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This was the end.

Right hook. Left hook. The uppercut sent Mine flying onto his back. He winced as the concrete floor mangled his bare skin as he slid back on it. But the pains, marked by the bruises Kiryu had inflicted throughout his body, were bearable. They were always bearable. What wasn't bearable, were Kiryu's words.

You're just like them.

How dare he act like he has authority to speak so broadly of Mine's life? How dare he reveal such an ugly truth? Mine wiped off the blood from his mouth and struggled to stand upright. Mine glared at him, his eyes wild and his teeth gritted. But why were his legs as steady as a drunkard's? The sight of Kiryu standing there, waiting, was getting blurry. Ignoring his depleted energy, Mine's body carried him forward, one limp at a time, pulled his fist back, and futilely attempted to hit Kiryu in the face. Of course, there was no need for Kiryu to move away. Mine fell onto the man, more worn out than he's ever felt.

To his surprise, Mine felt the same arms which planted unforgiving punches into his face just a few seconds ago, wrap around him and save him from another fall. The embrace was strong, warm and assuring, unwilling to allow Mine to crumple to the floor again.

"Mine, it's okay."

Immediately, a familiar but burning surge of hatred strangely ran through Mine at Kiryu's kindness. What was different about this time was that he was simply too tired to think of a way to express his anger. He didn't understand it. He never learned to understand. There was no venomous retort waiting to be released from his throat. There was no tightening of his fists, nor a desire to vent his hopelessness by bloodying his knuckles. The electric crackle of hatred was gone in an instant. And it was... peaceful. Refreshing, somewhat. Mine hadn't felt this way before in his life. He moved his gaze upward to see Kiryu looking down at Mine as he held him. Slowly, Mine understood Daigo's admiration for this man. It was around this time that Mine felt his walls come crashing down-- the very walls he had spent so long desperately building bridges into, only to be trashed by the people he let in. But not this time. Mine's lip quivered as his eyes widened slightly at what he saw. One might mistake his tightening grip on Kiryu's back for anger or confusion. Instead, it was frustration- cursing this wretched universe for bringing this man into his life much too late.


Despite his condition, Daigo gripped Kiryu's arm with the desperate force of a man who valued something much more than his own life.

"Kiryu-san!" He spat, adrenaline rising and his breath catching in his throat when the realization dawned upon him. Daigo raised a pointer finger at the two men struggling a few yards away, one of them dragging the other near the edge of the building. "Leave me here... Hurry!" It was all he had to say before Kiryu suddenly sprung to his feet, completely forgetting the fact that just moments ago, he was nearly battered by the intense fight Mine had privileged him with. 

"Mine!" The frightened sound of Daigo's desperate voice caused reverberations to ripple through Mine's ears and into his mind. Never has he heard the sixth chairman sound so frantic. And was he really the one who caused such a sad look on Daigo's face?

Kiryu ran towards Mine. Towards Nishiki. Tears welled up in his eyes as he felt reality slow once he bellowed Mine's name. He couldn't let it happen again-- he can't. This time, Kiryu won't let him bid farewell with a charming smile. Daigo watched Kiryu's backside, knowing fully that this could be the last time he will witness that dragon soar towards his destiny. 

What was supposed to be Mine's final speech was interrupted by the sight of Kiryu foolishly stampeding towards him- towards the very edge of the building. While Kiryu pulled on Mine's arm to wrestle the two men away from danger, one sentence was written in Mine's wide-eyed expression.

Why... Just what sort of bond does Kiryu Kazuma feel to risk his life... for someone like me?

He would get a moment's reprieve to admire the fact later. Now that the men were away from the ledge, Richardson broke free of Mine's grasp. "You... you're fucking crazy! Just die!" The CIA agent, burdened with a few bullet wounds himself, staggered forward, readying a punch at Mine in retaliation. His unsteadiness made it easy for Kiryu to kick him to stop his attack. 

As Richardson regathered his bearings, Mine and Kiryu looked at each other, their eyes shining in the moonlight despite all the bruises they've honored each other with moments before. No words were needed. They focused their gazes together at their common enemy. Their voices rung out in unison when they coordinated their simultaneous double punch directly to Richardson's gut. Finally, someone was in Mine's corner for once. 

Bleeding from multiple places and still recovering from shock of near certain death, Richardson was knocked off his feet again in an instant, and was soon met with the bottom of Kiryu's heel before he fell unconscious. But due to the injuries, Mine would have joined him on the ground if not for Kiryu's reflexes.

"Let's get out of here." Kiryu cradled him in his arms once more, and took a moment to look Mine over before placing Mine's arm on his shoulders to help him walk. This was Kiryu's meager attempt to atone for not trying hard enough to save Nishiki from himself. He would no longer be so careless to let Mine to suffer on his own, to be so mistreated by the world that he would lose all faith in it. Kiryu saw that Nishiki deserved more than the lonely fate he had chosen to redeem himself. That underneath Mine's jagged words and penchant for wrongdoing lays someone who is broken, and is desperately searching for genuine love.

And it was that brief second of Kiryu's concerned expression that rendered Mine speechless. No one-- except one other-- had looked at him with such unabashed concern in their eyes. There was always some ulterior motive. From one look, Mine knew that if he had told his usual lie to those eyes reflective of Kiryu's honest nature, they would see right through him once more, to envelope him with understanding and mercy nonetheless. And he was at a complete loss at how to come to terms with it. Craving this love for so long had turned such things into mere fiction in his mind. Lies.

But it seems this fiction has turned into a reality. Mine blinked at Kiryu and Daigo, not quite listening to what they were saying, except he was now aware that Kiryu was placing him on Daigo's hospital bed. 

"I'll be fine," the sixth chairman declared. It reminded Mine of the lie he eventually told everyone. However, Daigo proved him wrong once more by climbing to his feet with Kiryu's help, trembling as he stood. Mine wanted to help too, but his body wouldn't move. 

"My muscles are stiff, but never-mind that..." The brave chairman face Daigo normally put on was nowhere to be seen, his face contorted with deep worry as he looked over Mine's wounds. Daigo looked about ready to sob, gripping the metal handle of the hospital gurney for support. Thank whatever god was out there that they were atop a hospital. "Get Mine downstairs... now!"

Mine, though bleeding from multiple places and was bruised everywhere you looked, was mesmerized by Daigo's expression. He slowly attempted to fathom what these two people have just done-- not for money. Not for status. Not for favors. For him.

Finally.