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It was his fourth cancellation this month.

That wasn’t terrible, he supposed, idly gazing at his (too often) closed door at the front of his office. He still had a few files open, currently being used as a barrier to block the frigid air vent behind him from freezing the entire office over.

At first, he’d managed to keep paying bills, and while a once steady stream of clients weren’t quite as abundant as they once had been in his time as a PI, it hadn’t been enough to make him start actively seek out some other way to pay rent. Even now, though he’d been finding it a bit harder to pay utilities, it wasn’t crippling him or driving him to bankruptcy. Skip a few meals now and then and the problem would resolve itself eventually.

He’d work it out. He always did, right?

Sure, he’d been a bit overwhelmed with his caseload, largely consisting of paranoid spouses and petty thefts, but stress was a natural part of running any business. Back when he was starting out, still struggling with managing an entirely new business after just closing his old one, he’d had a few people quit on him. Clients who couldn’t bother to wait a few more weeks for him to track down their missing wallets they’d probably just lost or for him to find proof of a nonexistent affair demanded refunds and stormed out in a
huff. It stung a bit, initially, but he'd compensated by implementing a 10 percent discount for every week he was late in closing a case. It had worked, drawing back the few who’d stormed out and attracting new customers, seemingly resolving the issue.

So why was it coming to bite him now?

Reigen had gone from being a successful private investigator to some sadsack gatekeeping a dingy office in downtown Seasoning City within the span of a few months. A bitter part of him wanted to just close up this business, too, shut it up as yet another failure on his resume and scrounge together a new convoluted business idea that’d burn him out in a few years. Maybe he’d always be that psychic sham, at heart - flighty, temporary, never able to keep anyone satisfied for long.

Still. He shouldn’t complain. At least now he wasn’t lying to people for a living. This had to be an improvement.

A bell chime jolted him from his stupor and he quickly grabbed a random file and started flipping through it in an attempt to look like he was actually being productive. Glancing over the file pages, he found, to his dismay, a teenager hesitantly peering out from the doorway.

The kid looked to be 13 or 14, messy black hair covering sharp eyes looking expectantly towards him as he slowly shut the door and took a seat.

Probably just got hustled out of some money and is hoping I’ll help him for free. That’s how a good deal of my adult clients think, anyway.

“Are you Reigen Arataka?”

Cringing inwardly as he realized he’d just spaced out in front of a potential client, he nodded and whipped out a notebook, putting on his most reassuring smile.

“The Greatest Detective of the 21st Century and owner of the best PI business in Seasoning City, yes. What exactly seems to be the issue?

The boy stared at him for a few seconds, as if he were searching for something. At last he sighed, pulling out a crumpled picture from his pocket.

“I… think my brother is hurting people.”

Well. That was… new. People usually went to him for domestic incidents, small things they knew the police wouldn’t bother investigating. Why would he come here, of all places?

Reigen clicked open a pen and began hastily scribbling down notes. “Any particular reason why you’d think this?”

The kid sat there for a minute, one hand holding the picture and the other furiously clenching and unclenching the leg of his pants. He was about to repeat the question when he spoke up.

“He’s always bottled up his feelings, I guess, and it just builds until he… explodes. It doesn’t… he’s not meaning to be violent, it just sort of happens.”

Reigen nodded thoughtfully. Often kids with a violent streak tended to hide their emotions. “Does your brother have a history of violence?”

“No, but I can tell something’s eating at him. He’s becoming withdrawn, and school’s been rough for him. He’s losing himself, and he’s going to lose control sooner or later.”

“I can’t go to the police about this. I mean, what am I gonna say, ‘my brother’s quiet and won’t tell anyone about his issues so I think he’s going to kill somebody?’ I - I can’t -“ he stopped, briefly, to collect himself. He took a shaky breath and continued.

“Just keep an eye on him for a few weeks. I need to know if he’s hurting someone. I need to know if he’s hurting himself. I have yen, please.”

Reigen released the breath he didn’t know he was holding. He hasn’t felt so invested in a case since - well, since his psychic days.

When was the last time he’d cared about anything like this?

“I’ll take your case,” he said, noticing the teen sigh with relief as he snapped his notebook shut. “Sorry, what were you and your brother’s names? I don’t think I caught them.”

“It’s Ritsu. And my brother is Shigeo Kageyama.”

Chapter Text

 

He bent a spoon yesterday.

Obviously, it wasn’t anything particularly special. It had taken him hours, hunched over on his desk, trying to ‘concentrate his emotions,’ as Shigeo would put it. He wasn’t anywhere near his brother.

He wasn’t anywhere near good enough.

Still, Ritsu couldn’t help but feel a flurry of excitement wash over him when finally, finally, the spoon began to warp in his hand. It was admittedly rather disheartening when it immediately returned to a normal, albeit bent, spoon, but it didn’t bother him much. It was a start. He could improve himself.

(He remembered asking his brother to help him unlock his psychic abilities, once, back when he was still dumb enough to think that he’d ever be so effortlessly powerful. Shigeo had just smiled softly and told him that whenever they’d come to him, they’d surely be amazing since they were his.

Ritsu knew he wasn’t being condescending. His knotted stomach disagreed.)

He wasn’t envious of his brother, not in the slightest. How could he be, when Shigeo was collapsing under his psychic abilities’ weight like a dying star?

You wouldn’t be losing your grip like that, a bitter part of him whispered. You’ve always been stronger than he was, more resilient. Your entire life in the shadows because of the genetic lottery.

He brushed the thoughts aside as he hurriedly left the PI’s office, covering his face on the off chance anybody from school recognized him. How could he think like that when he was investigating his own brother, for God’s sake? What was wrong with him?

It wasn’t like he’d wanted to do it. He knew his brother. They may have grown distant, but he still knew him. Shigeo was kind, gentle, in a way he could never be. He never hurt anyone on purpose.

He would just lose himself.

Ritsu never fully understood his brother’s powers, but he knew enough to know they were dangerous. There were “percents” leading to 100 based on his emotions, and the higher the percent, the more powerful he was.

He’d seen Shigeo at 100 percent -

Lying the ground, senses dulling, vaguely aware of the blood pooling behind him as the void that was not his brother obliterated everything around it -

- it wasn’t pretty.

There was always the constant need to be careful around him, a fear buzzing in the back of his mind that knew anything he did could inch him one step closer to obliteration and he would be none the wiser. It had always been easier to keep his distance. That’s what Shigeo seemed to be doing to himself, anyway.

He’d been cautious. Polite, considerate, but detached. Enough to keep him happy, but not too close.

What happened?

Perhaps, he mused, turning the street corner to his house, it was just a teenager thing. Shigeo’s constant exhaustion, the painful silence, the meal skipping - he really, really wanted to write it off as just part of growing up.

And yet. Even if this wasn’t serious, something still had to be done. Their parents hadn’t seemed to notice the change, and it didn’t appear to be resolving itself.

Hiring a PI may have been a bit much, but it was important. He needed to know if Shigeo was in danger of losing control becoming that monster again.

This time, it might not let go.

Ritsu walked the front door, clenching his shaking hands into a fist. He couldn’t give in to his doubts now! This was all for his brother’s best interest. For his sake.

Shigeo, sitting by the kitchen table, noticed him and waved, his mouth lifting into a tired smile.

His heart ached.

Chapter Text

He was stuck in a bush.

It was 7 in the morning and he was stuck in a fucking bush.

Reigen awkwardly attempted to shift his leg out from underneath him, only to quickly abort when the very pissed off snake a few inches away from his feet gave a violent hiss.

Today was his first day of investigating Shigeo. From what he’d gathered, the kid had gradually become withdrawn over a period of time and could potentially be dangerous if provoked, so it had made sense to check into his school life first. Record check (average grades, a few reprimands for falling asleep in class,) maybe interview some classmates or teachers, see if there were any issues, and report findings. It’d be easy.

The snake hissed even louder.

Easy. Right.

Okay, so this was probably his fault.

The older Kageyama walked a separate school route than his brother (something that struck him as odd, considering they attended the same school). He’d wanted to look for anything out of the ordinary- bullies, perhaps, or even just unusual traits or characteristics he might possess that might help Reigen understand him more, since he didn’t have much to go off of.

The thing was though - he couldn’t just, like, follow the kid to school by walking behind him the whole time. That was way too close to a federal crime than he was comfortable with. Normally whenever he tracked someone for a case, he’d follow them around in his car, but that was obviously out of the question here. So he resorted to the tried - and - true method of staking out in a bush.

Specifically, the one he’d belatedly realized had company.

The company that was getting dangerously close to acquainting its fangs with his leg.

Okay. Okay, okay, okay. It was fine. This was fine. He could do this. Think, assess, act. It was… brownish? Jagged stripes, yellow and rusty red running down its back… maybe a rat snake? Hopefully not a mamushi, those were venomous.

Should he risk trying to kill it? No, probably not, he had no idea what he was dealing with. Should he slowly back away? Make a run for it? Wait for -

A sudden lunge made his decision for him. Arms flailing, he shot back and sprinted away from the bush, hastily picking himself up and flying in the opposite direction, not even bothering to look back to see if the snake was chasing him.

He didn’t stop running until about 10 minutes later, when he was pretty sure that he’d long since lost the snake if it had been following him at all. He practically collapsed against a nearby gate, gasping for air.

He’d wasted some time. Staking out any further this morning was pretty much out of the question. School was a few minutes away from starting, if the loud groups of teenagers idly chatting were any indication.

...wait. Had he really run right to -

“Ah, sir? Are you alright?”

Reigen hesitantly lifted his head towards the inquiring voice. One of the middle schoolers had come over to check on him, it seemed. He seemed genuinely concerned, though the kid was rather hard to read based on his blank face and quiet… quiet...

HOLYSHITTHATSTHEKIDOHGOD

Reigen, for the second time that day, was thrown into a complete and utter panic. He threw himself to his feet, briefly nodded to the kid, and spedwalk out of there like his life depended on it.

Seriously? One day and he’d already blown his cover? He thought he was good at this sort of thing!

It wasn’t a complete loss, at least. Shigeo hadn’t seemed to suspect anything, and he’d still garnered some valuable info he could use for his notes.

Where was…?

He patted down his pockets frantically. He’d brought it with him, hadn’t he? He would have felt it drop out of his pockets, so it could only be in - 

In the bushes.

Dammit.

Chapter Text

“Hey. Kageyama.”

He felt the end of a pencil (the eraser side, fortunately for them, or he might have stabbed them with it) gently poke his uniform from the desk behind him. He tensed, slightly, then lowered his head down and focused intently on his paper to politely indicate to whoever was bothering him that anything they had to say to him was very unwelcome.

Evidently, the message wasn’t received, as a second poke, this time more forceful, came a few seconds later. When he didn’t respond, the pokes turned into rapid prods directly into the back of his neck.

“Kageyama!”

Ritsu whipped around in his seat, yanked the pencil out of the kid’s hand, and ground it into the wood so hard he nearly bore a hole in the desk.

“You have ten seconds until this pencil goes in the back of your neck. What. Do. You. Want?”

The prodder, still stunned by the lightning fast reaction time, managed to sputter out, “I-I, um… just wanted to know if you had any ideas for the writing prompt, is all, since you’re the smartest kid in class and everything! I’m not great with this kind of thing, so I figured you’d be… good for, uh-“

“Leeching?”

“No! I wasn’t - I wasn’t going to -!”

“Shut up and don’t talk to me again.”

With that settled, he turned back towards the front of the class, ignoring the questioning looks from his classmates that were undoubtedly being sent his way. Even if he cared enough to try and ward them off, he didn’t have time. There was a writing prompt he had to finish, after all.

He returned to exactly where he’d been in the first 20 minutes of class - staring at a blank paper in frustration.

Shit.

For this assignment (one of the few eternally dreadful creative writing segments in the course), he was supposed to write a page - long poem about something he cared about. This type of work had always irked him - it wasn’t like you could just cram after school for how to come up with ideas or how to make your writing flow consistently.

If he, hypothetically, had an academic weakness, this would probably be it. His grades on them were solid, nothing that would drag down his average, but still subpar compared to other writing assignments he’d written for other subjects.

Call it him being overly serious, or close - minded, or whatever. He just wasn’t that creative.

It wasn’t that big a deal, really. He doubted that it’d ever become life changing or career altering if he couldn’t write an interesting short story or cohesive poem.

Still. Class was halfway over, and the poem was due by the end of class. He better turn in something decent, or it might actually start being an issue.

Alright, think. Things you care about - family? No, too obvious. Grades? Could he even stretch that to a page?

A fond memory could work, though nothing of particular endearance was coming to mind.

He glanced over at the clock, only to feel a chill run down his spine as he realized he had only 15 minutes left with nothing on the page. Think! What did he have that he looked back on fondly?

Running on the sidewalks with Shigeo, playing in the woods together, peaceful silence in the evenings with a warm knowledge that I’m with someone who understands me -

…well. That was something he hadn’t thought of in a long time.

It would probably net him points with the teacher (she loved personal stories more than anything), and he had plenty to say on the subject, anyway.

He vigorously scribbled down some (admittedly rather half - assed) stanzas about old memories of his brother, just barely reaching the end of the page before the bell rang.

Hands still shaking slightly, he turned in the page to the teacher’s desk and went back to grab his things.

He wondered, briefly, if his brother had to do this same frivolous assignment last year like he did. Maybe he wrote about the two of them, too.

It didn’t matter anyway, of course. That happened ages ago and it was of little consequence now, so there was no point in bringing it up again.

“A-ah, uh, Kageyama?”

This idiot again.

He sighed, irritated, as he grabbed his bag, dutifully ignoring him.

“You took my pencil.”

Ritsu glanced down at the pencil in his hand, and sure enough, found that it wasn’t his.

He turned around, fully facing the kid who had his hand outstretched. Looking him directly in the eye, he held the pencil firmly with both hands, brought it against his knee, and snapped it in two.

As Ritsu walked to his next class, the unfortunate student gazed mournfully at the splintered remains. “That was my last one...”

Chapter Text

The last time Reigen had been asked to spy on someone (though, of course, neither he nor the client ever used that term - it was always skirted around with “tracking” or “looking into”) had been about 2 months ago. It hadn’t been a cheating spouse that time around, which was always a pleasant change. A paranoid office employee was convinced his new coworker was a dangerous criminal, and insisted that his entire life must be uprooted instead of a basic background check.

“Little patterns,” he’d insisted. “He’s got these little tics that make a person know something’s off. There’s nothing he’s done wrong, but if you look at him, you’d see that he’s messed up. Everyone else is just too spineless to say it.”

Personally, he thought the guy was being a bit hypocritical considering that he was hiring a PI to run a background check on an unsuspecting coworker to see if he was hiding a violent criminal past instead of bringing up his concerns with an employer, but hey, he follows the money.

Overall, it had been a fairly uneventful investigation (no, he wasn’t hiding a criminal record or plotting the deaths of everyone on his office bloc - just a bit reserved and lacking in social skills). The most climatic part was when the client, upon hearing his findings, threw a hissy fit and nearly refused to pay, eventually storming out in hopes that if he paid enough people, one of them might feed his ridiculous conspiracy.

It was still a nice change of pace from the typical background check or car tailing, though. Maybe it was the sad, pathetic loner in him talking, but he enjoyed getting to hold actual conversations with people, even if it was just a few neighbors and work related.

So when the younger Kageyama asked him to look into his brother, he couldn’t help but feel a bit excited. He’d get to hold a conversation with someone besides a client!

He had neglected to factor in that trying to get any viable information from middle schoolers was akin to bashing your head against a brick wall.

That was mostly his fault. If a seedy middle aged man who claimed to be a PI with no credentials asked some teenagers about an eighth grader he had no connection to, it likely wasn’t going to end well. The hesitance to reveal information was understandable, and he’d done his best to avoid making them uncomfortable (asking in the late morning in a public area, with several groups being asked at once).

But Christ, did nobody know this kid? The most anyone an eighth grader in Salt Middle School had been able to offer up about him was that he was “plain - looking.” Was he just off in who he questioned or did Shigeo really have that much of a gaping hole of a social life?

He’d been up until one last night trying to piece together his notes into something relatively coherent, and had spent hours at his work desk trying to formulate something.

According to Ritsu, his brother’s physical and (assumedly) his mental state had steadily deteriorated over the course of a few months. There had to be a cause for this decline in wellbeing, but whatever it was, his school life didn’t seem to be a part of it, and his home life seemed stable. Maybe he was looking in the wrong place?

A thought struck him, and he flipped back through his interview notes to one of the first kids he spoke with - one Kurata Tome. She vehemently insisted that she’d seen Shigeo using telekinesis to stop a stack of books from falling off a shelf once, and was convinced that he was an esper.

Of course, she also believed in aliens and thought she could telepathically communicate with them, so he’d brushed it off and never gave it much thought. Now, however, he’d begun to reconsider. Maybe Shigeo could be hiding psychic abilities?

Ritsu had said his brother could become dangerous, but that probably wasn’t what he meant. Dealing with a person who had psychic powers would be a hell of a of big detail to leave out, and it was a massive stretch, anyway.

It didn’t warrant a request for a second meeting by any means, but he’d keep an eye out for anything on the off chance that it wasn’t a crazy girl’s ramblings, just in case.

In the meantime, he should probably work on the cases for his other clients. He couldn’t afford to get dropped, and it was getting pretty drafty in here.

Chapter Text

Ritsu wasn’t an indecisive person. Never had been.

He liked to think of himself as purely logistical - making the decision that would benefit himself and his family the most, at that moment.

The logical course of action at that moment would be to tell Shigeo he’d awakened. Why wouldn’t he? He was weak, inexperienced, and lacking in the proper knowledge to nurture his abilities to develop them to their full potential, while his brother was incredibly powerful and all too acquainted with his own powers. Asking for guidance would be the obvious next step.

When he’d first discovered he was an esper, he’d told himself he’d tell Shigeo right away. And he told himself that the next day.

And the next day. And the next. And the one after that.

It had been nearly a week since he’d unlocked his psychic abilities, something he’d been desperate to show, to prove to the world (and, more importantly, Shigeo) that he had for years, and he couldn’t make himself do it.

Shouldn’t he be looking forward to this?

“Ah, Ritsu? Are you going to bed?”

He turned from where he'd been idly lost in thought, staring at the bathroom mirror to see his older brother standing in the doorway. It might have just been the light, but the hints of shadows under his eyes were starting to look more defined.

He gave a reluctant smile. “I’ll be there in just a minute.” That seemed to be enough for him (when was it not?), so he nodded and shut the door. “Alright, then. Goodnight.”

He heard his soft footsteps stay still, for a moment, then quietly tread back to his bedroom. He leaned against the door as he heard them gradually fade until the house was completely silent.

He was alone with his thoughts. Again.

There were certainly… detractions he could think of in telling Shigeo. Despite his remarkable esper strength and capacity, he still had a hard time controlling them, and it was easy to see that the consequences of those powers took an obvious toll on him.

And yet he was still itching to tell him like he was still that tiny, wide - eyed little kid who shared everything with his big brother, like that could fix anything.

It hadn’t even been a week since he’d shelled out nearly all the yen he had saved up to that shitty PI and he was already dying to know what he’d found, like he could just wrap up whatever was bothering Shigeo with a neat little bow and everything would be perfect from then on.

Ritsu sighed, shutting off the light and carefully maneuvering towards his room in the darkness, eventually making his way to his bed, leaving the only trace of sound the occasional car passing outside.

Maybe he could have it both ways. He’d heard whispers of another esper at Black Middle, so there could be someone experienced he could talk to. They probably weren’t anything more than baseless rumors, but he’d go ahead and look into it.

It couldn’t hurt to ask, right?

Chapter Text

Reigen wasn’t bad at his job. He just did well enough at what he did that it balanced out to look mediocre, and he relied on that decent performance to pay his bills, no matter how utterly godawful the job was.

That was the one ace up his sleeve that he knew he could always play - whatever assignment he was working on, no matter how difficult or convoluted or unfair, he could always bullshit his way into making the final product look at least somewhat presentable.

Call it charisma, emotional intelligence, or spitting in the eye of God, but he had always been able to slide right on through things that going should have probably killed him. That was the reason he quit his 9 to 5 office job in the first place - he knew that he could at least do something to help people, even if it was in his own (disgusting) indirect way.

Maybe that was what was bothering him about this case (besides the fact that he was investigating a teenager). It had been over a week since he’d picked it up and he’d made almost no progress. Another one of his clients had already dropped him, he couldn’t afford to lose another by mismanaging his caseload.

Or maybe it was the fact that Ritsu was incredibly barren and vague when it came to giving information about the one person he was getting paid to learn the most about.

Whatever it was, it was preventing him from making headway in helping the two brothers and gaining any new information about them.

So why not go straight to one of the sources themselves?

Attempting an unprompted meeting with one of the Kageyama parents might be a bit idiotic, but it was a good way of garnering a plethora of valuable insight into the brothers and learn more about their relationship with both themselves and their parents.

As the father apparently got off of work rather late and he would rather not speak with the entire family at once, he had resorted to arriving when only the lady of the household, Hisoka Kageyama, would be there. Quick trip, and out, to avoid attracting unwanted attention.

After taking a moment to get into character, he knocked on their front door. From the outside, it seemed to be a rather plain house - fairly sized (larger than his dingy apartment, anyhow), but no decor or anything to differentiate itself with any of the other placid suburban homes surrounding it.

A moment passed before he heard “One moment!”, followed by some quick strides towards the door.

She seemed pleasant enough - a mild, friendly looking woman, albeit one whose wrinkles were starting to become a bit glaring. “May I help you?”

He grinned. “Reigen Arataka, ma’am. I’m here about a sweepstakes for an all - expenses paid trip to your choice luxury hotel in Seasoning City for your entire family. Do you want to enter?”

Her face lit up in excitement. “That sounds wonderful! Come in, come in,” she hurriedly waved him inside and gestured towards the couch. “Please excuse the house, it’s a bit messy - oh, would you like some tea?”

He nodded and she hastily left for the kitchen. Whatever mess she was talking about, he couldn’t see it - the whole living room looked spotless.

He felt a bit guilty for so blatantly lying to her like this, but it was the best path to avoid getting caught - clean, efficient, and required little prior knowledge beforehand.

Hisoka returned with the tray of tea, pouring them both a cup before she turned towards him. “What do I need to sign to enter my family in this contest?”

“Ah, there’s no need for any of that old fashioned stuff! I’ll simply add your household’s name onto our raffle list, and we’ll contact you if you win! …Though, it would be nice to learn more about your family. Just so we can better build your custom getaway package and such.”

She nodded to herself, thinking. “Well, there’s my husband, Kosuke. He’s a hardworking man - a bit sloppy, so I wouldn’t give him anything too expensive to eat!”

“What about your kids?”

“Ah, there’s Ritsu, my youngest. Such a smart boy, he does so well in his classes. And there’s Shigeo, my eldest. He’s got a bit to go to catch up with his brother, but he’s a good worker.”

“Anything more you can tell me? For safety reasons, of course.”

“Of course, yes. I wouldn’t give Shigeo any silverware if I were you - he’s got a bad habit of warping them.”

“Warping?”

“With his powers,” she sighed, shaking her head. “I’ve told him to not do that at the dinner table so many times now, but he never listens.”

Reigen mulled over this thoughtfully, nodding to himself. He carefully placed his teacup on the adjacent coffee table and looked calmly back at her.

“What.”

Chapter Text

He wasn’t quite sure what he’d been expecting, really.

Black Vinegar Middle School was one of the most expensive schools in the district, and the students there reflected this completely. Not that the kids at Salt were any better, of course - they were just as irritating without the occasional bouts of competence.

It’s just that people from Black Vinegar had a reputation of being a bit… stuck - up. Cold. Narcissistic. Bratty little shits whose ego was too horrendously large for them to notice the massive stick up their asses.

He’d sort of hoped that whoever the esper was would be more like Shigeo, in a way - down to earth, powerful, but with a firm grasp on their own abilities and with the knowledge to teach other people about them.

Reality wasn’t disappointing, it was downright depressing.

The rumored esper that the few kids who even bothered to acknowledge his presence pointed him towards was Teruki Hanazawa, a second year at Black Vinegar. Any additional information he requested was scoffed at, so it had taken him a while to find out what he even looked like.

A prick, apparently.

When he wasn’t surrounded by swarms of his adoring fans or had his girl of the week clinging onto him like a parasite, it was apparent that this guy wasn’t anything like his brother. Everything about him screamed flashy - the bright hair, the sauntering strides, the casual grins. If every stereotype of a Black Vinegar student was rolled into one, it would still probably be better than this douchebag.

This was the all - powerful esper? Really?

Still, he thought as he carefully followed Teruki from a distance on his way home from school, he looks smart enough. He’s got that going for him, at least.

“You’ve been following me for the last three blocks.”

Jolted from his thoughts, he took a step back and looked up to see that Teruki had completely turned around to fully face him, a slight smirk still lingering on his lips.

“I’d heard that someone about as sad - looking as you was asking around for me around the school,” he crooned, slowly walking towards him like an animal cornering its injured prey. “I must say, there’s something I admire about tenaciousness like that, even as pathetic a kind as yours.”

“So, humor me. Whatever about me could have you so infatuated, especially since you’re not even in the same school? I’d suggest you make it quick, before I decide your company isn’t worth my time.”

What a piece of shit.

“You’re an esper, right?”

“An esper? Why, whatever are you implying?”

“You can cut the bullshit.” Ritsu telepathically lifted a pebble off the ground and neatly dropped it in his hand. “So am I.”

He couldn’t help but feel a twinge of satisfaction as Teruki stared blankly back at him, blinking in surprise. He’d, however briefly, caught that smug bastard off guard.

“Ah. You’ve come to challenge me, then?”

“No. I’ve come to ask you for advice. I’ve only recently awakened and want to learn more about my abilities.”

 He scoffed, casually closing the gap of the last few feet in between them and motioning for him to sit on a nearby bench, with which Ritsu reluctantly complied.

“Tch. Figures the first esper I’d meet would be some desperate amateur begging around for guidance. What would I get out of helping you?”

...crap. What would this power - hungry rich kid even want?

“You can meet my brother.”

That was definitely not the correct answer.

“Why the hell would I want to meet your brother?” Ritsu shifted uncomfortably, looking intensely at his shoes.

“He’s an esper, too. Was born with his powers at birth, unlike me. He’s much, much more experienced and powerful than I am, just not a very good teacher. You guys are the same age, I’m sure you two would… get along.”

Teruki stared at him intensely, for a moment, before turning away. “Fighting someone as weak and defenseless as you wouldn’t be interesting at all. But you really think this brother of yours is that powerful?”

He nodded, fearing that he might strangle him if he were to do anything more.

Teruki nodded, a grin slowly forming on his face. “A ruthless slap back to reality… yes. Yes, I think I would like to meet your brother.”

He stood up from the bench, beaming. “Same time, same place tomorrow. You’re in luck, ah, um -“

“Ritsu,” he gritted out.

“... Ritsu. Congratulations, you’ve just found yourself a mentor.”

Chapter Text

Hisoka raised an eyebrow, her polite smile twisting to settle a bit more lopsided on her face.

“Well, it’s a very irritating habit of his, you know. Though thankfully he’s never warped anything into becoming unusable, it can permanently bend the metal, and it’s not good to wear down silverware like that. I try not to enable that sort of thing.”

Reigen, still reeling from the massive plot twist that just got thrown at his face, waved away her reply. He downed the rest of his tea (much to Hisoka’s very evident horror), trying to comprehend what this woman had just so nonchalantly said.

“No, no, you’re right about the spoons - 

It’s just - how long has he, ah… had, these abilities? Is it known about?”

She looked utterly baffled ( why is this normal for you?), and carefully set down her teacup.

“His whole life, I think. They first showed up when he was a few months old. And yes, it’s known about. It's a bit hard to hide a thing like that from nosy neighbors!” She laughed to herself. She reached for the teapot and poured herself another cup. “Care for another?”

What. The. Hell.

This wasn’t completely out of the ballpark or anything. Heck, he’d even had the same thought himself.

But he had been under the impression, in this hypothetical scenario, that the Kageyama family didn’t know about Shigeo’s awakening (which he presumed would have been the root of his issues). He had presumed that, if they knew, they would have found someone to help their son control his powers and question his obvious deterioration instead of just shrugging their shoulders and not questioning any of it further.

He’d also been under the impression that people would be significantly more aware of Shigeo in general due to this (he figured he should have at least been “the esper kid” instead of “the plain - looking kid”). 

He’d also also been under the impression that Ritsu was smart enough to know that if he knew something that significant to the case about his brother, he should tell him.

Why would he have even bothered not telling him in the first place if it wasn’t a secret? Was he embarrassed? Trying to hide something else? Reluctant to give out any useful information to a stranger?

His head was beginning to hurt.

“Ah, Mr. Arataka?”

Wearily, he lifted his head up towards Hisoka, who was peering over him, concerned. “Are you feeling alright? You look a bit tired.”

Tired of this family’s terrible decisions, for sure.

“I’m alright, thank you. Just worn out from work, is all.” He took a sip out of his newly - refilled cup, which Hisoka had helpfully refilled while he was reevaluating his life. 

“If I may ask,” he slowly spoke, pausing for a bit to try and piece together how to phrase this nicely and get an honest answer, “how is your two sons’ relationship? Do they… get along?”

She didn’t seem to take offense, her eyes lighting up and her beam came back in full force. “Oh, just fine! They’re so polite to one another. They’re practically role models for Kosuke and I!”

That’s not a good thing. 

It was still too early to push the blame on anyone, though. He had probably gotten as much information as he could without arousing suspicion, anyhow.

“That’s... wonderful,” he replied, quickly polishing off the remainder of his tea and grabbing his things. “I’d love to stay and chat more, but I’m afraid I must be going. Thank you for the tea!”

“Oh, that’s right, I’d completely forgotten you were working for a minute there. I’m very sorry I held you up, Mr. Arataka!”

He gave her his signature grin as he all but ran out the door. “No trouble at all, ma’am. I’ll tell you if you won in a month!”

He hurried out, not slowing his pace until he’d exited the neighborhood, where he slumped against a nearby tree and hastily jotted down notes for his case file. Despite himself, he couldn’t help but feel a bit giddy. He was finally making some headway!

Starting tomorrow, he’d begin looking into the other Kageyamas, starting with Ritsu. He highly doubted any of them had malicious intentions, but they might unknowingly be harmful towards Shigeo.

That could wait for now, though. In the meantime, he had a phone call to make.

 

Chapter Text

Ritsu stared at his hands, clenching and unclenching, his nails digging into his palms. The nail marks had turned from a shallow pink to a deep and angry red. If he kept going long enough, he could probably make them bleed.

 

He’d been sitting there on that bench for what - ten, twenty minutes since that walking pineapple left, trying to collect himself.

 

What did he just do?

 

What did he just do?

 

He thought he’d be able to take control of the situation. He wasn’t a smooth talker by any means, but he’d always felt he couldn’t be duped, that in a situation like this he’d be the one with the iron will others would bend to.

 

And yet this second year he’d only known for about ten minutes had just ripped the rug out from under him in an instant.

 

How could have been so stupid like that, not only telling him about his brother but offering to have them meet the two of them up! He very obviously had questionable intentions from the get - go and he’d just thrown that out there like an idiot!

 

Was this entire thing a mistake? Were the supposed “meetings” from this guy even worth it in the first place?

 

He felt his cell phone buzz in his pocket and he pulled it out, annoyed. His only contacts he had were family, and this wasn’t the time for any of them to be calling right now.

 

An unknown number. Odd.

 

Hesitantly, he opened the call. “Hello?”

 

“Ritsu? This is Reigen Arataka, the PI you hired.”

 

His heart jumped and he held the phone closer to his ear. “Did you find anything?”

 

“Everything’s going according to schedule, don’t worry. I don’t have any leads to give you just yet, but I was actually wondering if I could discuss a separate matter with you.”

 

He deflated, adrenaline draining and leaving only the staunch irritation behind. “What.”

 

“While performing my research, I came to discover that your brother possesses psychic abilities. Why didn’t you tell me that earlier?”

 

His nails began to dig back into his skin again. “It wasn’t necessary information.”

 

There was a pause on the other end, as if he were taken aback. “Why would you consider why Shigeo had a violent history and was potentially dangerous to not be important?”

 

His eye twitched. “Are you trying to imply something, Mr. Arataka?”

 

“Nope,” he replied coolly. “Just checking for clarification. I’ll call you when I’m ready to report my findings.”

 

Click .

 

His temper flared. What the hell?! Whose side was this guy supposed to be on anyway? 

 

He’d given him all the important things. Psychic abilities weren’t primary. He could have figured this out without them.

 

But no, this guy just had to stick his nose where it didn’t belong and - 

 

A liquid, dripping onto his pants leg caught his attention.

 

… blood.

 

Oh.

 

He hastily took his nails out, wincing at the stream already beginning to flow from the split in the skin.

 

Today probably wasn’t the best day to form the wrong conclusion about this guy. He’d already been having a rough day, so he was more likely to lash out at anyone.

 

He’d keep cool about it for now. Who knows, maybe it really would prove helpful to him.

 

In the meantime, he should probably head home and disinfect these nail marks before anyone sees them.

 

He hoped they wouldn’t scar.

 

 

Chapter Text

Once, during his junior year, Reigen woke up at three in the morning with the sudden realization that he had a fifteen page essay due that morning that he hadn’t even started.

 

Naturally, he’d flung himself out of bed and did it in one sitting. He barely made the deadline and you could probably find more useful information about light refraction on the bottom of a soda cap, but he did it.

 

Got a B, too. Not bad for a science class he’d been half - assing his way through for the entire semester.

 

After that, though, he’d sworn to himself that he’d never put himself in a position  where he had to just speed through a project and hope for the best. He wouldn’t exactly call himself a slacker, but he’d felt that sick, cold dread running through him a bit too much for comfort.

 

At first, he’d mostly been applying this to school so he wouldn’t fail half of his classes. Eventually, however, he carried this thought process with him in his work as well.

 

That wasn’t to say that he never scrambled to finish an assignment or had to pull some late night. That was inevitable, really, especially in his line of work.

 

But he tried to get them done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and more often than not saved himself a lot of trouble later, no matter how frustrating or seemingly pointless the work might seem then.

 

Which is why he was still in his office at two in the morning, with his fourth cup of espresso from the 24/7 coffee shop across the street.

 

He’d never even tried  espresso before today.

 

It helped keep him warm, though. He didn’t have enough files to cover up the vents anymore.

 

He’d spent the last few hours going through his case file and notes, sifting and sorting through what had little value to things he could actually work with in the revising of his most likely ideas and theories of what was happening.

 

After learning that Shigeo had psychic powers, it had upended a good deal of his research and theories. He’d been leaning towards school isolation (which could admittedly still be a factor), but the fact that Ritsu had not only not told him this, but deliberately withheld it from him, coupled with warning flags at his home was leading him into a new direction entirely.

 

Most of his notes were useless, but he couldn’t stop now. He was still on a deadline (as thankfully vague as it was), and he was going to make it, panic be damned.

 

He had already figured he was going to have to shift the focus of his investigation more on the family, but his phone call with Ritsu this afternoon  really cemented it for him.

 

It was painfully obvious that he wasn’t being completely honest about the nature of his relationship with his brother. 

 

He was reluctant to share any information at all about Shigeo and refused to divulge the details of his supposed “violent history,” which was supposed to be the main concern in the first place. 

 

He hadn’t found any criminal or school record to indicate violent or delinquent behavior, and it was very evident that the kid wasn’t exactly the fighting type.

 

Most importantly, it didn’t seem like they were even close. Even their own mother had described the way they spoke to each as merely “polite,” and considered them role models (though she likely wasn’t the most reliable source for this sort of thing).

 

He had no doubt he cared for his brother, but there was more to this story than he was letting on, and Reigen was going to find out.

 

A sudden, loud burst of air from the obnoxious vent jolted him from his dazed state. He’d been blankly staring off into space for the last ten minutes.

 

He sighed, shutting his notebook and heading for the door. This was well enough work done for tonight. Starting tomorrow, he’d begin a new chapter in this case, one with actual progression. He’d look into the other three Kageyamas, namely Ritsu, and he would crack this whole thing wide open. 

 

Hopefully with less snakes this time.



Chapter Text

Storms in Seasoning City were relatively rare, but fascinating to watch. For most used people, they tended to seemingly appear out of thin air - they idly notice only a few clouds tainting the skyline or an inconsequential drizzle, then a sudden burst of lighting shakes them from their stupor as the torrential downpour begins. For them, it looked like it came out of nowhere.

 

Not for him, though. He’d always been able to tell.

 

Ritsu watched the rain drench the city from inside a cafe window, keeping an eye on the bench that he’d met with Teruki on the day before. He hadn’t gotten his phone number (he’d been too angry to even bother), so he’d resorted to waiting at an empty coffee shop across the street from their first meeting and hoping that he showed.

 

It wouldn’t be surprising if he didn’t, honestly. Besides Teruki being a rather untrustworthy individual, this thunderstorm was getting worse by the second. He’d already had to call his mom to assure her that he was alright. It would make sense if he decided not to bother, since he’d didn’t seem to particularly care much in the first place.

 

He was still going to wait, though. As repugnant as he was, Teruki was still the only other esper he’d been able to find  that could teach him about how to wield his shaky grasp on his abilities. He wasn’t going to grovel at the guy’s feet or anything, but he’d at least try to be cordial for the sake of learning. 

 

He absentmindedly fiddled with the handle of the teacup in front of him,  eyes scanning for anyone within proximity of the bench so he could wave them in if needed.

 

It had been nearly half an hour since the meeting should have started. Was he not coming?

 

Of course. Why should he have expected anything different from that jerk?

 

He grabbed his bag, quickly draining the last of his green tea. Taking the one he’d bought for Teruki was tempting, but it was probably cold now anyway. 

 

Suddenly the front door opened, and a flash of familiar blonde hair peeked out, scanning the shop until his eyes landed on him.

 

“There you are, Ritsu!” the blonde exclaimed, slinging his bag on the chair across him on the table and taking a seat. “I was wondering if you’d decided to bail already.”

  

“Why aren’t you wet?”

 

Teruki was, in fact, completely dry. Despite having just walked through a thunderstorm, his uniform was still pristine, and his hair still light and airy per usual. Even being out there for a few seconds would have left anyone a soaking mess, so why was he so pristine?

 

He shrugged, nonchalantly taking a sip of his tea, his face twisting slightly at the realization that it was barely lukewarm. Pushing the cup away, he glanced back up at Ritsu. “Powers. Why aren’t you wet?”

 

“I got here on time.”

 

He scoffed. “Don’t get too full of yourself. I’ve been waiting in a restaurant a few buildings down. I was going to get us dinner reservations, but something tells me you like things a little simpler.”

 

“This isn’t one of your dates, Teruki,” Ritsu snapped, wringing his hands underneath the table. “I’m only here to learn from you, and then we’re done.”

 

He smirked, unfazed. “After I meet your famous brother of course.”

 

Gripping his hands tighter to avoid lashing out, Ritsu glared at the table, trying to focus his mind on the sound of the rain repelling against the window pane. 

 

“... so. What did you have in mind.”

 

At that, Teruki stood up from the table, grabbing his bag. “Get up. We’re going outside.”

 

“In this weather? Why?”

 

He got no response other than a beckoning hand as he left.

 

“This better be worth it,” he muttered, leaving a tip for the waiter and following his so - called mentor out the door.

 

He hadn’t gone far, leaning casually against  the brick underneath the awning, one leg bent to rest slightly above the ground on the wall. “Go out there. You’re  going to stop the rain from touching you.”

 

“What? I’m not ready for that sort of thing yet.”

 

He only got an eye roll in response. “Of course you are. Even a sad beginner like you can handle this. Just go out there, visualize the rain stopping, and your barrier should make it fall around you. Like this.”

 

Teruki confidently walked out into the downpour. It was easy for even an average onlooker to see that the rain didn’t hit him, it only reached a point an inch above him until it was stopped by his barrier. He held his arms out to his sides strutting back to the dryness of the awning. “See?”

 

“No! You haven’t told me anything! I can’t just walk out and just expect to know what to do!” He held his head in his hands. “Why can’t you just tell me how to use my powers instead of making me jump through your hoops?”

 

“You’re not going to grow stronger if I do that. Words can only do so much.”

 

 Ritsu growled in frustration, dropping his bag and stepping out into the rain. “You’re insufferable, you know that.”

 

“It’s part of the charm.”

 

He closed his eyes, ignoring everything else and focusing on the frigid rain soaking through him. He imagined it falling, falling, and then coming to a stop and bouncing off of him. He pictured a barrier, blocking everything in its path.

 

He stood there for several minutes, closing everything else else except the rain, but could still feel it hammering down on him. Eventually, he opened his eyes again, irritated.

 

“This isn’t working. We need to try something different.”

 

Teruki was staring at him, eyes wide, a smile forming at the edge of his lips. “Notice anything?”

 

Puzzled, he looked around. The rain was still falling on him, but he could now see that there was a large circular area around him where a large water bubble was floating above him, growing by the second. The rain was only coming down on him.

 

He’d formed a barrier… of rain.

 

Teruki was doubled over, laughing uncontrollably. “O-Oh my god, even your own powers think you’re too angsty! That’s got to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen!”

 

Fists clenching, he shut his eyes, concentrating. “Shut. Up.”

 

He was still wheezing. “You-“

 

A massive crash interrupted his response as a giant water orb slammed right into Teruki, knocking him off his feet and shaking the entire store. Ritsu watched in shock as the rain came to a stop around him. He could feel the barrier around him vibrating in every inch of his skin. It was exhilarating. 

 

“Whoa…” 

 

With a groan, Teruki pulled himself to his feet. “Quite the extremist, aren’t you?” He sighed, using his telekinesis to pull the water from his clothes. “You’re lucky that the streets are empty. That could have gone a lot worse with other people around to watch.”

 

Ritsu couldn’t help but smile despite himself. This buzzing was proof that he was  getting that much closer to being on even ground with Shigeo, proof that he could do this. “All that matters is that you were there to take the hit.”

 

“You know, if I don’t kill you beforehand, I am so kicking your sorry ass once you actually learn how to fight.” He walked out from under the awning, his grin now a bit more smile than sneer. “Not terrible work, though. Better than pebbles, anyway.

 

“Do that orb thing again. Use your anger or whatever you did to make it happen. Just…” he pointed wearily towards the road. “...not at me.”

Chapter Text

Reigen never thought he’d be using himself as a positive example compared to someone else.

 

He was a lackluster kid turned subpar teen turned shitty adult who nearly dropped out of high school, worked a monotonous office job for a few years until he got burnout, and all of his business start ups had run themselves into the ground, with his latest one well on the way. There wasn’t exactly a lot  to love there.

 

Yet the more he learned about Ritsu Kageyama, the more he wished that maybe, just maybe, he could be a b it more like he was as a teenager.

 

Obviously not for the failing grades and the goofing off (a lack of that was a blessing in and of itself), but more for being anything less than completely rigid and rules abiding to an absurd degree. No, labeling it as absurd implied that had at least some sort of degree of cosmic  humor to it. This was just sad.

 

Looking into his school records (which was surprisingly easy to get ahold of) gave him a rather good impression of who Ritsu was based on how little it told him at all. 

 

He’d been sitting at his desk, legs splayed across the table, trying to interpret the records to no avail. Though he wasn’t quite sure what school records were supposed to look like, they were probably supposed to be more telling than this.

 

His grades were all very high, enough to where he would be well above his classmates. He apparently used to be a member on the student council, but dropped out last year. His record was completely spotless, and all his teachers spoke highly of him, only occasionally complaining that he tended to ostracize himself. It was all dull. Barren. 

 

He was also rather popular, it seemed. While his student interviews had largely focused on Shigeo (and he certainly wasn’t going through that fiasco again), he had gleaned some telling information about Ritsu there.  

 

If they knew who he was at all, the students seemed to really only know him as “Ritsu’s brother.” It made sense for someone who excelled so much at academics to be relatively well known at school. 

 

What didn’t make sense is why Ritsu had made himself an outcast intentionally. Sure, he could easily tell in the conversations they’d had that the kid was rather aloof, but he had to have at least some friends, right? A group of acquaintances, perhaps?

 

Maybe it was too early to make a call, but Ritsu seemed just as utterly isolated as his brother, perhaps even more so. He closed himself off from his classmates, from everybody, and threw himself into his studies. 

 

Why, though? Why was he so dead set on closing himself off from everyone around him, even the people here to help? Was he really that distrusting, or was he hiding something?

 

He couldn’t help but circle back to Ritsu’s first mention of Shigeo’s violent history back at their first meeting. Back then, he’d seemed so convicted, so firmly believing in his own knowledge, that Reigen hadn’t really questioned it. That might have been a mistake .

 

There was no trace of a violent history. No record, no fearful classmates, anything. Either any incident that had occurred was unrecorded, or it was an irrational statement.

 

Something slowly dawned on him. The reason they were so distant towards each other was because Ritsu was afraid of his brother. Not of what he had done, but what he knew he could do. Keeping his distance from his perception of a ticking time bomb, thinking getting too close could potentially set him off. 

 

Wow. That was… depressing, really.

 

Idly, he glanced up at his monitor, and was surprised to find it was only eleven. He’d expected another late night, but he’d gotten done rather early this time.

 

Good thing, too. He’d started wearing layers of coats while he worked, but the cold still pricked at his hands with pins and needles.

 

As he put away his notes, he noticed the picture of Shigeo that Ritsu had given him as reference. Staring at him now, waving at the camera with a small, hesitant smile, he couldn’t help but notice that he seemed a bit… familiar. Had they met before?

 

Ah, well. He wouldn’t let it bug him. He was probably just imagining things. 

 

He didn’t know any teenagers, after all. 

Chapter Text

Watching people from a window was a much different experience than watching them up close. A sheet of glass attached to a wall made everyone on the other side seem a bit more distant and mysterious, a great unknown only a few inches away.

 

It was relaxing, in a way.

 

Ritsu, once again, found himself staring out a window at that same worn down table at the coffee shop as yesterday, only this time not caring to look for Teruki among the bustling people. They’d both agreed that meeting here from now on was a much better spot than a random bench, especially since the weather could be rather unpredictable.

 

Teruki was late again, it seemed, though  just by a few minutes this time. This was only their second meeting, but it was pretty evident to him that this was going to be a pattern. It wasn’t terribly surprising - he didn’t show any great interest in teaching Ritsu other than S̶h̶i̶g̶e̶o̶ bragging rights. Shallow, sure, but not shocking. Maybe he was doing it intentionally just to irritate him, who knows.

 

Usually it would irritate him, but he was enjoying this time to himself. The quiet of the shop other than the quiet sweeping of a waitress in the corner, coupled with the muffled movement of the city from the window, was rather peaceful.

 

When was the last time he’d taken time for himself? Not to study or plan, but just to breathe? Just to be?

 

It was nostalgic, almost. He hadn’t felt this comfortable in a long time. 

 

“You know, the tea here’s actually pretty good for a coffee shop.”

 

Ritsu pushed back against his chair with a gasp, nearly tipping himself over in the process. He barely managed to steady himself and found that Teruki had taken the seat across from him and was drinking his tea, rather bemused at his expense.

 

That was… unsettling. Had he really just been that lost in thought?

 

He nodded hesitantly, holding up his nearly empty teacup for emphasis. “It’s decent.” 

 

Teruki nodded, still smirking a bit at his slightly shaky breaths from the rush of adrenaline he’d gotten. He tactfully chose to ignore it and continued. “Tell me about the mechanics of psychic powers.”

 

“Wow. Direct, strategic, and properly savors tea. You’re really making me question my whole life here.” 

 

God, he’s annoying. No wonder he loses every girlfriend he has after a week.

 

“Quit cracking jokes and tell me already. And don’t spout some nonsense about ‘experience’ or whatever. We both know that this is vital information, so don’t hide it from me.”

 

“I’m not, jeez!” Teruki put his hands in the air placatingly. “You’re so impatient, you know? Always wanting to get to your next objective as quickly as possible without actually doing anything worthwhile. You’ll never make anything out of yourself that way.”

 

“Alright, first.” Ritsu pulled open a notebook from his bag and flipped to the first page, ready to take notes as needed. “My brother says that his power is controlled by percentages. Is this true for you as well?”

 

“... I suppose I don’t know much of how it is for other people,” Teruki admitted, holding the warm teacup tight in his hands. “I’m not acquainted with many espers, after all. I don’t have any sort of percentage system tied to my abilities. Perhaps it’s a method he’s mentally developed of controlling his abilities?”

 

“So you don’t know anything about them?”

 

“No.” He took a sip of the tea and placed the cup down, one hand still lingering on the handle as if it were positioned at the ready. “I don’t. That’s interesting, though. I’d like to know more about commoner abilities, you should ask him. It might run in the family, who knows?”

 

“Wow, helpful.” Ritsu sighed and flipped the page. He had more questions, but he figured that he wasn’t going to get much out of Teruki, so he should go ahead and ask the most important ones as quickly as possible.

 

“Okay, so are psychic powers directly tied to emotions? For you, anyway, I guess.”

 

“Oooh, that’s an interesting one. Let me guess, your brother again? I’m quite looking forward to meeting him soon.” He raised his teacup again, ever so slightly, before putting it down again with a frown after realizing he’d already emptied it.

 

“As for your question, I can’t say my emotions have much influence on usage of my powers. I guess I don’t know much about the inner workings of my skills because it’s not important to how they function for me. If I do get rather, well, emotional, I have noticed my powers become stronger, but otherwise it has little effect. Your brother might be more reliant on emotions to fuel his abilities because he’s either more emotional or weaker than me, probably both. Is that enough for you?”

 

“It’s only been two questions and you’re already tired? I can’t imagine how you maintain your grades.” Ritsu flipped forward a few pages in his list of questions. “Last one, for now at least. Have you ever… lost control? Of your powers?”

 

Teruki pondered this for a moment, fingers still wavering over the empty teacup. “Is that why you’re here?”

 

“It’s a hypothetical question. Answer it.”

 

“... no. Can’t say I have. He stood up from his chair, gently pushing the teacup aside. “Like I said, it’s likely unique for every person. How you can handle your abilities may be completely different to how your brother can.”

 

That didn’t leave Ritsu feeling like anything had actually been answered, but it was probably the best answer that smug moron could give him.

 

He reluctantly tore out a blank sheet of paper from his notebook and handed it to him with a pen. “We still haven’t exchanged contact information yet.”

 

“Ah, right. Can’t be standing up a date without telling them, how impolite of me!”

 

“Shut up and write.” He tore the sheet in two, writing his home number on his half and handing it to Teruki. “I’m not giving you another one. Don’t lose it.”

 

He just grinned and handed his half back to Ritsu. “Don’t worry, it’s much too cherished to me to ever do that.” Smirking, he slowly walked out the front door of the shop, using the paper slip to wave goodbye. “See you soon, dearest!”

 

He was half tempted to throw the paper slip away right there, but eventually he decided against it. He could always just give the number to some guys at school then it was a cute girl. They were probably gullible enough for that.

 

Grabbing his things, he unfolded the slip:



+818059845961

 

Call me ツ

 

-Your Teru 

 



He shoved it into the deep bowels of his bag.

 

Kill me.









Chapter Text

Typing out reports was hard. 

 

Reigen had always struggled with writing of any sort - he was painfully familiar with the numerous stories and poems and essays he’d been given all throughout school. They were all an array of flops ranging from almost mediocre to insultingly sloppy, and they were graded as such. Writing assignments were what he had put off the most.

 

He wouldn’t exactly say he wasn’t creative or anything. It was just that ideas that came to his mind were always dull, or unfinished, or worse when on paper, or just made him lose interest a few paragraphs in. Characters were lifeless paper dolls or blaring caricatures, dialogue was clunky, word counts were pathetically small (he became increasingly reliant on purple prose to take up space).

 

Worst of all, he couldn’t write an ending for the life of him. Everything just… ended. He’d look at a sentence he’d written, see if it sounded vague enough for the reader to know it was supposed to warrant some sort of emotional reaction, and just stop. It wasn’t his best, but it was embarrassingly close.

 

He thought that he’d have escaped  those wretched things in high school - figured he’d go into something more people - oriented and let his words do  the trick. 

 

Yet here he was, writing reports at 10 in the evening for his own business.

 

Oh, the irony.

 

It was never terribly important to the job, thankfully. He wasn’t exactly the most formal investigator people went to, so he rarely had to bother  filling out reports himself since there weren’t actually police involved. It was mostly just his own private collection of relatively organized, if slightly incoherent, notes.

 

Occasionally, however, a client would ask him to make a report of his findings, and he’d spend a few days slogging through a sloppy mess of a report of the investigation that he’d use a bigger font to fit on multiple pages. It was irritating, sure, but rare enough to where it wasn’t worrisome.

 

This time, it was his own self - imposed exile.

 

He’d been staring at his monitor, typing and retyping the same two sentences for the past half hour on a two paragraph report that was turning out suspiciously more like a personal letter than anything else.

 

While he hadn’t known Ritsu Kageyama for very long (and his family even less), it didn’t take very much to tell that he was rather cold and unwilling to disclose information. Verbally confronting him about his distancing from his brother wouldn’t  end well. Ritsu was more likely to respond better to a formal report of his findings (and Reigen more likely to stay in one piece). 

 

Usually, the main struggle he had with th ese evidence reports was having to go back through his notes, write it down in a legible format, and make it look formal. He seemed to be having the exact opposite problem this time around - making it personal.

 

It was so, so easy to stick to cold facts, to keep things completely professional and not have to dip his toes in the water. Normally, he was rather blunt about these sorts of things with a client if they were in the wrong - handling it with his typical grace and poise, but keeping the needed directness to have an honest conversation.

 

But, oddly enough, he’d found himself growing rather… invested in this case. He found himself, despite everything, liking Ritsu. He was an isolated kid who loved his brother and wanted to help him.

 

But he needed to know he was hurting Shigeo, too.

 

He was hesitant to overstep his mark, to have his words spun and misinterpreted by their intended recipient and closing him off completely. 

 

Words were such an inconvenience. Their meaning was constantly twisted and warped in every head except whoever wrote them in the first place. They were volatile, constricting.

 

Maybe that’s why he was so good at talking. He could understand facial expressions, body language, and the spoken word because it was present, it was in front of him and he could be there to decipher its intent instead of having to take a guess. His life was the only decent thing he’d ever written.

 

A sudden ding from his notifications startled him in the quiet of his office. He’d just gotten an email.

 

His landlord. Again.

 

He could always move his things into here if things got any worse, right? He practically lived here, anyway. 

 

The vent let out another angry huff of air.

 

He really wasn’t any good at writing endings.

 

Chapter Text

Ritsu’s opinion about Teruki did not change.

 

It merely developed.

 

No opinions changed, really. They evolve and substantialize themselves based on the addition of new information and experiences. It was practically a science.

 

Sitting in the coffee shop, covering a slight smile with his teacup when he saw Teruki walk through the door, was not evidence of a change of heart from him, because he did not change. 

 

Nothing had cha- developed about Teruki. He was still the same self - entitled, egotistical asshole that he’d been at their first meeting. That much had remained a constant throughout the week they’d known each other.

 

Ritsu’s opinion had simply evolved (or perhaps devolved) from a bitter loathing to a reluctant tolerance. While he could definitely be doing more useful things with his time, these meetings weren’t entirely unproductive. While the value of the information given had dwindled, it was still enough to keep attending. He certainly didn’t like the guy or anything, but he was learning from him. 

 

Teruki took his usual seat and tried the tea. “Hibiscus? That’s new.” He winked. “Aw, didn’t take you for the type who knew how to make a guy feel special.”

 

This was solely for strategic purposes.

 

“Choose your next words carefully before I dump it on your head.”

 

Per usual, he didn’t seem terribly intimidated by the threat, nonchalantly tearing a sugar packet. “As if you could. Y our telekinesis can barely lift a pebble.”

 

He wasn’t much for needless banter, but ironically he’d found that it tended to be the best way to get anything useful out of Teruki, who was gradually losing interest in the actual point of these meetings with everyone they had. 

 

This was, what, the sixth time they’d met here now? They’d only gone outside that one time and any questions he asked were either deflected or he just plain didn’t know the answer. He was hardly a better teacher than Shigeo at this point, but he’d take what he could get.

 

It was odd. He felt like he should be angrier than he was about that. This was his one chance to better himself, to get what he’d always wanted, and he couldn’t find it in himself to feel more than mild annoyance at it dissolving before his eyes? He usually had to control his anger.

 

“Did my retort really leave you at a complete loss of words or are you just spacing out again?”

 

Realizing he’d been blankly staring off into space internally monologuing, Ritsu looked up to find Teruki slowly leaning toward him, mildly amused.

 

“Neither. What are we doing here that’s actually related to psychic powers?”

 

(‘The Best Way’ also happened to be the most annoying one. He didn’t care to stick with it.)

 

Teruki tossed his head back with a snort. “Oh, come on, this is related to psychic powers! We’re here discussing them, right now!”

 

Ritsu resisted the urge to knock his already - leaning chair over. “That’s not even remotely close to the same thing. This is just wasting time.”

 

“Time’s relative.” He gestured his arms vaguely, waving them in circles. “I’ve got nowhere to be.”

 

“Don’t your parents care?”

 

Something in Teruki’s eyes - well, for lack of a better word, closed. “I live alone.”

 

 

Oh.

 

Oh, shit.

 

That was… new. Why was he living by himself? Was he meant to take that as a joke or was he being serious? If hei was willing to bring it up with an acquaintance, surely that meant someone knew, right?

 

Maybe he was overthinking it. Teruki surely wouldn’t have brought it up if he thought he’d get in trouble for it. Though he’d never heard of such a thing, he’d never said that his parents were dead or left him or anything. 

 

Should he ask for more information? He wasn’t terribly interested in prying into whatever Teruki’s personal life looked like, but he felt somewhat obligated to do so.

 

“Um,” he supplied at last, trying to ignore Teruki carefully watching his face, “Are you -“

 

“Ritsu?”

 

His stomach dropped. As if this conversation couldn’t get any worse.

 

Teruki quickly turned from the table towards their surprise visitor, who was anxiously glancing back between the two of them.

 

“I-I’m very sorry, I didn’t mean  to interrupt anything -“

 

Ritsu didn’t wait for him to finish. “Shigeo, what are you doing here?” He hissed, glaring back at Teruki whose face had lightened up considerably with the dawn of understanding.

 

Shigeo tugged at his sleeves (a longtime nervous habit) and took a step backwards. “You’d been getting home from school later than usual, and I was starting to get a bit worried. I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean to intrude -“

 

“Excuse me,” interrupted Teruki, a grin slowly forming on his face. “It’s no trouble at all, really. Perfect timing, actually. Hey, by any off chance, would you happen to be Ritsu’s brother?”

 

Don’tanswerdon’tanswerdon’tanswer-

 

I am, yes,” Shigeo said hesitantly, and for the first time in his life, Ritsu wished his brother would be a little quieter.

 

Whatever minuscule restraint he’d had in holding back his grin dropped as he eyed Shigeo much like a lion would a freshly killed carcass. It was incredibly unnerving.

 

“Oh, that’s fantastic,” he exclaimed, standing up from the table in a hurry, his mood a complete 180. “Ritsu here’s told me so much about you.”

 

Couldn’t Shigeo read auras? Why was he just going along with this?

 

Ritsu stood up from the table as well. “We’re kind of in the middle of something, maybe you should -“

 

“Nonsense!” Teruki declared, haphazardly slinging an arm around his brother and leading him towards the door with an ear - splitting grin. “Let’s all talk outside, shall we? I have so much to talk about.”






Chapter Text

As he followed Shigeo and Teruki outside the coffee shop towards inevitable doom, Ritsu couldn’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, this was all the universe’s twisted idea of a blessing.

 

You hated that you were beginning to like Teruki, remember? So we made him even more of an irredeemable jackass just to remind you of how stupid you are! Aren’t you so much happier now?

 

Might as well take out the damn monkey’s paw at this point. 

 

The two of them were sitting on that same park bench that he and Teruki had used. Well, “sit” was a strong word. It was more along the lines of sitting down while Teruki was awkwardly attempting to leer over him, but nearly falling off the rather cramped bench in the process.

 

It’d be funny if he didn’t know what was to come.

 

A twisted part of him just wanted to stay  on the other side of the street and watch that idiot get obliterated by his overpowered brother. Though Teruki was powerful (certainly more than he was, anyway), even Ritsu could tell that he was in way over his egotistical head. He knew Shigeo well enough to know that he’d avoid a fight in every way possible, but was all - too acquainted with the effects of it’s him losing control. Still, it was rather tempting to just sit back and relax while Teruki gets his ass handed to him,  hopefully knocking some sense into him in exchange for a few teeth.

 

You can’t do that, his conscience chimed as he resignedly crossed the street to catch up to the two. Teruki will push every button he can think of to provoke Shigeo. You know you have to stop him before he pushes too far.

 

Maybe that's why he was just sitting there, ignoring Teruki’s obvious interest in picking a fight and just nodding politely to whatever nonsense he was spouting. Maybe he knew of the blonde’s intentions and was playing along because he understood how dangerous his… other form was. Maybe he was trying to talk down Teruki by himself.

 

Or he was just way too friendly for his own good.

 

It was probably that.

 

Ritsu crossed the street, hands in pockets to hide their incessant shaking and walked over to Teruki and Shigeo

 

“ - not just, you know, go somewhere a bit less crowded so I can see? Ritsu’s spoken so highly of your abilities, after all. It might even teach me something!”

 

His hands clenched into fists. He was going to strangle that bastard before the day was over.

 

Shigeo noticed him approaching first, eagerly (eagerly for him, anyway) over with a smile. “Ritsu! I was wondering where you went!” He looked away, cheeks tinged a light pink. “I had no idea you thought so much of me. You’re very flattering.”

 

Ritsu went straight for Teruki, gripping his shoulder tightly enough to where he hoped it seemed intimidating. “Let’s go back inside and have a little chat. Privately.”

 

Teruki’s casual (if rather unnerving) expression never changed as he grabbed Ritsu’s hand on his shoulder tightly as he turned towards him. “I think we should continue the conversation out here.” He looked at him for a moment, grip tightening to an almost painful level, before letting go and turning back towards Shigeo.

 

“I get that you're hesitant about using psychic powers near people, but we can go somewhere less populated to limit any potential threat you feel they might pose. I really want to see both brothers in action.”

 

His brother frowned, biting his lip in a familiar sign of confusion. “Both of us? What do you-“ His eyes widened in understanding. “Ritsu. Did you awaken?”

 

His blood ran cold. “I think we should go back inside.” 

 

Teruki’s face of carefully restrained glee fell to bafflement as he observed the two of them, eyebrows raised. “Wait. You didn’t tell him?”

 

Shigeo didn’t seem to have heard him , his face brightening as he walked towards a rapidly paling Ritsu. “That’s amazing! When did it happen?” 

 

No. This wasn’t right. He didn’t want him to know. He couldn’t know.

 

-walking past the crushed rubble of where the monstrous void had emerged once he went back to school, bile rising in his throat as he saw dried bloodstains staining the concrete-

 

“I knew you’d be able to one day!“

 

-changing routes, immersing himself in his studies, doing everything he could to make a new normal, all while hiding the spike of fear he felt whenever he saw his brother’s face and was reminded of his own-

 

“After all-“

 

-nightmare after nightmare of an ethereal void destroying the earth, killing his family, everyone, everything, until it took his face and whispered-

 

“You’re just like me.”

 

“No,” Ritsu snapped, nails clawing into his thighs, “I’m not. Get out of here. Get the hell out of here. You’re unwanted and unwelcome. For once in your life, use your head and realize that I’m  nothing like you. Stay out of my life.”

 

Shigeo stared at him, shocked. He opened his mouth, lips parsed, then closed them again. Eventually, he took a small, hesitant step backwards. 

 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry into your business. I-I should have realized.” His head dipped in shame, and he turned around. “You didn’t want me to know. I should have known that. I should have understood that. I don’t even understand myself. I'm sorry.”

 

Shigeo slowly began walking down the street. He stopped, for a moment, and turned his head slightly. “You’re not like - you’re not ???. Please know that. You could never be as inhuman as that. I don’t want you to be hurting because of me.” After a moment, he turned back around, shoulders hunched, and walked away.

 

Ritsu stumbled forward and practically collapsed on the bench, shaky breaths speeding up as unshed tears welled in the corners of his eyes. 

 

“What the fuck was that.” A voice, presumably Teruki’s, whispered quietly next to him. Then, louder, “What the FUCK was that?!”

 

He didn’t know. The truth, the unveiled secrets and disgusting feelings were coiling around him, choking him until he couldn’t breathe. Slowly, quietly, he began to cry.

 

What had he done?

 

 






Chapter Text

Work and home were starting to blur together.

 

Groggily lifting his head up, senses gradually coming to life, Reigen found his forehead had been unceremoniously leaning directly on his monitor, his body tilted nearly out of his chair. He quickly sprung back and surveyed for damage. Thankfully, the computer was fine, save for a rather embarrassing pressure point where his head had been.

 

Blinking the sleep from his eyes, Reigen shook the mouse to turn the monitor on, groaning when he saw the plethora of sunlight beaming through the office window. He’d fallen asleep at his desk. Again.

 

Normally, he wouldn’t have particularly considered this to be a  problem - long nights had always been a consistent part of his work ethic - but he hadn’t gone back to his apartment the night before, either. He didn’t have much reason to (no one lived there but himself, after all), b ut wasn’t that a bit unusual, to spend so little time at home? 

 

There wasn’t much he was missing out on. His apartment had begun to look cleaner than his office, at this point. It wasn’t a sloppy mess or anything, but any client who walked in could immediately tell based on the assortment of coffee cups and takeout boxes filling the trash can that he was spending a bit too much time at work.

 

Not that there are any clients left to judge, he thought bitterly as he stood up from his chair, wincing when his joints popped in agitation. The slow trickle of clients that had barely been keeping him afloat for the past few months had come to an agonizing, stuttering halt. He was going to have to find a second job soon, otherwise he might actually have to start living in his office. Things were getting… rough. 

 

It wasn’t that bad, though. He’d surely had it worse before, right? He’d rough it out, get a part - time job if he had to, dig his way out of this nasty pit he kept deepening. It’d be fine. He was just warming up.

 

(̶I̶t̶ ̶w̶a̶s̶ ̶g̶e̶t̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶s̶o̶ ̶c̶o̶l̶d̶)̶

 

Reigen was actually grateful for the blast of freezing air coming from the vent for once, as it kept him from looking like a complete wreck. Sure, it was doubtful that anybody would stop by and see him, but at least he wouldn’t be a sweaty mess if they did. That was somewhat comforting, at least.

 

Gauging by his reflection in the monitor, that was about the limit on the vent’s benefits. His face was tinted red and had an odd, slightly swollen look about it, sort of like he’d been crying. His completely bloodshot eyes didn’t help his case with that either, nor did his completely wrinkled - up suit. 

 

In other words, he looked like shit.

 

There wasn’t much he could do about it now, not in the… middle…? Of a workday. He didn’t want to leave on the off chance a customer stopped by and miss an invaluable opportunity. Plus, he needed to exhibit some degree of professionalism on the job. For his pride, if nothing else.

 

He really should start setting an alarm or something. It was getting rather disconcerting, waking up at random times and forgetting where he fell asleep the night before.

 

As he was about to get started with the remainder of his day, Reigen felt a faint rumbling from the distance underneath his feet. That was odd. He hadn’t heard anything about a storm or earthquake.

 

Was it rumbling, though? It was more sudden than that, much quicker. Like an explosion, almost.

 

As if on cue, his cell phone suddenly buzzed in his pocket. Pulling it out, he couldn’t help but feel a wave of exhausted irritation course through him when he saw the caller ID:

 

     Client: Emo Kid

 

[Accept]      [Decline]

 

It was Ritsu, yet again. Probably just calling to see if he had any updates or give him incredibly vague information, per usual. That seemed to be his forte.

 

When he accepted the call, however, the caller was a completely different teenager, borderline yelling into the phone to be heard over the indecipherably loud background noise.

 

“Hello? Is this - no, don’t! - um, is this Reigen Arataka?”

 

He paused, considering. He had no idea who this person was or why they had Ritsu’s phone, but they didn’t sound particularly nefarious. It was probably safe. “Yes, why?”

 

“Uh, what do you know about psychic powers? Like, um, powerful, alternate form, losing touch with reality type powers?”

 

A cold, ominous dread coiled within him. “Why do you need to know? Who is this?”

 

An unbearably loud sound ripped through the speaker, quickly enough that he nearly dropped it. After a moment, he heard the phone being picked up from the ground as the caller started to run.

 

“I need your help. You’re the only contact in this cell phone that actually picked up. I’m supposed to be the psychic expert here, but I-I don’t know what this is. Just - shit - just don’t hang up? Hear me out, okay?”

 

A vibration, stronger than before, shook the floor. It reverberated throughout every cabinet and furniture piece in the office.

 

With it, came fear.




Chapter Text

...What?

 

Reigen had to put the phone down on his desk for a moment, if only to prevent his shaking hands from inevitably doing it for him. He was reeling, even though he wasn’t even there (where?). He needed to collect himself, gather up his thoughts and piece them together into a worthwhile solution.

 

As desperately as he’d like to believe that this was some prank caller, or a friend of Ritsu’s messing around (he’d probably even take a thief at this point), the bubbling cesspit of dread burning in his stomach said otherwise. Something in him just knew. The growing tension and uncertainty in this case had come to its head, its climax. Though he didn’t quite know what it was yet, a part of him was painfully aware that it would be nothing short of utter chaos.

 

For once in his life, he was speechless.

 

An uncertain voice calling out snapped him back to reality. “Are you still there?”

 

Having mostly gotten his shaking under control, he quickly picked up the phone again. “Yes, just - thinking. Um. Can you describe this… psychic ability for me in a bit more detail, please?”

 

Okay. Okay! That was good, asking questions, probing for more information. He could learn more about the situation while also figuring out how much the caller knew. He could do this. It’d be like piecing together a puzzle, almost.

 

Too bad that the pieces were being thrown around at random and he didn’t have a goddamn clue what he was talking about.

 

The psychic in him would have jumped at such an opportunity, eager to learn anything that could benefit him in his own case, but he’d become more wary these days. He didn’t want to mislead this kid into believing that he held some valuable treasure trove of information that could help with whatever was going on there. This sounded dangerous, and he didn’t want to say anything that could potentially risk this kid’s life.

 

A sudden crash screeched through the speakers as the kid began to pick up speed. He could hear his ragged breathing spike as he ran, probably nearly dropping the phone as he barreled away from whatever he was moving away from.

 

Well. Surely anything he could offer up would be better than what he already knew, right. He sounded like a last resort, anyway. 

 

He didn’t want to think of the implications of that.

 

After a minute, the kid slowed down, panting heavily through the phone as he struggled to catch his breath and formulate coherent sentences.

 

“Powers… out of… not speaking… breakdown…?”

 

“Take a second to breathe. In, and out.”

 

The kid (he really should ask for a name at this point) slowly got his breathing back under control. When he spoke again, he was noticeably less nonsensical and spoke clearly.

 

“Do you know anything about abilities that spiral out of their user’s control, like… to an unsettling degree? Like they aren’t even in their own body?”

 

A cold, seeping dread soaked through him. What was going on out there?

 

“Could you… elaborate on that last part, a bit? What do you mean by ‘not even in their own body?’”

 

The constant background noise had begun to creep up in volume. He had to strain his ears to hear. “Like, their eyes are just, um, blank. He recently went through some stuff with his brother, like a fight, and I can’t get a hold of him after he left. Is it an emotional thing? How do I stop this?”

 

“Where is Ritsu, exactly?” That didn’t make sense. Wouldn’t it make more sense for him to be there to aid Shigeo, even if they’d just gotten into a fight?

 

Come to think of it…

 

“... who do you think I’m talking about right now?”

 

… why did he have Ritsu’s phone at all?

 

An uneasy pit began to settle in him as he numbly walked outside, the pieces finally beginning to connect.

 

As it turned out, the scene was a lot closer than he’d originally thought. He could see people scattering from the other side of the street, and he could make out a small whirlwind of debris in the distance, circling itself menacingly.

 

When he walked closer, however, he saw something much larger than anything else in the cyclone. About the size of a person. A teenage person.

 

He couldn’t make out the face. He didn’t have to. He knew.

 

For in the center of their own tornado of destruction, there was Ritsu Kageyama.

 

Chapter Text

In hindsight, he really should have seen that this was going to be a problem.

 

Teruki had always taken pride in that, among many things, he was good at reading people. Analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, determining their power level. He wasn’t some pathetic, single - minded idiot who let any small bit of power rush to his head and jumped at every chance to fight.

 

He was smart. He was efficient. He was a strategizer.

 

Which is precisely why it came as such a slap in the face when he’d come to determine, hiding behind a dumpster, frantically asking for advice from a random stranger on a phone he just stole, that perhaps he had underestimated Ritsu’s capabilities.

 

A street bench went flying into a parked car’s passenger window, coming out the driver’s side and splintering into pieces when it collided into a bookstore with a sickening screech.

 

A problem.

 

Just a bit.

 

To be fair, things hadn’t started out quite so… violently. Not at first, at least. Or maybe it had, but things had just escalated so unbelievably quickly he hadn’t had any time to feasibly comprehend it all.

 

He’d noticed Ritsu immediately become upset over Shigeo’s arrival, but that was a given at any rate. Even though he’d grown more comfortable around Teruki and they were borderline friends, he was still touchy whenever the topic of his brother was breached. 

 

It left him rather intrigued, honestly. It could just be chalked up to wanting to protect him from his end of their deal, but what little mention of him did show up in conversation was laced with an odd amount of bitterness. The kind of layered, underlying resentment that made a darkly gleeful side of him unfurl. What exactly was the reason Ritsu turned to him for help instead of his own brother?

 

(He’d stopped asking a few meetings in. It was unusual behavior for him, to not press for information from someone when he had the power to do so, which was almost always the case. But he found himself enjoying the company of the second - year. It felt more like he was here, tethered to the ground, instead of aimlessly floating through every moment. For the first time in years, he’d begun to care.)

 

The real problem had started after Ritsu had shown up after him and blew up at Shigeo. Teruki hadn’t even had to do anything, Ritsu just started screaming at him. He’d already noted that he was quick to anger, but not with such devastating rawness. It was a bit unnerving, frankly, and left him in a bit of shock.

 

Maybe that was why everything afterwards seemed to happen so fast.

 

He’d taken the heavy breathing as Ritsu trying to collect himself, but the rising buzzing of a power spike in his aura, hair already beginning to unnaturally stand on end, could not be so easily mistaken. Teruki might have been inexperienced in emotion - fueled abilities, but he doubted such a thing could ever end well if left unattended.

 

He’d reached out to him, arm placed gently around his shoulder, hand lingering hesitantly near his front uniform pocket. “Hey, deep breaths. Make sure to -“

 

And then he was thrown into the side of a building.

 

He’d managed to throw up his barrier just before impact, thankfully, but the sudden force on his body left him reeling.

 

Even though he hadn’t been thrown far, he normally would have already retaliated, if not for the fact that Ritsu had stumbled off the bench and crumpled to his knees, giving no indication that he was even aware of what he did. The buzz around his aura was beginning to grow frenetic - staticky, almost. It was giving him a headache. 

 

The ground began to tremble as the buzzing reached a fervent high speed, and before he knew what he was doing he took off towards an alleyway, gripping tightly to the phone (phone?) in his hand as he ran for dear life.

 

This likely prevented him from obliteration when the street exploded. 

 

And yes, exploded was definitely the right word for it. While not having much range, he could tell, groggily sitting up from when he’d been knocked off his feet, that it had left a large crater in its wake, taking out the front of the adjoining buildings with it. While the roads were currently devoid of civilians, thank god, he couldn’t be so sure about the buildings themselves. If he didn’t blow up, he’d have to check back in later.

 

It was then that he’d noticed he was holding something in his hand - a cell phone, one he immediately recognized as belonging to Ritsu. He must have grabbed it by mistake from his shirt pocket when he was running away. 

 

How convenient.

 

He’d already decided he wasn’t immediately going to counterattack, so it was worth a shot. While he was confident he could take Ritsu down, he didn’t want to risk doing any further damage to him - because, frankly, he had no idea what the hell was happening here. Checking his contact list to find someone who knows something could potentially work.

 

There were only four. Two labeled “Mom” and “Dad,” and one called “Shigeo.” As none of them answered, he was forced to rely on the final one, “Reigen Arataka.”

 

And that was where he was now - hiding behind a dumpster, ready to take off again if Ritsu - no, the levitating shell - brought any of its idle, aimless destruction his way. He’d kept the phone at a low volume, but the sound of this Reigen guy’s heaving breaths as he ran towards the scene seemed far too loud for comfort. If he had a plan, it better be good.

 

As if on cue, he noticed a figure on the other side of the street, walking cautiously on the sidewalk in a rather comical attempt to appear discreet. Teruki took a leap of faith and poked his head out, quickly waving him towards the darkened alley.

 

As Reigen picked up his pace, he froze mid - step. The shell, which had collected a whirlpool of shattered window glass around it, had turned towards him.

 

Teruki watched in horror as the man’s body was flung backwards towards a wall. “Shit, don’t!” he cried out.

 

Before he could stop the terrifying spectacle with telekinesis, however, someone apparently did it for him, as Reigen thankfully stopped short of being completely crushed by sheer force of impact and merely collapsed to the ground, (hopefully) unconscious. 

 

He heard light footsteps walking toward him at an even pace, completely calm and steady.

 

“Ritsu? What are you doing?”

 

Speak of the devil.




Chapter Text

Whenever Shigeo saw a flower growing in the cracks of the sidewalk, he always made sure to never step on them. His mother had told him, laughingly, that he would burst into tears if he so much as stepped on a weed when he was younger, but he didn’t do that now. He was just… careful.

 

Walking home, head to the ground, he tried to count every he saw as he methodically walked forward, but his head throbbed irritatingly and his vision had begun to blur, so he kept losing count.

 

It wasn’t even five yet. Why was he so tired?

 

Today had been rather… eventful, though. He’d gotten so close to being in understanding with Ritsu, to apologizing for disappointing him and upsetting him and hurting him so much, but it fell out of reach. He’d already been so far away, past a garden wall that he couldn’t manage to climb, but now there was no one on the other side.

 

Shigeo brought his head to his hands as it began to pulsate in spikes of pain. 

 

He kept doing the wrong thing. Nothing had changed, really. But Ritsu just felt so distant now - immersed in his studies, always busy. That shouldn’t bother him. He shouldn’t be the one who was sad. That wasn’t fair. 

 

But thoughts of smashed sidewalks and flowers he’d mutilated over and over again stayed with him, grew on him until he couldn’t focus on anything else. The days blurred together in a kaleidoscope of sensory he couldn’t touch.

 

Ritsu, for the first time in years, had made a friend, found something untainted by him, and he’d ruined it. His little brother was training his abilities and he’d messed everything up. 

 

Why couldn’t he ever control himself?

 

A sudden vibration erupted from the ground, nearly tripping him over. His hair was standing on end. There was a huge spike of energy coming from where’d he’d just left. Where Ritsu was.

 

No.

 

No.

 

He turned and ran, petals sticking to the bottom of his soles.



~



Teruki sagged against the dumpster in relief, though still keeping as best a defensive stance that he could muster in case Not-Ritsu decided to throw another fit.

 

If anyone could help with… whatever the hell was going on with him, it’d be his brother, right? Distant and bickering though they may be, they likely knew each other better than anyone else did. 

 

Considering the only other person he was able to reach who knew something was crumpled in a heap on the sidewalk, he could only hope so at this point.

 

Shigeo walked past him, barely acknowledging his presence other than a slightly dazed glance in his direction, heading straight for the spiraling Not-Ritsu. It was... comforting, almost, that he could be so eerily calm at such a time (though part of that could be blamed on shock, he was sure). It was strangely pleasant to be able to note that someone could keep such a level head in this madness.

 

“Ritsu?” Shigeo called out, only slightly above the volume one would use in a normal conversation. “Could you please come down for a second?”

 

Oh fuck, he’s just a dumbass.

 

Right as Teruki was about to go retrieve Ritsu’s older brother from his suicide mission, he noticed something odd. Even while he was in hiding and the streets were deserted, there were still bits of debris being flung around haphazardly, but now there wasn’t anything. Not-Ritsu had gone completely still, his aura unwavering, frozen. 

 

That probably shouldn’t have been quite so unnerving.

 

Shigeo approached the edge of the crater where the explosion had occurred, carefully taking a seat at the fractured edge and staring up at the void above him expectantly. Since it was several meters away and the older Kageyama wasn’t particularly loud, Teruki couldn’t make out what Shigeo was saying, but he had to have said something based on the already high spike in energy began to buzz increasingly louder in his ears.

 

He didn’t understand. Why were they both so still? Why weren’t they making a move?

 

Hesitantly, he began inching his way towards the road, trying to make as little sudden movement as possible so as not to attract unwanted attention. Reigen Arataka was still collapsed on the ground - should he try to move him out of the way? He was pretty close to the impact site, and based on the energy spike things weren’t -

 

The pitch reached a fervent high and Teruki’s heart, as horrifically cliche as it sounded, skipped a beat. An unfathomably powerful aura he’d been too distracted to notice had just revealed itself, and the old hunger temporarily hidden revealed itself once again as he stared, awestruck, at Shigeo’s aura.



“Wow,” he whispered to no one at all, “You were more right than I’d thought you’d be.”



~



The gentle thrum of the buzzing within (outside?) Ritsu’s mind was the only thing keeping him grounded, floating aimlessly in a void that didn’t make sense and wasn’t there.

 

If he focused hard enough, he could hear sounds - not anything he would be able to make out, just able to note that they were there, existing. That was good enough for him.

 

The feeling was hard to describe. Everything was hard to describe, since the exhaustion gently pressing him down seemed to dull his thoughts to a crawl. He couldn’t see anything, which should probably worry him, but emotion was drowned out by the dead weight of limbs that he couldn’t quite feel.

 

“Ritsu? Can you hear me?”

 

The voice sounded foggy and oddly dreamlike, but it still shot a wave of fear into him all the same. 

 

“I know that you probably don’t know what’s happening right now, or want to leave where you are, but please listen.”

 

What am I… doing here? Where is here?

 

“I-I shouldn’t have… I know that this is my fault, and I’m sorry. You don’t have to speak to me again after this, but don’t lose yourself in there.”

 

What did I just do?

 

“You can hear me. I know you can. Try to, um… come back slowly, okay?”

 

What have I already done?

 

He screamed.

 

“Ritsu!”

 

That. That wasn’t far away and distant. That was right in front of him.

 

He looked up (to his surprise, he actually did have a body) to find Shigeo staring at him in concern, still in the void.

 

He opened his mouth, and then shut it without a sound, choosing instead to stare intently at where the ground should be.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Ritsu blinked, glancing upwards. His brother’s arm was outstretched, as if unsure whether to reach for him, but he looked downright ashamed, tears welling up in his eyes.

 

… no.

 

This wasn’t right. This wasn’t what he wanted.

 

“Hey,” he said, voice still a bit scratchy and hoarse. “This isn’t your fault.”

 

Shigeo shook his head, slowly. “I ruined so many things for you. So much.”

 

A slow, dawning realization came to him.

 

Not sleeping.

 

Losing weight.

 

Dejected.

 

He was still haunted by that day, too.

 

It shouldn’t have been so much of a shock to him, but it still felt like a blindside. His parents never talked about it, and Shigeo barely talked at all, so more often than not he felt as though he were the only one who remembered.

 

The remaining anger inside him dissolved away into a painful sadness. The only sound was the quiet sound of Shigeo’s sobs.

 

“Hey,” he said, much quieter, stepping towards his brother and wrapping his arms around him.

 

(When was the last time they’d shared a moment like this? Had they ever, really?)

 

“Something that I care about is my older brother, Shigeo Kageyama.”

 

The world began to meld and fall apart around them, but it didn’t matter.

 

“He’s my closest friend, and someone that I cherish deeply.”

 

A cacophony of noise began to erupt in his ears, only being grounded by the arms clinging to him for dear life.

 

“I chose him for this assignment because, despite our countless disagreements and anger and frustration…”

 

He felt the concrete beneath his own feet as he slumped forward, weeping.

 

“...despite everything…”

 

As his vision darkened once more, he thought he heard a whisper in his ear. “Then it’s not yours, either.”

 

“...I will always love him.”

Chapter Text

There isn’t much that can surprise Reigen nowadays.

 

Maybe it’s the IV pump, or the painkillers, or the realization that the week - long hospital bill for his little meeting into a brick wall is undoubtedly going to put him out of business once he gets out, but he’s been fairly composed. Prepared. Unshakable.

 

So when he wakes up the morning of his release to see that he not only has visitors, but three of them, he reacts calmly, in a controlled manner.

 

“What the fuck?”

 

The blonde leaning against the wall on his left sighs. “Nice to see you again, too.”

 

In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been too surprising that the espers that had slowly consumed the remnants of his life decided to visit him considering that they were partially the reason he was here, but he couldn’t help but feel surprised anyway. 

 

Pathetic, isn’t it?

 

“Teruki, by the way. I’m sure you recall our pleasant chat over the phone. Quite the lovely conversation.”

 

Reigen couldn’t help but snort, wincing slightly at the jolt of pain it brought to his neck. He’d really have to ration out his pills to stretch them for longer once he got home.

 

“Understatement of the year.” He turned towards the two Kageyamas, one slowly sliding closer to Teruki while the other still lingering near the door. “How are you two holding up?”

 

Ritsu spoke up first. “Better, actually. We’ve… resolved some things.”

 

“Funny how the only way to get you two to talk was by obliterating a street.” Teruki muttered.

 

Ritsu slapped him lightly. “Oh, shut up,” but Reigen couldn’t help but notice the small smile he was trying to bite down. 

 

He looked… lighter. Less burdened.

 

Happy.

 

“Your payment’s going to come in the mail,” Ritsu quickly added, moving past the awkward silence. “This was… well… it was a lot, so it’ll definitely be -“

 

“Don’t worry about it.” He mustered up his biggest grin (which, admittedly, was a bit lackluster at the moment). “I’m closing up shop.”

 

The room went quiet. A tense silence settled over the four of them, with Shigeo inching even closer to the door. 

 

“O-of my own volition, of course!” He quickly added, attempting to wave his hands around for dramatic effect before abandoning the effort after remembering he had a needle stuck in his vein. “I’m finding my own path, you know? Looking for a more suitable venture.”

 

“You’re just… giving up your business? Just like that?” Teruki stared at him incredulously, eyebrow raised. “What are you even planning on doing?”

 

The cheeky grin came easier this time. “That’ll be a surprise. Oh, you’ll look out for a while, not see anything, then right as you let your guard down, there’ll I’ll be, face in the news headlines.”

 

“For stealing noodle packets from convenience stores.”

 

“For sales.” He did weakly attempt the arm wave, but looked more like he was practicing his butterfly stroke in mid air. “You shouldn’t be concerned, anyway - you should be preparing yourselves in school, studying for tests so you can be successful like me.”

 

“Quite the role model, aren’t you.” Ritsu moved back off the staunch white walls with a resigned sigh. “If that’s it, then we should be going.” Motioning to Teruki, the two left his bedside and went into the hallway. “Good luck with your business ventures, I guess.”

 

“Look out for me!” He chirped back, leaning back into his pillow with a sag. Going back to sleep couldn’t hurt, right? He was going to be leaving soon - might as well take advantage of it while he still could. 

 

That didn’t stop him from noticing, however, the slow shuffle of feet to the foot of his bed. Assuming it was one of the nurses, he kept his eyes tightly shut, but didn’t hear anything else.

 

”I… know we haven’t really spoken, but thank you. You helped Ritsu. And me. That means a lot.”

 

He opened his eyes to an empty room.

 

Damn. That was… he’d barely even spoken to the kid. To any of them, really. But they seemed familiar, resonating in a way he couldn’t remember the last time he felt.

 

This dipshit emo and his plain - looking brother had changed their own lives by reaching for the other’s hand they didn’t know was being offered.

 

The window to the outside didn’t look quite so glaring anymore as he leaned back, a smile fighting its way on his face.

 

If they could change themselves, maybe he could too.