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Red Sakura

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“Taiga?”

Three times he had ignored the calling of his name, but of course that ended in the other one finally trying to make him wake up through shaking him on the shoulder.

“Would you at least answer me so I know you are okay?”

He hated it how easily the boy was always worrying for him and with a groan he finally turned on his side and looked up at Reia with a sleepy look. “All good.”

“Are you sure? It’s rare for you to not even realize when your customer gets up.”

Getting reminded of that Taiga turned around, but Jesse was indeed gone. Carefully he sat up, letting the light blanket slid down to his hips on which Reia suddenly turned away and got up. “I’ll get you one of your yukata.”

“I’ve my kimono here. Reia-”

But the boy was gone already. It made Taiga chuckle how easily Reia felt embarrassed. Not wanting to wait until Reia was back Taiga wanted to get up and get his kimono which had somehow ended up in the corner.

With a hiss he fell back on the futon once more, but what had he expected? It wasn’t like they hadn’t slept at some point, however until that time Jesse had indeed enjoyed his time and Taiga would need some days to recover, not that it had in any way been bad.

When he got up to get his kimono from the corner he stepped on something on the futon and when he looked down at the small object he realized that it was a small paper envelope. So small that it easily fit in his hand when he lifted his up.

First he thought about opening it, but then he realized that Jesse had most likely dropped it and it would be impolite to not try and give it back to him.

He hurried into his kimono and put the small paper into his sleeve for now, hoping that Jesse might come by again before he left the country.

When he suddenly heard a sound of something shattering on the ground he made his way out of his room and down the corridor.

 “I swear you’re gonna pay for this!”

“Are you sure?”

When Taiga walked around the next corner he found Ren holding Reia by the collar, but this time Reia wasn’t actually looking like he wanted to pick a fight. Ren on the other hand seemed extremely pissed.

“What is going on here?” Taiga asked as calm as possible, hoping that he could somehow solve the situation without another huge outburst and luck seemed to be with him as Kentaro appeared down the corridor. He remained on distance, but signaled Taiga that he was there to observe the situation and would interfere if Ren went wild once more.

“I was on my way to get your yukata and he made me stumble,” Reia said way calmer than he would usually face such a situation. When Ren pulled him even closer on the collar on that comment Taiga stepped closer and to his surprise Ren released the other one, but of course not without pushing him unnecessarily against the wall.

“And what is this?” Taiga asked as one of the Ikabana vases they kept around the entrance was lying shattered on the ground.

“I wanted him to apologize, but of course he wouldn’t and then he freaked again and tried to attack me with the vase,” Reia explained and showed a cut on his lower arm.

Taiga wanted to reply something when Ren suddenly started chuckling. “Are you sure you want to leave it at this explanation?”

“Is there anything else you want me to add maybe?” Reia asked on which Taiga looked a bit confused from one to the other. Their looks were cutting the air between them and both their behaviors seemed weird, nevertheless Taiga preferred it this way instead of both going berserk once more.

“Okay, forget it, let’s leave it at this for now. Ren clean up this mess. Reia you come with me and we will treat your wound.”

Reia moved down the corridor immediately, but Taiga didn’t miss the almost arrogant look towards Ren, but the other one also had something extremely dangerous nesting in his eyes and it was surprising that he was able to keep it inside this time.

***

 “Here try it,” one of the customers said, handing the cigarette to Taiga. It wasn’t a good move to refuse customers and while he had become used to drinking, smoking wasn’t really his thing. Nevertheless he took the cigarette from Ryosuke’s recently regularly coming customer in the tea house. As expected though he ended up coughing, leaving half of the room laughing at him and Reia hurried to hand him a glass of water.

“Not made for the hard things, mh?”

“He is made for the beautiful things,” Ryosuke interfered playfully as he had handed out two other cigarettes to some of his other customers. It wasn’t the only regular group which was booking Ryosuke in the tea house now and Taiga often ended up with them as well on Ryosuke’s suggestion.

The next thing that was heard was Ren clicking his tongue, but this time Ryosuke didn’t seem to be in the mood of letting it pass. Taiga wanted to interfere as he was the boy’s senpai, but Ryosuke was faster and dragged the boy away from the customers, giving him a harsh scolding.

To Taiga’s surprise it seemed to have at least a bit of an effect. Maybe it would be better to punish the boy after all when he got rude and didn’t want to work? After all he wasn’t an assistant like Reia, but supposed to work as all of the other boys.

For now Ryosuke send him outside to get more cigarettes for the customers.

Ryosuke went back to the table Taiga was at, entertaining the customers and succeeded in pulling Taiga a bit to the side while the customers were laughing loudly, talking to the two female Oirans which they had booked together with them.

“You’re getting almost as famous as Kentaro,” Taiga whispered while he tried to get the weird feeling out of his lungs which spread through his body. Before Ryosuke had arrived he didn’t have many customers which smoked or made him smoke, but recently he felt even worse doing it or the cigarettes had just become a lot stronger he wasn’t sure.

“I was first in ranking in my district, so who knows maybe I can overtake him,” Ryosuke joked before he waved Noeru over. He handed him an empty sake bottle and asked him to get a new one from the servants downstairs.

“Make sure that Shintaro is with you,” Ryosuke hurried to add before the boy left the room.

“Isn’t Shintaro with Ren?” Taiga asked a bit panicked and wanted to get up, but Ryosuke pulled him back down with a soothing expression. “Didn’t Kamenashi tell you that Ren argued so much with him about it that he allowed him to be by himself?”

That sounded a lot like Ren, but it didn’t take away Taiga’s worries.

“Ah I forgot,” Ryosuke said out of a sudden and slid the door open, but the boy was already gone.

“What is it?”

“One of the customers asked for a special sake earlier. I will hurry after them.”

Before Taiga could even offer to go with him or make him wait the boy flashed him a smile and hurried down the corridor.

“Shall I go with him?” Reia offered, but Taiga shook his head.

“Don’t worry, it will be alright. We should stop worrying so much.”

Even though he said this to make the other one calm down he still couldn’t shake of this weird feeling around Nakanocho recently.

On the request of some tea Taiga wanted to hurry over to get it for the customers as he suddenly lost balance the moment he wanted to get up. Reia was right next to him and grabbed him by the arm.

“Are you alright?”

“Sorry, all good, just a bit dizzy. Maybe I drank too much.”

“You barely had two cups of sake over the last hour,” Reia said skeptical. “Are you getting ill again?”

“What, are you feeling bad again?” Ryosuke was heard worried from the door when he entered together with Noeru and brought the sake.

“It’s not a big deal,” Taiga tried to make them believe, but of course Reia was up in the corridor once more.

“I will ask the staff if they have something for you.”

Taiga gave up discussing with the boy and let him and Shintaro had downstairs once more. Lost in his thoughts he flinched when Ryosuke suddenly put his hand on his forehead.

“Mh, you don’t seem to have a fever. Are you feeling cold?”

“Just a bit dizzy, nothing more. Seriously please stop worrying.”

Ryosuke showed an apologizing smile on that, but what else could he expect? The last weeks had been quite rough for all of them.

“The customers will leave in like half an hour, just hold on a bit longer, okay?”

What else was he supposed to do anyway? And luckily after a bit more small talk here and there, another empty sake bottle and a few more cigarettes the customers were leaving. It wasn’t like they had drunk way too much, but they seemed in a weirdly way hyper and tipsy as if they had drank the whole night, but it was somehow fun to watch and the boys bowed towards them as they were guided outside.

When Taiga went back into the dressing room Reia kept observing him nonstop until Taiga let out a sigh. “I am feeling better if you could finally calm down after hearing that?”

“Mh, maybe if you make it back to the house without stumbling,” Reia said with a small smile. Luckily he could tell that Taiga wasn’t lying and the weird dizziness feeling had finally dissolved.

The next moment Reia hissed when Ren shoved him out of the way to throw the remaining layers of Taiga’s kimono on the ground. “Aren’t you cute? How about you make yourself useful instead of showing your senpai how much you love him?”

“I don’t- … you can do that work by yourself!” Reia replied annoyed, getting irritated by the boy’s behavior even more than usual this time. “And you are not supposed to throw the expensive kimono on the ground, you know that!”

“Oh, my apologies!” Ren replied mocking on which Reia got ready to start a fight in the tea house, but luckily Noeru was faster and pulled the boy back before he folded the kimono carefully.

“Shall we go?” Noeru asked neutral as if nothing had happened, before he shoved the bag with the kimono against Ren’s chest. One warning look was enough for Ren to take the bag from him, but Taiga didn’t miss the annoyed glance over to Reia as the boy looked mockingly back at him.

They all went downstairs together, Ryosuke chatting with Shintaro about some bars they had in Yoshiwara and where his favorite places to go were.

Without a warning Reia stopped in the middle of the corridor on which Taiga almost bumped into him. “What is it?”

Everyone else turned towards them as well as they realized that he had stopped and Taiga’s look turned to worried immediately as he realized that the boy was slightly shaking.

“Reia, what is it? Tell me!” Taiga said a bit stricter this time as he moved in front of the boy, finding the boy looking up at him with a terrified look.

“This smell…”

They all fell quiet until Noeru was the first one to gasp and put his hand up over his mouth and nose.

“Out, now!” Taiga said and pulled Reia with him down the corridor. Everyone caught up with the situation immediately and they rushed outside.

“You stay here!”

“What, are you crazy?” Reia suddenly yelled at Taiga as he and Ryosuke were about to turn back to the tea house. Almost desperately he clawed his hands into the other one’s arm.

“Reia, this is an order!” Taiga put the boy into place before he looked at Shintaro. “Take them further away from the building, but make sure to stay visible on the main street.”

Shintaro didn’t even try to discuss with Taiga and he grabbed Reia by the arm and shoved Ren down the street, luckily getting help from Noeru as the other one seemed to have full trust into Ryosuke and made sure to go on safe distance from the house for now.

Ryosuke and Taiga hurried to talk to the staff of the house, making sure someone would get the police immediately and warn the other customers and Oiran.

Carefully they moved back into the corridor they came from before and started checking the rooms.

“Be careful,” Ryosuke whispered each time they slowly opened a new door, but it was actually so quiet in the corridor that they doubted that the murderer was still around. Like before everything seemed to have happened unnoticed and quiet.

With the next door Taiga could already tell how the well-known nausea took over him the moment he slid the door open and the smell of blood felt way too overwhelming.

“Not again…”

But it was the same picture in front of them unfortunately. This time though it was an Oiran assistant being the victim. They could tell by her clothes, but it would be hard to identify her. The same cruel murder had been performed on her and her throat was slid with her face cut to a degree that she was unrecognizable.

“Let’s leave the rest to the police, shall we?” Ryosuke suggested and pulled Taiga a bit away from the room before they could get too affected by the scene in front of them.

So it had been the calm before the storm after all. What if their calm time was over with this and they had to fear for everyone’s life from now on? An Oiran, an assistant...who was going to be next? By what pattern was the murderer going by?

***

“Don’t ask, please.” Taiga said as he joined Juri in their room late at night after Aran had brought them back to their house once more. He couldn’t stand everyone’s worried looks and the least he needed now was pity, after all he wasn’t the one dead.

“You want to sleep?” Juri asked neutral on which Taiga went over to the cupboard to change into his night yukata. Juri waited patiently on the futon until the older one joined him.

Without another word Taiga buried his forehead against the latter’s chest as Juri threw the blanket over both of them and carefully kissed the other one’s hair. “Good night.”

He really tried too hard to not make Taiga feel weak and here it was hard to tell if it was helping or not. The only thing Taiga could tell was that pretending that everything was okay wasn’t helping.

“Do you think I am weaker than the others?”

“Maybe more emotional?” Juri replied in a low voice and pulled the other one closer.

“I mean Ryosuke and Noeru seemed to be of the tough type from the beginning, but Reia, I don’t know...he seems so distracted recently.”

“Distracted with you and Ren, isn’t that good in a way? Like that he keeps his thoughts of those incidences.”

“What do you mean?” Taiga asked a bit confused, but still kept his face hidden on the other one’s chest, already feeling how he got too tired for this conversation.

“You didn’t notice? Since Ren came into the house you try so hard to somehow get to him that Reia looks at you two kind of jealous all the time.”

Taiga had to let out a chuckle on hearing that. “He has me in the teahouse the whole time.”

“And here we both know that it’s not enough for him.”

This time Taiga fought himself out of his sleepy state once more to look up at the other one. “You noticed?”

“Who wouldn’t if not me? I always see the way he looks at you and when he realizes I am watching he always looks so embarrassed, almost sorry.”

“Does it bother you? Shall I talk to him?” Taiga asked worried, but Juri shook his head and stroked Taiga’s hair.

“You know talking won’t solve this. How about you solve it for good?”

It was still fascinating Taiga how selfless Juri was and it hurt every time, because no matter how much he said it was okay there was always a part which was definitely not okay with it.

“I will think about it,” Taiga said in a sleepy voice as he cuddled himself back against the other one’s chest, slowly falling asleep in the younger one’s arms.