamp shine on his face. Of course, park benches were near lamps.
“Or enjoy lunch time here, to not make it so obvious!” and with that he left again, the cigarette butt pressed underneath his boots as he walked off again.
It bugged Toshiya, so much, that he got up and stepped forward a few metres only to hear his shoes squeak too loud: “Hey! You can’t just throw that down on the pavement!?”
The grin on his face was the only bright spot that Toshiya could make out so late at night, in the darkness of the avenue. Was this man messing with him on purpose?
Going back again, the stranger passed Toshiya, slowly, dreading.
“You’re really making a fuss out of this. Now we’re being watched.” He whistled, bowed down to the small stump and went over to a manhole cover and tossed it in one of the tiny openings.
“Good job.” The grin was gone within a second. Something dark and, dangerous if Toshiya would let his emotions speak, gloomy was coming off him. Ducking down, he was even smaller now, he passed Toshiya and sped up until he was almost merging with the darkness.
How did he figure out that they were being watched?
Clicking his tongue, as he already stood there and was too giddy to sit down, Toshiya turned around and walked straight in the other direction. Just away from that weirdo.
Speeding up rather unintentionally Toshiya found himself at the end of the avenue faster than he wanted to. The trees were slowly dancing in the faint wind, it was dark and silent. Too silent all of a sudden.
“You really can’t watch your back, right?” cigarette smoke, a hot breath against his neck that sent an ice cold shiver down his spine. The sudden grip on his shoulder made Toshiya gasp for air. With a strong hold and a precise movement Toshiya got turned around, faced another direction. Those black eyes from before were now staring past him, were too close, too cold.
“Fuck, let me g-“ before the sentence was finished an automatic gun pressed itself on Toshiya’s shoulder, the trigger got pulled. Not even the faint recoil made the other flinch back. It was only until Toshiya grabbed for his hand and pulled it away, twisted the wrist so he could get a hold of the gun. But before that could happen he sank down with an exhausted huff, stinging pain set in and spread from the stomach area.
“Are you serious now?!” the stranger asked in a rather mocking tone as if he were a teacher and watched his pupil doing the same mistake after just explaining it.
Moving fast, turning the bowed down body with him, he faced another direction, stepped in front of Toshiya. One more, they were usually in teams of three.
“Where is that fucker…!” he murmured more to himself, turned around and looked at the trees, the cars next to them. But there was no one around, not in a good enough angle to get him. Or that brat next to him, who was now coughing and straightening himself.
“Who the fuck are you?!” Toshiya asked angrily, watched his surroundings now too, pulled out his gun. Thank gods, he always opted for taking something with him when leaving the house.
“I go by-” there he was, ON the tree. One last shot, that got silenced by the muffler on his gun, he focussed on Toshiya: “Kaoru.”
“Ugh… no, I mean what are you doing here!” Toshiya sighed, was fed up with the whole situation. He was fine just until that guy came across the street and passed him, mocked him.
“Helping you out apparently…!” he chuckled as answer and turned around again, ready to walk up the avenue to hunt down some more henchmen that were lurking in the dark corners around the manor.
“I don’t need your help!” speeding up to go on par with Kaoru, Toshiya charged his gun, watched the surroundings carefully. But what didn’t slip his eyes was the look the other gave him.
“There’s one over here too…!” Toshiya grinned, went straight up the avenue until he was close enough to get him, earning a “nice shot” from Kaoru, who walked next to him, had watched the henchman desperately reloading his gun to get them.
“The whole fucking avenue is full of them, a real plague!” Kaoru grinned and got a sheepish smirk as answer. Now, that evening had taken a turn, quite a pleasant one actually.
“Three to one. You better catch up!” he chuckled lowly. Turning around swiftly his experienced eyes spotted another one behind a vending machine and sent him off flying with a loud crash as he hit the metal built too.
“Purpose?” – “It’s still early, I don’t mind a little game.”
Where was that brat? Did he really disappear after leaving him bleeding? Kaoru suppressed another huff, released the grip on his arm. Just a graze, a shot in the dark. He had left his back unattended for not even one second. That was probably why he preferred staying in the back, doing the contracts and meetings. Even if he displayed himself to his business partners or others, street fights still weren’t his domain.
Exhausted Kaoru sank back down again, hid his body behind the car tyre. The street lamp was out, probably a newer clan member that was still inexperienced when it came to shootings. But Kaoru was glad, that one had been following him too close for his liking. Wiping off the blood from his hand in the black jeans he usually wore, Kaoru grabbed for the cigarettes in his jacket. There was silence, owls and other animals were active. So, he got everyone?
Slowly Kaoru put the cigarette between his lips, lifted the lighter up. Somewhere, down the street, a soft thud was making his ears twitch. There were more? Rolling the cigarette between his lips Kaoru got up, held his gun tight to his body. There were not so many spaces to hide, no fast escape routes around the manor. He knew the underground system here too little for crawling down a manhole and disappearing into the drainage system. This was something he was good at when he was a young boy, had started out in this business. Some of those old ways were still the same, he used them ever so often to hide or temporarily store his stuff. But this area? There had been construction companies coming up a few months ago, some workers from India and Korea, not really his league.
Peeping from behind the car Kaoru heard rustling and then saw a tall figure falling down from the iron gate that span around the manor. Quickly he squinted his eyes, tried to figure out if it was friend or foe. Or, at least if it was that brat or another henchman that was trying to kill him.
“Fuck – “ there he ran, past him. His whole body shown in the street lights. Like a damn rabbit running in front of a car in the head lights as they were guiding the way. Two shots on the pavement, close to his feet. Growling out in frustration Kaoru got up on his knees and watched where the other one was hiding and aiming at that young man. Another shot against the concrete and he showed himself from behind a truck – Kaoru’s chance.
What he hadn’t taken in account were the other four men that were following now and running towards him. Or rather, the one that still ran in the lights.
“Fuckin fool!” Kaoru whistled and shook his head. Turning around in an instant he jumped up from behind the car and got lost in a side street, following the avenue until he caught up to the other one. Rushing past vending machines, showing his own silhouette, Kaoru crossed the streets and grabbed for the shirt he was wearing, pulling him into the darkness of yet another side street.
“Wh-!” Kaoru pressed his hand on the other’s mouth, shoved him back into the small gap between two brightly lit vending machines. Kaoru had always been a master at hide and seek, his brothers had never found him and it often happened that he had sat in his hiding spot for hours until it was time for dinner or bed time.
Another muffled growl tried to flee Toshiya’s mouth. His heart was still racing, he needed air and the hand pressed on his mouth smelled like smoke. Disgusting.
“Shut it, kiddo!” Kaoru hissed lowly, pressed himself against the other’s chest to let both their bodies merge into the darkness as their pursuers ran past them. Toshiya lifted his hand that wasn’t squeezed behind his back against the cooling pipes of the machines, and tried to push the smaller one away from him, unsuccessfully.
“Stop it, will ya!” Kaoru hissed again at him. Suppressing a huff that was about to creep over his lips as his wound hurt badly by now, getting squeezes and pulled at, Kaoru turned his body around, shoved the other one further back, making him gasp for even more air as he released his grip around the mouth.
“Let go of me!” he whispered, tried to calm his breath and listen to the surroundings. The pursuers wouldn’t come back, not for now. Toshiya squeezed his hands, opened and stretched his fingers again to calm down, but only to feel something sticky on his right hand. Lifting it up curiously, his hand stroke over Kaoru’s back and side, made him flinch for a second. Too close, too fucking close. And his breath was too hot on his neck, smelled too sweet and like coconut.
“What… the heck..!?” Toshiya had lifted his hand up enough to spot dark blobs on his fingers, sticking, warm. Blood.
“Are you – Did you got shot?!” his voice overturned involuntary, made Kaoru shrug his shoulder. He could take care of this scratch later, when he was back home or at least in some area where he wasn’t being pursued and shot at by around 50 men that wanted to see him dead.
“Hey, man… K-Kaoru, yeah?!” Toshiya tried to turn him back to him. The streets seemed empty, the last ones had run off in the distance, searching for them on the other side. Or cleaning up the bodies of their colleagues.
Letting out a sigh that Kaoru had held back for the longest, he slouched his shoulders, lifted his hand to press it on the open wound again. Blood kept seeping through the fabrics, dampened his shirt down to his elbow where it left a cold trace.
“Did you get shot?” now Toshiya’s voice was clearer, louder, more serious than concerned. Kaoru rolled his eyes at the obvious question. So he got blood stains on his fingers apparently, and now? He cared or what?
“First time seeing blood?” he shot back with a light joking voice.
“This ain’t funny! You need to get it patched up!” Toshiya insisted, making Kaoru almost blurt out laughing. But instead, he kept quiet and turned his face around to offer the younger man a tired smirk: “You wanna play nurse for a little scratch or what?”
Their breaths had calmed down, no one came back hunting them down. No one had seen them squeeze in this too small gap between two vending machines that kept humming in the soft nightly silence. A bit exhausted and tired Kaoru lifted up his gun, two bullets. He emptied it, recharged with a fresh magazine. After some minutes passed Toshiya too reloaded his gun, kept switching his focus between the street and that stranger in front of him.
With an exhausted huff Kaoru turned to the side, facing the manor behind the tree curtain. Leaning against the machine he let his head rest against it too, swallowed a few times. Empty, his mouth was dry, he wouldn’t even have liked to hit a blunt now. There was something calm, comforting, spreading from him. Something that made Toshiya calm down and relax a bit. The situation was close to getting out of hand as he just jumped over the iron gate and stormed off.
“And now?” he asked after some more minutes passed and nothing happened. Pitch black eyes darted over to him, pin pointed him against the pipes without even touching him. This was not just a street fighter or some small gangster with whom he had accidently crossed ways. The ash blond hair fell in his face, hid a part of his eyes. A gloomy aura radiated around them now. Both men had reloaded their guns and now, that they weren’t hunt down by someone else, there was no need for a truce between them.
“I’ll go my way and you go your way?!” Kaoru arched an eyebrow, was surprised by that childish question. What should he do after that shitty evening. His jacket was torn, he probably needed some treatment and definitely needed a good night rest.
Still staring at Toshiya, as if he wouldn’t trust him, and he really didn’t very much trust a child that ran around in bright light, being followed by some henchmen, Kaoru stepped away finally, let the bright neon light from the vending machines lit up his face before he stepped aside and disappeared from Toshiya’s sight.
There was nothing, not a single noise. And it made Toshiya shiver like on the coldest winter nights when he couldn’t find any sleep, even with five blankets around his body. Gasping for air that he badly needed from being so tightly squeezed together in this small space, he closed his eyes for a short moment. But the tension didn’t go away in that short moment as a body pressed against his chest again.
“Nevermind! That ass has sent out some more of his underlings!”
“Kaoru!” another gasp, the name of the stranger fleeing his lips like a prayer in an unattended moment. Glancing over his shoulder, the other man squinted his eyes and watched Toshiya closely: “Yeah?!”
“We’re … well…” Toshiya blabbered, took some breaths to figure out what he had meant with “more underlings”.
“A bit in a … uh… suboptimal situation!” – “Oh you don’t say…!”
Fuck, Toshiya bit his lip. He was talking too much, not thinking hard enough about an escape route. If there was one, an escape route would mean going out from their little hiding.
“We need to hide… somewhere else than here!” he bluntly said, hoped that Kaoru had an idea. Somehow, they were in this misery together, and Toshiya wouldn’t leave this place as corpse.
“Obviously!” Kaoru sighed with a mocking tone, tried to concentrate. He knew a few ways, knew a few tricks to distract the henchmen.
“How good is you ai – nevermind…” With that Kaoru stepped out on the street again, pulled on Toshiya’s shirt as strong as he could with his wounded arm. Stomping right up to a manhole, Kaoru twisted, pulled Toshiya behind him and then shot at the vending machines.
“Lift that up now!” without objecting in anyway as he usually would, Toshiya lifted the metal cover and slid it aside. Just enough for a body to fit in.
“In?” – IN!”
Adrenaline kept pumping through Toshiya’s veins, made him sink down against the dirty wall. Concrete, cold and damp. The humidity was too high, made it hard to breathe properly for the first few minutes.
Kaoru came crawling down after closing the cover with his last energy reserves he still had. Standing next to Toshiya he blinked a few times, gave himself a bit time to adjust to the darkness. It was a different kind of darkness than in the night sky. There was no moon, no lights from vending machine, houses or streets lamps throwing shades. It was a pitch black, consuming darkness.
“We should get going. They’ll probably follow us down here. Maybe from another entry.” Kaoru stated after taking a few more breaths, checking on his arms. It stopped bleeding at least, for now.
“I have no clue down here to be honest…!” Toshiya wailed, pressed a hand over his mouth as he heard so much insecurity in his own voice. The soft, mocking chuckling coming from the other man didn’t help in any way to make his situation better. It worsened it and Toshiya started to regret going out tonight. It was a stupid idea, they all had been right anyway. Hunting down Kyo was the worst idea he could ever get into his mind. And now he was sitting in some sewage system, in the middle of the night, a stranger, armed, with him.
“It’s gonna be alright… Just come up, keep going!”
The sudden light and harmless tone in Kaoru’s voice sent a shiver down Toshiya’s spine, but it also made him get up on his feet and put one foot in front of the other, following the other man into the tunnels, deep in the sewage system. The sounds of water flushing in other tunnels was comforting, drowned out the silence between them. By now, Toshiya was too tired and worked up to talk, or ask him why he was there.
“Up?” the abrupt stop and question made Toshiya flinch back and almost ran into Kaoru. Nodding and humming he stretched his arm out to grasp for the wall and a ladder, found the metal rods too fast, almost crashing his wrist against them with too much force. The metal was too cold in this damp and warm air, too sleek and different in his hands. Going first, Toshiya got up the ladder and lifted the cover, peeped out cautiously. It could be a road with heavy traffic, even if it was in the middle of the night.
“Looks okay?” there were no cars in sight, no traffic light indicating a rather busy street. The surroundings looked old, lost a bit, kind of abandoned, but in a good state. Maybe also just newly built but not finished.
After lifting himself up on the surface again, Toshiya stretched and took a closer look. He hadn’t been here before, didn’t see any street signs, no lights from neighbouring houses. As he heard a heavy huff, supposedly suppressed, he looked back at Kaoru, who was sitting on the edge of the manhole, lifting up his legs and slowly coming up on his feet. He looked like swaying – blood loss.
“Hey, uh, I hate to say it bu-“ – “Then shut it.”
Kaoru knew exactly that he wasn’t in the best condition to keep going. If they would have been followed, they would have been fucked, really fucked. And it wasn’t even the fact, that Kaoru was slowly running out of new magazines for that night, but rather the fact, that his wound was making him tense up, kept him from being focused.
Getting up now and staring at the surrounding buildings Kaoru spot a familiar architectural type. Of course, now he knew in which direction they had been wandering. Aiming straight up to the tall flat complex Kaoru got out of his jacket and put the half full cigarette pack in the back pockets of his jeans. He wouldn’t need a torn jacket anymore, so he wrapped it up and gave himself the memo to burn it down by tomorrow morning.
Fed up by that stalling and ignorant manner Toshiya caught up to him, almost wanted to lay his hand on his shoulder to make him stop, but opted against it. Kaoru was wounded, in pain, and armed, not the best combination to approach someone who was still a stranger.
“This needs serious treatment!” he urged him as he saw the extent of that “scratch”. There was a large ripped patch of fabric hanging from the shirt, showing more inked skin, shredded and torn apart even worse than the black material. Throwing a dead stare back over his shoulder, Kaoru shrugged it off and kept going up to the flat building. Toshiya, being a persistent little brat, didn’t let go and followed him of course. Somehow Kaoru knew that he wouldn’t get away that easily from him, that this wouldn’t be their last encounter.
Chapter 3: went out to buy some cigarettes
“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.”
Chapter 4: deer – yes honey?
Dark brown, still hiding the pitch black irises. But this time, they didn’t seem to be like a black pool of darkness. Softer brown tones broke through, a reddish shimmer was a delicate layer on top of them.
Shaking his head once more, a smirk crept up Kaoru’s lips. He lifted his glass, took a small sip from the sake, laughed some more about the rather misogynistic joke Tomoka had just told them. The waitress was waved at, commanded to bring some more snacks. And sake, some beer too. Sitting across from each other Toshiya stared at Kaoru as if he saw a ghost ascending in front of him.
That can’t be true, Toshiya bit his tongue, emptied his sake glass in one go. He needed more, stronger stuff. This all felt like a really big joke. Would Kaoru kill him off? Was he working together with Tomoka? Was this THEIR deal? To get his money, lure him in a dark side street behind the bar and then…
“It is really interesting, have you heard about that guy, he calls himself Atil?” Tomoka huffed. Twirls of smoke from the cigar in his left hand concealed Toshiya’s view on Kaoru. For the better probably, he found himself staring at the man across the table for too long already. Kaoru nodded, rubbed the stubbles of his beard.
“What was it? Not sugar…” – “Honey!” Toshiya threw in, knew exactly what they were talking about, about whom they were talking. Kaoru’s eyes focussed on Toshiya, wandered over his face, traces his small silhouette. Calculating, charging.
“Well, for honey you need bees. Those little shitty insects. Stinging you and then dying right away.”
Kaoru closed his eyes, for a moment too long, but unnoticed by both men. As the waitress came with more drinks Kaoru declined friendly, said the kids were waiting for their good night story. Tomoka laughed, said his greetings to Kaoru’s wife. And then Toshiya witnessed Kaoru getting up and leaving the table, picking up his coat from the rack at the entry.
“Ah, the night’s still young, you up for some more drinks?” Tomoka grinned, interrupted Toshiya’s thoughts. He was married? Had kids? No, it didn’t fit, didn’t fit at all.
“Thank you very much!” Toshiya smiled as the other poured some more sake in his glass, watched him carefully. Irritation, so easy to read from someone new in this business.
Toshiya was exactly in the state Tomoka wanted him to be – drunk and irritated. He was talking more, being a bit more open, giving information easy when he asked manipulative questions. It was an easy game to get him going, back behind the bar for their deal. As Kaoru had slipped out of the deal earlier the evening Tomoka wasn’t too fond of waiting longer to get his money and distribute his products. It was never a good idea to keep a larger amount of weapons.
Behind the bar, taking the back exist, Toshiya was tipsy already from drinking but not eating a lot, Tomoka stopped him near a parked car. There he had the case, everything already prepared for him. Only for him of course – as if Kaoru was only a friend that accompanied him to the meeting with Toshiya.
This was all bad, Toshiya was way too tipsy for thinking straight who was in which relation to whom tonight. Bad enough he almost spilled that his brother was in the honey business. And yes, bees were nasty insects. Whenever his brother was out of town Toshiya was to take care of them and it happened ever too often that he got stung by one of them even though he wore protective garments.
Letting his eyes wander around in the darkness of the side street Toshiya spot something rather controversial. Mist. It didn’t rise up from a manhole or came through an air exhaust pipe from the bar. But from behind the pipes.
A loud thud made Toshiya turn around to Tomoka who was now not only bowing over the open trunk but laying IN the trunk, completely limp.
FUCK, he was fucked. Grabbing his gun Toshiya jumped behind the car, reloaded the magazine and charged. Who the hell was there?
Calming his breath Toshiya listened, heard low footsteps coming closer. Quickly he glanced over the rear end of the car, saw someone approaching them.
“Seriously, you shouldn’t be here!” the mocking tone in Kaoru’s voice lit up an angry fire in Toshiya’s chest, made him jump up, the gun aiming at the smaller man who didn’t really care much about that gesture it seemed.
“Fuck OFF! That was MY deal!” Toshiya hissed, watched Kaoru putting on gloves, sliding the body a few centimetres away to grab the case.
“It was neither of us’ deal.” Kaoru said calmly, checked on the case lock. Too early, it was still locked with a digital screen. Maybe fingerprint? Lifting one of Tomoka’s hands Kaoru pressed the finger on the screen, waited a few seconds until it unlocked.
“Ah shit, really? A Walther? Did you ask for a Walther?” Kaoru clicked his tongue, let the case sink down in the trunk. What a shit show tonight. And he still had to take care of paper work.
“What? No?!” curious what the fuss was about Toshiya stepped next to Kaoru, glanced down in the case.
“I wanted a Koch.” – “And I came for a Beretta.”
Staring in the case for a few more seconds, both men kept silent, were lost in their thoughts. Toshiya was the first to break the silence, asked what happened to Kaoru’s hair. The ash blond was now brown, made his skin look even more brighter, his eyes darker. Safety measurements, as everything Kaoru did with his hair and his life. Half of the time he was occupied with paper work, hiding, blurring his traces, building up new personalities, new contacts, changing locations.
“Hey… um..” scrunching his nose, Toshiya leaned forward, ignored the dead body next to him. The blinking on the screen was more interesting right now.
“Hm. Great.” Kaoru was quick to notice it too. Taking the gun, he slid out the magazine – two bullets. One for him, one for Toshiya apparently.
“I should have known…” Kaoru sighed and tossed the bullets in his jacket pockets, the gun landed in the case again. Looking over to Toshiya, who still held his gun tightly in his hands, Kaoru nodded, asked for help to get the body in the trunk.
“And now?” Toshiya asked, didn’t really know what they should do with the body or the car.
“What are you faster with? Shortcutting a car or getting a gps locator off the case?”
Quickly Toshiya grabbed the case with one hand, put the gun back in its holster while Kaoru closed the trunk lid and aimed for the driver seat, opening the door for Toshiya who was already clicking on the little screen.
Not even a minute later the car rolled over the streets, Kaoru sped up, took some turns. Glancing over to Toshiya he saw the younger man working through some cables, mumbling silently to himself.
“It isn’t a bomb, right?” Kaoru asked playfully. He knew that Tomoka didn’t trade with warfare or bombs, but that move was not really nice and not what Kaoru had expected. Maybe this contact was too old already. And well, by now non-existent anymore as Tomoka’s body was resting in the trunk, forever.
“Nah, just an… older model of a gps locator…” the way Toshiya spoke made it sound as if he was irritated by the fact, that the locator was outdated. The fact, that many people in this business worked with older models was rather due to the fact, that newer ones had extra micro locators on them to find out the true location. And they had more series numbers, were easier to pursue to the buyers. Kaoru worked with years old models because they seemed so outdated that no one would use them now. So no one ever cared when they found one of them somewhere on the streets or in drainage system. Could have been there for many years already. Or maybe, Kaoru really was just old and didn’t want to care about newer stuff.
Grabbing for chewing gum, Kaoru offered Toshiya some, heard him chewing on it immediately.
“Where we going actually?” Toshiya asked as he finished removing the small locator from the case and the blinking finally stopped. He hadn’t been here in this region too often, so he had to put a little bit of trust in Kaoru, that he wouldn’t kill him off too and let the car sink down somewhere at the harbour with the dealer in the trunk.
“Gates.” He mumbled, turned the car to the right, followed a smaller road now. Glancing over to Toshiya, Kaoru nodded, asked if he could get him something out from his pocket. With an irritated look Toshiya kept staring on Kaoru’s tattooed hands as he fumbled in the other’s jeans pocket, pressing his lips to a small slit, not really being confident in what he was doing right now.
“I hope this is not what it feels like…” Toshiya hissed under his breath as he grabbed something hard, round. Sliding out a small plastic device, Kaoru rolled his eyes and told him that it was a drone.
After a few more turns Kaoru parked the car in the middle of, seemingly, nowhere. Directly on the rails for freight trains passing the city. With another nod towards Toshiya they got out of the car, stopped the engine and Toshiya handed him the drone, that was still put together. Unfolding the blades, Kaoru checked the app on his phone, connected it with the drone.
“Gum?” he asked, held his hand open in front of Toshiya, clicked some more buttons to get all settings working.
“What?!” he asked back with a coarse voice, almost swallowed the piece at that weird demand. Kaoru gave him a side glance, lifted his hand further up and waited.
“Spit it.” he added, his voice a tone deeper, more demanding and it sent a cold shiver down Toshiya’s spine, filled his lungs with a hot steam that he didn’t understand. Glaring down at the smaller man, waiting for his eyes to twist and then laugh, Toshiya slowly opened his mouth, let the chewing gum fall into his hand. No jokes, no laughing. Without batting an eye Kaoru twisted the warm gum and pressed it onto the back of the drone. Wiping off the saliva that also landed on his fingers, Kaoru started the little drone and it swiftly lifted up from his hand.
So now, he just had to wait for the nightly traffic of the freight trains to take out the car and he was good. Until then, he was about to drown his money straight in the harbour. A glance on the time, Kaoru sat down on the pavement and watched his drone fly off, mix under the masses again with the locator on its back. After the drone had disappeared from Toshiya’s field of vision too he sat down next to Kaoru, glanced over his shoulder to the car, and waited.
“There goes my 30k yen….” the sarcastic comment broke the silence between them and Toshiya couldn’t hold back bursting out laughing, making Kaoru chuckle too. Gasping for air, Toshiya rubbed his eyes, followed the blinking dot on Kaoru’s phone screen where the drone went off too.
“Really?” he asked and got a soft hum as answer. Even though Toshiya worked with a lot of expensive tech stuff, he never cared much about drones or such toys. His older brother used them as control for the bees and other small expeditions, but Toshiya himself had never bothered to get so far into observation.
“Ah, it’s gone. My poor baby.” Kaoru wailed playfully, ran his fingers through his hair. They were long already and remnants of the black colour still stuck underneath his fingernails.
“Shit, sorry!” Toshiya smirked, watched Kaoru turn off the app on his phone, putting it back into his jacket. So, there they sat, the car still behind them. Shrugging his shoulder Kaoru mumbled a “whatever” and looked around. It was a warm evening, the night sky was almost pitch black if it wasn’t for all the city lights that polluted the air. He loved to watch the stars, but in the city centre of Tokyo it was impossible to see even the brightest stars.
“And now?” Toshiya asked, was curious on how Kaoru would proceed as he was the one that drove the car onto the trails, had a plan apparently.
With another glance on his phone and the time, Kaoru sighed: “The next one should come in about four minutes.”
Turning around to take a closer look at Toshiya, Kaoru saw a bit of uncertainty in his eyes. Soft features, he was still so young, not so worn out from this business as Kaoru. Did he really look like 35? Feeling Kaoru’s eyes on his face Toshiya turned around, blushed immediately, as he felt like a little boy getting caught, doing something forbidden.
“What?!” he asked promptly and slid a few centimetres away from Kaoru.
“You hungry?” and there the train came rushing forward behind them, taking the car along for many hundred metres until it came to a stop with screeching and hooting sounds.
“Isn’t your WIFE waiting for you to come home?” Toshiya mocked and got up as Kaoru did, followed him down the road again. Giving him a glance over the shoulder and an eye roll put a grin on Toshiya’s lips. Humming softly he sped up and walked next to Kaoru until they came to a more busy region. People kept streaming in and out of bars and restaurant. Toshiya had to take a step aside, bumped into a few tipsy guys, girls walked up to him, wanted to chat with him and hit him up, slowed him down. Whatever it was, it seemed as if Kaoru had some kind of aura around him. The people kept their distance. It was like watching a shark swim through a swarm of tuna, completely calm, but something dark was inside this human, that made Toshiya stop for a moment.
“In here?” Kaoru had turned around as he felt the distance to Toshiya getting larger. He was staring at him, as if Kaoru was a ghost, and he wondered, if there were bloodstains on his jacket or anything else, that made the younger one watch him so carefully.
“So, no kids, no wife?” Toshiya kept on bugging, made Kaoru press his lips to a small slit for a second. Yeah, no wife, no kids, almost 30 – he really was a prime example as man. Not even one night stands to show off. Momo was probably the closest he let any woman come and she hadn’t seen him naked for years.
“Yeah, thanks for letting me know that I’m a loner…!” he whistled, kept his stoic face as yet another busty waitress approached them and put their drinks between them. Quickly Kaoru grabbed for the beer and gulped. His mouth was so dry again, he should drink more water throughout the day and not refill his body before going to bed and only running on coffee during the day.
“Sorry! That… that wasn’t quite nice to say.” Toshiya mumbled, avoided looking at Kaoru, felt heat in his cheeks for making such a depreciating comment. The snort that followed though, made him look up and frown. Kaoru was grinning, waved it off and joked, that he wasn’t all alone out there.
“Ah, so you’re good with the girls, I see! Well… understandable!” Toshiya chuckled. Another waitress came up with their food and Toshiya saw how she glanced at Kaoru, how far she leaned forward to him. As if she wasn’t only presenting the dishes but herself to him. Stoic, ignoring the girl, Kaoru took another sip from his beer, watched Toshiya now.
What was understandable? That girls would like him? Kaoru had to hold back arching his eyebrows at his comment.
“You got many… girlfriends?” Toshiya grinned, could imagine Kaoru being a guy that had a new girl every other night in his arms. He wasn’t looking bad, the tattoos, as far as he had seen them, looked good on him, made Toshiya want to know how far they were covering his body. Biting down on his lip, he scolded himself for his stupid comment.
“Um, I would call them acquaintances, at best.” Kaoru muttered, wasn’t really confident talking about this topic. Not, that he didn’t had a girlfriend in the past when he was younger. But after some years in the streets and living a rather reclusive life, he had found, well, other interests. And had found out a few things about himself too.
“Acquaintances! You sound as if you never really had friends…!” Toshiya snorted and started to fill his bowl with rice and some of that delicious looking curry. While Kaoru still held onto his beer, he watched the plates getting slid over the table, vegetables being piled onto rice, the meat carefully being ignored.
“Are you a vegetarian?!” he asked repellent, pursed his lips immediately as he heard his own voice. Wow, not so accusing!, he scolded himself promptly and took another sip.
“Now I see why you don’t have friends…” Toshiya shook his head, playfully being fed up but then grinned: “Well, now you have a friend! That means, if you’re gonna pay.”
“What a good friend, wow!” Kaoru huffed and rolled his eyes at that blunt demand: “It’s neither a DATE, nor are we FRIENDS.”
Swallowing down the bell pepper Toshiya put his hand dramatically on his chest, closed his eyes: “Right here in my heart!”
“A truce, that’s what I would call it.” Kaoru calmed him down, didn’t want to befriend him. It wasn’t right. It already felt wrong sitting here with him and even though he was hungry and could devour a whole cow probably, his throat was closed, a heavy knot in his stomach.
“Okay then, next time I’ll just shoot you…!” – “That is not how a truce works!”
Now both men chuckled and Kaoru felt a bit relieved, let his shoulders sink down. He should get some food in his stomach, then he’d feel better probably. Wriggling out of his jacket as it was warm in the restaurant, he took a bowl for himself and got some rice and the spurned meat pieces in his bowl.
Toshiya’s voice was low and he immediately bit his lip, closed his eyes and felt heat in his cheeks, a burning pain on his skin. For a second Kaoru stopped in his movement, then, slowly lifted his eyes, face still tilted down to his bowl.
“This is spicy… holy…!” he babbled, waved his hand in front of his mouth and quickly lifted his beer, downed half of the glass.
“You really ARE picky, huh?!” Kaoru smirked and started eating finally, was grateful for the warm meal.
“I have high standards!” Toshiya defended himself playfully, mixed some more of the mild curry to the vegetables, stuffed his mouth.
“You wanted a Koch!?” Kaoru called him out on the deal he wanted to get over tonight.
“Yeah, yeah! Also! That model of the Walther is already outdated, wouldn’t have taken it even if he’d offered it to me.” Toshiya stated and pointed at Kaoru with the chopsticks as if he was lecturing him.
“He would have offered you one bullet. Straight up your head.” Kaoru corrected his younger fellow. If the next deal would proceed in the same manner, then Kaoru would have to dig deeper into his network or ask people whom he could entrust his life.
“Yeah, I know…” Toshiya sighed now, concentrated on the food again.
“So, thanks for… taking care of that guy.” – “Sure, don’t mention it.”
For a few minutes they sat in silence and ate up. Toshiya couldn’t hold back but stare at the busty waitresses as they came to clear up the table, noticeably bowing and stretching themselves in front of Kaoru, who was more interested in the people on the streets, passing them by.
“You’re stocking up on your equipment?” Kaoru then asked, had thought thoroughly about his own next moves and the chances of meeting Toshiya again on accident.
“Yeah, you too?” he sighed and leaned forward, now that the table was clean again and only the napkin holder and some spices were between them.
Watching Toshiya closely, Kaoru tried to read him. With the little information he already had, it was possible that he would be an interest on the deal Kaoru was about to do on the weekend. They could meet again, could be sat up against each other again.
“Next Saturday, 8pm, left table for five in the BB-Café?” he asked, gave it a shot. Immediately Toshiya’s eyes widened as he understood what Kaoru was talking about. A hissed “fuck” slipped his lips before he bit on them again, felt stupid and like a child running into dangerous adventures.
“Good to know. So he really has his hands on everything and tries to play us…” rolling his eyes, Kaoru crossed his arms on the table, let his fingers wander over his upper arm where the bandage was. It healed nicely, wasn’t festering gladly.
“But why would they set us up against each other? There’s plenty of stuff on the market anyway?” Toshiya squinted his eyes, couldn’t follow Kaoru’s thoughts. For a moment Kaoru kept his mouth shut, stared at Toshiya. Toshiya Hara, the son of Masahiro Hara, former yakuza boss of the Hara clan. With Toshiya being his direct successor, as Kaoru had information about his older brothers not caring so much about this business, Kaoru was sitting across one of the most influential yakuza in Tokyo. But, he was still a child, probably his mother and his cousin who had a high rank in the clan were helping him out a lot.
And he, Kaoru, he was just a former yakuza, a street warrior by now, a loner, a killer. Even now, years after all the events that happened between the Hara clan, Kyo and Kaoru himself, the people used the friction between them. He should have been more careful.
“Well, we both want to get Kyo’s head.” Kaoru stated the obvious. And that was a matter of fact. As long as Kyo or Shinya had their hands on warfare import and distribution Kaoru was fucked. He had to reconnect with his old contacts if he wanted to gather some weapons, or at least munition as he was already running low on bullets.
“Don’t say his name out loud!” Toshiya hissed and leaned further towards Kaoru, glared at him angrily. Kaoru only rolled his eyes at Toshiya’s childish manner. They were somewhere in a small, busy restaurant, no other yakuza or henchman would come here and spy on them. They were too far off from the city centre.
“It’s not like it’s a curse saying his name. Though, he IS a curse actually.” Kaoru stated, ran his fingers over his lips. They had to play along. This was the only way to let them know, that they weren’t fools.
“You wanna go there?” Toshiya asked, leaned back now and tried to relax. There was no need to fuss about this now. He knew already that he’d meet Kaoru there again and well, they had somewhat of a truce?
“Of course! I also have a name to maintain!” Kaoru smirked with a dark grin on his lips that sent a shiver down Toshiya’s spine. Another corpse to get rid of at the end of the day? He really wasn’t too fond of killing people, tried to avoid real fights up until now. But if he wanted to kill Kyo, he would, at some point, have to not only aim but also shoot at people.
“So, truce?” he asked, was unsettled about his next steps. He should also go there, had a name to maintain too.
“You know…” Kaoru let his eyes glide over Toshiya’s frame. He might look slim and rather frail, but he was fast with the locator, was also fast with running. Though, running away wasn’t Kaoru’s preferred way to handle conflicts.
“… we could play with them a bit. To show them, that they can’t fuck with neither of us.” Kaoru stated lowly, reconsidered immediately if this was a good idea. If Toshiya would agree – “Sounds good. D’you got a plan?”
Oh, how the tables have turned. Kaoru couldn’t catch his breath for a moment, felt like he would wake up any second, on the floor somewhere in Russia, snow covering the windows already, the empty fridge staring at him, hungry. No, he was back in Tokyo again, this was the past. History.
“I’ll think of something…” with that he lifted and took his jacket, was ready to leave.
“Shouldn’t we… like, meet up before the deal?” Toshiya sped up and went to the counter to pay before he’d leave too. He was somewhere on the opposite side of the city and even though it wasn’t that late, he was tired from all the stress and fuss.
Sliding his credit card over the counter, Kaoru glanced over his shoulder, watched Toshiya correcting his collar, running his hands through his hair. He seemed quite fond of high quality clothes, even for that filthy deal he had dressed rather too good. The black tie fit perfectly to the black shirt. It was ironed perfectly, fit him perfectly. The waitress slid the card with the receipt over the table, tore Kaoru’s eyes away from Toshiya’s chest as he tried to figure out if he wore a shirt with a fly front or a normal button placket.
“That empty flat? Meet me there. Friday 7pm. Not a minute too early or too late.” With that Kaoru put his card back and turned on his heel, left the restaurant without any further ado, leaving Toshiya stupidly standing at the counter, getting told that his companion had already covered their meal.