Chapter 1: Whipped
Ann was surprised to see their raven haired leader sitting in a booth with a younger student from another school. Quietly sneaking into a booth that would give her the ability to spy on him from a safe distance, she dismissed the diner waitress with a quick order. Akira seemed like he was enjoying the conversation, but the other teen’s face was mostly unreadable. She really couldn’t hear what they were talking about it, so she tried to guess what the two of them were doing together.
A date was out of the question. While it was a fun rumor to guess who their leader was dating, the other teenager seemed much too young to be in a relationship. They didn’t act like a couple, there were no longing looks between them, and Ann could read body language pretty well. The awkward breaks in the conversation had to be the last nail in that coffin, but she had other ideas.
She thought that they could be just friends, but how they knew each other seemed to evade her. Since he was on probation, living in a city where he knew nobody, the blonde could rule out they were old friends. The difference in uniforms led her to believe that Akira was his tutor, as despite his lack of focus in class, the transfer student shocked everyone by being at the top of his class on their midterms and finals.
While she openly stared at the pair in the booth, she realized that her drink was delivered, and had been sitting there for a while. With her attention at the bubbly drink before her, Ann did not realize that a gruff looking man entered the diner and approached the booth with Akira and this mystery kid. After taking a long sip of her fruity drink, she turned to watch the two and noticed the man looming over their table.
Even though Akira did not look troubled by the appearance of the other man, Ann noticed that his face lit up when he was speaking to the man. Taking a moment to analyze what she could see of the man, it was clear he was older than Akira. The scruff on his chin was noticeable from where she was sitting, and the gray trench coat, turtleneck, and hat seemed familiar to her, but she couldn’t place where.
Once the man left the diner, Ann dropped her money on the table and followed him outside. If he was indeed the person Akira was dating, she needed to make sure he wasn’t going to hurt their leader. It was easy to follow the other man, the trench coat stood out like a sore thumb. When he turned down a dark alley, she hesitated following him. This wasn’t the Metaverse, she couldn’t defend herself like she could in the other world.
Taking a deep breath to resolve her nerves, Ann walked down the alley and flinched when the man was standing around the corner, waiting for her.
“It’s not nice to follow people. Tell me, what’s a pretty girl like you doing following a man like me?” The man asked harshly, the lollipop stick moving from one side of his mouth to the other.
“How do you know Akira? You better not be causing him any trouble.” She could hear her voice tremble, but it didn’t seem like the other man noticed. Her attention was drawn to the bright green neon sign behind him.
“You mean my best customer? What of it?” He took a step forward towards the blonde girl, “What would you be able to do to stop me if I was causing him trouble?”
Now she was pissed. Ann did not trust this man, even though he seemed familiar to her for some reason. Instead of taking a step backward to avoid the man coming at her, she stepped forward, holding her ground. The comment he made about ‘his best customer’ finally clued her into who she was dealing with.
“You must be the person who buys all the stuff we find and supplies us with those model weapons.” Ann smirked, realizing that this was the shop owner that Akira couldn’t stop talking about. “Have you ever wondered who used all those whips? You must have an idea what damage they could do. Just how many whips I’ve thrashed in these past 4 months again?”
Ann whipped around, her hair nearly brushing the man’s face as she made her exit. Pulling out her phone, she created a new group chat, making sure to leave Akira out.
Ann: So I just found out who Akira is dating.
Ryuji: Who is she? Is she hot?
Futaba: spill it already
Ann: Not my place to say, but I’m sure you’ll all meet them soon.
Futaba: no fair ＼(｀0´)／
Yusuke: There must be a reason that Akira hasn’t told us yet. We should respect his privacy and let him come to us whenever he’s ready to divulge their identity.
Walking back in the direction of the station to head home, Ann looked back and saw Akira and the kid he was with walking down the alley where she just was. With a smirk, she wondered if Ryuji would freak out when he found out for himself.
Ryuji spent the better half of the month stalking Akira in the hopes of finding out who his best friend was dating. If it wasn’t something that he could bring up, the blonde hoped that it was an older woman. Akira brought up the doctor he buys the medicine from often, so Ryuji thought it had to be someone that their leader hung out with often, but never brought them up in conversations. Using this method, he was able to narrow it down to the fortune teller and the student from the church Akira frequented. Although he never knew how Akira managed his time, as he started working a third job, this time for the Untouchable’s owner Iwai.
He lost another game, the AI had thoroughly beaten him while his focus was on his best friend. Nothing about the two women he picked for Akira’s lover rubbed him the wrong way, so Ryuji figured it would be best to leave it at that for the time being. His curiosity was sated for the moment, he realized that whoever it was, they made Akira happy, and that made Ryuji happy. After another loss, this time while he was actively paying attention, the delinquent stretched and turned to leave the cabinet.
Blinking in the bright light of the late afternoon sun reflecting off the buildings, Ryuji nearly ran into someone walking in front of him. Recoiling backwards, he barely escaped crashing into them, but could overhear the gruff voice barking orders into the phone.
“I don’t care if you want to make sure I’m okay. I am not going to put my favorite customer at risk unnecessarily!” The man continued walking away from Ryuji before turning down the alley that lead to Untouchable. Realizing that he bumped into Iwai, he followed the other man, wondering who he was speaking to on the phone. While his ability to quietly pursue a target had improved with the time they spent in the Metaverse, the blonde hair stood out like a sore thumb causing a couple people to give him questionable looks as he slowly peered around the corner of a building.
“Fine.” From where Ryuji was hiding, he could hear Iwai while he was standing outside the store as he sighed loudly into the phone before continuing. “If you’re going to come to keep an eye on me, I’d rather know where you are than have you hiding. It’ll look worse if they found you sneaking around, so you’ll be with me. I can’t promise to keep you safe.”
The conversation seemed pretty serious, as Iwai actually sounded concerned over the safety of the person at the other end of the phone call. Ryuji couldn’t hear anything, and while he was tempted to try and peek around the corner, if he got caught it would be impossible to explain what he was doing there. He heard various grunts coming from the airsoft shop owner in response to whatever the person was saying through the phone.
“I know you do. I still think you’re crazy for it though. A kid like you falling for a man like me.” A pause, while Ryuji thought of the pieces he was learning as he eavesdropped on Iwai, he slowly realized who was on the other end of the phone. To his knowledge, the only person he called ‘kid’ was Akira, and with all the equipment he bought and sold, it would make sense for the shopkeep to consider Akira his ‘favorite customer’. He pulled out his phone and sent the name over to Ann, hoping she would answer him. It made sense as Akira never spoke about a female as much as he talked about Iwai and the discount he was getting on their new gear for working for the man.
“You know it’s rude to listen to other people’s conversations when they’re discussing business right?” Iwai called out, laughing at the string of curses that came from the end of the alley. He wasn’t expecting Akira’s friend to waltz around the corner after being caught. Out of everyone that he expected to see, this was a pleasant surprise.
“Sorry, I wanted to apologize for nearly running into you back there, but you were on the phone so I waited.”
“Bullshit. I know that’s not why you followed me. So tell me, what kinda trouble are you in?”
“Trouble? Me? You have the wrong idea, I really wanted to apologize to you.” Ryuji’s phone buzzed in his pocket, and he quickly pulled it out, excusing himself as he did. The message indicator informed him all he needed to know, and he put the phone back into his pocket.
“You look like you got something to say, so spill it already.” Iwai was growing impatient. Not only did he have to cancel his plans for the evening, but he had to bring the one person he didn’t want to get involved with his past, to a meeting that might get the both of them killed.
“Right, so I need a bat. I’ve broken so many of them lately, apparently I don’t know my own strength anymore. You got anything that could do some heavy damage?” Ryuji asked, slowly closing the distance between the two of them. “You see, someone’s been messing with my friend lately, and I don’t mind it. But if anything were to happen to my friend, I might need to get involved. Not that I plan on actually using it, but my friend is very trusting, and I am not.”
He didn’t expect the threat to hold any weight with the other man. Ryuji knew the rumors that Iwai was involved in the Yakuza, but that never came up when Akira spoke of the other man. Although, their leader never did mention the shop owner much, despite how often he was there working, buying new gear, or selling their treasures.
“Anyway, I apologize for almost crashing into you. I’m sure Akira will be bringing you the latest bat I went through.” Leaving the other man, Ryuji practically sprinted down the alley and around the corner. His heart was racing as he ducked into Protein Lovers in case he was being followed. When he was certain nobody was following him, he pulled out his phone and leaned against the wall.
12 New Messages
Ann: What are you talking about?
Ann: Did you forget his name or something? It’s Iwai Munehisa.
Ann: Geez, with how much Akira talks about him, I didn’t think anyone could forget his name, even you.
Ann: Wait…. Ryuji did you ….
Ann: HOLY FUCK YOU FOUND OUT HOW???????
Apparently Ann might have forgotten what she knew about Iwai and Akira for a moment there, as it took her a couple minutes to realize what he was talking about. Apparently their secret group chat also had a couple messages.
Ann: He knows everyone. Our little boy Ryuji is grown up now!
Yusuke: Did you finally give him ‘The Talk’ Ann?
Makoto: I don’t think she means that talk. Are you referring to the thing you mentioned a while back about who are leader is dating? Which I still feel is a breach of privacy.
Futaba: how did the jock beat me in gaining this knowledge???
Ryuji quickly typed out a message to the chat and pocketed his phone. Since he was already here, he decided to spend the rest of the afternoon working out.
Ryuji: I walked into the knowledge nerd
Soooo I like chatfics, but I don't know how to write them well. So this is what we get.
The rumors of a suspicious looking man lurking around the gates of Shujin quickly spread like wildfire, to a degree where Makoto could barely parse out the exaggerations from the truth. It was apparent there was a man waiting at the gate, but the actions of this man ranged from leering at the male students that passed to blocking the path of students for no reason. She knew that this would require her involvement as student council president, but she wished someone else could take care of it.
When one of the teachers stopped her after class, the strategist couldn’t see an escape that would get her out of intervening. After the long discussion ended, she excused herself and promised to look into the matter. Sending a quick text to Akira apologizing about her lateness that was guaranteed at this point, she watched the man in question and realized this was indeed a suspicious man. Makoto recognized the trenchcoat and yellow ear muffs immediately, as their leader vaguely described the man that he used to sell all their treasure to.
“Good afternoon,” she opened, catching the attention of the man who was preoccupied staring at the male students that passed. When he grunted in response, she decided to come right out with it. “If you’re looking for Akira, he’s not leaving for a while. He helps another student with the gardening club.”
While it wasn’t a complete lie, Akira did help Haru on the roof most afternoons, Makoto knew that their leader was dealing with Futaba and Sojiro. Ever since Boss found out about the Phantom Thieves, there had been some tension between the trio. Akira had been trying to get Boss in a better mood, so he and Futaba had been working on her social skills together. It got their leader and Boss some time apart, and she figured the two of them would get over their ego’s soon. What she really wanted to gauge was this man’s reaction to the name, and she was right about the reason this man was stalking their school.
“Who says I’m looking for the kid?” The gruff voice answered, glaring at her in the process, “I could have a kid who goes to this school for all you know.”
“But you don’t, as nobody has ever seen you interact with a student. Everyone notices you because you are looking for Akira amongst all of the male students. So let’s cut to the chase, what do you need him for?” She was already late, and each minute this conversation lasted just delayed her plans for the day. Thankfully they planned to meet at the diner, so she would be able to stop home to change before meeting up.
“What of it then? I just need to talk to the kid alright?” Ignoring her again, Iwai tried searching for the tall teen but couldn’t find his black mop of hair in the light crowd.
“Why can’t you talk to Akira when he visits the shop? If it’s something important, you have his number, so what purpose does lurking outside our school serve?” Answering her own question, she realized that their leader was avoiding this man for some reason. “What did you do that made him start distancing himself from you?”
Iwai recoiled as if he was punched in the gut, this prissy student read him like an open book despite his vague answers. He told the kid to stay away, but what he was not expecting was the kid to actually listen to him. After he stopped replying to the text messages, Iwai knew he fucked up royally. The only things that he knew about the kid were that he attended Shujin and lived at the cafe in Yongen.
“Fine. He stopped coming around the store and replying to my messages. I wanted to talk to him in person.”
It made sense that the owner of the shop would be concerned, albeit it was strange that he chose to lurk outside the school for hours each day. Makoto sighed and decided to offer the man some assistance with their leader. If he would stop staring at the students and showing up every afternoon, then she did not mind duping her friend for a couple hours.
“I will get him to talk to you, don’t ask me how, but he will be back at your store this evening. But before I do this, I need you to swear you will stop showing up here and looking for Akira.” Her plan would be easy to execute, as she already had scheduled to meet Akira this afternoon before returning home to study.
“I can agree to those terms. Just be careful next time, as you don’t know who you’re making deals with.” Iwai chuckled, absentmindedly watching the girl’s reaction.
“Certainly, but the same can be said about yourself. Ask Akira what knuckles were my favorite, and I’m sure you will enjoy the answer.” She turned to walk away, pausing as she stood in front of the gate, “Tonight at 6, you better be at the shop.”
Pulling out her phone, she texted Akira that she ran later than expected, but was almost at their designated meeting place. Switching to the group chat that Ann started, she quickly typed a couple messages before putting her phone back into her bag.
Makoto: Somedays I feel like we should give Akira a head smack for being oblivious.
Futaba: if you want, i can suckerpunch him for you
Futaba: won’t be as effective as if you were to punch him yourself
Ann: You found out Makoto? Welcome to the club!
Futaba: noooo! beaten again D:
Yusuke: I might find out before Futaba does, this is quite surprising!
Ryuji: dude, if you find out before her she’ll kill you
Ann: Worse, she might freeze his bank account.
Makoto: Futaba no, we cannot hack into the bank system. I will tell Sojiro that you hacked into their systems again.
Futaba: you guys are no fun at all!
apologies about the long delays between uploads. i got a promotion at work so it's been busier
Sitting in his usual booth, Yusuke faced the window, sketching from the new perspective seemed to be working. While he was still facing an art block, he thought that changing his routine up might provide a spark of inspiration. Boss had been kind enough to keep a fresh cup of coffee placed in front of the teenager while he idly chatted with his customers.
There was a lot of discussion about their leader over these past few months, and the artist wasn’t sure what the commotion was about. Surely if there was a reason Akira didn’t want to announce who he was dating, then Yusuke saw no reason to pry into the matter. From the messages that happened in their separate group chat, they were slowly figuring it out one by one, and it sounded there were only three people who had not figured it out yet. Haru, who just joined the team a week ago, Futaba, despite her constant attempts to hack Akira’s phone, and himself, who didn’t feel the need to know.
Everything would happen in due time, and he hoped that Akira would feel comfortable enough in their friendship to confide in him. It didn’t seem like it would be announced anytime soon, so he figured it would be best to wait. He wasn’t the type to pry into the secrets that other people kept, so he cleared his head and resumed sketching.
A familiar mop of black hair bounced past the window, which Yusuke immediately recognized as Akira’s hair. However, the man wearing a gray cap and what looked like a lizard tattooed on his neck, he couldn’t place. Flipping to a new page, he began sketching several profiles of the man, making sure to include the tattoo in each one. Some were better than others, as the paneling of the window made it difficult to get a clear view of the man. On the fourth page, Yusuke sketched both Akira’s and the man’s profiles as they were talking in hushed whispers outside Leblanc.
As he was finishing up the sketch of the pair, he looked back up only to find the man leaning in and planting a kiss on the top of Akira’s head. It was clearly romantic, as Akira mentioned his family hadn’t contacted him since he arrived in Shibuya. He closed his sketchbook, and waited patiently for Akira to enter the coffee shop. Yusuke wanted to talk to Akira, not that he was concerned over their leader dating another man, but that he felt the need to hide from them.
The familiar bell rang out, announcing that Akira entered the shop, surprised to see Yusuke sitting in the booth. Morgana shifted around in the bag, probably overheated in the early autumn sun. It had cooled off considerably, but the black cat must be uncomfortable in the black leather bag all day.
“What a nice surprise, I didn’t think you’d be here Yusuke.” Akira’s voice was steady, as Sojiro and Yusuke watched him.
“I wanted to enjoy the Sayuri, so I decided to stop by and sketch for a while. Mind if I join you upstairs? There’s something I’d like to ask you.”
Akira nodded mutely, clearly trying to remain calm despite the overwhelming panic rising in his chest. He knew that Yusuke saw, he was facing the window and Iwai wasn’t one to hide his displays of affection. The black haired teen made a quick retreat to the attic, leaving Yusuke downstairs.
“Go easy on him yeah? I’m too old to stop a fight between you two.” Boss’ words pierced the artist like the very blades he used in battle.
“I’m not upset, rather quite the opposite.” He stood up and grabbed his art supplies from the table, “I am happy for Akira, I just wish to discuss why he felt the need to hide it from me.”
Walking up the stairs, Yusuke was surprised to find Morgana at the top landing, another line of defense for their leader. He wasn’t sure why everyone thought he’d be upset by this discovery. Thankfully Morgana didn’t say a word, but the cat followed closely behind him, clearly ready to pounce if he needed to.
“You must think I’m disgusting. The way you looked at me when I walked in said everything I needed to know.” Akira mumbled, head bowed as he stared at his shoes. He was waiting for Yusuke to respond, as the seconds ticked by, Akira grew more and more panicked.
“I certainly wouldn’t say you’re disgusting. A bit of a slob maybe, but definitely not disgusting.” Yusuke laughed, “You honestly think I would be upset over this? It’s none of my concern who you are dating, male or female. I just wished you felt comfortable enough to tell me about him.”
Akira was dumbstruck, how was Yusuke not upset or freaking out over this. Before he could open his mouth, the blue haired teen shoved his sketchbook at Akira. The sheer confusion on his leader’s face was priceless as he flipped through the various perspective sketches. Once he turned the page, Akira’s face softened at the many sketches of Iwai. When he reached the last sketch of himself and Iwai looking at each other, tears started welling up.
“Can you-” he started, “Can I have this one?” Akira asked, his voice soft and barely audible.
“Of course, only if you’ll allow me to clean it up and properly present it to you.” The smile on Akira’s face was the only answer that he needed.
Yusuke: So I found out and almost broke our leader. He expected me to be disgusted when I saw the two of them together.
Futaba: stupid Inari finding out before me
Ryuji: dude, does he think we will hate im if we found out
Makoto: It’s possibly due to his interactions with his family, they pretty much abandoned him after his trial.
Haru: Poor Akira, I hope he knows we love him no matter who he is seeing.
Ann: Well said Haru!
Yusuke: I must agree, there has to be something we can do to show him how much we accept him.
Futaba: thanks Haru, you really saved me there!! ^_^
Haru: I haven’t done anything?
Futaba: you’ve done the best thing ever, you joined the team!
Makoto: I’m not following you Futaba, why is Haru joining the team such a positive thing for you? Not saying we don’t enjoy having you hang out with us Haru.
Haru: I understand what you were meaning to say, I am not offended.
Makoto: Thank goodness. Futaba, are you going to answer us?
Ryuji: did she pass out again
Futaba: clearly you people are dumb, since Haru joined and Inari found out today, I am not the last person to find out, there is still time for me to get this precious intel
I am very sick, and I wrote this anyway. I hope it's not as bad as I feel right now
Adjusting his coat, he grabbed the list from the inside front pocket and wondered what half of the items on this list were used for. He didn’t know where Karou kept the flour, let alone what he needed it for. As Karou spent most of the time cooking for the two of them, Iwai never realized how much preparation went into their meals. The sheer number of items on this list concerned the older man, but at least this place was cheap. Karou suggested that he go to this specific store as it had cheaper prices.
Normally Karou would be doing this, but he had fallen ill after the summer heat waves were over, so Iwai volunteered to take an afternoon off to do the shopping. Now that he was standing in the entrance of the megamart, Iwai wasn’t sure he would be able to do this. Grabbing a cart, he started with the produce section, where he could recognize the items he would need. While most of the items were sorted by category, once Iwai was finished getting the fruits and vegetables that were on the list, he wasn’t sure where to go next.
Thankfully, whatever divine being took pity on him and delivered an angel to help him. “Do you need some help finding your items?” The voice had short, light auburn hair and looked like she stepped out of a high-fashion magazine. He didn’t recognize her, but something about her was very familiar to him.
“I am, but I couldn’t ask to trouble you with helping me. I’ll just find an employee or someone.” Iwai wasn’t going to bother her to help him with his shopping list, but he was surprised when the list was ripped from his hand.
“Then you don’t need to ask. It seems that most of the items you need to grab are items I need as well.” The girl turned on her heels and began walking away, obviously leading the man down the aisles of the store. Deciding to follow her was easy, she had his list and didn’t plan on letting it go anytime soon.
They made quick work of the list, and Iwai found himself slowly enjoying the company of this young lady. Standing at the same produce section they met, she held out the list that had a clean black line through each of the items that now filled his cart. Iwai took the list, and realized that the shopping trip took longer than expected.
“Thank you, I guess. Do you normally help strangers with their shopping?” His gruff voice didn’t seem to affect her, as she continued smiling at him. Her laugh was unexpected, as everything about her seemed foreign and Iwai was struggling to gauge her reactions.
“You’re welcome! Akira wouldn’t say so, but I know he’d be hurt if I told him I saw you at the store struggling by yourself. He acts like he needs to handle everything by himself, but he really does need to learn to depend on his friends every now and then. The pair of you are much too stubborn for your own good.” She knew him, he should’ve realized it the moment they met. If he ever met anyone, he should start assuming they know Akira somehow.
“You must be a new friend of his. I am not familiar with anyone fitting your description, so tell me, are you enjoying those axes?” Iwai figured she had to be the one busting every axe that Akira bought, as he knew the sudden interest in the weapon meant someone else was using them.
“Absolutely! The axes are very helpful, but they are heavier than they look. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m swinging the axe around or if the axe is swinging me around.” Her cheerful demeanor didn’t match the conversation that they were having. Haru continued to smile as she walked towards the registers, leaving the man alone with his cart full of items.
Iwai chuckled and began pushing his own cart in the same direction, wondering which one of Akira’s friends he will meet next. By his count there was one that he had yet to encounter, but it made sense. By the way Akira described her, the possibility of the two of them running into one another was extremely unlikely.
Haru left the queues before the man reached the registers, as she pushed the cart full of bagged groceries towards the exit. She pulled out her phone as she walked and sent a message to their group chat.
Haru: I just met him, and he seems nice enough. A bit clueless about matters that involve domestic life, but he’s clearly in love.
Futaba: what??! noooooooooo now i am the only one who doesn’t know OTL
Makoto: I don’t understand why you didn’t want to be the last one to find out. It’s not a competition.
Ryuji: y havent you hacked him yet? thats what you do best ya know
Futaba: good point! what was he like?
Haru: We had a pleasant conversation and he’s a bit rough around the edges. I can see why our leader fell for him. He did have an interesting tattoo though, I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be.
Ann: I don’t remember the tattoo, it was night when I met him so I didn’t get a good look.
Makoto: It was grey and looked like a lizard of some sort.
Yusuke: I think it was the color of stone, but it’s a gecko.
Ryuji: does that mean he is part of the yakuza? it is a tattoo after all
Ann: I don’t know, he didn’t seem like the type.
Futaba: give me a week, i will dig up the info on him.
Haru: Be careful Futaba, I don’t want to think about what’ll happen if you get caught.
I was really sick it turns out. this was almost finished but I wasn't able to complete it until I got better.
Chapter 6: Hacked
Futaba is such a fun character, I really like her in game.
Ever since Futaba had her heart stolen by the Phantom Thieves, she stopped listening in to the goings on of Leblanc, since she was often found hanging around the shop. Normally, the bugs she had planted would listen in on whatever conversations that were happening at that time, but she was now too busy to listen during the day. Akira had made time to help her with her list, amongst all of the other responsibilities and obligations he had.
However, today was different than how she spent most of her days, as she was feeling overwhelmed by their plan and her role in it. Instead of walking to Leblanc, she stayed inside her room, quietly working on her computer while the white noise of the coffee shop played on her headphones. It wasn’t going to be easy getting the application to do everything it needed to do and have it download quickly. As she typed another line of code, she was surprised to hear the voice of Yusuke and Akira together.
Checking her phone, she didn’t think they scheduled to meet up today, and the lack of messages confirmed that. Perhaps Akira was just spending time hanging out, as he never seemed to let the stress of their situation affect how he presented himself or how he spent his free time.
“Anyway, if you don’t mind me asking. How long have you two been together?” Futaba perked up at Yusuke’s question, and immediately stopped what she was doing to listen. The laughter that followed the question was obviously Akira’s, as she started recording the pair of them in case she needed to go back and listen for more clues.
“About 4 months now, but I met him pretty soon after I moved here. Ryuji’s the one to introduce us, or rather, he’s the one who brought me to the store to begin with.” Akira paused, and some clinking of porcelain cups were heard. Apparently Sojiro made them coffee, and of course Inari is speaking about the complex flavors.
Futaba had some information to go off of, but she didn’t know Akira or the others back in April. However, she was actively listening into Leblanc around that time, so she started going through her archives. Akira would not have brought it up himself, as he rarely ever talked about anything to do with his personal life. She knew Ryuji couldn’t keep his mouth shut, so she started digging through their chat logs, it wasn’t easy but she found a thread where Ryuji said he wanted to show Akira some place that he felt would be helpful in pawning off some treasure. With no names, no meeting places, she wasn’t sure that this thread was going to lead anywhere.
As if on cue, Yusuke dropped the only hint that Futaba needed to figure out where to start her search. “I still can’t believe the weapons from a model gun and replica shop work so well in the Metaverse.” She tuned out the rest of the conversation, as it was recording for her to listen back to if she missed any other pieces of information.
Now with a general idea of the kind of store she was looking for, it turns out there were only a handful of stores that sold model guns and weapon replicas. Futaba limited her search to the surrounding areas, as Akira rarely left the local districts unless he was meeting one of the people he befriended. Even after limiting the area to search, there were still too many stores within Shibuya to visit. Scowling at her computer screen, the list of 8 stores were too many to visit in one day and were scattered throughout the city.
“There must be something I’m missing.” She muttered to herself, trying to decide on how to determine which one out of these stores was the one Akira frequented. She wondered if she shouldn’t be focusing on Akira but Ryuji. He was the one to introduce their leader to the shop owner. Figuring out where Ryuji spent his time was easy enough, he spent most of the time at school or the arcade.
When she typed in the address for the arcade, there was one store that sold model guns and replicas in that area. Futaba had found her store, now it was time to do research.
After a few hours, there was nothing to show for her efforts, as the store owner had very little online presence. There were reviews of the store, and the owner seemed to be rough, unapproachable and in his late 20s or early 30s. Basically, she had no more information other than vague rumors and an even vaguer plan.
Thankfully, the wonderfully brilliant people of Shibuya voted to put in security cameras in the downtown areas to help prevent crime. What they weren’t aware of is how easy it was to get access to the live feed, which is how Futaba spent her afternoon. While the video did not have sound, it did provide a grainy image of the man that she was looking for, as he was the only one to consistently come and go from the store each day.
It didn’t take too long to get his name, as the information was easily obtained from the rental agreement for the store’s location. Iwai Munehisa. Even with the name, this man remained elusive as there were no social media accounts, no store website, nothing on the internet to provide any more information about this man. Since she still had access to the banks systems, she figured the next best thing would be to observe his financial situation. At this point, she was grasping at any possible lead, as if this man did not have any online presence, then she would have to visit him in person.
“Bingo! What is this and where are you coming from?” It was a rather large sum of money, which was repeated several times prior, but didn’t have any discernable pattern. She tracked where the funds were coming from and couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The name of the account owner was easily recognizable as one of the members of the local Yakuza. She had seen his name and face in many news reports over the past few months. Nobody could find him to apprehend this man, and he’s giving large amounts of money to the owner of a model gun shop, it didn’t add up.
Regardless, Futaba knew that she had to interact with this man if he planned on spending time with Akira. She entered the cell phone number and sent a message, changing her handle to be something that Akira wouldn’t recognize if Iwai showed him.
Kuroba: Pleased to make your acquaintance.
Kuroba: My name is Kuroba.
Kuroba: If you do anything to hurt him, we will be sure to make your life a living nightmare. Your connection to the Yakuza is not as hidden as you would think it is.
Kuroba: Our eyes are watching as you make every move, so don’t you dare do anything to him. The police will certainly be interested in knowing who your contact is that is paying you for those realistic model guns.
She closed the chat thread and waited a while for Akira to text her or anything. Surely he’d put it together, but then again, she didn’t know if Iwai would even show him the messages. When she didn’t get a response from Akira, or any indication that Iwai had even read the messages, Futaba opened up her phone and started typing in the group chat.
Futaba: HOLY FUCK HE IS YAKUZA (o_o;)
Haru: What do you mean? Were you able to get some information?
Ann: Futaba? Spill it already!
Ryuji: shit man, and akiras involved with this guy ya’know
Ann: Calm down Ryuji, I’m sure it’s fine. Akira knows what he’s doing.
Yusuke: Agreed, plus the man didn’t seem threatening when he was walking Akira back to Leblanc.
Makoto: I don’t know, the man was a little bit shady when I met him.
Futaba: sorry…. I was backing up info so I did not see my phone go off
Makoto: It’s alright. We were just worried.
Ann: What about Akira? Think he knows?
Ryuji: no way… he’s in love and might not be seeing things clearly
Makoto: Right. I don’t want to jump to conclusions this early. We need to have a meeting to discuss this.
Ann: Leblanc’s out, and Akira could show up at any of our regular meeting places. What about Ryuji’s place?
Haru: How about my place? It’s hard to get past the guards, and I can tell them to stall Akira should he even show up.
Yusuke: Works for me, would 10am be acceptable? I’ve got a long train ride to make it there.
Makoto: Since nobody objected, we will meet at Haru’s place. Futaba, I’ll stop by and we can head together.
It had been another busy week delivering speeches to those who would listen, and Yoshida was looking forward to eating at the Beef Bowl Shop. Since Akira hadn’t stopped by after sending a text, Yoshida figured the teenager must be busy, after all, the young man worked several jobs, one of which happened to be at the restaurant the politician was walking towards. When he entered the establishment, his eyes quickly scanned for any sight of Akira working.
As he sat down, he couldn’t help but wonder who the other man across from Akira was. It seemed that the young man was rather fond of the gruff looking adult. This would be the first time that Yoshida saw Akira relaxed around someone other than his growing group of friends. The fluffy haired teen was smiling and laughing quietly, probably at whatever his partner had said. It was obvious that the normally reserved and stoic Akira had let down his barriers with the grayed haired man.
Ordering his meal, he noticed that Akira stood up to use the restroom, and Yoshida knew this may be his only chance to learn more about the man staring at the space Akira just vacated. Standing up, he quickly made his way across the restaurant and grabbed the attention of the man sitting in the booth.
“Excuse me, I’m an associate of Akira’s and I wanted to introduce myself.” Yoshida bowed, holding out a business card for the other man to take.
“I know who you are, how do you know Akira?” The man sitting down sounded skeptical, and with good reason.
“I’ll admit that my reputation often precedes me, I was hoping to meet the man who brings light into Akira's life. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile or laugh so easily other than when he was with you.” There was no reaction from the other man, who remained sitting and kept returning his gaze to where Akira was sitting just moments ago.
“I really don’t care to meet a washed up politician like yourself, No-Good Tora.”
While he admit the words stung, especially from someone Akira was close with, it was nothing he hadn’t heard before. Still, he ignored the feeling to respond in kind, and just offered a warm smile. Maintaining his mask of professionalism, Yoshida was in a public restaurant after all, he was content letting the conversation end there when he heard Akira’s icy voice ring out behind him.
“He is Toranosuke Yoshida and he is an excellent politician who made some mistakes in his past and is atoning for them. Don’t you dare speak ill of him or call him by that awful name.”
Yoshida turned and saw the rage painted across Akira’s face, replacing the normally expressionless features that the teenager wore. Before he could even formulate a response, Akira had pulled him out of the restaurant and down Central Street. It wasn’t until the pair of them reached the station square that Akira stopped pulling him.
“You did nothing worth apologizing for. I should be the one apologizing to you.” Yoshida paused, enjoying the fact he could still keep Akira on his toes with his responses. “I didn’t mean to ruin your evening with that gentleman friend of yours.”
“But still I-”
“It’s okay Akira. I’ve stopped letting that name get to me and I won’t let it make me freeze up anymore.”
Akira whipped around and his eyes went wide. The politician couldn’t figure out what happened to cause the composed teenager to react that way, and he found the man standing behind him. Worry and regret had changed how he presented himself, his face looked apologetic and his hands were shoved into his pockets.
“Toranosuke, I fucked up. Sorry.”
It struck him like a bolt of lighting, the man wasn’t apologizing to him, but rather doing what Akira would want him to do. It was clear that this teenager had this man wrapped around his little finger, and Yoshida was doing his best not to let on.
“Apology accepted, although, Akira can show you a couple things about how to speak to someone without giving your cards away.” Watching the gray haired man turn red at being called out for faking his apology was enjoyable for the former cabinet member. “I’ll let Akira decide if he forgives you. Next time, I’d be sure to watch your words around those close to him, as I don’t know if even his feelings for you would stop the wrath his team can bring.”
He bowed again and walked back to the Beef Bowl shop. Yoshida hoped that his food would be ready by the time he got back, as he didn’t want to wait again. He looked back, watching Akira huff at the man who was trying to apologize for his mistake. He knew those two would be okay, but he hoped that Akira knew what trouble he was bringing onto himself by dating a man with ties to the Yakuza.
“Kid, just who do you have in your arsenal? Am I gonna need a kevlar vest if I take you out on a date again?” Iwai laughed, running his hand through the black fluffy hair, before resting on Akira’s shoulder.
“That’s not a bad idea if you’re afraid of fortune tellers and doctors.” Leaning into the touch, Akira smiled at Iwai’s obvious concern for his own safety.
“If No-” He paused, catching himself beginning to use the phrase he grew accustomed to, “If you have Toranosuke backing you up, I think I should be wary of the psychic and doc then.”
Haru: Thank you everyone for coming over the other day, it was a great meeting!
Ann: We should be thanking you for having us over.
Yusuke: I agree, you had such marvellous food that I didn’t want to leave.
Futaba: duh Inari, that’s why we had to drag you back to the station
Haru: It’s fine, the chefs were pleased to be able to cook for someone other than myself.
Makoto: Yes, please tell them the food was lovely.
Ryuji: we never figured out when to tell him it should be soon ya?
Yusuke: No time like the present, why not have a meeting tomorrow?
Ann: It is a Sunday, and we could all visit Leblanc and talk about it upstairs.
Ryuji: sure, i’ll distract him in the morning and keep him busy while you all gather downstairs
Makoto: An ambush would prevent him from escaping, true.
Haru: that sounds wonderful! I’ve been meaning to talk to Boss anyway.
Futaba: ok...i’ll spend tonight getting the evidence together
Ann: Evidence? We all met him, we can just confront him with that.
Makoto: He won’t be able to deny all of us, but Futaba, just in case, print out the evidence.
Ugh, work sucks but I'm getting used to being a team lead.
Chapter 8: Divined
Iwai wandered throughout the streets of Shinjuku as he tried to clear his head and determine what to do about the situation. The fact that his son Karou was brought up meant that Tsuda was in a some deep shit and likely to get himself and those involved killed. He couldn’t stall any more as when Tsuda threatened to tell Karou about his father’s past with the yakuza, Iwai knew he was out of excuses. While he passed the unlit neon signs of a bar, he wondered if cutting ties with Akira would be in the kid’s best interest. The last thing Iwai wanted to do was get both of the most important people in his life hurt, even if it meant severing the bond he cherished with Akira. He’d give in to Tsuda’s demands, protect Karou from bearing the shame of having a yakuza member as a father, and give up the dream of ever truly being free from the yakuza.
“Sir? I’ll read your fortune for you.” A lady in a light lavender dress called to him as she struggled setting up her folding card table. There were two chairs leaning against the metal warehouse door behind her, and a dark navy box beside the chairs.
“No thanks, I don’t believe in that stuff. I know where I’ll end up anyway, so nothing you can say will change that.” He chuckled at his own dark joke, as he figured that the longer he works with Tsuda, the more likely he will end up in an early grave.
“Someone once showed me that fate can be changed. I’ll read your fortune for free if you help me with this old table.” The table dropped from her grip and clattered on the ground. Iwai sighed and walked over to help her get the table standing. He had no intentions of actually getting his fortune read, but he felt intrigued by her statement that fate can be changed. If he was being honest with himself, he hoped his fate could be completely redesigned.
“You’re very kind, despite your aura.” The comment stung, even if he knew that he wasn’t the most approachable person. The Iwai wondered what made Akira even remotely interested in him. When she handed him one of the folding chairs, he set it up across from her and sat down, watching as she put a tablecloth over the middle of the folding table, covering the seam where the two halves met, and grabbed a wooden box from somewhere beneath the table.
“Now, before I get started. I’ll need your name and the question or situation you want to consult with the cards.” She opened the wooden box and began shuffling the cards.
“Munehisa Iwai. Love.” While his reply was short, he didn’t need to go into much more than that. He’d read about how fortune tellers get you to divulge information about yourself to give you an answer that you want to hear. Iwai wanted someone else to rip the bandaid off and get the pain over with instead of dragging it out.
“Alright, I can work with that. Now, just settle down and think of the one person that you are in love with but don’t tell me anything about them. Specifically think of what you want to know and the cards will do the rest.” She began muttering to herself afterwards, or muttering to the cards. He focused on Akira, the silver lining to an otherwise gray cloud that stormed into his life and flipped everything around. Thinking of the happiness he felt was a bit overwhelming, from the innocent visit to the park where be bought the dumb boat toy, to the text message that same night which showed the plastic boat on proud display, and every message, hushed whisper, and intimate moment in between.
“Since I gave you my name, can I get yours?”
“Chihaya Mifune. Now shush up, I gotta consult the cards.”
“I have a feeling there is a reason you’ve been keeping me up here Ryuji, I wasn’t born yesterday.” Akira huffed, watching Ryuji come back up for the fifth time since he arrived early that morning.
When Akira mentioned that it was warm and they could use a cold soda, Ryuji bolted downstairs and returned before the black haired teen could even stand up from the bed. When Akira mentioned that some snacks would be great as they switched between playing video games and reading manga, Ryuji exclaimed that he will go to the store and buy some junk food. Each time Akira ever brought up doing anything that would involve going downstairs, Ryuji would run interference.
“I’m gonna use the bathroom, unless you want to do that for me too.” He knew he snapped, but there was something itching at the back of his mind. It wasn’t just Ryuji, the entirety of the Phantom Thieves stopped messaging as often, which wasn’t a bad thing. Akira felt like there was something he did to cause the rift, but he wasn’t sure what. Whenever they got together, to explore a palace or just hang out, nobody acted differently around him.
“Wait dude! You can’t go down there!” Ryuji called out, blocking the stairwell with his arms stretched wide, revealing a slim strip of exposed flesh around his waist.
“Oh? Why not? Is there something down there that you don’t want me to see?” Turning away from the stairs, Akira walked over to his bed and sat down staring at Ryuji intently. “So tell me Ryuji, just what have you all been hiding from me?”
“Shit, I can’t do this anymore. Just stay put, I’ll be right back.” Sprinting down the stairs like he’d done several times before, Ryuji disappeared from the room and Akira could hear harsh whispering from downstairs.
“I don’t know what you think they’re doing, but it must not be that bad if Ryuji is the watchman. If Makoto had been here to keep you company, I’d be worried.” Morgana yawned from the sunspot on Akira’s pillow. The cat-like creature yawned from the bed, displaying characteristics of a typical house cat, despite the stubborn ‘I’m not a cat’ proclamations.
When Yusuke and Makoto walked up the stairs, Akira looked to see if the rest of the Phantom Thieves would be coming up as well. He hadn’t planned on meeting up today, but the fact Makoto took time away from her studies must show how serious this is.
“Now I’m worried.” Morgana sat up when he heard two sets of footsteps on the stairs and when he saw Makoto, he wondered what was going on.
“Hello Akira. I brought Yusuke as we wanted to have a chat with you. And the rest of them decided that we would be the best to discuss this civilly.” Her even tone sent a cold shiver down Akira’s spine, as Makoto sounded like she did back before they were on friendly terms.
“Alright, but I’m at a severe disadvantage here. Do you mind informing me just what we are discussing?”
“I’ll tell you.” Yusuke said, catching both Akira and Makoto off guard. “Despite how it’s going to sound, I want to tell you that I did not tell them of what I learned. But, we at some point in these past few months learned about your relationship with the owner of Untouchables.”
Akira’s face went pale, his heart began to race and sink to the bottom of his stomach simultaneously, while he stared at Makoto trying to gauge her reaction. Morgana seemed unfazed by the announcement, but living in a school bag for most of his days meant that he learned of what their leader had done to get the discount on their weapons.
“Before I’ll let Makoto continue, I also wanted to inform you that none of us are upset or repulsed by who you decided to fall in love with. We did not intentionally - well, Futaba was probably the only one who intended to look into Munehisa - the rest of us happened across this information serendipitously.”
“This is true. Other than Yusuke, we each found out just living our lives and being in the right place at the wrong time. We did not mean to keep this from you, but it turned into a bit of a game if you will. Nothing ill-intentioned I can assure you of that. Rather, a game of ‘who is gonna run into them next’.” Makoto paused, watching Akira like a hawk, analyzing every part of his body language and the wide-eyed panic that covered his normally calm features. She nudged Yusuke, who moved over and sat next to Akira, which seemed to snap him out of whatever state he was in.
“Ann got concerned when she saw him approach you and another kid at the diner, Ryuji ran into Munehisa outside of the arcade, Makoto had to intervene as he was stalking the gates of your school - looking for you, I might add - and Haru ran into him at a grocery store. We all happened to be destined to run into one another at some point, and we each came to the conclusion without berating him for information.”
Yusuke wasn’t sure why Akira would want to keep his relationship a secret. If it was the fear of alienation, then surely the time they spent together would’ve proven to be stronger than anything that could come up between them. Even after all the months they had spent together, the artist wasn’t expecting Akira to react in such a manner.
“I can’t believe that you all knew and didn’t tell me. Why couldn’t you just come to me about it after it happened?” Akira took a deep breath and mentally prepared himself for where the conversation was headed. Iwai’s past was probably dug up by Futaba, so he knew that this would be brought up today.
“Interesting. The Two of Cups reversed, it seems that your relationship may encounter some troubled times soon. But let’s check the last card to see what the long term outcome for your relationship.” The last card was flipped, and Iwai wouldn’t admit it to anyone but he was finding himself invested with each card that was revealed.
“Ten of Pentacles.” Chihaya thought for a moment and then waited before summarizing what the cards and fate informed her. “You’re going to be encountering some hard times with those close to your significant other, but ultimately at the end, you two will be happy and in love.”
“After being threatened by several unruly friends of his, I’m not surprised there’s going to be more.” Iwai grumbled to himself, resigned to deal with more of Akira’s rather expansive group of friends.
“Oh, just so we’re clear, while the cards certainly indicate that you two will be happy, it is not a guarantee. If you do anything to break Akira’s heart, I will not hesitate to make sure your life is a living hell.” Her warm smile unsettled Iwai, so he quickly thanked Chihaya and left her sitting there.
“Of course he’d befriend a fortune teller in Shinjuku.” He muttered to himself as he walked back to the station.
Chapter 9: Tripped
Apologies early, this chapter is short and not my favorite....
Despite all the issues he had going on with Tsuda, Iwai found himself accompanying Akira to Akihabara to peruse the electronics stores. Akira was insistent on getting Iwai connected to the 21st century, and this involved getting the surly shop owner a laptop. The pair of them already found a laptop that clearly needed some work, but Akira was looking for something to have Futaba increase the performance of the laptop with. Iwai found himself often trailing after the teenager, as he kept feeling like he was being watched. He kept looking around for any faces he recognized among the crowd, his suspicious behavior ultimately caught the attention of a kid leaving the arcade as he was being kicked out.
Shinya glared at the creepy older man before realizing that he was following Akira, deciding that this would be a great show of skills, he decided to intervene and save his cool, older friend. The kid quickly walked over to the older man and in a overly showy display, ‘tripped’ over his own foot, causing the trenchcoat wearing man to topple over. Before the adult could realize who was responsible for tripping him, Shinya ran away to meet up with Akira. The smaller kid was pulling the teenager into a random store and out a side entrance that led into an alleyway.
“Shinya?!” Akira exclaimed when they were standing in the rather narrow alleyway. It wasn’t unheard of Shinya being in this area, but the behaviour the kid was exhibiting was not normal.
“What is going on? Why are you dragging me into an alleyway?”
Shinya looked around, trying to see if the creep was following them. When he figured that they were safe enough, he tried explaining everything to Akira.
“So I had to do something. You were being followed and the man had a visible tattoo, so he was clearly part of the Yakuza.”
He couldn’t help but laugh at the situation, as not only his friends but even Shinya was worried about him and Iwai. Taking a knee in the dirty alley, Akira got on the same level as the kid who ‘saved’ him and offered to explain the whole thing. He left out most of the intimate details, but explained that Iwai was not actively in the Yakuza and the two of them worked together. As far as the kid needed to know, he and Iwai were just in a typical boss/employee relationship.
“Let’s go back and see if he’s okay.” Akira said to which Shinya nodded and the pair walked out of the narrow alley single file. Once the two of them were on the main street in Akihabara, Akira spotted Iwai sitting on a bench, smoking. Internally, Akira was screaming and stomping out the cigarette, but he needed to put on a calm face so Iwai wouldn’t get even more riled up. They could discuss the smoking at a later date.
“I could’ve used ya a while ago. I think I messed up my ankle real bad...it’s the size of a baseball.” Iwai said, tamping out the cigarette against his shoe, and placing it behind his ear. Pulling up the jean pant leg, the damage was clearly visible, as the ankle and surrounding flesh had swollen up, showing the telltale signs of a sprain or fracture. “Who’s the kid?”
Shinya flinched when his presence was mentioned, and he immediately bowed before the man. He offered a loud apology and remained bowed until Iwai laughed, as he looked up with a confused expression. Akira was unsurprised by the shop owner’s response, as the injury aside, he found the whole situation extremely comedic.
“You were looking out for your friend kid, I ain’t mad at that.” Iwai was obviously trying to not embarrass the kid for what was an honest misunderstanding, but he still felt the itch to slip into a fatherly role given the fact that this kid and Karou could have been brothers with how similar they look. “However, your execution could really use some work. Just promise me that next time, you’ll try to avoid causing physical injuries to complete strangers unless absolutely necessary.”
“Of course! I am truly sorry for your ankle, I wanted to stop you from catching Akira and doing something bad to him.” Slowly standing upright from the bow, Shinya tried to continue to apologize while explaining his motive.
“Apology accepted kid.” Iwai turned to Akira before continuing, “Do you mind going and getting me an ice pack? I think I can walk on it, but I want to get the swelling down a bit.”
With a quick nod, Akira was gone, leaving Shinya and Iwai to awkwardly sit in silence. Much to Iwai’s surprise, the kid sat down next to him and began speaking. Knowing that Akira knew him, Iwai was prepared for some sort of threat. What he heard was not what he expected from the kid.
“I don’t think I should be saying this now, but I will not hesitate to cause another ‘accident’ should I hear that you hurt Akira.” Shinya said, playing a handheld video game that he must’ve pulled from his pockets. “I’m just a kid, and we fall over air all the time. Imagine what would happen if I were to fall in front of some stairs, I think you would be worse off than just a sprained ankle.” The sounds of the video game did not match the serious tone Shinya was speaking with, as the bright chiptunes continued playing in reaction to what he was doing in the game.
“At this point, you’re about 10th in line kid, but I appreciate you looking out for Akira. He’s made a lot of friends that I am sure would not hesitate to defend him if it came down to it.” Despite the threats that were happening more and more frequently, Iwai was pleased to know that Akira was living a good life full of love and friendship. His biggest worry was that he monopolized the teen’s time with his issues and helping out at the shop, but those were slowly being torn down with each new acquaintance he made.
When Akira returned with the cold compresses, Shinya excused himself as he needed to go home otherwise his mom would be mad. After a quick goodbye, Iwai let the teen apply the cooling packets around his ankle, before wrapping a cloth bandage around it snugly. Seeing as they couldn’t walk for a little while, they chatted about the laptop and the shop, choosing to remain on safe topics.
“I hope you know that you’re going to be doing more around the shop as a result, and I don’t mean dusting the shelves.” Iwai smirked, watching Akira’s face redden at the suggestion.
“Shut up old man. I already do that for you, even without a sprained ankle. We are going to my doctor’s office tomorrow, so I’ll take you home tonight and pick you up in the morning.”
Akira waited anxiously outside the gate of Iwai’s modest home, he felt stupid for arriving an hour earlier than their agreed upon meeting time. While he wanted to help the other man get ready as the injury was his fault, it didn’t require arriving this early. Looking around the neighborhood, Akira noticed that a few neighbors were out and about, so he decided to press the buzzer to announce his presence. Reaching towards the intercom box, Akira jumped at the unexpected voice coming from the same box.
“Took you long enough. The gate’s open.” Iwai’s voice sounded different, but Akira figured that it was due to the static from the technology.
Opening the slightly rusted metal gate, the teenager walked along the narrow pathway to the front door. Hestating again, Akira was ready for the front door to open, but it never did. Seeing that he was practically invited, he tried the front door. Finding it unlocked, he announced his entrance into the unfamiliar home and found Iwai leaning against the wall. Akira’s face flushed at the sight. Apparently, Iwai was fond of boxers and looked gorgeous in that old white tank top.
“You’re here early. Figured an old man like myself couldn’t get dressed with a busted ankle?” Clearly teasing, Iwai laughed and pushed himself away from the wall, hopping towards the back of the house. Akira quickly toed off his shoes and helped support Iwai so they could walk towards the bedroom.
“I thought you could use a hand, it must be hard” He paused for emphasis, watching Iwai’s reactions, “trying to do everything yourself, hopping around like a fool.”
Together they laughed while Iwai tried to dress himself without falling over. The shirt and coat were easy, but the pants proved more difficult as he had to put weight on the bad ankle. Akira hovered, out of fear that Iwai would fall over with a light breeze, but he wanted to help in anyway possible. Iwai paused, realizing that he would have to put on shoes and groaned. Thankfully, Akira brought some flip-flops so Iwai wouldn’t need to try to put on heavy shoes and could leave the bandage on for as long as possible.
After an hour and a half of getting ready, and the occasional pining stares, Akira felt that despite everything that happened to get to this point, he wouldn’t change anything. This is the most he was able to touch Iwai besides the stolen moments after the store was closed. Iwai was sitting on the train, wincing with every sudden movement while Akira stood in front of him to protect the ankle from rogue attacks.
“Gotta say kid, I’d never imagine we would be in this particular position. You better not get used to it.” Iwai chuckled, watching Akira turn a bright red in public.
The rest of the train ride was uneventful, it was an overcast Sunday so a lot of people were spending their time inside. It wasn’t cold enough yet to setup the kotatsu but the summer heat was well past now that October was here. Yongen-Jaya was a bit livelier than normal, as the elder couples roamed around the alleyways and into various shops that were open.
Akira and Iwai carefully took the stairs into the clinic, and they soon found themselves sitting in the waiting room, under the steely gaze of Takemi, the punk local doctor. Akira was certain he’d hear something from this visit when Iwai wasn’t around, but for now the only thing he could focus on was her expression of disbelief.
“I don’t have much, but I can do an x-ray here. Iwai was it?” A sharp nod from the older man confirmed that he was paying attention, “I’ll take you to the exam room. Akira help me up, but you need to wait out here. He is a patient after all.” Helping Iwai up was easy, but watching him hobble along with the help of Takemi felt like he made a mistake bringing the shop owner here.
Iwai sat in the exam room, feeling completely exposed, despite only having his pant leg pulled up a couple inches. He could feel that this doctor, Takemi, was seeing everything that he tried to hide without even saying a word. The examination was quite routine, and he breathed a sigh of relief when he was informed that the ankle wasn’t fractured. It was just a bad sprain, and the swelling should subside after a couple weeks of keeping off it.
“So, basically, I have a valid excuse to as little as possible.” It would be fun to watch Akira work while he kicked back to ‘elevate his swollen ankle.
“Technically yes, you do.” Takemi stood up and walked towards the door, and loudly locked the door. “But, before you go, I need to redress the wound.”
He was just starting to feel like something was going on here, as most doctor offices didn’t have a lock on their examination room. When Takemi presented him with a small plastic cup of bright green liquid, Iwai was certain that he was royally screwed.
“Relax, it’s just a natural anti-inflammatory that I am developing. It’s not going to kill you.”
“Alright, anything that will help it look less like a softball lodged under my skin.” Iwai took the offered medicine and drank it in one gulp. He coughed a bit from the bitter liquid, but he did feel better overall.
“Now, onto more important topics.” Takemi pulled an ace bandage from one of the drawers and ripped off the plastic cover. “What do you think you are doing with Akira? You better not be causing any lasting damage to him. Physical or emotional.”
This time Iwai was prepared, as Akira was insistent on bringing him to this particular office, and he could see why. It felt like it was removed from the standard platitudes that surrounded most medical offices. The fake concern and the equally fake personalities which drove him crazy. He always felt like he was the dark cloud to sour the mood when everyone was so happy towards him. Here, he felt like he could easily open up.
“I don’t plan on doing anything like that to him. I was waiting for him to realize who I am and leave me. To be honest, I’m happy to have him look at me for as long as he wants.” Iwai slapped a hand over his mouth and stared at the doctor who was wrapping his ankle in horror. “What is in that medicine you gave me?”
“It’s just an anti-inflammatory that I was developing.” Takemi repeated, leering at Iwai while applying the bandage, “One with a side effect that I wasn’t able to remove. It just lowers the inhibitions that we have, which allows us to share how we really feel. It only lasts an hour or so.”
Outside the office, Akira gave up trying to eavesdrop as the last time he tried Takemi caught him red handed. He played a game on his phone before the text messages started pouring in at his own lack of common sense.
Ryuji: where is everyone?
Akira: I’m waiting to see the doctor.
Ann: Akira, are you okay?
Haru: Are you feeling unwell? I can bring soup I made with the plants I’ve grown.
Makoto: I’m sure if our leader was sick, he would be letting us know. We were planning on going to Mementos this afternoon.
Akira: I’m not sick, but thank you for the offer of soup!
Futaba: YOU’RE SICK?!?!?!
Futaba: …..i’m so late
Ryuji: haha xD
Haru: It’s okay Futaba, you were typing at the same time as Akira, so it’s an honest mistake.
Ann: For sure! Is everything okay though? Sojiro isn’t sick is he?
Yusuke: Boss is sick???
Ann: I don’t know, Akira is ignoring us
Makoto: I’m sure that’s not it, he might be distracted with something.
Akira: He’s fine. I’m with Iwai, he got injured.
Futaba: guys, I would know if he was sick
Ryuji: it was the yakuza!
Akira: It was most certainly not, he sprained his ankle.
Seeing as he was distracted on his phone, Akira didn’t realize that Iwai was approaching him until the older man was standing above him.
“We have to stop meeting like this, except I much rather like this setup we have right now.” Another series of chuckles, and Akira shot up like a rocket. He helped support Iwai and take some weight off his bad ankle. Takemi watched on with an expressionless face, looking at the two of them and how Akira responded to the normal touch of Iwai’s arm around his shoulder.
“Shut up old man. Lets go to Leblanc so you can sit down and elevate your leg for a while.”
She watched the two of them leave, and realized that Akira was not a normal high school student. He was the leader of the Phantom Thieves, dating an ex-member of the Yakuza, and still found the time to be her guinea pig. Sitting down behind the reception desk, she wondered how he found the time to do everything and be there for everyone.
Opening the drawer which contained various colored vials, she replaced the green one and shut and locked the drawer. This particular medicine had a lot of work to be done on it as she wasn’t closer to getting the answers she was looking for. The effect was nice but there was always the next visit from her guinea pig.
So Takemi is my second fave confidant route (take a wild guess who is my first favorite) but I always felt like she was making medicine that was out of the ordinary and had interesting effects. She was nicknamed The PLAGUE after all.
Kawakami had started to miss moonlighting as a maid but Akira called upon her frequently enough that she never missed it for long. Normally the teenager would call her in the evenings, but this morning was a bit different. The voice on the other line was still Akira’s, that much was certain, but it was lighter and happier if possible. She figured something must be important to have requested her so early in the day.
Arriving at Leblanc, the homeroom teacher was surprised to find it was open, as all of the other times Akira called upon her the coffee shop was closed. Opening the door, Kawakami noticed the teenager cooking and rummaging around behind the counter, getting the shop ready for the day. Apparently the guardian Sojiro trusted the teen enough to man the store during the slow mornings. Nobody was inside the quaint shop this early, which she was thankful for. She didn’t need anybody questioning why a maid would be showing up here.
“You better have a good reason for calling me this early. This is the one day I get to sleep in and you just had to call.” She wasn’t too upset, but it was fun to watch Akira look apologetic.
“I needed some help with my laundry. Sojiro is busy today so I’ve got to run the store. I would’ve done it later this evening but I have another job.” Akira knew that she would get the picture of what he was doing tonight.
“That is an acceptable reason to call.” She says, walking further into the store towards the staircase, “I guess I could help out for today. You better get a perfect score on tomorrow’s test or I will withdraw my services for the rest of the month, I know your job is important, but I can’t excuse poor performance in my class.” Kawakami walked up the stairs and rolled her eyes at the state of the room.
It was certainly cleaner than she was used to seeing, the floors were cleaned and mopped recently and the dust on the shelves had been replaced by knicknacks and curios from around Shibuya. The dirty clothes were mostly contained in a hamper under the table near the stairs, but Kawakami noticed some clothing at the foot of Akira’s bed. With a slight shake of her head, she walked across the room and grabbed the clothing from the sheets.
“Kid, stop grabbing me already. I’m up.” Iwai groaned, rolling over causing Kawakami to screech and fall backwards landing on several layers of tulle and lace. “So you’re not Akira, and it’s not my birthday. Who are you?”
“I’m his homeroom teacher.” She realizes how that sounds and proceeds to stand up to fix her shirt. “I work as a maid on my days off and I’m not that kinda maid anymore!” Grabbing the hamper, she stomps downstairs and leaves the man with more questions than answers.
Hearing all the noise upstairs, Akira is waiting for Kawakami to say something as she descends the stairs, but he just receives the silent treatment. He knows he’s going to get a lecture before the day is over, so he braces himself for it. While Kawakami is at the laundromat, Akira quickly checks on Iwai upstairs to make sure he’s okay.
“It’s a long story, I’ll tell you all about it soon. I just got a lot going on today, so do you think you’ll be okay up here for the day? You can use my laptop if you want.” Akira doesn’t have the chance to wait for an answer as the bell on the door signals that someone walked in and there’s a chance that it wasn’t Kawakami.
“Go. You got a job to do. I wouldn’t be able to do much work anyway with how my ankle’s messed up.”
Kawakami sits at the laundromat until the first load of clothing is ready for the dryer. As she transfers the clothing and dumps the remaining clothes into the washing machine, her mind was racing with thoughts of how to address the situation. The man had to be older than she was, and it was clear that Akira was involved with the man in a clearly intimate way.
With the laundry started and nothing else to do, she returned to Leblanc and took a seat at the counter. Akira was busy serving coffee and curry to the few customers that were there. She waits for him to return before asking for a cup for herself. Watching the teenager skillfully pour the cup of coffee, Kawakami still wondered how she was going to bring up the subject.
“You don’t have to beat around the bush. I know you’re dying to ask me about him.” Akira smiled, watching her facial expressions as he spoke. “It’s a fair question and honestly, I’m surprised that you didn’t notice when he started lurking outside the school.”
“He was the one lurking outside the school? I never saw the supposed lurker and the reports stopped so we were never sure who it was.” Kawakami whispered. She could feel the eyes of the other customers on her and she knew it was because of her clothing. “I just can’t wrap my head around this. He’s got to be twice your age!”
“I know, and it’s likely to get him in a lot of trouble. You don’t think that’s all I worry about? It’s not like I’ve spent hours at night worried about it. I’ve got time against me in more ways than one. I’m not going to be here after the probation is over. I’ll be of legal age shortly after I’m forced to leave and I’m not sure what he’ll want to do when I leave.” Akira paused, thanking the customers who finished and were leaving, before looking at Kawakami for a response.
“Akira, you sound like you’ve given this a lot of thought. But have you said any of this to him? It will affect both of you and he deserves to know. He knows about your job yes?” Kawakami sighed when Akira nodded.
“Talk to him. I’ll be right back with half of your laundry.” She stood up and left the coffee shop, hoping that the supposed leader of the Phantom Thieves would be able to get his act together. For someone who could connect with seemingly anyone, he sure did have a problem with expressing how he was feeling and his concerns. Once she reached the laundromat, she folded the clothing from the dryer, relishing the warmth in the chilly morning. With the final load of clothing in the dryer, Kawakami returned to Leblanc with the basket.
“I’m not done with you just yet. I’ll take these up and put them away and I’ll be back.” She walked upstairs and halfway up, took a deep breath to steady her resolve on what she was about to do.
Iwai perked up at the sounds of footsteps but deflated when he saw the maid coming up with the laundry. He watched as she put the clothes away and thought nothing of it so he returned to watching the laptop. When he looked back up, she was standing in the middle of the room, staring at him.
“Alright, I’ll bite. What are you going to say to me? I’ve been through a lot already, so give me your best shot.” Iwai grumbled as he hoped that the maid would be silent and leave. He was starting to realize that those around Akira was far from normal. From the kids he ran around with to the adults he had in his back pockets, Iwai was certain that the teen was ready for a war.
“He’s a teenager. You’re a fully grown man. I don’t need to tell you the legalities of such a relationship. I’m just a teacher, it’s not like I can do much damage myself.” Kawakami ran her hands across the front of her skirt, straightening the apron. “I just want you to know that he’s going through a lot. If you plan on being with him, help him when he needs it the most.”
Iwai was stunned by the sincerity of the woman before him as he expected some kind of threat. He did decide that the teacher probably wasn’t able to do much like Takemi or Toranosuke.
“I will. He knows that I’ll be here to support him no matter what he or his friends get into.”
“Well, that’s good to hear. I guess you’ll be sticking around up here for the rest of the day. I’ll be back in about an hour with the last load of laundry.”
Akira: is everyone ready for tonight?
Futaba: hell yeah my dude
Haru: I am ready to make sure our country isn’t led by a monster like him.
Ryuji: for realz
Makoto: I, for one, will be glad when all of this is over.
Yusuke: Shido is a monster and needs to be stopped. I will be ready for whatever happens.
Ann: Same!! I can’t wait to get off that ship for good.
Akira: alright...i will be there a bit later than normal. I gotta drop Iwai off with his bum ankle
Makoto: Thank you for letting us know. We’ll be waiting for you by the tree.
Ryuji: don’t be too late dude… im ready to rock!
Futaba: guys we don’t know what Shido will be able to do gotta stay focused
Haru: We will be! I know we can triumph over this evil!
Akira: YEAHH! Anyway, back to work. I’ll see you all tonight!
Kawakami came downstairs and shot Akira a look of relief. Now that she met the man and had a chance to speak to him, her worries were mostly assagued.
“Before you get into too much trouble. Make sure you tell him okay? He needs to know what may happen. You already pulled one scare with the whole prison death.”
Akira nodded and turned his gaze away from his homeroom teacher, his own worries threatening to spill out. He swallowed and nodded, just waiting for Kawakami to ask him one more time.
“Alright. I’ll finish up the laundry and head home. You better be safe tonight.”
I'm lazy and I need to work on this more.
Iwai turned the page of the magazine, idly reading the article about replica handguns while the kid in front of him looked like he was going to throw up. It was a slow morning for Untouchables, which was normal for a Wednesday, but the fact there was a high school student nervously standing before him during school hours meant that this kid knew Akira. Iwai recognized the uniform despite it being a simple white turtleneck.
“If you’re just going to stand there, you could at least buy something.” The surly shop owner muttered while closing the magazine. He had to stop himself from chuckling when the teenager flinched visibly over his comment.
“I-I’m sorry! I’ll buy something.” The teenager looks around and Iwai can tell he is clearly not a gun enthusiast, so he decides to break it to the kid easy.
“I don’t sell to newcomers. It’s clear you are not here to buy anything, so tell me, what brings you into a shop like this?”
If it was possible, the teenager seemed to be shaking even more, clearly he was intimidated easily. Iwai leaned his seat back, resting his legs on the glass display case. It was about the time when he would nap in the back, but this kid had other plans for his morning.
“A-Akira…” There it was. He knew that this kid was somehow related to Akira, but he wasn’t expecting a skittish teenager like the one before him to be friends with Akira.
“Go on. I ain’t got all day.” Iwai barked at the teenager before him, which he felt bad after the words left his mouth, but surprisingly, this snapped a change in the male before him.
“If you do anything - and I mean anything - to hurt Akira, I will not hesitate to let the Phantom Thieves know! I have a direct connection with them, and they will get revenge on you if I point them in your direction.” The kid had guts, but clearly didn’t know how to pull off a threat. He wanted to laugh in his face when the teenager threatened him with the Phantom Thieves. Iwai knew Akira was the leader of the rumored Phantom Thieves, but until then, he would be happy to let the bespeckled teen believe he was oblivious.
“Who says I’m out to hurt him? What if he ends up hurting me, what then?”
“I-I didn’t think of that happening. You’re the one with the shady past and connections to the Yakuza.”
“And you don’t think Akira has done shady things or has connections to questionable people?” Iwai could feel a headache forming from dealing with this kid. “Listen kid - what was your name again?”
“Listen Mishima,” Iwai sat up and leaned onto the glass display case, “I know you’re concerned about your friend, and that’s noble of you, but I am not the bad guy here. I let Akira set the pace and he has laid down the rules of what he is comfortable with, and I abide by them. Nothing has happened, nor will it happen until Akira is ready. I am not pressuring him into anything, and I am perfectly fine with however long he wants to wait.”
Mishima stood there stunned for a minute, and even after Iwai waved his hands in front of the teenager’s face, he got no response. He feared he broke the younger male with how direct he was, but it needed to be said. His and Akira’s relationship while questionable due to their age difference, had been strictly limited as Akira did not need any further legal issues. Iwai was fine with letting the pace be dictated by Akira, as neither of them needed any police investigation. They had their moments of tenderness, but it was always controlled, and Iwai was looking forward to the day when Akira let the older man ruin him.
“Mishima? I didn’t realize you were into model guns. Has Iwai been showing you some options?” Akira’s voice snapped both men out of their thoughts, and Mishima’s face turned a deep red from embarrassment. He never wanted to have Akira find him here, but he knew that he waited too long to actually speak to the shop owner.
“What are you doing here? It’s still early and I know today’s a school day as Karou left this morning in his uniform.”
“It’s a week of tests at Shujin, so we got released early. I wanted to stop by and invite you and Karou to hang out this weekend if you were free.”
Mishima just stood there, still slightly dumbfounded, but he could see the difference Akira made in the man. He was still rough around the edges, but his eyes showed a fondness that wasn’t there before.
“Yeah! I was just looking for a model from a video game I’ve been playing, but I don’t think I will have luck finding one. Maybe I’ll need to make one myself.” He could hear his own voice sounding uncertain, however Akira didn’t visibly react to it.
“There’s a store in Akihabara that you may be able to find it at. I’d be happy to show you one day.”
“That’d be nice! I-I’ve got to get going though, I’ll see you at school Akira!” Mishima quickly left the store and once he was outside, he could finally get a deep breath and steady his nerves. He knew that this was a dumb idea, but he still felt the need to come here after hearing Makoto and Ryuji talking about the shop and hearing the pair talk about Akira’s love life had him interested. Once they said it was an older shop owner, Mishima was immediately concerned as he heard rumors that the shop owner in question had ties to the Yakuza.
Walking home left Mishima thinking about the whole scenario and reeling on how dumb he acted. He had no idea what he was even going to do confronting a supposed member of the Yakuza, and if he got Akira involved, Mishima knew that he wouldn’t be able to escape. He was relieved to find out that the man was a decent human being and things didn’t escalate with his lackluster warning. He sighed deeply and made sure to keep this to himself even though he was certain Akira would be hearing what happened.
Akira: sooooo Mishima just ‘threatened’ Iwai and i’m dying
Ryuji: WHAT Mishima walked into that store ALONE?????
Ann: Dang, what a bold move for him. He’s grown so much!
Makoto: You do realize that having too many Shujin students walk into that store might garner the attention of the local police, yes?
Haru: I’m positive it will be fine! Akira is the only one who frequented that store as he worked there. A one off visit could be explainable.
Futaba: i wouldn’t be surprised if the police are on high alert looking for the rest of us with what happened
Yusuke: Apologies Haru, I know it’s still a hard thing to deal with.
Ryuji: sorry man :(
Ann: We’re here for you Haru, if you need company, we can stop by anytime.
Haru: Thanks everyone, I appreciate your concern. I’m doing okay. I still miss my father, but I have had time to heal.
Akira: I will be happy once all of this is over. We can meet up after the tests are over and get this finished.
I had to flex some of the dates to make sense in what I have going on. I also do know that getting out early on days of tests is probably unlikely.
Chapter 13: Reported
Seeing as nobody bought a lot of model guns as Christmas gifts, Untouchables was empty on this snowy Tuesday and Iwai was currently reading a newspaper that had been in his store for the past few weeks. Seeing as Akira was busy with his friends preparing for their final exams, he scanned the stack of newspapers that he had laying beside the trash can.
What caught his eye was the front page headline, as he knew Akira’s reporter friend Ohya was going to run an article about what happened with the Yakuza scandal. Iwai took a deep breath and began reading the article, memories of that night came flooding back and he felt like his heart was breaking all over again.
After slowly meeting - and being vaguely threatened by - about a dozen or so of Akira’s friends across Shibuya, Iwai was surprised that Akira set up a meeting with one he hadn’t met yet. The older man remembered meeting the fortune teller in this part of Shinjuku but apparently there was a bar here where Iwai was supposed to meet a reporter to anonymously give a detailed account of what happened with the whole Tsuda fallout that happened a few weeks ago. The newspapers were always coming up with new pieces of evidence, but nobody had the full story. Akira begged Iwai to meet with this reporter as this would be helpful for her career. Iwai agreed - reluctantly - but with the promise of complete anonymity.
Following the directions Akira gave him to the bar - which Iwai would need to discuss with the teen as the older man was certain Akira would get into trouble by showing up around here too often. Iwai gave a slight wave at Chihaya as he passed and continued down the street past the seedy bookstore. Once he saw the bright neon sign tucked into the cutout of the building, he wondered what bar would call itself Crossroads.
When he opened the door, the smell of alcohol was the first to assault his senses, but when his eyes stopped stinging, the second thing he noticed was a large woman dressed in a purple kimono. Once the bartender - Lala, he soon found out - spoke, he realized that the name Crossroads made sense. Lala was a great help by directing him to the woman Akira had set up the meeting with, but warned that Ohya had already gotten a few drinks in her, so she may be handsy with a man like himself.
“Thanks Lala, I can handle myself just fine. Does Akira come here often?” Iwai was hoping to get some intel on Akira’s visits to this bar, as Lala didn’t seem like the type to allow minors to drink.
“My pleasure darling!” Lala just chuckled a bit at the mention of Akira, “He works here part-time but it’s maybe once a week at most. He’s a busy teenager, so I’ll take what time I can get from him.”
“Lala-chan~! Stop hogging my date, I want to get the interview started already.” Ohya slurred, clearly she was drunk and Iwai just laughed to himself over how ‘respectable’ Akira said this reporter was.
“Keep it up Ohya, and I’ll make sure your tab is due before the night is over.” Lala just laughed and returned to the customers behind the bar, casually keeping an eye on the pair in the back booth.
Once Iwai was settled into the booth, the reporter began asking questions and taking notes. The actual interview was handled professionally for someone who previously was acting like a drunken fool. Iwai answered the questions the reporter asked, making sure to remind her that his name, and Karou’s name were not to be disclosed in the article. Ohya assured him that it would never get back to him or his kid, and Iwai relaxed a bit as they continued speaking.
“Alright, I think that’s everything I would need to get the article written,” Ohya’s energetic voice caused Lala to glare in their direction, “And I’ll assure you one final time that your name or Karou’s name won’t appear anywhere in the article. I’ll spin it so there’s no chance anyone could recognize it was you who gave me this information.”
“I appreciate it. If that’s all you need, I guess I should be going now.” Iwai moved to shuffle out of the chair but Ohya’s hand quickly caught his arm, stopping him from leaving. “Was there something you needed?”
“I do actually.” With those words, Iwai settled back into his seat, and knew where this conversation was going.
“This was only a matter of time, so go ahead, say your piece. I’ve probably heard it a dozen times by now.”
“Other than what Akira’s told me of you and this interview, I do not know anything about you. I’ll assume you’re a standup guy - given that you took in a baby when the mother abandoned it, tried to protect your kid from the hard truth of your past, and own a respectable business - but Akira is dealing with some heavy shit that you can’t protect him from. Hell, none of us can.” Her voice sank, the gravity of what Akira and his ragtag group of friends were facing weighed heavily on her mind.
“I completely understand just what kind of danger Akira is dealing with on a daily basis. I give him the tools he needs to protect himself and his friends - despite the fact that I don’t understand how replica weapons would serve any purpose.”
Ohya sighed, took the last swig of her drink, and took a deep breath - Iwai just sipped his water and waited for the reporter to continue. Lala stopped by and dropped off two tall glasses of ice water. Iwai just nodded at her in appreciation.
“While I can’t protect him from whatever he is facing, I can make sure to protect him from whatever threats I can. Unfortunately, this also includes you.” Ohya paused, clearly waiting for an outburst from the man she was sitting with, but nothing happened, “He’s a teenager. While he may be capable of taking care of himself given his… unique circumstances, he’s young, dumb, and full of… well, you know. I just don’t want him to be agreeing to anything like this until he’s able to make decisions for himself.”
“I’ve never forced him into anything if that’s what you’re hinting at.” The gruff man growled, “I was the one pushing him away in the beginning, and eventually, I stopped caring about laws or anything like that as we have not done anything. I am not a threat to Akira, I have agreed to wait until he is legal before making anything official - in any capacity.”
“That’s good - I think?”
“I appreciate your time Ohya, I will be happy to read the article when it gets printed. Make sure Akira knows so he can pass along the news.” Iwai stood up, and gave a sour grin at the reporter.
“Iwai, just one more thing.”
“Let me guess, if I say or do anything, you’ll write an article about the ‘old man who seduced a juvenile’ and I’ll be ruined right?”
“Actually, no. While I could do that, without proof, I could easily lose my job. Akira would find a way to make it look completely innocent, so I couldn’t threaten you with that. The kid’s a smart one, but he can’t write my article now can he?” Ohya grinned, a dark expression covering her flushed face, “I am sure that the public would love to know the tragic story of Karou, the kid abandoned by his mother when she couldn’t get drug money, taken in by an ex-Yakuza, and then held hostage by the Yakuza over a smuggling deal gone wrong. It would be an expose about how you’re an unfit father and there’s nothing Akira could do about this.”
“You’re kidding me right? Karou had nothing to do with this - talk about below the belt.” Iwai just stormed off, and out of the bar. Lala tried to stop him before he left, but Iwai just dodged her and exited Crossroads.
“I cannot believe you would stoop that low. What would Akira think of you now?” Lala chided the drunk reporter, and when she didn’t get a response, Lala gently shook Ohya. Figures the reporter had passed out drunk.
Iwai stormed off, walking around Shinjuku to cool off as his anger was making him see red for the first time since he left the Yakuza. He wanted to go back and handle the reporter, but Akira would not approve. After walking around for half an hour, Iwai found himself in the subway, waiting for a train to head home. He was idly watching the news channel that was on the TV, he was aware that the topic was that of the Phantom Thieves.
After a minute, the report changed to a breaking news story and Iwai stood there stunned. The leader of the Phantom Thieves, caught by the cops and committed suicide. There was no way, Iwai knew Akira would never do something so stupid. He pulled out his phone and called the number, when the line kept ringing, Iwai’s heart sank. Collapsing to his knees, he sobbed alone in the empty subway station, wishing that whatever deity was out there would make this a bad joke.
When the subway arrived, Iwai stood up on weak legs, his knees felt like they would give out in a moment’s notice. He opted to take a seat as the subway sped along to the various stations across Tokyo. Iwai was a zombie walking through the crowds, it wasn’t until he made it to his living room that the reality sunk in. Akira was gone.
Iwai did receive a text from Ohya the night that Akira was labelled as dead, which was just a simple apology. He never replied to that message, as he couldn’t forgive her after what she threatened him with. Most of Akira’s contacts did have valid concerns, which he knew he had covered as the two of them had a clearly defined arrangement.
After reading the article, Iwai was relieved that neither his name or Karou’s name were used, and the details of who the ‘innocent bystanders’ were could be any single father in the city. Pulling his phone out of his pocket, Iwai sent a quick text to the one message he never answered.
Ohya - Reporter: I heard the news, I am so sorry for what I said that night. I was drunk - that’s no excuse, I know that now - but I would never have made your names public knowledge. Akira will be fine, he’s tougher than that.
Iwai: The article was good. Don’t take this as forgiveness, Akira can tell you that I’m not that kind of man.
And with that response, Iwai just put the newspaper back, and decided it would be worthwhile to do some Christmas shopping of his own while the Karou and Akira were busy at school.