Kentaro kept running until he had no other choice but stopping, if he didn’t want to collapse. Behind the next corner he finally dropped against the wall and slid down to the ground. He lifted his hands in front of his face looking at the bloodstains on it. For a moment all he could do was thinking about breathing in and out slowly so he wouldn’t start hyperventilating. He hadn’t intended to go that far, knowing of the consequences which might follow from now on, but all he did was protecting himself! The question was if they would see it the same way.
Then he froze as he heard footsteps coming closer. Could they really find him that fast and would they really find him guilty? Kentaro wasn’t willing to find out. He knew that he couldn’t run away for long if they really found him guilty. They were looking like normal humans after all, living together with everyone and all that was known are the stories of people which claim that they have seen what had happened to those which were punished by them. As the steps got closer he finally jumped up dashing towards the other direction. Of course he had run into a dead end, but he didn’t care. The wall in front of him wasn’t that high and he knew his way around the streets perfectly as he lived in the backstreets more than he lived home with a depressive mother and an abusive father.
He jumped on a few boxes standing next to a backdoor of one of the old stone buildings around the small alleys. With the next move he could already reach the top of the wall and just in time before the person following him had reached the corner he had disappeared out of his view as he jumped down the other side. He didn’t want to find out if it was really one of them, for now he needed someone to talk, someone who would believe him that he was not guilty.
“Next time don’t hesitate so much, it doesn’t make it easier for them you know!” Fujigaya said scolding as he stepped inside the house, holding the door open for the boy to follow him.
“As if it would be easy for me!” Taiga growled at his mentor as they came back late at night to their quarter after doing their ‘job’.
“It’s not like you are doing something bad, always remember that. There is always a reason for us to get those missions,” Fujigaya tried to encourage him, but all Taiga did was sitting down on the floor in front of the fire place looking at his hand which he slowly opened and closed again as if it would be something that didn’t belong to his body. Fujigaya sighed before he sat down next to him hitting him on the shoulder lightly to get his attention back. “It’s something you have to learn living with, you got born with those powers and now you have to use them the right way.”
“How do I know I am using them right, when all I get is this feeling that I have to send this person away. I don’t even know what they did and I am not allowed to listen to their story. I go there, touch them and then they are gone. Doesn’t that sound weird to you at all?”
Fujigaya chuckled on the naïve words of the boy, but faced him with a serious face again after it was obvious that Taiga wasn’t in the mood to get laughed at. Sure Fujigaya had more experience than him, that was why he was his mentor, but that doesn’t mean that they had to share the same opinion.
“Taiga, listen. We get born like this. We are the justice of this world. Without us the world would turn into chaos,” Fujigaya explained after even the last teasing expression had vanished from his face.
“Justice? We send people to hell, without knowing them, without listening to them, asking them what had happened! Just because of some unexplainable force we get dragged to those people and before they even realize what is happening-“ Again Taiga looked at his hand, his eyes showing guilt about what he had done just a few moments ago. “He was maybe even younger than I am, what could he have done that I had to kill him?”
“Don't use tht word, we are not humans which kill each other out of no reason. We are sending them away, punishing them for their sins. And you are not allowed to ask them about their crimes and that has good reasons. Taiga you know all the rules and this wasn’t your first mission so why are you so shaken by it today?” Fujigaya asked as he shifted closer to him so that there was just enough space between them to put their hands next to each other. Taiga ignored his stare for now looking into the flames. All he could remember was the terrified look of the boy as he realized who Taiga was, but at that time it was already too late. His hand on the boy’s cheek, that was all. It was all he had to do to end his mission. It didn’t seem like much until you realize that the next second the person in front of you was gone and you have to live with the fact that you have just send them to hell.
Sure when this feeling told them where to go and who to send there it is not an innocent person they have to find, at least that is what the books told them. But as much as he had tried to find out about his own kind he never found the source. Who knew that they would really be guilty, just because of this feeling? Who could ensure that they were guilty enough to get send to hell?
“Taiga, are you still with me?” Fujigaya asked after a moment waving his hand in front of the boy’s face. Taiga closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head to get the pictures out of his head.
“Sorry, I just- Today was really hard for me, I guess that’s all.” He said finally forming a light yet bitter smile. Fujigaya gave him a brief smile in return and ruffled through his hair.
“This is what we do. This is the fate you have when you get born with the powers of a Reaper!” Fujigaya said with a kind of proud voice, because for him being a Reaper wasn’t something bad. He had told Taiga often enough how proud he was to be able to protect the innocent. But that was of course just as long as you wouldn’t question if the others were guilty in the first place. Taiga moved his knees up to his chest so he could rest his chin on them.
Fujigaya had just moved his hand from the ground up to the boy’s shoulder, but before he could put it down the door opened and two, way too loud laughing, boys stepped inside. They had their arms thrown around each others' shoulders as they stepped inside still continuing their conversation which’s topic didn’t seem really clear, but whatever it was didn’t seem as interesting as the two in front of them. They stopped immediately as they saw the two in front of the fire place. One of them whistled while the other one let out a small chuckle.
“Oh no, we should have come a few minutes later then we would have interrupted in a more entertaining moment.” The one that had whistled before let out laughing, gaining a dangerous glare from Fujigaya in return.
“What do you-“ mean Taiga wanted to ask, but as he finally turned towards them he saw how Fujigaya draw away his hand, but of course he had seen it.
“He meant nothing. You know Hokuto is always babbling stupid things and annoys everyone,” Fujigaya said as he got up and glared at the two boys. But Hokuto didn’t seem at all impressed by Fujigaya’s threatening look.
“Hey I’m not that annoying,” Hokuto pouted.
“No you are even worse,” The other boy replied tightening his grip around the other one’s shoulder to pull him even closer.
“What do you mean? You never complained about me being annoying.”
“Maybe because something like ‘would you finally stop talking while we’re having sex’ isn’t something I would normally say like this.” The other boy said in a complete neutral voice ignoring Fujigaya’s raised eyebrow at him while Taiga got up and left for the kitchen obviously not in the mood to have such a conversation after just finishing a mission.
“Then how about you continue NOT telling him, Ryosuke? At least not in front of us,” Another person said as he stepped inside as well.
“But that wouldn’t be fun. See, he already blushed!” Ryosuke let out with a teasing smile on his lips as he pointed at Hokuto whose cheeks had turned slightly red. Ryosuke pulled the latter even closer, giving him a small kiss on his cheek resulting with Hokuto looking apologizing at the others before he shoved an in amusement laughing Ryosuke towards the stairs.
“I still wonder how you can handle those two, Tegoshi.” Fujigaya said as they heard their door close upstairs.
“I’m not handling them, I’m ignoring them. Okay at least everything related to their relationship and you should also concentrate on just being a mentor towards Taiga, not more.” Tegoshi’s voice got darker on the last words and Fujigaya glanced towards the closed kitchen door before he faced Tegoshi with a guilty expression again. He didn’t have to reply anything, Tegoshi had made himself clear before already that Fujigaya had to learn how to reduce his contact to Taiga to be a mentor and not more.
Myuto had been already in a deep sleep when he heard a familiar sound. There was just one person who would dare to sneak on their property and throw small stones at his window, not to forget in the middle of the night. The boy whined and turned around once more, but he knew that when he would come that late that something serious must have happened.
He opened the window and searched for the familiar person down in the backyard.
"Kentaro, could you come a little bit earlier next- is that blood? Oh god, what happened?" His voice changed from annoyed to shocked as he saw his best friend standing there with a blood stained shirt and shaking hands.
"Keep your voice down or do you want your family to wake up?" Kentaro hissed at him and Myuto put a hand over his mouth looking over to the room door, but the house remained silent.
"Come to the backdoor, I will let you in," He whispered and tried to sneak through the corridors without making too much noise. When he reached the attendants’ kitchen he started running towards the door and ripped it open. Kentaro stepped in in silence ignoring his friend's worried look on him.
Myuto let him sit down first and gave him a wet towel to clean himself and a glass of water even though the boy didn't seem willing to drink.
"What happened?" Myuto finally dared to ask after sitting down opposite of the big table. For a moment Kentaro remained silent, but then he let out a shaking breath and looked at his friend with a terrified look in his eyes which made Myuto shiver.
"I killed someone," He let out cold, but even though he fell silent again Myuto didn't dare to say anything. His friend must have had a reason and he knew that. Never would he risked getting followed by a Reaper if there would have been another way.
"I had been already home early today, but it was a mistake to think that it would be okay. My dad was in a really bad mood as he came home and it didn't take long until he started screaming at me again. So before the situation could escalate again I sneaked out. I wandered around for some time not paying much attention to my surroundings until someone stepped in my way. I-, He…everything happened just too fast. He pulled out a knife and came at me without even saying anything. I don’t know if he just wanted to steal money from me, but-“ Kentaro buried his face in his palms for a moment shaking his head as if the images in his head would disappear like that. “I didn’t think about any consequences, I just acted. I defended myself! He tried to kill me...I guess... they can’t find me guilty, can they?” He looked up at his friend with a broken expression and as much as Myuto wanted to tell him that it would be okay, he knew it might not be. Their justice was something they couldn’t understand, it seemed like the Reapers wouldn’t understand it themselves sometimes.
“For now try to calm down, okay!”
“Myuto, how the hell am I supposed to calm down? The moment I step out your house I could be dead already!”
“But maybe they won’t even find you guilty!” Myuto tried to calm him down, but Kentaro had already lost his calm now running up and down the kitchen.
“Oh and let me guess, you have the perfect contacts to a really nice Reaper who will tell you if I’m guilty or not?” Kentaro had started shouting with a shaking voice and Myuto stood up to approach his friend, but as he tried to stop him the latter slashed away his hands.
"Kentaro, calm down! It won't help you to freak out now."
"Then what shall I do? Go outside and get dead scared each time a person steps in my way. I'm going to get killed for a crime which wasn't one. I DON'T WANT TO GO TO HELL!" Kentaro's breathing pace had turned more than unhealthy fast and it was obvious that it was almost impossible to stay sane for him. He was about to scream and break down, but a burning pain on his cheek made him land back to reality. Just seconds later arms wrapped around him. Myuto held on to him tightly not allowing him to struggle.
"Don't say stupid things! You don't even know if they find you guilty! And even if they do I will convince them to not take you away and if they won't listen I will fight them! You didn't do anything, they can't take you away!" Myuto's shaking voice made it hard for Kentaro to reply anything. Sure he would be the one the Reapers would take, but that didn't mean that it wouldn't hurt others as well.
"I'm...sorry. You're right, nothing is decided yet."
"Where are you going?"
Taiga turned around to Tegoshi the moment he had opened the door the cold morning breeze finding its way into the house.
"Just on a small walk," Taiga replied calmly, because it was the truth. There was no need to tell him that he was meeting with someone.
"So early in the morning?" Tegoshi asked with a raised eyebrow, obviously suspicious about the boy's behavior. It wasn't the first time he would meet up with someone without telling anyone. But normally it was Fujigaya who saw him leave this early, but he would never say anything even though he was his mentor.
"I like the cold morning breeze, that's all." Taiga replied with a light smile. Okay now he had lied, but what was he supposed to say? Hey, I'm meeting up with a human which I know for over a year by now and he even knows that I'm a Reaper!? Taiga didn't like it to lie to them, but he wasn't stupid. Telling them directly would mean a harsh punishment and Tegoshi would be the one executing it. Now that they just assumed that he was tracking the rules Fujigaya could try to ignore it, because it was more than obvious that he didn't want Taiga to suffer in any way.
"Then be careful. We have a new mission and the person seems near, so try to stay away from people."
Taiga's heart missed a beat on Tegoshi's words. He had just sent someone away yesterday, why did they have to continue the next day right away?
"Who got the mission?"
Taiga waited for him to continue, because it seemed like there was something else he wanted to say, but wasn't sure how to say it.
"Is something wrong with him?" Taiga asked worried and Tegoshi sighed moving his fingers through his hair.
"I'm not sure. He said it feels weird this time. Kind of unclear."
"Unclear?" Taiga repeated the word in a low voice.
"But it's his mission so he has to deal with it. He is still young so maybe his powers are playing pranks on him," Tegoshi tried to explain, knowing that Taiga would interpret things different and he was obviously not in the mood to discuss Taiga’s doubts about their powers again. "So just watch out when you are out." Tegoshi reminded him again and finally the boy stepped out the house closing the door slowly. The breeze outside was really cold, but it was exactly what he needed right now. Again he had a reason to question their powers and again the others would try to ignore it! But he had to meet with his friend first, if he was lucky he had at least some information about what had happened. He was something like the most well informed kid around the area, so if someone knew something then it was him.
Kentaro couldn’t even sleep for a minute, but knowing that his friend would watch him the whole night, if he wouldn’t calm down he had closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep until his friend finally had fallen asleep himself. Now he was staring at the ceiling for several hours already and even though it was already early morning everyone in the house seemed still at sleep.
They weren’t sleeping in Myuto’s room, but in one of the guest rooms, because if his parents or a servant would find out that Myuto had let his friend stay over they would be both in trouble. Myuto’s family was one of the wealthiest in town and their son's friendship to Kentaro was something they had objected from the beginning, but there was no way Myuto would have let his friend leave in his condition and with the danger awaiting him outside.
Kentaro was thankful to have Myuto by his side that was out of question, but he was well aware of the fact that he couldn’t rescue him, if they would find him guilty. People would just vanish without anyone seeing who sent them away. Reapers were like walking shadows and even though Kentaro was still more than dead scared he knew that he couldn’t hide. He closed his eyes once more, taking a deep breath before sneaking out of the bed. He was wearing Myuto’s clothes even though they were way too big for him and he was more than happy that the boy had put out clothes for the next day as well already. They had burned Kentaro’s clothes in the stove in the evening right away, afraid of anyone discovering the bloodstains. Kentaro got dressed and left the room as quite as possible. He knew his friend would get angry at him for leaving like this (if he would survive long enough for him to get angry), but after his emotional outburst he finally realized that it would harm his friend even more if he tried to protect him and then vanish right in front of his eyes, because who was he kidding there was no way he could run away from their judgement.
The boy shifted from one leg to the other, his hands in his pockets and his face half hidden in his scarf, but as he spotted Taiga he waved at him with a bright smile, running towards him.
“Long time no see!” He said in a teasing voice. Of course he knew that it was difficult for Taiga to meet up with him, because the others were watching him.
“Trust me that time was double as long for me as it was for you,” Taiga teased back pinching the boy’s arm lightly. Taiga felt like a normal boy when he was around him. Normally when they met they were running around town, laughing, playing around and sometimes causing trouble here and there and that was what made it so interesting. As a Reaper, life was full of rules and each inapropiate action would have consequences. Taiga was aware of that, but knowing that at least his mentor tried to protect him, even though he didn’t share his opinion, he felt a little bit safer.
For a while they walked along the small river running at the border of the town talking about all that had happened over the time since they had seen each other the last time, but as they boy talked about the last days he suddenly fell silent.
“What’s wrong?” Taiga asked and the boy turned towards him with a guilty look.
“Nothing. Never mind!” He tried to shrug it off and smiled at him, but before he could start walking again Taiga stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
“You heard about it, right?”
The boy bit his lip facing the ground, but it made Taiga even angrier when he behaved like this.
“Aran, you know exactly that you can talk to me about it, I won’t get angry!” Taiga said in an understanding tone and gave his friend an understanding smile, knowing why he hesitated.
“I wasn’t present at the scene, but I heard that someone vanished again. A boy, if I heard correctly?”
“Yes.” Taiga started walking slowly and Aran followed him, but didn’t dare to ask even though he really wanted to know. “And yes it was me, if you wanted to ask that.”
There it was. Of course Taiga had known what he wanted to know. It wasn’t like he judged him, he had met Taiga for the first time when he sent someone to hell after all. Taiga had still been young at that time and he had been so concentrated on his mission that he forgot about his surroundings. At that time Aran knew that the person Taiga had to send away had done pretty bad things before, but this time he wasn’t so sure about it. There was something he had to make sure of, even though it could maybe make it even worse for Taiga.
“How old was he?”
“Not sure, he was about my age I guess.”
“Did he appear like that or did he just look younger on the first sight?”
“Aran what is it with the weird questions. If you want to know something ask me directly!” Taiga replied this time a little bit angry even though he was obviously worried about the boy’s sudden interest in his last mission.
“I just...I saw something yesterday and just about an hour later I heard about a Reaper or more about you sending someone away and I wondered if it was the person I’ve seen.”
“Even if, why is it so important to you?”
Aran stopped walking again and Taiga turned around to face him. He crossed his arms in front of his chest not in the mood for Aran’s guilty glances.
“Spill it out, Aran!”
“If it is the one I’ve seen I wonder why you had to send him away,” Aran said in a low voice, shifting nervously.
“If he didn’t do anything wrong than it wasn’t him.”
“But he did something, but nothing wrong...I would say.”
“Aran, come to the point would you!” Taiga made a step towards Aran and the boy looked to the ground for a moment searching for the right words.
“He killed someone! But that someone tried to kill him first. I saw them from the old tower next to the pier. He just acted out of self-defense, but I could see that he was more than panicked after he realized what he had done. I followed him, but I wasn’t fast enough to catch up with him.” Aran paused taking a deep breath and as he looked up at Taiga the boy had gotten paler than he normally was.
“Are you telling me that I’ve killed an innocent person?” Taigas asked in disbelieve, but Aran shook his head right away. Normally Taiga never said that he killed someone. For them sending them to hell was something different from the human act of killing someone as Fujigaya had explained to him often enough already. But when it was true that he sent an innocent soul to hell it was the same as killing someone like a cruel human and that was exactly why he doubted their powers the whole time and maybe this time he was finally proven right.
“I doubt you wouldn’t have realized it. I hope at least...He was definitely older than us, but appeared younger at first sight. He was smaller than us-”
“It wasn’t him!” Aran’s information were enough already to make it clear that they were talking about two different people and relief showed on both of their faces immediately.
But it was just seconds later that Taiga’s face showed pure panic and Aran didn’t even had the chance of asking what was going on as he started running towards the town again. If what Aran had said was true and he didn’t doubt a single word knowing that the boy would never tell him something like this if he wouldn’t be one hundred percent sure that the boy was innocent, that would explain what Tegoshi had said in the morning. He had to stop them from sending him away! Maybe with Aran’s help they would be able to make it to the innocent boy before Hokuto carried out his mission, which wasn’t supposed to be one.