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Sotenbori isn't that much different from Kamurocho, he finds. Sure, the area is smaller, much smaller than the dizzyingly cramped district he's used to. The air here is fresher too; the mildly cool December breeze wafting from the direction of the river is a nice change. But the trash littering the streets is exactly the same.

"P-please!" A voice whimpers, and Kiryu looks down to see the biker whose face he just smashed repeatedly against the wall of Ganko Sushi, hand shaking as he shoves a handful of bills in his direction. "Take this! I'm sorry!"

Kiryu sighs to himself, pocketing the proffered money and stepping over the half-conscious bodies, ignoring how they flinch away from him in fear as if he was the one who tried to mug them in the first place.

Yup. Definitely the same.

Unfortunately, the little bento shop that had piqued his interest, the one he had been making his way towards before he got jumped, is completely deserted. The hastily placed sign 'OUT FOR LUNCH BREAK' and the remains of one of the bikes he had demolished on a punk's head lying just in front of the shop gives Kiryu the nagging idea that maybe, just maybe he had scared off the shopkeep with his violence.

Kiryu sighs again. This is turning out to be the worst 'vacation' in his life. Oda said he's free to amuse himself while they wait for the call, but at this point he's seriously considering just snoozing the entire day away in his hotel room. There is nothing to do in Sotenbori: the famous cabarets and cabaret clubs are still closed, the toys in the local UFO Catcher are all ones he already has displayed in his real estate office, and the videos in Gandhara are exactly the same as the ones back home (he . . . may or may not have ended up checking out every single one by the end of his first year as a yakuza. He was curious! And he had no adult supervision!). He isn't really feeling like karaoke at a foreign bar either, nor is he in the mood to dance in Maharaja while the sun is this high in the sky.

Maybe he'll just get some takoyaki, have a snack to tide him over. He turns around and heads east, towards the takoyaki stand he spotted earlier when Oda dropped them off. Cheese takoyaki sounds wonderful-

"Hey! You! Yes, you!"

Oh. Great.

Kiryu grimaces, eyes searching for a way out. He could run towards the closest bridge, shake off the latest batch of idiotic trash punks who thinks attacking him is a good idea. Or he could just continue on his merry way, pretend he's been deaf since birth (or since that one time Nishiki accidentally punctured his eardrum during a tussle) and hope whoever called out to him would leave him alone. Doubtful, but it would save him the effort of working up even more of a sweat than what the earlier fight squeezed out of him already.

He chooses the latter, casually walking towards the nearest Dream Machine and slipping in the one million yen from the bikers earlier like it was mere pocket change. A CLANG sounds as his mystery item drops into the collecting slot. Hopefully it's a refreshing drink for his parched throat and not another expired bento set like last time.

"Eh . . . ?"

Well, on the bright side, it isn't expired lunch. But who the hell is 'Majima Goro - manager of the Cabaret Grand' and why does he have a metal business card hidden in the depths of a vending machine?

Too distracted puzzling over the strange card, Kiryu forgets about his harasser until a heavy hand lands on his shoulder. Immediately he twists around, fists raised, ready to put the fear of god (or fear of a disgruntled 20-year old real estate agent) in whoever dared to confront him.


He pauses at the sight of a cowering salaryman, shaky arms raised in surrender. Doesn't look like someone who is ready to throw down with him. Just in case, he pockets the quirky calling card and cracks his fists menacingly. The man takes a nervous step back, eyeing him with fear and- for some strange reason- awe.

"I saw you beat those bikers up just now," he says in a hushed voice, almost reverently.

". . . what about it?" Kiryu asks, suspicious. Is this guy going to request he beat someone else up for him? Or is he an Omi spy, and Kiryu just royally fucked up their mission by calling attention to himself?

"Have you heard of the Bed of Styx?"


The salaryman perks up, and with gleeful eyes and excited whispers he gives Kiryu a rundown on the most illegal fight club he's ever heard of. Turns out, Sotenbori's daytime entertainment isn't so bland after all. Kiryu's fingers tingle in anticipation.

"Where can I find this place?"


Stifling, humid air immediately smacks into his face as it escapes through the large metal doors. Majima wrinkles his nose at the smell: the dampness of the underwater arena and the stuffiness of the enclosed location, combined with the sweat and body odor of hundreds of people pressed together and screaming their heads off did NOT make for a pleasant wake up call.

The giant bonfire and the numerous spotlights didn't help. They must have upped the power on those things, because Majima's pretty sure he's getting a sunburn from the beams of light centered on the stage, and he wasn't even the poor fucker on display yet. One would think the heat would be a nice respite from the cold December air above ground, but the cloying stench kind of negates it.

Disgusting odors aside, Majima feels the adrenaline in his blood picking up, energy from the bloodthirsty audience fueling his eagerness for a fight. He listens to the whisper-yells of the crowd as he pushes his way past them and gets closer to the ring, confirming what the skipper by Iwao Bridge told him.

"-new guy-"

"-going to fucking obliterate Gondo! Did you see-"

"-TWO new fighters just this week, can you believe it?! Did Billiken sign this one up too-?"

"I recruited him! Told you he'd be awesome!"

There's a new challenger. Who may or may not give Majima a run for his money. He can't remember the last time his cheeks hurt from smiling this much. Long before Sotenbori, that's for sure.

Mjaima cranes his head, trying to catch a glimpse of the mysterious new challenger. But the guy must have done something cool just now, because the crowd is going wild, jumping around and screaming in bloodthirsty delight. All he manages to see from his position in between the gaps of people is a naked back, black ink forming an intricate design, a large irezumi.

Yakuza, huh? Majima purses his lip, torn between staying and leaving. Any yakuza in Sotenbori can only be from the Omi Alliance. What would be the odds that this man is one of Sagawa's little spies, ready to report him for taking a break from his search for Makoto?

He's about to turn back, get some fresh air outside so he can successfully rationalize to himself why staying here is a bad idea, when the guy turns around. Majima can't see his face from here, but the challenger is looking in his direction, and he raises Manhunter Gondo's shotgun high in the air with one hand, to the cheers of the crowd. He brings his other hand up, wraps it around the opposite end of the barrel, and with a flex of his muscles he fucking bends it in half.

The crowd goes wild. And Majima? Majima has already scrambled back up the platforms instead of using the stairs and scared the receptionist into putting him down for the next match, any trepidation crushed by sheer excitement.

In retrospect, maybe he should have checked what the next match was. Not that knowing he'd be competing in Inferno Romp would have stopped him from wanting to have a go at this Kiryu guy, but a heads up would have been nice before he got blasted by the extreme heat of the stage. Could have chugged down one of his energy drinks before he left behind his suit jacket, but oh well.

His first match isn't against Kiryu. Neither is his second, nor his third, though he did enjoy kicking Tsuchibori's feet under him and the loud sizzle his face made against the grill-like floor. Serves him right for cracking Majima's shoulder blade last time with that damn shovel of his. He immediately signs himself up for another 3-match run, too pumped up on adrenaline and his desire to forget his worries above ground to even consider resting for a minute.

The next couple of matches go by quickly, but as he cracks Bad Fortune Tamura's neck, Majima's starting to wonder if the lightheadedness he's feeling is really due to the adrenaline. Maybe the heat's getting to him; the metal grating below his feet is starting to burn through his soles, and he has this distinct feeling of his skin shriveling up. He's probably just imagining it, but he kind of regrets not downing a drink or two right now.


Wait, next match already? He doesn't even remember throwing Tamura out the ring. Majima frowns, head turning as he tries to locate the unconscious body, but he pauses when his gaze lands on his last opponent, stepping up onto the scorching hot stage.



Oh finally.

The stern furrow of his brow, the size of his body, and the confident way he holds himself makes Kiryu seem older than the '20 years old' displayed on the scoreboard, at first. But upon closer inspection, Majima can see the small vestiges of baby fat rounding out the man's- the boy's- sharp edges, the lack of air of world-weariness that settles deep into more adult bones (the type that has settled very deep into Majima's bones, in the years he's been trapped here in Sotenbori).

Majima also sees other things: the sweat dripping down his chest as it heaves from exertion from his previous match and the rising heat of the stage, the fire burning bright in his dark eyes, and that tiny smirk, promising Majima a good fight from someone just as eager to drown out the sound of his troubles under the crunch of his enemy's bones.

He's breathtaking. Or maybe that's just the sudden kick to Majima's stomach that leaves him winded.

Majima nearly drops from the brute force of his kick, but the threat of burning his hard-earned tattoo off on the ground manages to keep him upright. He kicks his own leg up, catching Kiryu on the jaw when he rushes in for another attack and getting him to back off for a moment. They stare each other down, breathing heavily, the crowd screaming their bloodthirsty approval around them.

Fuck, he's fast. Didn't expect that from someone like Kiryu, but the stance he's taking - arms close to his torso, legs bouncing on the balls of his feet, ready to rush in at a moment's notice with a quick and deadly attack - tells Majima that this is one guy he can't hope to outmatch on pure speed alone. It's a shame he can't use his breakdancing style to run circles around Kiryu. With how reliant this guy's stance is on his powerful legs, it would have been easy to drop to the ground and hook his own legs around Kiryu's to yank him down.

But Majima does love having his skin attached to his body and not stuck to the searing-hot grill below like an overcooked barbeque, so he sticks with his regular style. He swings his right arm at him, but it misses as Kiryu takes a quick step back, then flies forward.

A flurry of swift punches and quick jabs has him dodging to the best of his abilities. It isn't enough, because Kiryu is slightly - only slightly! - faster than him, and he can't dodge forever. A roundhouse kick catches him hard, and this time Majima crashes to the ground. He hisses at the burning sensation on his arm, the pain giving him the boost of adrenaline he needs to quickly shoot back up. Just as well, because he just barely avoids Kiryu stomping on his face.

The aborted stomp catches Kiryu off-balance, and Majima uses the opening to start his own assault. He throws a series of punches at the other, lip curling in delight as he observes Kiryu weaving away from his attacks instead of blocking them. Just as he guessed, Kiryu's battle style has little defensive capability, especially against a hard-hitting attack.

Unfortunately for Majima, he didn't have his bat right now. No, it was lying at the bottom of the river after some random punk who picked a fight with him on the bridge managed to get a lucky hit and kicked it out of his hand. He threw the same punk over the same bridge the next instant, but the damage was already done, and he was so eager to get down to the Bed of Styx that he didn't bother looking for it.

Man, he was REALLY putting himself at a disadvantage today.

All that dodging seems to be tiring Kiryu out, and he can sense the frustration building up in his opponent at not being able to hit back. He watches Kiryu's pretty face for a sign of the end of his patience, and when he sees his lips twist into a snarl, Majima feints his next swing. Kiryu's eyes widen in shock right before Majima blindsides him with an uppercut. It sends him stumbling into the railings, which he immediately twists away from, giving Majima a brief view of the red outline the hot metal made against his back.

Kiryu is clearly not expecting him to take out a knife, too slow to do anything but hiss in pain when Majima thrusts it deep into his shoulder. He tries to make a grab for it, but Majima quickly pulls it out and starts slashing at him, as fast as he can to make sure Kiryu can't go on the defensive. And it works: Kiryu stumbles back but doesn't get far with the railing right behind him, barely keeping his balance against the rapid assault, arms full of cuts from protecting his face. He jams a hand into his pocket, letting Majima slice at his unprotected chest for a second before a CLANG of metal against metal catches him by surprise and interrupts his combo. He manages to jump back and avoid the sharp slash of Kiryu's . . . calling card? The hell?

His incredulity only increases when Kiryu actually manages to fucking parry most of his attacks with that thing. What the hell. He still gets a few slices in, Kiryu's fingers bleeding from cuts, but his own hands aren't bleeding out of nowhere, either.

Their fight continues much in the same vein, slashing and parrying each other, but Majima can sense the exhaustion creeping up on both of them, much faster than he expects or wants. Sweat drips into his eye. He blinks it away, but the blurriness of his vision remains. The ringing in his ears is getting annoying, messing with his balance. He growls in irritation, and is surprised when his ears roar back. Uh, rude.

Kiryu is wavering, arms shaking as he gasps for breath. Majima stabs the knife at him to take advantage of his moment of weakness, but his aim goes wide from his own shaky limbs.

His head is starting to feel even lighter, like his mind is floating away from the intense battle. Well that won’t do at all. Majima grits his teeth and wills himself back, back to the blistering heat and the shimmering image of his opponent.

Something changes. The crowd is still screaming, but there’s a shift in the general tone. More . . . shocked? Fearful? His ears roar at him again, loud enough to rattle his bones. Seriously, what gives? He tries to ignore the feeling, forcing himself to focus on Kiryu's face. Except Kiryu isn't even looking at him: he's staring at something behind Majima, eyes wide, mouth open. Majima twists his head around to see what was going on. A brown blur appears in his line of sight, followed by a painful impact, and then-


". . . I can’t believe we both passed out from heatstroke," Majima grumbles, glaring at the amber skies high above Sotenbori River.

"I can’t believe a demon bear got loose and knocked us both out of the ring," Kiryu adds, staring blankly at the clouds from where they were both lying down flat on the grass. He had so many questions: Why was a bear in the Bed of Styx? What kind of bear crimes could it have committed to warrant confinement in an underground fight club? And who the hell thought it would be a good idea to take it out for a walk in the middle of their fight??

He supposes they should both be grateful someone remembered that neither of them were down there as criminals and thought to save them from getting eaten. Death by man-eating bear was NOT how he wanted to go, as cool as it sounded.

"After we gave them the best fights they've seen in weeks, the least they could do was bring us to a hospital, not dump us by one of the footpaths," Majima snarls as he rolls over and weakly paws at his jacket carelessly dumped beside him. Kiryu hums in agreement as he turns his head to the right and sees his own white jacket, but he doesn't bother rummaging through it, knowing it was empty of anything that could help with his injuries or his dizziness.

"What family are ya with, anyway?"

Kiryu tenses, immediately wary of the seemingly innocuous question. He noticed the other's tattoos, of course, but he was hoping that they could maintain this strangely peaceful post-bear-attack camaraderie a little longer. Oda would kill him if he ended up jeopardizing their mission (and he wouldn't be able to forgive himself, either), so he struggles to sit up, ready to make a run for it. Except his arms collapse under his weight, and he gasps as he ends up smacking his head on the ground, making his head throb even worse. He feels like vomiting.

Majima sighs, then Kiryu feels a foot nudge his fallen legs back up onto the railings along the footpath. "Told ya, ya need to keep your legs propped up so your blood flows back to your head," he chides.

"Sorry," Kiryu mumbles. He scoots closer to the edge to hook his feet on the metal better. Blinking back the black spots in his vision, he thinks it over a bit more and comes to the sinking realization that telling a bit of the truth wouldn't do much more harm than he's already done, not when his accent screams 'Kanto' and his own back screams 'yakuza'.

The equally wary look that Majima is shooting him while he clutches his jacket protectively is what ultimately drives him to be honest.

". . . none. Not anymore."

Majima's eye narrows. "Before, then."


He doesn't expect Majima to suddenly let out a bark of laughter.

"Ha! So ya are Tojo! Can hear that Tokyo from ya a kilometer away," he cackles, body relaxing. Kiryu, however, remains on edge.

"Please don't tell anybody."

"Haw? Why would I-" Majima pauses. "Wait, ya think I'm with those piss-drinkin’ Omi??"

". . . you aren't?" Kiryu asks hesitantly.

Majima snorts. "Fuck no! I was Tojo once too, same as you. Shimano family."

Shimano? It takes him a moment to picture the patriarch, never having many dealings with the Shimano family before, but when his face comes to the forefront of Kiryu's mind, he has to make a conscious effort not to let his distaste show.

He isn't very successful since Majima simply laughs harder at his expression. "Yeah, that ugly fucker. But at least my ugly mug matched his, eh?"

"You're not ugly," Kiryu says, pointedly omitting mentioning the Shimano family head’s looks (and the fact that Majima clearly referred to his Tojo days in the past tense. Was he also expelled?).

"Oh?" Majima quirks an eyebrow in amusement. "Maybe when I still had both eyes. Eyepatch kinda ruins my face now."

Kiryu starts to shake his head, but immediately stops when the black spots returned. "No. If anything, it enhances your appearance. Gives you that . . . allure of danger." It's true. He vaguely remembers Yumi and the other girls at Sunflower tittering over magazines with pictures of 'bad boys' (the quote always accompanied by an eyeroll from Nishiki), and they always had nice cheekbones or noses like Majima's.

"O ho ho! This how ya sweet talk the ladies, too?" Majima grins, batting his eyelashes exaggeratedly at him. "Bet you've got a gaggle of them waitin’ back at Kamurocho."

"N-no," Kiryu denies, face heating up as he forcefully pushes away mortifying memories of telephone clubs and baby ferrets. "And it's not just sweet talk. You ARE a handsome man, and you DID just try to slice my fingers off at an underground fighting ring, didn't you?"

Well, ya ain't wrong on both accounts!" Majima puffs out his chest, smug look on his face. "Handsomest man in Tojo, they called me. Bet they still call me that even if I haven't set foot in Tokyo in years."

Kiryu couldn't help himself. "Maybe they used to, before I came along," he shoots back with a smirk.

Majima hoots in delight, chucking a blue bottle from one of his jacket's pockets at him, which Kiryu barely manages to catch with still-stinging fingers. "If you’re gonna be out here delivering burns, ya better get some heat first to back it up."

Kiryu rolls his eyes at the other man in amusement, placing a hand on the cap to pop open the familiar-looking bottle. He pauses when he reads the label.

"I thought you said you haven't been to Tokyo recently?"

"Yeah? Why, ya calling me a liar now, Kiryu-chan?"

Kiryu frowns at the honorific, but lets it slide. "This is Miss Tatsu's special drink. She only gives it to her pupils whenever they complete one of her training courses at Tokyo Pier. How did you get your hands on it?"

"Really? Always figured 'Miss Tatsu' was, like, a brand name." Majima scratches at his head, looking quite perplexed. The action messes up his hair even worse than it already is, so he pulls off his hair tie in frustration, letting his hair splay out around his head like a black halo that Kiryu feels the urge to run his fingers through (wait, what?). "I got it from this shared item box thing, where you can drop off shit for other people to use and pick up what you want."

"Oh. I think I've used one of those before." Now that he thinks about it, he might have dropped off one or two Tatsu Brand drinks himself. But the way Fukushima explained the investment fund to him made it sound like it all went to one particular person, not to whoever just came by. Unless . . .

"Ya have? Huh." Majima propped himself up on one elbow, taking several swigs from the drink in his other hand. He looked like he was contemplating something. "Hey, Kiryu-chan. You said ya were out of the game, right? What d'you do now?"

"I'm a real estate agent."

Majima snorts. "Really? You? Brown-nosin' rich people, buying and selling patches of land?"

"It gets a lot more physical than you'd think. Especially when you're up against five surprisingly fit evil billionaires."

"So you're just muscle then? That makes more sense. Heh. Kiryu-chan the real estate agent," Majima chuckles, but then cuts himself off abruptly. Kiryu watches, confused, as he glares into the distance, mouthing something wordlessly, before snapping his suspicious gaze to his face.

"Holy shit. K-san of Kamurocho??"

Kiryu is about to ask what the fuck he's talking about, when Majima's wording registers in his brain. Where has he heard that before? He glances at Majima's shocked face, then the drink in his hand, and when he shifts his legs slightly he feels the calling card with a certain engraved name and title on it digging into his skin. That's when it hits him.

"Wait, are you- are you M-san of Sotenbori?"

"Oh my god. Oh my god, YOU'RE the one who's been givin’ me all that cash??" Majima laughs in disbelief. "Ya even know how much money you've given me at this point?"

"I haven't really been keeping track," Kiryu mutters, embarrassed at how snobby he sounds right now. "I usually put money in the fund just so I won't lose it to impromptu shakedowns."

He expects Majima to laugh at him for even getting shaken down in the first place, but the other man just nods seriously. "Fair enough. I've run into a couple of those huge assholes myself." He clucks his tongue in annoyance. "But ya know, if hidin’ your money is all ya want, shouldn't ya be puttin’ it in a bank account or stuff it under your bed or somethin’? Not that I'm complainin’, thanks to ya I've been able to partner up my cabaret club with a lot of establishments and get more fans."

"Why would you need to pay for exposure? Isn't the Grand already the top cabaret in Sotenbori?"

"S'not for the Grand, it's for this cabaret club I'm helpin’ out, Sunshine. As charmin’ as my girls are, we can't just get customers based on our dazzlin’ smiles alone." Majima gulps down the rest of his drink, reminding Kiryu that he hasn't actually touched his own yet. He pops the lid open and chugs it down (a feat that required a lot more concentration than he expected when lying flat on the ground), while Majima adds, "Ya should come visit us tonight. It's a quaint little place that I think will suit ya. I already have the perfect girl in mind to keep ya company, so ya better keep that money comin’ in, K-chan!"

He takes a moment to finish his drink before replying. "Thank you for the offer, Majima-san, but I'm not actually sure if I'll still be here by tonight. I'm waiting on a call to meet a client sometime today."

"Well that's a damn shame."

"I'll be sure to tell my clients to drop by your club from now on, if you'd like. I'm sure they'd love to meet the cabaret manager who sidelines as an illegal fighter."

"Hey! I'll have ya know, I'm a good, law-abidin’ citizen when I'm not participatin’ in fiery death matches."

Kiryu chuckles. "Really."

"I am!" Majima huffs, giving him the stink eye. "More than ya, I bet."

"Alright, alright." Kiryu raises his hands in surrender, trying to placate the man. He can't really argue with that; he doubts Majima did something as extreme as beating up a Dojima lieutenant like he did.

"So what's a good, law-abiding citizen doing down in the Bed of Styx, then?"

Majima looks away from him, staring straight up into the orange sky like he's trying to burn his remaining retina on the straggling sun rays. "I'm lookin’ for someone," he says in a low voice, almost a whisper. "Not that she's down there, but I figured I wouldn't be very productive in my search if I was too stressed out. It's been a shitty week."

"Yeah, tell me about it." Kiryu sighs. Hard to believe it was only a few days ago when he got himself kicked out of the clan over a murder he didn't commit, and now the events have gotten so complicated, he isn't even sure if he himself knows what's going on anymore.

"You too, huh?" Majima turns to him with a tired smile. He sighs, then tugs out a pack from another pocket and plucks out a cigarette, bringing it up to his lips. On instinct, Kiryu takes out Nishiki's lighter and clicks it on, bringing the flame close to a startled Majima. He tries not to wince when the grass rubs against his burns from the shift in position, so he focuses his attention instead on how the flickering fire reflected against the other man's lips.

There's a twitch, and when he looks up he sees Majima's eye bearing down on him, the previous melancholy replaced by something undefinable, something that makes him want to put away the lighter in case he drops it from the sudden nervous tingling in his fingertips. He doesn't realize that he's staring until a cigarette is shoved unceremoniously in his mouth.

"Thanks for the light." The skin around Majima's eye crinkles in glee. Kiryu pouts around the stick and flicks the lighter back on to light his new cigarette, but Majima snaps the cover close. Before Kiryu could protest, the man has swung his arm over Kiryu and planted it near his right ear, boxing him in. Kiryu could do little else but stare at the man hovering above him, blocking out the orange and pink sunlight, lit cigarette dangling between amused lips before he plucks it out.

"Why waste lighter fluid? Just light it with mine, it's better for the environment," Majima explains with a grin, almost flirty in its curve, then shoves the smoke back in his mouth and leans in. Kiryu wonders if the bear had actually broken a rib or two of his because suddenly he couldn't breathe, the proximity doing strange things to his stomach. He isn't totally out of it though, and he manages to gather enough presence of mind to tilt his head forward to connect the end of his cigarette with Majima's.

A few seconds pass like that. The cigarette doesn't catch.

"C'mon, Kiryu-chan, ya gotta work harder than that!" Majima complains, barely understandable with the stick clenched between his teeth. "Puff, Kiryu-chan, puff!"

Kiryu, not wanting to disappoint, pushes past his sudden dyspnea and puffs as hard as he can. On his next inhale, he pulls in as much air as he can through his mouth, hoping he can pull all the embers toward him in one go, warming his lungs and chasing away the strange warmth in his belly.

What he succeeds in doing is inhaling the cigarette right into his throat.

Kiryu starts choking, barely aware of the sudden laughter above him that cuts off into a yelp of pain when he headbutts Majima in his scramble to get upright. He takes it back: death by man-eating bear doesn't sound bad compared to this. A hand thumps against his back, once, twice, until the offending object is expelled from his windpipe with such projectile force that it shoots right into the sparkling river.

They sit in silence for a long moment. "So much for environment-friendly," Kiryu eventually comments, letting out a final cough.

Majima breaks out into cackles, clutching his sides. The absurdity of the situation catches up to Kiryu, and he ends up laughing too, his breath hitching with every hiccup, which makes Majima laugh even harder.

"That's a cute laugh ya got there- OW!" Majima flinches away from him, but he doesn't actually put himself out of punching range, so Kiryu could still retaliate with another punch on his burnt arm again if he felt like it.

"Shut up," Kiryu mumbles, face hot, though his shoulders are still shaking from barely suppressed laughter and he can't stop smiling. His head isn't hurting anymore, though whether it's because of the energy drink or the second near-death experience of the afternoon, he has no idea.

Still chuckling, Majima picks up his dropped cigarette, sits back against the railing, and inhales it deeply. Kiryu settles beside him, careful of his back, and just observes his companion exhale smoke. It's calming, watching the other man go through the motions, and it almost makes him feel like he's the one getting nicotine in his lungs.

Majima blows out more smoke. Kiryu watches as it curls into indistinct shapes against the pink sky left behind by the ever-sinking sun. Huh, he should probably go back to his hotel room soon before Oda gets angry at him for vanishing into thin air. Not that he has any new messages on his pager, but who knows how well the signal is in illegal underwater arenas.

"Mannn, nothin’ like a good fight, near-death experiences, and shared energy drinks to make a perfect date, eh?"

Kiryu blinks. "Date?"

"Yeah. I mean, I always thought buyin’ each other drinks and gettin’ to know each other before jumpin’ right into a brawl was good, but turns out the other way around is better! You've opened my eyes to new possibilities, Kiryu-chan!"

"But . . . but aren't we both . . . um."

"Haw?" Majima raises an eyebrow at him. "Guys can go on dates too, y'know."

They can? Kiryu's brows scrunch together as he considers it. How would dating between men work? Whenever he asks a girl out (given that he successfully manages to navigate his way through the intricacies of the telephone club), they'd usually do something fun like watch a movie at the theater, eat at a restaurant, sing karaoke . . . Well, guys can do that too, now that he thinks about it. And they'd probably even have more shared interests to bond over. They could even hold hands, the way he and Nishiki used to before they hit 14 and his kyoudai became shy over it, saying it was inappropriate to do in high school (he remembers feeling hurt, thinking that Nishiki had found a better friend than him. After all, their classmates Ishimura and Kubo held hands all the time, and those two were really close, close enough that they would always go to the bathroom together like the girls would, and- oh. Ohhh they were dating, weren't they?)

But. . . how- how would the more . . . intimate . . . parts of the relationship work?

Kiryu feels a blush creep up on his face as he tries to imagine it, but all he pictures is two faceless guys with black censors over their genitals and large question marks everywhere before his thoughts are interrupted by a loud cackle.

"I'm pretty sure I know what's on your mind right now, so let me give ya a little hint," Majima snickers, putting out his cigarette, then leans in close to whisper in his ear. "A hole's a hole, as long as ya use protection."

". . . I still don't understand," Kiryu says, and it's the truth. But he still can't stop blushing from the vague images in his head.

"Heh. I'm surprised this is the first time you're even thinkin’ about it. High school is usually the time for experimentation of the nude variety, if you know what I mean, so ya must have seen some of your male classmates do under-the-table deals, right?"

"No one did anything . . . indecent when I was still in school. Not like it was a big school, anyway."

"Whaaat? People do the do in high school all the time! There ain't no school out there free from teenaged hanky-panky! Although," Majima rubs his chin, fixing him with a scrutinizing look, "Now that I think about it, ya do seem like the type of kid who keeps to himself so much that he's immune to gossip."

". . . yeah, I was," Kiryu admits, slightly embarrassed. It didn't feel like much of a shortcoming at the time, but now that Majima’s pointed out how unobservant he was . . . "Nishiki- my sworn brother- he's the one who's good at talking to people. I only really find out when something important is going on if he tells me."

"Is that so? And I'm guessin’ he omitted tellin’ ya all about the sexy throw-downs?" Majima clucks his tongue. "Well that won't do at all! As your honorary Niisan it's my job to inform ya of the birds and the bees in all its gory detail, so buckle up!"

"W-wait. I know how THAT works, I've seen videos! You really don't have to."

"Well, good! Because I don't actually know how the bird-bee sex analogy goes. Like, do the birds stick it in the bees? Do the bees stick it in the birds?"

Kiryu shrugs.

"Hm. But! We're not talkin’ about regular ol' sex here. We're talkin’ about hot bird-on-bird action!"

"That's really not necessary, Majima-san,” he pleads. “I'll cross that bridge when I get there." By the time Kiryu's brain catches up to what he just said, Majima's face has already broken out into an ear-splitting grin.

"WHEN you get there? When YOU get there? O ho! O hoho ho!!" A familiar sound interrupts Majima's next cheeky "hohoho" and wagging eyebrows, and Kiryu quickly grabs his pager, thankful for the distraction. He deflates when he sees it's from Oda.

"I'm sorry, but I have to go now," he apologizes, feeling a bit sad. It was fun spending time with Majima, made him feel like he was just a regular guy hanging out with a new friend. But because of the choices he’s been making lately he isn't a regular civilian, and so duty calls.

"Oh. I s'pose it's gettin’ pretty late. I should leave and get a change of clothes too, forgot I needed to meet with someone." There’s a sadness he sees in Majima's face before he turns away, such a difference from his bright smiling visage seconds ago, and he realizes that maybe the man is just as lonely as he is. Majima quickly stands up, futilely brushing off grass stains on his pants, and shrugs on his suit jacket before Kiryu can blink. His hand goes to his pocket. "Let me at least give ya my business card, in case ya drop by Sotenbori again."

"No need, Majima-san. I already have one." Kiryu pulls out the slightly bloody metal card from his pants and shows it off.

"The hell??" Majima bends and leans close, staring at the card incredulously once he sees that it does, in fact, have his name engraved on it. "Is THAT why you knew who I am? Where'd ya even find this?"

"Dream Machine." He pockets the sharp card while Majima mumbles his disbelief and fumbles for his own to give in return, only to freeze when his hand curls around the single card.

"What’s wrong?" Majima asks, glancing at his breast pocket curiously.

"Ah, it’s . . . nothing. Just." Kiryu coughs to clear his throat. "I . . . only have one business card left. My boss told me to always give one to the client, and if I have nothing to hand over during our meeting later, he’s going to chew me out. Sorry."

Majima flippantly waves off his concern. "It's fine, 's long as ya have mine. Besides, I'd hardly forget a face like yours. Hell, I doubt anyone can forget your face. Bet I can go to a random hobo and ask "yo ya know where Kiryu is?" and he'd point me to where you're sleeping at."

. . . true, technically true, though not for the reason Majima gave. He wants to say how scarily accurate Majima's prediction is, but he's not really keen on revealing his current lack of sleeping arrangements.

"Buuut just in case . . ."

"Hm?" Kiryu looks up in the middle of putting his arm through his sleeve, and sees that same teasing smile on his face a split second before Majima swoops down and pecks him on the cheek. If asked later, Kiryu would forever deny that he choked out a high-pitched squeak at the action. He's half-afraid he might get heatstroke again from how hot his face has gotten.

"There, now ya owe me one back next time we meet. See ya around, K-chan!"

Kiryu just sits there, still half-dressed, gawking at Majima's retreating back and casual wave. His face is tingling, right on the spot where Majima kissed him. Maybe he's allergic to Majima-shaped kisses.

. . . he wouldn't be opposed to receiving another one. Just to make sure.


When Sagawa tosses him the calling card he looted from the body he just shot, Majima catches it deftly despite his heart not being in it. Hasn’t been in it since the words “real estate agent” came out of Sera’s mouth, but he isn’t one to do things by halves regardless of how much his stomach lurches and sinks.

He flips over the card, sees the words ‘Tachibana Real Estate - Kiryu Kazuma’, and is reminded of a stern face with an endearing laugh and a pretty smile framed by smoke rising from his own cigarette.

"Well," Majima says, already planning out the letter he's going to drop off at the shared item box when Sagawa isn't looking. Definitely going to be strongly worded, with "K-chan you son of a bitch" somewhere in there. "that's a kick in the dick."