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Long Road to North

Chapter Text

May all beings attain enlightenment soon!

Komaeda stared at the slip of paper in his hand when he exited the Chinese restaurant. He liked buying a fortune cookie whenever he ate there, but the fortunes usually made more sense than this. Most of the time they were something simple – once he had gotten one telling he’d meet trouble at work; that day he had had a particularly difficult customer. Once one told him to stay on the sidewalks and leave the car behind; he decided to walk home that day and he ended up slipping on ice and had broken his arm.

So he had always had a two-way relationship with these predictions. Either they were spot-on, or the exact opposite would happen. That was what his luck amounted for in the end, he had always presumed.

But this one he couldn’t even decipher properly, couldn’t really get the meaning.

May… It was more like a wish, or a prayer. It wasn’t anything concrete. He pushed the piece of paper into his pocket when he reached his car. Komaeda immediately checked the time. 3:15pm. He had finished his work early today thanks to skipping his lunch break, and he could freely head home now. As he started the car, he remembered his phone had been acting up for a month now.

He should do something about that, he presumed and decided to head for the electronics shop he frequented at. Most likely they would tell him to just buy a new one at this point, and honestly he might be ready to agree with them.

… all beings… The fortune came to haunt him as he drove. If it said specifically all beings and not everyone, it most likely included animals as well, and everything alive in this planet. After all, humans weren’t the only beings on this planet. It was an interesting choice of words, at least.

He stopped at a red light and looked outside. People were walking the streets donned in warm jackets, preparing for the coming winter. The weather report had promised snow by the end of this week.

Komaeda partly wished the snow wouldn’t come yet. It made the roads hard to drive, and it made him remember some stuff he’d rather bury behind. The light turned green and he forgot all about the people outside.

… attain enlightenment… There were many things that could mean. It could mean that all beings would come to a life-changing realization, or it could mean that all beings were going to…

Die.

At least, some believed that true enlightenment would be obtained only by death. If that were the truth, Komaeda wasn’t going to take a stand on that but… It would be interesting if it was. He hadn’t ever been too attached to life, anyway. For a long time he had hoped that something would happen, something interesting, something bad that would perhaps break down his whole world and then to see the light blossom in the middle of the darkness…

And he had had hope his luck would bring something like that his way. That he would obtain some meaning to his life, that this rollercoaster of luck would have brought something to do with his life. But eventually, his hopes had dimmed into the back of his mind, lurking there, waiting for a chance to resurface, only to remind him of the cruel reality that nothing amazing was going to happen. When he had turned 18, he had finally gotten himself a job and moved away from the orphanage.

Now, at the age of 22, he was your typical working adult with a weird cycle of good and bad luck. The most boring outcome of them all. He had even gotten himself a girlfriend from the office, to maintain the picture of normal life. He rarely met with her outside of work, however. She was a boring, normal person and he’d rather not have her grow too attached to him.

… soon! If he were going by the theory that attaining enlightenment meant death, then maybe this tiny slip of paper was trying to tell him the end of the world was about to be here. Or at least, it hoped it would be.

Komaeda couldn’t help but agree with this slip of paper. The end of the world would be perfect.

The lights turned green right as he drove to them, and he was about to leisurely pass them when suddenly a person stumbled onto the road, right in front of his car. He slammed the brakes, hoping that the car would be able to stop in time. He briefly wondered whether this would be the moment he was going to attain his enlightenment as the back of the car began to slide, and his heart was beating at a fast pace, the way it had beaten years back when his parents had died.

His car however stopped before anything bad managed to happen, and his heartbeat slowly quieted down. As soon as he managed to gather his thoughts, he tried to open the door to check on the person who had stumbled into his way. But as he put his hand on the handle, the passenger’s door on the other side of the car opened. He recognized the man climbing in as the same blur of person who he apparently had managed to dodge.

“Hello there. Are you alright?” Komaeda asked as the man climbing in closed the door behind him. That was when he noticed the knife in his other hand, and excitement filled his thoughts right away, quickening his heartbeat again.

“Give me your phone, then drive.” The other just said as he pointed the knife towards him, low enough that it couldn’t be seen from outside. Not that there was anyone right now, Komaeda had chosen the less populated way in the first place. For a moment he wondered what would happen if he refused; the thought exciting him even further, but he deemed it more interesting to see where this was going.

So he took his phone from his pocket and handed it to the intruder. Now that he took a better look at him, he noticed his clothes were all too big on him and didn’t… seem to suit him at all. It was highly possible they had been stolen from someone. The messy brown hair was dirty and the olive green eyes glared at him.

A smile found way into his lips, and Komaeda had to do everything he could to not hum as he began to drive. For a moment silence filled the car, the young man on the next seat was eyeing Komaeda with suspicion, like he couldn’t believe it would be this easy. But no matter what, the white-haired man wasn’t about to struggle. He was outright overjoyed right now; resisting was the last thought in his mind.

“Where will we go?” Komaeda asked instead as the next intersection approached. The stranger didn’t say anything, instead he just stared until they passed by the lights. “It’s alright if you don’t have a clear plan yet, but it would be easier if you had some place you wanted to go. You took my phone so I can’t go to my original destination and get it fixed.”

“It’s broken?” The stranger said, bewildered as he took another look at the phone.

“Just acting up. It still works.” Komaeda answered lightly, cheerful even, now that he got the other to say something. The stranger was silent again for a while, and they managed to pass yet another intersection before he parted his lips again.

“Your house.”

“Alright.” The roads were still devoid of other cars, so Komaeda made a U-turn without warning. The stranger clutched on the door in terror, and Komaeda flashed a calm smile at him. “You should put your seatbelt on, for your own safety.”


 

“My house is that way.” Komaeda said as he stepped out of the car. The stranger ran around the car quickly and soon Komaeda felt the tip of the knife tingling on his back. Instead of terror, he felt comfort at the touch and he tentatively started to walk towards his house, the other man stalking close behind.

Now that they were out of the car, Komaeda could notice that the stranger was just slightly shorter than him. His clothes would probably fit the stranger just fine.

He realized they must look strange the way they were, the stranger walking right behind him, trying to conceal the knife. It would be problematic if someone saw them and called the police.

“We look mighty suspicious like this.” He said, keeping his voice as calm and gentle as he could to try and make this stranger trust in him, “I will not run away.” He added, and for a moment the knife lingered slightly farther away from his back, and when he was just about to think he had succeeded, the knife returned to his back even more closely than before. Komaeda was almost certain it was already piercing his jacket, and he just accepted it. It was understandable. Trust was hard to build, and few words weren’t going to cut it. He nodded to himself as an agreement to his thoughts and continued walking.

When they were closing to his house – it was the old house of his parents, one he had inherited after becoming an adult – he slowly dug the keys out of his pocket, feeling the knife shifting against his back. The stranger’s hands were probably shaking. It had become quite obvious that he wasn’t certainly used to this and that he didn’t have a clear idea in his head what he was trying to achieve.

That was okay with Komaeda, though. He was ready to wait for this person to come into conclusion on what he wanted to do, and then go along with whatever he desired.

This was a possibility to make everything matter.

As soon as he opened the door, the other pushed him in with his free hand and slammed the door shut behind them. He backed away to the door and when he reached it, he slowly slid down against it to sit on the ground. Komaeda stood there for a while and just looked at this stranger, before starting to take his shoes off.

“Do you want something to eat?”

The stranger stared at him, the same suspicious look still donning his face. Komaeda tilted his head to get some reaction out when enough time passed in silence, and eventually the stranger nodded and climbed up from the floor, holding the knife out again.

“I have left-over pizza in the fridge, if that’s okay with you.” Komaeda explained as he carefully walked towards the kitchen. The stranger’s eyes were darting around in the room, as he studied his surroundings carefully.

“Piz…za?” He said hesitantly in answer.

“It’s from yesterday, don’t worry.“

“… Yeah.” The stranger muttered as they walked into the kitchen. Komaeda opened the fridge-door and took out the pizza box. But before he could place it on a plate and put it into microwave as he had been planning to, the stranger snatched the pizza and began to eat it cold. The white-haired man stared for a while, leaning against the counter.

“It’d taste better warm, I’m just saying.” He said eventually. He reached his hand into his pocket to check the time from his phone, only to remember it had been taken. The stranger shot a glare at him and continued eating. Komaeda sighed and turned around to take a glass from the shelf. But as soon as he turned his back, he felt the tip of the knife on his back.

“W-What are you doing?!” The stranger said loudly, his voice trembling.

“Are you not thirsty?” Komaeda just asked without getting bewildered. A silence filled the room for a moment, but eventually the tip of the knife left his back and he took out two glasses like he had originally planned to. As he turned on the tap and let the water run, he could hear the stranger munching on the pizza hungrily. As he began to fill the glasses, he wondered when would be the best timing to actually ask where this stranger had come from and what were his plans for now. He turned around to offer the glass of water to his guest.

“My name is Komaeda Nagito. I understand this might be hard to believe, but I’m ready to go along with whatever you’re planning on doing.” He said as the stranger took the glass from his hands, only to be answered with yet another suspecting look. Instead of being thrown back, he took a sip of the water himself and smiled, “Would you like to have more fitting clothing? I’m sure my clothes would fit you just well.”

“You don’t know me.”

“You’re right, I don’t. Like in the same way you don’t know me either.” Komaeda said and poured the rest of the water into the sink, “I’m your regular office-worker, who is utterly bored with his life and has been hoping for something different to happen. To put it simply, right now I’m excited. You’re like a dream come true.” He continued explaining, and when he turned around to look at the stranger, he wasn’t surprised to see a look of disbelief.

“… You’re creepy.”

“I’m afraid that is something I can’t change, but I hope you will allow me to assist you nevertheless. I have the car, I have way more than enough money for whatever you need and I want to get rid of my current way of life, if just possible.” Komaeda said, his lips wearing a smile filled with delight as he walked closer to the stranger and reached his right hand towards him. “I do understand if you’re unenthusiastic about my offer and would rather find someone else, but I am willing to do anything to change your mind. Would you let me help you?”

The brown-haired man looked from Komaeda’s extended hand to his face, clearly feeling conflicted.

After a silence had stood between them for almost a minute, instead of meeting another hand Komaeda realized he was holding the piece of pizza in his hand. This managed to throw even him into a slight confusion for a moment.

“You said it’d taste better warm.” The other said circumspectly.

“… I did. I’ll warm it up, then.” Komaeda said as he turned around to take the plate from the cabinet. As he put the pizza on the plate and opened the microwave door, the other moved next to him and put his knife on the table.

“If you’re willing to help me, then I suppose I will use you until I don’t need you anymore. For now, you can call me Hinata.” He said and leaned against the counter. “The most important things are that I remain hidden, and get far away from here. No one can know where I am.” He added and Komaeda nodded, barely able to hide his bubbling excitement. He set the minutes on the microwave and turned to look at Hinata.

“Alright, then how about we leave tonight? You eat and change clothes, and I’ll pack all the necessities.“ Komaeda proposed. The humming of the microwave filled the room as Hinata seemed to consider his idea.

“Let’s do that. Get me some better clothes while I eat.”

“Yeah. But before anything, I need my phone for a moment.”

“… Why?” Hinata was immediately on his toes, the suspicion returning quick into his eyes. Komaeda flashed a reassuring smile as he offered his hand.

“I just need to call my superior and drop out of work. People will start to look for me if I just disappear.” He explained and the microwave began to beep loudly. Hinata looked at him for a moment as they listened to the beeping, until he seemed to come into a decision and dug the phone out of his pocket, giving it back.

“Call now, while I’m listening.” He ordered, and Komaeda just nodded and dialed the correct number. He half-expected the other to take the knife again and point it at him, but Hinata just put his hand on the knife and waited. In a sense, it felt even more pressuring and the white-haired man felt his body shudder with delight. The familiar beeping greeted him on the phone, amusing him for the few seconds before his boss picked up. She had always been quick to answer her calls.

Chief Kirigiri from the Kyoto sales department of Togami Corporation.” She introduced herself as calmly as always.

“Komaeda here. This might come out of nowhere, but I need to resign.”

Quit? I’m not sure I get what you mean. You can’t possibly mean you will leave the company?” Her tone was sharp, and if you didn’t know her you wouldn’t even notice the brief confusion in her voice.

“Yeah, there’s been an emergency…” Komaeda said carefully, and Hinata flinched and twirled his fingers around the knife’s hilt, prepared to hit him. While he wanted to keep this game going, play with his life a little, he decided to stop kidding around. “The headman at the orphanage I came from has collapsed, and they are in dire need of help right now. While it’s regrettable that this came so suddenly, I hope you can understand that I need to go back.”

I do understand the need, but there is no reason for you to quit completely. We can find you a spare for as long as needed. If you just keep informing us regularly, I’m sure we can work on an arrangement…

“Sorry. But I think I want to take this chance and just quit completely.” Komaeda interrupted her calm explanation. The other man in the room had settled down now, and was eating the warmed-up pizza. “I thought I’d use my savings a bit and see the world. Who knows, I might return someday but it won’t most definitely be anytime soon. I did say this might happen when you hired me, didn’t I?”

… You did. I somehow hoped that day wouldn’t ever come.” She heaved a heavy sigh, before going on. “If you’re absolutely sure, then I need you to submit a resignation letter. I would ask it for tomorrow normally but you’re probably in a hurry. Drop it off by the office before you leave, I’ll be working here until late night again.

“Thank you. I appreciate this. I enjoyed working under you.” Komaeda said as a formality, and they bid their farewells. After ending the phone call, he turned to Hinata and flashed a smile. “Do you want to break this phone?”

“… No, I’d rather keep it. Just… Just in case.” Hinata said with a frown and snatched the phone from Komaeda’s hand. “Get me those clothes. I also want to borrow your shower.”


 

The muffled sound of the shower echoed through the house. Komaeda finished writing his letter of resignation and placed the pen on the table. He had packed up all he needed – which wasn’t much, as he had found out. It was mostly clothing and everything he needed for hygiene. He even packed one of his spare toothbrushes for Hinata. Overall, they all fit into one bag. If they ever ran out of anything, they could just buy it.

The silence in the room greeted him now that he didn’t have anything to do, and he decided to turn on the TV to check the newscast for the weather. The temperature was dropping a bit every day, and the snow was still expected to be there by Sunday. So nothing had changed. He left the TV on when he still heard the shower running, and settled down on his couch. Soon he was going to leave this place. Maybe for good. He might not ever return to this couch, settle down into the corner of it with snacks.

What a joyful option.

Suddenly a familiar face appeared on the TV screen, and Komaeda leaned forward.

The local police are currently on the lookout, and they say it is highly unlikely this man has left the Kyoto Prefecture. They advise the locals to not approach him carelessly, as he has a history of being mentally unstable. Instead report all sightings immediately to…” Suddenly the sound of shower disappeared, and Komaeda immediately turned the TV off. It would be better if he pretended not knowing anything, and waited for Hinata to tell this stuff first. Otherwise he might just decide that Komaeda knew too much of him too early, and just take and leave.

The white-haired man sunk to the sofa and stared into the ceiling. All his nerves felt like they were still tingling from the thrill of this situation.