He leaves without telling anyone. Half a year becomes a year, then more, and he gets acquainted with bullet trains, other dialects, the fresh air that reminds him he isn't in Tokyo. It's sixteen months later when he returns, hands in his pockets. No new possessions, aside from two USB's, a few calling cards, that cute health charm he picked up from a random temple. The return is not earlier than he expects, but he has his reasons. Which explains his irritation whenever somebody feels the need to tell him the news. Whenever he has to repeat himself: I already know. I already know.
Who the hell do they think he is?
Russia Sushi got a new paint job. He comments on this as he eases into a seat behind the counter, inspecting the menu in order to shield himself from Simon, who drifts near. Forebodingly. Izaya looks up, breaking into his best grin.
"What happened to cheese sushi? I liked that cheese sushi."
"We phased it out." Simon opens his mouth, shuts it. Izaya ignores this.
"I should have ordered it more when it was available, then."
Simon responds in Russian, which is always bad news. "You know what they say, Izaya. You never know what you have until you lose it."
Izaya puts away the menu and curses sincerity. He stares at Simon's hands, because it would kill him to see Simon's eyes brimming with tears. It would be like looking at a carved stone weeping, and he might laugh, and that would be terribly rude. Contrary to popular belief, Izaya knows his manners.
"Sorry, Simon, but I don't feel like proverbs with my food today." He replies in Japanese, tone bright. Feather-light. "I'll have two tamago sushi, please!"
Kida visits alone, because Saki is staying with some relatives out of town. That's the excuse he comes up with, anyway, peeling his hood back from his forehead. The way he's panting means he ran to be here, and Izaya scrutinizes him: a year older, still easy to read, still filled with good intentions.
"When did you – you never said –" he seems to realize how stupid he sounds, desperate and breathless like a schoolgirl. He settles for silently staring instead, cool as the leader he can sometimes be, and crosses his arms. Izaya knows the accusation well, and has his answer ready.
"I still posted on the message boards every now and then, didn't I?"
"Not – not enough," Kida answers, torn between angry and exasperated. He finally comes up with, "Ramen?"
This is not the first time Izaya has thought of Kida as an annoying disciple. He's more inquisitive (and more interesting, in a way) than Saki. But he's not quite so good at silence, at the I-know-nothing-face. He's too obvious. Too raw. He even sometimes acts like he's worried, or something, and that is wrong on every level Izaya can think of.
He runs into Celty at the grocery, turning the corner between Coffee/Milk/Tea and Biscuits/Crackers/Cookies.
"Well, well. The domestic fairytale. Or should I say domesticated?" He stares down at her basket half-full of ingredients for what he assume is a nabe hotpot. Celty takes a moment to compose herself, but she's always been faster at recovering. Quicker on the uptake. She pulls out her mobile and begins tapping furiously. She shoves it within an inch of his nose. "Where the hell were you?"
Ruthless as ever. Izaya likes that. "Around. I would never have guessed even the lovely dullahan would miss me."
Celty pauses. It's his own reflection that scrutinizes him from the clear black visor of her helmet. He still has her head in his office safe. He wonders how much she actually still cares, whether he does; if telling her would even elicit some sort of reaction. He turns to grab a carton of milk while she keys in her next phrase. She holds up her mobile again, this time at a respectful distance.
"I think sometimes you forget. I'm still the only one who's invincible."
Shinra sends him an instant message later. Want to come over? Celty's making nabe.
Izaya rolls his eyes. So I guessed.
Buzz. I need help writing a eulogy.
Izaya considers, briefly, typing fuck off. He settles for a laughing face, and promptly logs out.
Namie's key card still works, apparently. She enters with a bang, masterfully carrying a big box, which seems to be overflowing with papers. She's wearing a labcoat again, he notices with some amusement. It probably wasn't very difficult for her to find work, as soon as he left, even without the generous cut-off compensation he gave her. Being on top really does suit her best.
"This is terribly amusing," he concedes.
"Some leftover files," she deadpans. "They were eating up space in my office. I've arranged them for you." She slaps the pile onto his desk and regards him for a moment. "Well, that's surprising," she says at last.
"Your face." She shakes her head.
She opens her mouth, raises one finger, and he gets terrible twinges of victory from her, of something she'd long wanted, waited for. Ah-ah-ah, he thinks. He's not going to let her have it. He's never going to let her have it. But then her forehead crinkles, and she loses her resolve. Scowls, instead. "You never change, do you, Orihara Izaya?"
He shrugs, like the pronouncement pleases him.
"Forget it." She spins around and marches out the door.
There's a lot to catch up on in this city, so there are some conversations even Izaya does not overhear.
"Izaya-kun is back," Erika says. Walker nods his head emphatically.
Togusa, who has half a piece of gyoza in his mouth, looks up. "Really?"
Kadota sips his tea and says nothing, so Erika continues: "It's not a good idea to ask him about it, right? I mean. I'm curious, but that might make him sad. And I know it would make Simon sad, and you too, right, Dotachin?"
"Yeah," Kadota answers. "It would." It's all very strange, he thinks. He motions to the waitress for another cup of tea.
"Hey, you're sad, right? You were always their fangirl." Walker pokes Erika on the cheek. She leans her head on his shoulder, wistfully, and that's enough of a reply.
So what did it? What, finally, when nothing else could? That's the only thing he wants to know, the only thing he'll admit he doesn't know. He suspects, with some degree of horror, that there is probably no one who has the answer. One mystery he can't solve, one loose piece in the jigsaw. It's not the most important one, but it's the one he finds himself thinking most about, lying awake and squeezing his thumb and pointer finger in front of his eyes, like it might somehow materialize there.
He ends up in a heavily air-conditioned office, in a meticulously designed lounge chair, being served cold lemonade. He's freezing enough without the drink, so he inspects the posters on the walls instead. Four more in the time he had been gone, three of them title roles. The boy that finally enters the room looks exactly the way he does in the magazines: pale, reedthin. Well-groomed. Tinier than one would expect, with a face like a blank wall. Izaya realizes this might be tougher than he thought. It's not often he decides to go to a direct source.
"It's nice to meet you, Mr. Hanajima."
"That's Heiwajima," the boy answers serenely. He stares at Izaya as he moves across the room. The stare is more impressive than Izaya imagined it would be: perfectly spot-on, chill with unfeeling. Izaya is reminded, powerfully, just how much he loves humans. It's his excitement, rather than the cold, that makes him shiver, as he contemplates what it would be like to see this boy cry – not the way he does in his movies. The way he does alone in a room. In front of a mirror. Hands up against his eyes. Maybe the way he never does, when it isn't for the cameras. He can believe that.
The boy takes his seat across Izaya. "I have nothing to say to you, Mr. Orihara."
Izaya does not hiss through his teeth. Doesn't give a low whistle. Just stares, and Kasuka, unflinching, utterly impassive, stares back.
Izaya doesn't go to the funeral. It's a rainy day. He decides it's too much trouble, to stand in the mud, listen to the precious few sniffles. Instead, he walks over to Raira Academy, and watches the way the rain stains the walls of the buildings. He looks at the gates, the parts where the wire's all messed up, ripped through. Looks at anything bent, anything wrong. That lamp, banged up so it resembles an old lady with a crooked hip. That telephone booth that looks severely misplaced. They're all over the city, he realizes. Next to the train station, the souvenir shop, the night club. Anything that could never be hefted by human hands; cigarette smoke; someone in black and white.
It's deceptively familiar, but this is not the Ikebukuro he knows.
He finds himself halting in front of a vending machine. Trying to recall what it feels like. How his ribs could have ever survived such an impact. How he liked to laugh about it afterwards.
"What the hell," he tells himself, smiling at the selection. He pushes 120 yen into the machine. Picks up the iced coffee that rolls down, and walks away.