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Netherworld's Border

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Kentaro stopped at the next corner again, pressing his back against the wall with so much force that it hurt. His heart was hammering against his chest and his breathing pace made him feel dizzy. It had been a bad idea after all to sneak out of Myuto's house all alone. He had planned to walk straight home, not that he would be safe there, but he felt completely outlawed on the streets and even though it was early morning there were too many people out already and Kentaro had jumped into the next corner each time he saw someone. Now he really felt like someone who had done the worst crime ever.

After he had calmed down enough again he started walking again. He had his hands in his pockets and with Myuto's big jacket it was easy for him to muffler his face in the collar. He walked passed the fountain of the town's market place which he had to pass on the way to his house which was a little bit more at the outside of the town, near the river. He sped up as he reached the other side of the wide place and almost started running as he finally reached a small alley. But as he rushed around the next corner he ran into someone who came running from the other side and the impact took them both of their feet. Kentaro had landed on top of the stranger and as he looked down at a blond boy which was even younger than him he forgot about his panic for a moment.

"Sorry, are you okay?" Kentaro asked as he got off the boy which rubbed the back of his head as he got up.

"Don't worry all okay and you?" The boy asked with a small smile on his face, even though he seemed in a great hurry.

"Fine I guess," Kentaro replied still staring at the stranger completely fascinated. He couldn't explain it, but even though he had never seen the boy before he had some special kind of aura and Kentaro just couldn't get his eyes off him.

"Taiga, there you are! Don't run so fast!" Aran showed up at a corner approaching his friend, but as Taiga made a step to the side revealing Kentaro to him, Aran stopped walking and took a sharp breath.

"What is it?" Taiga asked confused and Kentaro looked from one to the other completely lost. With the appearance of Aran his panic level had suddenly risen up again.

"Taiga, that's him!" Aran announced pointing at Kentaro and Taiga turned to face the boy again this time with a startled expression. He hadn't really had any kind of mental image of the person he was looking for, but this boy was definitely not what he had expected.

Kentaro's mind needed a moment to catch up, but before any of them could ask him any more questions he swirled around and started running. The blond boy was shouting after him, but he couldn't even hear it clearly with the blood pulsating in his ears as he sped up even more trying not to hyperventilate. There was no way the other boy could have meant something else than what he had did last night. But why was he still alive? If they would really be Reapers finding him guilty he should be dead already, no one had ever fled from a Reaper. All this confused him even more and as he didn't spend enough attention he stumbled about a few planks lying next to a still closed shop. He fell to the ground in full length bruising his hands quite badly as he tried to stop his fall. He remained on the ground for a moment his irregular breathing the only sound he could hear. He crawled over to the next wall resting his back against it and hiding his face between his arms resting on his knees. As he calmed down the sound of his breathing was replaced by sobs. The blood from his hands dropped to the ground slowly while his sobs got louder. He had messed up big time and he had even lost the will to make it home. Why should he go there anyway? It wasn't like his parents could rescue him, there was even the chance that they would get angry at him and didn't believe him. If the other two would catch up with him he would be prepared. He couldn't run away from a punishment he deserved.

***

“Your really are something like a bad luck charm!” Taiga growled at Aran as they eventually stopped running through the backstreets after they had lost track of the boy. People were also increasing now that the market was about to open and Taiga needed to be back at their house before Tegoshi would get too suspicious.

“Hey it’s not my fault that the boy freaked out right away, but to be honest I can’t blame him. He seems to know that a Reaper could come to take him and-”

“And?” Taiga knew that Aran tried to choose his words carefully, but he always said what was true, even if Taiga didn’t want to hear it.

“Didn’t he have any right to run? You are a Reaper after all,” Aran added in a low voice. Taiga rolled his eyes at him, even though he knew his friend was right.

“Whatever, for now I will go back and see if Hokuto is still there. Normally he shouldn’t try to make a move before nightfall, so the boy should be fine until then.”

“If he doesn’t kill himself before that.”

Taiga looked at him with a murderous glare, but he just shrugged with his shoulders.

“What? You should know yourself the best how terrifying you are to humans.”

Taiga wanted to counter something, but he didn’t know what. Of course he knew. He had seen the looks in the eyes of the people he sent away, he has realized how terrified they were before he sent them away. There was something about the Reapers which just the person they targeted could see. Black wings! They would spread from their back right before they sent them away and no one else could see them, how wasn't that terrifying? That was also a reason why Taiga had conflicted feeling about his abilities and the whole history of their “missions”. But before he could sank into his depression again Aran put his hands on his shoulders to turn him away from him and pushing him with enough force so that Taiga had to make a few steps forward to find his balance again. As he turned around again the boy looked at him with a wide smile. A smile he had shown him from the first time they had met and even though he still couldn’t explain why Aran wasn’t scared at all Taiga was more than happy that he had decided to stay by his side even though Aran knew that he was a Reaper. Finally he had found someone who he could share his worries with, someone who wouldn’t judge him right away.

“Even if you look at me like this I won’t get scared, sorry!” Aran said laughing crossing his arms in front of his chest as Taiga looked at him scolding. But the next moment Taiga finally cracked a smile shutting away this annoying hurt feeling which he tried to suppress each time Aran reminded him of what he was and how his existence was feared by the humans. “And now you should leave or you’ll get into even more trouble than the boy. I will try to find him and talk to him!”

Aran’s smile just went wider before he waved at him and continued searching for the boy by himself while Taiga made sure not to be seen by anyone of his comrades as he made his way back to the house.

***

With shaking legs Kentaro finally reached his house, even though he wasn’t sure why he had come back in the first place. His father was already out for work and his mother didn’t seem to be home either.

Their house was already old and because it was winter already the inside temperature was similar to the one outside. They had a fire place in the living room and of course his parents’ room was nice as well, but his own room was under the roof and around winter time he had to watch out not to freeze to death up there, but after his father had told him that this was inurement for his body he had given up arguing with him. But now he went up the stairs to his room with slow steps and stopped in the middle of the small room for a moment. He looked around not sure what to do when he heared the entrance door open. He froze and listened for a moment, but there was no voice to be heard and that was the signal for him that it was none of his parents, because his mother would complain right away about some random thing and his father would shout upstairs to see if he was home.

Kentaro’s body moved faster than his mind could catch up. He grabbed the old bag under his bed and threw random clothes into it as fast as possible. He wondered if he would get hurt too badly if he jumped out his window, but he had no other choice. He already heard steps on the stairs, making him panic even more. He had already thrown his bag over his shoulder and opened the window as the door opened behind him, but he was too afraid to look. He was determined to jump, it was just the second floor after all. But the moment he stepped on the windowsill someone grabbed his bag and pulled him away from the window together with it. Kentaro was ready to start screaming, maybe even to beg for his life, but as he finally dared to turn towards the intruder he got a slap on the cheek, again.

“You know, if you planned to run away from the beginning spare me the drama next time, okay?” Myuto hissed at him, his eyes throwing daggers. Kentaro had brought his shaking hand up to his face, but he knew that he had no right to get angry, he had definitely deserved that slap.

“I didn’t intend to run away...until just a few moments ago at least.” Kentaro replied honestly, facing the ground with a guilty expression. He wasn’t even sure what he had hoped would happen after he had left Myuto’s house and then his encounter with the two other boys also worried him.

“Hey, don’t space out!” Myuto said snapping his fingers in front of his face and Kentaro finally looked up at him. “Did something happen on your way here?”

“No- Maybe…I’m not sure.” Kentaro sighed in desperation running his hand through his hair. It wouldn’t take long until he totally lost it and in his state of mind he was not sure if he could go through more encounters like the earlier one by himself again. Even though his mind drifted off to the blond boy he had ran into without him even realizing why.

"Okay how about we first get you out of here and back to my house?" Myuto finally continued as he realized that Kentaro wasn’t really willing to give him more information.
"Myuto, I know that you want to help me, but-
"No but! I'm not trying, I AM helping you, because we are friends and if I can't even do something like this I won't forgive myself!"
Kentaro bit his lip stopping himself from replying anything. The desperate look in his friend's eyes told him that it had been a stupid idea from the beginning to think it would be better to not get  him involve into this. As if he would stay away and watch from a safe distance.
"Okay I take your silence as an apology and a yes for us to return to my house." Myuto draw out a small pocket watch and sighed as he saw the time. "Shit, the maids are already there. For now it will be hard to sneak inside."
"Let's go to the usual place then, I feel more secure at places I know," Kentaro suggested and Myuto's look brightened up.
"Great idea, maybe it distracts you a little bit. Then let's go!" Myuto helped Kentaro to repack his bag and left for the door first, but turned to his friend once more.
"Kentaro."
The boy in question looked up at him with a questioning look and waited for Myuto to say something, but it seemed difficult for the boy to find the right words.
"Don't get me wrong! I really think you are not guilty. You defended yourself and if they sent you away for that they are assholes, but just in case they actually- you know, find you and I can't protect you...I wanted you to know how important our friendship is to me! Without you my life would be really monotone with all the rules in my family." Myuto looked at his friend kind of guilty as if he hadn't intended to even say something discouraging like this, but Kentaro wouldn't get his words wrong.
He let the bag drop on the bed for now and approached him with big steps to throw his arms around him.
"Thank you, for everything!" Kentaro was aware of the danger awaiting him with each step he would make outside and even inside his own house he wouldn't be safe. He felt Myuto's arms closing around his shoulders and the latter rested his chin on his hair.
"Don't thank me, I'm not even sure if I can do anything."


***

Taiga sneaked inside the house again, but the moment he made the first step on the stairs he heard someone hawking and he cursed before he turned towards the couch chair next to the fire place.

“Good morning, I didn’t think you would be up that early,” Taiga said towards Fujigaya with a fake smile, which vanished right away as he saw his mentor’s angry face.

“Taiga, how often do I have to tell you that I am aware of almost everything you are doing, even when you think I wouldn’t notice?”

“I didn’t do anything, I just took a walk, is that something I have to tell you?” Taiga tried to defend himself, but Fujigaya got up and reached out for the boy’s arm holding up his sleeve so Taiga could take a look at it as well.

“And taking a walk ends with your clothes getting all covered in dirt?” Fujigaya lifted an eyebrow at him and Taiga bit his lip from the inside. He had totally forgotten that after he had collided with the boy his clothes had gotten dirty from the fall.

“I was just clumsy and slipped at the river side.”

“Right…” It was more than obvious that Fujigaya didn’t believe him, but loud voices and fast steps down the stairs interrupted them.

“Oh you are already up as well? Morning!” Ryosuke shouted at them grinning at them with a bright smile.

“Morning. What’s up, you are way too hyper for this time of the day!” Taiga asked with a smile, but as he looked at the stairs again and Hokuto stepped down to them rubbing his temples obviously having a headache he remembered again that there was no time for him to get distracted with random conversations.

“It’s the first time for Hokuto to get a mission! I’m really curious what kind of person he will have to send away!” Ryosuke asked enthusiastic before leaving for the kitchen and Taiga looked after him with an annoyed glance. Ryosuke was even worse than Fujigaya when it came to their traditions. Fujigaya and Tegoshi followed them without questioning them, but Ryosuke seemed to enjoy what he was doing and that annoyed Taiga even more.

“Shit, are you all getting those headaches every time?” Hokuto asked as he let himself drop on the chair where Fujigaya was sitting earlier.

“No normally not, but it’s your first mission, sometimes it is different the first time.” Fujigaya said caring, putting his hand on the boy’s forehead, but smiled at him the next moment. “As soon as your mission is completed it will stop again.”

“Hopefully-“ Hokuto sighed and put his knees up to hug them, waiting for Ryosuke to bring him the breakfast he promised to make him earlier.

“Taisuke?” Taiga tugged on the latter’s sleeve and he turned towards him with a questioning look.

“What is it?” He asked worried seeing Taiga’s serious look.

“What if his headache has nothing to do with him, but with the person he has to send away?”

Fujigaya blinked at him questioning and Taiga moved his hand through his hair with a sigh not sure how to explain his worries without blowing Aran’s and his cover.

“I was just thinking, if it is possible that some missions aren’t clear, you know…”

“There is nothing like a wrong mission and you know that!”

Everyone in the room turned towards the door where Tegoshi had stepped just in. Of course he had to show up at the worst moment again. Fujigaya was the only one who would at least give Taiga’s worries a second thought, but as soon as Tegoshi would interfere it was difficult for Fujigaya as well to take Taiga’s side.

“Taiga, you studied all our traditions, you should know that we don’t get those powers to hurt people like we please, we got them to judge the guilty ones!”

“I know, but what if-“

“No what if! End of discussion!”

Taiga wanted to reply something, but Ryosuke came back into the room handing a tablet with coffee and bread to Hokuto talking about his first mission and encouraging Hokuto without spending the other three any attention. Taiga wasn’t sure if he did it on purpose or not, but Tegoshi just went upstairs without continuing the discussion and Taiga sighed in defeat. If he couldn’t count on his people, he had to find another way to solve this problem and that would be to stuck to Hokuto for the rest of the day, so he sat down next to Hokuto and Ryosuke pretending that he was as interested in this mission as well.

Of course he felt Fujigaya’s eyes on him, never would his mentor buy his fake-interest, but he wouldn’t interfere either at least not as long as he wasn’t sure what Taiga was up to.

***

“One more game!” Kentaro begged, but Myuto looked at the watch for the 3rd time already.

“Kentaro, I wonder how you can be calm enough to play cards the whole day already.”

“What do you mean with the whole day?” Kentaro asked as he asked the barkeeper for another drink and even though the man had doubted his age from the very beginning he gave him another one as always.

“Kentaro, it is almost getting dark outside and we should really head to my house now or my parents will be back before we reach it! At the moment the maids should be done already and my parents shouldn’t be back, so it is the perfect time to return.” Myuto was more than surprised that his friend has turned so calm since they had entered the bar in which they met when they tried not to be seen together by each of their families. The bar wasn’t big, there were just about a dozen tables and a piano next to a small stage, which was just used on weekends for small performances.

Except for drinking and playing darts or cards with random people there was not much they could do, but it was distraction enough for Kentaro it seemed.

“Don’t you think it is better to head back before it is getting completely dark?” Myuto asked worried, but Kentaro seemed still not willing to go. Was he so afraid to step out on the streets again?

“One more game, okay?” Kentaro begged again putting his hands together while bowing his head a little bit and even though Myuto wasn’t happy about him getting that careless he let him move over to the table at the back again where he started a new card game with three usual guests.

Myuto remained at the bar and as the door opened a cold breeze hit him. As soon as it got dark the temperature would almost fall under zero, so Myuto wondered how the incoming customers weren’t freezing to death, because they were definitely not dressed warm enough for this weather. He also wondered if two of the three people which entered weren’t still too young to come to a place like this, but he wasn't really that much older so he didn’t spend them any more attention as they walked to a random table to sit down.

Impatiently he flipped his pocket watch open all the time, but he was already trying to find a way to get Kentaro inside even with his parents being at home, because they would definitely not make it in time. As he looked over to Kentaro who was happily taking all the money to his side of the table after having good cards Myuto smiled to himself. He wasn’t sure if his theory was right, but he hoped that not just the familiarity of this place, but also the fact that he was at Kentaro’s side made the boy so carefree again.

Again the door opened and two boys came in, but they disappeared into a corner right away and because they forgot to close the door a cool breeze went through the room. The barkeeper was busy so Myuto stood up to close the door, but before he turned back he heard a shattering sound and someone cursing. As he turned around he saw one of the boys which had just entered standing next to a table from which he had obviously just shoved off all the glasses. Three angry men were shouting at him, but the boy didn’t seem to be afraid he provoked them even more and got pushed into another table just seconds later.

The people on that table were the ones which entered before them and they were now shouting and pointing to the back before one of them dashed past Myuto and out the door and another one ran towards the backdoor, while the oldest of them was stopped by the boy, which tried to make him help him against the three man. Somehow the boy’s behavior seemed not natural to Myuto and as he took his eyes off them finally and looked at the table at the back he froze as he saw that Kentaro was gone.

“Shit!” He rushed through the room ignoring the shouting group in the middle of the room and ran towards the backdoor as he couldn’t see his friend anywhere. He dashed out the backdoor, but there was no one to be seen and he let out a desperate curse and some bitter sobs made it hard for him to speak. “No that can’t be true. Please tell me that this is not true!” 

He tried to calm down and recall what had just happened. Could someone really have sent him away that fast and especially without someone in the bar noticing? Myuto dashed back in and the first thing he realized was that the people which came in last were all gone. He ran over to the table where Kentaro had played cards before and ask them if they didn’t see where he had gone.

“When they started screaming at each other in the front he stood up wanting to get over to you, but someone stopped him.” One of the man said.

“Who stopped him?” Myuto almost yelled at him, shifting impatiently.

“I didn’t really pay any attention to him, he was about the same age as him. I guessed it was a friend of yours, wasn't he?”

“He came in with the smaller one which started the fight in the front. The one who came here was taller and blond.” Another of the man answered and piece by piece everything made sense to Myuto.

Without even thanking them he dashed out the front door this time, searching for the smaller one of the two boys which had entered last. There were just two possibilities which made sense to him. First that the blond boy was the Reaper, which should send Kentaro away, if that was the case he would be too late already and his friend was long gone that was why he tried to desperately prove that his second thought was right. That the two came to help Kentaro out of whatever reason. That maybe one of the other customers was a Reaper, maybe the one who rushed out the door right away, maybe all three of them. He didn’t care who it was and how much sense all this made at the moment, all he wanted was to make sure that Kentaro was still alive, he had to be!