The Letter, Part One
[Battery: 67% | Time: 7:38 PM]
From: Kise Ryota
To: Kagami Taiga
Subject: I hope this finds you well
I know this is long overdue, but better late than never, right? You’re probably really mad at me and I’m sure you have a lot of questions. I don’t know how many answers I have for you, though. Sorry for not responding to those emails you sent. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t. I think this is going to be long and I’ve never written anything like this before, so bear with me; you used to be a pro at that...
I left without a plan. That was one of the stupidest things I've ever done. I'm sure you can probably think of plenty that might beat that, but for me, that was it. When I first left, I didn't even go that far, just to the end of a train line. I figured, once I got there, I could chart the rest of my course. When I got there, I holed up in this place that was straight out of a 70s film, but everything was brand new. But not? I guess it was the lighting, because even I looked old under it. 0/10, would not recommend. It only took a day and a half for me to realize that I wasn't far away enough. It was so easy to go back and I just couldn't risk that, so I hopped a plane and 12 hours later I landed, then I hopped another one and I've been here ever since. Don't mind about where here is.
After, Part One
A day like any other. Aomine and Kuroko stopped by Kagami's place for a late lunch. With their appetites sated, Aomine and Kagami savored their satisfaction as they teetered between full belly stupor and food coma. Kuroko watched over them in between scenes of that day's reading choice.
"Kagami-kun, wake up. You're phone is ringing." Kuroko tapped purposefully on Kagami's knee with his foot.
Kagami wasn't actually sleep, but he felt like it. He opened and closed his eyes a few times attempting to focus, but not quite managing to. He leaned over toward the left arm of the sofa and slipped his hand in his back pocket to retrieve his phone. He looked at the quiet slate and then at Kuroko.
"No, your other phone," Kuroko said as he nodded in the direction of the hall.
It only took a second for Kagami to realize before he leapt off the sofa and onto the coffee table, using it as a launchpad to bound down the hall. Although shocked to alertness, his body and mind had not had a chance to sync themselves, so he could not measure his stride and ended up crashing into the sideboard, but not before grabbing the phone.
"Hello!" Kagami was curled on the floor, trying to catch his breath; he held his stomach where it had met with the corner of the sideboard with one hand and gripped the phone with the other. Most of the interest dropped out of his voice when the caller wasn't who he was hoping for. "Yes...that's me."
Even though it wasn't the voice that he wanted to hear, he would have been fine with that if it hadn't become a siren warning that history was on the verge of repeating itself.
The commotion in the hall pulled Aomine from the brink of his stupor. He and Kuroko looked on. "Why does he still have that phone anyway," Aomine asked, his tone full of pointless frustration. "It's old and from the States, right? There's no way it still works."
"It does," Kuroko replied. "He tried to put the card in the dual sim he bought, but it would not carry over the text messages."
"Have you really forgotten Aomine-kun? That's the phone that--" His words stopped abruptly and he watched as the particulars dawned on Aomine. "I don't see how you could have forgotten."
"It's been five years! Who remembers that kind of shit?!"
Kuroko looked at Aomine who then quieted his voice.
"Don't tell Kagami I said that." He glanced quickly at the hall. When he returned his attention to Kuroko, there were a pair of questioning eyes set upon him. Aomine retreated into the back of the sofa on impulse. "What?!" The eyes now bore a slight crease in the brow above them. Aomine lowered his voice again. "What?"
"Are you still upset?"
"He's your best friend and even you do not know where he is. And he only said goodbye to Kagami-kun."
Aomine turned his attention to the floor and searched for nothing in particular. "What is there to be mad about? He must have his reasons. Besides, there's no fun in being mad at someone who's not there to feel it."
"You sound an awful lot like Kise-kun."
Aomine caught Kuroko's eyes in his periphery. "Where do you think I got it from?" Feeling the need, he dropped to a whisper. "Did he ever tell you what happened? Do you think they...?"
"Other than when Kise-kun first left he has not talked about it--will not talk about, but even when he did... You were there for that--all he ever said was, 'I don't know.'"
"But do you think they...?"
"I think there is something or was something..."
"But not officially?"
Kuroko thought for a moment. "Since he has always been against relationships, if there was anything, it may have just been one-sided on Kise-kun's part."
"Really?" Aomine assumed that rumors regarding Kagami's disinterest in relationships were a running joke of some sort. How could it not when people of all stripes flocked to him?
"Kiyoshi-senpai says that he will not even entertain the thought--he even shuts down customers without so much as a smile."
The description seemed familiar, but now the meaning registered differently to Aomine. "But he wasn't always like that, right? ...As far as I can remember, he was just stupid and shy."
"No, I think he was, but when we were younger, he may have not realized it or he did not know how to reject people and he came off as shy." A handful of memories poked at Kuroko. "He would always--"
They froze as their attention was abruptly drawn to what they assumed was the sound of the sideboard being pushed back into place. No sooner than they registered the noise did they see Kagami fly out of the hallway and halfway down the stairs that lead to the bar.
Kagami stood on the second landing. "Kiyoshi!" He was slightly out of breath even though he hadn't run that far. No answer. He called again. "Kiyosh--!"
Kiyoshi opened the door and called up the stairs. "What's all the noise about?"
"I'm leaving and I don't know when I'll be back."
Aomine looked at Kuroko; he wondered if that even qualified as an acceptable explanation.
" ...Alright, then." Kiyoshi started to close the door. "Call me when you get there."
Aomine's look intensified.
Kuroko shrugged. "He can be like that."
Kagami moved about the flat as if they weren't there and he would have left without a word if Kuroko hadn't stopped him.
"Kagami-kun, what happened?"
"I'm going to Yaeyama." And with that, Kagami walked out.
There was no need to ask, it wasn't hard to guess what was up. However, Aomine was alarmed at Kagami's destination. "Yae-Yaeyama...? That's in..."
"Okinawa?" Kuroko was just as surprised. "So he's been in Japan all this time?"
Aomine jumped up and started for the door. "Where the hell does he think he's going without me?!"
"Detective..." Kuroko said, his intonation insistent, "unlike him, you cannot just fly off to distant corners of Japan. He will get in touch with us as soon as he can. In the meantime, you should check in with Momoi-san and go see about emergency time off. I will clean up here."
Kagami's plane wasn't set to take off for another 2 hours. At present, his mind and body were a ball of knots with a headache looming, so he did his best to clear his head and ignore the pain that had since spread across his midsection. With all other thoughts pushed aside, there was nothing else to do but replay the phone conversation in the vacated space.
Caller: I'm calling from the Patient Care office at Kenritsu Yaeyama Hospital for Kagami Taiga-san.
Kagami: Yes...that's me.
Caller: Oh, I'm sorry to disturb you Kagami-san, but we found your name and number inside the wallet of a patient here.
Kagami: You said you're calling from a hospital?
Caller: Yes, Kenritsu Yaeyama in Okinawa Prefecture. Are you acquainted with a Kagami Ryou-san?
Caller: Are you his family?
Kagami: ...I guess I was something like his...guardian? Is he alright?
Caller: Kagami Ryou-san was admitted into our care two weeks ago after he...
The Letter, Part Two
[Battery: 67% | Time: 7:40 PM]
I managed to rent a little house on the grounds of this onsen and for the first year I just kind of hung out and read a bunch. I never quite got why Kurokocchi always had his nose in a book when we were younger, but I think I get it now. I've been all over the world, went deep sea diving, climbed a thousand mountains, and hung out in Nanchou during the 50s...the 1350s, that is! All from that ugly sofa.
I got bored with doing nothing. Not that reading is doing nothing; it kept my mind busy, but my body was nearly atrophied, not really, but there would be days after days that I didn't move at all. So I got permission to renovate this place. That was another year and change. I attached before and after pics so you, too, can revel in my awesomeness!
Here’s the before (so tragic!):
[Battery: 66% | Time: 7:41 PM]
And here's the after. I will be happy if I never see another bucket of white paint. I tried to copy your kitchen, just on a smaller scale. How'd I do?
Good work, right?!
After, Part Two
An unwelcoming concrete build that had probably seen its best years sometime during the Showa era stood before Kagami. Not that he cared all that much after a three-hour flight and a 30-minute taxi ride. A relatively short journey, for sure, but the knots remained tied and only seemed to pull tighter the closer he got to his destination. His eyes scaled the three-story hospital and he commiserated with the gloom it projected.
About 6 or so paces ahead of him, the entry doors parted to expel two kids who seemed untouched by the gloom. They were quickly followed by a middle-aged man whose face reported that the oppressive atmosphere was indeed in effect within and that kids could not be trusted. Kagami let them pass before approaching and stepping over the threshold. He looked about for some indication of his next move. On his second survey he spotted the information desk, just a few feet away.
"Good evening, sir. How may I help you?" The desk attendants voice matched the hospital's interior which, surprisingly, was a striking contrast to the exterior.
"My name is Kagami Taiga and I was told to ask for the Patient Care office."
The attendant punched a few keys. She looked at her screen, looked at Kagami, returned to her screen, and then pursed her lips in assent. "Kagami-san, would you happen to have your ID?" She watched as Kagami pulled his wallet and presented his ID. The attendant looked over the laminated card and pursed her lips again. "Just a moment while I ring someone to meet you."
Kagami exhaled and it felt to him like it was the first time he had breathed since the phone call some hours ago. But there was no real change; he still hadn't managed to untie himself. His shoulders were tense, there was a tightness in his chest, a headache was pounding in his ears, and though it was duller now, the pain in his midsection persisted. He felt like he would collapse at any moment. However, at the same time, he felt numb to it all. At the mention of his name, his eyes drifted slowly to the right. The Patient Care representative, he assumed, a young guy, probably in his late 20s, with a welcoming face, stood about two feet away from him.
The rep bowed about 30° and was caught off guard when Kagami's long-cached habit of shaking hands resurfaced.
Kagami remembered himself, returned the greeting and moved right into his question. "When can I see him?"
"We can go now, but there are some things I'd like to discuss with you." The rep gestured to the corridor on the other side of the information desk. "Can we talk on the way?"
"Sure." Kagami understood that such a question was a matter of protocol, but the answer was so obvious that it exhausted him further to respond. However, it did help by reminding him of some of the questions he thought of while he was on the plane. "On the phone, you said he's been here for two weeks... Why was I only contacted now?"
"We had some trouble recovering the wallet."
"The doctor can give you more information, but he had the wallet in his hand when he was knocked down. At some point, possibly from the impact of the fall or one of the beams that pinned him, he broke most of the bones in that hand. However, and we aren't sure why, but when he was brought in, that hand was suffering from some form of non-congenital myotonia and," the rep paused, "that would be a prolonged muscle contraction."
"I'm aware." Kagami did not want to seem rude, so he hoped his tone did not betray him; however, when all that mattered at the moment was seeing Kise, each turn they made loosened his grip on his composure that much more. He prayed that their next turn would be their last.
"Oh, good, then I'll skip ahead. Right this way."
Kagami turned in the direction indicated and saw a single elevator at the end of a very long corridor. As they got closer, he noticed that there were no buttons, just a glass plaque on the wall to the right.
The rep continued, "So with his hand locked in that manner and the bones being broken, we wanted to be very careful with the extraction and resetting."
"And now?" Kagami's brow furrowed and raised as he watched the rep flash his badge in front of the glass plaque which responded with a small, blinking, blue light. A tinny pling--nearly muted--announced the arrival of the elevator. They stepped in and he watched once more as the man's reedy fingers inserted a key and flashed his badge again, but in front of what, he couldn't tell. There were no buttons on the inside either. The doors closed and the elevator hitched a bit before...descending? A new, ominous feeling broke through the numbness.
"We managed to cast--"
Kagami felt a slight panic rise, but he did his best to keep it out of his voice. "What's with this?" Kagami waved his hand about, suggesting the current situation.
"The security measures... Isn't this kinda over-the-top? He hasn't been in the public eye for seven years." Kagami reasoned that the hospital was ensuring anonymity for Kise due to his former status as an internationally recognized model, completely forgetting that Kise was going by a different name.
"Oh...?" The rep wasn't sure what to make of that, so he just tried to suspend Kagami's wariness by deferring to someone more suited to address the issue. "...My apologies, I'm not at liberty to say, but the officer stationed at the room should be able to fill you in."
"After rousing the staff and securing everyone outside, he got the irrigation system working and was trying to douse what he could and that was when the foundation on that side gave way and he was caught by a falling beam." The detective's words were practiced and worn as if he'd said them a hundred times already.
Kagami followed along, soaking up every word, piecing together the picture that was being spoken to him.
"Another one fell and he was trapped," the detective continued. "Fortunately he called emergency services as soon as he saw the fire and one of the staff members is a retired medic, so they had that on their side. Out there, dire situations can turn deadly as it's difficult to get emergency vehicles over some of those roads and emergency medical care is limited."
"Where do you come in?"
"It has been determined to be a case of arson and we suspect that it's related to the family's longstanding refusal to sell their land to the," the detective cleared his throat, "Kanagusuku-kai."
Kagami stared in disbelief.
"Things have been quiet for about seven or eight years; however, during that time it's been slow going for the establishment since people have been hesitant to patronize a place that had a known connection to the bouryokudan--even if they were on the right side of the law."
A severe hollowness had grown out from the pit of Kagami's stomach and seized the whole of him. All the anger and frustration that had collected over the past five years seemed utterly inconsequential when he considered what Kise had found himself in the middle of.
"I need to make a call, if you have any more questions, the guy at the door can answer them or I can when I get back." He grabbed his hat and headed out.
Kagami sat in the chair next to Kise's bed, waiting for the doctor to arrive. He was a sight--tubes and machines casting a ghostly green light over him... the purple and brown bruises were striking against his pale complexion--a complexion made even paler by his condition. Something jabbed at Kagami's heart.
The Letter, Part Three
[Battery: 66% | Time: 7:42 PM]
After that was done, the old couple that ran the place asked if I could help renovate some of the rooms there. It was really cool; it was hard work, but I had a lot of fun working on the place I'm staying at, but that was really for my own benefit. Then when it came to the guest quarters, it was like a switch was flipped. It was kind of strange... I was so used to being the one getting dressed and primped and made over--it was kind of surreal being the one dressing and primping and stuff. Surreal or not, it was great; everyday that I worked on something left me feeling at peace and it's been so long since I felt that way that I almost didn't recognize it.