Chapter 1: Lingering warmth
A contract is what brought them together.
She was a well-seasoned mercenary. Young, but very capable if the hype around her name holds true. The old oyabun had a good relationship with her, if the various plans to meet on their leisure time is anything to go by. Chisaki was only two years into his leadership, but the disaster that was working with the slowly dying numbers of the yakuza made him feel like he was 20 years older than he really was.
He was a capable fighter, as it was a mandatory skill to have as a gangster. His quirk made things too easy in a fight, but he had no time to waste on petty brawls. He figured a few demonstrations of his power against those that defied him would keep his subordinates tamed. Yet even then, many still have the audacity to stand against him, thinking they have a remote chance to overpower him.
The moment he was made leader, the experimenting and production for the quirk nullifying and restoration bullets began. With the less than substantial facilities and his and Hari's self taught knowledge, they only managed to suppress the quirk factor to half a day. It was significant progress, but the time to achieve only half a day of suppression was far too long. Keeping his men and the other factions in line was taking too much of his time. His entourage of his childhood friend and general manager wasn't enough, and the many attempts to take his life and position (all futile, might he add) was becoming a big hindrance to his progress.
Which is how he came to hiring of the young mercenary. He needed someone he could hire to quickly take care of the dirty work while he works on his grand scheme to save the yakuza and restore their lost (more like stolen) influence. Unfortunately, no one already instated in the yakuza would be capable of handling the task. Perhaps some training is in order, or maybe more selective recruitment?
The image he had of her was someone who was a bit rugged, maybe even brawny to some degree. The life of a mercenary, especially what she's been said to excel in, is bound to harden any individual. Someone respectful and capable, with the years of their experience etched out in scars along their body and sharpened features. That was who he was expected to walk through the door to his small meeting room.
She was small, no taller than 5 feet at least. Her face was a mixture of round and heart shaped, softer features from what he had imagined in his head. Atop her grey eyes were slightly oversized retro circle glasses. Aviator styled goggles rested on her head, pulling her bangs out of her face. Her bob cut hair was curly and voluminous, bouncing a bit as she walked and moved her head around. Nothing was disheveled or rugged about her, but rather well groomed and exuberant.
He watches as she inspects the room, taking notice of how plain it was. Only two couches seated across each other and a coffee table between them. No personal flare or pop of color was added, giving the room little to no atmosphere. Moving around the couch across from him, she sat down with a bit of bounce.
He found himself hesitating to begin their negotiations. Perhaps it was the shock of his incorrect assumptions. She didn't look like a hardened mercenary, or like the person his mentor described. She didn't look that capable or dauntless.
She just doesn't appear to be what she's been praised to be. He's tempted to just send her out and find someone else who fits the image and expectations in his head. The written words of his mentor, emphasizing on how much he trusted her and relied on her is enough to swallow his prejudice and finally speak to her.
“Now then, let's begin-”
She laughs a bit, cutting and catching him off guard by how relaxed she already looks. People normally looked visibly stiff like a rock when they sit across from him.
“I would be caught off guard as well if some small girl came through that door, claiming to be a mercenary.”
He raises a eyebrow at her sudden statement, “What makes you think you caught me off guard?”
She hums to herself, tapping her chin and looking off at nothing in particular. After clearly faking her deep thinking she turns her gaze back to him.
He raises an eyebrow, “That’s all?”
She nods, “It wasn't for long though. In fact, you recovered beautifully. A normal person wouldn't have caught it, and with your mask it makes it harder to get a read on your emotional state.”
He tilts his head at her, which she tilts in the same direction as him. It isn't an attempt to mock or expose a weakness in him, she's simply stating what she saw and had concluded. It was almost as if she was trying to convey to him to not feel bad for having doubts in her, like they were understandable and meant no offense to her.
All that was made clear from the briefest moment of hesitance on his part.
“Ok,” she lifts herself off the couch a bit and adjusts to be more comfortable, “before we get into all the business talk, is there anything you'd like to know about me?”
“In what context?”
“You know,” she started listing off with her fingers, “name, quirk, years of experience, why I'm short as hell. That sort of stuff.”
“Were you planning on not telling me all this?” he asks
“Not if you don't ask. I'm not a mind reader after all.”
He lets out a sigh, rubbing his temples with his gloved index finger and thumb. When he looks back at her he notices how she was leaned forward to him. Almost in anticipation for him to start talking to her. If indulging her is what gets them to their negotiations, then he'll humor her.
Her name was Evelyn, no disclosed last name. He was told to call her 'Delta’ if he had no desire to call her by her first name. She was barely 20, yet with almost five years of experience to her profession. Her quirk was body manipulation, allowing her to manipulate aspects of only her body. She reassured him of her exception quirk application, stating she was taught by the best of the best.
Anything more personal, such as who her master was or where she came from was kept a secret. When he asked of her neck tattoo, a lotus flower with black shading, he was denied an answer. When he mentioned the leather body harnesses that peeked beneath her clothing, he was denied an answer yet again. It was either irrelevant for him to know or something she'll share once they formed a contract.
“Anything else?" she asked patiently.
“No, I think I've satisfied my curiosity.”
“Alright! Now onto the more important stuff.”
She leans forward, resting her chin in her folded over hands. Her expression morphed from laid back to serious, giving him his cue to take the reigns of their discussion. He lays out the details for her hiring. She is to become a bodyguard for him. All that is needed from her is to keep him alive and provide any assistance wherever needed. She'll be indulged on some details of the organization, but most information will be withheld from her unless it's needed for the job.
The terms seemed to sit well with her, taking a weight off his shoulder that he wasn't aware was there. She goes on to explain her hiring terms to him and he makes a mental note of it.
“Ok, that seems simple enough," she chimed in with relief.
“I'm glad to hear that. How much do I need to pay you?”
“My normal price is 35 million. Since this is our first time working together I'll bring it down to 10 million, just to see if this arrangement works out or not.”
He raises his eyebrow in question again, “People willingly pay you that much?”
She simply nods, “They wouldn't if I wasn't worth the price.”
That's true, he thinks. If she wasn't what she lived up to be, then she wouldn't be here talking to him. Appearances don't matter if an individual is truly capable enough to garner the reputation she has. The doubts from before are fading, but they still linger within his mind. He reminds himself of earlier, of how she indirectly reassured him that his doubts didn't offend her and were within reason.
She understands his doubts because others before him have expressed them as well. His brief hesitation was noticeable to her because she's seen it before. She's seen how people's face twists in surprise at her upfront appearance. According to what he was told, she would have started her career as a mercenary at just 15. No one would put much faith in a teenager, much less someone as small as her.
If others are willing to pay her high fee, then it means she's worth as much as she's set her value as.
If she was able to garner clientele of many different backgrounds, it shows that she's very resourceful and proficient with the tasks she was given.
If his mentor, his father figure, was able to put his faith and trust in her, then he will do the same.
The last remains of his lingering doubts fade. Now, only high expectations are in place for her. For her sake, he hopes she can live up to them. Perhaps she might exceed his expectations. The two weeks they’ll be working together will give him his answers.
“Is there anything else you want to add?”
“No, I'm satisfied with our terms.”, he replies.
She claps her hands together and smiles at him, “Then we have a deal!”
The terms for her contract have been decided. Now, all that's left is payment and for them to get started.
“When's the earliest you can start?”, he asks.
“Two days from now. Is that alright?”
He nods, earning another smile from her. It's nice to see that even with their agreement she's still making sure every additional detail is of his choosing and satisfaction. It seems she's already at work.
She outstretches her hand in the hopes of shaking his. A small gesture, but enough to send him in a bit of a panic at the prospect of making contact, of touching another person. She seems to pick up on his discomfort, adjusting her hands position to instead take his hand in her small own.
“I don't like bowing. It makes my clients think they have some superiority over me," she says the last part of her comment with a bit of annoyance.
“In order to do perform my job at the fullest potential, I need to be on a equal relationship with my clients. Of course, that sort of bond can only come out of trust.”
Her hand reels back a bit, still palm side up for him to place his own in. He looks behind her to see his assistant with a hand in his large coat. Hari most likely has a grip of his gun, in case her gesture turns out to be an attempt at a violent move.
"Trust is something I need to gain from you over time." she pushes her hand forward a bit, but not too much "Let this be our first steps towards that trust."
Slowly and with a bit of apprehension, he places his hand in her own. She doesn't wrap her small fingers around his hand and shake it enthusiastically. He's just left to be, quickly pulling his hand away after all but two seconds of the shared contact.
Even as he retreats his hand with such haste, the lingering warmth of her hand remains. In no way was it unpleasant, it was an innocent and simple gesture. His overly involved thoughts had gotten the better of him, leading him to scrub at his skin in the bathroom afterwards, until it became red and raw. The burning, sensitive flesh of his palm appeased his frenzied mind. At least for now he hopes.
He has to remind himself that he didn't touch her directly. The warmth that seeped into his skin through the latex gloves seemed to have been enough though.
He almost regrets not requesting that she start now, but ultimately decided that a few days of preparation would be needed so she can start smoothly. It's been a long time since someone truly captured his interest and worth some of his effort. His attention and devotion has been elsewhere that he's almost forgotten how pleasant simple interaction can be. They were having a business discussion, but there was also an atmosphere of casualness that had formed around them. It was as if he was filling out and reading over paperwork in the comfort of his bed.
A small clank puts a halt to his train of thought. He had almost forgotten that he requested tea. His assistant carefully pours the warm green liquid in a cup. He makes sure to not spill any and to not fill the cup up all the way. He leaves an inch unfilled and sets the clay teapot back on the small tray.
Chisaki gives him a small thanks and takes a sip. It wasn't too hot and it wasn't too cold, nor was is too bitter. Hari always makes his tea the way he likes. His friend doesn't have many interests, finding it difficult to stay attached to something or someone. Tea seems to be the only thing that has held his interest, and it shows at how quickly and perfectly his batches are.
“Is there anything else you need?” Hari asks.
Chisaki is inclined to say no and send Hari off for the day. His mind finds it's way back to her.
“Kurono, be honest with me.”
“I'm always honest with you Kai.”
“What do you think of her, of the mercenary I hired a few hours ago?”
Hari hums in thought before responding, “She’s a bit mysterious. You can't really tell what kind of person she is, but overall she comes off as friendly and cooperative.”
That's what he thought his friend might say. As bubbly as she let herself appear, she was still an enigma to them. Even after she revealed her name, no information could be pulled up on her. He was either given a fake name or her information was kept behind tight security. Perhaps she was never on any records in the first place?
“Is there anything else you need?” Hari asks.
“No, that will be all. Go rest up for tomorrow.”
Hari bows his head and makes his way out the office. He reminds Chisaki to not stay up too late, which earns him a small grunt of acknowledgement. After shutting the door carefully, Chisaki is left with just his warm tea and his thoughts.
A brief flash of light in his peripheral draws his attention to the window. A large clap of thunder follows up shortly along with the gentle, then harsh beats of rain drops against the window and roof. Chisaki hates the aftermath of rainfall. The wet dirt and germ filled puddles to come after is enough for him to feel the tightening in his chest from his easily triggered panic attacks. At least the rainfall provides a peaceful ambient sound.
Another flash of light and a delayed clap of thunder roars in the sky. Another sip of warm tea slides down his throat, clearing his mind even as the weather isn't as such.
He hopes that wherever she may be, that she's out of the rain and safe indoors.
She loved the rain. Her ability to enhance her sense of smell allowed her a more intimate look on the droplets origins. Dirt was a dominant smell in this fall. An array of different soil types for various gardening, from a rice garden to a overly attended flower bed from some rich housewife. No ocean water can be sniffed out, which makes her a bit sad.
She relaxes her nose, taking a bite from her large red bean bun. As she eats in her hotel room, wind begins to pick up outside. The windows rattled then settle, repeating each time the wind randomly catches more speed. The weather had picked up so suddenly, almost unnaturally at how quickly the tranquil sunsetting sky shifted to hectic and borderline dangerous.
A muffled ringing comes from her leather backpack. Biting down and holding the bun in her mouth, she rummages through her bag and finds her phone. She turns the screen on and reads the text.
Video call from: Youta
She answers his call and is greeted with it's caller. He was laying back in his futon, dark red hair a bit disheveled from just waking up, and his stubble a bit more grown out than the last time they saw each other.
“Hey, just checking up on yo...is that a bean bun?”
She pulls the bun out of her mouth to hold it in her free hand.
“Yep! 'Got it from a street vendor before the rain came. I actually bought 4, but I'm only on my second and I'm kind of stuffed.” she takes another tiny bite.
“I'm glad to see you've eaten at least. How did your meeting go?”
“I got a deal! It's actually with the yakuza again, just under a new boss.”
He raises his eyebrows in surprise, “They have a new boss? Did Fujimoto finally kick the bucket?”
“I would assume so. I haven't heard from him in a few years, figured he might have gone into hiding or had a family emergency.”
Youta lets out a deep hum in thought, turning on his side and jostling his phone with his movements. He runs a hand over his face, trying to rub the grogginess away. Nothing seems to be new with Youta, sleeping well into the afternoon or at the most inconvenient times like the content retired man he is.
“So the one leading the gang, that would be his son?”
She shakes her head, “I don't think it's his son by blood. Even if his lower face was covered, it's the eyes that were too different. He's probably Fuji-san’s protege that he later came to consider his son.”
“That sounds like something he'd do. Even if he's been labelled a gangster, he was always a softy.”
She cocks one eyebrow and smirks at her screen, “‘Kinda like you.”
They both share a quick, tired laugh. She fills him in on her adventurous week. All the foods she tried, the new places she's visited, the new people she met, and the trinkets she acquired to add to her growing collection. Youta was happy to here of her eventful days, and even happier that she found a job. After her job she'll come back to their beach side home to recuperate. He'd like nothing more than for her to come back home where he knows she'll be safe.
“How long is the contract?”, Youta asks.
She shuts the mini fridge where she stored her left over street food. Her body makes its way to her bed and flops down, jostling and cutting off the camera as she makes too much sudden movements.
“Yup. It's our first time working together so two weeks is enough to get a feel for our work ethics. Also 10 mill’ was the price we agreed on.”
She ignores the underhanded comment of 'too low for you’ from him. 10 million yen is a lot, but she's used to getting paid triple that price. The price is high for a reason, because that's what she's worth. Her knowledge, experience, and strength were valuable. In no way, is she ever too cocky of her skills. It's just what she is capable of and what she can provide came through rigorous training from Youta and trial and error on the job. The scars on her body can attest to it all, as well as those who were lucky enough to live through her ‘craftsmanship’.
She hums to acknowledge that she heard him.
“Be careful, ok? I don't want you coming home with regrets, because-”
“-Because you won't know how to comfort me the way I need to be comforted.” she cuts him off.
He trails off and begins asking his routine questions, such as how her restraints feel and if they need replacing. When he asks these questions, it usually means he's about to hang up. A part of her almost wants to ask for them to listen to music together through a real time music sharing app like they used to when she was still in her teens and traveling like she still does. Even if he queues awful American disco music, she'd always get back at him by adding dumb internet videos that leave him asking too many questions in an attempt to understand the joke behind them.
“Alright, I'll leave you too it. Call me if you need anything.”
“I will. Thanks for calling.”
“Of course, you’re my responsibility after all.”
They exchange quick 'I love you's and he hangs up. Her phone gives her a notification to warn her of her low battery, which she quickly remedies by plugging it in the charger. Going back to her leather bag, she pulls out one of Youta's hoodies that were her pajamas. She unlatches her body restraints, letting them fall onto the carpeted floor with a heavy thuds and metal clanks. She strips down to her underwear and pulls the oversized garment over her body. It still fitted like a dress.
The heavy comforter and thin sheet is pulled back and over her as she settles herself on the large bed. She covers herself completely with the sheets, allowing total stuffy darkness to surround her and overcome her vision. The rainfall was still present, now tranquil and hypnotizing.
Her mind goes back to her new client, Overhaul. She has no information him, other than the hypothesis that he was Fujimoto-san's protege. Her memories of Fujimoto were a bit hazy, not having much face to face contact with him when they worked together. He trusted her and had nothing but praise for her work and cooperation. It's thanks to him she was able to get her big break from low paid, high-risk jobs.
His situation was exactly like her's. They were taken in and made a student of their mentors, then later considered a child despite the well aware lack of common blood.
She tiredly grins to herself, wondering which student and which mentor exceeded the other.
Too bad she'll be busy working to find out.
Chapter 2: Curious
"I really love people. I love to meet people. I'm curious about people." - Zoe Kazan
Two days go by faster than one would think. That's just how her days went most of the time. She sleeps well into the afternoon or late morning, and before she knows it the sun will begin to lower and darken the sky. The days she does work are the days that seemed to last longer. She does have to wake up earlier (more like try to), and those few extra hours of daylight make a huge difference, even behind the labyrinth of corridors behind the public eye.
The back alleys of Tokyo were bustling with drug trades, all from none other than the yakuza. The hottest drug on the market was 'Trigger’, a quirk enhancing drug. She's done her fair share of jobs with major sellers and even some of the major manufacturers. In fact, she's taken it before as part of Youta's training, learning how to reject it from her body and stop it from activating.
The yakuza was only a third party seller, taking advantage of the many drug addicts by skyrocketing the price in their turf but providing it in bundles instead of a singular unit. It was a smart strategy, since the number of addicts nearly tripled in a few short years. No matter how many sellers the police crack down on, so long as someone has the formula and the means to produce it, will allow the drug to circulate for an eternity.
It was still a sad sight to behold. The back allies and more crime ridden parts of the city were filled with the victims of trigger. Their frail bodies and blackened tongues sent a chill down her spine, reminding her of what she could have ended up like had her master not spare her his generosity those years ago.
She'll be sure to thank him for the millionth time.
A firm squeeze on her shoulder pulls her back to reality. Her thoughts consumed her so much that she forgot that she was standing in front of Overhaul's office door with his assistant. She looks over to him, gazing into his eyes through his mask. That's something she'll have to ask about later.
“Sorry, what were you saying again?”
He sighs in defeat, “Nothing, forget I said anything.”
He gives two knocks on the door, prompting a voice to call out to them from beyond and allow them to step in. They stand before him at his desk. Thick piles of paperwork were stacked neatly on one side of his desk with a cup of tea on the side with steam floating from the top. Hari gives a small head bow, but she doesn't.
“Show some respect woman!”
The deep and irritated voice causes her to jump in surprise. She looks around the room, only to find that no one else was in the room besides her and the other two men. A tap on her shoulder from the assistant grabs her attention, and he points down to where she should train her focus at. The source of the outburst was the plush doll by her feet, with a white sewed mask matching the plague doctor theme everyone seems to be following. Leaning towards the assistant, she places a hand over her mouth while keeping an eye down at the doll.
“Am I high?” she whispers to him.
A few moments of silence pass until a sudden snicker comes out of him, prompting him to turn away and give a quick apology for losing his composure. Her comment seems to have reached the man doll, as a deep growl is heard from him. As off putting as his form is, he sounds intimidating. Why he chooses to wear something that is, honestly, a bit adorable amongst a group of gangsters is beyond her.
It's also another question for later.
“Let's not get distracted. Her surprise in Mimic's appearance is reasonable enough I would say.” Overhaul states.
Mimic drops the new hostility towards the mercenary and they all focus on Overhaul who gets right into the details of their assignment for the day. It wasn't anything too dangerous, just simple transaction deals for their quirk nullifying bullets and picking up overdue funds. She was tasked with assisting their run and sending a message to the ones who failed to pay on time. Afterwards, she and the assistant are to accompany him to a small meeting with an old affiliate at a different location.
“If you have questions, direct them to my assistant or my general manager,” he says to her while gesturing over to the two men next to her. She nods at them both in acknowledgement, earning a small nod back from the assistant and a glare from the general manager in the small suit.
“Alright, we'll go over some details and head out after I check to make sure everything is safe around here.” she declares to him.
He raises an eyebrow at her, silently asking for further explanation. She laughs a bit, raising an eyebrow at him like the answer was obvious.
“You hired me as a bodyguard, remember? Your safety is my top priority. I just need to make sure that you stay safe even when I'm away.”
He shrugs at her reasoning, “I'm sure I'll be fine in my own house, but you're more than welcomed to reassure yourself of my safety.”
She smiles, giving him a 'thank you’ before the three exit the room to get started. Before she closes the door, her head peaks into his office.
“I forgot to ask, how are you?”
A beat of silence passes before he realizes what she was doing. This is her own way of being polite, through words rather than gestures. The question is rather awkward to him, never being asked that by anyone. People are usually too afraid to starts casual conversation with him .
“I'm doing well, thank you.”
She smiles at him again, “I'm glad to hear that.”
It's been a long time since he's heard that as well.
The assistant seems to have his focus on her today. She figured it was to keep an eye out in case she does something wrong and needs to be set straight. Whether it's in the middle of driving or in between trade deals, he seems to find a way to sneak a glance her way. At times she'll catch him, causing him to divert his gaze from her. Neither of them show signs of calling the other out, so they simply go back and forth for awhile.
They only had one final pick up, an extremely overdue one. The woman they were looking for was sitting on a bench in a relatively spacious and empty park, keeping her eyes out for something and occasionally losing focus. Her ailing physique was like the others she had seen in the back alleys, often hunched up with what little belongings they had or out of focus from chasing the dragon once again.
“That's her,” the assistant confirms.
She decides to approach, not wanting to scare the poor girl off or overwhelm her. The women doesn't even flinch when she sits next to her on the bench. Reaching out with her pointer finger, she taps on the raw boned shoulder. There was such a sickly contrast from her full and taut shoulder to the women's, it made her pull back in fear that any more applied pressure would bruise or even break her pale skin.
The women registers her nudge, slowly pulling her mind back to reality and looking over to the mercenary. Her thin face pulls into what she believes to be a smile. It's hard to tell with what little fullness she had in her body, especially in her face. She's given a curt greeting and a comment on how lovely the weather is at such a late time. She almost wants to agree, but the sight of the assistant pointing at his watch to imply for her to hurry silences her urge to engage in friendly banter.
“Ma'am, I'm here to collect what you owe.”
The woman's face sinks, “Oh, I see.”
With shaky movements, she reaches into a tote bag and pulls out a thick stack of money. The mercenary takes hold of it, but the texture of the money didn't align with how bills should normally feel like. Bills are made with mitsumata and various fibers, not what feels like cheap altered printing paper.
She quickly wraps arm around the womens shoulder, causing her to gasp at the sudden grab. Her fingers sharpen from her quirk, curling towards the woman's neck and wrapping around the delicate thing. A pathetically weak hand comes and grabs at her wrist in an attempt to pull it away.
The sound of a young boy almost gets her to flex her fingers around the frail throat, almost. Her and the woman look to their left to see a small boy, his features identical to his apparent mother. Nothing was said between them, though in the young mercenary’s mind she was screaming like a banshee.
“Are you fucking serious!?” she says, startled at the child's appearance.
She releases her fingers sharpening manipulation and squeezes her now normal fingers around the woman's throat. The boy notices the pain his mother is in and quietly cries out to her.
“Please, I-I swear I-” the woman gasps out.
Her grip tightens, and she's surprised that a 'pop’ or a sharp 'crack’ hasn't been made. The restraints on her arms that are connected to the rest on her body is preventing her from breaking her neck entirely. That, and the boy a few feet from them was causing her to be more aware of her strength.
She leans into her ear and growls, “Allow me to make clear of the situation, ma'am”
Her grip loosens a bit, allowing the woman to gasp for air. She uses her other hand to move her face towards her son, cheeks wet with tears and frozen in fear.
“Your bills are fake, and the only thing keeping your son and yourself alive is me not telling my colleague. What did you plan on doing when we found out, hmm?”
“No, I'm sorry! I'll do anything to pay you back. Just please, don't hurt him.”
So that was her plan, self sacrifice. Perhaps it's just a universal motherly instinct to lay your life out for your child, or to bare your metaphorical fangs to whoever poses a threat. Youta has certainly shown some protectiveness of her, even now as an adult. She's certain he would be bashing her head in if he were witnessing the situation before her.
It doesn't help that she's been in this sort of situation before, with her being in the child's position. Unfortunately, the mother couldn't protect her child in that scenario.
She's sure the mother, her mother, would be bashing her head in as well.
She sighs, loosening her grip but still keeping her arm around the woman, “Damn that hag. Always coming to mind after nearly two damn decades.”
“I'll make a deal with you,” her tone shifts to angry to neutral “You stop taking trigger and I'll cover for your debt. But I swear,” she sharpens her fingers and presses them into her throat again “if I find out you're on it again I'll come and kill you, and I'll be sure to let your son know you chose autoinjectors over him.”
“O-ok, I swear!”
“Good, now get out of here.”
She unwraps her arm and stands up, making her way over to Chronostasis.
“How much did she owe?”
He tilts his head curiously at her, “About 150,000 yen, why?”
Pulling her backpack over her shoulder, she pulls out a thick stack of cash with a paper band of 500,000 yen. She hands the money to him and he takes it without much protest. They make their way back to the car in silence until he decides to break it.
“That's very like you.”
She sends an annoyed glare at him, “What is?”
A moment passes before he replies, “Worrying for other people.”
His implication means he's known her before to some degree. If she sees his face, maybe she could figure out who he is. His voice certainly isn't giving her any clues.
She'll ask him later.
Overhaul's meeting wasn't until 7 p.m. it was only 5 o'clock when they returned, so she was tasked with overseeing the money count and filing with Mimic while Chronostasis assisted Overhaul with other matters. Mimic had his complaints and made some...tasteful insults her way, but she didn't take any offense to it.
The count was near 8 million and they weren't halfway done. They would probably be done with it already if she wasn't so curious and obviously staring at the small jumpsuit the man was in. She wondered if it was the result of his quirk, and what exactly his conditions for activation and limitations were. Youta would certainly love to hear about it when she gets back. He was once a quirk trainer before he retired, his reason being because he lost his drive to train students and it just became a job for money and not for joy in the end.
“Can I ask you a question?” she says while writing down number totals on a outlined document.
“No.”, he replies curtly
His dismissal is promptly ignored, “How long have you been with the yakuza?”
She's unsurprisingly ignored, as he keeps his attention on counting the many stacks of paper. It's a cycle of counting the money, then jotting down the amount for both of them. He's much faster at flipping through the bills, fanning through them with much more expertise.
“8 years.” he grumbles out.
She smiles at his answer, never once stopping from counting and writing up the total count. More questions come out of her, and he answers after sometime, then immediately after. He was one of many accountants for a now disbanded clan. The oyabun had him oversee and ensure funds for certain members in the event the organization as a whole had to disband all together. Overhaul eventually took over and made him his general manager, as well as give him his small jumpsuit that he still wears. It was a sentimental gift.
“About Fujimoto-san. Is he still alive?”
He noticeably pauses, but picks himself back up, “He was in a coma for 8 months. Eventually he went brain dead and Overhaul pulled the plug.”
Her expression falls from hearing of his fate. She had hoped that maybe he had passed the leadership on to the new leader and went on to living as normal of a life an ex-yakuza could. Giving her condolences wouldn't remedy any lingering pain or sadness anyways.
They work in silence, finishing up about half an hour later. She stretches and a creak from her restraints and a crackle of her back popping fills the silence between them.
“What was the grand total?”, she yawns out to him.
“About 62 million yen. A decent haul overall.”
She nods in satisfaction, “None of the bills I counted were a fake so that's a good sign.”
“You can tell if they’re fake?”
“Oh, yeah! I can give you a quick lesson on how to detect a fake if you want?”
He thinks for a moment, but ultimately agrees to her offer, exciting her more than it probably should. She reaches into her bag and pulls out the fake bills she received earlier. Taking a single bill from the fake stack and the real stack, she turns and holds them out for him to take.
He was no longer in his small costumed form. Instead, a large man sat across from her with much more angular features, such as his large and goatee'd chin and spiked hair. Even if he was slouching, he is without a doubt taller than even Chronostasis or Overhaul. His glare was also as sharp and jagged as a knife, though that might just be his normal face.
“Again with the staring. What is it now?”, he asks with a annoyed growl.
She shakes her head, unable to stop the growing smile on her face. “You just look nice out the plush suit.” She quickly realized she just says and looks away from him “Wow, that was a bit weird. Please forget that ever came out of my mouth.”
He gives a smile of his own, though it was one out of pure cockiness and smugness. Ignoring his expression, she starts pointing out key differences between the fake and the genuine bill, as well as other factors and techniques forgers use to pass them off as such.
There was still some tension and wariness between them. It's to be expected, since it's still her first day working with them. Their first meeting doesn't help at all, as some hostility was built between them.
At least in this moment, it feels like she's making a friend. Even if he has the temper of a two year old.
The yakuza has lost significant territory over the years. Even when she first started working for them under Fujimoto's leadership, they were already beginning to lose their influence and long time partners. She was hired to protect what little territory and businesses they had. Her remarkable work spread in word through their lower ranks, eventually reaching the oyabuns ears. That's how she made contact with him in the first place.
The affiliate Overhaul was meeting with was actually the person who first hired her. She made no point in mentioning the connection as it held no advantage or leeway for whatever it is he wishes to discuss with her masked boss. The affiliate, Tadao, was more a business man than a gangster. He was assigned to overseeing the revenue his assigned areas garnered and they just so happened to collect the most each month.
He was someone Fujimoto trusted, but her instincts told her otherwise. She didn't think much of it or acted on it then. After all, that wasn't what she was hired to do. Why make a fuss when she was paid accordingly and left to handle her business without complaint?
Those instincts were still there, even after 3 years.
“May I ask a question?”, she asks Overhaul in an attempt to distract her jittery thoughts.
He shrugs, “I don't see why not.”
The elevator they were in quietly ascends. No stereotypical music was playing, just the whirring of the many components at work beyond their small space. It was much more spacious than any other public elevator, allowing Overhaul, the assistant Chronostasis, and herself enough room to not be weirdly pressed into one another.
“What's the reason behind the masks?”
He doesn't answer right away, allowing a few floors to pass by in silence. It isn't awkward, just increasingly unnerving as he allows the question to linger in the air amongst them.
“I have no desire to breath the same air as the sick and my men shouldn't either. Letting them breathe the same air as those damned heroes and their inordinate supporters is like letting a wound become infected when we very clearly have antibiotics and other remedies to prevent such from happening.”
She nods and gives an absent minded hum at his response. He takes that as a sign of confusion, but satisfaction at him sating her curiosity.
“The sudden urge to do good and adopt a sense of ‘justice’ so suddenly has rapidly spread to the masses since the arrival of quirks. I call it 'hero syndrome’.”
“So, the desire to be a hero is just an infectious disease?”
He nods at her, “Precisely.”
A beat of silence is preceded by her brief huff of laughter. It isn't anything obnoxiously loud or eerie. It's rather out of amusement and a new gained understanding.
“Do you think otherwise?”, he asks her.
She looks at him with curious smile on her face, “I think I'm 50/50 with you.”
He gestures with his hand for her to elaborate.
“I get that the whole 'wanting to do good for society’ mentality has become a common mindset for the people. I don't think it's a disease, but rather learned behavior. Like when you try to keep your dog off the couch, they won't stay down unless you teach them to.”
“Are you saying the masses are like dogs?”
“I mean,” she shrugs and a more playful smile overtakes her “everyone teaches their dog how to sit, and everyone nowadays teaches their kids to be a hero in some way.”
It's unclear because of the mask, but the way his eyes scrunches up a bit...
She might have made him laugh.
The sudden jolt of the elevator and the opening of it's glass doors cuts their conversation. A secretary greets with a bow and escorts them to Tadao's private office. The building was a very standard office building. It was relatively clean, but Overhaul seems to have an eye for the missed corners and specks of dirt. He's visibly shaking and his eyes are becoming a bit veiny the longer they walk.
“Hey,” she whispers over to him “deep breathe in and through your belly, not your chest. When you're lungs are full exhale slowly.”
“I'm fine.” He rebuttals.
“You're body language tells a different story. I'll do it with you if you're so self conscious.”
She places a hand on her abdomen, encouraging him to do so as well. He swallows the lump in his throat and copies her movements. Together, they inhale and allow their stomach to expand. When they're full of air they breath out in sync. They continue doing this until he feels he's calmed down, just in time for them to reach Tadao's office.
The older man holds out his arms as a welcoming sort of gesture. “Ah, If it isn't little Chisaki! Last time we met face to face you were still in highschool.”
She noticed the small flinch when he said 'Chisaki’, followed by a flash of anger. He takes a deep breath like they did before, trying to calm himself down.
“I see you're doing well after all these years. Your office is...impressive to say the least.” he responds.
A sharp exhale comes out of her as a sort of silent laugh. He's trying to not be so blunt by calling the place disgusting or point out the janitors lackluster work at keeping the place clean. More small talk is exchanged before they make their way into the actual office room. Her and the assistant are asked to wait outside so they can ‘catch up’. She doesn't like the sound of that implication, but he orders for her to just be on high alert.
15 minutes pass by, she can make out muffled talk beyond the walls and can only make out a few words now and then. The assistant looks around the medium sized waiting room, looking over the small details and personal flares and touches to try to keep himself occupied.
“May I ask you a question?”
He turns back to her, watching as she keeps an attentive eye on the door. His attention goes back to the small fish bowl filled with about 20 tiny fish swimming together. One decided to not swim with the small pack, and was swirling around the plastic coral accessory.
He turns his attention back to her briefly, “What did you want to ask?”
“Earlier today,” she pauses, recalling his words bacl at the park before continuing “you made it seemed like we've met before.”
“We have.” he bluntly states.
He hears heavy thudding, footsteps, come his way. She stands next to him at the fish bowl, watching them swim around in the small container. The lone fish decides the coral was of no interest and began following the assistants finger movements. She laughs at the display, watching as he gets the fish to swim in circles and all around the side of the bowl.
She turns her head to him a bit, keeping her eyes on the small creature, “Where did we meet?”
“Some dumb turf fight that went south.”
It was a vague statement, seeing as back then fights over the control and business deals in the yakuza's territory wasn't anything new. She was hired to keep things calm, and to not let fights escalate and ruin their relationship with their associates. Voices mix together and the clashing scents of cheap perfume or cologne with natural musk only ever irritated her nose after a few hours of patrolling. Appearances never mixed, not if they're so distinct. His mask is in the way, but it would be rude of her to ask him to take it off. He probably wouldn't anyways.
“Where was the fight at?”
He hums in thought, “Machida, I think. Somewhere around there.”
Machida. She remembers a big fight happening there, seeing as she had to step in. There was a lot of blood and an overall back alley smell. Sudden bursts and then a lingering scent of gunpowder was there. It was above, never levelled with her. The fight had gotten too big and too uncontrollable to where the police had to come and intervene. Everyone on both sides scattered at the sight of flashing red and blue lights.
She remembers tripping over someone. The headlights flashing in her eye robbed her a clear view of who it was. What she could make out was how his ankle was twisted in a unnatural position. She threw him over her shoulder and ran deeper into the labyrinth that was the back alleys, eventually making it onto the regular city streets and trying her best to blend into a crowd with someone hung over your shoulder. A car eventually screeched by her to provide an escape.
She threw the body in and told them to go off on their own.
“You were the one with the twisted ankle, weren't you?”
He only nods at her, seemingly trying to egg her on for more. She thinks of the aftermath of the fight. The police and some local pro heroes began patrolling more heavily for the next few days. Activity slowed down during that time, until the authorities pulled back and ended their investigation. She then went to report what had happened to Fujimoto and mentioned the boy with the twisted ankle.
“Hari was there!? I turn away for one second and that boy is sending off his only friend to do his dirty work! I'm sorry he caused you so much trouble. ”
A hand came down and rested on her shoulder, squeezing down firmly. It was callused and large, though that could have just seem that way with how small she was.
“Thank you for bringing him home in one piece."
He flinched as she said the name. A rush of excitement came to her, causing her to begin bouncing on the balls of her feet. The oyabun talked of him often, voicing his concerns about him like a typical parent. There wasn't any direct contact between them, yet it still feel like she's seeing an old friend from decades ago.
“I remember! He was pissed when he found out it was you that caused my alert to go up."
“Yeah, I remember the tongue lashing and head swat I got from him.”
They share a laugh, moving away from the fish bowl after the loner fish decided Hari’s finger wasn't interesting anymore. She remembers Fujimoto's complaints, how he had hoped the assistant wouldn't go off and cause more trouble for her. He didn't doubt the boy's skills, but just his lack of experience with large scale fights.
She remembers being like that, a complete novice of the streets and underworld.
“About that fight in Machida…” he brings up.
She looks at him curiously and he takes it as his cue to continue with his thoughts.
“Thanks…” he forces out after struggling to get the right words out.
She laughs to herself, remembering what the oyabun had said about him. He was mostly closed off, and struggled to process his emotions most of the time. Now that she thinks about it, Fujimoto talked about him a lot, maybe even too much? It was probably annoying to her back then, but now that she's matured it's endearing.
She wonders if Youta talks of her to that degree as well, but remembers that like her he prefers to keep to himself.
“Ok, I have another question.”
He turns his head down to her, “I'm all ears.”
“Did your apology come from the heart or did Fujimoto-san force you to apologise.”
She watches his eyes shift off to the side. A annoyed click of his tongue comes out and it causes her to laugh. Yep, he was forced to apologise.
“Wow, that's something he'd definitely do.”, she remarks.
“I remember it like it just happened,” he begins reminiscing, “as soon as he found out I was there he was kicking me out the door and told me to go find you and apologize.”
More laughter comes out of her and it seems to be contagious as a few huffs come out of him as well.
“Ok, tell me this.” She steadies her voice to talk clearly “When he looked over your injury, did he give it a firm squeeze?”
“Of course. My ankle was fractured and you know what he said? 'Put some ice on it and you'll be fine in a few days’.”
They continue sharing small stories with one another, sharing a laugh in between until Overhaul finally comes out into the small waiting room. He raises an eyebrow at them as they make an attempt to quiet their laughter and stop their shoulders from shaking. She greets him with small giggles between her words.
“Am I interrupting you two?”
“No no, sorry! We just got a little carried away.”
“Carried away with what?”
She thinks for a moment, throwing a small glance towards Hari before turning back to him.
“Satisfying my curiosity!”
Chapter 3: Rapport
"Depth of friendship does not depend on length of acquaintance." - Rabindranath Tagore
A vibration on her left side gets her to slowly pull out of her sleep. Feeling around the bed, she grabs her phone and through stinging eyes she slides the dismiss reticle across the screen. Stretching out in her bed, she lets a big yawn and sits up. Her eyes look over to the curtain covered windows, light pouring out underneath and between the separated fabrics. Lifting the phone in her hand she presses the power button and the screen brightly turns on displaying the current time, 7:15 a.m.
Her routine for the week has been to get up at the current time, do some quick stretches and about a few hundred pushups. After that she'll clean up and then buy a few pieces of fruit down in the hotels lobby where they offer breakfast for all their guests. The clientele were a mix of your classic vacationing families and couples, both native and foreign, and the occasion business man or woman.
Another alarm goes off, and she dismisses it again. She misses sleeping in, but the thought of upsetting her client is enough to shake her head vigorously to chase away the lingering tiredness. Swinging her feet over the side of the bed and standing up only causes a sharp spike of pain to course through her lower legs.
She hisses in pain and sits herself back down on the bed. Her scars, deeply embedded and patterned like horizontal claw slashes and colored a dark magenta had decided to convulse in pain. Nothing was visibly moving, but it felt as if the crevices were pulsing and itching up, like phantom pains. Activating her quirk specifically on the scars felt like a heated piece of iron, brightly lit in orange, being pressed into her skin.
She wishes Youta was here to rub her numbing ointment in them. He's always been gentle with them when they decided to start pulsing like they are now. He would usually take her out on the engawa, right where it gave them a perfect view of the beach across and below them. The never-ending crashes of the ocean waves. The fresh smell of sand and ocean water and the perfect layer of humidity in the air was her heaven on earth. All year round, there would always be the most pleasant breeze to brush on her skin and wiggle her hair around in its direction.
The texture of her disfigured markings. The grotesque color and the contrast of it from her peachy skin. Everything about them, even the event which caused them to form pisses her off.
Today is going to be a long day, she feels.
Her lower legs were now dulled in touch thanks to the ointment. She'll have to take things easy today so they don't reopen or the pain worsens enough to make walking unbearable. Her quirk won't work on the scarred skin, as it is too damaged for her to manipulate. She recalls her leg training, and how Youta insisted she try using her quirk on her patches even when she insisted that it wouldn't have been the best idea. They unfortunately reopened during that one trial and she was off her training regimen for a few months as well as in a hospital.
After that incident, Youta took her damaged legs into consideration when he was designing her body restraints. The restraints are latched everywhere that isn't below her knee. His alternative was to simply add metal soles and plating on her laced up boots. The current model she has weighs about 30 pounds each and the metal parts are hidden beneath the fabric and soles to not arouse any suspicion or attention. Walking with metal scraping with each step would probably be the equivalent of nails scraping on a chalkboard and would eventually drive her insane.
Her legs were ironically her strongest asset and Youta made sure she'd be able to put them to use safely. It was all so that she'd have a way to protect herself while she's out ‘causing a bit of chaos’ as he's graciously put it. Her way of expressing gratitude for his hard work and efforts was to share with him the new quirks she learned of to him. It was her way of bringing part of the world to him in the comfort of his home.
Stinging hot water pulls her out of her odd thoughts. She quickly turns the knob on the bathroom sink and stops the hot water from washing her apple. The fruits in the hotel were of very high quality, being perfectly ripe and shaped. The apples were larger than the ones she would get at an outdoor market or grocery store. Not a spec of dirt or even a stem was present. It was out of habit that she went to wash it.
She shakes off and wipes away the remaining droplets and throws a quick glance at the clock, 8:25 a.m. Grabbing her belongings and placing them in her backpack, she bites and holds the apple between her teeth and exits her hotel room. She walks down the emergency stairwell, taking bites and chewing on her apple as she descends. A satisfying and crisp crunch echoes back against the walls each time she bites and chews. By the time she makes it to the first floor, all that remains is the core.
She navigates her way to the lobby, tossing the core in a small bin resting against the reception desk. Her surroundings shift from the calm and cool lobby to the warm and bustling streets. As she makes it to the bottom of the entrance steps, a vibration is felt in her back pocket. It was a text, and from a unknown number at that.
'look to your left’
She's sure Youta would scold her for having her guard down and obeying some random suspicious text, but she did it anyways. To her left and a few feet away was a familiar figure in a large white rain coat unbefitting for the summer, Hari. His mask was resting in his hands and his hoodie was pulled down, exposing his arrow ended hair and sharp facial features.
The first week of her job revolved mostly around following her orders while conversing with the assistant on whatever free time or coincidental pair ups they had. He was more of a listener compared to their sort of ice breaking conversation on her first day. The more she engaged him, the more he began responding with full sentences rather than short answers and grunts. Eventually, he trusted her enough to remove his mask when it's just the two of them from time to time.
She asked about every question known to man about his hair, and even made a few attempts at touching it. At first, he slapped her hand away and scolded her for trying to touch them. She was very persistent in wanting to touch his hair, causing his harsher rejections to be a gentle yet firm push of her hand away. When he finally cave into her demands she was all over him like a cat.
He simply let her be, as she meant no harm and was only curious on how his hair worked. The braid she did wasn't amusing, but he didn't seem to hate it. It was still weaved together, hanging over the side of his neck with the end of the braid formed into an arrow like the rest of his parted locks.
“Good morning.” she greets him.
“Good morning. You still look pretty tired.”
She wipes at her eyes, lifting her glasses up and down as she moves her hand, “Yeah, I don't usually get up this early. I'm still adjusting.”
“You look better than Overhaul at least.”
A tilt in her head is enough for him to know to provide an explanation.
“He's been pulling a few all nighters and hasn't eaten much. Also, the tiniest things are setting him off and he's even more stern with the overall cleanliness of the house.”
“Yikes,” she winces as he finishes his brief clarification “I guess today is going to be jam packed with stuff to do.”
He sighs, reaching behind his neck to rub at the forming knot, “Yeah, this isn't the first time he's gotten like this though. I thought you might like the heads up.”
“Thank you, that's sweet of you.”
She finally takes notice of the fact that Hari is here rather than at the base. How did he even know which hotel she was staying at? It is in their controlled area, so maybe it wasn't that hard to figure out where she was staying. The black car they usually travel in is also parked right behind him.
She throws an inquisitive look at him, “Did you come here to drive me to the base?”
“No, I'm here to slowly trail behind you in the car and make you walk there yourself.” he deadpanned.
She laughs at his playful comment. His sense of humor can easily be depicted as his actual demeanor with how serious he delivers his punchlines. Some jokes can even be a bit dark and cruel, but she knows it's just a simple jest. Luckily with her sense of humor she got him to crack a laugh on occasion that wasn't about anything negative. The current running gag for them was to repeatedly ask “why” after ever clarification and statement until their unfortunate target realized they were being toyed with.
“But seriously,” she steadies her voice and tries to hide the playful joy in her tone “are you here to give me a ride?”
“Yes, and no I wasn't ordered to do this.”
He pulls out the car keys and presses the unlock button on the small remote. The door lock lifts up anr with practiced movements, he opens the back door for her and gestured for her to get in. She lets out a playful gasp, cupping her face and calling him 'a true gentleman’. He tells her to ‘get the hell in the damn car’ or else he'd leave her.
When they get settled in, he starts the car and lets the engine run for a minute to warm up. He checks his rear view and side mirrors and pulls out into the streets. They drive in a bit of silence until she asks about any assignments and tasks they have today. Her and Hari, as well as a couple of others, are to head deep underground and prep their supply of trigger and nullifying bullets to be delivered to their buyers.
“Ok, wait. You guys have a underground base?”
He nods,“It's right beneath the house.”
“ What !?”
The car slows down and then stops completely behind a few others. He alternated his gaze from her to the road. “Did he not tell you?”
She scoffs, “Obviously not.”
“Oh.” He turns back to the road and begins driving off when the car in front begins to as well. “Now you know I guess.”
“So, where exactly is the entrance?”
He points with his chin, “It's up ahead.”
They walk through the halls of the base until they reach a wall niche. Inside the crevice was a large, dark colored vase with branches adorned with crimson camellias protruding out the top, twisted in all directions. Behind was a scroll hanging on the wall, with the insignia for the Shie Hassaikai. Before, there were only seven ‘petals’, one to indicate a past leader like Fujimoto. There are eight now, signalling the ascension of a new figure, of Overhaul's ascension.
She stands back and watches Hari move the vase and the marble slab is rested on to the side. He presses down on the aligned wooden panels in a set sequence. The wall pushes forward and slides to the left with a deep rumble. It reveals nothing but darkness and the top of concrete steps.
She turns to him in awe, “How long has this been here?”
He shrugs, taking the lead and descending down into the dark stairwell while placing his mask back on. She follows behind him, flinching as the door rumbles again and closes shut. The light from the house is cut off, but as she looks forward she sees light at the bottom of the steps and the opening to a hallway to the left.
“It used to have a set layout. We have to take precautions to reserve our organizations safety, so the halls and rooms are always changing.” he states.
She looks around the halls in astonishment. Various pipes were visible on the walls and the doors were either heavy metal bolts and latches or standard knobs and hinges. There was still that unnatural cleanliness, made obvious by the lingering citrus and bleach smell. Much like the halls upstairs, there wasn't much flair or personal touch to be seen. The air was stuffy, but still breathable. It was all too clinical, not at all indicating that others were living here.
She fidgets and folds her hands over one another “Why are people put down here again?”
“The expendables are a bit unruly. Some are a bit destructive and Overhaul doesn't want to attract unnecessary attention and have to fix his house up every other day. He wants peace and quiet basically.”
She huffs out a laugh “Wow, that sounds like Youta.”
“Who's that?” he looks at her in question through his mask.
“Oh, he's the one who trained me. He likes his solitude, so when he retired he bought and renovated this old house near a beach. He even bought the surrounding land so no one would trespass and bother him.”
“He sounds like some typical grumpy old man.”
She laughs at his remark, “True, but it's nice to have some solitude once in awhile.”
He was about to say something until a earthshaking rumble stops them in their tracks. Another rumble shakes the hallsl, causing a bit of dust and rubble to fall. He gestures for her to stay behind him which she complies to. Holding tightly on the straps of her bag, they walk a bit slowly and wary of their surroundings. An increasingly intense rumble causes her to lose her footing a bit, but he helps her stand up right.
The wall bursts open a few feet in front of them, kicking up dust and sending broken pieces of concrete flying around in every direction. Amidst the dust were two large figures with masks obscuring their faces per usual. The one on the left had unruly blonde hair, with his mask ripped open revealing his grinning jawline. The other figure was slightly larger, with his dark mask covering his whole head.
“That all you have in ya!? C'mon, make this brawl more interesting!” the blonde one chants out in excitement.
“Rappa! Stop this unnecessary confrontation!”
A figure walks out of the hole in the wall wearing a dark blue kimono and wooden sandals. His mask had three straps, two thick straps around the side of his face and a thinner one over the top of his head, nestled neatly in his light colored hair. He seems to notice them, which only makes his irritation at 'Rappa’ grow.
Now it makes sense why some members are kept down here.
“I hope you all have a good reason for breaking the wall in.” Hari comments at them.
“I apologise for failing to keep Rappa contained, Chronostasis.” The monk-like figure bows in apology. His calm demeanor switches back to anger as he attempts to separate Rappa and the other figure.
“Wow, I definitely see why they're kept down here.” she whispers over to him. Although his face was covered, she's sure the look he's giving her stands for 'see? I told you so’.
Hari turns back to them, “Where’s Hojo and the others? We need to start getting the supplies ready.”
“Ah! I nearly forgot that was today. They're waiting for you in the supply room.”
Hari nods, turning back to her and moving his hand in a 'come here’ motion. He probably wants her to stick close to him, just in case. A strange sense of nervousness had overcome her at the sudden appearance of several new figures. She steps up to Hari, interlocking her arm in his and pressing close to his side. He pats her arm in reassurance before guiding her to walk past them.
They got at least five steps past them before she's pulled back by the hood of her jacket and yanked from the assistants grasp. The current figure holding her up with little effort is Rappa.
“The hell is this thing doing down here?” he asks.
“Rappa! Put her down this instance!” The light haired one demands.
“Shut up! I'm talkin’ to her!”
She feels herself curling up a bit. Being in a unfamiliar place and being around unknown people is overwhelming her more and more. It doesn't help that she's currently being handled like a ragdoll.
She taps the tips of her index fingers together anxiously “Um, I get the confusion on... everything ,” she sweeps her hand to gesture to all of herself “but is it too much to ask for you to set me down?”
Her request seems to amuse Rappa, as a partially obscured smirk etches into his face. He doesn't give her a verbal answer, nor does he comply to her easily doable request. Instead, he starts bouncing her up and down by her hoodie mockingly. Irritation replaces her previous timidness at his teasing (and highly humiliating) display.
She activates her quirk in her right foot, strengthening her bone and layers of flesh along with her overall vigor. Her leg kicks up, right underneath his jaw, pulling an awkward yelp from his throat and causing him to lose his hold on her clothing.
She lands steadily on her feet, unfortunately sending a shock of pain through her lower legs. A few swears fall out of both of their mouths as they take a step back in retreat. He recovers much faster than her, already taking swift strides towards her to retaliate.
“You damn rat!” he growls at her
“Who are you calling a rat!? At least I'm not some rude, fat headed pig!” she snaps back.
“Pig!?” He turns back to the light haired man in exasperation “Who the hell does she think she is!?”
She makes an attempted lunge at him, only for her to be held back by Hari. He drags her off with ease, never losing his hold even as she kicks and waves her arms around while yelling back profanities to an off-balanced Rappa. They round a few corners before he deems them far enough for him to let go without having to worry about her going off on her own and potentially getting lost.
“Great place you guys got here,” she remarks sarcastically “Where the hell did you find him anyways?”
He shrugs, “I'm not sure, you'll have to ask Overhaul about that.”
She groans, hunching over in exhaustion. He notices her worried expression, and decides to ask about it.
“Do you not want to talk to him?”
“No, I'm all for having a conversation with my boss. Though, I highly doubt he'd be active in it or would even enjoy it.”
“That's true, he's not the best conversationalist. If it has nothing to do with work then he won't be interested and might just tell you to shut up.”
His statement doesn't seem to help her, only intensifying her solemn expression.
“Are you worried about what he thinks of you?”
“It's more about whether or not I'm liked in the organization. Clients don't rehire me just because I'm good at what I do, they hire me because I'm easy to work with and able to integrate into their rankings with ease.”
“So, you feel like you haven't mingled well enough with us?”
She nods “I only have a week left, and I don't seem to have gained much of his trust.”
Hari snorts, “I don't blame you for seeing it that way. Overhaul is a bit of a hard ass, but he has to if he wants to keep his position-”
“You've got it all wrong, Hari.” she cuts him off. “People who lead remain at the top not because they're closed off, but because they have people who will follow and align themselves with them.”
She looks at him with a shivering and intense expression he can only compare to Overhaul's.
“Do you even agree with his ideology? Do you believe the masses are diseased and disillusioned because of the evolution of quirks?”
He feels a lump catch in his throat, and it takes great effort for him not to choke on his own building anxiousness. For years, he's listened to Chisaki ramble on and on about his conclusions and beliefs. With how excessive he researched on quirk theories with what was available at the time, he could be comparable to a deranged cult leader. He listened to him because he was the only one willing to lend an ear. He never agreed or thought alike, because it was something he never took the time to think about.
He simply didn't care about all of that. About quirks. About heroes. About anything .
She tugs at his sleeve, “What do you believe in Hari?”
He doesn't want to reply, because his answer would expose his one vulnerability. The only person who's made feel anything, was Chisaki. He follows and will continue to do so until he takes his last breath. Chisaki just had a knack at getting himself into terrible situations with his bluntness. Hari was always there to pull him out and save him from another punch. That was before they both had to start interacting in a purely professional setting. There were no more leisure moments on the porch, or late night conversations over a simple cup of tea. There's no breaks or vacations, only work and piling stress and aches.
“He's going to kill himself at this rate.”
He wants to punch himself for flinching at her statement. He's angry at himself and at her for bringing his vulnerabilities out on the table. He has yet to say or even deny anything, yet she's hitting right on the head of the nail. She's either that good at deducing, or he's that obvious.
“He's going to overwork himself into the ground, and so will you. If he kicks the bucket do you think you can take over or let someone else carry out his vision?”
“No.” he answers too quickly, too desperately than he had wanted “ God no.”
“And you! If anything happens to you do you think someone can replace you?”
“No. Even if he finds some suitable replacement he'll probably kill them within the hour.”
He feels her arm lock around his again in comfort for him. His shoulders surprisingly relax, not even aware at how tensed up they had gotten. Their walking has slowed down to a saunter, taking time to conclude their conversation instead of heading to where they're needed.
“What do you propose I do? Actually, why are we even having this conversation?”
She gives a quick, firm squeeze to his arm. He can't really tell what the hold was for. Was is because of his deflecting question or was it because the answer was obvious? He just can't seem to figure out what goes on in that head of hers. What she states or points out as obvious makes no sense to him or isn't as obvious as she makes it seem. They see the world through very different perspectives and have way too different experiences to see things in the same light.
“My job is to keep him alive. If he dies from overworking then I'll be taking the blame. What's the point in keeping him alive if he's unwell?”
He abruptly stops, shocked at her words, “If he does die from over exhaustion it won't be your fault.”
“Maybe not to you or Irinaka, but I'll be blaming myself for letting him die like that. I'm not close or trusted enough to start making demands to his current lifestyle.”
She squeezes his arm with her free hand, “I don't have any right to ask any favors, but can you at least try to get him to eat and rest up a bit?”
“I can try, but don't expect any solid results.”
His response brings a smile out of her. She can't see his face, but a smile of his own finds its way on him. It's such a strange feeling, smiling. It's even strange to do it so genuinely.
“All right, guess that's out of the way. Thanks for not…” she trails off.
“Being a bitch and chickening out the conversation?” he remarks.
“Well, I'm sure there's a more subtle way of putting it. Though, that conveys it well enough.”
He laughs a bit, “Yeah, that's what friends are for I guess.”
She raises her eyebrow in amusement, “So I'm considered a friend now?”
“I mean,” he pauses “I don't hate you.”
She looks off in thought, “Have I done anything to make you dislike me?”
“I don't think you can. You're too likeable to hate.”
Chapter 4: Influential
“You can be much more influential if people are not aware of your influence.” - unknown
There was an obvious bond built between the group of three before her. The bald one, Hojo, was the main communicator and leader of their small group The one with the sack like mask, Tabe, didn't seem to talk, choosing to sign instead. The lanky blonde, Setsuno, was his translator and was as every bit demented as Hari warned her about, yet oddly timid. They seemed like they've gone through their own personal hell and back, but it gave them character. Very twisted and saddening character, yet enough to build up an arsenal of questions in her mind.
“Sooo…” she sets a heavy box down on a steel table, filled with auto injector syringes and bullets. “How'd you all end up down here?”
“The trash gets put down here.” Hojo replies sternly.
She raises an eyebrow and laughs in disbelief, “Trash? I thought the official title was 'expendable’.”
Hari scoffs as he walks past her, a box held up in his arms, “Is there a difference? They're pawns all the same.”
Shrugging off the sudden discomfort, she bends down, picking up 3 boxes. Each stride she takes is with vigilance to prevent any of the supply from breaking or being damaged. Her legs are just not cooperating with her, sending jolting waves of pain at random. Her legs wobble, causing her to totter with each few steps. The box on top begins to slide down, threatening to fall on the floor. A set of calloused and thin fingers take a hold of the box, saving it from an unfavorable fate. Her savior was Tabe, who held her stare as she sheepishly recovered from her lost footing.
“Oh, thank you!” she smiles brightly to convey her gratitude.
He gives her a small nod, and she decides to take this as an opportunity to get to know the people here. Her mind is full of questions, and a bit of conversation will help her get through all the boring work she was tasked into doing. Tabe prefers signing and she has a perfect alternative for them to talk and understand each other. She sets the boxes down, opening them up and making sure everything was in order and undamaged before handing it to Hari so he can begin packing them. Before she heads back to collect more boxes, she reaches into her bag that was set aside and pulls out a small notepad. She rips the first few pages out that were filled with reminders and doodles, and stuffs them in the bag. After taking out the pen from the spiral bind, she begins jotting down her little starter.
'Hello! I know we're in the middle of working but I want to get to know you all before I leave next week. Unfortunately I don't know sign, so this is my little middle ground! If you don't want to talk then feel free to ignore my message! ^^
My name is Evelyn, what's your name?’
She nods in content at her writing. Looking around, she spots Tabe carrying a new crate across the room. Rushing to him, she tugs his sleeve to grab his attention. When he looks down to her, she gives a small wave and slides the notepad to him, pen atop of the binded sheets. After she hands off the note, she goes back to the crates and picks up more to move around.
Within half an hour, they had all moved and unpacked the crates and were now filling up cases and disguising them in books. Cutting one rectangular into the page after another, they were creating a hollow in the book for the trigger injectors. It was beyond the most boring task she was ever given. She had lost her focus a few time and Hari had to shake her shoulder to continue working.
“This is a big waste of books.” she commented.
“Who the hell wants to read about,” he lifts up the book cover, “the laws of thermodynamics?”
He got her there. If she attempted to read it she's sure she'd go mad and eventually toss it into the ocean after ripping each page out and shredding them.
A few moments pass in silence, with the sound of rustling paper and thudding from the heavy clips being set in the suitcases velvet lining filling the quietness. She feels herself lose concentration again, and it wasn't Hari that had pulled her focus back this time. It was her notepad, sliding into her field of vision from her left and grabbing her attention. She sneaks a glance around herself real quick, only to see everyone was absorbed into their assigned task. Lifting and moving the pen, she gives a quick read to her new message.
‘Soramitsu Tabe. Nice to meet you. What did you get hired for?’
A sudden rush of giddiness courses through her fingertips. She feels her cheeks pull as a smile grows wider and wider. Her hand quickly rubs over her face, trying not to draw too much attention when she should be working. She takes hold of the pen, slowly and cautiously writing out a response.
'I was hired as a bodyguard, but I've mostly been doing chores and other boring stuff. What do you do?’
The notepad is sent back to him and her focus goes back to her current task. This goes on for awhile, writing back notes and trying to not look either ridiculous or perceived as not working and instead joking around. Tabe is surprisingly a very humorous person, throwing in simple puns here and there that meant so much more than they should have to her. It's the little things that matter the most. Whether that be someone slowly easing into a conversation, or lingering doubts that remained years after thinking of it's source.
It has only been a week, but this unnerving feeling she has ever since Hari and her had escorted Overhaul to Tadao's office hasn't left her. Youta has always emphasized to her that her instincts are sharp and that she should always listen to it. This was not because she had gotten lucky at birth, but because her situation before he took her in had been the perfect environment to build up her awareness and deciphering skills. She's been unknowingly trying to tell herself, letting her body feel that there was something she needed to pay attention to.
Her legs have been acting up today, when she had yet to do anything too strenuous. Even when she used her quirk it was mostly in her arms. The only time she used it on her legs was earlier, when Rappa jostled her around for his amusement (she needs to get back at him for that). Yet even then, it was only in her foot. The further she roamed the halls, the pain would spike. When she was moving the crates around moments ago, they spiked as well.
Perhaps she's been trying to tell herself that she isn't going to find the answers here , deep underground surrounded by various drugs and other illegal contraband. The answers are above ground, within the minds of various individuals and recorded on some type of medium. One main issue would be trying not to disrespect or point fingers at anyone for something she isn't even sure of yet. She's also still under a contract, so going off on her own would probably sour whatever connection her and her client have. There would be no point in doing it after her time is up, since she won't have any reason to do it anyways.
A muffled ringing grabs everyone's attention. Their focus was turned towards Hari, who was the source of the generic melody. He pulls out his phone, quickly pressing the answer button and bringing it to his ear.
“Yes, what is it?”
With ease, she enhances her hearing. The voice on the other end sounds like Overhaul's. He sounds annoyed and furious but still so professionally formal.
'I need you up here, now .’
Hari nods, “Alright, I'll be there in a bit.”
He pulls back the phone and ends the call. Placing it back in his back pocket, he starts walking off toward the large metal door before turning back towards the small group.
“Finish up here.” he says sternly before heading out to the halls to go back up above ground.
She decides that now is a better chance than ever to make sure that when she's gone, at least someone will have her back in some capacity and keep her informed when things get bad enough. Hari seems to trust her to some degree, and that is something she intends to take full advantage of (and very grateful for). There are some barriers and boundaries she's going to need to break before Overhaul is ever going to consider her as more than a pawn or an errand boy.
She wasn't trained to move crates around.
She was trained to cause a bit of chaos
“Hari! Hold on a moment.” She calls to him just before he turns down at the end of the hall.
“Make it quick.” he hurriedly states.
“I really need you to keep an eye out for Overhaul these next few days.”
“I already told you.” he quickly responds “I'll try talking to him, but like I said, don't expect him to listen or change much.”
“Ok, if you need a bit of help,” she reaches into her bag that she brought out with her. He hears plastic rustling and when she pulls her hand back out, she was holding a very large and candy red apple “take this and give it to him.” she states very confidently, placing it in his hand.
He stares at the apple, dumbfounded at not only what he was given as a form of “help”, but the fact she looked dead serious during the entire exchange. Without warning, he starts laughing quietly and eventually it builds up to more audible huffs of laughter. She only looks at him in confusion that evolves to annoyance. What did she do that was so funny?
“I can see why Fujimoto was fond of you.” He breathlessly comments.
“Huh? He was?” She tilts her head to the side to emphasize her confusion.
He pats down his raincoat in an attempt to calm his laughter down, “Yes, he was.”
“That's a funny way of putting it. I felt like his therapist sometimes. There was always something bothering him and he felt like he wasn't doing a good job being a leader. I offered a ear he can chew up and he just dumped everything on me.”
Hari snorts, “You should consider it an honor. He was a very private man after all, especially when it came to his family and relatives.”
She only shrugs in response, “I don't really do hierarchy stuff. I'm either an equal or an enemy. That's what it ultimately come down to.”
“Well, if Overhaul heard what you just said I'm pretty sure he'd make you clean his shoes for the rest of the week.” He warns her.
Her eyes widen in quick realization, “Oh yeah! I need another favor from you. I need to do some... research , so I need you to...uhhh…” she nervously trails off.
“Do you need me to cover for you?” He presses her.
“Oh, no no no!” She waves her hands in defense, “I just need you to keep me informed on what's happening around here. If anything gets too dangerous or hectic, then just let me know and I'll come back in a heartbeat.”
He thinks to himself for a bit, rubbing the back of his head covered by his coats hood, “I guess I can? Just... please tell me that whatever it is you're 'researching’” he makes air quotes with his fingers, “will be enough to excuse your absence when you get back.”
She smirks at him, “Oh, it will. I'm staking my contract on it after all.”
Hari makes sure to wash the apple thoroughly. He's developed a good eye for spotting dirt and smudges thanks to Kai. His aversion to germs and dirt grew over the years, and it seems to have rubbed off on him given how attentive he has to be to him. He likes things to be clean as well, but not to the same degree as Kai requires in order to properly function.
As his assistant, he goes above and beyond to make sure everything is to Kai's liking. Whether it's how clean the corners of the room are before he stays in his office for the rest of the day or if the cup he made his tea the way he likes is clean enough and free of even a single speck of dust and debris. It's always been that way since they were kids. Hari just understood what it was that made Kai a little more comfortable in his day to day life. First, it was the latex gloves, for both quirk control and dirt aversion. Then he offered the face mask, even going as far as to wear one with him to help him not feel so self conscious and out of place.
It's a strange image, even for him. Self conscious and paranoid aren't words anyone here would associate with Chisaki Kai, with Overhaul . Behind that cold and frightening glare was a man who would without a doubt shriek like a little girl if the most miniscule fleck of dirt touched his skin. He's sure Evelyn would laugh at a sight like that, not giving a damn over who it was she was laughing at.
She held true to her claims of not caring for self proclaimed superiors and inferiors. If her casualness with him is anything to go by, she can easily come as naive and perhaps a bit annoying. It's only natural to find someone or something annoying if they can't see the world and interpret things the same way as you would. He finds that admirable, having the guts to see things in a different perspective and to not flinch back at people no matter their presentation. She certainly didn't seem scared of Rappa. She almost seemed underwhelmed by him, as if his larger-than-most stature and intimidating aura wasn't anything to boast about.
Even when she was working with those three psychos underground, she was swapping notes with Tabe like it wasn't the most ridiculous display in the world. She must have been fully aware of the risk she was taking by going off on her own without being ordered to do so, yet even then she didn't express fear but concern over Overhaul and demonstrated some trust in him. She was just so... confusing . He couldn't tell what her thought process was, and he probably never will. Her life and his life are without a doubt on completely different realms.
He wasn't the only one amused by her. Pops was filled with as much wonder as he is now, and she even seemed to have a bit of an influence in his last living years. He was always stern, but fair. As he was slowly getting sicker and weaker with every passing day, he became much more whimsical and easy going. Every day that passed was like a ticking time bomb for him. Those last days he spent conscious was spent enjoying the company of his loved ones rather than worry about the organizations affairs. In his pursuit to live his final waking days with some satisfaction, the affairs amongst the different clans and partners dwindled and they ultimately lost many resources and reputation.
He knows that Pops would never intentionally let their organization dwindle down, but what did he have to lose? Even if the yakuza was dismantled earlier, he would have most likely have separate bundles of money prepped for his close ones so they can have a decent start at living a normal life. It wouldn't surprise Hari if that were the case, and it wouldn't surprise him further if Kai took his funds and put it towards his big project no matter how things turned out.
That's right, he was called up because of a certain aspect of the quirk erasing formula.
It amazes him, but somehow Eri was able to get out again. He finds himself getting lost in those corridors at times. They always change in some way every few days when Kai goes down to extract samples from her. It's all a precaution, so that the occasional guest/potential partner and certain members (Rappa, mostly) don't find their way up or map out their supplies and other various resources. Its happened a few times, but those individuals never live long enough to spill their findings. Yet even with all the precautions, the child managed to make her way above and out the house.
As he peels off the skin of the washed apple, his mind wanders back to his new friend (what a strange word for him to say, let alone think ). What would she have to say upon learning of the very root of the concoctions source? Would she even care, or would she simply shrug her shoulders and begin asking as many questions as possible to satisfy her newly found curiosity? Would she be bold and make an attempt to take Eri out of their control? He's starting to internally sound like her, rattling off every question that comes to mind.
He can never pinpoint what it is she'll do or say. It's one of many intriguing aspects of her, her unexpectedness. Reading people is one of his fortes, as once upon a time, Kai actually valued his perceptiveness that he had once lacked in. He was unfortunately a quick learner, always exceeding everyone at any skill that can be useful to him. All of which made him an excellent leader.
That's who Chisaki Kai is, the perfect leader. Adaptable, skilled, analytical and unwavering. His quirk was the cornerstone of their operation. Everyone who defies him ends up as another red splatter for Hari to clean up later or are put in their place accordingly. He takes human scum and rejuvenates them with well put together words so that they can be of some value to him even after losing everything, including their very will to continue living.
Evelyn is only one thing, wayward . You have no control over her, and even if you establish some mutual agreement or partnership with her, she continues to act however she wants within reason. The ridiculous is her normal way of life. She is able to determine the most bizarre conclusions from nothing, simply because she has far more worldly experience than any other person in the yakuza could ever hope to gain.
They couldn't have been anymore different. Yet the wayward girl had somehow managed to convince him that giving Kai an apple will help. Not even Kai, his childhood friend and only considerable family member can get him to think alike with him on his 'hero syndrome’ philosophy. As Hari cuts the seed filled cores from the apple slices, he thinks back to their first meeting. As he replays her words, her movements, and even the tone of voice that she used, he is even more convinced that this is probably going to work out well.
Because if some random mercenary can convince Chisaki Kai of all people to place his hand in her palm for a full second and find a way to appeal to his wicked and abnormal sense of humor, then she can very well get him to eat a damn apple.
Chapter 5: Familiar
“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” - Mark Twain
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Everything was blurring together. All the files, neatly stacked and spread out across the young leader's desk have yet to grow smaller. He swore, for each paper he finalized, 10 more were added somehow. They only thing keeping him upright and conscious was the dozens of coffee's he's been consuming for the past few days, or was it weeks?
A hesitant knock, quickly proceeded by a more solid knock takes his attention away from his work. He gives a quick 'come in’ and the door opens to reveal his assistant with what appears to be a bowl in his hand.
Hari was already regretting knocking on the door. He felt utterly stupid for not at least planning on what to even say when he came in the office. He didn't even consider the possibility of being turned away by Chisaki, or what to do if that were the case.
‘I was allowed in at least. ’ he tells himself in his head. It's a bit reassuring, but not by much. He silently takes a deep breathe in, and then out to calm his remaining nerves. Neither men even bother on greeting each other with a simple 'hello’, instead choosing just to nod at one another in acknowledgement. The sudden silence was incredibly strange, and even a bit uncomfortable. This is the first time he's been aware at how tense it was to be in Chisaki's office without being summoned.
The young leader watches every movement of his assistant carefully, for no particular reason other than it being a habit of his around other people, his assistant included. Hari makes the mistake of looking Chisaki directly eye to eye. The sharp, cold golden irises that stare back at him only add on to his nervousness. He unknowingly stops and stands a few steps away from the desk, being at a halt to consider his best course of actions carefully. He apparently took too long, as Chisaki's eyes narrow familiarly in annoyance.
“Were you planning on giving me what's in your hands or standing there all day?” he snaps at him.
Hari hopes that the tension in his entire body, much less the slight jump in his shoulders from Chisaki's sharp tone was swept over his watchful eye. He’s finally able to move his legs, stepping closer to the dark colored desk and carefully placing the ceramic dish down on the surface that isn't covered by the heaps of paper. Chisaki is finally able to see what the content in the bowl was.
It was a small bunch of apple slices.
The bowl is pushed towards him a bit more in insistence, prompting him to pick up the fork set on top of the bowls rim. He doesn't eat right away, only pushing around the slices and checking to make sure they're safe to eat.
“It's been cleaned and sliced by me, so don't worry too much about it.”
The unknowing tension between his eyebrows eased up at Hari's reassurance. Although they have a few maids to take care of the cooking and cleaning of the large base above ground, he will always find more comfort whenever it was Hari, or even himself on the rare occasion, handling those sorts of trivial matters.
He didn't make him his assistant for nothing after all.
Taking the fork and examining it out of habit, he pulls down his black mask under his chin and pops a slice in his mouth. As soon as his teeth press down on the apple's soft surface, a splash of tangy juice coated his tongue. It was much, much more refreshing and fulfilling than the coffee he's been shoving down his throat.
Hari continues to stand there awkwardly, looking as if he wants to say something but still trying to figure out what it is he wants to talk about. His assistant is usually in and out of his office, but he seems to be making an effort to linger for just a moment longer. The last memory he has of Hari lingering and being in the same room or space as him was back when they were children, back when they were merely strangers. He doesn't know why or what it is that made Hari so interested in him. If anything, he was just a former street kid who was fortunate enough to be picked out of the filthy backstreets and into a comfortable home.
Hari was in a situation similar, practically identical, to his. The only difference was that Hari was much thinner than him when they first met. He truly looked like he would shatter into a million pieces if the wind blew just hard enough. Chisaki wasn't as malnourished as Hari was, having only just been on his own for a month or so, but he wasn't exactly nice and plump as the other kids were. It wasn't long until he was back to peak health, but Hari was a strange case. He struggled with eating, with the fact that he was allowed to eat without having to ask or do anything for the right to do so. Everything he did, whether it was showering or even using the bathroom required him to seek someone out to ask permission.
To this day, Chisaki is still left in the dark of what his home life was before he was taken in. Given his odd behavior, there was a lot the young boss could conclude about what happened in his old home, but he'll never truly know the full extent of it. Hari seems to never want to speak about it, whether out of shame or discomfort he doesn't know. Understanding how his assistant's mind works has always been difficult. From his emotional processing to his sense of humor.
His hired guard seems to have found a way to connect with Hari through shared humor. She had him laughing on her first day, and it's no secret to him about the harmless shenanigans they've been unfortunately putting Irinaka through. From simple, cheesy puns and well timed remarks to more confusing remarks such as to not feed Irinaka past midnight, lest he turns into a deformed creature.
Hari can't remember the last time he's had a good laugh. He can't even remember the last time he willingly poured his heart and soul out to someone. He has never felt so vulnerable before, like he was stripped bare and tossed out into a raging blizzard. It was so intimate to let his inner thoughts past his lips and into the mind of someone he bares knows. He can understand why she's held in such high regard by past employers. She has a certain allure to people.
Even back underground, she was able to grit her teeth and strike up a conversation with Tabe, someone who can’t even verbally communicate. Yet she still decided to communicate by passing notes back and forth without worrying over how ridiculous it would look if she had been caught. Her only concern regarding being caught was whether or not she would be punished.
Even with himself, he still has the small braid she placed in his hair the other day like it was the most normal thing in the world, like he was some old friend she was eager to catch up with. Someone like her, who just doesn't care what other people think, who simply understands how to approach people, seems to have hit a metaphorical roadblock when it comes to approaching Overhaul.
And she seems to have faith that Hari will have more luck than her, and perhaps be of help for overcoming her stump.
Yet as he stands here, trying with every fiber of his being to just say something to him. He takes a small inhale, but the lump in his throat that had formed keeps him silent. He's glad he has his mask on, otherwise Chisaki would be able to plainly see the strained expression and insanely abundant perspiration.
“If you have something to say, than say it while you still have my attention” Chisaki suddenly barks out, having grown impatient and slightly annoyed at Hari's awkward demeanor and not knowing the cause behind it.
“I…” he begins, only to bite his tongue to keep him from saying something he can't take back. The fear of saying something wrong, and the pressure he feels under that harsh gaze only causes is heart to beat more frantically.
“It's nothing, sorry.” he manages to let out in a even tone.
He can't do this.
His shoulders slump, accepting his admission of defeat. This was all a waste of time, and even embarrassing despite doing nothing to warrant any sort of embarrassment or shame. Chisaki easily picks up on the sudden disappointed demeanor that overtakes his assistant. If he wasn't so tired, then maybe he would attempt to pull whatever it is that's bothering Hari out from his head and have it be dealt with.
He doubts it would have been anything of urgency or importance, so he decides to just let his assistant be for now.
“If you have nothing else for me, then you may leave.”
Hari practically jumps at the opportunity to leave. He's out the door a bit too quickly, trying to put some amount of distance between himself and the damn room. When he's sure no one is around to catch a glance at him, he lets out the biggest breath he's ever had. So much so that his chest starts to ache as he attempts to steady his hectic breathing. His mask only helps in making him feel too heavy, prompting him to violently rip it off to provide himself some type of relief. It drops to the wooden floor with a thud, but he couldn't be bothered to even hold onto it right now.
Through his overwhelming embarrassment, he recalls back to the small meeting with the old affiliate Tadao. She kept her voice down to not draw attention, but he was able to barely make out what she was saying to Chisaki when he had suddenly became tensed at being in an unfamiliar environment that was deemed unclean by his standards.
“ Take a deep breathe in and through your belly, not your chest. When you're lungs are full, exhale slowly.”
He presses his back against the wall to steady himself. His hand, shaking not so much as before, but still doing so is placed on his abdomen. He breathes in, letting his diaphragm and stomach expand until he can't take anymore air in. He lets his breath out slowly, just like she instructed to. He inhales and exhales over and over, calming him down more and more with each repetition.
By the time he's calmed down, he suddenly feels a bit drowsy and lightheaded. If his schedule wasn't so jam packed today he would have gladly gone back to his room for a quick nap. Pushing himself off the wall, he grabs his mask and only holds onto it.
He doesn't bother putting it back on just yet.
Hari didn't expect to come back to the supply room to find her still there. She was scrolling through whatever website or application she was currently using, waiting for none other than him to return. He almost wants to sneak off to avoid a confrontation with her, but she notices him before he can do so.
"Oh hey, you're back!" She waves at him like they hadn't seen each other in a long time. Dropping down from her seat on top of a metal table, she makes her way to him with an expectant look in her eyes.
" So ?"
She rolls her eyes playfully at his feigned ignorance. "How did the talk go? Did the apple work?"
Hari repeats what he did back in the office, make like he was about to say something only to chicken out in the end. His one time of doing so seems to be enough for her to understand what exactly happened.
She rubs her temples with her index and middle finger in disbelief. "You didn't even mutter a word did you?"
How the hell does she figure this stuff out with the most smallest hints!?
The volume of his voice lowers in embarrassment, as if speaking a bit louder will resonate throughout the entire base. "Is it that obvious?"
She smiles apologetically towards him. “It really is.”
His shoulders slump again in a mixture of defeat and exhaustion. A firm squeeze to his shoulder from her helps give him some sort of reassurance, but his mind seems keen on looping the events from a few minutes ago over and over again. He almost feels as if he should apologize to her, for not helping her out like she had hoped he would.
“Well, the important thing is that you tried.”
“Thanks, I feel even more incompetent.”
It wasn't much of a joke, but it was playfully enough to elicit a sweet-sounding laugh from her. He's had the privilege (to him at least) of hearing the various laughs she produces and able to determine the meaning behind each one. There was her loud, hyena-like laugh she lets out whenever something was particularly funny to her. It was a bit obnoxious of he was being honest, but that was mostly when it was directed towards him. Then there was her deep, single huff sneer, for when someone did or said something relatively stupid or ridiculous.
Then there was her jaunty chuckle just now. Its softness comparable to the ringing of a furin, swaying gently amidst the summer breeze. It usually comes out when she's content with her surroundings, or when something satisfies her. Food is usually the cause, as he's come to discover how big of a foodie she was. She had a tendency to order too much food, and would usually save whatever leftovers she had for later. They've been coincidentally paired up the most the last week and a half, leaving him to be the recipient of her extras. Even when he wasn't around during her excursions, she would bring him a piece or two of whatever she had bought.
He likes to think that, besides food, he was making her comfortable enough to laugh without the need of a jest. At least, he hopes he was.
He just likes it alot, her laugh. He doesn't know or understand why, but he just does.
“Is there anything else I need to do today?” She asks.
“Not really, unless you want to help me organize some files and equipment in one of the smaller labs.”
The mention of a lab seems to peak her interest. He quickly takes that as a ‘yes’ and leads her down and around various halls to the aforementioned room. The smaller lab could be called Hari's office, seeing as he is usually the only one who works here when he isn't above ground making deals and attending to his boss. Chisaki is in charge of developing and enhancing the serum's formula as well as extracting the necessary samples from Eri. Hari was in charge of running the tests whenever Chisaki was busy or unable to do them himself as well as experimenting with the bullets on whoever was selected as their test subject. The criteria for that was usually someone who was rather lackluster in their performance in the organization or other underlings of a associate or buyer that somehow thought it was a good idea to try and get the better of them.
“Wow,” she observes the room before turning back to him “compared to my room, this is pretty clean.”
He gives a brief look over the room. There were various small piles of papers filled with various notes and observations messily strewed over just about every countertop. Empty soda cans and chip bags were piled up well over the rim of a rather well sized trash can next to a sink. He can't comprehend how the lab is somehow cleaner than her own living space. He's almost scared to ask what she could possibly have that would deem the lab clean in comparison.
“Alright,” she claps her hands together “where should we start?”
He starts explaining how to separate and organize his notes. She works rather quickly, having everything already separated and organized like he wanted and ready to put away by the time he takes out and places a new trash bag in the bin. He pulls out a stack of fresh manila folders and together they start putting them away in one of the filing drawers.
She wasn't talking much, which isn't like her at all. She was quiet the first day, but she usually tried to initiate conversation wherever she can. The way her brows were pulled together and how narrow her eyes probably meant she was in deep thought. Whether it was about how to make up for his failure from before or for whatever she needed to do for the next few days away from the base he doesn't know. Hell, it could be about neither of those things and she could be thinking of some unrelated matter.
The heavy door abruptly swings open, revealing an unsuited Irinaka in all of his glory. It was strange for Hari to see any of the precepts without their mask, and even weirder to see Irinaka as just himself. It seems she was able to see his regular form at some point, and even made a pretty bizarre comment over how good he looks outside the jumpsuit. The first word that comes to mind when he looks at Irinaka isn't 'good-looking’, but instead is 'wow, is he pissed or what?’
“What the hell are you two doing?”
“We're organizing files!” she says rather enthusiastically. Her tone seems to strangely irritate Irinaka, as his already irritated expression intensifies. What could she possibly be doing that makes him even more mad?
To his surprise, she is wearing what can possibly be deemed the most shit-eating grin to ever grace the world. Though behind the obvious smug and self satisfaction, it also seems a bit genuine? It's the equivalent of her loud and animated laugh, obnoxious after awhile but contagious so long as it's not aimed towards you. Honestly, it was making him a bit irritated as well. What the hell was so funny?
“What the hell are you smiling at!?”
“Nothing really! It's just,” her grin relaxes into a more casual and considerate smile “you look good out of the plush suit. You and Hari both do.”
Before Hari could even brush off her comment, a hard smack is given to the top of her head by the angry man. The lighting in the lab and underground isn't the best, but Hari swears he sees just a bit of color on Irinaka's face that he for sure knows isn't because of his anger. Now that he has a good look at the older man's face, he isn't half bad to look at as she said…
Wait , no .
No no no no no.
He makes the mistake of practically slamming his hand over his face to hide the potentially tomato red complexion that's consuming his face. Even through her wincing, she manages to throw the most teasing wink at him. He almost wants to smack her himself.
“Jeez, can't you take a compliment!?” She rubs her head to try to relieve the pain from his strike. It hurt so much more than she would have expected. Hari and Irinaka don't necessarily look strong, but the same can be said about her. She was rather short, barely 155 centimeters, but her body was well built. Still, there’s not much fear you can strike into people's hearts and mind when you're as tall as the average middle schooler and maybe just a little baby-faced.
“Why do you always have to say stupid shit!?” He scowls down at her
“It’s not stupid! I'm just being honest.”
“Well, stop it. I hate it.”
She bats her eyes rather mockingly at him. “What, are you not used to a girl complimenting you?”
All that earns her is another hard smack.
“Alright, I'll stop! Sorry for showing my appreciation .”
“Appreciation for what?”
She reaches up and onto the tips of her toes, cupping Irinaka's face in her small hands. “For showing me your faces. Hari said you guys aren't allowed to take them off most of the time, but as you can see...hey, are you ok?”
It takes an immense amount of effort for Hari to not burst out laughing and ruining the mood. The face on Irinaka was just so abnormally angry . If a feather fell on the floor he looked as if he would snap then and there, swearing up a storm that would concern even Chisaki. What made it all more funnier was how calm and genuinely concerned she sounded when she spoke up about it.
“Ok seriously, what's the matter?”
He takes a deep, deep breathe in and holds it for a second only to yell, “LET GO OF MY GODDAMN FACE!”
That was both of their tipping points and they both doubled over each other, clutching their stomachs in a poor attempt to provide it relief. Irinaka was now fed up with them and decided to leave before his blood pressure rose anymore and he passes out. Just before he slams the door, he looks back to see them practically rolling over one another like a couple of brats. As much as he deeply hates being the center of their torment, he's glad she's here. He's glad that someone doesn't look people like they're the scum of the earth, and only care for their usefulness. There's only so much of that he can endure before he starts feeling worn out.
But now he's starting to sound like a complete pansy.
“Your face is turning redder y'know Are you thinking about me ?” She teases.
He takes all that back, he hopes she perishes.
Turning on his heels he quickly walks out and away from the room. Through their laughing fit, she notices his departure and immediately starts feeling a bit bad for teasing him. She was trying to be serious with them for once, but he makes it easy to tease. It wouldn't surprise her if he tries to slip poison in her food or just straight up come after her head. She deserves a clean hit in the gut at the very least.
Hari lightly jabs her arm with his elbow to gain her attention. “Don't worry about him. He's always been the emotional one.”
“If I turn up dead in the next few days, you know who did it.” she says in a semi-serious tone.
“I seriously doubt he'd be able to make you break a sweat.”
His comment surprised her. Sure, it was most definitely true, but the way he said it was a bit odd. He said it with certainty, not a single shred of doubt or playfulness behind it. She tries to reason with herself as to why he would sound so sure of himself. Her reputation is certainly swelled up, but so are other mercenaries and villains who in truth never live up to the hype. Their “first” meeting was in some back-alley bar, where she just so happened to have been in a small brawl with a group that were trying to steal her bag from right under her nose. Say what you will, but tying them all up and dowsing them in whiskey and holding a lighter above them was a fair punishment in her book.
She hates thieves. Everyone does, but she hates them with a burning passion (no pun intended).
Luckily for them, she didn't drop the lighter. Hari had come at the right moment and insisted it wasn't worth her time or money. He intrigued her by saying that he knew of someone who was worth her time. It was a bit cliche, but he had already captured her attention the moment he interfered when he didn't need to. They talked over a few shots and in an hours time she was sitting in front of Overhaul discussing a price.
Entering that meeting room and seeing Overhaul shocked her. She doesn't recall ever seeing him once during her time working for the yakuza. The only information she can piece together was of Fujimoto and a few other members mentioning a protege, a relatively young right hand man to the former. They all said the same thing, capable but unfit to take over. If he's the leader now, then he must have proven that he deserved the position. That or he forced his way to the role, but she doubts he would have succeeded.
Normally she wouldn't rush to form a contract, but the moment the world 'yakuza’ was thrown at her she was all aboard. Her last contract with the syndicate was just weeks after she turned 18. It was only a few short days before Fujimoto got hooked up to machines to keep him alive. There was a lot she owed to him. She figured that taking up a few contracts with the new appointed boss would be enough to repay him.
She swears, but the moment she was talking face to face with Hari at the bar he felt so familiar . It wasn't like meeting an old friend, but rather conversing with someone you see on a constant basis but nothing beyond just seeing one another. When she finally realized that she had actually saved him it made some sense to many things. It was just after their initial encounter that she started noticing someone following her. She would always just miss them as they turn back around the nearest corner, but they were there.
She's dealt with stalkers and followers before. Fortunately for her the ones she encountered were harmless, usually going away or following less after she has somewhat of a standoff with them for a few hours. It was enough to convey the message to them to either step out and try something or find someone else to stalk.
It was only for a week, after which her contact was up and she went home. She figured they gave up on her since she was gone for a few months before she was rehired. The thing with stalkers is that they don't give up, not until they grow bored of you or you beat their ass to the ground and scare them off. When she snuck into Fujimoto’s office late at night to give a quick report on a few troubling matters she felt that presence again just outside the door.
Every stalker she's encountered has a different vibe to them, with the more perverse ones being the ones she needs to scare off for the sake of her job. Overall, they all had a bad presence. They were all stalkers after all. This one didn't. They didn't feel like anything really, just familiar.
That's how Hari feels like to her, just familiar.
She turns to him, speaking with a tone of uncertainty in her own question. “Hari, have we really only met once?”
What he does only furthers her suspicion. He doesn't look at her or face her, choosing to turn his body away and crossing his arms to shield himself. His expression is subtle, but it looks as if he's uncertain of the answer himself. “J-just once.”
It doesn't take a genius to see right through him, and it's not like he did a great job at hiding it.
She wonders why. He must have his reasons, so she decides to just drop the matter unless there comes a time she needs to know. He could always come clean to her, but coming clean about following someone isn't exactly an easy thing. If it was, then every stalker would be outed and it would make avoiding them easier.
“Alright. If there's nothing else you need from me, then can you lead me back upstairs?”
He wordlessly listens to her request and guides her out. The silence is a bit awkward between them, but it also feels a bit needed. A lot has happened today, and a brief moment to gather their thoughts and process everything is much needed. Hari especially needs a moment, today was just... a lot .
Before she officially departs, she makes sure to remind him to call her if she's truly needed or if a situation turns against them. He wants to ask what was so important for her to go off on her own mid-contract. Deep down he knows that she probably doesn't have an answer herself, but also has no desire to say anything unless she's certain of her suspicion. He can only give her a dubious 'good luck’ and watch her walk off.
She looks back to him for a moment then mutters, “See you soon.”
He gives an unseen nod in acknowledgement before placing his mask back on.
She can't fathom how anyone can willingly live down there and be content with their life. The air was stuffy and way too filtered. If she spent just a moment longer in those halls she would have started suffocating. No one can blame her. She was used to being surrounded by the ocean and the forest, basically surrounded by fresh air. The scent of bleach was disgustingly pungent. The rooms were so devoid of liveliness. The people looked so static until she engaged them, but even then it held an air of uncertainty
Everything about that place felt dirty . Even the abnormal cleanliness of the walls and floors felt dirty. It was sickening. She felt sick from being down there.
It was nearly about to become night time, as the sun was soon about to disappear behind the horizon. She wasn't that far from her hotel, only a few streets away. The smell of food enticed her, and provided her nose with much needed relief. The lines to the different portable stalls and vendors were already pretty long, so she decided to just look around before settling for one.
She remembers when she was younger, where she had dragged Youta to a bunch of street food vendors and buy from everyone of them. It was a few months after he took her in and they were starting to slowly trust one another. She had gotten a bit emotional and outright violent during their training, but he was admittedly being too harsh with her. He decided to make it up to her by taking her out to town when a small food festival was taking place. She'll never forget his look of concern, because she was eating so much that night.
He ended up learning about her struggles with eating and how undernourished she really was. He got her nice and plump by the time the festival came again, but it only made her training harder from there on.
She finally decides on a takoyaki stand, but before she can snag a spot in the dense line her phone begins vibrating. When she checks her screen it's none other than the red-headed man himself. Swiping the green reticle to the left, she lifts the phone to her ear.
“Hey kiddo, how's everything going?”
She quickens her pace and makes it to the line. The scent of freshly cooking batter becomes strong, causing her mouth to begin watering. “I'm still alive, somehow.”
She can't see him, but she's sure his eyebrows pulled together in concern. “What happened?”
“Too much bleach.”
They begin telling each other about their day, though he was doing most of the talking. Even if she trusts him with every inch of her being, she's still sworn to secrecy. Talking about it in an open area with dozens of people and potentially pro heroes in the midst is way too risky and too stupid to even consider. There's even the possibility of someone listening in on their conversation and a ton of other factors to be aware of.
She hates thieves, but there's nothing she and other mercenaries hate the most. It's a careless snitch. A thief and a snitch is even worse. It's just treacherous at that point.
“Hey, can I ask for some advice?”
“I don't see why not?”
“How do you go about catching a traitor?”
I apologise for taking so long to get the next chapter out. Thank you all for the kudos and lovely comments.
It means the world to me <3