“Why can’t we just take a taxi?” Namba mutters, dragging his feet.
Ichiban stops running so suddenly Saeko collides with his back, and Adachi almost trips over his own feet. As those two complain, Ichiban turns around and says, “Because running is good for you.”
“But I’m tired. And you’ve got millions of yen in your pocket, so pay up and let us drive there already.”
“He has got a point, Kasuga,” Adachi says, wiping sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. “Ichiban Holdings is loaded, and I’ve seen all the money in your wallet.”
“This isn’t about the money, guys!” Ichiban says, slinging his golden baseball bat across his shoulders. “We all know I can afford it. But we’re still not taking a taxi.”
“Fine, fine, we’re running the rest of the way,” Saeko says. “But where are we going again? After all those fights, I can’t remember.”
“Dragon Kart,” Namba mutters, letting out a long sigh.
Ichiban laughs, beaming. “Yeah, we’re gonna go do some Dragon Kart racing!”
“Oh yeah…” Saeko says, exasperated. “Now I remember.”
Slapping Ichiban on the back, Adachi says, “Remind me again how you dragged us into your stupid kart racing obsession?”
“Because you love me,” Ichiban says, voice sing-song, and he plants a kiss on Adachi’s forehead.
As Adachi goes red and swats him away and Saeko teases Adachi, Namba studies the scene with a fond, if exasperated, expression. These idiots drive him mad, but Ichiban is right; they love each other deeply.
Sudden, cramping pain in his guts snap him out of his thoughts, and Namba grimaces. The cramps continue for a few seconds, pain bubbling through his abdomen, before fading away and only leaving slight discomfort. Just what was that about?
But before he gets a chance to ponder his symptoms, a few members of a street gang spot Ichiban and decide they want a fight. Namba sighs, but holds out his umbrella and gets ready to heal his careless teammates.
Namba gets harassed by the intermittent, mild but persistent cramps in his abdomen the entire journey to the park, and sinks onto a bench the moment they reach the Dragon Kart centre. He slips his hand under his many layers of clothing and prods at his stomach, noting slight bloating and biting back a hiss as another cramp starts. As a former nurse, he knows there could be many things wrong with him, but at this stage he has no idea what. Namba sighs and slumps backwards on the bench, watching Ichiban grin like a hyperactive child before hurrying inside.
Ichiban managed to persuade Saeko to join him, but Adachi also stays outside. He sits down beside Namba, stretching his arms until they both hear a loud pop.
“Ah, that’s better,” Adachi mutters, rotating his stiff shoulders. “Are you not in the mood for kart racing either?”
“Nope,” Namba says, and he flinches when unmistakable nausea clenches his stomach. Great, he really is getting sick, isn’t he?
“You okay, man?” Adachi says, staring at him in concern.
“O-oh, yeah, I’m fine.” He smiles and gives Adachi a playful nudge in the ribs. “Stop fussing over me. You’re not Ichiban.”
Adachi snorts. “Good point.”
They fall into a comfortable silence, watching people walk past, eating ice creams and chatting and having a fun afternoon at the park. Well, a comfortable silence except for his churning stomach and the nausea that just won’t go away.
“You sure you’re okay?” Adachi asks. “You’re really clammy.”
Namba swallows hard, disturbed by the sudden flood of saliva in his mouth, and brings his hands up to rub at his clammy face. “Oh yeah, you’re right. Guess I’m still hot after being dragged all the way here.”
He swallows again, stomach gurgling and nausea prickling across his skin, and prays Adachi will believe him. Unfortunately, Adachi knows him far too well to fall for such an act.
“Cut the bullshit, Namba,” Adachi says, settling a hand on Namba’s shoulder. “You look awful. You can tell me if something’s wrong.”
Namba bites his lip, guilt eating away at his already unsettled stomach. He never intended to worry Adachi, but… he did. “Sorry. I just feel pretty sick.”
“Yeah. Nauseated. I’ve had stomach ache for a while, but then the nausea started, and I thought it’d go away soon… but it’s actually getting worse,” Namba says, another cramp making him hiss through gritted teeth.
“Why didn’t you say anything, dumbass?” Adachi says, scooting closer and putting his arm around Namba.
“I thought it was gonna go away, so there was no point.” For the first time, Namba shocks himself with a retch, stomach lurching and muscles pulling with effort, and stomach acid burns the back of his throat. “Ugh…”
“Whoa, you okay?”
Namba manages a smile, swallowing yet more saliva. “It’s just getting worse.”
“Do you think you might throw up?”
“I dunno,” Namba mumbles. Often, nausea doesn’t lead to vomiting. But the excessive saliva filling his mouth tells a different story. “Maybe.”
Adachi jerks a thumb in the direction of the public toilets on the other side of the park, saying, “Should you go to the bathroom?”
“I don’t think—” A powerful retch jerks through his frame, forcing Namba to hunch forwards as his unsettled stomach gives a gurgling rumble in protest. “Fuck!” he hisses, the retch followed by another sharp cramp further down, squeezing his aching guts.
“Shit, was that your stomach?” Adachi asks, rubbing Namba’s arm and holding him tighter, as though Namba might collapse at any moment.
Namba nods, grimacing. “Uh, yeah. M-Maybe I should go to the bathroom now…”
“I’ll come with you,” Adachi says, slotting an arm around Namba’s waist as he stands up, and Namba can’t be bothered to tell him to let go.
They start walking, Namba’s legs wobbling as his stomach bubbles and gurgles and churns. He clamps his lips together, genuinely concerned he might projective vomit if he dares to speak.
“Easy does it,” Adachi says, his voice soft and rather soothing.
They barely manage ten steps away from the bench before Namba freezes, a powerful retch forcing him to double over, clutching at his stomach. As Adachi swears, Namba retches so hard he fears he pulled a muscle, and his mouth fills with bitter, burning vomit. Groaning in disgust, Namba staggers over to the nearest trash can and spits it out just in time for another wave of nausea to smash into him. He lets out a disgusting wet belch and more vomit spills out of his mouth, his eyes watering with effort.
“Oh shit, Namba…” Adachi says, starting to rub firm circles on Namba’s back. “That’s it, man, just get it all up.”
Over the roar of his own heartbeat pounding in his ears, Namba hears passers-by expressing concern and disgust, and even someone laughing. He must look pathetic to be hunched over a trash can, hacking up the contents of his stomach in public, but he can’t exactly help it. And then he hears Adachi swearing, and the commentary from strangers ends.
After several painful, repulsive minutes, Namba is left dry heaving and spitting out bitter saliva. He hangs his head, glasses slipping down his nose, his scruffy hair and clothes sticking to his skin with sweat. Slowly, Namba straightens up, his head pounding and his stomach aching, and blinks when bright whiteness appears in front of his face.
“Here. To wipe your face,” Adachi says, and Namba realizes Adachi holds a packet of pocket tissues in front of him.
Coughing, the action making his burning throat throb, Namba takes the tissues with an awkward smile. “Thanks,” he mumbles, scrubbing his lips and chin, but it doesn’t do anything for the hideous stickiness and the foul taste in his mouth. “I, uh, I need to go wash up.”
Adachi nods, the hand still resting against Namba’s back. But he doesn’t push him away, appreciating the gesture.
With Namba’s stomach reasonably settled, they resume their walk to the public toilets. As they walk, Adachi pulls out his smartphone and types out a text.
“What’re you doing?” Namba asks, hating how hoarse his voice sounds.
“Texting Kasuga, just in case they come out and we’re still at the bathroom,” Adachi says, before shoving his phone back into his pocket.
“Good idea,” he mumbles, able to picture Ichiban running around screaming their names, somehow convincing himself they got kidnapped or something, whilst Saeko tries to calm him down.
Once they reach the bathroom, Namba washes his hands and then his face, getting water all over his shirt in the process. Adachi hands him a half-empty bottle of water and Namba spends a couple of minutes swirling water around his mouth and spitting it out, trying to clean his mouth. It doesn’t help that much, and he smiles in relief when Adachi passes him a strip of chewing gum.
“That should get the taste to fuck off,” Adachi says, smirking, and he shoves some in his own mouth.
Namba chews on the gum, satisfied when the strong, minty taste helps get rid of the tang of stomach acid. And when the mint even starts to dull the nausea, settling his sore stomach, Namba hopes that the puking was just a one-off, and he’ll feel better now.
“Are you feeling better, Namba?” Ichiban asks after rushing through the grass looking for bugs, running back over to Namba and the others.
“For the last time, yes,” Namba says, and Saeko laughs.
“You’re driving him mad, Ichiban,” she says.
Ichiban actually fucking pouts, putting a hand on Namba’s head and letting his fingers stroke Namba’s hair. “But I’m worried. I can’t believe while I was having fun kart racing, poor Namba was throwing up.”
Namba’s face flushes and he ducks out of Ichiban’s grip. “Please stop going on about it.”
“You’re embarrassing him, Kasuga,” Adachi says, and Namba grimaces.
“I’m not embarrassed,” he hisses, cheeks burning.
Ichiban stares at Namba, his face crumpling for a second, before grabbing his bat and pointing it up at the sky and grinning like a dork. “Okay, I’ll shut up!”
“Is it possible for you to shut up?” Saeko asks, smirking, and Ichiban gasps like she swore at him, pressing a hand to his chest.
“Adachi-san, Sacchan’s being mean to me…” he whines.
Adachi rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, quit picking on him, Sacchan.”
Saeko laughs, stepping between them both and giving both guys a nudge with her elbows. “Oh shut up, both of you.”
Namba doesn’t realise he was slowing down until he looks back up and notices his partners now walk several metres in front of him. Puking took a lot of energy out of him, it seems. Despite his muscles aching, Namba hurries to catch up—but moving fast makes his sore stomach churn, discomfort and bloating bubbling through him.
He steps into stride beside Ichiban, listening to the three bicker and laugh, and Namba presses his hands against his abdomen, hating how the bloating and tenderness hasn’t gone away despite throwing up. Pushing his stomach makes it gurgle, but the pressure releases slightly, so he keeps doing it. But the bubbling keeps traveling downwards, and before Namba can stop it, some of the painful gas rushes out of him with a loud, rumbling fart.
Namba freezes, his face burning, and he grimaces, wanting to run away. The other three jump at the sound, and Ichiban laughs awkwardly.
“Was that you, Namba?” he asks, but trails off when he sees the humiliation on Namba’s face. “I mean, are you feeling okay?”
Somehow, the compassion makes him feel even worse, and Namba sighs—and when his stomach rolls again, the nausea coming back like a punch, he takes his chance to run the fuck away.
Unfortunately, Namba doesn’t get to a trash can in time, hunching forwards with his hands on his knees and retching hard. Vomit splatters all over the sidewalk, some even hitting his shoes, and he screws his eyes up.
“Namba!” Ichiban yells, and he catches up in an instant, rubbing his back. “Oh shit, you poor thing.”
He doesn’t mind the comforting words when throwing up, too overwhelmed with pain and effort for the humiliation to sink in. But when he stops puking, coughing and spitting as his mouth burns, the humiliation hits hard, and Namba shrinks away from Ichiban’s soothing touch.
“Here, have this, Nan-chan,” Saeko says, handing him a bottle of barley tea she clearly just got from a vending machine, and Adachi passes him yet more pocket tissues.
“Th-Thanks,” Namba mutters, voice scratching, and he takes a long drink.
“We really need to get you home, huh?” Ichiban says, pain visible on his face just from watching Namba suffer.
“I never wanted to get up in the first place,” Namba says, and Adachi strokes his sweaty hair.
“Okay, time to go home!” Ichiban says, smiling despite still clearly distressed from seeing Namba puke. “Let’s take good care of Namba, guys.”
And when the other two nod, Namba grimaces. They’re going to smother him with affection, aren’t they?
They’re almost home, passing the homeless camp and approaching the bridge leading to their building, when a sudden, intense cramp stops Namba in his tracks. He lets out a shaky gasp, groaning as his guts cramp like he just got stabbed, pain ripping through his muscles as his abdomen cramps again and again.
“Nan-chan?” Saeko whispers, putting her hand on his back. “Are you okay?”
Namba hisses, hunching forwards as pain bubbles through his sore, aching guts—and then he gasps, eyes widening, as he realises something. If he doesn’t get to a bathroom right now, he’s going to shit himself.
“Aah, fuck, I’ve gotta—” Namba rambles and gasps, pushing past his teammates and breaking into a run. He can barely straighten up, his body forcing him to hunch forwards, and his panting breaths drown out their voices. “Shit!”
Even his fastest speed is pretty slow when he feels dreadful, so the others catch up easily. But Namba doesn’t stop and doesn’t reply when they voice their concern, focused entirely on getting to the bathroom. The building they live in has a shared bathroom, and nobody should be here at this time of day. Namba groans, skidding around the corner and flinging the door open, refusing to give into the strong urge to squat down—after puking in front of everyone twice, there is no way he is going to shit himself too.
Namba staggers up the stairs and pulls the bathroom door open, relief flooding through him when he finds the place empty. As his partners thunder up the stairs behind him, calling his name, Namba wastes no time slamming and locking the door.
His guts burning and aching, muscles trembling with exertion, Namba manages to unbutton his pants despite his clammy hands. He collapses onto the toilet, and less than a second later, he curls in on himself as his stomach cramps harder than ever, farting loudly and screwing his face up in humiliation. Without warning, diarrhoea sprays out of him, his bowels burning like someone set them alight, each spluttering fart making his ears crimson in humiliation.
After a few seconds, the diarrhoea stops, but his guts keep cramping, and Namba just waits for the next wave of agony. As he sits there, gasping for breath, Namba hears someone knocking on the door, and he flinches.
“Fuck off!” he cries, unable to bear the thought of them hearing something so disgusting.
And, thankfully, they do, leaving Namba to deal with his body humiliating him on his own.
“Where did you get that, Kasuga?” Adachi asks, faintly exasperated, as he stares down at the black plastic bucket in Ichiban’s hands.
Ichiban smiles like expecting praise, and Namba must admit just how fucking adorable he looks. “Oh, I helped this old man get rid of these punks who were vandalising his store, and he said I could take something as my reward, so I got this!”
“The Hero went on a fetch quest… for a bucket?” Saeko says, eyebrows raised.
“Of course I did, Sacchan! We need something in case Namba can’t get to the bathroom in the night, and they don’t sell buckets at the Poppo, so I was just looking around when I saw the old man and—”
“Okay, okay, we get it,” Adachi says, his smile fond, and he takes the bucket and sets it on the floor. “Thanks, Kasuga.”
Ichiban smiles, going red. “It’s nothing. I also got the supplies you asked for, Namba!”
As his partners stand and chat by the door, Namba sits propped up against the wall, sat on a futon with a pillow behind his back and a blanket across his legs. When Saeko sent Ichiban out to buy some things for Namba, he found himself instructing Ichiban on what he should get for a person with his symptoms, as though he’s not the sick one.
“Thanks, Ichiban,” Namba says, watching Ichiban set bottles of water, a packet of rehydration tablets and a box of painkillers on the floor.
“Oh, and I got you some rice crackers,” Ichiban adds, holding out the plastic packet and beaming. “I thought you’d want something easy to eat if you’re feeling sick.”
“Are those from Eri-chan’s store?” Saeko asks, staring at the label that reads ‘Ichiban Confectionary’, and Ichiban laughs.
Namba manages to smile despite how sore his insides feel. “Thank you,” he says again. “I appreciate it.”
Ichiban smiles, crouching down and staring into his eyes. “It’s nothing, really. And if there’s anything else you need, don’t hesitate to ask. We just want you to feel better.”