"Osaka's gone," Yamashita informs them.
Masuda looks to their leader with a questioning expression. Tegoshi habitually grabs the person closest to him, who just so happens to be Shige. Koyama drops the mug in his hands, its contents spilling out onto the floor. Shige tries to process the information, but nothing comes to mind.
Yamashita takes another mug from the shelf and the room briefly flashes red as he gathers the spilled tea from the floor to the mug. He hands it to Koyama, who takes it gratefully.
"But," Koyama exclaims, "the colors!"
"We'll be fine," Yamashita says, "those KAT-TUN guys can cover it, and those Hey Say kids are helping too. The seniors will be in soon to assess the situation."
"Nishikido and Uchi?" Koyama asks.
"Disappeared with the rest of Osaka," Yamashita says.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Shige is a reluctant Green. Most Greens are related to nature, or healing, or even toxic, but Shige is none of those. Instead, he's a traveler, a trait mostly seen in Yellow, Orange or Blue. Which is why his shade of Green is dirty, mixed with other colors and neither forest dark or grass bright.
This is why he sometimes envies Yamashita, who is a bright, clear shade of Red, a collector. Or Masuda, who is a light Yellow healer. Even Tegoshi, whose Pink sometimes blinks Red, is a rare seducer and greatly valued. Luckily, Koyama's nurturing Purple is also mixed, sometimes even fading, and he doesn't feel inadequate beside Koyama.
There's also Nishikido and Uchi. Nishikido's Blue is magnificent in its own way, dark and swirling like the ocean, always moving and never staying the same. Nishikido has no defined trait yet, making Shige think they've only glanced at the surface of Nishikido's color, but Nishikido was assigned to their group and so, despite being unidentified, everyone accepted him. Uchi is even odder, with his color not even settled, going from Pink to Red to occasionally Orange. But since Uchi was an accomplished connector, he was also in.
The night before Osaka disappeared, Nishikido visited Shige's apartment. He didn't bother to ask Shige about it first, he merely dropped by, but Shige let him in anyway because he couldn't think of a good reason to refuse.
And the man brought beer. They weren't friends, but they were acquaintances, and Nishikido was convincing.
Then they got drunk. Nishikido also brought some crap movie about some Yellows versus a group of Blues, with bombs and guns and fistfights that looked like kids going against each other. They watched that together, and with Nishikido's poison tongue and Shige's own loosened one, they laughed at the movie together until Shige noticed Nishikido's lips and wonders just how attached they are to Nishikido's mouth.
Some point in the night, while they were fumbling with buttons and zippers and trembling fingers and drunken hazes and perhaps each other, Nishikido turned into Ryo, and Shige thought he saw a glimpse of something beyond Ryo's deep Blue.
Shige wonders if Nishikido knew Osaka would be disappearing. If he had taken part to make it happen.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Last night Osaka disappeared, Nishikido and Uchi along with it. Yamashita explained that someone -- a large group of people, most likely -- must have pulled Osaka away onto a space plane of its own.
It made sense. Tokyo had been fading in colors for a long while. It's been kept a secret for a long time, but the Osaka groups must have noticed this and decided to cut themselves off. The result of an information leak.
Shige looks into himself, notices his Green flickering once more, and sighs.
"I think they're in Osaka," Yamashita says, "but I can't go after them."
The rest of them understand. Yamashita is a collector, and in their desperate situation he's needed to maintain the remaining colors. But Yamashita is also the only person experienced in cross-plane travel.
But Nishikido and Uchi were group members. They look to Koyama, who built the bridges and doors for Yamashita each time their leader travelled. Koyama could also cross his own bridges if he wished, and would be the obvious choice since he has at least half the experience.
But Shige's the traveler. He can't get to another space plane alone - he still needs Koyama's door to get to Osaka - but within a single plane he can pass from place to place easier than anyone else.
He thinks of Nishikido, who has been a mystery for so long. This is a chance to get to know him better. A chance to go after Nishikido and ask some questions.
So he volunteers.
"I'll go," Shige says.
Koyama visibly relaxes, because he's terrified of doing things alone and the others should know. But Shige can feel his Green fading, and he shudders at the thought of getting stuck between worlds.
"Just step into the door and you'll see the bridge," Koyama explains, "I'll be with you until you reach the other side. And remember the place you cross over to, I'll be waiting for your message from there to get you back."
"Be careful," Masuda says, and Shige can feel his Yellow turning bright.
"Make sure you come back," Tegoshi says.
"We still need you," Yamashita says, "Don't ever forget that."
Koyama says nothing, but comes over and hugs him. Then everything around them flashes Purple, and Shige sees the portal form in the middle of the room. He allows the Purple to envelope him, Koyama's familiar strength flowing through him and warming him, then he feels it fading away and the world flips over.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
In between nowhere and everywhere, Shige spots a shadow of Pink. It feels like someone he knows.
"Uchi?" he asks.
"It's you," a voice answers, and it's almost but not quite Uchi's voice, "Ryo would be glad. Maybe."
"What happened?" Shige asks, because even if Uchi's there, he's not entirely together, a shadow and assembled shapes instead of a full living person.
"I fell between the cracks," the voice says, "tell the others this if they ask."
The others must mean Yamashita, Koyama and the rest, but somehow Shige thinks that wasn't what Uchi meant. Maybe he wants Shige to tell Nishikido, but Shige isn't even sure he'll be able to find Nishikido.
Shige has heard stories of people falling between the cracks. They fall apart, their color and body and shadow torn apart. He's afraid it's happening to him, but his color is still with him. There's always a chance that a person can pull themselves back together again, but it'd take iron willpower, and Shige wonders whether Uchi will make it. But Uchi was, is, Nishikido's friend, and Shige wishes him the best of luck.
"You're Pink," Shige points out.
"I always have been," the voice says, "But it's slipping away from me."
Shige tries to imagine his Green going away, some other color invading his very being, and he shudders at the thought. And with his thoughts dimming, he thinks, Uchi can't be Pink, Tegoshi is.
Then the world stops spinning.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Everything around him is Green. Every shade of Green that ever existed seems to be in the room, but Shige spots a modest Green that unifies all the shades.
On instinct, Shige compares it to his own shade. But instead of his own Green, he realizes that the Greens around him are slipping into his own, strengthening it and turning it to a powerful dark green.
Horrified, he tries to search for his Green and bring it back. But the Green he's seeing is his Green, and for the first time in his life, Shige can't feel leftover bits of Orange, Yellow and Blue in him. He should be glad - it's what he's dreamed of all his life - but instead he feels empty, like a shell or echo of himself.
Colors shouldn't affect other people. People can view each other's colors, can compare them all they like and influence their surroundings, but they can't touch other people. Or so Shige thought, but this is Osaka, and clearly things are different here.
A person appears before him.
"So you're here," the man says, "Which one are you?"
Shige stares, because it's the first time he's seen such a vibrant Green. Most of it is the modest Green he noticed earlier, but there are plenty of other shades, and Shige realizes that all this Green must belong to this man.
"Kato Shigeaki," Shige says, "I'm looking for a Nishikido Ryo."
"Ah," the man replies, "Shige, right? Ryo-chan would be glad."
Shige distantly remembers someone saying the same thing before, but it's difficult to remember things when the color around him is still touching his core.
"Who are you?" Shige demands, because this man must know Nishikido quite well to call him that. Even Tegoshi only does so when he knows Nishikido is in a good, forgiving mood, and never in front of strangers. Nishikido must have known the man enough to tell him about his nickname and whatever else he saw fit.
"Ohkura Tadayoshi," the man says, "Ohkura is fine. Or Tacchon."
Shige would like to point out that they aren't that close, but he says nothing, and concentrates on protecting his own color.
"You should stop that," Ohkura says, "You'll need it here."
"A defined color. Tokyo is a place of mixed colors, but here mixtures are treated differently. You won't pass easily if you keep your other colors."
"Mixtures?" Shige asks, because he's never heard of the phrase before, though he can guess what it means.
"People like you," Ohkura says, "You people are so used to it that you don't give it a name, but here it's rare. It's harder to control, but powerful in its own way. Ryo-chan is a bit of one."
"It's hard to explain. Ask Ryo-chan to show you if you meet him. Actually, I think you'll understand the moment you meet him. The others will be angry at me for saying this, but I like you. I think I'll let you pass." Ohkura pauses, then smiles, "Maybe it's 'cause we're both Green."
"The others?" Shige asks, because he vaguely remembers hearing someone else using the same words before.
"You'll need to meet all of us to get to Ryo-chan," Ohkura says gently. "They're protective, and you're from elsewhere. You only came here first because your own color resonances with mine."
"This isn't my color," Shige accuses.
"It is," Ohkura smiles gently, "I just helped you gather and emphasize it to cover the other colors."
Shige's still struggling to understand how this beautiful Green could be his own when Ohkura begins to pull the room together, and Shige thinks the man must be a collector, like Yamashita, only in a different color. Somehow, Shige calmly watches the walls close around him, wonders if this is Ohkura affecting him too, then before the walls touch him everything pops.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
He sees Orange. Every shade that he's ever seen, including hints of his own greenish Orange that's currently missing, which Shige grabs onto in his confusion.
"Oh," someone says from behind him, "You're here."
Shige turns around to find a tall man flaring Orange before him. His Orange is different from Shige's, but the basic temperature is the same. At least this means the man won't be assertive.
"I'm Kato Shigeaki," he says, "And I'm looking for Nishikido Ryo."
"Paaaaaaaaan!" The man shouts.
Shige takes a step back and wonders if he should defend himself.
"Sorry," the man says in a suddenly calm voice, "I just wanted to try that. I'm Maruyama Ryuuhei, people call me Maru."
It seems that, like in Ohkura's place, he needs Maruyama's permission to move through. He isn't sure how he's supposed to get it, but Shige is familiar with Orange, and he thinks he can do this.
"I need to see Nishikido-kun," Shige says, "I have some questions to ask."
"You wouldn't force him to answer, right?" Maruyama asks.
Shige looks at the man, sees a darker Orange flowing out. "Nobody can force him to do anything, I don't think."
"You can't force him to go back with you," Maruyama says, "Ryo-chan won't allow it, and the others wouldn't like it either."
The thought never crossed Shige's mind. Perhaps he'd already known that Nishikido was here of his own choice, but Shige had never planned to bring Nishikido back to Tokyo. Even Yamashita had only told him to go after Nishikido and Uchi.
"I won't," Shige says, "I promise."
He doesn't add that he's a traveler, not a manipulator or a coordinator, and he doesn't have the power to force Nishikido to do anything.
"I suppose it's alright then," Maruyama says, "If Ryo-chan wants to meet you, that is. You'll have to search for him. Luckily, you're a traveler, right? Going around won't be a problem."
Shige is almost surprised that Maruyama knows he's a traveler without him saying so, but if that Ohkura could influence Shige's color, then nothing else short of the world exploding and raining ducks could surprise him anymore.
The room expands, then Shige's no longer there.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
The next place is in Blue. Shige doesn't bother to check all the shades, knowing that he'll see all the shades of Blue he ever remembers and more around him.
Instead, he tries to identify the main shade, knowing that it would be the shade that reveals the Blue's owner's characteristics. Shige finds a light blue that threads through everything, warming and cooling at the same time. This Blue is not the least bit mysterious, and Shige thinks he's lucky that this doesn't remind him too much of Nishikido's color.
A man appears in the room, but instead of feeling a person, Shige senses a feeling of loss. Then the man smiles, and a little of everything disappears.
"You're a canceller!" Shige says, suddenly alert.
"Yeah," the man says, "Don't worry, I love this world enough to want it intact."
Cancellers are rare, almost as rare as seducers. Cancellers are always either Blue or Black, and Black itself is a rare color, usually only mixed with other colors. Cancellers are more dangerous than most people because unlike most people, whose colors add onto each other, they are able to cancel out other colors. It's a necessary element, but it makes normal people like Shige nervous. There isn't a canceller in his group.
Shige quickly regains himself. "I'm Kato Shigeaki," he introduces, "And I'm looking for Nishikido Ryo."
"I know," the man says, "Maru-chan told me. Just call me Yasu."
Shige first wonders when Maruyama could have told this man, because he didn't think any time had passed when he left Maruyama's place and entered this man's. Then he wonders why Yasu only told Shige a nickname of some sort, because Shige had said his full name and it's only polite to offer the same in return. But this is Yasu's domain, and Shige isn't stupid enough to complain.
"Aren't you going to ask me any questions?" Shige asks.
"No," Yasu says brightly, "I think you're okay. As okay as your Green goes, anyway, even if your shade isn't entirely your own."
Shige blinks. He wonders if it's a canceller skill, figuring out that someone had helped him force his color out.
"Aren't you going to help me pass through here, then?" Shige asks.
"Nope!" Yasu chirps, "I can't, anyway. I'm better at cancelling things, remember? This is a good chance to prove yourself. Find the way out, and you can pass through here. Makes sense, huh?"
Shige stares at the walls around him, but sees no door. He checks the ceiling for cracks, but of course it wouldn't be that easy.
He looks at Yasu, who's sitting on the floor and fiddling with a guitar. The man is playing, the guitar strings are vibrating as they should, but Shige can't hear any music. This is why it's so disorienting to be near a canceller, you never know if your senses are correctly telling you what's really happening.
"Why did you cut off Tokyo?" Shige finds himself asking.
Yasu looks up from his guitar and giggles, "So you figured it out. Yeah, we did it. They needed me, but I'm just the prompter, not the main power source. You'll find out soon enough."
"Why? Tokyo wasn't necessary. It's tiring getting from there to here all time, and now we won't have to at all. And your colors, they're so... mixed."
"They're fading," Shige says, because there's no longer a need to keep it a secret.
Yasu laughs out loud this time. "If that's what you think is happening, just keep believing that."
Yasu doesn't answer. But the Blues in the room flash like lights, almost White (which isn't a color, not at all) to a degree, yet Shige can clearly tell they're a cold shade of Blue. Blue is naturally a colder color than the rest, but Shige can't help but think it's odd, because Yasu is a warm presence, the only other source of warmth in this cold room.
"You," Shige points.
"Yep, me," Yasu nods, "Ryo's right, you are smart. As smart as anyone from Tokyo can be."
"You aren't here at all. You're a door, or...the room, and the room is you. Or something like that, I don't think I fully understand. I think I can figure out if I have time."
"You can stay and try," Yasu says, "Or you can go."
"Are you even in this room?" Shige asks. Yasu only smiles, but Shige can feel all the Blue in the room, so the man must be here, even if Shige can't figure out his exact position.
Before he leaves, he looks at Yasu, "Wait. Nishikido isn't in your group though, is he? You're both the same color."
Yasu laughs, but doesn't answer. Shige doesn't think he can prod the answer out of him, so he walks forward, where the image of a man sitting on the floor with a guitar is. This is weird, he thinks, but he doesn't stop, continues walking till he's about the step on him.
Shige takes another step, and then he's falling.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Then he sees Red. Shige flinches, because Green doesn't quite get along with Red, an aggressive color by nature.
"What did you do to Yasu?" A loud voice says, and the room vibrates.
Shige focuses on being able to stand in the quake.
"I didn't do anything!"
He looks into himself, and notices that his Green is no longer the clean shade Ohkura helped him create. His old colors are coming out, and a hint of Blue is showing.
"That's my own color," Shige insists, hoping it is and that he hadn't stolen some of Yasu's color somehow in this place where anything seems to be able to happen, "I'm from Tokyo."
The room stops shaking, and a man appears. Shige can see the powerful Red coming from this man, wonders if this is the power source Yasu talked about. Then the Red colors swirl all at once and flash almost Black, and Shige knows it is.
"So it's you," the man says. "That guy from Tokyo. That's why I hate Tokyo, with people like you with all those multiple colors. Kato something. The one looking for Ryo."
"Kato Shigeaki," Shige says, "and I'd like to meet Nishikido, yes."
"You can't even say his name properly," the man says, "Why should I let you? Even if Ohkura liked you. Even if you figured out Yasu's puzzle." The man looks at Shige, dark eyes that seem to drill into him, "What are you willing to do?"
"Anything," Shige says automatically. He remembers that he did speak Nishikido's name, once. In the darkness of the night.
"Really?" The man laughs, "Even if I tore your color off you?"
"You can do that?" Shige asks. He's terrified, and even the fiery fire coming from the Red in the room doesn't seem touch the coldness of his fear.
"Not really," the man admits, "But Yasu can, with my help. We work together for things like this."
Like Osaka. But Shige doesn't say it out loud. He's always been good with color theory, at least in the normal terms he's used to. Things are different here, but he tries to theorize anyway. If Yasu is the one that cancelled the bonds between Osaka and Tokyo, and this man of Red assisted him, then the man must be an amplifier of some sort. But Red is a solitary color, so how does that happen?
"What do you want me to do, then?" Shige asks. "At least tell me your name."
"Don't see why you need it, but it's Subaru," the man replies, and Shige notices that the man didn't share his full name either. Is this caution, or is it simply an unwillingness to share? "Attack me."
"What?" Shige yelps, "I can't! I'm a traveler, and even if I try - what if I hurt you?"
"You won't be able to," Subaru says, "And even if you did manage, I can fix myself."
"Fix yoursel-" Shige stutters, "Only healers can do that!"
Subaru raises an eyebrow. It reminds Shige of Nishikido doing the same thing, wonders if they learned it from each other. "So?"
"You can't be a healer! You're...Red!"
Red is the color for the kind of people that want to get things done. Independent people who prefer doing things themselves, who attack or collect. Healers are usually Yellow or Green, sometimes Blue or Pink or even Purple, but never Red. It's common sense. And Shige can sense the hostility in every corner of this room, the alerting Red rejecting him in every way.
Red doesn't heal. It's simply not done.
"And close-minded too," Subaru says, "you people from Tokyo. You don't even know about colors, yet you're the ones who own more than one. It's disgusting."
"Our colors are fading," Shige says once more, wondering why else would they want to cut Tokyo off if they didn't know this.
"And stupid," Subaru says.
Shige doesn't know if he should retort that he has a degree in economics, even if it has nothing to do with colors. He searches inside him, reaches for his Green, wonders if he'd be able to do this. He can't attack, he has no experience and Green simply isn't for attacking, but if this is what he has to do for Subaru to let him pass, then he has to try.
He puts everything he has together and pushes it out. It rushes into the room, an aquatic Green mixing into the Red. For a second, Shige thinks it'd reach Subaru, thinks he'd succeeded, but a stream of cold rushes in, then Blue wraps around his Green until it's diminished completely.
"That was it," Shige explains tiredly, "my attack. I told you I can't do it."
"That can't be called an attack," Subaru replies, "It's an insult to the word. It wouldn't have reached me."
Even if what, the Blue hadn't appeared? Shige sighs, not understanding what he should do. Maybe he should go home now, let someone else come to Osaka once things had settled back in Tokyo. Maybe Yamashita himself, who knows Nishikido better and is a clean shade of Red. Or Masuda, whose Yellow is warm and strengthening.
"But you tried," Subaru continues, "and Ohkura likes you. I don't understand Green myself."
Shige looks up, wonders if this is Subaru raising his hopes up only to crush them, or if this is how Subaru truly thinks.
"And you promised Maru-chan. That's important, too."
"And you passed Yasu's judgment."
Shige looks up once more, debates to himself whether he should try begging or retain his pride.
"I really shouldn't be deciding this. It won't be important in the end, anyway. Hina said so himself."
He hasn't met Hina, yet. So that means this isn't the last test, there are more people beyond this room. He's met four people, and groups are usually made of five to seven. So, at least one more person, maybe even three.
Subaru sighs deeply, the room flexing with each breath he takes. "Yasu says I should just go with my instincts. What do you think?"
"I just want to ask Nishikido some questions," Shige says truthfully.
"Very well," Subaru says, and before Shige can reply, all the Red disappears at once, the room along with it.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Shige wonders if Subaru was in a hurry to get rid of him when he reaches the room of Purple.
For Purple, an elegant rich shade is usually expected, like Koyama's; although Shige does see it in this room, because, like with all the others, every shade of Purple he ever thought existed is in this room. But the main shade is almost Grey, which is another color (like White) that isn't really a color at all. Black is every color that ever existed, but Grey and White are in between no color and color.
Shige doesn't have to wait for the man to appear.
"You scared Subaru," is the first thing the man says.
"I scared him?" Shige asks, bewildered. Subaru had been ready to attack him, how is that a reaction to being scared? "He was the one who, he told me to attack, he talked and-"
"He hates strangers, but he talked to you for Ryo-chan," the man goes on in a loud voice, "Maru and Yasu are both trying their best to comfort him now."
All these guys seem to know Nishikido better than Shige does. "He told me to attack him!" Shige defends.
"Ha!" The man laughs openly, "That wasn't an attack at all."
"I know, no need to rub it in," Shige grumbles. These people have no mercy. Of course, they also haven't killed him yet, and there's still a chance of accomplishing his goal, so maybe that's not entirely true.
"So, Kato Shigeaki, right? I'm Murakami Shingo. Pleased to meet you."
Shige highly doubts the man's at all pleased to meet him, but his parents taught him to be polite. "Pleased to meet you."
Murakami snorts, "Yeah, right. Now that we've got that exchange out of the way." He takes a deep breath, "I really shouldn't let you pass."
"Ask me questions or make me do something, I don't care." Shige says, "But I've reached this point, I have to go on."
"I was the one who assembled the others. We knew someone would be coming, and we had to make sure they wouldn't endanger Ryo." Murakami laughs, "But other than that, it isn't me you should be worried about. I'm nothing."
Shige had known he would have to go through a lot of places to find Nishikido, but he hadn't anticipated a group of people half discouraging him yet half leading him on.
If this man had assembled the others, then he must be a manipulator or coordinator of some sort. That explains why Shige has been so calm since entering the room. He's always been in close contact with Koyama's coordinating Purple, and the difference in shade doesn't affect the familiarity.
"You can't be nothing if you assembled the other four," Shige looks around, "And I don't think I've seen your shade of Purple before. Your main one, I mean."
"A richer Purple would be too close to Red or Blue," Murakami says, "but it's not like I have a complaint. You get used to your own color."
Shige nods understandingly. He never thought much of his own color; it seemed so insignificant compared to the others, his job of walking from place to place secondary to what his friends do. But when he thought his color had somehow changed, all he could think of is how he could find himself back.
"I just needed to know you aren't a terrible person and you can stand your own ground. But if you go on, this next person, he's different."
"I've managed to convince four of your companions," Shige says.
"You can't convince him." Murakami replies, "He agrees with my method, but he prefers to judge by himself. You either pass or you don't, it'll be decided the moment you enter his domain."
"He judges within a moment?" Shige asks, then mentally hits his head against the wall for how stupid it makes him sounds.
Murakami doesn't seem to notice. "More or less."
If Murakami's trying to discourage Shige from continuing on, he's failing painfully. And not just because Shige still wants to talk to Nishikido, even if it's still his main purpose.
Shige likes a good challenge. He's also curious, and so far none of these people want to answer his questions. Nishikido might be allusive, Shige's still uncertain, and he thinks he should be angry yet he isn't. But he's come all this way. He won't let Nishikido run away again.
"Will he kill me if he doesn't like me?"
Murakami laughs. "You're interesting. I would have liked going out for a drink with you, I think. And no, he's not capable of murder. But he hits hard."
"I can take a hard hit. And I am capable of defending myself, even if I can't attack."
"If you insist," Murakami says. "One more question. What's the first thing you're going to do if you see Ryo?"
Shige wonders what he would do. His first thought is that he'd punch Nishikido, or slap him, but both sound too much like he's copying from some soap opera. And it probably wouldn't go well with Murakami, though with how much Murakami's laughed about this, maybe the guy would laugh if Shige did punch Nishikido.
Most likely, though, Shige would go straight for the answers he sought. He's always been straight forward, and it's troublesome trying to pretend to be going for something else when he already has a goal in mind.
Or maybe he should drop to his knees and beg for Nishikido to go back to Tokyo with him. He promised Maruyama that he wouldn't force Nishikido, but that doesn't mean he can't beg.
"I don't know," Shige finally answers, "But I'd like to find out."
The purple in the room begins to flicker. "You know, if you ever come by again, feel free to stay for a chat," Murakami says.
Shige nods politely, feeling intimidated by Murakami's loud voice and large gestures. Then everything around him fades to darkness.
For nearly a minute, Shige thinks he's free-falling, except he can't feel anything whipping by him. His body isn't feeling right either; he feels lighter instead of heavier and gravity isn't working against him.
It takes him a while to realize that gravity isn't working at all.
A distorted giggle floats closer. Shige shivers, unsettled by the lack of gravity, the darkness around him that refuses to brighten, and the creepy laughter on top of it.
Before him, a person appears, standing normally in an upside down position (or right side up, it's hard to tell without gravity).
"You like him!" The man cackles, pointing at Shige as though it's the funniest thing in the world.
"No I don't!" Shige cries, before realizing that he's not helping his own case by denying so fast. "Who, anyway?"
"Dokkun, of course!"
"He's got a poison tongue and he's Nishikido, right? So, Dokkun. But whoa, I totally didn't expect you to like him! This makes things so much better."
Shige feels like covering himself up even though he's fully clothed. Murakami said this man judged within a single moment. Does that mean he sees through people? Or does he base his deduction on color? Shige's color isn't much to judge upon.
And what does this man mean? Shige thinks Nishikido is a fairly attractive man, no point hiding that. He's easy to be with as well, when Shige isn't busy second guessing himself and wondering about Nishikido's motives. Shige willingly came to search for Nishikido, because he wants to know what the man's thinking and he thinks he deserves answers.
That doesn't mean Shige has to like Nishikido. Who left in the morning without a note.
"Who are you and what's your color, anyway? I can't see anything in this darkness," Shige says.
He should be polite and introduce himself, but these people seem to communicate through these rooms and enjoy talking about people behind their backs. Plus the man in front of him, who probably already knows his name, isn't an example for politeness either.
"I'm Yokoyama," the man begins laughing again, "and what are you talking about? This is my color."
Shige gasps. He should have guessed, but Black? Black is almost unseen, it's usually mentioned in textbooks with a single page and no more. It's called the perfect mixture of every color, though Shige personally thinks it's more like no color exists within the vast emptiness of the color that shouldn't be called a color.
There are more things to worry about, but the scholarly side of Shige demands attention.
"Did you do this, then? This... lack of gravity?"
A smile remains plastered on Yokoyama's face, but Shige feels the man withdraw. He panics -- he shouldn't have asked, not when Murakami already warned him.
"There's gravity from every other direction here so you won't feel the one from underneath. It's a masterpiece."
Yokoyama gives the impression of a child sharing his favorite toy, only to be rejected.
Shige searches for the word to identify this man. He created gravity, Shige hasn't heard of anything resembling it. Creator, he finally struggles to remember, except creators are the rarest of all. Instead of reaching for their own colors, they can branch out and create rainbows of their own.
"Oh my God, you're a creator," Shige points out.
That explains why Yokoyama decides whether Shige passes without second thought. On the short paragraph of text describing creators, it's said that they trust their instincts above all else.
"Yep," Yokoyama giggles, "don't you like my creation?"
It might be dangerous if Shige upsets the man. And it's the truth when Shige says, "It's fascinating."
Yokoyama laughs, "Say hello to Dokkun for me."
Shige doesn't have time to sigh with relief before he's whisked away, the wind clawing powerfully at his clothes and body.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
He waits for the person owning the color to appear, knowing that it'd happen sooner or later. But his eyes widen in surprise when he notices the man leaning against the wall, and he blinks several times to make sure he wasn't mistaken.
The man pushes himself off the wall and walks closer. From behavior to figure, there's no doubt it's Nishikido Ryo in this very room with him.
Shige wants to say something smart. Wants to punch the other man or hug him or touch him to make sure he's real, because Shige's gone through so many confusing things that this could be an illusion for all he knows.
"You're here," Shige begins, words spurting out without his acknowledgement "but, this room is Yellow, are you being held captive?"
"Of course not," Nishikido scoffs, "like that could happen. I thought you were smart, you figure it out."
It's just not the room that is Yellow. Shige can sense the source of radiance in Nishikido, bright and clear and not one bit mysterious
Colors aren't changed over a fortnight. The only known way people have their color changed is when they fall between the cracks, when your own color is ripped off and whatever you can gather becomes you. Except you won't be the same person anymore, and part of yourself dies with your color.
People don't find their way back in a night, though. And Nishikido doesn't look lost, doesn't look like someone trying to figure out who he is.
"But you can't be," Shige exclaims, "even if it's true, we all know you're Blue, we've seen your color, we've seen you use it!"
Nishikido shrugs, "I do have a spot of Blue, exactly the shade you're used to seeing. It darts around, so you might not be able to see it here."
Everything Shige knows seem to pile up on him. He accepted all the colors he's seen since he came here, from a warm Green to the healing Red. But if he also accepts that Nishikido's color isn't Blue, then what else is real? Next, people are going to tell him his color's actually Red, since it's the color of light that is absorbed when Green is shown.
And yet here, standing in front of the person who can only be Nishikido Ryo, Shige has no choice but to accept that it's Yellow he's sensing. And his reality cracks.
"So what we saw was just a speck of your color?" He laughs chokingly.
"Not exactly." Nishikido says, "Yasu helps me cancel out my Yellow, Ohkura and Subaru help me expand it so it becomes my entire color."
Shige remembers everyone Nishikido mentioned. Yasu would have no problem cancelling out any color, especially if he has Subaru's power behind his own. And Shige had personally felt how Ohkura expanded his Green so that it covered up the other colors, he only has to imagine it on a larger scale in Nishikido's case.
So it is betrayal, Shige thinks. Even more so than Yamashita thought, because Nishikido wasn't ever truly one of them. Not when he'd been deceiving them all along.
"So all this time we've seen you work, your team mates were behind it as well?" Shige asks, voice calmer than he feels, "And you willingly had your color cancelled for such a long time?"
"We wanted to know what was going on in Tokyo," Nishikido says as his full explanation.
"But why?" Shige retorts, volume rising, "I get the multiple color thing, but it's not like I would have figured out that you were working for someone else if you'd kept your own color!"
"You wouldn't, but your boss would have. I thought you knew that the database in your headquarters is sorted by color."
"My headquarters, huh?" Shige feels all his color return, his dirty, yellowish, beloved Green. Streams of his color are sneaking out of him, but Shige is beyond the point of caring about details. "You sure have protective team mates."
Shige thinks he sees Nishikido deflate, just a little.
"What do you want to say, Shige? Just say it, I'm tired of this."
"Tell me, then - do we mean nothing to you?" Words flowed out of him, fast as cutting, "Even if we never talked to each other, I thought we were a group, but that doesn't seem like the case. We trusted you. I trusted you! And Yamashita-kun, I thought you were friends!"
"We are... were," Nishikido says.
"So it wasn't all just part of your act?"
"Stop patronizing me," Nishikido grinds out, "I can't make this decision, alright? I can't. You, Yoko, Murakami...just, stop. It's not like we're enemies! And Uchi disappeared, did you know that? But it's like I'm the only one who cares and everyone else is focusing on me when it doesn't even matter!"
Shige swallows the protest he'd had ready. Uchi had been Nishikido's friend, they were as close as, well, Shige and Koyama. And if Uchi is also part of this group of people, that means they've been together all this time, on the same side with Shige on the other.
If Koyama had disappeared, Shige would be tearing himself apart searching for his best friend.
"Uchi asked me..." Shige begins tentatively, "...he asked me to tell you that he fell between the cracks. I sort of met him before he fell apart completely."
Nishikido's Yellow trembles, and Shige wonders what would happen to this room if Nishikido's color failed.
"I figured, but... thanks."
The Yellow continues to flicker. Shige watches it for a while, trying to keep his attention from Nishikido. He's also deadly tired, his limbs weighing him down and his legs ready to give out at any minute, but Shige can't bring himself to sit on the floor when Nishikido still stands in front of him.
"But why the two of you?"
"Why not?" Nishikido says, stuffing his hands into his pockets.
"Uchi's a connector. He had to be there if you wanted to remain in contact with your friends," Shige says, "But you?"
"You really are dumb, aren't you." A small smile appears on Nishikido's face, the first one Shige's seen today, "Can't you even tell when someone's similar to you?"
Shige reaches out slightly, finally allows his Green to truly touch the Yellow flooding this room, and he understands.
"You're a traveler?"
"I don't see why you're surprised," Nishikido counters.
"Why what?" Nishikido snaps back.
"Why do all this?" Shige asks.
Nishikido snorts, "It's kind of hilarious that you all think your colors are fading, when the truth is you're just gaining White."
"White isn't a color!" Shige shoots back automatically.
"Maybe not, unless you're using the color of lights. Then, every color added together makes White instead of Black," Nishikido says, "You Tokyo people were never like us."
"...But, I've been losing control over my color over the years!"
He looks into his own color, and sure enough, he doesn't see an inkling of a color he doesn't recognize. His color is the same as always, threatening to abandon him at any time.
"That's 'cause you're too stupid for it," Nishikido says, breaking Shige's thought process. "With your limited viewpoint, you didn't even know what you have."
"So that's the only reason? Because we're somehow - I'm still not sure I believe you yet - gaining White?"
"That, and the chances of multiple colored people are increasing. We don't mind the differences, usually, and you're powerful in your own way. But we like the bright colors we're in, and we're afraid of being affected. The others are, anyway. Frankly, I don't care all that much."
"But you still came back here," Shige points out.
"This is home," Nishikido replies.
"So Tokyo wasn't?"
Nishikido doesn't answer immediately. When he does, his voice is soft, almost wistful. "In some ways, maybe it was. But this place is my hometown."
"Then that last night." Nishikido looks at him in alert, his color circling attentively. But Shige doesn't waver, because ultimately, this is the question he wanted to ask. "Was it just because you were bored? Or was it because you thought we weren't going to meet again?"
"That." Nishikido looks past him, at the empty wall of Yellow behind Shige, "And I was drunk, which probably isn't a good excuse, but it's pretty true."
Shige barks a laugh. "To think I ever thought I was attracted to you, you bastard."
"You think I wasn't?"
One last night in Tokyo. Nishikido must have thought he was attractive, to some extent anyway. They were both bored, grown men, Nishikido had no other late night conquest and chose him. They got drunk, things went the way Nishikido anticipated, Osaka disappeared, and nothing should have followed.
Except Shige followed Nishikido all this way to Osaka. Which now felt the dumbest thing Shige has ever done in his life, and he's done some pretty stupid things. But nothing else ever made him seem like some desperate girl who sticks to any guy who'll sleep with them.
And Shige can feel his cheeks burning, knows his face must be as Red as his skin allows.
"So that's all it was, then?"
Nishikido takes a step back. "You aren't in love with me, are you?"
"Of course not," Shige laughs, because it just isn't possible, falling in love with someone like Nishikido.
"Well then, what are you dwelling on?"
"I think I might have liked you, dammit." Shige sighs, "But I'm also thinking that the person I came to like and the person I see right now aren't the same at all."
Nishikido has no other response, and Shige doesn't have anything to say. They sink into silence, in a room held up by Nishikido's vibrant Yellow. They were never equals, but just this fact proves how far away Nishikido is.
Shige sits down on the floor in defeat. He's tired, and his shivering legs refuse to carry him any further. Nishikido seems to view it as some sort of invitation (even if this is his domain) and sits down as well. The ground is steady, for now.
And some things were the same. Like how no one back home would know what Shige says here, and how he could say or do anything here and it wouldn't matter, because Shige would never meet Nishikido again. Nishikido's group members might also hear them, but it's not like Shige knows them, except as names and colors on a place that tore itself away from Tokyo.
His mother always said that Shige's biggest weakness was letting his emotions take over. Like when he excelled at color theory, but decided to be a traveler anyway because his color told him to.
Nishikido looks at him in surprise. Shige laughs inwardly in delight at how flustered Nishikido appears to be.
"You said I could call you by name, that night. You haven't taken it back yet."
"I, I wasn't..." Nishikido stutters.
Shige cuts in. "If you just wanted a good lay, you could have asked. It would have been easier than buying all that beer. Cheaper, too." Shige think he's had enough of being treated like a cheap lay, the least he can do is do the same in return. "It's not like I have to be drunk to accept an offer from you, you know?"
It's that sentence that finally breaks Nishikido's stoic posture.
"I didn't plan it! I only, all I wanted..."
"Seems like a plan to me," Shige says.
"I just wanted to spend some time with you!" Nishikido bursts out, "It's not like you ever paid attention to me. What else could I have done? I thought it'd be easier for you to accept a few beers and a stupid movie. But then things got out of hand and tell me, how could I have refused when it could have been my last chance to get what I wanted anyway?"
Shige blinks. Nishikido hugs his knees and rests his head on them, closing his eyes.
"You had to hear that, didn't you," Nishikido murmurs, voice mumbled by his jeans, "at least say something. Or leave."
Nishikido is never weak, never soft. Nishikido is the background leader of their group, the one that whips everyone to work even when their color still jumbles against each others.
The man in front of him, exhausted as though he had nothing else to lose, this isn't the Nishikido Shige usually sees. This is Nishikido Ryo, who is rumored to fall asleep on anyone's willing lap. And Shige thinks he also sees Ryo, who gave everything he had for a group of people he loved, who had just lost a friend and couldn't bear to lose anything else.
"Would you object if I kissed you again?" Shige wonders aloud, letting his instincts guide him.
"Here?" Nishikido retorts, looking up with an eyebrow raised.
He looks much more like the man Shige had thought he knew.
Shige thinks about Nishikido's group mates, who could be watching this minute. "Well," he says, "maybe not here. But the offer still stands."
Nishikido cracks a small smile, "No, I wouldn't object."
"If we go further?"
"Who's planning this time?" Nishikido smirks, an expression Shige is much more familiar with.
"I was just asking," Shige says. "I must be insane, because I actually think I still sort of like you. Which might be the most idiotic thing I ever did, but you keep saying I'm stupid anyway, so it probably isn't that much of a surprise to you."
"You're not stupid," Nishikido murmurs, but Shige catches the words and grins. Nishikido says in a much louder voice, "It doesn't matter, I'm here, now. And you're going back."
"But you can always come back. I came here, didn't I?" Shige says, "It's possible the other way around too, with help. And... you're a traveler."
"It's different!" Nishikido protests, "I wasn't, not entirely me, and now there's no need to pretend anymore and I can't, and look at you! This is how you react! Do you think the others would be any different?"
"...But I think I can accept it, now."
Shige realizes that he's telling the truth. His fading color, the White everyone in Osaka seems to be talking about, the spots of Yellow and Orange and Blue in his Green. It seems natural to Shige now, and as he thinks of the possibilities, it's better than simple acceptance.
"Right. That's 'cause you're stupid. And Koyama might be as stupid as you are, but the others aren't."
"You spent a lot of time with Yamapi, surely you know he would never turn you away. And Tegoshi's the same, he's stubborn and strict with himself, but he's always been accepting. And Massu," Shige smiles, "He's Massu, surely you don't think he'll turn against you?"
"You're an idiot," Nishikido accuses.
"And you're saying that because I make sense," Shige says.
Nishikido glares, "I refuse to pretend."
"Then be your Yellow with a spot of Blue. You don't even need to work with us if you're busy doing whatever you do here. I'm still trying to process what you said about White, and I'm not sure I can express to the others what I felt here, but it's a place to start. Bringing Tokyo together, or bringing White into the world, I don't know. But I think I can do it, and if you'd like you can watch us try."
"Only because it'd be funny watching you fumbling around."
Shige laughs, "If you say so."
"And only at times! We're planning to fill a large caravan sometime soon and I'll be busy."
It's not news to Shige. This group of people had had people undercover in Tokyo of all places for three years. They could cut off the ties between Tokyo and Osaka in the middle of the night, Shige doesn't expect them to be idle.
"I know that."
"Gah," Nishikido says, "You probably aren't used to sorting colors with emotions, it's more of a thing people do in Osaka, but your shade of Green, did Ohkura ever tell you how it's such a color of envy?"
"You know it's true," Nishikido points.
Shige tries to pout, knowing he must look more like he swallowed something terrible. "You're merciless, you know that?"
"Shut up. I'm coming back with you, what else do you want?"
Shige searches Nishikido's eyes, wondering if the other man is joking, but aside from the twinkle in his eyes Nishikido looks completely serious. Shige lets a smile spread across his face, thinks he feels more Yellow in him than he ever felt but not caring.
"The others would be so pissed," Nishikido laughs.
"Will you be in trouble?" Shige asks.
"What, no!" Nishikido replies spiritedly, "They wouldn't dare."
Shige sighs. He doesn't try to pry. The Nishikido he met in Tokyo doesn't let things go any way he doesn't approve of, it's not surprising that he's the same here.
Shige explains that Koyama's waiting for him with a gate, says he has to get back before night falls and wonders inwardly if Nishikido would follow him now or come later. But Nishikido stands up, brushing his jeans off even if the floor is spotlessly clean as far as Shige can see. He can tell Nishikido is nervous from the way he shoves his hands into his pockets and fidgets, but Nishikido seems determined to go through with his decision.
"Are you alright?" Shige asks.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Nishikido replies curtly, staring at nothing once more.
Shige recalls all the reasons why Nishikido might be bothered, and thinks it would be normal for Nishikido to be troubled.
One reason comes to mind more so than the others.
"...Uchi," Shige says.
"He'll be back," Nishikido says, the saturation of his Yellow dropping. "Where's that door of Koyama's? Lead the way."
• • •
• • •
• • •
• • •
• • •
• • •
They greet Ohkura as they leave, and from the way Ohkura grins at them, Shige has no doubt that the others heard everything they said. Nishikido doesn't seem bothered, but Shige feels uncomfortably watched.
They reach the place Shige came from, and Shige lets his Green surge forward, concentrates on showing Nishikido's friends that he isn't entirely useless, that he does know what he's doing.
A doorway opens, and Shige steps forward. Nishikido follows from behind him, but Shige notices the tremble in his steps.
"We can figure things out along the way," Shige says.
Shige's almost afraid they'll see Uchi, but there's nothing in the vast emptiness of in between. They're halfway there, Shige can already see the doorway that would lead to Tokyo, when he suddenly remembers a name he heard that didn't have a face to match.
"Who's Hina?" he asks.
"The larger gorilla," Nishikido replies, face still looking down.
"Huh?" Shige almost stops in his steps in confusion, but remembers where they are and continue walking forward steadily. What gorilla?
"Nasu," Nishikido grunts.
"God, you're stupid," Nishikido says laughingly.
Shige swears that he hears the smile in Nishikido's voice. It makes him feels better, just slightly. It still feels wrong being insulted for something he couldn't have known.
"Eggplant color." Nishikido adds, "Purple."
"Oh." That must be Murakami, then. It doesn't explain why the man's called Hina, but Shige doesn't try to ask. Instead, there's something more gripping, "There's a smaller gorilla?"