Actions

Work Header

Red Sakura

Chapter Text

 

The first layer was thin and light, the second one still easy to wear, but the third layer of the Oiran kimono was always too heavy for Taiga. Still he didn’t complain when Reia put it over his shoulders after all he was used to it by now.

Plain white was the usual color for the first layer, the second one had a simple pattern, in this case it was red with white sakura on it. The third layer showed detailed pattern. The one he had to wear today was dark green with yellow sewing of birds and flowers, also showing detailed landscapes of mountains in blue as the background. A few months earlier he would have never imagined wearing something as expensive as this.

“You want to use any of it today?” Reia asked as he pointed at the make-up on the table right under the mirror.

Taiga sat up a bit to the front while Reia waited patiently behind him. First he took the black paste in his hands and as much as it had become famous among the Oiran to paint their teeth black he still wasn’t fond of it, so he put it back on the table and lifted the green lipstick up instead.

Carefully he put it on his bottom lip, correcting a part with his finger and he could spot Reia in the mirror looking fascinated at his hand movements.

“You shouldn’t get distracted by this anymore after all this time,” Taiga said teasing on which the boy immediately looked to the ground with slightly flushed cheeks.

With a chuckle Taiga put the make-up back and got ready to stand up. His skin was pale enough to not put extra white makeup on and as much as their new established system made them dress and behave like the high class female Oiran there were still parts Taiga wanted to keep as natural as possible.

Reia was up immediately to help Taiga with the layers of his kimono as he started walking towards the doors. Taiga stood still for a moment, taking a deep breath before Reia handed him the shamisen₁ he was supposed to use today at the tea house. He could already hear the people laughing and celebrating outside and luckily he knew that there were familiar faces there as well after all one of those familiar people had called him here today.

“Are you ready?” Reia asked as he stepped towards the door and Taiga closed his eyes for another moment before he nodded.

Reia vanished into the other room first, announcing Taiga’s entrance and the room fell silent immediately. Carefully Reia pushed the doors aside and remained seated next to them while Taiga put on his most seductive look as he stepped inside the tea house room.

There were about a dozen people, already sitting with other Oiran which were serving them today. Most of them were female, but he also spotted Juri and Reo next to a few of the people. But today he was the main guest and the others had to stand back now that he had entered. Nevertheless he didn’t miss the teasing smile Juri and Reo exchanged.

Taiga stopped in front of the customers, bowing towards all of them, his eyes remaining on the main person as he lifted his head again.

“Taiga, as beautiful as always,” Domoto said proudly on which Taiga slightly bowed a second time.

“And here we wondered why you didn’t ask for one of the most expensive Oiran, but your taste is extraordinary after all,” one of members said laughing on which others also cheered approving. A few of them Taiga remembered from the Shogunate meetings over the last two years, other faces were new and they were all eyeing Taiga with greedy looks, not that he was bothered by it. But today was not an official meeting, only a small party Domoto had prepared for some of his higher up friends from the Shogunate.

“Show them your worth,” Domoto said teasing and waved his hand on which Reia immediately stood next to Taiga and helped him sit and rearranged the kimono.

Taiga knew that his price was low in this new system where they were allowed to enter the tea houses at the main street in Nakanocho in Yoshiwara, but it was new for the male Oiran to even participate in this system so they would need time to get accepted by the female workers and also the customers.

The other Oiran in the room often gave him mocking smiles or hoped that he would fail, but while he had indeed failed a lot in the beginning he was more than confident recently. With a light smile he put the Bachi₂ on the strings and started playing.

***

“You were so damn awesome today!” Reo yelled way too loud over the Nakanocho main street on their way back. Luckily it was already late at night and most people had left the Yoshiwara district already or had been guided to one of the houses where they were allowed to stay until the early morning hours.

“Domoto likes bragging with you recently a lot,” Juri let out next to him on which Taiga just shrugged his shoulders.

“As long as I don’t embarrass him I guess it’s fine.”

“Not to forget that he pays more for you than he needs to,” Reia said as he took another look in the small pouch filled with several silver coins. “He almost paid the same price he would need to pay for Kentaro and he is on first place in the ranking at the moment.”

“Well, I am not really aiming to get into his position,” Taiga said laughing as they reached the end of the main street and left the almost blooming sakura trees behind them.

“If you wanted to though you could easily get a higher ranking,” Juri said.

“You already got a higher one than me,” Reo interfered on that kind of pouting.

“Be happy you are not that high in it, because time gets rare through that and you want to keep some time for Fu, right? And he would need to pay even more if you get higher in the ranking,” Taiga replied with a faint smile as the wind put one of his strands in his eye. Carefully he pushed it back, resting his fingers on the scars of his blind eye for a moment.

The nights were still a bit chilly outside now that it was end of March and the four boys hurried back to their house at the river. While Reia was carrying Taiga’s three layered kimono in a bag, they were now all dressed in their usual work kimonos, making it way easier to walk. Domoto didn’t stay this night, but usually they were allowed to guide the customers back to their house and let them stay until morning.

Two years have passed since the chaos with the Yamashita clan and a lot had changed in the Yoshiwara district, but things were calm at least.

“You are late!”

While Taiga didn’t even flinch as someone appeared right next to them, Juri jolted and hit the approaching person on the shoulder. “Shintaro, for god’s sake how often do we have to tell you not to hide there?”

The boy was taking care of the building now that Kochi wasn’t there anymore and through the system changing most of the houses also needed more protection against thieves and other trouble makers.

“Like this the bad guys get scared away easier you know?” The boy teased with a bright smile while Reia hurried to open the front door of their house for the others to enter.

“Then let Tatsuya handle the night shift alone his face scares people away,” Reo added laughing as he followed Taiga and the others inside the house.

With the new system Tatsuya had joined the house as the main security guard to Kamenashi’s obvious liking.

“Ah by the way today a new boy came,” Shintaro explained.

“Oh, out of a sudden?” Taiga asked, but remembered that he also came without any announcement.

“He seems to be quite a troublemaker.”

“Well, quite a lot of the new ones are like that,” Taiga said teasingly his eyes on Reia on which the boy pouted immediately. But Reia hadn’t become one of the boys in the end and that had been thanks to Taiga. He had asked Kamenashi to let Reia take care of the house like Kochi did before and he had agreed. Since the system had changed he had become Taiga’s assistant. Most of the boys in the house had an assistant now, carrying their new heavy kimonos to the tea houses and guide the customers back to their house.

“Then good luck with him from tomorrow on.”

“What, am I responsible for him?” Taiga asked with a raised eyebrow on which Shintaro gave him an apologizing look.

“You know with Taisuke being in his last year and Kentaro busy, Kamenashi said you should be in charge of him.”

“One trouble maker teaches the next one. A good match I’d say,” Reo said as he clapped Taiga encouraging on the shoulder.

It could be a good match indeed, because Reia was also easy to handle for him, but what if the new boy wasn’t?

***

The sun was already out when Taiga finally woke up and Juri was still deep asleep at his side, his face half hidden at the boy’s chest and he stroke over his hair with a light smile.

Their new system allowed them to take it easy in the morning as they usually let customers stay until morning. Taiga placed a soft kiss on the latter’s hair before he tried to get up without waking him up, not that Juri would easily wake up anyway.

Out in the corridor Taiga made his way towards the room he was told the new boy was living in for now. All rooms had been full so he had gotten a room for himself, at least for now.

“Oh up that early?” Shota was heard as he came up the stairs still in his work kimono as he had a customer over the night staying over and he just sent him off.

“I wanted to talk to the new boy,” Taiga said.

“Oh good luck with that,” Shota teased him.

“He only arrived yesterday, right?”

“Yes. Kamenashi had warned him yesterday already, because of his immature behavior, but he seems to be a pretty tough case.”

“Would you tell me his name and through what circumstances he came here?” Taiga asked.

“His name is Ren. He was in an illegal brothel until now, same as we were before. You have to know that after experiencing a treatment at such a place this is a joke.”

“I know, I remember your behavior when you came here first,” Taiga said, this time not as calm as before and Shota gave him an apologizing, but he knew that Taiga had forgiven them already.

Shota excused himself for now, wanting to take some rest before new customers would come for the noon hours.  

Taiga moved on to Ren’s door, but didn’t enter immediately.

Was there even a good reason to feel that nervous? Reia had also been quite stubborn, but he hadn't actually been aggressive, so a kohai like Ren was a first for him. Nevertheless he tried to keep his expression as neutral as possible as he knocked on the boy's door.

No response.

He tried a second time, louder than before. Maybe he was still asleep? Or…

The thought of Ren already having run away on his first night made Taiga panic a little as he grabbed the sliding door.

“I'm coming in.”

No one stopped him from entering which was no surprise because even though Ren was in the room and obviously awake he had ignored Taiga's knocking as well.

“Good morning, Ren.”

The boy was still wearing his night yukata, but was sitting on the windowsill from which he could see the river. He looked up at his senpai, but all Taiga could see was annoyance.

“I didn't allow you to come in.”

“You didn't stop me either,” Taiga replied as calm as possible as he walked up to the boy. If Ren was an untouched boy Taiga would be harsher with him from the start. Not standing up when a senpai enters the room, no proper greeting and there were a dozen more things which would definitely go wrong from now on as well. But something about the boy's look told him that there was no way in reaching him through preaching or punishments.

“I think Kamenashi told you yesterday already, but I’m the senpai in charge of you. My name is Taiga.”

“Great, thanks for the unnecessary self-introduction. Now leave me alone.”

The boy's impolite tone made Taiga raise an eyebrow at him, but he wouldn't lose his calm that easily. It was obvious that Ren just waited for him to freak and give up on teaching him any manners.

Instead of trying to have a normal conversation Taiga went over to the desk in the corner and took the book from it. Each room had one of those as it was their guideline for the new system.

In silence he sat on the windowsill next to Ren and flipped through the pages.

“Work shifts are divided between day and night work with the day shift being two hours from 14 - 16 o'clock, while the night shift starts at 18 o'clock, allowing the customer to stay until morning.”

There was no reaction on Taiga's sudden reading out loud so after a side glance at Ren who was still looking out to the river as if his look could actually make the water boil, he kept reading.

“Customers have to make a reservation at least one day prior to their visit if they come directly to the house. Tea house visits need to be booked a week in advance. After the tea house closes customers are allowed to come back to the house and stay until morning even without reservation.”

Another break, still no reaction. When Taiga kept reading though he saw how Ren clenched his fists in annoyance.

“The price for a visit is set, as is the price for the tea house. The ranking decides the price. No special services will be granted even if more money is offered. Violence against the boys is prohibited.”

It was a new rule Taiga liked a lot, yet Ren didn't even seem to care.

With a sigh Taiga turned back to the book and he could hear Ren's dangerous growl, but he ignored it.

“Each Oiran of the house can choose an assistant if wanted. That person will help with duties in the house and guide customers from the tea house back to the main house. The assistant is no apprentice and no customer is allowed to ask any sexual services from them.”

Maybe this one would finally trigger something, but again it was just anger and an obvious feeling of irritation against Taiga showing on the boy's face.

With him coming from an illegal house maybe he was afraid of what awaited him, maybe he needed someone to talk to, to open up to, but there was not the slightest hint on his face which could help Taiga.

Once more he turned back to the book and flipped to the next page.

“The participation at the Yoshiwara festivals will be-”

Before he could read the next word Ren had suddenly jumped up and ripped the book out of Taiga's hand.

Without another comment he went over to the open window and threw the book into the river. Taiga starred outside the window with a stunned expression while Ren sat down with a pouting look and crossed his arms to his chest.

“What the actual…” Taiga said to himself and shook his head with a disbelieving look.

“Oh what a shame. Lesson time is over,” Ren said mocking before he pointed at the door. “And now out.”

“The participation at the Yoshiwara festivals will be decided by the rankings and held under strict rules of the Yoshiwara district and looked over by the regional police,” Taiga ended his previous sentence to the boy's obvious astonishment. “Sorry, but I memorized the rules of that book.”

The teasing look Taiga formed made Ren's look turn even darker and suddenly the boy was up once more and grabbed Taiga by the wrist.

There was no need for a fight on the boy's first day so he let himself get dragged towards the door and Ren pushed him out to the corridor with another death glare.

“If you keep annoying me I'll make you regret it!”

Without waiting for a reply Ren shut the door and all Taiga could do was shake his head before he walked down the corridor and massaged his temples.

“Damn, it's too early for a headache.”

***

Leaving the back of the house behind Taiga made his way to the red wooden part in the front. It was quiet here now that it was daytime and the last customers were about to leave.

The size of the house still gave Taiga a weird feeling. Having a bridge and pond in the middle of the house seemed way too much compared to the small house they had before.

When he walked down one of the open corridors next to their indoor garden a door in front of him got slit open.

“Why didn’t you wake me up? You know I’d run late?”

Taiga moved aside at the last moment, making Fuma almost stumble as he swirled around to his direction to hurry down the corridor.

“Oh, damn, sorry Taiga.” Without a real greeting he just waved his hand at the boy and rushed towards the exit.

With a chuckle Taiga moved towards the open door of the room, finding Kentaro sitting on the futon, still half asleep.

“You and Fuma need someone to wake you both up when you spend the night together.”

“Would be definitely a good idea,” Kentaro said as he pulled his kimono up over his shoulders after it was just hanging loose around his hips with a half closed obi. “But I scolded him already for staying so often recently.”

“Why, is he spending too much money on you now that you got the first place in the male Oiran ranking?” Taiga teased him.

“Actually yes, that’s a part of it as well,” Kentaro replied with a chuckle.

“You are working nonstop recently, you should really take off for some time,” Taiga suggested on which Kentaro nodded.

“Then hurry up and take my place.”

“In your dreams! You know how much trouble I have with all the new arts and skills we have to learn to get into the higher ranking, right?”

“Your shamisen got famous among the customers though,” Kentaro replied with a wink on which Taiga shook his head, but showed a brief proud smile.

“And here I still spill the tea every third time and mess up my calligraphy lessons so badly that our teacher keeps scolding me nonstop.”

“Well I can’t master the Koto₃ and I fear that our teacher already gave up on me because of it.”

Taiga sat down on the tatami in front of Kentaro and both boys let out a sigh at the same time on which they bursted out laughing.

“Guess a lot has changed for all of us,” Taiga said nostalgic on which Kentaro tilted his head with a light smile and observed him on which Taiga gave him a questioning look. “Did I say something weird?”

“Not at all. It’s just nice to see you so calm in this environment. You know after all the chaos in your first year here I wondered how well you could fit in for your ten years of work.”

Right, his ten years would be over someday as well and he had been here three in total already. But he wasn’t trying to hurry to the end, because he didn’t want to waste those precious years with unnecessary worries.

“What do you plan on doing as soon as you are free to go?” Taiga asked on which Kentaro hummed for a moment before he cracked a bright smile.

“I want to have my own shop.”

“A shop? What kind of?”

“Not sure, I guess I will have to think about that a bit more, but for now I still have three more years for that, so no hurry, right?”

“Three more years to defend your rank,” Taiga replied on which a pillow was thrown in his direction and both of them started laughing again.

It was really a peaceful time and with every new day Taiga prayed that it would remain like this.

 

+++

 

₁shamisen: three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument

₂bachi: plectrum for a Japanese Shamisen

₃koto: 13 string Japanese traditional instrument

Chapter Text

“Juri I didn’t take off to waste my time.”

“Oh, so taking a walk with me is a waste of time?” Juri asked teasingly as he knew that Taiga wasn’t meaning it that way. “Recently you always keep your eyes on Ren and here it is obviously that all he is up to is causing more trouble. He is not stupid since he has realized that you took care of the kimono chaos he created the other day he tries to play with your patience.”

“Good for him that I am not the type of senpai to punish my kohai easily.”

Juri just shook his head on that and hooked his arm with Taiga’s as they made their way over the nearest bridge. It was quite a warm day and they were in two casual yukatas in light blue and yellow, but their house has become famous around Yoshiwara as the first male Oiran house participating in all the official events and rankings so people recognized them anyway.

“The festival is coming up in two weeks, do you think we'll be fine?” Taiga asked as they walked passed a few small shops on one of the side streets next to their district.

“I will be, but I am not sure about you and Kentaro. You two have to walk in front and do all the annoying stuff,” Juri replied with a lopsided smile.

“Well, that is also part of my worries.”

“And the other part?” Juri asked a bit more serious this time.

“I am not sure. It’s just that we barely started all this and it feels like we invaded a tradition we should have stayed away from. I don’t want the other houses to hate us or even attack us because of it.”

“And the festival would be the perfect opportunity,” Juri said in realization on which Taiga’s face darkened.

“Don’t worry, Takizawa’s house is still going with the old rules, remember? He and Kamenashi had agreed on going with different systems for now to see how things work out and to give customers the chance to go with the old system as well if they want to.”

“I know and it’s good to know that even their house seems quiet at the moment, but I feel really restless recently,” Taiga finally admitted after keeping his worries away from the others most of the time.

Juri squeezed his arm into his a bit on hearing that, knowing of course that Taiga had carried around some worries for the last weeks, but he was always too polite to talk about it, because he didn’t want others to worry.

“Do you think it’s the calm before the storm?”

“Hopefully not, but we can never be sure, right? For now I want to enjoy our calm time though.”

“Perfect, because that is why we are here,” Juri said proudly as he sped up and grabbed Taiga’s hand to pull him along.

With a questioning look Taiga followed the boy until they reached another main street where he could hear a lot of people cheering and saw people dancing on the streets.

“Eh, isn’t it way too soon for an Odori₁ festival?” Taiga asked a bit perplex on the festival like atmosphere in front of him.

“It’s a regional festival here in town. They celebrate the first sakura blossoms,” Juri explained as they squeezed along the side of the street, trying to find a good spot to have a look at the dancers.

“Oh what a surprise, we are not the only ones on their day off,” Juri said as he pointed at the other side of the street.

Taiga immediately formed a teasing smile as he saw Tegoshi, but not alone. Next to him was Massu, the owner of the shop from which their instruments were usually coming from. Over the last months Tegoshi had started visiting their house a lot, because they had to get more of the three layered kimono and that was taking a lot of time and measuring. Of course those two had met several times through that inside the house and there was not a single member of the house who hadn’t realized what was going on after their first encounter already.

Taiga kept looking around as he suddenly saw another boy with a quite fashionable Yukata. It was red and white, with a simple yet bright pattern of lines and circles. Also his look was unusual for a normal citizen. His hair seemed to be dyed in a light brown and his eye color seemed lighter than the usual one, quite close to Tegoshi’s blue eyes, but more of a dark grey. What caught his attention as well was that the boy wasn’t looking at the dancers, but directly back at him. Had he realized who they were even while they were a bit away from Yoshiwara and in simple Yukata?

Before Taiga could think about how to react another boy appeared next to him and they started talking before they vanished into the crowd, but Taiga didn’t miss the last look over his shoulder towards him with a lopsided smile.

The next moment Juri had dragged him along the street to take a look at another location of the festival and Taiga wanted to keep his attention on Juri after the boy was spending so much effort in giving Taiga a break from his kohai troubles, which would hopefully remain his only troubles for now.

***

The hot tea landed on the ground even without Taiga messing up this time. From the very first day they had started their training in different skills and arts he had known that this one just didn't suit him.

Aran didn't mind though, because he wasn't the type to come for an hour of tea as foreplay.

Making sure that they wouldn't create an even bigger mess, Taiga crawled a bit away from the small table the moment Aran had tackled him to the ground without a warning and was now busy with teasing his neck with his teeth.

“Tough day at work?” Taiga asked on which the other one bit harsher this time on which Taiga escaped a low chuckle.

Searching for the younger one's face he put his hands to his cheeks to make him look up. Dark eyes awaited him as they stared at each other before Taiga invited him to a greedy kiss.

“How about some distraction?”

The suggestion made Aran's eyes shine and with a smooth movement of his legs Taiga had Aran trapped so that he could turn them around.

There was not a single complain when Taiga slowly crawled of him, but then stopped between his legs. Taiga didn't even need to say anything and Aran's greedy look was enough of permission.

With a light touch Taiga let his hands vanish inside the boy's hakama and as expected Aran spread his legs invitingly.

It was the teasing touch around his thighs which made Aran growl impatiently. It was obvious that it was no day for teasing or a long foreplay.

With skilled fingers Taiga took care of Aran's already erected member while he also untied the hakama to get it out of the way. Just for a bit longer he wanted to have a look at how Aran's eyes got darker. There was always this point when he'd start biting his lip that was when he had to level things up and as expected this moment came sooner than usual.

“So impatient today,” Taiga whispered as he leant forward and gave him another short kiss before he crawled back and lowered himself between his legs.

Just a small teasing lick over the boy's tip was leaving Aran in a paralyzed state for a few seconds. When he took him completely in his mouth the younger one had trouble keeping himself up on his elbows and Taiga pushed on his stomach, allowing him to lie back.

His sweet moans filled the room way too soon for Taiga's liking, but he had said he'd stay the night so there was no way this was going to be their last round.

When Taiga felt Aran's hand in his hair he knew the boy was close, but he had found a weird liking in not pulling away and Aran knew that, so all he did was calling Taiga's name as his grip got tighter before he came into Taiga's mouth.

Swallowing had become easier as Taiga hadn't been fond of it at first. Still he used his chance while Aran came down from his climax to get a bit of the remaining tea.

“You seem busy with something as well,” Aran was heard as he lay on the side, facing Taiga with a brief smile.

“Now I wonder how you figured that out, because that I let the tea drop is nothing new.”

Aran escaped a chuckle on that before he shook his head. “You usually just offer distraction like this when you want some as well,” Aran said with a smirk. “And don't worry I'm more than willing to give a lot to you later.”

“Glad to hear that,” Taiga replied with a wink on which both started laughing.

“But seriously, everything alright?” Aran asked a bit more serious as he sat up and this time Taiga grabbed the sake bottle instead and poured him some knowing that it was way more of Aran's liking than the tea.

“It's a new boy which came a few days ago. He is causing a lot of trouble.”

“So you are in charge of him?”

Taiga nodded with a sigh before Aran suddenly handed him the cup he was holding.

“Sounds like you need a drink as well.”

Taiga took the cup from him without another comment, but he wasn't that fond of the taste.

“How much did he drive you crazy until now?”

“On the first day he threw our rule book into the river. On the second day he ripped the kimono apart I gave him for work. He seriously tries everything possible to make me freak.”

“But you won't as I know you,” Aran said proudly.

“And that is exactly why they chose me. They know the boy can handle any kind of punishment, so I've to find another way if there is one.”

Aran nodded with a worried look on hearing that. “It's rare for you to speak so negatively.”

“I know, I'm sorry. I guess it bothers me more than it should.”

Aran reached out for the cup to put it back on the table before he pulled Taiga closer on his kimono collar.

“Well, then let me distract you from all those unnecessary worries for tonight,” Aran whispered against his lips on which Taiga tried to trap his bottom lip with his teeth, but the boy pulled back. “Hey, is causing me pain the only distraction you want?”

Taiga couldn't hide a low chuckle on that before he put his hands to the boy's neck and crawled on his lap so that Aran had to fall back a bit.

“Trust me there dozens of other ways to distract me.”

“Then let me try all of them tonight,” Aran suggested with his eyes turning back to the greedy look Taiga loved so much.

***

Taiga could do nothing more, but apologize to their calligraphy teacher over and over again. First he had thought it was a good idea to distract Ren with lessons for now instead of trying to put him right into work, but it turned out to have been a horrible plan.

It had surprised Taiga already that Ren had actually followed him to one of the calligraphy lessons, but it was of course just to create chaos.

Instead of practicing, Ren had decided that the floor needed some coloring instead and the teacher went furious at his doing on which Taiga had jumped up and promised to clean it later.

“Please continue the lesson. We will take our lead for now.” Taiga said apologizing and moved between the other young boys towards Ren and signaled him to stand up. Of course the boy didn't move and just brought his Fude₂ down to the tatami mat once more.

Taiga rolled his eyes on the move and crouched down to take the writing utensil out of his hand. Before he could do so Ren suddenly moved his hand up and slashed the Fude through the air so that Taiga had to pull back with a hiss as some of the ink hit his eyes.

“What are you doing?” Reo was heard outraged from the front and he jumped up, forcing Ren up.

“It's all good, Reo. Thank you,” Taiga said as he used his sleeve to get the ink off his face at least a bit before he took a grip on Ren's arm so that Reo stepped back. He looked ready to hit the boy, but that was exactly what Ren wanted so Taiga wouldn't let him win this game and he made Reo sit down again even though his friend seemed ready to kick Ren out of the next best window as soon as they would be alone.

“Sorry for disturbing your class. I'll make sure to clean everything later,” Taiga apologized once more before he dragged Ren out to the corridor of the first floor where their rooms for several kinds of lessons were placed.

“Even if you don't want to learn it's fine, but please don't cause trouble for the others. They are all here to-”

In the middle of speaking Ren had already turned his back towards Taiga and walked down the corridor.

Taiga just let out a sigh on his behavior, but would let it pass like always. When he heard fast steps behind him though he turned just to see an unknown boy pass him and hurry towards Ren. When he reached the boy he yanked him back on his Yukata and forced him to walk back to Taiga. Ren was so shocked that he couldn't even struggle much before he was grabbed by the hair and forced to bow to the front.

“How dare you treat your senpai in such a disrespectful way?” The boy yelled and forced Ren to bow even lower as he started struggling. “Apologize!”

“Noeru, let him go,” another person was heard behind them and Taiga turned to face a familiar face. He had seen the boy on the festival with Juri before and now he also remembered that he had seen the other boy with him.

“But Ryosuke, his behavior is unforgivable!”

Ryosuke cracked an apologizing smile towards Taiga before he clapped him on the shoulder as if they were friends.

“Look at his senpai. It's obvious that the boy is a tough case and here he decided that the best was to let him leave. So now you are disrespectful through questioning his teaching methods,” Ryosuke explained on which Noeru let go of Ren immediately and bowed towards Taiga.

“My apologies.”

Taiga waved his hand immediately while Ren gave the boy a death glare, but just retreated instead of picking a fight, which was definitely not what Taiga had expected. But there had been something dangerous in his eyes and it was clear that he had to watch out for him even more.

“My apologies for the rough greeting,” Ryosuke said as Noeru walked back to him.

“No worries, everything is alright. By the way may I ask who you are?” Taiga asked politely.

“They are from another district in Edo and just came here. They will be part of the house from now on,” Taisuke was heard as he walked up to them as he had obviously just come from Kamenashi's room to inform him about their arrival. “Kamenashi has time for you now.”

“Thank you,” Noeru said with a light bow towards him as he waited for his senpai to move as well. They were both in the clothes from before so it was obvious that Ryosuke would join them, but maybe Noeru was an assistant like Reia and the other boys, but Taiga would have enough time to ask them later.

“Let me know if you need any help around the house, you can always ask me or one of the other boys,” Taiga offered on which Ryosuke suddenly stretched his arm out to touch his face. It had been some time that Taiga flinched on such a move, but somehow Ryosuke's touch had something provoking.

First he thought he had aimed for his scar, but when he pulled his fingers back a bit of ink was on his fingertips.

“I guess for calligraphy I need to ask someone else, but I heard you are famous for you shamisen.”

“Oh does my reputation precede towards other districts already?” Taiga asked a bit playful on which Ryosuke formed a lopsided smile as he stepped back.

“I'm just a good observer and have a good eye for special talents.”

The boy had a weird aura surrounding him and while it woke Taiga's interest it also made him aware of some kind of danger or maybe he should call it competition instead?

“Looking forward to working with you from now on,” Taiga said neutral before the two boys left with Taisuke.

With slow steps Taiga went down the corridor towards the bath. Ren was causing enough trouble already and it wasn't clear if those two were a good or bad match for their house, so for now Taiga could just hope that the storm wasn't approaching faster than he had hoped.

***

“What, you met Ryosuke before?” Juri asked confused as he met with Taiga in the bath later. The boy had helped with cleaning his Yukata from the ink, but of course not without having a good laugh at the story first.

“I saw him and Noeru in the streets when we were at the festival,” Taig explained as he got the last stains of ink from his face and joined Juri in the bath.

“So what do you think about them?”

“Not much yet. We just briefly talked in the corridor earlier, but Noeru seems to be quite respectful towards him and also other senpai. I fear he will end up in a fight with Ren at some point.”

“And?” Juri asked, shrugging his shoulders. “Then let him do your work. I bet he can punch some manners into the boy.”

Taiga splashed some water towards Juri on that comment. “That is exactly what Ren doesn’t need.”

“Do you really think he will be able to follow the rules in the end?”

Taiga had no direct reply to that, because as much as he hoped to be able to break through Ren’s walls he feared that things could get worse instead of better.

When Juri’s nose suddenly touched his Taiga gasped and pulled back on which Juri let out a teasing chuckle. “I know your mind is occupied a lot with this problem, but how about you occupy yourself with me for a while instead?”

The invitation made Taiga smile while Juri sat on his lap and trapped him with his back at the stone wall of the bath.

“And what kind of distraction do you have in mind?” Taiga asked against Juri’s lips as the boy hovered hungrily over him.

“The good kind,” Juri replied before he engaged their lips in a wet kiss. They both moved slow, hands secretly exploring their exposed skin underwater while their kiss turned deeper.

“I like your ideas,” the older one let out between a break for air. “How far does the good kind go?”

Juri’s eyes narrowed with a greedy expression as Taiga pulled him closer on the hips.

“If we change locations then this service might know no end,” Juri whispered invitingly before his hand found its way between Taiga’s legs and the boy bit his lip throwing his head to the back.

“I warn you, if I find the slightest bit of cum in the bath I make you both clean it for a whole month.”

A few months ago they would have both still jumped on the sudden interference, but now they didn’t even bother getting off each other on the sight of Kentaro standing in the door. Reo was right behind him a jealous expression making them both smile.

“That’s why I suggested a location change,” Juri replied as he finally got off the other one and stepped out of the bath.

“And here I was hoping for a show,” Reo said disappointed.

“Maybe next time.” Taiga said promising as he walked up to the boy and put his pointer finger under his chin. “You can join us then.” With a wink Taiga took his Yukata and left the bath with Juri while Kentaro needed to snap his fingers in front of Reo’s face to make him snap out of it.

“Wow that was a huge promise. Are you planning on keeping it?” Juri asked curious.

“If you are okay with it?”

“I told you, whenever you feel like it.”

It had been on Taiga’s mind for quite some time now, but it had been hard to talk to Juri about it. They were together for so long now and while a normal relationship would be perfectly fine like this, Taiga weirdly felt like he’d keep the others out, even though they had of course still some private times together with customers when Fuma, Fu or others called them in together, but this was different. Luckily Juri had understood his problem without freaking at him and he had left the decision to Taiga when one of the other boys would be allowed to join them.

“Well, not today at least,” Taiga said with a lopsided smile before he vanished inside their room, waving at Juri to follow him.

“As you wish,” Juri replied before he hurried to close the door and finally give Taiga the promised distraction.

***

The fan dance wasn’t just hypnotizing the customers, but also fascinated Taiga a lot. Unfortunately he had to concentrate on playing the shamisen or he would ruin Ryosuke’s performance.

Fan dance was a skill not performed by their house, but when the customers had heard from Noeru that Ryosuke had practiced it before they all wanted to see it.

“You got an amazing duo here,” one of the customers congratulated the person who had picked Taiga and Ryosuke for their teahouse time. As the customers were unknown to both it had been just a coincidence for them to be called out together, but it had made Taiga kind of nervous. He didn’t want to challenge the other one so he didn’t put on any extravagant makeup and also his three layered kimono was a simple one with a bird pattern in red and white.

Ryosuke on the other hand had shown up in a detailed kimono with such beautiful emblems that he was the center of attention before he even said a word. Noeru seemed quite happy about the customers’ reaction and he could see the stare battle he had with Reia over some minutes already before Noeru left the room to get new sake.

“Thank you for your shamisen play,” Ryosuke addressed him as the attention was drawn away from them for a while.

“Not at all. Thank you for showing us such a beautiful dance. It’s really impressive.” Taiga praised him on which Ryosuke sat right in front of him.

“I can teach you if you want.”

“No,” Taiga replied way too fast and bit his lip through his impoliteness, but Ryosuke just kept smiling at him. “I mean I am not a good dancer. It would be a waste of your time.”

“This is all a waste of time.”

Both of them turned towards the boy who had just entered the room again after getting some more food for the customers, but Ren didn’t even seem to feel the slightest guilty about what he had said. For the boy it was the second time in the teahouse, but his attitude was still a big problem. Usually he should be with them, in a three layered kimono, but because he refused to even take customers, while he had been in an illegal house already, there had been no other choice but to put him to an assistant duty.

“For those who doesn’t want to learn any beautiful art it is definitely a waste,” Ryosuke replied calm on which Ren seemed to feel triggered. But Taiga gave him a warning look before he could actually do anything stupid. He was just here to learn and help out, but with Reia and Noeru there as well he luckily didn’t try to cause chaos, at least for now.

“Thank you for the offer, but I think it’s really a skill that fits you way better than me,” Taiga said towards the older one with a small bow.

“If you say so,” Ryosuke replied neutral before he joined the customers again while Taiga stared absentminded through the room for a moment.

“Are you not feeling well?” Reia was heard worried next to him, but Taiga immediately shook his head with a brief smile.

“Not at all. Don’t worry.”

Reia didn’t seem convinced at all and as Taiga’s assistant he would notice immediately.

“I will get you some water,” Reia said and headed towards the door where he almost collided with Noeru who wanted to enter the room.

Taiga remained seated, really not feeling that well over the whole day already. Noeru brought some sake towards the place Ryosuke was talking to the customers at. Like this the attention was drawn away from him for a while luckily and he closed his eyes for a moment.

A sudden scream from the corridor made him flinch and the other members in the room also looked towards the doors in shock.

Noeru was the first one to get up and Taiga and Ryosuke followed him outside in the corridor. Ren didn’t even bother to follow them.

A few rooms away an Oiran assistant was sitting on the floor. Her eyes wide open and her body still shivering from whatever she had seen in the half opened door.

“What is going on?” Reia asked as he hurried up the stairs next to the girl. When his look fell into the room he gasped and let the bottle of water he was holding fall to the ground on which it shattered into pieces. His horrified expression made Taiga hurry towards them and he pulled Reia away so that the inside of the room wasn’t visible to him anymore.

“Wait here!” He ordered, but it was clear that Reia wasn’t able to do anything else for now anyway.

When Taiga went back to the room Noeru had helped the girl away already while Ryosuke stood frozen to the spot in the doorframe.

“What is going on? What happe-”

Taiga’s question got answered the moment he stepped next to the other one. His eyes grew wide in shock and disgust about the picture in front of him. An Oiran, actually a quite famous one which whom Taiga had worked together before, had been murdered. But she hadn't’ been just stabbed. Her throat was cut open and her face was defaced to a degree that it was hard to say who she had been in the first place if her kimono wouldn’t have told them.

Taiga searched for words, wanted to make his body move as he realized the nausea taking over him through the smell of blood in the air. All he was capable of in the end was turning towards the next corner to throw up.

+++

 

Odori₁: Dance festival

Fude₂: calligraphy brush

Chapter Text

 “Oh, not exactly who I wanted to meet here,” Aran greeted Taiga and the others with a bitter expression. They all had to remain at the teahouse until the police arrived which had just happened.

“Trust me, we would have liked to pass this as well,” Reia greeted him. Aran told his men to ask the other members of the house and the customers if they had seen anything suspicious before he shut the door.

“New members?” Aran asked looking at the other three boys. While Ryosuke and Noeru immediately stood up and bowed towards the officer, Ren just rolled his eyes.

“Yes, we just came to this district a few weeks ago,” Noeru explained.

“I see, thank you. You can sit down for now.”

Aran also sat down, but his look immediately fell on Taiga. “Are you alright?”

When Taiga didn't even realize that the question was meant for him, Reia hit him slightly with his elbow.

“Yes, sorry. All good.”

“A terrible liar as always,” was what Aran replied with a scolding look before he pulled out a notebook. “I am sorry, but for a moment I need all of you to concentrate and tell me what you have witnessed and if you have seen any suspicious people. After that I will escort you back to your house. Reia I want you to inform Kamenashi about Taiga’s condition later.”

Reia nodded immediately, but Taiga wanted to protest of course on which Aran pointed his pen at him, so close that Taiga moved back a bit. “No objection, is that clear?”

Aran knew when to use his authority and as much as Taiga wanted to pretend that he felt completely okay he knew that no one would believe him anyway. Especially not after tonight's happening.

***

“You look like a walking ghost.”

“Thank you Reo for that unnecessary comment,” Kamenashi scolded the boy as he came back inside the room together with Kentaro and Taisuke. Aran had explained everything as fast as he could and wanted to let the boys rest for now, but Kamenashi urged them into his room after he had asked Shintaro to get Juri, Reo and also Tatsuya, while he got Kentaro and Taisuke for an urgent meeting.

“Are you okay?” Juri asked worried as he pushed Reo out of the way and sat down next to Taiga to take a closer look at him.

“It’s alright. Please could you all not worry so much for me? I didn't feel great the whole evening and the last happening didn't make it any easier.”

“Totally understandable,” Kentaro replied. “So what are we doing now?”

“I want you all to not let any of the boys alone in the teahouse from now on, not even a second and definitely not with people we don't know.”

“So over dramatic,” Ren whispered and got a death glare from Noeru in return.

“What if it was just a person holding a grudge against her?” Taisuke asked.

“On the other hand the killer could also change locations and attack elsewhere,” Noeru explained worried.

“That's why we have to be extra careful for now,” Kamenashi explained and turned towards Tatsuya and Shintaro. “I want one of you to always escort them to the teahouse from now on.”

“No problem, I am going to beat the shit out of everyone who tries to attack them,” Shintaro let out confident.

“But please always make sure you stay safe as well. Don't jump into unnecessary fights,” he addressed Tatsuya this time and the man nodded.

“Let's hope this was just a personal thing and not the opening of a massacre.”

Tatsuya’s comment made Taiga feel even more nauseous, but with Juri holding him in his arms he felt a lot better already.

***

“You're taking off, end of discussion!”

It wasn't like Taiga would try and argue with his senpai, but it was still rare for Taisuke to be so protective.

“Ryosuke is at the tea house as well, why should I stay home?”

“Because this is not about the incident, but about you looking like shit the whole morning already. Reia even did all your duties for the day already.”

“He did what?” Taiga asked perplex, because he hadn't even realized that the boy wasn't around and had obviously ran his duties early in the morning.

With a sigh Taiga put his hand against his forehead. Who was he kidding he could tell himself that he had a fever and should stay in his room.

“I know what you are thinking, but no one thinks you are in this condition because of yesterday's incident. And even if it wouldn't matter you know?”

Taisuke's words made it a bit easier for him to finally accept that he should take it slow for today.

“Am I at least allowed to take a look at the new ordered kimonos? I bet Reia brought them in already, right?”

Of course he had and Taisuke's smile was answer enough. “Just make sure to sleep a bit more so that you feel better tomorrow.”

“I'll do that. Thank you.”

While Taisuke went to the front of the house Taiga made his way to the kimono room and as he had already thought he found Reia in it, already putting the new kimono on the ground for inspection.

“You're a really sneaky kohai, you know that?”

Reia turned around with a teasing smile on that and bowed slightly. “Sorry?”

“We both know you are not,” Taiga teased back before he sat down next to Reia. “But thank you for taking care of everything.”

“Were you really thinking of working?” Reia asked as he realized that Taiga was dressed in one of his usual work kimono.

“I tried, but as you can see I got stopped,” Taiga explained as he took a brown kimono with white crossed lines and black detailed maple leaves on it in his hands. “So how are you feeling?”

“Shouldn't that be my question?” Reia asked as he took the kimono after Taiga had made sure that there were no mistakes in the pattern.

“I'm not talking about a cold though. I want to know how you're dealing with yesterday's incident.”

Reia remained silent for a while, but Taiga kept analyzing the next kimono instead and waited patiently for a reply.

“I think I'm okay. I never saw something like that before, but as shocked as I was at first I don't feel like it will haunt me. At least not for too long.”

“That was a really honest and brave reply of you,” Taiga said as he handed the boy the next kimono and patted his head with a brief smile.

Reia seemed kind of proud after hearing that, but Taiga could see that there was something else in his look. It wasn't the first time he had seen this impatience and insecurity in the boy's eyes. As always though he ignored it. If the boy wanted to ask he needed to do so himself.

“Would you put these in the upper shelf?”

Reia got up and brought the new kimono to the front shelf on his request. When the boy let out something similar to a growl Taiga turned around. Ren had appeared in the open door and Reia was obviously not fond of him being in the house in the first place.

“What do you want?” Reia asked impolitely on which Ren gave him a death glare, but turned towards Taiga instead.

“Just letting you know that I won't run those stupid errands.” Ren said as he tossed a paper in front of Taiga. It had been placed in his room before with Taiga's request to get some stuff from the market.

“Those errands are for you as well though. If you don't get them you won't get any food from tomorrow anymore, because we'll run out of supplies.

“Then get it yourself. After all you want to eat as well.”

Reia moved before Taiga could even think about getting up and he took Ren by the collar of his yukata. Of course the boy was still not thinking about working, so all he did was lingering around the whole day if no one forced him to assist at a tea house.

“If you dare address him like this again I'll make you pay for it.”

“Oh, I'd like to see you try,” Ren said challenging and knowing Reia well enough Taiga jumped up right in time to get a grip on the boy's lifted arm before he could actually punch the other one.

“Enough, both of you.”

“I didn't do anything though,” Ren said with a mocking expression on which Reia suddenly jumped to the front, Taiga not being able to hold onto his wrist.

Reia had tackled Ren to the ground, both of them rolling around the corridor trying to punch each other, yelling curses and childish pulling on each other's hair.

“I can't believe this,” Taiga growled in annoyance as he got ready to somehow get them apart.

Ren easily got the upper hand and lunged out for a punch as he sat on top of Reia, but once more Taiga was faster and pulled the boy up.

“Enough! I won't tolerate fights with other members of the house!” Taiga warned the boy strictly, but to his surprise Ren pushed Taiga with such a force that he crushed into the sliding door which was in front of the small veranda to their small inner garden in the back. The force made the wooden frame break and Taiga found himself lying on the veranda between the wooden pieces.

“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?” Reia shouted at Ren who didn't even show the slightest bit of remote.

“I don't take orders from hoes,” Ren replied with a dark look before he turned around and walked up the stairs to their rooms.

“Don't run away!”

“Reia, don't!” Taiga yelled after the other one as he tried to get up without cutting his skin even more on the sharp edges of the broken wood. The boy didn't listen though and soon another struggle had started on the stairs and Taiga rushed over to them.

“Stop it, Reia!” Taiga scolded the boy who had pulled Ren back at the top of the stairs, but had to release him now that Taiga had pulled him back and made him stand next to him.

“Oh god what happened here?” Reo was suddenly heard downstairs and when Taiga looked down to the corridor Reo and Juri were looking up to them on the stairs, but at the same time Ren tried to run away once more.

“Wait, don't think you can just leave like this!” Taiga scolded the boy and pulled him back on his arm. Unfortunately Ren hadn't calmed down a bit and he swirled around, pushing Taiga away once more. This time though there was nothing to stop Taiga’s fall and even though Reia jumped forward right away he wasn’t fast enough to catch him as he fell down the stairs.

“TAIGA,” Juri was heard appalled and he managed at least to somehow catch the boy before he hit the floor after the last steps. “Reo, get him!”

Reo didn’t even need to get told twice as he already jumped up the stairs rushing after Ren who tried to run away from him while Reia rushed down the stairs towards Juri and Taiga.

“Is he okay?” Reia asked in worry as he sank to his knees next to them.

“I’m fine, don’t worry,” Taiga let out, but was obviously not able to get back up without help.

“Take it slow, there is no need for you to get up,” Juri scolded him. “We have to treat your cuts as well. Don’t tell me he actually throw you through the door?”

When Taiga didn’t reply Juri looked at Reia who nodded with a guilty expression. “It was my fault. I got into a fight with Ren and Taiga tried to stop us and in the end Ren freaked at him instead.”

“Don’t worry, I bet you had a good reason to get angry at him in the first place,” Juri said to calm the boy down as he clenched his hands into his jinbei, obviously ready to start crying.

Shouting from upstairs made them focus back to Reo who appeared at the stairs, dragging Ren at the hair.

“If you keep struggling I push you down the stairs as well and I make sure it will hurt a lot,” Reo yelled at the boy and shoved him into the wall before he dragged him down the stairs, making sure he couldn’t try kicking or punching around.

“What the actual…” Ryota and Shota were heard as they came to the back of the house about to take a break.

“Perfect timing, here,” Reo said and pushed Ren towards them. “Take him to Kamenashi immediately.”

The two boys didn’t need to hear more, just one look at Taiga and the broken wood made them take a tight grip on the boy.

“Don’t hurt him, you hear me?” Taiga said strictly to all their surprise.

“Taiga, he just threw you through a door and down the stairs, how can you still say that?” Juri asked a bit scolding this time.

“This is exactly why getting violent with him won’t help. He doesn’t see physical pain as something threatening. Just report to Kamenashi and wait for me I will be there in a moment,” Taiga explained as he tried to get up, but needed Juri and Reia to support him.

“If you say so,” was all Shota said before he had Ryota dragged the boy away, followed by Reo who observed the boy with a death glare, ready to kick him out of the next window into the river if he tried any stupid move again, but as Taiga had said the boy didn’t even seem to care.

“Can you for now just please come with me to our room so that I can have a look at your cuts and if you’ve any bad bruises from the fall?” Juri begged on which Taiga faced him with a softer look this time.

“Fine. And sorry for worrying you this much. I had hoped today would be a calm day.”

“You know as well as me that as soon as you take a day off it usually end in a disaster,” Juri said with an amused expression while Reia hurried upstairs already to get the medical supply together to help treating Taiga’s injuries.

“I really wonder how you can reach him.”

“You mean Ren? Maybe you can’t? I think there are some hopeless cases out there, no matter how hard we try to understand them.”

Taiga’s look darkened on that thought, because it could be indeed the case and it would be sad, because in the end Ren would try to run away and it would cost his head.

While carefully getting up the stairs, not putting too much weight on his right ankle as he could already feel that it was at least sprained.

“Are you worried for him?”

Taiga looked at Juri in confusion as he didn’t understand who he meant. Juri made a movement with his head towards the top of the stairs. “Reia.”

“I am not sure. It’s just that he gets so easily annoyed by Ren and now that they actually got into a fight and Ren seems to feel threatened by him I want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

“We’ll all have an eye on them, don’t worry,” Juri promised. “But for now it’s time to think about yourself and I will force you to lay down later to have a rest if necessary so you better behave!”

Taiga let out a chuckle on hearing that, but for now he had enough fights for one day so he would obediently take a rest for the rest of the day, as soon as he had a talk with Kamenashi.

***

“Here you go, like new,” Massu said proudly as he handed Taiga his shamisen after attaching a new string which had ripped in one of the lessons.

“Thank you so much, right in time.”

“Are you sure you can already go out tonight?” Tegoshi asked worried after making Taiga tell him what had happened to his face, because the cuts and bruises weren’t yet completely healed.

“I will be fine, don’t worry. It’s not like I need more than my hands to play.”

“But there will be more than just playing the shamisen and you know that,” Massu added a bit worried as well.

Taiga rolled his eyes on that comment after all that was his work and he was used to do it even with some bruises. “You know that there were way worse situations for me, right?”

“I luckily wasn’t part of this area at that time. Each time I pass by Takizawa’s house and hear stories from Myuto, Hagiya and the other boys I am kind of happy your house goes a different path,” Massu admitted which made Tegoshi walk up to him and put his hand on his shoulder.

“Trust me the same applies for me. There are a lot of things we don’t need to repeat.”

Taiga’s hand automatically found the scar over his blind eye and he could see how Tegoshi’s look darkened a bit even though he flashed a smile.

“Oh, and don’t forget these.”

Tegoshi handed him the ordered Obi, because it was actually Tegoshi’s shop they were in, but somehow Taiga had hoped to find Massu with him and he was lucky so he had brought his shamisen as well.

“Thank you as always,” Taiga said while Tegoshi’s hand was now not on Massu’s shoulder anymore, but down to his collarbone and while Massu just flashed the boy an innocent smile and waved him good-bye, Tegoshi’s eyes already ripped the man from the chair and to the hidden backroom Taiga knew way too well.

“Please wait at least until I am out,” Taiga teased them before hurrying outside, because he always had to fear that they were not waiting after all and after visiting the shop at the worst timing before already he didn’t need it to happen again.

On his way back to the house Taiga had to cross the main street now that their house was next to the river and unfortunately at the other side of the district.

He greeted some female Oiran and people running errands on the way as he spotted Ryosuke and Noeru on their way back from the early shift at the tea house. Ueda was with them as Kamenashi had ordered to not leave them alone.

He wanted to hurry over to them to go back to the house together when someone suddenly grabbed him by the arm. Trouble was the last thing he needed now especially not before having to head out to the tea house later.

“Running away from us?”

Pure annoyance took over him as he turned around and hit Myuto with the bag from Tegoshi’s shop against the shoulder.

“Idiots you scared me!” Taiga scolded him and Hagiya who had suddenly approached him.

“I’d say sorry, but as you know I intended to do so.”

“Damn, what happened to your face? I thought your customers weren’t allowed to lay a hand on you that way anymore?” Hagiya asked as he took a closer look.

“It was more of an accident and no customer was involved. I have a pretty complicated kohai at the moment.”

Both boys exchanged a disbelieving look on which Taiga formed a questioning look.

“You want to tell me that your kohai did this? How bad was he punished?” Myuto asked.

“He wasn’t punished at all, as I said it was an accident.”

They weren’t buying it and why should they? It hadn’t been an accident, not at all, but why should everyone get to know about it?

“Well, anyway I hope you’ll be fine,” Hagiya said with a bit of a warning undertone. They would always jump in to help him and the others, but with Ren it would just backfire.

“How are things going at your house?” Taiga asked trying to change the topic and luckily it worked.

“Same as always, but Domoto enjoys his visits even more since he can’t go out on you and Reo anymore,” Myuto explained, but it was clear that there was no reason to worry. They all knew Domoto too well already to become a target of his bad mood and a bit of rough behavior they could all still take.

“Please be careful with new customers, I feel like we put a lot of pressure on your house,” Taiga apologized, but both boys just gave him a lopsided smile.

“At least we get more customers now so that makes up a bit for it,” Hagiya teased. “But we heard about the Oiran incident at the tea house before, were you really there when it happened?”

Taiga didn’t want to be reminded of it, but he slowly nodded.

“It was horrible and I hope it won’t happen again, but please be careful as well, okay?”

“I never expected something like this to happen in Yoshiwara as well,” Myuto said on which Taiga’s look turned to confused. “You didn’t hear? There had been murders before at other districts in Tokyo, but they had never been able to catch the murderer. Things had calmed down for a while, but then the same happened in some illegal businesses and they caught someone. But if it was the wrong person maybe the killer has come here now?”

“Or someone who just aimed to get attention through doing the same,” Hagiya said worried.

So here their hopes of this being just a personal motive slowly vanished into thin air, but when it had stopped in other districts as well they could just hope it was the same for Yoshiwara.

Chapter Text

Reo was with him at the tea house and somehow everything felt way calmer and safer like this already. Shintaro had come with them, now waiting in front of the room while both got ready.

“Reia could you hand me the green lipstick,” Taiga asked as he closed the ribbon of the obi in front of the red and white colored three layered kimono.

“Oh, you go with the full program again?” Reia said kind of happy as he hurried to bring the requested utensils to Taiga’s mirror.

“What do you mean? Don’t I use it regularly?”

“Not since Ryosuke arrived,” Reia replied.

Taiga hadn’t even noticed, but now that he got reminded of it he indeed never put on make-up or used fancy kimonos when with Ryosuke. Was his presence overwhelming him so much? After all the boy was nice and it wasn’t like they wouldn’t get along. It was quite the opposite actually and also Noeru helped a lot when Reia had no time to come with them.

“Great if we go for the whole thing then let me help you,” Reo interfered out of a sudden as he crouched down next to Taiga and made him turn a bit towards him.

“Wait, what are you doing?”

“Shut your eyes and hold still,” Reo demanded as he brought the black liner down towards Taiga’s face.

“Reo that one is for the eyebrows you know that, right?” Reia asked a bit worried, but Reo just let out a mischievous chuckle.

“Perfect. Here take a look!” Reo said as he moved out of the way and let Taiga take a look at himself. Reia gasped while Taiga’s eyes grew wide on the way his own look had drastically changed through two thin lines.

“What did you do? What kind of make-up is this?” Taiga asked almost panicked, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to get it off now that they were getting ready to go to the main room already.

“What? It looks awesome. Don’t you think your look is even stronger like this? I played around with it before and used Kentaro as a model and trust me he looks almost as good as you with the eyes lined in black, but damn you look stunning.”

Ridiculous was the word Taiga would have used, but maybe it was just because he wasn’t used to it?

“Reia what do you think?” Taiga addressed the younger one and took a look at him over the mirror, but there was no reply. “Reia?”

The boy kept staring back at him until he realized that both boys were now looking at him. In embarrassment he looked away. “It looks...good, I mean...it fits you…”

“Here we left the first one speechless, perfect let’s go,” Reo said as he got up and headed to the door without giving Taiga a chance to redo it.

“Reia, would you mind?”

The boy nodded immediately and hurried to enter the room first and introduce both of them. Reo was in a three layered kimono as well this time and was going to take on requests from the customers to write them haiku or show them calligraphy if they requested for it.

The request of having someone being good at it made Taiga wonder for the customers, but they weren’t allowed to ask for details of new customers and he had come to play the shamisen to entertain them and so he left the personal contact to Reo for now.

When Reia slid the door open for them Taiga didn’t miss the slightly confused look on the boy’s face and seconds later he realized what was going on.

Even Reo had stopped out of a sudden, giving Taiga a confused look, but what were they supposed to do? Customers were customers, no matter from what country.

The room was filled with laughter and loud voices in a different language. Taiga had no clue what they were talking about, but looking at the few foreign people in the room he guessed they were speaking English.

On their entrance though the room fell quite until one dark haired boy maybe not even older than Reo, but of a much stronger built let out a whistle. Even though he seemed still young he was way taller than everyone else in the room and was wearing a beige suit with a white shirt. On a closer look his hair seemed to have a red shine to it. He said something in English towards the Japanese person next to him and pointed at Taiga with an excited look before he clapped his hands in pure entertainment. It wasn’t clear if he was making fun out of them or if he was just really enjoying himself, but it was obviously the first time for him in a tea house.

Reo and Taiga bowed for now, Taiga sitting down with his shamisen while Reo walked over to one of the Japanese people on the side, greeting him and bowing towards the other customers as well.

The few Japanese people in the room kept translating for the others and it made Taiga slightly nervous and he could see how even Reo and Reia felt a bit uncomfortable.

“Please go on,” one of the Japanese members said towards Taiga who immediately bowed towards him and started playing.

The atmosphere relaxed soon especially with Reia starting to hand sake to Reo and he made his round giving it out to everyone. One of the foreigners stopped him and tried talking to him, but Reo’s eyes immediately searched for help and luckily one of the other members translated for him.

Taiga put the shamisen down and bowed once more after he was done with the third piece and the room had calmed down even more. Reo was now teaching one of the foreign people calligraphy and most of the others had gathered around them, completely stunned by the Japanese art.

Wanting to join them Taiga got ready to get up as the noisy boy from before suddenly stepped in front of him.

Even without standing up it was clear that he was extremely tall and somehow it made Taiga feel a bit nervous. The boy pointed at the shamisen and said something in English which Taiga couldn’t understand. With a confused expression he tilted his head and this time he understood what the boy said as he started chuckling on his behavior. The word “cute” was heard between his chuckles and it made Taiga feel a bit embarrassed.

“He asked you if you can sing as well.” One of the Japanese members shouted over to them and Taiga nodded towards him gratefully.

A bit hesitant Taiga nodded towards Jesse and brought out a shy yes. All the songs for the evening had been planned without him singing, because the conversations had been quite loud at the beginning, but now that some small groups had formed it was quiet enough and the boy sat down right in front of Taiga so he would definitely be able to hear him.

When Taiga wanted to lift up his shamisen already the boy stretched out his hand, which made Taiga slightly flinch.

“Jesse,” the boy said and Taiga needed a moment to realize that it was a self-introduction. Carefully he stretched his hand out and shook Jesse’s way too big hand.

“Taiga,” he said in a sheepish voice on which Jesse flashed him a bright smile and pulled back to give him some space to start playing and singing.

It was a weird feeling seeing someone so tall flashing such cute smiles while Taiga was performing. But it made him relax finally as well and it felt way easier to perform than before.

At the end Jesse clapped way too loud, making everyone stare at them and he slightly shook Taiga on his shoulders praising him for his talent as one of the Japanese members told him later.

With the tea house time slowly coming to an end some people got their last sake poured and when Reo started explaining how to form the right verses for haiku everyone was busy watching and translating.

“I will head for the toilet for a moment,” Taiga whispered towards Reia and the boy was ready to get up immediately. “Stay here, it’s okay. I will ask Shintaro to go with me,” Taiga promised, knowing that they were all worried at the moment, not knowing if another incident would occur.

Things were luckily quite at the tea house that night and Shintaro walked a few meters behind him on the way back to the room as someone else came down the corridor. Soon Taiga realized it was Jesse and he turned around signaling Shintaro to stay a bit on distance as it wasn’t usual for others than the Oirans and their assistants to be around so it was a bit impolite to the customers to have others at their private tea house time.

Taiga bowed towards him as he came closer and the boy flashed him another smile, but this time there was something else visible in his eyes. They were scanning him this time from head to toe. The interest was visible, but somehow there was also still some kind of hesitation and for now he just politely bowed a bit and left towards the toilet as well.

In no way did Jesse look dangerous to him, but getting interested in someone like him could indeed turn out dangerous for Taiga in the end, but it had been a while since he had found some interesting company in a tea house so he tried his best to keep the boy’s attention even while needing someone to translate.

***

 “That was somehow exhausting,” Reo said while stretching his arms into the air as they arrived back at the house. Reia brought their three layered kimonos back to the kimono room while Shintaro had to report to Kamenashi how things had been going at the tea house.

“But interesting as well,” Taiga said with a smile on which Reo kept observing him.

“Do I see some interest in today’s customers?”

“Maybe?” Taiga replied playful as they made their way towards the back of the house. Fu had already said that he would come for the night so Reo hadn’t been free to book for the night from the beginning. But a break after the tea house was the usual routine before going back to work and so both of them headed to their rooms for now.

“Taiga, are you there?” Ryota was heard from the corridor.

“Yes come in.”

He had just changed into a new work kimono of his. The pattern mostly in black with red, green, violet and blue parts crossing over the whole pattern, making it colorful without being annoying to the eye.

“You’ve got a customer.”

“Really? I thought I had no reservation today?”

“It’s someone from the tea house.”

The way his heart skipped a beat on hearing that it wasn’t clear if he was excited or nervous about hearing that, maybe both?

Following Ryota to the front of the house he couldn’t stop his thoughts from racing. What if it was someone else? Would he be disappointed?

“I gave him the red room at the end of the corridor,” Ryota explained on which Taiga thanked him and made his way down the corridor. Their new rooms had slightly different patterns. Some were divided by size, others by color. The red room had a red flower ikebana in the room which they all had to be able to make now as well and most of the rooms were designed by Kentaro and Shota who had a good sense for them.

With his heart hammering like crazy he finally made it to the room before carefully sliding the door open. He bowed immediately, luckily being able to hide his sheepish smile when he spotted Jesse sitting on the futon in the middle of the room. He was kind of impressed that the foreign boy had dared to make his way here all on his own.

“Thank you for visiting,” Taiga said as always, suddenly panicking as he realized that the boy couldn’t communicate with him.

“I didn’t know I was allowed to actually book you for a night that made me feel super excited.”

Usually Taiga would thank him now for showing that much interest, but all he could do was staring back at him with an open mouth. Soon Jesse started laughing at his behavior and Taiga hawked in embarrassment.

“My apologies, I didn’t want to be rude,” Taiga said immediately on which Jesse laughed even louder.

“Dude, I was the rude one. I am so sorry I didn’t tell you that I speak Japanese, but I like seeing how people react to me first,” Jesse said apologizing.

There was not actually a reason to be angry after all Jesse hadn’t made fun out of him. He could also somehow understand his concerns.

“So how does this work?”

“What do you mean?” Taiga asked curious as he sat down opposite of Jesse next to the futon, still leaving a bit of a safety space between them.

“I mean tonight, you know, you and me.”

It might not have been the best move to let out a chuckle on that question and Taiga hid his smile behind his hand immediately, but he couldn’t deny that Jesse acted way too confused and cute around this obviously new environment.

“Why did you come if you didn’t know?”

“Well, we got invited to the teahouse by our trading partners, just when you already left I was told about what else you were there for and it, well...fascinated me.”

And here he had heard rumors about the foreigners being rude and impolite when getting introduced to their traditions and arts. Especially in Yoshiwara their reputation hadn’t been that good until now, but Jesse was definitely an exception.

“So, this is the first time for you to come to Yoshiwara?”

“It’s my very first time in Japan in the first place. I’ve been only here for barely two weeks on a trading job and I’ve to say there are more and more interesting things showing up in front of me.”

“So am I one of those things to you?”

Jesse obviously needed a moment to understand the question and he immediately shook his head almost panicked. He crawled a bit to the front and grabbed one of Taiga’s hands without a warning making the latter flinch a bit on the tight grip. “You are not a thing to me! I hope I didn’t insult you?”

Again Taiga couldn’t hide a smile on the sweet way Jesse thought of his behavior as rude and he stroke over the boy’s hand soothingly. “Don’t worry, even if I was a thing to you that is how people here get treated. Don’t feel sorry for finding this environment special. This place is made for you to think a bit different than usual.”

Jesse relaxed a bit on hearing that and fell back on the futon with a long sigh. He was still way too stiff and nervous about the situation and it was time to find a way to make things easier for both of them so Taiga sat a bit closer to him with his hand stretched out towards him. He hadn’t missed the way Jesse had pulled back after his intuitive reaction. He had obviously heard about Japanese people usually not being that touchy with each other, but here things were different after all.

“You can touch me, it’s okay.”

Jesse finally took the invitation, but it was way too hesitant for his taste and Taiga put his hand on the latter’s hand, moving it over his upper arm up to his shoulders. “I might look fragile, but don’t worry you won’t break me.”

Finally the latter’s look changed and with a little bit more confidence he let his hands explore Taiga’s arms until the older one brought the latter’s hands up to his neck, making him explore the exposed parts of his collarbones and shoulders before he moved to Taiga’s face on his own. With a teasing smile Taiga welcomed the touch on his cheeks, slowly closing in to his lips.

“I am really sorry if I sound impolite again, but you look like a beautiful doll.”

“That’s a nice compliment thank you,” Taiga replied honestly.

Soon one of Jesse’s thumbs found Taiga’s scar over his eye and Taiga intuitively closed it for a moment.

“What happened?”

Before thinking of a reply Taiga took away the other one’s hand and kissed his fingers before his look darkened a bit. “It’s not directly related to this work if that worried you. We had to bring back a friend and sometimes sacrifices have to be made to retrieve happiness.”

When a hand landed on his hair and he was pulled to the front he wanted to look up, but then he had to shut his eyes when Jesse kissed his blind eye.

“Trust me we all know those sacrifices. My father went to war and told me that sacrifices have to be made to save other people’s lives. I was never able to tell him how grateful I was for his sacrifice of making the life I have now possible.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” Taiga said on which Jesse flashed a brief smile. “Both of our stories are in the past though and we live in the present.”

“You have a lot of wisdom stored in your Japanese knowledge for someone being in Japan for just two weeks,” Taiga teased him on which the other one started laughing again.

“I studied a lot overseas already. I also know some good Japanese jokes, my trading partners loved them.”

Taiga could imagine that right away, somehow the boy wasn’t the serious type no matter his past or his job.

“Okay sorry for the distraction, back to the topic,” Jesse said as he faced Taiga with a greedier look this time. “I was told some of the rules before, but I just want to be sure not to do something bad. Am I really allowed, you know… to have you for tonight?”

This time Taiga didn’t laugh as Jesse’s look remained completely serious. With a swift movement Taiga shifted to the front their faces now just inches away from each other. “I am all yours as long as you play by exactly those rules you heard about earlier. The rest is completely up to you.”

There was still some hesitation left in the other one’s look, but his eyes moved quickly down to Taiga’s lips and the older one leant closer to make the decision even easier and when he brushed his lips playfully over the younger ones, Jesse’s hands found their way back to Taiga’s hair, pulling him into a greedy kiss.

The other one’s excitement was noticeable in his unsteady touch switching between greedily pulling and pinching Taiga’s skin on his neck and pulling back a bit hesitant.

There was such a difference in their height and strength that it didn’t matter if Jesse tried to take things careful or not, because in the end he wouldn’t be able to adjust to Taiga and that was also not what Taiga wanted, it would take away the fun.

“Don’t hold back. I will let you know when I don’t like something,” Taiga whispered against the latter’s lips and put his arms around his neck while letting himself drop to the back so that Jesse crawled on top of him, keeping their lips close as he dared to put his hands a bit further inside the latter’s kimono to explore his chest.

When the younger one started to despair on trying to somehow open the obi Taiga lifted his hips a bit and helped him out.

“Another skill I have to master someday,” Jesse said teasingly before he went back to exploring the boy’s body now that he was able to get the kimono out of the way.

Now that Taiga had allowed the other one to touch him there was not so much hesitation left in the boy’s movement and it felt weirdly rough how the boy just put his hands on his hips or let them stroke over his thighs. It was a new kind of friction and Taiga closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath as he let this new feeling take over him.

When the touch on his skin was gone he dared to look up at the other one again and he was up in a sitting position immediately as he saw how Jesse started unbuttoning his own shirt.

“Oh am I getting an undressing service as well?”

“You get way more services if you ask,” Taiga replied while his hand found the boy’s belt and struggled a bit around the unknown sipper and bottom, but soon his long fingers were vanishing in the western style pants and Jesse’s look turned to even more excited.

“You should think twice about what you offer me from now on,” Jesse said, but first Taiga didn’t understand. Jesse guided his hand to his member with a smug look on his face and when Taiga’s hands found way more than he had thought he would he understood and bit his lip.

“Are you sure you can take it?”

“Well there is just one way to find out,” Taiga said confident as he helped Jesse out of the rest of his clothes, but he found himself staring down at Jesse’s already erected member. He would already need his mouth and both of his hands to be able to give him a full stimulation if Jesse asked him for it, which was not his plan as it seemed as he redirected Taiga’s concentration back to his face.

“Tell me when it gets too much.”

Taiga could just nod on that, but as nervous as he felt he also felt excited about the new experience and he guided Jesse’s hand to his mouth, the younger one’s eyes stuck on the boy’s tongue moving around his fingers.

“I hope I can ask for this favor at least?” Taiga asked playfully as he pulled back.

“There is no way I can reject anything you ask for,” Jesse replied with the same greedy expression as before and instead of making Taiga lay down again he pulled him more on his lap and kept his eyes on Taiga’s face while he carefully inserted one finger.

It was such a familiar movement and yet a complete different feeling and soon Taiga found himself rocking his hips against Jesse’s finger on which he inserted a second one immediately.

Why did it feel like he already got close to his limit? They hadn’t even started yet and he felt like there was no way he could take more. With the next movement Jesse shoved his fingers even deeper, making Taiga let out a low curse before he hid his face on the other one’s neck.

“Is cursing your way of letting me know that I do things right or wrong?” Jesse asked between teasing and worrying.

Instead of replying anything Taiga rocked his hips once more and tried to relax a bit more before he dared to face the other one once more and let his hands travel over the younger one’s cheeks. “If I start biting, you might have to worry.”

“Oh, why am I somehow finding that challenging?”

“Maybe you are a masochist?”

“Not just maybe,” Jesse replied before he curled up his fingers and forced the first real moan out of Taiga.

After some time passing with Jesse trying to drive him crazy alone with his fingers Taiga grabbed the other one by the hair and pulled himself a bit away from his lap.

“I like that look,” Jesse said astonished by the sudden dark aura Taiga spread through the whole room.

“If you don’t want it to swallow you maybe you should level things up or this game might end before it even started.”

“Am I that good?”

“Your fingers are at least, not sure about the rest?”

“Are you sure you really want to find out?” Jesse challenged him on which Taiga took actions himself and made Jesse pull out and sit back a bit so that he could crawl further on his lap. Yet when he took the other one’s erection in his hand a bit of his confidence seemed to leave him.

“Backing out after all?”

The foreign boy did know how to annoy him so Taiga finally moved and lowered himself, slowly but steady. But as much as he wanted to win the challenge there was no way he could take him in one go, so he started moving carefully on which Jesse gave him a lopsided smirk.

“Get that smug look off your face. I am not done yet,” Taiga hissed at him on which the other one gave him a disbelieving look.

“Want some help?”

Maybe distraction was the better word, but Taiga would refuse none of it anyway and they met halfway for another kiss. The one turning it messy was Taiga this time as it was obviously hard for him to coordinate his own body movements in his position and when Jesse moved his hands over his hips down over the back of his thighs he realized how tense he actually was.

“Mh, maybe you need a bit more help here than you think. How much am I allowed to get in control?”

“Until I tell you to stop,” Taiga challenged him and the other one took that offer immediately and pulled Taiga’s legs up on which he fell on the futon with Jesse hovering over him.

Already the first push from Jesse’s hips made Taiga’s body tense automatically and his back arched away from the intrusion.

“You’re good in running away,” Jesse said almost praising before his hands found Taiga’s hips to hold him better in place before he leant more to the front and Taiga used that moment to claw his hands into the other one’s back to Jesse’s obvious surprise. The sudden action made the younger one thrust in further and forced another moan out of Taiga.

“I like your voice even more like this as when you’re singing,” Jesse whispered in front of Taiga’s lips, but the boy was too distracted to even reply. The kiss following was throwing Taiga even more out of balance and without even knowing why he started struggling, but how would he even be able to win against Jesse?

The other one seemed to find a liking in the way he could take full control over his movements and he thrusted in even deeper this time on which Taiga escaped a gasped into the other one’s mouth. His fingernails dug even deeper into the other one’s skin, but it didn’t seem to bother Jesse.

For a moment longer Jesse seemed to try and take it a bit slower, but that made Taiga relax and if he did he also got into control of his moans and that was something Jesse obviously didn’t like.

“Don’t stay silent,” he demanded, but Taiga gave him a challenging look and licked his lips.

It was a trigger that got pulled immediately inside Jesse and his movements turned to even rougher and even though Taiga thought he was able to adjust he wasn’t prepared for Jesse having so much left to thrust in to him and when his full length buried inside him with the next thrust his moan ended up being more high pitched than he wanted.

The sudden shock made his body get weirdly aroused even more and Jesse also enjoyed the way Taiga had started shivering under him and lost the ability to even complain as his body seemed to collapse in between the pain and the pleasure.

His moans continued with every new thrust, but now they were deeper and Jesse adjusted with faster thrusts as he realized how close the other one was. However, aroused by the sounds filling the room Jesse was the first one to come. Not forgetting about Taiga he took care of him immediately and just a few strokes over his erection were enough for Taiga to follow him. Alone the touch of the other one’s hands was too much for him to take now and for the first time he wasn’t able to say if he felt good or not after finding release. It had been painful yet he had never been that easily been driven to a corner unable to follow the pace of his customer.

“Are you okay?”

And here the boy was back to his sweet behavior immediately, dropping a brief kiss on Taiga’s forehead as the boy kept breathing heavily with his eyes closed.

“I think I didn’t screw up completely at least?” Jesse asked.

“What makes you believe that?” Taiga asked curiously as he finally came down from his climax.

“You didn’t bite me.”

This time Taiga couldn’t stop from laughing and luckily Jesse joined in as well.

After a few minutes in silence Taiga realized how he was about to fall asleep if they didn’t start talking again, but when he looked up he found Jesse fetching his pants.

“Are you in a hurry?”

“What? No, I just thought, you know...I need to leave, don’t I?”

Taiga flashed him another smile on that question and got up in a sitting position. “Actually you can stay until the morning hours, just if you want of course.”

“Wait, do I have to pay more if I do?”

Another laughter from Taiga followed before he shook his head. “Don’t worry. The payment is for a whole night. So you can of course leave at any time, but you could also stay until the morning.”

The other one seemed to consider it and there were obviously other thoughts crossing his mind on this offer as well on which Taiga carefully got up on his knees, ignoring the slight pain around his crotch.

“Staying the night doesn’t just include sleeping if you have other wishes,” Taiga whispered next to his ear on which Jesse’s eyes got the same shine as before back, but luckily he gave them both a bit more time to take a break, which didn’t mean that he was done for now, because now he was definitely staying the night.

Chapter Text

“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.

Chapter Text

It was the second round already in which Taiga had been left out in the end, but he couldn’t keep up with Kentaro and Fuma no matter how often he joined them.

“You can always join for a third round,” Fuma teased him as Taiga got back into his kimono.

“Oh trust me I’d love to, but to be honest I fear the noon opening hours are almost over.”

“Doesn’t Reia usually tell you when it’s closing time?” Kentaro asked as he slowly sat up, but ended up getting attacked by Fuma right away, making him giggle as the latter’s tongue found his collarbone.

“That’s what he usually does, yes. Let me just check the time, okay?”

“Take your time,” Fuma was heard muffled against the other one’s chest and Taiga left the room shaking his head. Was there even a reason to pay for him as well when he usually spent his time mostly on Kentaro anyways?

Looking out at the corridor Taiga saw how Taisuke brought Hiromitsu to the exit and the customer waved at him with a smile before he left.

“Is the noon time over?” Taiga asked as he approached his senpai.

“Yes it is, didn’t Reia tell you?”

“No he didn’t come to our room.”

“Mh weird, a while ago he already came to our room.”

Why did it worry Taiga out of a sudden? Maybe he was still busy going around the other rooms?

“Go and look for him, I will throw out Fuma.”

With a chuckle Taiga thanked him and kept walking through the corridors of the front of the house. The rooms on his way were all empty, no customer left as it seemed.

He made his way towards the rooms in the back of the corridor they usually didn’t use at noon hours when he heard a noise from somewhere at the end of the corridor. The rooms there were specially reserved for evening guests from the teahouse so no one should be in there. Halting his steps Taiga suddenly felt weirdly uncomfortable. The next time he heard the noise he was sure he hadn’t misheard. It was a whimper, not of the sad type, but of the desperate one. A sound not coming out as it should be, because someone was trying to keep the sounds hidden.

With a wave of rage already filling his body Taiga hurried down the corridor. It couldn’t be. There was no way he would have gone that far. There was no reason for it or was there…

The sounds got louder the closer he got and it took Taiga a lot of effort not to rip the door out of its frame as he slid it open. The picture in front of him was exactly what he had feared, yet it didn’t make any sense to him.

Reia turned his face away the moment he saw Taiga on which Ren let go of him after he had obviously violently tried to keep him silent. But the damage had already been done and there was no way Taiga could make up for not realizing the danger earlier. Reia was shivering all over, his sobs filling the room while Ren backed off, closing his yukata as if he had just been done with a customer.

“What? You wanted me to work, right?”

The arrogant smile on the latter’s face made Taiga freak and he stormed into the room, taking Ren by the hair and dragging him out to the corridor. This time he was at full strength and he wouldn’t let Ren push him around. Never would he let this boy do as he liked. He was obviously more of a demon than Taiga had thought.

“Let go, you are hurting me!” Ren complained on which Taiga slammed him into the wall with such a force that the boy let out a pained yelp.

“Hurting you? Boy, trust me you don’t know what pain is yet!”

Once more Taiga dragged the boy along the corridor and when Ren started struggling with all his might Taiga got violent with him for the first time and hit him quite hard on the head.

“What is going on? Taiga, what are you doing?” Reo was heard worried as he hurried down the corridor towards him.

“Explanations later, keep an eye on Reia. Please?” Taiga tried to sound as calm as possible, but Reo was fast in catching up with the situation and he hurried past them towards the room from where they could hear even louder sobs and cries now.

When they had made it to the front of the corridor Taiga dragged the boy towards the center garden where they were now visible for all the people in the front of the house.

“Taiga, what’s going on?” Taisuke yelled over to him after he had obviously made Fuma leave. Kentaro stood next to him with a confused yet alarmed expression while Taiga kept dragging the boy on the hair with Ren screaming at him furiously.

Without being able to stop him they all had to watch as Taiga threw Ren into the pond they had in the middle of the inside garden.

“Are you out of your mind?” Taisuke scolded him, not knowing of the situation.

“STAY OUT OF THIS,” Taiga yelled back at his senpai, making Taisuke’s and also Kentaro’s look turn to stunned. Never had he spoken up this impolite against his senpais.

With the next move Taiga jumped into the pond as well, pulling Ren back as the boy tried to run away from him.

“You want to know what pain is? I will show you,” Taiga hissed at the other one and pushed his head down, forcing it underwater.

“Okay, that is getting too far, we’ve to stop him!” Kentaro was heard worried next to them and Taiga saw them hurrying over to them, but then their steps stopped and Taiga turned to have a quick look at what was going on. To his surprise he found Kamenashi standing next to them and he had stopped them.

The owner’s expression didn’t seem pleased and Taiga knew he was going to get into a lot of trouble later, but he didn’t care. When their looks met Taiga turned back to Ren who had started struggling for his life after more seconds had passed. Kamenashi wouldn’t stop him and that was all he needed to know for now.

After about thirty seconds Taiga pulled the boy up and Ren let out some painful coughs while he tried to claw Taiga’s face to make him let go. The older one immediately pushed him down once more. Ren’s struggle started even fast this time, but Taiga let him underwater even longer.

“Taiga,” Kamenashi let out warningly on which he pulled Ren up once more. This time the boy had no energy left to struggle that much anymore as he tried to take some deep breaths, interrupted by his coughing.

“I tell you this once,” Taiga hissed and made the boy face him, his fingers clawing the other one’s cheekbones. “Each time you dare to disrespect any member, customer or other person in Yoshiwara, each time you dare to speak up, hurt someone or even give us a disrespectful look I will throw you back into this pond and I will add five more seconds for each time you mess up. You don’t seem to care for others and even less for yourself, so I will also stop caring for you. Let’s see if there is any kind of survival instinct in your poisoned mind.”

Ren was still too exhausted and obviously too shocked to give a clear reply to that and Taiga shoved him back into the pond, but let go of him this time. Ren swallowed some water again on the sudden move, but didn’t try to speak up against him or attack. After he had crawled back to the side of the pond Taiga moved out of it to the other side towards Kamenashi and the others.

To his surprise he found Juri next to them holding a yukata in his hands. Even Ryota and Shota were standing at the door to the back of the house, looking at everything from a safe distance. But the only thing that was important to him was that none of them seemed to judge him.

Taiga threw his kimono right next to the pond and grabbed the yukata Juri was holding out to him with a brief thank you on which Juri gave him an understanding nod.

“Please give me a few more minutes,” Taiga asked of Kamenashi as his look fell down the corridor towards the open door and the owner knew of course that this situation wasn’t solved yet.

“Take your time, but make sure to find me in my room as soon as everything calmed down. I will make sure that Tatsuya or Shintaro will always have an eye on Ren from now on.”

Taiga thanked the owner and apologized quickly to his senpais for his impolite behavior before he went down the corridor, not even spending Ren any more attention.

Arriving back at the room he found Reo holding Reia in his arms. The boy was still crying and his body was shaking nonstop.

“Thank you Reo,” Taiga whispered as he dropped on his knees next to them on which Reia’s cries suddenly seemed to get even louder and he clawed his hands into the other one’s sleeves.

“It’s okay. Don’t worry,” Reo said soothingly as he carefully pushed Reia a bit to the back. What didn’t surprise Taiga was when the boy didn’t turn towards him, but curled up against the wall instead.

Reo gave him a sad look on his behavior, but Taiga shook his head and whispered another thank you towards the younger one. Reo got up and shut the door to give them some private time to talk.

For a while longer Taiga remained silent, looking at the boy in front of him. Reia’s working clothes were torn, the room had been turned into a mess and there were even claw marks on the tatami floor. The blood on the floor didn’t come from that though and it hurt Taiga even more. How had they not realized what was going on? How much had the boy fought and tried to stop Ren without them noticing?

“I’m sorry…”

It was almost inaudible between Reia’s ongoing sobs and Taiga’s heart felt like it had been stabbed.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry….”

He kept going on and on until Taiga couldn’t take it anymore and he moved closer and pulled Reia against his chest. The boy’s cries turned louder again on that action, but Taiga wouldn’t let him go.

“Don’t say that ever again. This is not your fault! Don’t apologize!”

Reia tried to get away from Taiga, but the older one just tightened his grip and when the boy realized he wouldn’t get away he turned around, hiding his face against Taiga’s chest instead.

“I feel so embarrassed…” he whispered and it brought tears into Taiga’s eyes this time.

“I should be the one saying that! I should also be the one apologizing. I didn’t realize that you were in danger. I am the one who messed up and I am so sorry for being at fault for you having to go through such a painful experience.”

Reia grabbed Taiga’s arms with a tight grip as he shook his head, but there was no need to keep arguing. They were both hurt, both disappointed.

“I made him angry,” Reia said in a shaking voice after a few minutes in silence in which he slowly got in control of his emotions. “I challenged him and now I’ve to deal with the consequences.”

Taiga didn’t need to ask somehow he knew already that something like this had been going on. Yet Reia needed to get it off his chest so he let him keep talking.

“I was the one who broke the vase the other day. I cut myself on the arm. I wanted to show him that he was worthless, that no one would believe him even if he told you I was a liar.”

It had worked. Taiga couldn’t deny that he easily saw Ren as the bad one and Reia as the victim, but challenging the boy like that had indeed made Reia the victim in the end.

Taiga couldn’t scold him. There was no way he would tell him that he was wrong, at least not now.

“I should have spent more attention to you. I should have taken better care of you.”

It was a weird chuckle swallowed by another sob coming from Reia on Taiga’s words. “You are there for me all the time and yet I was jealous of him getting so much attention from you. It’s just...I…”

Here they were back at the topic. Each time Reia was about to speak about it he crawled back into his shell, but somehow Taiga knew he wouldn’t do so this time.

Reia took another shaking breath before he dared to speak again and Taiga felt how he teared up once more knowing already what he would say. “I wanted it to be you. I always wanted to ask, yet I felt way too embarrassed about it. You were the one who made it possible for me to be an assistant instead of one of the boys, you also have Juri at your side...there was no way I would ruin your happiness.”

This time Taiga was the one to start crying as he pulled Reia even closer and placed a kiss on his hair. “Idiot, you should have asked. I was waiting for you to ask all this time.”

There was no surprise on Reia’s face hearing that, after all he had definitely been aware of how easily Taiga could read his expression each time Taiga undressed in front of him or put makeup on.

“I am sorry….”

And they were back at apologizing, but what else was left to say? Taiga pulled the boy even closer in his embrace as Reia closed his hands around his body. Those wounds would need a long time to heal for both of them. Important was that they were aware of what the other one was feeling and that they kept talking things through from now on to make sure that something like this would never occur ever again.

***

Even though the preparations for the upcoming Yoshiwara Matsuri were going as planned the atmosphere in the house was unbearable dark. There was no way they were allowed to take off because of the recent happenings in the house, but the teahouses didn’t have as many guests as before through the murders, so most of the time all of them were just working inside the house, taking care of their regular customers.

“You should really take a break.”

Taiga ignored the person coming inside the kimono room after it had been already the third one bothering him. Reo had given up when Fu had come by, but Kentaro had been more persistent until Taiga almost picked a fight with him.

When the kimono he was folding together was taken out of his hands he wanted to snatch it back, but Ryosuke was faster and put it on one of the cupboards before he sat down next to Taiga on the tatami.

“I should really put a lock on that door when I work,” Taiga hissed.

“Maybe shut it in the first place?”

A short look over his shoulder showed that he had indeed left the door wide open the whole time, so it was no wonder that everyone was trying to talk him into a break.

“You don’t have to finish Reia’s work at the same speed, you know that. You are not an assistant and you have customers as well, why won’t you leave it to other assistants?”

“Like who? Ren?” Taiga shot at Ryosuke more annoyed than he wanted and the older one seemed not pleased with his aggressive behavior.

“Sorry, I know I shouldn’t behave like this. But I also can’t face Ren at the moment.”

“Better don’t or you might drown him for good this time,” Ryosuke said as he started helping Taiga folding the freshly washed kimonos.

It was a joke, of course. Yet Taiga couldn’t take it as one, because the chance that he would actually do it was there and it scared him a bit.

“Hey, don’t space out,” Ryosuke warned him as Taiga kept looking at the ground instead of folding the next kimono. When Ryosuke wanted to take it away from him Taiga tried to be faster and pulled the kimono away, but Ryosuke trapped his hands on which Taiga froze in his movements and looked up at the other one.

“Everyone in the house told me how stubborn you are and how easily you load all the problems and guilt on your shoulders. I thought they were exaggerating, but I fear they didn’t.”

Was it because Ryosuke still didn’t know him that well that he looked so worried or was he just way more patient than all the others? Because recently he got scolded more than actually worried for.

Lost in his thoughts he flinched when one of Ryosuke’s hands found the scar over his eye with a light touch and with a shiver Taiga closed his eye.

“Don’t you think you have proven yourself enough already?”

A bit hesitant Taiga moved his own hand up and took Ryosuke’s hand away. “Maybe I need to prove myself that I am not becoming like those I feared for so long.”

“You protected your kohai there is nothing wrong with that.”

“And still rage is the only emotion I can feel over the past week. I didn’t even once enter Reia’s room to ask how he is feeling.”

“And Reia didn’t come out either, so he doesn’t want to talk about it yet. Give him time,” Ryosuke soothed him with a brief smile while he took one of Taiga’s hands in both of his with a tighter grip this time. “Maybe taking a break inside the house isn’t actually what you need at the moment.”

There was a brief moment of silence before there was a small chuckle from Ryosuke on which Taiga lifted an eyebrow. “What is it?”

“Nothing, all good. Make sure to take a break when you are done here, okay?”

Without any kind of explanation Ryosuke got up and flashed Taiga another bright smile before he headed to the open doors and wanted to head towards the front of the house.

“Whoa, you scared me.”

When Taiga turned around to see what was going on he found Ryosuke looking at someone who was standing next to the door, but he had to shift a bit more to the front to be able to see who it was.

“Juri, is something the matter?” Taiga asked as he saw his boyfriend standing next to the door. Juri needed a moment to realize that he had addressed him and he looked up at Ryosuke first before he faced Taiga with a weird expression and shook his head.

“No, all good. I was just on my way to take a break.”

Before Taiga could reply anything Juri vanished up the stairs to their living quarters.

“Seems like we all need some time off,” Ryosuke said looking after Juri.

***

It was one sleepless night after the other and after finally falling asleep at some point Taiga didn’t want to get up at all, but he needed to, because after all he had to take care of all the errands Reia was usually in charge off. He knew the boy needed some more time, so for now he had to at least try and cover up for him. Luckily he didn’t have any reservations in any tea house until the evening either.

With a groan he turned around, hoping to find Juri’s chest to snuggle into, but his forehead hit the boy’s back, which actually surprised him, because even if he turned away at night it was usually always Juri who faced him in the morning no matter if he was asleep or not.

Carefully Taiga got up, not wanting to wake up Juri as the boy didn’t need to help him with all the duties he shouldered himself with. Getting into one of his yukata, a new one he got from Tegoshi the year before as a birthday present. It was white with a blue bamboo pattern, which had Taiga actually ask if he had somehow mixed up the colors, but it had been Juri’s idea to make the bamboo blue, because like that the yukata was as unique as the kimono he still cared for so much.

With quiet steps Taiga made his way towards the front of the house. Except for a few of the assistants no one else was awake yet, but Taiga had spotted Shintaro in front of Ren’s room. For now he didn't want to bother though. For the night they were putting a lock on his door and at day time Tatsuya or Shintaro would make sure that he was doing the work Kamenashi ordered him to do.

Getting ready to leave Taiga slid open the front door of the house, but collided with someone trying to get inside, obviously in a hurry. The boy stepped back immediately and wanted to apologize as he realized who was standing in front of him.

“Taiga…” Reia let out startled, grabbing the bag he was holding now even tighter. “What are you doing here so early in the morning?”

“Isn’t that my question?” Taiga asked calmly as he of course saw what the boy was doing. Running his errands as early as possible to not get seen and then vanish back inside his room.

“I didn’t want to cause trouble, so I-”

“Reia, you are not causing trouble,” Taiga soothed him immediately, but the boy still looked away guilty. “You don’t have to hide from any of us, but you also don’t have to get up at ridiculous times to do your duties. But thank you for getting the rice like that the heaviest thing on my list is gone.”

The teasing smile Taiga formed finally made Reia’s expression brighten up a tiny bit as well, but it was still far away from a smile. “I am sorry I bothered you with my duties over the last week. I will do them properly again from now on!”

“But at normal daytime, okay? For now get a bit more sleep.”

“But I still need to-”

“You need sleep! End of discussion! I am going to get everything else, okay?”

Taiga dared to stretch his arm out and put it on the boy’s hair as he had done it so often before and luckily Reia didn’t pull away. It was one big step into the right direction.

“Okay…” Reia said a bit hesitant before he bowed slightly. “Thank you.”

It felt somehow liberating to see Reia walking around the house once more. Just the fact that he could have a normal conversation without a breakdown was a huge recovery compared to the first two nights when they could all hear Reia cry in his room.